Geist: The Sin Eaters
What are Thresholds?
As recognized by the Bound, Thresholds are states of deathly resonance. They’re the marks put on someone or something by Death. Death by violence, for instance, carries a supernatural tie to — and affinity for — violence.
The Sin-Eaters are generally aware of Thresholds, and treat the concept fairly seriously. While they don’t tend to elevate a Threshold to the status of a social group or belief system, it is true that most people who die by deprivation seem to have some things in common. As such, the Bound tend to take the marks of death and expand them into heraldry. The Torn self-identify as such because it gets the point across: they understand violence, and they accept that part of their nature. The Forgotten talk more about chance and accidents, because they have something of an investment in the concept. In the end, a Threshold means something to every Sin-Eater — but just how much it means is up to the person in question.
The Thresholds are intentionally broad, and some deaths could come under more than one Threshold. Does the Sin-Eater who died of poison from a snake bite or from an infestation of worms count as one of the Prey or one of the Stricken? If a Sin-Eater was struck by lightning while answering his phone, is he one of the Prey or one of the Forgotten? If someone suffocates because of a carbon monoxide leak, do they come back as Stricken (because he was poisoned), Silent (because he suffocated) or Forgotten (because he was just plain unlucky)? Does someone who slipped on a banana peel and fell into a river and drowned come back as one of the Forgotten or one of the Prey?
How to choose? In the end, while the Threshold gives some idea of how a Sin-Eater died that first time, the player is free to choose just what circumstance had the strongest claim over her character. One Sin-Eater killed herself with a bullet to the head after a bout of clinical depression and came back as Torn — the brutality of her death overshadowed the misery of her depression. Another kills himself in the same circumstances and comes back as Stricken — the act of violence was merely the punctuation mark on the long death of the soul that claimed him. A third jumps off a bridge and drowns, and he could be Torn, Stricken, or Prey. It’s left to the player to choose which Threshold resonates the most, and why.
About The Forgotten
Quote: “Lucky I came along, really.”
The Lightning-Struck, Victims of Misfortune, Marked by Fate’s Injustice, Chosen of the Gray Horseman.
Keys: Industrial or Pyre-Flame
She comes back, in a sudden jerk, to terror-struck wakefulness, as if leaving a nightmare. For what seems like an eternity, she lies there, feeling the thing sitting on her chest. She’s felt this before, the classic hypnagogic nightmare, only this time the thing sitting on her is real, and it wants in. Even after she’s joined with the thing and can move again, she can’t believe her senses. She did not die. It did not happen.
But it did. She died so suddenly, so abruptly, she didn’t even realize it happened. She died in such a strange and unlikely fashion that she could only attract something terrible to her, and could only come back as one of the Forgotten, the Victims of Mischance.
Of all the deaths that the Sin-Eaters have experienced, the death of a Forgotten One is the strangest, and it seems to be these unusual deaths that attract their geists.
It might have been flying debris. As a man stands in his backyard, a chunk of ice flushed from a jet liner’s toilet falls out of the air and lands on him, killing him instantly. Before the ice has even melted, before anyone notices that anything is wrong, the monster comes for him and remakes him. Or he’s nearly a quarter of a mile from the attack site, but when the terrorists blow up the building, the single one-pound lump of debris that flies further than anything else hits him square between the eyes and goes two inches into his brain.
Or a car runs into a fire hydrant while a man is walking past it. The hydrant flies into the air and lands on him, killing him instantly.
Her car is brand new, and she isn’t to know that the squirrel whose corpse even now lies jammed up inside the chassis gnawed through the brake cable. Or the traffic lights malfunction at the crossroads, and a green light should be red. Or her car hits a cow in the middle of the night, and the cow lands on the car and crushes her before dying itself. Or she’s scared of spiders, and sees one hanging from her rear view mirror — she tries to swat it and veers in front of a bus.
Or she eats the one and only badly prepared bowl of puffer fish soup at the Japanese restaurant, gets high and walks straight in front of a truck. Or a fishbone lodges in her throat. The man in London who doesn’t realize he’s just about to dig up the very last unexploded World War II bomb comes back with small white seams between the pieces the explosives blew away. Or he lives in New York and doesn’t realize the hand grenade he found in his late grandfather’s effects is still live.
A man takes his girlfriend up to the roof of a high building. While they’re in the throes of passion, a freak gust of wind causes them both to tumble 50 stories to the ground. The girl gets up and stumbles away, bones knitting, something whispering in her ear.
Some of the deaths seem ridiculous — but is death ever a laughing matter? It’s easy to laugh at the narcoleptic window cleaner who collapses into his own bucket and drowns, or the wine grower who bangs his head and falls into his wine vat, or the farmer who tries to get rid of rabbits by wiring up a high voltage cable and electrocutes himself, but each time someone died, and each time, something terrible took its chance.
An old woman yells after the man who stole her bag, I hope you die! The petty thief gets fifty paces and drops dead of a heart attack. He comes to himself in the ambulance. Something sits beside him, waits patiently for him to awaken.
A cattle farmer gets out of his tractor to check the front of the machine. His dog jumps up into the cab and accidentally hits the forward button, crushing the farmer against the wall.
A man at a beach party comes out of a swimming pool and heads for the karaoke, still dripping wet. The moment he takes the mic, he electrocutes himself.
Every death is unique, and the only thing in common seems to be plain bad luck.
