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  • Ghosts are People- thoughts and criticism

    First, I just want to say it outright- I love Geist's 2e new presentation. I love the way it treats the Bound condition, the Sin Eater society, the Underworld and its dark gods and yes, the presentation that ghosts are people. It is an important theme to emphasis, especially since fans has started to describe everything which lacks a soul as being ok to abuse, torment, and use for your own benefit. After all, that's how many mages see it, and Mage was the biggest book before Geist which gave a deep look at what being a "ghost" means. Of course, mages are driven by hubris, and as such saying "that thing has no soul and is nothing but a mere echo of a real person, so we can use it in any way we want" is exactly the moral excuse I expect them to use (nothing against mages in general or hinting that most mages do abuse the dead, but with all the focus that the Awakened have around souls and their tendency to hubris, I can perfectly understand why would they think like that). In sort, treating ghosts as people- no matter of they have or lack soul, or if they are mere echoes and not the real person which generated them- is something that Geist had to do in order to give any meaningful reason for the game to exist. Ghosts are people, and as such they should be helped and guided instead of being left to rot on or fade away.

    Or are they?

    That's the thing- ghosts are people, but not all people are nice people. As we all know, humans can be mean, vicious, ruthless and even plain old evil. People do bad things- some are more evil than the others. That's why we have an whole Krewe Archetype which is focused around punishing the living on the behalf of the dead. Ghosts, on the other hand, are people- and that's not just the Reapers, who worship the Chthonic Gods in exchange for power. Even regular ghosts could- and should- be bad people. Some of them have been bad when they were alive, being robbers or murderers or even slashers. They may have abused people for their own selfish needs, and may have even enjoyed the act. While some may find the pain of death as a "wake up call" (a bit too late, but still possible), as the dead usually mimic the patterns of their life, we should assume that many of those ghosts would be as bad as they were alive, Reaper or not. More than that, some of those ghosts would descend into the Underworld and drink from its Rivers, becoming Geists with the power to bring the dead back to life. They may seem nice at first, but when a Bound who is encourage to kill those who he deems as sinners discovers that the reason for that behavior comes from the fact that their Geist was in fact a serial killer- how would you expect them to react? Can you really blame them to move from Synergy to Tyranny in order to put their hidden monster under control, or out of the will to punish their "benefactor"? More than that, when you discover the ghosts of such a bad person- not even a murderer, but just someone who did some horrible things in life- how can you truly allow them to move on? And of course, just as some ghosts of bad people may have decided to search for redemption in death, sometimes regular ghosts turn evil. Can you really forgive a ghost which has developed a strange satisfaction from tormenting and murdering the living, or which has started to eat other ghosts for power? If ghosts are people of their own right, shouldn't they be judged by their own deeds instead of simply getting a "pass" for being dead?

    Now, perhaps it was talked about in the preview and I missed it, but I feel that the subject was at large ignored. Ghosts being people does not always mean that all of them deserve our mercy. Sure, they exist in a constant torment and suffer against and again, but some of them are bad people. I expect that at least some Sin Eaters would feel terribly uncomfortable at helping ghosts which are on the darker side of the "alignment spectrum". More than that, the fact that any Sin Eater who turns Tyrant being described as a "bad person" without considering that perhaps their Geist is actually a dangerous monster which has to be kept under control, is something which kinda makes me to squint me eyes. It feels like Geist took the whole "ghosts are people, and as such should be helped" to its very edge, forgetting that not all people are good people. That sometimes, ghosts deserve a punishment just as the living do. That being dead doesn't give you a free pass for crimes you did in life, or ones to started practicing after death. It feels like it tries to avoid those questions, which is a bit of a shame. If your Geist is a bastard, going Tyrant seems like a very logical choice- which is one of the reasons that not giving Tyranny rules kinda bugs me. When the ghost you deal with takes a delight at making the living to suffer, perhaps it does deserve its fate and being devoured by the Underworld, or thrown into the Ocean of Fragments.

    Ghosts are people- and people suffer consequences for their actions.

    So, what do you think about the subject? In fact, I think that such a world view may even work for a new, non Sin Eater Krewe Archetype. How would you deal with that "moral dilemma" in your games?


