Ghost Stories

It's about ghosts, and it's about stories. Ghost Stories does exactly what it says

Reviewed by Fiat Knox


Life After Death

Strange, inexplicable mists. Cold spots. Stoic, rational, scientific people reduced to tears, or running screaming down the road clad only in their underwear. Blood running down walls. Sudden irrational urges out of context, out of the blue. And fear. Pure, bone chilling fear; the fear of Death itself, and the thought that even Death may not be the end.

This is the very essence of a ghost story: mortal lives touched by The Other, by forces that seem to transcend Death itself.

Welcome to White Wolf's Ghost Stories.


The Book

Ghost Stories, White Wolf's first supplement for its core mortals game, pits its mortal characters against the Restless Dead. but these aren't the Restless Dead of Wraith: the Oblivion; nor are they the spooks and spirits and Spectres of Orpheus.

No, these shades are of a far more traditional, ephemeral and inscrutable kind: the sort which manifest in strange, shudderingly frightening ways, in haunted houses and graveyards, along deserted stretches of darkened roads and at troubled spots, such as the sites of atrocities, hangings, murder and suicide.

Ghost Stories is a thin 128 page book - really thin for all that it's a hardback. The cover is sturdy, with colour shading predominantly in the green, rather than the blue shading of the main core book. Part of the cover is glossy (the edge of the front cover); the rest has a lovely, smooth matt finish.

The frontispiece is beautiful, dark and gloomy, depicting the planet's continents with images from within the book superimposed here and there, with snatches of lines also to be found from within the book, lines such as "The Dead demand Justice." and "fear remains ..." - words which have a habit of appearing mysteriously down the right side of the book every now and then, when you're reading and the pages shift to one side as you turn them ...

Written by Rick Chillot, Matt Forbeck, Geoff Grabowski, Matt McFarland, Adam Tinworth and Chuck Wendig, this book starts the range of supplements for the World of Darkness with a huge bang, supplemented by the incredible art of Sam Araya, Jim diBartolo, Anthony Granato, August Hall, Michael William Kaluta, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook and Jamie Tolagsun.


The Contents

Ghost Stories starts with a Prologue: CLUTCH, followed by the Introduction and five Chapters, each of which presents a standalone story adventure ready for play.

So, then, what's hot in each section?

The Prologue fiction, CLUTCH, is a gloriously disturbing short story, presented as white text on glossy black (all but the frontispieces are of glossy paper), with borders of handprints and images of dolls' hands. You have to see it and read it to get the full effect, but it is compelling to read. The graphic design is gorgeous. I wanted to handle the book with kid gloves so as not to leave fingerprints on the glossy black pages.

The Introduction by Matt McFarland starts on page 13, spookily enough, and page 12's full page illustration is creepy yet starkly beautiful. If you've visited the Downloads page of the White Wolf site, you'll know what comes next, as chances are you will have already downloaded pages 12 - 20 in PDF format from them.

For those of you who have not, the Introduction describes, in detail, how to set up, present and run a story featuring a ghostly haunting: a toolkit to generate a ghost, determine how he or she (as a mortal) meets their death, what anchors the ghost is attached to, what powers it might be able to manifest and so on.

The Introduction also details how to introduce the ghost, and therefore the World of Darkness, to player characters: how to hint, then slowly reveal, and finally how to resolve a ghost story - including a ghost story where the ghosts are, in fact, the results of player characters' actions either as mortals or as supernatural beings.

Yes, this does mean ghosts can be, and are meant to be, pitted as effective antagonists against vampires, werewolves and even mages - this book is designed to make ghosts highly effective opponents for not just the core book's mortals, but also for Vampire: the Requiem, Werewolf: the Forsaken and even Mage: the Awakening.

Following this section is a summary of some of the rules on ghost character generation as originally presented in the core book, sans listing of Numina from that book - for those, you will need the core book.

The four ghostly antagonist templates from the core book - Apparitions, Poltergeists, Deceivers and Skinriders - are listed here in increasing order of potency and capability and decreasing order of Morality.


The first Chapter, Dust to Dust, is Chuck Wendig's story. The basic premise is this: Characters arrive at an isolated spot for whatever reason (archaeology, tourism, curiosity, or to bury the bodies of their murder victims, for example): characters get trapped in this location and cannot leave until they do something that breaks the "spell" holding them there.

