In a Spectral Mood

Some discussion of types of superheroes and superpowers over at Stephanie Denise Brown’s LJ led to a pretty fascinating exchange in the comments section, finally (for me) culminating in a discussion of gaming with one of the original writers of what remains my most fondly-remembered RPG system, Wraith: The Oblivion.

My Wraith books were, along with nearly all my other White Wolf RPG books, lost in shipment to my parents’ home when I left for Korea. It’s been eight years, but the loss still stings a little. I had almost everything that had come out in the Wraith line, as well as many Vampire: The Masquerade and Mage: The Ascension books. (Never had many of the Werewolf books, as the guy I played Werewolf with had them all and was willing to lend them out.)

A weird story: the first group I played a White Wolf game with was led by a guy in Saskatoon whom I met through my ex. I’m not sure how that connection actually formed, but anyway, she and I ended up playing with this group–which included a married couple, as well as a couple of other guys, one of them the son of a prof I studied with–for about a year and a half. Finally, the wife in the married couple made a pass at my ex, and well, the gaming group didn’t last long after that.

After that, I formed another group with a bunch of newbie players–mostly women from my local writing critique group, as well as one (extremely effeminate) guy my ex knew somehow. I didn’t know what to expect, and was therefore wonderfully surprised to discover they were an amazing group of roleplayers.

We had this whole involved narrative involving a bunch of mortal characters, each one of them recently bereaved and enrolled in a Mourning and Loss support group at the local YMCA. (The story was set somewhere like Edmonton, I think.) The effeminate guy’s character was this rich widower whose wife was very obviously haunting him: their song kept coming on the radio–radios that switched on of their own accord–night after night. Other characters included a Russian immigrant woman who had once been a spy, and who had lost her husband in what might have been a botched Russian secret service hit, and a woman who had just lost her husband in a car accident and was left behind with the kids, and a couple of other characters I can’t remember.

It was spooky. We played it by candlelight, focusing on narrative and mood, and on the pain of the characters. I remember my ex’s character sometimes chilling us all, even me as the GM, when her character was Skinridden (ie. possessed) by ghosts haunting the other players’ characters. (Her character was, for some reason, more prone to being Skinridden, and on occasion she roleplayed those moments shockingly well. Then again, one time she went to the bathroom, drew scars on her face with lipstick, and screamed as she ran back out into the living room, scaring the crap out of everyone.)

Anyway, all those books are still available second-hand, though some of them are far from cheap; a part of me would love to collect the whole series of Wraith gamebooks, but I’m not sure I’ll ever really play the game again. I’d like to, but I fear it’s just not that practicable given how busy I always am. Maybe when I’m old and retired? In the meantime, I do have the complete set of the Orpheus series of gamebooks, which seem like the nearest thing White Wolf has since done to the original Wraith game. I’ll be honest: I’ve flipped through them but always been too busy even to read ’em, since I picked them up a few years ago. But if I had a group of people willing to come over and play once every few weeks, I might consider running a game. Unlikely, I know.

(I also have a couple of Kindred of the East books, the original AEON: Trinity plastic-covered book, Werewolf: The Wild West, Wraith’s The Great War supplement/standalone game book (and Charnel Houses of Europe, an amazing supplement though I never used it), and one GURPS book–the one based on Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun books (given to my by my friend Adam).

That reminds me, I just ran across something among some papers I happened to bring with me during my last trip to Canada. Early writings. Yes, fanfic of my AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign. But more about that another time.

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2 thoughts on “In a Spectral Mood

  1. I’m more of a pre-White Wolf era sort of guy. Your D&D/ RIFTS/ GURPS/ Marvel Super Heroes/ Paranoia/ Car Wars/ TMNT era.

    A friend of mine has kept all of his books from that era. Most of them are falling apart, but he does have some forgotten classics like Stormbringer, Bunnies & Burrows, and Boot Hill.

    He might be able to get a pretty penny for them on eBay.

  2. William,

    Well, check back in a few days. I have a whole series of posts coming on gaming stuff — in the next one, I warp back to my pre-White Wolf memories. D&D, AD&D, and Gamma World are the ones I mostly ran, though I briefly tried playing Marvel Super Heroes and I’m sure one or two other things.

    And yeah, if Stormbringer, and Boot Hill are in good condition, I imagine he could make a mint. Rare vintage gaming books are worth a fortune… some of them, anyway.

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