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  • New Storyteller Questions or Help a Noob Get His Head Straight

    Hey everyone,

    Well, the good news is it looks like I am going to be running a Wraith game in a couple of months. I got two players confirmed, with a possible 3rd. I am pretty stoked because I had been curious about this game since one of my friends told me about it back in the 90s and it has been great to dig into the book, digest the world, and let my mind loose thinking about story ideas, people, and locations.

    The challenge here is that I haven’t GM’d any rpgs in over 25 years, and only D&D at that, and this game can be a lot to handle (although I should have a PbtA session or two under my belt my then). In particular, the lore and the metaphysics have sometimes had me scratching my head. So I am just going to list out the questions that have accumulated over the last few months and see if any of you fine people can shine some light on them. I am using the 20th Anniversary edition rule set.

    Do not feel like you have to answer all of these. Chime in where you want and, also, feel free to answer with how you do it in your campaign or house-rules. And if the answer to one of my questions is laid out in the books somewhere, just let me know and I can look more carefully; that book is pretty big and I probably missed or overlooked some things (I also have the Book of Oblivion, but I haven’t read it yet).

    Metaphysics

    -Locations in the Shadowlands are directly related to locations in the Skinlands, correct? When a wraith peers across the Shroud, he will see the same location that he is in? He cannot be in New York Shadowlands and see the London Skinlands, yes?

    -Regarding the rule of ouch and Incorporeality, does a wraith need to use Arcanoi to collide with Skinlands objects? Or can they pass through Skinlands walls, for example, by simply taking a Corpus damage but need Arcanoi in order to actively manipulate items in the Skinlands?

    -How does a wraith appear to others when interacting across the Shroud or with the Skinlands? Does he appear like a mime doing a pantomime? Or does he disappear from others’ perception when he is acting across the Shroud?

    -Since Fetters are one of a wraith’s greatest vulnerabilities, I imagine it would be easy to stalk a wraith and watch where he goes to find them out. How does one protect against this?

    -How do relic electronics work in the Shadowlands, if at all? Does a relic computer work if turned on or a relic radio play music? Can a relic cellphone send texts? Or do you allow relic electronics to work 'by consensus,' much like traveling to destinations in the Tempest.

    Lore

    -Are wraiths part of Legion even if they join a Renegade or Heretic faction?

    -How common is soul steel in the Necropoli? Are the Citadels constructed completely out of soulsteel or simply reinforced with it?

    -In addition to soulsteel, I imagine Plasm is the only other material to build with. I assume the ground is Plasm…is there anything written in the lore about wraiths excavating dirt and then building with that Plasm?

    -Do the Legions’ militaries primarily fight with medieval weapons? How common are firearms in your campaigns? Do you find firearms unbalancing?

    -How is the Dictuum Mortum enforced? I know this is something that can be enforced or ignored when expedient. How is anyone aware of a wraith violating the DM? Do they have to visually be caught in the act or do the Legions have a ‘radar’ indicating someone, somewhere is breaking the DM?

    Arcanoi

    -Does a wraith using Phantasm 5 Agon gain 2 temporary Angst or 2 permanent Angst? And in general, when a Shadow gains Angst, will the rules always differentiate temporary Angst from permament Angst? That is, Angst gained will be permanent, unless the rules state it’s temporary?

    -The Puppetry guildmark makes the wraith gradually become a blend of the hosts’ appearance. Do you allow this to increase/decrease their Appearance trait?

    Storytelling

    -Are there any guidelines for making older, NPC wraiths? Like every 10 years ‘alive in death’ will be 10 dots or so?

    -How common are wraiths with 5 dot Arcanoi? Do you save these for mainly the leaders of a Necropolis or mainly Stygian wraiths?

    -Regarding encounter balance, for a Circle of two or three new characters, what kind and number of specters are they usually capable of handling?

    -And lastly, are there any supplements (even from older editions) you can recommend that give good pointers on designing a Necropolis and/or a Citadel? I’m thinking something along the lines of Damnation City for Vampire the Requiem.


    Okay, I think that’s all. Thank you for reading everyone and I look forward to hearing your interpretations of this game.

  • #2
    -Locations in the Shadowlands are directly related to locations in the Skinlands, correct?

    Correct. The Skinlands and the Shadowlands are essentially superimposed on one another. No, you could not be in one city and yet see another city, unless some tempest-like spatial warping is taking place, or some magic. You’d have to physically travel from Shadowlands New York to its counterpart in London if you wanted to go by way of the Shadowlands, hitching rides on humans and their transportation, or sailing on relic vessels.

    Or you could take a “short cut” through the Tempest!

