WOD: Blood-Dimmed Tides

",,,highly useful and informative, though occasionally stunted... a treasure chest of information and ideas that you will find nowhere else ... well worth getting."

Reviewed by J. Edward Tremlett

The lure of the open water - and the horrors that might lurk there - are reason enough to put together a book like World of Darkness: Blood-Dimmed Tides. As the book is kind enough to remind us on more than one occasion, 7/10s of the world's surface remains hardly explored, and there could be anything down there.

Likewise, the supernatural races of the World of Darkness could be doing anything there, too. And that's why this is a World of Darkness product, as opposed to belonging to any one line. Each of the five core WOD games is represented, in one form or another, from the aquatic Gangrel to the Merfolk Changelings.

The results, as a whole, are something of a motley crew. There is some very good and useful information to be found in the book's pages, if you wanted to run an aquatic Chronicle, or get some ideas for making onshore Storylines go offshore. On the other hand, some of the boojums' contributions - not to mention some of the other, more universal concepts - seem outright silly, and one gets the sinking feeling that we're being dunned up for Breed Book Rokea.

But as far as Wraith: the Oblivion Storytellers are concerned, Blood-Dimmed Tides is a highly useful and informative, though occasionally stunted, read. Almost everything in the book that pertains to Wraith is pure gold, and there's stuff here that you just won't find in any other publication, as befits Wraiths and water, or the ocean.

Put simply, if you don't want to take your Circle out to sea after reading this book, you missed the point. But, on the other hand, some gaps remain, which we'll get to in good time.

{Note that this review is taking the product's importance and use for Wraith: the Oblivion into primary account. While some comments will be made on other boojums' sections, they aren't being factored into the total score. If you want a more holistic review of WOD: Blood-Dimmed Tides, you might want to look elsewhere. We also apologize in advance for the watery puns.}


The art spends a lot of its time at the good end of the pool, with excellent offerings by Jeff Rebner, Steve Prescott and Andrew Bates. Alex Sheikman's blocky, dark art is mostly used to good effect, here, and while the other artist choices aren't spectacular, they aren't terrible, either.

As for the cover... well, it works. Yes, it doesn't seem to go with the book's contents - other than the Rokea - and I really think they should have had a ghost ship on the cover, or something like that. But every time I want to write the art choice off as a bad idea, I'm struck by what a good painting it actually is. So, yes, it works.


The book starts off with a nautical ghost story, albeit one in need of rescue. And the Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead has a decent premise, and what could have been a very atmospheric and useful conflict - especially for Wraith Storytellers. But the first part of the story winds up being half-drowned in technobabble, and the narrative gets cut off just as things were getting interesting. I don't know whether this abrupt ending was intentional, or if they just ran out of space, but it's a disappointment.


An Introduction: Rising Tides comes next. It's short and to the point, but not quite as sweet. They did try to stick some recommended reading/viewing in there, by mixing it into the main text, but you know the voyage is in for some choppy waves when they tell you to check out Leviathan and Deep Star Six - two of the worst "underwater menace" movies ever made - instead of such gems as Das Boot, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or the like.


That quibble aside, we leap feetfirst into Chapter One: Seas of Darkness, which is our introduction to the oceans and seas of the World of Darkness. Much like the oceans, themselves, this chapter is something of a run-together muddle, with pieces of useful information, and evocative ideas, spliced in with some really questionable stuff. One thing I agree with is their keeping Atlantis a secret that's up to the STs to decide, and I like the undersea version of the Triat. Conversely, I want to rip all mention of the Rorqual - giant spirit-whales that dispense Gnosis/Glamour to all the good little sea boojums - out of the book.

For us Wraithly folks, we get a lot of ideas of what could be tooling around the darkened oceans and Shadowland's seas. Almost every body of water has a Wraithly aside to it, most notably the Arctic Sea, Sargasso Sea, Sea of Japan and Caribbean. We also get a look at Wraiths at sea, some famous ghostly pirates, a harrowing Fetter, and an exploration of the Shadowlands at sea.


Next up is Chapter Two: Denizens, which covers the five core WOD games at sea. This is where the book starts to alternate between Olympic-level longstrokes and a floundering doggy-paddle. There are some amazing - if occasionally poorly-written - ideas for Changeling, good-to-decent ideas for Werewolf and Mage, and some okay-to really bad stuff for Vampire. (Whoever knew the Lasombra were so... wet?)

