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Wraith Inspiration

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  • Wraith Inspiration

    As the title says, especially concerning novels.

    The Source Material section in W20 mostly mentions your typical ghost stories. Yet I don't know if those are rally that exemplary for a large chunk of the game. I think what let's Wraith stand out and makes it special is not so much the interaction with the living(which non the less is still important) but everything that has to do with the underworld.

    And for that the list I think is very lacking.
    When thinking about Inspiration for that Kafkas work comes to my mind(from the body horror to the alienation and incomprehensible bureaucracy). Also Planescape: Tournament can be pretty inspirational for the weirdness and politics of Stygia.

    So any other recommendations?

    Also anyone read the Wraith novels? Are they worth reading?

  • #2
    For inspiration regarding the Underworld itself, I think there are several sources you could use.

    Kafka is certainly a great source. In fact, I went through a phase writing materials to use in my Wraith games that I called Call of Kafka. The Trial in particular is good for Wraith. (Alas, I never actually ran any Wraith chronicles so it's all unused, though my notes still exist).

    What Dreams May Come, both the movie and the book, I think is absolutely essential.

    Guy Davis' comics of The Marquis is absolutely essential. Although again taking place in a fantasy world of the living, it has lots of things that can translate directly to Wraith.

    The movie Beetlejuice certainly has some good scenes set in the Underworld.

    The movie Jacob's Ladder always reminded me of a Harrowing. And there are lots of things that would be appropriate for any new enfants and his first Circle.

    The 2001 Film The Others starring Nicole Kidman is also appropriate.

    Reading Dante's Divine Comedy may be too much, but if you get good Cliff Notes of it, or online synopsis, it has lots of things you can take.

    I think Clive Barker's materials on the Cenobites - the original novella The Hellbound Heart and the supplementary material he created for comics is very good for inspiration for Spectres and Pasiphae. Not so much the movies which become increasingly ridiculous and diverge from Barker's original intent and his later development. Same thing with his Books of the Art - The Great & Secret Show and Everville. Although set among the living, they have lots of things you can take that translates well to Oblivion and the Underworld.

    I think in certain regards the movie Dark City is appropriate in mood for life in the Underworld - Stygia and Necropoli, although the plot itself has little direct relevance.

    Although the movie Inception deals with dreams, I think it has a lot of relevance to Wraith.

    If I can think of more, I'll edit my post and add them.

    New Additions:

    The works of William Hope Hodgson, particularly the House on the Borderland and the Night Land. The Night Land has particular relevance.

    There are also various myths that show living people arriving in the lands of the dead. The Odyssey is among them, as is the Aeneid. You can always steal from them. Besides the cliff notes of those, I also recommend the Enchanted World series. The volumes on Ghosts and Fabled Lands has some good stories you can use.

    A lot of The Twilight Zone episodes are great inspirations for a Harrowing, or provide example of how the presence of Oblivion might affect things. Many episodes would be out of scope being too far sci-fi or fantasy in concept. But a lot focus on an individual person learning something about themselves or life in general, and I think they would be good inspirations for a Harrowing.
    Last edited by Black Fox; 08-17-2020, 01:15 AM.


    • #3
      I'll second those. The Trial and some of Kafka's other work is a wonderful inspiration for how annoyingly bureaucratic the Hierarchy can be, as are several scenes from Beetlejuice. In that same sense, the movie Brazil and Vaclav Havel's play The Memorandum.

      As far as how the Underworld looks, I get a lot of inspiration from urban exploration photography involving abandoned buildings. Romany WG's Beauty in Decay collections are really good. Also the film Session 9.

      Stuff that involves Passions - sometimes to the point of obsession - are also things I look at. Memento, Following, The Prestige, Insomnia (this seems to be a reoccurring theme in Christopher Nolan's work), Pi, The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, and The Conversation, among others.

      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


      • #4
        As stereotypical as it may be, I genuinely think that any number of works by Tim Burton might illustrate the sort of aesthetics that one might encounter in the Shadowlands of Wraith.

        As far as wraiths themselves I have to agree with a lot of what was said above although I have a few ideas which occurred to me...

        'Murdered: Soul Suspect', a video game about a ghost detective trying to solve the case that got him killed with the reluctant help of a medium. Maybe not the most Wraith thing but I thought it was good WoD fodder when I first watched a play through of it and I was first reading WtO when I was watching it so the two are connected in my mind.

        As corny as the shot got - trust me I know -, some of the ghost-centric plotlines of Supernatural and particularly season 7 could be useful inspiration for Wraith.


        • #5
          The 2010 play Hadestown. It's a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice with a 1930's Depression aesthetic. It features an oppressive underworld with desperate material conditions--should be familiar.

          Edit: I'll be honest, I didn't read the text of the original post. I'll leave the Hadestown example, but my other two don't really apply.
          Last edited by Faradn; 08-14-2020, 07:05 PM.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Faradn View Post
            Are people not mentioning Ghost because it's too obvious, or because they think it's too embarrassing to put forward? Maybe it got mentioned in another thread. Anyway I don't care what other people think, it's great, and clearly a primary inspiration for the game.
            That is certainly an oversight on my part! The scenes between Patrick Swayze and Vincent Schiavelli are very useful.

