The Doors of Death [Geist: The Sin-Eaters]

Geist: The Sin-Eaters

Got the latest Geist update from Travis:

The Bound are not merely people possessed by the dead. A Sin-Eater’s geist is a conduit through which she can draw on the power of the Underworld itself. She unleashes tendrils of Plasm that take physical form as bleeding walls, flying knives, and skeletal apparitions. She lays deadly curses, draws her geist into her flesh to transform her body, or infuses her voice with the keening wails of the dead.

All Haunts draw their power from the Underworld, the Sin-Eater (or her geist) weaving Plasm into a form that befits the Haunt, whether that’s invisible strings that fling objects around a room or black-iron talons wrapped around her fingers. As she advances her understanding of a Haunt, she discovers novel new ways to weave Plasm into the Haunt’s effects, and as her raw ability to store and channel Plasm increases, she gains the ability to sling powerful Haunts at a moment’s notice.

Haunts

For Geist Second Edition, we’ve kept the seven Haunts from the first edition core rulebook (back when they were called Manifestations), but we’ve added three new ones to allow each Burden to have a signature power:

  • The Boneyard is the classic “haunted house” power: By suffusing an area with Plasm, the Bound gains a perfect awareness of the area and the ability to create minor poltergeist-like effects. At higher levels, she can project her senses to anywhere within the area, trap people inside the Boneyard, or even warp the environment to fit her whim.
  • The Caul allows the Sin-Eater to suffuse her body with Plasm, becoming a protean horror of malleable flesh. She can twist her visage into a nightmarish form, bud off a horde of weird homunculi, or even consume the recently-dead to take their shape.
  • The Curse expresses the displeasure of the dead, hexing her victim with bad luck. At higher levels she can turn technology against the victim, wither his limbs, or give him a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be a ghost, forgotten and invisible.
  • The Dirge is a haunting, wordless melody that plucks at the heartstrings of the living and the dead alike. It can mesmerize those who hear it, heal or inflict madness, and even call forth the dead into the living world.
  • The Marionette gives the Sin-Eater the ability to reach out with tendrils of Plasm and manipulate objects at a distance. At higher levels she gains greater control, terrible strength, and even the ability to trap her targets in a prison of their own flesh (or Corpus) that dances to her tune.
  • The Memoria is the Haunt of memory, calling up events buried and forgotten. At the basic level, the Bound can experience the memory herself; at higher levels she can manifest it as a phantasmal image, bring others into the memory, and ultimately change the memory, breaking cycles of abuse and granting closure to those traumatized by the past.
  • The Oracle flings the Bound’s shade into the Underworld to seek forbidden knowledge and lost secrets. And all it takes is for her to die. Again.
  • The Rage is, as its name suggests, the fury of the grave unleashed. It is rending claws, a scream that strikes its listeners blind, a wrath that cracks open the world.
  • The Shroud wraps the Sin-Eater in her geist, pulling her briefly into Twilight. At higher levels, she becomes preternaturally ghost-like even while not in Twilight, and learns to slip between the world of the living and the Underworld with equal facility.
  • The Tomb is the Haunt of things lost to time, of grave goods and the symbolic meaning of the grave. It allows her to make whole what was destroyed, spinning wrecked hot rods or dead loved ones from shells of Plasm. At higher levels they can invite ghosts into the replicas they create, imbue their creations with weird powers, and even spin reality out of symbolic representations, creating Staff out of wax ushabti figurines or Resources out of joss paper Hell Money.

Mechanics

Haunts are rated from one to five dots, but the power progression works a little differently than, say, Vampire’s Disciplines or Mage’s Arcana. The first dot of every Haunt is the only one that has an activation roll, and it creates the basic effect of the Haunt in the form of a Condition (or, sometimes, a Tilt). Higher dot levels allow the character to spend additional Plasm to add effects to the Haunt or improve the efficiency of the Plasm spent on the base power. With a rare few exceptions, most Haunt levels add a single, significant option, so you won’t be faced with the choice paralysis of having a huge menu of potential effects.

