Book of Oblivion [Wraith: The Oblivion]

Wraith: The Oblivion


Matthew Dawkins here, to talk a little about Book of Oblivion for Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition! The writing of this book proceeds apace, as we endeavor to include new Arcanoi, provide fresh looks at antagonists, make environmental horror a real thing (especially in the Underworld), and give new coverage to heretofore only mentioned Necropoli and Kingdoms the world over.

It’s an exciting time to be on a Wraith book.

Honestly, one of the things I love about working on Wraith is the ability to provide deeper and darker coverage of material left fallow in its previous editions. Lacking a Revised edition, we have a lot of ground we can cover, and the Book of Oblivion seeks to address some gaps while adding brand new material most of you won’t expect.

Do you want an example? While the Guilds are still at the forefront of Hierarchy life in the Shadowlands, we wanted more organizations and clubs wraiths might belong to. Here’s Clayton Oliver’s Maelstrom Bureau and a piece on how Reapers target those struck down in natural (and sometimes unnatural) disasters:


The Maelstrom Bureau

On the top floor of a Brutalist office block down the street from the Sea of Shadows, the one Hierarchy agency with an official disaster mission struggles to coordinate its far-flung network of observers and researchers. Founded as the Office of Maelstrom Preparedness in the 19th century’s twilight years, the Maelstrom Bureau has endured every bureaucratic indignity known to wraithkind over its decades of existence, including numerous changes of name and structure. Despite it all, it is one of the Underworld’s foremost clearinghouses of Maelstrom knowledge – when it can be convinced to share.

The Bureau’s self-assigned mission is the prediction, mitigation, and study of Maelstroms. Its Stygian headquarters staff numbers just over 100 wraiths, only half of whom come from its sponsoring body, the Iron Legion. The rest hail from other Legions, seconded through a complex arrangement of reimbursement agreements. Most headquarters wraiths are clerks and academics who spend their shifts poring over reports and research proposals. Far larger are the ranks of the Bureau’s field staff, who range from lone weather-obsessed volunteers to the pluviometrists and  anemologists who operate the field offices in the largest and most Maelstrom-prone Necropoli.

Each aspect of the Bureau’s mission falls to a different branch. Maelstrom prediction is the duty of the Forecasting Service, which monitors both Skinlands events and the Tempest’s protean weather for signs of impending Maelstrom. The Forecasting Service also makes extensive use of Argos, Fatalism, and other divinatory methods to separate “ordinary” Tempest patterns from those heralding a more destructive event. As with Skinlands meteorology, Underworld forecasting is neither exact nor consistently accurate, and wraiths remember the failures more than the successes.

The Fortification Center specializes in defensive architecture. This office turns its eye toward reinforcing structures – anything from the tiny storm shelters scattered along major Byways to the greatest Citadels – against Maelstrom effects. It also grudgingly handles the Bureau’s public education work, disseminating Maelstrom preparedness pamphlets to all Hierarchy citizens through its Citizen Outreach Office. Finally, its Storm Systems Laboratory is an engineering think-tank focused on personal protective equipment for Maelstroms. This latter group supplies the majority of the Bureau’s supplemental funding through the sale of its creations. Storm Systems chain-coats, fog masks, wind-staves, and storm gauges command a premium among wraiths who must brave the Underworld’s elements.

The Bureau’s research arm is the Beaufort-Granogrec Anemological Institute. Prone to academic infighting and knowledge hoarding, the Institute generates its greatest successes despite itself. At any given time, its library and laboratory staff may be perusing damage reports from a storm-struck Citadel, analyzing the composition of a plasmic eyeball hail sample, or statistically surveying a half-century of Forecasting Service predictions against seismic records from the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Of course, someone must gather these data, and the Institute’s more adventurous (or foolhardy) members lead field research missions across the Shadowlands and Tempest. The Institute has several research campuses in Maelstrom-prone areas; the most prominent are in London, San Francisco, and Istanbul. In cooperation with other Empires’ authorities, its No.3 Storm Penetration Squadron (“3SPS,” officially an Iron Legion military unit) flies and sails from Hong Kong to make observations from within Maelstroms throughout the Western Pacific Shadowlands and coterminous Tempest regions.

Only the largest Necropoli’s field offices host representatives from all three branches. Most commonly, a field office contains a single Bureau representative who struggles to discharge the full spectrum of her assignment. Such field reps recruit volunteers for daily weather observations, post-Maelstrom damage assessments, and scientific expeditions into the Tempest.

Even as the Bureau’s scientific and operational capabilities have waxed with the deaths and recruitments of experts in a wide range of disciplines, its leadership and ability to influence Stygian thinking have waned. Its founder and first superintendent, Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, was lost in 1969 when Hurricane Camille’s echo claimed the research ghost ship Muskeget. Co-founder and successor Jean Granogrec was an able meteorologist but a ham-fisted administrator, driving away many long-serving veterans. Granogrec’s mismanagement came to a head in 2010, when the agency (then titled the Maelstrom Prediction and Preparation Unit) failed to predict or prepare for the Haitian earthquake and subsequent Pan-Caribbean Maelstrom. In response, the Ashen Lady reassigned Granogrec and renamed the MPPU. The office of superintendent gave way to a committee of bureau chiefs drawn from the Iron Legion’s most influential Necropoli. Sadly, while some of these chiefs are able politicians, few are scientists or leaders, resulting in a vacuum of direction and coordination. Even the Journal of Applied Anemology, once a cutting-edge monthly publication laden with advice accessible to the average wraith on the street, has been reduced to an unreliable quarterly reprinting of monographs dredged from the archives. Increasingly, local field offices reach out to other sources of support in the absence of timely guidance from headquarters.

