Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Monte Cook's World of Darkness: Wraiths

I've been kind of obsessed with Monte Cook's World of Darkness since it came out. It's probably my favorite purchase from this most recent GenCon, and a lot of my recent design thought has been based around it. It hasn't yet won the place of love and devotion that Monte's other game, Arcana Evolved, hold for me, or the charm of Mutants & Masterminds, but it's got a lot of interesting concepts and cool mechanics.
One of the earliest things I started working on was a conversion for wraiths into MCWoD.
I thought I'd post that up here so that it's a little more accessible for people.


When the Iconnu invaded our reality, they chose to make war upon humankind by using the souls of our dead against us. The stalwart strength of humanity in fighting back against this threat has been a thorn in their side since the Intrusion—but even more surprising has been the resistance they found in the dead themselves.

The Underworld is the ultimate destination of all human souls, good and evil. In this shadow-filled realm, only the strongest-willed souls retain their identity and memory, with the rest becoming shades and faceless ghosts. These strong-willed spirits, called wraiths, created their own society in the Underworld, building a realm that existed as a shadowy reflection of the mortal world. At the peak of this society sat the king of the dead, a being called Charon, and his advisors.

Charon saw it as his duty to ferry shades and other weak-willed ghosts across the River of Death, which would erase the last vestiges of their personality and return them to the ocean of souls from which humans were drawn. For many long millennia, he fulfilled this duty admirably, showing wisdom and strength to the wraiths that chose to exist under his rule. Many were discontent with Charon’s leadership, however, and these renegade wraiths formed their own scattered societies throughout the Underworld, some resembling the hells of various religions or other afterlife constructs. The renegades even stooped to kidnapping shades and wraiths newly arrived in the Underworld to indoctrinate or use them for their own purposes.

Though it pained him to do so, Charon was forced to create soldiers to oppose the renegades and enforce his rule. The rank-and-file soldiers were called legionnaires, and the elite were known as reapers. Over the course of history, the numbers of these soldiers swelled and fell, depending on the number (and attitude) of the renegades.

Despite their experience and power, Charon’s legions were powerless in the face of the Intrusion. At the moment the Iconnu invaded the world, the Underworld suffered a powerful storm of souls, a maelstrom unlike anything it had ever experienced. In the wake of this maelstrom, thousands of souls were snatched up into the black winds, thousands more were destroyed utterly, and entire swaths of the Underworld vanished. When it had passed, the Underworld was full of more shades than at any point in its history, and many of them had turned malevolent and violent. These evil shades became known as specters. Worse still, Charon and his most powerful advisors had vanished in the storm, leaving the Underworld in chaos.

A few industrious wraiths, renegades and legionnaires alike, investigated the cause of the destruction and uncovered the truth of the Iconnu, as well as the fact that many souls had been smuggled out of the Underworld for use as weapons by the Iconnu. The Intrusion had caused the River of Death to flow the wrong way, giving the inhabitants of the Underworld passage back to the mortal one. Those caught up in the river’s flow lost all memory of their time in the Underworld, however, much as they would have lost all mortal memory had they traveled down it in the other direction.

Eager to aid their living friends and relatives, or simply to protect the world in general, hundreds of wraiths chose to make the journey up the River of Death back to the mortal world. Because their wills were so much stronger than those stolen by the Iconnu, they did not lose their memories of the Underworld, but they did find themselves greatly diminished in personal experience and ability. Many wraiths also came back to the mortal world simply to have another chance at life, or to drink deep of the passions of the living. Whatever their motivation, more wraiths come back to the sunlit lands with every passing day, and the barrier between the living and the dead thins further.

Hit Die: d8

Hit Dice at 1st Level: 4d8 (+4 × Con modifier)

Skill Points: 4 + Int modifier

Feats: A wraith begins play with two feats.

Ability Increase: You gain a +1 bonus to a single ability score of your choice. If you like, you can choose an ability that already gains a bonus because you’re a wraith (see below).

Movement: A wraith has a movement speed of 30 feet.

