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Some Assembly Required - Houserules and Beast: the Primordial

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  • Some Assembly Required - Houserules and Beast: the Primordial

    Some assembly required…

    The goal of this essay is to situate itself along the gamut of positions regarding Beast that range from “perfect as is” to “reboot the whole thing.” As the title suggests this essay is about how one can make adjustments (house rules, game hacks, etc.) to Beast: the Primordial. Before we get into the areas where I personally believe such adjustments are necessary, I want to discuss everything good about the game. In essence, all of the things a home-brewer can easily leave alone because they function very well in concert.

    In Beast: the Primordial, players play chthonic horrors that feed on people’s fears. These entities quite literally are the monsters in the closet, the boogies under the bed, etc.

    If you’re going to play this game, you absolutely need both the main rule book and the player’s guide. And you are probably going to have to make house rules for various things in the game to keep your troupe happy. The reason for this is because main rule book was not the best product ever produced by OPP. I won’t belabor its many issues here (as they’ve been discussed ad nauseum over the years); however, the player’s guide is indispensable because it makes the first attempt at cutting the Beast’s rough diamond into a gemstone.

    So, let’s talk about “The Good”:

    Families & Hungers – On the forums we often refer to these as “X and Y splats.” Mechanically they’re handy taxonomic organizing units that inform the players as to what base abilities and archetypal outlook they can generally expect from selecting one or another of the Families or Hungers. More directly they inform the player about what groups their character belongs to.

    Life & Legend – These are interesting anchors and really help align the opposing stresses the average player character should be worried about with their character. On one hand you have an all-too-human lifestyle which must be maintained so that you don’t attract too much attention from the things that are out to eat you (which is primarily heroes, the putative foil to your escapades). Counterpoint to your Life is your Legend. The Cthonic thing that linked itself to you through the Devouring seeks aggrandizement and together you just might be able to spin a yarn for the ages.

    Primordial Pathways (i.e., all the places I’m not supposed to be) – Similar to Mages, Beasts are highly mobile. Not only can a Beast traverse various Astral Realms but the can harness their connection to their Horrors to navigate the entire gamut of Chronicles of Darkness’s cosmology. And with Skeleton Key they can crash existing gates into such places. For the storyteller and the players, this creates storytelling opportunities the likes of which are really only comparable to those available to players of Mage: the Awakening.

    Lair – One of the most unique aspects of Beast: the Primordial is its supernatural tolerance trait. Rather than simply being a measure of a Beast’s supernatural power it also represents a character-specific setting (or really a series of linking character-specific settings) unique to every Beast. Among the things this particular feature evokes is the familiarity of video games like Castlevania and board games like Boss Monster. No other RPG makes these kind of popular culture references through a primary feature of the game.

    The Primordial Dream (and everything connected to it) – Only fully developed in the Player’s Guide, the Primordial Dream setting is a fantastic take on dreamscapes and nightmare realms. A troupe hardly needs to travel to alien settings when there are so many things to do right in their backyard. (Again, in exactly the same manner as the Supernal Realms in Mage: the Awakening.) What is being afforded here is choice! Choice of setting. Choice of story. Choice, choice, choice. This is a very good thing.

    “Inception” (I actually call this Dream Rhetoric but, in the game, it doesn’t have a distinct name) – Beasts can alter the beliefs of others while they are gallivanting about the various dreamscapes. This is a subtle and frequently overlooked method for exercising your Legend (the anchor) and building your legend (personal notoriety).

    Satiety & Feeding – Satiety is a novel power stat, not the least because it is intertwined with what would traditionally be the “morality” stat (I personally call these spiritual health stats).
    Overlooked by some is the fact that for the first time there are specific Conditions that go along with various states of “fullness” and “emptiness”. While being on “empty” might cause a character issues in another RPG, like Vampire: the Requiem, here “fullness” and “emptiness” are primary features that drive variations in gameplay and are directly engaged in helping players navigate the Experience economy. Similarly, the approach on Feeding takes on a proportionally important aspect in game play with entire scenes needing to be devoted to it. If this seems like too much of a time commitment don’t despair, simply have your player describe their feeding plan, determine the dice pool, roll for results, and treat the feeding scene as a brief bridge between other more important scenes. Like with all resource harvest scenes in Chronicles’ RPGs, feeding can be either a central feature or take a back seat to more interesting story aspects. Its not different simply because the end “fullness” state impacts what players can and may do in the game.

    Atavisms, Birthrights, Lair Traits, Nightmares, & Obcasus Rites – The suite of supernatural abilities that Beasts possess. These are excellent, for the most part are well thought out, and serve to really round out what makes a Beast a monster when compared to mere mortals. If there was one thing I might change here, it would be to remove the Obcasus Initiate Merit and simply open access to Obcasus Rites to every Beast. More on this later though when we discuss “The Ugly”.

    Horrorspawn (i.e., look at my legion of children) – Nothing says chthonic horror like offspring. Horrorspawn puts every Beast in the position to play a Dagon-like character lording over a horde of Deep Ones. This common horror trope (see for instance, “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, Slither, etc.) and like so many other parts of the game provides story options and opportunities to both exercise one’s Legend (the anchor) and expand one’s legend (the notoriety).

    Herald – All the benefits of a Ghoul without any of the messy addiction issues. The customized Retainer that every monster should have. Absolutely great because it provides yet another layer of story opportunities.

    This has been “The Good” vis-à-vis Beast: the Primordial. If you’re a homebrewer thinking about “fixing” Beast, my advice to you is, don’t touch any of things listed above. They all work (more-or-less) perfectly as advertised and, with those features alone you can run a Beast game that is going to be enjoyable and interesting.

    So, let’s talk about “The Bad”:

    Satiety is your (so-called) “morality” stat. Bad(?)—this is a matter of perception.

    Personally, as I’ve said, my take is that these “morality” stats are actually spiritual health stats. From this point of view Satiety works perfectly as is. It’s a visceral, dynamic spiritual health stat. When it's full, everything is fine, your “spirit” takes a nap, and you’re human again. When its empty, you’re in trouble because your “spirit” is literally starving to death. For a game about Beasts and Hungers this works! Full. Stop.

    Rhetorically, “What’s the issue then?” Having read through and participated in so many of the debates over the years I’ll say that unlike other Chonicles’ RPGs there seems to be no consequences for a Beast’s monstrous actions. This makes it quite unlike the other games and causes a sizable portion of the community no small amount of discomfort. Consequences for spiritual health are spelled out and readily visible in each of the other game lines.

    There are consequences though. Every time a Beast spends Satiety they are effectively damaging their own spiritual health. It’s almost as though they were suffering a Lethal wound to empower their supernatural aspects. Remember, at zero Satiety, a Beast’s Horror is literally starving. To. Death.

    There are other consequences. Certain behaviors by Beasts cause the creation of Heroes or allow Heroes to Track Beasts. Except of course when they don’t. This is because in the main rule book there’s often a takesie backsie tug-of-war with the deployment of Heroes as the natural consequence to a Beast’s monstrous activity. (One of its many editing issues.)

    House Rule Suggestion #1: Whenever the text suggests a Hero is created or would engage in Tracking a Beast, the Storyteller makes it happen (which might mean the storyteller simply rolls a stock Hero’s investigation dice pool). Heroes are not an optional feature of the game. They’re the primary antagonist. Necessarily treat them as such. No takesie backsies. This is a game of cat…and also cat.

    Now there are likely to be some who don’t find the “I’m literally starving to death here” and/or the deployment of Heroes (a dangerous physical threat in the hands of a competent storyteller [Protip: Antagonists do whatever the storyteller needs them to, regardless of game-like mechanics.]) to be sufficient consequences for the terrible things Beasts do. And so, the question becomes what else could we do with house rules to showcase consequences?

    Not long ago, Arc wrote an essay on din-Lair, or as she eventually called it Lore. It was an interesting essay, full of all kind narrative ideas for how a Beast’s actions shape the world around themselves. One house rule approach would be to take this idea and run with it. (More rhetorical questions follow.)

    How might this work?

    One approach is to add another 10-dot statistic to the character sheet. We’ll call it Lore. (We could just as easily call it Fable or some other synonym for Legend but, Lore is just fine.)

    What is Lore for?

    Thematically, Lore is representation of a Beast’s quest to construct a legend (the notoriety kind) for themselves and their Horror. We know from Inheritance that this kind of legend is one of the key components for evolving into an Incarnate Beast. This Lore trait then gives us a way to represent that mechanically.

    How could it work?

    Mechanically, one manner in which we could implement Lore is in the following way.

