Dark Eras 2: Personal Reflections

If you’re not backing the Dark Eras 2 Kickstarter you might not have seen yesterday’s announcement about the book’s table of contents. Unlike the last Dark Eras book, the project didn’t start with a slate of ideas and add onto it but rather began with a blank and built it with the community. This means there was a lot of fan input into the book’s eras but also that we haven’t really known what will be in there… until now. So what can we expect? Well, here’s what I think…

The first thing to note is that every era in this book is for multiple game lines. Those settings really gained popularity in the last Kickstarter campaign (and the shifting of some settings from single-game to multi-game chapters accounts for a lot of the delays) so it makes sense. In fact, five out of the thirteen chapters (i.e. nearly half) are for three gamelines at a time. So is this just bigger and better? Are they turning up the volume to eleven and we should be excited no matter the quality?

From all indications, the book’s quality should rise alongside the game line interactions. In the campaign’s first update, developer Meghan Fitzgerald had this to say: “With two game lines in each era, those ripples can be as dramatic and complex as you can imagine. When war breaks out among mortals, do these shadow organizations take sides, or scheme to use the violence as a smokescreen for their own plans? Do they crack down the middle as alliances among and between them tear apart?” She cites Princes of the Conquered Land and The Sundered World as two examples of good dual settings and I’m right there with her.

It’s never stated in the updates for Dark Eras 2 but I suspect that the authors knew that not every dual setting really lived up to the promise before. Some of the settings from previous Dark Eras books weren’t a single setting so much as two concurrent single-line settings. I think the main reason was because the setting was written and a second game line was added during the campaign: Requiem for Regina, as the name suggests, first started as a vampire setting and then changelings were tacked on and I think Three Kingdoms of Darkness was in a similar boat. Both of these cases are basically single-game settings with a shared background section. We don’t have that with Dark Eras 2 and so I think even with three different lines in the mix the settings will be good.

So what exactly are these settings? Where is Dark Eras 2 taking us? We have the names of the setting, but here’s a little context.

Chronicles of Darkness - A Thousand Years of Night 2
Image © Onyx Path Publishing

French Revolution

According to this summary, the setting chapter for the French Revolution will have some exciting events for the World of Darkness. In Vampire: The Requiem the Carthian Movement is born on the feverish streets of Paris, while in Demon: The Descent the Unchained see an opportunity to strike at the God-Machine amidst revolutionary chaos. Both of these are cool ideas and a crossover of strange bedfellows could be really great. That leaves Mummy: The Curse, though, whose role is a bit unclear. I think it’s safe to say that the Arisen in Paris will be awoken by their cults as the city begins to burn but I hope it’s more than another time when the sleeping gods are roused early and grumpy about it.

The Great War, Western Front

This game line covers a lot. It has the full, brutal tapestry of World War I and on top of that misery it purports to cover material for Geist, Werewolf, and Promethean, with nods to previous appearances of WWI in the Chronicles of Darkness. The chapter’s author Matthew Dawkins does a really awesome job of selling the chapter in this update and I like the acknowledgement that this chapter needs to focus in on just an aspect of the war. Still, this is a big bite to take on and I’m worried it might be spread a little thin. The best thing to do, in my book, is use ample references to Dogs of War and not trying to make mechanical fixes when narrative advice can do. Mage Noir is a great example of how this can work… but then again that was a book-sized supplement.

Seven Wonders

This setting for Changeling and Promethean (detailed here) is all about wanderlust and wonder. For the Lost it’s a time of dreams becoming reality, with the danger of people slipping too far to the other side, while for the Created its a time of travel and inspiration. I predict that there will be a lot of information on the ancient Seven Wonders and hopefully the cities they are located in but not a lot on the empires and powers of the day. Although the tight focus (around six decades) should help to narrow things down, we’re talking about a huge geographic stretch so I expect some broad strokes. I’d actually rather see some concentration on individual freeholds (something skipped in nearly every historical Changeling setting so far) and how the Created might interact with them.

King Arthur’s Britannia

This setting was only briefly covered here and it has some of the most question marks for me. The three game lines listed are Hunter, Changeling, and Vampire which is a decent grouping but it’s hard to see how they mesh together. An obvious mapping of them to the Arthurian tales is with the Hunters as Knights of the Round Table chasing down evil, changelings as pagan sorcerers in the mold of Merlin, and vampires as a shadowy corruption that is sending Mordred as a ghoul and turning Lancelot’s heart to lust.

