Morland’s Hammer on Ghost Stories for the New World of Darkness
Hello ladies and gentlemen, the verdict is in and it’s a 4/5. You’ll learn more about the rating system later, or if you want to see now, scroll to the bottom of the review.
Ghost stories have been a part of our lives since childhood. From madmen to weeping mothers, the ghosts that inhabit these tales inevitably leave their marks upon us at a young age, even though we may not understand why until later on in life. When confronted with undeniable mortality, we often feel a part of our livelihoods slip away, but when dressed up in a story, we – as mortals ourselves – begin to realize that death isn’t all that bad, unless perhaps, something goes wrong. And that’s exactly what happens in most ghost stories; being told around a living room or a fire in the woods matters little. The fictitious state of affairs we weave in these tales always entails a kernel of hoary wisdom. It doesn’t mater if the events surround a ghost’s death were their fault or not; the fact is, until they face a sort of resolution or finality that relates to their personal torment, the ghosts continue to be stuck in a perpetual state of mental anguish.
Many times we use ghost stories as lessons to show the new generation how tipping the karmic scales too far can result in some sort of purgatory where lost souls linger and mourn. But how do we use them? Through mortality and moral degeneration, we show the listeners why the ghosts linger on. Even if a person is of sound mind and body before death, they can still be restless after death. We explain this restlessness in a variety of ways, including unfinished business, emotional trauma, or some form of perceived injustice. But what about when people act rashly or they’re mad with guilt? What about when people do create havoc, misery, and gloom? And what of the events that can’t be explained by logic or science? All of these scenarios and more are what this book peers at from a kind of moral high ground.
Throughout Ghost Stories, your characters will face obstacles that tempt their Vices and sway their Virtues simply by interacting with the stories. Being one of the first books for the new World of Darkness series, this book emphasizes the moral implications that arise from what the characters do when faced with mortality and death –both of others, and themselves. Ghost Stories covers a wide selection of both classic and new tales. Haunted houses and ghost towns are covered, but so are normal everyday people, and I feel that it’s this touch in particular that makes the book worth reading. Ironically, as this is a role-playing book, we – as players – have a chance to explore ghost stories instead of just hearing another tall tale. That’s the reason I decided to review this book; I can actually be a part of a ghost story , and that feeling I felt as a kid (when chills were sent up my spine from the stories) have been multiplied; that chill has twisted into a kind of thrilling pleasure I think, and yes, this book administers chill faithfully.
Ghost Stories was made to usher twisted tales of the supernatural directly into our games. Understanding how ghosts think in the new World of Darkness is vital for Storytellers –I mean, we are playing games of moral consequence, even if the characters themselves aren’t wholly human anymore (that is, if you decide to use supernaturals. This book is made with mortals in mind). In any individual story, who’s to say whether or not a person at death’s door refuses to move on? The Storyteller, that’s who; Ghost Stories was made with Storytellers in mind.
What This Book Really Does
Ghost Stories gives Storytellers five settings within the new World of Darkness to drop players into or begin a whole new chronicle with. As with Mysterious Places, this book is filled with suggestions, guidelines and plot-hooks for all the settings within so Storytellers can better mold each module to best suit their tastes. I will say that some of the settings are a bit straight forward and not extremely flexible, but as nothing struck me as being inflexible, I’m ok with saying that all the settings are quite usable.
The book has a moderate selection of different writing styles that I find both refreshing and somewhat cumbersome at times. On one hand you have some settings that are very flexible and adaptable, but others are very dependant upon certain elements that are quite frigidly set in place. Sometimes of course, this is necessary to convey the story properly and that’s understandable, but not in a Storyteller’s resource guide.
Ghost Stories can work really well within the other supernatural games of the new World of Darkness (and the old games too, for that matter). Personally, I can’t wait to trick some players with Chapter Four. What will werewolf players think when they confront a massive spiritual tree bent on murder, only to find that it wields ghost instead of spirits? What, indeed.
