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"Balancing" Beastmen: Adding flavor and depth through natural consequences

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  • "Balancing" Beastmen: Adding flavor and depth through natural consequences

    Time and time again I see posts and arguments that paint beastmen as being just plain better that than your vanilla homo sapiens. I myself have never really seen the value of such arguments, though I will admit that it does have merit from a purely mechanical perspective. After all, if you make some wolf-man raiders by adding the Fur and Claw mutations to the Brigand QC they're going to be superior fighters, since you just made them tougher and enhanced one of their attack options. What I am suggesting is that one looks past the realm of the purely mechanical and begin to apply the natural consequences of mixing human and animal biology.

    Now, humans have a lot of things that set us apart in the animal kingdom aside from our intelligence. There have been a lot of videos and articles on that subject all over the internet, so I'm not going to go into them in extreme detail here. But quite a few of the common beastmen concepts have traits that can have some fairly serious impacts when looked at in respect to that. The fur/scales mutation for example, interferes with the ability to effectively regulate body heat through sweating. While many animals with fur can sweat (e.g. horses), they do so much less effectively that humans, as the fur decreases the efficiency of sweat evaporation.

    If one goes with the quite common route of just has their beastmen be humans with animal heads, what have you changed? In addition to the often hand-waved issue of it being unlikely that most animal's mouths would be even capable of producing human speech, there's quite a few potential problems that you've possibly introduced. Many species, particularly herbivorous ones, have eyes on the sides of their head, increasing area of vision at the cost of the losing a vanilla human's binocular vision and the amazingly precise depth perception that comes with it.

    So what's the point of all this? In addition to solving the "problem" of "Why haven't beastmen out-competed baseline humans?", it gives an additional dimension to add flavor and depth to the cultures of beastmen throughout creation. I'm not advocating for strict adherence to scientific realism here, not at all. I'm not even arguing that they're should be some sort of mechanical penalties to the common mutations given to beastmen, though I personally take those consequences into account when stating beastman NPCs for my games. But adding in one or two of these little quirks to a beastman species can give players and STs a lot of room to create a unique character to NPCs and cultures. Say you have a culture of Cobramen, and you make two changes relevant to their cobra-ness; they're exothermic and obligate carnivores. How does this change their culture? Well, they're much less likely to get things done overnight and in the morning. but will be much more active in the afternoon and evening. They'll have a much smaller caloric need than a typical human, but they're going to need to get those calories from meat. That means they should have a disproportionate number of ranchers, hunters, and shepherds, with farmers (IF they have any at all) being focused solely on growing feed crops. It's also a fertile breeding ground for potential drama! What's your vegetarian immaculate monk going to do when traveling through a nation that is, by biological necessity, carnivorous? How are you going to handle things when, as a polite and hospitable gesture, you hand the wolfman ambassador a glass of wine and he dies violently convulsing while spewing fluids from both ends?

    Long and short, Thinking beyond the surface differences of beastmen to the logical conclusions of said differences is a good way to add flavor and drama to your games. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Noodle; 07-22-2018, 06:29 PM.

  • #2
    In a related vein, I would be thrilled to see a beastfolk tribal nation that doesn't wear clothes, because they are so heavily furred that there would be no point and clothes would actually be inconvenient. At most, they wear belts bearing bags and pouches, like Wookies.

    But their acute sense of smell gives them a very different set of standards for modesty and humiliation than the hairless nations. Instead of wearing clothes to preserve their modesty from the sight of others, they have a thriving perfume industry because they want to mask certain odors from each other. Such as the odors of urination and defecation, or of sexual arousal.

    In a parallel to facial masks, they might also use perfumes to hide fear or anger from each other, for political purposes.

    Anyone interacting with this people would need to take care about how they smell, as anyone appearing before them without perfume would be "seen" (smelled, rather) as naked. But simply wearing any perform wouldn't be quite enough either, as they developed a complicated and nuanced culture around which perfumes are appropriate for which social occasions and an individual's socioeconomic status.

