Wraith: The Oblivion
|Wraith: The Oblivion|
|Role-playing game published by
|Rule System||Storyteller System|
|Authors||Mark Rein·Hagen, Jennifer Hartshorn, Sam Chupp, Richard E. Dansky|
|Essential Books||Wraith: The Oblivion|
Wraith: The Oblivion is a roleplaying game of "Passion and Horror" published by White Wolf that often provides more PCs than there are players, thanks to a system allowing for "The Shadow" of a character to act like a separate entity. Progenitor to the Promethean school of "game that people like to read but no one actually plays." One of the grimmest, most depressing games ever made that wasn't unintentionally so. It also is one of the only WWI role-playing games via the historical setting Wraith: The Great War. And if the trenches of WWI weren't horrifying enough, there's even a splatbook for the dead of WWII, including The Holocaust.
Each player, in addition to their character, plays the "Shadow" of another character, undermining whatever they tried to do and tempting them to give in to their worst impulses and damn themselves. This seemed like such a good idea on paper that everyone somehow missed that it means that the game was actively encouraging players to screw each other over. To quote our hatefuckbuddies over at TVTropes: "The intent was to create deep, psychological roleplaying where the players got to flex their drama muscles as much as the GM; the effect was that most people saw it as a game that could only end in hurt feelings and recriminations." Which, if you think about it, is exactly what the game wants, friends undermining each other, except that somewhat fatally it doesn't encourage people to actually play the game or at least not more than once.
W:tO takes place in the planes of existence surrounding and within in the Shadowlands, the place where the deceased go after their earthly demise. Not all humans turn into wraiths; some people simply die violently and horribly enough that they simply cannot get over the fact that they kicked the bucket. Tying the wraith in the space between the skinlands and the ever-increasing and all-consuming Oblivion are the wraith's personal "fetters". Fetters are random objects that meant something emotionally to the restless in question. They may range anywhere from a simple pocket watch to a vampire character. Wraiths may use these items to restore their mental and physical attributes: Pathos and Corpus.
Your main focus as one of the restless should be to pass on into eternity either by achieving Transcendence, now made widely taboo and outright claimed as a fairy tale by wraith society or succumbing to the will of your "shadow" and embracing Oblivion, thus becoming a Spectre: A hellish ghost solely pursuing its own vicious, self-destructive and selfish goals.
Unlike most settings; wraiths cannot really use any sort of items, unless they were of some emotional significance, the only thing that matters in the land of the dead, where all hope is lost and the only thing that keeps you from simply giving up is the memory of when you were alive. And, boy howdy, are those things scarce. One way to get around this is to use soulforgery, which is the only way to create everything on the wrong side of the Shroud. However, Soulforging comes at a price, in order to create anything, someone has to give up their existence to become that item. The process of hammering a wraith into a piece of furniture, for instance, is a horrible and ghoulish endeavour, the process causes extreme agony to the wraith and it is irreversible. Some say they can hear their soulforged items wail and moan occasionally. Usually victims of soulforging are the types of wraiths known as drones: mindless and simple ghosts doomed to forever play out the last moments of their life.
Sounds bad? Well, Charon put it this way, Soulforgery is the final and worst punishment to a wraith and is only to be mete out in the most extreme conditions, such as leading wraiths to feed oblivion or trying to overthrow Stygian society. A soulforged wraith cannot feed oblivion anymore and serves a better purpose as a sword, for instance, against the denizens of the Labyrinth. There! You can use this cognitive dissonance to muffle those silent moans and sobbing your soulsteel blade is emmitting.
Since most of wraiths are ancient dead from bygone eras, such as classic Rome and the middle ages, most of them prefer swords and traditional weapons. Plus, in order to fire a soulforged or relic firearm, it requires relic or soulforged bullets plus the mental energy of the wraiths, 'pathos', to operate, cause basic physics don't work naturally in the underworld, they have to be fueled; so it is simply more cost effective to use a crossbow, for instance.
Stygian guilds formed around the use of one of the "Arcanoi", the psychic powers of wraiths. While most wraiths are well-versed in more than one power, guilds simply focus and draw profit on one of them. Guilds were banned from Stygia by the order of Charon, cause they kept messing around with the Quick (You are either quick or dead) and causing a general ruckus. Now guilds operate in secret and only allow exclusive membership. While guildship is punishable by soulforging, many wraiths still employ their services to advance their machinations and plots as well as providing a service to the high-ranking deathlords and other residents of Stygia (every Wraith will need the services of a pardoner or a monitor at one point). Use of different Arcanoi causes permanent "scarring" on the Wraith Corpus (plasm surrounding the soul).
