" At 35 bucks you'll get your money's worth. "
Title: Orpheus by White Wolf
Format: New Ghostly Core RPG
Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult
The Hype: Much hidden and well shrouded, little was known about Orpheus prior to release. A ghost story of one form of another, most gamers thought it was to be some kind of update/spinoff of Wrath, which couldn't be further from the truth. In fact a limited series based around corporate America making money off spooks, Orpheus is the latest World of Darkness title to grace our desks. But are we looking at another Werewolf or hashing through another Mummy? Only time will tell…and, of course, by time I mean this review….so read on.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: Though part of the WoD,
Orpheus is completely independent of other White Wolf titles and deals with
a very simple concept: ghosts are real, there are scientific ways to interact
with them, and a company called The Orpheus Group will do it for you if you're
willing to pay them. Why you might be is varied and complex, with motives ranging
from banishing haunters to contacting the dead for information, but eventually
people need to speak with the afterlife and Orpheus charges a pretty penny to
make it happen.
The core of this service lies in Orpheus' agents, who can put themselves into an out of body projection that allows them to interact on a ghostly level. These agents, in case you haven't guessed, are the basis for the player characters and most of the rping you'll be doing involves your projected form, called your "shade". In this form you have ghostly powers and attitude to spare and will embark on a number of missions for Orpheus' dime.
What makes up these missions is the crux of the game and, not wanting to overly spoil the premise, I'll just say that it's fantastic. Told as part of a limited 6 book series, Orpheus is a company with a questionable past to say the least and operations that aren't always on the up-and-up. It turns out they've got their fingers into some pretty rotten pies and it's pissing off people in both this world and the next. So whether your character is a dark minded henchman or an innocent intangible version of a private eye, Orpheus' bad deeds will not go unpunished, and you along with them.
It's a great premise and a well-executed concept, being one part Sixth Sense and a whole lot of cloak and dagger, and is far and away one of the most engaging new rpg concepts I've come across in years. Best of all, the writing really helps set the tone and this is one heck of a page turning core rulebook.
Not to be all praise, however, Orpheus does have a few decided shortcomings-though mostly they pertain to veteran White Wolf players only. While I'm full of praise for it, and for new gamers it's a great introduction to the spook genre, for veteran WoD gamers there's a decided taste of "been there, done that" to be had. Not nearly as original as much of their properties in the past and borrowing muchly from them, Orpheus is definitely geared towards new players or old ones who don't mind rehashing old turf in a somewhat less spectacular and deep way. Still, that shouldn't dissuade anyone, just act as a warning that if you've played Wraith or Hunter you may spend some time asking "is that it?" 4 out of 5
Layout and Presentation: Laid out in classic White Wolf fashion, Orpheus has both a good index and a lousy table of contents. The game itself is presented nicely, with information in a logical order, and is, for the most part, easy to read. I say "for the most part" because unfortunately a little too much of what is presented in Orpheus is done as either a newspaper clipping or as some random text on a dark background. And while I appreciate the mood they're trying to set I hate having to squint to read about it. And while we're on the subject of annoying, let's bump it up to an almost to a violent degree and talk about the interior art. While some of it isn't bad (none of it is great), far too much of it is simply horrid. Crap unto shit, much of this art is easily some of the worst I've seen in recent memory and is down right shameful coming from White Wolf. Again, not that it's all bad, but boy howdy when it sucks it sucks mightily. 3 out of 5
Playability: Using the venerable revised Storyteller system Orpheus has a nice, smooth method for incorporating both your human and shade statistics. Easily played and gritty, most players will be encouraged to keep the reigns in and not go all uber macho just because they're some level of undead. There are far scarier things out there than your piss-ant little projector and if you're not careful they will take a nice big bite out of you. Also encouraging are the new ghostly abilities, which are fun but balanced. Unfortunately some of my players felt they were a bit too limited in what they could do as ghosts, but overall playing has been a goodly amount of fun. 4 out of 5
Desired Content: As I said before everything you need to both play and experience Orpheus is included with this core. Though there will be 6 other books in the series you won't feel overly pressured to go buy them and can get to playing right away. It also doesn't leave you fishing for a bunch of other background or social explanations, which is nice. 4.5 out of 5
|When all's said and done, Orpheus is my new honey game. It's the thing I've been most excited about and the one I'm most anxious to play. I definitely recommend it if you're even remotely interested in the horror/ghostly genre.|
The Good: Great concept, good writing, easy system.
The Bad: Art ranging from okay to shit-tastic and it's decidedly old hat for veteran World of Darkness gamers..
The Overall Ugly: At 35 bucks you'll get your money's worth.
What it's Worth: Market