    -Regarding the rule of ouch and Incorporeality...

    No, the Wraith can choose at any time to collide with an object and thus become Incorporeal. It doesn’t take an Arcanoi, but rather the Wraith must run themselves into the object with ouch-force (like walking straight into a wall).
    “Wraiths can choose to become Incorporeal voluntarily by
    walking through a wall or a door. This inflicts one Corpus level
    of bashing damage and renders the wraith Incorporeal for the
    normal amount of time, and is the basis for how wraiths are
    known to pass through such barriers in countless legends.” (Wr20292)


    -How does a wraith appear to others when interacting across the Shroud or with the Skinlands? Does he appear like a mime doing a pantomime? Or does he disappear from others’ perception when he is acting across the Shroud?

    Could you restate this question or give an example? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.

    -Since Fetters are one of a wraith’s greatest vulnerabilities, I imagine it would be easy to stalk a wraith and watch where he goes to find them out. How does one protect against this?

    In much the same way that living people could stalk fellow living people to rob them of their prized possessions, ghosts can do the same to each other. One creates or hires security. Spooks are famous for protecting Fetters. They have a faction dedicated to it who are as ardent about Fetter security as Pardoners are devoted to taming Shadows. Proctors are often willing to offer the service--or the gift--of directly manifesting in the Skinlands. I’m sure they can help with Fetters. Haunts can ward off unpleasant mortal company to keep an area or its contents safe. Alchemists, while notorious for having a faction within them that relishes destroying living objects and Fetters, have plenty among their ranks who can strengthen a Fetter. Monitors are unsavory, but they *are* good at watching and protecting Fetters. There must be other ways I haven’t thought of… Hiring or befriending Puppeteers to orchestrate the encasement of your Fetter in a protective environment, some temperature-controlled vault with a huge price tag in terms of Background dots… But now I’m just rambling! xD


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    • #3
      -How do relic electronics work in the Shadowlands, if at all? Does a relic computer work if turned on or a relic radio play music? Can a relic cellphone send texts? Or do you allow relic electronics to work 'by consensus,' much like traveling to destinations in the Tempest.
      My understanding is that lower value relics do nothing, while higher value relics can function (despite not really having internal parts, such as a relic pistol firing relic bullets), and the most impressive typically use Pathos as fuel to function. I see no reason why some relic electronic devices couldn’t function, but they’d be highly valued and may require Pathos investment. Now considering how entropy and chaos keep nipping at everything in the Underworld, I wonder what kinds of signals these devices could pick up… could there be interference from wandering plasmics screeching telepathically? )

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      • #4
        -In addition to soulsteel, I imagine Plasm is the only other material to build with. I assume the ground is Plasm…is there anything written in the lore about wraiths excavating dirt and then building with that Plasm?

        If you’re talking about in the Tempest, then there is solid plasm land, but not much of it. The only plasmic soil you’ll find is on the islands of stability within the apparently boundless Tempest. Stygian, the city itself, is built on a “physical” island in the delta of the river of death. They’ve carved deep into it, cut roads through it, and are reshaping it all the time with development. But my impression is that this plasmic soil is soft--it doesn’t last long as a structural element or a tool. To withstand entropy and Tempest winds, you need material at least as hard as relic plasm. Soulsteel is even better. (Relicsteel if you can find it.) That’s the stuff that lasts, that withstands the general unwinding and decay of the Underworld.
        Not to mention, Stygia has that mining operation in and around the Veinous Stair, scraping death ores from the sides of the stair itself that are used in the creation of Stygian Steel artifacts; so that’s an example of wraiths excavating the ground for plasm.
        I imagine that its much the same in the Shadowlands, only with a twist: You can dig into the Shadowlands ground all you want, but whatever plasm you scoop up won’t work well as building material because it’s not a true memory, it’s not a destroyed item. It’s just the actual ground that you can’t push your way through because it’s solid and material.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MarquisMark View Post
          Hey everyone,

          Well, the good news is it looks like I am going to be running a Wraith game in a couple of months. I got two players confirmed, with a possible 3rd. I am pretty stoked because I had been curious about this game since one of my friends told me about it back in the 90s and it has been great to dig into the book, digest the world, and let my mind loose thinking about story ideas, people, and locations.

          The challenge here is that I haven’t GM’d any rpgs in over 25 years, and only D&D at that, and this game can be a lot to handle (although I should have a PbtA session or two under my belt my then). In particular, the lore and the metaphysics have sometimes had me scratching my head. So I am just going to list out the questions that have accumulated over the last few months and see if any of you fine people can shine some light on them. I am using the 20th Anniversary edition rule set.

