The Main Idea Edit
The last original gaming line to be set in the Classic World of Darkness, Orpheus tackles the world of the dead following the events of the Sixth Great Maelstrom. A corporation called the Orpheus Group has learned and perfected the art of projection, allowing people who have undergone near-death experiences to leave their bodies and enter the spirit realm. The company uses these employees, along with allied ghosts, as agents, and contracts them out to clients for investigations into hauntings, fumigating raging spirits, and other spooky tasks.
Orpheus is unique among the Classic World of Darkness lines, as from the beginning it was planned as part of a limited run, a practice that set the basis for newer games such as Promethean: The Created and Changeling. Only six gaming books (one core book and five supplements), plus a fictional anthology, , were released. The Orpheus story is specific, and completely told through the six books, via role-playing scenarios, fiction, and a set of signature characters.
While Orpheus does tie in loosely with White Wolf’s previous effort at the afterlife, Wraith: The Oblivion, it is not treated as a true sequel or continuation, although players of Wraith will certainly find parts of Orpheus familiar, especially towards the end. Orpheus is also unique in that other supernatural characters, such as vampires and werewolves, have no real place in the game. The Core book states that if, in your game you want them to exist, you can, but the Orpheus characters would be heavily outmatched as they are essentially plain, run-of-the-mill humans. The book also notes that the Werewolves and Vampires have done a good enough job of hiding from the Mortal world, and Orpheus, at the moment, does not know about them either.
The Complete Line Edit
These are the six books in the Orpheus line; each furthers the overall plot of Orpheus much in the style of an action movie (Aliens being used as the prime example). Each book also has a section called the Unearthed Player’s Guide, which contains extra information to help players flesh out characters, such as additional Shades, Horrors, Merits and Flaws, and other useful tidbits.
Things Common to All Characters Edit
Like most of White Wolf’s other character types, the powers of Orpheus personnel depend on two energies, one positive and one negative. The positive force is Vitality, which can be used to power Horrors (see Shades) or allow a spirit or projector to manifest and appear as a living human. Ghosts with higher Vitality are independent and have their living personality fully intact. Low Vitality ghosts may not even realize they are dead and are doomed to repeat the same actions over and over unless they somehow accumulate Vitality and transcend, or accumulate Spite and become a Spectre. Vitality is accumulated through positive actions and resting, and is very similar to Wraith’s Pathos.
Spite is the opposite; spirits gain spite through negative actions, and if a character accumulates too much, they may become a Spectre. Although it can be used to fuel Horrors, it causes twisted and dark effects to occur and gives the user less control than if they had used Vitality. Spite can also be used to fuel Stains, abilities that reflect a character’s darker side; constant use of a Stain, however, can cause a character gain Spite instead if they are not careful. Spite is similar to Angst in Wraith.
All ghosts and projectors also have a set of abilities in common, unrelated to their Shade or Lament. These are the ability to see the dead while corporal or incorporeal, to be incorporeal and invisible while a projecting or a ghost, and the power to manifest in the living world in order to interact with things as if living.
It should be noted that unlike Wraith, ghosts in Orpheus exist in the same plane of existence as the living; they are just invisible to the quick unless they are able to see the dead because of special training or drugs. The actual Shadowlands exist on the other side of the Stormwall (formerly the Shroud), which for most of the game remains impenetrable to regular spirits. It is only when certain cataclysmic events unfold towards the end of Orpheus that the Shadowlands are open to all ghosts again.
Shades are a set of characteristics that reflect how a character views life and how those powers manifest in the world of the dead. Shades play strongly into a character’s personality. They also influence what Horrors, or spiritual abilities, a character can manifest when needed, unlike Wraith’s Arcanoi which can be picked with little regard of a characters personality. There are eight shades in all; the first five are introduced in the Orpheus corebook, and the remaining three are introduced in the Unearthed Player’s Guide of three of the supplements.
- Banshee – Introduced in the Orpheus corebook. Banshees are highly driven by insight and emotion, and tend to be the most empathetic of the Shades. Their power lies in their voices, which they can use to soothe souls and shatter minds. Banshees can change emotions, damage things with a scream, and divine and alter the future.
- Haunter – Introduced in the Orpheus corebook. Haunters are roamers at heart and tend to remain distant from others. They usually develop an affection for things rather than people, a feeling that manifests itself in the ability to possess and manipulate items.
- Poltergeist – Introduced in the Orpheus corebook. Poltergeists tend to be full of anger and frustration toward the world. They can be highly critical or societal outcasts. Poltergeists are capable of manipulating things in the spiritual and physical world, as well as changing the conditions, such as temperature, in a small area.
- Skinrider – Introduced in the Orpheus corebook. Skinriders tend to be very controlling of other people, as well as a need to drive others, either for good or for their own ends. They are usually highly capable leaders. Skinriders use their abilities to override a person's will to do their bidding.
- Wisp – Introduced in the Orpheus corebook. Wisps are the most charismatic of the Shades, easy to get along with, and easy to be swindled by. Many have excellent senses of humor and are natural born entertainers. Wisps can compel others to follow them, and can manipulate the Stormwall, a barrier that separates this world from the Shadowlands.
- Phantasm – Introduced in Shades of Gray. Most Phantasms are known for their active imaginations; a good many also show great artistic talent or a drive to bring their dreams to reality. Their abilities allow them to manipulate and travel through the dreams of others.
- Orphan-Grinder – Introduced in The Orphan-Grinders. Orphan-Grinders are a special Shade, made of former Spectres that have managed to regain their humanity and become spirits again. Although they may have elements of their old personalities, many still carry a dark taint that takes a great deal of effort to throw off for good. Orphan-Grinders can harness powers similar to those of Spectres, but can use them for pro-ghost purposes.
- Marrow – Introduced in End Game. Marrows are the most flexible personality shade, and includes social chameleons, fad followers, or those who are familiar with or wish to sample a wide range of cultures. They can always adapt to any situation. Users of Marrow can manipulate their gauze to change forms and develop an affinity for animals.
Laments determine exactly how a character comes into contact with the world of ghosts. There are two main categories of Laments: projectors and ghosts. Projectors are living humans that through one method or another can throw off their flesh and become a ghost. They can return to their bodies under most circumstances. The other category are the dead, who still manage to interfere in the affairs of the living. Characters can change Laments throughout a campaign (for example, a sleeper killed in the line of duty can become a spirit, or a skimmer unable to project anymore can become a sleeper).
- Skimmer – The most popular (and arguably, most flexible) Lament, skimmers are character who attain projection through meditation. They can temporarily discard their spirits from their bodies, which remain attached to each other by a mysterious silver cord.
- Sleeper – In order to project, a sleeper is put into a cradle, a containment chamber that both preserves the projector’s flesh and allows a technician to monitor its state. During sleep, a special serum is pumped through the body in place of blood to keep necrosis from setting in. Those who cannot project by skimming usually become sleepers instead.
- Spirit – The ghosts of the dead, spirits are the main reason for the existence of Orpheus and other projecting firms. In fact, many of these companies have spirits in their employ, compensated through favors or financial awards to a chosen survivor.