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Tabletop Game / Wraith: The Arising

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"Make sure to send a lazy man the angel of death."
In the beginning was the Word.
The Word was Light — the Light was Life.
The Gods found them Good and Gold.

Nothing Good and Gold can stay.

The Book of Old Times, first Stanza

Wraith: The Arising is a remake of Wraith: The Oblivion set in the New World of Darkness, with some elements of Orpheus and Exalted: The Abyssals, written by J. Edward Tremlett and Chris Jackson and with some illustrations by artists Taz Jurz and Lost Soul. The story behind the game's genesis is explained in its Statement of Intent. A compendium of the book has been created for download here [1]

Every Wraith is visually and mentally marked by the way they died. Each Death carries its own benefits and flaws:

  • Wraiths of Violence died by the hand of another person. They find it easier to induce fear and move objects, but may fall prey to their Shadow more easily.
  • Wraiths of Sickness & Starvation died of disease or deprivation. They find easier to manipulate the living and create phantasmal effects, but are surrounded by a sickly miasma that is off-putting to others.
  • Wraiths of Old Age died when their aged bodies could no longer sustain themselves. They find it easier to manipulate the living and inanimate objects, but are more prone to Ossification.
  • Wraiths of Happenstance died in an accident. They find it easier to move objects and manipulate fortune, but sometimes suffer flashbacks to their deaths.
  • Wraiths of Insanity died when their minds failed. They find easier to induce fear and fight the Shadow, but are permanently deranged in some mild fashion.
  • Wraiths of Mystery don't know how they died. They may be particularly skilled in any single Numen, but are compelled to find out how they died.
  • Wraiths of Fate died because Fate decided it must be so. They find easier to create phantasmal effects and manipulate fortune, but risk becoming puppets of Fate.

All Wraiths are cursed with a voice in their head known as the Shadow, a reflection of all the darkest aspects of their personality, or in some cases, the positive aspects taken to cruel extremes. The Shadow exists to indulge itself at the expense of the Wraith in question, but they may prove to be useful allies if one can accept the cost. Shadows are able to manipulate their host by using Thorns, which can produce things like hallucinations or Freudian slips. While every Shadow is unique, they are generally categorized by a personality "type" that follows certain parameters:

  • The Martyr, Shadows of Charity
  • The Zealot, Shadows of Faith
  • The Complicated, Shadows of Fortitude
  • The Deluded, Shadows of Hope
  • The Vigilante, Shadows of Justice
  • The Coward, Shadows of Prudence
  • The Restrainer, Shadows of Temperance
  • The Jealous, Shadows of Envy
  • The Pig, Shadows of Gluttony
  • The Hoarder, Shadows of Greed
  • The Violator, Shadows of Lust
  • The Primadonna, Shadows of Pride
  • The Lump, Shadows of Sloth
  • The Rager, Shadows of Wrath

Because of the Shadow, all Wraiths have a risk of becoming one of the Lost, Wraiths who have lost touch with reality due to the meddling of their Shadows (but frighteningly, this is not always apparent to others), or one of the Damned, Wraiths who have been permanently subsumed by their Shadows and exist only to cause suffering and destruction.

In the distant past, when enough Wraiths congregated together, they formed political and philosophical factions known as the Concords, which exist to this day:

  • Believers, who believe that Paradise exists beyond the Barrier. They see the Ferrymen as angels, and devoutly follow their few words. Their faith puts them at odds with the Pardoners, but they usually get along with the Order. The Believers are the proprietors of the Anchorage Numen, which lets them provide valuable Anchor-related services to other Wraiths, including the creation of new Anchors. However, following the concord's faith requires them to slowly relinquish the ties to their own Anchors.
  • Freewraiths, who choose to live by their own rules without regard for the Injunction, seeing the Ferrymen and the Order as liars and fools. They are the proprietors of the Shaping Numen, which they use to produce goods to sell to the other Concords. Those who join the Freewraiths have the "colors" of their allegiance tattooed to their Corpus.
  • Haunters, who take the common practice of haunting the living to cruel extremes. All the other Concords distrust them, in many cases to the point of violence. Even amongst themselves, they do not tolerate mistakes.
  • Messengers, who act as guardians and angels to the living. They are the proprietors of the Regis Numen, allowing them to read and control the minds of others. As part of their initiation, they are mystically bound to protect human life.
  • The Order, a quasi-religious society that follows (and enforces) the Injunction, a series of laws laid down by Charon in ancient times. As part of their faith, they venerate Charon and other Etruscan deities, awaiting the "Day of Injunction" when the dead may enter the Underworld. As part of their initiation, members are mystically bound to uphold the Injunction, and must pay a tithe to the Order.
  • Pardoners, who wage war against the Shadow and are constantly on the lookout for the Lost and the Damned. In contrast to the Order and the Believers, they see the Ferrymen as literal demons. They are the proprietors of the Castigate and Shaping Numina, but their initiation requires them to permanently sacrifice some of their strength to their Shadow, making it stronger than the Wraiths of other Concords.