For example, the first-dot power of the Boneyard allows the Sin-Eater to haunt an area ranging from a few rooms up to a large warehouse, depending on how much Plasm she spends. The second dot lets her spend Plasm to remote-view from anywhere within the Boneyard, while the third dot increases the base area of the Boneyard and also lets her spend Plasm to inflict a penalty on any attempts to escape the Boneyard.

Oh, and that initial Condition? It resolves if someone throws your geist’s ban or bane at you. So keep that information secret.

The net result of this is a system that makes your Plasm reserves and Plasm per Turn a significant part of power use — a low Synergy Sin-Eater has to allot more time to create her Haunts, or find creative ways to acquire more Plasm. Higher-Synergy characters can throw around lots of Plasm per turn and create some truly terrifying effects at a moment’s notice.

Keys

The gates of the Underworld are locked. Everyone knows that. They open only to admit the shades of the dead — but over the millenia, common motifs wear grooves in the fabric of death itself. Every bloody-handed murder, every plague, every senseless accident that snatches away a life, leaves an impression on the land of the dead. It’s a process not unlike taking a wax impression of a lock, but in reverse: instead of the tumblers imprinting on the soft wax of the key, the Key shapes the lock to fit itself.

While anyone with the proper knowledge can use these Keys to open Avernian Gates (p. XX), the Bound, standing as they do on the borders between the land of the living and the land of the dead, are themselves doors to the Underworld. Unlocking themselves yields a rush of power and Plasm. That power doesn’t come free: each Key bears a Doom that afflicts those who call on its power. If there’s an argument for the active, thinking malevolence of the Underworld, it may well be these.

For Geist Second Edition, we’ve trimmed the list of Keys down to nine: one for each Attribute. Your character starts with one innate Key tied to their own death and a second tied to their geist’s. To get more Keys, you’ll need to collect Mementos — or practice ectophagia on some other geist.

  • The Key of Beasts (The Primeval Key, the Key of Tooth and Claw, the Key of Verdant Savagery) – Wits
  • The Key of Blood (The Stigmatic Key, the Key of Veils and Shades, the Key of Crimson Agony) – Presence
  • The Key of Chance (The Bastard’s Key, the Key of Jinx and Hex, the Key of Black Humor) – Dexterity
  • The Key of Cold Wind (The Breathless Key, the Key of Gale and Garrote, the Key of Ivory Sorrow) – Resolve
  • The Key of Deep Waters (The Tear-Stained Key, the Key of Wave and Whirlpool, the Key of Azure Grief) – Manipulation
  • The Key of Disease (The Wasting Key, the Key of Plague and Pestilence, the Key of Bilious Despair) – Stamina
  • The Key of Grave Dirt (The Crushing Key, the Key of Stone and Barrow, the Key of Slate Futility) – Strength
  • The Key of Pyre Flame (The Burning Key, the Key of Ash and Brand, the Key of Golden Annihilation) – Intelligence
  • The Key of Stillness (The Silent Key, the Key of Shroud and Shadow, the Key of Jet Deception) – Composure

(The sharp-eyed among you might notice that two of the Keys from first edition are gone, and have been replaced by the no-longer-used Thresholds. The Phantasmal and Passion Keys were cut because there are now entire Haunts dealing with illusions and emotions, while the Industrial Key didn’t really fit thematically.)

Mechanics

Remember before where we said that Sin-Eaters need to find creative ways to get more Plasm? Keys are the main one of those. You can unlock any Haunt with any Key (or even with none at all), but you get more out of it if you use a Key that’s thematically relevant.

So what do Keys do? First, they give you a kicker of free Plasm — a number equal to the Key’s Unlock Attribute. This Plasm ignores the normal per-turn limit, so by using a Key, even a low-Synergy character can throw out a big effect. (If you need Plasm for something that isn’t a Haunt, you can use a Key just for the free Plasm — but you still suffer its Doom.)