- Alchemists: Alchemists use the Arcanoi "Flux" to manipulate objects in the skinlands, such as causing things to break down to creating inanimate golems to wreak havoc. Separate from their parent guild, The Artificers, Alchemists were disbanded by Charon, as a part of his "stop meddling with mortals" -policy. Alchemists don't have any distinguishing marks, but they are obsessive idiots, who never talk about anything else except their power.
- Artificers: Mockingly known as "Hammerboys" or by modern "Neos", these wraiths use "Inhabit" to manipulate real world machinery or items. Artificers are the richest guild in Stygia, due to practicing the fine art of Soulforgery. Artificers are recognized by red blotches caused by working at the soulforges or by circuitry-shaped burns from inhabiting electrical machinery.
- Chanteurs: The loudest of the loudest, Chanteurs can use their Arcanos "Keening" to imbue their voice with amazing powers. They function as bards, in the sense that their singing can imbue Pathos to wraiths in need of it and can even cause harm and heart attacks on mortals with a combination of "Embody" and "Keening"
- Harbingers: The taxi-drivers of the shadowlands. Using the Arcanos "Argos", these wraiths have the ability to jump to and fro in the ever-roiling tempest. Using different abilities to mask themselves and their clientele from the hungry gaze of the denizens of oblivion, Harbingers can carry other wraiths to safety or rescue them from the strong currents. Harbingers can be recognized from their completely black eyes.
- Haunters/Spooks: These two guilds work closely together to wreak havoc inside haunts to drive out inquisitive mortals. Spooks use "Outrage" to cause material objects to fly around and do spooky stuff; while Haunters use "Pandemonium" to create any kind of substance into the skinlands a'la blood elevator in The Shining, these effects are temporary, however, and at worst will simply cause slight structural damage. Spooks are oddly misshapen with strong muscle groups and Haunters wear fantastic black cloaks for theatrical effect, much like the Phantom of the Opera.
- Masquers: If you don't like what you look like, you can employ a masquer to use her "Moliate" ability to change your appearance for the better or make you more deadly by crafting your Corpus to have swords for arms, for instance.
- Mnemoi: The ability of "Mnemosynis" grants the power to read minds, making Mnemoi effective Inquisitors in wraith society. Like Soliciting, Mnemosynis can implant thoughts and objectives into the mind for the poor victim to perform. Like Monitors, Mnemoi never blink except by conscious effort, which makes their affiliation very obvious.
- Monitors: Considered very useful by wraiths, these users of the Arcanos "Lifeweb" to probe, monitor (hurr) and manipulate the structural strength of Fetters. Monitors never close their eyes, which isn't really amazing, cause dry eyes isn't really a thing when you're a ghost.
- Oracles: The Oracle's guild uses "Fatalism" to divine the strands of fate and possibly "turn the tide" to their favour. Tempting fate too much, however, can have dire consequences. Oracles have a permanent "eye" tattoo on their forehead, which seems to dance and twirl.
- Pardoners: With the shadow constantly tormenting you as a wraith, Pardoners come in handy for their Arcanoi called "castigate", which tells the wraith's Shadow to STFU. These wraiths act as the psychiatrists of the underworld, where your crazy self is constantly trying to destroy you and those around you. Pardoners have inky, black fingers.
- Proctors: Permab& by Charon, Proctors use "Embody" to phase over to the Skinlands to mess around with mortals as they see fit. Everything from materializing in front of poor souls just for cheap thrills to taking a stroll just to relive past days of being made of flesh. You may tell a user of this Arcanoi by blots on their skin, which resemble shadows cast by trees.
- Puppeteers: Once again, banned by Charon for painfully obvious reasons, skinriders can "hop a ride" on mortals or even control them on higher levels of this art. Skinriding causes the wraith to adopt certain quirks and habits used by the host. In the 20th Anniversary edition, this got updated to also taking on the physical characteristics found between the hosts a given Puppeteer most frequently possesses (eg, age, gender, ethnicity, weight).
