Cling to the world of the living as much as you like. Haunt your loved ones. Claw your way back into your own corpse. Beware of ghosts bearing masks, and steer clear of the exorcists and ghost-breakers. No matter what you do, the Underworld is waiting. Waiting for your Anchors to crumble, for your kin to forget you, or for the Reapers to take you. And when it welcomes you into its cold embrace, when you feel your very essence being leeched into the damp stone, you’ll know that old saying only gets it half right: Death is patient, but it is not kind.
The Lands of the Dead
Scholarly Bound and academically-inclined necromancers have catalogued the Underworld for as long as human society has explored it. While deep cultural variations and subtle elemental distinctions exist depending on the author, most divide the Underworld into several distinct areas:
- The low places or cenotes, areas of Twilight that contain an Avernian Gate and are keenly attuned to the energies of death. On the other side of the Gates lies…
- …the Upper Reaches, or the liminal stage between the living world and the…
- Lower Mysteries, where the dead congregate in their hermitages, shantytowns, and even the great River Cities, which sit on the shores of the…
- …Rivers of the Dead, a vast series of waterways that contain small gatherings of ghosts plagued by Reapers, and that cut through the Lower Mysteries, with harbors that abut…
- …the Dead Dominions, or dry areas of the Underworld subject to peculiar Old Laws that grow more numerous the deeper you go, enforced by and subject to the rule of their Kerberoi, lords of their dead realms. Yet all Rivers lead to…
- …the Ocean of Fragments.
On the dead side, Avernian Gates shine with a dim and coruscating light, scattering rays across forgotten tunnels like beams of sunlight broken by the ocean’s surface. Brackish water seeps and flows from cracks in the Gates, even if they lead to the hottest parts of Death Valley or Gilf Kebir. This same water flows out of an opened Gate in a torrent strong enough to knock the unwary off their feet, heralding a new ghost’s arrival. The dead are not sucked into Gates, but blown through, pushed to equalize the pressure of existence. They fall to the floor of the Depths sodden, another piece of detritus amidst a vast field of dead debris.
The living are not the only things that die. Valued knick-knacks, treasured possessions, even real estate prized by a community: they all burn, decay, and are lost. They persist in Twilight for a time, but without Anchors, these sad castoffs are blown into any nearby Gate whenever it opens. Detritus floats ever downstream, breaking into fragments and moving through the Upper Reaches at a glacial pace. Yet they are still charged with Essence, and ghosts, deprived of Anchors themselves, cannot help but be reminded of how much they’ve lost with the first bite of a rotten teddy bear or the crunch of a soiled wedding photo on ephemeral teeth.
Billions of ghosts have entered the deep below, eking out an existence in the upper reaches, then the Dominions, before succumbing to accident, somehow passing on, or entering a River (or the Ocean they flow to) and being destroyed. The human species is the Underworld’s great tide of immigrants.
The Underworld has natives.
Superficially, a Chthonian resembles a ghost. It has a body formed of ephemera, and its supernatural abilities resemble those ghosts learn to develop over time. Although many ancient ghosts and Kerberoi stray in form from their human origins, they’re usually still humanoid. Chthonians look like admixtures of upsetting images of death, carrion, and decay; e.g. yards-long maggots with distorted human faces, chitinous beetle-shells covering a core of congealing blood. Their mindsets are so inscrutable as to be alien. Most Chthonians don’t respond to ghosts at all, or “talk” in waves of pain and flies buzzing. The few Chthonians whom ghosts have bargained with appeared to view the interaction to be like scratching an itch.
A Chthonian’s touch tears Essence away from a ghost, so ghosts give them a wide berth. Sin-Eaters record tales of Chthonians destroying whole Dominions — not for any sin, but simply because the domain was in their way. On the other hand, many Chthonians are coated in Plasm, which drips and congeals in pools as they pass. Some ghosts follow in their wake, collecting Plasm, worshipping them as avatars of the Chthonic Gods (the Chthonians don’t notice) or trying to follow them. Eventually, these pilgrimages come to an end at a River. Chthonians are immune to dissolution from entering the Rivers, and appear to use them as migration routes. Ghosts who journey as deep as the Ocean of Fragments tell stories of gigantic, never-alive things, to the Chthonians as the Kerberoi are to ghosts, swimming beneath the still waves.