A word of warning to people who believe this book is only about ghosts; some chapters focus on the setting rather than the ghosts within them. In some cases, the settings actually use the ghosts as proxies to do their bidding. As with any powerful story, these scenarios have to be handled with delicate Storyteller’s hands. When your players are faced with the unknown, they’re as likely to be curious as much as tuck tail and run. The Storyteller has to find a good medium to entice the characters into the scenarios and keep their attention, or the session will fail. The authors (for the most part) anticipated this and almost all of the presented material has steps that Storytellers can take to work with potentially wayward players.
This book is for Storytellers only. The book even states this. For people interesting in ghost stories in general, buying this book could provide you with a vague set of stories, but you’re going to have to sift through a bunch of Storyteller’s tips and tricks, when honestly, many properly presented ghost stories can be found on the net. ‘Count Magnus’ is but one example of this, and it’s actually the inspiration of Chapter Two.
As always, I will encourage anyone thinking about becoming a Storyteller to do so with this kind of book. Easy-to-read setups and a plethora of hints and tips should never be turned down. For people who aren’t really all that bothered with the new World of Darkness – but who’re wondering if they could use the settings within Ghost Stories for other games – I say go for it; you won’t be sorry. If you’re a seasoned Storyteller who knows how to whip up a good setting and pepper horror with a good pinch of vice, you don’t need the book, but it’s a greatly refreshing read, and is very handy for an on-hand resource.
Beware, Spoilers Ahead!!
Introductory Fiction: Clutch
Curiosity killed the cat folks, and boy, does the author ever ram it home in Clutch. The author’s use of the main character’s Vice is beautifully done. Curiosity is as much of a boon as it is a hindrance to a ‘seller of acquired goods’ but when tainted by the eerie emotions of a ghost, the character falls into the same web that the ghost did before it died. This is an important lesson that reverberates throughout the book. All too often, ghosts can’t relay their true feelings to the real world in any tangible sense. Their powers – for the most part – aren’t meant to help them communicate with the real world as they once did. What happens when ghosts can’t convey what they want? Most of them simply don’t have the power to, and they get frustrated. The theme of isolated loneliness has real meaning throughout this book. Ghosts tend to find that even when they try to set things right, they only end up making things worse, which pushes them farther and farther away from the living world even though they’re still a part of it in some twisted way through their anchors. In Clutch, the ghost wants someone to know what happened to it, but by leading others to where it died, by preying on the mortal’s Vice (intentional or not), the ghost only leads another poor soul to a horrid – and none too sticky – situation. Those within a delicate stomach beware; this story has a gripping end.
The Introduction of Ghost Stories is a goldmine. For the people who felt somewhat let down by what the new World of Darkness core book presented about ghosts, the introduction of this book – all thirteen pages of it – is marvelous. The reason why the opening is so important is because it addresses death itself, not just ghosts. It gives the reader multiple view points on the subject, and it helps him decide why he might want to use a ghost. We’re taken step-by-step from why a ghost story might be right for a game, straight through to what kind of ghost we may want to use, along with what characteristics they might have. I found myself creating ghost stories left, right and center just while reading this section. That’s a stamp of approval if I’ve ever seen one. The section on how to set up your ghost story is a particularly good part, and the ‘Twisted Endings’ sidebar rocks the boat. The section is capped off by four ghost templates which should fill all but the most demanding of Storytellers’ needs.
Chapter One: Dust to Dust
Dust to Dust is a ghost story focused on the spirit of a town instead off any singular ghost. While other ghosts play a part in this scenario, the town itself is the main Antagonists. On one hand, I really like the setting. The idea that the town manipulates people into visiting it for its own interests is brilliant. On the other hand, the setting is somewhat narrowly focused. The setting – as is – will need a fair share of work to get it to work elsewhere in the world. To give the author some credit here, we have a section on variant settings that take up a half a page, but sadly, the variant setting plot-hooks are a bit scarce as you begin to read the rest of the chapter, hence, the potential extra work. Other than the facts above, this chapter rocks. The feeling of isolation and helplessness is played up extremely well through the town’s powers and the name is fitting as well. Fort Assumption was your typical mining town out in the middle of now where. The town was about to hit the big time through a massive vein of silver in the mines, but events involving race, hatred, murder, perceived rape and steadfast insanity made sure the town became a collection of worn down buildings and lost dreams.
