Wraith: The Forgotten/Chapter Three: Systems
- 1 The Wraith Template
- 2 Pathos
- 3 Arcanoi
- 4 Relics
The Wraith Template
All Wraiths share certain traits that set them apart from other beings. Some are helpful, some are a bother, and some are just unusual quirks.
Passions are driving forces that keep a Wraith going and help stave off Oblivion. Primary Passions are the long-term goals that Wraiths focus on, and usually define the Wraith's relationship with the world. Many believe that resolving all of one's Passions (or at least the ones they enter the Shadowlands with) is key to Transcendence. Resolving a Secondary Passion, or making palpable progress toward resolving a Primary Passion offers a Beat and a point of Pathos, each of which can be acquired this way once per scene at the most.
Wraiths, like Ghosts, have Anchors. Anchors are people, places or objects that tie the Wraith to the Skin. Some Anchors are stronger than others, but all are vital to a Wraith's existence. Anchors are a source of reliable Pathos, and a place of shelter for them.
A Wraith can slumber within an Anchor, effectively Fettering themselves within it like a ghost or spirit. A Wraith so fettered within an inanimate Anchor, be it place or object, can control its function on a conceptual level. A phone, even a toy phone, can make calls, a sword cuts, and doors and windows slam. A living creature that carries a Wraith retains its own free will, but the Wraith can choose to either remain silent, or attempt to influence the host, similarly to the Urged.
While its Wraith is within it, the Anchor receives extra Durability or general Armor equal to its owner's Ego. If a Wraith remains inactive within an Anchor for at least 4 hours, an act called Slumbering, the Wraith regains 1 Pathos. A Wraith can remain within an Anchor for any length of time, without need to spend any Pathos, but to leave an Anchor after spending more than Ego consecutive days in it, the Wraith must spend 1 Pathos and 1 Willpower.
A Wraith is held together by self-concept. This is represented by the Wraith's Psyche. Psyche is a Wraith's concept of self. The Psyche is what the Wraith believes themself to be, everything they want to be, and everything they like about themself. Whenever a Wraith acts in defense of their Psyche, they regain 1 point of Willpower. If the act puts them at risk or causes a serious setback, it completely refills Willpower as well as granting a point of Pathos.
The Shadow is both a fragment of the Wraith's personality, and an independent creature all its own. Statistically, it's a type of Specter, making it an ephemeral creature that shares a physical body with the Wraith, with its own Rank, Essence, and powers. Unlike other Ephemerals, Shadows have skills and merits, but they also suffer unskilled penalties for skills in which they lack dots. They have Influence equal to their Rank over Harrowings, and may not acquire any other influences. In place of Numina, Shadows use Arcanoi.
Shadows constantly whisper in the ear of their Wraith, unable to directly act upon the world. The Shadow has impressive survival instincts, but it always tries to push its agenda, and manipulate the Wraith into deeper into Angst.
A Wraith can choose to allow their Shadow to take control at will, using its Skills, Specialties, Merits and Arcanoi, but once allowed to take control, a Shadow's not willing to give it up. To wrest control from the Shadow requires a Resolve + Composure roll vs. the Shadow's Rank + Power.
Shadows may start with statistics determined off of the Wraith, but they grow independently. With every beat the Wraith gains, the Shadow gains one as well. The Shadow can spend Experiences to increase Atributes, buy Skill or Merit Dots, gain new Specialties, or learn dots in Arcanoi, just like a Wraith. Its Rank is 1/2 the Wraith's Angst, rounded down.
At times of stress, a Shadow may attempt to influence the Wraith beyond normal whispering, attempting to take control. This is a Power + Rank roll, opposed by the Wraith's Composure + Resolve.
Wraiths don't have to worry as much about Integrity as mortals use it, and must instead fight off the ennui and existential depression endemic to the Wraith state of being. This sense of hopelessness is represented as Angst, and replaces Integrity. Angst starts at 3 dots for most Wraiths, and suffering a Breaking Point raises Angst. If Angst hits 10, the Wraith is put through one, final, terrible Harrowing. If they succeed, their Angst is returned to 9, and they continue on. If they fail, they suffer Oblivion as their Shadow takes permanent control.
