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Coming back isn't the problem. It's making everyhing else stay dead that is.

Geist: The Sin-Eaters is the seventh game for the New World of Darkness, released in August 2009. Despite the name, the writers are on record that Geist is not a direct successor to Wraith: The Oblivion; geists, whatever else they may be, are not exactly wraiths or ghosts. It does look to be something of a Spiritual Successor to Wraith in that it takes a look at the Underworld and what goes on there. The game, as described through the previews, bears some similarity to two Old World of Darkness games that also dealt heavily with the underworld: Mummy: The Resurrection and Orpheus. The former dealt with a recently dead person bonded with an ancient spirit and brought back to life; the latter had (as one character type) a character who would enter a near death state and become a 'ghost' out of body, gaining strange ghostly powers in the process. Inspiration for the game may well stem from all three sources.

The game focuses on two different groups: Sin-Eaters, people who came Back From the Dead, and geists, the strange quasi-ghosts who came back with the Sin-Eaters.

Terminology: When Sin-Eaters return from the dead after striking a Bargain with their particular geist, they become linked to a Threshold, determined by the way they died. Fusing with a geist allows Sin-Eaters to share their powers, Manifestations. The Key a Sin-Eater uses to activate a Manifestation determines its sphere of influence.

There are five thresholds:

  • The Torn: also known as The Bleeding Ones, these guys are usually the victims of malice, or some form of violence. Their patron is The Red Horseman, and they tend to be violent, angry, and vengeful, similar to their Geists. Their affinity Keys are Passion (emotions) and Stigmata (blood and ghosts).
  • The Silent: also known as The Starving Ones, death by neglect: suffocation, starvation, heartbreak, or other ways along those lines. The Black Horseman is their patron, and they tend to attract hungry or needy Geists, and always seem to want more things, and tend towards the laconic. Their affinity Keys are Cold-Wind (air) and Stillness (shadows and silence)
  • The Prey: The Eaten and Drowned Ones, death by nature, be it weather, animals, drowning, or something else along those lines, instilling in them a respect for the cycle of life (namely, how amoral it is). They tend to have the most inhuman geists, and they'd like to hang out with The Pale Horseman. Their affinity keys are Grave-Dirt (earth) and Primeval (nature and animals).
  • The Stricken: The Ravaged Ones, death by disease, poison, or other forms of illness. In defiance of their death, these Sin-Eaters become hardier. The knowledge that they beat death, however temporarily, gives them an extreme ego boost, and are often driven to ghosts to show that they can overcome the Underworld, too. Their patron is The White Horseman. Their affinity Keys are Tear-Stained (water) and Phantasmal (hallucinations and ephemera).
  • The Forgotten: The Lightning-Struck. Death by random shit. Deaths are completely random, anywhere from struck by lightning while indoors, to crushed by a giant Hello Kitty figure. Tend to be gamblers. Also tend to be the most fun loving, and the happiest. Their patron is the Grey Horseman. Their affinity Keys are Industrial (technology) and Pyre-Flame (fire).

Each Sin-Eater has an Archetype based on how they view their second chance at life and their service as one of the Bound.

The Eight Archetypes are:

  • Advocate - Mediums who help ghosts by taking care of whatever situation or event is keeping them tethered to this world, a la the Ghost Whisperer.
  • Bonepicker - Remember that kid in school who would always get what they want, and if they lent you something, they would constantly remind you of your debt? That's basically them, and they'll do anything to get their possessions
  • Celebrant - Really happy to be living again. Usually respond by doing really dangerous things.
  • Gatekeeper - They keep the worlds of the living and the dead apart by banishing ghosts and dealing with living people who contact, channel, or otherwise mess with ghosts. If the Gatekeeper is a nice person, this means taking out people who victimize the dead or help malevolent spirits torment the living; if they're... less than nice, this could mean offing a little kid who refuses to stop talking with his dead family and then plunging them all into the Underworld.
  • Mourner - As far as they're concerned, they're dead and loving it.
  • Necromancer - Use every resource they can get to learn more.
  • Pilgrim - Focused on the spiritual side of death, and scornful of materialism. They try to help people avoid ending up in the Underworld by encouraging them to sever emotional ties that would keep them from passing on.
  • Reaper - Sin-Eater equivalent of Judge Dredd; as such, they tend to honestly believe that sometimes Murder Is the Best Solution.

Sin-Eaters typically gather in social groups known as krewes, which can range from tiny gangs to global-level death cults (though none of the latter exist in the present day).

It would appear that while Changeling got significantly darker in the transition to the nWoD, the ghostly aspect got a lot lighter. The creators have said that one of the moods of the game is "sugar skulls and New Orleans funerals" — basically, the idea of celebrating life, because you're not dead. Anymore.

