Why Orpheus is Better than Wraith


Mike Spera

Orpheus is an overall better game to play than Wraith: the Oblivion for a number of reasons. First off, if there's one thing that I like about Orpheus, it's that it doesn't want to cross over with other World Of Darkness games. When Wraith was written, at least 3 other World Of Darkness games were out there. There are rules in Wraith for crossing over with X: The Y because the inhabitants of the other games shared a common world with wraiths. Not so in Orpheus. Orpheus COULD be crossed over with other WOD games, but at its core, it's a game made to be played by itself. Crossovers can get messy, especially in Wraith, where the ghost characters are on the other side of the Shroud.

Another thing that I think gives Orpheus a clever edge is that the players have a slightly better choices for activities. By this, I mean that if a crucible doesn't like the looks of a certain mission, they can ask to be assigned to another. However, if you happen to be playing Wraith, there's not much you can do if you don't happen to like your Storyteller's plot. You can talk to the ST out-of-character, but it's much easier to handle it in character by saying "I'd rather not take this mission." Sadistic STs can still find ways to bribe, coerce, blackmail, or force the characters to go on a mission, but one would like to think that this wouldn't happen too often.

If there's one thing that I can't stand about Wraith, it's trying to figure out the geography of where everything is in relation to everything else. Orpheus takes place in the real world, not a dark quasi-reflection of it made up of memories. The Orpheus characters exist right alongside the rest of the living, and I think the setting is a lot better with everyone playing on the same astral plane.

So I think Orpheus is a lot better off since the Storyteller doesn't have to go out of his way to describe the scene, because the players are already familiar with the world they are dealing with. The setting in Orpheus is just as solid as the real world; Main Street will always look like Main Street, and the characters know that Main Street is not going to disappear and reappear somewhere else. They know that when a building falls down, it does not reappear, and downtown Boston looks the same to spooks as it does to the living.

Orpheus is also superior with the number of traits available. When it comes to choice of Personality Archetypes, Orpheus has Wraith beat hands-down. Wraith has 21 Archetypes in its core book, while Orpheus has 51. That's the biggest amount of Archetypes any World of Darkness core book has. There are 30 Abilities in Wraith, and 36 in Orpheus. Yes, Wraith has Dodge and Repair (which are two traits that got dropped from the newer game) but Orpheus makes up for it with Intrigue. Intuition, Animal Ken, Technology, Academics, and Finance. Wraith has 11 Backgrounds, Orpheus has 15.

Speaking of superiority with traits, take a look at Arcanos vs. Horrors. Granted, Wraith has more Arcanos, but each level has only one effect. In Orpheus, you start out with one automatic Horror, but that one power is extremely versatile. You can do amazing things with it depending on how much you put into it. If you want something more powerful, you don't have to "learn the next level," you simply spend an extra Vitality.

For example, take the Wraith Arcanos of Keening and the Orpheus Horror of Wail. With Keening, level 1 and 2, you can effect people's darker and lighter emotions. Wail can do the same thing, all you have to do is spend the points you want. Now, in order to do some serious damage to someone using Keening, you must learn level 4 in that art. In Orpheus, the power to unleash a Crescendo is already there, all you have to do is spend more Vitality.

Finally, Orpheus has a feeling of mystery, danger, paranoia, and excitement. There's plenty of questions and not that many answers. There's plenty of room and loads of plot hooks for exciting stories of espionage, spying, assassination, and plain old mystery. The "work for the corporation" theme enhances these moods regardless of if players like or dislike the corporation. If the players enjoy working for the company, they could advance in ranks and learn more secrets. If they hate being under Orpheus' thumb all the time, they could investigate some of Orpheus' secrets and go public or to the company's competition. The "spy elements" are there, and players can go either way.

That's why I feel that Orpheus is better than Wraith: more traits, a KISS setting (Keep It Simple, Stupid), plenty of mystery, and overall more bang for your buck when it comes to choices of traits and powers.