In Wraith: The Oblivion, a shadowguide is a player who acts out a character's Shadow, separately from the player who represents the character's Psyche. This dramatizes the interaction between Psyche and Shadow and can heighten the drama of a game, but is also fraught with complications and potential conflicts.
Generally in a Wraith game, the Psyche is the dominant aspect of the Wraith, while the Shadow exists as a voice in their head, tormenting them via Thorns or urging them to fulfill Dark Passions. The Shadow may also take total control of the Wraith during moments of Catharsis.
This is typically modeled mechanically by giving the Shadow its own character sheet, which the main player may not be privy to, and having its desires voiced by the shadowguide. The relationship between player and shadowguide should not be an antagonistic one, even if the relationship between Psyche and Shadow is. Shadowguides may create tension or even push a character into conflict, but should not completely derail the story in the process.
Effective shadowguiding requires advanced role-playing skills as well as trust, discipline, and good communication with other players and with the Storyteller to ensure that everyone is comfortable and enjoying the game. An over-enthusiastic shadowguide can create discomfort or irritation around the table, while a passive shadowguide doesn't contribute to the story at all. Good shadowguiding heightens the drama of a Wraith chronicle an adds depth of characterization while still allowing the story to proceed.
Systems for shadowguiding include:
- Each player in the troupe shadowguides for another player. This requires a player to manage two characters at once, which can lead to problems balancing both responsibilities, or a sort of conflict of interest between good shadowguiding and advancing the overall goals of the troupe. It can also lead to actual conflicts between players over how, or how much, the shadowguide should act.
- The Storyteller controls all characters' Shadows. This is a heavy burden for the Storyteller to bear but prevents conflict between players, and may be more effective than traditional shadowguiding for new players. It is not practical for a large troupe.
- An assistant storyteller or "first mate" handles all players' Shadows.
- Shadows are role-played by dedicated shadowguides who do not control any other characters in the game. While this removes the potential for "conflict of interest" and the burden of managing multiple characters, it is easy for a dedicated Shadowguide to become bored, since most of the time the Psyche is in full control. On the other hand, a dedicated shadowguide can become deeply engaged with a single character and thus very attuned to what makes that character "tick." With a high level of trust between player and shadowguide, the shadowguide may even take full control of the character during scenes of Catharsis.
- Shadowguiding by consensus, in which the rest of the troupe dictates the words and actions of each player's Shadow. While less burdensome than any one person acting as shadowguide, this runs the risk of a player feeling harassed as the rest of the troupe gangs up on them.