    Lore is a trait that starts at 1. To increase it we have to earn special Lore Beats which convert to Lore Experiences which must be used to purchase Lore dots at the rate of 5 Lore Experiences for 1 Lore dot. We earn 1 Lore Beat every time:
    • A victim of our Feeding loses 1 Integrity from the Breaking Point caused by the Feeding.
    • We “kill” the Dream Form of our victim during Feeding
    • We roll an Exceptional Success when activating an Atavism, Invoked Lair Trait, Nightmare, or Obcasus Rite.
    We straight up gain 1 Lore Experience every time we kill (really kill) our victim while Feeding. (Yes, the Dark Side is the fast path to power.)

    What happened to the consequences you promised us?

    We’re getting to that. As part of our implementation of Lore we’re going to implement a series of knock-on effects.

    Part 1: Lore impacts the Heroic Tracking mechanics. Each time Heroic Tracking would be apply to a Beast, the Storyteller rolls the Beast’s dots in Lore as a dice pool. The results of that dice roll are as follows:
    • Dramatic Failure: The Hero is completely oblivious to the disturbances caused by the Beast and their Horror. The Beast’s Lore is reduced by 1 dot.
    • Failure: The Hero is generally aware that the Beast and their Horror are causing disturbances but is unable to discover any damning information.
    • Success: The Hero discovers an important Clue regarding the Beast and their Horror.
    • Exceptional Success: As above, except the Hero also learns of the Beast’s whereabouts or the whereabouts a physical location corresponding to one of the Chambers in the Beast’s Lair.
    Related, each time a Beast purchases a new dot of Lore, they also check Heroic Tracking to see if their legend (notoriety) is great enough to attract a Hero’s attention.

    Part 2: Even though we haven’t discussed it yet, themes of family and kinship are interwoven throughout the game and, here’s one of the places we going to leverage those ideas to do something new. When a player makes their Beast, they and the storyteller should write up a network of the personalities surrounding the Beast and having a part in the Life and their Legend.
    This could be as simple as a network diagram of names; however, this should be a tiered list consisting of
    1. Familiars (anyone with the Family Ties Condition in relation to the Beast),
    2. Family (anyone related to the Beast through genetics, adoption, and similar relationships, to three times removed) [Remember not all of the people who might qualify for this status are actually going to be part of the Beast’s story. So, no need to make an exhaustive list.],
    3. Friends (people the Beast enjoys interacting with),
    4. Acquaintances (people the Beast interacts with regularly, e.g., co-workers, the barista at a favorite coffee shop, the ticket seller at the movie theater, etc.),
    5. Victims (people the Beast has fed upon)
    6. Strangers (everyone else)
    [Note again, no need to make an exhaustive list. Other Beasts are not on this list.]

    Any time a Beast does something which causes them to gain or lose Satiety, the top-most person (or entity) on the list [storyteller should substitute folks from the list the feel will be interesting for the overall story] that is in the closest physical proximity the Beast suffers a Breaking Point (or the equivalent). If that Breaking Point results in the loss of a dot of Integrity (or the equivalent) then the Beast gains 1 Lore Beat.

    The point here is that we’ve added a game mechanic that while it doesn’t directly make Beast’s deal with the consequences of their actions, someone else, someone very close to them probably, is going to. Personally, I think this is an interesting set of mechanics because:
    1. Someone’s paying the price for the Beast’s activities (there are consequences).
    2. The people paying that price are the one’s closest to the Beast.
    3. It allows the Beast to maintain their illusion that everything is going swimmingly when in reality, everything around them is going off the rails. This is interesting. Not even Promethean does that.
    4. Feeds back into the Hero mechanic.
    There are, of course, other ways to address the consequences concerns, all having to do with reworking Satiety into more traditional looking fuel and spiritual health traits. There’s nothing wrong with these approaches. I personally didn’t take it here with the above hypothetical because I wanted to try addressing consequence concerns without disrupting the novel approach Satiety takes to spiritual health and supernatural fuel.

    “The Bad” #2 – Lessons & the Teaching Thereof

    The role of Beasts as the arbiters of cautionary tales is something that was added to Beast: the Primordial in the time that lapsed from it’s Kickstarter manuscript to when it was finally published. Its primary goal is to provide a (so-called) morally-palatable(ish) Feeding opportunities.

    “Terrifying someone to within an inch of their life isn’t so bad, if it also teaches them a lesson” [paraphrased from many arguments for Lessons].

    The question is, does the game need this? If you believe consequences are a problem for the game and don’t do something like the above hypothetical hacks, then the answer is going to be yes. The reason for this is that Lessons moves the bar on feeding from consequenceless psychological abuse to purposeful moral correction.

    Unfortunately, the optics on this move are a bit iffy. Allegorically, Beasts are intended to be representative of people who don’t seem to fit into society under normal circumstances (and any minority group works here). However, Beasts are supernaturally powerful and rarefied and once we place them in the teaching role they begin to lend themselves to two very different allegories than the one that was intended. Depending on how we interpret the text we read, we might find that our allegory of people who don’t fit shifted to victims out for revenge or, we might find that our original allegory shifted to privileged people exercising power over the helpless. These are categorically bad allegories. We would be right to reject them.

    Can we then employ Lessons as an alternative to consequences?

    Nope. If we’re really concerned about consequences to actions it's better to embrace the bull by the horns and write house rules like the ones showcased above.

    Does this mean the idea for Lessons is moribund?

    A lot of text was spent on it in the players’ guide after all… And, it appeals to a sizable sub-section of the Beast community. Actually, we can preserve the idea, either narratively as the players’ guide describes it or by instituting some helpful game-like mechanics.

    For our next hypothetical hack, let’s assume we developed an implementation for Lore like the hypothetical one above. The way the hypothetical is implemented, it might be possible to accumulate a lot of Lore really fast. This could potentially cause all kinds of problems for a Beast. What if a Beast had a way to sell Lore back (sort of) and fix some of the mess they create with our hypothetical implementation of Lore.

    Thematically, Lessons then are going to represent a kind of spiritual nurturing (which is one of the metaphors used for teachers historically). The goal isn’t the Lesson itself but rather repairing some harm to another’s spiritual health. We use a Lesson only because that’s the set of tools that Beast has on hand.

    Mechanically, we might implement this system in the following way. The Beast goes through all of the normal steps to prepare for feeding, instead of gaining any Satiety at all though, the following effects apply on the roll results:
    • Dramatic Failure: The lesson backfires and the victim becomes a meal. The Beast gains 1 dot of Satiety, the victim automatically loses 1 dot of Integrity, and the Beast gains 1 Lore Beat.
    • Failure: The lesson fails to make an impression. The victim gains no bonus dice to their Breaking Point roll.
    • Success: The victim learns a needed lesson. They gain a +1 die bonus to their Breaking Point roll for each success that the Beast rolls. If the Lesson’s Base potential was 1, the Beast loses 1 Lore Beat. If the Lesson’s Base potential was 3, the Beast loses 1 Lore Experience. If the Lesson’s Base potential was 5, the Beast loses 1 Lore dot.
    • Exceptional Success: As above, except if the victim rolls an exceptional success on their Breaking Point roll, they gain 1 dot of Integrity in addition to the normal benefits for exceptional success. The Beast’s loses 1 Lore dot in addition to the other effects.
    Quite literally a Beast sacrifices their own gain for another’s benefit. (Or, attempts to at any rate.) In addition to providing a useful Lore management mechanic, we also now have a mechanic that feeds directly into the Heal the Hero Inheritance.

    “The Bad” #3 – Community Among the Begotten (a.k.a., “there’s a z-splat for this game, right?”)

    It’s a false assumption to assume that every Chronicles game has an extra archetype. Indeed many of the extra archetype’s are less “z-splat” and more “x-splat+”. Examples include Bloodlines in Vampire, Lodges in Werewolf, Legacies in Mage, etc. Interestingly Demon doesn’t have anything like one of these. You have your Incarnation and your Agenda. That’s it.

    When it was first published, Beast was similar to Demon in this regard—you had your Family and your Hunger. And, that was it. If one looks at the forums there’s been a recurring theme of “what’s the z-splat for Beast?” in many posts over the years. It’s safe to say that there’s a chunk of the Beast community who want that. So much so, that an attempt was made to address it in the players’ guide through the introduction of seekers and incarnation cults. That the topic keeps coming up though is a signal that the treatment wasn’t sufficient in some quarters of the community.

    In a lot ways though, we already have everything we need to do to fix this. It’s evident from the text that the authors conceptualize both seekers and incarnate cults as kinds of mystery cults. We already have rules for mystery cults. Mystery Cult Initiation is a Merit, and the rules for it (are sadly not in any of the Beast rule books) can be found on pages 51-3 of the Chronicles of Darkness main rule book.

    Here the solution is just to turn the crank on the mill.

    Would it have been nice if the mill had already been turned?

