Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 12: General WoD

In addition to the books published as part of the individual game lines, there were also a series of sourcebooks that were notionally intended for use with any game.  In practice, some of them can be used that way, but many are intended for a few specific game lines or are de facto supplements for a specific game.  Some others cover the original five core game lines but not the later or historical ones.

There’s actually very little to say about collecting them, because there really aren’t any that are particularly expensive or hard to find.  In order to make the article more than 100 words, therefore, I’ll give a brief overview of each one and which game line it’s tied to.

  • A World of Darkness, 1st edition.  This is ostensibly a WoD book, but has VtM trade dress and is basically a VtM supplement.  It’s supposed to be an international sourcebook, but it describes a few locations in detail rather than giving an overview of the world in general.  (One of them turns up blatantly shoehorned into the infamous Chaos Factor adventure.)
  • A World of Darkness, 2nd edition.  This one actually is an international sourcebook, although it’s still more VtM oriented than anything else.  It does have the generic black trade dress rather than the green marble, at least.
  • Blood and Silk.  This is the Dark Ages supplement for Kindred of the East, with no pretense of being anything else.  I’m not sure why it’s given a WoD designation instead of being a Dark ages book.
  • Blood-Dimmed Tides.  A look at the ocean in the core five games.  The game this is the most useful for is Changeling, as it has new rules material, including a new Kith.  I don’t recall that Mage gets very much, and for Werewolf the Rokea supplement is probably more useful.
  • Bygone Bestiary.  Stats on legendary/mythological creatures.  It seems to intended primarily for Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade but could also be used for Dark Ages or CtD.
  • Combat.  A book devoted to an alternate, more detailed combat system for Storyteller in general.  I haven’t heard about it being used very often, but it’s easy to find cheap if you want to give it a look.
  • Demon Hunter X.  Part of the “Year of the Lotus” line, it covers a couple of different types of Asian hunters.  It’s probably most useful for KotE but could be used for any game set in Asia.
  • Gypsies.  Widely regarded as the worst and most offensive WoD supplement.  For what it’s worth, it has material for the five core games, even those that hadn’t been released yet.
  • Hong Kong.  Another Year of the Lotus supplement.  It’s primarily intended for KotE but could be used for other games, and could be the setting for an interesting KotE/VtM crossover game.
  • Mafia.  I’ve never been sure why this was part of the Year of the Damned, except in a broad thematic sense.  This one could theoretically be useful in any game, although it has the closest connections to VtM and WtA.
  • Midnight Circus.  A Ray Bradbury-esque dark supernatural setting that draws from the five core games.  I don’t know how useful it would be as a whole, but I’ve used elements of it as inspiration in other games.
  • Mummy 1st and 2nd edition.  See my writeup on MtR for more details.
  • Outcasts.  This one is very much intended for VtM, WtA and MtA, as it covers characters who don’t fit into clans/tribes/traditions.  It’s not always the best fit with the other games; the Hollow Ones sourcebook is probably more useful for Mage, although they don’t cover exactly the same territory.
  • Sorcerer.  A collection of hedge magic traditions; probably the most useful for Mage but could be used in other games as well.  I highly recommend getting the second edition instead, though, if you can find it (it’s explicitly an MtA book).
  • Tokyo.  The third Year of the Lotus supplement.  This one is more Wraith oriented than the Hong Kong book.
  • Time of Judgment.  The end-of-the-world supplement for all the games except Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, and Wraith (which had already been wrapped up in Ends of Empire).  It’s not a generalized supplement, but has scenarios for a variety of games.  It’s noteworthy for being the closest CtD ever got to resolution, with a general overview of where the metaplot would have gone.

That covers the general overview of the WoD tabletop lines.  Next up I’ll cover Mind’s Eye Theatre, then it’s on to promotional material.  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “I don’t want the world; I just want your half.”

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Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 10: Hunter: The Reckoning

The end of Wraith was tied up with an event called the Year of the Reckoning, which had apocalyptic events take place in the metaplot of several of the games.  This led up to something not before: a new core game!  Apart from the historical games, Kindred of the East had been released at this point, but it was a spinoff of Vampire and not quite on a level with the others.  Hunter would stand up to take Wraith’s place in the Core Five.

