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Beast Analysis & Hacks #5: The Hero Essay

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  • Cinder
    started a topic Beast Analysis & Hacks #5: The Hero Essay

    Beast Analysis & Hacks #5: The Hero Essay

    Ok, this took a while. I suppose I could start a tirade of explanations, some way to make you see why I pretty much left the building and all, but there's no point. It’s 2020, things happened, I’ve disappeared from the scene, this essay took a lot to write and that’s on me. I'm to blame, no way around it.

    Alright. The Hero essay.

    Before we proceed: why I’m writing this essay in the first place? Well, as anyone around here can attest, heroes are one of the hottest topic when it comes to Beast. I’d go as far as saying nowadays they’re the most discussed one, period, for the simple reason there’s a lot of confusion both within and without about what heroes are supposed to be.

    Are Heroes as written bad? I would not say so, though they have plenty of issues. There’s lots I enjoy about them, about the twists and risks Primordial takes with them, and specific Heroes across all the books are good stuff. The problem is Heroes as a whole lack some focus, a flaw which would not be so evident if not for the fact they’re an element of Primordial around which several important themes & conflicts rotate. Heroes might not be the most important key to make the game better, but they’re up there. Every single step made to improve them improves Beast as a whole, for reasons I hope this essay will help to make clear.

    I’ve always said the reasons to love Beast are there in the books, it’s why I’m dancing to this tune in the first place, and heroes aren’t exactly an exception, but I won’t deny they’re the one I think requires more work. More than anything else for sure. I’ve personally discussed them a lot with other people and always failed to grasp heroes in the way I like to think I grasp other sides of Beast. At least in a way which makes me think “yes, this is how *I* would write about them”. Long story short, I’ve spent more time on heroes than I would have liked to, but there’s no way for me to move elsewhere unless I put these thoughts out in the wild. And I’d like to work on different Primordial stuff and other things. So here we are.

    I don’t have the presumption to “solve Heroes”. I can’t do that by myself and it’s not something which can be done in a web essay: it needs words in an actual book to seal the deal as only those can. That said, as for today, this is as good of a take I can provide about the topic. The Dark Mother knows if I won’t have more thoughts along the line, but for now here’s the results of my meditations so far. I hope it will help other people to explore the topic or, best case scenario, be a stepping stone for whoever has to tackle heroes in future Beast books.

    So, I’m here to explain how I see Heroes and what I think it’s a valid direction to move them towards.

    Five sections this time: “The Nature of Heroes in Beast”, “The Hero Problem”, “Heroes and the Begotten”, “Improving Heroes” and a short conclusion with the added benefit of a plot hook. It’s a lot, but I want this to be my take on Heroes at least for a long while, so I’ll try to cover whatever I feel needs to be covered.

    Heresy Rating: the usual 2 out of 5. Most of what I’ll say is based on material which is in the books, expanded by following that trail, and splashed with some ideas of mine and others that are the results of cool dialogue with even cooler people. You’ll find the strangest elements in the “Improving Heroes” section, of course.

    I hope you’ll enjoy this and that it gives you something to think about. With a bit of effort & luck, this will be my first step to return and post more material around the forums, because that’s a thing I need to do.

    I’m a bit nervous about this, not gonna lie. Oh well, let’s go.

    (I ask you a little bit of patience to give me the time to post the whole thing. The forum can make those things more complex than they need to be)

  • Cinder
    replied
    Originally posted by Paradim View Post
    Well... Fine! I'm reading this graphic novel, I guess!

    Good essay. I'm still mulling it over, but good essay.
    Thanks! Glad you've enjoyed it.

    Not to mention if my rants make people check out good comics and books, I consider it a victory already 😉
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-08-2020, 06:53 AM.

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  • Paradim
    replied
    Well... Fine! I'm reading this graphic novel, I guess!

    Good essay. I'm still mulling it over, but good essay.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    All hail the return of the king, the Beast Guy!

    Fucking loved every inch of it, mate.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cinder
    replied
    Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
    Considering your usage of not one, but 2 "I Kill Giants" quotes, and the Hero and Beast in harmony scenario, I'm guessing you took I inspiration from how that series ended? It's a great read too.

    I'm just wondering
    More or less. I've always liked the idea (a fanfic I wrote ages ago is basically about a Beast and a young Hero considering pros and cons of that), so when I read "I Kill Giants" and it aligned well with what I had in mind, it was an happy discovery for me.

    And it's a great read indeed!
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-05-2020, 02:08 AM.

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  • Primordial newcomer
    replied
    Great read as always, gotta say I agree with everything here (especially non playable Heroes). And also, thank you ArcaneArts!

