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Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition $29.99 $22.49
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Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
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Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/13/2019 14:56:21

Review from Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn), translated from German (find orignal German review below)

Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition

"You're dead" - these words could be the beginning of character creation at Wraith, because the former fourth system of the World of Darkness, for which the anniversary edition was published somewhat late, revolves around the topic of ghosts.

In Wraith, the player characters have just died and are thrown into a terrible world, because unlike the rest of the world of darkness, the Shadowlands are a very strange place. As long as the ghosts are still young and bound by earthly passions (Passions) and anchors (Fetters), they exist in the Shadowlands, which appear as a dark image of our reality. Here they can see and influence the world of mortals a bit, but this is neither easy nor allowed by the current regime. Beneath the Shadowlands exists the Tempest, a dangerous chaos in which there are few safe islands. And below is the labyrinth, where the forces of complete annihilation lurk.

The realm of the dead of the western world Stygia has a long history and the social order of the dead is complex. There is the Hierarchy, which is divided into eight legions (according to the type of death) and which is the state in Stygia, so to speak - and of course, there are renegades and heretics who oppose the current order. There are also the guilds, which were formed on the basis of the special abilities of the spirits (Arcanoi). What is more important for player characters is the fact that the only raw material in the world of ghosts is souls - i.e. many unfortunate newcomers suffer the fate of ending up as raw materials in the melts of Stygia.

At first glance, Wraith's character creation has many parallels to other games in the World of Darkness. There are the usual attributes and skills, and with the Arcanoi, spirits have supernatural abilities with a broad spectrum. Here, too, ghosts have a dark side, but Wraith takes unusual steps, as ghosts are basically divided into two halves: the psyche represents the personality and the shadow bundles all negative traits. Normally the psyche has the upper hand, but the shadow can manage to wrest this control from it. Unfortunately, the Shadow doesn't want anything else but to destroy the ghost - however, not by a simple suicide action, but by more perfidious plans. In fact, the Shadow of the Psyche can even help out with bonus dice, and the player has to decide whether or not to make this risky pact. The special thing about Wraith is that the role of Shadow is taken over by another player, so each player plays a Psyche and a Shadow. This gives the Dark Side a real role in the game - and of course there are rules mechanisms that allow the Shadow to take control or pull the psyche into a personal nightmare scenario.

The anniversary edition of Wraith goes even further, rounding it off with many pages of earlier sourcebook material on the guilds, spectres, risen, and the other realms of the dead, and even addresses the former spin-off Orpheus.

From my point of view, Wraith is the darkest and most difficult to play system in the World of Darkness, but it offers a lot of innovative ideas and an exciting background - and in the Anniversary Edition it offers the perfect all-inclusive package in one book.

Deutsche Version

"Du bist tot" – mit diesen Wor ten könnte die Charaktererschaffung bei Wraith beginnen, denn das ehemals vierte System der World of Darkness, für das etwas verspätet die Jubiläumsausgabe erschienen ist, dreht sich um das Thema Geister.

Bei Wraith sind die Spielercharaktere frisch verstorben und werden in eine schreckliche Welt geworfen, denn im Gegensatz zur restlichen Welt der Dunkelheit sind die Schattenlande ein sehr fremder Ort. Solange die Geister noch jung sind und durch irdische Leidenschaften (Passions) und Anker (Fetters) gebunden sind, existieren sie in den Schattenlanden, die als dunkles Abbild unserer Realität erscheinen. Hier können sie ein wenig die Welt der Sterblichen sehen und beeinflussen, was aber weder leicht, noch durch die geltende Herrschaftsordnung erlaubt ist. Unter den Schattenlanden existiert der Sturm (Tempest), ein gefährliches Chaos, in dem es nur wenige sichere Inseln gibt. Und darunter liegt das Labyrinth, in dem die Kräfte der kompletten Auslöschung lauern.

