Through the Cemetery Gates
The dead are all around us. They walk beside us on the streets, reach out to us with invisible hands, shout their needs with voices we don’t hear. We turn away from the very thought of them, mumbling platitudes like “he’s in a better place” or “she’s at peace now.”
He’s not. She isn’t. They’re both here, among us, trying desperately to make themselves heard. He needs to know his children are looked after. She needs the man who stole her life’s research to be exposed for a fraud. And so, when a grinning stranger with pale eyes and a broken-winged angel on his shoulder blows into town, they turn to him for help.
The dead are speaking. It’s time to listen.
The Chronicle of the Dead
Geist has always had style to spare, but the breadth of its scope, encompassing ghosts, weird immortal beings, and stranger things still, often left players unsure what to do with all those cool parts. With the second edition of the game, we’re taking the opportunity to really drill down and give the game a strong focus and a clear identity, which we’re calling the Chronicle of the Dead. So what’s it all about?
Geist: The Sin-Eaters is a game about people. Some of them are alive, some of them are dead, and some of them stand between the two, but they’re all people. It’s a game about giving a voice to the voiceless, about standing up for the rights and needs of those ignored by living society, about looking oblivion in the eye and spitting in it. It is, to misquote Craig Ferguson, all about the triumph of empathy and romance over brute force and cynicism. It’s a game about death, but it’s also a game about hope.
Going Forth by Day
So what’s changed in Geist Second Edition? Quite a lot, actually. We’ll cover all of these topics in more detail in the coming weeks, but here’s a high-level overview of some of the biggest changes:
In Geist Second Edition, how you died matters less than why you came back. To that end, the five Thresholds have been replaced with Burdens as the splat representing why a character accepted the Bargain with a geist.
- The Abiding died forgotten or insignificant. They claw their way back to the world to leave a mark upon it, a legacy larger than any tombstone.
- The Bereaved seek someone they lost (perhaps in the same tragedy that killed them, perhaps long before), and will tear apart the Underworld to be reunited with them.
- The Hungry heard the old cliché “you can’t take it with you” and decided to come back for it instead. Something in the mortal world anchors them, and they will not let it go.
- The Kindly died before they could put right some great wrong, and have returned to make amends.
- The Vengeful blame someone else for their wrongful death and have returned for payback.
(For those of you fretting over the loss of your Torn or Prey Threshold, don’t worry — the old Thresholds are well represented by Keys, so you can still give mechanical weight to having been torn apart by wild dogs or dying of bloody murder.)
Much like packs in Werewolf: The Forsaken Second Edition, krewes have expanded beyond just being the players’ characters. As part of building your krewe, you’ll not only create a supporting cast of living and dead celebrants, you’ll choose an archetype for your krewe, representing the broad strokes of its ethos and how it goes about its mission of helping the dead find peace:
- Furies know that the best form of closure is justice. Anyone can take revenge for a death, but that’s not justice, it’s a cycle of violence. Furies want to break that cycle and address the root causes of injustice that create ghosts in the first place — and there are few cosmic injustices bigger than the very existence of the Underworld.
- Mourners know that the dead cannot rest easy unless they are remembered. They seek the stories of forgotten shades, bring truth to the living, and delve deep into the Underworld to understand what came before and build a better future.
- Necropolitans know that death is just another form of existence — one that shouldn’t be a bleak void of nothingness. They help ghosts resolve their anchors, of course, but they also help the dead build lives for themselves on the other side of the grave. They keep the Essence flowing, build networks for mutual defense and as a bulwark against isolation, and stage daring raids into the Underworld to free as many ghosts as they can from its clutches.
- Pilgrims know that the Underworld is built from pain and suffering — the pain and suffering of attachment to the earthly that binds the dead to their Anchors and denies their ability to pass on. The only way to fix it is to confront the Underworld, not as a nightmare of fear and torment, but as a source of learning. They guide the dead through its tunnels as a teaching tool before, Virgil-like, returning them to the surface world with newfound wisdom.
- Undertakers also know that the Underworld is built from pain and suffering — the pain and suffering that comes with the fear of death. They focus their efforts on changing the whole paradigm: by reshaping how the living think about death, they can reshape the afterlife. They delve the Underworld like archaeologists, sifting through Dominions and stranger places to understand how they came to be, and thus how to make them better.
Your character’s geist now has a much stronger mechanical presence: they don’t quite have the Traits as a free-roaming ephemeral entity, but their Bans, Banes, and Attributes now play a larger role in the game. In addition, under certain circumstances (*sometimes under your control, sometimes not), your geist can be unleashed, taking physical form to wreak havoc.
Haunts & Keys
Haunts are the new name for what Geist First Edition called Manifestations. The first dot of a Haunt allows the Sin-Eater to create the basic effect, while higher-level powers allow extra Enhancements for additional Plasm.
In addition to the Haunts presented in Geist First Edition, Sin-Eaters can learn three new Haunts: the Dirge, the Memoria, and the Tomb.
The structure of the Underworld has been cleaned up, with an eye for providing reasons to go there and explore at a variety of depths. From the Upper Reaches to the River Cities, from the Kerberos-dominated Deep Dominions to the Ocean of Fragments, Sin-Eaters have plenty of places to go in the Great Below, and reasons to go there.
From the Reapers who claim to serve the Chthonic Gods of the Underworld to eaters of the dead and living necromancers, Sin-Eaters face a host of threats — and that’s not even counting those Bound who reject the Sin-Eater label and use their power and privilege to enrich themselves at the expense of the dead, or the biggest antagonist of all: the faceless, all-devouring Underworld.
While you can of course run Geist Second Edition indefinitely, we’ve included some options for long-term chronicle goals.
- In the Catharsis endgame, Sin-Eaters resolve their own Burden and help their geist reconnect with its lost humanity, allowing both to pass on to whatever awaits beyond this world.
- Or maybe you’d prefer to explore Catabasis, in which your krewe builds its mythos and its understanding of the Underworld’s metaphysics to the point that you can challenge the Chthonic Gods themselves. Succeed, and you can tear down the Underworld and remake it in your own image. Fail, and… well, all those Dominions had to come from somewhere.
This introduction only really scratches the surface of what’s new and exciting with Geist Second Edition. I am immensely proud of the work and passion the team has put into this project so far, from long-time Chronicles of Darkness veterans to newer faces and first-timers. I can’t wait to share their work with you all.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to Whitney “Strix” Beltrán for her help with recruiting writers. Her outreach to authors who might not otherwise have submitted for a Chronicles of Darkness game has been invaluable. Geist is a far more diverse, and consequently better, game thanks in large part to her assistance. Thank you, Strix.
And finally, in the vein of blog previews past, I leave you with a choice of what to cover next. Do you want to hear more about Sin-Eaters themselves, the burdens they bear and the faiths they found, or do you want to know more about the dead and their long, slow descent into the Underworld?