Review – Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth (Wraith: the Oblivion)

I warned you it was coming!

Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth (1998) is a 168-page, softcover, black & white supplement for Wraith: the Oblivion (2nd Edition).

My quick take: Not a lot to see here. The concept of actively seeking to repeatedly voyage into the Labyrinth seems rough as a campaign concept, and the effort to quantify the Labyrinth produces mixed results while (unfortunately) removing mystery. It’s not a bad read though.

The Basics

Doomslayers are wraiths who make a career out of taking out spectres, especially helldiving – journeying into the Labyrinth (preferably in a reasonably sized group) in order to hunt for spectres. Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth provides information on the doomslayers themselves, supplementary information on spectres, and information on the Labyrinth itself.

The editing is standard for White Wolf of this era. The art is pretty good, although not great, and as one might expect for a Wraith book about creepy things, the art can be pretty disturbing if you aren’t expecting a bunch of malformed things with missing limbs.     Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth, especially the portion on spectres, is not fully functional if you only have the Wraith corebook. It’s heavily reliant on information on spectres presented elsewhere, especially Dark Reflections: Spectres. There’s also a lengthy section on artifacts and relics that references items in other books,

Contents

After about 25 pages of introduction (almost all of it fiction), Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth breaks down into nine chapters (three on doomslayers, four on spectres, and two on the Labyrinth):

     Doomslaying: The Basic Dossier (~20 pages) – This chapter is delivered as a first-person talk (by several different speakers) to a newb at doomslayer boot camp. There’s a little history, some reasons why wraiths might engaged in doomslaying, the five orders of doomslayers, the cell structure they use to minimize any damage from spectre infiltration (or someone’s Shadow ratting them out), a few story ideas, a semi-pointless list of artifacts/relics from other books that doomslayers might use, and a couple of locations. The five orders and their functions are the Order of the Thorn (a militarized group that sends organized raids after spectres; takes prisoners for experiments), Martyr Knights (observe high-ranking Stygians for possible replacement by Doppelgangers), Helldivers (wraiths who go on deep cover assignments posing as spectres), Darksiders (Pardoners for doomslayers), and Solos (OK, maybe “order” is a bit of a misnomer for these guys, who just doomslay without being part of any larger group).

Doomslaying: One Step Beyond (~15 pages) – Character creation and mechanics for doomslayers. Character creation isn’t a new process, just tips. There are a few new abilities (Helldiving, Labyrinth Gear), and rules for using Dark Arcanoi.

Doomslaying: Tactics (~20 pages) – This almost-entirely flavor chapter is a hodge-podge – how spectres might behave, how to beat them, brief descriptions of some of the generals of Oblivion, how doomslayers are trained, and a good chunk of additional info on the Order of the Thorn, the Martyr Knights, and the Helldivers, and how they operate. You really start to get a better idea here of how the doomslaying efforts actually work.

Life in the Labyrinth: The Society of Shadows (~10 pages) – This chapter presents a breakdown of different castes of spectres (nothings, mortwights, striplings, doppelgangers, shades, nephwracks, hekatonkhire, pasiphae, haints, and apparitions), and the order in which that kind of spectre develops the Hive-Mind Dark Arcanos. The spectres have a pretty regimented system, largely based on how far on the path of Oblivion the spectre has moved (most spectres get shredded long before they can obtain high levels of Oblivion-fueled power), with some specialized offshoots (powerful but dumb, childlike, and such).

Life in the Labyrinth: The Oblivion War and the Malfeans (~15 pages) – Luckily for wraith society, the minions of Oblivion spend an awful lot of time fighting and killing each other (last man standing gets to eat creation, one images). This chapter talks about the Oblivion War, including a discussion of the Neverborn and Onceborn Malfeans in whose names it is fought. There’s a discussion of spirituality among the spectres, and some samples cults.

Life in the Labyrinth: Living Cycle to Cycle (~10 pages) – This chapter is kind of a “day in the life” for different kinds of spectres (including warfare, leisure, and why spectres leave the Labyrinth), and how that life generally ends.

Life in the Labyrinth: The Arts of the Dead (~15 pages) – In addition to a discussion of which normal (including forbidden) Arcanoi are commonly practised by spectres, this chapter presents three new Dark Arcanoi and new arts for two existing ones (a little Shround Rending and a lot of Hive Mind). The new Dark Arcanoi are Corruption (sort of an evil version of Puppetry), Maleficence (spread the theology of Oblivion in the mortal realm), Tempestos (ride the Maelstrom!).

The Great Maze: The Labyrinth Beneath Stygia (~15 pages) – This chapter presents a selection of locations in the Stygian section of the Labyrinth (Industrion is a pretty cool name for  a place, IMHO), and also a brief look at how the Labyrinth is different under the various different underworlds.

The Great Maze: Traveling the Labyrinth (~10 pages) –  A practical guide to the physical conditions of the labyrinth – what the walls might be made out of, visibility, temperature, environmental hazards, exits and entrances, that sort of thing.

Opinions

If you want to run a game of Wraith where the characters are delving into the Labyrinth then you’ll need to pick this up. But after reading it I can’t really think why you’d want to run that sort of game. It just seems to go too far away from the internal pathos that can make Wraith great, and strips away too much of the ominous mystery of Oblivion. It’s a decent read, but I don’t want a Wraith game where spectres are thought about in such mundane terms as sleep cycles and sports games. And what’s in Doomslayers isn’t really necessary for having more detailed spectres in a “normal” Wraith game (Dark Reflections: Spectres is what you want for that).

I’ve found Wraith supplements to have a lot of variance – there are some big hits (Ends of Empire) and some big misses (Love After Death). Doomslayers lies somewhere in between those extremes, but on the lower end – it isn’t bad, per se, but just doesn’t contribute much.

One thought on “Review – Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth (Wraith: the Oblivion)

  1. Oh, I love this book. I think it allows players to bring Aliens or Hellraiser 2 into the Wraith world. But also, Wraith has always had the scope for otherworldly adventure, and this allows for that. I feel like it’s something that ties in well with The Great War material, too, as sending a bunch of deceased soldiers into the Labyrinth would be a good way to bridge the two settings.

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