Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 8: Wraith: the Oblivion

Wraith: the Oblivion was the fourth WoD core game, and the first one not to be a long-term success.  This is partially by design: Mark ReinHagen felt that a game about ghosts shouldn’t be simple and taken lightly, so it included a system in which each PC has a dark side, known as the Shadow, that is controlled by another player.  While this was an interesting and original mechanic, it also required strong roleplaying skills and mature players (WtO is the first RPG I know of to include safewords).  This limited its audience from the beginning.

Other factors that held the game back were the game’s art design (extremely gray, and with a hard-to-read logo) and the fact that it didn’t play well with others.  Even in a setting that ostensibly wasn’t intended for inter-game crossovers, that sort of game wasn’t uncommon, and a vampire, werewolf and mage could interact face-to-face and fight the same foes.  However, it was difficult for wraiths to interact with the world of the living, and vice-versa, and to find an enemy that they could all interact with. (Note that in the crossover-friendlier nWoD, the PCs of the similarly-themed Geist aren’t ghosts themselves.)

As a result, Wraith became the only oWoD game to end its metaplot early, compressing a few years’ worth into one supplement, Ends of Empire (see below).  Only 32 game products were released for it in total, which is a major drop from the first three games.  This makes it one of the easier game lines to collect, although there are a few books that are rare/expensive.

Core rulebooks.  There are two of these, the paperback 1st edition and the hardcover 2nd edition.  Their price can fluctuate and may run higher than some of the others, but it should be possible to find 2nd edition for $15 and 1st for $10 or less.

Core supplements. The key supplements here are the Players Guide and Shadow Players Guide.  Neither is terribly expensive (the Shadow book generally runs to double digits but not more than $15-20) but they’re the most important from a play perspective.  There are also books/booklets that came with the screens, but no Storytellers Guide.

Splatbooks. These are called Guildbooks, and were somewhat compressed by the decline of the game line.  There are six, but two of them cover two Guilds each.  Ends of Empire also include a mini-Guildbook for a Guild that’s critical to the metaplot.  The single Guildbooks run $10 or less, while the double books can run up to $25 (being later, less common and higher demand).

On the splats, it’s worth noting that Wraith was unusual in that they didn’t define characters the way they did in most other games–the only group a character intrinsically belongs to is their Legion, which is determined by the method of their death, but that doesn’t mean that the character actually serves their Deathlord.  The Guilds are groups that have mastered a particular Arcanos (and are mostly underground), but group membership isn’t required to learn at least the basic powers, and they aren’t as strictly defined as clans or tribes are. There are 15 total, some of which are more important than others.

Screens. There were two Storyteller screens released, with the usual attachments.  There was also a Character Kit, which had a half-height player’s screen, a rules supplement, and a “death certificate”.  None of these are notably rare or expensive, but be sure you’re getting all the components.

Other supplements. The key supplements for the game setting are Book of Legions, Hierarchy, Renegades, and Risen, all of which run $10 or less.  Another key rulebook is Dark Reflections: Spectres, which runs $20 or more and can be hard to find in good condition due to the shiny black cover.  Dark Kingdom of Jade is another book that’s not that expensive but useful to understanding the setting.

One of the rarer books for the setting is Charnel Houses of the Shoah, the Holocaust supplement that was released under the adult Black Dog line.  This was written partially as a teaching tool about the Holocaust in a modern medium, but was both controversial and a difficult read, so I suspect it didn’t sell as much back in the day.  The going rate can vary wildly, from $20 to over $100; right now it’s hovering at $20 on Amazon.

The historical setting for WtO is Wraith: the Great War, set in the aftermath of World War I.  This wasn’t a standalone game; the relatively recent timeframe meant that most of the powers hadn’t changed, and not repeating information from the main rulebook left more room for setting material.  This runs $15-30 at the low end.

The last supplement of note is Ends of Empire, which was the final sourcebook for the game.  This wrapped up the metaplot and explained a number of the setting’s outstanding mysteries.  This is on the less common side, but it can be found in the $15 range with some patience.

One more supplement to note: Face of Death is an oversized art/setting book with no rules content.  There isn’t a lot of demand for it (the best use would be to fill a new player in on the setting more quickly than handing them the rulebook) but since it’s oversized it’s harder to find in good condition.

Merchandise

There isn’t much of this.  The dice set is marbled grey with white numbers, in a box similar to the rulebook cover, and seems to be very rare; I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen it on eBay.  The pin is the image of the key from the rulebook’s cover.  There are some novels, but not too many.  I can’t find any T-shirts on Google (although the existence of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion complicates these searches).

Orpheus

Since this doesn’t warrant an entry on its own, this seemed like the logical place to put it.

Orpheus (no subtitle) was an experimental limited-run game, with a rulebook and five supplements.  The supplements cover the plot of an entire campaign, and also include rules content for new powers, enemies, etc.  WW would later follow the limited-run game model for some of the non-core games in nWoD, such as Promethean and Changeling, though without the running plot.

The game was the last new game for oWoD.  At the start, it involved a company that could project mortals into the realm of the dead, and employed actual ghosts.  Over time, the plotline connected with the Wraith metaplot and revealed what had happened in the land of the dead after WtO ended.  The games aren’t really designed to be used together, but it’s still the closest connection to WtO after the line ended. (Wraith didn’t get a section in the Judgment Day book because it had already wrapped its metaplot.)

The books in the Orpheus line are:

  • Orpheus (main rulebook)
  • Crusade of Ashes
  • Shades of Gray
  • Shadow Games
  • The Orphan-Grinders
  • End Game

Orpheus supplements tend to run to the low end on both supply and demand.  As a late product, there wasn’t a lot produced (End Game was the last pre-hiatus book published for the oWoD) but it’s also of limited interest except to those planning to run it and collectors.  Excepting Wraith, the characters don’t interact with the wider oWoD, which really isn’t referred to at all, and the later supplements aren’t that useful as general sources of ideas.  The supplements work best building on the previous supplements, although there is information for the Storyteller who might have to skip an installment.

For a collector, that means that the main rulebook and End Game run in the range of $15.  The other supplements usually run under $10, and it’s not uncommon to see them in lots on eBay.

Next up: Changeling!  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says, “I’ve got the strangest feeling I’m being turned into a puppet!”

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