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  • #2
    Do I believe they are people? In universe if I were playing, yes, they are emotive, sapient people. They are static compared to humans, but they are still people. Having one chained to the shreds of my soul and understanding its pain in character would make it very hard to not empathize with them and see them as people.

    Outside of character? I don’t believe they are people. To me, they are little more than echoes that think they are people, but they lack the spark of true humanity to be a person. To me, calling a ghost a person is like calling a spirit a person. Both are intelligent, capable of critical thinking and communication and clearly more than simple animals, but ultimately a ghost is little different than a spirit in my eyes, albeit one who can ape humanity while the other has no need. They are bound by metaphysical programming that limits them in ways humans don’t have to consider and unless they undergo extreme changes to their every core, they are unchanging, almost pitiful ephemeral automatons or extremely advanced AI. They can give the impression of personhood on occasion , but ultimately that’s all it is, an impression.

    Funnily enough, this reminds me of the Are Synths People debates from Fall Out Four.
    Last edited by Korogra; 08-03-2018, 03:39 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
      More than that, some of those ghosts would descend into the Underworld and drink from its Rivers, becoming Geists with the power to bring the dead back to life.
      Quick side note: Becoming a Geist does not inherently give them the power to do that.

      ~~~~

      But onto your actual query: Not that the Dead should be or not be considered people, but rather the question seems to be what to do with the dead that aren't all good in a book about people helping the dead.

      I do believe they actually touch on this a bit. Not all the way as you'd expect but they do talk about the dead that terrorize the living and that sometimes, they just wont listen and you may not have the time or ability to properly save them from themselves before they slip underground. I think, a lot of these are encountered by Sin-Eaters (or hunters) with the result being a loss of anchors and slipping to the Great Below where they can reap the system or die trying.

      However, I don't believe they touched upon bad Geists at all. I mean they're all super amoral and may be more prone to the stabby approach depending on the Geist, but it didn't really touch on what happens if they're goals are so at odds with your morals and goals. I assume character growth is still possible (finding a way down the middle as it were) but failing that, it seems likely that either the Geist leaves the bargain in some way or you turn tyrant to keep the bargain in place.


      ~~~~

      Overall, yes they're still people. A bad person is still a person, they're just also bad. But just because a person is bad, doesn't mean you all of a sudden start treating that person like a thing. You just treat them like a bad person. A bad ghost is the same way. You try to help it and resolve it if you can, but if you can't you either leave it be or find a way to stop him from hurting himself or others.



      Frequent Story Teller for the Circle of Five gaming group.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by xiongrey View Post
        Overall, yes they're still people. A bad person is still a person, they're just also bad. But just because a person is bad, doesn't mean you all of a sudden start treating that person like a thing. You just treat them like a bad person. A bad ghost is the same way. You try to help it and resolve it if you can, but if you can't you either leave it be or find a way to stop him from hurting himself or others.
        This. The big difference between the Bound and other splats, I feel, is that they regard ghosts as worthy of engagement. Even a violent or dangerous ghost should be given a chance to change its behavior, or perhaps relocated to a place where it can't do harm while it's working through its Anchors. That's not to say Sin-Eaters don't acknowledge that ghosts can be bad people, it's that they (and hopefully we!) don't agree with the sentiment that "bad people need to be shot on sight."

        Hunters, in contrast, typically regard all ghosts as monsters, and Mages may regard them as homunculi. They aren't interested in whether a ghost is "good" or "bad," and don't see the point of engaging with them.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by xiongrey View Post


          Overall, yes they're still people. A bad person is still a person, they're just also bad. But just because a person is bad, doesn't mean you all of a sudden start treating that person like a thing. You just treat them like a bad person. A bad ghost is the same way. You try to help it and resolve it if you can, but if you can't you either leave it be or find a way to stop him from hurting himself or others.
          I didn't said treating them like an object- but also not giving them a reward. Usually, you deal with a bad person through punishment- sure, we can talk about the moral implications and whether it is beneficial or not, but the most human reaction for seeing a bad person doing something bad is that they should should be punished, one way or another. Helping a murderer to "move on" (as the most extreme example) may be the "best thing", but most people would demand them to suffer for their crime. Sin Eaters may be dead, but they are still human, and I assume that at least a few Bound have questioned whether they should a ghost which keeps on killing or decide it should be punishment instead. The Bound are people too, after all, and I can't believe that their most immediate reaction for a ghost which actively works to harm the living or the dead would be "oh, you poor thing. We'll just ignore everything you did and help you move on".