Wraiths are not alone in their twilight state. Joining them are the Ferrymen, enigmatic hooded figures that may serve the role of Psychopomps. The Ferrymen rarely speak, save to tell the Wraiths to "have faith." If they are not careful, and wander to the outskirts of the Necropolis, a Wraith may encounter Reapers, armored beings that hunt ghosts for sport and drag them off to some horrible fate. Even worse are the Dark Walkers, vicious killers similar to Ferrymen at a distance, given away by their inability to speak. All of these beings originate from beyond the Barrier, an imaginary wall that separates the land of the living from the Underworld, the "true" afterlife, which virtually no Wraith has ever seen. Those rare few that claim to have traveled beyond and returned are invariably insane, making it impossible to determine the truth of their claims.

Wraiths may learn supernatural powers known as Numina, which allow them to interact with and manipulate the world around them. There are several different kinds of Numina, each with their own purviews. Numina are generally separated into Paths, which each manipulate a different aspect of that Numen.

  • Anchorage, which manipulates Anchors.
  • Bios, which manipulates the bodies of the living.
  • Castigate, which actively defies the Shadow.
  • Decay, which manipulates inanimate objects.
  • Embody, which creates illusory and physical manifestations visible to the living. It has no set paths.
  • Fate, which manipulates destiny and chance.
  • Fear, which manipulates waking nightmares and hallucinations.
  • Kinesis, which manipulates force, allowing the Wraith to touch and move objects and people.
  • Regis, which manipulates the minds of the living and dead.
  • Shaping, which manipulates Essence, the substance of the dead.

A character sheet has been made by both MrGone and Renfield286. Unfortunately, the game was never finished, although it is in a playable state. The project has been retaken by user Faust91x. Hooray! The updated e-book can now be downloaded from [2]

This game contains examples of:

