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On the Problematic Nature of Beast (And Why I Think That's a Good Thing)

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  • On the Problematic Nature of Beast (And Why I Think That's a Good Thing)

    [So, after some sober reflection, I realized that I said some things in this post that I would prefer a public audience not know about me. Alors consider this an official redaction. Don't worry, future reader, you're not missing out on anything particularly illuminating, and if any espritdecalmar canonistas are absolutely salivating over the prospect of official squidlore, feel free to message me and we can talk.]

    From its Kickstarter inception, Beast has been criticized on multiple fronts, for a number of reasons. I am not writing here to defend them all. I cannot. This is a futile and foolish endeavor. The reasons for liking or disliking a work are often multitudinous and personal, and I am no Truman Capote. I would, however, like to examine one particular blandishment contra the gameline, one which I feel has been treated unfairly within the context that it has been received. I am, of course, speaking of Beasts as a metaphor for marginalized communities.

    The Begotten have special needs that run counter to those of mortals. To be a Beast means to inflict fear, pain, suffering, garmonbozia on the humans surrounding one's domicile. This cannot be avoided in a game of B:TP except in special circumstances, and even then, that is more of a matter of passing the buck onto another creature of the night, putting a new pressure onto the Masquerade, the Siskur-Dah, the what-have-you. Beasts need monsters. They empower them, of course, but yet also, without them, they must resort to sowing terror. This is why the Begotten, je crois, are so obsessed with the concept of family, of supernatural family, family that isn't of direct blood, but of secret, sympathetic ties. Family that is, to borrow a nauseating term, "fam."

    [This is also redacted. Sorry rememberists. Oh hey check out Axolotl by The Veils. That's a dope ass song.]

    The criticism of Beast as a game about marginalized peoples is an understandable one: You play as a person who is forced to live apart from the majority, who is hunted down by those who think they know best, who reinforce a narrative of heroism versus the monsters of the dark. It would be palatable if not for the fear angle. Monsterhearts (by Avery Adler, a game I wholeheartedly implore you, dear reader, to at least examine en passant) accomplishes this angle with elegance and panache, wearing as it does its carotid vessel on its sleeve. The problem, or the criticism, here, as mentioned, is that Beasts must commit ostensibly immoral acts in order to survive. Hence the point of contention, hence, once again, queer people, ethnic minorities, the disabled, being reduced to the category of irredeemable monster.

    I believe this to be a fair and understandable criticism, one that at least deserves some examination. There is too much of a history of minorities' equation with monstrosity not to squint one's eyes and wonder in suspicion at the underlying motivations of such a narrative. Aye, but therein lies the rub, for Beast is a game whose whole elevator pitch is that the narrative has been flipped on its head, and all the blood is rushing to the wrong body parts.

    There is a short webseries called The Outs, released in 2012. It is about some gay people living Brooklyn. Despite my continued stance that New York Cityites are some of the most provincial urban-hicks on the planet, there are plenty of salient, emotionally fulfilling moments in the show. I am particularly drawn to a scene in which the protagonist's boss, a rather flamboyant homosexual from one of the two Carolinas (it's been a while since I've watched) claims, in increasing fervor, that he wishes more people were homophobic, in the sense that he wishes more homophobes were literally afraid of gays rather than merely hating them, wishing them harm, etc. Causing fear in someone means having power over them.

    I am sure you are all familiar (some probably much too familiar) with the shooting that recently took place in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Among the horror of this attack, quite a number of absurdities can be counted. For one, the shooter came from Australia to carry out a massacre in New Zealand. There is also the fact that he had a manifesto in which he expresses dismay at the invasion of European lands by those who come from places once deemed the Third World, despite the fact that, as one can surmise, New Zealand is quite the distance from Europe, and, in fact, as far as land taken by the English goes, has one of the more equitable relationships between colonizer and colonizee. One cannot also discount the most absurd aspect of the whole ordeal, that the shooter literally said "Subscribe to PewDiePie" before opening fire, which is probably the greatest material argument for the non-existence of God in our current times.

    There is a reason, I believe, why the majority of the Heroes in the core book for Beast have a right-wing bent; ever since Columbine, this is the sort of violence in which we all truly live in fear. I used to teach on a university campus; I used to have anxiety dreams about a shooter barging into the classroom, what I would be forced to do. I also used to agonize over whether to reveal to my students my sexuality, for somewhat related reasons (with the exception maybe of that woman who really didn't like Mondays, most mass shooters seem to be on the conservative side of the political spectrum).

