My relationship with the World of Darkness games (I'm talking oWoD here; I've not really bothered with any of the post-Rein-Hagen stuff) is a little conflicted. It's all so incredibly teenage, with everybody angst-ridden, rebellious, and surly-lipped. The naive right-on politics are writ-large throughout. The "gothic-punk" aesthetic does nothing for me. Of all mythological beings, vampires are the least interesting and compelling. So I am in large part disdainful of the whole endeavour.
And yet I own Vampire: The Masquerade, Changeling: The Dreaming, Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Wraith: The Oblivion, and many of their source books. I suspect that this is partially because when I was about 14 you couldn't walk into a game store without tripping over a mound of copies of Vampire: The Masquerade, so I ended up buying them almost by osmosis, but that's not the whole story - I love Changeling; it really captured my imagination even though nobody I knew wanted to play it (sniff), and despite its flaws we played the shit out of Werewolf during those years: playing angry people who are likely to turn into gigantic man-wolves and tear everybody around them to pieces at any moment is an incredibly fun concept.
The thing is, once you remove the annoying teenage-ness and the tiresome obsession with "story telling" from the Old World of Darkness, what you are left with is a group of very interesting and detailed quasi-settings for urban fantasy games that is tailor-made for the kind of city-based sandbox game I like to run. I say interesting, because at their core, the main Old World of Darkness settings are thematically very strong. Changeling brings the mystery, beauty and strange sinisterness of the fairy tale to the modern age, combining it with a sense of loss, of autumn approaching, of magic leaving the world. Werewolf is all about misanthropy, at its core - the misanthropy that many of us feel when we look around us and see the natural world in retreat and untouched areas of wilderness being flooded by tourists, rubbish and pollution. (I think the perfect tag-line for a Werewolf game would be the quote from Richard Dawkins, speaking about the disappearance of the Tasmanian Wolf: "Maybe they were a pest to humans, but humans were much bigger pests to them; now there are no Tasmanian Wolves left and a considerable surplus of humans.") Wraith is about death and what comes next now that we live in a world of agnosticism and the old sureties of heaven and hell are gone. Mage is about the pursuit of knowledge and power at the price of all else, about the triumph of a kind of uber-rationalism which seems curiously apt in the modern age.
Even Vampire, a game I never really liked, seems positively counter-cultural nowadays in the aftermath of the Twilight series. Stephanie Meyers has done to V:tM what V:tM did to the Hammer Horror vampires of yore, such that its cod rebelliousness has almost become genuine - if you are still playing V:tM nowadays then you are, in a weird way, being far edgier than you would have been in 1991. Something about that appeals to my contrarian instincts in a profound way.
Fuck it, I'll cut to the chase: I want to run Changeling, goddamit!