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Confused about shades

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  • Confused about shades

    In the Wraith 20th anniversary book it says that Shades are both 'shock troops' and 'the second most respected spectres' and I'm having trouble reconciling these two points. The closest I can get is that Shades are like Viking berserkers, respected for their extreme abilities and also the first into the fight, but that only really works if you think of Spectres as some sort of 'bad guy' martial society where combat prowess is the measuring stick in all things. Does this gel with anybody else? What interpretations do you folks have for Shades and their seemingly irreconcilable lore?
    Last edited by Dogstar; 08-18-2021, 02:12 PM.

  • #2
    This is answered if you have access to the earlier books on Spectres. The WtO20 corebook can only include so much so they excise much of the details that can make sense of things.

    Spectre caste society is based on two things - how close are you to Oblivion and how powerful you are. Shades do well in both categories.

    The corpus of Shades are the most Oblivion wracked of all Spectres showing the cold black aura of Oblivion strongest of all the castes. They also have access to unique Shade powers not available to other castes as a result of their being devoured by Oblivion.

    Doomslayers state: "Shades are given great respect among the Shadow-eatern for the simplest reasons: They'll eat you if they don't." and "But for the most part, these darkly passionate warriors are Oblivion's staunchest defenders and most fell champions."

    So your reasoning is very close, although I would frame it slightly differently. Shades are the elite warriors of Oblivion, favored by the Malfeans and controlled/directed by their masters' Hive Mind. The other castes give way to them because of that. It's a "don't mess with them" kind of respect. Even their nominal leaders during attacks (Nephwracks and sometimes Apparitions) bow to them publicly.

    Don't view "shock troops" as meaning "cannon fodder." In military terminology, "shock troops" always refer to assault troops that lead the attack to break through enemy lines (and attack the enemy's rear) so the other soldiers can exploit the gap. They are usually elite troops that are better trained and better equipped than ordinary troops. World War I era German Stosstruppen and the US Marines would qualify. Heavy cavalry that charges the enemy of almost any era qualify as well.

    Shades aren't known for their intelligence, but their power, indiscriminate fury, and always being at the forefront of a Maelstrom fits the definition of shock troops quite well. As the elite troops that carry the cause of Oblivion, the Malfeans favor them and everyone else is afraid of them. You might not prefer to use the term "respect" to describe this, but it is certainly a kind of prestige.

    Spectres aren't rational creatures. The Shadow is their unconscious dominating their Psyche. Their society and culture reflects that.


    • #3
      Wr20 gives only a small amount of wording to this, but Shades are not just big angry Spectres. They are Spectres that have had much of their identity and rational thought scoured away (usually) by the Tempest. They are not defined by either personal or political power so the idea that they have a 'status' in spectral 'society' is odd. That said...

      The Spectre Caste definitions have shifted a lot over time, and Wr20 is really only painting a quick snapshot so there are going to be a few things that don't make sense without additional context. Saying the Spectres are second only to the Malfeans in status is one of those things.

      Nephwracks are often the high priests of Oblivion, and spectres (if they are lucky) aren't going to deal with anyone higher, so in that sense Nephwracks are second only to the Malfeans. Also, Nephwracks are on the way to becoming Malfeans (though most won't make it), while even if a Spectre did grow to another stage I doubt it could be anything other than a Hekatonkhire. In terms of political power, influence, and personal status Nephwracks are the "second only to" caste.

      On the other hand, Caligula allegedly made one of his horses a Senator, and I think his feverish mentality could map well onto the Onceborn (and Nephwrack for that matter). If a veritable god-king of the labyrinth says their favored Spectres are second only to them, who is going to argue. Spectres aren't going to be giving orders anyways except maybe those conveyed by Nephwrack "translators."

      Anyways, it is best not to think of the Spectral Hierarchy as a hierarchy. It is an extended, highly-dysfunctional family full of generation long grudges, vicious infighting, drunken grandparents, and uncles who came back from the war labyrinth changed. Who is in charge on (moliated) paper is not the same as who really wields influence and power.

      Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink