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  • Beast Nature and Morality

    I'm making this thread because I typed up the following in the suggestion thread and thought to myself "Hmm. This might derail the thread." So here we are. That said, Allonsy,
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Originally posted by The Kings Raven View Post
    Has Matt changed his policy on "no playable heroes ever?" If he hasn't might I recomend Princess? Princesses and Beasts make brilliant antagonists for each other.



    Actually I got that assumption from the way you talk about feeding, particularly on the previous page.

    White Oak Dragon asked for ways to play Beast without being evil. You responded with a list of ways to feed which while cool and thematic, were all rather evil. Your last line in particular.makes it sound like you think the aforementioned feeding was a good thing to do. It's not. It makes a good story, but without consent it's a monstrous and evil thing to do.

    You've already said you think this impression is wrong, but I thought you'd like to know where it comes from.
    I'm gonna deal with the bolded then I'm gonna talk about the teaching culture on the whole, which will further address the bolded.

    This presumes a human mode of morality, which as several people have pointed out (with incorrect conclusions, true) isn't true for Beasts. It's not false, but it's not true either.

    Welcome to the balance beam, we've been waiting for you.

    So, here's the paradox of Beasts, and why the inclusion of the teaching culture is actually silently brilliant.

    The sort of stories Beast are based on, the myths and the epics, has these big epic monsters and beings of yore, the wild and untameable, the remnants of chaos, the night devourers and sun killers. In the context of the stories, the things Beast draw from are basically shards of natural nihilism. They aren't out to teach lessons. There is no inherent meaning in them.

    So, why then?

    Why is it that so many stories of this sort end up having some kind of lesson in them? Lessons about hubris and cleverness and kindness and virtue and stuff?

    One would argue that the answer that it's all Heroic propaganda, and sure, maybe.

    Or maybe the soul of humanity is a complex ocean of destiny and coincidence.

    There's a section from the Dresden Files: Ghost Story, that's worth keeping in mind for the entire Chronicles of Darkness, but for Beast in particular.

    Originally posted by Dresden Files, Ghost Story, Page 130
    Her dimples deepened. 'Why are you so upset, young shade? I really don't see anything wrong with being a monster."

    "I do," I said. "The monster part?"

    "Oh," the girl said, shaking her head. "Don't be so simple. People adore monsters. They fill their songs and stories with them. They define themselves in relation to them. Do you know what a monster is, young shade? Power. Power and choice. Monsters make choices. Monsters shape the world. Monsters force us to become stronger, smarter, better. They sift the weak from the strong and provide a forge for the steeling of souls. Even as we curse monsters, we admire them. Seek to become them, in some ways." Her eyes became distant. "There are far, far worse things to be than a monster."
    Beasts, obviously, aren't human anymore. They aren't subject to the same moral questions as us. They aren't even wholly people, in a way that few of the other splats can match-they are the world, or at least functions of it. They are the storm and the forest and the ocean and the desert and the mountain, the jaguar and the wolf and the rhino and the snakes and the squids. The world is not kind. The world is not moral.

    But the world can teach these things. Humanity has learned from an uncaring world. They have pulled meaning from monsters that only want to eat them. This is why the lion is noble and brave, the jackal cunning and protective, the owl watchful and learned. It's why the ocean is a lover as well as a fighter, why the sky is wise, why the mountain is patient.

    Beasts are between worlds, like anyone else. They don't belong to humanity anymore, but still humanity is a part of who they are-in their case, it literally is. Beyond just having been raised human and still existing in the world of them, watching their movies, picking the up at the club, chatting with them at their restaurants, their souls are born from collective humanity. Born of fear, yes, but that foundation of fear is the foundation all of humanity is built on. There is no Bright Dream, no Rome, no law of relativity, no $10 for 2 pizza deals, no Morticia and Gomez, no poetry or philosophy or sciences, no marvel, nothing that isn't built on the human fear that the Beasts are. They aren't human, and yet are humanity in one of the most exquisitely complex ways there is to be. If there is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion, then Beasts are the strangeness in the whole of humanity.

