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The phrase Gothic-Punk describes the mood and themes of the Classic World of Darkness. The Gothic-Punk milieu is a film noir environment, a dystopian world of extremes. The bureaucrats are all corrupt, the rich are filthy rich and the homeless clog the streets. A sense of eerie foreboding hovers over everything and there always seems to be a storm brewing on the horizon.
"Gothic" describes the world in bleak terms - things are massive, brooding, gloomy, and ominous. Buildings are huge and looming, often incrusted with gargoyles and other occult or morbid statuary. The sense of corruption and conspiracy is even greater, more open, and more visible than in the modern world; everyone always seems to have an ulterior motive.
City Hall rarely keeps complete records on all the shadowy figures who own the cities piece by piece. Old excavations, building code violations, and bribery are rampant. Many cities have an iconic, almost medieval feel. Corporate and government agents are faceless, impersonal figures, dressed severely in black suits and drab ties. The Church is enormous and ritualistic, with tightly controlled dioceses and power plays between its clergy.
"Punk" is the other half of the equation that describes the counterculture or antisocial lifestyle adopted by many of the World of Darkness's inhabitants, especially among the youth. Despite the gothic trappings, the World of Darkness is a post-modern world; a darker, somewhat exaggerated, but disturbingly accurate and relatable to the "real world." Crime is common and overt; people are tougher and more cynical; contempt, jealousy, vice, and apathy are commonplace, and superficial, sanctimonious moral values override genuine ethics and community. The youth, sick of the oppressive physical and social landscape, rebel against the capitalistic corruption of society through words, dress, music and sporadic violence while at the same time being indoctrinated by their elders and betters, either directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, in the ways of ruthlessness, arrogance, vanity, paranoia, indifference, self-entitlement, selfishness, and decadence, slowly breeding the next generation of rogues, child abusers, demagogues, despots and narcissists. The garbage-choked, alley-riddled downtown cores sport underground clubs, street gangs, posers in leather jackets with nose rings and facial tattoos, and anarchic bands screaming at 100 decibels about revolution. The youth, ignored and disaffected, dance to the entropic chord of oblivion.