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  • tasti man LH
    started a topic Wraith as "Personal Post-Apocalypse"

    Wraith as "Personal Post-Apocalypse"

    "I close my eyes, I see my life before all of this. Before the bombs. Everything can change in an instant, and the future you plan for yourself shifts - whether or not you're ready. At some point, it happens to all of us.

    This, wasn't the world I wanted; but it was the one I found myself in…I thought I...I hoped I could find my family. Cheat time. Make us whole again. The way we were.

    I know. I know I can't go back. I know the world has changed. The road ahead will be hard.

    This time, I'm ready."


    -The Sole Survivor, Fallout 4

    So...I've been putting together a potential Wraith chronicle. The issue being is trying to pitch the game to potential players. Said players are experienced with World of Darkness in general...except for Wraith. Unfortunately this has included with some...perceptional baggage.

    Wraith has long had the reputation of being "this is too depressing, even for World of Darkness". While like with Changeling, which also long had the issue of non-fans perceiving it as being "too much ______ for WoD" that it is partially from a misconception of the gameline, it does have a measure of truth about it. There's no getting around how the game is about dealing with loss, particularly your character's loss of their life, the Shadow being a metaphor for depression, and that the Underworld runs on an economy of souls - figuratively, and literally. So, how to go about framing a Wraith chronicle without being too bleak, but still maintain the integrity of Wraith's original themes?

    Well, how about framing "personal post-apocalypse".

    (a term I just came up with on my own!)


    Post-apocalypse stories are about characters dealing with when the worst possible thing could happen: the end of the world. Their home, their job/career, and most of their family and friends being gone dead or missing, the life they knew is gone. You, however, lived through the apocalypse. And because the world has been so irreversibly changed, it's basically impossible for you to go back to your old life. So you're forced to make a new life for yourself in this new world and figure out what to do next.

    This is the crux of what Wraith is about. But instead of an external apocalypse, it's an internal one. What's the absolute worst thing that could happen to any human?

    Your own death.

    Meaning within Wraith: because you've died, you can't go back to your old life. Your home, your career, your family and friends, all are permanently separated from you. Sure, you have some semblance of interaction with them if they're your Fetters or certain Arcanoi that can cross the Shroud, but it's not the same as before. You'll be unable to embrace your significant other again, you won't be able to hang out and be present with your friends, and you can no longer sample your favorite dessert item at that one café down the street.

    However, it's not all bleak.

    Post-apocalypse stories are inherently about hope: on trying to build a new, better life out of the ruins of their old life. More importantly: they examine and highlight humanity's tenacity and ability to keep bouncing back. That the survivors eventually get back up, reorganize themselves for security, pooling resourced, and seeking out basic companionship. From there, they grow, they reconnect with other groups and either cooperate or war against them, either over resources or differences in opinions on how to do things in this new world. They don't all cower in ruined buildings waiting for the end to come. That the survivors looked at the ruins of the world they lost, and say "No, we CAN rebuild!"

    Wraith, while the framing is different, the principle is largely the same.

    You died, yes, but unlike other dead souls, you didn't immediately get sent to Oblivion. You didn't give into despair, and decided it still was not your time to go yet. That you clung on, to settle your unfinished business, and to hell with ANYTHING that was going to stop you from doing so.

    Your Passions beat the permanent end.

    So, you have to carve out a new existence for yourself. Maybe you choose to help out any other wayward wraiths that need your help. Maybe you simply want to let loose and enjoy lively pleasures and activities you never allowed yourself in life, or to find and grasp power and ambition you never fully achieved. It's a new world to you; now do what you can to make it yours. Correcting any mistakes you made in life or living one that you were never allowed to have. Or even more, maintaining and practicing the belief that one day you WILL achieve Transcendence and find your inner peace. Wraiths (at least the ones that are PCs) aren't curled up in their Fetters waiting for Oblivion to claim them.

    And then there's the aesthetic stuff.

