Your experiences with Wraith

edited October 2010 in Story Games
I was talking with some friends about a game concept I'm working with, and one of the comments I made was that I was considering giving some control about a sort of "inner voice" to different players. Something similar to how Wraith: The Oblivion used to work. One of said friends said that the mechanic didn't work.

Personally, I have no direct experience with Wraith, so I could only tell him that I felt the problem was with the System (Lumpley's way), not with the concept itself not working. But I felt I need a little more information about how things really worked in there.

And then I decided to come here with my doubts and concerns.

So, Story-Games people, how were your experiences with the game? What worked? What didn't? Did that interaction ever resulted in some cool roleplaying? How often was that particular rule ignored? Which were the most memorable play experiences you recall?

Comments

  • The Shadowguide worked masterfully, because it took kibitzing about "what you should do" and put it into the voice of a very sinister character. Not only were the characters screwed because the GM was portraying a bleak, dreadful world, but their friend was across the table portraying something that wanted them to fall into the abyss. The only thing that kept the game from being unbearable was that at character creation you made your character's noblest (or meanest) aspirations the central focus of everything you did. Pretty great stuff.

    The Shadowguide rule was never ignored, it was used all the time, every time, and it never failed. It was the pure genius innovation of that game. Unless you are talking about another rule?
  • That's the one.

    As I said, I knew of the rule by hearing other people talk about it. My friend said "everyone ignored that rule". The claim sounded a little hollow, but since I had no first hand experience...

    I like what I hear. Could you elaborate some more? (Or, for that matter, can anyone tell me more about that kind of stuff?)

    Some real life anecdotes would be extra sweet. ^_^
  • The Shadowguide was Wraith's killer app. I cannot imagine anyone not playing with it. What would be the point? Leveraging your kewl powerz while you fought off other wraiths, I guess. And they were in fact super-kewl, but the Shadowguide is what IMO made Wraith a personal story again.

    We had terrific luck with the system here. I ran a very successful 5 player game and we just round-robin'ed the Shadowguide role: player to your left at chargen is your Shadowguide. We had bully shadowguides, we had BFF shadowguides (by far the most effective and sinister), we had ooga booga scary shadowguides. It was great. It also gave players something to do while they weren't in a scene.

    This was a lot of years ago but IIRC there was a "harrowing" mechanic, something having to do with plunging your wraith into her own "instance" type thing. And IIRC, again, it was on the shadowguide to construct that harrowing event.

    Now I want to play Wraith again. :-/
  • The Shadowguide worked masterfully, because it took kibitzing about "what you should do" and put it into the... yeah. No one, NO ONE, ignored the possibilities inherent in playing the Shadow because it was the funnest part of the game! If anything, people would forget to play their actual characters because they got wrapped up in Shadowguiding. And if you have a report about that not happening, it wasn't System - the Shadow had a portfolio of fun powers that mechanicalized the role effectively and enjoyably.
  • edited October 2010
    Questions.

    How much "adversity" came from the GM and how much from the Shadow?

    How constrained was the Shadowguide regarding what the Shadow would want from the character?
    Posted By: Paul B...we had BFF shadowguides (by far the most effective and sinister)...
    What made them "most effective and sinister"? (If you can point some specific stuff, the better. Loose anecdotes suffice.)
  • Okay, yeah.

    So we have this 5p game going, like I mentioned. And Jenny is playing Chuck's shadowguide. Jenny is this festively plump, very happy girl. Total Campbell's soup kid. Chuck is this affable, easy-going guy. They're friendly acquaintances outside the game; Jenny is married to one of Chuck's very good friends.

    Within the Wraith system, the Shadow can provide pretty substantial mechanical help to the Wraith. This comes at a cost: IIRC there's some slowly elevating value that ticks up every time you accept the Shadow's help. At certain points, I think, the Shadow could take a swing at taking the Wraith over. I think when that value topped out, that's when that Harrowing thing would happen -- and the Wraith would have to pass through this metaphysical battle with the Shadow, whose ultimate goal is to pull its Wraith into Oblivion. It's the only meaningful game-over state. Oh wait... your soul could also be forged into stuff for bigger badder Wraiths as well. But anyway, Oblivion was super mega bad.

