[[caption-width-right:198:''Death was just the beginning.'']]
''A Storytelling Game of Death and Damnation.'' --1st edition {{tagline}}

''A Storytelling Game of Passion and Horror.'' --2nd edition tagline

A tabletop role-playing game in the TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness, considered by many to be one of the most depressing of the lot. First of all, [[DeadToBeginWith you start off dead]]. And we don't mean [[TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade undead]], we mean ''dead''. You've failed to pass on to the true afterlife, and your soul has ended up in the [[TheUnderworld Shadowlands]], a decaying spiritual reflection of the real world. You're bound to this side of reality by your Fetters and Passions, [[UnfinishedBusiness emotional and physical ties to your old life]]. You have to negotiate the viper's nest of politics that's been set up in the Shadowlands -- a three-way clusterfuck between the oppressive Hierarchy, the revolutionary Renegades, and the devout Heretics -- while trying to protect and, eventually, resolve that which ties you to this life and move on to the true afterlife.

It goes FromBadToWorse, since also parking its tuchus in the Shadowlands is a grand malevolent force known as Oblivion. Seeking to drag all existence down its sinkhole, Oblivion sends its soldiers, the Spectres, out to make the world a much worse place. One of those soldiers is parked in your head. It's called your Shadow, and it's constantly going to wheedle you, cajole you, taunt you, set you up, and make your life a living hell until you give it what it wants -- that is, all control over you, making you a Spectre in full.

''Wraith'' was considered a tough concept to handle, even for the World of Darkness. The characters were constantly at war with themselves (and sometimes each other) while trying to find their place in both life and death. The concept required advanced troupe-style roleplay, with each player playing their own character, someone else's Shadow, and occasionally other characters. The first edition focused more on the personal struggles than the actual setting; it took the second edition to truly flesh out the Shadowlands. ''Wraith'' was the first and only gameline in the Old World of Darkness to be cancelled before TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt.[[note]]There were a couple pages dedicated to it in the MET's ''Laws of Judgement'', but nothing like the other books.[[/note]]

The game later received an AfterTheEnd sequel in the form of ''TabletopGame/{{Orpheus}}'' (which dealt with humans and ghosts who dealt with troublesome spirits and investigated the wreckage of the Shadowlands). The [[TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness New WoD]] gameline ''[[TabletopGame/GeistTheSinEaters Geist: The Sin-Eaters]]'' is a SpiritualSuccessor, delving into the [=NWoD=]'s Underworld, with the [=PCs=] basically being half-human spirit mediums who have merged with mostly beneficial -- if unbalanced -- ghost partners.

A 20th anniversary edition was announced at [=GenCon=] 2013. [[https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/200664283/deluxe-wraith-the-oblivion-20th-anniversary-editio A Kickstarter for the game went live on December 2, 2014, and was fully funded within hours.]]

!!This role-playing game provides examples of:

* AfterlifeAntechamber: The Underworld is ultimately this. It takes a very specific balance of hope and despair, attachment to life and angst, to turn someone into a Wraith. Most people never get there (they either move straight on to whatever lies beyond, or they're instantly consumed by Oblivion) and Wraiths who Transcend move on to someplace else. Whatever it is other than Oblivion that can be Transcended to (or ''into'') isn't elaborated on but is generally accepted to be an unquestionable "good end".
* AfterlifeExpress: The Midnight Express, which shepherds souls across the Shadowlands and serves as peaceful ground for all sorts of factions... including Oblivion.
* AndIMustScream: Soulforging. That soulsteel sword you're holding, the kind of thing that makes mincemeat out of Spectres? Guess how fondly you'll look on it when you realize it's ''weeping''. The building blocks of Wraith technology are forged from Wraiths themselves. Technically speaking, the consciousness ''should'' be extinguished, but Nhudri (the first Artificier) had to make examples of some of his underlings for "haphazard work," and there ''are'' high-level Arcanoi that allow you to draw knowledge from forged souls.
** [[FromBadToWorse Even]] [[SenselessSacrifice worse]] when you learn that [[UsefulNotes/ChineseFuneraryCustoms hell money]] can send just about anything you want to the other side.
* BackFromTheDead: In a way. It's possible to permanently yield some power to your Shadow in order to reenter your body and become one of the Risen until you take care of some unfinished business. Yup; you become Franchise/TheCrow.
* BeethovenWasAnAlienSpy: Imagine that nearly all the historical figures from the other gamelines that weren't secretly a supernatural end up in the Shadowlands eventually. On the actual "historical influence" level, it's revealed that Guy de Maupassant's nervous breakdown and death was the result of his pissed-off brother's wraith, who screwed with his dreams using Phantasm, and the reason all the other game lines thought they could count Rasputin among their ranks is because Rasputin's ghost used Puppetry to screw with them.
* BlackBugRoom: Harrowings. If your corpus is damaged past the point of coherency, you end up facing down your own worst nightmares, proudly fueled by Oblivion.
* CosmicHorrorStory: You're stuck in a godless afterlife facing down the soldiers of Oblivion, one of which has a key position in the back of your mind. Have fun.
* CrapsackWorld: Not only is this the World of Darkness, but you're "living" in the [[UpToEleven darkest, grimmest, most hopeless place in it!]]
** [[PlayingWithATrope Played With]] -- And yet, as many fans loved to point out, it was weirdly the most hopeful of the settings. Managing to resolve your fetters and passions, thus ascending out of the Shadowlands was a very attainable goal, putting it way ahead of the all but impossible existential goals from [[TabletopGame/VampireTheMasquerade Vampire]] and [[TabletopGame/WerewolfTheApocalypse Werewolf]], the at-the-very-least highly unlikely goals of [[TabletopGame/MageTheAscension Mage]], or the no-kidding-you're-screwed-no-way-out nihilism of [[TabletopGame/ChangelingTheDreaming Changeling]].
* CreepyChild: The Striplings, Spectres of those who died before they went past 10 years old. Form a society unto themselves, with their own Malfean. Even other Spectres (including the Malfeans) find them creepy.
** {{Crossover}} example: the baby ghosts of dead [[TabletopGame/WerewolfTheApocalypse werelizards!]] The procreative biology of werecreatures is such that when they "inbreed", the result is usually a creature whose ShapeshifterDefaultForm in which they're born isn't human or animal, but their race's war form. Turns out that when you create your own [[OneWingedAngel war]] [[MixAndMatchCritter form]] by dreaming it up like the lizards do, ''it's helpful to first have a standard form in which you can dream''. The so-called Innocents are thus stillborn and their ghosts are [[AxCrazy not happy]] about it.
* {{Crossover}}: The supplement ''Ghost Towns'' is a crossover with ''[[TabletopGame/WerewolfTheApocalypse Werewolf: The]] WildWest''.
** ''TabletopGame/MummyTheResurrection'' has mummies [[OffstageWaitingRoom loitering]] in the [[TheUnderworld Shadowlands]] between deaths [[DerailedTrainOfThought and playing their little mind games, saying things like "You may be dead, but in the morning I'll be better!"]]
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: Wraith was one of the TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness' less popular titles, and this criticism was frequently leveled at it. It even extends in universe. Many a wraith can easily fall to Oblivion through simple despair.
* DeadAllAlong: The premise of the game, though some Storytellers run a brief [[{{Death}} mort]][[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin al campaign]] [[BaitAndSwitch first.]]
* DeaderThanDead: Soulforging is often considered a form of this.
** Falling into [[PowerOfTheVoid Oblivion]] will do this to anything.
* DealWithTheDevil: The Shadow is capable of offering temporary rewards to its host if they give it a little bit of power.
** The supplement, Risen, is basically a guide on how to turn your wraith into [[Franchise/TheCrow the Crow]], but the most important step, after still having a corpse, is begging your Shadow to let you get back into your corpse.
* DreamWeaver: The Sandmen, masters of the Phantasm Arcanos.
