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In a freeform game, I'm running a story involving a creature that subsides upon stolen energy obtained from draining the magical or life energy out of other creatures, particularly humans. Coming from a DnD background, I immediately want to categorize such a creature as a varient of a "Wraith". However, the term "Wraith" is originally a synonym for "ghost", not for "energy-stealing beastie".

Is the depiction of a wraith as stealing energy from living beings one of the many tropes that has become standard due to the popularity of DnD, or are wraiths in other games more likely to be simply undead? In other words, if I use the term "Wraith" to people who come from other, more diverse roleplay backgrounds, will they understand what I mean?

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in the tv show Stargate: Atlantis there was an alien race call the 'Wraith'. They fed by sucking the life out of living humans. –  Colin D Nov 12 '12 at 20:46
    
@ColinD That's a good sign for my purposes :) –  Yamikuronue Nov 12 '12 at 20:55
    
My first experience with the term Wraith was with the Ring Wraiths of the Lord of the Rings. –  Simon Withers Nov 12 '12 at 21:08
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Wraith is usable, as are vampire and ghoul. You might even use vitalophage. Not everybody has to use the same term either; it depends on their background. –  Simon Gill Nov 12 '12 at 21:13
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Wight would also be an appropriate substitute en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wight –  Colin D Nov 12 '12 at 21:16
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I am not sure this is a complete answer, but Yes, there are a number of sci-fi/fantasy references to wraiths stealing souls/energy/feed from living individuals. Below I have included some references:

TV show Stargate Atlantis: http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Wraith

he Wraith are a vampiric hive-based species that harvest the 'life-force' of other humanoid beings for nourishment through suckers on their right hand palm.

TV show Supernatual: http://www.supernaturalwiki.com/index.php?title=Wraith

Feeds on its victim's brains with a thin, organic spike that protrudes from the wrist.

Marvel Comic Book Character: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wraith_%28Marvel_Comics%29 Gets his powers from a parasite called Exalon

By summoning swarms of Exolon, he can manifest what appears to be darkness; because the Exolon feed on souls, swarms of it appear—at least to the Phalanx—as the exposed soul of a living being

Video Game Nethack: http://nethack.wikia.com/wiki/Wraith_%28monster_class%29

Wraiths are often found in graveyards. They are known for the fact that by eating a fresh wraith corpse you gain a level. However, wraiths may also drain levels from you.

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To offer a counter to this, I come from a D&D background for pen and paper, but come even earlier from a Video Game/Fantasy Book background and I don't associate wraiths as soul/life stealing at all. I associate them more with what D&D peeps would call a Lich, or a lesser Lich. This idea comes from earlier Elder Scrolls, Ultima, and Final Fantasy games, and the father of all this stuff the Ring Wraiths from Lord of the Rings. –  DampeS8N Nov 13 '12 at 13:14
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One of White Wolf's classic World of Darkness games was Wraith: The Oblivion. If you use the term "wraith" around a World of Darkness player, they'll probably assume you mean "ghost" -- albeit one that's of human-level intelligence and capacity to act. Wraiths in the WoD don't naturally have the ability to steal life energy (although they have access to a power that lets them); they feed on strong emotions, instead.

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I was worried about that -- I've played a little Vampire and Hunter but never Wraith :( –  Yamikuronue Nov 13 '12 at 13:55
    
In a way, feeding on emotions is similar to steal energy. Ok, the feeder won't suffer negative effects, but they still need the energy of the living to sustain themselves. I wonder if it also comes from this trope. –  Flamma Nov 14 '12 at 17:45
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