I’ve never played Wraith either. I did really like the concepts, though, particularly the Revised edition. Nothing like playing a ghost story from the point of view of the actual ghost. Or someone who can pass as a ghost temporarily. Until—if bad things happen—they actually become one for real.
Which brings us to hauntings, ghost stories, and the Underworld.
In other words, more neat ideas I can steal and import into Vampire, regardless of whether they’re included in the sourcebooks or not.
Obviously, in the World of Darkness, ghosts are real. (After vampires, werewolves and mages, this is a no-brainer.) Let’s face it, vampires often help create them. Not always intentionally (though with some vampires, it’s the ghost-making that’s unintentional, the actual murder was premeditated).
Ghosts happen when a human dies and is not at peace with that fact. Sometimes, they just aren’t quite aware of the truth. Sometimes they still feel some obligation towards the living, a task left undone, something left unsaid, a person or place or thing they can’t bear to leave. And sometimes they know exactly what happened, and they want to do something about it. Bring their killer to justice, if it was murder. Deliver one last message to their loved ones. Protect someone or something from harm. Sometimes once they accomplish that task, whatever it was, they can find that peace and move on. Most of these ghosts aren’t really dangerous – just a bit freaky if you’re not expecting them. Some are just bits of ectoplasmic video tape, walking the same hallways they did while living, doing whatever it was they were doing, up to the moment of their death. A bit weird, and sometimes noisy, but harmless.
Then there are the other kind. The angry ghosts, the hungry ones, who bear a serious grudge against the living (and might not be able to distinguish between the person who killed them and his great-great-great-grandchildren). The wraiths who have the spiritual strength to even affect the material world, from creating a chill in the air, a flicker in the lights, or moving physical objects. Something drives them, something very powerful—a vendetta, a tragedy, or even the will of a powerful necromancer.
These are the kinds of ghosts who get into the movies. And of course, those are the kinds of ghosts who are haunting the isolated, abandoned house your Sabbat pack just moved into because it looked SAFE.
Such a ghost can even cause a vampire to fear. The Giovanni have pretty much cornered the market on necromancy and ghost-wrangling among the Kindred. It’s a family business with them, after all. But not all wraith activity can be laid at their door. Sometimes vampires just bring that kind of trouble on themselves. And if a wraith is sufficiently motivated, it can become a very dangerous (and creepy) adversary for a vampire storyline.
One chronicle I played in also made use of the Shadowlands—that in-between world that is but a dark echo of our own, cobbled together of faded memories, broken dreams, and half-forgotten wishes of the lost souls who still wander there—lacking the strength to return to the mortal world as a ghost, but equally not at peace, and unable to Move On. It’s a spirit-realm, of sorts (but different than the Spirit-World the Garou speak of, or the Astral plane of high magic).
It’s a dangerous place to visit, for the living (or for the undead, for that matter). It’s a spirit-journey, one that requires a special ritual (and someone who knows what they’re doing to lead it and get you where you want to go). Your bodies remain behind, but your souls/spirits venture out. A lot of memories can be uncovered there. Not all of them are pleasant. And some are too much so…. we actually had to arrange for a second trip back into the Shadowlands once to recover the soul of one of our undead allies who had somehow not made it out on the FIRST trip. The memories that had entrapped him were of a far more pleasant time in his past, in the company of an old teacher he’d cared for very much. But fortunately we were able to bring him back to the real world again, and back to his body. Though ever afterwards he was changed by his time there—just a bit more fey and mysterious, and he wore black much more often. Toreador, of course. SO sensitive…
Any time a vampire thinks he or she has finally figured out how things work in the supernatural world, and feels secure in their eternal night…. It never hurts to remind them they AREN’T ALONE out there, and there might be worse things to be than undead.
And some of those worse things can in fact, come back to haunt them.