    Sure. But this is an area that’s already well-defined in overall rule set. So fixing it with house rules isn’t going to be much of a challenge or an issue.

    This brings to the end of “The Bad” with Beast.

    Which brings us to “The Ugly.”

    First and foremost is Kinship and the entire “Family” allegory. This is an allegory that simply doesn’t work for a portion of the Beast community. And really as we’ve seen, the game is already arranged such that it’s easy to simply skip employing something which would normally be a central feature of the game.

    There are two key problems for Kinship. One of them is that you don’t need it or any of its mechanics to enjoy Beast. The second is that its entire ruleset and accompanying narrative is only in the game to service the “crossover” aspect of Beast. The fractured nature of the main rule book’s overall narrative doesn’t do it any favors. Also not helpful, all the cringy ways in which some of the Kinship abilities read.

    (I’m sorry you can’t force people into your “family” and spying on the meal table from a hole in the ceiling while everyone else eats hardly sounds like a “family dinner.” Read unsympathetically these sound more like stalker metaphors than family metaphors. Beasts are already chthonic horrors; they hardly need to be fairly mundane stalkers too. Just. No.)

    In so many ways, Kinship feels like a not particularly well executed DLC on what is otherwise a fantastic game.

    Rather than eliminate Kinship outright though, we could try preserving it by making it a more obviously optional factor of game play.

    Now one can argue that since Beasts are metaphysically descended from some ur-being called the Dark Mother and that, by virtue of this metaphysical relationship they are also metaphysically related to everything else that goes bump in the night. But this doesn’t really seem to be a central feature of the game’s mechanical systems. And even though it’s threaded through much of the narrative, it reads more like something that Beast’s believe than actual metaphysical fact.

    The question becomes is there a way to preserve the Family allegory stuff without making seem like it’s a more central part of the game than the mechanics actually suggest?

    There are a lot of ways to accomplish that very thing. One method that could be tried is to rewrite all of the Kinship abilities as Obcasus Rites. Another method we could use is to rewrite all of the Kinship abilities as Merits or parts of one or more Merits. For our hypothetical rules hack I’m actually going to suggest a combination of these two approaches.

    Thematically what we’re going to do is one of two natural fits for the whole potential metaphysics issue—religion! (The other being philosophy.) For our hypothetical rule hack, we’ll make a new Merit. Call it Mysteries, so as to invoke the ‘come to the Dark Mother and learn at Her motile appendage’ aspect of religion. We’ll absorb the Guidance ability from the players’ guide into this. Our hypothetical Merit might look like this:
    • 1st dot: Character gains the Guidance ability (exactly as it’s written in the players’ guide) and the Thicker Than Water ability (exactly as it’s written in the main rule book).
    • 2nd dot: Character gains the Family Resemblance ability (exactly as it’s written in the main rule book)
    • 3rd dot: Character gains the following ability:
      • Profane Adoption
        • Systems: This ability can only be employed on entities which are either Descended from the Dark Mother or Fundamentally Human. The participating entity (i.e., the supplicant) must do so of their own free will and cannot be coerced into participating through supernatural means.
        • Cost: 1 Willpower dot paid by the Beast + 1 Willpower point paid by the supplicant
        • Dice Pool: Horror’s Finesse + Occult
        • Action: Instant
        • Roll Results:
          • Dramatic Failure: The adoption fails spectacularly and, the Dark Mother disowns the supplicant, causing the Beast’s Horror to treat them as an entity for whom Kinship Does Not Apply. Note that another Beast might be able to use this ability on the supplicant; however, the supplicant is forever more immune to the Thicker Than Water ability.
          • Failure: The adoption fails and neither the supplicant nor the Beast gains any benefit.
          • Success: The adoption succeeds. The supplicant gains the Family Ties (Persistent) Condition with respect to the Beast.
          • Exceptional Success: As above, except that the Dark Mother blesses the adoption. The Beast loses a Willpower point instead, while the supplicant pays no cost at all.
      • 4th dot: Character gains the Passing Resemblance ability (exactly as listed in the main rule book).
      • 5th dot: Character gains the Family Dinner ability—with Satiety gains exactly as listed in the main rule book but with the following caveats:
        • This ability only works on entities that count as Descended from the Dark Mother.
        • The Beast needs to have been freely invited to witness the hunt or feeding by one of its members, who cannot be compelled to extend the invitation by supernatural means.
    This Merit accounts for all of the parts of Kinship except Mother’s Kiss. Mother’s Kiss we’ll simply reclassify as an Obcasus Rite (which makes it much more difficult and meaningful to employ). We’ll also tweak the requirement for Obcasus Initiate from what’s listed in the players’ guide to require 1 or more dots in our new Merit – Mysteries.

    Now rather than being a (somewhat overwrought) core feature of the game, Kinship is nicely folded into the religion that all Beasts share – the mysteries of the Dark Mother. It’s also a more clearly optional aspect the troupes are free to explore or not without feeling like they’ve missed some important aspect of the game. We’ve also changed the family allegory from something that seems like an overbearing fact to something that delves more deeply into the spirituality of Beasts as characters. (We’ve also fixed one of my “inane” pet peeves with this game, over-incentivizing the utility of Beasts to other supernatural entities. Honestly, players don’t need game-mechanic incentives to work with one another.)

    “The Ugly” #2 – Inheritance
    The issue here is that many of the Inheritances are allegories for suicide. Personally, I find suicide allegories extremely distasteful and the approach taken (remember our allegories: you’re someone who doesn’t fit into society and so, eventually you might choose suicide) is super unhelpful. I’ve written hacks for these in the past but mostly my advice to those who find these allegories also distasteful is to rewrite the Inheritances with two clear notions in mind: sometimes characters die (or get their souls sucked out) and myths evolve over time. A way to approach reworking the Inheritances focuses on interlinking them in a way that one Inheritance might lead to another, and another, and so on, and so forth.

    Hypothetical hacks for reworks might look like the text below:

    Death
    A Beast’s Horror is a scion of the Mother of All Darkness. As such Beasts are not easily killed. And even when they die, some portion of their essence continues on.

    A Beast cannot really die unless the Heart of its Lair is destroyed while its merged with its Horror.

    When a Beast dies in the mortal world of the Chronicles of Darkness, its soul, the Horror, undergoes a transformation into one of the Unfettered--ephemeral nightmares that slumber within abandoned Chambers in the Hive and stalk mortals through the Primordial Dream.

    If a Beast’s Lair is destroyed while the Beast is not merged with its Horror (a rare occurrence), its Horror dies. When this happens, the Beast’s Lair trait immediately becomes zero, he loses all of his Lair Traits, and immediately gains the Soulless (Persistent) condition. While under the effects of the Soulless Condition, the Beast neither gains nor loses Satiety. He cannot employ Atavisms or Nightmares and, for all intents and purposes is a human. This condition persists until the Soulless Beast passes away (from natural or unnatural causes), he gains a new soul, or he is Claimed by an Unfettered or some other ephemeral entity that looks for such empty vessels.

    If a Soulless Beast gains a new soul it slowly transforms into human, replacing it’s Satiety with an equal amount of Integrity and losing all Atavisms and Nightmares in the process but gaining Unseen Sense (Beasts).

    The Beast Unfettered (The Retreat)
    Becoming Unfettered is not a matter of retreat. All Horrors can withstand the loss of their human bodies. (I.e., ignore the Initiating the Retreat section.) The Unfettered otherwise operate as described in B:tP except as follows.

    Lair: Unfettered retain the Lairs that their Horror-self dwelled in while their Beast was alive. These forlorn places drift to the bottom-most part of the Hive where they lay forgotten at the ends of unused Primordial Pathways. Each of the Lair’s Chambers still has the Lair Traits that it had while the Beast was alive but, the Unfettered cannot exert any control over them or employ them in any conscious manner. This is not a matter of statistic recorded on a description of the Unfettered but rather describes the den in which the Unfettered slumbers away its meals.

    Slumber: Like Horrors, Unfettered will slumber once they’ve consumed enough Essence to fill their reserve. They always return to their Lair to sleep. As more ephemeral version of its former self, an Unfettered’s Size remains the same as its Size when it was a Horror.

    Manifestations: Unfettered gain one Manifestation + one additional Manifestation for each dot of Lair that they have as soon as they become one of the Unfettered.

    Second Chances
    Unlike other Soulless mortals, Soulless Beasts maintain tenuous connections to both the Temenos and the Primordial Dream. These connections take the form of crumbled and ruined Oneiroses and overgrown, seemingly abandoned Chambers. Horrors instinctively avoid such places but Unfettered and other, darker entities, are attracted to them.

    The vast majority of those few Beasts that find themselves Soulless do not remain so for very long. The Soulless are magnets for ephemeral entities that desire access to the living world of the Chronicles of Darkness. Of particular significance is that Soulless Beasts gain the Resonant Condition as soon as an Unfettered enters their Chamber.