    Beasts hurt people, and, like Bojack Horseman, have to live with that damage. That's why they collectively cling to the idea of teaching Lessons. Whether that justifies their actions or not is really up to the reader/player to decide. Heroes have already decided which side of history they're on. This is not to say that Beast is necessarily a leftist political exercise (I once came up with a radical feminist Hero who was convinced that all Beasts were responsible for the patriarchy, and I think she worked quite well for what I needed her to be), but I think the current climate has been an ideal breeding ground for what Beast is, for what Beast wants to be.

    I'm not a monster, but there are people who think I am one. And I'm one of the more privileged types, at that. I can't speak for the vast majority of marginalized, threatened peoples, but I can speak from my own experience, and what I think Beast is getting at, in its own, perhaps problematic way, is that when you try to live your life in a manner that runs counter to the dominant narrative, there will always be people who will hate you for it. But Beast also says that there's power in that. It's perverse, maybe, but I actually [oh fuck this part is definitely getting redacted] I don't know, and also I don't care. I recall back when Beast was first previewed with a snippet of short fiction, someone criticized the game's concept as a bully revenge fantasy, but that's certainly short-sighted. Plenty of people are bullied who don't turn into school shooters, and that's not what Beast is about. I think Beast, contrary to what its detractors claim, operates at its best when one embraces the metaphor of the marginalized. This doesn't have to be a one-for-one correspondence, the Begotten don't have to be Muslim or trans or Chicano in order to serve its themes, but when it comes to the idea of Family, and that in sub-optimal situations one has to ally oneself with those with whom one has very little in common beyond a tenuous shared identity, powerful stories can be told.
    Last edited by espritdecalmar; 04-26-2019, 11:59 PM.

  • Sith_Happens
    replied
    Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
    So with that in mind: let’s say for the sake of argument that OPP was greenlighting a second edition for BtP despite being so early in the game’s lifecycle, and they’ve asked you for advice on what to change in the core. What advice would you give them? What needs to change in the core book in order for the “diamond in the rough” to which several of you have alluded gets a chance to shine?
    I’m a simple man with simple needs, I’d hand it (along with BPG as reference material) to the nearest editor and tell them to go to town on it. Then I’d hand the ripped off cover of Building a Legend to whoever’s Beast dev now, point at the title, and tell them I want a supplement that’s actually about that.

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  • Dataweaver
    replied
    It is to remind people of the importance of rules and when it is right to break them.
    This reminds me of the original meaning of the phrase “to honor in the breach”: it originally was talking about how we have rules that are based on general principles (in the specific case in Shakespeare, the principle was “honor”, and the rules were formalized expressions of honor); but rules are imperfect, and sometimes we can uphold the underlying principles better by breaking the rules. We've kind of inverted the meaning of that phrase since the Bard first introduced it.

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  • GibberingEloquence
    replied
    I feel like more expressive and insightful people have made several excellent observations. It feels a little daunting to add my two cents at this point, but I'll give it a shot anyway.

    I like Beast a lot, which is precisely why I wanna see it improve and become the best game it can. Big kudos and good luck to whoever embarks on that quest. It deals with some heavy themes, and its execution runs the gamut. Despite all of the unfortunate implications, I believe Beast offers something special.

    This thread gave a lot of attention to the notion of the Other and such, but that doesn't have to be the entirety of it. I see Beast as a way to express and examine the darker parts of our psyches, whether we belong to minority group or not.

    I only speak for myself, but it seems to me that in order to be a part of society, one must accept its rules. No one is ever 100% OK with these rules all the time. Beasts are equal parts living cautionary tales and embodied transgressions against society.

    Therefore, it follows that these creatures lurk on the edges of society and form bonds with others like them. To play as a Begotten is not to aimlessly seek revenge against those who see you as the Other. It is to remind people of the importance of rules and when it is right to break them.

    Beasts are prime examples of a villainous mindset. That does not mean they are evil, although they can definitely be. It means that they exist for a reason: the villains we remember represent something wrong with society that got out of control.

    Heroes are the other side of the coin: they represent an immune response that is likewise not inherently evil, but certainly reactionary. In the vast majority of iconic stories, the Hero rises up to face a challenge posed by the villain.

