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     " At the end of the day the World of Darkness core book is nicely presented and very serviceable, though there are definitely some changes that old players probably won't be terribly attracted to. "

      Title: World of Darkness by White Wolf

      Format: New single edition core

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: With a long history of questionably compatibility and multiple revised editions, the World of Darkness games by White Wolf have frustrated the hell out of gamers for years. Now, with a brand new stand alone core rulebook White Wolf hopes to consolidate the basic rules for their new line into one easy to understand package that will be used in conjunction with one of their soon to be released core storybooks (Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken, etc.).

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Story and Drama: Because this is a core rulebook for all of their future World of Darkness (WoD) games, there is little actual story included. Basically just a collection of rules, and not really a game unto itself, this core includes almost no story to play with. Instead, it tries its hardest to present the mood and atmosphere that your WoD games should possess. But despite a rather lengthy Storyteller's chapter there's barely enough to inspire you, much less to give you any legitimate story. 2 out of 5

      Layout and Presentation: For those familiar with old White Wolf (WW) titles, the layout will be old hat. Beginning with a chapter setting up the premise of the WoD (that being a gothic, modern horror setting), the book moves smoothly into the rules for the game, character creation, character adaptations, and then information on Storytelling and adversaries. All in all, it's a very functional presentation with nice, high-grade artwork, and an easy to use Index. My one gripe, as it's always been about these games, is that the Table of Contents is sparse by anyone's standards…though it is muchly improved over the old WoD titles. 4 out of 5

      Playability: Those familiar with the old Storyteller system will find much familiar in the new one. Somewhat streamlined and muchly simplified, the game basically gives each character a rating between 1 and 5 for both stats and skills, with the appropriate combined total (1 stat, 1 skill) indicating how many 10 sided dice you roll to see if you succeed. Each dice that scores an 8 or above is a success, with at least 1 success being required each time you roll to accomplish your goal.
          It's a simple system, and one that, at heart, has served them for over a decade. What's interesting in this core is some of the small, and often confusing, changes that have been made. First and foremost, and unquestionably the most unnerving, is the addition of a D20-like attack system that, in theory, was designed to simplify the rolling of attacks and damage, but in practice just feels hackneyed. Basically the way it works is that a weapon's damage, also given in D10 ratings, is added to your attack roll as it's made (so, for example, if you had a stat of 2, a skill of 1, and were given a weapon doing 3 damage, you would roll a total of 6 dice to attack) and damage is based on the total number of successes. And while this does cut down the amount of rolling and math you're doing, it means that there is always a substantial advantage to wielding a weapon that does more damage. Thus, not only are you more likely to cleave someone in half with a poleaze, you're also more likely to hit your opponent with one than you are with, say, a rapier. It's a really annoying addition and one that seems to have been designed to try and wean some of the D20 players away from D&D and on to the WoD. The problem, however, is that old players are likely to resent this blatant pander to the power gamers.
          Also new, but only a little confusing, is the addition of two new character concepts: Morality and Vices and Virtues. The first, Morality, is a tool both for indicating the general attitude of your character and an opportunity to pick up derangements should your Morality decay. The second, Vices and Virtues, represent the basic programming of your character, giving him or her one positive and one negative trait based on the seven heavenly virtues and deadly sins. These two mechanics work together to try and give you a moral framework to base your character on, give the Storyteller a basis for action based rewards or punishments, and in general serve to give you direction for how your character would behave in various ambiguous situations. All in all, it's a fairly fun concept and can be a useful tool for managing wayward characters in a gaming group, but unfortunately also serves to limit the effectiveness of "evil" characters, which can also be frustrating for those used to the unbridled nature of earlier WoD games.
          Still, all in all, the game plays well and remains one of my favorite systems. It's smooth to implement, easy to learn, and among the most flexible I've ever seen. I just don't know how other gamers will respond to some of the new power-gamer-oriented rules…they didn't strike us well and we'll probably discard them now that we're done playing it officially for this review. 4 out of 5

      Desired Content: As I've said numerous times in this review already, this is a core book and so gives little in the way of story, campaign, or adversarial designs. And while it is certainly playable on its own, it will only be when combined with one of the other core storybooks, such as Vampire: The Requiem, that this game can come into its own. As it stands by itself you probably won't get much use out of it…but then, if you're buying this, you're probably planning on picking up one of the other books as well. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       At the end of the day the World of Darkness core book is nicely presented and very serviceable, though there are definitely some changes that old players probably won't be terribly attracted to. As is becoming more and more popular, this core is not itself a stand alone game and will definitely require additional supplements to make truly playable, but it will serve as a very nice foundation on which to build new universally compatible games.

      The Good: Nice presentation, easy to navigate layout, and a fun overall system.

      The Bad: A bit more power-gamey than I normally like, a bit restrictive for character types, and needs more info to make it really playable.

      The Overall Ugly: I'm reserving total judgment until I see how the specific games utilize this core, but we're off to a nice start.

      What it's Worth: Market

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