Das Totenreich der westlichen Welt Stygia hat eine lange Geschichte und die Gesellschaftsordnung der Toten ist komplex. Hier gibt es die Hierarchy, die sich in acht Legionen (nach Todesart) unterteilt und sozusagen der Staat in Stygia ist – und natürlich gibt es Renegaten und Ketzer, die sich der geltenden Ordnung entgegenstellen. Hinzu kommen die Gilden, die sich anhand der speziellen Fähigkeiten der Geister (Arcanoi) gebildet haben. Was für Spielercharaktere relevanter ist, ist die Tatsache, dass der einzige Rohstoff in der Geisterwelt Seelen sind – d.h. viele unglückliche Neuankömmlinge erleiden das Schicksal, in den Schmelzen von Stygia als Rohstoff zu enden.

Auf den ersten Blick hat die Charaktererschaffung von Wraith viele Parallelen zu anderen Spielen der World of Darkness. Es gibt die üblichen Attribute und Fertigkeiten, und mit den Arcanoi haben die Geister übernatürliche Fähigkeiten mit breitem Spektrum. Auch hier haben die Geister eine dunkle Seite, allerdings geht Wraith ungewöhnliche Wege, denn im Grunde teilen sich Geister in zwei Hälften: die Psyche stellt die Persönlichkeit dar und der Schatten (Shadow) bündelt alle negativen Eigenschaften. Normalerweise hat die Psyche die Oberhand, doch es kann dem Schatten gelingen, ihr diese Kontrolle zu entreißen. Leider will der Schatten nichts anderes, als den Geist vernichten – allerdings nicht durch eine einfache Selbstmordaktion, sondern durch perfidere Pläne. Tatsächlich kann der Schatten der Psyche sogar mit Bonuswürfeln aushelfen, und der Spieler muss entscheiden, ob er diesen riskanten Pakt eingeht. Die Besonderheit bei Wraith besteht darin, dass die Rolle des Schattens von einem anderen Spieler übernommen wird, so dass jeder Spieler eine Psyche und einen Schatten spielt. Damit hat die dunkle Seite eine echte Rolle im Spiel – und natürlich gibt es Regelmechanismen, wie der Schatten die Kontrolle übernehmen oder die Psyche in ein persönliches Albtraumszenario ziehen kann.

Die Jubiläumsausgabe von Wraith geht aber noch weiter und rundet das Ganze mit vielen Seiten früherem Quellenbuchmaterial zu den Gilden, Spectres, Risen (Widergängern) und den anderen Totenreichen ab und thematisiert sogar das frühere Spin-off Orpheus.

Aus meiner Sicht ist Wraith das düsterste und am schwierigsten zu spielende System der Welt der Dunkelheit, das aber sehr viele innovative Ansätze und einen spannenden Hintergrund bietet – und in der Anniversary Edition das perfekte Rundumsorglos-Paket in einem Buch bietet.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by John M. S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/23/2018 12:24:05

I haven't played previous editions of Wraith, so I really have nothing to compare this volume to. That being said I bought and read this book with an open mind and was blown away with the sheer volume of awesome content. I really cannot find fault with this book, and if you are interested in some more of my opinions on it you can read my full review HERE



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by sam w. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/22/2018 07:27:01

Honestly... rather let down.

I am a faithful Wraith fan that purchased every single book that was released. I loved the feel, the connection, the tragedy and reasons that convinced these beings to continue to fight on. The story and history was superb, in my opinion. The writing was excellent. The systems needed clarity in a few areas (not many, but a few).

I had high hopes for Wraith - 20th. While the art, layout, writing etc are as impeccable as they always have been, some design decisions have completely turned me off this game. I find myself looking at a product that I purchased strictly for new art and a cleaner layout.

Why do I say this? Because I am shocked and unimpressed by the needless down-grading of many powers/arcanoi for no apparent reason. In some cases, some iconic level 5 powers are not even worth the action due to the ridiculous costs, difficulty and/or unimpressive effect. The wonder and awe at high level arcanoi and guild members can be safely thought of as mostly propaganda now.

