Geist: The Sin Eaters
Nobody comes back from beyond the veil of death unchanged. While a geist helps to bring a Sin-Eater back, the real change is in how he reacts to spending time dead. One Christian krewe revolves around the idea that the only way to be born again in Christ is to die first. Most aren’t that direct, but everyone notices some change. The direction that change takes is illustrated by a character’s Archetype.
Each Sin-Eater has an Archetype. In much the same way as a Virtue or a Vice, her Archetype isn’t meant to exclude behavior. Every Sin-Eater experiences moments where she throws herself anew into life, but only characters that focus on that aspect should take the Celebrant archetype.
Archetypes tap into a layer of myth and folklore surrounding death and those who walk close to it. A character can tap into that archetypal role to draw power from the Underworld, refreshing her plasm. She has to remain connected to her human side when channeling plasm, reaffirming her status as a bridge between the living and the dead. In game terms, that means the character has to channel her Archetype through her Virtue or Vice.
When the Storyteller judges that a character’s actions during a scene reinforce his Vice, and are particularly appropriate for his Archetype, the character regains one point of spent plasm in addition to the point of Willpower. If the Storyteller judges that his actions during a chapter reflect both his Virtue and his Archetype, he regains all spent points of both plasm and Willpower. These plasm rewards modify the normal rewards for Virtue and Vice when a character’s acting true to his Archetype; he can’t regain Willpower from his Vice once during a scene, then regain Willpower and plasm later during the same scene.
Normally, plasm flows through an Archetype into a Sin-Eater, for her to use as she likes. Rarely, she can act as a conduit for plasm rather than a receptacle. By involving her geist in her Archetype directly, the plasm pours into her geist. When she uses a Manifestation in an appropriate fashion for her Archetype, that Manifestation costs no plasm to activate, though secondary effects (such as the Attribute-boosts of the Primeval Shroud) still cost plasm as normal. She can do this once per story and the Storyteller must agree that her actions follow her Archetype — though he should always err on the side of the player.
No Sin-Eater is meant to act as a conduit for plasm. It takes its toll, fuzzing her thoughts and slowing her reflexes. Her next failed roll during the scene is treated as a dramatic failure, no matter how many dice were rolled.
Nobody comes back from the dead without owing something — especially a Sin-Eater. She’s the ambassador for the underworld among the living. She can’t dodge that responsibility; she can see the dead, she can speak with the dead, and she owes the dead. After all, she’s still alive. Those ghosts she meets in the living world are trapped by their own desires; the woman looking for her stolen locket is just as important as the cop who needs to avenge his murder.
Not every Advocate believes that she has an obligation to the dead. Many help resolve the unfinished business of ghosts because they want to. After all, if he does right by the dead then a Sin-Eater can earn the respect of other shades, and makes his life easier in lots of little ways. If a ghost has heard of him, he stands a better chance of getting her to help him, and when it comes to helping her pass on, he won’t have to work quite so hard to learn her secrets. Not everyone believes in paying it forwards, and some shades will search out an Advocate with an eye to forcing him to help them move on. While this is normally just inconvenient — waking him when the Sin-Eater is trying to sleep, or disturbing him in a stakeout — sometimes, selfish ghosts can be deadly. One Sin-Eater was distracted by a ghost who needed to tell her son that she didn’t really love him, but she picked exactly the wrong moment: right as a couple of muggers jumped the Advocate. Thanks to the ghost’s intervention, he nearly died.
Of all the members of a krewe, it’s the Advocates who have the best relations with the dead simply because they focus on the needs and wants of each ghost they meet. Whether she’s driven to serve the dead or can relate to shades better than those who are still alive, she’s likely to know what to say to every ghost with which she deals -and she knows when to talk and when to take a more direct approach. That comes with a price; sometimes, an Advocate will miss social cues that most people, including most Sin-Eaters, would pick up on. At its extreme, an Advocate begins to see everything in terms of their relationships and anchors. People are nothing more than a collection of the relationships and emotional triggers, objects worth no more than what they mean to their owners. A car is just a lump of metal until someone drives it and loves it – or kills in it. A gun isn’t anything until it’s fired to kill someone or to save someone. Advocates need to remember that objects exist (and can be very useful) even when someone doesn’t care for them.