          Again, I think I can draw an whole new Archetype out of that attitude, but I still claim that desiring "bad ghosts" to be punished for their crimes is a very human and instinctive reaction.


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          • #6
            I haven’t read the references to Tyranny yet, so forgive me if my interpretation is wrong. The term implies to me considerably more than just exhibiting self-control in the face of the Geist’s desires. I would expect cruelty and arrogance. Tyrants don’t have the best track record for selflessly putting the greater good ahead of their own interests.
            Sure, some ghosts are bad people. Helping them move on isn’t necessarily a reward, though. A bad ghost hanging around is a potential problem for everyone, so moving them on gets rid of them permanently without the possible guilt of destroying them utterly. Hell, I could see a Sin-Eater that believed a ghost moving on went onto their “Eternal Reward”. By which I mean that they might assume that bad ghosts end up in their own personal hell.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by White Oak Dragon View Post
              I haven’t read the references to Tyranny yet, so forgive me if my interpretation is wrong. The term implies to me considerably more than just exhibiting self-control in the face of the Geist’s desires. I would expect cruelty and arrogance. Tyrants don’t have the best track record for selflessly putting the greater good ahead of their own interests.
              Sure, some ghosts are bad people. Helping them move on isn’t necessarily a reward, though. A bad ghost hanging around is a potential problem for everyone, so moving them on gets rid of them permanently without the possible guilt of destroying them utterly. Hell, I could see a Sin-Eater that believed a ghost moving on went onto their “Eternal Reward”. By which I mean that they might assume that bad ghosts end up in their own personal hell.
              That's actually a really good answer- and is the main reason why I think Geist should have spent more wordcount about how do Sin Eaters deal with bad ghosts/geists, or Tyranny. It is something which should have been addressed, IMO. Maybe we'll see anything in future books, but it feels to me like it should have been a part of the Core.

              Anyway, I do feel like a Krewe Archetype which is focused around punishing/judging the dead would feel appropriate. I'll take some time to work on it, I think.


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              • #8
                I think there’s already a Krewe archetype that neatly fits that: The Furies.

                The Fury Krewes focus entirely on finding and meteing our “justice”. I think a Krewe that focuses on finding justice for the wrongdoings of the dead is a perfectly valid Fury Krewe.

                See the below excerpt on an example of a Fury Krewe punishing the angry dead by kicking their ass down the underworld.

                A significant minority of the cases that come to the Furies involve mutual wrongdoing. These are the most difficult to address, and often involve talking through the problem with both angry, sometimes violent, parties. These quarrels further cement the importance of the aforementioned discussion-based learning rituals. Through a combination of soft power, intimidation, and the secure knowledge that they'll be able to kick the problem's ass back to the Underworld if it gets out of hand, Furies can handle even the most confusing feuds. Hopefully.



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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                  That's actually a really good answer- and is the main reason why I think Geist should have spent more wordcount about how do Sin Eaters deal with bad ghosts/geists, or Tyranny. It is something which should have been addressed, IMO. Maybe we'll see anything in future books, but it feels to me like it should have been a part of the Core.

                  Anyway, I do feel like a Krewe Archetype which is focused around punishing/judging the dead would feel appropriate. I'll take some time to work on it, I think.
                  Reading up the book I would argue that a Geist choosing to be cruel or ruthless to his Bound might not have a good time depending on how common tyranny is. In my own opinion if I was a Geist and your bound knew about tyranny I would be pretty scared.

                  Not only that reading up the Bound Geist condition if a Geist's only objective is to bond and try to to control the person he's going to have a short time seeing that bonding is a one time thing if the user dies the Geist is destroyed.
                  Last edited by reaperfrost8; 08-03-2018, 06:55 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                    I didn't said treating them like an object- but also not giving them a reward. Usually, you deal with a bad person through punishment- sure, we can talk about the moral implications and whether it is beneficial or not, but the most human reaction for seeing a bad person doing something bad is that they should should be punished, one way or another.
                    Here's the thing: they've done studies on this, and regardless of how much satisfaction it brings your lizard brain to make the bastard pay for what he did, punishment-based models are typically wildly ineffective as correctives and deterrents.