    And that's the crux of it. Villains aren't born, they're made. And it could have been any one of us.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Also, clarifying relating to the attitude towards Narrative, it's less something that acts on you and more something people can use-if you don't control your story, someone else will.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    There's a reason why I have this 'frain of self-ownership and crafting characters with an eye towards being more "whole" than the average starting character, asides from the fact the Devouring is basically set to leave starting characters in that mind-set. The gameset requires Beasts to be more responsible for their actions than many of their peers, namely in that while they are still subject to the limitations of their nature, that's not as much an excuse for them as it is anyone else. Like Hunters and Mages, Beasts know what they got. In fact, arguably, they know it better than anyone else. They could have said no. Instead, you had people who said "Let's be bad guys" because the alternative was denying themselves.

    I think that's a valid choice, mind! But it also means that when the Horror gets loose and ravage's peoples souls, you don't get to say "Uh, well, I had to, I had no choice, it's just my nature."

    On Heroes....

    I'm not saying there can't be dynamics to Heroes, but my hardlines still say "No, they are non-playable antagonists." In a fuller second edition, I'd need to think out my details more, but for where I'd go with Heroes from here is noted in the BSG Forum. I've alluded that from a Watsonian perspective they were intended to fight the Insatiable originally and Beasts becoming a Third Option fucked with the dynamics and that's part of it, and I've also alluded that the main way I think of them mechanically is as warping Lair towards themselves and away from the Beasts

    The only other thing I have on them is a vague directional that needs to built up, but it comes down to "There should be, always and forever, more Sleeping Beauties as Heroes-but there will always be Thaddeus Patterson's as Heroes-and Fuck That Guy." There's something wrong in the world that is messes with what sort of people become Heroes, and some are definitely excusable for it-but the majority of Heroes are in the exact same boat as Beasts and can't get off the hook anymore than they can. Heroes are also the sort of people who said "Let's be bad guys" because the alternative was denying themselves-but where ever that same sort of idea at work is framed, it should evoke a clear and loud "Maybe you don't know yourself as well as you think."

    Spec Ops: the Line is dated and could probably do with a better understanding of how to rely on player psychology to arrive at the terrible ends it wanted players to go for, but it remains a staple on how I think about Heroes, namely the wham line:
    -
    "It takes a strong man to deny what's in front of him. And if the truth is undeniable, you create your own. The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not:
    A hero."
    Last edited by ArcaneArts; 05-20-2019, 12:36 AM.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Originally posted by Teatime View Post
    However, I feel it’s important not to let Beasts be absolved of their own actions. As much as I agree with ideas about the power of Narrative, I think treating it merely as an external force imposed on the Beast would do a disservice to the game.
    To echo Cinder's turn of phrase: Oh, for sure.

    This is part of why I brought up the problem 1e True Fae ran into: When we talk about monster being particularly creatures of narrative in this setting, it's not in an abstract woo-woo what-does-that-mean sense where there's the world and there's stories and the former aligns with the latter in the letter of their in-universe telling and that's it, in vaguely discombobulated terms; legendary creatures are what they are because they partake of actions and elements that seize the imagination and therefore translate to an increased influence over the parts of the world that process stories as part of the way they experience reality.

    It's the practical end of why Awakened magic uses symbolism as a metaphysical aid, and it's why Begotten feeding processes often look almost nothing like a big monster engaged in literal consumption — the supernatural overwhelmingly runs on sympathy, and image and idea are core parts of that concept because they're some of the main ways we as people understand things as Important. We're sensory creatures, and these things tap into the primary methods we have of contextualizing ourselves and the world around us, so monsters who live in or can freely make use of those Important elements tend to wind up narratively well-heeled in a self-reinforcing loop of their own influence on the world humans engage with.

    Beings on the higher end of the supernatural power scale often tend to partake in some of the trappings of human nobility (which itself sometimes partook of supernatural imagery, or at least the spiritual connotations of notionally-mundane imagery), and the thing about human nobility is that a decent chunk of the reason it's so prevalent in history is because convincing other people that they had the power they were accorded involved exercising that authority visibly and regularly, usually through making war on their neighbors for territory or resources or routes to either. (Notably the main supernatural exception to this engagement has remaining effectively invisible as one of its core priorities and controls enough of the mortal world to manage a strong pretense of omnipotence; the Unchained and their creator are the exception that proves the rule by all the stuff that springs up around its failures of secrecy.)

