Thursday, September 3, 2009

Geist: The Sin-Eaters Review Part 5: Story Telling + Appendices

What's that? You didn't know there were four fifths of a Geist review posted already? Well, clicking this link to look at the category "Geist Review" will bring up all five entries at the same time and you can read the entire glorious book review all at once. You're so lucky!

We've looked at the characters, the system, and flavor, and now we've finally gotten to the real meat of the system: telling a story. If White Wolf is known for anything, it's delivering plot and story hooks left and right in almost every product they release. Every supplement and core item just oozes new ideas to be played with. It can be so overwhelming, the desire so strong to include every neat little idea possible, that Chapter 4 literally warns against doing it. Yes the system is a toolbox, but you know, you don't have to use every tool at your disposal.

What's this mean for Geist? Well, the last chapter of the book offers some very good advice on how to construct a chronicle of Geist whether you want the players to drive the plot, or you have a neat idea for a story-based campaign. The authors have put some great materials together. It's like a how-to for writing a campaign, and it rivals the core Dungeon Master's Guide + Monster Manual for 4e in terms of direction. The structure of the chapter as a step-by-step guide is very helpful.

Two things really stand out in this last chunk of book: characters and setting. We get a ton of new supernatural beasties that more often than not make me uncomfortable just trying to picture them. We also get a ton of new numina for ghosts, even though plain old pedestrian ghosts aren't really a match for the average Sin-Eater. Finally we get some setting specific characters like those you could expect to find in New York City, the basic city setting for Geist. We get some Sin-Eaters and some popular and historical ghosts.

This brings us to the two settings: New York City and the Underworld. Both are presented in fantastic detail and I was surprised by how much we got about the Underworld given that we'll have a whole book dedicated to it when Book of the Dead releases. What was nice though was the information they give about New York City. Yes, it's nice if you're going to run a game in NYC, but it also serves the purpose of providing you with leads you should follow to create a Geist setting in other cities or even for making your own. Thinking about how famous ghosts might have developed or where a haunt might be found is easy when you're looking at how the places and beings occupying NYC were imagined.

I am very pleased with Geist and how it turned out. I have to say that it lived up to the hype I was placing on it for the months leading up to its release. It's very well-rounded and I would be happy to run the game simply out of its core book with no supplements, Geist-specific or otherwise. Given it's heavy status as a niche game (I think you really have to be in the mood to play a Sin-Eater whereas some of the other games like Hunter can easily be manipulated to get anyone to play) may be one of the major limiting factors for future releases, but then again Changeling did better than was expected, and that game is both unique and original, from what I understand of it. It was a pleasure to read Geist, and maybe some day I might actually play a game. Fingers crossed!

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