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  • Arcane's Problem With Heroes

    I need to be wrapping up [REDACTED] on the Clade Companion, but I smashed my head against getting that ship-shape too much today and I need a deviation, and this has been a long time coming.

    So at this point the delay in getting to To Kneel Before the Maw Part 2: Red, White, and Maw is getting to be where I feel l'm accidentally over-hyping it. Like, when I finally get around to putting that up, I hope people understand in advance that the goal is not radically change the way people look at Beast forever while also guaranteeing an orgasm when you read it-it's literally just "So Arc, you explored what Beast Society might look from the ground-up, but have you considered what it looks like from the top-down?" But if my posting habits have revealed anything, it's that if I take the time to explain anything, I put in the time to make sure context exists for that explanation as well.

    In the case of this essay, though, I'm actually having to take a step beyond explanation and instead take a stab at persuasion. Usually when these essays come up, I'm sorta open to finding out I'm wrong and learning from it, but usually need some really good arguments for that to happen-but here, the precedent I'm creating has to be something that has some agreement on, because without a strong enough consensus, that's a portion of To Kneel Before the Maw I just need to cut out-and that essay would survive without it, but it would better for the essay (and if stars align and I am nominally right, for Beast as a property).

    But that's...only part of the reason I'm writing this as well. I've also noticed a building argument that needs to be shot in the face sooner rather than later, and a case study of that helps.

    It's been put forward that Beast has two camps on the subject. What's interesting and in need of address is what those camps are. One side is, to borrow phrasing from one poster, a "Reboot Now"*. The other has been nominated as the "Nothing Wrong" camp.

    Now I have a lot of opinions about these distinction, but another thread can handle where "Reboot Now" is a misnomer (so making this clear now, if you wanna have commentary on that shit, start another thread, keep it out of this one). For now, I take more issue with the "Nothing Wrong" denomination, because as the girl who is being wildly misquoted with that appellation...

    ...Well, I'm being wildly misquoted, and I'm not a fan of that.

    I (and reasonably most other people I could assume are in this camp, but mostly me because I'm the only one I can directly vouch for) have never once said there is nothing wrong with Beast. I have said that everything Beast needs to be a good or even great game is there, but that's not the same as saying there's nothing wrong with Beast. I frequently bitch about how the information, the themes and moods and playstyle and everything is poorly communicated and represented in the core, and that while it's great that supplements are cleaning that up, what would be best for Beast is honestly getting a 1.5 core release that basically fixes that shit, with a second edition backed by about four or five supplements more than we have now as a viable second place plan. There's a lot of other, smaller issues that I get on that might go unnoticed-fans of the BPG's discussion of the Devouring might notice that I frequently ignore that section when I talk about, and that's because while I think it's good for what it is, it misses out on a much stronger beating heart that the core initially touched on, as an example.

    And then, of course, there's my perpetual enemy in squaring Beast's circle, Heroes.

    That might sound a little shocking given the number of times I have gone to bat for Heroes as working fine as is, and that's because in both a post-Kickstarter edit and post-Conquering Heroes world, what we have on Heroes is a fine start, and honestly where I have even foundational issues with Heroes just hasn't been much involved with conversations of other people's issues with Heroes-but let me assure you, any "Buy Arc a drink and ask her what is the biggest problem of Beast" with people where I don't feel like I have to explain what On The Problematic Nature of Beasts (And Why I Think That's a Good Thing) covered, Heroes is pretty much where I always start. And yeah, some of this is mechanical-like, as much as I make the case that tactics needed to be talked about before any additional powers as Heroes go, I never say it'd be bad to give them some more oomph, and am in fact a general fan of giving them Lost's Talecrafting since Second Edition Lost seems to be leaning away from the mentality that made that a thing in the First and Underhill Editions-but I actually have something of a notional issue with the foundation of Heroes.

    There's other things I have issues with, and as a recent revelation made me...realize, I'm also quite capable of seeing more issues as I go on. THe main thing though, the main take-away from seeing my position portrayed as "Nothing Wrong" when that's patently false, is that it occurs to me that some people think that's the case because I (and people like me) don't generally talk about our problems, which is probably the result of mine (and possibly others) big picture look at what Beast is and where it needs to go-because while Beast has problems, those problems aren't the things that demand a huge overhaul, let alone a gutting of themes, moods, playstyle, and more that a lot of people go looking for**.

    Now this doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to talk about everything that bothers me about Beast, because again I don't think Beast needs a massive overhaul-but It occurs to me that where they are interesting and beneficial to talk about, it might pay to give due to issues rather than simply keep at dealing with the nebulous other camp. And since I need to create precedent anyways, going at Heroes seems like a decent way to deal with two birds with one stone.

    So, where to start?

    Text is usually a good place to begin.

    I Hear She Can Shed Her Skin-What Beast: the Primordial's Core' Problem is with Heroes

    In order to get at my problem with Beast, you need to understand where the core book's problem with Heroes is-because my problems aren't a result of some kind of expectation that Beast didn't match, but rather a dissonance of text. A dissonance, I note, has at least a major fix in simply understanding perspective, though there are two other things that dive a little deeper into how Heroes are built up.