Not to be confused with the video game Geist.

Geist has examples of the following tropes:

  • Afterlife Antechamber: It's implied that the Underworld described in the book is not all there is to the afterlife. Some people who die never go there, and ghosts can go... somewhere when their ties to this world are dealt with. Basically, there's an underworld below the underworld, but nobody can reach or know it. It's probably what lies in the bottom of the Ocean of Fragments. Too bad you have to sacrifice every last piece of your identity to pass...
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Geists are part ghost, part Anthropomorphic Personification of an aspect of death.
  • Back From the Dead: Not only do Sin-Eaters have this as their backstory, but they can come back from the dead later... at a price (see below).
  • Beware of Hitch-Hiking Ghosts: Mentioned in the rulebook, as one of the titular Sin Eaters picks up a ghost hitchhiker, hears her story, commiserates, and helps the ghost pass on as the car passes a cemetery.
  • Blessed with Suck: Averted, surprisingly. Sure, there's a ghost in the back of the Sin-Eaters' heads that has forgotten what it means to be human...But given that said voice brought them Back From the Dead, and they get all these nifty powers out of it, most Sin-Eaters view it as a fair trade. That and the fact that the Geist does not want to screw you over too badly, after all, if you die, it needs to go through the process of finding a suitable host all over again.
    • On the other hand, the resurrection trick, while indefinitely repeatable, costs you a point of Synergy, two points out of your maximum Synergy, and a random person's life — and the last moments of your "replacement" are the first thing you see upon returning to the land of the living, which is really traumatic and so renders you even more likely to pick up derangements from that loss of Synergy. There is a reason Synergy-0 Sin-Eaters are called the Wretched.
    • Blessed with suck can apply to Sin-Eaters with particularly nasty geists. Most geists get along with their hosts to varying degrees, ranging from friendly partners, to viewing each other as partners in a mutually beneficial business deal. But imagine having to share your mind, at all times, with a serial killer. And, if the geist is old enough, it probably knows just how to manipulate its host to its own ends, or, failing that, drive them completely insane or just plain old take over their body.
  • Bloody Murder: The Caul Manifestation when you use the Stigmata Key; not only can you control your own spilt blood, forming crude weapons and barriers, but you can look through it from anywhere in the world; effectively allowing you to assasinate anyone who happens to be in a place where you've fought before.
  • Body Horror: Again, Stigmata Caul. One of the high level powers is the ability to detatch your own arms and control them as they fly through the air. Snap someone's neck from fifty yards away? Yes please.
  • Call Back: One of the "Fetter" Mementos (a magical object made by binding a ghost to their anchor) is an extended reference to the previous World of Darkness sourcebook Ghost Stories.
  • Came Back Wrong: If a Sin-Eater comes back from the dead after the first time, their geist has a little bit more control... and they can't get their control back as high as they could before. A Sin-Eater who comes back more than five times basically becomes a meat puppet dragged around by their geist... who wants to have some fun. Compounding the problem is that the shrieking remnants of said meat puppet's soul are really bad for the Geist's already tenuous and alien grasp on sanity — many will simply give up a host's body and let them truly die rather than have to deal with this.
  • City of Adventure: New York City.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: A Sin-Eater's Keystone Memento is symbolic of the pact between him and his Geist; it cannot be stolen or destroyed and the Sin-Eater can summon it with a moment's concentration.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Subverted with the Kerberoi. The Old Laws they enforce might seem like complete nonsense to the human mind, but they seem logical to the Kerberoi.
  • The Commandments: The Old Laws.
  • Conspiracy Placement: The Twilight Network.
  • Determinator: Common trait among Stricken, those killed by disease. It's how they came back, often.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Kerberoi, enforcers of the (sometimes self-contradictary) Old Laws, the code of the Underworld. Exactly none of them look even remotely human, much less act like them.
    • Many Geists, if not all of them, can also qualify. They're at the very least half ghost, half Eldritch Abomination. Ghosts that have forgotten what it means to be human also qualify.
    • And the Chthonians, who are so alien that they make the Kerberoi look pretty reasonable. At least you know what the last ones want: for you to not break the Old Laws. But the Chthonians? Nobody knows what they want. Nobody even knows what they are! There are many theories (for example, that they are the ghosts of races who existed before humanity), all very creepy, but nothing is certain.
  • Elemental Powers: Four of the Keys, each one with a "death-tinged" theme. There's Grave-Dirt (Earth), Cold Wind (Air), Pyre Flame (Fire), and Tear-Stained (Water).
    • This may seem out of place until you compare them to methods of burial; burying, exposure, cremation, and burial at sea.
      • You could also equate the Primeval key (nature/plants and animals) to sky burial, using this model.
