‘Prague’ & ‘World of Darkness’ lore
‘World of Darkness’ is a tabletop rpg game that was first released in 1991, by White Wolf Publishing. Originally created by Mark Rein-Hagen, the series ended in 2004, and a reboot ‘Chronicles of Darkness’ was launched the same year with a line of new games.
In 2011 the original series was brought back, and the two have since been published concurrently. The games in the series have a shared setting, also named the World of Darkness, which is a dark, gothic-punk interpretation of the real world, where supernatural beings such as vampires and werewolves exist in secrecy.
The name “White Wolf” originates from Michael Moorcock’s works (ie ‘Elric of Melniboné’).
The series has been well received critically for its setting, writing, and art direction, and has won or been nominated for awards… with millions of game books sold; by 2001, Vampire: The Masquerade was the second highest selling tabletop role-playing game after ‘Dungeons and Dragons.’ The series has been adapted into other media, including the television series ‘Kindred: The Embraced,’ actual play web series novels and anthologies, comic books, card games, and a line of video games.
In 2000 a video game developed by Nihilistic Software was released called ‘Vampire Masquerade: Redemption’, published by Activision. It follows Christof Romuald, a 12th-century French crusader who is killed and revived as a vampire. The game depicts Christof’s centuries-long journey from the Dark Ages of 12th century Prague and Vienna to late-20th century London and New York City in search of his humanity and his kidnapped love, the nun Anezka.
Prague is the the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia.
Prague is a center for culture and learning; the Czechs have made major contributions to music, literature, poetry and film. Operas, symphonies and choruses are all well supported.
The city has a sizeable Toreador population (an in-game faction) as well as a Tremere (another in-game faction) chantry that dates back to the Dark Ages. Another game, which also had a turbulent development, was released in 2004 called ‘Vampire Masquerade: Bloodlines’ which has gone on to have a solid, lasting popularity.
White Wolf published a line of several different but overlapping games set in the “World of Darkness”, a “modern gothic” world that, while seemingly similar to the real world, is home to supernatural terrors, ancient conspiracies, and several approaching apocalypses.
In the World of Darkness setting Immortal vampires exist, called kindred, who, for their own safety, keep their existence secret from humans; this practice is called the Masquerade, and is enforced by the vampire sect called the Camarilla.
The story follows Christof Romuald, a Frankish knight felled by an arrow in 1141 AD, who was left to a convent in Prague to be nursed back to health by a young novice nun named Anezka. Jealous of Christof’s burgeoning love for Anezka, the archbishop Geza banishes Christof from the convent and charges him to defend the town after dark.
During Christof’s absence, Premysl revenants attacked the convent in retaliation for Ahzra’s death. Christof returned just in time to save those within, although Geza insisted that it was Christof’s own tainted soul that had brought the evil upon them. That night, Christof confessed his love to Anezka, who revealed that she also loved him. Fearing that they were both damned for their lust, and unwilling to put Anezka’s soul in danger, Christof fled the convent.
Ecaterina the Wise, a Promethean Bruja of the kindred within Prague has begun noticing Christof’s recent heroics, and embraces him before any or the rival clans have a chance to. With his religious faith destroyed, Christof is forced to reassess his understanding of good and evil as he acclimates to his new life. Christof laments his lost soul, but pledges himself to the Promethean cause, hoping to find redemption and his love, Anezka.
After his back alley embrace by Ecaterina he is brought to her haven at Prague University. While storming a castle, he is trapped under some rubble and enters torpor. He awakens in the modern era in the Society of Leopold headquarters in London.
After acquiring some new companions, taking on Lucretia and her Followers of Set, and fighting a werewolf he heads to New York City. There, he enters the Vukodlak’s Cathedral of Flesh and fights the Methuselah Vukodlak, who has captured Anezka.
There are good, bad, and neutral endings to the story from here.
The game begins in the Dark Ages setting, with the action in Prague and Vienna. At the conclusion of the first half of the game, Christof is plunged into a long torpor, and awakens in the Modern Nights. His adventures continue in London and New York City.
The events depicted in Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption occur in two time periods: 12th century Prague and Vienna, and late-20th century London and New York City. The vampires are divided into seven Clans of the Camarilla—the vampire government—each with distinctive traits and abilities. The Toreadors are the closest to humanity—they have a passion for culture; the Ventrue are noble, powerful leaders; the Brujah are idealists who excel at fighting; the Malkavians are either cursed with insanity or blessed with insight; the Gangrel are loners in synchronization with their animalistic nature; the Tremere are secretive, untrustworthy, and wield blood magic; and the monstrous Nosferatu are condemned to remain hidden in the shadows.
