Love Beyond Death

"... has its merits ... incredibly overwritten in places, and underwritten in others. My advise would be to buy it if you're looking to start romantic plotlines, or you're the kind of person that uses them all the time. People in between will simply find nothing of any use to them here..."

Reviewed by Shattered Roses

For me, roleplaying has always been about romance. The very first Wraith I ever played got herself in the most convoluted and tragic of love triangles, and that really is where I like to spend my time gaming. Because of this, I approached Love Beyond Death with some interest, wondering how it was going to deal with a convention I use regularly in my games. In all, I'm not entirely sorry to have read it, but there are certainly places in which I found it to be lacking.

Having tried to read the book a few times before, I am more than aware of the largest of the flaws the book possesses. The first chapter. 'Love and the Game' is a section that, to my mind should have been used to detail different ways of introducing romance into your game if you are new to it, and ideas for Storytellers already using the Romantic conventions in their games. However, what I got was an endless stream of warnings and guidance about how I should respect another players feelings, and not cross the line and upset people.

In my mind, anyone who has got far enough to be reading a supplement book like this is already aware of the corebook, and therefore also the warnings on respecting your player's feelings that are located there. Even if there is a need to warn potential Storytellers about dealing with love in their games (and with issues such as incest, rape and alternative sexuality being approached, then perhaps there is), these words of warning could easily have been reduced to a paragraph or two, instead of constantly repeating themselves.

There are however, a few interesting titbits to be gained from this initial chapter, and I found the section on setting the scene gave me a few ideas on how to adapt the way I run games. Also, in the book's credit, it does approach issues of alternative sexuality as opposed to simply ignoring them, and I think that's a big point in the book's favour. However, while it emphasises throughout that it isn't just a sourcebook for romantic love, but also for familial love, and love between friends, I found very little material to back this up, and in general any form of love beyond the romantic was greatly neglected.

Fortunately, once you have pushed through the first chapter - which is enough to put all but the staunchest of gamers off - the chapter that follows it is a great improvement. The sections looking over the different types of love will give ideas to even the most experienced of Storytellers. It also brings in echoes of traditional romantic visions of ghosts {the heart-broken woman searching eternally for her lost love} and a few elements entirely unique to Wraith. The idea of clinging to an object that was forged from a lover's soul is a wonderful, tragic image that's right in keeping with what the book wants to achieve.

However, just when things were looking as if they were going to get better, you hit the scenarios.

The first two of these are bad almost beyond belief. This may just be because I dislike pre-written scenarios, but I doubt that's all of it. Object of Affection and The Price of Love both follow the pattern of "X calls the characters together and asks them to do Y, then pesters them until they do." Both the scenarios lack the substance to make them believable and engaging. In fact, both of the scenarios are very poorly developed after the initial good ideas: loving someone so much that it drives you to Oblivion {The Price of Love} and the earlier idea of having a loved one forged into an artifact {Object of Affection}.

The third scenario, Forever Yours, is the pick of the bunch, and in fact it's so good I would even consider running it myself. It excels where the first two scenarios failed dismally; It is interesting and engaging, with great ideas behind the plot {a machine that can induce people to see Wraiths and even make sure they become Restless themselves on dying}, and a number of interesting twists and turns to the plot. The characters are engaging, and little hints dropped here and there {like one of James Doyle's Dark Passions} could make the romance even more tragic and complicated.

The last of the scenarios, A Final Farewell, is unimpressive, though not as bad as the first two. It claims to be flexible and adaptable, but in the end it just gives so many options that it's impossible to follow. The idea, as with the first two, is sound - even inspiring - but the character of Gabriel falls flat, and lacks any kind of depth or ambiguity to make him, or his story, compelling.

The book closes with a number of new artifacts and the histories of a few legendary, love-stricken Wraiths. While the artifacts are relatively interesting, the 'Legendary Wraiths' section is massively underwritten, and could have been added to in favour of all those warnings at the beginning of the book. It could have been a section detailing, in-depth, the histories of some Restless personifying the mood of Love Beyond Death, but in reality, the single page they are given is nowhere near enough to do anything but confuse people even further.

All in all, the book has its merits, and even though I have been running romantic stories for almost as long as I've been gaming, I found a few things in here that I'm going to take away with me and put into practice in my games. It emphasised Wraiths working together in a Circle, which is something that cannot be stressed enough: after all, if a Wraith looses her Circle, who does she have left?

However, the book is, as I've mentioned, incredibly overwritten in places, and underwritten in others. My advise would be to buy it if you're looking to start romantic plotlines, or you're the kind of person that uses them all the time. People in between will simply find nothing of any use to them here, and anyone that does approach it should be prepared to skim through most of the first chapter.

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