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World of Darkness: Tokyo
Sourcebook for Wraith: The Oblivion

Bruce Baugh and Mark Cenczyk
White Wolf, 96 pages


Art: John van Fleet
World of Darkness: Tokyo
Additional Information
Wraith involves ghost stories and tales of passion, beauty, horror and other fun stuff. You play a member of the Restless Dead, still tied to Earth because of your Passions and unfinished business. You and your friends get to weave stories of intrigue, horror and emotion. First off, you need the main rulebook: big, gray and mean-looking. You will also probably want the Storytellers Screen. It comes with a nifty book called Buried Secrets, which includes extra nasty stuff. Guildbooks cover the secret societies of wraiths who have special knowledge of the Arcanoi -- the secret abilities that wraiths possess. The Dark Kingdoms books detail the afterlife in parts of the world beyond North America and Europe. The Hierarchy covers the governing body of Stygia -- the Western Empire of the Dead. The Sea of Shadows discusses the makeup and geography of the Tempest, the eternal storm that rages in the Underworld. The Risen talks about wraiths who climb back into their bodies and pursue business in the land of the living. Dark Reflections: Spectres is about those wraiths who have given in to their dark sides and have become Spectres. This book is for readers age 18+ only. Haunts, Midnight Express and Love Beyond Death offer some help with campaign settings, chronicles and themes. The Quick and the Dead is about humans who hunt wraiths. Important safety tip: Don't cross the streams.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Don Bassingthwaite

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Okay, I'm confused. This is a World of Darkness sourcebook... and yet it's under White Wolf's Wraith: the Oblivion line. Well, I suppose they had to put it somewhere and it does round out the Year of the Lotus line, but don't think this is a product just for those dark and demented Wraith players out there. It isn't.

Like any of the World of Darkness sourcebooks, World of Darkness: Tokyo takes a location (go ahead -- guess where) and explores its supernatural denizens, their politics, and their relationships with the mundane world. There are more than just wraiths in Tokyo. And because this is also a Year of the Lotus book, there are more than just the familiar creatures of the Western night hanging around. Characters might run into Kuei-jin or Kindred, Garou or hengeyokai, Kithain or Shinma. Phew! Ambitious or what?

In many ways, Tokyo seems like the ideal setting to bring the creatures of the Middle Kingdom described through the Year of the Lotus series together with the more traditional creatures of the World of Darkness. The Middle Kingdom that White Wolf has created is very focused, a world that looks in on itself and is suspicious of -- if not outright antagonistic towards -- the West. Storytellers need ways to let the two worlds interact that aren't necessarily going to devolve into armed combat. Tokyo is an excellent choice: a city with a long history, forced open and later forcibly occupied by the West, now a powerhouse of the globe in its own right. A city of change, with a distinct atmosphere of mingled age and modernity that can be easily evoked in a game session.

The first chapter of the book provides a short but detailed history of Tokyo's past -- with, of course, hints as to the parts played by denizens of the World of Darkness. A Japanese member of the New World Order, for example, hastened the demise of the shogunate in the 1850s... or was he Devil-Tiger Kuei-jin? It depends on who you ask. The focus here is clearly on the human history of Tokyo with supernatural activities concealed behind the scenes. The chapter is well-written and clear, always a good thing when a sourcebook tries to cover the basics behind a long history. In fact, the authors show excellent focus: the absence of certain events in Japan's history might seem to be missing from the text (there's no mention of Hiroshima, for example), but then again they don't need to be in a book about Tokyo.

Chapter two goes into detail about today's Tokyo with a tour of the highlights of the city's districts and landmarks. Again, the information is focused: Tokyo is a big city. The highlights have been chosen well, however, and provide interesting locales for role-playing. The clubs of Roppongi, the wraith-haunted fish markets of Tsukiji, Shinjuku Station and the subways, and the dreams and nightmares of Ueno Park -- intriguing stuff. A little more information might have been nice, but if you desperately need more, just fill it in yourself. Go to the library and get yourself a travel guide. Build on what's presented in chapter two... and then add a big helping of chapter three: The Secret Players.

Here's where the city starts to come alive! City and region sourcebooks for World of Darkness games have always been strong in the unique characters that they present and Tokyo is no exception. In fact, it's stronger than a lot of other city sourcebooks I remember, partly because it crosses the borders between games and partly because the character that it presents are fleshed out and interrelated. "Yankee Bill" Prine owns a nightclub that has been taken over by the Yakuza. Nori "Mama" Prine was Yankee Bill's wife -- now she's a wraith and an information broker in the Shadowlands. Emiko Kodano, a budding medium, works for Yankee Bill. Yoshida Ozaki is Kuei-Jin, second in command to the ancestor of Tokyo, leader of a Yakuza clan... and the man who ordered the death of Nori Prince. These kinds of webbed relationships make for something players can really sink their teeth into.

Other characters link with places and situations described elsewhere in the book and between them manage to cover virtually every breed of the World of Darkness: wraiths, Kuei-jin, Kindred, mages of the Traditions, Technocracy, and Crafts, Hengeyokai, Sunset People, Shinma, and Kithain. It's unfortunate that more characters couldn't be covered in the length of the book. More information about the place of the various breeds would have added to the setting, providing players with more to build on. As it is, only two or three examples are given for most of the creatures and while they're intriguing, there are noticeable gaps: a Glasswalker might have been appropriate to include with the Garou, the two Shinma described are both kamuii nobles, and there is no mention of the Kitsune at all.

The final section of the book draws together the plots and conflicts of the various denizens of Tokyo. Unfortunately, I fond this to be the weakest part of the book. A lot of the focus is on the wraiths of the city and their struggle against the Jade Empire, and the authors do state at one point that "no struggle unifies supernaturals native to Japan more firmly than the one to free the island nation's Deadlands" (a word of warning, by the way: you will find White Wolf's Dark Kingdom of Jade sourcebook from 1996 a tremendous help if you plan to use Tokyo in a Wraith chronicle). The only problem is that the involvement of supernaturals other than wraiths doesn't seem immediately apparent from the information provided. That's too bad -- I think more could have been done to elaborate on this, but instead the conflict seems strangely disjointed.

Similarly, the conflicts that embroil the other beings of Tokyo tend to be broken and seemingly incomplete, snippets of goings-on with little to connect them to characters or each other. A few feel as if they were dropped in here because they didn't fit elsewhere: mention that the hengeyokai have adopted specialized forms of ritual etiquette to their non-human forms is interesting, but is largely superfluous to a chapter devoted to plot. Several of the complications and conflicts introduced in this chapter are interesting starting points, but Storytellers will have to put work into fleshing them out.

As I said, this is an ambitious book. Possibly it's the most ambitious of the entire Year of the Lotus line, not necessarily for overall originality (it's no more original than most similar sourcebooks and probably less original than the rules-heavy Kindred of the East) but certainly for complexity. Trying to weave together all of the World of Darkness games is a pretty heavy-duty chore. Sure there may be omissions, but with a job of that size, how can there not be? If you find a hole, patch it up! It's your game after all.

Copyright © 1999 by Don Bassingthwaite

Don Bassingthwaite is the author of Such Pain (HarperPrism), Breathe Deeply (White Wolf), and Pomegranates Full and Fine (White Wolf), tie-in novels to White Wolf's World of Darkness role-playing games. He can't remember when he started reading science fiction, but has been gaming since high school (and, boy, is his dice arm tired!).


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