Because Angst starts low and rises with stress, it behaves a bit differently than other Integrity replacements in dice pools. When a dice pool calls for Integrity (or an equivalent), instead use 10 – Angst. When a dice pool calls for 10 – Integrity, use Angst alone instead. This doesn't apply to when Angst is specifically called out.
How Angst Works
Mechanically speaking, Angst is still very similar to Integrity. It can be improved (buying down Angst) with Experiences, and it can worsen with Breaking Points. High Angst can sometimes make the Wraith more susceptible to mental attack, as well as influence from the Shadow. The Shadow, in fact, can add Angst to its dice pool when trying to persuade or coerce it Wraith, in addition to using it in Clashes of Will against them. Finally, it should be noted that Dark Arcanoi are empowered by Angst.
As noted before, Angst is mostly compatible with Integrity. An effect that calls out Angst will also work with 10 – Integrity and vice-versa, while an effect relying on Integrity will use 10 – Angst and vice-versa.
Levels of Angst
Angst is usually broken down into three groups:
Low Angst: Those with an Angst rating of 3 or less are considered to be in a state of Low Angst. They are well in control of their identity, and have a relatively positive outlook on life. Low-Angst Wraiths receive a +2 bonus to interact and blend in with the Quick.
Medium Angst: Any Wraith with more than three but less than seven dots of Angst has Medium Angst. Their sense of identity is starting to come unglued, and they are losing hope. However, they also better understand the mindset of ghosts, giving them a +2 bonus to interact with ghosts.
High Angst: At seven Angst or higher, the Wraith has almost totally given up. Many regularly acquiesce to their Shadows, becoming what they hate. The darkness in their hearts calls out to Specters, giving those Wraiths a +2 bonus to interact with them.
Oblivion: Not technically a category, this covers Wraiths who have hit Angst 10. Upon reaching Angst 10, the Wraith is sent into a Harrowing more perilous than any they have yet faced. If they succeed, they return as normal, their Angst dropped to 9, with the Denial, Dysphoric or Guilty condition as normal. If they fail, however, they are permanently taken over by their Shadow, who subsumes their personality completely. Such a Wraith is almost assuredly lost forever.
Zero Angst: Also not a true category, Wraiths with Zero Angst have absolute certainty in their identity, and total confidence in their abilities. They aren't necessarily full of themselves, but they have cleansed doubt from their minds. At Angst zero, the Shadow is silent, cowering in fear of the true ideal the Wraith has become. Spectres lose 10-again on all rolls against such a Wraith, and a strange thing happens: The Wraith's heart beats. They're still not alive, but they are obviously closer than anyone else. Many believe that reaching Zero Angst is a requirement for Transcendence.
Breaking Points with Angst work in roughly the same way. When the Wraith performs an act that goes against their idea of self, or when faced with trauma that makes them question their purpose or identity, they must roll a Breaking Point. Suggested Modifiers: Protecting the Psyche (+1 to +3), heeding the Shadow (-1 to -3), Pursuit of a Passion (+1 or +2), Human Anchor or True Friend (+3)
Dramatic Failure: Your concept of self is smashed, and you may never find all the pieces. You immediately suffer a Harrowing. If successful, you return with the Denial, Dysphoric or Guilty Condition. If unsuccessful, you gain the Broken or Fugue Condition, or your Shadow takes control without needing to roll.
Failure: Your idea of who you are is shaken, as you gain a dot of Angst and the Denial, Dysphoric or Guilty condition.
Success: While shaken, your self-concept still stands. You do not gain Angst, but you do receive the Denial, Dysphoric or Guilty condition.
Exceptional Success: You have actually managed to learn about yourself as a result of your experience. You gain the Enlightened condition.