Through Werewolf: the Forsaken, you can learn a lot about how the World of Darkness affects – and is affected by – the world of Shadow. Traumatic events in either place can taint that place with a resonance that’s so powerful, so pervasive, that the place in question becomes more than just a ‘setting; it becomes a ‘something’. Fort Assumption gained supernatural awareness on a night of grisly murder and mayhem, and its finds itself wanting more people within itself again. Think about this for a minute; what pictures come to your mind when you think of a ghost town? Old leaning wooden buildings, broken signs, dirty windows. Now, try to put a ‘feeling’ to it. Lonely isolation can drive people to do many things, but what about when a town feels that? Fort Assumption was going to be the next big silver mining town, but events that really had nothing to do with that fact destroyed the strings of fate. The abandoned town is lonely and hungry; it wants to become a proper town again. If you come here, you’re not just driving away again. I like the overall feel of this scenario, and I think I’ll leave some of its story for you to find out on your own rather than spoiling any more of it here.
I want to cover a couple of things about this setting because I feel that events that had nothing to do with the author may shed a bad vibe with this story. On page 31, a picture is given of a scene you’ll read about on page 30. The picture does the written description no justice at all. This wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that the author makes this particular scene a part of the story, and the picture just ruins it, not because of the quality, but because of what’s been drawn, or more accurately, what’s not been drawn.
Optional Numen: Dement
Dement allows the user to give a victim a mild derangement for a while. Exceptional success allows for more permanent courses of action.
Optional Numen: Proxy
Proxy allows the user to conjure up illusions with a bit of consciousness –an avatar, if you will, to use as ghosts. In this case, the town conjures up people who used to live there.
These powers are very useful, and should by no means just be used for this setting. Also, the author introduces ‘multiple anchors’ to the setting, where the town as well as a ghost(s) within it (not a proxy) is tied to more than one place as focal points for their existence. I love this idea, and it works wonders within this setting. This is a good scenario, if a bit narrowly focused. Once inside the setting though, the author doesn’t miss a thing.
Chapter Two: The Terrifying Tale of James Magnus
What can I say about The Terrifying Tale of James Magnus? This setting is full of contrasts. While I won’t –nay, can’t deny that this story should be in this book, many of the decisions by the authors don’t agree with me. The fact of the matter is that the author did a great job with this story. The Terrifying Tale of Count Magnus is based largely on Montague Rhodes James’ tale of ‘Count Magnus’, which takes place mostly in Sweden and to a lesser degree in England. That story was set centuries ago from the later 1700s to the 1800s –through the narrator of course. And this is probably one of my main problems with the story; it’s been Americanized. Considering that’s coming from a born and breed American, you may want to think twice before jumping on me for such a statement. I don’t like the fact that it’s been set in the modern times, nor do I like that the main character – James Magnus – was turned into a military spook who interrogated people for hire because few others could do it like him. I also don’t like how the truly darker side of James Magnus is only referred to as ‘black magic’ and the like. I felt that the author could’ve worked this part of the original story into his own tale much better than he did. I think the summary of James at the end is unfinished. There’s nearly a half a page of black white paper on page 69 that could’ve been utilized for the guy so we could get a better look into his frame of mind (twisted as it was). I really don’t like the fact that the author decided to mention Wal-Mart in such a tale. It’s a kick in the balls of any horror story to have that name uttered within its text. But you know what? I honestly can’t sit here and tell you that this story is an excrescence upon the book Ghost Stories. You know why? Because Grabowski (the author) –damn him, he was able to pull it off.