* EldritchAbomination: The Neverborn are entities born directly of necrotic essence, intertwined with the power of Oblivion. They maintain the HiveMind network that runs through all the Spectres and seek to devour reality. And then there's the Kraken, an enormous tentacled monstrosity that occasionally pokes bits of itself into the Shadowlands and is believed by many to be an Eldritch Abomination of some sort.
* ElectromagneticGhosts: Artificers, wraiths who learn the Inhabit Arcanos, can [[HauntedTechnology possess machines]] and even travel along communication networks.
* TheEmpire: Stygia, as embodied by the Hierarchy.
* EnemyWithin: The Shadow, which keeps trying to get you to make deals with it and give into its will. Ironically, Spectres ''also'' have an EnemyWithin, the Psyche, that drives them to remember who they were in life and do good things.
* EpiphanicPrison: Transcendence can be achieved by fusing the Shadow and the Eidolon, [[CrowningMomentOfHeartWarming essentially accepting that though your life had both its good sides and bad sides,]] [[{{Tearjerker}} it was worth living, and no matter how much it hurt first, the time has come to move on.]] [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome You may have not been able to achieve every last thing you wanted, but no person ever can. But you did enough - you felt enough, loved enough, and made enough, and what matters is that to you, it's really enough. So you sprout great wings of light, and soar towards Heaven.]]
* EscapedFromHell: Characters can under certain circumstances claw their way back into the lands of the living as Risen. Even though they just reek of ''Franchise/TheCrow'', the white face paint is not obligatory.
* EvilIsEasy: One book eventually revealed that Spectres have an EnemyWithin, the Psyche, that was able to cause a HeelFaceTurn. Of course, the odds of that happening were ''much'' lower than a Shadow causing a Wraith to undergo a FaceHeelTurn.
* FateWorseThanDeath: Oh, are there ''ever''. First of all, there's becoming a Spectre, which means your self is lost to eternity as you become a foot soldier for Oblivion. And then there's soulforging, wherein you are sentenced by the Hierarchy for crimes you have committed (or even ones you haven't) to have your corpus ''boiled into molten ore and forged into an object.'' Those who carry soulsteel swear they can hear it ''weeping'' at times.
* FunctionalMagic: The Arcanoi, Inherent Gifts based on manipulation of life energy.
* [[GhostStory Ghost Stories]]
* HauntedHouse / [[HauntedCastle Castle]]: There are Arcanoi devoted to hijinks you can use on [[Film/{{Beetlejuice}} people who mess with your former home.]]
** Likewise, wraiths often seek out Haunts as places to rest up and take shelter from Maelstroms. They can be as small as closets or as big as the Winchester Mystery House, but they do provide some measure of comfort.
* TheHeartless: Shadows and Spectres.
* HopelessWar: Stygia's war against the [[FarEast Dark Kingdom of Jade]], which pits the ghosts of the Western world against the even bleaker tyranny of the first and greatest of the Chinese emperors, who now rules all the dead of Asia in death as he ruled the living in life.
* HumanoidAbomination: The Onceborn. As opposed to the Neverborn, they were human at one point, but they were such bastards that upon death, they plummeted right into becoming Spectres, and then ascended to the grand ranks of the Malfeans.
* HumansAreBastards and/or {{Tearjerker}}: ''Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah'' deals with Wraiths spawned from the Holocaust. There's no "BeethovenWasAnAlienSpy" here; humans are perfectly capable of atrocities on their own. It is considered by some to be the single darkest sourcebook White Wolf has ever released. While many titles in the Black Dog line were simply RatedMForMoney, this one truly is ''not'' for the faint of heart.
* ISeeDeadPeople: Mediums, or anyone if the wraith has Embody.
* MagicalSociety: The Guilds, organisations specializing in a particular Arcanos, who each fill a particular role in wraith society:
** Artificers, masters of Inhabit, the ability to possess and control inanimate objects.
** Chanteurs, masters of Keening, the ability to evoke emotion through song.
** Harbringers, masters of Argos, the ability to traverse the Tempest.
** Haunters, masters of Pandemonium, able to create strange and unnatural effects in the Skinlands.
** Masquers, masters of Moliate, the ability to reshape the wraithly corpus.
** Monitors, masters of Lifeweb, manipulating the connections between wraiths and their Fetters.
** Oracles, masters of Fatalism, the art of seeing the past and future.
** Pardoners, masters of Castigate, the ability to protect against the Shadow and Oblivion.
** Proctors, masters of Embody, the ability to physically manifest in the Skinlands.
** Puppeteers, masters of Puppetry, the art of possessing the bodies of the living.
** Sandmen, masters of Phantasm, the art of dream-shaping.
** Spooks, masters of Outrage, the art of wraithly {{telekinesis}}.
** Usurers, masters of Usury, the transfer of Pathos and Corpus.
** There were also three Forbidden Guilds, banned for the abuse of their talents:
*** Alchemists, masters of Flux, the ability to strengthen or erode inanimate objects.
*** Mnemoi, masters of Mnemosynis, the art of memory exploration and manipulation.
*** Solicitors, masters of Intimation, the ability to create and remove desire.
* {{Mana}}: Pathos, emotional energy that wraiths gather by feasting on examples of their guiding Passions.
