The World of Darkness is not our world. This is easy to forget, as upon the surface, it is much the same. It has the same culture, the same history, the same geography (mostly). Superficially, most people in this fictional world live the same lives we do. They eat the same food; wear the same clothes, and waste time watching the same stupid TV shows. And yet, in the World of Darkness, shadows are deeper, nights are darker, fog is thicker. If, in our world, a neighborhood has a rundown house that gives people the creeps, in the World of Darkness, that house emits strange sighs on certain nights of the year, and seems to have a human face when seen from the corner of one’s eye. Or so some neighbors say. In our world, there are urban legends. In the World of Darkness, there are urban legends whispered into the ears of autistic children by invisible spiders.
But to say that the World of Darkness is our world with added werewolves and vampires is to simplify matters too much. Because remember how I said it had the same culture, the same history, the same geography… mostly?
It has the same culture, but not quite. The World of Darkness is a world where Murphy’s Law runs rampant. Everything is just a little… bit… worse. Poverty wears down on the soul more strongly, there are more disappearances in the night, and fewer are solved. No one wants to speak up, for fear of sounding foolish or mad, when they see the man with the too-wide grin waiting outside in the rain, night after night. The World of Darkness is a world where the darkness is more present, and more tolerated.
It has the same history, but also not quite. Historians in our world know that so much of what we think we know about history is in fact a series of conjectures and educated guesses. In the World of Darkness, to add to human error one has malice, and the efforts of a hundred generations of creatures in the shadows working to falsify the past. Perhaps the facts are right, but the reasons are wrong. Why did the French execute King Louis XVI? Or one may turn to the true mysteries. What caused the Tunguska Event? A meteor? Or something more outré, some summoning gone awry, or the first test of Nikola Tesla’s death ray? The World of Darkness is a world which has a secret history.
It has the same geography, but with changes. Isolation comes more cheaply in the World of Darkness, where people don’t look past their own fences for fear of what might be on the other side. There are old houses long abandoned, deep tunnels carved into the earth, forgotten moors and missing islands, concealed by… what? By the callousness of man, by some quirk of the unnatural world, by the diligent effort of those selfsame Masquers. The World of Darkness is a world with dark and hidden places.
Time and again, foul things attack me,
lurking and stalking, but I lashed out,
gave as good as I got with my sword.
My flesh was not for feasting on,
there would be no monsters gnawing and gloating
over their banquet at the bottom of the sea
Given that most supernaturals usually don't stand still for a census, what follows is something of a 'best estimate' about the Britain and Ireland's supernatural populations.
There are approximately 5,000 people in the full supernatural society of the UK. This number includes the big four of changelings, mages, vampires, and werewolves, as well as selkies, ghouls, and 'clued-in' occultists like Bo Kyungban or Richard Sinclair. This does not include mortal cultists, and this does not include Outsiders such as ghosts (who outnumber everything else by about 100 to 1) or spirits (an entire ecosystem of them, but mostly on the far side of the Gauntlet).
Of these five thousand, about 1200 live in London, split into the various major factions and minor packs and cabals. London outweighs pretty much every other supernatural community in the UK by a factor of ten, and the major factions in London are easily the rivals and often superiors of places that have their own cities or regions.
Another 1500 or so live in the other large supernatural communities, such as the Selkies of Finfolkaheem or the Argent Collegium in Edinburgh. These are usually about 100-200 people each. These places have some semblance of organization, are in loose contact with one another, and have a degree of stability over the years.
Another roughly 1500 live in small groups of 10 to 30 individuals. These are werewolf packs, cabals of mages, lone faerie circles, and so forth. You find them in smaller communities, places where the population doesn't rise over a quarter million. While some of these groups are organized and in contact, more often they have only a cursory knowledge of other supernatural creatures in the world, and their small size means that they are prone to going 'skewed' in ways both mundane (turning into personality cults or adopting weird beliefs) and occult (corruption by the Abyss or similar).
The remainder (maybe 800 souls) live on their own, or at most with one or two others, usually in tiny backwoods corners of the British countryside. Everything said about small groups applies two-fold to these hermits. While some are cosmopolitan retirees from larger supernatural communities, many came into their powers and lived their lives without ever encountering anyone else supernatural, and in this stew of solitude and ignorance it is entirely possible for some very twisted things to occur.
The Republic of Ireland
There are perhaps 1000-1200 supernaturals in Ireland, but the numbers there skew very, very heavily to the Fae. Some 80% of Ireland's supernatural population consists of changelings, with werewolves (often Briar Wolves) and mages (in druidic and witchcraft traditions) making up most of the remainder. With very few exceptions, all swear allegiance to the High Court of Éire.
"From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day."
"Ac yna y kymeryssant wy blodeu y deri, a blodeu y banadyl, a blodeu yr erwein, ac o'r rei hynny, asswynaw yr un uorwyn deccaf a thelediwaf a welas dyn eiroet. Ac y bedydyaw o'r bedyd a wneynt yna, a dodi Blodeued arnei."
Translated: And they took the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they conjured up the fairest and most beautiful maiden anyone had ever seen. And they baptized her in the way that they did at that time, and named her Blodeuedd.
[The Irish poets] certainly believed in the historical reality of even their wildest imaginations. And so soon as Christianity made their hearers desire a chronology that would run side by side with that of the Bible, they delighted in arranging their Kings and Queens, the shadows of forgotten mythologies, in long lines that ascended to Adam and his Garden. Those who listened to them must have felt as if the living were like rabbits digging their burrows under walls that had been built by Gods or Giants, or like swallows building their nests in the stone mouths of immense images, carved by nobody knows who.
William Butler Yeats, Preface to Lady Gregory's Cuchulain of Muirthemne (1902)