Life After Death
Let’s not dress it up in pretty language: The Underworld eats ghosts. Daily, bit by bit, it leeches them away, draining them of Essence. Once that bulwark is gone, the Underworld absorbs the dead, literally sucking them into the walls and floors of the cavern, until nothing is left except perhaps a fold of rock that resembles a face in profile, or a stalagmite with five finger-like protrusions.
So how do the dead survive this place? Many, simply put, don’t. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to acquire Essence in the Underworld, and the clever, the lucky, and the ruthless can carve out a niche for themselves.
You’ll find some ghosts living in hermitages on the shores of the tributary streams of the Underworld, carefully fishing the waters for castoffs. Any given tributary doesn’t see much in the way of castoffs, but one or two ghosts, committed to an ascetic lifestyle, can just about survive. Travelers beware: in the lean times, when it’s a choice between slow, agonizing dissolution and devouring a wanderer for his Essence, the unthinkable becomes very thinkable indeed.
Other ghosts take the opposite tack, seeking safety in numbers and mutual protection. At the confluence of the Rivers, where castoffs from hundreds or even thousands of streams come together, you’ll find the great River Cities: ramshackle strongholds of the free dead. Most are built from the detritus that slides down into the Rivers, giving them a patchwork appearance. A rare few have residents that possessed some degree of supernatural might capable of reshaping the Underworld, and are built up like favelas or banlieus. Most can be seen from the Upper Reaches — cliffs in the tunnels give glimpses of these communities, lighted by thousands of scavenged lanterns that never go out and reflect off the glittering Rivers in the never-ending night. But take care: far more River Cities are ruled by local strongmen who brook no challenge to their authority than by autonomous collectives for the benefit of all. Human nature is human nature, after all.
If panning for torn photographs and half-melted GI Joes or living cheek-by- jowl with the hungry dead in a River City don’t appeal to you, there are always the Deep Dominions. These strange pockets of the Lower Mysteries have their own rules, and their own guardians. Within a Dominion, a ghost who abides by the Old Laws is safe from the leeching effect of the Underworld. A ghost who breaks the Old Laws… well, they have more immediate concerns. But mind yourself: Dominions don’t last forever. Oh, this one’s been around a century or so, and that one is described in the scriptures of Mourner krewes going back three millennia, but eventually, every Dominion will crack asunder and plunge into the Ocean of Fragments, leaving behind nothing but a sinkhole and a shattered gate.
Two Ways Out
Absent someone from the land of the living pulling an Orpheus, there are really only two ways out of the Underworld. The first is to drink deep from one of the Rivers, filling yourself with its poisonous power to become a geist, bound to a specific form of death rather than an Anchor. Even then, the geist has to actually find an Avernian Gate and wait for it to open from the other side — plenty of geists still roam the Underworld, looking for their way out.
The second way out is to become a Reaper. But we’ve already talked about that.
Whether total destruction — by diving into the Ocean of Fragments, the toxic touch of a Chthonian, or ectophagia — is a third way out (and different in any meaningful way from being consumed by the Underworld) is hotly debated in esoteric circles.
Wish You Were Here
Sin-Eaters have any number of reasons to go to the Underworld. First and foremost, it’s where ghosts are, and a Sin-Eater who ignores half the world’s ghosts is a poor Sin-Eater indeed. Every krewe archetype has its own reasons for taking the plunge, from the Mourners who chronicle the stories of the forgotten dead to the Necropolitans who love nothing more than jailbreaking as many shades as possible. Being that the Underworld is the source of Haunts, it’s also where you have to go when you want to learn a new one. But perhaps the biggest reason is simply this: if you want to change the Underworld, you have to understand it first.
Ceremonies or playable ghosts?
61 responses to “Down in the Dark [Geist: The Sin-Eaters]”
Also just wanna say that any time they release stuff that expands on the setting’s cosmology, I get excited like nobody’s business. This is gonna be AWESOME!! >xD
Awesome! Can’t wait to learn more. Playable ghosts next, please.
Ceremonies would be nice.
This take on the Underworld is really great! Evocative, dark and desperate in a great way. I love the feel of poverty in such a way for the ghosts, death sure is the great equalizer (mostly in this case). Can’t wait to see more about this topic!
And Playable ghost next please =)
This is a fascinating reimagining of the Underworld. It’s got a real *energy* to it this time that I kind felt was lacking in the previous edition.
As for the next thing, I think I’m gonna have to say playable ghosts, much as I wish we could have both.
awesome preview!!!! Thank you!!!! I vote for playable ghosts!!!!!!!!
