Sunday, August 30, 2009

Geist: The Sin-Eaters Review Part 4: The System

Welcome to part 4 of my on-going Geist: The Sin-Eaters review! Geist is WhiteWolf Games' newest game set in the World of Darkness (WoD). This being part four, there are three previous parts to the review. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 can all be accessed by clicking the links. On to the show!

Chapter four: The System is broken down to the following sections: Sin-Eaters and how they interact with the world, forming a krewe, and creating mementos and other unearthly items and artifacts to be used in a chronicle of Geist.

Part 1:

The first section, regarding all the special rules not covered in character creation that a Sin-Eater needs to know, is organized very well. Each special rule introduced begins with a fluff explanation followed by a very clearly section titled "mechanics" that explains how to resolve the specific power. I like this presentation quite a bit as it will make it easier to look up rules on the fly in the middle of a game session.

Make no mistake, you will be looking up rules. There are no less than 16 different powers and senses that a Sin-Eater has access to. Some of them overlap (like how Sin-Eaters can stay standing in a fight or come back from the dead, basically points out how tough a Sin-Eater can be), but they all have a different trigger and a unique way to be resolved. I'll admit that as much as I love the WoD, I'm still a newbie and haven't read a full fatsplat, so I don't know how this compares to other supernatural beings in the WoD, but this does seem like a lot of rules to remember. I would hate to have to be the only one in a group with a copy of the book and only one to have read it before meeting to create characters.

Part 2:

The implementation of krewe creation is handled very well and seems to be a huge part of the replayability of the game with it's very limited line of books (1 and 1/2 planned at this point as I've discussed in earlier parts of this review). It begins as an out-of-character discussion and is a cooperative enterprise between players and storyteller. All krewes are created by Sin-Eaters ignorant of the greater world around them. The biggest krewes are of the city scale, so there is going to be a huge variety of krewe "flavors" even within one city.

The rules begin by giving direction to the players to help them build a philosophy and the way the members have worked together in order to understand the metaphysics of death and further life. Players may want to look at ceremonies that can help a krewe when creating characters. Really I think character and krewe creation should be a simultaneous process done as its own session.

Once the ground rules and guiding philosophies are set for the krewe, there are many choices to add to the krewe and the krewe itself gains experience and advancement through play and the earning of krewe-specific experience points. The players earn these points if they've been ceremoniously inducted and then by play to the ethos, philosophies, and rules of the krewe during play. The idea is to expand your krewe's influence and power through actual play.

I always want to try to build a chronicle inspired by the TV show The Shield in these World of Darkness games, and it seems like a real possibility with the krewe rules. I'm thinking a campaign based solely on starting a krewe from scratch and working your way up has a lot of potential.

Part 3:

The last part (and I believe biggest chunk) of the chapter is devoted to artifacts and unique items to be used as totems, wands, whatever you want to call them in Geist. Some of the items appear to be of generic power, whereas Keystone Mementos, which are expanded here, are the actual hearts of the geists that Sin-Eaters have become bound to. This section also relates to the merits offered in chapter 2 as most of the objects which are craftable through a merit are explained here through fluff, examples, and finally directions for creating your own.

The authors provide several different items, but more often than not they are defined by their use. Whether it's a weapon, a tool to contain or enslave a ghost, or the excellent section describing death masks, we get many different versions of the objects described and it's very clear how these interact with the world and can be created by storytellers and players alike. This section (and the chapter) ends with a good reminder that all these items, because of how random they may appear to the average joe, all have power because of the story and the meaning they carry with them. It serves as a great reminder that all things in the world of Geist are powerful because of the weight they carry. It's all very...magical when you think about.

The authors do a great job of explaining each of these systems within the system and how they relate. I was a little overwhelmed by the first section as, opposed to the other two, every single rule in it applies to every Sin-Eater in any game. The other two sections were great for options, but the first section that sets Sin-Eaters apart from other supers in the WoD will take some re-reading before an actual play of the game. The rest of the chapter is chock full of story hooks both deliberate and by using a little imagination. I know people have been hoping we'll get more Geist releases so we get some more sample krewes (and I'm sure mementos), but it seems simple to take the concepts here and twist them a little to serve the purpose of the ST and his chronicle.

Check back soon for part 5 of the Geist: The Sin-Eaters review! We'll be looking at the storyteller chapter: I've been looking forward to this one to see what kind of nasties and mysteries I can throw at the players!


  1. Your review is quite well done. I approve heartily.

  2. Very kind of you to say! This is my first real review of anything, and I have to say I think I'm cutting my teeth on a rather complex game, but just wait until I review 3:16: Carnage Amongst The Stars in a single post! It will be exciting!


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