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  • So I've Read Some Reviews...

    I have never played Beast, and I've thumbed through the rulebook a total of one time. So everything I say, I say from a deep well of ignorance:

    I've read several reviews that raise some concerns about the core elements and message of Beast: the Primordial. Specifically, that the game seems to be justifying abuse, encouraging victim-blaming and like behavior and that it does so while presenting the abusers as an oppressed community and those who stop them as the oppressors.

    I would like to hear what people who actually play the game feel about it. Are these observations totally off the mark? Are there elements to the game that make these concerns less concerning?

    Absolutely no judgement whatsoever. I know nothing about the topic but what I've read and would like to learn more.

  • #2
    Meh. For what it’s worth, I mentally file those reviews together with the folks who claim Pokemon promotes animal abuse, and any judgment I make pretty much ends there.

    EDIT: Aaaand this topic may turn out rather... conflagratory, as you can expect, so let’s tread real careful here.


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    • #3
      There is an earlier thread, that compiles thoughts from the writers about the development process. I recommend looking into it if you want more context:

      LINK

      TL;DR is that mistakes were made, but later books (Beast Player's Guide and supplemetary material in Dark Eras) managed to avoid those pitfalls.


      ~

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      • #4
        Well, in fact most Beast are abusers, their Hunger force them to feed on various shocking things inflicted on humans
        I find not surprising the fact that they tell to themselves that they teach lessons on uncaring humans, in my opinion it s hard to find a sane person who shout aloud "i m a bad guy", everyone with questionable urges try to justify his behaviour.
        That said i must agree that it present a controversial theme, a group of abuser persecuted by "nice guys" that are in fact narcisistic square jawed action heroes.
        I think that it mostly depends on the point of view of the player.
        A victim of abuse can certainly find the book content offensive.
        Lot of discussions has been made on the fact that vampires ecc.. are no more nice guys than beasts, in Chronicle of darkness you must always remember that you play as a monster, a somewhat flawed being, an anti hero sometimes.
        To me Beast ALSO teaches that diversity should be tolerated and in some cases celebrated, and that you should recognize and somewhat reconcile with your flaws as no one is perfect.
        In short be careful, it s a difficult game to play, it can be fun, it can be offensive, it s up to you, i prefer to not judge the authors intents

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        • #5
          Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
          ...this topic may turn out rather... conflagratory, as you can expect, so let’s tread real careful here.
          Of course. Apologies if my initial post was perceived as inflammatory; I was trying to speak tentatively.
          Originally posted by Teatime View Post
          There is an earlier thread, that compiles thoughts from the writers about the development process. I recommend looking into it if you want more context...
          Wow. There's a lot of honesty and insight in there. Thank you.

          It seems like the main thing is the tone of "Beasts are Good Guys, Heroes are Bad Guys" that comes across in the book is largely acknowledged as inappropriate and/or a mistake, and that a people use parts of the original book to tell the stories they feel Beast was meant to/could have/should have been used to tell.

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          • #6
            Sort of? Let's contextualize this.

            First thing's first, Beasts as characters, in action, aren't neccesarily worse or better than any of their peers-what they do is comparable to werewolves, demons, changelings, mages, and really the whole bunch of them.

            The first wrinkle about Beasts is that they are among a small handful of character types in the Chronicles franchise where being a monster is a choice they made, and thus have a lot more accountability for the actions they take as monsters-their peers in this matter include mages, hunters, Autourgic and/or Self-Made Deviants, and some vampires. Beasts in particular walk into the Devouring that makes them Beasts as basically coming into themselves, as realizing and actualizing who they are.

            The second wrinkle as that goes is that Beast is kind of really about that accountability-not only does the setup not distract from the question of accountability, but their role as myth-and-world-makers essentially demands that a big point of Beast is validating and challenging that choice to become and continue as a monster, with consequences for that answer being a large part of the driving narrative of Beast.

            Where that mentioned thread comes in is that the development of Beast was not particularly well handled, and with that comes a lot of unintended consequences, particularly the early version of Heroes. The corebook lacks to nuance to really address and handle it's themes and ideas with grace. Earlier versions were worse, and Heroes in particular were a trainwreck.