- Sandmen: These overly dramatic users of "Phantasm" can cause sleep in mortals and affect their dreams in any way they see fit. In addition they can weave illusions around them in the shadowlands, making them wanted performers in Deathlord and other aristocratic courts.
- Solicitors: Solicitors can probe into your head and fish out your deepest desires or wants with "Intimation". In addition to this, Solicitors can change your wants and needs to the point of even making them into an obsession. They can use this power on any type of creature, barring maybe Fey creatures. If a wraith with a single, glowing green eye says he wants to peer into your very being, just say no.
- Usurers: Like odd healers of the underworld, the Arcanos Usury allows these merchants of death to transfter Pathos into Corpus and vice versa. They can even imbue either of these attributes into material objects, turning them into freakish mana or health potions. Usury also creates soulfire crystals, which are used to create soulforged objects. Usurers speak in precise, numerical terms.
The supernatural powers of the dead, powered by Pathos (from the Psyche) or Angst (from the Shadow). Comes in the three flavors depending on the group in question, possibly more as they depend on what Dark Kingdom a wraith is from, but WtO wasn't always fleshed out as much as the main three gamelines.
The normal Arcanoi for players who play one of the core sixteen Guilds. In the earlier editions of the game they are all on paths of five powers, with splatbooks providing alternative powers to pick up. In the 20th Anniversary Edition they come in two paths of five powers: the first path has powers that can be learned by anyone, and the second path consists secret powers that are limited to members of the guilds only. Some of these powers are taken from existing Arcanoi, while others are created for the new edition. The two are learned seperately from one another, and the number of dots you know in an Arcanoi are determined by your highest dots in either path.
Regular Arts: Argos (travel), Castigate (shadow control), Embody (physical manifestation), Fatalism (future sight), Inhabit (control machines), Keening (bardic ability), Lifeweb (fetter control), Moliate (plastic surgery), Outrage (classic poltergeist), Pandemonium (control buildings), Phantasm (control dreams), Puppetry (possession), and Usury (pathos control).
Forbidden Arts: Flux, Intimation, and Mnemosynis.
The Arts of JadeEdit
The Way of the Scholar (psyche control), The Way of the Artisan (jade crafting), The Way of the Farmer (shadow control), The Way of the Merchant (pathos control), The Way of the Soul (modified version of Castigate), and Chains of the Emperor (for capturing wraiths).
Contaminate (manipulation of the shadows of wraiths), Corruption (manipulating the living), Hive-Mind (a way of staying in contact with other spectres at all times), Larceny (prolongs their existence in the tempest), Maleficence (infusing being with the power of oblivion), Shroud-Rending (lets them see the skinlands and the living), Tempest-Weaving (manipulation of the tempest), and Tempestos (lets them move through the tempest).
The underworld of the old WoD was never fully defined, instead existing as a bunch of island kingdoms surrounded by what used to be the Sea of Shadows, but is now The Tempest after the 3rd Great Maelstrom set in motion a perpetual storm. The North African "Amenti" of the Dark Kingdom of Sand have their own game-line in the form of Mummy: The Resurrection.
The main setting for WtO, also known as the Dark Kingdom of Iron, it sits on the Isle of Sorrows. It's impossibly big and supposedly a reflection of Western civilization
- The Hierarchy
Founded by the legendary Charon himself, The Hierarchy is the largest wraith government form in the Shadowlands. The Hierarchy's role was to keep unruly restless in-check from messing with folks in the skinlands, examples include everything from the occasional jump scare crazy house to blatant possession of mortals. After Charon's disappearance, however, guilds proceeded to practice their typical shenanigans.
The Hierarchy is the main form of government in Stygia, the city made from soulforged wraiths.
Heretics are wraiths, who practice one or another form of religious worship to a deity known in the mortal world or an idea. During the first days of Christianity, the underworld was beginning to see a sect of Heretics, known as the "Fishermen". Posing a danger to the local pagan wraiths by possibly staging a coup, Charon sought and agreement with the Fishermen, allowing them to continue recruitment of new wraiths but leaving the current residents alone.
Renegades live outside Stygian society and follow their own path in the afterlife. A certain biker gang rides through deadlands in a neverending journey of violence and lack of liquor.
- Imperial Army
- Jade Censors
- Judges of the Dead
- Protectors of the Prosperous Realm
The Bush of GhostsEdit
Africa, the Dark Kingdom of Ivory.
