The book begins by outlining the basic premise of the game. Individuals in the throes of a near-death experience encounter a 'geist' - a shade, an entity prepared to return the individual to life... for a price. That price begins with allowing the geist in, to become entwined with your lifeforce, but it doesn't stop there. Sometimes the geist wants something else, and it won't stop mithering until it gets it. Welcome to the 7th game in the New World of Darkness, where you tell the story of one of these individuals who survived beyond all the odds, but at what a cost!
After the usual brief obligatory 'what is a role-playing game' explanation, there's an outline of how the Storyteller game mechanic works and what's on the character sheet. While there's enough for you to play this cold, it probably would help if one person at least is familiar with the core New World of Darkness system. There is also a summary of the archetypes that Sin-Eaters, as those unfortunates bound to a geist are known, tend to fall into, as it's assumed for the purposes of this demo game that the characters are already in that situation, rather than having played through gaining a geist. All the geists are of necessity unhappy with the manner of their original demise and are looking for their new best friend to help them sort things out... usually with violence. So the geist of someone killed in a gang war will be out for vengeance against the rival gang and so on. But that's not the only motivation, others realise that as death is inevitable you've got to live life to the full, others seek to be intermediaries between this world and the next, and so on. The nature of the near-death experience also affects the Sin-Eater's approach to his new life, as it influences the nature of geist attracted. There's quite a lot of other stuff to get your head around as well, it is recommended that all potential players have time to study these introductory notes before the game or they may be a bit baffled as to what is going on!
Next comes the adventure, 'The Return of Mr. Monster.' In this, it is assumed that the characters are already acquainted with each other, and have formed a group in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York. The story is based around a hunt for a murderer whose acts mimic those of a serial killer of some 30 years ago. In style, it is a fusion of a ghost story and an action thriller. It's neatly arranged into interlinked scenes, and depending on character actions the sequence can be varied as appropriate. Each is well described with atmospheric descriptions, likely events and notes on what the Storyteller's and the characters' objectives are at this point. The main NPCs present and what they will be doing is also laid out clearly. The key thing to remember is that every ghost is there because he wants something. Find out what that is, offer it, and that ghost will likely cooperate with you!
The adventure concluded - with a few suggestions if you decide to use it as a starting point for your own campaign - the player-characters are presented in detail. Plenty of background information is provided, but it's slightly jumbled in that notes for more than one character appear on the same page, so you'll end up cutting it up to give each player the appropriate information. The character sheets are reduced size, not full page, so they'll need good eyesight too!
It is an interesting concept nicely presented, showing clear potential to develop into a unique take on 'ghosts' within the World of Darkness - well worth a try.
Return to Geist: The Sin-Eaters Quickstart page.
Reviewed: 30 July 2009