Example Breaking Points: Angst 1 (Five Dice)
- One day without speaking to a human.
- Acknowledging the Shadow.
- Activating an Arcanos on the Skin.
- Spending a week in the Shadowland.
- Using a false identity
Angst 2 (Five Dice)
- Influencing or coercing others with an Arcanos against their will
- Spending a month in the Shadowland.
- Eating unfamiliar foods.
Angst 3 (Four Dice)
- Rejected by a human.
- Knowingly taking the Shadow's advice.
- Spending a year in the Shadowland.
- Forgetting a major detail of your life.
Angst 4 (Four Dice)
- One week without talking to a human.
- Surviving an injury that would hospitalize a human
- Failure to eat food at least once a day.
- Entering the Labyrinth
- Controlling others with an Arcanos against their will
Angst 5 (Three Dice)
- Not being recognized by a person you knew in life
- Reading your own obituary.
- Seeing a major life change in a living friend or relative
- Walking away from an injury that could kill a person
- Reaching Ego 3
- Using Moliate to take an inhuman form
Angst 6 (Three Dice)
- Two weeks without talking to a human.
- Reaching Ego 6
- Death of a mortal family member
- The destruction of one of your Anchors
- Joining a Guild to the point of gaining Status in it
- Losing control to the Shadow
- Stealing Pathos
Angst 7 (Two Dice)
- Learning a dot in a Dark Arcanos
- Existing for a century
- Seeing your work fade into obscurity or be destroyed
Angst 8 (Two Dice)
- One month without talking to a human
- Death of a mortal family member
- Willingly allowing the Shadow to take control
- Forcibly stealing a soul.
Angst 9 (One Die)
- One year without talking to a human
- Seeing a culture that didn't exist during your lifetime
- Existing for 500 years.
- Willfully destroying your anchor
Angst 10 (Zero Dice)
- One decade without talking to a human
- Willingly destroying Wraiths on behalf of Specters
- Destroying your life's work
When a Wraith's self-concept begins to break down, they can choose to try and suppress their doubt. This can work, but it will make its way out in other forms, called Marks. Marks are represented by the Mark Condition. You can only gain 1 beat from your Marks per scene, even if multiple apply. Marks usually have a symbolic connection to the Breaking Point that caused them, especially those spurred by supernatural Breaking Points. Resolving Marks also removes your protection from the Breaking Point that caused it, but you permanently receive a +1 bonus to rolls against that Breaking Point.
Sometimes, when a Wraith experiences a trauma, they are pulled into the Labyrinth to suffer a Harrowing. A Harrowing is a mystery play in which the Wraith must overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal relating to the Wraith's insecurities or fears. If this goal is passed, then the Wraith leaves unharmed, possibly with an extra reward for exemplary performance. The consequences for failure, however, can be dire. Breaking points, injury, madness, even total Oblivion are on the table.
The exact goal of a Harrowing isn't always immediately clear, and the Harrowing itself is often made more complicated by the influence of the Shadow, which can take independent form only during Harrowings. At the end of a Harrowing, a Wraith is always returned to either where they were, or the general vicinity of an Anchor. This is occasionally taken advantage of by Wraiths, as while most Harrowings are spurred by Breaking Points, a Wraith can make a roll of Ego + Angst to voluntarily undergo a Harrowing, often to escape a more dangerous fate.
When a Wraith has become so broken and ragged from their experiences, the last step is to fall into Oblivion. When a Wraith reaches Angst 10, they are dragged to the Labyrinth for the ultimate Harrowing. At this point, the Shadow is at its boldest and most powerful. Specters circle, ready to anoint their new brother or sister. If the Wraith succeeds, they stave off Oblivion for a time. If they fail, they are permanently overtaken by their Shadow. They are gone, a slave to the mad agenda of their inner demons. They run with the Specters, having become one of them, and gleefully torment the denizens of the Shadowlands, having lost all that they once cherished to the darkness. Unlike other Spectres, a Wraith fallen to Oblivion retains total free will. Why they choose to align themselves with Specters is uncertain, but many quietly allude to a “plan.” Whether it's a personal plot, or some unified plan remains to be seen.
