The Quick and The Dead

"... the weakest and most disappointing book ever put out for Wraith: the Oblivion. What few pieces of useful advice and information are to be found are barely worth the effort to read them ... comes off as half knock-off of other, better titles in the Hunters Hunted series, and half attempt to go hog-wild with pre-established groups ... gets bogged down in overly-complicated and confusing systems, and wastes massive potential...

"In short, do not buy this book."

Reviewed by J. Edward Tremlett

Way back when, each of the first five games put out a series of books called "Hunters Hunted." These were intended to be used to create mortal, hunter Chronicles, so Storytellers could try their hand at making ordinary people be the protagonists, and have the boojums be monsters, again.

Some of these books were pretty good, even for 1st ed. White Wolf. Some, on the other hand, were not so good but at least useful. And some were just grab bags of information that didn't seem to belong much to the Hunters Hunted series at all.

And then there was The Quick and The Dead -Wraith's entry in the series - which should have been a really good deal: maybe even the best of the lot.

You see, the foci of the other games {Vampires, Garou, Changelings} haven't had any real hunters of any repute, in recent times at any rate. But there have been - and still are - real ghost hunters. Spectral investigators and spook chasers of every stripe and motivation imaginable have been up and about, especially in the last two centuries, and they've left at least two metric tons of information on the subject, too.

So the author wouldn't have to look to far to give us a really good book about the living who deal with the dead. Between all the historical precedents, and literature available, there should have been a lot of potential for an amazing, evocative and useful read. And when you coupled all that with the mortal antagonist groups from the back of the core book, a Hunters Hunted title for Wraith: the Oblivion could have been nothing short of fabulous.

But you know what they say about "should" and "could," and, unfortunately, that was the case with this book. Some of the other Hunters Hunted books might have been poorly realized in spots, but at least they had something worthwhile to them. The Quick and The Dead was so poorly realized that it didn't even have that.

In fact, this book is so not worth your time to read that I'm not going to tell you to get it just to have access to certain metaplot points and organizational matters. Whether you want the skinny on Wraith's mortal antagonists, or if you are in the mood to run a Mortals/Hunters Chronicle using Wraiths, my advice to you is do not buy The Quick and The Dead.

If you want to know why I came to this conclusion, read on. On the other hand, if you'd rather not, and just have some suggestions on how to run a good Mortals/Hunters chronicle without this book, click here to jump to my advice at the end of the review.


The book's presentation is, overall, fairly good, though it gets off to a poor start due to the cover. More than a few of the 1st ed. Wraith books had covers that didn't seem to have much - if anything - to do with the contents, and The Quick and The Dead is par for the course. I have no idea what its cover could be, other than unimpressive.

Fortunately, the rest of the art is pretty decent and fairly on-topic. And while confusing writing abounds in the chapter on Character Creation, the rest of the book isn't marred by serious typos, unclear prose or adventures in writing that make you go "huh?" {That 'honor' is reserved for the book's actual contents}


The book starts with the Prelude: Visiting Rights, which is meant to give us an introduction to the Benandanti. It's also supposed to show us how extremely confusing things can be on the other side, and how ignorant ghost hunters can be about what they're getting into.

Unfortunately, the Prelude is also the book's first example of wasted potential. There are some very interesting ideas presented, here, but the story itself is highly lackluster, and is much too focused on one very odd circumstance. It also suffers from a very confusing climax, which makes its end seem like it was tacked on at the last minute. Overall, the tale neither drew me in nor inspired me to make characters, much less run a Chronicle, and I finished it only by force of will alone.


After an extremely perfunctory Introduction (Chapter One) that makes promises that the book doesn't deliver as fully as one would hope, we dive headfirst into the meat of the book in Chapter Two: The Hunters. This chapter takes a look at established groups that investigate, hunt or exploit wraiths. Storytellers can then fully use them as background organizations, or allow players to make characters that belong to those groups.

