Wraith: Renegades Book

Renegades $16 US ISBN 1-56504-636-6
WW 6065, 128 pages
Written by Jackie Cassada and Nicky Rea, developed by the Richard Dansky

Capsule: This is a really useful book, loaded with information that will be of use to any game set in the Shadowlands, not just Renegade-oriented chronicles. Go ye and get it.

Kvetch: This book has one sin of omission. The authors seem to feel that all political idealists and revolutionaries are on the left. History shows that right-wing and not-so-readily classifiable movements can be equally idealistic - Hitler, Mussolini, and Peron, for instance, came to power supported by deeply driven visionaries, as hostile to an entrenched order as any left-wing group. However, this is a solvable problem, because the principles of revolutionary struggle described in Renegades apply perfectly well to non-leftist revolutionary movements. Just browse a little in the history of revolution to round out your sense of who is out there fighting the Powers What Am.

Details: The Introduction and Chapter One of this book have some of the best use of in-character writing I've yet seen in a White Wolf book. First we get a dozen or so perspectives from a protest rally in Necropolis New York. These comments come from the protesters and others not taking part. You get the whole sweep of Renegade viewpoints right there. Then we get the history of the Dark Kingdom of Iron from Renegade points of view. It's presented as an essay by a recently dead war correspondent, with countless interjections in several dozen hands, from clueless dweebs to Spartacus. It works extremely well. At its best in-character writing does double duty acting as both description and commentary. This is how to do it.

Chapter Two: does something Wraith has needed all along. It describes what the routine afterlife is for various kinds of Renegades - what they do, what challenges they face, how much free time they get, and so on. The absence of this sort of "day in the afterlife" material has, I believe, been one of the things that's hurt Wraith's chances with the public at large. It's very welcome here. And the discussion of general practices is accompanied by a two-page spread describing a particular Renegade gang, including the author of the historical essay mentioned above. Roles, backgrounds, it's all here. Finally, we get a survey of Renegade gangs from around the empire, and with all sorts of attitudes.

Chapter Three: on Renegade relations with other groups in the Shadowlands (and places that impinge upon it), is brief, and again loaded with multiple viewpoints. Cassada and Rea really have that trick down; I found this very useful in planning setup for my upcoming playtest.

Chapter Four: then comes a long chapter on the nuts and bolts of Renegade activity. It picks up on the leads given in Chapter Two and develops them in depth. Assassination, Renegade security, terrorism, theft, coups, they are all covered. So are sources of income. There are a couple new arts: a Castigate art to build up strength against interrogation and a Keening art to distract people. There's a new knowledge: "Publishing". The new background "Companion Group" is extremely handy for wraiths whom make free with the Shroud-crossing. New merits and flaws, archetype and Shadow archetype - Renegades has a goodly volume of yummy crunchy bits.

Chapter Five: Renegades as PCs. The book suggests modifications to existing archetypes, has good ideas about character histories (keeping in mind in Kvetch, above), style, historical evolution, and lots more. This is solid, clear, practical advice for Storytellers and players. There's a not very long but very interesting discussion of Shroud-crossing chronicles, and the potential and pitfalls thereof.

Chapter Six: gives us a good crop of character templates for archetype Renegade characters. I'm aware that Richard Dansky (former Wraith Line Developer) doesn't like them much, and I believe he underestimates their value. I know that for me a well-constructed template can do a lot to anchor generalisations in a concrete form, and I think these do that very well. A brief Appendix rounds out the volume; as usual for the Wraith line it contains a round up of prominent figures in the Renegade movement both fictional and historical.

This is a remarkably useful book. I enjoyed it a lot and recommend it highly.

Bruce Baugh