I decided to try something different. One of my players let me know he wasn’t going to be there and I had a week to plan, so I dug out some books I hadn’t looked at in about four years. I prepared an adventure and called some old friends to fill out the group. Friday night came around and I introduced my players to the World of Darkness.
World of Darkness is a very different animal from Dungeons and Dragons. World of Darkness is a storytelling system. It’s the kind of system that encourages playing fast and loose with the rules. It’s more about the ongoing narrative and the story the players create together than anything. It’s the kind of thing that encourages less dice and more talking. It’s the kind of thing, to be blunt here, my players don’t do.
World of Darkness is the first system I ran. Back when I was young and had no idea how to run anything, I used to put together these shoddy adventures full of far too many characters and riddled with plot holes. My experience with WoD taught me how to handle players and how to cover all your bases in a narrative sense. I learned that you shouldn’t try to shove every cool NPC you come up with down your players throats, you should just let the things happen naturally. And I learned a lot about tailoring the adventure to your group rather than forcing the group to fit your adventure.
With nostalgia and the lessons I’ve learned over the years, I put together a pretty good game based on the first two Evil Dead movies. I even added elements where the characters would start to ‘lose it’ and could come back as demons to kill the other players. Overall, it was a hit. I had my players congratulating me. One player, John, who I used to do WoD with all the time, kept telling me how this was some of my best work. Rob even enjoyed it, despite this not being his thing.
So what did I do now that I didn’t do then? Well for one, I had a much clearer, more concise adventure. Anything the players could do, I had an answer for. Every part of the cabin the characters where staying in was mapped out. Another thing is I’m far better at coming up with things on the fly than I used to be. At one point, my players decided to try to find a way to stop the demons. I hadn’t planned on this, but using throw-away details (just to set the mood, but not with any actual in game purpose) and some quick thinking, I gave them an option. Before, I would have stammered and shrugged. The last thing I did was keep the rulebook closed. If a rules question came up, I just said do it this way and don’t worry about it. It kept the game moving and killed all the endless book searching. This is one of those things that are probably going to come up in my regular game.
This little experiment was an astounding success. But it also taught me. It showed me my regular players would be able to handle role playing much better than they have been (which is good because they have a lot coming their way) and it showed me that I’d improved as master of games. I know I still have a long way to go, but it’s nice to know that I’m actually applying things I’ve learned.
In closing, if you haven’t tried World of Darkness (or any of the add-on systems like Vampire, Changeling or my favorite, Werewolf) do it. It’s a great system. It would get my recommendation any day.