Welcome to the New Dark Ages

Good morning, internet. Have you heard about this V20 Dark Ages thing we’re doing?

tl;dr, here’s the outline draft. It’s a Google Doc.

First off, I’m new around the development blogs, so I felt I should introduce myself. I’m David A Hill Jr. I’ve been freelancing for White Wolf, CCP, and Onyx Path for a number of years. Some of my favorite projects have been Invite Only for Vampire: The Requiem, and Forsaken Chronicler’s Guide for Werewolf: The Forsaken. I’ve been putting in a lot of work on Blood & Smoke: The Strix Chronicle for Rose Bailey; if you’re on the forums, you know that I’m pretty active on these internets. I’ve also been about the RPG industry, I’ve worked with Margaret Weis Productions, Green Ronin, Paizo, and numerous others. I run my own small press, Machine Age Productions, with my wife Filamena Young (another Onyx Path freelancer). So that’s me.

Second off, V20 Dark Ages. A lot of people have stories about playing Dungeons & Dragons. They can wax nostalgic about their first game experiences, about graph paper, about Mountain Dew, and about kobolds. My experience in gaming started with Vampire: The Masquerade. It holds many important places in my heart: it’s the reason for my career, it’s how I met my wife, it’s why I write, I still play in regular games, both tabletop and LARP. I owe Vampire quite a bit. Needless to say, returning to those roots with V20 excited the hell out of me. My particular love, however, was for Dark Ages. I felt that it honed in on everything I loved about The World of Darkness. It hit home on topics of humanity, on rebellion against a fearsome status quo, and about questioning your nature. Needless to say, I pitched to develop V20 Dark Ages the moment I felt it possible. When it was approved, I was floored. I got to write a love letter to this thing that changed my life. A 300 page love letter.

Right now, I have a team of crack writers hammering out three hundred thousand words of buttery wholesomeness. They’re writing this based on my outline, the draft of which I’ve posted on the White-Wolf.com forums in the past few days. You can check it out via Google Docs here. A few things I’ll note about it:

  • This document reflects almost a year of discussions with my writing staff. Usually we don’t share these outlines, because they’re a waste product of the hive mind. You might read things and think, “What? Where’s this obvious thing that should be included?” It’s probably not there, because we’ve talked about it so much that it’s assumed. Every chapter has seen hundreds of emails, some of these things will fall through the cracks of the outline, even though they’ll see inclusion in the final product. 
  • I prefer to develop as we’re working. There’s only so much an outline can provide that writing won’t demolish. Think of it like a chronicle in a Vampire game. As Storyteller, it’s good to have a framework, but if you do much more than that, your players are going to eat right through (possibly literally) your plot. Some people like super extensive outlines; I sometimes find them restrictive as a writer. This outline shows how I strike a balance. 
  • This is very “pull back the curtains”. It’s a little inside baseball. It’s written by a developer, for a team of writers. If some of it doesn’t make sense, you’re welcome to ask, and I’ll try to address it. I’m super transparent about these things, I don’t believe in keeping secrets in game design. 
  • We’re interested in hearing your ideas. But, as with any open development, come in with the understanding that we’re being inundated with input, so we might not address every little thing specifically. We’re reading all your comments. We’re listening. We can’t integrate every requested change for a myriad of reasons. Ultimately, we’ll make the decisions we feel are best for V20 Dark Ages first and foremost. But even suggestions we don’t use are considered, and will often influence the final outcome. 
  • You will find that I like bullet points.

So there you are. Check out the document. If you cite or link it, please link to the Google Doc, because I will be modifying it live. We’ve had some discussions on the forums already.

I’m going to be doing as many of these development blogs as I can fit in. So I guess the next question I pose to you: What do you want to hear me blabber on about?

39 thoughts on “Welcome to the New Dark Ages”

  1. I can’t make any guarantees. But my bloodlines person will get notice that they’ve been mentioned. We’ll see if we can’t make it work.

    • About Koldunic Sorcery, as someone that played a koldun (it was fun), I think focusing on their rituals would make the most sense, after all, before the Tremere came Blood Magic was supposed to be rather scattered and undisciplined.