BAB: +3 (medium)

Defense: +2 (as Awakened)

Fort: +1 (poor)

Ref: +1 (poor)

Will: +4 (good)

Wraith Core Abilities

Wraiths gain a +2 bonus to Wisdom and Charisma.

Corpus: A wraith is not a creature of flesh and blood, but an undead spirit comprised of will and a substance called ectoplasm. The wraith’s self-image from life and manner of death reflect on this ectoplasmic form, creating a “body” called the corpus. This corpus is vulnerable to dissolution, possibly destroying the wraith (see below), but it is somewhat harder to damage than a normal human body in some ways.

First of all, a wraith’s natural form is partially incorporeal and nearly invisible, making it difficult to strike the wraith in the first place. Any physical attack targeting the wraith has a 50 percent chance of missing the wraith completely unless the attack is magical in nature. While supernatural beings can vaguely see wraiths, this only allows them to determine the wraith’s combat square; the combination of their partial incorporeality and concealment still gives the miss chance listed above (except to vampires, see below).

Second, wraiths react to critical hits in the same way as vampires and demons; instead of suffering Constitution damage, they are stunned. A wraith still suffers damage normally from impacts and falls. Wraiths cannot walk through walls without special effort.

When a wraith suffers hit point damage, he can choose for his corpus to become completely immaterial for up to a number of rounds equal to 1 + his Constitution modifier (minimum 1 round). During this time, the wraith is completely unaffected by physical attacks, and even those generated by magic have a 50 percent chance to miss. As well, the wraith can pass unimpeded through solid objects.

A wraith’s corpus form isn’t all fun and games, though; see below for drawbacks.

Lifesight: Wraiths see the energy of the living and the dead all around them. Such things are clearer to them than reality in some ways. A wraith observing a being automatically knows if it is living, dead, undead (such as a vampire), or unliving (like a golem or a demon). When viewing a living or undead creature, the wraith knows how many Hit Dice it has in relation to the wraith’s own (less by 2 or more, within 2 less to 2 more, or more than 2 more), as well as if the creature is currently suffering from any diseases, poisons or reduction in Constitution. Finally, the wraith can estimate the amount of hit points remaining to the creature (full, more than half, less than half, less than one quarter, less than 0).

Darkvision: Wraiths can see normally in the dark, though areas that lack real light appear illuminated in a murky and distorted glow to them, making it impossible to discern colors.

Pathos: A wraith’s powers flow from his emotions and his connection to the world of the living. See below for more information on Pathos and its uses.

Wraith Weaknesses

Corpus: A wraith’s corpus is a hindrance when attempting to interact with living beings. In their natural state, wraiths are completely invisible to mortals, and visible only as a vague outline to most supernatural beings (except vampires). (A wraith is also inaudible to mortals, and audible to supernatural beings only as a whisper.) With concentration, a wraith can make himself clearly visible (and audible) to others, but this tends to be a strain. Also, a wraith normally has only a 50 percent chance to have any physical, non-magical attack he makes strike an animate target. While totally incorporeal, the wraith is as incapable of affecting physical objects and creatures as they are of affecting him.

Wraiths are nearly incapable of affecting physical objects. They can strike at creatures because of the animating spirit within them, but inanimate objects are effectively invulnerable to a wraith without using Arcanoi. A wraith that becomes fully immaterial can pass through solid objects, but even at his most solid he cannot affect them. Physical attacks only have a chance to hurt wraiths because they disrupt their ectoplasmic matrix too suddenly for the wraith to cope with.

Just like living beings, wraiths have a dying threshold that represents their corpus slowly dissolving under the weight of damage. Unlike living creatures, who can be stabilized while dying with a successful Heal check, a wraith reduced to his dying threshold becomes immaterial on instinct. During this time, the wraith slips into the Gauntlet, where he remains until he stabilizes on his own, is stabilized by a creature occupying the Gauntlet (or otherwise able to affect things in it) using the Heal skill, or dissipates. Dissipating in this manner triggers a harrowing (see below).