            The final note is that it's important to remenber that Beasts, while not necessarily a blunt stand in for abusers, aren't necessarily the good guys. They are monsters validating their monstrosity by either working out a place for it in terms of their community....or basically flip the bird at that notion. Problems happen on both routes.

            Back to work!


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            • #7
              Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
              ...Beasts, while not necessarily a blunt stand in for abusers, aren't necessarily the good guys.
              I'm not sure I understand. A vampire may try to control their monstrous nature and do good in the world, but drinking people dry is bad. It's just that they can try to avoid that.
              Beasts seem to be in the same position; they can try to be good, but feeding off of fear and suffering is bad. It's a matter of nature versus morality, yeah?

              But based on what I've read, the tone of the first Beast: the Primordial book doesn't really talk about that struggle. The bits I saw seemed to be suggesting that their evil acts were justified and not actually all that bad at all.
              Which, if that's the perspective of a character, I get. Self-delusion is another classic trope. Like how the vampire doesn't feel bad about killing a mortal, because they are inferior or less. We know the vampire is wrong. The game knows it, too. It's part of the story and what makes that character interesting.
              But BtP seems (seemed?) to lack that awareness. Which I can see would be troubling.

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              • #8
                There are plenty of passages, that demonstrate self-awareness in the game... but others that feel strongly the other way. That's one of the worst parts of the core book: too much of the tone isn't unified and leads to conflicting interpretations in a bad way.

                The comparison to vampires is fair (in fact I've frequently suggested some of BtP's mechanics for alternative takes on vampires), but vampires aren't self-deluded as a whole. Some are, some completely accept what they are and stop caring, and others try to create a framework where the harm they do doesn't outweigh what good they do. Beasts run the same gamut.

                Being self-deluded isn't really the point of either game (though can certainly be explored). They're games about moral compromise, which is stronger when the characters know what they are.

                In general though... listen to Arc. When it come to people that understand Beast (both where things went wrong in the original core, where it went right, and where things should go next) she's one of the top voices of expressing things with the nuance and depth needed (and hopefully doesn't mind some of us endlessly professing this)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                  The comparison to vampires is fair (in fact I've frequently suggested some of BtP's mechanics for alternative takes on vampires), but vampires aren't self-deluded as a whole. Some are, some completely accept what they are and stop caring, and others try to create a framework where the harm they do doesn't outweigh what good they do. Beasts run the same gamut.
                  One difference between VtR and BtP is that the former has mechanical focus on that struggle: Humanity.
                  Having Humanity as a core system for vampires means that you can't possibly ignore that being monstrous is definitely a bad thing, no matter how much the books otherwise are written from the point of view of vampires. You certainly don't need something like Humanity in a game about playing a human-turned-monster, but when you're not mechanically incentivised to engage with or at least think about the internal struggle of man vs monster, it's extra important that the point of the game comes across clearly in the game's description.


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                  • #10
                    BtP has mechanical focus on its struggle: Satiety, Legend, and Inheritance.

                    Because they're not the same. VtR asks, "how much of a monster are you willing to become?" while BtP asks, "what kind of monster are you willing to be?"

                    So VtR's mechanics focus on the temptations of power that undermine your attempts to be as moral of a vampire as possible. BtP's mechanics focus on finding one of many paths that all come with advantages and disadvantages to a Beast's attempts to be who they want to be.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      There are plenty of passages, that demonstrate self-awareness in the game... but others that feel strongly the other way. That's one of the worst parts of the core book: too much of the tone isn't unified and leads to conflicting interpretations in a bad way.
                      Okay, that makes a lot of sense based on the craziness described during development.
                      And I guess I can understand why some people found even an occasional endorsement of doing terrible things as a-okay to be upsetting.
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      The comparison to vampires is fair (in fact I've frequently suggested some of BtP's mechanics for alternative takes on vampires), but vampires aren't self-deluded as a whole. Some are, some completely accept what they are and stop caring, and others try to create a framework where the harm they do doesn't outweigh what good they do.
                      Sure. I wasn't trying to draw a parallel between the two games as a whole, just illustrate how something that is inherently monstrous by it's nature may still attempt to be good through its actions. VtR had this struggle baked into it, and the writers were very clear that a vampire who justifies horrific behavior is not actually morally justified.

