|Role-playing game published by
|Rule System||Storyteller System|
|Essential Books||Orpheus: Don't Look Back|
Orpheus is a roleplaying game published by White Wolf that consists of six books: Don't Look Back, Crusade of Ashes, Shades of Gray, Shadow Games, Orphan Grinders, and End Game. Only the first book is needed to play, but the rest flesh out both the system and overall plot. The fluff expansion works well enough, but the crunch split among six books is a worse headache than Scion if you have them in dead-tree format and not as computer files.
Dying is Part of the Job
Several ways to send living people to interact with the dead have been discovered. The oldest and easiest method is, obviously, to just die (while really attached to something from your life) though this is the unappealing and better reserved as a "fall back" plan if your other method fails. So that leaves two popular methods: the difficult to master ancient soul projection technique and new cryogenics technology inspired by frogs & tested on dogs that allows revivification (unlike the older tech which causes ice crystals to form within cells, inevitably destroying them).
Picks up after Wraith: The Oblivion with an unending Maelstrom trashing the entire Underworld starting in 1999. Yes, the Underworld experienced Y2k while the living world was mocking the idea. It's all thanks to a bastard named Xerxes Jones, a man determined to prove mages were human enough to compete in the Darwin Awards, who detonated a relic nuclear weapon at the center of the Labyrinth, in the mouth of Oblivion. It resulted in the Underworld equivalent of igniting the Earth's atmosphere, starting the Sixth Great Maelstrom. Not only did it kick off an apocalypse, it created cannon fodder zombies for an entire game-line (Hunter: The Reckoning) and woke up an eldritch abomination that had been sleeping since Exalted. So be careful, 'cause Granma's comin', and she's hungry.
The series as a whole could be seen as another in the Time of Judgement series for WtO and humanity in general, albeit longer than a single chapter or book. Six books show what happens as the wall between the living and the dead gradually erodes, with the epilogue offering ideas of a post-death-tech civilization (assuming your party doesn't mess everything up and doom the world to being eaten by undead monsters).
- The Orpheus Group is interested in money and afterlife research, in that order. The company starts very generic and meant to be fleshed out during a campaign by the Players.
- Terrel & Squib Pharmaceuticals have plenty of funding and little respect for safety, they're more interested in capitalizing on a new niche market before their competitors.
- NextWorld, Inc. is a Russian corporation working off of GRU research from the Cold War, they're mostly interested in the espionage & military applications for ghostly field agents.
- Future Life
- Lazarus Redux
- Osiris Inc.
- other smaller firms
- Governments departments (DEA, FBI, NSA, etc.)
- The Black Steel Centipede Triad
- Blasphemers (former Hells' Angels)
- Brooks House
- Death Merchants
- Exorcist Mobile, LLC
- The Midnight Star
- The Missionary Works of the Holy Ghost
- Pigment Cults
In the fluff, Shades are a representation of a character's behavior in their day to day life, which influences how they manifest as ghosts. Mechanically speaking, this just decides what powers you get when you're on the job and how your ghost form appears and behaves.
- Banshees: Bleeding hearts and mediators while alive, a Banshees' first instinct is to help anyone in need by lending a friendly ear. Their biggest issue is that they tend to either become judgmental bitches or get paralyzed by indecision whenever there are more sides in a conflict than one. While dead, they appear as a disembodied voice to interact with those around them, usually by being a budget therapist for dead people. Their other manifestations are all some variation on "spooky fuck in rags." Horrors: Wail, Forebode.
- Haunters: Drifters and autists who shirk stability and relationships in favor of freedom and personal obsessions. The fact that they would rather fuck inanimate objects than women means that they can possess objects as a ghost. That's right, if you like trains enough, once you die you can become the train. When first manifesting, they appear in objects (reflections, on TV screens, etc.,) but they can also become a sheet ghost, hilariously. Orpheus staffers are scared shitless by these guys, because they all have the social intelligence of wild apes. Horrors: Inhabit, Witches' Nimbus.
- Poltergeists: Burned-out college students and future school shooters, these people either have extreme anger issues or a fuckload of stress and they deal with their issues by throwing temper tantrums (or just repressing the urge until they have an outburst.) Fittingly, this allows them to throw temper tantrums as a ghost. Their manifestations are pretty simple - by default, they can only interact by moving things around, but they can also fashion a body out of random shit nearby, making this the perfect Shade for those who want to save the world as a mass of dildos in the shape of a man. Horrors: Helter Skelter, Congeal
- Skinrider: Control freaks whose obsession with dominating other people grants them the power to posses human beings. The book assures the reader that some Skinriders are actually perfectly fine people who just want to help raise others up, but consider their second ability: Juggernaut. This allows them to control their hosts' bodies to such an extent that they can force them to ignore pain and push past their biological limits; consequences be damned. Because nothing says "good guy" quite like using people as meat puppets and running them through a hail of bullets. Normally they only manifest through possession, however they can also choose to appear as a walking ball of cobwebs or a really veiny version of their living selves. Horrors: Puppetry, Juggernaut.