    Back to Jenny. So Jenny would offer help to Chuck's Wraith at the drop of a hat but do it in a totally sunny, happy, nonconfrontational way. Basically the Shadow *was* Jenny: very sweet, super supportive, like totally a hippie mom. Chuck, being an affable guy but also acutely aware of the possibilities of the Shadow, starts out really cautious (he's trying to play mega-scary monster Shadow to his target, so Jenny's approach is so weird and different he's not sure what's up). By the end of the third session, though, they're just laughing and having a great time! Jenny's passing help dice to Chuck, Chuck's totally rocking his scenes.

    Top of scene four, Chuck's within a point or whatever of getting his harrowing. He asks Jenny straight up, "So ... do you have something planned for this Harrowing?" And she perks up immediately, "Oh jeez no! I totally forgot about that whole thing. I guess I can come up with something." So sure enough, Chuck takes that last bit of help from Jenny's Shadow...and then Jenny drops the fucking hammer on him inside the first 15 minutes.

    She of course has been thinking about the harrowing since turn 1. Since before turn 1 probably! She's been noodling on it for weeks at this point. She's *still* sunny and sweet, but now this Campbell's Soup Girl is describing this crazy Harrowing scene. I can't even remember the details of it but she's dug deep into player Chuck's own personal bugaboos. This is one of those lines-and-veils things that came up way before anyone had really sketched it out. Wraith had a "safeword" mechanic, though, and Chuck in fact actually invoked his safeword.

    So anyway, it was the fact that the Shadowguide player was just so very easy to get along with and never, ever presented a reason to not trust her. IIRC he actually ended up slipping into Oblivion as a result of that Harrowing scene, and was happy to call it quits on the campaign itself. It was a very powerful, very potent moment of play that nobody had the tools to deal with. Chuck thought everyone had agreed that nobody would get hurt; Jenny assumed Chuck would not abandon her.

    I still consider this a success story, although in this day and age I think you'd have to work hard to set social expectations within your play group more explicitly.
  • Yeah... It's stories like that that made me love and fear Wraith.
  • I only recently heard about it but it sounds like an inverse of what I was doing with Nowhere Road...

    Instead of your subconscious being your best self, your subconscious is your shadow self...
    Instead of you sabotaging yourself and the others trying to save you, you're being sabotaged...
    Instead of all the other players playing your subconscious, one other player is you subconscious...
    Instead of vague hints and a reward mechanism, the subconscious actually speaks to you directly and can take you over...

    So you might want to check out Nowhere Road as another point in the space...I only playtested it a few times and it never went bad, I think because it's the opposite, you're sabotaging yourself and the other players are trying to save you. Feel good endings all around...lines could theoretically be crossed but I haven't seen it happen yet...

    https://docs.google.com/document/edit?id=1CiZv1K8kwZQo7qVNJQzGuElvd6-FdP2dzRW1QSgIGtM&authkey=CKC_9aIB&hl=en&pli=1#
  • edited October 2010
    I remember it being the game that inspired my favorite WW game ever: Orpheus. I went back and bought a lot of the old Wraith books just so I could get the referecnes and see the bigger picture, but I never played. I would really like to, still.

    edit: what books do you really need to play? I have the original book and the player's guide. If someone would be kind enough to whisper me an answer, I'd be grateful.
  • Posted By: framweardwhat books do you really need to play? I have the original book and the player's guide. If someone would be kind enough to whisper me an answer, I'd be grateful.
    No need to whisper, you have one book more than you need to play. Wraith, as with all WW games, plays great with just the core. Focus, expected to be provided by campaign design, not breadth, is what you have to bring to it, it is plenty big already.
  • The Shadow and Shadowguiding was probably the best part of Wraith. My best memory of Wraith was a scene where a wraith was trying to stop her son (who was also one of her Fetters) from committing suicide, and her Shadow was doing everything in its power to get in the way.

