A world of vampires, mages, werewolves, wraiths, changelings, and hunters will soon be coming to the small and big screens. Or rather, this world is returning to this arena after a long hiatus. The famous tabletop roleplaying game line World of Darkness has been tapped for new life on television, film, and video game projects. Check out the details of how this old horror RPG line is rising back from the dead!
White Wolf’s World
The World of Darkness brand began as a series of tabletop roleplaying games. Created by Mark Rein-Hagen In 1991, White Wolf released Vampire: The Masquerade. It proved to be extremely popular, even beating out the roleplaying giant Dungeons & Dragons for a period of time. The success of Vampire: The Masquerade paved the way for other games with similar themes. After Vampire: The Masquerade came Werewolf: The Apocalypse, followed by Mage: The Ascension, Wraith: The Oblivion, Changeling: The Dreaming, and Hunter: The Reckoning. Additional lesser known brands and supplements came which helped flesh out the world White Wolf was creating.
The World of Darkness is essentially an alternate reality that is close to our own, but where everything is just a little darker, grittier, and there are supernatural forces operating in the fringes of society. These beings and creatures wage their private wars, while influencing the course of mankind’s history behind the scenes. Each of the World of Darkness lines has their own meta-theme of keeping balances in check as the world slowly and unavoidably marches forward to doomsday. It is a far cry from the usual high fantasy or four color superheroics in other tabletop roleplaying games of the time.
The World of Darkness line continued to be very successful, expanding into novels, comic books, collectible card games and board games, and video games. By the mid-1990s, there came talks about adopting the material into live action.
Before Twilight and Vampire Diaries, there was Kindred: The Embraced
The height of White Wolf’s World of Darkness popularity peaked in the mid to late 1990s. Aaron Spelling, famed for hit TV series like Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place, became interested in developing a television saga that explored the insular yet seductive world of White Wolf’s popular roleplaying game. Spelling had a vision of drawing from the gothic undertones and the internal intrigue of the vampire clans could be translated into a weekly drama series.
Kindred: The Embraced debuted on the Fox Network on April, 1996. The show starred Mark Frankel as Julian Luna, the Ventrue Prince of the city. Also starring were Stacy Haiduk, Jeff Kober, Brian Thompson, and Channon Roe, who represented the Primogen of the Toreador, Nosferatu, Brujah, and Gangrel, Clans respectively. The show ran weekly until May 1996 for 8 episodes. However, tragically, it was cancelled after 8 episodes, due largely in part to the sudden passing of Mark Frankel in a motorcycle accident.
Although the show received mixed reviews from critics, the ratings were solid and plans for a more complete second season were being hashed. However, the loss of the show’s main star led to the network executives’ decision not to push forward. However, Kindred: The Embraced has gained a cult following, especially with the fans of the game. It can also be credited to have had an influence on vampire-themed shows that came after it. Buffy the Vampire Slayer came just a year later in 1997 with much greater success.
As with any popular genre franchise, video games would not be far behind. Although there were early talks that never came into fruition with the Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension lines, the first World of Darkness video game would be from the Vampire: The Masquerade line. The first was Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption. An action roleplaying game developed by Nihilistic Software and published by Activision, it debuted in 2000 to mixed results.
The next game, however, would have a more lasting legacy. Developed by Troika Games and published by Activision, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is the most successful World of Darkness video game to date… but it was also notoriously buggy and unfinished. It would infamously be the death knell of Troika Games. But thanks to official and unofficial patches, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines would find a new audience and live on as a cult classic. Many consider the graphics, gameplay, and story to be groundbreaking for its time, but it was hampered by the limitations of that period’s available technology and the rushed workload to meet the release schedule.
After Bloodlines, Hunter: The Reckoning received the video game treatment. Developed by High Voltage Software, the Hunter video games would follow a different path. Instead of being roleplaying games, the Hunter: The Reckoning games are straight up action, hack and slash games. The first game was released in 2002 and published by Interplay for the Xbox and Nintendo GameCube. It was successful enough to spawn two sequels. Hunter: The Reckoning – Wayward and Hunter: The Reckoning – Redeemer were released, this time published by Vivendi Games, for the Playstation 2 and the Xbox (respectively) in 2003.
Something Witcher This Way Comes
Although the World of Darkness line of roleplaying games has continued to this day, most of its cross-media projects fell by the sideways after the 2000s. The closest it has come to newer projects are interactive fiction, as in the case of Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York in 2019 for Windows and later ported to the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One. Moreover, no live action projects were fully realized. This is surprising since the vampire and supernatural themes have experienced a renaissance, thanks to live action franchises like True Blood, the Twilight saga, the Harry Potter films, the Vampire Diaries, among many others.
However, it appears the draught of World of Darkness projects will soon be over. Major production company Hivemind (responsible for Netflix’s The Witcher) has reportedly partnered with Paradox Interactive (the current owner of the White Wolf IP) with the purpose of developing new live action projects based on the World of Darkness. In a Twitter post, Deadline Hollywood reports the agreement and current details of the creators involved in the World of Darkness planned live action vehicle:
World Of Darkness Film & TV Franchise In The Works From Eric Heisserer, Christine Boylan, Hivemind & Paradox Interactive https://t.co/10TKgqPAMZ
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) April 27, 2021
According to Hivemind, the World of Darkness TV project has already signed on the executive producer and showrunner, as well as the writer for the upcoming projects. Hivemind president and co-founder Jason Brown said:
Eric [Heisserer] and Christine [Boylan] are among the most extraordinary creators working today. They’re also gamers who have played in WoD since it began. It’s a rare opportunity when the connection between storyteller and story runs this deep, and that is the alchemy which has led to many of our favorite and most culturally resonant franchises.
The husband and wife team are no strangers to genre material. Eric Heisserer is the executive producer for the critically acclaimed Shadow and Bone. Meanwhile, Christine Boylan has extensive writing credits for genre shows, including Castle, Constantine, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, and The Punisher.
The Future Looks Dark
In addition to live action projects, new World of Darkness video games are currently in different stages of development. Although the sequel to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has been delayed, other games from developers such as Choice of Games, Sharkmob, and Big Bad Wolf are projected for a late 2021- early 2022 release. Last year, Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forest was released for multiple platforms and Wraith: The Oblivion – The Orpheus Device was released on Android and IOS.
The most recent offering is Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood. This game was developed by Cyanide Studios and released February 4, 2021. The action roleplaying game is available on the Sony Playstation 4 and Playstation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.