Thursday, September 2, 2010

We're Not Worthy: The Most Amazing Game I'll Never Play

I am not ashamed to admit that my senior year, my group of gamers fell in love with Vampire: The Masquerade.  Shut up.  It was 1992, we were all punks, skate rats, and the sort, and Vampire was the first game on the market that marketed "cool."  I picked up Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, and Changeling when they came out.  Of those five games, there are two that I would ever consider picking up again: Wraith and Changeling.

The concept of a Shadow, a dark side, is difficult to deal with.  Players don't like showing weakness in their characters.  It's why systems struggle with psychological damage.  The Shadow concept in Wraith takes even more control AWAY from a player and allows his character's dark side to run amok.  This goes against the player empowerment principle that almost every other role playing game strives for.  Even Call of Cthulhu, where a long-running campaign can only end in death or insanity, has the characters bravely fighting until the end.  Wraith reminds us that sometimes we do things we don't want to do, and it's not always our choice.

I'll be honest, I hated Wraith when it first came out.  I didn't get it then.  Having seen the darker side of humanity in 9/11, in depth research on the Rwandan genocide, and my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, I get Wraith now.  Of course, because I get it, I'm not sure I want to go there.  Or more to the point, I don't know if I want to take friends there.  And for most of us, friends play a huge part in our gaming lives.

Wraith: The Oblivion is totally the Requiem for a Dream of role playing games.  It is a dark, moody piece that totally fucks with you at your root.  It is, without a doubt, the best game White Wolf has ever put out, and the only one which I think accomplishes what it set out to do.  Unfortunately, it's very nature requires the players to go into a deep, dark place that most people are not comfortable going into.  It just doesn't line up with why most people play RPGs.