The World of Darkness is not our own, though it is close enough for fearsome discomfort. Rather, the world is like ours, but through a looking glass darkly. Evil is palpable and ubiquitous in this world; the final nights are upon us, and the whole planet teeters on a razor’s edge of tension.
The world is more corrupt, the people are spiritually bankrupt, and escapism often replaces hope.
Superficially, the World of Darkness is like the “real” world we all inhabit. The same bands are popular, violence still plagues the inner city, graft and corruption infest the same governments, and society still looks to the same cities for its culture. The World of Darkness has a Statue of Liberty, an Eiffel Tower and a CBGB’s. More present than in our world, though, is the undercurrent of horror - our world’s ills are all the more pronounced in the World of Darkness. Our fears are more real. Our governments are more degenerate. Our ecosystem dies a bit more each night. And monsters exist.
“Gothic-Punk” is perhaps the best way to describe the physical nature of the World of Darkness. The environment is a clashing mixture of styles and influences, and the tension caused by the juxtaposition of ethnicities, social classes and subcultures makes the world a vibrant, albeit dangerous, place.
The Gothic aspect describes the ambience of the World of Darkness. Buttressed buildings loom overhead, bedecked with classical columns and grimacing gargoyles. Residents are dwarfed by the sheer scale of architecture, lost amid the spires that seem to grope toward Heaven in an effort to escape the physical world. The ranks of the Church swell, as mortals flock to any banner that offers them a hope of something better in the hereafter. Likewise, cults flourish in the underground, promising power and redemption. The institutions that control society are even more staid and conservative than they are in our world, for many in power prefer the evil of the world they know to the chaos engendered by change. It is a divisive world of have and have not, rich and poor, excess and squalor.
The Punk aspect is the lifestyle that many denizens of the World of Darkness have adopted. In order to give their lives meaning, they rebel, crashing themselves against the crags of power. Gangs prowl the streets and organized crime breeds in the underworld, reactions to the pointlessness of living “by the book.” Music is louder, faster, more violent or hypnotically monotonous, and supported by masses who find salvation in its escape. Speech is coarser, fashion is bolder, art is more shocking, and technology brings it all to everyone at the click of a button. The world is more corrupt, the people are spiritually bankrupt, and escapism often replaces hope.
Gothic-Punk is a mood and setting conveyed during the course of the game. The greatest share of creating this ambience falls upon the Storyteller, but players should consider their characters’ stake in it as well. The ambience is also a matter of taste. Some troupes may prefer more Gothic than Punk, while others may want equal amounts of both elements, or little of either. In the end, it’s your game, and you are free to make of it what you will. Simply bear in mind that experiencing the world is a shared endeavor, and everything the players and Storyteller do helps make that world more believable. Actions, settings, characters and descriptions all convey the Gothic-Punk aesthetic.