It occupies an unusual position relative to the rest of the WoD at the time.  The characters are normal people who are given powers by mysterious forces to battle the various monsters that threaten humanity.  (They’re a new phenomenon, not an expansion of groups that had appeared in previous works such as Hunters Hunted.) As such, the other games are essentially monster books for HtR.  However, in order to cut down on metagaming and challenge the players, they’re redefined through the filter of the limited information the hunters possess rather than using those games’ mechanics directly.  This made HtR a good introductory game, since it had the least lore to learn and out-of-character knowledge could be misleading.

Contrariwise, hunters were referred to in the other games but weren’t introduced as a major new element for the characters to deal with.  This may have been due to their continued protests that the games weren’t designed to cross over, or the assumption that they would anyway and the ST could just use the Hunter rules.  Apart from one VtR adventure, I can’t think of many supplements where the Imbued play much of a role beyond being listed among the dangers of the modern world.

The overall effect of this was to leave HtR and its players somewhat isolated from the rest of the WoD community.  This was heightened by Hunter having its own in-character website, some of which is still there if you dig.

I don’t know if there’s a direct connection between these facts, but HtR isn’t super-hard to collect.  There are a few more expensive sourcebooks, though, as we’ll see.

Core rulebook: There’s only one, the original hardcover.  It’s not too hard to find; it’s running a bit high on Amazon right now, but should be available between $10-20.

Core sourcebooks: There are a Players Guide, a Storytellers Handbook and a Storytellers Companion that came with the ST screen.  Anyone wanting to run the game will want the ST books, since the core rulebook doesn’t have much actual information on running the enemies, and it’s easier to use the stripped-down Hunter versions than learn all the rules from the originals.  The Storytellers Handbook is currently running around $20 on Amazon, though it’s probably not too hard to find it for less with patience.  A copy of the Companion in the shrinkwrap isn’t all that hard to find as these things go.

Splatbooks: These are called “Hunter Books” rather than “Creed Books”, which is probably clearer.  There are nine of these.  Two of them, Hermit and Wayward, aren’t covered in the original book but appear in one of the supplements.  (Waywards are also widely regarded as a bad idea.) Most of these run under $10.  Wayward is currently running $30 on Amazon, but I also found a copy that sold on eBay for $5, so it’s probably just best to be patient.

Other sourcebooks: There were a series of books detailing the various types of enemies.  The last two, Spellbound (mages) and The Infernal (demons), hit the end-of-cWoD rarity point and run about $30, while the others are under $10.

The other miscellaneous sourcebooks run from $15 down to $5 or less.  This includes the in-character book, ApocryphaUrban Legends is one that runs at the high end.

Merchandising: White Wolf produced very little swag for HtR.  The dice are fiery orange with black numbers, in an orange bag with a hunter sign symbol in white, and are super-rare.  I haven’t been able to find evidence of a pin online, and don’t have my catalog on hand to double-check.

There were six novels in the Predator & Prey novel series and one short story anthology.

The biggest HtR tie-in, and the reason a lot of people have heard of the game who have never played a tabletop RPG, are the three console games, variously released for Xbox, PS2 and GameCube.  These are pretty common on eBay.  For the insane completist, there are also strategy guides to the console games.

Next time I’ll cover the remaining game lines, Mummy and Demon, before moving on to the generic WoD, Mind’s Eye Theatre and assorted promotional materials.  Until then, the Woggle-Bug says “I have never intentionally cut a power line in my life!”

Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 7: Mage: the Ascension

Mage: the Ascension is the third World of Darkness game, both in terms of time and general popularity.  (However, while its fans aren’t as numerous, they often make up for it in terms of devotion.) It’s the third of the games that continued publication until the line stopped, and had an equivalent as a core game in nWoD.

Core books

As with VtM and WtA, there are three core versions: paperback 1st, hardcover 2nd and Revised. (Note: Amazon has a listing for a paperback edition of Revised, which is actually the original Tarot deck.  This led to me receiving the wrong product once, so read listings carefully.)

The usual age/price inverse relationship applies: 1st edition is generally cheap, Revised more expensive.  The Revised core book can run to more than the other ones, especially on Amazon; $30 isn’t an uncommon price to see, but with a bit of patience it can be found between $10 and $20.

Note that, while it’s not as vulnerable as the WtA cover, the gold effect on the covers (particularly 1st ed) is prone to wearing off, so that’s something to watch for if you care about condition.

Limited editions

The Revised Limited edition comes with a slipcase and limited art book, the same as VtM and WtA.  This generally runs third in cost, behind Vampire and Werewolf but ahead of Dark Ages.

