New Background: Notions


J. L. Williams

One of the things that makes Wraith such an attractive storytelling environment is that the appearance of it - the surreal landscape, convoluted geography, and hodgepodge of historical architecture - is always changing. Even the characters themselves need not conform to a typical human likeness, or even resemble a human shape at all. That part of the game {the way everything looks and feels} is completely up to the Storyteller and his troupe.

This fact is especially evident in each wraith's personal appearance. The bottom line is that once dead, human physiology ceases to matter, and what shape the Corpus takes is based entirely on self-image. A person who died young but perceived themselves as an old soul, might manifest in the Shadowlands as an elderly person ñconversely, someone who succumbed to the ravages of time but was young at heart might assume a much younger appearance. Like we said, itís all a matter of self-perception.

Notions is a Background that takes this idea of self-actualization a step further. Simply put, a Notion is an object, idea or entity that played such a central role in the characterís life that it becomes a vital part of what defines who he is - and as such, it has followed him into death as part of his Corpus.

It should be noted that Notions are very different than Relics. A Relic is a ghost of a physical thing, such as a building that was torn down in the Skinlands, or a piece of history that everyone remembers, but that no longer exists in real form. Relics can be used by anyone who finds them, and over time, these things will eventually fade away.

Notions, on the other hand, are not important to anyone but the person who "owns" them, and thus cannot be used by anyone but the owner. Further, such items are stored away when not in use; buried deep within the wraith's memory. When needed, the wraith merely focuses his will and manifests the item into existence, only to have it dissipate when he is no longer paying attention to it.

Notions do not fade away over time. They exist for as long as the wraith in question exists, and will remain in the same condition for as long. The only time a Notion will become weaker is when the wraith takes damage to his Corpus; the item becomes less effective when he is weakened, and become more useful as his Corpus regenerates.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Notions {and that which sets them apart from Relics and Artifacts alike} is the fact that they can be things that never existed in the Skinlands. If, for example, the character always saw himself behind the wheel of his own Porsche {but never actually got the chance to buy one and customize it exactly as he saw it in his fantasies}, he might just find the dream car waiting for him on the other side of the Shroud.

The most rare Notions {and ones that Storytellers should be very careful with} are those that represent central figures in the wraithís former life. Friends or relatives that had a profound influence on him might manifest as corporeal personalities, though they are limited to basic archetypes with far less power than the wraith's Shadow, if any at all. Such Notions can be dangerous, especially if those people became wraiths themselves, but the important thing about them is that they are mere extensions of a wraithís self-image; idealized by his own perception of them. They are not sentient, possess no Arcanoi, and are not interested in anything that does not involve the wraithís immediate situation.

* 1-point Notion: A tattoo you always wanted {but couldn't afford}; a pair of sunglasses you never remove; the skateboard you rode throughout high school

* 2-point Notion: The pocketknife you earned in Cub Scouts; the mining hat you wore for 20 years {with the light on the top}; your silver cigarette lighter

* 3-point Notion: The pet cat that kept you company in college; the gun you used to kill yourself; the first car you ever bought {and pushed most of the way home}

* 4-point Notion: The older brother you looked up to; the motorcycle that you rode off the bridge; the computer you spent all of your time with

* 5-point Notion: The parents you "should" have had, the house that burned down with you inside; your imaginary friend "Joe"


Notions are fueled by Willpower, at the same cost as if they were Artifacts fueled by Pathos. It costs one temporary Willpower to summon a Notion into being for a single scene, after which it will dissipate until summoned again. These are treated as normal items when in use: they have the same effect on the outside world as a similar Relic or Artifact would, except that they are useless to anyone but the wraith who summoned them. He may choose to banish the item at any time, for no cost.

A Notion has as many Corpus levels as its rating, and does not begin to fade until the wraith's Corpus is reduced to an equal rating. At that point, both wraith and Notion lose a Corpus level per injury, until the inevitable Harrowing {in which the wraith has full access to his Notions at no Willpower cost, for what it's worth}.