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How do you deal with the depressive nature of Promethean?

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  • How do you deal with the depressive nature of Promethean?

    Serious question here, so bear with me.

    My group just wrapped up our Werewolf game and the GM wants to pivot to Promethean. When he first described it, it sounded really interesting. I had a million ideas for characters.

    And then... I started reading the book.

    I was prepared for dark. I was prepared for grimdark. I feel like Promethean goes beyond both of those in to just plain depressing. It's hard to imagine how anyone could have fun playing in this setting as a Promethean, and I'm dreading our upcoming Session 0 because none of my ideas work based on the minutiae of the setting outlined in the book, and the depressive nature of the setting is stifling any attempts I've made to come up with something.

    So here is my question, both for STs and players: How do you handle the over all depressing nature of the game and keep it from overrunning the fun of the game itself? How do you deal with the fact that interacting with practically any NPCs who aren't Prometheans always ends with them treating and/or thinking of the characters badly in some way?

  • #2
    The thing about promethean is that it finds the way to be the most depressing and the most optimistic of the Chronicles of Darkness games. The depressing part you got right, but remember that promethean is about the alchemical process of turning base lead into sublime gold. Its hard for me to explain well (i've never had the chance to play, and i fear that i never will). You deliberately start as missing something (and more than something) but as you grow and learn you become more than what you started as. It is not just about becoming more powerful, its about gaining more and more of an identity.
    Sigh, i feel that i am rambling more than i am helping. But this is the best i feel i can explain it.

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    • #3
      If I may answer your question with another question:

      Can you point to a few things you specifically find depressing? Because I actually find Promethean to be a really hopeful game. Clearly we're not on the same page, and I think the best way we can help you is to understand what page you're on.

      Also, KEY question -- did you read the 1st edition book or the 2nd edition book? That makes a difference too.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Maitrecorbo View Post
        The thing about promethean is that it finds the way to be the most depressing and the most optimistic of the Chronicles of Darkness games. The depressing part you got right, but remember that promethean is about the alchemical process of turning base lead into sublime gold. Its hard for me to explain well (i've never had the chance to play, and i fear that i never will). You deliberately start as missing something (and more than something) but as you grow and learn you become more than what you started as. It is not just about becoming more powerful, its about gaining more and more of an identity.
        Sigh, i feel that i am rambling more than i am helping. But this is the best i feel i can explain it.
        I have failed to see the hope in it, I guess. I couldn't get past how miserable the existence of the characters would be. Personally, knowing what I do about how depression works and how isolation tends to impact people's outlook, all I could see was a bunch of beings I was surprised hadn't decided to end their suffering a long time ago. Even if you play as part of a group, it's hard to imagine that getting much better. Even if they were somehow "immune" to depression and such, I feel like the logical progression would be to look at the chance of them actually being able to become human and deciding it's not worth trying.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by underwoodfive View Post
          If I may answer your question with another question:

          Can you point to a few things you specifically find depressing? Because I actually find Promethean to be a really hopeful game. Clearly we're not on the same page, and I think the best way we can help you is to understand what page you're on.

          Also, KEY question -- did you read the 1st edition book or the 2nd edition book? That makes a difference too.
          See above, and I read 2nd edition. Didn't finish it because I got to a point where I felt like it was impacting my mood in a negative way, but I got through the first few chapters.

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          • #6
            Full disclosure, I am painfully aware that the depressive outlook is a difficult one for me to get my head into. I have many close friends who suffer, and I always feel slightly useless just because I haven't the foggiest idea how to put myself, personally, in such a place.

            But I think the key aspect to remember is on page 78 -- the Elpis vision. It's a supernatural vision from the Azothic Memory, the kind of collective alchemical consciousness shared across all Prometheans. Every Promethean has one the moment they realize they want to be something other than what they are. It's a vision of what could be, an understanding of what part of her is already there (her Elpis) and what part of her most far (her Torment).

