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Legend, Embellishment, and the Siege of the Bright Dream [Assorted Brainstorming]

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  • Legend, Embellishment, and the Siege of the Bright Dream [Assorted Brainstorming]

    Late-night ramble that I'll likely come back to edit for readability and coherence in subsequent weeks once I've cleared various other plates on my table. Most of this is half-formed, so questions are welcome.

    Attempting to reframe the Begotten by addressing the fact that the human is not so much a skin for the beast as a proximity marker/gateway for the beast — not Bigfoot, but the guy around whom Bigfoot sightings happen who is sometimes Bigfoot.

    First thing: Fix the sliders on the emotional language being used. The nightmares a Beast inflicts aren't traumatic on the level of night horrors intrinsically, they're just memorable. The Temenos's truck with resonant ideas is at play here, and the deep-deep-depths of the Dark Dream have it that human culture is built on a bedrock of fear, but we don't judge vampires by draugr or werewolves by zi'ir. Let the Begotten play experience have middle gears. The play space is Edgy Cryptid In A Tricky Position, not Irredeemable Bastard From Day One. We have kappas and simurghs on the list of example Beasts, and one of the sample Incarnates is literally Sasquatch, if his list of names is anything to go by. Pathos is awesome, but getting in the way of readers' understanding and propagating an exaggerated view of the splat isn't.

    Second thing: Horrorspawn are a bigger deal. Horrors of the non-Begotten sort as well, because, as Arc correctly observed, it's a lot easier to run Beast independently when you have the generic monster-making mechanics at the ready. Remote feeding and red herrings let the arc of the Big Monster story play out on a more gradual timescale.

    Other second thing: Kinship Nightmares from Dreamborn, and also a system for digesting connection with a supernatural being into Kinship Nightmares. Maybe just the Investigation rules but sideways. The Unfettered can easily take up residence here, as can Temenotic Walkers.

    Third thing: greater potential emphasis on the Astral as a feeding ground. Maybe there'll be wider-reaching consequences if you do the exact sort of thing that messes with the Temenos to feed without material harm, but deliberately sowing nightmares to feed should be a thing, as should claiming Chambers in the back-and-forth between the Bright and Dark Dreams. It's novel that the Astral shamanoids do most of their work in physical reality, but the collective unconscious is too interesting a battleground to relegate to niche interests.

    Other third thing: More attention to the mid-length stuff involved in preparing the ground for you to expand your Lair (whether by forming a new Chamber or cultivating similarity to an old one). There should be a building process to drawing a target or a pursuer into your Lair before you pull the snare and open a Pathway for the big reveal. Probably also a little more shop-talk about best practices for these things — the BPG's note that spending Satiety down to 5 before attempting a High Satiety feeding is a simple example, but advice on linking feeding to Aspirations and vice-versa certainly couldn't hurt, especially when combined with feeding in the Temenos and exerting large-scale social influence.

    Fourth thing: lean into the fact that High Satiety is Stealth Mode and Low Satiety is Loud Mode. Scale the visibility of your Horror (whether through distance or obfuscation) with how well-fed you are, and tie this into the impact of your Legend on the Temenos. At a high rating, conflicting rumors and heightened feeding specificity incline you to lay low and take it easy while your Horror becomes a thing of mystery, able to be anywhere at a moment's notice; at a low rating, the sharp edge of hunger and the restless energy of desperation push you to personal action while your Horror acts as a localized and extremely blunt instrument, an awful revelation about the world racing between the Burrows and making itself a known quantity the longer it goes unfed; between these two scales, you lack the grounding in either state, and are susceptible to having your narrative co-opted. "Satiety" could stand to be replaced as a term, since it's an awkward fit beyond its role in the Hunger lens — language is tricky, but the rename I've got for the moment is "Embellishment," which I partially like because it doubles as a noun you could expend.

    More later, probably.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

  • #2
    Continuing, with the same caveats as before.

    This could just be some combination of wanting to use the shiny new toy and mixing the two "you might want to map this out on paper" mechanics, but meshing Lair with the organization rules (more particularly Deviant's conspiracy variant with its Nodes and Projects) might serve as a solid space to fill in the gaps in Beast's social influence/magical real estate/power development/key related players systems. Possibly this turns into a sort of buffer Lair rating that you can gradually cannibalize for permanent advancement; maybe Lair Traits and Kinship Nightmares fill the equivalent of Icon slots that go away when the relevant connective tissue is broken.