    So rather than showing up naked to meet a king to negotiate a peace treaty, you could inadvertently show up smelling like a clown or an expectant bride or a mourning parent.


    formerly Tornado Wolf, formerly Inugami

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Sunder the Gold View Post
      In a related vein, I would be thrilled to see a beastfolk tribal nation that doesn't wear clothes, because they are so heavily furred that there would be no point and clothes would actually be inconvenient. At most, they wear belts bearing bags and pouches, like Wookies.

      But their acute sense of smell gives them a very different set of standards for modesty and humiliation than the hairless nations. Instead of wearing clothes to preserve their modesty from the sight of others, they have a thriving perfume industry because they want to mask certain odors from each other. Such as the odors of urination and defecation, or of sexual arousal.

      In a parallel to facial masks, they might also use perfumes to hide fear or anger from each other, for political purposes.

      Anyone interacting with this people would need to take care about how they smell, as anyone appearing before them without perfume would be "seen" (smelled, rather) as naked. But simply wearing any perform wouldn't be quite enough either, as they developed a complicated and nuanced culture around which perfumes are appropriate for which social occasions and an individual's socioeconomic status.

      So rather than showing up naked to meet a king to negotiate a peace treaty, you could inadvertently show up smelling like a clown or an expectant bride or a mourning parent.

      I am 100% stealing this for any kind of non-violent encounter with beastfolk - this is brilliant


      and Noodle's idea of purely carnivorous beastfolk being a challenge to vegetarian player characters - love it.


      Malfeas F'Tagn - go check out my epic MLP/Exalted crossover "The Scroll of Exalted ponies" @ Fimfiction

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      • #4
        There was a brief something mentioned talking about Raksi's ape-men in the write-up for Sperimin I always use. It talks about how her Ape-Men are lacking "all the beauty and grace of the hybrid, which Gaia granted to the grandchildren of her lover, Luna" because Raksi hates all beautiful things, and has systematically slaughtered all but the ugliest of every generation. Until only the hideous and the misshapen are left.

        I always took it to mean that Gaia, in her guise as the Emerald Mother, pulled some strings to ensure that the Beastfolk born of Lunars get the best of both worlds, and by extension that any beastfolk NOT arising from Lunars (the Demesnes or Wyld-mutated) lacked this subtle benefit. Now that EX3 explicitly has Beastfolk who aren't the product of Lunars, this is what I'm doing. The snake-folk of the Southeast, as not-Lunar-Beastfolk are going to be stuck being cold-blooded and with dietary issues. Gaia doesn't love them out of love for Luna, so they're boned compared to Lunar snake-men, who are warm-blooded and possess dentition that allows for a normal omnivorous diet.

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        • #5
          What's your vegetarian immaculate monk going to do when traveling through a nation that is, by biological necessity, carnivorous?
          If he's a good Immaculate? Smoke everyone, because beastmen are Anathema. If he's a bad Immaculate, I'm pretty sure knowingly associating with Anathema is a greater heresy than eating meat.

          Beastmen haven't out-competed normal humans because there are a lot more humans than beastmen, and mutations usually aren't enough to make up for a primitive tech base and lack of formal training. If a human soldier and a wolf-man were equipped and trained equally, the wolf would probably win, but the whole point is that they won't be equipped and trained equally unless they've got Lunar backing.

          If they have Lunar backing, you have way bigger problems than their baseline troops being a bit better.

          That aside, above and beyond the physical downsides, there are psychological barriers that might keep beastmen on the back foot. A tiger-man is certainly bad news, but tigers, compared to humans, just aren't good at organizing into large groups. Maybe they're just too competitive,, surly and greedy to get things together unless they're forced to? Pack hunters might be better at coordination, but quicker to break and run when things go badly (give them better Drill than most beastman hordes if the warband is primarily the same species, but always make Morale checks as if they had -1 Drill).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Amayad View Post

            If he's a good Immaculate? Smoke everyone, because beastmen are Anathema. If he's a bad Immaculate, I'm pretty sure knowingly associating with Anathema is a greater heresy than eating meat.