    The Shadowlands, on top of Deathsight, always describe it as looking like our world, but more ruined and destitute, on top of the ramshackle look of structures cobbled together from the ghost of buildings long gone...don't the visuals of post-apocalypse movies kind of resemble this?







    But yeah, that's my long thoughts on reframing Wraith through the genre of post-apocalypse. Was I on the money? Completely off base and demonstrated my complete misunderstanding of Wraith? Did I come off as a rambling idiot? Or suggestions to help refine this idea? Let me know!

  • tasti man LH
    replied
    Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
    So I have a few thoughts on how to keep the feeling of personal post-apocalypse going.
    Sorry for the long wait on getting to my response. IRL stuff and picking apart the Wr20 corebook on my own...
    Make interacting with the Skinlands attractive but dangerous. I don't just mean because of the Dictum Mortuum, I mean play up how dangerous just being around the living can be. This may or may not be obvious (it wasn't to me for a long time), but there are dozens of ways that the living can invoke the Rule of Ouch just because they don't know the Wraith is there. Navigating a busy city becomes a major undertaking and street full of pedestrians at rush hour could send a careless wraith into a harrowing in minutes. So play up the importance of their Fetters, but drive home how dangerous it is to get to them. Use their Passions as carrots to draw them into the world, but use their Dark Passions to set up scenes the characters want to avoid.
    Yeah, playing up some of the dangers of the Skinlands is something I want to do.

    That Insubstantiality only makes a wraith tough to Skinlands damage, not invincible.

    The point here is twofold. First you keep them focused on what they used to have and cannot have anymore. You keep them rooted in the past instead of focused on what is in front of them. This is one of the places where Wraith and the post-apocalyptic overlap quite well. Second, you drive them to look for safer ways to approach the living, in remote locations, at night, when victims- I mean people are alone.
    Oh slight tangent:

    When reading through Wr20 one thing that struck out to me was that in terms of setting, mechanics, and themes...

    Wraith feels very similar to Vampire.

    Both games have the whole conceit of "Well, you're dead/half-dead...now what?" Due to the possibility of "living" over long periods of time, allowing for wraiths to hail from different time periods. Wraith having a feeding mechanic similar to Vampire's and thematically drawing parallels about how both are parasites feeding off of the essence of life. The big three factions (Hierarchy, Heretics, Renegades) map the closest to Vampire's big three factions (Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarchs) compared to the other WoD gameline factions. That kind of thing.

    Potential players do have a bunch of Vampire veterans so ideally they could grasp onto Wraith a bit easier...

    A big part of a post-apocalyptic is showing what the characters are willing to do to survive. That means creating situations where the characters have the opportunities to do questionable things. Get them used to approaching the living from a position of strength and where the Shroud is low and you are halfway there. Then you apply pressure, drain their resources, and give them scenes where the Quick are almost experience the needed emotions for a meal and see what the characters do.

    Even if they don't have the necessary Arcanoi to affect the living there is a second reason to drive them to the edges of the living world. Feeding is confirmation bias. Wraiths have a limited emotional spectrum (or rather, they feel a specific set of emotions much more powerfully) so they are going to focus on a limited selection of human experiences. When you do that you get a skewed view of what people are like (talk to someone in credit and collections, customer service, or IT and see what they think most people are like). Without other people around to provide counter examples the Quick will start to seem shallower and more petty. Combine with deathsight and you have a humanity that is flawed and diminished compared with the 'Golden Age' when the characters were alive.
    Yeah. As a wraith, I can see that sense of empowerment of being able to do things you couldn't do while you were alive as the Quick. And in post-apocalyptic fiction, usually what would be considered immoral behavior and actions as a means from survival is often credited towards the usual institutions of enforcement not being there.

    And, in my planned setting, where the Hierarchy and Legions are operating at half-strength and have their hands full keeping the Necropolis together, aren't going to be able to enforce the Dictum Mortuum as well as they should be.

