World of Darkness is the new documentary that profiles the history of the White Wolf company and their historic horror RPGs, Vampire, Vampire the Masquerade, Werewolf the Apocalypse, and Mage the Ascension. World of Darkness not only looks at the games but the culture and style that they created and how it became and still is a larping phenomenon.
I, like many of you, started my life in roleplaying in the early 1980s. Everyone who plays D&D or whatever flavor of RPG you enjoy has a preference in style. When the Ravenloft module was released in 1983, it felt like manna from heaven for me. I was finally able to play in the world where Universal-style monsters walked and interacted with characters. Ravenloft continues to be a passion for me today. As I matured into adolescence I wanted something a bit edgier. And one day when I walked into my local comic store to work my shift, I saw the beautiful emerald cover with a single rose and the word VAMPIRE emblazoned on it. I had originally thought it was a graphic novel and was excited, so I grabbed it off the shelf and, to my amazement, it was not a comic but something far better… a role-playing game. Growing up I had been a huge vampire fan devouring everything from Bela Lugosi’s classic to the insanity of Udo Kier in Andy Warhol’s Dracula. Once I picked up that book, my workflow dwindled down to nothing that day and for the days following. Tim Bradstreet’s art had me enthralled. Bradstreet brought a grit and realism that I had never seen in RPG art. He used his friends as models which gave everything this wonderful punk verisimilitude. These were not the classic vampires of old; they were hip young and very ’90s. The only problem I had with Vampire and the entire White Wolf World of Darkness was finding enough friends to play as frequently as I wanted to.
When I heard about the upcoming documentary, a flood of nostalgia came over me. I had always wondered what the real story was of one of my favorite RPGs. World of Darkness brought me back into the fold in all of its glory. When the new millennium began, I got married and started a family, so my days of trolling the night or at least the gaming table slowed to a creep. I lost track of the World of Darkness and its Vampires, Werewolves, Magicians, and more. So as the film began, it was like getting a DM from an old beloved friend. The film is shot beautifully and lovingly by Giles Alderson, the director, and Andrew Rodger, the cinematographer. All of the makers of the original games are in the documentary discussing their contributions to all of the World of Darkness titles. You get to see the evolution of the games and the growth of the community. As the film unfolds, we see different larpers getting into costume for their games of Vampire the Masquerade. I love these scenes; they are interesting and artistic. World of Darkness also looks at the impact of White Wolf games on pop culture. Films like Blade and Underworld borrowed heavily from the look, style, and tone of Vampire and Werewolf titles. Eventually, we get to the low point in the history of World of Darkness where the company merges with a video game development company to make an MMORPG that leads to the company’s temporary demise. Which leads to today when World of Darkness releases a new edition of Vampire in hopes to ride the new RPG wave. It is a great story of a start-up company created by two brothers Steve and Stewart Wieck and Mark Rein-Hagen. All three men are in the documentary and offer some great stories. Sadly Stewart Wieck passed away in 2017 and there is a tribute at the end of the film. So if you are a fan of Vampires and RPGs or either one, this is a wonderfully engaging film to check out. It is currently available streaming online and in some screenings. You can find all the recent information here.
World of Darkness (2018, 89 min.) Directed by Giles Anderson. Written and produced by Kevin Lee. Executive producer: Henrik Johannson. Edited by: Rodney Guest. Sweden, English. Figi Productions, Luckyday, White Wolf, TriCoast Worldwide, DarkCoast.
A review screener of World of Darkness was made available by DarkCoast.
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