    At that point, the Unfettered may use its Influences to Strengthen the Chamber eventually bringing about the Open Condition. From there the Unfettered will Possess the Soulless Beast. If no one notices, a pattern of repeated Possession occurs until the relationship progresses to Controlled. Once a Soulless Beast has been Controlled by an Unfettered, the Unfettered can Merge with it.

    The Beast Rampant (The Merger)
    The effects of an Unfettered Merging with a Soulless Beast work exactly as the Merger is described in B:tP except as noted below. For all intents and purposes the Merger works in a similar manner to the process of Claiming.

    Merger Effects: The Rampant may select one of the following three options for each Rank possessed by the Unfettered doing the Merging.
    • Armor: As described in B:tP.
    • Body Warp: The Rampant may select a Dread Power. See CofD and W:tF. This rule replaces those found in B:tP.
    • Increased Attribute: As described in B:tP.
    Increased Awareness: All Rampant gain this Merger effect for free.

    Rampant also retain access to any Atavisms or Nightmares that they had in life but lose any Manifestations and Numina that the Unfettered Merging with them possessed. They have an effective Lair rating of 0.

    Rampant otherwise operate exactly as described in B:tP. Many Rampant eke out short, brutal lives that frequently end on the tip of a Hero’s spear. Occasionally other Beasts find Rampants and grant them succor within the confines of their Lairs allowing both of them to realize several mutual benefits. There are also persistent but unsubstantiated rumors that some few Beasts have found a way to raise Rampant up from their semi-human bestial nature back to full Beasthood, splitting the Merged being back into Beast and Horror again.

    The Beast Redeemed (The Erasure)
    If by some twist of fate a Human soul is used to replace the now dead Horror (e.g., through the intervention of a Mage, etc.), then the Beast is Redeemed. Since Beasts are complex mystical beings, even if the intervention is successful, the Beast must still roll her highest of Finesse + Resistance Attributes - Lair in order for the new soul to take. Success and exceptional success both have the results listed on pp 160-1 in the BPG. A failure causes the Beast to remain soulless. A dramatic failure indicates that the Beast has been possessed by some otherworldly entity like an Angel, Ghost, Spirit, or Dreamborn.

    Separation
    The Beast Divided (The Divergence)
    Some supernatural creatures’ powers allow them to forcibly divide a soul from its body. On the rare occasion that this should befall a Beast and both her Horror and she survive, they are thereafter permanently hobbled and suffer the effects described under the description for Divergence in the BPG except as noted below.

    If the contested roll for losing one’s soul due to external forces (e.g., a Mage’s Spell) is failed, the Horror attempts one last ditch effort to remain free and the Beast’s player rolls Resolve plus his Horror’s Power. In the event of a dramatic failure on this roll, the Beast not only forever loses his Horror but has all of his Attributes reduced to one dot. If successful, the bond between the Beast and the Horror is broken, allowing the Horror to escape the clutches of soul capturing occult forces. The Beast and Horror suffer the effects listed on pp 159-60 of the BPG, including the Horror’s hostility towards the Beast for allowing this turn of events to come to pass. An exceptional result on the die roll still ends in the two, Beast and Horror, being divided but the Beast maintains an Atavism of his choice as noted on p 159 of the BPG.

    Fulfillment – more or less the same. (Pedantic rant – One thing to note though the names of the two fulfillments are semantically switched. In a myth its hero vs monster. We expect the hero to win. In a game where the roles are reversed, when the monster wins, the myth is inverted—literally the opposite of what was expected. The myth gets subverted when something unexpected happens, like the hero and the monster make nice with one another.)

    “The Ugly” #3 – Brood Lairs – the manner in which the Brood Lair construction rules are written in the main rule book entail that Beasts can burrow to one another’s Lairs as a matter of course, whether they want to team up into a Brood or not (you just have to spend 1 day stalking another Beast). Cringe. And unnecessary considering that if you want to attack any enemy Beast you can just navigate to one of their Chambers through the Mists (see that players’ guide, it’s vital). A quick fix is just ignore where the main rule book makes it seem like Beasts are pirates on the seven seas and their Lairs are ships that can be collided into one another. Making a Brood Lair, like making a Brood, requires the consent and cooperation of all the members of the Brood. (Like, this should be a no brainer, yet you can seemingly fight the process using a Clash of Wills…)

    We’ve arrived at the end of this essay. If you’re a homebrewer (or even a spectator) hopefully you’ve found some of the advice and examples above helpful. And for the record, Beast is a beautiful game. Its text might be a mess and all of its metaphors might not mesh very nicely but it’s still a diamond. It merely wants for polish.

  • Satchel
    replied
    This is much-delayed because of computer problems that made essay-writing impractical, but I'd like to speak to HelmsDerp's points from the 10th and talk about Kinship. So, to begin from the end:

    Kinship is a background element. It informs the characters' social and metaphysical context in a way that does not need to be central to the gameline for it to be important.

    Kinship exists as a ludonarrative element in Beast that assumes that not only are your characters inhabiting the same general sort of Chronicles of Darkness that the bluebook implies by the "What has your character forgotten?" Integrity question, but that the organized and pseudo-organized social monsters of the other gamelines are also present to the same variable degree and uneven distribution as they exist for each other, i.e. there are enough of a given type of monster for there to at least be player-group-level social structures if not larger societies in a given locale and few enough of them that not every area includes such structures as a matter of course. The supernatural makeup of your characters' city is not uniform, and that already narrows the scope of its potential influence on that city and your characters even before getting into the matter of specific individuals who contribute to the parts of the cosmology that Beasts are concerned with.

    Most of the supernatural societies that exist among gameline-level supernatural beings have some investment in secrecy and subtlety as operative concepts, be it for one reason or another. Many of them also exist in some part to facilitate the needs of the monsters that belong to them, if only by arbitrating territories and providing a safe court in which to to settle disputes. Monsters who exist outside of these societies, whether by chance or deliberate isolation, therefore tend to be more visible and more in need of fuel and sustenance than their better-integrated fellows; monsters of greater power tend to be commensurately hungrier, more ambitious, and/or more volatile, which may contribute to existing divides between a given specimen and the rest of their societies.

    We can already see that Uratha society helps to ground its members against the imbalance that causes them to most resemble the werewolves of popular culture; the two demonic Agendas that do Typical Demonic Stuff are the ones that humans are most likely to be aware of; and the changing shape of vampire fiction has been discussed within Vampire as something its characters might have a direct hand in. Controlled and uncontrolled exposure of the supernatural is part of the collective mortal image of what monsters are, and that image mostly exists independent of the proper functioning of those monsters in their own gamelines. Mostly.

    Recall that supernatural power and frequency of human exposure are the main contributing factors for whether a monster becomes the Apex of a hive — to approximate, a monster who forms a lot of Chambers by prompting Integrity breaking points in the same broad area is more likely to come to the attention of a Beast through its influence on the landscape of local nightmares. Recall what I've said above about how much easier it is to find monsters who aren't involved with like-minded peers in the same area. That's one half of the easy equation for Kinship's involvement in the game: even without leaning into the Begotten's status as unattached third parties to supernatural political drama, the monsters that it's easiest for them to make inroads with at a practical level are the ones who don't have more familiar options to lean on for support and assistance because they're on the outs with their Caucus or they're the last survivor of a purge of their clan or they're literally the only Sin-Eater in town. While it's by no means essential, integrating another supernatural into a Beast game (rather than vice-versa) works out nicely enough when dealing with unaligned monsters and other Y-splat-neutral characters.

    The other half of the easy equation, of course, is running into a monster who is plugged into the local supernatural framework appropriate to them — the method better-suited to incorporating a Beast character into another supernatural game. As mentioned above, many supernatural societies are pretty well concerned with secrecy, which makes having a close relationship to a member of one of those groups both a handy way to find new sources of nightmare fuel and a good way to get people in those societies to start asking some awkward questions, like "What is this creature you've brought to the pack meeting?" and "Why did I see a dragon when that lady stopped a knife with her bare hands?" Fortunately, as a child of all monsterdom's universal missing link, having Family Ties with a monster lets you pass for something like it to casual inspection, and the state of being that this disguise is most effective in is the one where you're encouraged not to do much personally and the powers you're best at using are the ones that don't announce to anyone with the right eyes exactly what you are. For all intents and purposes, a well-hidden Beast among a supernatural society avoids burning too much energy while they soak in proxy-satisfaction from the hunters they're using as the models for their own nightmare-sorcery — some of which they may have experienced firsthand from powerful monsters they've attached themselves to.

