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The Witcher, Expanse creatives bringing 'World of Darkness' game franchise to movies & TV

By Benjamin Bullard

Tabletop and video game fans have long lavished in the monstrously delicious sci-fi horror playground of World of Darkness, a lore-rich gaming universe that even casual fans know from Vampire: The Masquerade — its first and most popular title.

Now the 30 year-old franchise is making the move to screens both big and small, thanks to a new deal that puts the creative reins in the hands of what sounds like a dream team of writers and producers. Variety reports that the atmospheric game series has been picked up for multiple TV and film projects via an overall deal with production company Hivemind (The Witcher, Bloodshot, The Expanse) and writer-producer duo Eric Heisserer (ArrivalShadow and Bone) and Christine Boylan (The Punisher).

Featuring a diverse array of supernatural characters and settings that mix horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and even elements of cyberpunk to eerie effect, World of Darkness started life in 1991 with tabletop RPG Vampire: The Masquerade and launched a critically-acclaimed roster of early-1990s followup tabletop titles including Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: The Ascension, Wraith: The Oblivion, and Changeling: The Dreaming.

The shared World of Darkness universe would go on to serve as the backdrop for a number of video game titles, with the Vampire spinoffs getting especially strong reception in the plugged-in gaming world. Publisher Paradox Interactive is currently prepping Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 (featured in the clip above), the long-awaited next installment bound for current and last-gen consoles and PC. 

Paradox owns the rights to both the tabletop and video games, and is also reportedly on board for World of Darkness’ crossover into TV and film as a creative partner in the overall deal. The game series has earned a devoted fan following for blending genres as it populates its lore-laden setting with supernatural creatures — beings like vampires and werewolves — who navigate the morally grey area of keeping their eldritch urges in check (or not) as they live in the socially-fraught world of regular humans. Think one part True Blood and one part Dungeons & Dragons and you’ll (sorta) be in the ballpark — though the series has been especially praised by critics for its focus on serious scenarios that frame diversity and inclusion within its sci-fi horror trappings.

“The World of Darkness story universe is deliberately and unapologetically inclusive and diverse,” Boylan said in a statement reported by Variety. “It has always made a point of including equal gendered characters, protagonists and antagonists of every race, and representation of all creeds — bringing a female and diverse audience to gaming like nothing prior. Its games and fandom are a place where women, POC, and the LGBTQI community feel welcome and we are very proud to bring these stories to life.”

There’s no early word on the specific TV or movie titles that’ll be spawned by the deal, nor on where we might end up seeing them — or when. On the gaming side, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has been delayed numerous times (most recently owing to the COVID-19 pandemic), with its last release window pushed from early 2021 to a yet-unspecified date.