Wraith: The Oblivion is One Game You Have to Play to Believe

Wraith: The Oblivion is One Game You Have to Play to Believe

Wraith: The Oblivion is returning in a 20th Anniversary edition. What's the story behind this fascinating game, and why does it captivate still gamers two decades later?

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Oh man, I remember this game. My friends and I used to play the White Wolf Mage, Vampire, and Werewolf games all the time, but we drew the line at Wraith. It was just too surreal, too creepy, too depressing, too out there. Still, the concept was just amazing.

One of the most beautiful and emotional roleplaying games that has ever been created. Also one of the most unplayable, it is a cool idea on paper but on practice? man, do I have some horror stories to tell about how people behave when they play this game. I guess emotional maturity is something that only a few have.

Firanai:
One of the most beautiful and emotional roleplaying games that has ever been created. Also one of the most unplayable, it is a cool idea on paper but on practice? man, do I have some horror stories to tell about how people behave when they play this game. I guess emotional maturity is something that only a few have.

Also, having a large enough and engaged group so that you can have a Shadow GM along the regular one is rather annoying to keep up with. As a single GM, my group spent more time as Shadows than their own characters, which was fine but quickly went rogue as far as my scenario was concerned. You kind of need two GM's to make it all come together, IMO. However, I've GM'd some crossover campaigns with Mage to great effect -- I was hoping experiencing the system play out on NPCs would get my group more serious about Wraith, but they just wanted to roll up Euthanatos instead.

Like you say, on paper Wraith looks awesome but unless everyone is on board with that, I dunno...

Not to really nitpick but Werewolf: the Forsaken and Mage: the Awakening aren't part of the same universe as Vampire: the MAsquerade. WtF and MtAw are part of the New World of Darkness while VtM along with Wraith: the Oblivion, Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Mage: the Ascension are part of the Old World of Darkness.

hmmm. Correct on both counts. Adjusted!

Wraith and Mage were my favourites. My group was pretty good at sabotaging each other. Made my job so easy. >.>

Bought Wraith, read it cover to cover, got together with friends and all made characters based off slightly older versions of ourselves at the time and then all became immediately depressed by the idea of dying and being dead. So it worked beautifully for delivering a shock to the system of a bunch of high schoolers, but as a game it was fairly difficult to get anywhere with. Vampire-Werewolf-Mage all worked together for the most part, and you could be as high drama or explosive action as you wanted.

I think Changeling was an equally emotionally complex but more approachable game than Wraith that could cover a lot of the same topics, strange as it might seem. But I'm glad to see it back, nonetheless, and it will be joining my collection of other oWoD 20th anniversary products.

Great article! Thank you for posting it : )

Did Wraith have a glow in the dark cover? That or was it Changeling? hmm. I remember when the books first came out I was reading through Wraith and one of the spells where you could pass a message to the living on the other side BUT there was a catch, you had to say the message in only one breath - pretty cool way to get player involvement going : )

Jburton9:
Great article! Thank you for posting it : )

Did Wraith have a glow in the dark cover? That or was it Changeling? hmm. I remember when the books first came out I was reading through Wraith and one of the spells where you could pass a message to the living on the other side BUT there was a catch, you had to say the message in only one breath - pretty cool way to get player involvement going : )

It was Wraith that glowed, first edition; the game that it seemed like everyone read and nobody played.

I'm not a fan of White Wolf in general (a lot of their stuff felt like teenagers trying to shock, out-brood and out-awesome one another) but Charnel Houses of Europe was a surprising good and appropriate handling of the subject. Wraith itself was not incredibly fun to play, but the way that Shadows were handled was probably the purest expression of the Storyteller system, with someone both the character and their dark side.

Y'know, I always wanted to play this one, particularly after I'd heard about Charnel Houses, but I never could find a GM to run it or a group that I felt would be able to game it maturely. Sad really, because I had a few friends I thought would've been great for it, but they never had the interest. We did manage to get a Demon the Fallen game going in college, which was good fun, but again, maturity has always been difficult to maintain among WoD groups. Even if the GM and nearly everyone is game for a deep, adult storyline, there's always that one... ah well. Maybe one day, as I grow older, I'll find the right group for that incredible story that's waiting here. Either way, I'll look forward to the anniversary release.

raankh:

Firanai:
One of the most beautiful and emotional roleplaying games that has ever been created. Also one of the most unplayable, it is a cool idea on paper but on practice? man, do I have some horror stories to tell about how people behave when they play this game. I guess emotional maturity is something that only a few have.