Second, they let you add the Key’s Attribute rating to the activation roll for a Haunt. Finally, if you use them in a situation that’s resonant with the Key — using the Key of Chance when something you love is on the line, or using the Key of Stillness on an unaware or helpless target — you earn an exceptional success on three successes instead of five.

Of course, there’s a cost associated with all this goodness. Isn’t there always? Once you’ve used a Key, you fall under the effects of its Doom. While you’re Doomed, you can’t use that Key from that source again until the Doom is triggered. The Doom of Blood, for instance, makes you fail dramatically the next time you try to avoid a violent confrontation, whether by de-escalating, running, or what have you. (This, incidentally, is why it’s useful to keep a large collection of Mementos handy. While you’re under the Doom of Stillness from your own innate Key, you can still use the Key of Stillness from the Cold Harbor Diary, for example.)

Next Time

It seems logical to go from the main supernatural powers of the Bound to their supporting abilities. So next time, will we learn about Ceremonies or Mementos?

  53 comments for “The Doors of Death [Geist: The Sin-Eaters]

  1. Robert D
    February 15, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Loving this!!!! I always enjoyed Geist 1E, but now I think I like Geist 2E even more 🙂
    My vote is for Mementos :).

  2. shada
    February 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    I understand if you don’t want the Industrial Key to be a common one yet, but it really does fit. How many hands have been mangled in gears? How many heads taken off by spinning blades? How many times has someone fell into the wood chipper or the meat released from the butchery was tested and found to have human meat in it? Nah, Industrial fits. The Factory is a cold, uncaring place where death is in every moment you don’t pay 100% conscious attention

    • Leliel
      February 15, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Sadly, infinitely less than any of the new Keys-the Factory hasn’t been along very long. So it gets cut because there’s only nine attributes.

    • Travis Stout
      February 16, 2018 at 2:04 am

      The Key of Chance covers the sudden, horroble brutality of your typical industrial accident.

  3. Uncle Yo
    February 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    So, if I’m following this:

    A Sin-Eater’s Geist allows them access to Haunts, but that same character may use any variety of Key to “flavor” their Haunt?

    So a Sin-Eater with the BoneYard may, given time and experience, activate the any keyed Boneyard?

    Really stoked to have Geist back on the slab.

  4. Runcible
    February 15, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Gonna go with Mementos for next time, excited to see how them and Death masks are in 2e along with how it reflects on bound culture and society.

  5. Briomhar22
    February 15, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I’d be excited to see how different Mementos are this time around.

  6. YOLF
    February 15, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    Wooo! I’m conceptually liking the very ghostly countersides and edges to some of these things (i.e. that the conditions or tilts created by Haunts are undone by bans/banes and that each key has a doom for drawing on the power of the underworld). These thoughts on the base mechanics of Haunts are cool, them being based on creating Conditions/Tilts that further dots give you options to enhance. Gives them significant straightforward, tangible power.

    Another interesting bit there, Plasm Per Turn being based on Synergy! Your relation and concordance with your Geist are really sounding quite important this time, that’s cool. The synergy (heh) of drawing on Keys to access and spend further Plasm beyond what that allows appears to be reinforcing several things about the existence of the Bound, since you have to deal with the Doom after. I’m curious to see how that works out in play.

    I’m not very surprised in hindsight that the Industrial Key got cut, since it doesn’t look to fit well in the scheme relating Keys to primeval forms of burial or death, and it’s made obsolete by the restructuring of Manifestations/Haunts. It was a somewhat niche set in 1st edition to start with, and right now it would overlap heavily with the way the Boneyeard and other Haunts just work.

  7. Xia Grey
    February 15, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Tough tough TOUGH choice!

    Ceremonies. I think.

  8. Gregory Walter
    February 15, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Mementos!

  9. SilverFang
    February 15, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    Oh, Definitely Ceremonies. Got to learn how these will have changed!

    Loving how this has gone so far, and I’m glad that, even though Phantasmal is no longer a key, the powers were moved into the haunts. Gah! This all just has me so excited for 2e to be released! XD

  10. Leliel
    February 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Mementos. I have a good idea of how Ceremonies work if Rites are any indication.