      Also, I recall somewhere a mention of having the Salubri be considered a High Clan still in the original development back in the day.

      • I’m considering Koldunism right now. I’m mulling over it with my Tzimisce writer. She and I will see if we can fit it and do it justice. That’ll be a challenge.

        The concepts of high and low clans are mutable here. We’re going to address how different regions had different perceptions on the idea. Go to Egypt and call a Setite a “low clan”. I dare you. A big part of this is a move away from “defaults”, because presenting defaults tends to come off as presenting a hard rule.

        • I wasn’t thinking of the high/low clan issue, more of the fact that the Salubri were still a clan in many ways at that point.

          In terms of the Tzimice, I really hope DA:20 has not only the Koldunic rituals, but the assamite, settite, and cappadocian ones. It makes sense for modern to be more disciplined based, but in a time period where Pagan Elders are still awake, I would say rituals would be far more common and thematic then disciplines/paths.

          On another note: It has never been made clear in the rules on how to play a koldun, some buy Koldunic Sorcery out of clan, others swap Vissitude for it (which makes no sense as Yorak the head Koldun is also the head of the Road of Metamorphosis).

          • I can’t make any guarantees yet. We have starkly limited space for that sort of thing, because it just eats up page count like whoa.

            But I’m going to try as much as I can to fit some. I know we’re talking Abyss Mysticism right now. I’m pretty sure it’s going in. But everything’s give or take at this juncture.

    • Good question. That’s why I have a person doing bloodlines, and there’s not a hard list. I want to make sure everything lines up.

      I honestly can’t remember their specific genesis, or if it’s even mentioned.

        • There aren’t actually 15. But I’m blending the clan and bloodline spreads, but I’m giving the Giovani and the Tremere equal space to the Salubri and Cappadocians (for a few reasons I could blog about), and they were in the initial list of things I wanted touched on.

          This is one of those weird legacies of the first draft and conversations. We’re blurring the lines a bit between what it means to be a clan and bloodline, because we’re in a time of flux.

    • Instead of giving them a direct spread, I think what we’re doing is addressing them from a philosophical standpoint, closer to the V20 Companion. We’ll talk about being Caitiff by blood, and clanless by society.

  2. I’ve been excited about this since the pitch was announced. I know it’s early days now, but any thoughts about art direction? For my money, I hope it is more towards the V:DA end of the scale. I found DA:V a bit too ‘cheesecake’. Aside from that, I’m looking forward to seeing the direction you take the Clan/Bloodline debate.

    • I can’t really speak to the art; I don’t have very much say in that beyond my art notes that I send over to the art director.

      However, I think I’d like to see something between the two. V:tDA had some really cool art. But I felt DA:V had some utterly standout pieces. I really liked DA:V’s use of black and white space.

      • Vince Locke and Guy Davis brought the V:tDA setting to life for me.

        To this day when I sit down to write a setting in the Dark Age setting I inevitably find myself looking at their works to get inspiration. I would especially point to their combined work on the Baali Clanbook which gave absolute visual life to the clan.

    • I disagree with Alan. I consider art DA: V far exceeding V: DA. And I know many who agree with me and are very interested in this aspect. As far as cohesion Aesthetics, as the quality and atmosphere of Images, the aesthetic structure of the text and the language used. As for the structure of the particular Art Art of the Clans, Bloodlines and Roads should be maintained with the same approach as DA: V.

      Yet the Font Style and and a summary of the Chapter (as in The Name of the Rose with some irony) would agráveis??. A source is also interesting how the disposal system documents.

    • Not sure yet. There will likely be a Kickstarter. We’re currently slated for April release. It’ll go live for order on DrivethruRPG in PDF and POD when it’s ready.

  3. How do you intend to treat the religious feeling of the Dark Ages? It has always been one of my major problems as storyteller, regarding scenario. The idea of increasing the role played by the roads ( with priests, apprentices etc) seemed nice on paper, but never worked for me or my players in reality: we ended up crafting our own roads, based on the ones presented in the core books or supplements.