Wraiths aren't “alive”, and so they don't have the same needs as living creatures. Wraiths don't need to eat, drink or breathe (although they still need a proper fluid medium if they intend to speak). They are capable of doing those things and still even retain their sense of taste, but it's not autonomous.
Additionally, the ephemeral Corpus of the Wraith is very resilient to many forms of damage. Wraiths downgrade lethal damage from blunt force trauma to bashing, and bashing damage from blunt force trauma is halved. (These aren't cumulative, and don't apply to aggravated damage of any kind). Wraiths still suffer full damage if it's inflicted by one of their Anchors or a supernatural source, and they suffer Aggravated Damage from any source made of Soulsteel, as well as Soulfire.
Not A Ghost, Not A Dream
While a Wraith bears a fair bit of resemblance to a normal Ghost or astral creature, there are critical metaphysical differences between them. Any effect designed to specifically affect a ghost or astral creature suffers a -3 penalty on any dice rolls against a Wraith. This does not apply to things designed to affect both ghosts and astral beings, specifically.
The Wraith's existence is, at its most basic, a pattern of memories. This pattern requires energy to maintain, and as a result, every day, a Wraith must spend 1 point of Pathos to become active, unless they are occupying their Anchor. Every day during which they can't pay the cost, they must roll 10-Angst or acquire the Famished condition, which is resolved when they pay off the Pathos debt. If they continue to fail to pay the Pathos charge, they must roll again to avoid gaining the Starving Condition. If they still haven't paid after that, they then roll to avoid gaining the Emaciated condition. After that, if they fail to pay, they must roll a success on Angst - 10 or fade into nothingness.
On the upside, expending extra energy can quickly mend damage to the pattern. By spending Pathos in a reasonably safe situation (so not during a fight or while getting thrown around in a tornado), a Wraith may spend Pathos up to their per-turn limit once per scene to heal 1 point of Bashing damage or downgrade one point of Lethal damage per point of Pathos.
Eyes of the Wraith
Wraiths have a unique relationship with death, and as a result, they can perceive the death around them. They can detect anything with the Resonant condition keyed to death, as well as any ghosts and ephemera with Death in its influences, and any death-based effects. Additionally, the Wraith can innately tell the living from the dead or undead, barring supernatural powers.
Wraiths are technically a type of ephemeral, and as a result, they interact strangely with other ephemeral creatures. Wraiths are, by default, in Twilight when in the Skin. Some powers allow them to leave Twilight, either Materializing like a Ghost might, or Possessing others.
As a result of being ephemeral, Wraiths can also interact with other Ephemerals. They are on the same Ephemeral "Frequency" as both Ghosts and Astral creatures, and can interact with both by default.
Pathos is the energy that fuels Wraiths. It's technically a specific form of Essence, resonant with memory and death, and is usually produced by people remembering a person's life. While it doesn't have any direct effect on the living, it is vital to the existence of the Forgotten, as without it, a Wraith will rapidly fade into nothing.
Uses of Pathos
In addition to remaining active, Pathos can be used and manipulated by Wraiths for a variety of purposes. While not truly a substance, when it is made manifest it can take a number of forms, depending on how it is being used. Usually, is resembles a pale haze, often colored by the personality of its source, but can become a thick, glassy syrup, or even ethereal coins or jewels.
As noted above, Wraiths can heal themselves when in states of relative calm. They may sew themselves back together, reform themselves through meditation, or more esoteric actions, but as long as they can center themselves and keep calm, they can heal up to their Pathos per Turn in Bashing damage, or downgrading Lethal damage to Bashing.
Using Arcanoi usually costs Pathos, especially the more powerful ones. The Pathos burns away into a thin, almost imperceptible vapor as the Arcanos takes effect. If the Arcanos fails, the Pathos is still lost.
