Geist: The Sin Eaters
The psychology of the Sin-Eater is a complex subject. To most people, Sin-Eaters can seem delusional or even schizophrenic — except that they actually do talk to unseen entities. At first, the transition from a “normal” lifestyle to a supernatural one leaves the Sin-Eater with a weak, imperfect connection to the geist. With time and practice, the Sin-Eater and the geist forge a harmonious bond, or at least an uneasy conjunction that provides the Sin-Eater with a greater exposure to the geist’s ethereal energies. Exercising this connection allows the Sin-Eater to manipulate greater amounts of plasm, to surpass human limits, and to contain vast power. Psyche is a measure of the combined will of the Bound, the force of mortal determination and deathly purpose. It is the strength of the bond, as opposed to the balance of the bond (which is known as Synergy).
A Sin-Eater who’s just survived the changeover starts with a Psyche rating of 1. There’s no prior experience or training that can prepare a Sin-Eater to handle plasm or Manifestations, after all. Some Sin-Eaters have a natural knack for the business, and might have a slightly greater Psyche score; additional Psyche may be purchased during character creation at a cost of three Merit dots for one dot of Psyche. Entering play with a higher Psyche does require some amount of background justification, agreed upon by the player and Storyteller. Perhaps the Sin-Eater has actually been “in the know” for a while, or maybe the character’s geist had a particularly strong influence that jump-started the Sin-Eater’s command of plasm. Whatever the case, the character’s Psyche generally develops only through continued practice, exposure to the Underworld, and the work of resolving ghostly fetters. A Sin-Eater with a high Psyche score should have an appropriately developed history to explain the prior experiences that led to the character’s improved command of plasm. Psyche also grants some level of resistance to supernatural forces; the player may add her Psyche rating to die rolls made to resist a supernatural power such as a Manifestation, if the power allows for a contested roll.(In the case of powers of other supernatural beings, Psyche is the equivalent of Blood Potency, Primal Urge, and other such traits.)
A refined Psyche is not without its dangers, though. As a Sin-Eater becomes more attuned to her geist and to the Underworld, her connection makes her more sensitive to the necrotic energies of the dead. This means that the Sin-Eater must regularly find ways to keep that connection strong, whether by dispatching ghosts to their final rewards, devouring them, or spending significant amounts of time within the Underworld itself. The connection works both ways — a Sin-Eater with a powerful Psyche becomes so attuned to the Underworld that she requires anchors to connect her to the living world. Interfering with these anchors can have a deleterious effect on the Sin-Eater, just like disturbing a ghost’s fetter.
As a Sin-Eater practices the use of plasm and studies Manifestations, her connection to her geist strengthens. Even if the two parties are not in accord — that is, the Sin-Eater has a low Synergy (see p. 83) — exercising the powers of death provides a Sin-Eater with greater finesse and control. Eventually the Sin-Eater experiences an epiphany, which leads to significant improvement in commanding the intangible world. Some Sin-Eaters, afraid of their new powers or inclined to think of their abilities as inherently wicked, avoid further development. Most Sin-Eaters, though, improve their Psyche rapidly, with only a few months (or even weeks) of practice at first. A Sin-Eater’s Psyche usually plateaus after a few years, when the business of laying ghosts to rest becomes second nature and the Sin-Eater has a solid understanding of Manifestations.
Those who continue to push their limits, who make frequent forays into the dangerous Underworld, and who seek the advice of other ghosts and spiritual entities may break through the limits of their former humanity and improve their Psyches further, but the tremendous effort involved (not to mention the risks associated with such activities) means that Sin-Eaters of such a level of skill are rare. Fully half of all Sin-Eaters will never push their Psyche to the point of losing their ties to the physical world. In rare cases, a Sin-Eater’s Psyche may degrade. This can happen due to an attack, a supernatural injury to the geist, or even due to necessary neglect on the part of the Sin-Eater. In such a case, the Sin-Eater bleeds off plasm and loses any enhanced traits that exceed the limits imposed by the character’s lowered Psyche score. If the Sin-Eater later improves in Psyche once more, regaining the lost levels of traits requires the expenditure of additional experience points; traits lost to degeneration of Psyche are gone, not simply suppressed, and must be re-learned.