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Posted: Dec 31 2014, 01:10 AM
Wraith are the spirits of the dead who have not been able to make peace with their pasts and Transcend. Every wraith is bound to the Skinlands through a set of Fetters, physical objects which represent unresolved issues in the character's past. Wraith characters are created with specific plot points.
As spirits, Wraiths require no material sustenance but instead feed on emotions, fueling their existence through the use of Pathos, the energy of emotion. Wraiths acquire pathos by fulfilling their Passions, driving all-consuming emotions. A primary use of pathos is to fuel Arcanoi, which are the arts of the dead. Arcanoi include a variety of standard ghostly abilities such as poltergeist skills and the ability to communicate with the living, as well as skills which are more specific to wraith society.
Wraiths carry their own worst enemy around with them, every Wraith is split into two personalities: Psyche and Shadow. The psyche is the personality of the Wraith, while the Shadow is the part of the Wraith that craves self-destruction and defeat. Shadows are intelligent foes, who can communicate, hamper and aid the wraith all in order to fulfill their primary goal of making the wraith serve Oblivion. Shadows have their own passions and feed on Angst, the stuff of negative emotions. Shadows can take over the Psyche temporarily (an act called Catharsis), and if a Shadow becomes too powerful, they can take over the wraith permanently, turning the wraith into a Spectre.
Being dead, wraiths are tough. Instead of a body, a wraith has a Corpus, manufactured out of plasm, the material of the underworld. Wraiths can heal most damage through Slumber, however if a wraith takes too much damage (the equivalent of death), they are plunged into a Harrowing. Harrowings are surrealistic passion plays where the Wraith is psychologically tortured by his Shadow into surrendering. Harrowings can be triggered for other reasons besides damage, such as losing a Fetter.
The Underworld is a bizarre dimension inhabited by Wraiths. It is broken into several discrete locations. Players begin and spend most of their time in the Shadowlands, which are a reflection of the living world where wraiths can interfere with the living. Necropoli, or cities of the dead, are sprinkled throughout the Shadowlands, usually as a ghostly counterpart of an existing city with a large population. Underneath the Shadowlands is the Tempest which is a giant storm of memory and madness that permeates the entire underworld. Somewhere in the midst of the Tempest is the Isle of Sorrows upon which rests the city of Stygia, the capital city of the Dark Kingdom of Iron - the lands of the western world's dead. Stygia has been built up since before the Roman Empire, and is now a giant necropolis housing uncounted dead; unlike other Necropoli, it does not have a living counterpart. Past Stygia are other islands in the Tempest, the most important of which are the Far Shores and the other Dark Kingdoms. The Far Shores are paradises built by the dead to help others seek Transcendance (or possibly not), while the Dark Kingdoms are the underworlds of other cultures, such as Asia, Africa and India.
Underpinning the entire underworld is the Labyrinth, a gigantic shifting maze which eventually merges with Oblivion, the end of all things. Oblivion is hungry and seeks to destroy Wraiths, both personally and organizationally. As a result, most of the Dark Kingdoms have developed methods to keep Oblivion from influencing their subjects and cities.
The Underworld has a bizarre set of laws which are more psychological than physical. Emotional qualities such as Pathos and Angst have physical qualities which can be used and moved. More critically, the underworld has a severe shortage of materials. While a small number of relics pass into the underworld when a wraith dies, the majority of things in the underworld are made of souls. While some of these souls are from mindless Drones, soulforging is a common punishment for wraiths who commit crimes, lose political fights, or have the misfortune to be in the way during a materials shortage. The coins of Stygia, the streets of Stygian roads, the armor and weapons used by almost all Stygian soldiers are made from those unfortunate souls who were thrown into the forges. While every wraith hopes that the forging process destroys consciousness, Stygian coins still mutter and moan.
Most political organizations in the Underworld exist to stave off Oblivion. The most important of these in most Wraith games is the Hierarchy, which is the government of Western wraiths. The Hierarchy was founded by Charon, the first (and only) Emperor of Stygia. Stygian society is based around the Legions, eight groups which provide both military and civil services for Stygia, and which decide on membership by dividing the dead by manner of demise.