    The Astral just doesn't show this off as directly because it's divided into the parts that correspond to purely mental phenomena like art and ideology and the parts that correspond to the interiority of nonhuman phenomena that mostly do their own thing and so it's easy to overlook, but in an edition where those large-scale population mechanics I mentioned are at work, the influence of Legend (and, to a lesser extent, things like the Cacophony and the Twilight Network) on the Begotten's lives is as concrete as the presence or absence of light.

    tl;dr Beasts are creatures of narrative because they're influential monsters built on a core of compelling psychic real estate in a universe where the camera spends most of its time on the things that care about contextualizing the world, and as participants in that process the Begotten theoretically ought to be able to steer the ripples their Legends have through the same actions and understandings that allow people to deliberately craft a meme as well as through less raw-media methods.

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  • Cinder
    replied
    Originally posted by Teatime View Post
    It’s strangely satisfying to see others clearly describe something I’d struggle to put words to.

    However, I feel it’s important not to let Beasts be absolved of their own actions. As much as I agree with ideas about the power of Narrative, I think treating it merely as an external force imposed on the Beast would do a disservice to the game. I’d like to see a focus on how Begotten fatal flaws cause them to yield to the Narrative. Conversely, the Narrative uses what “material” the Beast provides it, instead of making something up whole-cloth. This makes struggle against it require intense introspection on top of everything else (this relates to my prefered treatment of Anathema, as described three paragraphs down).

    Even if we don’t want to make our Begotten responsible, I feel the Narrative should be a consequence of actual problems plaguing the territory. If the local factory violates OSHA directives bringing down scrutiny on Beast’s head, that’s not because the Narrative said so. It’s because someone in power is being irresponsible, as the Narrative incorporates that. Such an approach would give more importance to the ordinary people and it would provide a contrast between very abstract Astral, and very concrete real world. On top of that, I think Chambers should be created by all kinds of trauma, not just one caused by supernatural. This would give the game more of its own identity, independent from crossover. Begotten would confront the ugliest the world has to offer, regardless of source. And what is a Monster anyway? Blurring the lines between Mortal, Beast, Hero and others resonates perfectly with the theme of “No neat boxes”.

    Alternatively, any Begotten may decide that losing their life to the Narrative is a fair price for accomplishing what they do – living deliciously for years (Tarquin from Order of the Stick), protecting those you care about or having revenge on those who wronged you. Since I love stories of twisted mentalities, a Beast may decide that fair is foul and foul is fair and that dying after a lifetime of spreading misery is the right thing to do. Either way, this would give the players multiple way their character could relate to the narrative. Also, if the bit about twisted mentalities seems ridiculous, I would claim that it doesn’t even take a Horror to warp a mind this way. A human being could go through intense mental gymnastics to feel at peace with themselves. Mother of Monsters would be proud either way. On top of that, submitting to the Narrative may be an easy way to be remembered, and if a Goetia is remebered, is it really dead? It may one day be reborn, so history can repeat itself.

    [/COLOR]
    Oh, for sure. Just to be clear, when I said in my proposal above that there's a Narrative pushing on Beasts, Primordial Dreams shenanigans aside, it its tailored around them, they own both it and all the choices they make make to bring it forward. To make it so that Beasts don't have to face the consequences of their actions or are not (at the very least!) partially responsible for some of it, would be catastrophic and wrong for reasons that go beyond the game. Absolutely not going there, I find it would have implications that are both offensive on a personal level and nasty paralles with some of Beast most ferocious criticism. . It's really more of a "the same sense of alienation Anathema cause for the Begotten can also come from other sources, especially if they don't try to resist it. And if they don't, it's on them". An intrusive astral thought and even Hunger itself might explain a decision a Beast takes, but not absolve it. Sorry this was not clear enough up there!

    I also need to get on that Hero essay I spoke ages ago about, because some of the things we're saying on Heroes remind me I do have a whole big take to offer on them. Ironically, while I have not spoken much about Heroes, I put those ideas in practice more than I did other things. Both in a short story of mine (which is...alright I guess. It's kinda old and writing fiction is easier to do in your native language. Takes practice and I still need to improve it.) and in my Dark Era, I've written up different kind of Heroes, who range from the nasty ones, those trapped in the mythic cycle just as others, some who are normal people who would like to subvert it and, well, even a couple "heroic" ones. Heroes are important. I'd love to have them interact with Beasts, the Astral and the human narrative in many different ways. It's just that Heroes are different because the narrative kinda cheers for them, know what I'm saying? They don't have it exactly as bad as Beast, and I find broken, cursed underdogs who have the table turned against them for the whole game more interesting protagonists, because their achievements, despite everything, matter more.