But to the Sin-Eater, saddled now with a hideous ghostly companion, bad luck isn’t a simple thing. It’s the mark of Fate. Only a couple of years ago, an American Forgotten named Averil Drake had a vision of a fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: the Gray Horseman, the Bearer of the Gun, the Thrower of the Dice. She told the trusted few friends she had. Within a few weeks, one of them had posted it on a blog. Within a month, it passed around the Internet, and a large proportion of English-speaking Sin-Eaters, many of whom had never heard of Averil Drake, began to talk about the Thrower of the Dice as if they had seen him, as if they knew him. The Sin-Eaters who consumed the story wholesale started suggesting that he was real, and some of them used the swift spread of the story as evidence. He became something slightly more than a myth.
Is there really a Thrower of the Dice? A few Sin-Eaters have gone looking for him — or her — or it — in the Underworld. The ones who got back haven’t found him. But even the ones who didn’t find the Gray Horseman come back changed, more able to understand. They seem to think they found the Thrower of the Dice in another sense. They point at this simple fact: the Forgotten, unlike the other Sin-Eaters — the Torn who face violence, the Silent who endure, the Stricken who conquer, and the Prey who understand — don’t seem to have any real compulsion to find the restless dead or explore the world they’re in. And yet, no matter where the Lightning-Struck go, no matter how much they might try to hide or escape, their world finds them. The ghosts and the monsters and the craziness turn up wherever a Forgotten One goes.
In his dreams, a Forgotten One imagines himself at a table in an infinite casino, sometimes playing blackjack, sometimes playing roulette. The croupier wears a gray cloak, and the Sin-Eater cannot see his face. Everything that happens now is down to luck.
Marks And Signs
The Forgotten can look like anyone. Recognizing the role of chance in their new lives, the Forgotten do sometimes affect the paraphernalia of chance or fate, the goods of the fortune teller or the gambler: a pair of cufflinks or ear rings that look like dice, or a pendant in the form of a “make your mind up” coin, or a shirt with an ace of spades printed on it. Some Forgotten carry dice, packs of playing cards, or Tarot packs. Tattoos of Tarot arcana (particularly the Wheel, the Tower, and the Fool) or I-Ching hexagrams are commonplace.
Some make use of cheap fortune-telling books. Some roll dice to see where they go next. As if by accident, the Forgotten ends up looking like a clown or a saint or a tramp or a preacher or a sadhu or a Bodhisattva or several of those things at once. Most of them wear something gray.
Of all the Sin-Eaters, except maybe for the Prey, the Forgotten have the least homogeneity. Lady Luck really doesn’t seem to care whom she scorns: anyone at all can be Forgotten. Forgotten Sin-Eaters don’t favor any one category of Attributes or Skills, although many have higher than average scores in Wits, Resolve, and/or Composure.
Temperance is a slightly more common Virtue than the others among the Lightning-Struck; Envy is likewise more common than the other Vices.
A Forgotten has a wild card relationship with his geist. Sometimes he works together with the creature. Sometimes he fights it tooth and nail. He never knows where he is with it.
A woman slipped while getting into the bath and knocked herself out; she drowned without regaining consciousness, until the geist brought her back. The geist, an emaciated man with no eyes and a mouth that sometimes gapes wide enough to swallow a grown man whole, always seems to lead the Sin-Eater into the jaws of new perils, no matter where she wants to go.
The man whose brakes fail wakes up wrapped in a moaning, jangling creature like a bed sheet made of bloodied chains.
Another man, who died when lightning struck his mobile phone, has the eternal company of a woman wrapped tightly in barbed wire who bleeds forever and sings rather than speaking.
A bloated black thing with no hands, no face, and no feet follows the man who died when volcanic air charred his lungs. It terrifies him, but not as much as his companion’s geist, a monster so awful to look at that no one can remember what it looks like, only feel the cold terror.
Another Forgotten, a narcoleptic who fell asleep while driving, finds himself wrapped coldly in a thing made wholly of keys and string.
Meanwhile, the man crushed by the fire hydrant keeps seeing a multiple-headed devil-like beast. His wife leaves him; he can’t keep from shivering in their marriage bed, and he becomes obsessive about the ghosts that haunt him. She gets a divorce.
A terrible flame-haired angel pursues the electrocuted farmer, while the woman who ate the dodgy fish in the Japanese restaurant has to contend with the rigid-limbed girl in the bloody once-white shift dress, whose lank black hair obscures her face.
It’s like everything appears at once, a kind of visual collage. The mish-mash of elements flashes before the Sin-Eater just a few at a time; the scene of death plays out behind her mind’s eye, both for the people to whom she owes money and the people for whom she is selling books. It’s most distracting.
Accident-prone everyman, card shark, collector of occult literature, funeral parlor director, faithless priest, eternally-lost traveler, next best thing to a traveling angel, Jonah.
The Prey: What is the point of seeing all that stuff when you don’t do anything to get us out of the predicament we’re in?
The Silent: How can you be so calm?
The Stricken: *You’re running before you can walk.
*The Torn: Fight it. Keep it up. Give in and the world has no time for you.
Vampires: And you thought I was unlucky.
Werewolves: You’re the worst kind of luck. Keep away.
Mages: How about bringing some of that good fortune over here, sweetheart?
Mortals: Don’t risk it. It’s a mug’s game, man.