    Considering your usage of not one, but 2 "I Kill Giants" quotes, and the Hero and Beast in harmony scenario, I'm guessing you took I inspiration from how that series ended? It's a great read too.

    I'm just wondering

    Leave a comment:


  • Cinder
    replied
    “No Light Without Darkness: A Conclusion and an Alternative”
    .

    “We’re ok. I’m ok. Thank you.”
    - Barbara Thornson, at the end of the “I Kill Giants” comic, speaking to a giant.

    This one is more for myself than anything.

    The mythic cycle subversion where Beast slay the hero and ascend is amazing. I love it, it’s a victory condition Primordial needs, and a triumph where all the themes of the game play in unison. The monster needs to be able to defeat Hero in Beast, because that’s nothing less than the expression of the drive which gives the Begotten purpose: the idea they can wrestle the control of the story away from a reality which considers them wrong, terrible, monsters to be slaughtered, and find a meaning. A place to call home, a family, a reason to be. No matter what the universe thinks.

    But there can be more ways to do that.

    Look, whoever heard me talk about Heroes knows well I care a lot about these bastards and think there’s a lot of unexpressed potential about them, especially when it comes to degrees of gray and black or all kinds of subversions. I’m not saying Heroes can’t try to do good. Honest, what I consider to be my best work on Primordial is nothing less than three Heroes I’ve written. One was wounded and too eager to slay monsters, but meant well. Another one was a lovely individual, but he was scared. The last one was basically the protagonist of a YA novel. All wanted to kill Beast, none were what I’d define as “bad people”.

    What burdens both them and the Begotten is the cycle of violence. To clash is inevitable for them, not only because they’re diametrically opposed concepts made flesh, but because it’s hard for them to conceive a way to interact which does not involve to tear each other’s throat apart. What I’d strive hard to put in the books if given the chance to write for them, is that Beast and Heroes can complement each other. Always could, always will.

    They are both creations of the Primordial Dream, after all, and the sheer strength of the meaning they impressed on mankind’s consciousness forever bound them together. I’m not saying Heroes are Family, because that would be absurd, but they are “something”. Enemies, sure, but individuals as enslaved to the patterns of the Dream as Beast are, probably even more.

    After all, old enemies know each other well, isn’t it?

    What greater subversion of the Monomyth there might ever be than to help Heroes reconcile with the fact that, yes, fear exist. That it’s alright to be afraid. That it’s alright to accept bad things happen. And, maybe, just maybe, find a meaning within the violence which allows to work together and try to make something good grow from the blood-soaked ground beneath everyone’s feet.

    For Beast to teach Heroes lessons and for Heroes to defend the world from the extremes of hunger. In short, to do at least on an individual basis, what Begotten and Heroes are supposed to do.

    The responsibility to achieve such impossible feat lies more to Beast than Heroes, because they’re the ones who can start a subversion of the myth, and it’s never going to be perfect.

    It’s something fragile, broken, and prone to bite, but it could not be any different. All the odds are against it. A Golconda which can disappear every night, a New Dawn which needs to be upheld every morning. And when it crashes, and it most surely will, it’s going to be painful and bloody. All Beast will have a huge list of reasons to dismiss it as nonsense, several associated with the scars on their flesh and dead Family members.

    But.

    What if it works? Only just a bit. What if it allows a Hero and a Begotten to accept each other despite their differences and do something good? For real, no corollaries. What if in the infinite saga of hunger, horror, and death Beast and Heroes are protagonists of, a paragraph tells something different? That’s the kind of subversion of myth which would make even the Dark Mother cheer for a Hero, if only for an instant.

    I think it’s worth to give it a try.

    And that, ladies & gentlemen, was my Hero essay.
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-03-2020, 05:45 PM.

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  • Cinder
    replied
    “A Better Class of Champion: Improving Heroes”

    “It’s time to take the fight to their side of the battlefield”
    - Jake, “Murder Falcon”

    Alright, there’s still one narrative point I want to touch, but now I want to put some crunch under the teeth.

    Let’s talk about ideas to improve Heroes. Some of these are patches, some are ideas thrown out there just to see what happens, others are things I’d put in the game myself if given the change. A couple depend on the others, some exist in a vacuum.

    Ok then. First of all, the obvious patches.

    Heroes, as they exist now in the game, are a bit anemic. I know, I know, I’ve defended them in the past and still think the approach one has to them matters a lot but, while I think it’s not right to expect a Hero to just walk into a Lair and triumph right out the bat, it’s also true they could use some small buffs.