                      Originally posted by Tessie View Post
                      You certainly don't need something like Humanity in a game about playing a human-turned-monster, but when you're not mechanically incentivised to engage with or at least think about the internal struggle of man vs monster, it's extra important that the point of the game comes across clearly in the game's description.
                      Agreed. That seems to be the main point of contention with a lot of those who took issue/ were concerned by BtP.

                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      BtP's mechanics focus on finding one of many paths that all come with advantages and disadvantages to a Beast's attempts to be who they want to be.
                      And that's fine. It's just troubling when the book/development team/company seems to be saying that it's okay. I'm all for a game where I'm a terrible monster. I just want, as a player, to be aware that it's morally wrong.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Quixote View Post
                        And I guess I can understand why some people found even an occasional endorsement of doing terrible things as a-okay to be upsetting.
                        ...
                        And that's fine. It's just troubling when the book/development team/company seems to be saying that it's okay. I'm all for a game where I'm a terrible monster. I just want, as a player, to be aware that it's morally wrong.
                        I don't think the text every really gets to saying that doing horrible things is OK. The game presents some Beasts as having the adittude that as monsters they aren't bound by human morality, or slightly more relatable to a lot of people, that if human society is going to treat them like a monster no matter what they do, why keep caring. However, this is fairly universally treated as a bad thing. Even without a moral judgement, such Beasts are dangerous to themselves and everyone around them if they opt to give control to their Horrors' needs over other considerations.

                        The Beasts that don't just jump into the deep end of tossing morality aside occupy a grey are of morality of humanity's creation. For all of the formal moral philosophies out there, humans do not generally apply a firm moral-ethical framework. Stealing is bad, targeting a specific group in society to inflict harm on is bad, but Robin Hood is a cultural hero for stealing and targeting one group in society for his illegal activity. How many versions of Robin Hood can you think of that even make a point of John's reason for taxing the rich, who then pass it on to the poor Robin is the champion of (his brother is being held captive for ransom... it does paint a somewhat different picture than most versions where he's just portrayed as greedy).

                        All those little moral exceptions humans tend to make are the cracks that Beasts tend to occupy. What the core lacks in its writing, is the nuance to separate out exploring those moral greys, and muddies things up by not treating that separately from "lesson culture." Lesson culture isn't supposed to justify bad things Beasts do to the players as an authorial stance (though Beasts certainly will use it that way in their own heads), it's there to be a framework Beast players use to navigate those places where at least some people will believe that the results of a Beast's actions are worth the harm do in the process. Yes, the book is rather flippant about terrible Beasts being terrible... because those sorts of Beasts aren't really interesting outside of being antagonists and foils to the morally questionable Beasts who are mortally questionable.

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                        • #13
                          Interesting. One of the things a lot of the reviews had in common was criticism for the apparent justification of abusive behavior, not from the perspective of the characters, but from the overall approach of the text.

                          I don't recall any specific quotations, but I do remember reading some that left me wondering. And several people here have said that, even if the entire text doesn't come across that way, some of it does.

                          At any rate, the message is obviously muddy enough to spark multiple debates.

                          Thank you all for your replies. The information presented has helped me see multiple facets of a very complex situation.

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                          • #14
                            It may have to do with the old question of whether a work of fiction that depicting something also endorses it. (I think there was a similar topic in the General forum, but I’m staying waaaay clear of that one)


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                            New 2E Legacies, expanded

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                            • #15
                              Of course.... if that were blanket truth the past 30 years of the WoD and CofD games would all be irredeemable because all of them are about playing morally dubious (at best) people. The whole premise of both settings has always been to flip from playing the heroes that fight the monsters lurking in the shadows, to playing the monsters in the shadows.

                              It's one of the near constants in the meta-discussions around Beast that never gets resolved: so many of the condemnations of what Beast is could be leveled against lots of RPGs. Beast was just poorly written enough to strike a negative chord that so many games managed to avoid even if the fundamental issue isn't actually different.

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