Australia, the Dark Kingdom of Clay.
Port Royal & The MirrorlandsEdit
The Caribbean, full of pirates of course.
Swar, the City of DelightsEdit
India, no kingdom title.
The Dark Kingdom of ObsidianEdit
The Americas. "The Lands of Gold" in South America were devastated by living & dead conquistadors, while the Mesoamerican "Flayed Lands" and North American "Islands of Flint" are still around. Easily the most criminally underused setting in the World of Darkness, possibly all of fiction.
The Dark Kingdom of WireEdit
Detailed in Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah.
Spectres & The LabyrinthEdit
The transformation into a spectre happens, when a wraith's Shadow gains control and its Psyche becomes secondary, their biggest asset is that they share a hive-mind. Some dead start this way, such as children, because their wants, lack of patience and selfish attitude overrule any self-reflection and are instantly consumed by their shadow. There was even a book under the Black Dog label, Dark Reflections, that provided rules for an inverted experience where someone else plays your character's Psyche instead of their Shadow. Spectres cannot see people or really understand their surroundings in the shadowlands under normal circumstances, because their alignment towards oblivion far removes them from the land of the living.
The Labyrinth is essentially the center of the Underworld, and at its center is the Maw of Oblivion, a big hole of nothing that destroys all that falls into it. Spectres experience the pull of oblivion far worse than wraiths. To the point where it is akin to a ripping agony and the only way to satiate it is to cause untold misery and suffering to wraiths and eventually lead them to be consumed by Oblivion. One way this happens is through "harrowings", a harrowing occurs, when a wraith becomes weak enough to be pulled through the tempest via nihil forming under her corpus, and into the labyrinth to an impromptu nightmare scenario, orchestrated by the local spectres. Ever seen Jacob's Ladder? The whole movie can be used as an example of a wraith going through one harrowing after the other. The VERY personal nightmare scenarios are dictated by the wraith's shadow to the spectres. Every spectre is consumed by oblivion eventually, increasing its mass and power.
- Apparitions: middle-caste lackeys, in transition to becoming Nephracks
- Doppelgangers: low-caste, the usual Wraith whose Shadow took over, can pass for a Wraith
- Haints: non-caste as they hate everyone, became Spectres after a horrific death that defined their unlife
- Hekatonkhires: varies with the spectre, they're failed Onceborn and like Shades at Malfean power levels
- Malfeans: leader-caste; two types, Onceborn (former humans) and Neverborn (nonhumans)
- Mortwights: under-caste, became Spectres on death yet are still defined by their life
- Nephracks: upper-caste (admin, military, priests, etc.), they're former Doppelgangers warped by their contact with Oblivion
- The Nothings: lowest caste, those stuck in shell-shock or who just give up, some even try "suicide"
- Pasiphae: non-caste ciphers
- Shades: middle-caste shock troops, twisted into monsters by Oblivion kept in check by the hive-mind
- Striplings: non-caste, mobs of feral dead children
Charnel Houses of Europe: The ShoahEdit
If Wraith is known for anything in particular, it's the book they had covering the Holocaust in great detail, "Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah". Interestingly, the whole thing is actually regarded as "not a horrible mistake", which is the most probable fate facing such a product (see, for example, White Wolf's equally "problematic" Gypsies, which was regarded as "a horrible mistake").
Wraith 20th AnniversaryEdit
A Kickstarter for the 20th Anniversary edition of Wraith was put online on December 2nd 2014. As usual with White Wolf Kickstarters it was funded in 69 minutes. A release in the same vein as V20, W20, M20 and C20, Wr20 will be based on a game with a small but dedicated fanbase, that might bring in some new players.
The game was finally released in February 2018, seeing the release of a book of nearly 600 pages long. It turns the clock back to a time before the Sixth Great Maelstrom, which is only referenced to once in passing as something to prevent. So far, it has come out with a Player's Guide, and the Book of Oblivion, a book detailing... Well, Oblivion and its spectres.
- Orpheus (sequel game-line)
- Geist: The Sin-Eaters (the New World of Darkness ghost game, though it's quite different from Wraith)
- World of Darkness
- World of Darkness website
- World of Darkness wiki
- Unmoderated WoD Chat
- Mister Gone's Character Sheets