The Terrifying Tale of James Magnus is one of the best revisions and twists of an old tale that I’ve ever read. I won’t deny that I loathe parts of it this story (as mentioned above) but no one can deny the way the author has been able to breathe life into this ghost story. Make no mistake people, this story can fit into almost any World of Darkness setting you have. Thinking beyond mortals as player characters, this setting will make a coterie of Kindred frenzy just as surely as it would make a pack of werewolves wet themselves. The scenario in many ways is potent in spades and is easily one of the most usable settings with which a Storyteller can use the players’ characters Vices with exquisite precision, turning the most controlled person into a frothing lunatic (which would make Mr. Magnus laugh to no end, I’d imagine). Undoubtedly, psychological horror plays a massive part of this scenario. If a given Storyteller unused to or unaware of the repercussions of what such tactics employed may have upon his players, I feel the entire point of reading this scenario might be wasted.
While the reader may at times feel as though the scenario reads like a walk-through of a haunted house on show, the sheer amount of tension this setting can generate counteracts the room-by-room breakdown. In this variant of ‘James Magnus’, the author decides to make Mr. Magnus a colossal – yet purposeful – pervert in addition to his old psychotic tendencies. As Magnus and his wife played lascivious games with themselves as well as on others, many of the haunting memories that characters will be influenced by are tainted with sexual tension –be it in the form of some twisted sense of love or a morbid lust for pain that still lingers from the couple’s former life. This is the stroke of genius that the author hit upon that ultimately saves this setting for me. When playing a game that emphasizes morality with Virtues and Vices, having as setting that plays upon those characteristics is only logical; the fact that the author was able to take an old tale and put it in the modern day as well as make the setting a sprawling haunted mansion is fantastic. You have everything you need in this scenario to play a game of ‘Twisted Values’ and that simply kicks ass.
Within the setting itself, the reader is given suggested haunting phenomenon for each place. Most of the time, it’s for most of the five senses as well, which I found refreshing. Pay particular attention to the kitchen’s description. The dual nature of the everyday life of the former inhabitants is an apt reflection of their darker natures that surfaces later on before they died. The kitchen is a good place to start haunting. At first, you could make the story seem like the Magnus Family was harmless. I know I intend to do this with the entire house, letting my players discover the true nature of the ghosts after I’ve manipulated some Virtues here and there.
A note to Storytellers; use physical sensations (through haunting powers) to maximize the effect of this setting. The scenario encourages this, and I can only imagine what your characters will think when they believe they’ve become the new sex toy of the ghosts.
The author describes an alternate scenario where dead characters could be turned into ghosts and their players could have fun trying to help or hinder the remaining living characters of the chronicle. Unfortunately, no guidelines are given for this, so I suggest the Storytellers learn the system for ghosts like it’s second nature before this is attempted.
Optional Numen: Transmogrify Victim
Hold on to your pants people, because this one is mean. After a host possesses you with this power, they can use it to warp your body in any number of ways. The new ‘enhancements’ are used – as is the rest of your body – to act as a kind of conduit the ghost can actually use its dread powers through. Sharpened arm bones, tentacle-like intestines and more can be created with this power, but thankfully, the person reverts back to themselves at the end of the powers’ duration. You’ll never look at your friend the same way again after he’s choked you with his lungs, I guarantee.
This was a good scenario, if a bit controversial.
Chapter Three: No Way Out
No Way Out is a horror & detective story through and through. From an excellent summary to an intense atmosphere, this scenario will strike a cord with you. The reason for that is simple; murder, mayhem, double lives and secret affairs are all mixed together to eventually present a cunning web of deceit that will bring the characters around full circle –not only uncovering the truth about the poor ghost whose life the players will have finally worked through, but they’ll also learn a bit more about death, as well.