  11. Nicias
    February 15, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Dooms are interesting but possibly more punishing than I enjoy in play if there’s no alternate reset.

    Ceremonies please!

    • Travis Stout
      February 16, 2018 at 2:08 am

      There is! In my haste to get the blog ready, I forgot to mention it, but you can also resolve your Doom by helping a ghost whose death resonates with the Key’s theme to resolve an Anchor.

      • Nicias
        February 16, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        Fantastic. That’s a good trade-off.

  12. ThomasM
    February 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    While Ceremonies were my favorite part of first edition I have to vote for Mementos. It seems like they will be a natural follow-up to this post.

  13. Afro Luigi
    February 15, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    I wanna see Mementos

  14. Darkfoxdev
    February 15, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    I’m going to vote for ceremonies. Also, this looks awesome. Just to be sure the key’s general element and theme no longer defines a haunt? Or does it affect a haunt cosmetically but not rules-wise?

    • Travis Stout
      February 16, 2018 at 2:06 am

      Cosmetically, but not rules wise.

      • SunlessNick
        February 16, 2018 at 12:16 pm

        So… Boneyard has only set of powers rather than nine. But if you use a Key that resonates with the type of area you’re Boneyarding, you get more plasm to use… is that right?

  15. Arcane
    February 15, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    Gotta be Mementos after that.

  16. Second Chances
    February 15, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Definitely Mementos!

  17. Shachar Gold
    February 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

    I must say that I do like the representation of Keys and Haunts, especially since it looks like you need to “collect keys”, which is cool. I do like to have cool collections, after all 😛

    As for the next post, I choose Ceremonies.

  18. WuseMajor
    February 15, 2018 at 6:46 pm

    Momentos.

    That said, I’m curious. If the Sin-Eater is basically a ghost possessing a still living body, how is that different from a human? Is a ghost different from a human soul?

    I’d like a post that goes into the metaphysics of that state and whether the Sin-Eater is arguably not the same person who died and stuff. Or at least a sidebar in the book.

    • Brynn
      February 16, 2018 at 12:19 am

      Have you read/played Geist 1e?

      If not: The sin-eater was a person who died and was brought back by a geist (roughly, an old ghost that has traded anchors to their past life for archetypes; there’s an urban legend feel to many of them). Now, they ride along with you. So, you’re not quite human, they’re not quite a ghost, and the character is more than the sum of the parts.

    • Ian A. A. Watson
      February 16, 2018 at 2:28 am

      Wuse, I forget if you’re a WoD fan or not, but if you are, Sin-Eaters work similarly to the Amenti of Mummy: The Resurrection.

      A fragment of an ancient soul from the Egyptian lands of the dead, torn apart by the ghost storm, finds a person at the point of death for whom the same fragment was weak. They then replace that fragment, undergo the Spell of Life, and then return stronger, as someone with a “whole soul”: someone prone to corruption and cheating might be found by the sahu fragment of an ancient soul, replacing the weak fragment of the human, making them forthright people of honesty and integrity.

      In Geist, we have people at the point of death who are offered the choice to return to life. Rather than merging with the soul fragment of an ancient Egyptian, they’re merged with a geist, a sort of ghost/spirit.

      Like the Amenti, the newly-formed Sin-Eater is mostly the same person, but they’ve been changed by the merging.

      • WuseMajor
        February 16, 2018 at 7:24 pm

        Part of the reason I ask is because I’ve been playing Mage: the Awakening 2e recently, and I’ve gotten a little hung up on the metaphysics of souls and ghosts, because it seems like neither of those is supposed to technically be that person anymore, but it seems like this game is treating ghosts like they ARE the same person and… it gets confusing. Especially since souls are arguably more “interchangeable morality and emotional stabilizers” than they are anything that people usually think of when they discuss the “soul.”

        I realise that this is a big topic to discuss in this format, so I’ll just reiterate my request for a nice section that goes into the metaphysics of ghosts a bit in the book and call it done.