    Shadowguiding moves the responsibility for a portion of the antagonism off the GM to another player. This is my preferred mode of play, anyways, because players with limited power make amazingly good antagonists.

    I spent years--years--trying to implement that one mechanic in another game. I considered Sorcerer or even a game of my own design. It was only after the fact that I realized that I had essentially done this with the Mara role in A Flower for Mara.

    So, yeah, I'm also wondering what your friends think is so broken about Shadowguiding.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • My only experience with Wraith is a game that never got off the ground. Well, two actually. in the first I created this character who had his own quiet little tragedy going on and before we played the first session, the ST changed my character to be some failed olympic runner who ended up crippled or something. He changed my character. Without asking. The second was when I was going to run a game and the same guy created a character who was 'a 13 year old girl'. I asked him what she looked like and what she acted like. His answer: 'a 13 year old girl' and he wouldn't go into any more detail.

    Still want to play Wraith though. I was so excited when I finally got the book (and a bunch of supps from a second-hand store) but I've never gotten the chance.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyPosted By: framweardwhat books do you really need to play? I have the original book and the player's guide. If someone would be kind enough to whisper me an answer, I'd be grateful.
    No need to whisper, you have one book more than you need to play. Wraith, as with all WW games, plays great with just the core. Focus, expected to be provided by campaign design, not breadth, is what you have to bring to it, it is plenty big already.

    Hey, thanks! I found my old Orpheus books (minus two of the supplements, sad!) and I may give Wraith a shot soon.
  • More to say but not enough time to say it.

    I'll just say that while there's no mechanical impetus behind it, the game VOX, too, has the other players playing the roles (sub-characters) of your character's "inner voices". Not really in the form of the Antagonistic SHADOW (although it Could be if you wanted), but in whatever the form the voice-that-talks-to-you takes on (sentient insect, flaming angel, etc).

    Just in case folks were looking for a similar mechanic in a different skin.

    -Andy
  • I couldn't get my players to use the Shadow voices when we tried it back in the day - I think one of the problems was that they didn't have much of an idea what to actually say, so they just ignored it. I also found it less interesting as a setting, to be honest, but that's a personal thing. I prefer exploring people alive I guess :)

    I used the Shadowguide in a (non-Wraith and non-supernatural) convention scenario in 1995, where I wrote ideas how to approach playing the Shadowguide for another character on the character sheets, and this time it worked a treat. Much of the feedback I got at the time was very positive about using the whispers to influence/pressure each other's characters.

    Per
  • I never played Wraith but judging from this thread and what I've read elsewhere it's probably an agenda thing. If the tools that the game gives you support your agenda, it's going to be awesome. If not, you'll just ignore them. In which case you're probably better off playing another game.

    Wraith seems to me much more of a Story Now game than the other WoD products, which are more Right to Dream in my humble opinion*. YMMV

    *Also, judging by Jason's explanations the first Vampire was probably more Step on Up: player skill, backstabbing etc.
  • Really, all of them are extremely flexible and require the participants to bring focus to them.
  • Posted By: Per FischerI used the Shadowguide in a (non-Wraith and non-supernatural) convention scenario in 1995, where I wrote ideas how to approach playing the Shadowguide for another character on the character sheets, and this time it worked a treat. Much of the feedback I got at the time was very positive about using the whispers to influence/pressure each other's characters.
    Any idea about what made that second approach sing so well? What sort of ideas you wrote that actually made more sense to the players? Was it somehow related to telling players what their goals should be in a clearer voice?
  • edited October 2010
    Sounds cool! Making the road trip game made me realize just how much fiction there is where the character(s) are repressing something and the real victory is when they let that come out. With a little stretching you can apply it to so much...like take, say, Bolt, for example...you could say "ordinary dog" is his shadow.