    The first thing that has to be noted regarding Heroes is a general disposition to cast them in dark black shades. In other discussions, I've more or less described as the general setup of Chronicles games as being one of Gray and Black Morality(er, humanity, depending on the conversation), with most protagonists of Chronicles being on the gray side of the equation and their antagonists sitting in the black side, with Beasts being unique in that their central place is on what I call the Dark Gray Line, that Primordial's character basis starts (not ends, that falls to player decisions) on the edge point when a monster goes from pushing the line to being awful, and where a terrible person flirts with having something of a case without necessarily ceasing to be terrible. We're not going into that yet, but even at this point, I find the writing direction leaning into that black shade for Heroes interesting (whether the development as supposed to point that way or not is another subject). This is one of the main cruxes of my issues.

    So the paint colors set aside, Beast's issue with Heroes can probably be summarized mostly across three broad points and a pointed method of expression in-game that is a sharp fourth point. Point point point.

    The foremost of textual grievance is the Monomyth argument, a counter-Campbellian take. In larger context, Monomyth is a literary theoretical structure proposed by Joseph Campbell in his work The Hero With a Thousand Faces, published in 1949, that attempts to put forth a lens that makes sense of all of the world's mythology, folklore, and urban legends by viewing them under a universalist structure that denotes globally shared values. This was largely debunked in intervening years and might have become a footnote in history is a little known series called Star Wars hadn't come along, revolutionized cinema, and gave massive props to Campbell's work. Beast has all of the context of that hovering like a miasma throughout the text, but doesn't dive hyper-deep into the full details of that theory and more or less hones in on the idea that all stories can be reduced down to "Any Story Is About Heroes Killing Beasts", and with that presenting Beast's conflict with a perception of the world that fatalistically spells out their role as victim's of a Hero's violence to the benefiting and growth of said Heroes, or in a more simple tone, one of the core conflicts of Beast is that they exist in a world where It's All About the Hero, and where a universal flaw with Heroes is that, even if the world doesn't bend to that perspective, Heroes fight tooth and nail to make all the world turn in their direction. This consumption of all possible stories into a heroic centerpoint was a major cornerstone of the core's presentation of Heroes, and Beast on the whole.

    The second most notable angle the text presents is what we'll call the Watchmen/Alan Moore angle, where one of the big issues with Heroes is the issue what happens when you take allegorical figures and psychological icons and apply them to reality-you know "What would [super]heroes actually look like on the streets of New York City now?" For those who have not read Watchmen***, Watchmen depicts superheroes more or less as dystopic authoritarian/totalitarian figures, that when you take these characters out of the realm of representational conflict, they end up as a bunch of might-makes-right, strength-to-be-valued, weakness-to-be-disvalued [wannabe] tyrants. Beast again doesn't rely on the exact same conclusion, but it does take a similar deconstructive look at Heroes in all their forms, stripping the allegorical layer they are portrayed in and dealing with the ideals in realistic action, and frequently comes up with ways that it's problematic.

    The third arrow in the bundle of textual approaches is what we'll call a "Ubermenschen are Assholes" lens, a counter-Nietzschien perspective applied to Heroes that closely correlates to the Watchmen take. In Nietzschien Nihilism, the world lacks a higher power-a higher authority, more directly-to provide law or morality, and that in order for such things to exist relies on individuals who are able to trans-value their values and serves as founts for morality and law-that is to say, to take truths they have actualized and have them transcend their selves, to take the personal and make it environmental, to embody meaning. Nietzsche, of course, was a drunk and angry asshole who writes too much****, but more on point, time and tide has revealed a problem with the desire to be ubermensch, from the large scale horrors of how fascism incorporates the image into their reasoning and mythology, to the small scale abusers and exploiters who dictate the rules of their houses and workplaces. In particular, Beast hones in on the idea that Heroes, whether they are actually embodying their actualized meanings or not (often not for the very thing coming up), take embodying meaning as also being above meaning, that they are free from the standards they try to enforce upon the world. Honestly, because of that notion, most Heroes are revealed to not only not embody any particular kind of meaning, but are still in need of some deep seated actualization and reconciliation with their flaws, hungers, and perceptions before they can even hope to begin the process of self-transcendence.

    The fourth and final sticking point is not necessarily a deep one to explain, but is nevertheless the most critical aspects to the rest of these flaws-in order for a Hero to grow in their metaphysical paradigm, and often done in accordance to a Heroes worldview, Heroes seek to kill Beasts. They don't get to shock them or spook them, possibly doing minor harm or inconveniences for them-no, they have to kill Beasts. A Hero who doesn't kill Beasts is a Hero who is stagnating, who is not gaining Gifts, not getting out there and answering the call from within. And hey, some do that with some clarity on the big picture, but a lot of them give into their flaws and kill away.

    So, that's the book. Soooooooooo....

    Anything You Can Do-Arcane's Problem with That

    So am I really going to tell you that all of that is a problem, that this is just the wrong way to go about it and I know a different way for Heroes to be criticized?

    Well. No and yes.

    All of those are actually really good ways to look at Heroes, with a solid and applicable critique that has a lot of play value. They're things that people should hear, and I think creates some room to explore in game. By themselves, they aren't the problem.

