(Part One and Part Two)
Instead of trying to boil things down here from the type of review I've been writing, I'm going to build a character for Geist using the instructions as laid out in the chapter and give a short explanation about the choices get to make. Here we go!
Step 1 Through 4: Build Your Mortal
First I of a few sentences to develop the character concept. Geist is a game about death, so I'm writing this with an obituary feel to it, at least for a portion. I like the idea of having each player write their obituary begin developing their character concept.
Damien Tucci Passes at 29.
Mr. Tucci will always be known to friends and family as the kindly con man. Best known around his neighborhoods for his wink and a nod after telling a joke and his wry, black sense of humor. He is survived by his parents, Pauly and Sally Tucci from Buffalo, NY. Damien attended Roosevelt High School before completing a bachelor's degree in physical therapy at NYU. He died due to unknown causes at this time with the County Coroner needing to do more discovery. Wake will be held this coming Friday, the 28th at Oakrest Funeral homes.
I'll have to think about this idea more because I know that death is where my character, draws his power from as a Sin-Eater. The way he died before coming back has a big impact on his power types and the type of Geist that would work with him, more on that in a bit.
My character is a smooth talker with some brains. Basically a conman of the dead that is able to persuade or even trick ghosts out of vital information. Two concepts that will contribute to flavor and crunch for my character, Archetype and Threshold, could be included in this part, but it's not necessary since you add them later as a part of the Sin-Eater template.
Next I have to choose my attributes. I put an emphasis on social, then mental, and finally physical. For more information on building a character in the world of darkness, you should check out the core book which is required to play any WoD setting.
My attributes look like this:
Mental: Intelligence - 2/Wits - 3/Resolve - 2
Physical: Strength - 1/Dexterity - 2/Stamina - 2
Social: Presence - 3/Manipulation - 3/Composure - 2
Now I get to select skills. To keep with the theme of the smooth-talking confidence man, I'm choosing the social skills to put the most skill points into. I'm filling the rest in with what Damien focused on while he lived his first life, as well as some he is more interested in since his first death (like Occult for instance).
Mental: Investigation - 2/Occult (Ghosts) - 3/Politics - 2
Physical: Larceny - 2/Stealth (Underworld) - 2
Social: Intimidation - 3/Persuasion - 3/Socialize (Sin-Eater Gatherings) - 3/Subterfuge - 2
I also get to pick some specializations for my skills. Damien's the kind of guy who gets off on the right foot. He learned as much as he could when he became an SE. I chose to enhance Occult with Ghosts, Stealth with the Underworld, and Socialize with Sin-Eater gatherings such as flesh fairs and war councils. It's time for the grown-up stuff and adding the Sin-Eater template!
Step Five: Add Sin-Eater Template
Now I get to pick how Damien died, his archetype, and the ways to access his Geist powers. Now we get to the fun stuff and real meat of the review to see what sets Geist apart from other supernaturals in the World of Darkness.
Archetype - First we look at Damien's outlook on death, the afterlife, and ghosts. This is the archetype and is a role-playing mechanic from what I've gathered. There are many neat options , but I've narrowed down my choices from 8 to 2: Advocate and Necromancer.
Advocates works for ghosts helping them move on and resolve the issues keeping them amongst the living. Necromancers, on the other hand, are seekers of undead secrets and lore. After comparing the two, I'm choosing necromancer. I like the concept that I started that Damien would insert himself into the world of Sin-Eaters and the Underworld as soon as possible to put himself into a good position. He wanted to know about his surroundings and those he'd have to play to get by. Necromancer, being a seeker of knowledge, is a good choice.
Threshold - How does the Sin-Eater become a Bound in the first place? How did Damien die exactly? This is one of the things I found most intriguing about Geist in the first place. There are five choices, and all offer specific keys that to choose from and may influence how I flesh my Geist out more as well. The effect a threshold has is similar to the type of cell, compact, or conspiracy you chose in Hunter: The Vigil.
Each threshold is unique and determines a lot of how Sin-Eaters interact with the world and underworld around him. I chose The Prey: Death by Nature. Damien had an appetite for the sauce before his death and made enemies as he sometimes clumsily tried his cons on other bar patrons - those not so inebriated as himself. One cold night in NYC he angered some tourists, they took it outside, and it was one quick crack of a pipe to the back of his head that sent him staggering off into the cold night. It was a cold night, one of the worst nights that winter. Falling asleep with a concussion is usually a bad idea, but falling asleep with a concussion down a dark alley on the coldest night of the year, well, as they say, nature takes its toll.
It's explained well that one death can fall into many categories and each player has the freedom to choose their own threshold. I chose The Prey because he died from exposure due to the cold. I could have as easily chosen The Torn: Death by Violence since his concussion put him to sleep and was earned through violence. I could have chosen The Forgotten: Death by Chance since it was dumb luck that that pipe was sitting right on the ground next to the fighters and Damien chose the wrong person to harass that night.