    (Whoops, this was supposed to be a whisper. Is there some way to delete it?)
  • I do remember one part of the Wraith rulebook that, in talking about the Shadowguide, said if the wraith for any reason just gives up, decides "Im just gonna jump into Oblivion with both feet" the Shadowguide would be all "Are you sure that's a good idea?" It wasn't just trying to destroy the wraith, it was the antithesis of the wraith. If you did a 180, it was right there still staring you in the face, trying to get you to turn a little further.
  • The Wraith game I played in for more than a year was incredible. It is still my favorite game of all the White Wolf games, and the least loved, because there's a level of trust that goes with playing your friend's Shadow that I think most people fear to allow. It's the control of your character's will removed and put in the hands of someone who is using your very own character to destroy you. That's incredibly scary for some people, and one of the most beautiful options of the game.

    We played a game with the Shadow power Freudian Slip, and it turned a whole session into a disaster engine, where no player could defeat their Shadows that day. We were on an express train to Oblivion. Kudos to our Storyteller, for a month long sidetrack to the over all mission. The Shadow almost guarantees there will be no rails to your game, and as soon as there are, they will attempt to derail it. It calls for inventive use, brave storytelling, fearless approaches to how to play both Character and Shadow, and a maturity that people should invest in all gaming.

    And whispering in your neighbor's ear about how they are doing everything wrong and should surrender to ultimate death is creepy as hell. :)
  • I wish somebody would make a "Wraithlike" game that had the basic concept, the Shadows, and none of the metaplotty stuff. I keep wanting to go back to it but the rules are off-putting.

    My best experience with Wraith was kind of disturbing because, well, back then I liked to make all my characters kind of self-loathing, and the Shadow totally tapped into that and brought it out onto the table in a way that was kind of uncomfortable, it felt like the player/character distinction was breaking down.
  • Odd question. Do you think some element of Shadowguiding lives on today in the FATE system, in the way your character's aspects can be tapped by other players to cause problems?
  • edited October 2010
    Posted By: DannyKI wish somebody would make a "Wraithlike" game that had the basic concept, the Shadows, and none of the metaplotty stuff. I keep wanting to go back to it but the rules are off-putting.
    I haven't done a goddamn thing with it for a month (or more? sheesh, i can't even remember) except think about it, but I started "working on" (read: brainstorming on the forum) a wraith-like Apocalypse World hack. i've got a sub-forum on Barf Forth and everything! which means i really should pick that up sometime soon and get back to it.

    edit: oh and one of the things i decided almost immediately was that i was going to throw out Stygia and the other, "deeper" underworld stuff. In my view, if you're playing a ghost who's away in some world populated only by ghosts and engaging primarily and weird politics and crap, but not engaging in the living world at all any more... well... you've kind of left behind the original point of playing ghosts.
  • Posted By: DanielSolisOdd question. Do you think some element of Shadowguiding lives on today in the FATE system, in the way your character's aspects can be tapped by other players to cause problems?

    In a way, yes, that you can play with the way a character thinks and reacts in FATE...but no in the way that you respect failure as a consequence in FATE while in Wraith it was a much more direct obstacle that was meant to actually block, as well as remove control from a player of his character more directly. Every Shadowguide was more like a GM Minion, who added complications of self beyond plot, but there wasn't a reward for doing so. There was only suffering brought on by the players around the table onto the other players. If you don't mind the lack of benefit, and the kind of meta horror it added not knowing if your friend you were playing a game with was out to destroy the game, there was some wonderful danger to it that would make anything you do in FATE almost comical.
  • Posted By: DannyKI wish somebody would make a "Wraithlike" game that had the basic concept, the Shadows, and none of the metaplotty stuff. I keep wanting to go back to it but the rules are off-putting.
    This. Right here.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • It already exists, it's called Wraith, just hide your supplements under the bed or sell them on eBay or something.
  • Has anybody had a look at Geist, the new World of Darkness version of Wraith? Also, to this day I still want to play a game of Mummy 2nd edition, especially because once their bodies are destroyed they hang out in the underworld like Wraiths.
  • I do have Geist, it's quite good but also very different. The characters are not ghosts, but instead living people who had a near-death experience, and chose to return to life by striking a deal with a scary, semi-abstract ghost of your own design. Now they are able to see other ghosts, who are attracted to them to help resolve their ghostly problems. The chief struggle in Wraith (being unable to affect the material world that contained all your Fetters and at which all your Passions were directed) is not there in Geist, you are a material person.