    But when you deal with Beast: the Primordial on the whole and with understanding, two things start to plink the strings in your head-or at least they did for me.

    That first one being the black take on Heroes, because....uh. Gee. How do I put this. You might have noticed some familiar phraseology and angles of attack in my presentation up there, and that's not an accident, because, uh.

    Those three big points all apply to Beasts as well.

    Beasts on the whole may have an angle of self-awareness and -reflection that isn't noted in Heroes, but fundamentally:

    1) If Beast is a game about Building Your Lair, about increasing your presence in the psycho-spiritual plane of collected humanity....doesn't that mean that each and every Beast is trying to make the story about themselves, to make all the world turn in their directions?

    2) If Beasts are as much a psycho-spiritual symbol taking action in the waking world in a body flesh and blood as much as they simply are a mythic monster...doesn't that mean that Beasts are themselves a testament to the consequences of taking an allegorical figure and their conflicts when applied to the real world, that the ideal of such a figure may be worth upholding but the portrayed actions aren't worth emulating?

    3) If Beast is a game about starting from a point of actualization and working to become self-trascendent, to embody meaning...don't they run the same risk of overstepping and violating the very meaning they seek to create, that in their own pursuit to effectively become ubermensch, they also as likely (more likely, actually) to become assholes?

    There's some added layers here that make problems for Beast, so getting that out.

    The Monomythic take, while it's reductive state is a functional short hand for "Heroes murdering Beasts because Heroes, Am I Right" as a issue with layers, kind of can't escape the fact the rest of the issues that come along with explictly calling out Monomyth as a problem, which is largely that the Monomyth lens tends to lead toward a whitewashing of mythology on the whole, which includes a lot of culture-erasure, feminine- and queer-erasure, minority-erasure, etc. While that's all good things to tackle and fight in the current landscape of fiction and Beast should never ignore that, Beast's initial takes did suffer a prevalent reading as "LBGTQ and other minority superheroes with fangs" on the audience's part, and I think the emphasis on Monomyth contributed to that problem. Borrowing from a take on how Deviant was written, Beast is a non-SJW game written by SJW's-it should present and address those issues where it can do so tastefully, but is' not about those things per se.

    The Watchmen take is actually pretty fine as it is, as it is thematically on point for Beast to wrestle with how some real world actions are both consequential with actual victims and such while also exploring the way actions can have a symbolic and psychological impact that can even lead to positive reflection and growth.

    The Ubemensch take actually has an address that could probably better explored (and hey, I'll talk more about that in to Kneel Before the Maw), in that Beast culture does have a strong undercurrent that a Beast is subject to any meaning they create and enforce, and offers just as much freedom for a Beast to ignore that and do the same thing as Heroes, or throw the entire thing out the window-but it's woefully textualized with that understanding.

    But on the whole, it's hard to take the black angle on Heroes with these shared issues, even if Beasts are in a position to be more aware of them and therefore careful in approaching them. I'm not against Primordial being critical on these fronts or using it's characters to show how to salvage those angles into more useful and beneficial angles, as Beast characters often encouraged to do-but it loses some

    And dealing with that cognition creates a minor issue for the fourth point, because if all of the above aren't exceptional excesses unique to Heroes, then the need to kill Beasts as a further expression of them loses teeth, which is a problem because the need to kill Beasts as opposed to how Beasts feed and build is a solid difference in action, but without something to ground it in is just a thing done because, and that's kind of weak worldbuilding.

    And with that, Heroes feel a little unmoored. They should be natural enemies of Beast, there should be an inherent animosity between them, yes, but within broad text that can anchor individual characters, it's hard to keep them all pegged, to know how Sleeping Beauty and Thaddeus Peterson sit on the same bench.

    So How Fix-The First Step Is Stupidly Obvious and Kind of Already Done

    Before I get constructive, one thing I gotta admit is that I can live with this problem. Hell, I'm for once willing to own the idea I'm over-reading it. If no one agreed with me, or it was acknoweldged but handled as not enough of a problem to try and address it, I could go on with that. Double hell, it's an accepted outcome for this essay, that I might need to take all of the above and all of the following, shove it out the window, and deal with Beast ignoring the fact I have that as an issue.

    But okay, I spilled words on the problem-now how would I fix it? Well, I would do it in three steps, and as I have point out, step one is already ahead of me and is stupidly simple. In short, it is:

    "Just treat Heroes as being on that Dark Gray Line as well-make it clear that Heroes and Beasts are about the same level of asshole, at least on the broad, generic starting point"

    Most people who are fans of Beast have already had this assumption since even before the Kickstarter edit, and are probably looking at me like I'm an idiot for presenting it as some grand revelation. And to be fair, I sort of am, because Conquering Heroes and the BPG already do that to some degree. So it's less "Start doing that" and more "Keep doing that". But to make it clear how much of a boon this angle is, some words:

    1) It's a still unique angle that may actually get Beast in line with the direction the rest of Chronicles is idly pointing towards. See, before hand, about the closest you had to characters being possibly about as bad as each other but with different angles was Descent with the relationship between demons and angels, and even that's a little muddled by presentation-the text still keeps the God-Machine as the antagonist, but isn't afraid to say that the God-Machine's projects can often be for the benefit of humanity while demons' desires and designs can have them end up as being wildly counter to humanity's well-being, and that that's a viable approach to play the game. Beast flopped the initial premise, but was still the first one to present that same dynamic but (in it's flawed way) hold it's protagonists openly accountable. Since then, though, both Forsaken and Created have laid the ground work for having protagonists and antagonists of the main splat bent share more even footing when it comes to the moral argument-The Pure and the Centimani can actually both behave more beneficially for their community (and even morally/heroically) than the Forsaken or normal cast of Prometheans do (though being a Centimani is still, from the grand perspective, ultimately not a good end for the Created), and the same can possibly be explored in Deviant. Hell, it probably will. So Beast can maintain it's flavor of "We're no so different" while being perhaps more in line with some of this overall bend in trend (I doubt it'll become an all consuming tidal direction for Chronicles, but it is still a thing that is happening.)

    2) It reinforces Beast's themes about the cycle of violence. While I wouldn't call it a theme that would need listing on a core edition's introduction, there's no denying that cyclical violence is a big theme of Beast, and it's easier to understand that cycle if it's also clear how both sides contribute to it, with both the sympathetic and condemning presentations applied to both side. It keeps the fatalism of the large scale conflict in focus and present, feeding into a significant part of the dread that is prevalent in Beast.

    3) It's a dynamic take that invites details. In dealing with with people who have the same broad sins in the direction their nature is going to take them, there's a lot of interesting things to with "Welp, I'ma do this, how do I make it justifiable, or even wholly converted into a positive?" that leads to a lot of creative characters and conflicts, that allows for learning and growth, and sometimes just some plain old executing or suffering the consequences.

    And there's more, but honestly, this one is such a gimme I almost feel embarrassed to say it out loud ,like it's something I have to explain when it pretty clearly isn't-but clarification and context. I at least owe it address if for no other reason than also acknowledging that it is being done.

    Acceptance and Denial-Fear the Second Step

    So a lot of my problems are easily dealt with via "It's not a flaw, it's a feature" mentality and leaning into it, fair enough. But that still means there's no point that draws a divide between Heroes and Beasts, particularly not one that calls for one side to kill the other while not demanding it the other way around. It would be tempting to just scrap that need in the vein of Step One, but honestly that's untrue to sources and feels like kneecapping the game series for no good reason. To make the issue more complicated, it should also probably be simple with deep implications and "gray" enough to warrant debate over it. What do?

    Well, I have an idea, and it's way more radical than the first. You're gonna see why I feel like this one is more persuasive than explanatory.

    See, in order to really get at something that fits the bill, it pays to go to the roots of the character and the gameline and lay down opposing points of views on that core. Kinship is floopy enough I wouldn't really get at it, and I consider Hunger to be the single most important lens to Primordial-like, if there is one lens to use everywhere and anywhere in Beast content, it's seeing the world through the Lens of Hunger, that all things can be brought back around to that. I personally wouldn't hinge a difference on that.

    But how about fear?

    Beasts, of course, embrace fear. They embody it. They carry one of the sub-themes of the game, living with fear*****, as an open issue all the time.

    So what is Heroes reject fear? And not just from the angle of fear being a problem, but being in active denial about their ability to feel fear? That they, for one reason or another, take a stance against it so direly that it calls metaphysical change*******?

    Now that has some teeth.

    For starters, there's a lot of positions on the role of fear in our lives and how much we should or shouldn't allow to factor in, from a psychological perspective, and there's an even wider array of perspectives from a sociological angle, ranging from taboos to unspoken expectations, that can also interlink with a wide number of other perspectives.

    Secondly, You can easily imagine how that framing would lead to instinctive antagonism between the two, and how the manifestation of that instinctive antagonism would lead to a variety of conflict while each side still fundamentally believes the other is, at the core of their being, wrong.

    Thirdly, if you still want to lean into the "yeah, but Heroes are just that much more assholish than Beasts"-well, this is personally anecdotal, but in my experience, every person I have personally met who has basically said "I'm not afraid of anything and I don't think anything ever will scare me" tend to at minimums be dicks and at most read almost as being psycho- or sociopathic******, and if there's meaningful correlation between the two, it can be used to explore how emotional weakness contributes to Kinship and meaningful communal ties in general, and how a rejection of the full emotional range through toxic ideology can cripple a person and seep out into a community if given too much glamour.

    Fourthly, I hear y'all like splats. Well, it wouldn't be hard to cast Heroes as having become heroes against a particular kind of fear in specific, like, I dunno....Hopelessness, Darkness, the Depths, Revulsion, Exposure, the Other, and/or Confinement.

    Fifthly, doesn't it just feel Heroic to reject fear? Doesn't that feel on point? I feel it.

    Sixthly, tying back into "Why kill Beasts when not the other way?", well, you know how there are those people who feel they have to keep proving they're not afraid, that they've conquered their fears? Well, this angle takes that to an extreme-it's not enough to just not be afraid of being afraid, Heroes have to go and conquer those fears again and again, getting empty calories of affirmation by going to the extreme and killing the embodiements of those fear again and again without ever actually addressing the real problem of "Yes, I am afraid of that, and I need to learn how to live with that."