This is as strange as it sounds... when we as players discussed hopes for Wr20, very few if any (I saw none) thought there was need to re-tune wraith powers or such. Instead - I can honestly say that this is the most significant change in this book. From Outrage 5 being now functionally less effective than a Stygian Steel blade, to Wraith's sudden inability to soak aggravated, to the near-uselessness of several other Level 5 powers.

My gaming group has decided to shelf this book as basically an art project - very sad indeed.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Greg D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/11/2018 16:11:58

It's brilliant; of course it's brilliant. With the other extensive reviews here there's no need to say more than that. It's almost everything you could ever want from a comprehensive set of wraith rules.

Except for one or two things, for which I spitefully drop a star, because it's unforgiveable in my mind.

Where are the merits and flaws?

There are sixty-five pages (including an extra front cover) given over to the most incredibly self-indulgent, look-how-artsy-and-not-dungeons-and-dragons-we-are-circle-jerk of art and words ever committed to a WoD/OP game, and that's saying something. Yes, it's evocative; yes, it sets the scene; yes, it's wonderful and beautiful on it's own terms; but it's sixty-five pages long. Many of the pages only have a few words on them, was there really no more room in the book for another small appendix? Every other game line got one.

The contents is nine pages long on it's own. Mage managed it in five - and it's a 700-page book with tons of rules.

Sigh. It's minor I know, but it's annoying as all hell. I was also really hoping for a condensed Ferryman section from Ends of Empire and the alternate arcanoi from The Great War, but I guess you can't have everything.

Ok, I'll shut up with the self-indulgent winge-fest now. It's pathetic, I know. Wraith 20 is a fabulous labour of deepest love, and I haven't been this joyfully immersed in a book since The Deathly Hallows (or Changeling 20). The additions and edited/expanded rules are well-thought out, especially with regard to arcanoi, and the Orpheus appendix is inspired.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2018 16:10:15

Once upon a time, many years ago in the closing months of the 20th Century, one of my best friends said to me “We’re going to do something new. Something different. We’re going to play Wraith.” being in a group of players that was consistently made up of myself, the significant other of my best friend, and my best friend-as-Storyteller, I was immediately intimidated. I had no idea how to play Wraith, and – truth be told – had no idea how the rules worked or how the setting would be laid out, etc.

Let’s be clear here; Vampire is easy. You’re a vampire and you live in a city and you blah blah blah all night long until the sun comes up. And let’s also be clear that with Werewolf, you’re a werewolf and you live in the near-city or wilderness – or, as I’ve proven in MY OWN games of Werewolf that I’ve run – in the city proper and you blah blah blah all day and night long until your phase of the moon hits and you’re rocking at full-tilt Gnosis and Rage...

But Wraith was different.

Wraith was fucking PERSONAL.

“Here’s what I want you to do, Shannon” he said. “I want you to think about death. I want you to think about the worst possible death that you could die. I want you to think about drowning or dying unexpectedly while you’re going out to get something to eat. I want you to hold onto the feeling of that... of the emotion of that... and when you’ve got THAT locked down? THAT’S when we’ll create your character, and I’ll help you to do it.”

Wraith was about as supernatural and frightening to me as the World of Darkness – at least, the World of Darkness that we knew at the time – ever got.

It was story-driven drama. It was character-driven conflict. It was cogs within gears within transmissions of the great machinations of Stygian politics. It was endless, sunless day-to-day survival against the forces of Oblivion who were, to me, MUCH MORE ferocious and malnourished than any of the Wyrm’s minions because, in the end, they were – effectively – the “Great Nothing” that “The Neverending Story” painted as its primary antagonist.

The Wyrm... the Weaver... if it could be said that “they” want anything, it most certainly isn’t a LACK of ANYTHING. “They” want “something.” Something IS NOT nothing.

And Malfeans and their countless armies of spectres? It’s not that they want to watch the Underworld burn. They want Oblivion.

They want NOTHING to exist in the place of EVERYTHING.

So we created my ghost for this game... and when we were done, I felt drained to be honest. And my best friend said “Okay. That’s that. Now, we make your Shadow.”