    I'll be blunt: I'd make Heroes playable in their own book eventually (if we're keeping to talk about a new Edition, then not in the core), but be also really, REALLY, sure to make clear why they are not the protagonists of the game. Not this time: this is Beast. Beast can spot the threads and rebel against them more easily because they have more to lose and regret if they don't. Same reason it's the Undead who get shit done in the Dark Souls series, just to bring one of my main inspirations for the kind of stories I love out. If the price to make Heroes playable is to take the focus away from Beasts, then no thanks. But if it can be managed to show how things are on the others side of the tragedy that's being a regular person thrown into the Mythic Cycle, then let's go for it. Heroes who range from vilest enemies to rivals who can almost understand you. Except they don't, and that divide is yet another source of conflict and ultimate separation, with all the cool dynamics and drama one can explore because of it.

    Anyways, awesome stuff, folks. These threads remind me many of us can discuss, criticize and love this game despite and because of its flaws.
    Last edited by Cinder; 05-19-2019, 09:30 AM.

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  • Teatime
    replied
    It’s strangely satisfying to see others clearly describe something I’d struggle to put words to.

    However, I feel it’s important not to let Beasts be absolved of their own actions. As much as I agree with ideas about the power of Narrative, I think treating it merely as an external force imposed on the Beast would do a disservice to the game. I’d like to see a focus on how Begotten fatal flaws cause them to yield to the Narrative. Conversely, the Narrative uses what “material” the Beast provides it, instead of making something up whole-cloth. This makes struggle against it require intense introspection on top of everything else (this relates to my prefered treatment of Anathema, as described three paragraphs down).

    Even if we don’t want to make our Begotten responsible, I feel the Narrative should be a consequence of actual problems plaguing the territory. If the local factory violates OSHA directives bringing down scrutiny on Beast’s head, that’s not because the Narrative said so. It’s because someone in power is being irresponsible, as the Narrative incorporates that. Such an approach would give more importance to the ordinary people and it would provide a contrast between very abstract Astral, and very concrete real world. On top of that, I think Chambers should be created by all kinds of trauma, not just one caused by supernatural. This would give the game more of its own identity, independent from crossover. Begotten would confront the ugliest the world has to offer, regardless of source. And what is a Monster anyway? Blurring the lines between Mortal, Beast, Hero and others resonates perfectly with the theme of “No neat boxes”.

    Alternatively, any Begotten may decide that losing their life to the Narrative is a fair price for accomplishing what they do – living deliciously for years (Tarquin from Order of the Stick), protecting those you care about or having revenge on those who wronged you. Since I love stories of twisted mentalities, a Beast may decide that fair is foul and foul is fair and that dying after a lifetime of spreading misery is the right thing to do. Either way, this would give the players multiple way their character could relate to the narrative. Also, if the bit about twisted mentalities seems ridiculous, I would claim that it doesn’t even take a Horror to warp a mind this way. A human being could go through intense mental gymnastics to feel at peace with themselves. Mother of Monsters would be proud either way. On top of that, submitting to the Narrative may be an easy way to be remembered, and if a Goetia is remebered, is it really dead? It may one day be reborn, so history can repeat itself.

    Now, Anathema. As they are in the game, they represent the horror of having your identity ignored in favor of something else. However, making Anathema into something that reflects your shortcomings would spur character development and resonate with themes of learning through adversity. The ability to inflict Anathema could be given to anyone – Mortal or Monster, who is willing to study the effect you have on the world. In fact, instead of inflicting Anathema they would be discovering an Anathema you already have, one you can only change through major character development. Current Heroic Anathema can be kept as an occasional curveball. I used to strongly dislike the concept altogether, but Beast Player’s Guide changed my mind (“My name isn’t Agatha” - it’s amazing what a single paragraph can do).

    Also, I’d appreciate some thematic refining of the Homecoming/Devouring. Focusing on fatal flaws, I think every Begotten should have an intense backstory leading to the fatal flaw overcoming them. As their life falls apart (through their fault or not), the Monster they always were awakens, or perhaps they always were an ordinary Mortal and something they do makes them a perfect home for a roving Horror. This can even be accomplished without making Beasts morally repugnant. The transformation can take place under extreme duress where it’s unfair to fully blame the character. Alternatively, it can be caused by a self-destructive act – self-loathing taking to its endpoint. All this leans on how I always saw the game’s themes: “Intense abuser/abusee therapy” and Does the world have a place for you?”.