  • Enemy Within: So, so averted. There's nothing about Geists that's inherently malevolent towards Sin-Eaters, and for the somewhat...morbid desires many of them have, the Sin-Eater can just tell them to shut up.
    • In fact, it's specifically stated that Geists are rather protective of their other halves, and thus rarely push them into situations that are blatantly suicidal. In addition, you might get lucky and end up with a Geist who might actually be helpful in your day to day life (Like giving advice, or maybe they notice something you don't, it IS in their best interest to keep you alive after all.)
  • Equivalent Exchange: As mentioned above, a Sin-Eater can be brought back from death by his geist, but the geist has to shunt that death off somewhere else. So, some poor sucker will die so you can live. And you have no choice in the matter. (You can, however, ask your geist not to resurrect you in the first place... but there's no guarantee they'll agree. Or keep their word, even if they do.)
  • Fate Worse Than Death: When the player characters are immortal, you have to step things up a notch.
  • Final Death: When your maximum Synergy hits 0 from repeated resurrections, this is the best possibility — the worst is covered above under Came Back Wrong.
    • Or you die of old age. Even a Geist can't bring back the geezers who lived a long and happy life already.
      • It seems to be implied that dying of old age generally doesn't cause a ghost to be left behind at all (even in the Underworld). This might suggest that a person who dies like that has no reason to reject their death, and so gets to move "on" peacefully. What might become of them after that is unknown.
  • First-Episode Resurrection
  • Functional Magic: Sin-Eaters have a form of Functional Magic known as Manifestations, which are shaped by the particular Key (resonance) they use to activate them (e.g., using the Industrial Key means your manifestations affect machinery, while using the Passion Key means they affect emotions, and so on). Also, they get a ritual-based form of Necromancy that allows them to interact with and bind ghosts.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Ghosts tend to get a bit... fuzzy about their old lives as they age, and geists even more so — when you've been thinking of yourself as The Bullet-Toothed Man for a couple decades it gets a little tricky remembering what life was like as Mister John Doe.
  • Haunted Fetter: They're even called Fetters. They're Anchors that have their troublesome ghosts bound into them, allowing a Sin-Eater to channel an additional Key, as well as use one of the ghost's Numina.
  • Hell Gate: The portals that lead to the Underworld are called Avernian Gates. These gates can be opened by Sin-Eaters using special rituals, however doing so can affect their Synergy levels.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Each one of the Thresholds is claimed (symbolically or... otherwise) by one of the Horsemen (and there are actually five riders, as Hades rides behind Death). The Torn (death by violence) correspond with the Red Horseman; the Silent (death by deprivation) with the Black Horseman; the Stricken (death by illness) with the White; the Prey (death by nature) with the Pale; and the Forgotten (death by accident) with the Gray.
  • Immortality Immorality: Abmortals are one of the sample foes for Sin-Eaters, mortals who've discovered a process that renders them immortal but requires a human cost. This ranges from convincing people to commit suicide (where the abmortal failed) to killing them with a rare strain of bubonic plague (after surviving the Black Death).
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Geists are all but outright stated to be a form of pseudo-magath, formed when a Death spirit fuses with a human ghost. Of the other corebook supernatural races, it is stated that Sin-Eaters tend to clash the most with Mages, due to their tendency to mess around with corpses and the dead, and find Vampires highly annoying because they tend to make a lot of ghosts without actually getting bothered by them. Sin-Eaters and Werewolves get on well, in the sense that they tend to avoid bothering each other and are willing to hand over cases that are "outside their jurisdiction". As for Changelings and Prometheans, Sin-Eaters tend to ignore them and are ignored in return.
  • I See Dead People: One of the inherent powers of Sin-Eaters. And it's implied that ghosts can easily pick up on who can see them, so expect to be bugged.
  • Jumped At the Call: Most Sin-Eaters find the idea of Supernatural Angst ridiculous, to say the least. Justified, since the alternative to the template is, you know, death.
  • Karma Meter: Synergy, a measure of how well you and your geist work together. Thing is, that's all it measures; Sin-Eaters no longer necessarily operate by human morality.
    • Weirdly, Synergy is the laxest Karma Meter of all the various WoD morality systems. Compared to Mages, Changelings and Werewolves, the Sin-Eaters can cheat, lie, steal, kill and mutilate far more often and with far less potential mental instability. For a game line that emphasizes consequences for immorality, the Sin-Eaters are rather free from the usual degeneration that follows.
      • Possibly because dying replaces most of those sins and has a much harsher punishment for screwing around with the border between life and death.
        • Sin-Eaters can't mutilate. It's stated in the core book that they can kill and steal with impunity because of their relationship with death, but that torture and mutilation is anathema to them, because it leaves someone stuck in between life and death. And God help you if you accidentally kill someone.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Wraith, its spiritual predecessor. Thank god.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Industrial and Phantasmal Caul. One allows you to implant machinery into your body, the other one turns you into a mind-shattering Cosmic Horror.
