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Sometime around 2000, I was introduced to Wraith in the worst fashion ever, and it destroyed any interest in me ever reading the rule portions but I learned to love the worldbuilding of it.

In essence, I met a guy at a game store and they asked me if I knew Vampire and Werewolf and that they had started playing this other setting in the same world where you play the spirit of a deceased one. And here the pitch they used went down: they started to brag about how the Shadow mechanic would allow them to screw over other players and with a glee that made me feel... well, I still have problems with looking at the game mechanic sections for fear of being reminded of that situation.

Now, with some decades of looking back at that, I realize that they made probably the worst introduction to a game that actually could be rather cool and wholesome, if pitched right and if played with a responsible group not with some bundles of teenage angst and people hellbent on fucking each other up.

So... How do you pitch Wraith The Oblivion properly? Properly here means without creating an instant distaste for the more PVPesque mechanics of this game line and without traumatizing the players from the more crass aspects of it (e.g. facing death)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Before I answer, I want to express my sympathies — that's an awful way to be introduced to a game, especially one that cuts as close to the heart as Wraith can. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Mar 20 at 14:27

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There are several different angles you can use to pitch a Wraith chronicle. Here are some that I have used.

  • Isekai. The story of a wraith begins as "You're a normal person suddenly shifted into a fantastical world that's strange and dangerous, pursued by an adversary you can't ever really escape but must deal with." Wraith circles can often end up as associations of strangers that become found family, and that's appealing to many people.
  • Hopeful. Of the initial five monster games, Wraith's the one you can win — resolve the issues that keep you here, preserve the things that are valuable to you, and you can move on.
  • Personal. The things that matter to wraiths carry emotional weight, and there's the potential for scenes of great power and catharsis. In games like those, your Shadowguide is more of a scene partner than a nemesis.
  • Phantasmagorical. Lean into the weird stuff, the surrealism, and the potential for comedy. The thing about tension is how good it can feel when it breaks.
  • Political. Stygia is basically King's Landing from Game of Thrones, and the factions of the Shadowlands can stand in for a variety of structures to join or topple.

Also, what's available now that wasn't 20+ years ago is the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, a short (45-page) guide for new wraith PCs and for new Wraith: the Oblivion players and STs. In particular, the description of the Shadow on pp. 16–28 discusses how to Shadowguide without being an abusive jerk.

However, sooner or later — and likely sooner — the issue of playing a ghost is going to come up, and that implies certain things about how ghosts come to be. The horror elements of Wraith cannot be elided completely, and there's wisdom in asking people about their lines and veils early in the process.

In particular, a lot of Wraith games start with a prologue session of "you're a person who's going to die" and then go through the last day and the transition across the Shroud into the weird Underworld. In the vast majority of cases, everybody knows this in advance when starting; however, there are some games that have begun with a bait and switch — you thought you were playing this other game, but we're doing Wraith instead. If you're seeking to avoid any risk of trauma, don't do this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I gotta tell ya, if you're pitching to me, you gotta be upfront about the "being dead" part. That doesn't make it a harder pitch to me than other RPGs, but not telling me upfront seems sketchy as heck. Although I suppose the Handbook for the Recently Deceased might be a clue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Mar 20 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack I mean, sure. The pitch for playing Wraith also starts with "you're a ghost," which implies certain things about how ghosts come to be. However, Trish asked how to do it in a way that doesn't "traumatize via the crass aspects of it," so I'm not bringing up soulforging people into coins at this time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Mar 20 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ So you're saying the being dead part is obvious up front. Good. I don't mind being dead, I just want to know about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Mar 20 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Yes, that's the case, similar to games like Vampire. I changed the entry to call it out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Mar 20 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack But, to be totally honest about it, the "being dead part" is frequently not how the game itself begins. A lot of Wraith games start with a prologue session of "you're a person who's going to die" and then go through the last day and the transition across the Shroud into the weird Underworld. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Mar 20 at 16:47
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RPG games in their nature are hugely customizable even if they are set in very particular world like in WoD. So the pitch will strongly depend on the GM and the campaign they wanna "sell" to you.

However to me personally, wraith is a game about trying to rescue your soul from damnation while also functioning in a new and strange society of the dead. Which I imagine as otherworldly Kafkaesque dystopia. (At least in a major part) It's a game about a struggle against your vices and grudges in hope to get free from them or be consumed by them, if you fail. And in this society most souls fail...

So it can be all the things that Jadsc wrote about, but it's also important how exactly the GM integrates the bulletpoints he presented into a concise world.

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