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GMing Geist: What NOT to do

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  • GMing Geist: What NOT to do

    So, I saw a thread like this in Vampire: The Masquerade's thread, and I started a similar one in Changeling: The Lost. Now I'm wondering, what advice do you guys have on what to avoid in a Geist: The Sin Eaters game? Given the subject matter of dying, dealing with the dead and those who have not yet died, there's obviously a lot of shaky ground to avoid, and though I will make mistakes if/when I host a game, I'd like to preemptively avoid some.

    Hopefully this'll prove to be a resource for others who have similar interests to mine. Thanks for reading, and posting. :-)

  • #2
    As always, have private conversations with each player about what, if anything, is something they do not want to see in a game. Make sure it is judgment free, and open. My Balance of Shadows game will never have a plot dealing with the sexual exploitation of children, for example, as it is a red flag for one player. A previous player had animal abuse as a red flag. Geist is a game that can really hit those red flags.

    Don't, broadly speaking, expect a ghost to be too much of a threat to a typical Krewe. Sin-Eaters have a lot of tools for dealing with ghosts, and a lot of the usual ghost tricks fail outright to Sin-Eaters (they can always see ghosts and can't be possessed, for example, and any Sin-Eater can get in a brawl with a ghost of they need to). Some GMs wind up being taken off guard by how difficult challenging ghosts are for Sin-Eaters.

    Also, and I should not have to say this, don't BS to try to raise the challenge. Sin-Eaters are supposed to be much stronger than most ghosts.

    Be prepared for Boneyard. It is a game changer. It can let a Sin-Eater fully explore and area safely and even attack a target repeatedly from miles away. It is extra important the group is on the same page for this one. I specify the SE can see anywhere in the Boneyard but not all at once, and don't allow powers to be used through a Boneyard as it got Crazy with Curse and Pit. Also, requiring one's presence to use Oracle rewards stealthy characters.

    I recommend applying the 9 again on Caul's exceptional success retroactively for activation rolls as well as subsequent powers. As VERY few subsequent powers involve activation rolls.

    Note Plasm is not as simple a resource to regain as Vitae or Glamour, and Manifestations require it. Be prepared for this. For PCs that cannot die for long, resource management can be a thing, and it can take a lot of game time to refuel from a major battle.

    Work out how you want Geists handled and discuss it. I gave my player the options of Geist-Guiding each other, controlling their own Geist, or having me handle their Geist (I recommended against the latter). They went with using their own and it worked well for our group, but there are options to explore.

    As with any game, discuss themes and expectations, and work out PCs at least partially together. Make sure people know about how much combat to expect, how much relationships come up, etc. If any players had thought going into Balance of Shadows it would be combat heavy, they would have been deeply disappointed.OTOH, Balance of Shadows is a mega supernatural romance. Also, how much Underworld to expect? A game that is 50% Underworld exploration will be very different than, say, a ghostbusting game or other set in the real world mostly. Geist can go a lot of places. Try to have everyone on the same page.

    The High Armor from Shroud in 2e is not a problem, but can take you by surprise with it's reliable high numbers.

    Deathmasks are insanely useful given the above Plasm management thing. Consider the effects having one will have on a PCs Plasm expenditures.

    Be sure everyone is on the same page about getting back plasm with your Archetype and Virtue/Vice. I have seen people interpret it differently.

    I need sleep, but may add to. Balance of Shadows is my second Geist game and has gone 6 1/2 years. I have dealt with a lot of situations. You can ask questions too, if you wish, about my running.





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    • #3
      Invaluable advice Baroness, on all fronts. Communication is definitely key to a good game, if simply so that everything runs as smoothly as possible, particularly if players aren't entirely on-base with everything they could know about the game.

      Initially I hadn't realized it, but you are right about Sin Eaters having a distinct...well, calling it an "advantage against ghosts" is putting it mildly. I can appreciate the warning against BSing simply to make a fight a challenge though, even if it does seem like obvious advice. There was one particular horror story in the Changeling equivalent of this thread where the GM suddenly decided that contracts that allowed a Changeling to talk to the dead suddenly didn't work like they were described to, simply to preserve his plot. Simply put, it's not fun for the player to suddenly find that what should be working to their advantage isn't for unspecified reasons...unless of course the actual reason makes sense, such as The Entity tree in Balance of Shadows interfering with how the ghosts within the hotel functioned. Even then, though, there's a pretty fine balance and a lot of work to it, especially in making sure that the difference is foreshadowed enough.

      I had noticed how potent Boneyard was, even back in my first ever character for Geist, and I wasn't the only one in the group; out of the four of us, only one of us didn't take Boneyard in some capacity, and after we joked around a bit another of us swapped to another manifestation to lower the issues we'd have. Sadly that game never really got off the ground, but it was still a memorable moment. I've since weened myself off of taking Boneyard so often, though I do regard it highly. I do agree with your suggestions to mute its power though, simply to make it more balanced. Ditto with the point regarding Caul - I hadn't noticed how limited its Exceptional Success effect was, but in retrospect it is a bit silly.

