The last original gaming line to be set in the old World of Darkness, and the first White Wolf attempt at a "limited run" game.While Orpheus does tie in loosely with White Wolf's previous effort at the afterlife, Wraith: The Oblivion, it is not treated as a true sequel or continuation. It tackles the world of the dead following the events of the Sixth Great Maelstrom, a ethereal storm that practically obliterated the Shadowlands.Into this turbulence enters the Orpheus Group. Orpheus has learned and perfected the art of projection, allowing specially-trained people who have undergone Near Death Experiences to leave their bodies and enter the spirit realm. Along with allied ghosts, Orpheus' living agents are contracted out to clients; they investigate hauntings, fumigate raging ghosts, and deal with other spooky spirit-related tasks. It sounds simple, but as the story progresses, things get complicated as the enemies get stronger, corruption becomes rampant, allies fall to the darkness and the line between the worlds of the living and dead begin to blur...Orpheus player characters are defined by two factors: The first is their Lament, or way they interact with the dead. Once they figure out how to do so, characters can then access their Shade, a manifestation of their personalities that dictates the awesome and unearthly abilities, called Horrors, that they can access in death. Horrors sound cool and useful, but do come at a price, as they can raise a character's Spite, putting them closer to spiritual corruption, or can cause them to burn out their willpower or even their ghostly existence.
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Skimmers, living people able to kick their spirit from their body temporarily.
Sleepers, cryogenically-frozen to the point of death, upon which they can roam free from their bodies.
Spirits, good old-fashioned ghosts who happen to have a strong will and sense of self.
Hues, spirits who have been tainted with darkness via pigment, a designer drug with sinister properties.
There are five shades in the core book, though the final total is brought up to eight through the other volumes, noted below.
Banshees are largely empathetic and compassionate people, skilled at communication. Thorough their voices, they can do damage, manipulate people, and look into the past or future.
Haunters tend to be wandering loners, giving them an affection for things over people. As a result, they can possess, control, and eventually become machinery and electricity.
Poltergiests often are frustrated with their place in the world, and tend to lash out or rebel. They start with the classic "throw things" abilities, but can ultimately twist around entire environments.
Skinriders are usually control freaks and tend to be skilled at exploiting others. This makes it easy for them to become gifted in possessing and manipulating the bodies of the living.
Wisps seek social connections and tends towards charm or trickery. Along with serving as hypnotic "will o' the wisps", they also pull stunts to disappear... or make other things disappear.
Phantasms, introduced in the supplement Shades of Gray, show a strong passion for art and creation. This allows them to create illusions and manipulate the minds and dreams of others.
Marrows, introduced in the supplement End Game, are open-minded and flexible, but also close to more base natures. They can shapeshift and have powers over the ghosts of creatures.
Orphan-Grinders, introduced in the book of the same name, are a special category of Shade; these poor souls were humans who fell into darkness and became Spectres, but something inside them desired to return and so they fought their way back to humanity, for better or worse. Because of their past affiliation, Orphan-Grinders are skilled at negotiating around and through Spectres.
Orpheus was notable for dropping the Old World of Darkness standby of The Masquerade— humanity was quite aware of the dead as the setting's run began. It also was perhaps the Old World of Darkness setting most devoted to excluding the others — little, if any, crossover advice were given, and The Core book states outright that if in your game you want them to exist, the Orpheus characters would be heavily outmatched as they are essentially plain, run-of-the-mill humans.Only six gaming books (the core book and five supplements), plus a fictional anthology, Haunting the Dead, were released. The Orpheus story is more directed than past World of Darkness games, and completely told through the six books, via role-playing scenarios, fiction, and a set of signature characters. In many ways, Orpheus was a model for how the New World of Darkness would be marketed, especially the limited run of books and each splat forwarding the story while adding new concepts. Just as Orpheus played with concepts from Wraith, ideas from both Wraith and Orpheus would resurface in Geist: The Sin-Eaters for the New World of Darkness.Orpheus still has a small but devoted fanbase, some overlapping with Wraith and many for the game in and of itself. Of course, there's also a bit of a Hatedom some from Wraith's firmer fans, and some Old World of Darkness stalwarts who dismiss it as not truly a part of their beloved setting.The game settings and scenerios change greatly from the corebook to the final volume, so beware of spoilers for the later volumes below.
This game contains examples of:
Alien Geometries: Escher's Corkscrew, the Crucible Horror for Haunters, allows them to cause these.