The groups are split into three classifications: Knowledge Seekers, Power Seekers and Thrill Seekers. {I'm not mad about these neat and tidy classifications, and I think they could have been done without, but that's a small complaint} Each type is looked at in turn, listing the groups that fall into that classification and giving details, organization, entrance criteria, attitudes, myths and current undertakings for each group.

The Knowledge Seekers incorporate the Benandanti, Alternate Energy Group, Orphic Circle, Center for Parapsychological Research and the College of Psychic Learning. We get quite a bit of information about each of these groups, but they're not all as "user friendly" to starting characters as you might like. The CPR and CPL seem like the best bets for normal folks, with the AEG still being a possibility (if something of a one-note piano), the Benandanti requiring the purchase of a ***** Talisman to join and the Orphic Circle sounding like waaaaaaay too much to drop a Hunter character into. Conversely, the Orphic Circle gets the largest and most interesting write-up, while the CPR and CPL seem both shorter and a little paint-by-numbers.

Next up is the Power Seekers, which include the Sons of Tertullian, the Seven Sisters and the Daughters of Creusa. Of all these, the Sons are the most evocative, and seem like the best bet for starting characters. The Sisters are small and somewhat under-realized {if they're dancing down the halls of power, why are their resources so limited?}, and the Daughters are a mostly good idea that unfortunately degenerates into silliness {'Kick Me'? Come on...} and undeserved mercy.

Past that are the Thrill Seekers, which have the Wisteria Prophets, the Bloo Moons and the Pinball Wizards. The Wisteria folks are mediums that seem rather amusing, the Moons are essentially the Benandante Antitribu, and the Pinball Wizards are too small and specialized to be of much use to players. This section seemed like an afterthought that was padded up, and its concepts don't quite work out for me.

And I'm sorry to say this, but that goes for the whole chapter, too. It seems that most of the groups profiled are really only suitable for background characters, given their power/talent levels, entrance criteria or relatively small size. There are ones that you could drop a character into, but some of them don't seem as fully-realized as you'd want, or as evocative as you'd hope.


Chapter Three: Character Creation is pretty much what it sounds like, except it's here that the book starts to take its turn from "questionable worth" to "not worth the effort."

The character creation rules are the fairly standard ones we'd come to expect from Hunters Hunted material. It takes the rules from the Core Book and alters them to fit mortals: replacing a wraith's innate powers with the human condition, dropping down points, replacing certain Abilities and Backgrounds, and allowing 21 Freebies instead of 15.

This section of the Chapter is pretty functional, and there's few unpleasant surprises, except:

* Their replacement of Meditation with Body Reading. I don't understand why it was done, as this doesn't seem too useful, and the attempt to justify it with "Possessed by: Fortune Tellers, Channelers, Politicians" seems a bit questionable. I'd have used Torture, given the Sons of Tertullian and some of the less kind Orphics {not to mention less-scrupulous members of other groups, or solo operators...}. Either that or Interrogation?

* The various "Knowledges" of the Underworld, which split it up into seven different categories in an attempt to hyper-manage character knowledge. This is wonky and unwieldy, and should have been replaced with one, catch-all Knowledge of some kind that would be taken with the understanding that there'd be as much hokum as honesty in what your character "knows."

* The Rituals Knowledge, which - as we'll see later - is an utter mess as presented, and...

* The Home Base Background, which - as we'll see later - is an unnecessary thing.

On the good side, I liked Spiritual Alertness as an appropriately-weaker replacement for Awareness, and the Sidekicks Background. I also like the notion of letting folks buy the Eidolon Background, though the write-up for it is a little sloppy. {I'd have also stipulated that you can only buy one point in it at Character Creation, or charged more than 1 point per dot, but that's just me}

Then we go into the section on Numina, at which point the Chapter becomes wonky, confusing and frustrating. To wit:

* Even after having re-read the section a few times, I'm still not sure how one goes about purchasing things: I see that you have to pay for "extra" Rituals, but what role does the Rituals Knowledge play in all this? Do you have to buy it to understand it, or what? And what are you supposed to do with it for rolls that don't require the Rituals score to be added in at all?