Out of it all, only Changeling and Wraith's entries feel really, fully-formed. Changeling's reasonably-extensive treatment of the Merfolk (complete with underwater Arts and new Treasures!) is mostly good, but suffers from a badly-told in-character narrative. Meanwhile, their Murdhuacha enemies make for some top-notch horror, especially given the scary introduction we get to them.

But then we get to Wraith and, once more, the book's worth shines like gold pried from a dead man's chest. We get the skinny on Wraiths and water, along with Merits and Flaws to capitalize on that situation. We also get seagoing Arcanos Arts that are indispensable, and new Skills that pertain to this environment. And we also get the skinny on just about everything to do with the Shadowlands' oceans and seas: slavers, pirates, foreign shores, maritime Haunts, the Port Royal "Necropolis" and the fate of the Titanic.

Hell - we even get a sample pirate ship on a quest to free Stygian slaves, and the low-down on the dreaded Heiké Crabs of the Dark Kingdom of Jade. The only thing I'm a little let-down about is the absence of details on Stygian, Jade and Ivory ships, and no Relics or Artifacts to speak of. With everything else we got, I'm not complaining too terribly much, but it would have been nice (they could have cut the Lasombra entirely out to make room for it!)


Chapter Three: Spinning Yarns is all about telling stories on the WOD's oceans and seas. Like most Storyteller chapters, this suffers from feeling like you've either heard it all before, or already figured it out on your own. There are some good story hooks and advice, here, but it didn't make me want to really run anything I hadn't already thought of.

That problem goes double for Wraith: the best they can do for us, here, is give us two words - "Marie Celeste" - and tell us to play Wraith pirates. With all the neat story hooks they tossed out earlier, you'd think they could have done better than that. On the other hand, given the subject matter, they may have wanted to put emphasis on games that wouldn't have ideas for watery Chronicles spring right to mind.


Chapter Four: Lurkers starts out by quoting Lovecraft, and then seeks to bring some Lovecraftian boogie-oogies into the World of Darkness via the Chulorviah, amongst other things. High points are the Fomori, especially the G.E.N.E.S. of Project Iliad and Diving Dead, as well as details on undersea Bane powers. Low points are the aforementioned Chulorviah, which sound like a cross between some of the Shadows' pals from Babylon 5 mixed in with Mr. Lovecraft's creations. You could still have a lot of fun with them, but it really sounds like too much of a ripoff to present to your players as-is.

The big problem with this chapter is there isn't anything that really speaks to Wraith. Given that we were told of dark shapes moving under the Shadowlands oceans, it would have been nice to see some of those dark shapes given a name and some neat powers. Of course, one could extrapolate from what we were given, and if you have Sea of Shadows, you could always throw some of the Tempest critters into the drink. But still, some Wraith-centric goodies would have been really nice, here.


Past that is the self-explanatory Appendix, in which we're taught to swim and dive, and given a crash course on equipment, techniques, and the dangers of the deep. Vampires get "depth sweat," and a warning not to stay down too far for too long or they'll go into torpor at the bottom of the ocean. As with Chapter Four, there isn't anything directly related to Wraith, but the information on swimming could come in handy, not to mention the equipment lists (if a Wraith was a diver and needed some Relics).


At the end of the Introduction, the authors say "the thought of telling horror stories with an oceanic backdrop might seem kind of silly. We'll try to convince you otherwise." By the end of the book, I was halfway convinced, but still feeling like someone had sold me a fish tale. There's some good stuff to be had in WOD: Blood-Dimmed Tides, but also some bad and ill-considered contributions. And while these ill-starred waves in no way ruined the entire voyage, they did cause my boat to rock something fierce...

Okay, I'll stop now.

The bottom line is that, for Wraith Storytellers, WOD: Blood-Dimmed Tides is a treasure chest of information and ideas that you will find nowhere else - not even in "proper" books for Wraith: the Oblivion. That said, there are some things that weren't in there that could have been, and maybe should have been. But in the end it's well worth getting, in spite of some of the wackier things that you'll find there.

Use, abuse or ignore the stuff for the other lines as you see fit, and don't expect a uniformly good or evocative read. But if you want to know how Wraiths do their business on the sea, this book is for you. I've given it 31/2 Skulls out of 5, and recommend picking it up at cover price, if you have 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.