Psyche's a trait determining other traits and a new Bound begins play with 1 psyche which can be raised to 3 by spending merit points. This acts as an attribute and determines some of your Sin-Eater specific traits. In setting terms, psyche is another description of the relationship between you and your geist.
Manifestations and Keys
This part took me 2 or 3 times to read over to understand the interactions. I can put it like this: manifestations are the power behind locked doors that the SE accesses by opening the door with a specific key. The way the manifestations work depends on the key used. Each manifestation is tied to an attribute and each key is tied to a skill. Got it?
With building Damien's powers, I want to find manifestations that are linked to social attributes and skills. There are a ton of manifestations and keys and the book explains how each interacts, organized by manifestation with a nice summary of the powers preceding 35+ pages of in-depth descriptions.
It looks like The Curse, based on Presence, fits Damien. I could go with the Marionette since it's based on Manipulation, which is also one of his strenghts, but I'm going to vary it here and go with The Boneyard, based on wits and seems to have some fun haunting effects that can be pulled off.
You start with three dots in manifestations. You need to succeed on a roll to activate the manifestation which is, in part, based on your manifestation dots, so spreading out too much seems like a bad idea.
Manifestations: The Curse - 2/The Boneyard - 1
Now I choose 2 keys. One comes from two options given by the threshold, the other is open, but looks to be tied to my keystone memento. I'm going with Grave-Dirt which is based on Occult and one of my threshold options. For my other starting key, I'm choosing Phantasmal, based on persuasion. Reading the descriptions of my powers (Grave-Dirt Boneyard, Phantasmal Boneyard, Grave-Dirt Curse, and Phantasmal Curse), Damien has several choices to tackle any obstacle.
I'm a little confused with what I'm supposed to do. I believe I create my own memento. This is a tool that will occasionally help me manifest powers but is also a symbol of my Geist. I've been developing the idea of my Geist and will use my idea to create my Keystone Memento.
Red Blade of Toshiro/Keystone: The Prey/Keys: Grave-Dirt, Phantasmal/Skill: Persuasion
The Warlord Toshiro is Damien's geist. He actually died due to exposure. His forces were betrayed and he was shot with three arrows before falling. It was cold, and with his forces in ruins, the other warlords who worked together left him behind to die without a burial. Toshiro is of The Prey: Death by Nature just like Damien. He presents himself in his armor, and Damien can't tell if there's anything underneath the armor or if it's just a ghastly animation of the ancient negotiatior.
Step 6: Choose Merits
I'd like to put all 7 points I start with into Geist-specific merits. However, there is a very limited selection of merits offered in Geist, which is disappointing. The merits offered in Geist deal with adding extras onto what you already have. At this point I'm going to leave the merits location vague since I'm not trying to do a review of the WoD rulebook but rather Geist. Hopefully we'll see some more Geist-specific merits in Book of the Dead.
The other two stats that are new advantages for Sin-Eaters are Synergy and Plasm. Synergy is another stat like Psyche that tells us how a Sin-Eater and Geist interact. Plasm is the fuel for many of the Sin-Eaters powers.
The chapter ends with a section explaining ceremonies, what they are, and why they're important to Sin-Eaters. Remember how I was saying that there aren't many merits in Geist? That's true, but there are a lot of new options to spend your merit points on.
Ceremonies appear to work well, but of course I'll have to see them in action to know for sure. Each ceremony costs a number of dots which you buy with merit points and needs an extended challenge to resolve. The powers scale well with the more expensive ceremonies taking longer and requiring more successes.
A ceremony's dice pools is made up of psyche+attribute. They have neat effects that range from creating items, binding a krewe together, creating illusions, and classic fantasy concepts like Warding Circle.
From what I've gathered, you can be a dedicated ceremony-performing Sin-Eater by spending all your merit points to increase your psyche by one and then buying several one dot ceremonies. This should give you a good ability and variety to perform. The five dot ceremonies are all impressively powerful just as they should be for such a big investment in a single power. I like the way they implemented these ceremonies and hope to see more in BotD.
Playing a Sin-Eater is an intriguing and very open option for a supernatural in the WoD. They don't have as much base power as some of the other Supers, but they have some neat and unique ways to interact with the dead and play tricks on the living.
I had a lot of fun trying to think of a concept for my Sin-Eater that would interact with both pre-death and post-bound versions of the character. There are many powers and ways to customize and make your character unique, and I do understand now why they feel they don't need more books to complete the game. That being said, I still experienced a common gamer sickness: I already want more character options. This isn't so much a comment on the Geist corebook - it offers a ton of options - no, this is a comment that'll apply to the line once it's done in October when we get BotD. We'll just have to see.