here). Along with Dungeons & Dragons, there's perhaps no other game more pervasive and popular than White Wolf's World of Darkness. A long-time topic here on The Hopeless Gamer, my first big feature on the blog was my extensive chapter-by-chapter review of Geist: The Sin-Eaters which I picked up as my first purchase at Gencon 2009. Every year we've gotten a new game focusing on a different corner of the revised World of Darkness universe. Every year we've gotten hints at what's coming next year. Every year except this past one. So what can we expect to hear about this year from White Wolf? Read on to see my speculation!
The Fallout from Geist: The Sin-Eaters
Last year, everyone was stoked to see the infamous spoiler page in the back of the Geist rulebook, but there were already detractors before the book was released. It was known that Geist wouldn't be getting the full line treatment, not even as many books at Promethean: The Created received. Instead, Geist would be a game where you only had to own the fatsplat (main book) and could potentially pick up the general World of Darkness Book of the Dead. That's it, two books and you're set for the line!
Of course this also meant that there was blood in the water. Why would White Wolf limit their new product in such a way? It was an early sign that, in the months to come, White Wolf would cease practically all dead tree (i.e. physical copies versus pdf digital versions) books. Mum was the word from White Wolf on the issue, and rumors began to spread. Rumors that, to this day, are largely unaddressed by the company.
The End of Mage?
Fast forward to the release of last official Mage: The Awakening and World of Darkness general products: The Chronicler's Guide and Mirrors. I have to say that I haven't picked up the Chronicler's Guide (although it sounds very, very cool for Mage players and storytellers alike), but thanks to this thread on rpg.net, it's been made public that there's an odd letter in the back of the book:
While I haven’t personally guided Mage’s line of game books for a while now, I’m damn pleased with the quality and imagination of every book in the line. Every book has made me want to play a new character – even a Seer of the Throne or a Banisher. Mage: the Awakening was launched as a step away from its Ascended predecessor, as a more purposefully occult setting, one that fit better into the murkier and more mysterious World of Darkness of its new siblings. It also aimed to provide a magic system that was less daunting to new players but still retained a wide-open malleability, one that both represented that hoary old trope of the “laws” of magic and the sheer, unbridled creativity of a will-worker. I like to think it succeeded in these goals, these purposes, these teloi. But don’t take my word for it – judging from sales figures, it was quite well received, despite some grumblings about Atlantis.
Ah, Atlantis. I’m pleased that the exegesis on that fabled isle’s legendry throughout history, as presented in Secrets of the Ruined Temple, better established its place in the setting not so much as the literal, historical realm of some New Age crystal gazers, but as a primordial archetype of the Magical City on the Hill, a Supernal idea casting many distorted reflections into the Fallen World. A memory of what was lost. A legend of the Fall.
Excuse me as I get this out of my system: Certain Forces have worked to bring us to this moment, but Mage is Primed to continue in the Minds of its players. While I can’t reveal what Time holds for Mage, I suspect Fate will conspire to revisit the Spaces it chartered. Think of this not as a Death but a new form of Life, in the hands of those who love it most. Its Spirit lives on with its players, and that’s what Matters.
All right, enough with the analogies. I’m supposed to be writing a farewell here, and this is becoming an elegy for something that’s not really going away. The books will still be here, even if in the years to come they’ll be primarily accessible to new players as PDF downloads — digital traces rather than ink on paper. In a sense, Mage is becoming more Supernal. Its truths will continue to emanate from its world of ideas into the games of its players.
I hope you continue to peel back the Veil of the Mysteries.
This all sounds awfully final to me. It's one thing to be writing in past tense (which by the way, noting that this was written last year in August, is a telling sign that the end was in sight before Geist was first released), but it really reads as though Mage, not this edition, but the game line in general, is done for new releases. As in, even if we get a World of Darkness, 3rd Edition, we're not getting a new Mage.
A Dark Future for The World of Darkness?
seen that they plan on printing up some of their pdf releases into collected volumes such as fan-favorites New Wave Requiem, Block by Bloody Block, and collections like The Harvesters, but other than this, the upcoming year's release schedule looks about as bleak (or worse) than this past year's. Of course we can't answer the big question: is the release schedule complete, or is White Wolf holding back?
My pessimistic guess is that it's complete. I'll be honest here and admit that I'm a late comer when it comes to the World of Darkness. I couldn't tell you if White Wolf has a history of communication this poor with its fan base, but I feel that Gencon is going to be do or die for the World of Darkness.
If we hear word of a new edition, rather than launching a new wave of edition wars (which are inevitable) covering the internet, I honestly think there'll be some relief from White Wolf fans. Whether this new edition will be Print-on-Demand (PoD) or a simultaneous pdf/retail release will have unique impacts on the reaction of the fan base.
PoD /pdf only means that White Wolf, possibly under orders from their parent company, the video game producer CCP, has pretty much doomed the possibility to organically grow the brand. While true that the tabletop gaming industry is in rough shape, people do still browse their local Borders or Barnes & Noble or even make their way into their local comics/gaming/nerdery shop and pick up a new game. Further, shiney new editions are usually great money makers if handled correctly since a lot of your existing players will buy in and they tend to attract new players as an easy access point (I started collecting D&D 4th Edition, Star Wars Saga Edition, and Legends of the 5 Rings all as a result of their new edition releases). If their products and games aren't in the physical stores, there will be no new blood to infuse the game with. Unfortunately this seems like the most likely route any new World of Darkness line would go down since White Wolf has been pushing for pdf/PoD releases since before Geist was released.
What if White Wolf announces a new game to be available this Fall in your local gaming store? What if they defied all expectations and tried to innovate in their print format rather than digital? I can tell you that there will be more than one Hopeless blogger out there with a shocked, and more importantly hopeful look on his face. Let's face it: everyone knows that the new World of Darkness couldn't go on forever. Advances are always being made and the hobby is always moving forward and maturing. Older systems become clunky with too many choices and complexities in the rules, and product lines run out of steam. Do I expect White Wolf to announce a new game along the lines of Hunter, Changeling, or Geist? No, I think the new World of Darkness in its current incarnation is full-up of different supernatural beings. I do think we're going to have to hear something new from White Wolf at Gencon, and we'll be there to do our best to find out what it is and get the news to you!
EDIT: Checking out White Wolf's home page it appears all this speculation might be moot since it looks like White Wolf has decided to pass up trying to bring new players and excitement outside of their existing fans into the fold by holding off any big announcement until their "Grand Masquerade." I guess my questions have already been answered in a way - they really don't care if they bring in new players. If they did, they'd be making the announcement at Gencon, the biggest show in North America and a con not dominated by the most hardcore of their fans. It's like they're trying so hard to make people go "meh" to their entire game line.