Playing a Wraith
A Shadow of your Former Self
Before deciding what kind of wraith you are, you should first figure out what kind of person you were. Being dead is key to a wraith’s identity, but your life is the reason you have stuck around.
Not everyone becomes a wraith, and who you were before you died will define numerous aspects of your ghostly existence. A person becomes a wraith because there is something that ties them strongly to the living world. Unfinished business and strong emotional ties to someone still living are common reasons, but the nuances will be particular to each restless soul.
A wraith can be from any era—the only restriction is geography. You exist now in a realm of the dead known as The Kingdom of Iron, so you most likely died there. This encompasses all of what we consider the western world. Note: you only have to have died in this area—you could have originally lived anywhere.
Death and Reaping
A wraith is at his or her most vulnerable right after they die. Wraiths come into the world of the dead wrapped in a shell called a caul, which usually has to be removed by another wraith. The process of removing the caul is called “reaping.” Many souls who are reaped end up turned into oboli (wraith money) or sold as slaves. If you’ve made it into the game your fate was at least a little better than this. Perhaps you were found by a kind Reaper, who taught you everything you needed to know about your new existence. Perhaps your Reaper was kind... but taught you a few odd ideas. Maybe you escaped a slaver and had to learn everything on the run. Perhaps you ripped your caul off yourself in a feat of extreme willpower. Regardless of how you became free, the caul is only the first of many obstacles. Once you are conscious in the Deadlands, there are numerous new physical and emotional features you must adjust to.
Your New Form
Wraiths do not have veins and muscles and bones as living creatures do—they have Corpus, which can be lost through wounds, altered through powers like moliate, or eaten through the power of usury. Functionally, corpus is a wraith’s health. With a few exceptions, wraiths do not wear clothes—every part of your image is corpus, and reflects how you see yourself. For some wraiths, this means they appear exactly as they did in life, with their corpus reflecting the clothes they died in. For others, the results can be quite different.
Wraiths also have energy, called Pathos. It is used to power Arcanoi, the magical abilities that all wraith poses. There are many different arcanoi, which can let you affect yourself, other wraiths, the Shadowlands (land of the dead), living beings, and the Skinlands (real world).
Pathos is gained through contact with a Haunt, which is a font of emotion that your wraith can instinctively sense when close enough. As a wraith, you will be especially attuned to a particular emotion—this emotion is a large part of your identity, and will effect which Haunts you can use most effectively.
If your Pathos is reduced to zero you will undergo Catharsis. This is a highly unpleasant experience in which your Shadow takes over. Your Shadow is a malevolent alter ego whose primary goal is to pull you to Oblivion (the ultimate Nothingness). How your Shadow does this will depend on its personality—there are various Shadow archetypes, and your experiences in life will determine which personality arises to torment you for all of your new existence. The Shadow is not usually in control, but it is always present, temping you to Oblivion in whatever way it can. Certain events or powers can cause the Shadow to take over, at which point its personality type determines its actions.
As a wraith you will also have Fetters. These are items or people that had special significance when you were alive, and still exist in the living world. Now that you are dead, they are even more important. Fetters’ existence allows you to use certain advanced powers and keep you close to the Skinlands. Fetter destruction is a highly traumatic event, so all wraiths must keep their fetters hidden or secret.
You may also have Relics—items that had significance to you or someone else in life, but have now been destroyed. The emotions that living beings felt for these objects allow them to appear in the deadlands after destruction. They might be something useful, like a sword or book. More likely they are useless trinkets, old toys, or guns (fairly pointless relics, as there are precious few relic bullets).
The lands of the dead are vast, and filled with spirits from every age. The buildings and objects are, like you, ghosts of their former selves—remnants of destroyed buildings, or dreary shadow reflections of real-world buildings. You may see and walk through the same buildings as the living, but they are worn and dark to your eyes, as are the trees, the sky, and the very air. You will need certain abilities to be able to move past doors in real-world buildings—these walls and obstacles can still limit your movement.
Some buildings or objects are not reflections or relics however—some are made from souls. Relying on the destruction of emotionally charged objects is entirely insufficient to match the needs of the ever-growing hordes of the dead. These needs are met using the only material available in the Deadlands—other ghosts. Certain arcanoi can turn souls into oboli coins. These coins can in turn be forged into anything from bricks, to tables, to swords. Entire buildings may be constructed from forged souls.