    Beast nature is an imposition. There's no avoiding that. Where a Beast is, they will piss on territory, chew on children, and intrude on lives. A Beast cannot and generally will not ignore that, and in fact, they embrace the joy and power that comes from being an instigator. It is their lot in life to flip over the apple cart. Even if they don't embrace it, they will still inevitably do it.

    So the decision from there is simple, because while Beasts are not beholden to human morality anymore than a vampire or a werewolf or a changeling is, much like any of those, they do have an obligation to balance their lives in accordance to their past-not beholden to humanity no longer their own, but in acknowledgement of the humanity that was once theirs. They can choose to just be the world. They can assert their dominance over themselves and still be the world.

    Or they can take the fact that sooner or later they are going to get in people's business and choose to act, methodically, carefully, to force people to become stronger, smarter, better, to be a forge for the steeling of a person's soul. Because that's what monsters are and don't do, what they aren't and do with a passion.

    Beasts are the edge of meaning, with the agency and power to decide on being just a Beast or being more. They are monsters, always and forever. They were, but are not human.

    I would love to end there, but I should mention one more thing because a certain thread pisses me off because of how god damned stupid it is in failing to understand something, SO, let's get it out of the way.

    Inheritances follow the nature of the Beast. Inheritances have nothing to do with the Beast's choices, only with the reasonable and logical extensions of their nature. They cannot become sheep. They cannot become exalted schoolteachers. Inheritances are the death of self in service to the nightmare. You don't ascend into the culture, because the culture is an artificial imposition from the human part of Beasts, a way for accounting who they were and what their relationship is with humanity. Sure, some of it is motivated by the way humanity has structured their collective soul, but the Horrors are baser than that on the whole, and that's what's making the claims.

    An Incarnate can choose to still be a teacher, sure, okay, after the fact, maybe(but probably not)-but one does not become an Incarnate by still giving a shit about the will and lives of others. Those who chase the Inheritances are, by their nature, abandoning humanity. They see what they are, and know, deep down, that it's never enough for them, they need more. It's like an ache in the bones, the need to be more, to escape consequence that exists on the human scale.

    Teach all you want, the nature of Inheritance doesn't give a shit. Teaching is a human thing, and the Inheritances are for people who can't abide their own personal humanity anymore-a life of consequence and meaning. Inheritances are the things that are worse to be than a monster.

    So, by and large, Beast is complicated. But that which you call evil is, well, not. It's responsibility, it's owning what you are, not pretending you're anything else, and using it to be the best you can. It is monstrous. Sure. You won't hear me deny that. But for a Beast, using their nature, which will go and upset the apple cart anyways, to help improve others is an act of unquestionable good. And it's not like it stops with Feeding. If an intent to improve goes south, the Beast has the power and agency to go in and help, and often has the resources to do it while still being the monster in the shadows.

    Monstrosity is not evil. Monsters can't live on human moral standards, and yet may still be morally upright.
    Last edited by ArcaneArts; 03-20-2016, 05:08 PM.


    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
    I just read this and got tingles. Way to go!
    Last edited by ajf115; 03-20-2016, 05:10 PM.


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    • #3
      It occurs to me I might need to link to a part of the Huntsmen thread so people might get some of what's going on here, namely in that I am taking a stance that is not the whole of the matter, particularly as far as Incarnation does.

      But Incarnation is a conversation for another time.


      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


      • #4
        You made a long essay about what Beasts are, it doesn't actually address the central question of are beasts good or evil. When you say

        Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
        But for a Beast, using their nature, which will go and upset the apple cart anyways, to help improve others is an act of unquestionable good
        You don't actually give any arguments to say why this is morally good, you just assert that it is. At least none that I could see after reading it twice. (Unless you meant that it's unquestionable good from a "Beast's PoV" - but I don't think you meant it souly from a Beast's PoV because of the bolded part you said you're responding to). I gave my reasons why I think it's evil, I don't think it's moral to teach these sorts of lessons without consent. I'm rather Dentological in that regard, but I'm not seeing your reasons why you think it is moral.