  • Mana: Plasm, the stuff of the dead.
  • Masquerade: Surprisingly averted. The Sin Eaters are the only New World of Darkness species who do not enforce a full-blown masquerade. Not that they really need to, since their powers are generally subtler than those of the other supernaturals.
  • Mundane Utility: Sin-Eaters from the Bonepicker Archetype use the power granted to them by their Geist to make their new lives more comfortable.
  • Near-Death Experience: This is how a Sin-Eater is made — they end up at the front gates of the Underworld, and are offered a chance to come back by a geist.
  • Necromancer: Seeing as Sin-Eaters use powers fueled by the essence of the Underworld, all of them. Similarly, any Sin-Eater can learn Ceremonies, which allow them to help ghosts pass on, let the living interact with the dead, and raise zombies. And then there's the Necromancer Archetype, but they're more focused on knowledge of death and the Underworld.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: They're either bound to the world by Anchors and not fully cognizant of the fact that they're dead; unfettered, allowed to move about the Underworld, and able to grow and develop; or dead souls who've been boiled down to the basics of what defined their death, which can make deals with the recently deceased to bring them back from the brink of death. The latter would be the titular geists.
  • Perky Goth: It's hard to see the Sin-Eaters seen in the previews as anything but this. Justified by the fact that being not dead gives you a new lease on life, but you still have death-based powers.
    • Word of God has declared Perky Goth to be the #1 thematic of the game. This is in stark contrast to the Wangst of Vampire: The Requiem, which seems to unlive and breathe on the trope.
    • The Mourner Archetype is a subversion. Unlike the other Sin-Eaters (and despite the fact that they are technically alive as well), these blokes consider themselves dead, and rather than gaining a new appreciation for life, they gain a fascination with morbidity. However, it's not like they Wangst about it or anything; they actually thrive on mourning and sadness, so they're more like Nightmare Fetishists.
  • Powers Via Possession
    • Let's be technical here: REVERSE Possession is also a possibility. A Sin-Eater can be possessed by his Geist to affect the real world, and the Geist can be possessed by his Sin-Eater to affect the Twilight realm. Since the vast majority of Geist activity takes place in Twilight, Reverse Possession is far more likely to happen in any given circumstance.
  • Psychopomp: Sin Eaters can take on this role.
  • Romanticized Abuse: Book Of The Dead is about realms of the dead. One of them is a very friendly place called Oppia, that offer a abundance of food and Sex Slaves. Of course, it's very easy to break a rule and get enslaved yourself. Some of the slaves chose to remain slaves after they served the term of their punishment.
    • Justified and semi-subverted: Said slaves actually enjoy being prostitutes, and they're willing. Actual slaves, on the other hand, are literally prohibited from receiving pay or even food for their work, and in the case where you coerce an obviously unwilling one into the act...well...
  • Shout-Out: The Quick Start Demo mentions that those of the Forgotten Threshold are usually the people who go through life unaware until they look up to see part of a disused satellite plummeting right towards them.
  • Shinigami: The concept of the game seems partially influenced by the recent influx of shinigami tropes coming into the US via anime and videogames. According to Word of God, the writers were unaware of the Shinigami tropes while working on Geist. The game can be used to emulate them, but it's not intentional.
  • Special Snowflake Syndrome: An obvious potential occurence. The Dead Conspiracies are supposed to be unplayable, but they seem so exponentially cooler than the proper Krewe samples given in the sourcebook that some players might find it hard to resist.
  • Supernatural Angst: Strongly averted. While individual Sin-Eaters may run into problems surrounding their relationship with their geists or the nastier entities of the Underworld, Sin-Eater culture is basically a walking New Orleans funeral. Like all games in the WoD settings, things aren't exactly all sun shine and rainbows. Unlike the others, the theme is more "yes, we're a bit broken, but hey, we survived," than complete despair.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: The call lives inside your mind / soul. Further more, even if the Sin-Eater lucked out and has an agreeable geist 'partner', ghosts can still recognize sin-eaters and tend to bug them to help them with their...
  • Transhuman Treachery: One of the very worst sorts of ghosts a Sin-Eater can expect to come across in the course of their duties is the type that reasons that since they're dead, human morality no longer applies to them. This is to say nothing of the ghosts who've spent so long in the Underworld that they've lost almost any semblance of humanity.
  • Unfinished Business: Most ghosts are bound to the world by Anchors, and want Sin-Eaters to resolve these duties. One of the Archetypes, the Advocates, makes this their duty.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: Type Two B; Sin-Eaters can eat ghosts. No-one is sure what actually happens to a ghost that's eaten, but this is one of the more disturbing possibilities.