A few Advocates go one step further, believing that the dead matter more than the living. Despite his bonding with a geist, a Sin-Eater is mostly human, but as he does the work of the dead he can come to view himself as little more than their tool in the living world. He has wants and needs, and if he ignores them to do the work of the dead, he’s not really living. Every Advocate needs to remember that he’s still alive and that he can go out and feel the wind in his hair and the sun on his face; a chance he wouldn’t have had without his geist. That new lease on life can’t be totally spent on the work of the dead.
Most Advocates blend the work of the dead and the joys of life. A ghost who wants to dance one last time will find an Advocate a willing partner. Hell, she’ll find that ghost a person to possess and steal or fake invitations to the best of black-tie events just to dance. On the other hand, a Sin-Eater who wants to sever a Necromancer’s link to the Underworld will feel better if she can find a ghost who benefits it. Though it takes more work, having an extra reason for doing what her krewe would have her do anyway makes an Advocate feel better. The combination of personal vocation and the chance to discharge an obligation to the dead is a powerful drive.
Virtue Channel: A Faithful Advocate helps to resolve a ghost’s issues, secure in the knowledge that the shade will go on to a better place. A Fortitudinous Advocate does whatever he can to help the dead, even if it pushes him to his limits. A Just Advocate only assists those shades who he deems worthy of help, using his position as a Sin-Eater to reward and punish. A Prudent Advocate helps the dead without regard for reward, ever mindful of the risks he takes.
Vice Channel: An Envious Advocate will destroy a rival’s relationships and prized possessions to help a ghost. A Greedy Advocate barters help in exchange for a ghost, helping him gain material wealth. A Prideful Advocate will force a ghost to do everything he wants in exchange for helping it pass on. A Wrathful Advocate will lash out at a ghost’s anchors, destroying them even if that won’t help the ghost.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater unleashes the Pyre-Flame Rage, burning a dead cop’s assassin until he’s no more than a pile of ash and a whole lot of smoke. Desperate to retrieve a necklace from a woman so that it can be buried with a ghost’s body, a Sin-Eater calls on the Silent Caul to steal it from its current owner without ever being noticed.
Some Sin-Eaters live every day as if it’s their last. They’re fools. The whole point of dying and coming back is to get another chance at life, another set of years to live. Unlike people who believe in reincarnation, Bonepickers carry on where they left off, out to make their new lives as comfortable as possible. After all, shouldn’t people reward the untouchable man or wise woman who solves their problems with the dead? And what of those old ghosts who left hidden treasure? To a Bonepicker, they’re birthday and Christmas on the same day.
Being comfortable doesn’t mean being lazy. A Bonepicker might believe that a man is entitled to profit from the sweat of his brow, so a Sin-Eater is entitled to the benefits of the sweat of his geist. In that case, it makes a lot of sense for him to put a lot of effort into dealing with both the dead and the living, because that’s what gives him the right to his rewards. Sure, everyone wants a Ferrari, but who deserves it more? An investment banker, or the Sin-Eater who freed that banker’s daughter from ghostly possession, and who took the “haunted” supercar as his only reward? A few Bonepickers don’t see anything unethical in that, even if they’re the ones who encouraged a ghost to hang around the Ferrari — and maybe even encouraged a specter to spend a day in a young girl’s body.
A Bonepicker doesn’t necessarily focus on getting a reward for her work, though that’s a very common way to look at things. She just wants a comfortable life: a place to live that suits her lifestyle, stylish transport, easy access to good food, and stylish clothes. In the end, she just wants what she’s always thought she deserved. Sure, getting there isn’t the end of wanting things — but she shouldn’t spend her new lease on life striving for mediocrity. She’s been dead, and the fact that she’s not any more means the universe must like her. Whether she begs, borrows, or steals what she wants, she’s getting her comfortable life, and soon.
Among Sin-Eaters, it’s the Bonepickers who come prepared with whatever mundane items a krewe requires. While she might not be able to get a specific 16th Century Russian icon, she can provide tools, equipment, and a safe place to crash — as long as she gets paid in kind. Every Bonepicker has her limit, simply because if she gets into debt she’s not comfortable, and if she does that on someone else’s behalf she’s can’t see any real reward. Some selfless Bonepickers don’t particularly mind, while a few keep an internal record of who owes them what. A Sin-Eater who does that mistakes the trappings of life for life itself Collecting houses, cars, or just plain for the sake of having them makes the Sin-Eater a slave to avarice. He never gives himself a chance to actually live because he’s spending so much time making sure that he has everything he thinks makes a life. Others get what they want and never strive again. Why should a Bonepicker help a dangerous poltergeist move on? He’s got a life to live, sensations to experience, and all the rewards of a life well-lived to return to.
