Storytellers Vault
Browse Categories

Other comments left by this customer:
You must be logged in to rate this
Ravenloft Gazetteer: CARNIVAL
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/07/2019 21:31:49

I’ve purchased all of the Ravenloft Gazeteers for the purposes of adding a bit of spice to my Curse of Strahd Campaign. However, Carnival caught my eye first for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that the “set up sessions” of Curse of Strahd – for my group – were going to take place during a Vistani festival that comes to a town called Osburgh every year at Midwinter.

The Carnival, I decided, would be an AWESOME way to sort of coax my players INTO Barovia and to give them a taste of the macabre that they would be encountering there.

So, I modified the information presented in Carnival, used the Blade Brothers, the Organ Grinder, Tindal and the Skurra and then modified Isolde to be “Ionia,” the Vistana daughter of Madame Eva traveling to Osburgh with her husband, Stanimir as the “road bosses” of the Vistani Festival.

It was a MASSIVE hit. My players LOVED IT. There was no convincing necessary to get them into Barovia. Tindal assured my group that passage could be arranged through Ionia’s influence on the Vistani caravan, and then gifted them two kegs of Barovia’s finest wine from the Wizard of Wines.

The party drank while Ionia and Stanimir told the “fireside story of the king-turned-tyrant.” Before long, they drifted off into drugged sleep.

When they woke, they were in Barovia. Surrounded by a dozen of Strahd’s skeleton highway sentinels.
Boom. And so, it began.

An awesome little set of resources, I’m really loving the Ravenloft Gazeteer series. Carnival is the first one that I’ve used so far in my games, but I am positive that it will not be the last. The ONLY criticism I can offer is that I wish Oliver had a line-for-line type editor (which I would actually volunteer my services for) and that there were stats for using the Gentleman Caller, who I am thinking about modifying into another of Strahd’s alter-egos.

We’ll see what happens.

Regardless, Carnival is really good stuff for use in Curse of Strahd, I assure you.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ravenloft Gazetteer: CARNIVAL
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

SotM's Guide to Dying
Publisher: White Wolf
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/20/2018 17:30:31

So often when a Storyteller is spooling up a Wraith: the Oblivion game, they become preoccupied with the setting of the chronicle – because Wraith can have so many – and the antagonistic factions at work within the chronicle – because, again, Wraith can have so many – that simple yet critical details get lost in the shuffle of things that happen in between character generation and the first night of sitting at the table to begin the story. Arguably, one of the most important things that seem to get left at the truck stop isn’t so much “How did your character die?” but rather the investment of time, thought and, in fact, emotion, that should be attached to the answering of that question.

One of the things that makes Wraith: the Oblivion so emotional, and to be certain, one of the things that has endeared the game to those who love it the way that they do, is the emotional investment required of both the Storyteller and the characters who run and play the game, respectively. Within the overarching setting of the World of Darkness, there is no other game that demands of you to think about the most horrible thing that could possibly happen to you – a death so untimely and, in many or most cases, unfair – that it will literally define your character and everything that your character does throughout the duration of a chronicle’s lifespan. The Psyche, the Shadow, the Corpus, Memoriam, Fetters, Passions, Thorns… all these things are born from how your character met her end. People who die peacefully in their sleep do not generally leave ghosts behind. They simply “Transcend” into the next phase of existence and bypass the dark horror of the Underworld, the Shadowlands, the Dark Kingdoms of the Dead and the Labyrinth.

Shadows of the Masquerade’s Guide to Dying supplement is a kick-starter in its best-possible incarnation. Not for a story, but for characters entering a story. Not for setting a scene, but for the players on the stage, and for the director who will guide them through the gossamer of the Underworld. The supplement asks the question "How did you get here, anyway?" of the reader, and shifts the player out of a "comfort bubble" and into an area of thinking about things that most people do not want to think about on a regular basis.

Or even on rare ocassions, for that matter.