This setting is one of the easiest reads in the book. I think that’s because the reader almost feels like a player in the story while he reads through the scenario. I’m sure that’s unintentional, but since it’s a good thing, I’m not complaining. No Way Out can take place in just about any city in the world. And since the corner stones of the story can be easily changed for other ‘pieces’ (such as a job environment or hotel somewhere), adapting the scenario to your current game won’t be hard at all. The Motive section at the beginning is a good resource for Storytellers looking for possible ways to work their players’ characters directly into the chronicles. The Backstory section, where readers learn of certain events central to the story, is the key to the entire setting so don’t skip over or skim it. I find the Variations section enlightening, as each individual variant setting idea we’re given for the story is potentially just as good as the main scenario –and they’re easy to expand upon, to boot.
This story tackles an area that few others do in the book. We’re shown time and again that the ghost of the story tries desperately to communicate with his family. Indeed, two of his anchors are actually part and parcel of his ‘family’, but whenever he tries to communicate with or protect them, he only ends up making things worse. You can almost feel sorry for him, and that’s a powerful factor in any game.
I think the icing on this cake comes when the author gives multiple lessons toward the end of the scenario that characters can learn from after having gone through the majority of the setting. Each of these lessons is as important as the last and emphasizing them to the players can bear a great role-playing experience –if the Storyteller handles it right. Cast members’ profiles are good, and present the Storyteller with what he needs to know rather than a bunch of useless word count.
It can’t all be good however, and there’s a slanderous mark upon this scenario that I personally can’t stand. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with the authors. The artist assigned to this section is not up to par by any stretch of the imagination, especially in such a high caliber book. From trying to convey the mood of the setting to the character profiles, to me, the art doesn’t do any kind of justice here. The artist in question (I’d name them, except I can’t see any signatures or other such mark) doesn’t shade anything except for the largest of objects in their pictures. In one picture, you won’t even be sure what’s going on.
In this setting, pacing events is vital. This is one of those scenarios that could be played out over three hours from start to finish, so unless you plan for it to be over quickly, spread the events out some by encouraging players to go on false leads or wild goose chases. Don’t be shy about introducing mortal characters to the players’ characters in this scenario. By doing this, the characters will be more receptive to the ghost’s plight.
This is an exceptional scenario, but it has some shyt art.
Chapter Four: Roots and Branches
Roots and Branches is a scenario with a lot of potential. It can be dropped into an existing chronicle very easily. If the Storyteller feels like it, he can change the setting a bit and have it take place just about anywhere within reason (for instance, there’s no reason why the Storyteller couldn’t change the kind of tree for a different climate). The characters in Roots and Branches are presented well; each one plays a specific part in the setting and they’re built well, technically speaking. Unfortunately, the setting will be too linear for many people. The entire story is set up a specific way. You won’t find a lot of possible variants of the story, nor are there any morals or lessons to be garnered from the scenario. Roots and Branches was built for specific events to take place, and that’s it. Some people may like that, but I know more than a few Storytellers who will take the story and twist it right off the bat. If characters can’t find their way to the next part of the puzzle, only then does the author suggest another course of action –not different scenarios, but merely alternate ways to find out the necessary information required to move onto the next step.
The summary, while organized, tells you next to nothing about the setting itself or about the nature of the story. Scene by scene, we’re told a little bit more about the Murder Tree. A tree of great mystical/spiritual power, it became twisted and evil when the site was witness to a brutal series of murders. The tree uses the ghosts that swing from its branches as bait, protection, and general tools as and when it needs them. I can’t deny that this is a wonderful concept, and kudos to the author for giving such an antagonist to us. Once in a while, the tree needs another soul, so it arranged for someone else to die there. Despite all of this, the author says that the tree isn’t sentient; I can’t quite understand that, really. The tree is like a spider, pulling people into its web when it wants another meal, and it’s even ‘aware’ enough to use the ghosts as it can.