Byways connect the Skin and the Shadowlands, connect parts of the Shadowlands to itself, and a few reach even more distant planes. While many are open at all times, some require the use of Pathos to force them open. Opening a Byway costs 1 Pathos and an Ego roll.
Many relics connected to death exist in both the Skin and the Shadowlands, some of which are usable by Wraiths. While many are simply physical objects that were destroyed in the Skin and were thus reflected into the Shadowlands or Twilight, but some are powerful totems of death, hidden in the physical world and bathed in ectoplasmic energy. While some are passive or require no resources to activate, many require a Wraith to use Pathos to power them.
There are several ways to acquire Pathos, some being safer and more morally acceptable, and others being very lucrative, but fraught with moral or physical peril.
Anchors, in addition to acting as shelter and a Touchstone to humanity, also offer a measure of Pathos. Once per Chapter, when Fettering oneself in an Anchor, a Wraith can roll 10 - Angst, and regain Pathos equal to the successes. You can only do this once per Anchor per Chapter, and you receive 1 Pathos per hour you spend in the Anchor.
Legacy and Memoriam
These merits can be invaluable for Wraiths, especially those with weak or destroyed Anchors. Memoriam, being based off of the direct memories of your life, are more reliably potent, but memories fade, and the people who hold them die. As a result, Legacies are far more useful in the long term. A Wraith can gain and increase either even after their Blink, provided they put effort into spreading their memory, or unearthing their achievements to the world (even if those achievements weren't technically made while the Wraith lived). Perhaps a "lost" painting was unearthed in the attic, or the grandkids inexplicably want to hear about the War. Either way, it leads to sweet Pathos for a canny Wraith.
Ghosts and Astrals
Since Pathos is technically Essence, it's possible to take from a Ghost or an Astral being with sympathies toward death or memory. This can be voluntary, or involuntary. One can even eat such beings in their entirety, with the right Arcanos.
Pathos isn't just energy and food. In the Shadowlands, it's cash. It can be exchanged for goods and services, and if you're low on Pathos and need a quick top-up, doing an odd job isn't a bad idea. As strange as it sounds, buying and selling with your own life force, it makes more sense than trading paper and bits of metal. Pathos has real value to it for the Restless.
Less frequently, it can be stolen. Pathos that's been stored in objects doesn't care who takes it out, so if a Wraith happens upon a cache of stored Pathos, that can be an easy source of ill-gotten gains. More dangerously, once can even used certain Arcanoi to steal Pathos from an unlucky Wraith.
An Obolus is, in essence, a human soul. It's an extremely useful material for all manner of illicit items and rituals, and is thus invaluable. In a pinch, however, an Obolus can serve as a quick source for large amounts of Pathos. An Obolus can be broken down, providing a Wraith with as much Pathos as they can hold. Any excess is wasted, and an Obolus so destroyed can't be reclaimed in any way. Those who understand Oboloi consider this a tremendous waste, as there are much more powerful ways to use them.
Arcanoi are the supernatural powers of the Wraith. With the right Arcanos, a Wraith can control inanimate objects, heal or harm, and even manipulate the minds and memories of others. Some come naturally to Wraiths, while others are more esoteric, and it varies from Wraith to Wraith. Every Wraith has, by virtue of their Lamentation and their Elegy, two Arcanos that is favored to them. Additionally, many gain tutelage from the Guilds in more Arcanoi, especially more obscure ones.
The Arcanoi, and a description of their powers, can be found here.
The use of Arcanoi is fairly simple. A Wraith focuses the Pathos that makes up its body, and wills the effect to happen. How exactly Arcanoi function is supremely unclear, but people know they function, and most don't really care to look a gift horse in the mouth.
When using an Arcanos, there's often a cost in Pathos, as well as a dice pool of Attribute + Skill + Arcanos, and a duration. Activation Successes refers to the number of successes you roll on your activation roll. Using weaker powers doesn't reduce the dice pool in the Arcanos for that roll. A Wraith with Outrage 5 still rolls the full five dice for Pandemonium, even when using the one-dot Power, “A Chill Wind Blows”.