As I write this, the Kickstarter for the Mage 20th Anniversary Edition (Mage20) is running and doing quite well; if you want the Deluxe version of that, pledge now because you’ll never see it for this price again.

Core supplements

Unusually, Mage didn’t have Players or Storytellers Guides for the first two editions (except Hidden Lore, the book that came with the 2nd edition Storytellers Screen) until the Guide to the Technocracy, a late 2nd edition supplement.  Although it’s not quite in line with the Revised version of the Technocracy and still has a bias toward treating them as villains, it’s still an important supplement and often starts at around $20-25.

Revised had a Storytellers Companion (with the screen, under $10) and Storytellers Handbook, which is less common and can run between $20-30.  In lieu of a Players Guide they had the Guide to the Traditions, which usually starts at $10-15.

Splatbooks

There are two sets of splatbooks, original and Revised.  The original had books for the 9 Traditions and 5 Conventions, which were gathered into compilations (3 and 2 volumes, respectively).  None of these run to very much, but the Tradition books had shiny metallic covers that show wear like a beacon, so they can be hard to find in good condition.

There are 10 Revised Tradition books (the Hollow Ones, originally treated as an unaffiliated catchall, got its own book this time around).  Only one Revised Convention Book (Iteration X) was published before the line stopped, but the remainder have been published as PDF/POD.  The Revised Tradition books generally follow the alphabetic/price correlation, with Akashic Brotherhood and Dreamspeakers running closer to $10 and the Verbena and Virtual Adepts closer to $20 or more.  The exception is the Order of Hermes book: for whatever reason, this one seems to be particularly expensive and sought after. (One reason may be that they’re one of the more complex Traditions, so having a book collecting all their Houses is more important than it is with a looser group.)

Other supplements

A general note on Mage supplements: Some but not all of the first two editions’ supplements were numbered in approximate chronological order (generally the purple-covered non-corebooks; the Convention books were numbered but the Tradition books weren’t).  According to the Mage FAQ, this was dropped because it wasn’t being applied consistently (numbers followed when books were assigned, not necessarily when they were released).  The FAQ also says that the number 21 was put on some copies of Digital Web 2.0, which should have been number 22.  My copy has 21; I haven’t been able to confirm the existence of both numbers or their relative frequency, but that’s a variant to watch out for.

As usual, Revised has most of the books that are sought after/hard to find/expensive.  Noteworthy examples:

  • Infinite Tapestry, the Umbral guide.  The price on this one can vary a lot but it’s generally above $20.
  • Sorcerer Revised.  The original version was a collection of hedge magics, but the Revised version collects all the Numina (mortal psychic powers) from various supplements as well, which makes it very useful as a resource for hunters and the like. (Ignore the clueless 1-star review on Amazon.)
  • The Fallen Tower: Las Vegas. A setting book/adventure.  To be honest, I got this one at a store for a reasonable price so I hadn’t realized it had gone up in value, but at the moment it’s running around $60 on both Amazon and eBay.
  • Forged by Dragons Fire. A collection of and guide to magical items; runs around $30.

In-character books and other items

There is one in-character text, Fragile Path: Testament of the First Cabal. For those who are interested, there are two distinct versions of this; the original printing had a purplish cover, while the later printings were red.

The other collectible items of note were the two editions of the Mage Tarot.  These were full-color decks using the cards that appeared in the frontispieces of the booksl  There are two versions; the original has a box with a horizontal orientation and the word “Tarot” most prominent, while the Revised version’s box has a vertical orientation and the “Mage” logo in Revised style as the prominent word. (I don’t know how the interiors differ, because my Revised deck is still in the shrinkwrap and I’m not opening it, thank you.) These run to serious money: expect to pay $50 for the original and $70 or more for the Revised.

Sorcerers Crusade

This was the historical game for Mage, set during the Renaissance.  It doesn’t seem to have been terribly popular, but was more successful than Werewolf: The Wild West, with eight supplements total.  The core book and most of the supplements can be found for $10 or so; the exception is Infernalism: The Path of Screams, which can run around $60.  The Witches and Pagans book was listed on White Wolf’s checklist but not released; it turned up as a PDF on DriveThruRPG, but (annoyingly) hasn’t had a POD version yet.