Each Bonepicker has her own beliefs about how she should go about gathering her material resources. Some put their Manifestations to good use: If everyone who sleeps in the Trudeau house goes mad, then soon enough it’ll be on the market for a nice low price. Others are less subtle, calling upon the Caul and the Shroud to steal from people. Others don’t believe it’s fair to involve their geist in stealing from people when they’re quite capable of doing it themselves; sometimes, the challenge comes from getting away with a theft without using any of her new talents. Some arrange confidence tricks beforehand — while many exorcists are elaborate con men, only Sin-Eaters can use ghosts as accomplices. Some don’t believe in stealing what they need; as long as her krewe pays her back and she’s got time to herself when she can work a few side jobs, she has no need to steal. With the help of some low-level Manifestations, she can get to wherever she wants to be without really cheating — and collect everything she’s owed.
Virtue Channel: A Charitable Bonepicker wants to have all the resources she can at her fingertips in order to use them to help other people. A Hopeful Bonepicker wants a comfortable life, and increased security for her surroundings. A Just Bonepicker takes from those who have wronged society. A Temperate Bonepicker takes things that he needs (food, shelter, and transport) rather than just things he wants.
Vice Channel: An Envious Bonepicker doesn’t care what she takes as long as she’s taking it from one of her rivals. A Prideful Bonepicker steals the shirt he’s wanted all month when he has an opportunity, simply because he can. A Slothful Bonepicker cares about the things he has to the exclusion of going out and living life. A Wrathful Bonepicker steals a guy’s wallet in order to provoke a fight.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater manifests the Industrial Boneyard to control a car, proving to its owner that the car’s haunted and only the Sin-Eater can rid it of the ghost. Creeping through the HR department, a Bonepicker manifests the Silent Caul to become a living shadow, able to access her company’s personnel records to give herself that raise she’s wanted.
Knowing with absolute certainty that you’re going to die is a powerful motivation to go out and live. Celebrants believe life’s there to be enjoyed, and it’d be irresponsible to waste this new opportunity. Whether a Sin-Eater enjoys life through sex, drugs, or base jumping, one thing’s for certain: His life’s never boring. Time alive is a finite resource, so it’s up to a Celebrant to spend it as best he can. And if he can make other people’s lives more interesting, that’s just great.
For Celebrant Sin-Eaters, living’s the thing. Every day that doesn’t remind them that they’re alive is a day wasted. Activity and action are their bread and butter, whatever the source. One may get his jollies from flipping off three Kerberoi at the end of a thrilling chase through the Underworld, while another has a different man on her arm every night. One thing’s for sure: working nine-to-five in a gray office is as good as being dead already. While few Sin-Eaters can hold down a regular job, almost none of those who do are Celebrants.
Some Celebrants think that life is wasted on the living. Most people hit only a few high notes in their entire lives, spending the rest of their time wasting away in endless repetition. To that end, they think it’s only right to spread the joy. Showing someone that they’re going to die is a great way to affirm that person’s life — after all, it worked for the Sin-Eater, right? A few even stick around to see how their visitation plays out, trying to guide the luckless victim towards living his life while he still can. Thing is, nobody’s got a good way to predict how a particular person will react to visions of his own death. Even with a Celebrant’s coaching, few understand their ordeal well enough to share in the Sin-Eater’s joie de vivre.
The knowledge that he’s got a second chance at life is powerful enough to drive a Celebrant to push herself — and her geist — to the very limits of her capability. Throwing herself head-first into risky and dangerous situations soon gets her a reputation as a daredevil. The best Celebrants always manage to pull through, whether by escaping another death by the skin of her teeth, or pulling off dangerous escapes with only luck on her side. Thrill-seeking has its darker side; without some planning and forethought, a million-to-one chance won’t pay off. Many Celebrants therefore put a hell of a lot of effort into preparation, making them less likely to throw themselves into a random scheme on a whim. They’re valued assets to their krewes, simply because they’ve always got a plan — after all, you only get one shot at base jumping without a parachute. For all her planning, a Celebrant isn’t going to back down from a challenge just because it’s dangerous. Hell, most of the time she’s going to up the ante. Running from the cops is just more fun if they’re shooting at the getaway car, and conning some sap into buying the Hollywood sign for thirty million bucks is a damn sight more exciting than hustling pool or playing “find the lady.” Adrenaline isn’t the only proof of life. Some Celebrants indulge themselves in pleasures of the flesh — after all, they won’t have a chance to when death finally claims them. A few try to convince other people to take pleasure when and where they can, while others indulge only their own sybaritic lifestyles. These Celebrants live their life for binge drinking, drug overdoses, and wild orgies. After all, what better way to affirm life than to have a good time? As long as everyone involved consents, nothing’s wrong with it — though everything comes with a cost. A Celebrant who doesn’t think ahead may end up owing money to a lot of people. People who want to emulate her may ruin their lives in the process, losing jobs and savings in the pursuit of ecstasy. And then there’s the Celebrants who think that their pleasure comes before everything, even consent.