Some Arcanoi call on the Shadow's nascent energies to operate. These are called Dark Arcanoi, and can only be learned by Spectres and Wraiths taught by Spectres. Such powers are potent indeed, but their use always cause a Breaking Point, and they usually work in disturbing, hideous ways.
Learning an Arcanos is a fairly simple process. You must focus your Corpus to incorporate the new Arcanos, making it apart of your being. However, with the exception of the Arcanoi you learn by dint of your Lamentation and Elegy, you need a teacher to learn dots in a new Arcanos. The teacher needn't be a master, but you can't pick up an Arcanos by simply watching. You have to understand the philosophy of the Arcanos, and learn to apply it in your own way. Of course, Guilds are a good source of tutelage, and it can be assumed that anyone in good standing with their Guild (not necessarily having Status dots, but not being an outcast either) has access to a teacher for their Guild's Arcanoi.
While Wraiths tend to stick to themselves, many encounter other creatures of the World of Darkness in their long unlives. When a Wraith clashes with another supernatural creature, keep in mind that other beings lack Ego, just as a Wraith has no Blood Potency or Wyrd rating. In an opposed roll against another supernatural creature's power, use Ego in place of the normal “Power Trait”, more broadly referred to as Supernatural Tolerance, a blanket term including ephemeral Rank, Ego, Vampiric Blood Potency, Promethean Azoth, and other similar traits. Similarly, other creatures use their own Supernatural Tolerance when dealing with Wraith powers.
Additionally, there are times when two supernatural powers oppose each other, and the rules don't clearly state how to resolve the dispute. In such a case, a Clash of Wills occurs. Each creature involved rolls their relevant dice pool in an opposed roll. For Wraiths, the dice pool is Ego + the relevant Arcanos. Any creature may add Willpower to their own roll, provided they are physically present and aware of the clash. Long-term effects are more enduring, granting a bonus to the roll. Day-long effects add +1, week-long ones add +2, month-long effects add +3, and anything lasting a year or longer add +4.
Relics are physical items that have become imbued with the Essence of the Shadowlands. Some are items in the Skin imbued with powerful emotional resonance, others are items that were destroyed in the Skin and found themselves reflected in the Gloom, and a few others hold enough historical significance to carry Pathos. Such items are rare and prized in the Shadowlands, as they allow anyone holding them to access powers they would not normally have. A given Relic is rated from one to five dots, which gives a general measure of the Relic's power. Relics can sometimes hold Pathos, usually an amount up to twice their dot rating, give or take some.
Relics are usually fairly intuitive to use, especially basic ones. Some have passive effects that are always active, while others have active, Pathos-fueled effects that must be activated with an Ego roll. Others have certain conditions that need to be met, usually relating to the item's history. As a result, many relic collectors are also historians and investigators.
Dramatic Failure: The Relic turns on its user, burning out any stored Pathos and permanently ruining the object.
Failure: The Relic fails to function for the rest of the Scene.
Success: The Relic performs its function.
Exceptional Success: No extra effect by default, but individual Relics may offer additional benefits for Exceptional Success.
Rank 1 Relics
Rank 1 Relics tend to have fairly basic, low-key abilities, rarely having more than a small passive effect.
- Granting a small bonus or penalty (±2) to a specific roll.
- Offering the effects of a weak Numen
- A small material benefit (respect from a specific ghost or group of astrals)
Sample Relic: Scout's Compass This compass belonged to some unlucky scout who got lost in the wilderness. Whether they starved, froze or got eaten, it'smost likely they didn't make it home. The compass is still useful, though. This Compass allows you to find your way without any knowledge of the area, provided you have a clear goal in mind. Effect: By spending 1 Pathos, you can replicate the effects of the Pathfinder Numen. Pathos Capacity: 2