While presented as a “Guide,” it is more of a toolbox of thought exercises than anything else. When I see the word “Guide” in a title, I think of mechanics and step-by-step instruction on how to do this or why you would want to do that. This is not necessarily the case with the Guide to Dying. In the most liberal sense, some of the explanations of causes of death could be viewed as a sort of mechanic… but even that is a bit of a stretch. What the Guide to Dying does do – and does well – is takes the time to clarify no only how a character’s death is reflected directly in the ghost that death creates across the Shroud, but why.

First off, the supplement is absolutely beautiful in the same way that all Wraith: the Oblivion products are. The solemn melancholy of the artwork lends to the mood of the subject matter, and the reader is stricken with a sense of wanting to curl up under a quilt to read it on a deep-gray Winter’s day.

A nice funerary bouquet of Internal and External causes of death are presented and explained – For example, “Malicious Intent,” “Freak Accident,” or “Death by Illness” – and then, in turn (which I found exceptionally cool, to be completely honest) there are three example characters proved who died in any number or, if you’d like, combinations of these causes.

Now that would be enough for a beginner coming to Wraith: the Oblivion for the first time. But Shadows of the Masquerade takes it a step further; for each cause of death that has befallen the given character, given their background and given a couple of the clarifications on their general disposition as conceptualizations, the overall effect that each cause has on their Fetters, Passions and Shadow is afforded and explained. This is an awesome tool for people who have a hard time with the concept that playing a ghost is actually about playing two distinctly different characters that are, while arch-enemies, also the most fundamentally closest of allies and, in fact, the same being. It’s a tricky concept for people new to the game and the systems, and the Guide to Dying handles this exceptionally well.

I had one, single heartache with the example characters as provided and written; each one of them, based on a given cause of death, is assigned to a Guild. Now, while this is somewhat helpful to an extent, I think what would have been even more useful would have been assignment within a Legion given the nature and causation of the deaths of the example characters. Sure, the Haunters might Reap a ghost who was accidentally killed by a Good Samaritan, and I roger that as being completely logical. However, The Reapers of the Lady of Fate would probably also have dibs on such a poor soul, and would have, additionally, Hierarchy “sanctioned” Haunters within their ranks. This doesn’t take away from what is presented in the Guide to Dying, but I do think that it bears mention that there are a lot of other factions and forces-at-large in the Underworld than just the Guilds Reaping Cauls on the regular.

With Wraith: the Oblivion being opened up to the Storytellers Vault in just the last week, Guide to Dying is a top-notch debut supplement that does a lot to set the standard for what Wraith: the Oblivion Storytellers and players will look for to enhance and enrich their trans-Shroud Chronicles.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
SotM's Guide to Dying
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

Werewolf Gift Compilation
Publisher: White Wolf
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/16/2018 02:27:22

First off, I would like to state from the outset that the concept behind this book is absolutely solid. While vampires are creatures of stasis, werewolves are creatures of dynamism. As the world changes around them, so too should the Garou change, and so too should the Gifts that the Spirits reveal to them change.

A book like the Werewolf Gift Compilation is something that has been a long time coming, and to be completely honest, I’m not sure why it has never been addressed by OPP or WWGS on an annual time-table to keep the interest in the game – not to mention the game’s pulse - hammering along.

But that’s exactly why the Storytellers Vault exists, and author Zachary Ball has taken the bull by the horns with this endeavor.

When I first saw the book listed on the Storytellers Vault, to be completely honest, I was hoping for a Werewolf: the Apocalypse’s answer to The Enlightened Grimoire for Mage: the Ascension; a collection of all of the Garou Gifts that have been presented across 20 years and four editions of the game’s existence. However, it is important to note for anyone who is thinking this that the Werewolf Gift Compilation is not that book.

The Werewolf Gift Compilation is a labor of love collection of 80+ never-before-published Gifts for Gaian Garou to use at their Storyteller’s discretion. Some are interesting, albeit not all that well thought out and, on their surface, somewhat practical. Smolder, a Level One Wendigo Gift, is right up there in utility with the Level One Bone Gnawer Gift The Hungry Hound. The bonus being that Kinfolk can employ the Gift as well, making it even more valuable. Shadow Leap, a Level Four Shadow Lord Gift as an example, is one hell of an idea. I think it would have worked out better mechanically as a Level Two or Three Gift given what it achieves for the Garou employing it… and unfortunately, that seems to be the primary complaint that I found with the book as a collected work.