            Beastmen haven't out-competed normal humans because there are a lot more humans than beastmen, and mutations usually aren't enough to make up for a primitive tech base and lack of formal training. If a human soldier and a wolf-man were equipped and trained equally, the wolf would probably win, but the whole point is that they won't be equipped and trained equally unless they've got Lunar backing.

            If they have Lunar backing, you have way bigger problems than their baseline troops being a bit better.

            That aside, above and beyond the physical downsides, there are psychological barriers that might keep beastmen on the back foot. A tiger-man is certainly bad news, but tigers, compared to humans, just aren't good at organizing into large groups. Maybe they're just too competitive,, surly and greedy to get things together unless they're forced to? Pack hunters might be better at coordination, but quicker to break and run when things go badly (give them better Drill than most beastman hordes if the warband is primarily the same species, but always make Morale checks as if they had -1 Drill).

            Beastmen, as of 3e, are no longer consider subjects to genocide by the realm by default--we have a god of a beastmen tribe training immaculates in Parsaad, and IIRC a beastfolk monk now.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Epee102 View Post


              Beastmen, as of 3e, are no longer consider subjects to genocide by the realm by default--we have a god of a beastmen tribe training immaculates in Parsaad, and IIRC a beastfolk monk now.
              I doubt they ever were, and they've certainly never been Anathema.


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
              Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Wyldwraith View Post
                I always took it to mean that Gaia, in her guise as the Emerald Mother, pulled some strings to ensure that the Beastfolk born of Lunars get the best of both worlds, and by extension that any beastfolk NOT arising from Lunars (the Demesnes or Wyld-mutated) lacked this subtle benefit. Now that EX3 explicitly has Beastfolk who aren't the product of Lunars, this is what I'm doing. The snake-folk of the Southeast, as not-Lunar-Beastfolk are going to be stuck being cold-blooded and with dietary issues. Gaia doesn't love them out of love for Luna, so they're boned compared to Lunar snake-men, who are warm-blooded and possess dentition that allows for a normal omnivorous diet.
                Well Lunar-created beastmen are different in 3E. They're not the offspring of Lunars. Instead, they are humans who passed a Lunar's trial/initiation and were blessed with beastmen mutations.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                  I doubt they ever were, and they've certainly never been Anathema.
                  Except when they are.

                  "The Immaculates apply the technical term Anathema—in the Realm it’s a formal clerical finding—to anything that the order finds abhorrent to stable and prosperous life. Solar and Lunar Exalted are always Anathema; the label can also potentially encompass Fair Folk, beastmen, elementals, and demons who threaten Realm interests, as well as gods and their Exigent champions in open rebellion against the Immaculate Philosophy."

                  Page 74, corebook.

                  Given that Beastmen are quite often threatening Realm interests (because the Realm's interests involve dominating all it surveys), I imagine quite a few Immaculates get..Twitchy.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Amayad View Post

                    Except when they are.

                    "The Immaculates apply the technical term Anathema—in the Realm it’s a formal clerical finding—to anything that the order finds abhorrent to stable and prosperous life. Solar and Lunar Exalted are always Anathema; the label can also potentially encompass Fair Folk, beastmen, elementals, and demons who threaten Realm interests, as well as gods and their Exigent champions in open rebellion against the Immaculate Philosophy."

                    Page 74, corebook.

                    Given that Beastmen are quite often threatening Realm interests (because the Realm's interests involve dominating all it surveys), I imagine quite a few Immaculates get..Twitchy.

                    Certainly their are beastmen who are anathema--the ones that lead revolutions or the like--but just as there are Exigents who are welcome to the immaculate philosphy, there are beastfolk who are as well. After Solars and Lunars, the Anathema label is case by case it seems.


                    The Book of Laughing Serpents Series(Latest Here)
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                    • #11
                      They can declare dragon blooded anathema if they really need to. Beastmen probably have to do less to get slapped with it, but that's it.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Amayad View Post

                        If he's a good Immaculate? Smoke everyone, because beastmen are Anathema. If he's a bad Immaculate, I'm pretty sure knowingly associating with Anathema is a greater heresy than eating meat.

