GM’s Blog – Geist: The Sin-Eaters – 14th May 2012

For those who don’t know, Geist: The Sin-Eaters is a game in which players portray those given a second chance at life. They died but were offered a bargain by a spiritual entity called a Geist. It would let them live again and in exchange they would share their life with it. The resulting gestalt of living flesh and deathly energies is called a Sin-Eater. Sin-Eaters are all able to see and interact with the dead and gain power by resolving or consuming the ghosts of the departed. They are also able to physically journey into the Underworld to seek forbidden knowledge and to interact with those long dead.

This game has been running since Geist was published in 2009 and features a group of Sin-Eaters in London who have recently bound themselves together into a krewe (s supernaturally bound group that channels energy from the Underworld)  in the face of competition from two larger krewes. Their krewe has no official name as yet but the characters have also founded a company called Twilight Investigations which offers help with troubled spirits and other occult weirdness.

My enthusiasm for Geist took a bit of a dive just before returning from the Easter vacation. A player who’s been gaming with me in the World of Darkness on Mondays for the last 12 years told me on Sunday that he was quitting the game for various reasons. Still, the show must go on and I still had six players to entertain yesterday evening.

The sixth player was introduced in the final session of last term. He’s new to tabletop Geist but regularly played the live-action version  He’s familiar with my GMing –  he plays Az-Tec in the Eclipse Phase game.

At the end of the previous session there were parallel plot threads ongoing. Most of the group was planning to meet with the new character to find out if he is spying for one of the other krewes in the city and possibly to try and recruit him for their krewe. Meanwhile Drs Peace and Clarke were running late due to a recent breakthrough in the group’s current case, an investigation into morbid galleries of human body parts that spring up around London like fungi and which have been dubbed The Gallery of Pain.

So. Professor Drake, the new character, met the others at their Twilight Investigations office. We got a full description of their facilities for the first time in a long while and there was a certain amount of confusion as to exactly what facilities were there. On arrival Drake first took the time to bully 20-something ex-homeless guy Barry into making him a cup of coffee. Although insignificant in the long run we actually played this out using the Social Combat system from the World of Darkness supplement “Danse Macabre”; primarily this is because Barry’s social skills are considerably stronger than his player’s and I felt that the initial meeting would affect the tone of their relationship in the future.

Barry lost at the first roll and grudgingly went to go and make the coffee. He didn’t even spit in it.

The group spent a while talking with the newcomer, with the conversation taking a distinctly threatening tone at times. You see, they were suspicious of his recent attentions and thought he may be a spy working for one of the larger krewes in the city. In fact though he explained he wished to investigate and court their krewe as he felt the odds of being important to the organisation were greater. At last they decided to trust him for now and let him hang around with the group subject to an extensive and invasive investigation of him by the group’s infiltration and surveillance expert, Joe.

As GM I was pleased with the way this scene went because there was a high level of engagement from all of the players and a good sense of energy in the conversation. I barely had to speak during the scene because the players were busy roleplaying amongst themselves and it’s always satisfying when that happens.

Then the other two members of the krewe arrived with some news! They had been investigating a disembodied eye found at the Gallery of Pain. Initial investigations proved that the target was almost certainly still alive so they began using a Ceremony called Distant Vision that would enable them to see the subject at a distance by using a mirror that had once held their reflection. On doing so they found that he and others were strapped to beds in a building reminiscent of a warehouse and that they were being tended to by a girl they recognised as Raven, a member of a small krewe in the city called The Strangers.

The group decided to investigate this themselves rather than involve the mortal authorities. The first part of their plan was to investigate a church that they knew the Strangers had been to before, hoping that a mirrored surface inside the church might have reflected them, allowing the krewe to track them.

I enjoyed the scene at the church immensely. The group met up with Rory there, a fourteen-year-old boy with sensitivity to ghostly visions whom the group had met at least twice before. Eager to investigate the occult under the mentorship of Dr Clarke, Rory was proud to show the doctor his “Kirlian Goggles” – a device supposed to be able to let the psychically insensitive view the ephemeral spirits of the departed.

On investigating the church they found that the mirror there did indeed contain images of at least three of the Strangers. One of them was in the process of inflicting pain and scarification on a naked man in a dark room lit only by a lava lamp. Raven was in a quiet bar, the decor and clientele indicating that it was a themed place of some kind. Online research after the fact determined that the place was for like-minded persons with an interest in the BDSM scene to come together.

 They also saw a third member of the krewe sitting with Raven. The fourth, a heavily scarred teenager named Knives, was caught descending into a basement bar somewhere in Soho that they suspected to be the same bar the other members of the Strangers were within.

Thus began the last scene of the night as the players began to investigate the fetish bar, named Jackx. A wall in the side alley of Jackx was marked with the sigil of the Strangers, indicating they had claimed it as their own territory.

Energy levels were beginning to flag at this point and I must admit that I became distracted a few times during this scene. The player who left was talking to me on IRC to ask how the game was going in his absence and a couple of other things vied for my attention. The group set up surveillance positions and then sent Joe in to try and get the bar and the flats above it evacuated, leading to a detailed scene for Joe’s player where the rest really couldn’t do very much.

To cut a long story short the infiltrator set a fire in one of the apartments and triggered a false alarm in the apartment above, causing a building-wide alarm to be generated. The last thing that happened was that one of the Strangers activated Industrial Boneyard (an area-effect power allowing manipulation of mechanical devices within the area) to view what was going on and shut off the electricity to stop the fire from spreading.

Next week then we begin on a high note with the krewe’s inevitable confrontation with The Strangers.

On the whole I was pleased with the session though the last forty-five minutes to an hour did drag compared to the rest of the game. With hindsight it might have been better to abstract the infiltrator’s process to a single rolled action rather than requiring exhaustive detail about how he was achieving his goals.

I could alternatively have improved this scene by having the player characters temporarily take on the role of people living in the flats above Jackx whom Joe avoided in the setting up of his scheme.

In my opinion the best scenes were the ones rich in character interaction. Whether the group was talking amongst itself or speaking with NPCs the highest level of engagement occurred in these moments.

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