Because I've got no life and nothing better to do, I'm going to start the next book right away.
Wraith : the Great War
Introducing the book
I’m a big Wraith fan, and Great War is one of my favorite books in the line (Dark Kingdom of Jade is the other one). It’s a pretty well-written book (in my opinion), and it feels quite playable. There’s certainly a lot of conflicts players can invest themselves in from the get-go, compared to the more Sandbox approach of modern Wraith. Another reason I like it is because I’ve always been highly interested in the First World War. Before I failed out of college for the first time, I was studying to become an historian, and WW1 would have been my specialty. At 234 pages, it’s about twice as big as Charnel Houses. Hopefully the fact that I love the book a lot more will help me not laze out halfway through this time.
Before I start though, a big of context: What the hell is Wraith: the Great? Well, you have to go back to the late 90s, back when White Wolf was at the top of its popularity. One could argue that the late Second Edition to Time of Judgment was White Wolf’s Golden Age, with all kinds of wild experiments, innovation, great books, stuff like Trinity and Exalted, etc. Also a lot of terrible books, some of which have already been covered in this thread. Anyway, things were going pretty well for the World fo Darkness, so they decided to make spin-off games for all of their major WoD gamelines: historical settings. Vampire got Dark Ages (set during the late Middle-Ages instead), Werewolf got Wild West, Mage got Sorcerer’s Crusade (set during the Renaissance) and Wraith got The Great War (set during WW1). Unlike the other three games, Wraith didn’t get any supplements (even Wild West got four). Also a difference from the other three books: it’s not a full corebook. It’s a supplement, including only the rules that are changed for the era it covers, meaning you need the Wraith Second Edition Corebook in order to play the game.
A smart man on a fast motorcycle can outrun the very winds of hell.
Intro Fiction: Waiting out the Storm
First off, before I start talking about the book, I have to mention that the art is pretty great. It’s not nice, nothing in Wraith is nice, but it’s extremely evocative.
The book starts, as usual with White Wolf books, with an introductory fiction. I think it’s pretty good, at least better than most WoD books. A messenger on a motorcycle is trying to reach the Brussels Necropolis before the Maelstrom hits. Unfortunately, he stops to help a new wraith on the way and, because of that, doesn’t reach the city before its gates are closed. So him and the kid hide from the storm in an old house with a mysterious old man. The messenger and the old man then explain to the new wraith what’s going on, a neat way of giving an overview of the setting to the player.
“There’s an Empire of the Dead that’s falling to pieces, and a hole at the heart of the world that wants to swallow everything. There’s a storm going on that’s been blowing for years and doesn’t look like it’s ever going to stop, and armies of the dead marching on each other.”
Here’s the gist of it: during the Battle of the Somme, a Great Maelstrom, one of the great tempests that ravages the lands of the dead and throw a shitload of Spectres at everything and lasts for years, started. Because of it, communications between Stygia and the rest of its Empire have become terrible, and travel is extremely dangerous. Then, the Smiling Lord (lord of those who died of violence) decided to attempt a coup. With Charon mysteriously absent, and his ranks welled by the war-dead, he was pretty successful at first. But there’s a resistance, the other Legions are organizing themselves, and the messenger’s part of it: he carries secret messages through the Storm. The kid leaves, and then the mysterious old man is revealed to be Charon in disguise. Apparently, he decided to take a good look at the Empire from the botoom, and figure out what he was doing and why. The rebellion was “Not unanticipated, but not welcomed either.” The story ends with the messenger getting back on his ghost motorcycle, ready to spread a bit of hope around.
Next time I’ll go over the Introduction, and try to explain the most confusing Wraith jargon.
Here, have some more stuff about dead people.
Wraith: the Great War
In classic White Wolf fashion, every chapter begins with a one-page story. The one before the Intro features a group of Renegades meeting to plan the liberation of London from the forces of the Smiling Lord. Nothing special.
