The Symposium was a WoD E-zine that disappeared many years ago, that I happened to have archived and will display some of their old entries here for archiving. All credits belong to the old staff of the Symposium.
by Ken Conley
The man stumbled down the dark streets. It was late, how late he wasn’t sure. The tall and brooding tenements seemed alive with hidden life. The moon was barely visible through the smog filled with night sky and the air was cool, not too cold nor hot.
The man quickened to his pace and pulled his jacket tight around him, not providing any heat, but giving him a false sense of security. He wasn’t sure how he stumbled into this run-down part of the city, all he knew was that he had to get out. A scream filled the air, originating from somewhere in the distance. Sirens danced in the distant air, but the man couldn’t discern the direction.
He looked again at the tenements. Was that movement in the corner of my eye? Then, he noticed them…footsteps. They were soft but brisk, faster than his own. He quickened his pace again, and the footsteps perfectly followed his accelerated rhythm. They were getting louder and more numerous. The man broke into a run and looked back to scan for a source. Nothing. There was only darkness. He ran faster and faster, the footsteps became quicker and quicker. He tripped on something, a rock or trash, it didn’t matter. He looked back to see three men emerge from the darkness. Their black silhouettes against the whitish glow of phosphorescent lights.
That is what the World of Darkness is. In short, it is a world of extremes. “The bureaucrats are all corrupt, the rich are filthy rich, and the homeless clog the streets.” That quote from Mage gives a very basic view of the world.
What we as Sleepers of Kine or the Quick view as true is not, it is all just a facade. The government is controlled by the supernatural, whether it be Vampires or Garou or Mages, all are pawns all the way up to the highest position, the President.
Gothic is the part of the world that is most used and integrated into the game. In Vampire, this is very easy to distinguish. Political manipulations and power struggles, payoffs in darkened backstreets, and a sense that everyone, even most trusted friends, are conspiring against you, are all part of the game. In Werewolf, the Gothic sense is a little harder to see, but it surely is there. Just the idea of huge, hulking beasts who rule the untamed wilderness gives off the sense of ominous foreboding. The end is coming and only the greatest warriors will remain to fight in the final battle against the very essence of evil and corruption, the Wyrm. Mage is the least Gothic of all the games if you look at the way it is presented in the main book. With a little readjusting, however, you can make that Gothic as well. A mad scientist desperately trying to find the problem with his most bizarre “invention” in a basement labratory, rituals at midnight resound in the ancient forest, large scale magickal battles push the unsuspecting peasants further into their beliefs in superstition and witchcraft. So with a change of perspective, even Mage can be Gothic.
Punk is a very important part of the world, too. Punk deals with the ways of life in the World of Darkness. In the labryinth-like cities, gangs rebel against the aristocratic suppressors. Clothes, music, and attitudes reflect the Punk world, but it is more than that. The Anarchs rebel for a purpose and not just to cause anarchy as their name implies. The Punk Movement was not created for people solely to act strange or look strange, but to fight against the status-quo, to keep from being catagorized. Werewolf puts it nicely when saying,
The counterculture of the cities, sick of the oppresive physical and social tableau, rebel with words, dress, music, and often violence.
The World of Darkness exists everywhere, in all parts of the world. It is not just linked to the Western culture, but is found in Jerusalem, Cairo, and even China.
How does one achieve this atmosphere of dread and oppression? First of all, you must follow certain guidelines. Play in places that are quiet. If someone is sitting in the same room talking to someoneelse about how great her day was, then the atmosphere is shattered. Playing at night is also a good tool to use. Music does a lot, as well. If the scene deals with the huge, maze-like cities, then Industrial music like Thrill Kill Kult or Front Line Assembly is appropriate. Finally, the players have as much of an active role as the Storyteller in conveying the dark mook. If the players crack jokes or act rowdy, then it destroys the atmosphere.
In conclusion, the World of Darkness is a world of extremes. Everything is not what it seems and the air always tinges with excitement mixed with shear dread. Here is a passage from the back of the World of Darkness sourcebook to end this person’s thoughts on what exactly is the setting of the Storyteller system.
Throughout the world mortals walk, believing themselves in the light of civilization. But what happens when the darkness does not recede but stays, refusing to yield to the penetrating rays of light?
Voodoo cults in the Caribbean, lost tribes in the Middle East, hidden castles of Europe and Germany, in the boardrooms of Hong Kong. Everywhere the shadows flicker, but here they rule. From the Americas to Asia, from Jordan to Ireland, there are those places where light of reason and hope has never intruded. And here even the dark forces of night may meet their end.