      I remember reading your notes on how Balance of Shadows would be handling Haunts and plasm, as well as looking through the book and pondering on my own changes to the formula to make it more dynamic. At the moment I'm stuck between dividing the a Haunt's Residue dots between the days of a week it regains plasm, or making them only gain one plasm per day up to its dots of Residue as a limit. As noted, unlike a lot of other fuel systems for powers, Plasm is limited in that it doesn't come from people, so I'm unsure about how to tinker with the system without hamstringing players.

      It certainly puts Deathmasks in perspective, however. Up until now I'd been pondering on what advantages they'd bring in terms of keys and numina. The limit on how many a Sin Eater can carry suddenly makes a lot more sense.

      Speaking of mementos, however, what is your stance on items that could become charms, and how players may acquire/purchase/make charms with said items (presuming this does not circumvent the experience cost)? Is it better to er on the side of less is more in regards to potential charms and or the items to craft them with?

      That also leads to another question that I've found bandied about a few times; Phantasmal Marionette states that the user's mind is placed into a plasm copy of their Geist's body, and that they can use their normal manifestations. However, if it's separate from their normal body, wouldn't that mean that their charms are no longer accessible to them? What general rules do you have for the manifestation, if your players ever evoke it.

      Thank you very much for the prompt and studious post Baroness; it has given me much to think about and even a few ideas for potential future games. I hope you get that sleep soon if you haven't already.
      Last edited by Taidragon; 08-01-2016, 04:56 AM.

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      • #4
        Yeah the Hotel was a special case. I discussed with the Players how that was going to work, and why. In that case, it was not that their powers did not work, it's that the ghosts were...sleeping...unless active, and when active they were physical for all intents and purposes. You are right, of course, that was unusual, but it worked, and everyone had input, rather than me unilaterally declaring it.

        As an aside, I am all about input from the whole group, and I think it improves my games. I don't have it as general advice, beyond a tip, because lots of things work for lots of groups, and the collaborative thing works for us but some groups would hate it. it was a somewhat contentious point at first, players used to games like Vampire and Changeling where it was easy to "refuel" between events.

        On Boneyard, my rules seemed good compromises. I say my rules but as above we worked it out together. One player really dislikes Boneyard and does not allow it in their own games. We are faily happy with them as it still feels like one of the strongest manifestations but is not too crazy. And of course, remember there can only be one at a time, so that limits it too.

        On Plasm, I recommend examining what you think you will need and discussing it with players. Haunts restoring Plasm per day, not per week, can work fine if you are not worried about how much power the players bring to bear. You have a good observation about Plasm not coming from people, too. This is really one where you want to determine how much power PCs can safely throw around. There is not one right answer for every group.

        As far as Charms, I am pretty free with it if they use the Ceremony. I tend to assume there is one charm with a death, and investigating a scene they can try to find it usually on a wits + Investigation roll (to get enough successes to find it) or a pass/fail wits + composure (if it is fairly easy to see). Charms tend to be easy to come by, but I notice Charms tied to, say, Passion, or Stigmata, or Stillness are far, far more common than, say, Industrial or Phantasmal much of the time. In general it is one die, for a single key, so not a big deal unless they find scads of them.

        Have to step away but more later, probably.



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        • #5
          There is one trick that can break the plasm economy, assuming I understand all the rules correctly and haven't missed anything. Sin Eaters can gain plasm from events reminiscent of their Threshold, either being injured themselves or by injuring/killing somebody else. The former is bad because it hurts your character and either requires more plasm than you gain to mitigate, or a prolonged healing period.

          Except. The elemental Oracle powers cost one plasm to activate, and heal you of all injury taken prior to activation. They require you to take some damage in the activation and the roll can fail, so it's risky, but it's possible to get several points of plasm out of being nearly killed, and then spend one and undo all the damage.

          The other problem is engineering a scenario close enough to your original death that's going to leave you only mostly dead instead of coming back less two maximum synergy. That one's relatively easy if, say, you're one of the Prey and you're friends with a Changeling who has Cloak of the Bear's Massive Form, but that's an unusual circumstance.

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          • #6
            HelmsDerp raises a good point. It is only splash of Plasm from events of the Threshold (1-5) but some have it easier than others. Torn can often regain Plasm from Combat; I usually award some at the end, with 1, 3 or 5 based on damage taken. In my game, Natalie Knight gets it from doing Cocaine and Heroin, (my system is doing some =1, doing enough to essentially get seriously fucked up is 3, and enough she has to roll Stamina to see if her heart stops is 5.) Jasmine Sung who drowned also often got a splash easily, but Alexia Maharajapurm would need to poison herself, and Doc would take explosives. Still, with the Torn we have had we do talk about "Fight Club". Alice Cambell would have had a particularly difficult time as well.