        • Leliel
          February 19, 2018 at 12:19 am

          Bluntly: The kind of Moros who abuse ghosts like that are bigots, and they wrote the Mage book on ghosts.

          Mages are not reliable narrators when it comes to the dark side of their magic. Hubris does more than impair judgement.

    • Neall
      February 16, 2018 at 6:08 am

      The metaphysics of the Sin-Eater not being the same person as the one who died are roughly on the same level as you not being the same person you were a year ago or five years ago. No, you’re not “the same person”. There’s still a distinct line of continuity.

      Same goes for ghosts. No, they’re not the person who died. But they feel, they’re sapient and sentient (mostly), they have memories, and they suffer, so they get to be people.

    • Neall
      February 16, 2018 at 6:09 am

      That said, there are definitely people who argue about it, just like people argue about the Ship of Theseus.

  19. Metalith
    February 15, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    I am unsure how I feel about this. Especially with the lost the Industrial key. I was also hoping with a new manifestations they would make the Pit and Stygian key core with the 2nd Ed. I’m open to 2nd Ed Geist but I wasn’t impressed with 2nd Ed Lost changes.

  20. perverseness
    February 15, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    Ceremonies, please

  21. Falco1029
    February 15, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    I’m having mixed feelings. On one hand I like the simplicity of the powers having base effects that are only mildly modified by the Keys. On the other, I liked the flexibility that could grant. I’ll have to think it over more.

    Anyway, Ceremonies!

  22. Cherubic
    February 16, 2018 at 12:00 am

    What a nice surprise to come back home to! I wasn’t expecting an update so soon. A little sad to see the Industrial Key go, especially since it was one of the innate Keys for my Sin-Eater, but looking over this I think that the Chance Key would fit if I update them.

    A point of curiosity: if I’m not mistaken, it sounds like Synergy might be the new power stat in place of Psyche? I didn’t see it mentioned in the first or second posts either. Now I’m wondering if Sin-Eaters might not have an Integrity analogue at all. It’s interesting to see how each 2e splat diverges from the more formulaic approach for supernatural splat creation we had in 1e, where everyone has dot ratings for powers, Morality plus a few extra conditions for degeneration with a different name, a power stat, and a fuel stat. I think it helps with distinguishing each of them.

    Anyway, for the vote it’s yet another close one for me but I think I would like to see Ceremonies more. My rationale is I’ve had fun working on Rites with my Beast/Werewolf group, and I’d like to compare and contrast.

    • Robert D
      February 16, 2018 at 4:01 am

      Intriguing thought. I don’t know if Geist 2e was in the works already when Beast the Primordial came out, but as Beast is the most crossover focused of the CoD gamelines, It is interesting to note that in the Beast core, Psyche and Synergy are both mentioned. Synergy is specifically listed along with Cover and Harmony as Integrity analogs that can not be used by Beasts for Lair expansion (pg96). Psyche is specifically listed as the Geist the Sin-Eater Supernatural Tolerance Trait (pg 222). I think we’ll see both in Geist 2E, but as the hints on Synergy suggest, the two traits will have swapped some functions or gotten entirely new ones in addition to being Tolerance/Potency and Integrity

      • Cherubic
        February 18, 2018 at 1:22 am

        A fair point I hadn’t considered! I’d been operating under the assumption that Beast had been in development before Geist, and the information was intended for people who might have been considering a crossover with 1e Geist without wanting to wait for an edition update (though, I’m not sure how complex that might be in terms of transfering concepts, I’ve never tried such a campaign.) Sort of similar to how Dark Era’s Geist material is built for 1e if memory serves, though that might just be to give current storytellers and players some (what would have been at the time) long-awaited new material.

        But, I suppose all will be clear in time, even if I’m now wishing I’d voted for Synergy to have more clarity on this new conundrum. :p Either way this is all pretty exciting! (Also I blame this late reply on the Overwatch free weekend.)

  23. Carnival
    February 16, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Ceremonies

  24. reseru
    February 16, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Mementos, please.