Redemption also features the Cappadocian clan; the Society of Leopold—modern-day vampire hunters; the Assamite clan of assassin vampires; the Setite clan, the Tzimisce clan, the Giovanni clan, and the Sabbat—vampires who revel in their nature, embracing the beast within.
Followers of Set
… are a secret society of scholars that pursue knowledge of the supernatural. A number of Arcanum agents act as Hunters, though they usually hunt in the pursuit of esoteric lore rather than actively hunting supernatural creatures. Founded in 1885.
Early attempts of infiltration by other secret societies, like the Society of Leopold were thwarted.
The Order of Hermes
… a medieval Order…
One of the contradictions from the game and the real world is that The ruler of Prague is named as Otakar in the game. Vladislaus II was the King of Bohemia in 1141, and Otakar I was the king from 1192 to 1230. The Judith Bridge connecting Prague’s Old Town to Prague Castle wasn’t built until 1158, and the Prague astronomical clock wasn’t installed until 1410.
The novels also imply the Dark Ages segment of the game occurs during the First Crusade, that actually occurred from 1095 to 1099, decades before the 1141 AD date of the game’s introductory cinematic.
The retconning of dates is largely resolved in Beckett’s Jyhad diary, however, except for the presence of Prague’s clock. The date also works within the timeline of the Third Crusade, but not the Second.
Christof continues his quest into the late-20th century, where he allies with the Brujah Pink, the enslaved Toreador Lily, and the Nosferatu Samuel. Other characters include the 300-year-old human leader of the Society of Leopold, Leo Allatius—who has unnaturally extended his lifespan by consuming vampire blood—and the Setite leader Lucretia. During his journey, Christof comes into conflict with Vukodlak, a powerful Tzimisce vampire intent on usurping the clans’ ancestors and taking their power for himself.
Trapped in a mystical sleep by those who oppose his plot, Vukodlak commands his followers to help resurrect him.
In 1999, the Society of Leopold excavates the site of Vyšehrad Castle; they recover Christof’s body and take it to London, where he is awoken by a female voice. He learns that the events at Vyšehrad and the resulting human uprising divided the vampires into two sects: the Camarilla who seek to hide from humanity and the Sabbat who seek to regain dominion over it. The Society’s excavation also enables Vukodlak’s followers to recover Vyšehrad.
After escaping, Christof meets Pink, who agrees to help him. They learn that the Setite clan has been shipping Vyšehrad contraband to New York City and infiltrate a Setite brothel to gain information. They kill the Setite leader Lucretia and recruit Lily, an enslaved prostitute.
Christof, Pink, and Lily travel to New York City aboard a contraband ship, rescue the Nosferatu Samuel from the Sabbat, and infiltrate a warehouse storing the Vyšehrad contraband. There they encounter Wilhem, who is now a Sabbat under Ecaterina following the collapse of their group.
Wilhem reveals that Pink is an assassin working for Vukodlak. Pink escapes and Wilhem rejoins Christof, hoping to reclaim the humanity he has sacrificed during the previous 800 years. Together, Christof, Wilhem, Lily, and Samuel discover that Vukodlak is hidden beneath a church within his Cathedral of Flesh and that Anezka is still in his servitude. In the cathedral they find that Vukodlak has awoken; he tries to influence Christof by offering him Anezka then revealing that she is completely dependent on Vukodlak’s blood and will die without him.
Christof refuses and Vukodlak drops the group into tunnels beneath the cathedral. Christof finds the Wall of Memories, which hold Anezka’s memories of the last millennia, showing she continued to hope as Vukodlak found new ways to defile and torment her. She eventually sacrificed her innocence to gain Vukodlak’s trust, using her position to delay his resurrection over hundreds of years until, with no options left, she prayed for Christof’s return.
The group returns to the Cathedral and battles Vukodlak.
The ending of Redemption varies depending upon the quantity of humanity Christof has retained during the game. If the quantity is great, Christof kills Vukodlak, reconciles with Anezka, and turns her into a vampire, sparing her from death. If his humanity is moderate, he surrenders to Vukodlak and becomes a ghoul; Vukodlak betrays Christof and forces him to murder Anezka. A lesser quantity of humanity results in Christof killing Vukodlak by drinking his blood. Greatly empowered, Christof forsakes his humanity, murders Anezka, and revels in his new power.
Hunter: The Reckoning
(In the next post)
*also John Carpenter’s film ‘Vampires’
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