I hope this isn’t the direction they take things, though. It’s a little two isolated and seriously cuts down on the options for players. What if you want to play a scarred changeling knight seeking the Holy Grail as a weapon against the Gentry? What about a centuries-old vampire druid pushing back against the overpowering court of King Arthur? Heck, what about a dark knight from some medieval Lucifuge who wants to serve the Round Table without playing nice? These are all cool concepts that are lost in a splintered setting so I’m hoping to see a little of each line in each aspect of the complex Arthurian mythos.

Egyptian Werewolf
Image by darknatasha on DeviantArt

Necropolis of Hawara

Another short one, this setting is described in brief here and then in more detail here. The setting includes Promethean, Beast, and Werewolf and I’ll just say up front that I’m excited about anything detailing the complex Egyptian world. There’s a lot to objectively recommend this setting, though. First, it’s focused in on one location, Hawara, which means the setting info can be similarly focused. The connection between Hawara and nearby Shedet means that the worship of crocodiles and the god Sobek is strong here. Beasts will revel in this and the presence of an animal god will no doubt cause connections to the Hisil for werewolves to deal with. The reinterpretation of these two lines’ cosmologies to the Egyptian world is something I’m very anxious for (especially to see if they match my own designs at all).

Prometheans are another matter and they could go in a few directions. Firstly, they might be wanderers in the desert who come to the necropolis for revelations. They might also come on religious missions for the qashmallim, especially given the impending changes by Akhenaten. Most interesting to me, though, is the avoidance of Mummy: The Created for this line. A lot of fans were advocating for other game lines (I was one) and now that the Arisen are out and Prometheans are in I would love to see a Promethean setting that hints at a psychic call by sleeping Deathless lords to gather powerful, tireless servants to their cults. That’s where I’d take it, at least.

Returning Settings

There were some really popular setting options from the first Dark Eras campaign that never made it into the book and now they’re bringing them back! … But we really don’t know much about them.

One is Golden Age of Piracy for Mage and Geist. I’m thinking that, given the game line, we can expect a lot of black magic, Vodoun, and ghost ships but with any luck this won’t turn into Chronicles of Darkness: Curse of the Black Pearl. Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad. Just as long as they stop there and don’t go into the sequels.

Another returnee is Wild West, originally for Geist and now for Changeling and Mage instead. There’s a very brief summary here that makes it sound a little like Deadlands which is probably why they took out the Geist focus. With the Lost and the Awakened instead I’m thinking it will be about awakening the unknown and getting in over your head. The short preview we get explicitly says that they plan to go against the “head West, young son” motif of a lot of Western settings. That means changelings and mages aren’t heading into the frontier and finding golden opportunities, so it must be the opposite.

Lastly there is an Empire of Mali setting for Hunter and Demon, an interesting mix and one that doesn’t really clue me in to the setting’s themes (even with this brief summary). Being at the center of a vast trade network I can see the Demons being newcomers arriving to dismantle the infrastructure that the God-Machine is assembling from gold and salt blocks in Mali. At the same time, I can see native Malian Hunters finding and killing these Demon interlopers. But that’s really just guesswork so I don’t even want to call it a prediction.

Chronicles of Darkness - World of Darkness
Image from White Wolf Wiki, based on images © White Wolf Publishing.

Real Question Marks

The last five settings I really don’t even know where to start with but I’m willing to hold judgement until I have details. The Golden Age of Science Fiction for Werewolf and the new Deviant: The Renegade is a real head-scratcher and one that I can’t imagine liking since it sounds like it will accentuate the campiness of both games. There’s a summary that doesn’t really help but I can wait for more.

The Scandinavian Witch Trials (1450-1750) for Mummy and Geist… I’ll be honest, I’d never heard about them at all before so we’ll see what they give us! One Thousand and One Nights is a natural setting for the Chronicles of Darkness but how they’re going to fit Beast: The Primordial and Vampire: The Requiem into this setting while doing justice to the social, religious, and historical context is a little uncertain. Last of all, I have no idea what Last Imperials (Mummy and Hunter) and Light of the Sun (Deviant and Mage) are about or what the names refer to so we’ll see where those goes too.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Dark Eras 2: Personal Reflections

  1. The Kickstarter described Light of the Sun like this:

    DARK ERA: Light of the Sun – Europe (1600s).
    Deviant: The Renegades and Mage: The Awakening:

    Galileo. Kepler. Newton. On the heels of the Italian Renaissance, reason and belief clash at every turn. Scientific discoveries disproving heliocentrism are subverted and deemed heretical. Scientists, mages, and astronomers are arrested by the Inquisition, and their books are banned. In response, intellectuals on the brink of discovery turn to alchemy and the magical arts, and create deviants to defend their laboratories and universities. Not all in this age agree violence is the option, however, and worry the Church’s power is too strong to fight. What’s more, no one expected the deviants to have a mind and will of their own.

