Why Wraith is Better than Orpheus


Mike Spera

Wraith makes for better ghost stories because you truly are dead. Two of the Laments in Orpheus are still living people, and the other two Laments, the truly dead, have lousy disadvantages: a Doppelganger that's out to kill you, or a glass ceiling on one of the most important traits in the game, Vitality. In Wraith, you are truly a ghost, a soul kept alive by memories and emotion, Passions and Fetters, wants and regrets. The Shadow in Wraith is a major disadvantage, but it's also part of the character as well as a unique disadvantage that isn't in your face all the time - it sits and waits for opportunities to pop up. Another disadvantage Wraiths have to deal with is the Shroud. But this "disadvantage" can be turned into great drama tool if the wraith has many issues on the other side of the Shroud.

Wraith chronicles can be far more personal than Orpheus ones, since Wraith characters are more emotionally involved in what they do. In Orpheus, the players are assigned missions. This could lead to the characters going from mission to mission with little to tie the whole experience together. Granted, going on missions can be exciting, but it can also turn into a case of "Monster of the week" all too easily.

One thing that turned me off to Orpheus was that it feels too corporate and bureaucratic. The characters are working for a company that, in the end, is about making money. Granted, Wraith has the Hierarchy, of course, but at least they aren't on the Hierarchy's payroll and under their thumb 24-7. Wraiths have more choices than just the Hierarchy (another point that I'll get to in just a moment), while in Orpheus, if they don't like the company, they can be out of a job (and possibly out of the game altogether.)

Characters in Wraith have more choices when it comes to factions and powers. They have a better array of Arcanos than the 10 horrors in Orpheus. What's more, in Orpheus, there are Horrors that certain Shades cannot possibly learn. Characters in Wraith may align themselves with any of a number of factions: Hierarchy, Guilds, and dozens of Renegade gangs and Heretic cults. Or the characters may choose none of the above and remain unaligned. In Orpheus, the characters work for the corporation. If they don't like it, they have only 3 other choices: Terrel and Squib, NextWorld, or go off and do their own thing (which may lead them away from the rest of the troupe and the Storyteller's plot).

Wraith has a much bigger, richer world to explore. Spooks in Orpheus are limited to the Skinlands, while wraiths can spy on and visit not only the Skinlands, but the Shadowlands and the horrific Tempest as well. This opens the game up to many, many settings both mundane and supernatural which can touch on an almost endless list of moods, themes, tones, and atmospheres. From the real world to the spirit world, the characters can encounter a greater variety of NPCs, both friendly and hostile, which makes Wraith all that much more exciting.

Finally, there were a few mechanics in Orpheus that I didn't agree with. Least problematic of these flaws is the unneeded idea of "Nature Groups" - that is, that a person's Shade can determine her Nature. personality Archetypes are clustered together, and while Banshees are know as being of Natures [A, B, C, and D], it would appear that Wisps are more likely to have a Nature of [W, X, Y, and Z.] I felt that Nature Groups are unnecessary and that they lay down restrictions where there should be none. A second thing I didn't like was that Orpheus divides Backgrounds into 2 lists: normal Backgrounds (which players get by "normal" means) and Orpheus Backgrounds (which are Backgrounds within the organization). The rules ask the player to put 2 dots in normal backgrounds and 2 in an Orpheus background. usually this isn't a problem, but like Nature Groups, I feel that they're adding a minor restriction on something simple that shouldn't need any restrictions. A third restriction that   I don't like is the idea that characters of certain Shades are forbidden from learning certain Horrors because it's "so contrary to the spooke's personality." Shades do not determine personality. Natures do not determine personality. PLAYERS determine personality. To me, there's no logical reason why a Banshee couldn't learn Helter-Skelter, or why it would be impossible for a Wisps to learn Puppetry.

My fourth complaint is the elimination of the Dodge talent. Instead of rolling Dex + Dodge, players now must roll Dex + something else (like Dex + Brawl or Dex + Melee). Granted, the Athletics ability could be used to dodge attacks (thus getting more bang for your buck if your character has Athletics), but I'm still wondering why they'd eliminate the Dodge talent in the first place. To make room for the Intrigue talent? I certainly hope not... Lastly, wraiths get much more points to start with at character creation. Orpheus Attributes are 6/4/3, Wraith Attributes are 7/5/3; Orpheus Abilities are 11/7/4, Wraith Abilities are 13/9/5; Orpheus Backgrounds get 4 points, Wraith Backgrounds get 5. Granted, Orpheus characters get 6 more freebie points than wraiths, but the 6 freebies still don't make up for the 2 missing Attributes, 5 missing Abilities, and a missing Background point.

So when you line the two games up side-by-side, Wraith shines out as the most favorable: the mechanics are slightly better, the world is bigger and more explorable, there are a lot more choices for characters as far as factions and powers are concerned, and Wraith is a more personal type of horror, which makes for an overall better ghost story.