        So lets cut back to the foundations. How are you defining good and evil?

        (And yes. I am using a human centric view of morality. This may surprise some people but I'm in fact a human and not a raven)


        “There are no rules. Only Principles and natural laws.” - Promethius
        My Homebrew no longer fits in a signature, you can find an index of it here.
        Full length fan-books I contributed too: Princess: the Hopeful, Leviathan: the Tempest, Dream Catchers

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        • #5
          I love Arc and I cannot lie.

          I was hoping to see you tackle this subject at length, and you got all my disorganized thoughts down and then some.

          Beasts are monsters. It's their unavoidable nature to be harmful and antagonistic towards humanity. A Beast who chooses to teach lessons, to balance their monstrousity with their humanity, chooses to be more than inimical. They choose to give meaning and wisdom to humans, or at least try, rather than purely be the uncaring world in the absence of those who in days of yore pulled lessons and admiration from it.

          Every being has the right to defend themselves from dangers. But everyone is hungry for something. We don't call a lion evil for being a lion, and we don't call each other evil for killing and eating other life to sustain ourselves. We shouldn't call Beasts evil for needing to feed on the fears and trauma of humans. Or attempting to do better.

          And Beasts who teach, who try to be the sheppard rather than just the wolf in the dark, or however that quote goes, are going beyond need and reaching out of their way to bring some trade-off, if not benefit, to their predations.
          Last edited by YeOfLittleFaith; 03-20-2016, 08:31 PM.

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          • #6
            I don't know. I'd say that Beasts are myths more than monsters simply because of how central Heroes and narrative are to their existences. I agree that the good/evil debate is an orthogonal issue. But I also agree that contemporary conceptions of good and evil are poor fits.

            Also, not seeing the necessity of the suicide angle, but that's another topic completely.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jacob View Post
              I don't know. I'd say that Beasts are myths more than monsters simply because of how central Heroes and narrative are to their existences.
              Not at all?

              In an even moderately ideal fostering environment, Heroes are a practical non-issue up until mid-to-high Lair. The fact that those conditions are so much harder to maintain in the modern era doesn't change the nature of the Beast-Hero dynamic.

              Also, not seeing the necessity of the suicide angle, but that's another topic completely.
              The two lesser Inheritances are chiefly pursued deliberately as a means of being rid of the pains of continuing to be a humanlike entity with a Life. The Incarnate have more conscious agency, but they're still almost literally extensions of the Dream at that point.

              You go for the Inheritance because your human parts are inconvenient or painful or otherwise no longer worth holding onto in the face of over half a dozen human-eating great-aunts and -uncles. Becoming a god is not something you do because you're satisfied with your lot in life.


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

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              • #8
                Can Beasts be good? That depends on how much you subscribe to the ends justify the means. Beasts can improve humanity, but their lessons hurt.

                I can see both sides of the Beast story - both Hero and Beast. Arcee is correct when he says it's complicated.

                Originally posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
                We don't call a lion evil for being a lion
                But when they (or other predators) threaten us, we kill the shit out of them. Humanity doesn't abide other predators in our domain, unless we control them.

                A Beast's nature is to be a monster. Humanity's nature is to kill the monsters.



                Writer. Developer. World of Darkness | Chronicles of Darkness | The Trinity Continuum

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bunyip View Post

                  A Beast's nature is to be a monster. Humanity's nature is to kill the monsters.
                  But all living things, even the monstrous ones, reject extinction and death.

                  The thing about the way Beasts teach is that it's much like the way that wars teach. Wars drive technological development as each side tries to outdo the other. No-one would really call a war 'good' though.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bunyip View Post
                    A Beast's nature is to be a monster. Humanity's nature is to kill the monsters.
                    I think this is the important part.

