Wraith Player Tips
“Have you heard the news that you’re dead? No one ever had much nice to say, I think they never liked you anyway...” – MCR
When creating a wraith character it is very important to consider what the character was like in life, as this has a big impact. Not only what happened to them, but who they were and how they lived. Were they a noble knight dreaming of glory in battle? A peasant eking out a living on some lord’s lands? Establishing a real person with real troubles in life will result in a real person at death. Take the time to flesh out your character’s age, desires, significant life moments, everything that makes them human (or human-ish). You will need that information later. Research where they came from and what they were likely to do there.
If you are bringing in a wraith that died off-screen, as it were, note that life is both tenacious and fragile. The typical human body can put up with an enormous amount of damage or neglect and still live, and life can also be ended by a single well placed sword stroke. Come up with a reasonable death for your character. Death with water but no food takes weeks. Death with no water takes days at most. Slow death will have a greater psychological impact on your character than a quick death. Expected death ( in the case of execution) will have a different effect than unexpected death (rocks fall and everyone dies). Think about what might have been the last thought through your character’s head, or if they had time for one at all. Think especially about the look on their face as they died: it will likely be the same look when they appear as a wraith.
The Wyrm came through and slaughtered the masses. Your poor unknowing human ended up as an expendable pawn in vampire politics. Bandits wanted your stuff. In short, your character died at event, and now you want to play them as a wraith. While your character does not realize she comes equipped with ten hit points, she would be capable of recognizing a mortal wound when she gets one. Play out the horror of this moment IG. The terrible realization that this is it, this time you’re really going to die. Act out the desperate struggle for just one more moment, one more breath, one more piece of sweet life. After all, as far as your character knows this is it, there’s no coming back. A character that does not react this way, or with similar heavy emotions, is unlikely to produce a wraith after death.
If your character died at event, you must wait until the next event to play her as a wraith. It is also highly recommended you get the character vetted by the character guides before playing the character again.
When a new wraith enters the world, they are covered by a plasmic shell called a caul. This is represented in game as a plain white face mask. While in the caul, new wraiths exist in a dreamlike state that prevents them from defending themselves, perceiving their surroundings, or thinking clearly. The wraith is unable to perceive the passing of time or anything in the world around them. Thoughts slip away half-finished and quickly forgotten. While your character is wearing her caul, be disoriented. Stumble around slowly, like you are tripping through molasses. Run into trees, buildings, people in the umbra, pause frequently to stand numb, and sit down randomly, are just some suggestion on role playing this out. The cludy dream reality in your character’s head has no correspondence with the reality in the town around them. Mumble non-sequitors to yourself. Nothing makes sense in a dream, where “it’s in the kitchen” is a valid answer to “what time is it?”.
Only an uncauled wraith can remove the caul from a cauled wraith. Wander around in your dream state until someone pulls your caul off. According to canon, it is possible for an extremely determined and strong-willed wraith to break free of her own caul. This is EXTREMELY RARE, and should be run past the character guides first if you wish to attempt it. Mechanically, you may wish to have the extra willpower purchases to back it up. In addition to the activities listed above, intersperse moments of pawing fitfully at your face and body, until you feel you’ve escaped. Remember, although the caul is represented IG as a white face mask, it is actually supposed to be an all-encompassing body shell. So just knocking your mask aside will not be enough to represent escaping your caul. Continue until you feel you’ve broken free from a sticky body blanket. Likely someone will find you before you succeed.
Wraiths do not remember the time spent in the caul. It fades much like waking from a dream, Because of the nature of the caul and its effect on the on the mind of the wraith, there is no perception of time passage between the last breath and waking up in the shadowlands.
There is absolutely no way to gauge how much time will pass between death and appearance as a wraith in the shadowlands. It may be a month, it may be years. Because of the caul, it seems like no time at all. There is also no saying where the wraith may appear. It may be miles away from the place of death. Further distance may be attained by cauled wanderings. So when a wraith’s caul is removed, extreme disorientation is the norm. The mind may grasp the last concrete memory, whatever happened to cause your character’s death. React to what your character thinks should be happening. There should be something in front of you causing your death. Instead you’re in a small town in northern England and a stranger is peering down at you with a look of concern/annoyance/greed on her face, which may be horribly deathmarked, mutated, foreign, or from a different time period altogether. On top of this you’re character is not breathing (please do not stop breathing. Just pretend), and is still oddly disconnected from the mortal world. Be confused. React violently if your character would. At this point your character has no idea what is going on, and everything should seems somewhat nightmarish. Maybe if you just wake up, everything will be fine...
The ranks of the dead mostly fall into eight methods of death. Some suggestions for role playing immediate reaction for each:
Sickness: Disease can be a slow or fast killer, but it is unlikely to be an unknown one. Most terminal diseases are preceded by a period of being bedridden and in pain. Therefore the immediate reaction may be confusion that you are out of bed and pain free. Perhaps you had a walk fell asleep. Obviously you are better. The tiny spark of hope can make the following revelation all that more horrible.
Despair: The majority of victims of despair take their own lives, either directly or through neglect. They can’t stand life and wish for nothing more than the sweet release of death and nothingness. Imagine the shock and despair when it’s discovered they’ve only made things worse.
Unknown: Some wraiths have no idea how they died, and subsequently no idea they just did. Either the memory never followed them into the shadowlands, or their final moments were so confusing they simply don’t know what happened. Finding themselves suddenly in the shadowlands can add an extra large measure of disorientation and provoke denial as the immediate reaction.