Virtue Channel: A Fortitudinous Celebrant tests the very limits of her stamina and endurance just to know that she’s alive. A Just Celebrant takes great personal risks in the course of doing what he knows is right. A Prudent Celebrant focuses on planning schemes rather than diving in headlong. A Temperate Celebrant recognizes that focusing too much on enjoying one facet of life is unbalanced, and applies himself to a range of situations.
Vice Channel: A Greedy Celebrant doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as his next indulgence is bigger and better than the last. A Prideful Celebrant focuses on making himself the center of attention — the best way to know you’re alive is for the whole world to remind you. A Slothful Celebrant focuses on short-term thrills rather than working towards a greater celebration of life. A Wrathful Celebrant never feels more alive than when he’s beating someone else to death.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater sets up a Passion Boneyard that makes those within feel a reckless joie de vivre in the middle of a dull office building. Chased through the Underworld by a pair of Kerberoi, a Sin-Eater calls upon the Silent Caul to become two-dimensional, avoiding their sharp senses.
Sin-Eaters come back from the very brink of death — often having been dead for minutes before a geist helps them back to their own bodies. That gives some a deeper insight into the life, death, and the distinct difference between the two states. Having been in both states, some take on the role of Gatekeeper, policing the boundary between the living and the dead. Young ghosts may try to live vicariously through the living, while others torment the living world just because they’re no longer part of it. Older ghosts have stranger motivations, having lost so much of their sense of self that few can understand why they try to kill anyone who spends a night in the Barker House. When the dead interfere with the living, a Gatekeeper has to make a stand.
Likewise, when living people interfere with the dead, Gatekeepers feel drawn to intervene. Some believe that Necromancers just encourage the dead, while others think any breach of the veil of death is an inherently bad thing. Exorcists, whether a church-sponsored conspiracy of ghost-hunters or just a loose group of people who know a couple of rites, tend to draw a Gatekeeper’s interest. Some support humans who enforce the barrier, while others believe that only Sin-Eaters should deal with unruly ghosts. After all, even the most learned exorcists can cause far more trouble than they solve. Mediums and Necromancers don’t cause the same division among Sin-Eaters; they provide a way for the dead to communicate with the living, or for the living to control the dead. That flaunts the barrier, and that’s something that Gatekeepers can’t stand.
Some Gatekeepers go one step further than just enforcing the barrier. A few believe that they are the barrier. Since melding with a geist, a Sin-Eater stands directly on the threshold, and is a guardian of the gate by her very nature. With one foot among the living and one in the Underworld, they’re born (or reborn) to deal with both mediums and poltergeists. Most don’t go that far in their estimation, instead content to play the Gatekeeper’s role out of pragmatism. Now able to see the dead and how much they try to influence the living world, these Sin-Eaters would rather strengthen the barrier between life and death to save both worlds from outside influence.
At her best, a Gatekeeper is an exorcist, showing up one day to deal with a ghost or poltergeist, then moving on to confront a medium who’s been helping the dead possess people. Some Gatekeepers don’t want ghosts to think that they’re entirely on the side of the living, and will help resolve whatever fetters a ghost to the world. Others couldn’t care less about the motivations of ghosts or Necromancers. Anyone trafficking in the dead is little better than a slaver, and a ghost who won’t move on needs smoking out — often with as much fire as the Sin-Eater can find. The easy way isn’t ideal; a dead medium will likely come back to haunt the Gatekeeper, while a ghost forced on with unresolved issues may plot her revenge in the Underworld. On the other hand, deep research and communion with one being at a time is far too slow to possibly make a difference.