  25. wyrdhamster
    February 16, 2018 at 6:44 am

    ‘Memento mori’ – so I vote Mementos! 🙂

  26. Baboonking
    February 16, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Ceremonies, please and thank you!

    So if all the haunt conditions can be resolved by someone wielding a your Geist’s ban or bane, this would make a Sin-Eater VERY vulnerable to anyone who has figured out what they are. I suppose it depends on what the specific ban or bane is, but wouldn’t this leave the Sin-Eater completely defenseless in such a scenario?

    This seems to suggest that Sin-Eaters are most effective when their opponent are unaware of them doing anything or even being there. This could add a cool flavor to them that meshes well with the idea of them being ghostlike and haunting people while unseen.

    But if a Sin-Eater finds himself in a straight up fight against someone that is wielding his ban/bane, does he have a way to get around it or is he basically screwed?

  27. Joshua Stotz
    February 16, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Ahhhh! This is really something amazing! I vote Ceremonies!

  28. Gyor
    February 16, 2018 at 11:52 am

    My vote is ceremonies.

  29. SunlessNick
    February 16, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    This all sounds fantastic.

    And I can’t help noticing the comment about the right Key giving even low Synergy Bound more plasm to throw – while high Synergy Bound can do it all the time. Coupled with the previous post about “building it,” that makes it sound like Synergy is functioning as a power stat.

    Is it going to be both power stat *and* Integritype?

    My vote for the next one is Mementos.

  30. Joris
    February 16, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    This got me SO excited for the second edition!!!

    I loved the fact that each Key has a Doom that curses you whenever you use them, and when you consider the thematic implications of using the right Key at the right time, and Plasm management, you have a system that forces you to be quite smart on how to use your powers, and I appreciate tne certain level of strategy!

    At first I was a bit bummed about the fact that de Psssion Key didn’t make it to the second edition, but I suppose the new Haunts do take care of that,and I’m intrigued by them, especially by Dirge and Memoria.

    I’m also very excited to see the new approach we’ll have on the first edition Haunts, I mean Oracle and Shrould seem to be quite different now, but I’m really dying to see the new Curse Haunt, as it was my favorite from the first edition.

    My vote for the next article will be Ceremonies, because I thought they always showed a lot of potencial at the first edition, and I just loved the freaky rites involved on performing them!

  31. ahather
    February 17, 2018 at 6:57 am

    ceremonies please, like me some ritual magic

  32. Jason Inczauskis
    February 17, 2018 at 11:14 am

    I’m really liking this. I think the way Keys were handled was excellent, and it still leaves the door open for new Haunts to be added later.

    I’m going to vote for Mementos.

  33. Jonathan Lang
    February 18, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Mementos

  34. Mad Maudlin
    February 18, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I vote for Mementos!

  35. Yossarian
    February 18, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    Mementos, please!

  36. shkspr1048
    February 18, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Mementos

  37. Vele
    February 19, 2018 at 5:22 am

    This looks amazing! I love the look of this, and I am loving the way keys have been expanded. As for what to cover next, ceremonies have my vote, big time.

  38. Adrian
    February 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    Seems fascinating, not sure how much I love how punishing the keys seem to be, but the fact you aren’t forced to use them unless you really need a boost I suppose makes coping with the doom easier. Resolving anchors as alternate solution isn’t necessarily much easier after all.

    That said, I vote for Mementos.

  39. Taiko
    February 19, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    Since I’m curious about what would happen if multiple Sin Eaters shared the same memento without the previous ones resolving the Doom on it, I’m going to vote Mementos.

    Also, loving how this is developing. I was hoping that we’d still get some unique benefits from each of the Haunts and Keys interacting, but visual changes are better than nothing. I’d thought that a mad-libs style would be used for them, where each Key had a damage type (fire damage, cold damage, damage to one’s perceptions, ect.) or conditions that would fill in to various aspects that a Haunt had blank. Still, that would be difficult to properly balance, so this still works.

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