Happenstance: The dray horse gets away from its handler, the mushroom looked safe, the bricks came out of nowhere and…whoops. Being blindsided by death with no one to blame is likely to cause surprise followed by, in most cases, sheepish embarrassment or frustrated disbelief.
Madness: Many forms of madness are actually the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. The new clarity brought about by no longer having chemicals involved may lead a new wraith to wonder what they were thinking. Insanity brought on by mental trauma may cause no reaction to be elicited by arrival in the shadowlands. After all, it’s no more invalid an existence than the fever-mad dream of life for a crazy person.
Violence: Someone killed you. Whether it was in war, a fair fight, or an unprovoked attack, someone out there robbed you of your life. The immediate reaction is to fight back. After all, you might have simply blacked out and they might still be in the act. And then the anger sets in...
Age: Like disease, this is unlikely to sneak up on people. But even the aged grandfather who dies in his bed surrounded by his weeping family may be surprised to find himself still tied to his unfinished business.
Fate: A very few people know they are going to die, when, and how. Their demise has been prearranged by Fate. As such, surprise may not be a factor. Wonder, and a healthy dose of trepidation, would be more likely.
Psychological Changes Upon Becoming a Wraith
The Shadow: The most overwhelming and obvious change is the emergence of the shadow. Everyone has a dark side: that little voice in your head that thinks only of the pleasure. It’s the urge to kill, the self-centered id, the death wish, because what’s bad for you can feel oh so good. In the shadowlands that dark side gets its own separate mind and personality in the back of the wraith’s head. It is very real and it never goes away, but spends all its grinding away at the wraith’s self-worth and self-preservation. It seeks to serve Oblivion and the ultimate destruction of the wraith as it pursues its every twisted whim despite the cost.
Tips for role playing the shadow: The majority of role play with the shadow happens internally. Ultimately it should color everything your character does.
When presented with an emotional situation, as your character reacts, also think of the situation in the worst light possible. Think of the worst, most selfish, most emotionally twisted reaction in accordance to your shadow archetype. Then act out the struggle to ignore the very persistent voice in your head insisting this is the only proper reaction. Occasionally shadows will try to get a word in edgewise without taking control of the wraith. Vocalize some of these negative thoughts. Physically restrain yourself from acting out improper desires.
Remember that when your character arrives in the shadowlands, her shadow is just as new and inexperienced as she is. The shadow will, however, start being active immediately.
One thing to keep in mind while playing your wraith character is the shadowlands themselves. While you are wearing a white headband your character is in the shadowlands, despite what other things it might be called IG. To wraiths in the shadowlands, the world is a gloomy place. Everything is touched by death. Buildings stand in ruins, trees decay, people close to death have an awful pallor to them. The sky is always overcast. Nothing stands in a positive light, and all around you at all times is the reminder that these are dead lands, meant for the dead. It may be difficult to remember this on a sunny June day as you join your friends for a larp. You may find it hard to pretend to be gloomy when it’s bright out. We still live and play in the real world, and sun, especially in the Pacific Northwest, tends to make people happy. One way to deal with this is to think though the sun in the shadowlands should be weak and watery, any sun is better than nothing, right?
Same as it ever was?
Dying and becoming a wraith has a profound psychological effect on your character. Firstly, to her no time has passed, while for her still living loved ones, years may have gone by. They may have mourned your character and moved on, leaving no place in their lives for your suddenly arrived character. Seeing this sort of thing is devastating, especially if the wraith is tied to these loved ones through passion or unfinished business. They will likely not be able to see or hear your character, further driving home the sense of extreme isolation. Beyond that there is the shroud, the barrier between the lands of the living and the shadowlands. Only direct use of powers, which your character will either be inexperienced with, not realize they have, or not have in the first place, can a wraith interact with the skinlands, as they are called. The simple act of picking up a piece of paper, much less interacting with loved ones, is impossible and causes immense frustration and despair. There is an inborn need to interact with society in every person. Wraiths are removed from the ability to sate this need. That they can seek companionship with each other is small consolation when a dearly loved living one is right there and a world away. The character is trapped in her existence with no easy exit, a realization that will become all the more obvious when your character inevitably meets their first 500+ (or 1000+) year-old wraith.
If your character dies at event and comes in even the next event as a wraith, isolation is still the norm. While many characters at game can hear and even see wraiths, even your character’s best friends will treat them differently. They will know the local wraiths have at least the obligation and at most the strong desire to see your character realizes she is dead and things are different now. There are too many dangers in the shadowlands to allow anything else. Furthermore they may try to prevent your character from interacting with them or appearing in the skinlands, so as not to draw suspicions of supernatural abilities upon themselves. Though your character may feel like the same person, everything has changed and everyone knows this. Again, isolation while being surrounded by reminders of the past. To be the same person in a completely new world, especially when the old world is right over there, causes extreme psychological torment, isolation, and despair. It will leave lasting scars even long after the wraith has gotten used to her new world.
It’s not all that bad! There is a brand new world to explore, even though, or possibly because, it is fraught with danger. Even though it is rather gloomy and your loved ones scream and run away. If your character was a plain human, suddenly they can do wondrous magic. It may not be perfect, but it’s what your character has, and can literally be what she makes it. If only she can get over the crushing isolation. And that pesky shadow...