Wraith: The Great War

"I found this book to be immensely useful as a 4th Great Maelstorm reference... If you need info on how wraiths work during any time of large war, this is your book."

Reviewed by Mike Spera

A storm rages on around you, malevolent creatures scream through the air, attacking friend and foe alike, your government is falling apart, and men are killing each other (again) for no apparent reason.

Welcome to Wraith: The Great War.

Wraith: The Great War is a historical supplement to Wraith: The Oblivion. Unlike Vampire: The Dark Ages, Werewolf: The Dark Ages, Werewolf: The Wild West, and Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade, this book takes place in the past, but a much closer past than medieval times or the old west. This book is about World War I, but it was known in that day as The Great War - the war to end all wars. They were unaware back then that World War II would be everything The Great War was, only worse, but that's neither here nor there. The artwork is this book has a nice, nitty-gritty war feeling to it that drives fits the material perfectly. My personal favorites are on pages 127, 192, and 210. The pic on 212 feels sort of out-of-place, like it belongs on a Grateful Dead t-shirt.

The introductory fiction is about three very different people comparing stories and waiting out the worst part of the 4th Great Maelstorm. I enjoyed it, but it's far from my favorite piece of fiction. It sort of explains the situation: the war among the Quick, the maelstorm, the political upheaval in Stygia, all in dialogue.

The Introduction explains the Twilight Era, the period of time right before the Final Nights. It also gives a brief chapter breakdown and a lexicon of war terms and terms having to do with the political unrest and the Great Maelstorm. The Introduction wraps up with suggested resources in the form of books, movies, and music. Unlike most World Of Darkness books, I have never seen or even heard of most of these books/films/albums.

Chapter 1: War And Aftermath starts out with "Four Years in the Skinlands," which look at the Great War in a non-World Of Darkness sense. In fact, anything that mentions the war as it relates to the World Of Darkness has a section off on its own (much like Charnel Houses Of Europe). After "Four Years in the Skinlands," the rest of the chapter falls under the "Four Years Among the Dead" section, which looks at the Great War's aftereffects across the Shroud. After that comes the Legions, done in everyone's favorite two-page-with-a-pretty-picture-and-symbol layout. Then comes a section on the various Guilds and how they ally themselves with each other and the Hierarchy during the 4th Great Maelstorm.

Chapter 2: The Rules Of Engagement gives a damn good look at combat on land, sea, and air. It gives rules on situational-awareness (who acts first in an engagement), botches, fire, movement, reaction combat, heavy weapons, tanks, emplacements, armor, new Arcanos, ships, combat among ships, overtaking other ships, ramming, dogfights, and more. It also includes a good, solid explanation on what a maelstorm IS and how it works, starts, and acts. It also gives the various forces of Maelstorm Intensity, which is sort of like a DefCom system, and describes the OMP: Office of Maelstorm Preparedness. No, I don't think "preparedness" is an actual word, but they invented it, so deal with it. The chapter finally ends with information on protecting Citadels and Haunts from the maelstorm and the scavenger folk.

Chapter 3: I Think, Therefore I Am A Wraith talks about creating a wraith who died in the Great War. To safe you some time, I'll give you a little advice: creating a Great War wraith uses the exact same system as any other wraith - Attributes: 7/5/3, Abilities: 13/9/5, etc. It gives 9 brand new Archetypes, including the AuCourant, Commando, Idealist, Reformist, and Pragmatist among others. Next comes a good, war-time look at how the various Traits effect wraiths in the Great War as well as the war across the Shroud. All the Traits are looked at, from Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina to Medicine, Occult, and Politics. The Backgrounds get the same treatment.

Next comes a section on the Arcanos. Don't be fooled, though: most of these Arcanos are the exact same as the ones in the main rulebook, only with different names. However, there are a few brand-new Arcanos, though, but you'd have to look through the section with the main rulebook to see which ones are the same and which ones are different (unless you have all the Arcanoi memorized!). Finally, there's a section that mentions a few "tempered" Arcanoi (read: "combination" Arcanoi.) Four such Arcanoi are given: Animate the Dead (Usury 2 + Puppetry 5), Masquerade (Moliate 2 + Embody 5), Mirror Monster (Phantasm 2 + Pandemonium 5), and Shadowstrength (Castigate 3 + Usury 5).

Chapter 4: I Am But The Shadow Of Myself is a chapter about making a Shadow for a Great Wartime wraith. There are new Archetypes, ranging from the Anarchist to the Deserter to the Maggot to the Patriot. It details some new and old Thorns, gaining and losing Angst, Catharsis, Eidolon, Harrowings, and a new Shadow character sheet.

Chapter 5: The Outsiders And Others has a title that is too similar to a certain H.P. Lovecraft book ("The Outsider and Others") to be a coincidence. Regardless, this chapter gives info on the other Dark Kingdoms and how, politically, the fit into the situation. A whole batch of new Arcanoi are given: Displace is practiced by the Tvashtriya from Swar, Behest is practiced by the Morimans from the Dark Kingdom Of Ivory, and the Ways of the Scholar, Farmer, Merchant, and Soul practiced by the wraiths of the Jade Kingdom. Finally, a section on how to use Mortwights (one caste of Shadow-eaten wraiths) as playable characters.

Chapter 6: My Death's Many Tales gives many ideas on wartime chronicles, plots, and themes with Fetters, Charon, factions, the Maelstrom, and other Dark Kingdoms.

Chapter 7: The Enemies Of My Friends is all about enemies. The Inquisition, the Sons of Tertullian, the various types of Benandanti, the Giovanni, Spectres, and the Plasmics are all mentioned. I found the Benandanti, the Tin Ants plasmics, and the Mired plasmics to be very interesting.

The Appendix talks about different Necropoli in the time of the war. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Constantinople, Chicago (yes, Chicago), Doula, Lisbon, London, New York, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Vienna all get covered. A few battlefields are covered afterwards, followed by sample relics, including ships and planes. Finally, there's a timeline that goes from 1820 to 1929 covering Great War events on both sides of the Shroud. The book ends with an Afterward, which is an essay in remembrance of those real-world souls that died in World War I, and a Wraith: The Great War character sheet. The sheet is slightly different from the regular Wraith sheet. The dividers are barbed wire (a nice touch, I think) and some of the Abilities have been changed. Urbanism is a new Talent, Pilot (which works on both boats and planes) is a new skills, and Heavy Weapons is a new Knowledge.

I found this book to be immensely useful as a 4th Great Maelstorm reference. It's a bit focused on the politics of the dead, but I guess that's fine if you're into that sort of thing. (I, personally, am into Wraith for the Psyche/Shadow/Passion/Fetter part.) If you need info on how wraiths work during any time of large war, this is your book. 3 out of 5 skulls.

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