                    "The most human reaction" is not necessarily the correct one, and considering that the state of the Underworld as it is now relies substantially on ghosts being held in a climate of scarcity and desperation, that goes double — these are circumstances that inherently do not bring out the best in people or support people being their best selves, even when they aren't shackled to their weakness. There's a reason A Brighter Morning takes the time to address exactly this thing.

                    Originally posted by A Brighter Morning, Part III
                    She felt mirth bubble in her stomach. The Abandoned One watched the woman suffer with a smile.

                    She glared at him. “None of that. She’s one of us.”

                    The Abandoned One growled.

                    “I meant what I said. We will all see the dawn or none of us will. Go find the others. I’ll catch up.”

                    The Abandoned One shot her a puzzled look, but moved ahead. Leah closed her eyes and made a hexagram in the air.

                    “May the wind carry you somewhere new,” she said. It was the Church’s prayer for the dead, to encourage them to pass on. It was the first time she had spoken it since Aiden died.


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                    • #11
                      Treating ghosts as people or not, and making them face the consequences of their actions or not, and whether facing consequences always entail brutal punishment and subjugation or not, frankly, all sound like separate moral/ethical/normative axes. Why mix them up?


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                      • #12
                        It's almost like Furies don't exist, and questions about why things are the way they are don't matter at all.

                        EDIT: Also, shitty people still deserve a fair system, with full accountings and resolutions that gear towards a better world, on either side of the veil. Otherwise, there's no point in aspiring to a fair system.

                        The state of affairs in the life after death are the opposite of a fair system.
                        Last edited by ArcaneArts; 08-03-2018, 09:31 PM.


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                        • #13
                          Just to clarify- I didn't wanted to say that punishing ghosts for their actions by not allowing them to move on is how Sin Eaters should act. I said that I feel that, in general, Geist hasn't spent a lot of wordcount about saying how Sin Eaters deal with such situations, and I wish it did. Now, I may misinterpreted the Furies (I've thought they were much more focused around punishing the living and not the dead. I'll have to re-read their writeup)- but even so, it only gives us a single Archetype, instead of telling us how Sin eater, in general, deal with such situations (and no, I don't consider a single Archetype as a proper solution). That's what I wanted- a meaningful overview of how Sin Eater deal with bad ghosts (and evil Geists), and I don't consider Brighter Morning as a meaningful example, as the Reaper is actually quite relatable once her mask is off (and Reapers in general are written in a semi-sympathetic way, saying that yes, they are bastards, but they are still people and still deserve our mercy).

                          So tl,dr- I don't support that Sin Eaters should throw "bad ghosts" into the Underworld. I took the devil's advocate position in order to understand and ask how, in general, Sin Eaters deal with such situation, and say that I think that Geist should have wrote more about it. It has just felt to me that sometimes, in their attempt to convince us that ghosts are people, they made it feel like they were always good people, as they didn't really talked about "bad ghosts/geists" (unless they were Reapers, and even they they made sure that we'll understand they are are more "poor" than "bad", usually). That's my general impression from the preview, at least.


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                          • #14
                            Figuring out how to deal with bad ghosts is part of the game, and it's a context-dependent one that has no easy answers.

                            It's like figuring out what to do with bad people in our own world. We Still don't have a singular Good Idea we follow to resolve that, and instead try lots of things. Sin-Eaters have myriad tools and problems compounded on top of that, but the essential struggle remains the same, finding out which ideas are Better Ideas in Which Cases.


                            Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                            The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                            Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                              I said that I feel that, in general, Geist hasn't spent a lot of wordcount about saying how Sin Eaters deal with such situations, and I wish it did.
                              Those situations are explicitly the kind of things that serve as milestones for krewe development. There is by definition no generalized perspective on What Is To Be Done because figuring that out is a narrative process.

                              That's my general impression from the preview, at least.
                              Your impression from the preview is that showing you that ghosts are people by demonstrating that the upper echelons of Underworld society are ruthless bastards who don't like it when a Sin-Eater rolls into town is part of the general trend of "ghosts are people and that means they're good"?


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