Ends of Empire

"...wonderful, shocking, eye-opening, and stuffed with possibilities ... if you want to run a really shocking story of epic proportions, look no further. Ends of Empire is a benchmark in the Underworld's history, and is a new beginning as well as a tragic end."


Reviewed by Mike Spera

The Hierarchy is attacked from without and within. Charon returns. Spectres and plasmics roam freely. All secrets are laid out. History is being rewritten, and the future history of the Underworld is happening right now.

Ends Of Empire is both a great book and a book I hoped I'd never see. It's the final book of the Wraith series, and it's a bittersweet one at that. If anything, this book is packed. There are only so many words available in a word count, and Rich Dansky used only the most important material for this book. This supplement is a setting book, chronicle book, AND a Guildbook. There's a lot to cover, but let's start at the beginning.

The fiction that opens up the book (and continues on between chapters) deals with everyone's favorite dead Bostonian, Erik. The one thing I don't like about the fiction is that it starts out "in media res" and doesn't really explain what the hell is going on. Erik is stuck in the middle of the tempest somewhere in a shipwreck. Then something terrible happens. They don't tell you what it is, so I was left none the wiser. They make a brief blurb about it in the Intro (the city was the legendary vampiric city of Enoch), but I still wish they had made some mention of it in the fiction itself. The rest of the between-chapter storyline is wonderfully written and follows a cohesive plot to a flawless conclusion.

The Introduction is a two-page summary of the book. To sum up the entire book in two pages is no easy task, but it cut the bull and got down to business. It flat-out tells you, from person to person, why they're doing it and what exactly you're in for. A MUCH better intro than the standard Chapter 1 is X, Chapter 2 is Y.

The Last Hour of Jade is a chapter that details the Jade Kingdom and its invasion of the Iron Kingdom. Like any war, it's a slow buildup of events that finally boils up to a fury that cannot be ignored. A good chunk of political and economic material here. I'm not too much into politics, so I didn't find it very exciting, but there's certainly a ton of plot hooks.

The Last Danse Macabre is a chronicle of epic proportions. I don't like reading sample chronicles, but this was a major exception. I enjoyed reading it, and I almost couldn't put it down. I'd like to read more epic chronicles like this. If your Storyteller plans on running this chronicle, do NOT read this chapter! Otherwise, get ready for the most Underworld-shattering set of events to happen since the disappearance of Charon.

By Charon's Oar is the chapter all about the Ferrymen. Who they are, where they came from, what their motives are, and generally everything you ever wanted to know.... and a few things that you'd never expect. This was an awesome chapter, and one of my favorites along with The Last Danse Macabre.

Guildbook: Mnemoi ends the incomplete Guildbook series. I would have liked to see a Guildbook for the Solicitors and Alchemists, or even for some of the foreign Guilds in "Wraith: The Great War," but Mnemoi is certainly an awesome way to end the series. It has everything about this most forbidden and outlawed of Guilds. It contains history, new powers, and one of the greatest secrets in the Underworld, which also happens to be one of the greatest mistakes that Charon has ever made. Certainly an eye-opening chapter.

The Appendix has a sort of cheat sheet of what really happened and who it happened to. Everyone from the favorite Guildmasters to the Deathlords to the Dark Kingdoms and tons more. All final secrets are laid out, and (like most of the book) some juicy secrets are revealed.

One of the most useful parts of the book comes next, a section called "Storytelling After The Fall." This has great plot hooks and ideas about how the Underworld can rise up from its own ashes and live on like a phoenix. Rather than have the events in this book be "The End" of Wraith, you can easily turn it around and have it be "A New Beginning." All of the ideas are great, and if are up for some superb roleplaying, give these ideas a try. (All you "combat machine" players out there might feel a little disappointed, sorry.) The Afterword, written by "The Dead Guy" himself, is a bittersweet little anecdote. If you read between the lines, you can tell Dansky is not happy about Wraith ending, but is still proud of what he's done and where it's gone.

Overall, this book is wonderful, shocking, eye-opening, and stuffed with possibilities. You don't absolutely need it (who wants to ruin the Underworld and end a perfectly good game line?), but if want to run a really shocking story of epic proportions, look no further. Ends of Empire is a benchmark in the Underworld's history, and is a new beginning as well as a tragic end. It gets a solid 4 out of 5 skulls from me.

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