    One I actually already use in my games comes into play when other monsters appear, so that Heroes are not slaughtered by a werewolf friend like it’s nothing. It’s a solution which works with the game as is and clashes against other ideas I’ll talk about in a bit. In short, I allow Gifts and Anathemas to apply to the rest of the Family. By going after a Hero, supernaturals become part of the narrative and the confrontations between them and the Hero becomes part of his saga and can be influenced by it. Some Gifts (those easier to weaponise you mention, like Vanquisher's Strength and Champion's Endurance, as they are more on the "Hero's own strength" side of thing) apply and for Atavisms to consider monsters with Kinship to a Beast as if they're Middle Satiety and those who have nothing to with a Beast but still threaten a Hero as Low Satiety. No High Satiety except against Beasts, as usual, and no Anathema whatsoever if the Hero is fighting monsters by his initiative without a Begotten being part of the picture.
    The whole thing is basically a counterpart to Kinship, which works only for those monsters who enter the story either as obstacles to the monster slayer or "minions and allies" of the big final monster at the end of the hunt.
    But that power does not come from the supernaturals themselves: it comes from the Hero. Beasts are related to monsters through the Primordial Dream & the Dark Mother. Heroes are the nemesis of the Begotten and, as such, they have a degree of influence over other monsters, though much more limited by the Monomyth and the structures of the Astral.
    It’ a way to show Family what the deal with Heroes is, gives them a bitter taste of the monomyth, and tests the bonds of Kinship they have.

    Then there’s the good ol’ dice tricks, not exactly exciting but always effective. I use them is by giving Heroes the chance to expend 1 Willpower to gain the 9-again and 8-again permutations on a roll made when to confront a Beast (rote action always seemed to much). The way I do it, it can be done only if the Hero is in an open, physical conflict with the Beast and the Begotten is currently tagged with Anathemas the Hero is aware of. One Anathema allows to get 9-again, more allow 8-again. It’s a little thing, but adds up.

    But these are minor changes. The best solution is not to buff Heroes’ stats. The foundation for a real, meaningful change is a concept which is aimed at showing how a Hero’s narrative pushes to overwrite the Begotten’s. A sort of additional step beyond Heroic Stalking, if you want. It can be defined as the heroic version of the Insatiables’ Subversion, I guess, but another comparison I like to use more is a process which makes Beast feel as if they’re the target of an Astral equivalent of Forsaken’s sacred hunt.

    A note before we proceed: this idea is the result of conversations I had with Arcane Arts. I was rather aimless when it comes to certain aspects of the Hero topic and Arc always had a clearer idea than me about what to do. Some things happened in parallel, because we do agree on things a lot and tend to come to similar conclusions, but most of the what follows would not exist without Arc. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s but a weaker, vaguer shadow of what she had in mind when we last discussed about Heroes. If you like it, thank Arcane Arts and know she’s working on a superior version. If you’ve read her threads about Beast (and you should), odds are you’ll recognize clear traces of her work.

    I owe to Arc a lot. This is just a tip of the iceberg.

    Ok then. If Heroes are a denial of fear and a violent narrative which threatens to conquer the Begotten up until the assault ends with the end of the Beast, then they should do that. Before guns, swords, and Anathemas even happen, I mean.

    The first step, which also is the one thing I can say Arc and I thought about at the same moment, is to have Dreamborn, Goetia, critters from the Primordial Dream and a general Astral influence to have a bigger role on the hunt. The goal is to make it feel more alive, as if the world itself is turning into a stage for the Monomyth’s act which is about to happen, with plenty of other actors and “people” in the audience showing up to watch and feed from it. This translate into lots of things and collateral events, though most of it are focused on the Hero. It’s the Hero, after all, which is subconsciously weaving the tapestry of the Primordial Dream as he prepares to attack the Begotten. The trick is that most the entities involved and the flow of the Dream comply to the Hero’s desire, both because it’s his time to demonstrate his power and it’s their nature to do so. The narrative wants the Hero to win, after all. Not to mention stronger Astral entities exist and they’re always looking for a good occasion to get back at the Dark Mother through the suffering of her favorite children. Some lesser creatures might show up as emotional scavengers which exploit the Monomyth to have a walk around the place and others just don’t have a “side”, but all these entities are make sure the carnage happens, influence it, and feed as much as they can.
    How this happens depends on the nature of the spirits involved, but it’s not difficult to imagine how they can influence the environment and the people around Heroes & Beast to lead to a confrontation as loud and as messy as possible. Some might even appear to Heroes and offer their services as mentors and servants. A secret here, a blessing there. Slayer Heroes have little reason to refuse this help, since it precious and gives further validation of the rightfulness of their path. For all purposes, Heroes and spirits are using each other at this stage, but neither truly cares.
    This is more of a narrative excuse to have certain things happen, to have luck and circumstances shift to the Hero’s favor, but it should have a practical side for the Begotten to spot. Beasts who are able to notice the sign will be alarmed, with all the consequences that entails. I think Promethean’s Wasteland are a solid starting point to work from, spliced with other goodies from other games, and buried for a while in the depths of the Primordial Dream. I’ve made experiments, but was not able to test them in a game and so it’s all empty theory for now.