“My what?”

“Your Shadow. The part of you that WANTS to be dead. The part of you that wants the madness of the Underworld to end. The part of you that wants to move on into the Great Nothing... because all of this? HURTS. The Shadow doesn’t like it.”

“That’s... fucked up.”

“He’ll help you at times. Not always, but sometimes. I mean, he IS YOU. Think of him as Rage Points in Werewolf, after a fashion. He’s your enemy, but he can be useful, too.”

Suffice to say we didn’t play those characters much, and the game didn’t last long. In all honesty, it was too stressful to me at the time, which is a funny thing for me to say now twenty some-odd years down the road after having a son, being widowed at 35, buying a house, and charging ahead through it all. But at the time, thinking about the depth of Wraith – about the darkness of it - wasn’t how I wanted to spend my game time.

Fast forward twenty years into the future into the middle of 2018.

I’m much older, I’d like to think that I’m much wiser, definitely more mature, a little beat up from wear and tear, but my heart – or a part of it, anyway – still lives in the gothic-punk World of Darkness, and a little piece of that part of my heart is hidden across the Shroud on the Isle of Sorrows in Stygia.

Benevolent psychopathology is a term I use for things that I find myself both terrified by and, simultaneously, obsessed with. Wraith: the Oblivion falls into the category of benevolent psychopathology for me.

When I heard that there would be a release of a 20th Anniversary Edition of the game, I was overjoyed with expectation. Having not read ANY of the Geist books and having been completely out of the loop with White Wolf Games Studios - and Onyx Path Publishing, for that matter – I started watching from afar to make sure I didn’t miss the initial release of the book.

Suffice to say, I am in no way, shape or form disappointed in what I have received.

Some people reading this will remember my reviews from my days with Ex Libris Nocturnis. Others, who got into the games long after ELN closed its cover and locked itself shut have no idea what my reviews are about or how they work. DrivethruRPG is, effectively, set up for my “style” of reviewing which has, admittedly, changed over the years to keep up with my understanding of objectivity and maturity.

I use a five-star system, pass or fail.

1 star for appearance. Yes or no. Is the book beautiful? Does the book strike me, inside and out? Was there as much care for internal artwork as with cover art? Does the book “live deliciously?”

1 star for overall content. Yes or no. Does the book DELIVER what it said it would deliver? Is the book claiming to be core rules nothing more than a gateway to a half dozen other sourcebooks that will be required to run the game coherently, or is the book a game in and of itself slapped betwixt two covers?

1 star for readability and proofing. Yes or no. Mistakes are made. I’ve written sections for these books, and I know for a fact that you can spend hours and hours and hours going over them with a fine-toothed comb and there will STILL be an error here or there. It happens. Names get spelled wrong, pages end up breaking in odd places, etc. In the end, is the book put together PROFESSIONALLY? Is it obvious that someone TOOK THE TIME to edit the book REASONABLY?

1 star for viability. Does the book add to the existing mythos of the game it supports or not? Can the game be played – FOREVER – without the book? Will it make the game A DIFFERENT GAME if the book is added into the mythos? This star is really for Storytellers. As a Storyteller, I’m going to ask myself “Should I pay money for this book to give players something wonderful that they have not seen before?” Is it a Player’s Guide to the Technocracy – which, back in the day, RE-DEFINED Mage: The Ascension COMPLETELY – or is it just another grimoire of “pew-pew!” Thaumaturgy Rites?

1 star for overall quality-in-ownership. I’ve written some SHITE. Seriously. There are things floating around out there that I SINCERELY WISH did not have my name attached to them. Did the developer of the game line get too busy to redline what was being submitted to him or her appropriately? Did the developer drop the ball after the contributing freelancer wrote a bunch of garbage to fluff a wordcount? Is the book I paid for supposed to be what I’m reading? Am I expecting too much professionalism from a legacy company that has put out some of the greatest Storytelling games ever created? Or am I expecting a book to be something that it isn’t. Am I wanting a book to be written one way while, what was published, is something completely different.