I also found the Storyteller’s Screen surprisingly hard to locate.  The Companion that came with it is relatively common, but finding a reasonably priced copy that definitely had the screen with it was harder (one Amazon seller was surprised that I’d even care about the screen).  There are a couple on eBay right now, but they’re not the cheapest.

That’s it for Mage!  I’ll be doing a short article on merchandise, and after this the articles will get shorter; I may cover more than one game in one article, and will probably make the merchandise part of the article (since it doesn’t take long to say “dice, a pin, and a few novels”).  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “FIRE BAD!”

Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 6a: Werewolf merchandise

Following the classic age/popularity curve, Werewolf is second for most merchandise, behind Vampire but ahead of Mage.  It doesn’t have as many weird one-off items (such as the Vampire license plate) but is still fairly well represented in the general categories. (One reason for this is that there were fewer licensed items produced by other companies.)  I’ll follow the same format as I did for Vampire; promotional materials and posters will be covered in a separate article.

Dice. The official WtA dice were brown/rust colored, released in a set with 9 regular dice and one Auspice die, with phases of the moon. They came in a box and included a brown dice pouch with the claw mark symbol in white. These don’t show up very often and run expensive when they do.

A set of reproduction WtA dice was available for a while.  The colors were a bit duller than the original, and the Auspice die wasn’t included; if you want to make sure you have an original set, look for the Auspice die and the dice bag.

Miniatures.  Ral Partha released a series of Werewolf miniatures, consisting of some of the tribes in various forms and some Wyrm creatures/antagonists. (Unlike the Vampire minis, these make some sort of sense in play, as Werewolf is more combat-oriented and had systems for map-and-mini play.)

Collectible card game. The Rage CCG was released by White Wolf starting in 1995; two editions of the core set and four expansions were released.  The license was picked up by Five Rings Publishing Group, who released a new set under their ill-fated “Rolling Thunder” program, with a set of regular mini-expansions rather than a few larger sets.  This edition wasn’t compatible with the White Wolf version, and was cancelled after six mini-episodes and one larger one.  Support continued online, with virtual card sets and rules updates.

If you are looking to buy cards, you should be prepared to pay the most for foil cards and cards from the “War of the Amazon” set, which was underproduced.  The “Umbra” expansion was massively overproduced and should be available at giveaway prices; even the foils don’t go for much.  The FRPG sets aren’t as popular as White Wolf’s.

Novels. There were a good number of these, though again not as many as Vampire had.  Their Tribe Novels covered two tribes per book rather than the single focus of VtM’s Clan Novels.  Except for the W20-oriented fiction, these are listed on White Wolf’s checklist.

(Note that one fiction collection, Drums Around the Fire, had the RPG’s trade dress and was trade paperback size, so it’s sometimes mistaken for a game book and included in RPG lots.  There were also two Rage strategy guides that have a similar issue.)

Comics. Moonstone released some WtA comics, and there’s at least one collected edition.  The comics aren’t rare, no matter what eBay sellers might claim; the collected edition is less common.

Book cover. There was a Dragonskin vinyl bookcover released by Chessex, with a werewolf image in silver ink.  Chessex also released a binder for Rage that apparently included some promo cards.

T-shirts. Fewer of these were released than Vampire shirts; the shirts were for the general game line (or Rage) and not individual tribes.  One of the shirts has the same image as the Dragonskin. (These are hard to research because there are a lot of unrelated werewolf shirts out there.) They don’t come up on eBay very often.

Jewelry. Rather than pins, Werewolf had necklaces, “bone chips” on leather cords with the sigil of a tribe or Changing Breed.  The TONS O’SPLATS factor comes in here, as there are twenty-two necklaces, covering the thirteen core tribes and nine Changing Breeds. (The Kitsune and, oddly, the Black Spiral Dancers are left out.) There are two WtA pins, one with four claw marks on a circle and one with four claw marks standing alone.

The White Wolf catalog I have also lists tribe pendants and brooches/pins (including the BSDs this time) as well as pendants and brooches for Rites and a sterling silver klaive.  These turn up very rarely online, if at all.

Coffee mug. This is the only WtA drinking vessel that I know of; it’s red with white marbling and the WtA logo.

High-end collectible. There’s only one of these, a replica Klaive (huge knife/sword).  These run into the hundreds when they turn up.  (There’s also overlap with the sword/weapon collectors’ market, so if you want one it may pay to look outside the usual RPG channels.) (The RPGnet thread linked above has a picture of a sheath, but the available evidence seems to be that it’s not an official part of the product.)