    And hey, my current job IS in customer service and, well...personally I feel like I've got off lucky in that most of the customers I meet are nice and considerate people...but there were a few that were just...yeesh.

    My final piece of advice is make heavy use of color in your descriptions. The Shadowlands should be washed out, with the only color coming from expenditures of pathos and angst. Mention cold but never mention warmth. Mention sharpness but never softness. Not unless the living are involved. The living should be vibrant and colorful, even under Deathsight. Their every action should release a flood of colors as their emotions spill into the world. It's easy to get bogged down in the numbers and think of passion as a resource, but wraiths don't feed because they need a couple of points of energy, they feed because it is the only way they feel anything at all.
    Absolutely.

    Was always the plan to have that: where while everything in the Shadowlands, while not devoid of color, still very washed-out and grey. But the Quick and a wraith's respective Fetters? Be as bright and colorful as possible to make them stand out to any nearby wraith.

    This is all good stuff. Thanks, Ramnesis!
    Last edited by tasti man LH; 02-17-2019, 05:36 AM.

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  • Ramnesis
    replied
    So I have a few thoughts on how to keep the feeling of personal post-apocalypse going.

    Make interacting with the Skinlands attractive but dangerous. I don't just mean because of the Dictum Mortuum, I mean play up how dangerous just being around the living can be. This may or may not be obvious (it wasn't to me for a long time), but there are dozens of ways that the living can invoke the Rule of Ouch just because they don't know the Wraith is there. Navigating a busy city becomes a major undertaking and street full of pedestrians at rush hour could send a careless wraith into a harrowing in minutes. So play up the importance of their Fetters, but drive home how dangerous it is to get to them. Use their Passions as carrots to draw them into the world, but use their Dark Passions to set up scenes the characters want to avoid.

    The point here is twofold. First you keep them focused on what they used to have and cannot have anymore. You keep them rooted in the past instead of focused on what is in front of them. This is one of the places where Wraith and the post-apocalyptic overlap quite well. Second, you drive them to look for safer ways to approach the living, in remote locations, at night, when victims- I mean people are alone.

    A big part of a post-apocalyptic is showing what the characters are willing to do to survive. That means creating situations where the characters have the opportunities to do questionable things. Get them used to approaching the living from a position of strength and where the Shroud is low and you are halfway there. Then you apply pressure, drain their resources, and give them scenes where the Quick are almost experience the needed emotions for a meal and see what the characters do.

    Even if they don't have the necessary Arcanoi to affect the living there is a second reason to drive them to the edges of the living world. Feeding is confirmation bias. Wraiths have a limited emotional spectrum (or rather, they feel a specific set of emotions much more powerfully) so they are going to focus on a limited selection of human experiences. When you do that you get a skewed view of what people are like (talk to someone in credit and collections, customer service, or IT and see what they think most people are like). Without other people around to provide counter examples the Quick will start to seem shallower and more petty. Combine with deathsight and you have a humanity that is flawed and diminished compared with the 'Golden Age' when the characters were alive.

    My final piece of advice is make heavy use of color in your descriptions. The Shadowlands should be washed out, with the only color coming from expenditures of pathos and angst. Mention cold but never mention warmth. Mention sharpness but never softness. Not unless the living are involved. The living should be vibrant and colorful, even under Deathsight. Their every action should release a flood of colors as their emotions spill into the world. It's easy to get bogged down in the numbers and think of passion as a resource, but wraiths don't feed because they need a couple of points of energy, they feed because it is the only way they feel anything at all.
    Last edited by Ramnesis; 02-06-2019, 08:15 AM.

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  • Dogstar
    replied
    I'd also like to second that the concept of 'personal post-apocalypse' is genius, it's a fantastic way to frame the stories in a Wraith setting and is the perfect inspiration for actually running a campaign in what is otherwise a setting I don't really like. Many thanks!

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  • Lian
    replied
    I don't have much to add, but I do think the "Personal post apocalyptic" is genius...