Most of the Gifts that are presented in The Werewolf Gift Compilation are grossly overpowered. A Level Six Gift called Silvered Rage that turns the Garou’s flesh into what is, effectively, a coat of armor made of silver (with no immediate Gnosis loss, and instead, an absolutely hideous botch consequence), Blood to Dust, while presenting as a Level Five Theurge Gift, allows a Garou to turn the Blood Pool of a vampire into dust on a Gnosis Roll at difficulty of 9… and while it’s a cool idea, it isn’t very practical at all in that you have literally a 20% chance per Gnosis point to turn a single Blood Point into dust and MAY be soaked by supernatural means, including Thaumaturgy Rituals or Paths… maybe.

The ideas behind most of the Gifts seem somewhat thought out, but not entirely, and the mechanics that govern the usability of the Gifts seem - for lack of a better word - clunky.

The Level Two Glass Walker Gift All Things Equal Glass is a nifty take on a concept that seems to be inspired by the “Gun Kata” used by the Tetragrammaton Clerics in the movie Equilibrium.

I will say that if you’re running a game with Kinfolk PCs that have the Gnosis Merit, then there are a few really interesting Level One Gifts that the Werewolf Gift Compilation can arm them with.

The organization of the book could have used a bit more work. I can appreciate the thought that went into organizing the Gifts in the manner with which they are presented, however, a functional Appendix which includes page numbers for each Gift would have been fantastic to have and would have only added to the overall usability and functionality of the book. Ease of use is a big deal… but I also understand from first-hand experience how difficult navigating InDesign Templates can be.

So, in closing, there are a few interesting ideas in the book. The Bunyip and Croatan Gifts are a nice touch, and while there are a handful of Gifts that I could see modifying for use by players or NPCs, many of the Gifts, as presented, need a nice bit of alteration before they're ready for table-top play. From both a writing - as well as a mechanical - perspective.

I think the most impressive aspect of Werewolf Gift Compilation is that it sets a previously non-existent bar for other books to follow, and to improve upon.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
Werewolf Gift Compilation
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

These Mean Streets
Publisher: White Wolf
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2018 10:07:40

First off, I think that it's important to state that when it comes to Mind's Eye Theatre, I am NO EXPERT. But in all fairness, I don't think that you'd have to be an expert with the rules or the variations of the systems from tabletop to MET to see the germane utility of this book.

Written and developed by Drew Stevens, These Mean Streets takes a Vampire adventure back down from a massive mythology and returns it to a more intimate venue: a game that focuses on a Troupe and their interactions with their own, street-level politics, intrigue and concerns. From the opening of the book, I was - quite honestly - enthralled with the beauty of it. It is quite possibly THE MOST BEAUTIFUL Storytellers Vault Publication that I have ever seen to date. The photographs evoke a sort of quiet, first-person voyeuristic emotion and really add to the content and overall "feel" of the book's work. To be completely honest, I think that there's a part of me that would recommend These Mean Streets for no other reason than to work as a MODEL for other authors and layout/designers for the Storytellers Vault to sort of set the standard. The artwork and layout are literally without peer.

The book focuses not so much on the overarching intricacies of Kindred/Cainite lore and legend, but on how a younger vampire - generally, a newly Embraced vampire in the past two decades or so - would handle themselves and how they would view unlife in the modern setting of the current World of Darkness. There is an enormous amount of care taken not only to explain why the author is writing the book the way he is, but to explain why it is that his book is an asset to both players and Storytellers. He explains the use of the "Street Level" game, which is the human experience of the inhuman monster within the setting of Vampire: the Masquerade.