    On the other side, the political structure of Dark Ages is something quite rich and tends to lack detais beside the ones given in supplements (like Three Pillars). The relationship between the classes, the behavior of nobles, peasants etc, and the whole cultural mindset (at least of feudal western europe) could be better explored, in the rural (my games normally were set in rural areas) and urban areas (that are quite different from the modern ones). Some extra historic accurate material could help, and help to give colour to the game.

    One last question: how the question of the war of kings will be treated, if it’s gonna be? They put another political perspective in the undead society, quite different from the original dark ages. What can we expect now, in that sense?

  4. Any chance that Ghouls might be given their own appendix like in V:20? One of the heart breaks for me with the Vampire The Dark Ages line was that there was never a Ghoul sourcebook like in VtM and the information was spread out (very thinly too) over so many books. Having all the ghoul rules, background on vassal ghouls, and (really key) all the hereditary ghoul families in one central location would be phenomenal.

    • I really wish we had space for it. But as it stands, we’re squeezing a lot out of very little space, and I’m not confident we have the room to do the topic justice.

      That said, with Kickstarter, anything’s possible. So once it hits Kickstarter, we’ll be evaluating what we’re able to do. Expansion is something that’s happened for past products, like Exalted. So pledge, and pledge often.

      • A Book of Multi-Splat all Servants of Creatures covered in Dark Ages (Vampires, Mages, Werewolves, Fae and Demons) with all the information that VortexAkuma cited as the vampire and all other types of servants that vampires may have, including rules for Creating Families and Servants Revenants Non-lacquered, something I would gladly buy regardless of price.

  5. I would very much like to applaud your approach to the High and Low Clan system of DA:V. The High and Low Clan system felt completely unnatural in the Dark Ages setting (essentially it felt like a forced Camarilla/Sabbat-like social structure). What helped make V:tDA such a unique setting to me was the emphasis on clan/bloodline interaction and the interplay of the roads upon both internal clan relationships and outer clan relations. I can certainly see how different regions’ indigenous clans would certainly create castes or a feudal hierarchy and force that structure on outsider and alien clans. Ultimately this structure would not be very stable or monolithic as it would be highly influenced by all kinds of factors (like religion, ethnic groups, the ruling prince, etc.).

    • Thank you. It’s a huge deal for us that everything feels as logical and organic as possible. And “one true way”, non-global approaches just don’t work for us.

  6. A second read through of the outline draft did raise a couple of thoughts and concerns.

    The theme that appears to be at the forefront of this project is apocalypse. I think this fits brilliantly well with the Mongol invasion of Europe (along with a plethora of other major events occurring that year). I am curious then if the Mongol bloodlines of Wind of the East sourcebook are going to be provided. While the Wu Zhao could be addressed with the Salubri (or not at all as they really lend themselves more to a Kindred of the East campaign), it would seem a shame to not include the Anda as they really are the Mongol bloodline.

    The central mood that is presented appears to be very confused to me. First, punk is a theme not a mood. Punk is not an emotion and does nothing to help define the atmosphere of the game. Second, are we not getting WAY ahead of ourselves (the Anarch Rebellion is still roughly 2 centuries off)? V:tDA and DA:V were always centered on a concept of Dark Medieval while VtM was centered on a concept of Gothic-Punk. This clearly separates the two games. There are definitely major crises that are occurring in 1242 and the winds of change are starting to blow but I do not think the foundations of society are fundamentally changing. New rulers and ruling groups are taking the reins but the political structures themselves are not changing. Change but not revolution is taking place. Two of the key moods of DA:V were “paranoia” and “instability.” These seem to fit the events and setting much better than some sort of proto revolutionary spirit. To inject punk would undermine and even wash out the medieval. Ultimately, this thematic addition would really make this game no different than VtM.

    • I would hasten to add that this time period would lend itself very well to foreshadowing (especially with the crumbling of old princes’ domains and powers like in Al-Andalus and the Northern Crusades) but I do worry that the medieval soul of the game could be easily stripped out if punk is too heavily employed.

  7. Paths and hierarchy of sins are tricky. I’d like Path of the Beast to be really bestial, but also have some difficulty following it.

    More “evil” paths are too easy to follow. But it’s difficult to fix that without softening their evilness.

    It’s a hard balance, but I would applaude if the new Paths are as inhumane as challenging.


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