          Do not feel like you have to answer all of these. Chime in where you want and, also, feel free to answer with how you do it in your campaign or house-rules. And if the answer to one of my questions is laid out in the books somewhere, just let me know and I can look more carefully; that book is pretty big and I probably missed or overlooked some things (I also have the Book of Oblivion, but I haven’t read it yet).
          Welcome!

          And good luck on running one of the hardest WoD games to ST. xD

          Metaphysics
          -How do relic electronics work in the Shadowlands, if at all? Does a relic computer work if turned on or a relic radio play music? Can a relic cellphone send texts? Or do you allow relic electronics to work 'by consensus,' much like traveling to destinations in the Tempest.
          The general rule of thumb is that if the relic needed a power source to operate, they need Pathos. Doesn't matter if it's the wraith's own Pathos or from a soulfire crystal, it needs that in order to function.

          Lore

          -Are wraiths part of Legion even if they join a Renegade or Heretic faction?
          It's not mandatory, no.

          While it is absolutely possible for a wraith to have first been reaped by the Hierarchy but then joins a different group later, it doesn't have to go that way. There would be Renegade or Heretic Reapers that could find a new wraith first, and they never get placed into a Legion.

          Yeah thing about Wraith is that: there are no mandatory splats. Don't let how the Guilds are presented fool you: they are nothing at all like the Clans, Tribes, Traditions, etc.

          -How common is soul steel in the Necropoli? Are the Citadels constructed completely out of soulsteel or simply reinforced with it?
          Soulsteel is the cheapest, most reliable, and easiest of the resources to get. It's always going to be more common then the other materials.

          As for how common it is, that depends on if your necropolis still has thrall slavery be legal or not and how eager the authorities are at forging anyone, not just guilty criminals.

          -In addition to soulsteel, I imagine Plasm is the only other material to build with. I assume the ground is Plasm…is there anything written in the lore about wraiths excavating dirt and then building with that Plasm?
          It is not, no. The only other prominent material is Stygian Steel, and the other Dark Kingdom variants (True Jade, True Obsidian, etc)

          -Do the Legions’ militaries primarily fight with medieval weapons? How common are firearms in your campaigns? Do you find firearms unbalancing?
          Melee weapons tend to pop up more among Legionnaires but that doesn't mean they never use guns...just that they aren't as common.

          I would definitely say that early guns are way more common then guns made in the 21st Century. And even then, it would mostly be relics since it's way too hard and inefficient to build a soulsteel gun.
          -How is the Dictuum Mortum enforced? I know this is something that can be enforced or ignored when expedient. How is anyone aware of a wraith violating the DM? Do they have to visually be caught in the act or do the Legions have a ‘radar’ indicating someone, somewhere is breaking the DM?
          I'll be completely honest: of the books I've read, none of them have adequately explained HOW the Hierarchy enforces the DM.

          The only things I've seen is how much the Hierarchy comes down on any Shroud-crossing with zero tolerance, and hence why Guilds are illegal...but in terms of how they actually check for lawbreaking, the only thing that's mentioned are Legionnaire foot patrols. Meaning if we take it by RAW, in order for a wraith to get caught they would have to be...in a spot where they could easily be seen by a patrol that's wandering by. Which I would hope that any wraith of any sort of intelligence would plan beforehand, to make sure they're not seen

          That's not to say that there can't be, like, Artifact surveillance devices. But even then, that depends on how police-state you want the Hierarchy to be...and me personally, I do feel like it stretches the setting as intended to just assume that the Hierarchy has enough Artifact surveillance devices to canvas an entire necropolis especially in a setting where mass production of complex items are really really hard for them to do.
          Arcanoi

          -The Puppetry guildmark makes the wraith gradually become a blend of the hosts’ appearance. Do you allow this to increase/decrease their Appearance trait?
          It would not. The Guildmarks don't have any inherent mechanical benefits, it's mostly just aesthetical stuff.
          Last edited by tasti man LH; 03-16-2020, 04:59 PM.

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          • #6
            Y'know the funny thing about Wraith is that they never had a weapon chart for melee weapons if I remember correct. Weird considering that most of the Underworld uses blades, spears, axes, etc. due to have hard it is to invest and make Shadowdust for guns. Did they ever have a melee chart list? I remember that a whole chart for guns before.


            Jade Kingdom Warrior

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Shakanaka View Post
              Y'know the funny thing about Wraith is that they never had a weapon chart for melee weapons if I remember correct. Weird considering that most of the Underworld uses blades, spears, axes, etc. due to have hard it is to invest and make Shadowdust for guns. Did they ever have a melee chart list? I remember that a whole chart for guns before.
              In Wr20? Yeah there is. Page 335.