    Then there’s the real deal. Again, any gold that’s here is more on Arc than it is on me.

    The final step in the Monomyth as Heroes envision it before the monster is slain. Basically, it’s the erasure of the individuality of the targeted Begotten, reshaped to fit the Hero’s story. We’ll call it Heroic Denial for now.

    At this stage, the Hero as tracked the Beast for a while. He saw the places she lives in, the people she hurt, and started to understand the fear she represents. Rolls happen, with modifiers which change according to how much investigation the Hero did. If the Hero wins, the Monomyth manifests. “There’s a monster menacing the land, but a Hero arrived.

    Once this structure is in place, we have a foundation to do plenty of things.
    We can have Heroes immune to Lair traits without the need to use Real World (the exact amount depends on rolls, but on the low side of things), because Gifts or not a Hero should have the potential to assault the monster in the depths of the lair and remind them their manifest soul is not as safe as it thinks.
    We can have what I like to call Kinship Anathema, the heroic mirror of Kinship Nightmares, which allow Heroes to hurt all the fiends who dare to associate with his target.
    We can have ways for the Hero to crush the full might of the Monomyth upon the Beast’s head, before his hammer and Anathemas follow.
    We can heroic subsplats of Heroes who embody the denial of the fear the various Families represent and work better if they target their favorite prey, with the opposite of Birthrights to demonstrate it.
    (This one was all Arc. I’ve flirted with the concept, but never took it anywhere. But it’s hella cool and fits my feelings about Heroes well.)

    Lots of things to do, and every single one injects new life into Heroes and into Beast: The Primordial as a whole.

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  • Cinder
    replied
    “The Slaughter Cycle: Heroes and the Begotten”

    “Never trust anyone who goes after monsters with too much enthusiasm”
    - Grandma Bridgette, “Once & Future”

    Beast is a subversive game by its own very nature. This won’t ever change. It takes the premise of old myths where heroes confront monsters and asks its audience to play as those monsters for once.

    There’s a lot to unpack there, but it’s stuff I’ve discussed elsewhere and there’s no point to repeat it all once again. You can find some of it in my signature or around the forum, especially when it comes about my ideas for Beast and the narrative. I also touched on the topic of the relationship between Heroes & Begotten all across this essay and will do it again, so this section is not going to be that long.

    Beasts and Heroes clash because they must clash and that’s true regardless of the individuals involved. Each Hero, when confronted with the very idea of fear, rejected the concept and became an embodiment of everything fear is not, an unforgiving reminder that whatever the Begotten do can be vanquished and defeated.

    Primordial’s Monomyth happens right there.

    Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth is garbage but, in Beast, the phenomenon which carries that name manifests in the inevitable point of impact between the opposing truths that gave shape to Begotten and Heroes. It’s not just kill or be killed, but rather the conflict, the battle in the center of mankind’s soul between fear and its rejection. It’s the idea champions arise when the threats in the shadows show themselves. Light versus dark, hopes versus fears. A pseudo-Manichean system which perpetuates itself and always will as long as mankind exists, a song made of screams and shining blades which happens both because of and thanks to its own unstoppable force. Every thought that resonates with it echoes in the Astral, returns shaped as Beast, Heroes, and infinite others aspects of that dream dimension, all aimed against each other from the trajectories of their creation. Other concepts attach to the core struggle and give it countless shapes but, at the end of the day, it’s all about that: the infinite conflict. That dreadful, powerful thing called Monomyth. It actually does not matter which shapes the fight between Heroes and Beast takes, as long as it happens. Oracles existed and Heroes who express their vocation in a different way are a thing, after all. The main problem is that centuries of hatred and murders drenched the Astral in blood, so the great eternal story with Beast and Heroes as protagonist is written with violence. It’s a cycle from which is difficult to escape, from all sides, because those involved are born within it and buried deep inside. Begotten are more suited to spot the threads which imprison them all because, well, the monster is supposed to die more often than not.