    Unimportant to actual Beast writing and development, but still a seventh I'll note, It lalso leaves room for Princess: the Hopeful to operate as a Astral Splat with some push-and-pull towards Beast, since Princess allows for healthier relationships to personal emotions while still leaning into it's Fighting Fear (environmentally) gig. Again, not at all a priority for Beast as a thing, but let it never be said I don't think about the fansplats.

    If I wanted to sit here and just keep going at the benefits, I'm sure I could. I just really feel like it neatly ties a lot of the issues together in a fun, explorable, and playable way. Hell, some of the points haven't gotten into touch on semi-positive takeaways from the mentality (not that I think you should reject fear, but there's room to explore when fear does get in the way). I just think there's a lot to that angle.

    So anyway, something for y'all to think on as we close out.

    Wait, I Thought You Said Three Steps-To Be Continued!

    No, this is not like Humanity where I got tired and had to quit just cause. I do have a third step to consider for how I would deal with my problems with Heroes, but it's a) possibly the most unnecessary, and b) definitely going to be the most controversial. So for now, I want people to stew on what I have here already and get feedback on if I have a point or if I'm wildly off base before going at it. If the conversation hews where I think it'd be at least of some debate instead of outright rejection, I'll talk about it, if not, I'll just put in a drawer.

    Honestly, I think we've got enough to go on as is, so I'll leave it as is for the conversation.

    *No, this is not a petition for a revival of beloved 90's CG show ReBoot, I'm disappointed too.
    **Cough.
    ***Not watch Watchmen, because Zak "I dedicated Sucker Punch to my mom" Snyder is less interested in how Watchmen criticizes the myth of the superhero and more interested in "Oh my gosh, this is so dark and edgy, isn't it cool how dark and edgy Watchmen is, isn't it awesome how dark and edgy and not mom-appropriate Watchmen is" and it shows in his cinematography and visual design choices.
    ****as opposed to I, an enlightened drunk and angry asshole, because self-awareness also makes for great jokes, such as the notion that I am somehow enlightened.
    *****which in today's environment is a subject well worth discussing.
    ******sociopathic is probably more accurate since there's a strong element of toxic-nurture over nature to the Heroic condition
    *******Which is not to say that Heroes literally end up being unable to feel fear, but they would definitely end up with a skewed reaction to confronting it.
    Last edited by ArcaneArts; 07-23-2020, 01:13 AM.


    Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
    The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
    Feminine pronouns, please.

  • #2
    Oh yeah, a quick clarification on the Monomyth/LBGTQ Superheroes thing:

    Beast, as has been noted by several posters several times, doesn't necesarily draw a lot of correlations between (oppressed) minorities and Beast in the text, and where it does, it almost immediately offers a counter to it. I am not saying it's a textual issue. However, I am saying that the emphasis on Monomyth, particularly around the time of Beast's release, contributed a vector for making the "Beast as LBGTQ" reading a thing the audience could (and did) latch onto.

    Making that clear. Had to mention it because I felt like I should, but the less of a side conversation about a misapprehension of Beast as the LBGTQ game versus what actually happened I can have here, the happier I will be.
    Last edited by ArcaneArts; 07-23-2020, 01:28 AM.


    Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
    The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
    Feminine pronouns, please.

    Comment


    • #3
      I honestly wonder if a 1.5 edition even could happen

      Anyway, I like Heroes going against the idea of even feeling fear at all. To me that makes them as much an enemy in the astral as they are in the flesh. As for Heroic Splats, I support it. Tons of different kinds of heroes, and conquering heroes has beasts collectively tilting their heads at a "new" kind of Hero (the sociopath, cant remember his name)

      Comment


      • #4
        So... There's a lot to think about here and I'm probably going to be musing this over on my way to bed and probably think about it more while at work. But there's an aspect of this that immediately jumped out to me that I wanted to ask some clarification on.

        Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
        Secondly, You can easily imagine how that framing would lead to instinctive antagonism between the two, and how the manifestation of that instinctive antagonism would lead to a variety of conflict while each side still fundamentally believes the other is, at the core of their being, wrong.
        How do you think this perspective fits with the establishment of the dynamic of Heroes and Beasts as being inherently asymmetrical instead of mirroring each other? For example, you describe here that this framing emphasizes an instinctive antagonism between Heroes and Beasts, but this inherent antagonism seems supported by the books, as they currently are, as being pretty one-sided. Heroes specifically have powers to help sense and track Beasts. Beasts don't get anything similar for detecting Heroes.

        Basically, it seems suggestive of a two-way street of mutual aggression between each other, but a lot of the material lays the aggression on the Hero (potentially for good cause if a Beast is running amuck, but as the Core book explicitly lays out, a Hero might pick up more on a Beast that's doing no harm versus a Beast that's doing a LOT of harm).

        ....Ah... I'm having a lot of trouble finding something.... For a chapter of one of the books, I remember there being a short story set in an airport, where a Hero is stopping a Beast before she's boarding her flight to just get away from him. I remember this sharp tension, where the Hero is frustrated because with all the people around he feels like he can't do anything to stop her from leaving and for the Beast... Just leaving is a victory for her. Getting away from the conflict, the violence and just... stopping it. And that was a victory for her. I wish I could find it, but I seem to be glossing over it if it's in one of the books I've been looking through... Was it in the Anthology...?

