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Geist: The Sin-Eaters $19.98
Publisher: White Wolf
by Chris C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2014 14:13:43

The good, the bad, and the ugly:

Man, this was a hard review to put together. Geist: The Sin Eaters has some really outstanding elements and some absolutely embarrassingly awful elements. To be kind, I’m going to start with the good.

  1. If you’re a fan of Garth Nix’ Abhorsen Trilogy, the show Dead Like Me, or horror movies about ghosts, you’ll probably dig this a lot. I like all of those things, so I was willing to tackle the massive storyteller project that came with the setting (see below).

  2. The really interesting part of Geist is its Morality system, which centers around ghosts rather than the living. This lets players do some horror movie-esque things that would cause Morality rolls with a lot of the other systems. Ethically, it’s a very interesting system.

And now the bad. Note that this is a longer list.

  1. Right off the bat, experienced storytellers will notice that the setting seems to be comprised of “content chunks” and that they don’t fit together really well. I think that this is the result of different people handling different parts of the development project and maybe not working together as well as they could have, but that’s just me. I’d like to say that this is just conceptual and theme-oriented, but it’s not. In some places the rules contradict one another. No, I’m not going to get into it. Look at other reviews for the details.

  2. If you research Sin Eaters you’ll see that the setting only slightly touches on that concept. I think they just didn’t know what to call it, so they grabbed “sin eaters” and slapped it on the book. I also suspect that’s why this setting isn’t called Sin Eater. Oh, and “geist” isn’t the player- it’s a little like a cross between the Avatar, the Shadow, and the Po. So the setting isn’t even really titled what they players are.

  3. I think that at some point someone in the development/oversight staff said “This is really creepy and gloomy, do something to liven it up (har de har har) and make it appeal to a wider audience”. Thus was born the abomination known as the “krew”. Krews are groups of Geists, and someone thought it’d be cool to basically make them hipster gangs. Yes, you read that correctly. No, I don’t know why either. It’s SO bad it derails the core feel and vibe of the whole setting. Wow it’s bad. How bad, you ask? Krews refer to Charms as “death bling”. That bad. Oh, and one of the “community hub” domains of the Underworld has a wild-west theme. Really think about that for a minute. If you’re not trying to claw your eyes out, then this game might be right for you.

  4. On that note, krews have their own rules for shared abilities. That’s actually fairly impressive, but you probably already know the problem with this: all but one of your players is willing to cash in on those abilities, but that one player already has their min/max plan worked out and won’t play ball. Or worse, the krew abilities figure into their min/max plan, and they’re glaring at the other players and thumping a baseball bat against their palm every time experience is dished out. The other problem with this, obviously, is if you’re running a solo campaign. Then it’s a real mess.

  5. On your end, you’re going to have some hard systems to narrate to your players. PCs that can see when people are going to die sound fun, but can be a real nightmare for you (the storyteller). It’s hard to surprise the PCs without them feeling betrayed “Hey! I should have seen that coming!” You’re also going to crash headlong into a long debate about destiny and chance at some point (Was that man destined to die of cancer? What if he hadn’t smoked a pack a day?). Also, “and that guy over there! When’s he gonna die??” gets old.

  6. The setting badly needs a supplement that covers manifestations rank 6-10 and Onyx Path tells me it’s not even on the horizon yet. If your players are hungry for real power in this setting (and it’s there; Sin Eaters can have attributes/abilities/manifestations up to rank TEN with proper progression) they’re going to hit a wall at some point until this comes out. I worry that the flaws in this setting are going to make that a long time coming and I may just design it myself, which paves the way for later aggravation. Time will tell.

  7. Sin Eaters, compared to the other supernaturals, are shockingly weak. Most of their abilities have to do with scaring people, penalizing dice rolls, and damaging willpower. I said most, not all, but your PCs will likely either be clones of one another “Dude, you've got a fire geist too? No way! Hey, let’s go to the saloon and I’ll show you my death bling.” …or they’ll spend their first 4 points waiting for the attack that comes with the fifth point.

  8. The innate abilities of the Sin Eaters are scattered, hard for PCs to remember, and difficult to incorporate.

  9. There are no projected dates for expansions. I contacted Onyx Path and asked.

I tried. I really did. I even took the time to overhaul the systems and concepts to make it have a more “Wraith” kind of feel. In the end, it was just too much work for too little reward. There are too many concepts floating around without enough common ground to glue them together. The abilities are weak, and it was a nightmare creating game scenarios that actually used their effects. I finally took a long look at the Moros of Mage and said “why am I putting myself through this? I could do all this with a Mage legacy.”

Save yourself the agony. Let them fix it. If they pull together a 2.0 maybe it’ll be worth playing, but right now not so much.



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Geist: The Sin-Eaters
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