The architecture of the book is arranged so that the author takes the time in each section to actually TROUBLESHOOT your adventures with your players for you in anticipation of snags that could (and often times do) come up when you're dealing with intelligent people playing an intelligent game. Sometimes, players forget that their characters do not necessarily know what THEY know, and that their characters are not necessarily going to spend a whole lot of time learning what the players know. This is a very important distinction in play, from my standpoint, and I dig it. The author also takes time to explain that, while you may be playing an inhuman monster, you ARE STILL a human being doing so, and that you should be aware of the fact that the fellow members of your Troupe are human beings as well and deserve he respect - at all times - that human beings deserve because they're human beings. I find it SAD that he had to waste words SAYING this... but this is the world we find ourselves in: we seem to have to remind adults that they are adults and should adult... even when they're having fun.

The Setting Specific Mechanics are exceptionally cool. Unaccepted is, essentially, the PITCH of this setting in that NO VAMPIRE society is going to accept the Troupe yet. They have to rely on themselves and each other to get through the Modern Nights of the World of Darkness. This strengthens the individual character as well as her ties to her Troupe's characters and makes for a dynamic that is unimpeded by the somewhat tiresome concept of entering the city, being accepted by a Prince, finding Elysium, blah blah blah. There are simply more pressing matters for the Coterie to concern themselves with than Camarilla or Sabbat politik at this time.

The Setting Specific Merits & Flaws are absolutely awesome. So much so that I truly believe that they should (and could, with little effort at all) be adjusted and added to the tabletop rules for Vampire: the Masquerade. I'm not going to go into any of them here. Buy the book. They're worth it.

That same anti-spoiler ideology applies to the Backgrounds that are presented in These Mean Streets... or rather, the Backgrounds that are AMPLIFIED by the book. The author takes existing Backgrounds and teaches the reader how to best use them for characters and in regards to stories being told in a Street Level/Back Alley game.

Chapter Five explains the pros and cons of being a Vampire in the 21st Century of the Information Age, the Internet of Things, and the All-Seeing Eye - mechanics included - as it reflects on Kindred/Cainite society. To say that it's useful would be an understatement. It affords both players and Storytellers conceptualized ideas they they might not have thought about before where their Vampire games were concerned.

Chapter Six is undeniably the most interesting chapter of the book from my personal perspective: It explains the "Domains" of Blood, Sweat and Tears and affords Troupes the concepts for something very similar to Garou Questing, called Conspiracies in These Mean Streets. Examples of Mundane, Elaborate and Monstrous Conspiracies are provided.

All in all, a VERY SOLID and VERY BEAUTIFUL resource to add to any Mind's Eye Theatre game, and a boon for Storytellers looking to add something intimate and close-knit for their friends to play with.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
These Mean Streets
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

Heirs to the Mountains of Madness
Publisher: White Wolf
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/29/2018 05:13:18

First off, I want to make a bit of a personal declaration, and I hope that you'll all bear with me on this while I try to keep it from turning into a personal rant atop a soap-box.

I don't write reviews for books/supplements/jumpstarts/etc. that I don't like.

I learned a long time ago back when I was co-running Ex Libris Nocturnis (it was a great site. Ask your parents.) that there is already a massive amount of negativity present throughout the internet without me adding to it. Now, fast forward fifteen years into the FUTURE from that point, and the negativity has multiplied exponentially. It's one thing to write about something that you have a personal, vested interest in - sexism is bad, national socialism is bad, homophobia is bad - and tell the world about the negative emotions that it stirs within you... but a GAME? A game should NEVER stir up vitriol inside of of you. If it does, close the book and walk away from the game. Don't take the time to write a nasty, negative review of something you don't like because it's just not your cup of tea, or because the author(s) who wrote it didn't happen to write the book that you wanted to read or have written for you.

There's no point. It does nothing but make the internet more negative.

I only write reviews of things that I feel positively about in this iteration of me.

Now, that being said? I REALLY DIG Heirs to the Mountains of Madness.