        Something I've been thinking about is... I kind of feel like the horror aspect of Heroes for Beasts was significantly weakened from the interpretation of Heroes from the Kickstarter version of the text to the official version of the text.

        Now... I'm not saying there weren't issues. And I'm not going to say that Heroes didn't deserve more exploration or expansion (still do, in my opinion). But I saw an aspect of horror in the fundamental lack of agency in the drive Heroes feel to kill Beasts. And I think it's an overarching themes of the Chronicles of Darkness games that it is a lack of agency that truly marks the monstrous (note that it's a bit of a hallmark that when a character reaches Wisdom 0, Humanity 0, etc, that character ceases to be playable). Beasts, while they have to contend a Hunger that they cannot deny, they still have agency in determining the HOW of their feeding that Hunger and it's the contrasts of these choices that help provide drama for a good story. In this way, Heroes were rather more monstrous than Beasts, in that they lacked the agency to control themselves.

        Beast: The Primordial, like the other Chronicles of Darkness games, is a horror game. So... how should Heroes embody horror to Beasts?

        There has to be more than simple antagonism between the two. I'll admit, having someone trying to kill you would be scary for sure. But how is it horrifying? There should be something more, I think...

        Comment


        • #5
          I was just struck by a thought, and I wanted to get it out before I head to bed.

          What if different "splats" of Heroes emphasized the enforced lack of agency on a Beast's life? For example, the classic Hero striving to kill a Beast would be an example of enforcing a lack of agency on a Beast for avoiding conflict. Someone is directly trying to kill you and they won't stop fighting. The Beast has to deal with that somehow.

          What other types of Heroes could there be that mess with a Beast's sense of agency over their own life?

          Comment


          • #6
            I find the idea of heroes as mirrors of beast intriguing.
            Thinking of it, it woukd be interesting if all heroes were the results of "botched" devouring, in which the would be beast not only refuse the horror but finds the strenght to fight back.
            I visualize it as a sort of Inversion inheritance, the hero "kills" his first monster and gains power from it, he keeps the corpse as a Throphy in his new Cove (in truth the horror is still alive but barely).
            All the powers would be much the same as Beasts, with the heroes adding rooms to his Cove by stealing Lair hearts from Beasts, and keeping the Horrors as Trophyes.
            Atavism would work as "Perseus beheading medusa and using the head to petrify", or "hercules crafting armor from the Nemean lion skin".
            Nightmares would be inaccessible, but substituted by Anathemas.
            They would have the kinship abilities but working in the opposite magnitude between fundamentally human and not human, as heroes in stories are inclined to ask help to extraordinary humans to kill monsters.
            Their Cove power attribute would made them more stronger than now.
            More importantly, they would incarnate the opposite of the family of their horror, having "conqered" their correlate fear.
            I would keep a Satiety stats, but for things like Glory, Wealth, ecc.. obtained by killing Beasts, working the opposite way of beast Satiety (at 0 heroes lose powers by "higher power" displeasure or sort of, at 10 becoming more monster like consuming too much power).

            I would love a game like this.
            Thanks for the inspirations!

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            • #7
              I'm still pretty new to these conversations, but I agree there is something to be desired in Heroes' presentation [and mechanics]. I'm interested by your ideas here, but I'm worried some subtlety in the relationship between Beasts and Heroes might be lost if Heroes become a "rejection of fear". Like, it could definitely make their role and relationship with Beasts less murky, but I'm not sure those are entirely bad things [though they are tricky things]. I'm also not sure if Heroes should be so obviously opposite to Beasts. And maybe the subtlety in their relationship wouldn't be so much lost as become different! But, let me see if I can explain what I mean.

              To me Heroes are storytellers first and foremost. In the past, they contextualized Begotten and Insatiable action for the rest of society. They told stories to teach others, and so wove order out of chaos. But then things changed, and now the majority of them tell stories for their own vanity. It doesn't really matter what changed exactly, they just went from being guides to being braggarts. And of course, Beasts are storytellers, too. But they can make a choice to tell their story for others or for themselves [though they benefit either way], and Heroes can't. Right now, their story's intended audience is, at a glance, determined by their Integrity. This is not exactly a revolutionary interpretation, and I don't think it disagrees with anything you've put forward.
              However, I don't think it's as simple as whether the story is for others or for themselves. It's also who the story is about.

              At the start, Heroes did not tell stories about themselves. They told their stories about Beasts and Insatiables. In this way, they actually served as another vector for a Beast's Legend, as evidenced by their ability to inflict Anathema by telling other people about it. But as time went on, the subject of the story shifted from the source of the lesson to the person telling you about it. The story is all about the Hero, the monster doesn't actually matter.
              But in the Primordial Dream, stories aren't about Heroes. They are about Beasts and their various kin.