Supporting cast appendices are one of my favorite parts of CoD corebooks
this is so cool,
would love some ceremonies next, gotta have some ritual magic.
This is all SO GREAT!
Sin-Eaters will be stories about desperate situations and hope brought by the Sin-Eaters themselves as they try to put an end to the NeverEnding Underworld.
While Ceremonies is something I really wanna see… it’s eclipsed by ghosts so..
And it had better not be just the Mummy rules all over again. 😀
Underworld is truly dark! Fantastic! Next playable ghosts, please!
I vote for ghosts. Also, if we would get a Night Horror book for Geist, a Chtonian Bound is a must.
Playable ghosts is definitely the thing for me.
Playable ghosts, a thousand times this
It seems like we’re getting some distinct tie-in to the big questions about the Ocean Beyond Life from Sundered World. Any time stuff ties back to that, I’m a happy storyteller!
Good (death) lord that was an awesome preview!
So what are Kerberoi then? Powerful Geister/Reapers?
Anyway, my vote is on Playable Ghosts!
I about to say that dripped atmosphere, but it was really more of a torrent.
Another vote for playable ghosts.
Amazing stuff, so psyched! Ceremonies next please!
Got room for violin on the bandwagon?
can I ask for a sample chthonian?
Lovely stuff here. I honestly can’t wait to read more! Ceremonies please!
I vote ceremonies.
As an aside, i liked the previous depiction of the Ocean of Fragments. It felt like one exploration of the deeper secrets of death, a horrific realm that is one element of death but not all-encompassing. I de see how you’ve utilized it thematically and laud your utilization of those themes, yet I still liked it as a distinct dominion.
I also hope Kerberos will not be too humanoid. Despite my attestations, I am excited for this new additions.
Ceremonies wins out for me.
Playable Ghosts, please!
I just can’t vote any other way! 😛
Fascinating. I have to wonder if there’s some way to pass on and reincarnate or whatever or if this is what’s waiting for everyone when they die.
Anyway, playable ghosts.
…Everybody wants to change the (under)world, but no one, no one wants to die. 🙂
Playable ghost, please. 😀
I’m voting for playable ghosts. I’m curious as to how they’ll interact with all of this.
Playable ghosts, please.
While I really love Ceremonies I have to vote for playable ghosts, especially after this preview piqued my interest so much.
This preview was seriously so cool!
I liked the Underworld before. But 2e seems to be making it even more interesting, weird and dynamic. Didn’t even realize that was possible. Holy Crap!
Oh, and Playable Ghosts please. Though either choice sounds good to me.
Playable Ghosts, please!
Playable ghost for me please!!
Tough choice, but playable ghosts.
Playable ghosts please.
Such a cool post! I loved the new design of the Underworld and its dynamics, can’t wait to see more of it, but for now, my vote will be on Ceremonies as it’s ine of my favorite aspects of the first edition, and I’m curious to see the redesigned for the second.
About the “three ways out the Underworld” thing- isn’t it possible to summon ghosts back from the Great Bellow? I mean, it is said that it is possible in the core, so I want to know if it was changed or that summoning falls under “pulling an Orpheus” kind of thing.
Ceremonies! Im going to be playing a sin-eater not a ghost!
Playable ghosts, if you please.
Wow, this just oozes character. I already have ideas for how I could incorporate the Underworld into a game and what kind of stories could be told there.
Well, I went in for Ceremonies the last time so I’ll do it again! Even if I think I’m not likely to get it, both choices sound like they should be interesting. :>
Hmm. Very interesting showcase of what underworld can be when you actually try to make it interesting and visually neat and not just “kinda like our world but grey”.
Hard vote, since my group tends to not be too into rituals and tends to only play with the main type of the book but.
Oh this is going to be (again) my FAVORITE game in the CoD worlds…1e (well 1.5e?) was my favorite…now..this is going to trample that one lol.
OMG!! I’m de-lurking for the first time in a looong time just to pitch in my vote for more playable ghosts. Keep the teasers coming in! ^_^
hmm… playable ghosts.. because if I know how to “play” a ghost, then it’s easier to make an NPC ghost, and sometimes I wonder how best to do that (even outside of sin eaters)
Great atmosphere. Ceremonies please, I want to learn the magic of death.
As a lover of Wraith the Oblivion, I’m super curious about playable ghosts and whether this could be a gateway to CoD for me?
Playable ghosts, please!