  • Ancient Tomb: The Catacombs are essentially a gigantic network of tombs, accessible only to Wraiths. This overlaps slightly with Dungeon Crawling, as one of the reasons for entering the Catacombs is to acquire Relics (ghostly doubles of Liveworld objects). The Catacombs are also home to religious shrines.
  • And I Must Scream: The Freewraiths use this as a threat to those who serious piss them off. Ossification is, thankfully, the exact opposite.
  • Angst Coma: Some Wraiths come to think that this mockery of existence is pointless, and just stop interacting with the world. As their activity slows down and stops, their bodies begin to Ossify, their Corpus turning as white and unyielding as marble, cobwebs and chains appearing around their bodies to physically bind them where they stand. If the process is not stopped, the Wraith eventually turns into a lifeless statue, and forever falls Asleep unless charitable Wraiths decide to wake her up.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: If a Wraith can resolve their ties to life, without falling prey to their Shadow or to Ossification, they can move on to the next life. Wraiths call this fabled goal Transcendance, but few of them take it seriously.
  • Back from the Dead: Rejuvenating and reanimating a corpse, any corpse, is a simple matter of possessing the right Bios Arts.
  • Badass Preacher: One nickname for the Pardoners is "shotgun priests." Sometimes quite literally.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Wraith society often runs these, referring to them simply as Markets. The Freewraiths have a virtual monopoly on these, as they jealousy guard the secrets of the Shaping Numen, which allows users to create nearly any objects imaginable out of Corpus (ghost flesh).
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Wraiths will begin to slowly grow uglier and uglier if their Shadow becomes more and more powerful, and we mean ugly. The horrifying and grotesque appearances of the Damned reflect their black, tortured souls.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Within the labyrinthine depths of the Catacombs, distances often behaves strangely. For example, if a Wraith has visited a particular landmark before, they will find it quicker to travel there on subsequent visits. Hypothetically, the Catacombs may be nearly infinite in size.
  • Body Horror: Higher levels of Embody can create some truly freakish visual effects. Meanwhile, higher levels of the Bios Path of Change allow the Wraith to severely alter their host's body. The Shaping Path of Flesh can allow Wraiths the do the same thing to themselves; using Shaping to do this sort of thing is typically prohibited by the Concords, since extreme transformations can easily skirt the line into the horrific appearances of the Damned. The Damned are always freakishly hideous and unnatural-looking, and the symptoms of Thorns can cause lesser effects on ordinary Wraiths.
  • Canon Discontinuity: As Arising was written when the new World of Darkness was still only a year or two old, it contradicts the information presented in Geist: The Sin-Eaters and Book of the Dead. This is mandatory, as the standard setting precludes the existence of any kind of spiritual sequel to Oblivion.
  • Church Militant: The Pardoners. They wage war on the Shadow.
  • Council of Angels: The Order and the Believers consider the Ferrymen to be this, but for different reasons as their respective religions are vastly different. The Ferrymen are quite mysterious because so little is known about them, and they refuse to answers questions related to religion other than to say some variation of the phrase "have faith."
  • Dead All Along: Sleepers are often unaware that they are, in fact, dead. This always their first shock if they go through an Awakening.
  • Dead to Begin With: The entire premise.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Shadow can offer these. Whatever you do, do not accept them, no matter how appetizing they appear.
  • Delinquents: The Order considers the Freewraiths to be like this, and some of them are. However, most of the Freewraiths are simply not interested in following the rules of Order, and are otherwise generally decent people.
  • Dream Weaver: The Fear Numen's Path of Nightmares allows for visiting and controlling dreams, of both the living and the dead.
  • Eldritch Abomination: This is the standard for the Damned, the Reapers and the Dark Walkers, as well as the strange creatures that sometimes appear in the Wilderness follow this formula. It's possible that this is true for the Ferrymen, but they are quite benevolent compared to other examples.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: The Decay Numen's Path of Animation allows for possessing objects, and certain Arts allow for riding across telephone lines or surfing the web.
  • Enemy Within: The Shadow.
  • Energy Economy: Essence is considered a valuable commodity, and Wraiths will trade different flavors of it for favors and other rewards. It is common practice to charge the Wraiths that live in a given Concord's Domain (Wraiths unaffiliated with that Concord are usually given leeway), payments usually taking the form of Essence. Favors are also a valuable commodity, their fulfillment being an actual law called the Rule of Four, and anyone who doesn't payback their debts will have to answer to the Magistrates in charge.
  • Epiphanic Prison: The state of being (un)dead. No one really knows why they're a ghost, and everyone has their own answer for escaping.
  • Fan Art: Italian artist Darcad drew this sketch of his Believer character. Taz Jurs also painted this image of a Reaper.
  • Fate Worse than Death: There are quite a few of these, actually. A Wraith might become Lost, Damned, Ossified, or paralyzed in a state of perpetual agony.
  • Freudian Slip: One of Thorns allows the Shadow to take control of the Wraith's voice for one breath, and say mean-spirited things or point out denied truths. This Thorn is known as "Speak Evil" (see Monkey Morality Pose, below).
  • Functional Magic — The Numina.
  • Generic Ethnic Crime Gang — Quite a few of the Freewraiths are actual criminals by the standards of the Order. They even go so far as to permanently tattoo their "colors" onto their members' bodies.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Obviously, those who died by Mystery do not remember the details of their death. Sleepers are trapped in a perpetual state of this (see Trauma-Induced Amnesia, below).