                    The players who read the book often approach it from a Human point of view. This is why the book needs to sell them on a Beastly worldview. In order to do that, there needs to be something admirable to latch on to. In theory, having all cards stacked towards being evil and trying to channel it into something better should be it. However, for one reason or another, many readers were put off by the material. I think this is because the material doesn't acknowledge the second part of the equation as much as it should. As a result, instead of facing Mortal retaliation with dignity, Beasts appear hypocritical.

                    All to often the material seems to say "I teach lessons so that makes it alright. You're wrong for opposing me, human.", where it should say "This is not alright, but I try. You still have the right to kill me, but I have the right to fight back". The only antagonists given in the book are the Heroes, who are strongly implied to be unworthy, which feeds into the problem (admittedly, this in lessened in the final draft). This doesn't mean the writers don't understand their own material. It just means it's REALLY hard to write properly. The more you try to present Beasts as good (in any capacity), the more their evil actions stand out. However, if you assume that Beasts are made to be irredeemably evil, any of their attempts to change that shine all the brighter.

                    This is why I like that one story about a Beast in a Cheiron lab so much. She doesn't acknowledge the worth of the people in the company, because their cruelty is directed against her kind. The Dark Mother then intervenes by saying that being cruel does make them her kind, but also that it doesn't afford them any protection. Many Gamelines found their voice in the further supplements. This is why I have high hopes for this game.

                    Also, I'd like to link to this article, which everyone should read. In fact, all these articles are some of the best things ever:
                    https://curiosityquills.com/limyaael...rd-characters/

                    I know my post didn't address the question of the thread, but I think this is why we argue in the first place.


                    ~

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      Not at all?

                      In an even moderately ideal fostering environment, Heroes are a practical non-issue up until mid-to-high Lair. The fact that those conditions are so much harder to maintain in the modern era doesn't change the nature of the Beast-Hero dynamic.

                      The two lesser Inheritances are chiefly pursued deliberately as a means of being rid of the pains of continuing to be a humanlike entity with a Life. The Incarnate have more conscious agency, but they're still almost literally extensions of the Dream at that point.

                      You go for the Inheritance because your human parts are inconvenient or painful or otherwise no longer worth holding onto in the face of over half a dozen human-eating great-aunts and -uncles. Becoming a god is not something you do because you're satisfied with your lot in life.
                      Yeah, no. One of the games many problems is lack of a strong antagonist. If Heroes aren't necessary then why waste the word count? Also, if Heroes aren't necessary then it seems to me that the whole monomyth theme goes away which pretty much only leaves the poorly developed family theme, the insensitive suicide theme, and the overarching bully theme left. I propose that it's this last theme that folks find the most problematic. It's not that Beasts are monsters or that we don't understand their essential nature's. It's that we recognize them as something familiar and despicable. The game is still more "Bully: the Lunchroom Menace" than an actual gray morality CofD game. If only Heroes were as compelling of an antagonist as the Strix, the God-Machine's Angels, or the Idigam. But you seem to be under the impression that it isn't a game about monomyth and Heroes aren't a necessary feature of it. (Shrug) We agree to disagree. That we're still arguing about this nearly a year later is an indication to me that the game's text is at best incomplete and at worst fundamentally flawed. This is partially because it mixes together too many disparate themes and then fails to assemble them into a coherent story. This is obfuscated by some novel game mechanics that actually exasperate the tonal dissonance. The game is not one of choice and consequences as some are saying. You have no choice regarding the most important thing, feeding on fear. As always YMMV. But the beauty of reading is that it's always an interpretive dance so really no one's going to change anyone's mind here and this thread is more than a little moot.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bunyip View Post
                        But when they (or other predators) threaten us, we kill the shit out of them. Humanity doesn't abide other predators in our domain, unless we control them. A Beast's nature is to be a monster. Humanity's nature is to kill the monsters.
                        Already (implicitely) acnowledged and responded to, in the book and my argument! Which doesn't make those things any less true, but AJF puts it well. And you're right that it's a complicated matter.

