We're Here, We're Queer, We're Kindred/h3>
G/L/B/T Reference in 'World of Darkness'
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Imagine a world, much like our own, but a bit darker and more sinister. A world where vampires hide behind a masquerade while controlling our government. Where werewolves fight to save the earth from entropy, fairies fight banality, spooks leer out from the shadows and mages mess with the very fabric of reality.
For many, this doesn't involve a lot of imagination. Or rather, it involves a different sort. This 'World of Darkness' is a product of White Wolf Publishing, and consists of a set of RPGs, or Role Playing Games. An RPG is a familiar concept to most, and first got notoriety in the 80's with 'Dungeons and Dragons'. RPGs are part story, part game and very social. They are also built upon a large set of rules that help control the action, and depend heavily on the role of the dice.
In a standard RPG, a set of rules is decided upon (generally written down in a book or set of books). Using these rules, the players are able to choose types of characters, designate their strengths and weaknesses and establish a setting for the story. From then on, it is up to the Storyteller / Game Master to keep the story interesting. The Storyteller is a bit like a god and is able to establish the parameters of the story, decide on twists and turns, and ultimately provide outcomes, They do not have total power though. As they did with the ancient gods, people can throw their 'free-will' into the mix and decide to do unexpected things. Add a bit of random chance into the equation, and you've got a mini-world with an unknown future in your grasp.
RPGs have a strong queer appeal; especially for those who came out in a world that was not very hospitable for g/l/b/t folk. Many of us have learned to escape into fantasy, and many others have learned to 'play the part'. 'Role-playing' is natural to almost all g/l/b/t's.
The 'World of Darkness' consists of a few different types of games. The basic idea is that there is a type of supernatural creature that exists within society, but is not completely a part of it. Instead, these creatures exist below the radar of most 'normal' humans who fail to notice this entire society within their midst. The creatures can pass for normal, but really aren't.
The most popular of these games is Vampire: The Masquerade, which, as the name implies, focuses on vampires. Its premise? That vampires have been around with us since biblical times, and have slowly insinuated themselves into our culture, and ultimately have learned how to control it. There are thirteen different vampire sects, each of which have their own special qualities or quirks. One group is financiers, another magicians, a third is completely insane... and so on, and so forth. The traits of the vampires are very close to those ascribed by modern lore, except that the vampires can have strange mystical powers, off-beat personalities and traditions.
The queerest clan of vampires are the Toreadors. They are the artistic clan, and seem to personify many of the gay male stereotypes. Sensitive and 'artistic' they seek to save magnificent artists from the ravages of time by 'embracing' them. Art is not limited to paintings and sculpture, but includes writers, poets, chefs or dancers.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse is another of the games. These werewolves are a bit more interesting than they were in the movies. Around adolescence, some folk find that they have always been werewolves. The ability to shift into wolf form is completely controllable, but isn't the only form that these people can assume. Lupine (wolf) and human is augmented by a few stages in between, while another form, Crinos, that would best be compared to 'a wolfman on steroids'. Many different tribes of werewolves exist, each with their own powers. They are able to shift into 'the shadow realm' and ultimately must make the decision to support 'the Wyld' or forces of nature or 'the Worm,' a corruption of nature. Overall, they are eco-warriors of the world, but the games are never quite that simple.
Many gayfolk should be able to relate to the werewolves, who discover their bodies changing around adolescence, as they become more and more different from their peers. The changes feel natural and wrong at the same time, and often lead to the ostracization of the werewolf from 'normal humans'. Eventually, they learn to accept who they are, and are able to gain a new family (pack) made up of those like themselves. According to Lynna Landstreet, one tribe stands out above all others in terms of queer sensibility. The Black Furies Tribebook covers a group of very militant female werewolves. While none are explicitly described as lesbian, the implication is still there.
Wraith: the Oblivion deals with what happens after death. Those who die may be born again in an even darker world, as a spirit. With limited power to affect the mortal coil, these spooks can be of a few different types and can have many funky abilities, but nothing that resonates strongly with queerfolk.
In Mage: the Ascension, humans who have 'awakened' have learned that they can change the fundamental nature of reality. The ultimate purpose? To help humanity 'ascend'. Of course, the way to help humanity ascend differs with the different types of mages. Some believe in forcing science upon the world, and focus on bio-mechanical, genetic engineering or artificial intelligence. Others believe in ascension through computers, ecstasy or meditation. The awakening itself generally happens after a life-altering experience.
No specific group of mages is more queer than any others. However, in the Verbena Traditions Book, the opening story deals with a gay peson with AIDS awakening to his special powers.
The fifth and final game in the (original) World of Darkness, Changeling: the Dreaming, is almost built to embody gay sensibility. Changelings are fairies, fey spirits hidden inside of mortal bodies. They feed upon dreams, beauty and creativity, and are destroyed by all that is common and banal. Banality is the opposite of creativity; it is the commonplace, the denial of dreams, the dull grey force that punctuates too many lives. For example, a beautiful masterpiece is creative, punching out thousands of copies of it to put on placemats borders on banal. Banality will destroy the fairy spirit.
The fae folk exist in this world, but are truely outside of it. Most try to work to inspire the humans around them, but a select few do work to try to ravage people and destroy their creative spirits, stealing the humans' dreams for themselves.
The World of Darkness may be a bit darker than our own world, but at least it offers a place for GLBTs.