    The key to make Beast reach its heights is, and I’ll always support this idea, to make it a game about the power of stories and the effort to tell yours despite everything else. Beast are living stories and the core of the game is that everything in the world want to steal the role of the storyteller. A role which, by all accounts, Beast must fight to retain control of. Primordial is the Astral gameline and it should show.

    By that account, Heroes are living stories too, but they’re stories which grow by hijacking the lives of Beast, by casting the Begotten as the antagonists Heroes want them to be no matter what. Heroes are nothing less than the most visible and important threat for Beast because they’re the notion Beast don’t get to tell their own story made manifest. They’re the burning reminder the universe, the Astral, and human consciousness itself want Beast to surrender to a narrative which does not belong to them. Fatalism with a sword, wearing a lion’s pelt and ready to come kill you in your lair. Each Anathema a Hero lays is an invasion of the tale a Beast is trying to tell about themselves, each wound a Hero causes a proof there’s no point fighting back.

    As I’ve said plenty of times before, all the elements of Beast are tools to make players struggle to tell the story they want. Hunger, Kinship, the Horror, the Lair. Even the Insatiables, defilers and invaders as they are. Heroes, though, embody that core theme better than anything. There’s you and there’s them, and they want to annihilate everything you are.

    Any interaction between Heroes and Begotten pays its due to that. No other way around it. What makes it different than, say, Uratha & Pure or Demons & Angels, is that it’s always personal. Any doubt, trap, hesitation, gesture of ruthless cruelty, and act of vengeance is personal. There’s not a doctrine behind the cycle of violence of the Primordial Dream. At most, doctrines & creeds are added to it as an bonus. Each Hero who goes after a Beast does so because he wants to, each Beast who crushes a Hero under her coils wanted to take that Hero down. Further interactions with different Heroes and Begotten are all stories of their own, an intersection of conflicting narrative which develops on an intimate level.

    And that’s what I think makes it cool? Not that Shuankhsen, Pure, the Huntsman, Pandorans, Seers, and all the others aren’t. It’s just that in Beast, a game about individuals who need to make their legend felt, it feels right.
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-07-2020, 05:22 PM.

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  • Cinder
    replied
    “Gore-tinted Glasses: The Hero problem”

    “The hunt made by heroes did not feed the people. It was a bloody and lonely exercise, done for its own purpose”
    - Roberto Calasso, “Celestial Hunter”

    The other major issue when talking about Heroes: what Heroes aren’t.

    First, there’s an elephant in the room we need to acknowledge. I’ve been thinking about how to talk about this for a while. Deleted and rewritten this section a bunch of times. It was meant to be longer, but I’ve figured this is a part of the conversation I don’t really enjoy to have and would make me stress much more than I want it to do. I want to talk about other things when it comes to Heroes. Still, it needs to get addressed, if only just a bit. This won’t be pleasant, but let’s do it.

    We all spend too much energy discussing how to make Heroes into something Primordial does not need them to be.

    I know that’s harsh and not the usual way I drive a point forward, but I really need to made that clear, fast. Otherwise, we won’t go anywhere. Beast does its own thing; Heroes are one of the spots where it subverts a lot of expectations. I know they’re one of the less solid aspect of the books as written, but there’s making changes to the game to improve it and then there’s making the game something else, with different themes and points to make. The latter is not good.

    Beast has its things. Beast has its monsters, its lack of easy answers, its scars, its flaws (and they are plenty) AND its Heroes. End of the story.

    “And that’s all I have to say about that”

    Why I’m talking about this? Because it connects to the wider topic of having to cut through the knot to discover what I think the Heroes of Primordial cannot be.

    In part, it dates back to the old matter of playable Heroes. I’ve tiptoed around the edges of the topic myself, with several instances I was up to have playable Heroes. I think I’ve settled for the “no playable Heroes” side of the debate now. I did not move from there for a while.

    A couple of reasons. The first being it’s not thematic. There’s a difference between playable Heroes and, say, playable Seers. A Werewolf game ran with the Pure is still “A Game of Savage Fury”. Even in Changeling and Deviant you can play as the “antagonist splat”, because those Lost and Remade have a role within the game which still highlights the themes and core conflicts.

    Heroes can’t work like that. I’ll cover what Heroes represent for Beasts better in the following section, but Heroes are the sharpest swords the Monomyth uses to attack the Begotten. They’re more of a force of nature than something else. Fascinating, yes, because they’re also people, but their point is to provide narrative opportunities to Beasts. They’re a challenge to rise against to, not protagonists in any sense. Oh, they’d like to be. In fact, they believe to be (and the Astral agrees), but what makes Beast different is that for once this game puts you in the role of the actual monster from legends. To be able to play both sides would weaken the premise in ways which would risk to weaken the whole thing.