    Because the knife cuts both ways — a Beast who is best equipped to use their own mental- and social-influence powers and draw inspiration for new ones is also the most susceptible to the mental- and social-influence powers of other monsters around them, and the least inclined to stop their kin from turning their powers on them in turn. The way Satiety Conditions work means this is one of the circumstances in which the Begotten tend to thrive — the combination of mechanical focus on resilience, cultural disposition toward fatalism, and metaphysical alignment with Bad Places puts the Children of the Dark Mother in a very particular corner of human-supernatural dynamics, and while they don't necessarily all live on that block, a lot of them know the way there. You don't look at someone in that situation and expect archetypes fluffier than Problematic Fave.

    The archetypal Beast spends some portion of their life dealing with unsavory urges and/or premonitions they can't warn others about in direct terms until they come to terms with their fear and hunger, at which point their tendency to settle into locations means they pick up on what the local monsters are like, starting with the hungriest and the most obvious because those are the ones that are most relevant to the Begotten niche as creatures of human fear and local geography. Depending on how their encounters go, they likely either draw some of those monsters into their orbit or are drawn into those monsters' orbit in turn, at which point the tension between Hunger and Kinship eventually strains and/or breaks the relationship between the Beast and the monsters or the relationship between the monsters and their direct peers; while this is going on, the Beast has an extra source of sustenance and superpowers, and the monsters they're associated with have the benefits available to those beloved by A Very Persuasive Mothman With A Pocket Dimension And Magical Blood. It is very possible that things get ugly during all of this — likely, even.

    What's not likely to happen is that a Beast thinks of themself as the same type of monster as their kin are in more than broad conceptual terms, because the Begotten's monster-detection toolkit specifically differentiates between Beasts and other monsters; even if being a changeling and being Chinese were remotely comparable qualities (they're not), a Beast who spends time among a freehold has to engage in an act of will to present as a changeling and has very probably seen firm evidence that changelings don't function like Beasts beyond the lack of Horrors to glimpse. The Begotten approach other monsters from the general standpoint of "I am a missing link between this and the Mother Of Monsters," based on intrinsic supernatural qualities that largely exist irrespective of those monsters' cultural practices — bringing up cultural appropriation in this context is nonsensical, because the things Beasts get out of close association with other monsters have only the barest relation to appropriatable culture and the things they can pass as have even less to do with it.

    Other things so unlikely to happen that I wouldn't believe it was being suggested as a serious analogy if not for multiple existing instances of trouble with metaphors: Beast browbeats another monster into a Family Ties-level relationship using a trust-based mechanical system after witnessing that monster drinking human blood/eating human flesh/flensing human wills/hunting people down for sport and/or sustenance, all the while managing to keep said monster from cutting ties with them and/or petitioning aid from other monsters and/or using their own preternatural abilities to drive the Beast away. That kind of situation requires the assumption of a specifically vulnerable target and an unusually persistent actor acting in ways that are both counter to the implied tenor of Kinship's toolkit and not unique to the Begotten; even under the assumption that toxic relationships were the standard for Beasts and other monsters, "I can't stand this person but I'm getting something I need out of them" is a valid dramatic tool to be used by consenting adults portraying characters in a storytelling game.

    The dramatic nature of some of the language used tends to obfuscate the fact that Beast's Classic Monster Niche at the sub-legendary level is basically "local cryptid." You're Old Man Jenkins what knows where the witches do blood sacrifice and you're also the giant carp in the lake that parents warn their kids about that can control the weather. You can sustain yourself on petty arson and secondhand cannibalism if you don't get greedy. Stepping aside so your cousins can pursue their own ambitions is something you manage because the bunch of you are stuck with each other unless one of you wants to move, and until then there's a certain amount of give-and-take y'all're prepared to engage in. You can be patient. The self is a deep road with many turnings, and belonging to a community frees you from some of the burdens of hunting until somebody stops pulling their weight; once you hit that point, you can either solve the problem, solve the problem, or find another place to call home — and since you carry your home with you, you may or may not have something of an advantage in negotiations.

    Still, better the devils you know, yeah?

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  • Noahjam325@gmail.com
    replied
    I'm very new to the CofD community and so far have only played Geist. But Beast: The Primordial was my initial inspiration the pulled me into everything else. I loved the idea of being a 'Boogeyman' and the idea of just a stereotypical monster. There are very few games that just flat-out state "You are a monster." Even the other splats have little notes that boil down to "You're a monster, but..." I'm nowhere near qualified to begin really discussing or debating the main points I've seen presented. So I'm going to focus on the homebrew rules as a newer Storyteller (but have been gaming for over 15 years).

    In my opinion; these homebrew rules are way too over engineered. You clearly explained why you made the changes you did, but the solutions are way too complicated. The idea of adding an entirely new stat to track with new mechanics is very off putting. Maybe it's because I don't have enough experience with the Storytelling system and it's not actually that much more effort, but I would rather put my effort into building stories than tracking more mechanics.

    Honestly; almost all of your homebrew rules are more easily fixed by just changing the way you think about the game. It's very easy for me to have a session 0 and just tell the players; "I understand that the rule book discusses X, Y, and Z. I've interpreted them 'this' way and so in the game that's how you can think about it." That's way easier than trying to completely rewrite the game's mechanics.

    Don't get me wrong, all discussion helps me as a Storyteller understand how I want to run a game. It's good to know when multiple people read the same text and come to different conclusions. It makes those conversations with my players easier. But the idea that a main mechanic of the game (e.g. Kinship) can be easily slotted in or out is a strength of the system. It tells me the mechanics are so clean that I don't have to worry about homebrew. I feel I can be more adventurous and deviate from RAW and not break my game.

    I appreciate everyone that's taken the time to clearly explain themselves. I've found a lot of what I've read helpful in helping me think about my games. My main issue with the house rules boil down to; it can all be fixed by just reskinning. None of the problems are limited by the game's mechanics, just how the lore of those mechanics are presented.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Originally posted by Satchel View Post
    Gonna just reel off some bits of the Satiety Conditions and Family Ties for no real reason:




    Context is refreshing!

    Leave a comment:


  • HelmsDerp
    replied
    Ok in fairness Beast has one other major difference, and that is the muddled focus on morality and how Heroes are not the Good Guys. As we are well aware at this point it could use another editing pass; the viewpoint sometimes veers too close to a direct role reversal and that's a problem because Beasts aren't the good guys either. There aren't any categorical good guys, that's the point. The places where it loses sight of that understandably rub people the wrong way.

    In expansions or a second edition I would like to see more words dedicated to dealing with the complicated truth that Heroes might not truly be heroic but they aren't necessarily villains either. Sometimes they're doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, sometimes they're doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Let's really commit to No Neat Little Boxes.

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  • Primordial newcomer
    replied
    Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
    Wellllllllll.....

    I mean, going back to Satchel's masterpiece up there, let's be clear: Chronicles may be a game about monsters, but Beast is a game about not being the good guy. It is a game about characters who have come to peace with their monstrosity in the same act where they take it up-a point where they could easily see themselves in the monster that is them and then back away, transformed by the experience without devouring the serpent's tail.

    I frequently describe Beast as being the only game that is actively about villain protagonists, that this is a game about being the bad guy-but the catch to the matter is that there are degrees and forms of bad guys. Jayne from Firefly is a bad guy-hell, the entire Serenity crew are bad guys, as are the crews of the Bebop and Outlaw Star. Any of the main characters from the GTA franchise are bad guys. Kratos and Booker DeWitt and THe Overlord and Dante are bad guys. Dexter and Walter White and Danny Soprano and most of the cast of Game of Thrones are bad guys. Maleficent and Adrian Toomes are bad guys. There's a spectrum.

    But Beast are character who, from the broad overview, sit with a deeper comfortability in their monstrosity than others, and that means they are more at ease with being, well, evil.

    THere's no flaw in that. Where the fault comes in is failing to see the value in it.

    We have a narrative that supports the Circle of the Crone, being Uratha or Awakened, being Plubbum and Stannum and Cobalus, being Autumn and Winter Courtiers, being a Conspiracy hunter, being an extremist even as a Sin-Eater, being an Arisen or an Unchained, being a High Conviction Renegade. Beast just makes a lot more of this line than the other games does, it expands it and thoroughly explores and up front honest about what that means. It doesn't really pretend that it's anything else.

    Now, for some people, that's uncomfortable, and I get that.

    But games can't be for all people. Beast, by it's nature, by the things that are the strongest parts of it's narratives, is not going to be for everyone, because it is very much about being some shade of Bad Guy that goes beyond simply being a Monster. Transgression, as in being a transgressive figure, a person who does transgressive things, is as much a part of Beast's narrative as compassion, as in being a compassionate figure, a person who does compassionate things.

    But a) as Disney put it, just because you are bad guy doesn't mean you are bad guy(if you don't want to be), and b) just because some people aren't comfortable with being the bad guy means Beast is doing it's thing wrong.

