TSWoD – The bare necessities

Continuing the train of thought that has left the station of my mind a few posts ago, I have spent my last days thinking about the best way to portray Funcom’s The Secret World in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The two games seem easy to merge, but before doing so, I limited myself by using the following guidelines:

  • PC’s will be “normal” mortals who are initiated into one of the secret societies. This means that the players will  not take the role of Bee People. Why I made this choice will be explained later on.
  • The game focuses on the discovery of the secret world, and the slow descent into the mysteries kept away from the PC’s. While this seems like a choice of flavour, it will also impact some game system choices.
  • TSWoD should need a minimal amount of house rules, using mostly rules available from a small amount of WoD books.

You’re not special, all you can do is shoot lightning from your hands!
In the setting of TSW, it is rather special when Gaia sends out a bee to give a normal human some wacky superpowers and immortality. To keep them rare, I want players to play humans who have been introduced into the secret world in another, more subtle way than by swallowing a magical insect. Well, maybe not a more subtle, but in a more common way (by occult standards). Think of characters who have witnessed a vampire feeding, or who have learned magic in a special school. Player characters will have “kewl powerz”, but in a different way.

Delving into the darkness
The Secret World is about stepping into the darkness with just the light of a candle, and to boldly stride through this tenebrous world. Unlike most WoD games, it is not about handling one’s own supernatural nature, but about deciding if something is worth knowing, or if the price for it is too high. Because of this setting choice, I would drop any kind of Morality system entirely, and replace it by the Reason stat presented in Mirrors. The slow descent into madness, while gaining more power, feels more fitting to me for a TSW game.

I don’t want to carry all these books!
Let me be clear here: I am a terrible rules writer. I hate to formalise any kind of rule, and I always have the feeling that it takes some kind of special education to be a game designer/ writer. That is one of the reasons I want to keep the amount of “original rules” to a minimum for this project. The other reason is that I believe that the World of Darkness offers rules for most of the things we will need. Especially Mirrors offers a truckload of alternative rules, which fit TSW really well. At the moment, I can limit the amount of titles to three:

  • World of Darkness core book (well, duh)
  • Second Sight
  • Mirrors

This means that, if you have these books, you just have to follow my short instructions, and you are able to run a game in the TSWoD in no time. It saves me the trouble to re-write a system that is already good enough in my opinion, and saves you a lot of reading!

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I will shine a light on the only “house rule” I would add to TSWoD, and give you a short draft of the character creation. In the mean time, you are free to share your ideas and ask some critical questions. Keep your head up!

The Secret World of Darkness?


At the moment, Funcom’s The Secret World is keeping me busy. I played the game for about a month after release, but lost interest and time when my new job started and the rest of my life demanded more attention. Now, however, I have given the game a second spin, and I am really enjoying it!

One of the things I like most about TSW is that it resembles White Wolf’s World of Darkness in many ways. Both settings feature a hidden, one might say secret, world full of supernatural creatures. In both games, players take the role of normal people who are plunged into this occult reality and have to survive one way or the other. The only difference is that in TSW, the player characters join a secret society to hold back vile and evil things, while in the WoD, they become one of the many otherworldly beings.

Because of their similarities, every time I launch the game and dive into the zombie-infested town of Kingsmouth or the vampire-haunted farmlands of Transylvania, my mind starts to think about ways to blend both games together. In other words, I think about how to run a TSW tabletop game, using the WoD rules. At first, it does not seem difficult, but there are some challenges:

  • In TSW, player characters are the chosen of Gaia. By swallowing a bee (do not think too much about this), your character gains the means to control his anima, which gives him the power to do some pretty nifty things. While those powers could be emulated fairly easily with the existing rules, the chosen of Gaia have another important feature: they are practically immortal. Some NPC’s in the game refer and joke about the fact that, when a “Bee person” dies, his corpse is carried off to the nearest anima well, where it is brought back to life. While a WoD game like Geist has a mechanic for returning from the dead, it is a challenge to make this feature interesting in a tabletop game.
  • Wait, is everyone a Bee person? While every player character in the MMO is technically a Bee person, it would seem unlikely that there would be so many chosen of Gaia in a tabletop setting. Before running such a game, there should be niches for characters who have not been chosen by Mother Earth, and who aid their society through other ways.
  • Even though they look similar, both settings are different. This is mostly a matter of re-skinning material. The WoD rules offer rules for practically every supernatural being you can think of. The only thing one must do to use them in a TSW game, is to give them a different look and feel.
  • One society or all? A legitimate question. In a game featuring the TSW setting, would player characters come from different secret societies, working together to save the world from some great danger? The setting would not forbid such a thing, but would a single-society setting not offer more chances to dive deep into the secrets of an organisation? A matter of flavour, but an important matter nonetheless.

While I keep thinking about this (and I will probably post more about a TSWoD), what is your opinion and / or thoughts? Feel free to share!

End of days, end of fees: The Secret World goes buy-to-play

The sun is rising

Since the world is ending anyway according to Funcom, why not drop the subscription fee on TSW then? The developer followed this train of thought, and decided to join Guild Wars 2 in their buy-to-play business model.

Granted, TSW still offers different levels of subscription. Players can decide to fork over about €15 a month, or to buy a lifetime subscription, to receive additional extras in the form of the Time Accelerator (boosting your XP gain by 100% for 1 hour every 16 hours) and discounts in the Item Shop. However, free players can enjoy the entire game, without ever paying a dime. That is, until new DLC arrives.

The move to a buy-to-play model has been received with both love and hate. Entering the official forums shows how emotional the player base has reacted to the changes, but Joel Bylos explained himself in an interview with IGN. When asked why Funcom did not go the same road as many other developers and go entirely F2P, Bylos raises a few good points. First of all, the financial barrier created by a box price keeps out at least a part of the scammers and gold farmers. Furthermore, Bylos shuns the “second-class citizens” created by the business model apparent in most F2P titles. Last, but clearly not least, an initial financial investment creates an initial emotional investment. Bylos is convinced that if you are willing to pay for a product, you are also more willing to join the community that is a part of it.

So far, I am more than pleased with this choice. Unlike other developers, Funcom has decided to not limit the content for free players, but to give subscribers a few little extras. The optional subscription fee also gives me the possibility to play other MMO’s, without worrying too much about my budget. I tip my hat to Oslo, and will slay some Draugr in their honour!