    Second reason: it’s not as interesting as it might appear to be. Heroes, in all their possible incarnations, exist to do one thing: to mess with Beast. To hunt them, to slay them, to reduce the damage they make, to tag them with Anathema, to unveil their secrets. As I’ve said before, Heroes are a denial of Beasts. And…little more? Don’t get me wrong, for antagonists that’s a lot to work with. Just not as much when it comes to being playable. Also, Heroes are supposed to win. The world is on their side. Rightfully so, we might even say.
    Even before getting into what I propose as possible changes to Heroes, what’s the real appeal of playable Heroes. To face terrible monsters and win against all odds, with maybe some cool powers? Hunter is there and does it better. Deviant too. The mythology connection? Mage can do that and Scion 2E is freakin’ amazing. To be an individual tangled into the web of the human subconscious given shape and fight to tell your story? That’s…Beast.

    That does not mean we’re not supposed to sympathize with Heroes, ever. Hell, that would be awful. We’re supposed to see Heroes have a point. They might be wired to have a hard time at finding any sort of mercy for the Begotten, but at the end of the day, Beasts are monsters. The whole fucking game falls apart the moment we forget Beasts hurt people no matter what, that they wanted to be a part of the story while knowing that, and that Heroes are the response of the world to the hungers of the Begotten.

    It’s just that, well, Heroes are bad too. In a different way from Beasts? Yes…but not that different. Sure, high-Integrity Heroes can shape their calling into the kind of positive influence no Begotten could ever hope to replicate, but those Heroes don’t cross the path of Beasts. And if they do? Then there’s no way to tell how they’ll deal with the monster. The other Heroes, though, the vast majority which steps up to the fight? Those Heroes are crippled by their innate rejection of fear and that’s something which has consequences. All Beast inflict pain and fear to those around them and that’s an inescapable foundation of Primordial, but Heroes channel their drive to reject fear into behaviors that risk other’s people lives at best and are utterly sociopathic at worse. They need to conquer the menace, they need to defeat the monster, to prove they’re better, stronger. Untouched by fear.
    Heroes and Begotten are both driven to hurt others by their own nature, with the main difference being Beasts are more aware and honest about the reality of things. No Beast will ever deny to be a monster, because they chose to. Now, they might have trouble dealing with that and perish, retreat, or whatever, but Beasts have a better awareness of their place in the world than Heroes will ever have. They embrace fear. Not that it makes them better, mind you! “At least I admit it” is a poor excuse for most things. The realities of life as a “functional” Begotten demand a steep price those Beasts pay and there’s no other way around it. It’s a selfish act, probably made even more selfish by how Beasts acknowledge it.

    Still, Heroes who hunt down monsters do the same. With another crucial difference too: Beast have the chance to understand what they do and repent. Heroes can’t (or at least not without lots of help) because their hypocrisy prevents them from thinking they’re doing anything wrong. All they do is justified, for them. This is what makes Heroes a danger to the world: the fact they’re blind to the weight of their own actions.

    (Here I wanted to add a giant section about how it’s just natural to see Heroes as people who are justified. About how a character with strong passion who fights evil elicits a positive response from the audience. I wanted to talk about Joel from The Last of Us and how he’s kind of a dick even if we saw him do good and Ellie & us cared about him, about how things like morality and right & wrong should not always easy to deal with in media. I threw all that out. It was just noise)

    What I’m trying to say is Heroes (and that capital “H” here is more important than usual) aren’t the ideal of hero we have in mind because, in the CofD, things don’t work like that. There’s too much blood on the picture. And Beast? Beast is tough. Not in a “oh, only smart people get it” sense (God, no. Come punch me if I ever say that about any game). Beast is tough because the perspective it asks its audience to play with is tough. Its questions are tough, its answers are tough, its tools are tough.

    Beast’s Heroes cannot be anything different from the menace they are because that’s what makes them the driving point of the mythic cycle itself. A cycle it’s up to Beast to fight, perish against, subvert or break. The next section will cover this more.

    The tragedy of Heroes is they should be something else. They should be better, they should embody an ideal, and yet they don’t. Or if they do, such ideal is weaponized into something terrible. Heroes are so determined to destroy what feels wrong to them, they’re willing to change the world in order to find confirmation their hatred was correct and that they deserve recognition and glory because they acted on it. What’s worse, the world does listen to them.

    Nuance? Nuance can be there, I want it to, it needs to. It’s just not time to talk about it yet.
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-08-2020, 03:44 AM.

