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Our Beast run left us excited but a bit puzzled. Anybody to answer our questions?

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  • Our Beast run left us excited but a bit puzzled. Anybody to answer our questions?

    Before I start, I’d like to say that me and my play group have 15 years + experience with World of Darkness games under our belts, both oWoD and nWoD. We wanted to explore a new installment in the series, Best: the Primordial. We ran an intensive week-long campaign that took about 24 hours from start to end. It was a blast, but the story ended in a rather unexpected way. I would like to present some things we really liked about the new rules and some things that left us quite confused. Hopefully, somebody can share their experience with us or tell us whether we have misunderstood the rules in some way?
    These are the things we liked:
    1. Atavisms – an interesting idea: they worked differently, depending on our levels of Satiety, which forced us to work with Satiety often and really pay attention to it. Also, the idea that we could explore the whole Atavism basically instantly was quite refreshing.
    2. The cool idea of the symbiotic relationship with the mythical Horror and building its Lair is intriguing.
    3. We really liked the Integrity system with mortals, as we started playing like them. We were not limited by an external moral code but we could set our own and then saw us breaking it or being challenged by it. Also, the idea that every single use of supernatural powers calls for breaking point rolls with mortals is great and makes the game far more horrific.
    4. The Beat and Experience system was just perfect! The players were motivated to be active in the story and they actually enjoyed enduring unfavourable conditions and they even voluntarily messed up with their own characters’ plans in order to earn Beats, thus making the story interesting.
    So, to sum up, Beast is a very interesting concept and it offers a great progress in WoD mechanics. However, there were things we just didn’t get and that is why we have some questions to ask:
    1. Didn’t we miss anything about the Atavisms? Because it seems that they can be invoked at any time, mostly at no cost or with no roll required or no limitations set. An example from our play: A fledgling Beast just could unleash a severe Level 4 hurricane when beset by a motorcycle gang with a Hero at the helm. In 2 turns, since their Resistance was 2, they started getting 4 lethal damage per turn, on top of getting a – 4 penalty on everything. As the Beast could fry them with lighting at no cost (being at Low Satiety), the gang was just obliterated in a matter of seconds, basically without any chance of survival. As a Vampire: the Masquerade player, I’d say this is Antediluvian power level. We tried to follow the rules as much as we could, but did we do any mistake here?
    2. What are the Beasts limited by? Any kind of Integrity scale is missing from the Character sheets and when the Beast just blew out half the city with the aforementioned hurricane (at the cost of merely spending 1 point of Satiety), he didn’t have to suffer any moral consequences. He actually managed to fry his Heroic sister in the process, but the game didn’t ask him any moral questions about this. So it seems to us that Beasts are limited just by their own Hunger. Are we right?
    3. How powerful is the Beast after merging with the Horror in the Primordial Dream? What Size it is, if it is a Dragon? A gryphon? What if the Horror is a chthonic squid-like thing? Is its Size 5? Or 25? Or is it arbitrary? What of Health, then? Can a Dragon fly in the Priomordial Dream if the Beast doesn’t have Wings of the Raptor Atavism? What is the Horror and its stats limited by? We couldn’t find the answers to theses questions in the Corebook. Did we look wrong?
    4. Aren’t some Skills and Attributes overpowered? Athletics and Dexterity rolls were omnipresent and Athletics itself is quite strong, as it is rolling when chasing, throwing, jumping, riding a bike, and, most importantly, defending. Defence stat subtracts dice from the attacker’s dice pools, if we get it right, so our hockey player got 5 dice subtracted from any melee or brawl attack, making him very difficult to hit. Not bad, for a 17 year old kid. The main antagonist, the dreaming comatose Heroine Melanie from the Corebook, had her Defence at 9, so she mostly reduced any attacks to chance rolls, making her very difficult to beat with her Health at 11. Did we get this right?
    Overall, we really enjoyed our first Beast campaign, which was focused on the Devouring and exploring the world and possibilities of the Beast, but at some point, when our fledgling desperately tried to use Storm-Lashed Atavism, spending a Satiety point to activate the Hurricane, the game went absolutely bananas and off the charts, leaving a whole neighbourhood in ruins, morphing into some Anime-level power struggles, basically ruining any careful plans the characters had laid to appease their Hungers and to develop their character arcs. This leaves a little bit bitter taste in our mouths and, as we tried to follow the rules as closely as possible, we would like to hear if we had done some serious mistakes at interpreting them?
    Thanks for answers!

