ike vampires have their beasts, wraith's have their shadows. But, unlike vampires, where the beast is just kept in the background of the character and story - just a faceless entity, the Shadow takes a much more active role in the game. A role that can be seen, heard, and felt as plot develops. Another player follows the player characters around and interacts with you will represent your shadow, in the game. This is the shadowguide. This is a central theme in wraith, the typical man vs. himself plot that can enrich not only game play but story as well.
There is a duality in every wraith. One side is represented by the Psyche, the other by her Shadow. These two aspects of a single wraith are always in conflict from the moment of their transition across the Shroud. There must be a shadow for a wraith to exist but, without eternal vigilance by the psyche, a Shadow will slowly corrupt and destroy the wraith's Passions and Fetters until the wraith succumbs to oblivion. Complicating matters, while it may be possible to weaken the power of the Shadow, to destroy it is suicidal. After all, the Shadow is as much a part of the wraith as the Psyche is; to destroy that aspect of a wraith's personality would be to lobotomize the wraith's soul.
The psyche rules a wraith's actions - if nothing else it's stated clearly in the rules. Yet, one of the core themes of the World of Darkness games is a striving to challenge one's perceptions of good and evil. Therefore, a Shadow cannot just be the evil side of the wraith. That's too easy.
Wraiths can be just as corrupt and as evil as living humans in the skinlands. Why should death change that? There's no moral component to dying. More importantly, how can an aspect of a wraiths' personality be so neatly categorized as her "evil side" when she might already be evil by society's standards? How can one represent the repressed emotions of a sociopath as better or worse than her conscious desires? Not all who become wraiths are angels. In other words, the genesis of the Shadow is far too complex a moral conundrum to reduce to a case of "good wraith, bad wraith."
So if a Shadow isn't a wraith's "evil side", what is it? Simply put, a Shadow is the part of the wraith that wants the wraith to fail, the part that wants the wraith to be damned. This and this alone is what every Shadow has in common with every other Shadow. The Psyche may struggle for self-actualization, Transcendence or personal power, but every Shadow has the same end in mind for its other half.
The Shadow embraces the darker emotions of the wraith, feeding upon and strengthening them. It revels in ideas that represent excess and personal weaknesses, exploiting any that the wraith may have. While this sort of exploration of excess can be subjective, depending on the wraith's personality, background and beliefs, everyone has chinks in their armor (and the Shadow is very good at finding them). Greed, addiction, arrogance and prejudice are all good places to begin an assault on the Psyche, but they only serve as starting points for the shadow. A shadow knows some, if not all, of a wraith's most intimate secrets. More importantly, it knows exactly how the wraith works mentally. It knows best how to adapt its actions to greatest effect, as a Shadow is a tormentor with but one victim - itself. The Shadow will discourage success, exploit weaknesses, cause doubt, confuse the facts and engender fear.
Every Shadow is unique. Each has a personal history to draw upon, an individual register of pain and humiliation to serve as inspiration in its quest to drag the Psyche down to nothingness. Even worse, each shadow is alone in its battle, trapped inside the mind of the enemy with only brief respites of freedom. It is a thankless war, and one that surely brings the Shadow little joy in its waging...........well, maybe not, but that's the way many of them feel about themselves.