    Finally, the unclear metaphysical status of the Begotten seems to make them more hosts for Beasts than Beasts themselves. I’ve read suggestions that such a setup is desirable because it gives more room for interpretation. If that’s the case, why not go an extra mile and offer several possible interpretations. Like in Vampire: the Requiem, make Beasts into a group of different, but related phenomena:
    One character an ancient monster reincarnated – a Horror stuck in a human Soul like a crocodile in an egg. One day a tragedy makes the Beast crack, and so does the egg, old memories flooding in, the Beast coming to terms with what she always was. This would give the character an Arisen-like flavor.
    Another is a human being with a hungry Goetia whispering in their ear – creating dynamic like between a Sin-Eater and a Geist, except more personal, because the Horror chose them precisely for who they are.

    These two would correspond to Homecoming and Devouring, but there are multiple other options bordering on Night Horrors territory:
    The third is a Materialized Goetia that tore the skin off an unsuspecting human and now wears it, along with their identity, a bit like Unchained do. Perhaps the victim is still alive – all exposed muscles and viscera, persisting as a macabre counterpart the Beast as long as he lives. Changelings would see a parody of their relationships to their Fetches.
    The fourth broke the wrong taboo and inherited the title from a previous Beast, who after decades can finally leave the prison of their Lair and go home. The new Begotten can pass the curse along or own it completely, but either way they have to understand it and learn why they were the ones to receive it. They have to hurry too, there is a countdown ticking. A struggle to regain humanity would put them on a similar footing to Prometheans, with hope on the horizon.
    And many, many more... Just about every gameline holds inspiration as to how to twist Beasts into something new.
    Last edited by Teatime; 05-19-2019, 08:15 AM.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    My only real contribution to the conversation is that I have essentially had this rant before, that the main goal of any Beast is Building Your Lair, which is about Claiming Psychospiritual Real Estate From Humanity, of occupying their thoughts in a particular way. Beast is a game concerned with the Story, and there's no denying that. The three themes I presented all do with the conflict that surround this goal and with the angle of attack I present on Beast as actualized individuals(which I need to get around to addressing, but man have I got some shit)

    First off, This is My Story vs This is The Story deals with controlling the narrative versus accepting it. Beasts are posed to be at one with an uncaring world and find the clarity and wisdom at the bottom of it, to find the liberation in the meaninglessness of everything-but at the cost of being subject to the narratives that are then pushed on to them, that can outlast the enactment of their Hungers. So they tend towards self-determination, with hewing and controlling the elements of the story that surrounds them, with keeping a fine tuned point on how their presentation comes across, not allowing anyone else to say who and what they are, making the world know them. Of course, at some point, when does "if this night is just pretending-if we pretend long enough, never giving up, it just might be who we are" become self-denial and becoming the same sort of entity that your nature is designed to take down, with losing the wisdom and clarity that comes from at the bottom of the world and the end of everything.

    Second, What We Owe Each Other ties in the family aspect by getting into just how much of the story should be about yourself versus the people who become part of your life. It is the nature of Beasts to claim territory and make it about themselves, and it is tempting and powerful to go all the way into that. But no one exists in a vacuum, and where you affect others, they are bound to affect you in return-and if you don't control that, someone else will define that. Something else will define that. And that could be the end of you owning yourself, the end of your actualization, your enlightenment. You're going to take from people, but what you give back and why? That's where the wiggle room exists. If a Beast is to Transcend, then they must know what just what their selves beyond themselves is going to be. It can be tempting for a Beast to be all about themselves, but they are their family-and that includes monsters and people by truth of their metaphysical nature, as Beasts are fulfillment of both states at once, and what they do for others is nothing more or less than the perpetuation of themselves. In this connected world, knowing what we owe each other is to know and perpetuate self, and that is what every Beast struggles with.

    Finally, No Neat Boxes just simply gets at the fact that for as true as all of that is? Life isn't a story. There's no clean and clear answer. Worlds unto themselves and fragments of the wider world twice over, but no Beast can hope to be the whole of the world. It's too wide and too weird, and the narrative isn't always gonna be there to support it. This isn't to say that they should let things go, but that in inherent part of the struggle is that nothing is going to fit forever and always, and what is true as an answer for the first two isn't going to be true the next day, month, or year. This game lives and breathes and bleeds and changes, and no one can own it all.