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              • #8
                Thank you for your replies everyone. I know that was a long list of questions and I appreciate you taking the time to tackle them. You've helped clear up a lot of what I was confused about.

                -How does a wraith appear to others when interacting across the Shroud or with the Skinlands? Does he appear like a mime doing a pantomime? Or does he disappear from others’ perception when he is acting across the Shroud?

                Could you restate this question or give an example? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at.


                Okay, let's say you have Wraith A and Wraith B. They are both within line of sight of each other, say 50 meters apart. Wraith A begins to interact with something across the Shroud, maybe passing through the front door of a Skinlands house and then using Inhabit to occupy the TV. Wraith B is observing all of this. How does Wraith A appear to Wraith B, who is not aware of what Wraith A is doing?

                As for how common [soulsteel] is, that depends on if your necropolis still has thrall slavery be legal or not and how eager the authorities are at forging anyone, not just guilty criminals.
                This is something I'm still thinking about. I plan on setting the game in a younger Necropolis that is in the process of finishing their own Forge. They are getting their soulsteel from Stygia and a neighboring Necropolis in exchange for providing souls/slaves (for the former) and services/soldiers (to the latter). I am still working out the particulars of the political landscape, but the decisions on who gets sent to the forges and who gets to stay are going to be a hot point among the leadership. In turn, perhaps it makes more sense to have a limited amount of soulsteel in the Necroplis infrastructure, with a large portion of the supply going to finish the Forge.

                In much the same way that living people could stalk fellow living people to rob them of their prized possessions, ghosts can do the same to each other. One creates or hires security. Spooks are famous for protecting Fetters....


                Thank you for this paragraph. This gives me all kind of ideas for alliances and relationship connections.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarquisMark View Post

                  Okay, let's say you have Wraith A and Wraith B. They are both within line of sight of each other, say 50 meters apart. Wraith A begins to interact with something across the Shroud, maybe passing through the front door of a Skinlands house and then using Inhabit to occupy the TV. Wraith B is observing all of this. How does Wraith A appear to Wraith B, who is not aware of what Wraith A is doing?
                  It depends on the activity. Inhabit states that a wraith inhabiting an object is "undetectable to normal senses," but that "If a character scrutinizes the object with any form of supernatural perception that could reveal the wraith’s presence, she must beat his successes to detect him." The first Initiate dot of Inhabit allows the user to simply touch an object and determine if it's currently inhabited, or has been in the past.

                  So under most circumstances, Wraith B simply sees W.A. sink into the object and vanish from sight.

                  As for watching an unsuspecting wraith pass through a door, I believe W.B. sees W.A. simply vanishing through the door, and would not be able to see the wraith appearing on the other side, since Wraiths do not have x-ray vision. If W.B. somehow had full view of both sides of the solid door that W.A. was passing through, W.B. would see the ghost traveling through the door as if nothing much was there. Depending on your storytelling style, W.B. could see the effort it takes to push one's way through solid matter, there may be a ripple effect across the ghost's corpus--but I don't see any of that in the rule books--just my own interpretation. In fact, AFAIK, the only state of being that has a visual description is the Wavering state, which is described as "fragile and flickering". Being Incorporeal, which is the state W.A. would be in when passing through a door, doesn't have a description, but feel free to invent one. Maybe they look a little more translucent?

                  If I haven't answered the question, ask away.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MarquisMark View Post


                    Okay, let's say you have Wraith A and Wraith B. They are both within line of sight of each other, say 50 meters apart. Wraith A begins to interact with something across the Shroud, maybe passing through the front door of a Skinlands house and then using Inhabit to occupy the TV. Wraith B is observing all of this. How does Wraith A appear to Wraith B, who is not aware of what Wraith A is doing?
                    Wraith B sees Wraith A move incorporeally through the crumbling stained Shadowland reflection of the wall, and if they can see into the house, see Wraith A merge into the busted Shadowland reflection of the tv.


                    Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                    • #11
                      As for watching an unsuspecting wraith pass through a door, I believe W.B. sees W.A. simply vanishing through the door, and would not be able to see the wraith appearing on the other side, since Wraiths do not have x-ray vision. If W.B. somehow had full view of both sides of the solid door that W.A. was passing through, W.B. would see the ghost traveling through the door as if nothing much was there. Depending on your storytelling style, W.B. could see the effort it takes to push one's way through solid matter, there may be a ripple effect across the ghost's corpus--but I don't see any of that in the rule books--just my own interpretation. In fact, AFAIK, the only state of being that has a visual description is the Wavering state, which is described as "fragile and flickering". Being Incorporeal, which is the state W.A. would be in when passing through a door, doesn't have a description, but feel free to invent one. Maybe they look a little more translucent?
                      This helps, thank you. I like the idea of the ripple effect of the wraith's Corpus as it passes through a Skinland wall/door. Over time, I think my players and I will have work out a consensus regarding the particulars of the metaphysics. I've been reading the book a little more and it seems to leave a lot up to Storyteller's interpretation.