                        Beastmen haven't out-competed normal humans because there are a lot more humans than beastmen, and mutations usually aren't enough to make up for a primitive tech base and lack of formal training. If a human soldier and a wolf-man were equipped and trained equally, the wolf would probably win, but the whole point is that they won't be equipped and trained equally unless they've got Lunar backing.

                        If they have Lunar backing, you have way bigger problems than their baseline troops being a bit better.

                        That aside, above and beyond the physical downsides, there are psychological barriers that might keep beastmen on the back foot. A tiger-man is certainly bad news, but tigers, compared to humans, just aren't good at organizing into large groups. Maybe they're just too competitive,, surly and greedy to get things together unless they're forced to? Pack hunters might be better at coordination, but quicker to break and run when things go badly (give them better Drill than most beastman hordes if the warband is primarily the same species, but always make Morale checks as if they had -1 Drill).
                        Beast people are not Anathema. The only beings that are guaranteed Anathema are the Solar and Lunar Exalted. A beastperson would need to do some heinous stuff, very consistently, to be made Anathema. The Realm are not a bunch of lolevil monsters, the Immaculate Order is not a bunch of religious fanatics from shithammer 40k looking for a reason to genocide their inferiors. The Monks are far, FAR more likely to make a trip to convert a nation of Beastpeople than send the Hunt in to genocide them.

                        (That the process of conversion would itself likely often be terrible because Imperialism is kinda inherently awful is a whole different matter).

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                        • #13
                          Hmm, resist the urge to play a game of duelling goalpost shifts...

                          I'll admit that out of all of the things that Third Edition added to the expanded definition of Anathema, I had forgotten that beastfolk were included. In my defence, they have to be at the bottom of that list of ghosts and spirits and Exalted, if not outright out of place in it. And my comment was in reference to prior Editions, but I was still somewhat incorrect.

                          I would still maintain that I was less incorrect than the assertion that beastfolk qualify as Anathema by default, to the point that assertions of a general genocidal policy is in effect (especially considering the parrotman Immaculate monk that is actually living on the Blessed isle), and that to apply the label to absolutely anybody that opposes the Realm feels a bit spurious.

                          Although honestly, I've still got to find that just about anything beastfolk would do places them on that list. It makes sense that the Philosophy would see cosmological and spiritual implications from even general political opposition from those other entities, but beastfolk are just line backers with skin conditions. Seeing a threat in them to the divinely ordained supremacy of the Dragon Blooded doesn't quite make sense to me.

                          Originally posted by Elfive View Post
                          They can declare dragon blooded anathema if they really need to.
                          I want to vehemently disagree with this, but I also want to review the case of those red jade short daiklaves wielded by the murderous rogue monk.


                          I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                          Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Fenrir666 View Post
                            The Realm are not a bunch of lolevil monsters, the Immaculate Order is not a bunch of religious fanatics from shithammer 40k looking for a reason to genocide their inferiors. The Monks are far, FAR more likely to make a trip to convert a nation of Beastpeople than send the Hunt in to genocide them.
                            This statement is unfortunately countered by individuals like Peleps Deled. While he is definitely not the norm, it's highly unlikely he is the sole fanatic in the order. The problem is compounded because Deled holds a position of some authority. So while I agree that the IO is not a bunch of religious fanatics as a whole, they do have a presence in the Order.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TalosX View Post

                              This statement is unfortunately countered by individuals like Peleps Deled. While he is definitely not the norm, it's highly unlikely he is the sole fanatic in the order. The problem is compounded because Deled holds a position of some authority. So while I agree that the IO is not a bunch of religious fanatics as a whole, they do have a presence in the Order.
                              Peleps Deled counters nothing. My statement is that portraying the Order as predominantly fanatics is stupid shit that fits better in 40k. All Faiths, with no exceptions, have fanatical members willing to kill. Atheism has insane fanatics. Peleps Deled is meaningless in regards to my point that the Immaculate Order is not a faith of fanatics, but rather of true believers doing the best according to their faith and conscience.

                              That this still makes them a power of imperialism and danger in the world is a tragic truth that power structures and imperialism are often dangerous, monstrous things, regardless of the good intent of the average person who makes it up, systems subverting people.

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