* What do the various Rituals listed in Ephemera do, exactly? Some are defined and some are not, and the ones that aren't defined seem either more than a little important.

* What sense does it make to say to that a Hedge Magician needs Spirit Control ***** to bind ghosts? It seems unnecessarily punitive to say that all you can do with the beginning levels of the Numina is command lizards, rats and monkeys. And it seems really silly to say that while you can't call ghosts at level ****, you can call and command vampires: why not whistle up a Giovanni and have him get ahold of the ghosts for you, then?

* How much to the Special Rituals cost? Do you have to get the Rituals Knowledge for each, or what? And what level are they?

{I'm also wondering if they had to call it "Fetishism"; I'm trying to imagine an ST say "make your Fetishism roll" and keep a straight face}

The Psychic Numina, on the other hand, are fairly straightforward. You might wonder how Telepathy, Clairvoyance or Telekinesis would be of use to someone out for ghosts, but the powers are rewritten slightly here with an eye on ghost hunting mortals using them. That's good, and True Faith has also been slightly rewritten for the purposes of this book as well.

There's the Special Rituals, too, which sound pretty interesting, but wind up being little more than useless ornaments, as far as character creation is concerned. They're all set up for the organizations mentioned earlier, so it goes without saying you'd have to be a member to take advantage of them. However, given the previous confusions of this chapter, it's unclear as to how a member of those groups has to purchase them. In that sense, the section's far more useful for Storytellers than players.


Speaking of Storytellers, we've come to Chapter Four: Ghosthunting Chronicles. This is meant to give advice as to how to pull these Chronicles off, as well as ideas as to what sort of motivations would push people into hunting ghosts. However, the chapter is a very poor offering at the table: highly short and criminally underwritten.

The advice is reasonable but far too brief, and the flavor text for the motivations is often half of the motivation's length. There are some good ideas to be found, here, but they needed major expansion to be of more than passing interest, or just more development. "More" seems to be the word we're looking at, here, and you won't find it in these 7 pages.


Chapter Five: Creating Organizations starts off with some really good questions about making a ghost-hunting organization for the players to belong to. However, it then degenerates into the mechanical aspects of Power Levels and the Home Base Background. The system works, one supposes, but after the mind-shattering "Fun" of Character Creation, as presented by this book, does anyone need another set of numbers to crunch?

Why couldn't the Storyteller just take the players' suggestions as to what sort of organization they'd like to play in, and make one accordingly - either adjusting the characters' Backgrounds, or stipulating that the players take certain Backgrounds, to reflect their belonging to the group? Or why not start them out on their own, and then present a group to recruit them, and adjust their Backgrounds thusly? That would have been an ever so much simpler way to handle this, instead of spending a little more than 9 pages emulating GURPS.


Finally, we have the Appendix, in which we're given stats for the neat toys ghost hunters can use. This includes some of the things you'd make with Fetishism, as well as high-tech gear for the hunt or home base, items of power and the like. There's also a selected bibliography, which has a lot of good stuff in it.

Some of the items listed in the chapter are pretty cool, and present neat applications, while others are a little excessive {like the Cosmogonic Egg} or pretty punitive {Why use that telescope if you can just learn Ephemera?}. And while the Benandante's Fennel Swords sound neat, the rigmarole you have to go through to make one is enough to make you wonder why you don't just enter Ekstasis, beat up someone, steal his Stygian Steel gladius, and stash it somewhere in the Underworld?

There is also a two page character sheet. There are, however, no character templates given. And while someone might have seen them as a waste of space, I think they're highly necessary in a book like this. They give examples of the variety you can have with these kinds of characters, and provide both an "easy in" for new players, and an aid to Storytellers who need to come up with a "stock character" on the fly.

In the end, however, that's just one more disappointment in a book packed full of them.


And that's the scoop. In spite of having a lot of good, solid material to draw from - including, one hopes, parts of that pretty decent Bibliography - The Quick and The Dead stands revealed as a massive waste of potential.

