Thoughts On Wraith: The Oblivion

Talking about World of Darkness Games from White Wolf always eventually leads me to Wraith.

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion—LOVED it! I have nearly all of the books released for that line. I think I might have been the only one because that game line never sold particularly well. Most of my friends either never played it or just didn’t like it. I think I only ever managed to play it three times (always had to run it) and never for very long because the players found it depressing.

As much as I loved it, here are the problems I saw with W:tO:

  • It can be relentless depressing and most people play a role-playing game for some kind of escape and to have fun.
  • The players also playing each other’s shadow was a great idea, but hard to do well and often lead to player-versus-player drama.
  • So much about Wraith is character-centered and character-driven that group play was very difficult to pull off or explain.
  • The whole flavor of the game with the Kingdom of Stygia, the Death Lords, Charon and the Ferryman, and the Tempest was all great great stuff but like so many of the games that came after Vampire, most people seemed to have a hard time grokking how all the pieces fit together with the real world, the Shadowlands, and the places out in the Tempest.

I think of all the classic game lines, Wraith could most benefit from a complete overall. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Not make the game so relentless bleak.
  • Instead, play up the creepiness and weirdness. GM to Wraith-Player: “When you go downstairs, there is now a brand-new door in the middle of the living room. The living family who inhabits the house you died in does not notice the door. A part of you wants to go over and open the door, but the other part of you that refused to submit to death knows you must never ever open that door.”
  • Release an initial supplement detailing one-on-one play.
  • Make it easier to affect the living world. “Oh yeah, this is so fun just standing here not being able to do anything, especially after playing as a vampire/werewolf/mage.”
  • Or structure the game different. Maybe instead of playing each other’s shadows, half the players are playing humans the wraith characters are connected to. You could make it so it’s the mutual play of unresolved passions and desires that leads to a wraith, both the wraith’s and their human’s.
  • Come up with a different central conceit to hang group play around that connects the players together. Maybe wraiths awaken in the underworld and need to find/fight their way back to the land of the Quick?
  • And/or release supplements that provide different structures/modules to hang group play on. I always had the best luck with that when I was trying to convince people to play Wraith. ("You're all victims of the same serial killer. You all haunt the same house, each of you having lived there in different time periods. You're all the ghosts enslaved to the same Giovanni.")

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