There are a couple of shining jewels in this chapter and I’d like to highlight them so it doesn’t seem like I detest this setting (‘cause frankly, I don’t). The setting itself is a park where the tree is located. The land of the park used to be where a main character of the scenario - now long dead – used to live. Being a public park, it’s an easy setting to work with. Every kind of character can be found there at one time or another. The tree itself is massive, and it provides a fantastic place for mystical power. The scenario will work wonders in the supernatural games tied to the World of Darkness, and I dare say that this setting could work well as a crossover scenario where multiple supernatural beings come together –the tree being a major meeting point to start the chronicle off. Also, on page 95, the sidebar ‘Found Objects’ is simply superb, but I don’t want to spoil it here, so nah to you. The author does a great job of explaining that Storytellers should be patient when starting up this chronicle –not because it would be over so quickly, but because players may well leave the setting and do their own thing rather than stick around such a powerful site. A careful balance needs to be struck between enticing the characters into the scenario and scaring them at the same time. If you’re playing a mortal game, I implore you to leave the site untouched by other supernatural influences other than that of the tree and the ghosts. Putting vampires, mages or werewolves into the story for mortal characters may well take the impact of the setting away.
This setting has a lot of potential, but Storytellers are going to have to work some for it to become a truly great setting. Putting the ghosts of some old guy’s family to rest isn’t going to be for everyone, even if the setting is kickass, so the main events of the story may have to change. Roots and Branches has undeniable attraction, but its straight forward movement and lack of variant scenarios will put some people off.
Chapter Five: Holy Ghost
Morland’s award for the best story in the book goes to Holy Ghost without a doubt. From beginning to end, Holy Ghost is golden. The author’s not only able to capture the very essence of why Virtues and Vices are so important in the World of Darkness, but he also shows how even just a sparkle of hope is able to go a long way. By using the classic tools of religion and putting them into a setting that screamed for them for years, the author’s decision to focus on a sort of ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ is brilliant. For a while now, we’ve all been aware of the ghetto scene to varying degrees. A little church here and there with older folks desperately hanging on to what little they have left while their young ones tear each other apart is a known picture, especially to the innocent people who live in those areas. Wrath and shame have rarely ever gone so well together, and because the holy ghost is a priest who was gunned down after a fierce beating in front of all his followers, the scene is set for a stellar setting that can fit into almost any World of Darkness back alley you can dream up. Since the people and place can change easily, you can adapt this to your own chronicle – if within a city – in one night flat. Be careful though; this is quite possibly the most powerful moral story out there, and it will leave an impact on your players forever.
Our setting is on the dodgy side of town in an alley fought over by gangs. For years they have fought each other, turning their neighborhood into a war zone. During all of this, a church stood by in the alley, a silent watchmen unable to stop the carnage. And older preacher – the father of our ‘holy ghost’ – began to rally the people and stand up to the gangs. He stopped fighting when he lost those he loved. To his delight, his son took up the mantle of priesthood, but to the old man’s shock, his son also took up the battle with the gangs later on in life. The tortured soul of this story is the father, the person who never told the truth to his son before his boy died. Wrath and vengeance comes from our holy ghost who watched as his followers did nothing for him, even though he risked everything to bring them peace and happiness.
The back-story in this setting shouldn’t be changed (structurally, at least). Everything else can be changed to fit where you like, but the back-story is so gripping, shocking and horrific that you would lose the essence of the story were you to do anything to its general structure. It is the literal foundation of the moral conflict of all the major npcs involved, and as you’ll see that while wrath is a very powerful tool, redemption and confession are even more potent. Change the structure and Morland will slap ya, got it?
Wrath drives the Holy Ghost now, and it’s driven him to the brink of madness. Even the slightest sin doesn’t go unnoticed on his watch, and everyone pays the price. This is the crux of the scenario however; the Holy Ghost doesn’t differentiate between small and large sins, and his punishments are anything but light. He terrorizes the entire ally because he wants it to be a paradise where people don’t sin, but in so doing, he becomes one of the biggest sinners of all because he lets his wrath envelop and blind him. Only when the targets of his true anger confess will he ever truly rest.