    Back-filling a bit, it would be neat to see a little bit more of how the great Families of the Mother's Land interact with the Begotten (if at all), along with the Insatiable (I would be very surprised if the Insatiable's Schism and lack of personal Lair had nothing at all to do with their incarnating without a Heart or a Family); laying the groundwork for some amount of external shared agenda provides a decent jumping-off point for Aspirations, as well as a frame for Heroic involvement ("stop the primordial scions of Fear Herself from messing with the human soul" is really easy to shortcut to "kill them all and let God sort it out" when the signal-to-noise ratio is as bad as it is).

    Tense encounters in the Astral can play off the material-world contrast between how Heroes view the conflict versus how it's being experienced without relying too heavily on the abstract lens of "this person thinks they understand what's going on in a really black-and-white sense." On the other hand, the contrast in psychic variety between the visceral wild magic of the Mother's Land and the ideological warfare of the Bright Dream serves as a solid point of differentiation, and the Begotten's relative lack of expertise with the latter compared to the former makes for as good a reason as any for them to poke and prod and punch and shake the integrity of humanity in the general and personal senses — there is only so much you can do on your own to refine the ways in which you are a scary monster, after all.

    Some of this is effectively borrowing from Demon in reverse, but the angle that I'm poking towards is Legend as base-building in the collective unconscious to the ends of political sabotage, personal enrichment, private inquiry, religious pilgrimage, divine mandate, etc. You can pursue these ends without developing your support network as much, but the demands of Hunger are such that your Horror is then probably going to start showing up closer and closer to your actual position and limiting your focus until eventually it just bursts out of you and manifests from your corpse like a really nasty Horrorspawn.

    More later, probably.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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    • #3
      Substantial gap, and this line of thought is comparatively brief, but:

      Beast shares some issues of concept-conveyance with 1e Geist, and as there, I'd forward the prospect that making the X-splat largely aesthetically-tilted ties into that; your Family determines some of your starting Atavisms and the broad strokes of what your Lair is about, but, like Thresholds and starting Keys, it's extremely broad and doesn't quite suggest an archetype like many other game's "inborn" axis does. It also shares a name with the more fungible aspect of Begotten existence, whereas Hunger is the thing about the character that they can't change — the Insatiable have a completely different set of thematic groupings, but they've got Hunger, too.

      The idea I'm getting at here, essentially, is this: Make Hunger the X-splat. It's the core of managing the character, right down to having a direct relationship with the character's Aspirations, and outside of the Lair it's what's going to have more of a concrete impact on mortal lives. Unless the tagline changes, Beast is a game of Endless Hunger. Family is a helpful side-project that gives the children of the Dark Mother something else to do; it's a distraction, an Embellishment that sets them apart from the Progenitor's get and channels their drives in constructive directions.

      If one were to take a ton of cues from Geist 2e in this regard…

      • Your Hunger gives you an extra Aspiration slot that only relates to your Hunger, which allows for bluebook Horror-esque use of Aspirations to represent feeding activity. Possibly it changes from a short-term to a long-term Aspiration at high Satiety/Embellishment?

      • Family stops being a purely-personal quality and instead fills a similar role to Krewe Archetype, plugging into the above "merge the Lair with the organization rules" idea. This potentially complicates broods a bit, especially since there's no real mechanics for temporary mergers in any existing form of the organization rules and Krewe Archetypes are more purpose-driven than brand-building, but engaging with Icon-equivalents opens up some fun ways to further expand Kinship effects for non-Begotten.

      • Safe bet that in this model, Legend is the name to use for the Esotery/Standing/Dominance equivalent of a Begotten's brood and/or Primordial Cult; the Anchor of the same name is available to the Beast and all her Kin to feed the Horror to some extent as a replacement/adjustment to Family Dinner, perhaps?

      • The notion of buffer Lair maybe shifts the Begotten relationship with their Supernatural Potency stat from an Awakened-esque singular pursuit to something more in line with Werewolf and Changeling's "if you have a good support structure, you can totally just raise this stat a couple of times and then sit comfortably at the lower middle of the chart" model; belonging to a potent brood may push a rate of consumption that characters can't keep up, but a Beast whose Family splinters under the strain then no longer has to feed the Horror as often as their expanded Lair called for.

