Posted on July 17, 2009 by Matt-M-McElroy
Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love a good ghost story. To me, when the world of the living meets the realm of the dead, things can get pretty interesting. Some of my favorite ghost stories and games explore what a ghost wants and why they might be haunting a particular place (or person). Even with all the movies, books and games I’ve seen, I feel that there are still tons of possibilities to explore…
Needless to say I’ve been anticipating Geist, the latest addition to the World of Darkness, since White Wolf first announced it last GenCon. I was a huge fan of Wraith: the Oblivion and Orpheus, so the idea of a ghost-filled game set in the new World of Darkness was very exciting to me. World of Darkness: Ghost Stories was an excellent book and I’ve made good use out of already, partially because it was written with mortals in mind. Even though I really enjoyed Ghost Stories, the supplement wasn’t enough because it didn’t offer my players the chance to play a character connected to the world of the dead.
I guess you could say I had a lot of expectations for Geist because of my experiences with some of White Wolf’s older games and supplements. Unlike the old World of Darkness game Wraith: the Oblivion, characters in Geist are still human, more-or-less. Which may not have been exactly what I was hoping for, but the book certainly surprised me with some new ideas and great writing. I feel that this new game fits the new World of Darkness pretty well as a stand-alone concept like Promethean.
Part of the reason why I feel Geist is like Promethean, is because the characters that have made a deal with a “geist” undergo a change after they’ve experienced death and have returned to the world of the living – but only under certain circumstances. When a strong-willed character that has experienced “death” at some point in their life (e.g. sensitive to the paranormal) dies and comes back to life, they have to make a deal with a special type of ghost called a “geist” in order to go on living. The character is then referred to as a new entity called a “Sin Eater” who is then bound to that particular ghost. The Sin Eater then has the ability to use some powers fueled by Plasm, which reminded me of how promethean characters have powers through Pyros.
A Geist is a certain kind of ghost, not like the ones I found in World of Darkness: Ghost Stories and are what makes a Sin-Eater possible. Obviously, they are an essential part of the game because they form a symbiotic relationship with the characters. However, I can’t really call Geist a game where ghosts take center stage because the focus is more on the Sin Eaters than on playing your standard type of ghost.
Geist, to me, is a game about dealing with ghosts rather than playing one as a character. However, unlike Hunter: the Vigil, you’re not playing a human that deals with supernatural monsters because in this game — you are part supernatural and the ghosts that you deal with aren’t always the bad guys or monsters. Because the game is so heavily focused on death, Geist is a lot darker than any of the other games that White Wolf has produced so far for the new World of Darkness. However, Geist wasn’t the game that I had expected it to be. This doesn’t mean I think the game is bad, far from it, but it is definitely a departure from some of the other ghost-related products they’ve released in the past. As a fan of a good ghost story I’m always on the hunt for new and interesting ways to explore the why and how of the dead. What keeps them from moving on? What motivates them to haunt the world of the living?
One of the things I really liked about Geist, is that it isn’t a game that fits squarely into one mythology or another. Even though I wouldn’t be able to explore the questions a ghost might have as a player character, there are tons of possibilities when you play a Sin Eater that’s trying to deal with the dead. Mixing things up a bit, White Wolf is offering a different kind of story, so a new name is in order, how about geist stories instead of ghost stories?
If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about Geist, you can find sample characters in the free Geist Quickstart Adventure that was originally offered up on Free RPG Day. The Quickstart barely touches on the themes of the game, but does offer just enough introduction for those curious about what it is a group of Sin-Eaters (called a Krewe) do in the World of Darkness. The Quickstart has more than a few typos and that dreaded Page XX error, but it still makes for an interesting read. There is a full SAS adventure included so you can jump into the game quickly.
As one of the lucky few who managed to get an early copy of the Geist core book, I’ve gotten the chance to explore the game much further than what was offered in the Quickstart. Like all World of Darkness games, Geist has all kinds of mood and passion. The world of the dead practically oozes off the pages and dragged me into the shadows. The differences between Geists and ghosts are explained throughout the book in several ways, which shows that this game is definitely not like your typical ghost story. Pay attention to the White Wolf Website for ongoing previews of Geist (for the next few weeks anyway) and when the book is released at GenCon Indy next month you will be able to tell your own geist stories.
Want to learn more about Geist: The Sin-Eaters? Read
- Atomic Array: Geist: The Sin-Eaters (Atomic Array 027)
- Game Cryer: Review by Chris Perrin
- Gnome Stew: Running Geist
- Mad Brew Labs: The Sin-Eaters
- RPG Aggression: Rudis Review
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