  • Ghostly Goals: All ghosts initially start out as Type As, which are colloquially known as Sleepers. The role of Type B ghosts is fulfilled by the worst of the Haunters.
  • Ghost Story: The premise, except that the main characters are the ghosts (and aware of this fact), as opposed to being the people who are haunted.
  • Haunted House: Unsurprisingly, Wraiths tend to live in these. Any anchor that happens to be a building, a copse of trees, a pool of water, a tour bus, or any location really, is known as a Haunt.
  • Haunted Technology: Wraiths can have mechanical or electronic objects as Anchors, which will exhibit weird behavior even when the Wraith isn't physically present. The Decay Numen allows a Wraith to enter and eventually control such objects at will, including traveling across power lines or even through the internet.
  • Have You Seen My God?: According to the Order's official history, their founder was the Etrsucan god Charun. Charun vanished millennia ago beyond the Barrier, claiming he would one day return, so the Order steadfastly awaits his return.
  • The Heartless: If a Wraith falls to her Shadow, she becomes one of the Damned and falls across the Barrier, occasionally returning in a monstrous form to to wreak havoc on any ghosts and living they can get their claws on. The Damned are insane and homicidal (but not stupid, having the ability to wait patiently and lay traps for the unwary), even attacking other Damned if they ever come face-to-face (which is the most reliable way to kill one).
  • Heroic BSoD: A Wraith is provoked into one of these by losing an Anchor, performing a cruel and selfish action without remorse, or seeing anything that reminds them of their death. This gives the Shadow a free chance at taking control of their body or forcing the Wraith into a Harrowing, depending on the stimulus.
  • Intangible Man: Wraiths exist in a state known as Twilight, where they may freely pass through physical objects and are invisible to the living, unless they wish to be seen. A Wraith's ethereal flesh is referred to as Corpus.
    • Taking cues directly from Orpheus, even the most recently deceased Wraith is able to materialize and pass (mostly) for human, partially negating much of Oblivion's angst about being separated from the living. However, simple manifestations are not nearly as useful as using Numina, as the Wraith is cold, pale, physically weak, and unless they achieve a Critical Hit the effect lasts only for a few moments.
  • I See Dead People: Mediums, Projectors, and certain Consorts can perceive Wraiths. This can lead to some interesting situations.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Objects that are buried with the deceased (regardless of whether they become ghosts or not) will develop ghostly doubles known as Relics, and as long as the object continues to remain mostly intact in the Liveworld, the Relic will continue to exist for use by ghosts.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Oblivion, at the least. Ghosts are no longer hopelessly separated from the living and slavery is no longer the norm. The reason why Arising dropped many of the structures and conventions of Oblivion was to avoid Too Bleak, Stopped Caring. YMMV as to how well that works.
  • Magical Society: Each of the Concords is one of these, more or less. Some of them even have proprietary powers.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Wraiths frown on the use of masks, as these make it more difficult to use perception-based Affinities and Numina on the wearer. Wraiths place great emphasis on being exactly who and what you are, and anyone wearing a mask might be a potential Damned soul lying in wait.
  • Mana: Wraiths cannot exist without a continuous source of Essence (spiritual energy), which they usually obtain from their Anchors (or someone else's). Less commonly, they obtain it from the emotions produced when they haunt the living, when it is given freely by other Wraiths (using the Shaping Numen), or by stealing it (also using the Shaping Numen). Essence is used to power the effects of Numina and more quickly repair damage to a Wraith's Corpus.
  • Meat Puppet: These can be created using the Bios Numen's Path of Control.
  • Monkey Morality Pose: This is reference and inverted by a trio of Thorns: Speak Evil (see Freudian Slip, above), See Evil, and Hear Evil. The latter two allow the Shadow to manipulate the Wraith's senses to a certain degree.
  • The Necrocracy: This is the stated purpose of the Order, and to a lesser degree the other Concords. Any city inhabited by Wraiths is known as a Necropolis, and is usually split amongst multiple necrocracies in the form of the Concords. The Order and the Freewraiths are most politically-focused of the Concords.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Even within the game ghosts come in several varieties. The basic division is between Sleepers (ghosts trapped in a fugue state) and Arisen (fully self-aware ghosts). The Arisen are further divided by their manner of Death. Then Wraiths can become Lost or Damned. And then there are the Ferrymen, Dark Walkers, Reapers, and whatever weird fauna from beyond the Barrier that make forays into the Wilderness.
  • Permadeath: If a Wraith suffers enough damage to their corpus, they can be permanently destroyed. This happens rarely however, and the Wraith is usually forced into a temporary state of "limbo," where they must fight with their Shadow for the right to reform at one of their Anchors. If the Shadow succeeds, however, they cease to exist.
  • Place of Power: Haunts act as these, providing valuable Essence to any ghost who enters, not just the one who owns it. As a result, Haunts are considered valuable property by the Concords due to both this and the security they provide. In fact, the Concords play a complex political game known as the "Game of Houses," where they collect Haunts to increase the power of their Domains at cross-purposes to one another.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: When a Shadow accumulates enough Tainted Essence, they can attempt to force the Wraith into a Harrowing. The Harrowing is a psychodrama that takes place inside the Wraith's mind, which can be a Black Bug Room, but not always. At the end, the Shadow presents the Wraith with a choice, and if she fails, the Shadow gains Angst, a measure of its permanent power over the Wraith.