You live in a place known as the Dark Kingdom of Iron, but these lands are not as united as the title would imply. There are three main groups that you may identify with.
The Hierarchy is the primary civilization of the Kingdom of Iron. It considers all wraiths to be its citizens by default—if you follow the rules and pay your taxes, you can (supposedly) enjoy their protection and culture. There are many kinds of citizens, from the fanatically devoted, to regular Joes who go to work and pay taxes—perhaps not so differently from how they did in life. The Hierarchy’s capital is a vast city called Stygia, from which the Deathlords (see below) rule. Various Citadels (protected wraith hubs) of different sizes are scattered across the Dark Kingdom and protected by the Hierarchy’s forces.
Renegades are wraiths who have rejected the Hierarchy, often for political reasons. The Hierarchy offers protection but also demands service and taxes, and some would rather be free. Some renegades set up their own citadels in remote or defensible areas, while others roam in nomadic groups, constantly avoiding the Hierarchy’s troops.
Heretics are those who have left or been cast out from the Hierarchy due to religious views. Heretics are often fanatical, and their beliefs can range from the mildly divergent to the wildly insane. Like Renegades they may have their own citadels or move about in wandering camps. The Hierarchy tends to view the Heretics more harshly than Renegades due to the threat posed by certain radical spiritual philosophies that might infect the populace if allowed free reign. Interactions between Renegades and Heretics will vary wildly depending on the particulars of the parties involved. They could engage in cordial trade, or set about slaughtering each other with no less enthusiasm than the Hierarchy’s warriors.
Your Social Identity
Each of the previously mentioned Deathlords in Stygia rules over a Legion, which is made up of wraiths who died in a particular way. For example, the Grim Legion consists of wraiths who died of violence, while the Grey Legion holds those who died of old age. You may be claimed by a legion when you die, or end up choosing one if your death is ambiguous enough. Legion membership may be an incidental association for some wraiths, while others devote their new lives to Legion activities—or simply appear to, in order to pursue political power.
Guilds are societies based on arcanoi. In the past, wraiths who were particularly skilled in a given art would join the appropriate guild and enjoy the training and other perks such association afforded. The guilds were officially disbanded by the Hierarchy years ago, but those with useful, legal arcanoi may casually refer to themselves by the same terms as the associated guild. Any actual membership to some surviving strain would, of course, be quite illegal.
Many wraiths choose to wear masks, which can display anything from one’s particular set of allegiances and status to simple fashion sense. Masks are usually forged from souls or formed from a wraith’s caul.
Common Wraith Terms
Charon - Leader and founder of Stygia.
Deathlords - The leaders of the legions that make up the Hierarchy. Second only to Charon in political power and Stygian influence.
Dictum Mortuum - The set of laws dictating wraiths’ interactions with the living; in general, impacting the living in any way is forbidden.
Drones - Unfortunate wraiths who are doomed to act out a specific scenario over and over until they finally fall to Oblivion
Heretics - Wraiths who work outside of Stygian society in pursuit of Transcendence.
Hierarchy - The primary society of wraiths of the western world, led and formed by Charon and the Deathlords.
Isle of Eurydice - The island home of the Legion of Fate, near the Isle of Sorrows
Legions - Wraiths claimed by the Deathlords, organized by means of death.
Maelstroms - Disastrous storms of Oblivion that sweep over the Shadowlands, which correlate with terrible events in the living world.
Nihil - Wormholes that connect the Shadowlands with the Tempest.
Oblivion - The primordial force of entropy and destruction that is the seeming fate of all wraiths who do not escape it through Transcendence.
Renegades - Wraiths who do not recognize Stygia’s authority for various reasons.
Skinlands - The living world, opposite the Shadowlands.
Soulforge - Constructs fueled by concentrated Pathos where souls are melted down and formed into materials for wraithly creations or into Oboli, a form of currency.
Spectre - A servant of Oblivion; a wraith whose Shadow controls them permanently.
Tempest - An all-encompassing dark sea that both forms the boundary and conjoins the Shadowlands and Stygia.
Transcendence - A seeming legend amongst wraiths, that proposes a reachable higher existence and a way to escape the Underworld.