The Emerald Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. They take in wraiths that died as a result of accidents, be it common (a car) or a freak (sat on by an elephant). The Emerald Legion runs their civilian branches like businesses, including the best "customer service" you will receive in the Shadowlands. When dealing with the Hierarchy, it is known the best and most pleasant way is to work with an Emerald Legion member.
In spite of their reputation for innovation, their military branch remains remarkably old-fashioned, almost to the point of inefficiency. As a result, the Emerald Legion lacks the strong military presence many of the other Legions have. While there are a few working smaller branches, the main army, nicknamed the Old Soldiers, are full of squabbling between commanders as attempts to revamp the army butt heads with tradition.
legion of fate
The Legion of Fate is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. This Legion differs greatly from the others by means of who is essentially in charge, the Lady of Fate. The Legion is comprised of those who they have deemed marked by Fate. The members of the Legion of Fate are primarily trained and used as mediators and peacemakers in disputes between major organizations throughout Stygia. They also have some of the most skilled warriors and military units to be found anywhere in the Shadowlands; these bands are always in demand by the Hierarchy. However, there are always a small number of them located at the Isle of Eurydice to protect the headquarters of the Legion.
The Grim Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. The Grim Legion takes in wraiths that died as a result of violence, usually murder. A reflection of the very nature of their death, the Grim Legion's ranks have some of the most accomplished and deadliest fighting divisions. Ranks are strictly organized and enforced, and soldiers of the Grim practice a form of fighting discipline rarely seen in any other army of the dead. They fight with an eerie silence and efficiency.
However, the Grim also has its fair share of mundane desk jobs, spies, and Reapers. They are not as well known, but are as accomplished as any other Legion when it comes to getting their work done. The Grim Legion also has several contacts with the other Dark Kingdoms. They have the Sardonicai, the closest thing to an ambassador in the Shadowlands.
The Iron Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. They take in wraiths who lived to a ripe old age or were brought down by time. The Iron Legion is primarily involved with the fortification of Stygia and the Necropoli that fall under its influence. Citadels are usually the primary focus of these renovation and construction projects, but other defenses are not neglected. The Iron Legion also helps maintain the official Byways, and has even experimented with permanent artificial Byways, something that has yet to come to fruition. They are greatly respected by the other Legions for the effort and efficiency the Iron Legion put into their work.
Of course, this is not the only area in which the Iron Legion is involved. They are also focused on eliminating or holding back Spectres with a frightening fervor. This is not limited to simply hunting down the denizens of Oblivion; the Iron Legion has its own research and development team constantly testing new weaponry, weaknesses, and theories. There are trained Iron Legions members called the Spectre Brigade who have the "honor" of being the guinea pigs for these experiments.
The Iron Legion also specializes in information, as many of its members are seen as doddering old farts. While many other Legions know of the Iron Legion's hidden presence within the Shadowlands, many do not know to what extent the Ashen Lady has her fingers in everything.
legion of paupers
Perhaps more so than any other Legion, the Legion of Paupers is made up of the most diverse types of death. While most deaths can be broadly categorized, such as accidents, violence, etc, the wraiths of the Legion of Paupers defy categorization. Prominent among them are wraiths who don't know how they died; they woke up in their caul in the Shadowlands, unable to remember the last few moments, days, or even years of their life. In most cases, it isn't so much amnesia as unexpected. Some wraiths take years to work out why they died, and a frightening number never do figure out exactly how and why they shed their mortal coil.
Also fitting into the Legion of Paupers are two other main types. The first are wraiths whose deaths were so bizarre that they fit into more than one Legion. If two Legions cannot come to a consensus, the wraith in question is handed over to the Legion of Paupers as a compromise. The second type are wraiths that don't fit into any of the other Legions, through attitude, temperament, or worldview. Rather than be stuck with troublemakers, these wraiths are also handed over to the Beggar Lord.
Along with the normal military and bureaucratic functions most Legions have a hand in, the Legion of Paupers serve as investigators. Most of them are well-suited to this endeavor, perhaps because of the nature of their death.