At least as important as a Gatekeeper’s means are her priorities. A fanatical Sin-Eater may punish all ghosts equally, driving them to the Underworld just for inhabiting the same room as a child who can see the dead — and when he’s done with the ghost, he’ll turn his attention on the child, unleashing terrors to remind her never to deal with the dead. A cannier Gatekeeper focuses on those ghosts who torment humans, researching her targets and enforcing the separation between living and dead where that barrier’s needed most. A child who sees the dead is less of a threat than the dime-store Necromancer who binds ghosts to his will. Likewise, the Bloody Widow who castrates every man who sleeps in her bedroom deserves attention more than the victim of a drive-by shooting who just wants to see his family for one last time. While the Gatekeeper wouldn’t think of helping the father’s ghost, she probably wouldn’t get in the way until he turned nasty.
Virtue Channel: A Faithful Gatekeeper enforces the barrier between life and death so that ghosts can go on to their final reward. A Fortitudinous Gatekeeper exorcises ghosts even when they try to convince him to let them remain. A Just Gatekeeper knows that it’s only right that the dead and the living remain apart, and enforces that at all costs. A Prudent Gatekeeper knows that she can’t stop every ghost and medium, so picks her targets wisely to do the most good.
Vice Channel: An Envious Gatekeeper terrorizes mediums because they can see their dead loved ones, while his are nowhere to be found. A Gluttonous Gatekeeper banishes those ghosts who would have him help them, in order to indulge his passions. A Lustful Gatekeeper gets off on the power and authority of enforcing the barrier. A Slothful Gatekeeper solves every problem the easy way — often with violence.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater calls on the Tear-Stained Rage to clog a medium’s lungs with water before he can command a bound ghost to terrorize a school. Protecting a child from his vengeful father’s spirit, the Gatekeeper calls on the Stigmata Boneyard to bar the ghost from the house.
Death is just the beginning. That’s the key that most people don’t realize. If it were the end, then why have the Underworld? Some Sin-Eaters might think that ghosts are merely the memories and echoes of people who lived, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Life after death is just a different kind of life — a new way of encountering the world, where the fetters of emotion and importance become explicit rather than implicit. Consciousness remains, albeit altered by the lack of a physical form. But all death is really a change, not an ending. Sin-Eaters who recognize this first and foremost are known as Mourners. To one of these brave souls, her time among the living was forfeit when she died that first time.
A Mourner doesn’t owe the dead anything. She doesn’t have that particular kind of survivor’s guilt that calls her to help the dead simply because she’s no longer one of them. Rather, she feels more comfortable around people who have already undergone the change, relating to ghosts more intimately than she ever related to humans. She also feels kinship for those who have lost someone, though she can’t be said to share their loss. A widow has seen her husband die, while a Mourner has seen her old self die — not in some melancholy “death of the young” sense; she witnessed her own death, and quite possibly can’t get over that.
Some Mourners, often those who were prepared to die, believe that they are in fact dead. Despite her geist bringing her back from the brink, she honestly believes that she’s a dead shell, little more than a corpse animated by her own ghost. She holds on to a delusion that costs her dearly, for the rest of her krewe likely don’t believe her and other Sin-Eaters — especially Celebrants and Bonepickers — might try to forcibly re-educate her in the joys of a second lease at life. Dead or alive, in their view, she’s still present and thinking in the living world — a vital force. She can’t allow her self-image to get in the way.
Other Mourners have a different take on the interplay between life and death. The moment of death is the dragon before nirvana, the point of transition that instills ultimate fear. A Sin-Eater doesn’t flinch when crossing the barrier, but she’s got enough strength of will that a geist takes her back across the barrier. The only problem is, part of a Mourner never wanted to leave the Underworld. Being dead was so much simpler than being alive; everything made so much more sense. Coming back to the world of the living was a step backwards. To that end, she surrounds herself with the trappings of death to remind herself of what was snatched away from her.
A few Mourners go too far. After all, if existence as a ghost is such a wonderful change, then surely it makes sense that other people will thank the Sin-Eater for helping them past the barrier. As a Sin-Eater, she’s perfectly suited to help people past the veil of death. A few kill only those who have already had a full life and who actually want to die; they assist with suicide and make the dying comfortable. Others actively kill the people they love, giving them the blessing of death. A Mourner who takes this path has to be careful—being a Sin-Eater means nothing to mundane authorities, and even other Sin-Eaters will take umbrage at one of their own presuming to know when a person is fated to die. After all, death may be a transition, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.
Many still believe that killing is wrong. The role of a Mourner is to embrace death in life, to show how the end of life isn’t the end of existence. A Sin-Eater can do that without resorting to a knife and a gun. Often, simply living as an example for the rest of the world is enough. She can show through her life that death, while something to mourn, isn’t the end.