* MarkOfTheSupernatural: Practice of most Arcanoi leaves an identifying mark on a wraith, from the black eyes of Argos to the odd mannerisms of Pandemonium.
* MeatPuppet: Made possible with the [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Puppetry]] Arcanos.
* TheNecrocracy: The Hierarchy, rulers and supporters of Stygia, the Dark Kingdom of Iron. There are several other Kingdoms in the Shadowlands, such as the Dark Kingdom of Jade (the Far East); some (such as the Dark Kingdom of Obsidian, the {{Mayincatec}} Shadowlands) were even wiped out by an expansionist Stygia.
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: They're either perfectly reasonable folks tied to this world by old bonds... or evil spirits bent on destruction.
* PowerOfTheVoid: You ''saw'' the title, right? Same thing applies to all Oblivion's soldiers -- the Neverborn, the Onceborn, and the Spectres alike.
** [[TheseAreThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow Looking at it]] even drives gods ''[[UpToEleven and the things that made those gods]]'' insane. You don't want to know what it will do to you.
* [[RecycledInSpace Recycled IN DEATH!]]: ''Wraith: [-THE GREAT WAR!-]'' (one of the very few games of any medium based on WorldWarOne) and ''Dark Kingdom of Jade'' (Wraiths [-OF THE EAST!-]) There were actually several Dark Kingdoms based on different cultures, but Jade is the only one that got its own book; the rest of the non-North American/European kingdoms were detailed in the ''Wraith Player's Guide''.
** Averted in ''Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah'', which was ''not'' Wraiths of the Holocaust, but instead a respectful look at the horrors of what transpired and its massively devastating effect on the Shadowlands.
** In a more literal example, certain items that are destroyed will make their way into the Shadowlands, from guns to [[UsefulNotes/TheHindenburg rigid airships.]]
* {{Seers}}: The Oracles' Guild, practitioners of the Fatalism Arcanos.
* {{Shapeshifting}}: The purview of the Masquers, who practice the Moliate Arcanos.
* ShoutOut:
** Compare [[http://i297.photobucket.com/albums/mm224/Zenoseiya/wraith2epg207.jpg this artwork from page 207]] of the Wraith 2nd edition rulebook to [[http://www.gnosis.art.pl/iluminatornia/sztuka_o_inspiracji/zdzislaw_beksinski/zdzislaw_beksinski_1971.jpg this piece painted by Zdzislaw Beksinski]].
** The {{Splat}}book ''Pardoners and Puppeteers'' has a spirit modelled on Creator/JimHenson. He is, of course, a Puppeteer.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: The game's occupation of an extremely interesting point along it is often brought up as one of its main points of appeal. On the one hand, on the surface, it appears to be by far the most depressing of the World of Darkness games: it ''opens'' with the characters being not only dead, but spiritually unfulfilled and on the verge of succumbing to the cosmic force of nihilism. The book is gray and filled with extremely depressing imagery, and the setting is established on suffering and despair. At the same time, it's the ''only'' World of Darkness game in which "victory" is not just a theoretical, distant possibility (like Golconda or Ascension), but a realistic ([[EarnYourHappyEnding albeit extremely hard to achieve]]) goal. Being a wraith in the Underworld might be an incredibly horrible existence, but if you're brave, wise and compassionate enough, you ''can'' [[EpiphanicPrison attain Transcendence and Move On into the true afterlife, leaving all suffering behind you.]]
* SpiritAdvisor: Played straight with a Spectre's Psyche, subverted with a Wraith's Shadow.
* UnfinishedBusiness: Represented mechanically by Passions and Fetters.
* VideoGameCrueltyPotential: In some editions, it was recommended that the ''players'', not the Storyteller, provide the voices of another character's Shadow. That went over real well, I bet.
** As a matter of fact, it did. It's not like they have any more motivation than the GM to screw you over with this - on the contrary, a shadow that is too active can actually doom the entire group, including the shadow's player's character.
*** The book in question actually gave percentages involved for just how cruel things could be - generally, about a limit of 25% of the game involving "Shadow play," as it was called, was considered reasonable. Beyond that runs into the tabletop version of this trope.
** There's one more version of the game, with the Shadows having their own players - every character is then played by two people, one of which has completely no reason not to be active.
* WorldWreckingWave: ''Six'' of them. Five of the Great Maelstroms were caused by historical events that thrust large numbers of the dead into the Underworld: the fall of Rome, the Black Plague, the Conquest of the Americas, World War I and the Spanish Flu, and World War II, the atom bombs, and the Holocaust. The relic of one of said atom bombs caused the Sixth and final Great Maelstrom when it was accidentally set off near the mouth of Oblivion.