    Except for where it is, because the presentation of of it's themes with maturity is lacking and insert all the ways where the presentation of Beast sucks even if the core material is fine, we've gone over this song and dance.
    You do have a point. Beasts are undeniably in acceptance of their monstrosity. I suppose that does make it understandable as to why the other gamelines are initially seen in a "better" light.

    But, to me at least, the fact that beast accept this and (many) still TRY and be constructive should be enough where people understand they are more than one dimensional monsters. Beasts know what they do is horrible yet most TRY to allow something positive from it. That's different than a vampire rationalizing his feeding as "feeling good" to the victim or a Hunter literally changing his innate morality to suit his outlook.

    But then again, as it has been said indeed many times before, the corebook does not do a good job of presenting this. I was lucky to have been on this forum before having bought it

    EDIT: let me reiterate. I'm aware that Beast is the most clear cut of "you are the bad guy" of the games, and I love that. I love villain protagonists. It's just I tend to have trouble seeing how others demonize them so easily compared to the other splats because I like their honesty. To me, the fact Beasts are ultimately HONEST about what they are and what they do is what makes it so easy for me to see them in an equal light with the other gamelines

    ONE MORE EDIT: And I am aware that Hunger haunts many beasts, and many cling to Lessons because of that, as per the Players Guide. But the players guide makes it clear Beasts make use of this as a means frame their feedings, NOT as a way to say "it's fine I'm hunting you down because you may learn something" but "what I'm doing is horrible, but I'll do so in a way SOMETHING positive may happen. If it does not, well so be it. I'm a monster, after all"
    Last edited by Primordial newcomer; 07-11-2020, 01:00 AM.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Gonna just reel off some bits of the Satiety Conditions and Family Ties for no real reason:

    Originally posted by Slumbering (Persistent)
    Beat: Experiencing a meaningful failure due to human limitations or weaknesses (at Storyteller discretion) grants a Beat, as does being rejected or left behind by supernatural kin.
    Originally posted by Starving (Persistent)
    Beat: If the character takes an irrational, clearly dangerous, or deeply risky behavior in pursuit of Satiety, take a Beat. As well, if your character hurts a loved one, broodmate, or a character with the Family Ties Condition in pursuit of Satiety, take a Beat.
    Originally posted by Family Ties (Persistent)
    Your character has become closely bonded to a Beast and finds great (if sometimes grudging) strength in that connection. While in his immediate presence, she may use the Beast's relevant Resistance trait value instead of her own when defending against supernatural powers. In return, both she and the Beast receive a +1 on any rolls made to directly assist each other, or as part of teamwork actions undertaken together. You may have this Condition with multiple Beasts simultaneously.
    Resolution: Your character severs her association with the Beast.
    Beat: Your character encounters trouble with others of her kind or forsakes an important obligation to her supernatural culture, due to her connection with the Beast.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post

    Heh, I remember those times. Seems like they were from longer ago. It is ridiculous though. The protagonists of the other gamelines are all seen as tragic, afflicted by something not of their own fault (even in those societies that encourage the monstrous elements, ie The Circle, all Mage Orders, etc) while Beasts are simply evil beings with unforgivable urges that they must entertain in order to survive
    Wellllllllll.....

    I mean, going back to Satchel's masterpiece up there, let's be clear: Chronicles may be a game about monsters, but Beast is a game about not being the good guy. It is a game about characters who have come to peace with their monstrosity in the same act where they take it up-a point where they could easily see themselves in the monster that is them and then back away, transformed by the experience without devouring the serpent's tail.

    I frequently describe Beast as being the only game that is actively about villain protagonists, that this is a game about being the bad guy-but the catch to the matter is that there are degrees and forms of bad guys. Jayne from Firefly is a bad guy-hell, the entire Serenity crew are bad guys, as are the crews of the Bebop and Outlaw Star. Any of the main characters from the GTA franchise are bad guys. Kratos and Booker DeWitt and THe Overlord and Dante are bad guys. Dexter and Walter White and Danny Soprano and most of the cast of Game of Thrones are bad guys. Maleficent and Adrian Toomes are bad guys. There's a spectrum.

    But Beast are character who, from the broad overview, sit with a deeper comfortability in their monstrosity than others, and that means they are more at ease with being, well, evil.

    THere's no flaw in that. Where the fault comes in is failing to see the value in it.

    We have a narrative that supports the Circle of the Crone, being Uratha or Awakened, being Plubbum and Stannum and Cobalus, being Autumn and Winter Courtiers, being a Conspiracy hunter, being an extremist even as a Sin-Eater, being an Arisen or an Unchained, being a High Conviction Renegade. Beast just makes a lot more of this line than the other games does, it expands it and thoroughly explores and up front honest about what that means. It doesn't really pretend that it's anything else.

    Now, for some people, that's uncomfortable, and I get that.

    But games can't be for all people. Beast, by it's nature, by the things that are the strongest parts of it's narratives, is not going to be for everyone, because it is very much about being some shade of Bad Guy that goes beyond simply being a Monster. Transgression, as in being a transgressive figure, a person who does transgressive things, is as much a part of Beast's narrative as compassion, as in being a compassionate figure, a person who does compassionate things.

    But a) as Disney put it, just because you are bad guy doesn't mean you are bad guy(if you don't want to be), and b) just because some people aren't comfortable with being the bad guy means Beast is doing it's thing wrong.

    Except for where it is, because the presentation of of it's themes with maturity is lacking and insert all the ways where the presentation of Beast sucks even if the core material is fine, we've gone over this song and dance.

    Leave a comment:


  • Primordial newcomer
    replied
    Heh, I remember those times. Seems like they were from longer ago. It is ridiculous though. The protagonists of the other gamelines are all seen as tragic, afflicted by something not of their own fault (even in those societies that encourage the monstrous elements, ie The Circle, all Mage Orders, etc) while Beasts are simply evil beings with unforgivable urges that they must entertain in order to survive
    Last edited by Primordial newcomer; 07-10-2020, 11:05 PM.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Originally posted by HelmsDerp View Post
    Point 1 starts out by misrepresenting the opposing argument, as is par for the course, but setting aside the false claim that all in favor of kinship as family think every player has to agree, yes kinship is mechanically optional. It is however mechanically incentivized through family dinner, kinship nightmares, kinship merits, etc.

    Point 2... where do I even start? If we can provide one problematic example of [thing] then [thing] is Problematic and Needs To Be Fixed? How does one seriously put that argument forth in Chronicles of Darkness?

    Vampires can use Dominate to enslave people. Guess we better rewrite Vampire!

    Changelings can spy on people's dreams, that's a complete violation of privacy! Guess we better...!

    This is an entire fictional world built on the premise that you are playing the monster and you have plenty of options to engage in monstrous behavior. Exploring those themes is the point of the setting. Beast is more on the nose about it than most but honestly after years of these discussions what seems to be the major distinction is that Beast has more direct mechanical rewards for engaging in those behaviors (and conversely mechanical punishments for avoiding them) and the punishments for being a terrible person are more indirect and narrative in nature (as are the rewards for avoiding them). That's it. The toolkit for being awful isn't any more robust, the characters around you aren't any more or less likely to be ok with your behavior.
    A version of Beast where you don't have to wrestle with the fact that sometimes kinship isn't wanted, that feelings aren't reciprocated is an inherently lesser experience.

    I can imagine as a thought experiment a version of Vampire where Humanity is tied to how full up on blood you are, where essentially Blush of Life is a passive ongoing effect. I can see how it might lead to somewhat more monstrously amoral behavior. Do you really think it would be that much more unpalatable than Vampire as it currently stands though? To me it just looks like more of what was already there.
    ^This.

    The problem with having done this for so long is that I have done this before.

    A couple of times, in fact.

    Leave a comment:


  • HelmsDerp
    replied
    Point 1 starts out by misrepresenting the opposing argument, as is par for the course, but setting aside the false claim that all in favor of kinship as family think every player has to agree, yes kinship is mechanically optional. It is however mechanically incentivized through family dinner, kinship nightmares, kinship merits, etc.

    Point 2... where do I even start? If we can provide one problematic example of [thing] then [thing] is Problematic and Needs To Be Fixed? How does one seriously put that argument forth in Chronicles of Darkness?

    Vampires can use Dominate to enslave people. Guess we better rewrite Vampire!

    Changelings can spy on people's dreams, that's a complete violation of privacy! Guess we better...!