              Maybe Heroes don't get a choice about who their story is for because they feel the pressure of their society too strongly. Those with high integrity have nothing to prove, but those on the lower end find themselves wanting. They are compelled to take the Primordial Dream's spotlight from Beasts. They try to propagate their own Legends, but lack the tools to truly do so; they can still only skim the surface. But they are still a part of the Primordial Dream, and they are very good at rewriting the story, they always have been. And I think this can explain why they gain Gifts the way they do. They spread their story through the Temenos by feeding their personal narrative the symbolic corpses of Beasts. They literally piggy-back their own Legend on the decomposing Legend of their enemy.
              Which, I suppose is kind of Insatiable-like?

              I also think Beast is probably the second most meta gameline [after Demon; maybe that's why they don't get along]. And Heroes and Beasts as conflicting storytellers is really interesting in that regard. To the point that I'd probably want to see it emphasized more. I think giving Heroes something like Talecrafting would be fantastic for this; they can even already sort of do it by virtue of inflicting Anathema at all.

              I'm not sure if any of this makes sense, or if it even is all that different from anything you're saying! I dunno, it's late, and I should have gone to sleep hours ago. Hopefully some things to think about, at least!

              [Also, the homebrewer in me is skeptical about giving Heroes splats. As antagonists, they shouldn't really need anything so traditionally player-facing, especially if it has mechanical consequences and isn't just a narrative descriptor. *looks at Insatiable Moments with disappointment* I'd love to be wrong, though!]


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              • #8
                "Splats" for antagonists certainly isn't anything new. Mages still have Paths and Ministries for their Exarch supporting antagonists. Werewolf has separate tribes for the Anshenga as well as different types of Hosts. The variety is very helpful because they present different challenges for PCs to have to face. A conflict with Predator Kings could be very different from a conflict with Fire-Touched.

                Heroes could use more support in some fashion.

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                • #9
                  To me, Heroes should impact the astral, I know the Insatiable do that, but it's a huge missed opportunity as Heroes blatantly shift the narrative to being about them slaying the beast (which I see as why the Monomyth is the focus. Beasts may focus inwards on their story, but ultimately Heroes come in and challenge the very idea the beast ever had his own story to begin with, that it was the Hero's all along)

                  Perhaps Heroes could weaken the beast beyond Anathema. Perhaps he twists the narrative. The Namtaru Collector does not take to show who people are when stripped of their material trappings, but is simply jealous. Doing that makes Hunger more difficult to sate, or even taking his Life Anchor, and to be clear this power would still be subconscious like Anathema. Or maybe it's a more inward focus. Perhaps the Hero builds up an astral form or daimon that begins to impose itself against Horrors.

                  I dont know, I just feel Heroes should have more astral influence besides anathema

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Paradim View Post
                    ....Ah... I'm having a lot of trouble finding something.... For a chapter of one of the books, I remember there being a short story set in an airport, where a Hero is stopping a Beast before she's boarding her flight to just get away from him. I remember this sharp tension, where the Hero is frustrated because with all the people around he feels like he can't do anything to stop her from leaving and for the Beast... Just leaving is a victory for her. Getting away from the conflict, the violence and just... stopping it. And that was a victory for her. I wish I could find it, but I seem to be glossing over it if it's in one of the books I've been looking through... Was it in the Anthology...?
                    Corebook. Page 72, under the "Subversion" subheading of the Monomyths section.

                    "Why didn't you kill me?"

                    Because if I killed a hateful, sad, old man, I'd be everything he thinks I am.

                    "I'm better than you," I lie.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      Corebook. Page 72, under the "Subversion" subheading of the Monomyths section.

                      "Why didn't you kill me?"

                      Because if I killed a hateful, sad, old man, I'd be everything he thinks I am.

                      "I'm better than you," I lie.
                      Thank you! Was going nuts last night trying to find it.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paradim View Post
                        "Splats" for antagonists certainly isn't anything new. Mages still have Paths and Ministries for their Exarch supporting antagonists. Werewolf has separate tribes for the Anshenga as well as different types of Hosts. The variety is very helpful because they present different challenges for PCs to have to face. A conflict with Predator Kings could be very different from a conflict with Fire-Touched.

                        Heroes could use more support in some fashion.
                        Yeah, but the Seers and the Pure use the same rules as the player characters and are actually wholly or partially intended to be playable. Heroes don't and aren't. The different types of Hosts are more of narrative categories. Their mechanical effects usually amount to "can take this Dread Power."

                        Which, I mean, Heroic splats could do that. There could be one or more "unique" Gifts for each anti-Family. It is probably the smoothest way to give Heroes splats that matter without potentially overhauling their mechanical engine. And if the splats are ultimately more narrative categories to give you a sense of what the Hero rejects, rather than a splat with systems, then most of my complexity concerns are moot.

                        Or maybe Arcane's Step Three is playable Heroes, taking the Seers and the Pure direction? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                        Regardless, I agree Heroes could use more support. I'm not sure if splats are the answer, but I have a lot less reservations about it now that I'm more awake. Certainly less complicated than introducing a Talecrafting subsystem!


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SomethingFishy View Post
                          To me Heroes are storytellers first and foremost. In the past, they contextualized Begotten and Insatiable action for the rest of society. They told stories to teach others, and so wove order out of chaos. But then things changed, and now the majority of them tell stories for their own vanity. It doesn't really matter what changed exactly, they just went from being guides to being braggarts. And of course, Beasts are storytellers, too.
                          It's not so much that Heroes and Beasts are story tellers. Rather, they are stories - or allegories - wrapped in a human skin.