  • #2
    1: You read the rules right, extreme environment level 4 really is that bananas. There are a few things like that in this system (Poison, large fires) that will kill anything that isn't magically resistant or immune in as little as two turns. I use house rules on most of those things specifically to avoid that kind of game breaking potential.

    2: There are no mechanical moral consequences for Beasts, those questions are left to roleplay. If you like the Integrity system I don't think it would break anything to continue using it.

    3: The Horror is explained on page 99. It has three attributes, Power, Finesse, and Resistance, which are equal to the highest of the Beast's corresponding attributes (Intelligence, Strength or Presence for Power, etc) plus 2 dots per Lair assigned however the player wishes. Health is equal to Attribute Maximum (5 at lower Lair, equal to Lair at Lair 6+)+Resistance. Size is more abstract in the Dream, it has no bearing on abilities.

    4: Yes, some attributes and skills see more use than others. Athletics is more broadly used than Animal Ken. Composure is used for more traits and a prerequisite for more merits than Intelligence is. That said, a one dot merit allows you to use brawl or weaponry instead of Athletics so it's not the only way to have good defense.


    • #3
      What HelmsDerp said.

      Yes, environment 4 is crazy, but to me this sounds like you didn't expect that? I mean, you knew the beast had storm-lashed, right? It was only a question of time when the Player would use the satiety expenditure. You should probably Plan for these things. Higher resistance, merits like hardy or parkour help a lot. Better equipment can also help level the field a bit. Or, of course, supernatural enemies, who pull your players out of their comfort zone.
      Go with " it's not a bug, it is a feature": the char just wrecked the City - heap repercussions upon then, like drawing in more heroes and hunters. Have the other Beasts adapt to the Situation: how can they feed in this new environment? Turn it into new character arcs.
      Life is what happens when you make plans - this also applies to RPGs, imo.


      • #4
        A few things to remember about Defense:

        1) Defense is high, and that's partly because it's supposed to take EFFORT to kill someone (as a mortal, which all games are built off of). Spending Willpower, fighting tactically -- tilts and such -- help you get to actual dicepools. It also makes firearms absolutely terrifying, as you don't worry about Defense when shooting someone. If a guy walks into a room with a shotgun and the intent to kill, chances are at least one person is about to have a very bad, if short, day.

        2) Your Defense is reduced by one for every attack you suffer, though that penalty is reset when your Initiative comes up. This means if four PCs are fighting the Big Bad Guy, that penalty gets up to -3 by the time the fourth player swings.


        • #5
          Sounds like you guys had a great time and everything was working as intended. The results you got were what is supposed to happen - Beasts have incredible power; they are nigh-godlike and have limitless potential within the spheres of power their Horrors represent. As others have said - show them the consequences of their actions, and have fun with it! You don't need to limit their power, but instead give them challenges equal to their abilities (Which, by the way, does not always mean putting them up against world-ending threats).


          • #6
            Seconding Eternal Darkness in everything, but especially this: Don't fall for the Dragonball Z Escalation problem. Higher and higher stakes does not good tension make. Rather, personal involvment is what should drive them. A good antagonist is one that causes trouble, not one that goes "This isn't even my final form!"- the latter is fun once in a while, but grows boring fast. Occasionally turning your Beasts into fish out of their waters helps with building tension, too, and encourages teamwork.
            All your physical might is useless if you current goal is curing your normie-brother from his disease.
            All your destructive power with Storm-Lashed is worthless if you need to pull a loved one out from under some instable rubble.
            Being nigh-invulnerable doesn't help you if the Hero is a cop who's pulling every string to get you arrested - resisting would be social death, and admiting defeat by giving in to the Hero's narrative. But not resisting means you get thrown into jail, at least for a time, where the Hero is free to act and e.g. attack your lover. What's the worse choice, here?
            On the flipside, being a social powerhouse and having pull with everyone and everywhere does not help you much if you're being hunted down by a powerful monster looking to steal your very soul and no social life to lose.
            And you know which character the players are going to turn to when it comes to solving puzzles - the smart one. Too bad if he's currently in hiding because he struck down a Hero who happened to be the people's favourite local politician.
            Force the players to get creative with what they have.

            Also, I understand that getting thrown off the rails when you don't expect it kind of sucks, but ask the player how he felt about his char having this crowning moment of awesome? I bet that's a scene he's not likely to forget all that quickly.