Virtue Channel: A Fortitudinous Mourner focuses on the value of death even when the world shows the ugly side of death — even it when it’s her friends and family who die. A Hopeful Mourner helps those around him come to terms with the duality of death and life, accepting whatever happens. A Prudent Mourner must resist the temptation to treat death as the end of life — that only comes when a ghost resolves its anchors and moves on. A Temperate Mourner uses the passions of the bereaved as a useful counterpoint to the highs and lows of the living world.
Vice Channel: An Envious Mourner would rather take the benefits of the dead for herself than face her living rivals. A Gluttonous Mourner indulges herself in the passions of the dead rather than facing the world of the living. A Lustful Mourner indulges her passion for the dead at the expense of other ghosts. A Slothful Mourner gains emotional contact through going to support groups for the bereaved rather than focusing on the living people around her.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Mourner dons the Phantasmal Caul to remind a mugger of his own mortality by warping his flesh into a nightmarish form. Faced with a man who fears death because he has too much to live for, a Sin-Eater unleashes the Cold Wind Curse to remind his target that the world can be a soul-crushing place.
A ghost is more than the echo of a person who was once alive. Not only do the dead carry on existing, some of them learn. Some ghosts go on to discover terrible secrets buried in the Lower Mysteries and strange revelations about the state of life after death. Some Necromancers discovered just a taste of that occult lore when they died, and returning with a geist just makes them hungry for more. Others realize that they barely know anything about what happens after death, and hunger for secrets that can help them prepare their loved ones for their eventual death. A Necromancer’s family may think him morbid, but he’s not really thinking about death; he’s concentrating on what comes after.
Other Necromancers seek out the knowledge of the dead. After all, though a man takes what he knows to his grave, death’s not the end for a Sin-Eater. A Necromancer investigating a murder will do his best to track down the victim to learn what happened — and one hunting down some esoteric knowledge thinks nothing of tracking a ghost to the Autochthonous Depths if it knew something in life that the Sin-Eater would find helpful. Everything ever known exists in the thoughts and memory of a ghost somewhere. The real problem for some Necromancers is that, when a ghost moves on, everything he ever knew is lost to the world. A few go so far as to kidnap knowledgeable ghosts — with or without their krewe’s knowledge — simply to make sure that they don’t lose access to storehouses of information. Of course, some ghosts simply degenerate after spending so long dead, especially those without anchors remaining in the material world. That’s just as bad as moving on; an animalistic ghost can’t communicate what it knows even if it still knows anything.
Within a krewe, Necromancers are the ones who either have an answer or who know where to find one. Information and intelligence are what matters. Often, a Necromancer’s the one who knows (or discovers) the Old Laws of whichever Lower Mystery her krewe find themselves in, or about the Dominion’s Kerberos. A few go so far as to collect the lore of Sin-Eaters as well as ghosts, building up Books of the Dead that document specific locations in the Underworld. A canny Necromancer might even know a way to outsmart a specific Kerberos, though such secrets aren’t exactly easy to uncover.
It’s easy for a Necromancer to go too far. Some throw themselves into the lore of the dead. A Necromancer might find herself questioning ghosts about local events even when she’d be better served
- and get a less biased account- if she just spent a couple of hours in the local library. Others leave themselves open to manipulation by all manner of shades in exchange for secrets and knowledge. It’s easy for a Necromancer to push against that order, especially if he sees a member of his own krewe turned into a pawn for specters. He uses his position as a Sin-Eater and Manifestations of his geist to enforce his authority over ghosts, keeping them captive and forcing them to answer his questions. While it’s easy to play the tyrant, a Sin-Eater who does risks falling into a different trap—in many ways, a ghost cannot truly know anything that it knew in life, it can only remember things. Relying on the memories of long-dead shades can be a dangerous thing.
A few Necromancers, those who focus on the occult secrets hidden in the Underworld, don’t rely on ghosts at all. Delving for secrets among the Lower Mysteries, each Necromancer has to look after himself. Shades hold few secrets that a determined Sin-Eater can’t unveil through other means. On the other hand, ghosts can be very useful — especially if the Sin-Eater can press them into service as distractions for the Kerberoi. In exchange for their assistance, a Necromancer can find all manner of secrets that can benefit his krewe — and himself.