The Penitent Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. They take in victims of madness. The Penitent Legion has a strong military presence thanks to Liamh, a former British tribesman who fought the armies of Rome. For two thousand years, he has gathered and trained those who are under the Laughing Lady. He has also dedicated his troops to building strange devices to help them in their battles. Many question how these devices are supposed to work against Spectres and Renegades.
The Silent Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. They take in victims of suicide and other, similar circumstances. To say that the Silent Legion only includes suicides is actually simplifying things a bit. The primary factor in deciding a potential Silent Legion member rests, like all other Legions, in a recruit's Deathmarks. Members of the Silent Legion show marks indicating great Despair in general, of a life ended in utter hopelessness. Martyrs, assisted suicides, those who fast for a cause, and others can also be inducted into the Legion.
In addition, not all suicides end up with the Silent; a significant minority go to the Penitent Legion instead. Smallest of the Legions (aside from the Legion of Fate), the Silent Legion is primarily military in its operations, working to help defend Stygia and its associated Necropoli from the push of Oblivion. Like all branches of the Hierarchy, the Legion also works in intelligence, gathering information to use against fellow Legions as well as their Spectral enemies.
Possibly because of the nature of their deaths, the Silent Legion has a disproportionately large number of members who are gifted in Castigate. Because of their gifts, the Silent Legion also acts as the emotional counselors of the Hierarchy, helping other Legionnaires through their own depression.
The Skeletal Legion is one of the divisions of the Hierarchy of Stygia. This Legion takes in victims of illness. The Skeletal Legion maintains a respectible military branch; its specialty is archery, specificially the longbow.
More impressive are the civil side of the Legion. Tasks that a civilian Skeletal Legion member may be charged with include Inspector-Generals who measure the balance of power within the Legion, research and development on diseases among the living, external affairs that deal with other Legions and groups, and mapping the Shadowlands and Tempest. There are also "reserve" members of the Skeletal Legions who do not have government jobs, but more of an affiliation. They can be called on as needed.
Finally, there are the Ferrymen, the oldest society in the underworld and Stygia's brother organization. Also founded by Charon, the Ferrymen are agents of transcendence who aid and protect wraiths in the underworld. The Ferrymen have their own rules and goals, but they are respected by all parties both for their power and their purpose.
Charon, the first Ferryman and only Emperor of Stygia, is one of the most pivotal figures in Wraith: The Oblivion. Originally from the ancient civilization of Mycenae, Charon is responsible for the formation of several institutions of the dead, including the Ferrymen, the city of Stygia, and the Hierarchy.
Charon was chosen for this role by Fate, through its agent the Lady of Fate. When he first died, the Lady told him that he would be the way by which the restless would travel from the underworld to their final destination. Under her auspices, he performed many heroic quests, including rescuing Nhudri from the Labyrinth and the foundation of Stygia.
lady of fate
The second woman, the first Wraith, the mother of Caine and the most powerful and enigmatic figure in the Underworld, the Lady of Fate is the imperatrix of the Legion of Fate and an independent power unto herself.
The Lady chose Charon, naming him and charging him to guide the souls of the dead from the Underworld and into transcendence. Throughout Charon's reign, she served as an oracle and seer, providing him counsel (and occasionally confession). The Lady is close to a religious figure in the Underworld, her mandate gave Charon right to rule the western dead, and as a sign of respect gave her the Isle of Fate and the Legion that bears her name.
Upon dying, a Wraith might take some initial comfort from the idea that things can't get worse. A Harrowing quickly puts an end to that belief. Harrowings are surreal passion plays intimately tied to a wraith's sense of identity, they take place in the Labyrinth, are set in the Wraith's memories, acted out by Spectres and directed by the Shadow, all to the ultimate goal of disconnecting the Wraith from the living world and eventually his own sense of self.
Harrowings occur when the Wraith is threatened - this can be from physical damage (Corpus to zero) or damage to a Passion or Fetter (any situation which threatens to reduce the rating, except for resolution). When the threat occurs, a nihil opens up under the wraith, sucking him into the Labyrinth. Harrowings can also occur under circumstances that would have caused the Wraith (while alive) to die or go mad - such as being crushed under a giant block of soulsteel or seeing the gardens of Yu Huang.