            • #7
              Thanks, guys, for inspirational answers. Some of the happenings were clearly the result of our inexperience with the new rules. However, even though some of your suggestions are quite catchy (I especially like your ideas about messing with the normal lives of the characters: loved one in danger that cannot be solved by the Beast´s superpowers, the cop etc.), I think they open more room for more stories. That is great, but at that point when all the weirdness and havoc started happening, we needed to start closing the story, as the time we had reserved for the campaign started to run out. What could be done to close the story in a game that was focused on issues like who will be the new Student Chairman of the local high school, whether the zen-like complacency of the local Spanish and Civics teacher will be challanged and dismantled and how will the local populace deal with the ongoing migrant crisis. In the margins, there was the issue of a Heroine lost in the Primordial Dream, running around and killing off supernaturals she could find.
              My point is that the issues our characters were dealing with were at a pretty low supernatural level. My take on magic and the supernatural in general is that it is a great tool in grasping real-life crises and making them worse. I think we managed to employ that in our game quite nicely, until that Storm Lashed incident came to pass. Naturally, it is a scene that neither of us is likely to forget any time soon, however, it changed the overall mood of the story quite a bit, forced the hand of the supernatural powers-that-be. I, as the Storyteller, felt forced to move the story to its more supernatural aspects and, unfortunately, succumbed to railroading and a kind of "meh" ending that made the campaign that was otherwise quite a blast, a bit sour.
              So basically my question is how to avoid railroading in a situation when the story needs to be closed and the situation is getting out of control? I know its difficult for you to answer if the details you know about our campaign are rather sketchy, but what if we think about the issue in general and in principle?


              • #8
                I see; I misunderstood the problem. If you could give some more details regarding the "forced the hand of the supernatural powers that be" and where you felt you railroaded the chars, I'd appreciate it.
                In any case, sure, the storm threw things out of whack quite a bit - but the game can still recover, up to a certain degree. Most importantly, don't feel forced to drop the mundane for the supernatural (like, ever, the mix is usually more intriguing than either part for itself), and don't feel rushed. Take your time, as with all things.

                First of all, I would give a short scene for the characters to realize what they are capable of now, and then have them come face to face with the consequences: school still takes place, but rather than normal classes, helping clean out rubble, search for survivers, bring food and water to helpers and the rescued, help out with medical care, logistics like dispensing medical goods, etc. are their tasks now. Nothing big, mind you, none of them would be leading a search party or some such barring highly unusual circumstances, but still be valuable additional manpower with the right organisation.
                Make sure teachers and the student council body get involved in that organisation.
                How does the current Student Chairman hold up to that pressure and responsibility? This is a perfect chance to show of qualities and make a name for yourself if you desire that position! Have some career-focused cold-blooded student try to abuse the situation to 'climb the ladder'.
                How do the teachers hold up in this situation? How do they react to the fact they lost students to the storm? How do the players?
                Does the stance on migrants change due to their behaviour in this crisis, and is it for the better or the worse?
                Skip forward: how has school life change a month after the incident? Has it changed at all, or do people cling to the 'normalcy' of before? Did the stance-change (if it happened at all) on the migrant crisis reverse, or did the new outlook become entrenched and the mainstream point of view? Who and for what reasons is the new Student Chairman chosen?
                Throughout all of this, give the Players ample opportunity to reflect on their responsibility for and their opportunities in this situation.
                Only then start to throw in the supernatural: it takes the Werewolves so long to hunt them down because the spirit world is just riddled with spirits of fear, pain, destruction, etc. And they had to deal with the fallout before even having a chance at trying to find the responsible party. A school student certainly wasn't even on their radar for this kind of stuff.
                The Kindred deal with their own problems: not being awake at day leads to many troubled questions when they don't answer right after the catastrophe, some havens might be leveled, power structures crumble as upstarts see their chance at 'climbing the ladder' - it takes some time for the manpower to hunt down the responsible party to become available to the prince.
                Etc. etc.

                Is it a change of themes and mood? Absolutely. But it would still be much less derailed, would not invalidate the previous happenings and leave your original finale (I assume) much more accessible and would stand a good chance of keeping some of that mood alive.

                Anywho, my 2 pence on this take (By the by, I realize that it is easy to give advice from the sidelines, I am in no way saying you made a mistake or I would've handled that better. Just felt like I should make that clear.)