                          I've always thought that the big mistake Beast made was not thinking of Heroes as similar to Beasts, as a kind of living archetype driven by a demanding narrative, and instead making them merely incidental parts of the Beasts' stories. It hurt them both thematically (the Kickstarter draft's hypocrisy about them - Heroes and Beasts show similar patterns of behavior, but only Heroes were condemned for it) and mechanically (you cannot build a Hero who is a real threat to an experienced Beast.) And it left the game with no inherent source of conflict, and PCs with nothing particular to do.

                          In that respect "Heroes are people who deny their fear" is a good starting point. How many of the old stories about heroes mention the moments when they quail in the face of danger? So, if you can reject fear hard enough, you can link yourself to the hero in one of those stories. Except that the price is, you have to be that hero, not yourself ... and fight his enemies, the Beasts.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by SomethingFishy View Post

                            Yeah, but the Seers and the Pure use the same rules as the player characters and are actually wholly or partially intended to be playable. Heroes don't and aren't. The different types of Hosts are more of narrative categories. Their mechanical effects usually amount to "can take this Dread Power."

                            Which, I mean, Heroic splats could do that. There could be one or more "unique" Gifts for each anti-Family. It is probably the smoothest way to give Heroes splats that matter without potentially overhauling their mechanical engine. And if the splats are ultimately more narrative categories to give you a sense of what the Hero rejects, rather than a splat with systems, then most of my complexity concerns are moot.

                            Or maybe Arcane's Step Three is playable Heroes, taking the Seers and the Pure direction? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                            Regardless, I agree Heroes could use more support. I'm not sure if splats are the answer, but I have a lot less reservations about it now that I'm more awake. Certainly less complicated than introducing a Talecrafting subsystem!
                            Keep in mind that the Pure and Seers weren't really playable for the longest time.

                            Still, I'm not arguing for Heroes to be playable. "Splats" here is more for a useful term for Heroes with noticeable differences in their own capabilities and the means by which they persue their own goals. Maybe it's a poor term that introduces needless confusion.

                            Basically, I want two separate encounters with Heroes to feel very different and introduce different conflicts and dangers. And I'd really appreciate the books supporting that.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Paradim View Post

                              Keep in mind that the Pure and Seers weren't really playable for the longest time.

                              Still, I'm not arguing for Heroes to be playable. "Splats" here is more for a useful term for Heroes with noticeable differences in their own capabilities and the means by which they persue their own goals. Maybe it's a poor term that introduces needless confusion.

                              Basically, I want two separate encounters with Heroes to feel very different and introduce different conflicts and dangers. And I'd really appreciate the books supporting that.
                              Hmm, I think you've convinced me.

                              I know Heroes are "supposed" to rely on tactics for variety, but in practice most of that comes down to their mortal stats, which... is maybe appropriate but not necessarily intuitive in a game about the supernatural. It would be one thing if there were more Gifts that supported Heroes that don't behave like Theseus or Gaston, but there are, like, two. Maybe three. Five or six if you count Conquering Heroes, and one of those is just a Proximus Dynasty converted into a Gift.

                              And maybe this tries to say something about how a Hero hunts and what that makes them. The ones who don't hunt in the obvious, presented fashion are the "good" ones that Beasts rarely encounter. They don't need as many cool powers, since they rely on their mortal skill more than metaphysical inertia, and have probably haven't killed very many Beasts anyway. But that just makes a lot of Heroes feel samey unless you make signature Gifts for all of your Heroic antagonists.

                              Something to categorize Heroes would better frame their different approaches and help give storytellers a clear starting point that isn't just Gaston. The conceptual benefits of a splat over the mechanical ones [which I guess I got caught up on, oops!]. I'm still not sure I like Heroes as rejection of fear, but as Arc pointed out, it does neatly explain why so many act like assholes. I guess it might come down to how different it would end up making the relationship between Beasts and Heroes, mechanically and otherwise.

                              And playable Heroes was only a guess. She did say Step Three would be "the most controversial."

                              Originally posted by Michael Brazier View Post

                              It's not so much that Heroes and Beasts are story tellers. Rather, they are stories - or allegories - wrapped in a human skin.
                              A fair point, although I think we can only say with confidence that Beasts are their stories. Nothing actually suggests that Heroes are, and in fact they've always seemed more about controlling the Begotten's narratives than becoming the chief local cryptid or celebrity. They maybe want to be a story like a Beast, but the closest they can come to that is by co-opting the stories at the heart of the Begotten. Commanding the narrative is the common thread connecting the Oracles of the past and the Heroes of now. So, while a Beast is a story that tells itself, a Hero is someone who changes a story in the telling. Modern ones just happen to make themselves the star, and I think they are more interesting foils for it.

                              [It also creates an interesting, lopsided symmetry between Beasts and Heroes, and proto-Beasts and proto-Heroes. A proto-Beast dreams deeply, while a Beast spreads a story widely. A proto-hero dreams widely, but a Hero builds a story high.]


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