Wraiths are subject to two types of harrowings: the overwhelming majority are target harrowings, where the shadow attempts to weaken the wraith by destroying Fetters, Passions, or the wraith's corpus. In a target harrowing, the quarry is damaged if the wraith fails the harrowing. The other type, destruction harrowings are reserved for Wraiths who are an inch from Oblivion - when they lose the last dot of their last Passion, or all of their permanent corpus; failing a destruction harrowing results in the Wraith's destruction or possible conversion into a spectre.
During the harrrowing, the wraith is placed in a scenario constructed by that wraith's shadow. The exact composition of the scenario changes with each harrowing, but every one is fundamentally a test of the wraith's character, and it is in some way related to the quarry in question. The choices a wraith makes during the harrowing determine if he succeeds or fails.
After a harrowing finishes, the wraith is immediately ejected from the Labyrinth and deposited near one of his fetters.
Wraiths are creatures of emotion, fed by the energy of emotion, Pathos. To acquire Pathos, wraiths must feel Passions, emotions intimately connected to their identity. Every wraith begins with a set of Passions. Each Passion has a purpose and emotion, written in the form purpose (emotion) rating. For example, a wraith of a professor with an unpublished manuscript might have a passion of Publish my Manuscript (Pride) 3. In general, Passions are higher rated for broader activities, and rated lower for more specific purposes.
Wraiths acquire Pathos by feeling an emotion connected with their Passion. The difficulty of acquiring Pathos is a function of whether the Passion fulfills that purpose, is connected to the emotion, or is somehow simulated synthetically (such as with Keening).
Wraiths can lose Passions through lack of maintenance (by ignoring the Passion or the purpose), through a Harrowing, or other miscellaneous actions. Passions are somewhat more flexible than Fetters, and while a wraith largely starts out with Passions connected to the Skinlands, it is not unusual for a wraith to acquire Passions related to the Shadowlands as time passes.
A Fetter is a person, place, or object that ties a wraith to the Shadowlands and keeps them from moving on. Along with allowing a wraith to hang on to their existence and keeping them from falling into Oblivion, Fetters are also places where a wraith can Slumber and gain back Pathos and Corpus. In addition, any Arcanoi a wraith knows are easier to use when they are around their Fetter. Fetters can be manipulated, made, and severed by the Arcanos Lifeweb as well.
If a Fetter is destroyed, the wraith loses a major tie to the Shadowlands, and therefore their existence becomes more shaky. Wraiths with no Fetters do not last long in the Shadowlands, as they have no place to recharge and nothing to tie them to their unlife. Wraiths who lose their Fetters in this fashion will fall prey to a Harrowing and probably end up pulled into Oblivion. Fetter
s can also be resolved, meaning a wraith gains the strength to say goodbye to the things and people they loved in life. A wraith who loses all of their Fetters by resolution has taken a major step towards achieving Transcendence.
Transcendence is a state where the wraith accepts his death and moves on from the Underworld to whatever ineffable existence waits beyond.
Historically, the Ferrymen, Far Shores and Hierarchy were all intended as mechanisms for achieving Transcendence. Charon's mandate from the Lady of Fate was to help the souls who ended up in the Underworld achieve Transcendence and move onwards. To that end, each organization served as a combination of spiritual therapy and group identity for a wraith who was hopefully making a temporary stay in the Underworld. Due to the presence of the Shadow and the ever-increasing danger of Oblivion, these organizations faltered in their missions. While the Ferrymen remain true to their charge, several Far Shores became corrupt kingdoms. This culminated in the Proclamation of Reason from Stygia, which declared Transcendence a myth.
Since that time, Stygia has officially disavowed Transcendence, with the majority of wraiths still officially seeking it being labeled Heretics. Most Stygians now view Transcendence as a myth, and the Far Shores and Ferrymen as sinister entities motivated by inscrutable goals.
At the same time, Oblivion's steady increase in power has made the extinction of wraiths an increasingly likely event. The Underworld was seemingly designed to promote Transcendence, even ugly events like Harrowings providing a therapeutic purpose, lessons in what mattered to the wraiths that underwent them. While Harrowings have become increasingly sadistic over the centuries, the shadow of their original purpose is still present in the rules that govern them - rules that Spectres chafe against, but cannot break.