Virtue Channel: A Charitable Necromancer seeks the secrets of the dead to answer the questions of the living. A Faithful Necromancer searches for meaning and chaos by querying the knowledge of the dead. A Just Necromancer balances the needs of the dead with the needs of the living. A Prudent Necromancer ignores shades who offer him untold luxuries, preferring to press on into their Dominion to unearth its secrets.
Vice Channel: An Envious Necromancer pries deepest for knowledge when it might offer some advantage over his rivals. A Gluttonous Necromancer uses the knowledge he gleans from the dead in pursuit of excess. A Slothful Necromancer interrogates ghosts for answers rather than doing his own research. A Wrathful Necromancer beats secrets out of ghosts rather than bargaining with them.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Necromancer unleashes the Stigmatic Boneyard to bind a ghost into his home, preventing it from leaving until he’s learned all he can. A canny Necromancer, faced with a ghost who refuses to disclose its secrets, dons the Stigmatic Shroud in order to take out his frustrations.
For some people, dying is a fundamental change: a moment when everything they’ve done in life is taken apart and shown to be pointless. In that one moment, all ties to the living world become meaningless and emotions are revealed as tethers — things that hold the dead back from going on to their just reward. A Sin-Eater is unique because he knows all this without truly dying. The geist that rescues him also gives him another chance to get things right, and beyond that, the chance to help others get things right. After all, for all that they’re everywhere, ghosts are the ones who have got things wrong. If a soul dies without fetters to the living world and no need to complete one last task, then it likely won’t come back as a ghost. Most Sin-Eaters believe that’s because the person’s spirit skips the Underworld entirely — a soul at peace has no need for a place where ghosts must shed the detritus of memory and emotion before moving on. Admittedly, many Sin-Eaters still believe that someone who has lived a bad life will pay the price. Those who follow the Pilgrim’s path try to live a life that will lead them to a reward, and they encourage those they help to do the same.
Sin-Eaters who focus on the spiritual nature of death and help people avoid the Underworld are known as Pilgrims. Though each one is certain he’s helping people avoid an eternity of bitterness and regret in the Underworld, the people they help don’t necessarily see it that way. After all, if he doesn’t explain what he’s doing, then the Sin-Eater’s actions can appear random, or even hostile. Even if they do offer an explanation, some Pilgrims believe that helping people to shed life’s fetters doesn’t require their consent. After all, nobody can really know what it’s like after death, so they can’t make an informed choice about whether they really want to suffer such an existence. Whether he takes a recent widow out for a night of passion to help her forget her husband, or steals and destroys a family’s prized car to stop both father and son fixating on it as they repair it, he’ll help sever their emotional ties, whether they like it or not.
If he just destroys what people find meaningful, a Pilgrim won’t find many willing to accept his help; most are grounded in the real world enough that they don’t want to risk the intervention of law enforcement. Most Pilgrims have to go one step further, subtly focusing not on the object but the connection. While it’s harder to release people from the accumulated detritus of life without destroying things, a Pilgrim has to learn to do so— unless he plans on murdering anyone cherished by those he’s helping. A man searching for his estranged son may forge a stronger bond if his son dies, but if the Sin-Eater convinces him to give up on the boy and ignore attempts to make contact, then time and distance can erode the bonds. Conversely, convincing the man to have another child is a good way to redirect the emotions directed at his existing child. It takes time to grow close enough to someone that a Pilgrim can know what will work best to unchain him from the world, but most Sin-Eaters believe it’s entirely worth it.
Far more important to most Pilgrims than the eventual destinies of other people is the state of their own souls. “Physician, heal thyself,” is a motto that many Pilgrims aspire to. To that end, a Pilgrim has to shed the bad karma he’s accrued during his prior life. Fortunately, he’s got a step up on most people, having seen what tied him to the world. Armed with that knowledge, he can work on weakening the things that tie him down. Most Pilgrims focus on those things in the living world, things from before their first death. A few go further than that, living apart from other Sin-Eaters and refusing to join a krewe in an effort to avoid becoming too attached to anyone.
Virtue Channel: A Faithful Pilgrim is the most ardent in her cause, rejecting the lure of the material as a distraction from the spiritual. A Fortitudinous Pilgrim will go through hell and high water to help someone avoid the Underworld. A Hopeful Pilgrim refuses to let others give in, focusing on helping people after death by helping them in life. A Just Pilgrim understands that justice can reach beyond the grave, and only helps those who he deems worthy.
