White Wolf Publishing is planning to end its award-winning RPG universe, The World Of Darkness, in an unprecedented series of apocalyptic game supplements and tie-in novels collectively known as Time Of Judgment.  Over the first three months of 2004 the eight Time of Judgment volumes will be released bringing to an end the entire White Wolf World of Darkness RPG line, which includes Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, Hunter: The Reckoning, Demon: The Fallen, Changeling: The Dreaming, Mummy: The Resurrection, and Kindred of the East.  Next year at GenCon White Wolf will premier a new lineup of RPGs, but it will be a fresh start.  The new games will not be backward-compatible.


Dean Burnham, White Wolf's VP of Sales and Distribution, told ICv2 that Time of Judgment was not a gimmick or a red herring, 'it is truly the end.  We don't want to give people the impression that this is it -- buy everything you can now -- and then hit them on the back end, later on, with 'Oh yeah we're just revising this.' What we are doing [with the new RPG line] is not a revision, it's a reinvention from the ground up.  The system changes, everything changes, it's not backwards compatible at all.'


When asked about White Wolf's motivation for this drastic step, Burnham replied, 'What we are hoping is that Time Of Judgment will increase interest in the line again from people thinking that it's kind of stale and stagnant.  We're finishing the story, we are bringing it to an end, and regenerating interest in what is out there.'


White Wolf has been planning the end of its RPG universe for over a year.  The major sale White Wolf held last year (see 'The Devil Made Us Do It') helped to bring down inventory and Burnham estimated that a sizable percentage of current RPG titles are out of print or approaching that status.  As for the Time of Judgment books, White Wolf plans on just one printing based on an estimate of three months sales.  Burnham encouraged retailers to be aggressive and agile: 'If a retailers are cautious with this (The Time of Judgment releases), they may be caught without because they can't restock.'



The Lead-Up: The End Times

Three key volumes releasing this year set the stage for the apocalypse to come.  First is Lair of the Hidden ($21.95), a 144-page supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade, which ships in August and was previewed at GenCon.  The Red Sign ($19.95) a 128-page supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension comes out in November, while Days Of Fire ($19.95), a 128-page chapbook for Demon: The Fallen, which presents a poetic vision of the world on the brink of the terrible cataclysm to come, ships in December.


Time of Judgment

Time of Judgment itself consists of five major releases -- four hardcover game books and one Mind's Eye Theatre LARP volume.  Each of these volumes allows gamers to bring the characters they have developed face to face with Armageddon.  Shipping first in January is Gehenna ($29.99) a 224-page hardcover supplement to White Wolf's most popular RPG line, Vampire the Masquerade.  In February comes The Apocalypse, a 224-page hardcover supplement to Werewolf: The Apocalypse followed by the release of three volumes in March including The Ascension (S29.99), a 224page hardcover supplement for Mage: The Ascension, World of Darkness: Time of Judgment ($29.99) a 224-page supplement for Demon: The Fallen, Hunter: The Reckoning, Mummy: The Resurrection; Kindred of the East; and Changeling: The Dreaming, and finally, The Laws of Judgment ($29.99) a 296-page trade paperback supplement for Mind's Eye Theatre (LARP).


In addition to the five major RPG Time of Judgment releases, White Wolf is also publishing The Time Of Judgment fiction trilogy.  Each book stands on its own, but they also resonate together.  Vampire: Gehenna, The Final Night by Ari Marmell($7.99) is a 352-page mass market paperback for Vampire the Masquerade shipping in January.  Werewolf: The Last Battle by Bill Bridges ($7.99) follows in February, with Mage: Judgment Day by Bruce Baugh ($7.99) completing the trilogy in March.


There will also be a Gehenna Expansion for the Vampire: The Masquerade CCG, but unlike the RPG version, the Vampire CCG will continue and will not be part of the makeover and reinvention of the White Wolf RPG universe.
Initial reaction to the Saturday announcement at GenCon was positive, coupled with surprise at the scope of the change.  'How can they do this?' was a common reaction.  But if the speed of sales of the few copies of Lair of the Hidden put on sale at the White Wolf booth are any indication, there's little doubt that this bold plan will produce a flurry of sales before the line is drawn to a close.