For example:

* Why is there absolutely no talk of ghost-hunting's real and highly-inspirational history? The last two centuries have produced a plethora of ghost investigations. Couldn't some space have been devoted to how mortals have poked their noses across the Shroud in that time, and why what they've "seen" hasn't quite jibed with the truth?

* Why is there absolutely no explanation as to how a ghost investigator without Numina - an ordinary Schmoe, in other words - would conduct the business of hunting ghosts? Some of the equipment in the Appendix offers tantalizing hints of what it could be used for, but that's not the whole warp and woof of the craft. Why weren't we told what these people do, or are often asked to do, and how that meshes with the "truth" of Wraith?

* Why aren't there any ghost-hunting organizations that specialize in finding and removing spooks which are made for ordinary folks? I can understand if no one wanted to be accused of ripping off "Ghostbusters," but the thought of a fairly normal outfit of people who can investigate, diagnose and deal with ghostly manifestations would have been a lot of fun.

* And why is the only mention of individuals who hunt ghosts on their own a small text box on page 43?

Yes, there are only 91 pages - once you remove chapter preface splash pages, character sheets, title pages, etc - to present the information in, but that's a weak argument. This book wastes available text space by telling us too much of some things, or taking up valuable time with systems we don't need, descriptions that aren't needed and things that, quite frankly, we could do without. So it's not the space available, it's how it was budgeted in trying to write a good, useful book.

This could have been a goldmine for Storytellers and players, but I think the author spent far more time putting together the background information for the groups we read of in the back of 1st ed. Wraith, and less time taking other matters into account. I also think that the character creation rules were not properly read through where it counted, and that the formula from other Hunters Hunted books was wrongly applied to The Quick and The Dead, which didn't need to fit the formula.

As a result The Quick and The Dead is the weakest and most disappointing book ever put out for Wraith: the Oblivion. What few pieces of useful advice and information are to be found are barely worth the effort to read them, and the book itself comes off as half knock-off of other, better titles in the Hunters Hunted series, and half attempt to go hog-wild with pre-established groups. As a means to create characters for mortal, ghost hunter chronicles, it gets bogged down in overly-complicated and confusing systems, and wastes massive potential telling us things we don't need to know instead of telling things that would make the book really useful, evocative and cool.

In short, do not buy this book. You really don't want to have to read it, and you don't really need it, either.



My Advice to Storytellers:

... while its information hasn't been completely superseded by the much better Mediums: Speakers with the Dead, enough of the "vital" information you'd find in The Quick and The Dead is repeated there to make your own stuff with. Anything else you might learn from the "real source" is either wonky, unnecessary or nothing you couldn't come up with the stats for yourself, or by using another, better White Wolf publication.

So don't bother with it. All you really need to know about the big groups presented in The Quick and The Dead are to be found in Mediums: Speakers with the Dead, and either Wraith: the Oblivion 1st ed or Wraith: the Oblivion 2nd and Buried Secrets, which came with the 2nd ed Storyteller Screen. Whatever you wouldn't find in either grouping are things you could extrapolate out yourself, or come up with from whole cloth. And it really doesn't matter how "correct" it is, since it's your game, anyway.

What about character creation? Well, if you want to run a mortal/Hunter Chronicle based on that information, then you can either make do with Mediums, or else pick up Sorcerer Revised - for Mage: the Ascension - for all the Numina you could shake a stick at {though Summoning is still punitive for ghost-botherers}.

And if you already have a copy of The Inquisition, which was Vampire: the Masquerade's Hunters Hunted book, then you can use that as well. Just give the Tertullians Theurgy as it's presented, and change the names a bit for everyone else.

You could also get Demon Hunter X and use the Long Ling and Necro-Psi rules from that, too, if you wanted. The characters you'd create from that book might be a little excessive for a mortal, ghost hunters Chronicle, but you can just ignore all that and use them as add-ons to Mediums if you'd care to.


Reviews on the Wraith Project are the opinions of those reviewers, and are not necessarily those of the Wraith Project themselves. If you disagree with this review, send in another one. If you still feel like strangling the reviewer, see an analyst.