                      Wraith B sees Wraith A move incorporeally through the crumbling stained Shadowland reflection of the wall, and if they can see into the house, see Wraith A merge into the busted Shadowland reflection of the tv.
                      Do you mean Skinlands in this sentence? My understanding is that there would only be a Shadowlands reflection of the house/wall and TV if they were destroyed in the Skinlands and have enough emotional resonance to manifest in the Shadowlands.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MarquisMark View Post

                        Do you mean Skinlands in this sentence? My understanding is that there would only be a Shadowlands reflection of the house/wall and TV if they were destroyed in the Skinlands and have enough emotional resonance to manifest in the Shadowlands.
                        glamourweaver will of course explain themselves shortly, but if I may: I believe "shadowlands reflection" is referring to how the Skinlands appear to wraiths who are peering from the death-side of the Shroud. They don't see the living world as it is now, but as it will be when it deteriorates and decays. They see the stain of Oblivion on living flesh and its crumbling and erosion in the physical environment.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MarquisMark View Post



                          Do you mean Skinlands in this sentence? My understanding is that there would only be a Shadowlands reflection of the house/wall and TV if they were destroyed in the Skinlands and have enough emotional resonance to manifest in the Shadowlands.
                          Everything seen in the Shadowlands are the decayed reflections of the skinlands. Wraiths see walls where there are walls, objects where they are objects, etc - they are just powerless to physically affect these things unless they use Arcanoi across the Shroud. A Wraith in a room sees the walls and the door - they are solid to the Wraith, but the Wraith cannot turn the door knob no matter how hard they try unless they use Embody or Outrage or the like - it would be pretty nonsensical for a Wraith to need to spend corpus to go insubstantial to leave a room they couldn’t even see.

                          What you are referring to, the destroyed objects, are Relics that are wholly in the Shadowlands rather than just being the decayed reflection of what’s in the Skinlands. Those things Wraiths can fully pick up and interact with, no Arcanoi required.


                          Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow

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                          • #14
                            Everything seen in the Shadowlands are the decayed reflections of the skinlands.
                            Okay, this here what I was getting a bit tripped up on.

                            How I've understood so far, is that: a wraith in the Shadowlands, when looking around, just sees the relic buildings in the Shadowlands--decayed reflections of what was once in the Skinlands. But the wraith would have to actively peer across the Shroud to see what is happening in the Skinlands (and all the buildings/structures would have that Deathsight patina of decay). Manipulating objects or people in the Skinlands require the use of Arcanoi; passing through the walls or doors would require losing a Corpus and becoming insubstantial. Am I close to the mark on this one?

                            I plan on setting my chronicle in/around the Las Vegas Necropolis. As an example, The Las Vegas Strip, ever-chaning and evolving, would have a nearly full Shadowlands counterpart, populated by relic buildings of the varying hotels and resorts that have been torn down over the years. Each one of these would have more than enough emotional charge to become a Shadowlands structure. Now if a wraith is walking down the Shadowlands Strip, does he see both the Shadowlands and the current Skinlands Strip concurrently, all lumped together?

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                            • #15
                              They see them both concurrently. Example: An old Chucke E' Cheese building that was a place of great memories gets torn down and a supermarket gets built on top of it. Years move on and lets say an employee of the Supermarket dies on shift on day due to an accident. When he gets out of his caul he's going to see the relic version of the Chucke E' Cheese (assuming that it hasn't been looted and all the building materials haven't been taken to be repurposed elsewhere), while the Skinland site of the Supermarket is still there. So if the employee were to walk around, an aisle he'd remembered being clear during his time alive might be blocked by a wall that used to exist in the Skinlands from Chucke E' Cheese.

                              Thats why major cities in Wraith are so coveted, it has alot of relic building materials from structures that used to exist that can be taken and tacked on someplace else (Citadels being the most important). Not to mention all the loot that could've been forgotten or didn't get taken out in time during the building getting demolished. This is also why in the Shadowlands it is possible for the Hierarchy to construct huge walls around cities that never even existed in the Skinlands at all- they used the scavenged material to build new things entirely.


                              Jade Kingdom Warrior

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