Deaditorial: Death is Just the Beginning



The World of Darkness as we have come to know it has ended. Whether by bang or whimper, the shadows have finally eaten the light. Whether we choose to acknowledge its passing and embrace what is to come, or spend yet more sleepless nights revisiting its shrouded corners and alleys, we must confront the reality: that it doesn't physically exist. It is a relic that we hold in our hands, soon to be forgotten by a new breed of readers, players and storytellers.

But you and I both know that "death isn't the end", don't we? We know all too well that death, in all its grisly horror, is "just the beginning." We've traveled this road before, you and I. Together, we can cackle in sadistic glee at the fun we shall have in this giant ghost of a place, and marvel at how its passing has changed it for the spookier. It's become colder and paler, an emaciated and sickly plane where the line between life and death is as reliable as wet tissue paper.

And in those changes, as the old world edges ever closer to the void, the struggle of every ghost has become all the more difficult, so much that it has changed his basic nature. Some have clung to the old ways of thinking, self-confessed "wraiths" that insist on their traditions and conventions, despite the anachronism of those things. They have their own ways, these souls, and we can examine their journeys on their own terms if we wish.

Also are the "Projectors," whose methods are more practical and organized. Though not all ghosts, these are creatures with a far better grasp of how to handle the new challenges that surround the dead. We might peek in on their secret excursions, observe their missions with a curious excitement and marvel at their methods, skills and tools. Surely a world as beset by hungry ghosts as this one needs such a group, when the truly evil must be confronted with stoic efficiency.

But the new breed of ghost - the chained, tormented animal that the human soul becomes on its way from life - is our focus here. The distilled, empowered spirit is a being of pure Passion. Love, lust, hate, rage, sorrow, suffering and pain - the very experience of feeling for its own sake is both fuel and substance to the ghost. When he is infused, he is an unstoppable force, capable of whatever his heightened emotions demand. He is pain. He is fear.

Of course, once he has crossed from life into death, his identity is fragmented and unstable. As powerful as this particular breed of spirit is, he is incomplete, and chained to certain things. He once was human, after all, and there are things in the world that he will not give up. He clings to these Chains, and through them he is grounded and more stable. They are both a blessing and a curse, for they represent his connection to life, while shackling him to a set of things that he cannot easily escape.

Death itself has ensnared the ghost in its own agendas as well. The circumstances surrounding the demise resonate a particular passion through him, just for an instant, and the mark left by that event stays with a ghost forever. Death, it would seem, is not without a sense of irony: that very event, thought to be most final, is what determines a ghost's Tithe: the price he must pay for being allowed to carry on. It is a ghost's strongest Chain, because it can break the others if ignored, but he has little control over it.

The issue, then, is one of Willpower. A ghost's duty to Death can call upon him at any time, and he has little choice but to go - but his own chains, those he attends to on his own, are treated as he chooses. He can cradle them like a parent, or he can thrash against them like a child, but how he treats them changes him. If he shows them love and care, his sense of self is strengthened, as are the chains themselves but if he is hasty and careless, though the chains might hold, his morality will not.

The essence of a soul's morality lies in his Eidolon: a spiritual path that all souls walk, and that the dead can see more clearly. It is a journey from cold, bitter selfishness to enlightenment and personal transcendence. Though it is a treacherous and painful road, it gives each ghost the chance to revitalize his sense of conviction, and reaffirm his own willpower. The journey is unique to each individual soul, a venous stair of cathartic revelations that each one suffers alone, but journey he must.

For a ghost without willpower is an emotional maelstrom. His Eidolon forsaken, he has succumbed to the instant gratification of passion without remorse or restraint. Just as every ghost is an echo of a human life, he is more easily persuaded by his lesser instincts, because he is not subject to human consequences. Every ghost must recognize that his Eidolon is a set of boundaries that keeps him stable, as much for his own safety as that of his chains, of those he loves, and even of the ghosts around him.

To remind themselves of this truth, ghosts will often find solace in a Circle. A Circle is more than a group of lonely souls, though: it is a group of spirits who share common chains, whether the manner in which they met their end, a common loved one, a set of personal goals that happen to overlap, or even the spiritual path they choose to follow. Without these peers to accept and support him, a ghost's existence is very lonely, and his willpower can slowly erode, compelling him to do monstrous, evil things.

From Circles and their interlinked Chains, there arises the need for security: some shielding against the things in this dark world that have succumbed to their most primal desires, and from those who would hunt and study the dead. Where several Chains converge, there is great power - a nexus of ghostly energy where the line between life and death does not exist. Such portals, where one might step across the boundary without effort, are called Anchors, which can be specific places, events, or even living people.

In these things there is some security, because the lands furthest from the living are barren and cold. The truly dead places are rife with cannibalistic spirits - emotionally charged Husks that have no Chains, and consume lucid ghosts for their passion. These are truly wretched souls, the spirits of those who know not how their lives were ended, or lived lives so empty and unremarkable that their passing went unnoticed. Desperate and hungry, these souls ravage the afterworld, consuming whatever and whomever they can.

To protect himself, a ghost and his Circle are armed with two things: Notions, which are those things that a ghost crosses into death with, and Throes, which are the supernatural gifts at a ghost's disposal. Notions appear as a ghost needs them, and are sustained by his willpower, while Throes are concentrated bursts of passion that achieve a given effect. Every ghost has these things, and can use them to survive in the ravenous places, or to touch the living world as if he is physically there.

In the end, we are left with the knowledge that the World of Darkness, now that it has made its own journey into death, is truly and irrevocably haunted. Its spectral metamorphosis has not only given us the opportunity to embrace any ghostly concepts we wish and interweave them, it has also birthed a newer, more potent species of apparition. Let us bring our haunted minds together in a circle of our own, and see what spooky stories lurk at the ends of this dying world's rusty chains.

Next month, the rattling begins. Wraiths, projectors and ghosts will come together in an epic crossover serial, which will occur in thirteen parts. Everything you've read here will be made more concise, complete with rules that will allow you to use it alone, as a companion to your favorite ghostly work, or any combination of them. It is as much a stand-alone ghost game as it is a"universal adaptor" of the dead, and I hope you all revel in it as much as I intend to.


JL Williams
August 2, 2004