Love Beyond Death

Players won't get much, but Storytellers will get lots. This book is about ghosts, love, and loss. This is what Wraith: The Oblivion is all about, without the political crap and the cosmological baggage.

Reviewed by Mike Spera

Love Beyond Death is a supplement for adding elements of passion and love to a Wraith chronicle. I felt that it was a great read, but it tends to be a little specialized. This book is almost useless for players, but amazing for Storytellers.

Granted, if you're a Storyteller, this book is far from necessary, but its contents strike at the core of Wraith: passion, love and loss. Forget about the bureaucratic crap of the Heirarchy, the politics, and the factions. Forget about the tragically hip goth-punk vampires and mages. Forget about the other critters that run around in the World of Darkness. Forget all the cosmological confusion of Wraith's twisted form of geography. This book cuts straight to the stillborn heart of what Wraith: The Oblivion is all about. This book is about ghosts, love, and loss.


The artwork is so-so. Not great, but nothing to really complain about. I felt that only a few pieces were really good, while the rest failed to stir and emotion or sentiment about love. But there are a few pictures that seem to capture the love aspect of wraiths well: a skull and a rose, a man hugging a grave while a wraith soaks up Pathos, and my favorite piece on page 10: a woman in an empty room with her head in her hands, holding a cigarette and crying while a shattered photograph lies on the ground.

The breakdown of the chapters is as follows: Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are all Storyteller advice, while chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 are sample stories focused on love that Storytellers can throw the players into. {Alert! Spoilers Below.} Finally, there's an Appendix called "The Hope Chest" that offers some Artifacts and legendary wraiths that the Storyteller can use if need be.


The book opens up with "The Phantom Wooer" by Thomas Beddoes, which seems like a piece that is well suited for a book like this. It sets the tone for the type of imagery and emotion that runs throughout Love Beyond Death.


Chapter 1: Introduction To Gothic Romance is a 4-page opener that gives the reader an idea on why the book was written, and how ghosts and love are often tied together. It briefly explains what they mean by gothic romance, rather than the usual gothic-punk theme that the World of Darkness strives towards. Remember that when ghosts are concerned, not every love story has a happy ending...


Chapter 2: Love And The Game: Storytelling Romance talks about how to effectively handle love and its many facets with players {who should be mature on the subject, of course}. First, it talks about setting up boundaries, especially with mixed-gender groups. It more or less advises the ST to talk to players beforehand about the emotions that the ST is going for, and to stop play or tone it down if players' real-world emotions start to get mixed with up character emotions.

Next, it advises on how Storytellers can set the mood. Tone down the lights, light some candles, add some silk or velvet to the gaming table, and putting on certain music are all good tips. Use as many senses as you can {smell, touch, sound, and sight... and taste, if a clever ST can pull it off} to evoke the mood that's being aiming for. Next, it gives advise on how to take something as unpredictable as love and try to guide - not hamstring - the players and characters into falling into it naturally.

After that, it has advice on how to handle "tricky elements" such as seduction, sex, and extreme emotion. Finally, it comes down to mechanics: Passions, Pathos, Willpower, Skinriding, and the one element that can turn any Wraith game into a twisted love triangle: that pesky Shadow.


Chapter 3: Beyond Death: Romance In A Chronicle is a great chapter on the different aspects of love and how to include them in a story, either as a major element or character subplot. Aspects such as epic love, small-scale love, historical games, love and the passage of time, familial love, and lust are all discussed.


Chapter 4: The Price Of Love is a story in which an office secretary becomes obsessed with her boss, even after her death. Her obsession turns her into a Doppelganger, and she begins to haunt his office. The plot thickens when the boss calls in ghost hunters to rid the area of the Doppelganger and any other ghosts in the area, including the characters. The players are recruited to stop the Spectre's reign of terror and to avoid the ghost hunters. {Adding the elements of ghost hunters and the mission of fumigating an obsessed Spectre actually make this story an interesting mission for Orpheus STs to assign a Crucible to.}


Chapter 5: Object Of Affection is a story about two wraiths who are feuding over a lantern. The object seems mundane enough, but is actually the forged soul of the man that both women loved in life. With the characters in the middle, things get ugly and the players must ultimately decide who to support.


Chapter 6: Forever Yours is a story about a parapsychologist who invents a machine that can allow mortals and mediums to see the Shadowlands and other wraiths. By turning up the juice on his machine, he can kill someone on the operating table and make sure that they come back as a wraith. His motivation for this? He wants to contact his lost love, Alexander. Unfortunately, the doctor's assistant finds out that the doctor is experimenting with homicide and tries to go to the police. The doctor turns his assistant into a test subject and kills him. Now the assistant's wraith is trying to recruit the players into helping him stop the doctor's schemes before the Shadowlands are overrun with Enfants and ghost hunters that can see through the Shroud.


Chapter 7: Final Farewell is an epic tragedy about a crestfallen hero and mistaken identity. There's a new group of Heretics in town, and their leader Gabriel is searching for his lost love Amanda. Unfortunately for the players, he spots the troupe and sees that one of the female characters - or a female NPC - is the one he's been looking for. He tries to take his "Amanda" back with him, convinced that she is his, despite what the characters say and despite any evidence to the contrary. The characters get away from him in the first encounter, but the plot thickens when he claims he will wage all-out war on the Necropolis unless his Amanda is delivered back to him. With the Heretics on one side and the Heirarchy wanting to protect its city on the other side, this leaves the characters between a rock and a hard place... but the Heirarchy has a plan. They will take another wraith and Moliate her to look like "Amanda." This seems well and good, but will Gabriel fall for it? And if he doesn't, will he continue his hunt?


Finally, the book ends with a two-page Appendix called "The Hope Chest." Included in these pages are 4 Artifacts and 6 wraiths of note, including Anne Boleyn. The Artifacts are mildly enticing or completely useless depending, on your opinion, and the "Legendary Wraiths" aren't that much exciting either. Looks like this chest will remain closed to most Storytellers.


Overall: Players won't get much, but Storytellers will get lots. This book is about ghosts, love, and loss. This is what Wraith: The Oblivion is all about, without the political crap and the cosmological baggage.

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