                        I think Teatime makes an important point that the book has this stance, and while it recognizes the failings that come with it, and the writing tries to sell it, it's not very explicit. The presentation works for me and others, makes us think and get to the intended conclusion, but I can see where the average reader would benefit from the reasoning and the meaning of things being more transparent or humbly laid out.

                        At the same time, I'm sure I would want the tone to be any different. At least where the corebook is concerned.
                        Last edited by YeOfLittleFaith; 03-21-2016, 10:47 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Right, so, bit of dark rant time for me (which I apologize for in advance). I unapologetically love Beast. I loved the first draft, and I think the second draft undercut some of the punch to its horror. I've come around to the second draft, especially its more balanced approach to Heroes, but I think it's missing something visceral and raw that the first draft had in spades, the feeling of being an object of dread and derision, and finding power in that 'outsider' quality.

                          I, personally, have struggled with feeling accepted by 'normal' people. My parents, when I was very young, put a lot of responsibility for everything that happens in my life on my shoulders. If someone didn't like me, it's because I was doing something wrong, that I'd misunderstood intonation, or a social cue, or something. My visceral emotional responses to things were always 'too intense' and 'socially unacceptable' and if I knew things my parents didn't it was 'useless trivia'. I couldn't be smarter than them. I couldn't be more emotional than them. I couldn't be different from them. More than once they referred to the sound of my voice when I was frustrated, or upset, or hurt because of the horrible things that they told me about how I'd failed, yet again, at being a member of society as a "Demon Voice", and claimed that they thought when I got angry I was going to hurt my little sister, or that I'd really frightened them. It hurt for a very, very long time- it still hurts. I still internalize not being accepted as there being something inherently wrong, inherently monstrous, about who I am and how I feel. I still act as though using my vocabulary makes other people feel inferior, or that I can't genuinely express my emotions without frightening or alienating someone. That designation of 'abnormal' , 'unacceptable' , has influenced a lot of how I interact with people. I still wake up wondering if today's the day I frighten away my friends. I am consumed by an anxiety fuelled by fears of revulsion, of the unknown, of exposure, of a sudden destruction of the things that make up my life, of powerlessness.

                          And from this emotional viewpoint, I understand Beasts, I think. I understand how it feels to be pushed, driven, by fear until your sanity starts to crack, I understand wanting to take what you see as weakness and pain and wield it as strength, and I understand the desire to make someone understand your pain. I've found healthy outlets for that despair, in writing and games like this, but it's still there, the knowledge that you have this intimate understanding of fear and rage and disgust, the possibility to turn that into a horrible weapon. I know what it's like to look at someone, and see the cracks in their personality, the weak points that an empathetic person should never exploit. I know, because my mother constantly uses my weaknesses as a 'win button' in an argument, hammering on them until I don't even want to disagree. And I know that I could do the same, and I know just as surely that I never would, because I want so badly to be understood, to be liked, to be accepted, and because I know what it feels like to have those vulnerabilities exploited. But I know, somewhere deep in my bones, somewhere dark that I never want to descend to, how satisfying it would be to just give in, to lash out with all that pain and rage and force someone to understand exactly how it feels. I also know that if I ever give in to that urge, there will be no coming back. That I actually will be the monster my parents act like I am, but I'm not sure I'd care at the point.

                          Doesn't make it right, doesn't make it moral, doesn't even make it 'natural'- but it is monstrous, and for me, it's completely understandable.
                          Last edited by Arcanist; 03-21-2016, 01:03 PM.


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                          • #14
                            Sean,you should totally ask matt permission to write somethinf for the players guide,you just get beasts y'know?

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                            • #15
                              I asked him ages ago. I don't know if I'm on the official roster, but I'm on the potential list. There's a lot of factors that go into deciding who goes on what project, mind, so who knows.

                              Trust me, there's a number of things I want to write in the Beast Player's Guide-And I don't even have a clue what's going in there yet.
                              Last edited by ArcaneArts; 03-21-2016, 07:27 PM.


                              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.

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