Vice Channel: A Greedy Pilgrim tries to help people get over prized possessions by stealing those things away. A Lustful Pilgrim breaks a person’s emotional connections by using them for his own ends. A Prideful Pilgrim seeks his own enlightenment at the expense of others. A Wrathful Pilgrim helps people to sever their emotional ties by destroying the things — and people — they care about.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater dons the Passion Caul, bonding with his geist in order to better understand what ties a person to the living world. Desperate to remove his ties to her husband’s pocket-watch, a Pilgrim calls on the Industrial Rage and watches it crumble in her hands.
Not everyone believes that every human being has a right to life. Some people poison the world just by existing. Beyond redemption in this life, it’s up to someone who’s seen the other side to offer them another chance in the afterlife. Reapers do what they can to make the world a better place, bringing death to those who don’t deserve to live any more.
The really hard part for a Sin-Eater who would be a Reaper comes from understanding that death isn’t the easy answer, and knowing where to draw the line. The guy moving drugs in the Lower East Side makes people miserable with every single breath, that’s hard to question — though if the Sin-Eater’s brother is breaking legs for him to pay their mother’s medical bills, the situation’s not quite so clean-cut. Other people piss off a Reaper, but don’t deserve death; cutting her off in traffic isn’t worth a bullet to the back of the head (at least most of the time).
Every Reaper kills, but some prefer murder to be a last resort — especially if they can justify the killing as a sacrifice to make the world better. Those Sin-Eaters try to get their targets to change their ways through direct manipulation. A rare few can spend the time to get to know a person and work change from within, but most prefer to haunt their target until he changes his ways. While bleeding walls and terrible shrieks may not convince a slum landlord to change his ways, they’re just the warning shots in a Reaper’s arsenal. Rotting flesh and atrophied limbs sit alongside psychological torture and curses in a Sin-Eater’s repertoire, and a good Reaper can use them to convince people to change before she resorts to killing.
At her best, a Reaper goes out of her way to find ways to improve things. She may spend months doing research, or just a couple of hours, but she finds people who make the world worse and she kills them. In the end, that’s what she’s brought back with her: A need to make life better for people as a whole. The most direct way to do that is by killing those lynchpins of hate. Unfortunately, nothing’s ever quite that easy. Her actions have repercussions: kill one gang boss and three others fight to take his place. Each is just as bad as their predecessor, and while they vie for power, the people who live on their turf suffer. Often a Reaper has to attend to a situation after the sacrifice, haunting and scaring people until they do something with the opportunity she’s handed them. Even then, she has to be careful who she tells about her mission. While her intentions may be good, she’s got to be ready to show some real benefit to stave off claims that she’s just a trigger-happy vigilante.
A Reaper doesn’t have to care about what’s better for the world. Driven solely by her own sense of what’s right and just — often tainted by a need for revenge — she terrorizes and kills everyone who crosses her path. An outsider who doesn’t understand the Sin-Eater sees her as little more than a terrifying killer, or a spirit of bloody murder. To the Reaper, everything makes perfect sense. Someone trying to mug her is in just as much danger as the father of a serial killer. Her twisted sense of justice drives her to torture and kill people who wrong her in any way, as long as she can justify her actions.
Most Reapers fall somewhere between these two extremes. The ideal of the kindly angel of death who acts only to make the world a better place has a certain romance, but everyone’s human. While a Reaper won’t necessarily kill people just because they get on her bad side, the desire for petty vengeance is only human; making a guy’s walls bleed may make him think again about being a jackass.
Virtue Channel: A Charitable Reaper is guided by her compassion to make other people’s lives better with her sacrifices. A Faithful Reaper makes sure her victims’ deaths serve a higher purpose. A Hopeful Reaper engineers her sacrifices to strengthen others’ belief in a better world. A Temperate Reaper weighs the advantages and disadvantages of every killing, never letting her heart rule her head.
Vice Channel: An Envious Reaper focuses on personal rivals rather than real evils. A Lustful Reaper takes advantage of her victims before ending their lives. A Prideful Reaper makes sure that her victim goes to his grave knowing just how she out-thought or out-fought him. A Slothful Reaper strikes against a target without bothering to do any research.
Archetypal Manifestation: A Sin-Eater calls on the biting winds and freezing rain of the Cold Wind Boneyard to cripple a serial killer who has stalked his neighborhood, before moving in for the kill. Faced with the man who ruined his family’s reputation, a Sin-Eater sends the carrion-birds of the Primeval Rage to reclaim his honor.