    Mummy 2ed would be a hoot, I haven't even looked at it in years.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyIt already exists, it's called Wraith, just hide your supplements under the bed or sell them on eBay or something.
    Well, there's still the White Wolf house system, which doesn't do it for me anymore. Too much of a hippie.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • Well, I'd love any input or assistance on my wraithlike AW hack that anyone is willing to offer...
  • Posted By: greatwolfWell, there's still the White Wolf house system, which doesn't do it for me anymore. Too much of a hippie.
    Yeah, I wish there was some kind of system for what my desires and emotional connections were in there...

    ;)

    The first time I saw relationship mechanics in a hippie game I went, "Hey, cool, like Wraith!"
  • Is that the necrology hack? I found it in the AW forum but I didn't want to post a link till I was sure.

    I really, really like the idea of giving Wraith the AW treatment. It just breaks up so much cruft and unneeded stuff. For one thing, I love the idea that a Necropolis (the shadowland version of a real live city) doesn't necessarily have a Hierarchy and Guilds and all this pseudo-medieval stuff, it's just whoever took over and made it stick.

    I also like the idea of eliminating Stygia, and maybe even the spectres and such should be toned down -- I always felt that it detracted from the personal horror of the setting to have such an obvious "booga, booga" evil faction menacing everyone and giving them a reason to stick together. Maybe just keeping the idea of Spectres as the "Shadow-eaten", just ghosts who've gotten too friendly with their Shadows, without being parts of a giant hivemind.

    You could map the maelstrom to the Tempest, a useful but dangerous aspect of life among the dead.
  • Posted By: greatwolfPosted By: DannyKI wish somebody would make a "Wraithlike" game that had the basic concept, the Shadows, and none of the metaplotty stuff. I keep wanting to go back to it but the rules are off-putting.
    This. Right here.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf

    One thing I do remember quite clearly about Wraith: The example of play in the book did more to turn me away from the game than any other factor. It seemed genuinely un-fun and more than a bit pretentious.
  • Posted By: DannyKIs that the necrology hack? I found it in the AW forum but I didn't want to post a link till I was sure.
    That's the one. I'm bad with names, but I'm okay with this one, at least for not. It ties into some mild background stuff i'm thinking of using, at least using when I try running it myself.
    If anyone wants to see what I've posted there or brainstorm with me there, it's here:
    http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?board=27.0
    Like I said, I haven't actually done anything serious with it for over a month, but I definitely want to go back to it, and if there are other people interested in the idea for me to talk to, I know that will get me moving more. :)
    Posted By: DannyKYou could map the maelstrom to the Tempest, a useful but dangerous aspect of life among the dead.
    Yup, that's totally my plan as well.
  • edited November 2010
    I'm looking for some "horror" stories in here. (Horror as in "the game totally fell apart, and there was yelling, kicking and crying puppies.") And, if possible, some hypothesis about why that happened the way it happened would be super cool too.
  • White Wolf makes good games, it's pretty rare they ever "fell apart", in my experience...
  • White Wolf does make good games, but they fell apart all the time anyway. All games, subjected to humans, will fall apart sometimes.

    Unfortunately, I have no Wraith horror stories. I've got Mage and Changeling ones, but none for Wraith.
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