Now, let me be clear here... this is NOT a complete setting. This is NOT a collection of Rotes and Spells and Adjustments and Procedures. This is NOT a stand-alone book to just give you a whole lot of crunchy purple-flavored goodness that adapts Mage: the Ascension rules to use with it.

Heirs to the Mountains of Madness is a JUMPSTART for a Chronicle, or if you'd like, for something smaller if you're playing with people who have never played Mage: the Ascension before.

The jumpstart is written by Josh Heath, the mastermind behind High Level Games, and I'm proud to call him my friend. However, have no illusions about THAT, either... just because I'm your friend doesn't mean I'm going to make the sign of the cross over every single thing that you write and call it scripture. To DO THAT would make me an unreliable peer, and I'd like to think that Josh and I are peers at this point where this stuff is concerned.

First off, if you've got friends who THRIVE on tromping around Lovecraftian New England, then you're going to love this jumpstart. It is literally packed with little odes to H.P., and I can't offer you too many details other than that without spoiling things. The name dropping is seamless with the manner in which Josh sutures Mage: the Ascension with Lovecraft's weird fiction. The jumpstart itself is set up for use by either Technocratic or Tradition Magi, and the plot synopsis of what you're going to be doing, why you're going to be doing it, and what happens when you do it are quick and dirty without being at all wordy.

Here's the deal, guys and gals... if you PLAY Mage: the Ascension, you're SMART ENOUGH to know what to do with this thing. If you're using it to kick off a Chronicle, then God's speed to you. If you're using it to introduce new players familiar with Lovecraft (or Hell, even Call of Cthulhu) to Mage: the Ascension, then make sure you download a copy of the Quickstart Guide to accompany this jumstart and everyone at the table will be more than ready.

All you need after that is guacamole and some mood music. Boom.

After the initial setup of what's going on, Josh does what he does BEST, in my personal opinion: he gives you READY-TO-PLAY characters. You have no need to generate a ton of NPCs, because they're all here, they're all viable, and they're all logical to the story.

Another quick note here: For the record, these Magi are NOT "overpowered" or "statted-out too high." They're high-end Magi who can make things happen and, if necessary, really push back if they're pushed against. They're not supposed to be freshly generated Mage PC templated. They're NPCs. They do what the PCs CAN'T readily do FOR the ST. Just thought I'd interject that, because it seems to be important, and I've read a couple of things lately about how "Mage NPCs seem to be overpowered."

No more so than a Vampire Elder... but whatever.

Now, within these NPCs, there's one named Walter Gilman.

I'm not sure if Josh did this on purpose or not, but it's FREAKIN' HILAROUS, especially if you're a fan of Lovecraft's works. The stats on this cat are PERFECT, and the punch-line is funny while still being dreadfully serious... like you DO with Mage.

So... you get a PLOT, an OUTLINE for a story with conflict, intrigue, the potential for weird, Lovecraftian-inspired Talismans/Wonders, SIX really cool pre-generated NPCs, and a nice HOOK that proves the point that Mage: the Ascension is the PERFECT SETTING for cosmic horror and weird fiction. If your players are into the Lovecraft cosmology, you REALLY need to check this jumpstart out.

You can thank me later for the recommendation. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heirs to the Mountains of  Madness
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

Dark New England Regional Sourcebook
Publisher: White Wolf
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/11/2018 17:07:49

Dark New England Regional Sourcebook is a misnomer.

Dark New England is part history lesson in the geography, cultures, history textbook (indigenous, colonial and current) for the entirety of the area, and also a sourcebook that gives you a nearly overwhelming amount of data to incorporate into your own Vampire: the Masquerade Chronicle.

Now, being relatively new to the Storytellers Vault, I must state from the outset that I was both surprised and unprepared for the sheer size of this thing. The book comes in at 250 pages, which by anyone’s count represents a respectable sourcebook for any game, much less a “setting book.” But see, that’s the thing: this is where Dark New England Regional Sourcebook primarily succeeds. It is not just a “setting book.” Dark New England Regional Sourcebook handles geography from Maine down to Connecticut, sure, and there are most definitely important places and landmarks expressed within its pages, but there is also so much more. There are internal politics within the Camarilla, the Independent Clans, and Sabbat that are at work within New England. Very special attention-to-detail is paid to the Native American peoples who inhabited New England during the early settlement of the Europeans within the colonies, and this is an important benchmark for the book.