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  • tasti man LH
    replied
    Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
    I'll give more detailed thoughts later, but for now I have a few questions:
    Oh and just to give further context: the chronicle I'm planning is set post-6GM. But roughly today, meaning it's been about 20 years since it started. Although the Tempest is still very much an ever present threat.

    How much of the setting are you planning on using?
    Starting with a small chunk, then branching out.

    Most of the action is going to be contained to just the one necropolis (currently considering San Francisco). While things will eventually open up to other neighboring necropoli and even to Stygia, but otherwise this necropolis is the main focus. With all the constraints that come with it (no immediate access to Dark Kingdoms aside from whatever is left of their embassies, Far Shores really seeming like a far off paradise)
    Are there already communities of Wraiths huddling together for protection or are your characters the only ones around?
    The former.

    The Hierarchy, Heretics, and Renegades are very much still a thing. However, the local Hierarchy has not been doing well holding things together since the 6GM. They've lost a lot of support from the civilian wraiths, and ground as the Heretics and Renegades have gained more powerful in the Hierarchy's lapse.

    Is Stygia a powerful force, a distant presence that is often heard of but rarely seen, or a myth?
    Distant presence.

    The necropolis has been cut off from Stygia for the last 20-odd years. The local Hierarchy has been trying to re-establish contact with it but because of the Tempest and the destroyed Byways, this has made things rather difficult. This does mean that there's an entire 1-2 generations of new lemures where Stygia seems like a myth when hearing the stories of the place of their older fellow wraiths.

    How personal is personal?
    In theory, I do want to leave room for the players to explore more personal stories of their wraiths engaging in their Passions and nurturing their Fetters, while still having the larger plot in and around the necropolis.

    I would recommend if you go this route, keep the Tempest hidden for a while. Give glimpses of it through Nihils, show its effects on the Shadowlands, but do everything in your power to make it seem like something a long way away. Then when you feel it is time (when the characters are starting to think they have a handle on things), use it to pull the world out from under them again. Have it swallow a byway while they are on it, or have it unleash a maelstrom (small m) on their Necropolis or Haunt. Few things drive home the post-apocalypse than revealing that the world is stranger and more dangerous than expected, and the Tempest is one hell of a No Man's Land.
    I have been considering something like this.

    Fairly early on I did plan to have a maelstrom hit the necropolis. With the PCs scrambling to take cover, and then afterwards recovering from the disaster that just hit; either trying to pitch in and help their fellow wraiths out, or take the momentary chaos as an opportunity to achieve more personal goals. All this while knowing they have to rely on themselves and the resources available in this necropolis, and that they can't expect the cavalry from Stygia to ever arrive.

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  • Grumpy RPG Reviews
    replied
    Originally posted by tasti man LH View Post
    Well, how about framing "personal post-apocalypse".
    This is probably one of the best short, or elevator, pitches for WtO I've heard.

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  • Ramnesis
    replied
    No, you aren't off base. Most of the conceits of Wraith make a lot of sense through that lens and, if anything, you haven't taken it far enough.

    I'll give more detailed thoughts later, but for now I have a few questions: How much of the setting are you planning on using? Are there already communities of Wraiths huddling together for protection or are your characters the only ones around? Is Stygia a powerful force, a distant presence that is often heard of but rarely seen, or a myth? How personal is personal?

    I would recommend if you go this route, keep the Tempest hidden for a while. Give glimpses of it through Nihils, show its effects on the Shadowlands, but do everything in your power to make it seem like something a long way away. Then when you feel it is time (when the characters are starting to think they have a handle on things), use it to pull the world out from under them again. Have it swallow a byway while they are on it, or have it unleash a maelstrom (small m) on their Necropolis or Haunt. Few things drive home the post-apocalypse than revealing that the world is stranger and more dangerous than expected, and the Tempest is one hell of a No Man's Land.
    Last edited by Ramnesis; 01-31-2019, 12:44 PM.

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