Vampires: Vampires and wraiths have a mutual weakness in one another. Since vampires are the souls of the dead installed in new bodies, they possess a special solidity to wraiths. A vampire is never incorporeal to a wraith, and vice-versa; they are always mutually solid to one another and vampires can see and hear wraiths clearly. A vampire’s unarmed attacks can always strike a wraith, and a wraith’s unarmed attacks or attacks with ghostly weapons can damage a vampire normally. Vampires see wraiths clearly, and cannot actually tell them apart from living beings without effort (DC 25 Spot check, or the scent ability).

The Gauntlet: Wraiths are vulnerable to attack by creatures within the Gauntlet, which includes spirits serving the Iconnu and some werewolves. In return, wraiths can interact with such beings as though they were mutually solid.

Harrowing: When a wraith’s corpus is dissipated through hit point damage, all that remains behind is the wraith’s will to survive. This powerful will allowed the wraith to transcend death and return to the mortal plane in the first place, but the destruction of the corpus tests that resolve to its breaking point. A dissipated wraith is drawn through the Gauntlet and back into the Underworld, where he relives his most painful life experiences as his psyche attempts to rebuild his shattered corpus.

The wraith must attempt a DC 25 Will saving throw; on a successful save, the wraith loses a level of experience permanently and returns to the mortal world in 1d4 days, near the spot he was destroyed, at 1 hit point and full Pathos. On a failed save, the wraith loses an additional level and must attempt the saving throw again; this continues until the wraith succeeds at the save or fails enough saving throws to be reduced to 0 levels. A wraith reduced to 0 levels in this fashion is permanently destroyed.


Arcanoi: Arcanoi (singular Arcanos) are special powers available only to wraiths—the ability to travel swiftly between one place and another through the lands of the dead, wails that turn the mortal heart to terror, manipulating objects by will, and other abilities. Arcanoi work like feats, and many of them are powered by Pathos, the emotional and spiritual energy that charges wraiths.


As spirits of the dead, one might expect wraiths to be drab and pathetic. In truth, wraiths are spirits of great energy and passion compared to those that remain in the Underworld, though still somewhat subdued compared to their living selves. A wraith’s power flows from his emotions, and from the emotions of those around them.

Maximum Pathos: A wraith can store Pathos equal to 10 plus his Constitution modifier; if he gains excess Pathos, it is wasted.

Starting Pathos: Wraiths start with their maximum amount of Pathos (10 + Con modifier).

Pathos per Round: Wraiths can spend one Pathos per round, no matter what effect they want to achieve. A wraith can take the Ghostly Vigor Arcanos to improve this rate.

Wraiths can use Pathos for several effects.

Activate Arcanos

Some Arcanoi require Pathos; others do not. See each Arcanoi’s description to see if the Arcanos uses Pathos, and how much.

Become Incorporeal

Rather than suffering damage to achieve their full incorporeality, wraiths may spend one point of Pathos to become completely immaterial for a number of rounds equal to 1 plus their Constitution modifier (minimum 0). The wraith may choose to prematurely end this duration.

Heal Corpus

Spending one Pathos heals the wraith of 5 hit points of damage or one point of ability damage. Spending two points of Pathos can heal the wraith of one point of ability drain. Wraiths can spend Pathos for these effects even while unconscious or dying.


A wraith can become clearly visible to a supernatural being, or dimly visible to a mortal, by spending one point of Pathos. This causes the wraith to become visible (and audible) for a number of minutes equal to his level.

Regaining Pathos

A wraith automatically regains one point of Pathos per day if his corpus is not damaged. A damaged wraith does not regenerate Pathos in this fashion.

If a wraith spends at least one minute aiding a dying mortal peacefully meet his end, he regains one point of Pathos from the effort. Should the mortal not wish to move beyond this world, the wraith may need to convince him to do so (possibly requiring a Diplomacy check or roleplaying). A mortal that rises again as a ghost or other undead grants the wraith no Pathos.

A wraith that destroys a vampire gains one Pathos for doing so, plus an additional Pathos for every four full experience levels of the destroyed vampire. Part of a wraith’s duty is sending the escaped or stolen souls of vampires back to the Underworld, and fulfilling this duty is emotionally satisfying.

Surviving a harrowing allows a wraith to recover his total maximum of Pathos all at once, though few wraiths consider the loss of a level a suitable price for this benefit.

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