            However, if I remember correctly, most of the movie deals with ghosts and the living. Not the underworld itself which was the concern of the original poster.


            • #7
              Ah, I see that now. I cut the examples in my comment down to just Hadestown.


              • #8
                One film - while possible a little fluffy in presentation, but dealing links to the world, and the post death world - that might work is "Coco"


                • #9
                  Something I'll throw out there is Book of Blood, a 2009 film adapted from a few parts of Clive Barker's Books of Blood anthologies. While it's mainly a haunted house story, it's pretty good, and the bit where you actually get to see the underworld is pretty cool from a visual standpoint. I like to think that parts of the Wraith Underworld look like that. Anyway, it's currently available on Prime Video streaming if you have it.

                  What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                  Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                  • #10
                    Don't just take inspiration from ghost stories and books, draw from any external source that fits character. For example:

                    This video perfectly depicts what harrowings a wraith that died of alcoholism would go through up to and including their final destruction harrowing, and it has nothing to do with wraith or ghosts in general.

                    Music videos in general are great for this when the artist is singing about a major problem in their life or an event that changed them.


                    • #11
                      Along the lines of Prometheas' comment, I find these videos of falling into gas giant planets highly inspiring for any game that involves descent deep into the scariest layers of the Tempest, or any kind of Harrowing plummet! ...Especially if you mute the audio and replace it with your own spooky soundtrack or voice-over.



                      • #12
                        In terms of movies, I’d add the following as well:

                        Angel Heart - sort of akin to Jacob’s latter, there are valuable things to mine for a Harrowing

                        Stir of Echoes - probably more useful for an Orpheus story or the forthcoming World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters, it still has some neat elements.

                        Insidious 1 and 2 - the scenes inside of “the Further” are totally worth the price of admission themselves for a cool depiction of the shadowlands.

                        The Frighteners - wanna know what it’s like to go up against a Spectre?

                        House - a comedy-horror like the Frighteners, there’s still some cool Imagery and it could serve as another example of a good Harrowing


                        • #13
                          A couple of movies that might sneak under the radar that are worth considering are Cool World, Monkeybones, Monsters Inc and Little Monsters. All of these films deal with inhabitants of the real world interacting with inhabitants of a subliminal "underworld," if not necessarily The Underworld.

                          For example, Cool World deals with a detective who finds himself moving between the real world and a "Cartoon World" of ultraheightened emotion and surreality, and is full of ideas that can easily be applied to the relationship between the Skinlands, Shadowlands and Tempest. The Ralph Bashki animations are also suitably disturbing. Monkeybones is also about an "animated underworld" but deals with ideas like possession, travel between different levels of reality, and may inspire something. Chris Kattan also gives a hilarious performance as a corpse being ridden by a "wraith" that can easily be borrowed (literally nobody but me has apparently ever seen this movie).

                          Monsters, Inc could practically be a documentary about a Hierarchy Pathos mining operation. Just imagine the "monsters" are Moliated Sandmen, and you're 90% of the way there. The whole doorway system of penetrating the Shroud and traveling from the Tempest to the Skinlands is brilliant and easily stealable. I can easily imagine a scenario where the players need to break into the dream mining factory to steal a door. Likewise, Little Monsters is basically the same idea but from a Renegade perspective and is full of inspiration for Sandman adventures. Just imagine the Howie Mandel's character is a moliated Sandman and that everything that appears to be happening in the "real world" is actually occurring in Fred Savage's dreams.

                          In my own chronicle, the single largest influence is Twin Peaks. Imagine the Black Lodge is a hangout deep in the Labyrinth, with the Man In The Red Suit and the Woodsmen as spectres, "Bob" a particularly nasty spectre, etc. But more than that, a lot of my chronicle focuses on just interacting with and getting involved in the lives of the weird and offbeat characters who call Necropolis Seattle home. I don't really have "antagonists" in my chronicle.


                          • #14
                            Something I'd forgotten about until it came on TV last night is the second Poltergiest film, specifically the brief bit at the opening when you see what has become of this big suburban development in the wake of the first film. Totally abandoned, and kind of in the process of being reclaimed by nature as the lack of people, and with them water usage, has left most of the plant life, including grass, dead so that the streets and buildings are getting overtaken by swirling mounds of wind blown dirt and sand. It's kind of fascinating because you usually only see that kind of thing in urban, industrial or isolated rural locations. So it's one of those rare examples of what the suburbs might look like from the Shadowlands or through Deathsight.

                            What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
                            Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)


                            • #15
                              I've been struggling with Wraith a lot and have difficulty getting my head around it. To me it often feels too 'militarized' with the Necropoli and the Legions dominating everything and making setting a game in the Shadowlands really difficult. I'm not a fan of military fiction and regimented settings don't seem to offer much opportunity for personal adventure.

                              Slightly off topic but what are the goals of the 'average' wraith? It seems they have no need of anything other than protecting their fetters? In the films mentioned above why would the protagonists do things? I could really do with some help in finding their motivation and translating inspiration to adventure.

                              For example the Monsters Inc idea above with Wraiths carrying out a 'mining' operation. I love the visual imagery of a 'Dark Satanic Mill' filled with Wraiths collecting Pathos from terrorized dreamers but why would a player group of wraiths be interested in going there?
                              Last edited by Dogstar; 02-04-2021, 04:32 PM.