The World of Darkness reflects and embodies the passion and decay beneath our civilized veneer. We all feel drawn to the romance, terror, and mystique of death. Here, in the Gothic-Punk world, we can explore that mystique in a setting woven from our darkest dreams.
“Gothic” describes many of the world’s physical features – massive, brooding, dark, and ominous. The sense of oppression and conspiracy is much greater here, and everything seems to be done with an ulterior purpose in mind. Buildings are huge, looming edifices, often encrusted with gargoyles and other statuary. Houses often stand for centuries, giving many suburbs a “haunted house” ambience. Corporate and government agents are faceless and impersonal, dressed severely in black suits and ties. Institutions of all types are more conservative and resistant to change. Fashion and society have a medieval veneer and superstition is rife.
“Punk” is the other half of the equation. The counterculture of the cities, sick of the oppressive physical and social tableau, rebel with words, dress, music, and often violence. The downtown cores of the cities are filled with underground clubs, street gangs, and bands inciting aggression and revolution. Constant rain and fog blanket the cities. Crime is depressingly common, and people generally seem tougher and more cynical than in our own world.
Externally, little differs between our world and the World of Darkness – the same bands, books, and movies distract their audiences; pollution slowly rots the ozone layer; and all the familiar landmarks remain in place. The established religious, social, and political institutions are much like those we know. Superficially, the World of Darkness resembles our own. The World of Darkness, however, is a film noir environment – the cities are labyrinthine and gloomy, the bureaucrats are corrupt, and the important people have skeletons in their closets. In the World of Darkness, the supernatural lies close to the surface, barely hidden by the night’s shadows. Everyone can sense its influence, though few understand what they feel. Ghosts are not folklore – they exist, though few mortals ever see them.
The lands of the dead certainly contribute to the ambience of the living world (called the Skinlands by wraiths). The echoes cast by the Underworld leave their mark upon the Skinlands. Player characters, the Restless, are products of both worlds.
Though the dead can and do touch this living world, they exist in a spirit landscape pervaded by decay. They can leave this land for short periods of time (if they have the powers to do so), but sooner or later they must return to the Shadowlands. They are visitors among the living – observers, occasionally catalysts, but ultimately strangers.
The following sections describe Wraith’s setting in detail: from the cosmology of the Underworld to the geography of the Shadowlands. Setting, however, is more than simply maps and places. The dead have a culture and society of their own, one that mirrors the living world in strange and twisted ways.