In all honesty, I think that of the five stars, that last one is the MOST subjective, even though I will do my absolute best to remain entirely objective throughout my reviews.

That being said, let’s do this.

The Prologue: The Face of Death is, quite simply, a graphic novella that takes some absolutely stunning Wraith: the Oblivion artwork superimposed with text blocs that explain the fundamental concepts of the game. Had this been something 1st or 2nd Edition contained, my best friend would not have had to spend the time that he did explaining to me what Wraith was and what it was all about. It is beautiful, it is chilling, it is darkly poetic, and it is also very emotionally driven while remaining matter-of-fact and succinct. This is your Ghost Story. This is your beginning.

Chapter One: Introduction is just that, and it serves as a syllabus for what you can expect throughout the course of your reading while working with the Table of Contents as a map. You’re given a basic Lexicon – and my only complaint here is that there are a couple of “What is that?” terms you’ll run across later that aren’t immediately identified (for example, “Labyrinth, the” even though there are a couple of terms directly related to the Labyrinth or that coincide directly with it) - but aside from that, it’s a concise little thing.

Chapter Two: Setting is where things get down and dirty, but in all fairness, is also where things get a little sketchy. Sketchy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you... but there are times where contradictions are made that can leave the reader saying “...and whaaaaaaa?”

A good example is the issue of the Fishers and the Treaty of Paradise. Be careful with this part and know that what you’re reading is not necessarily what happened. Another would be the narrative explaining the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian. Another would be “Okay... wait... are ALL of the Ferrymen on their own in the City of Dis now? Did they ALL turn away from Charon? Or was it just the Shining Ones? Or was it the Ancients who existed pre-Rite of Severance?”

Confusion can set in, and while it isn’t fair to write the entirety of the chapter off as bullshit - because it isn’t by a longshot and there’s some amazing information offered up here from the dawn of Stygia to the formation of the Stygian Republic to the founding of the Ferrymen to the building of the Necropoli, to all of the Great Maelstroms, etc. - there are some parts here and there that simply do not jibe well with other parts here and there.

In the end, an intelligent Storyteller and his or her Circle will be able to use and clarify any confusions that they come across.

This chapter has the most "player meat" of the book. This is the chapter, other than the mechanics-related chapters that the players will sit and devour for hours.

I’ll say this as a fan of the game as well as an objective reviewer: The MAP of Stygia is freakin’ AMAZING. It’s something that I can’t ever remember having been provided with before. It harkens back to a sort of Forgotten Realms look at Waterdeep or a setting like that with commercial and military districts, Hierarchal and municipal management districts, Guild speakeasies... it’s an awesome resource that works very well with the written imagery of what is presented in the book. Pull it all together into a black bouquet with the history of the Guilds, the Legions, where they live, how they think, what they want, how they endeavor to achieve their ends, and you’re PROVIDED with a solid few nights-worth of game time without even mentioning the words “Skinlands” or “Spectres.”

Need to know how to buy and sell? Done.

Need a weapon forged? Done.

Need to know where to head to find work? Done.

Need to know this or that about the history of this faction or that faction? Done.

Need to know how to get to a specific Necropolis tonight (hint: The Midnight Express)? Done.

Unsure about the politics of a Legion or their views on being a wraith? Done.

It's all here. While there are a few hiccups, Chapter Two leaves no room for disappointment in just the sheer scope of information that it provides. As a Storyteller, you can spend your first night of gaming with an open Q&A, or you can print out this chapter of the .pdf for your players to review a night or two before character creation and be in front of the eight ball for time-management's sake.

Special note should be paid to the final entry in the chapter: The Mnemoi. Basically, if there’s a “bad guy among good guys,” it’s the Mnemoi Guild. See, if a ghost is anything, really... if anything gives a ghost “power” or “substance” outside of the Shadowloands, it’s memories. Guess what the Mnemoi manipulate?

I’m not saying they’re new, or even new and improved. I’m just saying that they’re THERE... and they’re waiting for you.

For better or for worse.