Then we get the Introduction proper. A few paragraphs to set the tone and try to sell the setting (I must say I like the idea of a ghost Zeppelin myself), followed by the description of the book’s contents and a larger lexicon. The time period of Wraith: the Great, going from Armistice Day to the day right before the Great Crash, is known as the Twilight Era, the time period before the World of Darkness of the modern game. Since it’s a good way to catch up on a lot of the game-specific jargon, I’m going to repost most of the Lexicon, with only the ones I find stupid removed (like Seppuku: Really, Wraith, really?).
- abambo : A term for African ghosts
- Annals of Pestilence (aka Journals of Bone): a book containing the mad ramblings of the Skeletal Lord
- Benandati: a group of dudes who can see Ghosts and go to the Udnerworld. They’ve shown up in Wraith books before.
- Behest: An Arcanoi (ghost powers) used by African wraith
- The Beaufort-Granogrec Scale: A system for developing Maelstrom intensity. Ghost Science!
- The Black Mask: one of the many espionage orders of the Legions, this is the one of the Grim Legion
- The Bleak Legion: a Russian subset of the Silent Legion
- The Breathless Dead: ghost of Spanish Flu victims.
- The Bush of Ghosts: the African kingdom of the dead, also called the Dark Kingdom of Ivory
- Cataphractoi: the heavy cavalry of the Legion of Fate
- Displace: another new Arcanoi, this one is Indian in origin
- The Flesh Corps: An order of the Penitent Legion, who use giant moliated Leviathan to fight.
- Fourth Great Maelstrom: the giant magic tempest that ravages the Shadowlands for the entire Twilgiht Era
- Generals of Oblivion: a powerful group of Spectre during this era
- hun : the “Of the East” term for the higher soul of a Wraith. Also used in Kindred of the East!
- ibambo : another African word for Wraith
- Imperialist: the “New Stygian” regime of the Grim Legion, the bad guys
- The Insurrection: The attempt by the Grim Legion to take over Stygia
- The Jade Kingdom: The Asian Deadlands [sic]
- Johnny Songbirds: a bunch of wandering bards
- kuei : “asian” word for Spectres
- loka : an Indian word for one level of the “upper worlds” of their afterlife. I have no fucking clue what this means right now.
- Loyalists: the other side of the Wraith civil War, those who oppose the Smiling lord.
- Maelstrom: evil magic tempest in the Underworld
- Magisterium Veritatis : the Stygian secret police
- Ministry of Intelligence: the espionage order of the Iron Legion
- Moriman: a “witch-doctor”, an African wraith for practices Behest
- Mutilé: a type fo spectre common during this era
- Nawab : Indian government official
- Night Mail: a group of aviators who try to keep communication lines between Necropolis open
- Night of Short Chains: When the Grim Legion seized Europe
- Ocean: the African word for the Tempest
- Office of Maelstrom Preparedness: wraiths dedicated to predicting and quelling the Great Maelstrom. More Ghost Science!
- Peng Lai : Jade Kigndom term for Paradise
- p’o : Jade Kingdom term for a Shadow
- Scavenger Folk: group of Wraiths of scavenge debris from the Maelstrom
- Sinkinda : Bush of Ghost term for Spectre
- Soulwelding: A variant of Soulforging used to maintain ghost vehicles
- Swar: the Deadlands of India
- Tvashtriya: practioners of Displace
- Uitlander: African term for strangers and white people
- Yellow Springs: Another alternate for the Dark Kingdom of Jade
Wow, that’s a lot of , and I cut a lot of useless ones (like “Yank” or “Huns”). Some of them won’t make sense until I go in-depth into the various factions. The chapter ends with recommendations of Books, Movies and Music to use as inspiration, something I always liked in White Wolf books. While the list obviously outdated (the book came out 15 years ago), I’d say it’s pretty good. It’s got Gallipolli, Paths of Glory, etc. The only movie I’d say is obviously missing is La Grande Illusion , a classic French movie about a prisoner escape during the war, dealing with the end of the ancient aristocratic ideals of war. It’s a pretty great movie, ire commend it to anyone interested in these kind of things. The music of Philip Glass is recommended, which should ensure everyone at the table is creeped out I guess.
Next we’ll start the huge History section, a must-have for any historical game.
We intend to sing the love of danger. We will glorify war.