However, as you expect, there is somewhat more to it than that. As it is presented in this book, the setting is unique. There are plenty of elements in this story to keep the characters guessing right up to the end: mystery, shame, dishonour, ancient murder, suicide, insanity.

Because there is an element of mystery, this review cannot go into further detail as to what to expect, apart from broadly describing the setting as an "authentic old ramshackle deserted Western ghost town" and leaving it at that.

If you're a ST, you would do well to read the sidebar on page 44 for ideas as to how to create stories with a similar theme and setting to this Chapter.


Chapter Two, The Terrible Tale of James Magnus, needs for the ST to read it thoroughly before playing it. It contains the strongest, most adult themes in the whole book - in fact, so far in this new World of Darkness.

The setting is almost cliche - a traditional "spooky old haunted mansion" setting. However, this particular story very cleverly uses the Sense Memory storytelling technique to create a compelling and involving narrative, using detailed and vivid descriptions of how locations feel to the characters during hauntings: tactile, auditory, olfactory flashbacks, the taste of whiskey and passion, blended in to evoke what could be one of the most sensuous games you, as ST, could ever run. A great use of setting.


Chapter Three, No Way Out, is Adam Tinworth's contribution to this book. The premise, simply, is just how much damage can one ghost do?

The central antagonist, the dead guy, committed a grisly suicide. After the initial investigation into the bizarre events at the guy's former workplace and conclusive discovery that there is a ghost behind it, the characters' attempts to dig up the dead guy's past uncover the decedent's shocking past.

A lot of people end up getting damaged by the revelations, and not just in terms of Health dots marked off character sheets - though, as the ghostly antagonist's Morality and sanity deteriorate, there is plenty of that to go around.

This Chapter focuses on human relationships, the fragility of the human spirit and the complex nature of the entanglements mortals weave about themselves when they refuse to own their mistakes.


Chapter Four, Roots and Branches, has one of the most atmospheric, deeply frightening, full page facing illustrations on page 90.

Rick Chillot's study in terror brings in many elements: sexual jealousy, murder, the agony of postmortem existence, insatiable hunger and an impossible puzzle for the characters to solve, combined with the necessity of having the characters go about their normal lives in the long interim periods between acts.

The story is illustrated lavishly, with some genuinely scary images coinciding with the narrative.

A charged, atmospheric story with a climactic final confrontation the characters will remember almost as much as they will the twisted climax to Chapter Two, above.


Finally, Holy Ghost, the contribution to this book by Matt Forbeck, is a stark lesson for the characters to learn: ghosts don't necessarily have to haunt old mansions or graveyards. Sometimes, they can haunt entire neighbourhoods: and against burning anger of the level of the ghost in this tale, sometimes not even the bell, book and candle can prevail ...



It's about ghosts, and it's about stories. Ghost Stories does exactly what it says.

There's a rough description of the five stories already available as part of the prelude summaries on the White Wolf site, but basically the book's an informative essay, a handy summary of ghostly NPC creation reprised from the core book and five scenarios for you to set up to play around the gaming table.

This is a Storyteller's tool, pure and simple, with enough material in the book to help a ST to create ghosts and ghostly settings to pit against the characters, but also plenty of stories for the players to run through, either using the standalone scenarios as they stand or simply as a resource for a crafty ST to poach, mix and match as they see fit.

It's sparse on new powers for the ghosts, but those new powers that are listed are nasty, and also unique to the ghostly characters involved, although I'm sure a fiendish ST will think of new ways of using them elsewhere.

Every illustration is a lavish visual aid to the narrative on that page, and each story contains any number of different variations on the basic theme, to grant the Storyteller a toolkit to design any number of different adventures based, however loosely, on the five stories presented here.

If you are a player, hoping that this book will give you ways of playing ghost PCs a la Wraith: the Oblivion or Orpheus, forget it.

This is a Storyteller's book, but even so, there are a number of NPCs here to give adroit players ideas on generating their own characters; even, perhaps, having survivors of these stories appear as PCs in other games.

For its usefulness as the first ST antagonist toolkit book, I would give this book 4 skulls.

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.