      As usual, this is half-formed spitballing, but I hope I have the shape of something here.


      Resident Lore-Hound
      Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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      • #4
        Late night, fading consciousness, puzzle games ate my brain, rambling to put thoughts to words:

        It's worth remembering, as Astral Realms and the BPG illustrate in complementary ways, that Horrors hunger because they're from the Anima Mundi — the Ecstatic Wind tears at the human psyche because it's the aggregate world-soul consuming itself in a million different ways. This can probably have some cosmological lines drawn between it and Astral natives being the only ephemeral beings besides chthonians who actually regain Essence in the realm they're typically encountered in; notably, the foremost supernatural creature type that isn't affected by the Mother's Land is the regenerating hunter demigods who can literally eat people for power.

        Presumably the descent to the Temenos and being shaped by the currents of human legend affects the need for larval Horrors and Insatiable to pick a niche, because differentiated Hungers presently only matter to stuff meddling with the Primordial Dream. In a Hunger-first take on the game it should probably warrant emphasis that, just like your Aspirations help feed your Hunger, your Hunger should probably be important connective tissue between your Horror and the human you used to be.

        Relying a little less wholly on player buy-in to bring the "bad end" Inheritances into play might be wise, particularly for the Merger, which as-presented feels built for "you stayed too hungry for too long and the Horror got really impatient" horror stories. We could probably also stand to see a little bit of line-blurring between the Rampant and the Insatiable, unless the Progenitor being apart from the Dark Mother is something we're dead set on keeping; I feel like something could be made of a VtR2e Belial's Brood situation being ambiguously responsible for some of the Insatiable.

        Jumping back to being shaped by the Temenos, leaning into Heroes' power to inflict Anathema coming from the same source that changes protean fear-Dreamborn into Horrors feels important, particularly as a feature of that antagonist adjacent to but distinct from the KS draft's "Heroes have power over Beasts because it's basically all stolen from Beasts" bit; Beasts' and Heroes' powers approach the Primordial Dream from opposite ends, and it's the intersection of those different forces that produces the core of Begotten abilities.

        Presently, the things from the human end of the scale to look at relevant to this power include individual dreams and experiences being the source of Chambers (and otherwise shaping the Dream) and the Free Council's thesis statement on magic (i.e. Humanity Is Magical and large amounts of human thought and activity can change the very underpinnings of reality), to say nothing of how much weird shit Deviant shows you can pull out of a single human soul.

        Worth noting, also: While it's easy enough to conceptualize a Beast has just having three major parts — Horror, Heart, and Human(oid) — the framework Mother's Land Dreamborn inhabit is such that the organizing principle connecting all of those with the rest of the Lair and the character's metaphysically significant relations (Family Ties, broodmates, etc) is a fourth, and the shared memetic headspace of their Legend is a sometimes-neglected fifth.

        As one of the Begotten you are a stray taxon from the supernatural tree of life, plugged into the collective human unconscious as a sorting category for Monsters In The World and given the ability to consciously direct those categorizations to some degree, albeit the latter aspect is a little more ambitious fare than keeping your piece of the Universal Hunger fed so the linchpins of your whole operation don't tear themselves apart, and giving up on it is going to become increasingly tempting as you become more of a gestalt behind-the-scenes actor in your personal life while you build towards a suitably climactic confrontation with the world-self.

        Basically, what I'm getting at here is that "no neat little boxes" is cosmologically compatible with a presentation of the Begotten that is concerned with spectrums and continua of relation and change, and probably fits a Family-oriented approach better than a raw "the family tree is a tangled mess and classification schemes are made up" approach more appropriate to the ground-level confusion of a mortals/Hunter game. Hard sorting categories is more the bailiwick of the Awakened, and there's too many axes and too much entropy to crib the Uratha's two-way sliding scale as a model, but Beasts should be able to muddle out their place in the world in the pursuit of self-knowledge.

        Questions of how fed you want to stay, how active you want to be, how soon you take repeated run-ins with a monster as a sign, how much you're willing to try and fight fate, how much imposition on your Legend is tolerable, and more are too fuzzy to put dedicated space for on a character sheet or concretely attach terminology to, but setting up the game's framework (or at least, the framework of the use of the game where the what-do-you-do question extends beyond the basic monstrous gameplay loop) to make feeling out those liminal spaces easy to do seems like a good goal to have.


        Resident Lore-Hound
        Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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