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Illustration: World of Darkness Berlin White Wolf

Bloodbound in Berlin


Johanna Koljonen, leder i Participation|Design|Agency (Foto: P|D|A)
Johanna Koljonen, CEO Participation|Design|Agency (Foto: P|D|A).

The fan festival World of Darkness Berlin (May 11-14) is dedicated to the classic White Wolf setting.


“It’s a beloved story world that has affected all kinds of gaming profoundly. A ton of people have engaged with these stories, sometimes for decades. We are not just ‘fans’ or ‘consumers’, but a community of co-creators”, festival organizer Johanna Koljonen says. Her participatory agency P|D|A has previously collaborated with White Wolf on licensed larps, and approached them with the idea for this festival.


The World of Darkness (WoD) setting turned 25 last year. White Wolf is well-known among gamers for tabletop roleplaying games like Vampire, Werewolf and Mage, all of which share the same setting. WoD is a bleakly skewed vision of contemporary reality, with supernatural critters as the main characters. Swedish computer game company Paradox Interactive (Europa Universalis et al.) bought White Wolf and its entire IP in 2015.


World of Darkness Berlin takes place at the MOA convention center. A host of one-shot roleplaying scenarios, larps, talks and the European Championships of the collectible card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (V:tES) will run during the convention. White Wolf representatives will present news and upcoming releases.


A new set for the CCG Vampire: The Eternal Struggle is released for the festival. Several cards are based on characters from recent White Wolf larps, such as this one: Cao Nguyen, illustration: Mark Kelly/White Wolf.

“The End of the Line larp was developed with White Wolf to reflect their thoughts about basic concepts of the setting–it explores the Masquerade and the meaning of personal horror. And the outcome of the Enlightenment in Blood larp will affect the official metaplot”, Koljonen says.


Both these larps will run during the festival, and there will be an opportunity to playtest Vampire: The Masquerade 5th edition, scheduled for release in 2018.


Digital Darkness

The new owners have signaled that digital games will be their main focus, but have already supported analog roleplaying games, larps, and V:tES. It was recently announced that White Wolf and French game producer Focus Home Interactive will make a video game based on Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Here’s an interview with White Wolf’s Lead Storyteller Martin Ericsson about the game. 


In February, the company released two app-games for Vampire and Mage [1]. A documentary about the World of Darkness also premieres in Berlin during the festival. Short teaser:


Rein-Hagen to the dance floor

Mark Rein-Hagen, co-founder of White Wolf and creator of several games in the setting, is among the guest speakers.

“Mark will talk about his history with White Wolf. And he’s going to play in the in-character dance-off Dancing With the Clans–he is a really under-appreciated dancer”, Koljonen says.

Mark Rein-Hagen, who “founded” the World of Darkness in 1991, is looking forward to the festival:


Former White Wolf–developer Justin Achilli will talk about design and player motivation.

“Excitingly he’s also joined the jury for the scenario competition! And will of course DJ at the ending party. I just realised we have dancing offered on the program every day of the convention. That’s very Berlin”, Koljonen says.


One program track deals with player safety, “methods for playing really dark stories while taking care of each others as humans”, Koljonen explains. She also hopes to attend “sessions about adapting Slavic folklore for WoD, about using the best stuff from Chronicles of Darkness in WoD, and a presentation by a trauma surgeon about how fantasy violence would work, anatomically speaking.”

Illustrasjon: World of Darkness Berlin/White Wolf
Illustration via World of Darkness Berlin/White Wolf.


Storygames + WoD = ?
“The convention is a way for White Wolf and the licensees to have conversations with fans about their interest and concerns. There is a community organiser summit, and the scenario writing competition is about inviting more voices to think about what the World of Darkness can be like in 2017”, Koljonen says.

Running up to the festival, the organizers invited the public to a scenario competition with two main categories: scenarios using the existing rules, and those that have bespoke rules. The organizers have been amazed by the positive response:

“Interestingly, there have been almost exactly 50-50 submissions between the two categories. So many people who are interested in cutting-edge game design grew up on the World of Darkness.”

En av laivene under kongressen, Enlightenment in Blood, handler om Anarch-opprøret i Berlin. Arrangørene lover “fysisk spill”, men hopping mellom hustak er neppe å anbefale. Illustrasjon via World of Darkness Berlin/White Wolf.
One of the larps during the festival, Enlightenment in Blood, is about the Anarch rebellion in Berlin. Illustration via World of Darkness Berlin/White Wolf.

Completed scenarios will run in Berlin. Later this year White Wolf plans to release an ebook with the winners and nominees.

Organizers expect around 300 participants, but the total number is flexible. Even though the festival takes place in Germany, English will be the main language and the program is suited for international participants. More info:  https://www.worldofdarkness.berlin/

“If the first year is a success, we have the option of doing another year and growing then. Probably in another city”, Koljonen says.


Disclosure: The journalist is an acquaintance of the festival organizers from the Nordic larp scene. This article is written for Pegasus, the online magazine of Hyperion, a Norwegian youth organization. It was translated for the benefit of any interested international readers. Norwegian version here.
[1] The choice of one of the authors of these prelude games re-ignited an (online) conflict that has been going for several years. It’s beyond the scope of the article to try to summarize this. Most of the article had been written prior to the release of the apps.