Also, having a large enough and engaged group so that you can have a Shadow GM along the regular one is rather annoying to keep up with. As a single GM, my group spent more time as Shadows than their own characters, which was fine but quickly went rogue as far as my scenario was concerned. You kind of need two GM's to make it all come together, IMO. However, I've GM'd some crossover campaigns with Mage to great effect -- I was hoping experiencing the system play out on NPCs would get my group more serious about Wraith, but they just wanted to roll up Euthanatos instead.

Like you say, on paper Wraith looks awesome but unless everyone is on board with that, I dunno...

This just sounds extremely interesting.

I've dabbled in Masquerade, read some stuff and played the games...but this just sounds awesome. My problem with WoD stuff is that I never quite got into the system. Too little numbers. The d20 system made more sense to me, even if the WoD world was a lot more interesting.

I was quite young at the time though, maybe I should give it another whirl.

I always felt that out of the entire WW game series that Wraith was the most mature and most difficult game to get a good group for. But once you did, the stories were amazing. Its the only game where I've preferred not to be the ST/DM/whatever but rather just a player. I had a character named Janus Crowe, a british General from WWI who was sentenced to be executed as a traitor but he hanged himself instead. An ancestor of his was the one to "greet" him in that special way and Janus' first act as a wraith was to destroy his ancestor and steal his mask. Not a great guy to say much. His ancestor was of the Smiling Legion and very highly ranked, and Janus having no idea what he'd done, only panicked and frightened by his immediate realization that there indeed was an afterlife and it somewhat resembled what he'd always thought of as hell. Actually any afterlife would have been hell as Janus was basically a greedy nihilist who sold his own country out for what amounted to a years hard drinking. Now here's a dead guy who's faced with eternity, rips apart his own ancestor (admittedly he panicked) and steals his identity and begins to wander aimlessly. Dazed by the daunting aspect of this other world, he keeps being drawn back to his cell (one of his fetters) and the gold he'd been paid for his betrayal (which oddly enough, no matter who spent it, always wound up together) but he's got no clue how Wraith society works so he tries to hide himself but is found almost immediately by the Smiling Lord's people, taken directly to the Deathlord who believes Janus to be the ancestor Alexander Crowe, one of the Smiling Lords most trusted wraiths... Janus fakes amnesia, says he only remembers being accosted by someone, and the Smiling Lord buys it (Janus was well versed in deception). Later Janus/Alex was approached by a Silent Legion wraith who had a message from the Silent Lady I know who you are and there was a whole mess of intrigue there.
It played out very well because my ST and I worked on my story first before we brought others into it and no one had a clue I wasn't who I claimed to be. Was nice to be the inside man, the double agent. I truly enjoyed that story most of all, because I actually played a very mature character arc over a period of two years and did such a good job that none of my fellow players suspected me and I actually did turn out to be the villain. I don't remember every detail, though I kept a journal in-character that I gave to the ST after the game was over as a present. But the coolest parts where when my ancestor had finally come back from his Harrowing (that he nearly didn't survive) and attempted to expose me only I'd done so well at convincing the Smiling Lord, my ancestor was branded a liar and forged into a coin (which I kept as a victory token). Players still didn't catch onto my deception either.
Basically the story ended with the end of Wraith itself, I was destroyed in a massive battle after attempting to kill the Smiling Lord myself at the orders of the Silent Lady (odd that the lord of the Murdered would be in fact murdered himself). We never got to finish my arc completely, never found out if I survived the harrowing or not. But I felt that was the best way to end the arc as the entire Wraith society had collapsed in part to Charon's return and Transcendence and the whole aftermath of that.
Also our ST went off to finish college after a 2 year hiatus and I moved out of the city around the same time. I don't feel incomplete though, and I hope that somewhere the Storyteller has kept that journal. I was taking calligraphy at the time and used a leatherbound blank book, wrote in a beautiful flourishing script I don't think I can ever reproduce. You know how sometimes you are able to do one thing really well but never quite match that again? That was that journal for me. And I think its fitting that I handed it off to someone else because it really wasn't for me. It didn't feel right to keep it, and it made sense to give it to the guy who helped inspire it and craft the framework behind it. There were illustrations done in it as well, but only sketched by me and another friend inked and shaded them... Thinking about it I should have had it published, it really was a work of art. But there's that selfish part of me that says no one but the people involved in the story should have had it anyway and people wouldn't really appreciate it without having experienced the story.
I wish I'd kept up on calligraphy though, I can still do it but been almost 15 years out of practice now that going back gets harder and harder every year. Especially when I've got a teenager to deal with. :)

Karloff:
*SNIPS*

Thank you for that article and thanks for stirring such wonderful memories with it. I'd almost forgotten Janus' story and you've helped me recall one of the best pure RP adventures of my adult life. Wraith was truly a treasure of its time, and so very unique despite sharing the universe with the rest of the World of Darkness.

 

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