Chapter Four: Character, and Chapter Five: Traits serves as a Player's Guide for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith: the Oblivion, but it is just as useful to Storytellers as to players in regards to NPC generation. The Three A’s of Attributes, Abilities and Advantages are presented for players to work with, as are finishing touches and ideas on how to create a pre-death situation for the character as well as a death concept, which of course will leave a “Deathmark” on the subsequent Wraith PC when they pass into the Shadowlands.

All of your Guildbooks are here, as is the meat for the Magick of the Dead, aka, Arcanoi. Now, I'm not saying that a ghost can just up and start some heavyweight spellthrowing with the likes of a Technocratic Magi or even a high-level Thaumaturgist... but let's give a little respect where it's due here. If you go about messing around in the affairs of the Dead, or the Shadowlands, or with ghosts who have Haunts that they don't want you messing around in, or corpse-bothering when you have no business or right to do so, you'd better get ready.

The Mnemoi, as an example, may not be able to throw a fireball at you or use direct "Pattern Magick" to rend you crippled... but they can make you disappear.

From everything. Everywhere. Forever. As if you never existed. And no one will know you're gone except for the Mnemoi who initiated the "spell," because NO ONE REMEMBERS YOU EVER EXISTED.

And they are able, conversely, to do the same thing to themselves if they are threatened or hunted.

That's no small amount of HEAVY, in my opinion.

Chapter Six: The Shadow is the Shadow Player's Guide for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith: the Oblivion. It covers everything you need to know about the "dark half" of every ghost. Shadows can be bargained with, they can be sated temporarily, but they will never stop crying out for what they want, which is to bring the wraith closer to Oblivion. Even the Ferrymen, who have been separated from their Shadow STILL have to deal with the Pasiphae that their Shadow has become at every turn.

This chapter takes a nice, long look at each and every aspect of Shadow character generation including Thorns that the Shadow can use (that are SORT of like sub-Arcanoi in a sense), Angst (the "fuel" that "powers" a Shadow) and Harrowings... which are always a little scary because you never really know if your character is going to make it out of one or if they're going to be consumed by their Shadow and become a spectre.

If you're not sure what a Harrowing IS, got watch the movie "Jacob's Ladder." THAT is a Harrowing.

I really like the idea of Shadowguiding. I think it is ingenious. A special pat on the back should go to whomever invented it and implemented it into the rules system. I think that it solves a lot of mechanical problems with Shadows, and I think it REALLY has the potential of bringing a group of players closer together as a functional "family" unit.

Chapters Seven through Nine are the Storyteller's Handbook to the 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith: the Oblivion. While these chapters focus predominately on the Storyteller and in helping the Storyteller tell an amazing Chronicle's-worth of stories, I think that they are also vitally important for players to skim over.

Special note should be paid by players to Chapter Nine that explains things like the Fog, Maelstroms, the Tempest, Fetters, Passions, Resolution, damage and combat in the Shadowlands, as I really think it helps someone new to Wraith understand how combat with a Corpus made of Plasm is a bit different from flesh and bone. These things are all explained better - or more importantly, in MORE DETAIL - than in previous chapters.

Chapter Ten: Spectres is where we get into the "bad guys" of Wraith: the Oblivion.

You may be a Thrall to a nastier-than-average Freewraith... but he/she is not a spectre.

Consider yourself lucky.

If there is ANYTHING in the World of Darkness that could be classified as "evil," it is the servants of Oblivion, or spectres. They are not like your Shadow. They are not like to Haunter in the opposing Guild. They are not the Renegade who harasses you every time you try to catch the one Ferryman's attention.

They want DESTRUCTION. Of everything. Everywhere.

"Listen... and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity... or remorse... or fear... and it absolutely WILL NOT STOP until you're dead." -Kyle Reese, "The Terminator"

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Wraith: the Oblivion took the Black Dog Game Factory's release of Spectres and kicked it up a notch, gave it a little bit of a bath, slopped some deodorant on it, and made it something better. And having both owned and reviewed THAT BOOK back when it was released, I can say that was no easy feat.