This is an extremely powerful setting. I beseech all Storytellers not to use it lightly. From start to finish, this scenario gives tips and tricks to tie the story together or take it into a different direction. Storytellers should pay attention to the author’s use of the ghosts’ power. Think about the kind of imagery a ghost bent on holy wrath would conjure up, and then use those images. The scenario is jam-packed with moral lessons, so be sure to choose which ones you want to run with before the game starts, but don’t worry if the players take a different approach to things; this scenario has everything covered. Since this is another setting that would work wonderfully for supernatural creatures as well, the distraught players’ characters could achieve a unique understanding about themselves by the end of this story, so think about how you may broach absolution as a tool to show atonement for individual Vices of characters who help to set things straight while teaching the other players’ characters a lesson they’ll never forget if they stepped out of line.
The book Ghost Stories really is a great resource for Storytellers. Actually, I’ll go so far as to say people who run non-White Wolf games who still want that dark feel for their games should buy this book. The stats wouldn’t be hard to convert and wily Game-masters could find a way to use the book regardless. At first, I didn’t like the fact that the book had an introduction to ghost stories in general, but as I read on, I found myself learning a great deal about how to really use ghost stories to maximum affect as a Storyteller. While some of these settings won’t be to everyone’s tastes, the sheer diversity of the stories presented and the quality of those stories will undoubtedly make an impact on most readers. Ghost Stories coupled with Mysterious Places provides a most excellent combination of books for Storytellers to begin the World of Darkness, and I highly recommend buying them together.
Ok, here’s the list explaining the numbers.
5/5 – Outstanding. Hardly a fault anywhere and the book rocks socks off.
4/5 – Exceptional. A dislike here or there, but otherwise very impressive.
3/5 – Good. A serious dislike somewhere, but otherwise a sound and enjoyable book.
2/5 – Average. There are some flaws here that need to be sorted out before the book moves up on the scale, and if given the chance, I might not buy it again.
1/1 – Poor. The book is plain old fucked. If I can’t sell it to some poor sap, I’m burning it.
As was stated at the beginning of the review, this book receives a 4/5.
The overall look of the book is quite good. In almost every picture, we’re transported to the scene where something’s happened or is about to. In some cases, the author’s descriptions of the scenes don’t match the pictures, but I can’t bring myself to say the quality of the art was bad, nor will I blame the authors for the error, as it was likely nothing to do with them. Sadly, the art of the scenario No Way Out is not up to the standard set by the rest of the book. It lets down an otherwise great chapter. The covers of the book are nice and moody, and you can’t help but to get the hebbie jebbies when looking at some of the art on the back cover. The advert in the back page is for Antagonists. Chapter Three’s art lets the book down; otherwise, I’d be giving top score. 4/5
Ghost Stories has everything you’d want from a book named as such, and then some. As with Mysterious Places, the authors do a good job at covering possibilities and they broach a lot of new ground in the book with new powers, as well as putting some twists on the old ones. The introduction to the book rocks my par-tay, and plays a big part of why I give a 4/5.
Substance and Style
The style of presentation here is good. People who’ve read Mysterious Places will recognize Ghost Stories as the forerunner. I love the way the book is written with Storytellers in mind. The authors do a god job of keeping possibilities open (for the most part), and the stories themselves are varied enough to make almost everyone happy with the book overall. Even though the book is about ghost stories, we’re still given some new powers for ghosts here and they really serve to round out the settings. That, combined with the flexibility of the scenarios within, provides great reading and plenty of quality substance. Most reads will find they really like at least three of the settings. Each story is treated as a chapter and the introduction to the book sets the pace for the rest of the material. 4/5
Even the book states that it’s for Storytellers only. Ghost Stories is a Storyteller’s resource through and through. I will say that Game masters who run other games may want to invest in this book and treat it as a general template for ghost stories because it’s just so damn hot. Players really shouldn’t waste their time with the book unless they want to take the step up into the Storyteller’s role. It’s a fantastic resource however, so 3/5.
Some Additional Credits
Developer: Ken Cliffe
Artists: Sam Araya, Jim DiBartolo, Anthony Granato, August Hall, Michael William Kaluta, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook and Jamie Tolagson.