My first concern was “Man... this seems like a LOT of vampires to have running around New England for such a small geographical area and for a population that isn’t all that massive, doesn’t it?” but when you take into acound the dynamics of the vampires’ movement throughout New England, and how they don’t just stick to one place all of the time or forever, but more to the point, they rotate through the area, it all becomes a little “cleaner.” My second concern was the LACK OF SALEM. “Aw come on, Shannon! Salem is a tourist trap outside Boston.

Yeah... but that makes it fun.

BUT, there is a FANTASTIC opportunity use the information provided within this book to work up Salem as a Verbena or Euthanatos-held strongpoint. So there is most definitely that.

Three Chronicle “Jumpstarts” are included that were previously released – with the same generalized settings – as those collected in Dark New England. While these were previously released on the Storytellers Vault before Dark New England, they are gathered here all together WITH the setting information and with a ton of background information on the entirety of the setting itself, which more than justifies the double-dip.

PROS: I have seen MANY “community-generated Sourcebooks/Settingbooks” in my time. None of them – not even those I helped to write (I worked on a thing a decade-and-a-half ago for Ex Libris Nocturnis called “World of Darkness: Bergen” that WISHES it had been this book) are half as impressive. The sheer amount of research and care that went into the histories of the states, the colonies that came before the states, the beauty of the photographs that are used within the pages of the book... it’s all top-notch stuff. It is a truly INSPIRING book for anyone endeavoring to do something “big” for the Storytellers Vault to look at, and for a Vampire: the Masquerade Storyteller, it is a SOLID resource that, in my opinion, beats the pants off of “Dark Colony.”

CONS: There’s almost too much information for one book. Seriously. If such a thing is possible, the author is running real close to critical mass. My suggestion would be to take this book and digest it one state at a time rather than trying to devour all New England altogether as one, huge meal. If you focus on say, Boston first and then move outwards from there, you’ll be golden.

INTERESTING BITS: Achinkxat, Maxinkwelësëwakàn and Lëpweokàn “Clans,” for one, make the top of this list. Now, were it me, I probably would have set them up as Bloodlines rather than Clans. But that’s just me, and I didn’t write the book. I understand completely. These three Clans are the Descendants of the Three Sisters. Now... if you’re a Werewolf: the Apocalypse player or Storyteller who also likes or wants to dabble in Vampire: the Masquerade? This book presents the best interpretation of Native American/Spiritually-preoccupied vampires that I have ever seen. In a lot of ways, when you’re reading it, it almost falls into a HYBRID of the Kindred and the Keui-Jin in regard to the spirituality aspect that I really dug a whole lot. I thought it was a very interesting approach to World of Darkness vampires that isn’t just “more of the same.”

The sheer volume of NPC templates that this book provides is absolutely staggering. Trust me.

At the end of the day? If you're looking for a comprehensive, well-developed, attractive Source/Settingbook for Vampire: the Masquerade that you're bound to get a ton of miles out of? Then Dark New England Regional Sourcebook is a must have.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark New England Regional Sourcebook
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

Wr20 Handbook for the Recently Deceased
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Shannon H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2018 11:54:42

Wraith: the Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition is one of the best core books for the World of Darkness bar none. To say that it brought Wraith into the 21st Century in style would be a gross understatement, and for Onyx Path Publishing, the book is a triumph of literary accomplishment as well as updating the game and streamlining it while keeping the parts of it that absolutely needed to be held close.

Handbook for the Recently Deceased, however, affords both the player and the storyteller a succinct, capsulized glimpse at Wraith: the Oblivion that keeps the would-be storyteller who is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to throw his or her players across the Shroud from cutting deep into their printer’s ink reserves and spitting out chapters to serve as the building blocks for what they can expect from the game.