Everything that you could possibly need to create spectre NPCs is here - cause, effect, motivation, how they do what they do, how they get where they're going, how they survive in the Tempest, how they have generally made an artform out of destroying ghosts via Dark Arcanoi and Shadecraft... Hell, there's even rules on how to let your freak-flag fly and run a game with nothing but specter PCs.

The author turned an oogie-boogie book of scary things into what is, for all intents and purposes, ANOTHER Player's Guide within the book. The result is no small amount of impressive and provides for antagonists that are unfathomably complex in their motivations and desires.

Quite possibly one of the more notable chapters of the book as a whole, I sincerely enjoyed reading Chapter Ten from beginning to end and was left, almost, with a sensation that I had taken TOO MUCH in from all of the additional information provided by it.

Chapter Eleven: The Risen The Risen is the Player's Guide to The Crow, sure... that's ONE WAY to look at it, I guess. It's a little short-sighted, but it definitely A WAY.

But if you're going to say that, then isn't Jason Voorhees a Shadow-Dominated Risen?

Wouldn't a Liche be, in many ways, something that caught the ire and eye of what is probably the most AWESOME Player/Storyteller vehicle within this chapter, the Acherontia Styx?

Everything you need is here. Are you new to Wraith and want to stick to the Skinlands for a time before Helldiving into the Shadowlands? Try a Risen. They have their own system, their own special Arcanoi that work in the Skinlands... and there are ghosts that hunt them across the Shroud in an attempt to destroy them or bring them back to where they belong to face the consequences wrought by the violation of Charon's Law.

It wa a really cool sourcebook, and I'm glad that The Risen didn't get forgotten in the 20th Anniversary Edition.

Chapter Twelve: The World of Darkness includes everything that you need to know to give you a running start regarding crossovers in the World of Darkness. How other denizens would react to ghosts, how Arcanoi effects other denizens, how other denizens' powers effects ghosts, Relics, Fetters, SPECTRAL Relics, Artifacts and Fetters (very cool, thank you!), and basically just serves as a sort of user manual for the incorporation of other supernaturals that exist side-by-side wraiths so that you're not completely limited to one sunless day after another in your Chronicle.

There's some REALLY great information in here. The "magic items" alone make this chapter a hoot. Lucky's Mr. Bunny made me think of Child's Play... because come on... Chucky is essentially a possessed Artifact...

Chapter Thirteen: The Other Dark Kingdoms takes a nice chunk of wordcount to serve as a bit of a travel guid for the Dead in regards to what else is out there beyond the Dark Kingdom of Iron, Stygia, the Tempest, etc.

In short, this chapter sort of expounds upon and condenses, at the same time, the Dark Kingdom of Jade (Asia) sourcebooks for the 2nd Edition of Wraith and adds to the mythos with the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian (parts of the Americas), the Dark Kingdom of Clay (Australia), the Bush of Ghosts (Africa), the Svarga (India and, possibly, Pakistan), and the Mirrorlands (the Caribean).

Whenever I read setting books like these for the World of Darkness, my first thought is "these guys are smoking WAY too much high-grade methamphetamine to do THIS MUCH WORK!" It pays off. While I personally don't have a whole lot of use for too many different settings outside of the Dark Kingdom of Iron, these setting books - and I call them that because, collected, THEY COULD stand SOLIDLY ALONE as a "Book of the Shadowlands" supplement - are ON POINT. Most of the Dark Kingdom of Jade stuff is stuff I comprehend and understand fairly readily. I've read the original supplements, read the Kuei-Jin stuff for Vampire back in the day, etc., but the opening up of new trade routes and areas in the Shadowlands the way these settings do?

Unrivaled.

Just the SHEER ATTENTION TO DETAIL is, to me, like nothing that I've ever seen in any role-playing supplement before. And trust me when I say I've seen PLENTY of them.