Temporary tattoos: These were sold in packets for each tribe, including the BSDs.  They don’t turn up that often but don’t run to much when they do. (By their nature it’s hard to predict the availability of items that were designed to be consumable.)

Candle? A scented candle was listed for WtA in White Wolf’s catalog.  I’m having trouble confirming the existence of these to my full satisfaction, but I have found a couple of game dealers who list it on their sites.

Apocrypha: As with VtM, I can’t confirm the existence of the Tribe Stickers that were listed in WW’s catalog.

Vaporware: A WtA PC game was advertised in some of their books but was never released.  Other vaporware includes action figures and a WW-produced graphic novel.

I think that hits the main categories.  Next up: Mage!  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “Only one of us is going to walk out of here–under his own steam–and it won’t be me!”

Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 6: Werewolf: the Apocalypse

Werewolf: The Apocalypse was the second World of Darkness core game, released in 1992.  Most WtA products have a product code beginning with a 3.  WtA was one of the games that was supported until the end of the cWoD, and is the second to have a 20th edition released.

Core books

There are four core books: 1st and 2nd edition, Revised edition, and the 20th anniversary (W20) edition.  As with Vampire, the 1st and 2nd ed books can be found for $10 without much trouble, and Revised for under $20.  W20 was only sent out in the last month or so (the Kickstarter for the deluxe version took a long time due to feature creep and production delays) and I haven’t seen any copies on eBay yet, but since the pledge level for a copy of the book was $120 it will probably run to 3 digits.

(Since the W20 Kickstarter’s numbers are public, it’s possible to estimate how many copies of the deluxe edition exist; there should be roughly 1900 that were sent to backers.  There were 157 backers for the Heavy Metal edition (with a metal cover), which hasn’t shipped as of this writing.  Since the pledge level for this edition was $385, there probably won’t be many of these hitting the secondary market, and they’ll run to a lot if they do.  There are probably a few more copies in existence (extras for replacement copies, office/staff copies, etc.) but it’s still a pretty small number overall.)

There was a limited edition version of the Revised rulebook, with a slipcase and deluxe Art of Werewolf.  It’s the second most sought-after deluxe core book, after Vampire and before Mage.

One note on the core books: Every edition except Revised had three “claw marks” cut out of the cover.  This makes it harder to find copies of the 1st and 2nd editions in very good condition.  The 1st edition paperback was the worst–the cuts tended to fray or catch and tear, and the fist page faded and picked up dirt and finger oils under the cuts.  The 2nd edition wasn’t as bad, since the hardcover was stronger and thicker, but the fading and dirt issue still applied unless the book was kept protected.  (W20 may be prone to this as well, but it’s much more recent and as an expensive book will probably be better protected.)

Core supplements

WtA has the usual array of Players Guides and Storyteller Handbooks and Companions.  The 1st and 2nd edition Players Guides include the bare bones of the Changing Breeds (more on them later); for Revised they published a Players Guide to Garou and a Players Guide to Changing Breeds, which is one of the more sought after supplements.

Splatbooks

WtA has a lot of these–the most of any WoD game.  This is because, in addition to 13 werewolf tribes, there are also several Changing Breeds that shift into other types of animals.  There were 9 Breed Books, plus Hengeyokai, a guide to Asian shifters that also includes the Kitsune werefoxes.  Since there were 2 editions of each of the Tribebooks, that’s a total of 36.

The original Tribebooks are fairly common and easy to find.  Like the core book, they have diecut versions of the tribe’s symbol; they aren’t as large as the core book’s claws, but some of the more fiddly symbols in particular are vulnerable to tears or breakage. (The Breed Books have the same trade dress as the Tribebooks, but the symbols are embossed instead.) These were collected in 4 “Litany of the Tribes” collections.

The Revised Tribebooks are a classic example of the principle that earlier=more common and cheaper.  They were released in alphabetical order; the earliest ones (Black Furies and Bone Gnawers) aren’t that hard to find, while the latest ones (Uktena and Wendigo) are hard to find and expensive–the Uktena book was one of the last half-dozen books on my list.  The Wendigo book was one of the last oWoD supplements released.  Likewise, while not as rare, the Ananasi and Rokea Breed Books were the last one released and run to more than the earlier ones.