Blessed with Suck: A number of character types, but the Skimmer and Sleeper Laments stand out:
As a Skimmer, you can enter and leave your body at will. However, any damage you take as a spirit reflects on your physical body. In addition, they are literally hanging by a thread to their bodies, so if that thread is somehow cut, they have a hell of a time going back.
Sleepers don't have to worry about damage to their physical forms, but if they need to return to the world of the living in a hurry, they're going to have to wait a few hours, whether they want to or not.
Chained by Fashion: Lawgivers, direct servants of Grandmother, are wrapped by chains symbolizing their imprisonment and absolute connection to her.
Closed Circle: Low-level spirits who can only re-enact their deaths will do so unless acted upon by some means, such as Vitality.
Cool Car: The Hell On Wheels Horror for Haunters allows them to literally transform into one of these.
Orphan-Grinders, Spectres who have been reminded of their lives and renounced Oblivion. They keep the general, mutated appearance of their Oblivion-tainted forms, and retain access to Spectre powers, but they're no better or worse than any other ghost.
Eldritch Abomination: Grandmother. Doesn't sound so threatening, does it? Yeah. This thing created the Neverborn, its own baby abominations. And the reason it's called Grandmother is because the people who heard the Spectres talk about it mispronounced the name — it's not Grandma, it's Grand Maw.
Empathic Environment: Banshees can cause the Stormwall to tear open and release its power as their Crucible Horror.
Familiar: Marrows can summon these using their second-tier Horror of the same name.
Fantastic Drug: Pigment, heroin infused with the strange qualities of the Shadowlands. Anyone who overdoses on it becomes a "Hue," a ghost that has an easier time accessing Stains.
Faux Flame: The usual appearance of a manifesting Wisp, as well as the armor used by Skinriders activating the Juggernaut Horror.
Ghost City: The Necropolis of New York City is doubly this after the last Maelstrom fuses almost all of the ghosts inhabiting it into the infrastructure of the city itself. You basically have a dead city made of ghosts in the world of the dead.
Ghost Lights: Wisps gain access to a particularly hypnotic variety that recalls their nickname.
Most average ghosts that Orpheus agents help seem to fall into the Type A category, simply wanting to move on after their deaths but not knowing how.
There are several notable Type B's, such as Uriah Bishop and his followers, who either kill because they enjoyed it while alive, or because doing so gets them in better with a certain all-consuming Eldritch Abomination.
Hammerspace: The Beckon Relic Horror appears to allow Wisps to reach through a dimensional rift and pull out an object. The catch is they don't get to choose what comes out.
Haunted Technology: The Inhabit Horror for Haunters allows them to possess and control inanimate objects.
The Heartless: Spectres, born of nightmares, pain, and rage. Then again, it might not be too late for some of them.
Heel-Face Turn: Late into the line, it's revealed that some Spectres are able to regain control over themselves and remember who they were in life, abandoning Oblivion and becoming Orphan-Grinders.
Hellgate: Banshees can open holes in the Stormwall if they are powerful enough. Naturally occurring holes can also be found in Spectre hives.
The Sleeper and Skimmer laments are living people who can temporarily kick their spirits out of their bodies at will.
All Orpheus agents, as well as those from other projection agencies, have undergone at least one of these in their normal lives before working for Orpheus.
Night of the Living Mooks: The Clay Jars Crucible Horror for Marrows allows them to temporarily raise the dead as zombie minions.
Obliviously Evil: Grandmother honestly doesn't understand that things not a part of the Hive Mind she embodies are separate sapient entities, and even devouring rogue elements of the Spectres are her just pruning cancerous growths and mental dysfunctions-and even beyond that, she's also a maternal figure who desires to create, and wishes to eat the world so that she may have enough energy to do so on cosmic levels. One of the good endings of the metaplot involve showing her that other beings exist and her eating them causes pain, at which point she happily forms a truce with existence.
Wham Episode: The beginning of each supplement has one to kick off the potential events along each part of the storyline:
Shades of Gray has NextWorld lead an army of Spectres into Orpheus during the office Christmas party, killing most of the other agents and leaving the player characters as the company's only survivors, as well as major murder suspects.
Crusade of Ashes deals with a mass poisoning that, if unstopped, allows Spectres to create their first hive.
Shadow Games has a large piece of debris from the world of the dead cause a massive catastrophe in both the spirit and living worlds.
The Orphan-Grinders begins with a huge invasion of Spectres that represents the first direct attack from the Underworld.
End Game deals with a massive breach in the Stormwall, a civil war between the Spectres of the Malfeans versus those of Grandmother, and the innocents who get caught in the way.
Who You Gonna Call?: Orpheus offers discreet services as councilors and "fumigators" for restless spirits.