- Wisps: Manipulative assholes and class clowns, these guys are as charming as they are dickish. In death, they use their natural aptitude for persuasion and trickery by... becoming a little ball of light that floats around. Apparently, though, there is nothing more trustworthy in the World of Darkness than flying lights, and thus Wisps have no difficulty in leading people off of cliffs or into bear dens. Beyond that, they can also manifest as blurry or glowing versions of themselves, in case someone finds it hard to believe in Navi's super secret candy stash. Horrors: Unearthly Repose, Storm-Wending
While the general premise is focused on people who die and revive themselves repeatedly, Orpheus isn't picky when it comes to how "alive" an employee is. Not even death can save you from your contract. Each type and sub-type of character has its own pros and cons.
- Projectors: People who aren't dead. The book explicitly states that they're the best of both worlds - they travel between states of life and death easily, which means that they can just run away from any ghost that tries to fuck em up. The main issue, though, is that the body is defenseless while the Projector is on duty. If it isn't locked up tight, it's at risk of either being possessed by a Specter or being killed.
- Skimmers: People with the rare ability of soul projection, allowing to exit and reenter their bodies at will. On the upside, soul projection is the fasted way to enter a ghostly form, and it also allows the user to teleport back to their body from anywhere in the world instantly (which causes some minor damage, but not much.) However, they have one huge problem: without a soul, their body slowly dies, and they can become a ghost permanently if they leave it for too long.
- Sleepers: Everyone else who can't die on command. Instead, they use a cryogenic cradle to push themselves to the very brink of death (called "flatlining.") What they have over Skimmers are the fact that they don't have to worry about their body, since the cradle keeps it alive automatically. However, the process of entering and exiting it is much longer, usually taking several hours both ways.
- Ghosts: The dead who haven't reached the Underworld. While they're the most at risk of harm in the spirit realm, they don't have a meat suit to worry about and - most importantly for their employers - mortal laws don't apply to the deceased.
- Spirits: The most common type of Ghost, Spirits are run-of-the-mill dead people. Interestingly, Spirits hired by agencies are not tethered to this world at all, and can take a one-way trip to the Underworld whenever they want. The only reason they're still around is because they want to be here, not that that they have to like most spooks. Mechanically, they get five extra points at character creation, but they have to deal with a Specter - basically an evil ghost twin that is solely devoted to finding their matching Spirit and making their un-lives Hell. Just to rub it in, your character may not even know they have one, and even if they do, all that can be done about it is kicking their ass so they wait a few weeks to try again.
- Hues: Dead people created from overdosing on the drug Pigment. While they can get away with using their Stains without penalty, their Vitality stat can never be raised outside of character creation for any reason, making them very easy to kill.
- Wraiths: older type of dead people, may or may not appear depending on if your ST ever played WtO.
- Animals: generic dead animals.
Not just the Shadow consumed Wraiths fought in WtO anymore. A mysterious entity has shown up in the Underworld and is converting ghosts, wraiths, and old spectres into new subservient forms. The Malfeans, really really old spectre leaders, are madder than hell at the newcomer and are fighting back with their own old castes (under different names made up by the Orpheus Group).
New Spectre Breeds
- Carpet Crawlers: giant amoeba ghosts?
- Chitters: spectre-hive guards
- Chupacabras: warped animal ghosts.
- Collectors: bat-winged squids? wtf?
- Hawgs: spectre-hive drones, haul raw materials.
- Lawgiver: what happens if an Orphan-Grinder is recaptured.
- Leeches: wormy web-users.
- Outflyers: giant sea urchins?
- Reapers: heavy hitters, classic "cloak & scythe" appearance.
- Ribbon-Cutters: essentially a ball of blades.
- Shepherds: lead groups of Fetches, "cloak & crook" look.
- Spectre Hounds
- Spreaders: spectre-hive builders, have spread beyond the Underworld.
- Syrenes: PC hunter/seekers.
- Swarm Globes
- Wraith: The Oblivion (semi-prequel)
- World of Darkness
- Spookshow (a 1997 RPG centered on ghosts-as-spies)
- World of Darkness website
- World of Darkness wiki
- Unmoderated WoD Chat
- Mister Gone's Character Sheets