    This is an entire fictional world built on the premise that you are playing the monster and you have plenty of options to engage in monstrous behavior. Exploring those themes is the point of the setting. Beast is more on the nose about it than most but honestly after years of these discussions what seems to be the major distinction is that Beast has more direct mechanical rewards for engaging in those behaviors (and conversely mechanical punishments for avoiding them) and the punishments for being a terrible person are more indirect and narrative in nature (as are the rewards for avoiding them). That's it. The toolkit for being awful isn't any more robust, the characters around you aren't any more or less likely to be ok with your behavior.
    A version of Beast where you don't have to wrestle with the fact that sometimes kinship isn't wanted, that feelings aren't reciprocated is an inherently lesser experience.

    I can imagine as a thought experiment a version of Vampire where Humanity is tied to how full up on blood you are, where essentially Blush of Life is a passive ongoing effect. I can see how it might lead to somewhat more monstrously amoral behavior. Do you really think it would be that much more unpalatable than Vampire as it currently stands though? To me it just looks like more of what was already there.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jacob
    replied
    Rather than directly reply any of the remaining (hyperbolic or not and vitriolic or not) remarks in this thread, I'm going to make a last reply to the thread in general, delivering some closing remarks on this (possibly inane, but only if you accept the banality of it all) discussion.

    Throughout this discussion, the various proponents the Kinship family metaphor camp have rather obstinately taken the position that what I don't understand is that Beast's just feel the way that they do.

    I get it.

    So. What.

    The position is problematic in (at least) two manners. I will expound upon the problemitazation:

    1) It's a generally accepted standard within the TTRPG medium that players play these games because of the sense of agency they have over their character's lives. Areas, where that agency is lost, is typically focused on the archetypal committments players make when designing their characters (e.g., through traits like race, career, ethical code, attributes, skills, etc.). The claim being forwarded by the Kinship family metaphor camp is that every player of the Beast game commits to the Kinship family metaphor the way the members of the camp have described it, i.e., "you are mine."

    This is an extremely narrow interpretation of what family is conceptually (i.e., metaphysically). I contend that players don't have to make any such commitment. For why? Generally speaking, with respect to Chronicles of Darkness (CoD) games, when players are asked to roleplay certain aspects of their archetypal decisions CoD games use game mechanics to provide incentives, and those mechanics specifically are Conditions (and Tilts).

    Vis-a-vis Beast, the primary Conditions that players need to contend with are Satiety Conditions. And that is because the primary commitment players make when they choose to play a Beast is a nigh-insatiable Hunger that they must carefully manage. Hunger is a necessary part of every Beast Chronicle and every Beast Story and, it is present in every Beast Chapter, every Beast Scene, and every Beast Turn (because once one Satiety Condition is resolved another, different Satiety Condition arrives in its stead). This is not the case for Kinship.

    The only relevant Condition for Kinship is one that is completely impossible for players playing other Beasts (or Demons and things in their sphere like Angels [which ironically begs the question if other Beasts are more like Demons]), optional for players playing things that fall outside of Beasts (or Demons, etc.), and applied to (non-Demon, etc.) NPCs on the basis of Social Maneuvers. And so the game lacks any rules to situate Kinship as a necessary part of every Beast Chronicle, Story, etc. Hence Kinship is not a necessary part of Beast, the TTRPG. It's a side theme that players and storytellers are invited to explore but not one they have to deal with. There are no helpful Conditions saying, "dear player, address this issue through your roleplay, we'll reward you with a Beat (or other mechanical advantages)."

    The optional thing remains optional.

    2) The "you are mine" / all Beasts feel X "family" of issues. Setting intentions of vs execution in text vs interpretation by readers aside, since for X to be problematic, one only needs to showcase one example of X being problematic we'll jump to showcasing with examples:

    Example A: A boy meets a girl (we're going to use this analogy but folks should feel free to envision two boys, two girls, or whoever, the point is unreciprocated feelings) and falls in love at first sight (i.e., Kinship). The girl doesn't feel it. However, the boy feels as though he needs the girl in his life (he's in love afterall) and so, he approaches her in an attempt to woo her. She's really not feeling it though and tells him no (Social Manuever failed). He's still in love though. He has not outlet and so he spies on her. It so happens, that spying on her takes the edge off of the very unnatural hunger that he feels (Family Dinner [and we have arrived at the stalker metaphor because while one must be present, one does not have to be seen or perceived to be present]).

    Additional issues--let's say the boy succeeds in browbeating her into a relationship (successful Intimidation Social Maneuver [arrived at a #metoo moment]). This is a potential situation for any TTRPG, mitigated in other CoD games by Integrity-like mechanics. Excused by some here because Beasts can seem like begin in the fail state (i.e., they're more like Draugr, Enraptured Mages, etc. than they are like Vampires, regular Mages, etc.). But should it be excused?

    No means no. This is a problem for Kinship as written and is not fixable via the addition of context alone.

    Example B: A rich white guy (a Beast) meets several members of the Cherokee tribe (potentially any cultural/racial groups can be substituted in for this example [call them Vampires but any other supernatural works]) and instantly feels a kinship with them. He insinuates himself into their group, adopts their mannerisms, etc. After a while, he starts to think of himself as a Cherokee. The Cherokee don't see him that way. What they see is another white guy taking things he hasn't earned and that he doesn't really understand. This is cultural appropriation.

    It doesn't matter that a Beast feels related to Vampires. Beasts aren't Vampires. This is also a problem for Kinship as written and is not fixable via the addition of context alone.

    Taking a "Beast's just deal with it" and "they'll be back" position makes Kinship sound like a much more laissez-faire and less central part of the game than some have made it out to be. Ultimately, familial relationships are invited and not asserted and if it's important to the game then it shouldn't be free lunched.

    Can these things be fixed?

    Yes, but it requires more than just adding context to the game. It requires at a minimum, the alteration of existing mechanics. And, overarchingly, will require the addition of new mechanics.

    I've already demonstrated one possible fix in the original post -- change Kinship into a mystery religion (via a Merit) that many Beasts are likely to purchase and to ritualize the relationship making (i.e., Family Ties Condition giving) through a sacrifice both Beast and kin must make (with the higher burden being on the Beast's side since the Beast realizes so many more benefits from someone else's [as in someone else possesses it not give it] Family Ties Condition).

    Other potential fixes take on the form of pseudo-soul health mechanics (i.e., they're Integrity-like).

    One approach would be to make a new trait, call it Kinship (perhaps too on the nose). Kinship is a trait that ranges from one to ten and starts at 7 (a Beast having been human before Devouring after all). Kinship has a hierarchy of sins, all arranged around family themes and all designed cause degeneration when the Beast does something to make their built family environment toxic. Things like:
    - feeding on someone the Beast has given family ties to (i.e., your kin)
    - feeding on their kin's kin
    - feeding on someone else in their kin's cultural group (e.g., feeding on some other Werewolf not a member of your Werewolf kin's pack)
    - feeding on their kin's minions (e.g., retainer, staff, etc.)
    - participating in Family Dinner when not invited
    - getting involved in their kin's intra-group dispute (e.g., diving into Kindred politics)
    - same as above but the interference is uninvited
    - their kin loses a dot of Integrity (or the like) because of their (the Beast's) actions [if using the Lore mechanics in the OP]
    - Etc.

    Kinship Degeneration:
    A successful roll vs degeneration results in Conditions like Guilty, Shaken, or Spooked. A failed roll results in one of the above Conditions but also loses a dot of Kinship and the affected kin resolves their Family Ties Condition. A dramatic failure results in the loss of a dot of Kinship, the affected kin resolves the Family Ties Condition, the affected kin gains the Jilted Kin (Persistent) Condition (gaining a Beat every time they succeed in disrupting one of the Beast's aspirations), and the Beast gains the Broken Family (Persistent) Condition (gaining a Beat every time they suffer a setback due to the interference of anyone they've given the Jilted Kin Condition to. The conditions can be resolved only by the two (or more) parties meeting and negotiating a resolution.

    Kinship Effects:
    Like a Vampire's Humanity, a Beast with a high Kinship gets bonuses to Social rolls with anyone that qualifies as Descended From the Dark Mother but penalties for rolls with entities where Kinship Does Not Apply. A Beast with median Kinship has neither bonuses nor penalties for social rolls to those who are Descended From the Dark Mother but gain penalties for social rolls with those who are Fundamentally Human and automatically fail social rolls with those where Kinship Does Not Apply. A Beast with low Kinship suffers penalties on social rolls with those Descended From the Dark Mother and automatically fails all social rolls with those who are Fundamentally Human or with whom Kinship Does Not Apply. Finally, a Beast who degenerates to Kinship 0 fails all social rolls with anyone who isn't another Beast.