Setting books

The title formula for the setting books is “Rage Across…”, some of which were reprinted in “Rage Across the World” collections.  Dark Alliance: Vancouver is a combined setting book for WtA and VtM (and features a silly Japanese vampire clan).  None of these are particularly hard to find; however, some of them contain maps that were removable and therefore may or may not be included in used copies.

Other sourcebooks

Revised edition sourcebooks for WtA are often on the rare and expensive side–they often fall into the category of very useful and relatively underprinted.  Book of Auspices, Book of the City, Hammer and Klaive, and Past Lives can all run as high as $30-40 or so.

Screens

Each edition had a Storytellers Screen.  1st ed included a combat information sheet and blank character sheets.  2nd ed had an adventure, “Three Werewolf Stories”.  Revised was shrinkwrapped with the Storytellers Companion, and the W20 version was an addon for the W20 Kickstarter.

In-universe materials

There were two books released in this category, Silver Record and Chronicle of the Black Labyrinth.  CotBL isn’t that hard to find; Silver Record isn’t rare per se but can run around $20.

Historical settings

There are two Dark Ages Werewolf sourcebooks.  Werewolf: the Dark Ages is a paperback that was released during the VtDA era but is part of the Werewolf line, and isn’t very hard to find.  Dark Ages Werewolf is a hardcover, part of the Dark Ages line, and hard to find (running around $50).

The Werewolf historical setting was Werewolf: the Wild West, which wasn’t very popular.  None of the books from it are hard to find or expensive.  A couple of the supplements were released under the Arthaus line, which was supposed to be a more economical way of marketing books for less popular lines (Changeling wound up here as well), and in practice often meant a ridiculous amount of white space.  On the other hand, one supplemental item, the Wild West Poker Deck, is stupidly hard to find and expensive (generally $100 minimum).  (If I sound slightly bitter it’s partially because this is the one older WoD game item from the official checklist that I don’t own–if anyone has one they want to let go, please let know…)

Pinnacle Entertainment produced three Deadlands crossover adventures under their Dime Novel line: Under a Harrowed Moon, Savage Passage, and Ground Zero.  They can generally be found for a few bucks each, but since they’re Deadlands and not WoD products, they may not be found or listed with other WoD products.

There’s enough Werewolf merchandise that I’ll handle it in a separate article, as I did with Vampire.  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says, “Truly, we live in an age of wonders.”

Gamma World is to weird post-apocalyptic mutants as _______ is to ______

When I did my previous article on the ubiquity of D&D and looked for equivalent games, I ran across some game that have been around for a long time, but for whatever reason don’t dominate their respective fields like D&D does.  These aren’t games that have been around for twenty years and define their genre; these are the quirky games that mostly define themselves, and bounce in and out of print and between publishers.

Gamma World is a good example of this.  There have been seven editions between 1978 and 2010, and depending on how you count, had up to three publishers and six different rules systems. (The first two used a system based on D&D, and had conversion rules in the 1st edition DMG.  The third edition fell into the fad at TSR for color-based charts along the lines of Marvel Super Heroes.  The fourth edition was closer to 2nd Ed AD&D.  The fifth was the first released by WotC, as a worldbook for Alternity.  Sixth edition was based on d20 Modern and released by Sword & Sorcery Studios, in a release that apparently removed the endearing goofiness of the setting.  Seventh edition was released by WotC again, this time based on 4E.  How many rulesets that is depends on how similar you consider the different editions of D&D to be, since there was a version modeled on each of the four editions to date.)

GW can’t be said to dominate its genre so much as define it.  The “default” post-apocalyptic setting isn’t as well-defined as fantasy’s is, but GW’s weird stew of influences and elements is recognizable as its own. (It’s partially derived from James Ward’s earlier Metamorphosis Alpha.  Of the two other post-apocalyptic RPGs with mutant animals, Mutant Future makes no bones about its source. Palladium’s After the Bomb was originally a supplement for the TMNT RPG, so the presence of mutated animals makes sense.) A GM is less likely to come up with a campaign idea and reach for GW as a base system than to start with GW’s setting and work outwards.

What would define other games in Gamma World‘s niche?  As described above, the concepts of the game world are integral to the way the game is perceived and used, and as a result the property has its own definable feel.  Its publishing history has longevity but not continuity–it hasn’t been continually in print but has gone away and come back, sometimes from a new publisher or in a new game system. (The difference between the d20 versions of Call of Cthulhu and Gamma World is that for CoC it was another rules system in addition to the existing one; for GW it was the return of a setting that hadn’t been around for a while.)