    Because of the previous Dark Eras book, I asked this in the comments:

    In “Doubting Souls”, Monica Valentinelli shoehorned the Inquisition into a section about a colony that banned Catholics. The background accepts second- and third-wave feminism writers’ viewpoint of “seeing the Inquisitions as one singular event which lasted 600 years since its founding in the 11th or 12th century”, influencing not only all European witch trials but Salem’s (as well as Nazism, Soviet Russia, Japanese Internment Camp, McCarthyism, and most recently, the War on Terror). Lily, Sabre, and Thorn goes further into Catholic bashing, with devout Changelings criticized for being associated with “the Church”, even though there was no real Inquisition activity in France at that time. It’s not hard to infer that someone has a personal ax to grind.
    So with that, what can we expect from “Light of the Sun”? “intellectuals on the brink of discovery turn to alchemy and the magical arts, and create deviants to defend their laboratories and universities” from the Roman Inquisition sounds more like alt-history than a Dark era. (Why would “Scientific discoveries disproving heliocentrism” be “subverted and deemed heretical”? The Inquisition censured heliocentrism. They wanted it disproved.) What discoveries about heliocentrism were there that Copernicus and Galileo hadn’t already done? The Inquisition mostly put books on the banned list. Magic or magical servitors wouldn’t have helped. Using those would lead to a war with Rome and the Catholic Church,More importantly, the teasers for Deviant indicate that the process is inhumane, shattering the souls of the unwilling subjects. The default is those victims escaping to enact justice on the organizations that did this to them. The perpetrators are more like Mengele than Galileo. Doing this would get them in a lot more trouble with the Inquisition (and everyone else) than advocating heliocentrism, and they’d deserve it.

    “the Church’s power is too strong to fight” doesn’t really make sense since the Reformation and Counter-reformation have already shaken it.

    A day later I got a notice that my pledge had been refunded even though I didn’t ask for it, with the note
    Richard Thomas says:

    No thanks. Your posts indicate that you are more interested in grinding axes than helping us create an awesome book.

    Like

    1. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of the description for “Light of the Sun” (don’t know how I missed that!) and sorry for your negative experience with the Kickstarter. Honestly, to me your post did sound pretty critical and sharp-edged (I don’t know why writers with this angle are necessarily second- and third-wave feminists and what you wrote is definitely full of provocative shout-outs) but it seems like too strong a reaction on Rich’s part. Maybe this wasn’t the critical post they meant? Regardless, do you think you’ll get this book in the end or are you (understandably) put out?

      Like

      1. I was getting that from the Wikipedia article on the Roman Inquisition, which is the one that seems to be focused on here.
        “Second-wave feminism also saw a surge of historical interpretation of the witch-hunt.[14] A number of 100,000 to 9,000,000 executions was given, all of which was attributed to the Inquisition. Feminist scholars Claudia Honeger and Nelly Moia saw the early modern witch-craze as a product of Inquisitorial influence, namely the Malleus Maleficarum.[15][16] Feminist writers Mary Daly, Barbara Walker, and Witch Starhawk argued that the Inquisitions were responsible for countless, “hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions”, deaths, most of them women. This notion was similarly echoed by Third-wave feminist writer Elizabeth Connor, who agreed with the notion of “Gynocide”, or “woman hunting” inaugurated by the Malleus.[17] The same sentiment regarding the Inquisition’s notorious reputation of torture was shared by American writer and attorney Jonathan Kirsch. In his book, The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God, Kirsch argued that the Inquisition’s use of torture not only applied to the witch-craze which peaked in early 17th century, but also to the Salem witch trials. This model of repressive system, Kirsch argued, was also applied in Nazism, Soviet Russia, Japanese internment camps, McCarthyism, and most recently, the War on Terror.[18]”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Inquisition
        OP’s emphasis on the Malleus Maleficarum and blaming the Inquisition for the witch trials in anti-Catholic Salem seem to be due to this interpretation.

        I got the refund the day after my post to the DE comments section. Rich Thomas’s note uses the line from my post about personal axes, so it’s hard not to see a cause and effect relationship. Rich Thomas and Op have also gone overboard in banning people from the forums, especially the Exalted one. Ever since the Beast debacle, it seems their philosophy is that one of their professional should never be criticized. The funny thing, i still got a Backerkit survey, and I’ll probably get the book through there.

        Like

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