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  • Cinder
    replied
    “To Slay Fear Itself: The Nature of Heroes in Beast”

    “I find giants. I hunt giants. I kill giants”
    - Barbara Thornson, at the beginning of the “I Kill Giants” comic.

    There’s a couple of things we need to deal with first in order to have any sort of decent dialogue about Heroes.

    The first one is a good ol’ “what are we exactly talking about?”. In short, what Heroes are. Tons of words have been spent on this topic on a wider perspective and they resurface each time there’s a thread about Heroes, but I think in order to make any steps forward we need to look at Heroes under a perspective which initially simplifies the topic. My thesis is that Heroes lack focus, isn’t it? Then let’s concentrate the fire on one spot: we want to talk about Heroes only within the context of Primordial. This is easier said than done and to start from a further point is kinda inevitable but, at the end of the day, we want to have a clear image of what Heroes are in Beast. Yes, only in Beast. Why? Because it’s not relevant to discuss anything else. Not here, not for us. I know how that sounds and looks, I’m a sucker for actual mythology, comic books, movies, and everything else, but here we’re talking about Beast and the game has no duty conform to the expectations of anything which can be defined as “hero”, no matter what. Beast is a game which tinkers with the idea of hero one can have when first discovering Primordial, but that premise does imply anyone going forward will have to accept what’s played straight, what’s subverted, and what’s completely original. I’ll touch this line of thought again later, when I’ll discuss what Heroes aren’t, but for now let’s indeed move forward as say what the Heroes of Beast are.

    We’ll start from the roots.

    On a first look, Primordial owes something to Joseph Campbell and his “The Hero with A Thousand Faces”. Thankfully, that’s more of a surface debt than anything. I won’t go into details about why not being tied to Campbell beyond a couple of terms is a good thing, but what’s important for us to keep in mind is that Campbell did not exist in a bubble and he built his theories over older ideas and analyses. It’s there I think the real seeds of Primordial lie; in Jungian symbolism, analytical psychology, and anthropological theories of archetypes which don’t conform to willfully simple patterns that ignore what does not fit with criminal glee. Then there’s everything else of course, but it’s useful to know where the starting point is. I’m not saying you have to read all that sort of stuff to “get Beast”, merely that it provides ideas.

    I can attest it, because I went there looking for clarity about heroes & monsters and found plenty. Blessed be the Dark Mother.

    I’ve promised to keep this aimed at Primordial, but it’s still useful for our purposes to understand how heroes, as in “the cultural icons”, happened. This is more of a real universal pattern than the Hero’s Journey described by Campbell, if only for the simple reasons it’s vague, adaptable, and recognizes not all stories are about people killing monsters.

    The truth about slayer heroes is, if we go really back, there are none. There are people, their community, and then there’s everything else. The wilderness, the places which aren’t safe. The places where monsters live. The secret wisdom of the world is taught through a powerful mean: fear. Fear is what allows you to survive another night, to avoid predators, to keep going in a hostile environment. The real source of that wisdom and the sort of power human can only dream of belongs to gods & monsters, though. Back then, they are the same thing and all incarnate as beasts of the wild. The only hope people can have to understand the gods and the mighty truth their existence means is to rely on those few who can act as intermediaries between normal humans and the terrible wonders in the darkness. People who can understand the signs and report the messages of the words to the population. Their influence is limited, but it’s something. Helps to live better, to avoid danger, to not anger the gods. For their community, they’re heroes. These individuals are called shamans, healers.

    Oracles.

    There’s another group of people allowed to venture in the realm of the gods, though: hunters. In those ancient days, to hunt is to turn into a different being. You need to be ritually prepared before and cleansed after, because to hunt and kill an animal means to become something else. To become something like the gods yet different, something which can slay those very same gods. A victorious hunter is a person who denies his fear, becomes more than man, and returns home to the adoration of his peers. They are proof that fear can be defeated, that the monsters out there are not invincible.

    The perception shifts. Now there’s a distinction between mere hunters and something else, a purer and stronger ideal: the slaying hero. These heroes are people, except better. They can do something nobody else can because they’re not afraid. Where oracles can explain monsters, this kind of heroes can do more.

    The perception shifts more. The oldest story in the world manifests. There’s a monster threatening the community and a hero arises to defeat it. He does not do so for any other reason. People are afraid. Afraid of what? Of the monster. Heroes are not afraid. Heroes can kill the monster. And they do, no matter how impossible it might seem, because that’s how the story goes.

    Back to Beast.