    Heroes and Insatiable exist at the ends of the arguments. One is what happens you own your story way too much, way too hard, when Every Bit Of Lair gets twisted and warped around the self, where everything has to be about you. The other is what happens you let go of things too much and allow nothing to mean anything to anyone, to so completely let go that nothing matters and nothing is owed. They are both the major dialogues that are limited by allowing things to get boxed up.

    Heroes are more powerful the more Lair their opponent has and the more they can twist it towards them(tie up your loose ends). Insatiable are more powerful the more Lair they devour and the more they render everything pointless(tie up your loose ends). One would make everything the Bright Dream. One would make everything the Mother's Land.

    Welcome to the Chaoskampf.

    That's how I've been going at in my head.

    TL;DR, Beast is a game about Building Your Brand.
    Last edited by ArcaneArts; 05-19-2019, 03:09 AM.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Originally posted by Cinder View Post
    I'm talking about the 2nd Edition hooks for Beast. All the 2nd Editions had an excellent refinement of what the themes of the previous ones were and some focal points to test those themes. For Beast, I'd go on with something I keep bringing up: the idea both the astral and material world constantly pressures the Begotten into structures, symbolism and shape over which they have no control and their only chance to stay true to themselves is to fight the current.

    It's something I see traces of in the books (would not discuss it otherwise) and, to be fair, it's not an aspect that needs a 2nd Edition to be implemented but, since we're discussing it, might be what I would push for in an hypothetical 2nd Edition.
    Some of this is orthogonal and rambling, but: I feel like if there was any solid chance that it wouldn't produce a new iteration of the phenomenon that gave us the twee Meta True Fae memes, "Beasts as Storytellers" would be the Begotten Thing I'd give center stage over Lesson Culture if pushed to provide an alternative.

    And that's mostly because it's not so much an alternative as another reframing that allows Begotten culture to be a little less precariously perched on the deep end; for all that its relation to the metaphysics is much simpler, the Primordial Dream is still attached to the Temenos. The Children participate in the grand weave of art and song whether they intend to or not, after all, because regardless of the specifics of their feeding, their chief imperative is to inspire fear — they share a Titanic Mother with the Muses, after all, and their Legend is self-expression they can seldom live without.

    Yossarian mentioned elsewhere that development alluded to a Disquiet-esque phenomenon affecting Beasts in a way that never really manifested, and while it'd almost certainly not go the same way as Promethean angles it, I feel like a related phenomenon would be important to look at for a Primordial that emphasizes controlling the narrative.

    Ideally, in the ChroD 3e such an edition shift would inhabit, Resonance as a phenomenon would be addressed as a core phenomenon and we'd have solid iterated systems for handling the actions and disposition of large undifferentiated groups of people, and doing the upkeep necessary to maintain a more refined message would give Begotten who haven't been worn down into the fatalism that afflicts many of them after a while (i.e. starting characters, at the very least) something to do and also provide more space for Life and Legend to work. Maybe Heroes are the starting point or end result of your legend splintering a la heretical factions in Geist's krewe rules, maybe Aggressive Meme gets a new place to live in the mechanics, maybe Lair Traits get a companion list, who knows?

    Beast currently does pretty well giving players the tools to mess with the psychic landscape in the geographical sense, but a subsequent edition should definitely make it easier to appreciate the Children's impact on it in the spiritual sense — Beast is a game about people and relationships, and the personal focus shouldn't take away from the fact that strangers and crowds are as much a part of your environment as the people you directly interact with.

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  • Dataweaver
    replied
    Eh. I agree that Beast's default portrayal of Heroes is rather ham-fisted; while it does say that there are Heroes other than the ones who obsess over slaying monsters, it deliberately doesn't say anything more than that, save for one sample Hero who breaks the rules in many, many ways. In keeping with Cinder's talk about Beasts struggling with being defined by their legends, I think that that option other to be open to Heroes, too: imagine if Cinder woke up one day and found that he (she?) was now a Hero. First thing to do: subvert the narrative.

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  • HelmsDerp
    replied
    Following up on this excellent talk of themes and metaphors, I think possibly one of the biggest opportunities the Beast corebook missed was in its dismissive treatment of Heroes. These are the people empowered to uncritically uphold Society's narrative. Any given individual Hero might not be particularly worthy of the name, but every single one should serve as a reminder of the oppressive weight of Narrative. There's a metaphysical gravity to the lazy narrative binary. Monsters are villains. They're bad and they are eventually defeated by good people. That is The Story. Heroes are scary because many of them honestly believe things are that simple, that clear cut, and also because others are cynical enough to realize just how much shit the Designated Protagonist can get away with and care only about milking that status.