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            • #7
              On the one hand, that kind of exploit (going into a large amount of damage and then using elemental Oracle to fix things) feels like it should be discussed/stopped by the GM. On the other hand, if it's handled well - the character having trepidation about commiting to such an act, perhaps being a little shaken up by the end at the lengths they went for their meager gains - then it almost sounds worthy of a Beat (from experience I've found roleplaying beats difficult to come by). I suppose it's a case by case thing: if handled well, then it's good; if it's just done in an offhanded way or multiple times, then it shouldn't be welcomed.

              I suppose something else that should be noted is that punishing players off the bat for things is a bad idea for the game as a whole. Their characters' actions should have consequences, but they shouldn't be punished for the players finding an exploit or otherwise doing something the GM dislikes without knowing it. Communication being key and all that.

              Thanks for elaborating on the plasm-returns-via-revisiting-death aspect Baroness. That would admitedly make a lot of my crafted Sin Eaters hard to replicate their ends; I once had a band of NPCs premade where one was hit by a car, another died via attack dogs, the third sufficated/hard his throat punctured from the hood of a volkswagen beetle as he was repairing the trunck, and another was struck by lightning inside of his own jewelry store. Not impossible, but difficult. It does make me wonder about how the other thresholds may get their plasm - a sufficiently bad sickness may do it for the Stricken. The Forgotten, though, could probably get it from random accidents, like loose clay shingles or flower pots falling on or near their heads. It'd make the clumsy a lot more fueled for fights.

              I take it Doc can't simply hold a lit firecracker in his hand to regain plasm. Not that I'd recommend it to anyone whether they'd get a superatural bonus from it or not. :-p
              Last edited by Taidragon; 08-02-2016, 03:32 AM.

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              • #8
                A lot of games from White Wolf/Onyx Path are such that the rules can be exploited by players and GMs in some pretty obnoixious ways. In general, I recommend the group determine, as a group, what is and is not acceptable. Sure, the GM can bring in godhammer, but that is not satisfying for anyone. The trick is get it so people are happy with the rules, and make it both so the players don't have to utterly ignore very obvious loopholes, but can mostly use powers to pronounced effect. In the case of using Oracle, well, it depends. See yes, Doc or Sara would take a lot of damage and, hypothetically, heal it with Oracle. But Natalie can take no damage, just be fucked up for hours and make risky rolls. If she uses heroin before sleep there is essentially no game effect to her getting around 3 Plasm a night. It feels odd to punish Sara for taking damage and healing it, then. Similarly, Jasmine can get some Plasm and heal it with her Tear-Stained Caul. Alexia can get sick a few hours and be fine. Possibly less then a few hours, depending on how bad she poisons herself. Sara can get it back faster, at the cost of one plasm.

                Now Wolfram, getting impaled with a chunk of an airplane, that is tough. Well, maybe not with Lizette around.


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                • #9
                  This was a huge help Baroness; I've started running a solo game with a friend of mine, and her character died via falling off a cliff onto a portion jutting out. Before we started playing, we established events that would cause her character to regain plasm as you recommended, and in our second session her character failed a chance die while chasing after her killer on the same mountain (Phantasmal Curse 3 is a bitch at times)...and she fell down the mountain path. Perfect time for some plasm to be regained.

                  Really, the thread in general has been a massive help in directing me where to avoid certain pitfalls. Thanks to everyone who has replied, and will reply in the future. I'm sure most of it will remain relevent to the second edition of Geist, once it's released.

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                  • #10
                    Happy to help. I really love Geist.


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                    [Geist: Balance of Shadows ][ Vampire: The Conspiracy of Hrad Černá Hora ][ Scion: Bohemian Front][Changeling: Malibu Dream House] [Demon: Night Train Detective Agency] [WoD: The Golden Eagle]

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Baroness Nerak View Post

                      The High Armor from Shroud in 2e is not a problem, but can take you by surprise with it's reliable high numbers.

                      Could you expand on this? How do you handle it? I found quite quickly that someone with the grave dirt shroud was basically invincible unless I started arbitrarily filling buildings with flood waters.

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                      • #12
                        So I have the issue of having my players not necessarily bringing their Geists into play much in the Chronicle. I have, as much as possible, brought in situations that would affect their Geists and would cause at least some sort of response from their Geists, however, my players are rather new and I think they forget the fact that they are playing as someone bound with a Geist. Any ideas how I can get them into this habit more inside a chronicle? Or is this something that comes with time? I offered, when we began, three methods to have the Geists interact, Storyteller controls them, Player Controls them, or ANOTHER Player Controls them. They chose themselves wanting to control their Geists.

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