Part One: Playing the Recently Deceased covers the basic concepts-at-work for wraiths who may not have a clue on how the game works, or how to get started with character generation. The idea that you’re not only dead, but that you most probably died horrifically is something that has always been a cornerstone in Wraith: the Oblivion, regardless of Edition, and the 20th Anniversary Edition is, of course, no exception. You must come up with that story. You must figure out why you came across the Shroud from the Skinlands, and you must find a way to rationalize it so that you don’t immediately become a spectre, or an obolus in another wraith’s coin purse. Fetters are discussed. Passions are discussed. Where you are in the Underworld and definitions explaining what the basic lines of demarcation in the Underworld are, are discussed. You’ll understand the basic concepts behind the Hierarchy, Renegades, Heretic Cults and, to a degree, the Guilds.

This is a concept guide... not a how-to guide. If you’re looking for a how-to guide, you’ll need to purchase a copy of the core rules, which will provide you with instructions on how to generate a ghost character from scratch.

This book, however, is going to serve as a “taste-test,” so that you can decide if this is something that you want to invest your free time and imagination in.

Part Two: The New Shadow touches on a new concept to Wraith: the Oblivion; Shadowguiding. In past editions of the game, a character created two separate characters: their wraith PC and then the dark reflection of that PC, the Shadow. Now, with Shadowguiding and depending on how the storyteller wants to approach and handle it, once this process is complete, another player serves as the Shadowguide... which means you all trade off Shadows to each other. When the time comes for the Shadow to take action, speak, or plot against a wraith PC, the Shadowguide does the dirty work.

It is an EXCEPTIONALLY COOL idea that adds multiple new dimensions to a Wraith: the Oblivion Chronicle.

The basic concepts of what a Shadow is, Thorns – which are, effectively, Shadow-based powers above and beyond those already possessed by a wraith, Dark Passions, how and why the Shadow will talk to a wraith, when it will talk to a wraith, and what happens during a Harrowing are all explained. Again, systems for these things are in the core rulebook. Advice on how players can and should interact with one another while using each others’ Shadows against each other are discussed – and this is necessary, as too much can be given away, and there should be some secrets among players and their characters and their characters’ motivations.

Part Three: Storytelling for the Recently Deceased is for... well... storytellers looking to take up the scythe and lantern and get moving with a few games or, if you’d rather, a full-fledged Chronicle in Wraith: the Oblivion.

How to get the story started is explained, how you might move a group of ghosts together into a Circle is explained (although the ghosts becoming a functional family unit is completely up to them), ideas on how to handle PCs that want to experiment with Rising are covered, and how you may want to proceed with your first couple of Harrowings and Passion/Fetter Conflicts were, for me, the highlight here... if for no other reason than I’d never thought about Fetter or Passion conflicts among my players.

There are blurbs that give really rudimentary storyteller ideas – seeds, if you will – to help jumpstart something much, much larger for the Hierarchy, the Renegades, the Heretic Cults, advice on NPC creation, Antagonist creation, and advice on how to handle one-on-one player-to-storyteller interaction are all provided... and they’re provided by Rich “The Dead Guy” Dansky, who in a lot of ways – at least to many of us who have been with Wraith: the Oblivion since the beginning – is the consummate authority on any and all things dealing with the Shadowlands of the World of Darkness.

That’s not to say he’s always right or that his ideas are better than any you will ever come up with for the game ever, but suffice to say that if you follow his outlines and heed his suggestions and use the Handbook for the Recently Deceased as your primer for a Wraith game, you’re going to have one hell of a Chronicle cooking when it’s all said and done.

If you’ve bought Wraith: the Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition and you have not purchased this primer for yourself if you’re new to the Wraith system, or for your players, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.

While Handbook for the Recently Deceased is not absolutely necessary to play Wraith: the Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition, I personally cannot recommend it highly enough.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wr20 Handbook for the Recently Deceased
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

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?


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.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Storytellers Vault Order

Displaying 1 to 8 (of 8 reviews) Result Pages:  1 
0 items