Geist: the Sin-Eaters: here is the deal

June 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm
filed under Roleplaying
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So let’s see. At the outset, it’s good to keep in mind that the quickstart is short on many details. Like the ones for previous games, it’s juuuuust enough to let you and your friends play the game in question. Nevertheless, it’s a good read, and if you can get your hands on it, I recommend it. (I expect sooner or later the folks at White Wolf will put up a PDF of the quickstart.)

As I said before, an extremely rough way of describing the concept of Geist is to say that it’s like the old Risen game, except sustainable. If you’ll recall, Risen are wraiths who want so desperately to be back in the Skinlands, the material world, that they’re willing to make a deal with their Shadow, their own personal devil.

A Sin-Eater (as they are called) is somebody who has died with Unfinished Business who was also psychically sensitive, like such as a medium. Some sort of being called a geist (“more than a ghost, less than a god”) comes to you during or after your dying moment and offers you a deal. You get to live, in exchange for binding yourself to the geist and bringing it into the material world with you.


The logistics of the geist itself are sparse. It seems like they’re independent beings, as each of the sample characters has a short, three or four sentence write-up of their individual geist. The details typically relate to the character’s death, so someone who fell out of a building happens to get a lady made of cracked and bleeding asphalt. More about the giest as an independent entity in a moment.

Sin-Eaters’ “morality” stat is Synergy, which describes how in tune a Sin-Eater is with his geist. Lower Synergy means you and your geist have a kind of dysfunctional relationship, whereas higher Synergy makes it easier to channel or work with your geist.

I haven’t finished reading the story part yet, so it’s unclear to me whether they discuss at all to what extent one’s geist is a fleshed out character unto itself. This could, of course, vary depending on the game (i.e., it’s one dial among many), but what I’m really curious about is what, exactly, the geist gets out of the deal. There’s a bunch implied about how these beings are elemental and terrifying but since it’s a quickstart, it’s mentioned in passing.

There are a bunch of effects of being bound to a geist that relate to ghosts. Sin-Eaters can automatically see geists that are not trying to hide, and automatically detect possession. Ghosts have an easier time manifesting around Sin-Eaters, and Sin-Eaters have the ability to force them to manifest. They can discern people’s age and intuit information about a body’s cause of death. There’s more than this, but you get the idea.

Oh, and then there are supernatural abilities you pick.

Thresholds, Keys, and Manifestations

In terms of splats, it’s a bit tricky.

Archetypes appear to be the social, opt-in splat. An archetype describes roughly what the Sin-Eater’s attitude is towards his second chance, whether he uses it to make life comfortable for himself, mete out violent justice, or assist unquiet dead in moving on.

Additionally, each geist comes of a different flavor, called a Threshold. I’m guessing that this is the born-in splat (i.e., Clan, Auspice, Path, etc). Which Threshold a character belongs to (?) is based on how the character died. For example, the Silent are those who died from deprivation, whether it be starvation or asphyxiation. The Forgotten are those who died or nearly died by chance.

As for powers, well, this is where things deviate from the usual.

As far as I can tell, each Threshold gives you access to Keys. These are things like Industrial, Grave-dirt, Pyre-Flame, or Stigmata. You don’t assign dots to Keys; they look like they’re binary, in that you either have them or you don’t. Instead, you assign dots to Manifestations.

Manifestations include things like Boneyard, Caul, Rage, Shroud, and Marionette. They don’t explain this in depth, but here’s what I inferred: buying dots in a Manifestation grants you a way to manifest a Key. The Manifestation dictates roughly what it will do (i.e., Rage appears to be an offensive Manifestation), but the Key determines precisely what form it takes (i.e., boiling someone’s blood or crushing them).


I’ve tried to explain the gist of it, but there’s more to it than this in the quickstart, like some of the Geist-specific Merits the characters have, or Mementos.  If your FLGS has some copies sitting around, it’s worth it to pick one up. Otherwise I’m sure someone else on the Internet has made a more thorough accounting.

I’m hoping that I’ll have a chance to run this soon. I told my friend Alex I’d run it when next he came, which gives me time to finish reading and digesting it. There was too much going on last night, so it’s just as well.

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