Reaping (After) the Whirlwind

The fear, grief, and other emotions stemming from disasters are concentrated and shared, so it’s no surprise that disaster deaths create a heightened number of wraiths when compared to the same number of similar individual deaths across the mortal population. This makes any disaster a fertile ground for Reapers. Reaping in a catastrophe’s aftermath (to say nothing of doing so amidst the storm) can be perilous, though. Competitors, Spectres, and the odd Plasmic or Ferryman all contest hunting privileges, and the freshest wraiths can erupt from their Cauls with surprising vigor, still fighting against whatever killed them. Casualties who tear their way out of their own Cauls are another sort of danger altogether, as they know exactly what’s happened to them and take a dim view of other ghosts profiting on their deaths. On top of all of it, the most fertile Skinlands disasters are the most likely to spawn Maelstroms.

Wraiths who specialize in picking swiftly through mass fatality incidents to harvest newly-made Restless are known as vultures in Stygian parlance. Like their namesakes, Circles thereof are called wakes. Any successful wake has a member who can predict a disaster before it occurs (usually by reading pre-Maelstrom portents, though some are adept at analyzing political, meteorological, or geographic indicators), allowing the group to stage itself nearby. This willingness to go where the bodies will fall requires wakes to be more mobile than typical Circles, so most have a member who can facilitate transportation, either personally or through connections. Of course, wakes must manage workplace hazards ranging from soulforged blades to supernatural weather; self-protection skills are a job requirement.

Less prestigious, though sharing many of the same traits, are tidings of magpies – Circles who salvage disaster-created relics rather than Enfants. Profitable magpies are well-attuned to current market forces and are adept at promoting their gleanings for auction or barter. Tidings tend to be busier than wakes and face slightly less peril in their trade, as many events of massive destruction (and thus large-scale relic creation) occur without significant casualties. Some Circles bridge both trades, but the different logistical needs and marketplaces lead most to focus on one or the other.

Some  vultures are more altruistic than others. The best style themselves as SAR teams, often adopting the Cormorant Order’s heraldic creature in place of their usual appellation. The worst are simply slavers with an unusually-strong work ethic and tolerance for (or addiction to) risk. Magpies, operating in a less morally-perilous marketplace, tend to be more businesslike – though it’s not unknown for predatory tidings (or ordinary bandits) to lurk outside disaster areas and rob fellow magpies at the end of a night’s labor.

  11 comments for “Book of Oblivion [Wraith: The Oblivion]

  1. Holly Saiki
    August 14, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Awesome. Are you going to explore the concept of Redeemed Spectres in depth? I always thought they were a great concept, but the paucity of information and storytelling tips dealing with the subject bothered me. A player could have a blast playing one.

    • Bruce Baugh
      August 14, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Holly Saiki: Yes, actually, Redemption is a topic in the chapter on Spectres and Shadows, and Lillian Cohen-Moore has done some great work on it, with both discussion and mechanics.

      • Holly Saiki
        August 15, 2018 at 2:20 am

        Awesome! I have this interesting concept of a Redeemed Spectre who joins the Martyr Knights because he knows what it’s like to be Oblivion Touched and he doesn’t want anybody else to suffer what he went through. I’m really looking forward to Lillian Cohen-Moore’s take on it.

  2. Valismedsen
    August 14, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    Awesome! So glad to see a new Wraith book! Thank you!

  3. Phaolan
    August 14, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    More than the content shared – amazing at that, mind you – I love the approach that all of Wraith 20 has taken. This is not the Revised Edition we wanted. This is way better than we could’ve hoped for!

  4. Richard Lyons
    August 14, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    Will Connaissance be included? It was mentioned but left out of the core

  5. Fabian Alvarez
    August 15, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Will we get some Merits and Flaws?

    Is this some kind of Player’s Guide? It looks like that… which means I’m ready to buy it as soon as it hits the shelves. 🙂

  6. callishka
    August 15, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    So cool. From this preview alone, I plan to have a character in my game from the Maelstrom Bureau posted near San Francisco, helped by a volunteer tiding of magpies who hope to score some sweet relics after the next storm. Hopefully my characters will take an interest!

  7. Brian
    August 15, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Is there any info on Risen?

  8. Quiet Storm
    August 22, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    I notice that the Stretch goals for Wraith 20 included seven Anthologies much earlier, rather than the Book of Oblivion expanded information.

    I guess I was wondering why the stretch goals for a 5th through 7th Anthologies lower on the tier, than adding the following to the Book of Oblivion:

    At $280,000 of contributions, we will continue the Book of Oblivion PDF/PoD with a fourth 10K section that will detail more Shadow content including their Dirty Tricks. This chapter will be combined with the other Book of Oblivion Stretch Goals, and will be sent to backers as per previous BoO sections.

    At $295,000 of contributions, we will continue the Book of Oblivion PDF/PoD with a fifth 10K section about the inner working of Spectre Cults. This chapter will be combined with the other Book of Oblivion Stretch Goals, and will be sent to backers as per previous BoO sections.

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