The Bush of Ghosts and the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian write-ups were my favorite, but that's a completely subjective thing. I just find it AWESOME that everything that Stygia thinks that they know about Africa is ABSOLUTELY WRONG in every conceivable way, and I was TRULY INTIMIDATED with the manner in which the Americas were handled. In both cases, it was as though I was being taught the DARK SIDE of African and Mesoamerican mythology... in the World of Darkness... none of which I was supposed to EVER know about.

Arcanoi specific to each geographical locale are provided, as are small Lexicons to add a bit of authenticity to your games when your players set sail to dark, distant shores.

And that's about that, by God.

All things being equal, I cannot readily remember the last time I had as much fun reading an RPG book. For my lot, it made me feel young again to see so many ideas I was introduced to so long ago and how they have evolved - some drastically, some only slightly - and that the spirit of the game is still exactly what it needs to be: "Hope."

Even with the Tempest spitting at you.

Even in the face of Oblivion.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2018 03:42:14

FINALLY……being the operative word after three years of waiting after the original estimated Kickstarter delivery date. It should be noted that this is the last of the big 20th Anniversary (now called 4th edition) World of Darkness rulebooks, although most of the lines will continue with supplements for a while. Wraith was actually meant to be the fourth in the series, but was so delayed that Changeling overtook it. It's actually closer to it's 25th Anniversary now. That said, it makes a fitting finale to the WoD series, being themed around death and all. It should also be noted that the original game was a very slow burner, with initial reviews being unfavourable before critical appreciation slowly accrued some years later.

The major appeal of Wraith, in my view, is twofold. Firstly, it appeals to those critics of Vampire who don't like the awkward immorality of drinking blood from victims, but still want to experience some of the dark artfulness you get from WoD games. Wraith offers just as much mood and atmosphere, but deals with a more universal theme of existentialism. Characters aren't necessarily moral by default, but they aren't antiheroes either, and good tales can be built around regretful ghosts trying to atone for their failings in life. The society of ghosts, when implementing Guilds, the Heirarchy, Heretics and Renegades can build for decent political campaigns also, but can otherwise be ignored. The same is true for the various monsters found in the dark depths of the Shadowlands (Spectres etc). There is a lot of emotional depth in Wraith, and plenty for characters to do, and players can pick up on it well with decent preparation.

The second appeal is to do with the design, not so much of the general engine (which is so-so, but pretty much the same as other WoD games), but more with the innovation of 'Shadow-play'. This being where players are given the dark alter-ego of somebody else's character to play, with the goal of tempting the regular character towards self destruction and the eponymous Oblivion. Again, I see this as an optional feature rather than a compulsary mode of play, as it does make the game more complex. Nevertheless, it's a feature that definitely does create a sense of 'personal horror' much more than any other WoD game, and was a critical success.

Indeed, it's a pet theory of mine that the Shadow is actually a hold-over idea from Mage: The Ascension, which didn't make the cut as the Mage game was complex enough as it was. In Mage, I could see the Avatars being played exactly in this way, either trying to guide the character up towards a personal Ascension or as a kind of Faustian pact with a personal daemon. It's an idea that could still be lifted, and used to steer Mage away from it's tendency towards superhero roleplaying should you wish.

How is the new edition? It's extraordinarily stylish to look at, with the artwork being as good as any of the previous books. It's also very complete - including rules to play The Risen (á la The Crow) or Orpheus (á la Flatliners), and indeed any narrative in all sorts of ghost stories from literature, movies etc. It's very passionately written and was clearly a labour of love. Ideally, it possibly wouldn't have so many conventional stats - particularly physical stats like Strength, Stamina, etc (like….why?). There is a possibly overwhelming level of detail and ideas, particularly in this 20th Anniversary edition. However it's not necessary to include everything from the book in a scenario or campaign. It's more a case of using the book as a springboard for your own stories. It's terrific all the same though - I can't wait to have it make up my set of 20th Anniversary games.

Wraith's traditional role as the weakest commercial WoD game, and evidently the most difficult for the creators to complete, means this could potentially be the last edition. Make sure you give it your dues before it passes on….



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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