    Mechanically I would reinforce that with powers that are less bonuses and more fiats. Stuff like being tough to kill because as long as they roll successes improbable bullshit will conspire to prevent lethal blows from being struck. The timer always stops at 1. The Hero always snaps out of mind control at the crucial instant. Falls are always broken by sand or water or an awning or... something. Think the final action sequence from Terry Pratchett's Moving Pictures, if you've read that.

    Meanwhile, Beasts have so many other interesting stories they might want to tell, and there's a loooot of space to explore how much any given individual might wish to fight or subvert or lean into the story that was chosen for them. I can pretty easily see philosophical factions forming along common reactions. Do you decide that eventually getting killed by a Hero is a small price to pay for decades of playing evil emperor or grand vizier and try your hand at being a Palpatine/Jaffar/Tarquin? Do you remember that fearsome monsters often become guardians, and find something worthwhile to protect? Cerberus might have had the right idea, although it didn't work out so well for other examples. What about giving them everything they asked for and more? Why be the monster they always claimed you were, when you could be something so much worse?

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  • Cinder
    replied
    Felt like my last post missed something and could not figure what it was, but the reasons behind it were rather dumb: it's something I rant about all the time. It's just I never discussed it in this sort of context.

    I'm talking about the 2nd Edition hooks for Beast. All the 2nd Editions had an excellent refinement of what the themes of the previous ones were and some focal points to test those themes. For Beast, I'd go on with something I keep bringing up: the idea both the astral and material world constantly pressures the Begotten into structures, symbolism and shape over which they have no control and their only chance to stay true to themselves is to fight the current.

    It's something I see traces of in the books (would not discuss it otherwise) and, to be fair, it's not an aspect that needs a 2nd Edition to be implemented but, since we're discussing it, might be what I would push for in an hypothetical 2nd Edition.

    It's stuff I talked about: the idea that millenia of myths, expectations and symbols can give you power but also shackle you. That you either write your story or that it writes you. Monomyth 2.0, if you allow me the term, except it's not only about Heroes and Begotten clashing (though that's one of its central nodes, because we're still talking Beast), but about the stories we tell each other and what we want the new ones to be.

    It's also something with plenty of practical consequences. Whether through small parasytes from the Primordial Dream that make people reenact distorted versions of ancient myths over and over, with Beast as unwitting actors, or the fact there's power to be found should you embrace your Family or Hunger to a degree you start to embody what gave them shape in the first place even more until ancestors from the Primordial Dream might decide you've learned enough to join the grown-ups table, it's all to remind Beast that stories and dreams flow within them just as blood and hunger.

    And, ultimately, to provide a clearer answer to that cursed question, "yes, but what do the Begotten do?". Answer being: they fight for their own identity, for those who they care for, a place to call their own and to decide how their legend goes. Because otherwise the script will work on its own, write them as nothing more than horrible monsters and give them the ending those monsters deserve. And that Mother loves you no matter what, but always hopes you'll manage to find your way.

    This would be my Beast's reply to that "The Wolf Must Hunt" that made wonders for Werewolf, just to be clear. Oh, have no doubt: those who fail and lose themselves to a cycle of Hunger for Hunger's sake, endless conflicts and pain both inflicted and suffered are A LOT. And both those who strive and those who surrender are still monsters: there's no excuses, no "Avoid your responsibilities" card here. The difference is some try to take a lesson from failures and regrets while others don't. No matter what, Beast is not easy nor pretty: no honest Begotten can ever call himself innocent and few can argue getting slain does not improve the world under at least a certain perspective. But there are still reasons to not give up and try to prove you have the right to exist, goddammit.

    While I think all this is already there, it's what I'd make more evident. It's the direction I took my Beast games towards and many of my discussions on the matter, something that worked for me at least.

    Edit: Of course, these are just ideas. To put them on paper and deliver, now that would not be simple.
    Last edited by Cinder; 05-18-2019, 06:19 PM.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Originally posted by HelmsDerp View Post
    I think I've said it before, but one of the places Beast does work as a metaphor for any number of marginalized groups is the experience of growing up in a culture that constantly tells stories where people like you are the villains. Of hearing, over and over, in fiction and on the news, how people think you are a monster and would prefer you stop existing.
    young one, everything in this forest needs to be killed
    they're dangerous, too dangerous to live
    yes, we mean this forest that you are in
    yes, we mean this forest we will not let you leave

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