    Another approach would be to rework the Lore trait proposed in the original post better signal fail states. This reworking would eliminate the XP bits and remodel Lore as a kind of Harmony, starting at 7 (because again, Beast's start out life as Humans, just like Werewolves [there are more than a few parallels really]). A series of fail down (to human) and fail up (to fulfillment) sins would need to be worked out (many having to do with Kinship in some way if it's to be preserved as is). Lore becomes a measure of the Beast's impact on their environment. A Beast at Lore 0 risks Retreat, Divergence, or Erasure while a Beast at Lore 10 risks the Merger but can also achieve Inversion and Subversion. I'll start another thread in the future exploring this option more since there are, with and without Kinship permutations that can be realized, and since I have elapsed the amount of time I can spend on posts this week (and possibly next week too).

    Ultimately, one of the other problems with Beast is that it starts players in what already seems like a fail state since to many the fluidity of Satiety Conditions is going to feel nothing like Degeneration (even though that, and regeneration, are what's really happening--the issue is that behavior that causes regeneration in Beast frequently causes degeneration in other CoD games). Lessons don't ever manage to address this.

    Adoption of either approach presented here (or even the Lore approach in the OP) is something of an admission that the novelty of linking your "supernatural fuel" trait with your "Integrity-analog" trait didn't really work out and that more (or minimally help from more [Lore as written in OP]) traditional CoD degeneration mechanics was needed unless one wants to accept that Beasts are intended to start in the "fail state" and fail into deeper fail states as they go. Since this is obviously not going to work for everyone in the community, those for whom it doesn't work are completely justified to work out what "pre-fail state" Beasts look like with those mechanics they feel accomplish the task.

    I don't feel like there's anything further to say in this particular thread and so will refrain from further posts here. Others should feel free to continue the discussion (though I suspect some echo chambering may occur as it has a tendency to do). The respective camps are deeply entrenched in their various positions.

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  • Paradim
    replied
    Incredibly well put and I rather like the little asides. I know they take extra effort to add, so thank you for that.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    1) Satchel I need a love button.

    2) I have nothing to add to that-but since I'm compelled to try, I'll just point out that the sky may be full of teeth, but they are bright all the same.

    3) but seriously, I am gushing and if I was drunk I would be crying.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Alright, fuck it. I've been brewing a different thread for days on how a game where one of the most powerful "chthonic nightmares" in the setting is literally Bigfoot could probably stand to soften the language it uses to describe its relation to negative emotions, but this is arguably more important:

    Beast: the Primordial is not a game where you are playing the hero. You are not in this game to play A Good Person, else you would have set your character's trajectory the moment their prelude saw them identify with their lifelong fear in a way that allowed it to keep spreading to other people. You do not have to be good! The world goes on! Come see the violence inherent in the system!

    Beast: the Primordial is a game I have looked at to make direct comparisons to the feeding habits and therefore alien priorities of vampires and spirits. It is a game where you are directly encouraged to reduce people's Integrity and create Aspirations that are facilitated and fulfilled by assault, blackmail, corruption, entrapment, sabotage, stalking, and theft. It is a game where you generally pick between tacitly or openly encouraging the worst impulses of other monsters or running on cheaper fare that attracts obsessive serial killers hellbent on your destruction for their own glory; you can split the difference between these things, but that means feeding even more directly into the game's system where you're outright rewarded for burning bridges and causing trouble for people close to you. The primary way out of this is to claw your way to the top of the shitheap, become a legendary beast by hook or by crook, and hypothetically spend the rest of your life living up to your reputation as the cost of partially escaping the crab bucket.

    Beast is not a game about being an abuser, but it's definitely not obliged to separate itself entirely from the possibility that its toolkit can produce abusers in its fiction, any more than Vampire's easy access to mindbending substances or Changeling's wealth of consequence-evasion methods need to make spurious claims that their own connective tissue isn't just as likely to be Proper Fucked in the dynamics of it all. Being a game whose more traditionally-sympathetic angle is that you're the tyranny of evil men trying real hard to be the shepherd still involves you being the tyranny of evil men.

    Beast is a game where a place is set aside for you in the world — a place that is inhospitable and inhuman and very much not conducive to a healthy life among humanity where nobody gets hurt, and a place that is a place, tied to your physical location and the locations of the greatest failures and triumphs you have witnessed and visited upon others and otherwise been present for. It's a king-and-the-land-are-one situation except you've already been fed to the stone and the land is never quite even remotely in the territory of fucking around; you can back it off a bit for guests and lodgers, but the burning factory you've incorporated into your soul is still on fire and still serves as a means to visit the ghosts of its blazing terror on the site it came from rather than a simple Safe Place in the dreams of humanity.

    Beast is a game where the primary points of traditional morally commendable behavior attached to you as a monster sum up with the old kaiju film refrain: "[How terrifying!] Man, I'm glad she's on our side." It is a game that tilts toward, as John Darnielle puts it, "a clannishness that can feel real safe in an unsafe time." That is an angle that is really easy to turn into abuse, because, as Changeling has already amply reminded us (and Deviant picks it up just as appropriately), there's a why-doesn't-Cinderella-just-leave element to the familiar torment a character may have been learning to deal with for huge portions of their lives.

    It's easy enough for individual characters to avoid that pitfall and try to maintain healthier relationships with their Kin, but a brood is, as with many other supernatural groups, a collection of volatile monsters balancing inhuman metaphysical needs and urges with human social needs and urges. The siren song of the Beast and the Hunt and the Mysteries calls to you? The Begotten get it — their Mother loves them no matter what they are, and that's a comforting sensation in times where more fulfilling fare is unavailable. The freehold or the Guild or the remnants of your old cell have cast you out for transgressions and appetites that they don't agree with? Same shit — your Family Ties are a lifeline supported by a Beast who keeps a place in their heart for you, because you're Kin and they've been with you long enough for that to matter.

    You can talk all you want about Family Dinner being stalkery, but the important aspects of it are that it works better on monsters with Family Ties and that Family Ties are easier to acquire with monsters you've used it on — and both Family Dinner and applying Family Ties require your character to be present. Like other creatures, monsters are often vulnerable or at least investing effort when they're hunting and feeding, and while it's possible for a Beast to just tag along, remora-like, to gain secondhand satiation from another monster's meal, their participation is more likely to swing the attempts of a monster they're familiar with toward success, which, as with most Social Maneuvering attempts, is liable to garner them some goodwill.

    You can talk about religion being a better angle for broods than family, but as it's been observed, Obcasus Rites are religious aspects as much as they are a system of ritual magic — and lo and behold, vital elements of this particular niche in Begotten culture concern themselves with the local hive and its contributing monsters, whether it be the need for a spiritually significant consecrated temple or a grimoire collecting stories of all the major supernatural beings in the area. Comparing broods to packs and saying religion is a more appropriate lens doesn't really work when Werewolf also does the family-in-the-spiritual-sense thing with werewolves and their totems and progenitors and religious organizations have a rather common habit of using familial language for both their membership and the subjects of their worship — being an Iron Master means being like Red Wolf to some degree, having a pack totem from the beaches informs your priorities as a member of the pack, and the entire reason the Forsaken/Pure divide came about is because the creations of a pair of boundary-guardians looked at their ailing progenitor and decided they needed to pick up their slack.

    Hell, saying that Beasts are enforcing their claim of family doesn't work as a claim because the Family Ties Condition is very clearly not a fully diegetic phenomenon — the text becomes contradictory in particularly absurd fashions if it does, and troubled development history does not override what writers have stated to be a deliberate disjunction between how Beasts approach Kinship and how it actually works. You don't choose your family. Birds of a feather flock together, and the Begotten do not add to their branch of the family tree by performing a ritual hunt and bribing or blackmailing another monster into sympathy with them — they expand their base of Kinship by spending time with monsters whose nature resonates with theirs and not driving them to cut all ties with them. It's mere-exposure mixed with common interest and some amount of mutual benefit, which feeds into the text's general vibe of Begotten culture's fatalist "this is what it's like and you just have to live with it" approach to many ingrained problems. You don't get that from opt-in structures with formal initiations like packs and krewes and covenants, no matter how ride-or-die they are.

    The Begotten notion of family is that things are. The world is. It's not going anywhere from your locality, and you and yours need to eat. Loki Fire-Touched went haring off after a Mystery on the other side of the world with scarcely more than a letter? Well, we're sorry to see him go and we'll keep his room tidy at the Athenaeum, and if he decides to never come back to us from what he learns then, well, we'll be right shook up about it, but he was always a distant little brother and we'll manage next year's caper with or without his help, because he's clearly standin' on his own two chicken-feet without ours. Young Gathers-Up-The-Runaways may disagree with his decision, but she can see sense well enough to know there's no use draggin' the whole brood down to Argentina to bring him back by force; he's got a place here, and if he misses it or screws up bad enough out there then he'll be back soon enough.

    They're patient like that, and that's not an unqualifiedly positive trait. It doesn't have to be — they're a messy sort of people, and that's kind of the point.

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