    That shift in people’s perception is what reverberates in the Astral over the centuries and eventually turns the slayer Hero into the default shape of the heroic phenomenon, but the most important thing to get from it is something else: how Heroes are a direct response the Astral creates against itself. They are spawned from the currents of the Primordial Dream just as the Begotten are, but they’re the equal and opposite reaction. If Beasts are mankind’s fears given shape, the Children of the Dark Mother, Heroes are a loud declaration those fears can be defeated and slain. Conquering Heroes.

    (More on that later. Let’s not get carried away from Heroes for now)

    Alright, that took some rust off. Let’s get a bit deeper.

    Some parts of the books do seem to carry over the notion Heroes have no reason to be because the world changed, in different yet similar way the function of the Begotten have has become obsolete. That’s a way to put it, but I’d personally describe it another way: there never was a “true” reason. For both of them.

    Wait, I’ll explain. The wizard behind the curtain is still great and powerful.

    Beast and Heroes exist in an environment which encompasses the material world and the Primordial Dream. They’re elements of it and, as all elements of an environments, they adapt to it. They feed, they grow, and influence what’s around them. Just as there’s no “reason” for a cobra and a mongoose to exist, Beast and Heroes just are. What they are, though, is avatars of some of the strongest archetypes the human consciousness can conjure, themselves the product of what’s arguably mankind’s oldest and strongest emotion.

    They’re protagonists of a narrative about the human race itself. A narrative which happens in the first place as a manifestation of the struggle mankind has when it comes to accept its fears. It tried to understand them, to respect them, and Oracles happened. Did not work. We just could not accept that Fear would not leave us, no matter how hard we wished it to. We tried to bury it under the noise of the world, to hide within an artificial safety which could never stop it for real. The Begotten are mankind’s way of reminding itself total control is an illusion and there always will be things to be afraid of. People are too scared to accept their fears, confront them, and learn from them. In the Chronicles of Darkness, such deep inner conflict returns in the shape of the Begotten. The Dark Mother is there, hidden within all of us. We made the Dark Mother. In a sense, we are the Mothers and Fathers of our monsters. We could make peace with that, in theory.

    Except that does not work.

    “I want to be safe. To not worry about the things which scare me. To not be afraid of monsters. Fear is there? Well, I don’t care. I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t need it; I don’t want it.

    I don’t want Fear to exist.

    Someone please save me from Fear
    .”

    This idea, screamed towards the depths of the Astral by every single soul that ever lived, all the time. The Primordial Dream listens. Heroes become what they are today, the Monomyth follows and strengthens the narrative further.

    All that talk about what a hero is in real-world myths matters little for us at this stage. In Beast: The Primordial Heroes are the byproduct of a paradox our mind doesn’t want to accept: that our fears would not exist without us and they’re a part of our existence we need to find a balance with. Fuck that balance, we can kill what scares us.

    This is also why Heroes are scions of the Primordial Dream just as Beast are and yet cannot achieve a real understanding of it in the same way Begotten do. They owe their existence to the Primordial Dream while their very nature is antithetical to it, a dissonance which limits how much Heroes can perceive, process, and explore the primordial realm itself and everything associated to it.

    The Monomyth, the whole astral architecture which supports it and all the dreamborns who ride the current seems part of an obsolete system because they are. The cycle and everything around it are part of a primordial heritage which persists since the day humans gained sentience as a species, perhaps even a little bit further. In a more ideal world, Heroes would be part of a story along with Beasts, a narrative which would allow those who witness it to grow with minimum collateral damage. Champions and monsters would be storytellers, if not for the maelstrom of violence and egotism which swallowed the narrative. The system succumbed to the flaws of human nature and with time those flaws became features. The mythic cycle runs on blood, fatalism, and the need to affirm oneself over others. Does not mean it’s going to disappear, though.

    Now, Beast might see their attempt to teach Lesson as a way to, so to say, get back to square one and impart the wisdom people seem to refuse, but that’s a big “might”. Most Begotten who try to follow the whole Lesson thing are just trying to make the best out of a bad situation they threw themselves in, an artificial social construct which is there to make them feel better with themselves. No matter how good a Beast is, there’s no way to truly get back to square one. Never was and, to be fair, Beast know it. They might tell themselves a lot of things about Lessons, but at their core Beast know what they are, if only for the simple reason they accepted the deal.

    Heroes? Heroes do what they’re supposed to do. They are the embodiment of all that Fear is not. The slayer of monsters. At least, that’s what the force within them urges them to be. Some diverge and try to use other methods, but the truth is every single Hero in Beast is nothing less than the one who can defeat Fear.

    They can’t help it, after all. That’s what they are.
    Last edited by Cinder; 09-07-2020, 05:19 PM.

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