McWoD Delivers

About a year ago, I heard that veteran game designer, Monte Cook, would be writing his own version of White Wolf Games Studio’s World of Darkness setting. Mr. Cook is renowned for being one of the authors of the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons and owner of the very successful Malhavoc Press. As a fan of Monte’s work and of the World of Darkness, I was intrigued. I later discovered the project would be set in the World of Darkness setting but use the d20 rules. Because my players seem to favor d20, this really piqued my interest.

I purchased the PDF version of Monte Cook’s World of Darkness (or McWoD for short) from DriveThruRPG yesterday. Wow, just wow. It is a fantastic blend of d20, d20 Modern and Storytelling System that is easy to pick up and understand. Character creation is a snap; anyone who has played any of the d20 games can being playing this in a very, very short amount of time.

What is truly spectacular about the product is the creative twist on the old World of Darkness. Rather than running with the thousands of years of history the supernatural creatures in normal WoD possess, Monte made the appearance of supernatural creatures in the world a brand new occurance in McWoD. Basically, some Cthulu-esqe entities (known as the Iconnu) attempted to enter our reality in full, but failed. Instead, the attempt caused an explosion of supernatural energy that wiped out central USA and spread waves of nightmarish energy across the globe. The intrusion failed because of a number of humans, known as Awakened, whose subconscious powers were able to hold the barrier between worlds. Now, the Iconnu have sent their spiritual agents into the world to destroy the Awakened and bring the barrier crashing down. Their main agents consist of:

  • Vampires – The Iconnu brought forth the most evil, twisted souls of dead humans that ever existed and forced them into the bodies of living (and often innocent) people. The result killed the body and suffused it with the supernatural strength and power of the vampire. Like most traditional vampires, they drink blood, avoid sunlight, etc. However, they have a huge twist; there are two souls locked in the body. Some vampires are completely controlled by their “evil” soul, some by their “normal” soul, and some have a blend of both or even completely split personalities!
  • Werewolves – Where vampires are a fusion of a dead soul and a living soul, werewolves are the fusion of a primitive, primal spirit with a living soul. The result is a total meld of personalities into one body, with the bestial nature of the spirit mostly dominant. Werewolves are wild, dangerous creatures capable of tremendous destruction.
  • Demons – Not the traditional “devil” that immediately comes to mind, demons are spirit creatures brought forth from some unknown dimension. They are not merged with a living soul; instead, they have the power to take the shape of any human they wish and change that shape on a whim. The result is a powerful spirit entity that can hide anywhere! That little girl on the swing, the cop coming to your rescue, or the taxi driver picking you up could be a disguised demon waiting to rip you to shreds!

Players can be members of these three races; not all are loyal to the Iconnu. For example, sometimes the “wrong” soul is dominant in a vampire, or a werewolf puts its destructive urges to use against evil. Even a demon can change sides. Perhaps the allure of having a physical body is better than where it came from, and it is not interested in the Iconnu destroying this world. If these three options weren’t enough, there are two other options available:

  • Awakened – These are the humans who had the latent ability to hold reality together against the Iconnu. Thus, they are the target for most of the vampires, werewolves and demons out there. They have some supernatural talents and can really be the focus of many stories. If all the Awakened die, reality comes crashing down.
  • Mages – When the Iconnu backlash occured, mystical energy washed over the world. Suddenly, magic actually began working! Now, shapers of magic walk the world trying to learn new ways to unleash their talents. They are really the wild cards, because they have no ties to the Iconnu, nor are they targetted by them. Thus, a mage could be working for either side in this hidden war.

Antagonists in the game are regular humans (thus, a similarity to d20 Modern), one of the five “supernaturals” described above, or even more exotic monsters. Due to the Nightmare Wave, many bizarre creatures can be found in the world. The most bizarre are in places near the central US where the devastation was the worst. Most any d20 monster imaginable could crop up there. Further away things like ghosts and other undead, bizarre plants, giant insects and other sterotypical horror creatures could easily fit into the campaign.

The way the story is written, it allows the Iconnu intrusion to play as much or as little into the campaign as you want. It can be the entire focus, with players trying to protect Awakened and destroy minions of the Iconnu, or it can be way in the background. This allows for a post-apocalypse style of gaming all the up to a modern horror, depending on where you base your game in relation to the central US. I think that flexibility alone makes McWoD have huge appeal. You could easily replicate the feel of the TV show Supernatural with these rules. If you want more extreme, you can sway more toward the Mad Max feel.

All-in-all, I think McWoD is a brilliant adaptation of WoD. I think it is a niche market; most of your WoD purists are going to avoid it. However, it is a really good way to expose the d20 gamer market to an exciting and rich setting. After reading through it, all I could really say about is summed up in my first thoughts, “good stuff.”


  1. Casey says:

    that definitely sounds cool. are you thinking about using it as a Saturday event sometime soon?

  2. charles.plemons says:

    Yeah, I’m kicking around some ideas. I think to do it justice, the Saturday format would have to be one where I could do a single six hour or so session instead of two fours or something. I’m still learning the details but would like to have a session or two of it before Christmas.

    Of course, I think I owe it to Colby to run a Shadowrun game soon too!

    I have my opinions on what I’d like to do, but it’s always more fun to give the players what they want. I’m curious if you guys would prefer something more Mad Max or Supernatural? Also, which of the five character types appeal to you?

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