Here are some examples.  Unlike the D&D article, I’m not breaking them down by genre, since they’re too individualistic for that.  I’m not including licensed games (with one exception), since the game’s identity comes from the source material first and the game second. (Not that licensed games can’t have their own identities–West End’s d6 Star Wars feels different from Edge of Empire–but it’s outside the scope of this article.)

Ars Magica. Five editions from four publishers between 1987 and 2004.  A game of wizards in a medieval Europe that conforms to the beliefs of the era, this game was originally published by Lion Rampant, one of the companies that merged to form White Wolf Publishing.  Some of its terms and concepts carried over into Vampire and Mage.

Earthdawn. Five editions from three publishers between 1993 and 2012.  A game that was a bit ahead of its time in presenting a distinctive spin on the generic fantasy setting. It has some overlap with Shadowrun.

Paranoia. Five editions (plus a couple of major revisions) from two publishers between 1984 and 2009. A good example of a game whose identity comes primarily from its setting, Paranoia is a game of dark humor set in a post-apocalyptic future.  The game is set in an enormous underground complex run by The Computer, whose commands in the struggle against Commie Mutant Traitors must be obeyed–or, more accurately, the PCs’ goal is to avoid being caught disobeying its commands.  There’s nothing in that description that could be considered even vaguely generic.

Shadowrun. Six editions from three publishers between 1989 and 2013.  I covered this in the D&D article, but as an example of a game that defines its own subgenre, which qualifies it for this one as well.  Neither the cyberpunk nor fantasy elements that went into this game are especially original on their own, but the combination of the two is distinctive and well-done.

Tekumel. This is the exception to the no-licensed-games rule.  A setting created by Professor M.A.R. Barker, it was the basis of four games from five publishers (one was a reprint) between 1975 and 2005.  I make the exception because, while there is more to the setting than the RPGs, the games were the way the setting was introduced (the first Tekumel novel didn’t come out until 1984) and therefore the primary association in most gamers’ minds. (Empire of the Petal Throne is by far the best-known of the four.)

Traveller. Up to nine editions from six publishers between 1977 and 2013, depending on how you count adaptations and spinoffs.  Another game I covered in the D&D article; while I found that it was the closest to a D&D analogue for science fiction, it had strikes against it that didn’t make it a perfect fit, and those strikes make it fit well here.

Honorable mention: Metamorphosis Alpha (five editions from four publishers between 1976 and 2007) and Deadlands (five rulesets from four publishers between 1996 and 2006, plus three spinoffs–the winner for highest ratio of editions to time).  While there have been many versions of these games over the years, they’ve been largely overseen by their creators, James M. Ward and Shane Lacy Hensley, respectively.  I exempt them from the main list for this reason, since this gives them a continuity that the other games on the list don’t have.

Can anyone suggest any other games that fit this model?

Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “I reject your reality and substitute my own”.

 

Collecting classic World of Darkness: The basics

As I mentioned in my intro post, I recently completed a set of classic World of Darkness (cWoD) books, and I only had to pay over cover price on two of them. (Revised Vampire Players Guide and Kithbook Pooka, for the record.) The last time I checked, there wasn’t a comprehensive guide to collecting cWoD online, and the checklist that White Wolf released around the time they originally shut the game line down has some issues.  So, here’s the first installment of my guide.

The basics

I’m assuming that anyone’s who interested enough to read this knows the basics of White Wolf and the World of Darkness; if you don’t, Wikipedia can fill you in.  To summarize briefly, the various game lines comprising the World of Darkness published by White Wolf Publishing from 1991 to 2003, when they shut it down and created the new World of Darkness (nWoD).  New cWoD books began with the 20th Anniversary Vampire the Masquerade (V20).

There are six types of content one can collect in cWoD:

  • Tabletop RPGs, which is where it all started.  There were ten main game lines, some much larger than others, plus four historical game lines.
  • Live action RPG (LARP) adaptations of the tabletop RPGs.
  • Collectible card games (CCGs) based on Vampire, Werewolf and Changeling.
  • Magazines published by White Wolf with cWoD content.
  • Fiction (novels and short stories) set in the worlds of the various game lines.
  • Assorted tie-in collectibles (pins, replica weapons, dice, etc.).