  • The Schizophrenia Conspiracy: The Thorn known as "Alternate Reality" (and to a lesser degree other Thorns, see Monkey Morality Pose, above) allows a Shadow to trap her Wraith in a state of delusion, making him see, hear, and do whatever she wants him to. A Wraith in this state is known as the Lost.
  • Seers: Ghosts with the Fate Numen, to varying degrees. Fate is divided into seeing what will happen, influencing what may happen, and just wandering until you get a Contrived Coincidence.
  • Shadowland: Places where the Deadworld and the Liveworld meet are known as Shadowlands. Created by negative emotional energy, ghosts may freely interact with the living in these places as though they were fully solid. Due to their exceptional creepiness, ghosts also tend to stay away from these places.
    • The concept of a shadowy reflection can also be applied to the Deadlands itself, but to a much lesser degree than in Oblivion. The Deadlands are not actually a plane of existence, but a state of being, like that presented in Orpheus.
  • Shapeshifting: The Shaping Numen. It's divided into Flesh (creating objects out of corpus, transforming your physical features, becoming a jigsaw person, etc), Power (trading and collecting Essence), and Transmutation (converting between Corpus and Essence and vice versa).
  • Short Story: Tremlett wrote two short stories for the game, Stupid Little Fears and Old Scars for New Days.
  • Shout-Out: As a spiritual sequel to Oblivion, this is par the course. Tremlett deliberately seeded the text with numerous Easter Eggs.
    • Grave Goods and Shadowlands are concepts borrowed from Exalted: The Abyssals.
    • The Barrier is a reference to the Stormwall in Orpheus, serving as a boundary between the Deadlands and... whatever exists on the other side.
    • The Concords are reimaginings of a few of the factions and guilds in Oblivion. The Order, Believers, and Freewraiths can all trace their origins back to the Hierarchy, Heretics, and Renegades, but are also quite different in nature and tone. The Ferrymen are a much more mysterious counterpart of the faction of the same name in Oblivion: for one thing, they're not the ghosts of dead people, but actual psychopomps. Similarly, the Reapers are a much more malevolent counterpart to the profession of the same name in Oblivion.
    • Many of the nicknames for users of specific Numina are taken directly from Oblivion, but they are often switched around since the author wanted to keep familiar readers on their toes. Furthermore, the Numina are revised expansions of Oblivion's Arcanoi; the Lexicon even states that Arcanos is an archaic term for Numen.
    • Projectors are mentioned as possible allies or antagonists.
    • The section on anchors mentions possibilities for haunted cars, haunted dollhouses, haunted video tapes, haunted beds, and haunted cats, among other things.
    • Anchors are essentially a combination of Oblivion's Passions and Fetters.
    • The "History and Other Myths" subchapter includes oblique references to the cosmology of Oblivion, End of Empires, the Time of Judgement metaplot, and the publication of the new World of Darkness. In particular, the Red Star is identified with the Star of Bethlehem and it is implied that "the Sundering" was a result of Jesus' crucifixion.
  • Splat: The way a Wraith died and what kind of personality their Shadow has play a much larger role in the rules than in Oblivion. This would predict a similar trend in Geist: The Sin-Eaters.
  • Spirit Advisor: Shadows often try to be these, though their "advice" is given only to further their own goals.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: When a Wraith becomes so angry or upset that he enters into an agreement to temporarily share power with his Shadow, known as Shadowstate. This allows the Wraith to turn his Shadow's Thorns on those around him, playing merry havoc with their perceptions of reality.
  • Super-Senses: In death, a Wraith's senses are heightened to a degree only dreamed of by the living, but they perceive the world through the lens of death: everything alive appears blurred and grey, while other ghosts stand out like beacons. Wraiths can sense the distance and depth of emotions, determine the health of objects and people, and even have brief premonitions.
  • The Theocracy: The Order. They worship ancient Etruscan deities, and venerate Charun as their founder.
  • Threshold Guardians: The Concords create things known as Terms to mark boundaries, using Numina like Shaping or Regis. These range across simple warning signs, intruder alarms, the ghostly equivalent of security cameras, and monoliths that can hold conversations. Some of these Terms may be the unfortunate victims of the Shaping Numen, while others manifest as feelings of dread or other programmed sensations instead of actual objects.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Judicious use of the right Thorns can result in game sessions, perhaps entire chronicles, turning into this.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Ghosts spend their existence in a dreaming state called the Fugue, unaware of their death and mindlessly haunting their Anchors. However, some ghosts realize the truth and wake up from this state, and these lucky (or unlucky) ghosts are known as Wraiths.
  • Unfinished Business: All ghosts possess Anchors: objects, people, or places that were important to them in life (or became so at their death). A ghost cannot exist without their anchors, which provide them with the essence they need to stay around. If all of a ghost's anchors are destroyed, the ghost simply vanishes, never to be seen again.
    • Each anchor has an associated emotion. When the Wraith recharges their Essence, this emotion will color the Essence gained.
  • World-Wrecking Wave: Occasionally, hurricane-strength Storms will burst from across the Barrier and ravage the Deadlands for a short time. These are localized events (typically ranging from one building and its immediate surroundings to the entire necropolis) which are set off by extremely negative events in the Liveworld. Storms are usually inhabited by the Damned, and are the only times when they both appear in large numbers and don't attack each other on sight.