There are also books that replicate in-world books (such as the Book of Nod) that straddle the line between tabletop, LARP and fiction; I consider them part of the tabletop line, but they don’t contain any rules or game content.  I’m not going to go into fiction or CCGs in much detail, but I’ll cover all the rest.

The books and how to get them

With the exception of the Vampire CCG, none of these items are available through standard game distribution channels.  The older game materials are out of print, and the newer books were released by other means.  Therefore, original copies of the old games are only available through used channels.  In rough order from most to least useful, here’s what I’ve used:

  • Amazon Marketplace.  You’re probably familiar with Amazon.com; Marketplace is their option for selling used items.  Prices can range from excellent bargains to ridiculously overpriced, but if you know what you’re doing it’s one of your best resources.  I’ll be doing a separate article on getting the most out of Marketplace.
  • eBay.  The other go-to source for used material.  The drawback to eBay is that you’re competing against everyone else who might want these items; the upside is that you can purchase items in bulk, and sometimes you’ll get lucky. (Other auction sites are available but I haven’t used them.)
  • Your Friendly Local Game Store.  This is a mixed bag, because the age and the focus of the store make a big difference in whether it’ll have material you can use for your collection.  A store that’s been around a long time (more than a decade) or has acquired another store’s inventory may have cWoD material on the shelf.  If they deal in used games, there’s a good chance they’ll have something, and it’s possible to get some incredible bargains this way.  A store that’s new, focused on something other than tabletop RPGs, and doesn’t carry used games probably won’t have much to offer, though.
  • Online game stores.  Two good options are Troll and Toad and Noble Knight Games (I haven’t dealt with them but it looks like they have a good inventory).  You’re less likely to find bargains here, since online game stores are more likely to know the value of what they’re carrying, but it can be a good place to stock up on inexpensive, common books without the shipping costs of Amazon Marketplace.
  • Other gamers.  Local gamers may be getting rid of their collection; if you’re plugged into the local gamer community you may hear about a good opportunity.
  • Used bookstores, garage sales, etc.  Used bookstores sometimes carried used gamebooks, but you can’t count on it.  On the other hand, they’re less likely to know the secondary market value of a gamebook, so it may be possible to get a bargain.  Don’t count on finding used gamebooks at garage sales or thrift stores, but again, you may get lucky.
  • Online bookstore metasearches.  In principle, an online bookstore search site like Abebooks will let you search multiple online retailers to find the best price.  In practice, Amazon always seemed to have the best price, especially for rarer items.  One reason for this is that some retailers list items on multiple online locations, including Amazon.  Give it a try if there’s something specific you’re looking for, but I never found it worth the effort.

(Note that this is based on my personal experience, so I can only speak directly to the US market; if you live elsewhere your mileage may vary.)

There is one other source to consider: DriveThruRPG.  This online retailers sells pretty much every cWoD product in PDF form.  Many but not all of them are available as Print on Demand (PoD) books; the post-2011 books are only available at retail as PoD

The original release of V20 was as a limited edition book sold through White Wolf’s online game store.  Most of the new releases since then have been launched with a Kickstarter release, with a limited edition product only available through the Kickstarter. (Some Kickstarters have had options for retail stores, so it may be possible to find them at your FLGS.) These products are also available in PoD form.

Choosing your target

It’s worth deciding up front whether you want a complete set of every game product ever released, or whether you want to start concentrating on a smaller target.  You might not be interested in LARP products, for example, or you might want to focus on a single game line. (I completed my set of Kindred of the East well before any of the others, for example.) The game lines vary widely in size, from the dozens of books released for Vampire to the two books of Mummy the Resurrection. (As of this writing, you could get a complete MtR set on Amazon for $24 plus shipping.)

It’s also worth deciding what you consider your stopping point.  I was going for full completeness, but that might not be your goal.  For example, several Vampire, Werewolf and Mage books were reprinted in combined form, with two or more books reprinted unchanged under one cover.  You may decide you want the originals and don’t care about the reprints, or that you just want the content and don’t care what form they come in. (The collected reprints of Werewolf Tribebooks and Mage Tradition Books are easier and simpler to collect than the individual books, for example.) Likewise, several gamebooks were released in limited edition versions, with leatherette covers, metallic page edges, and slipcovers.  These are expensive and generally don’t have new content, so you may consider them optional.

That’s the basics.  Next time, dealing with the Checklist.  Until then, the Woggle-Bug says “Monsters we are, lest monsters we be-a-be-a-be-a-turn into.”