            The vision also provides her with the knowledge of her first Refinement, an understanding of a path she can start on immediately.

            If you still want to play with your friends (and no harm if you don't!), I would suggest you ask your GM to really play that aspect up, at least for your character. The Elpis vision is supposed to be a happy and aspirational one -- one day you could be THIS, and this looks pretty great in that vision. If you haven't looked at the Refinements yet, you might skip ahead to that chapter and take a look as well -- I think it might get you a better understanding of what Prometheans do with their time, which might help you understand what the game is supposed to be, etc.

            Does that help at all? I'm trying to think of ways into the game for you rather than try to convince you of anything in particular about the game.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by underwoodfive View Post
              Full disclosure, I am painfully aware that the depressive outlook is a difficult one for me to get my head into. I have many close friends who suffer, and I always feel slightly useless just because I haven't the foggiest idea how to put myself, personally, in such a place.

              But I think the key aspect to remember is on page 78 -- the Elpis vision. It's a supernatural vision from the Azothic Memory, the kind of collective alchemical consciousness shared across all Prometheans. Every Promethean has one the moment they realize they want to be something other than what they are. It's a vision of what could be, an understanding of what part of her is already there (her Elpis) and what part of her most far (her Torment).

              The vision also provides her with the knowledge of her first Refinement, an understanding of a path she can start on immediately.

              If you still want to play with your friends (and no harm if you don't!), I would suggest you ask your GM to really play that aspect up, at least for your character. The Elpis vision is supposed to be a happy and aspirational one -- one day you could be THIS, and this looks pretty great in that vision. If you haven't looked at the Refinements yet, you might skip ahead to that chapter and take a look as well -- I think it might get you a better understanding of what Prometheans do with their time, which might help you understand what the game is supposed to be, etc.

              Does that help at all? I'm trying to think of ways into the game for you rather than try to convince you of anything in particular about the game.
              Thank you for admitting you don't understand the depressive side of things. You have no idea how many people don't understand and just assume people who struggle with it are blowing things out of proportion or whatever. It's really appreciated to see someone admit to not understanding it but not making those claims.

              Anyway, yes, I will go back and re-read that section later today. I may have sort of glossed over that section since I'm sure by that point I was already in the "god this sucks" mindset for how depressing things were, so I might not have really grasped it as well.

              I should make it clear that I know the guys I play with could EASILY make the game fun, but I worry that their way of doing so would detract from/ignore the atmosphere that drew them to the game in the first place, which I don't want to inflict upon them so I've been looking for answers so I don't end up being the player they have to cater to.

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              • #8
                So I actually am running a Promethean game on the forums here, and if Disquiet is a big concern, I feel it's important to point out that you roll Azoth vs. Resolve + Composure to see if it is inflicted. So that means that, to start with, you'll be rolling one die against four. Unless you take a Beat for an Exceptional Success to inflict Disquiet (Stage 1) you are very unlikely to cause it until your Azoth gets higher, so it's easy enough to avoid if you don't want it incorporated. Having a Hovel (see the Merit section) helps as well, since you can "hide" your Azoth in it. Becoming a Branded Throng will help as well when you get higher up in Azoth, especially if you are all of different Lineages. Combined with Azoth it's easy enough to get an effective Azoth of zero for the purposes of Disquiet and Wasteland, so it's perfectly canon to be able to control it unless you want to incorporate it more strongly.

                Disquieted (Stage 1) is also not that bad, just a -2 to Social rolls against that specific character, and all the subsequent drama comes from choosing to worsen the Condition for Beats. Disquiet is only really horrifying if you elect to play it up for drama, but if you get invested in the character you'll make enough mistakes that you won't necessarily need Disquiet in order to mess up relationships with characters... just the knowledge that it is there and it can mess up relationships. (Also the worst of Disquiet doesn't arise except under an Exceptional Success or in a Wasteland, both of which are pretty specialized circumstances).


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                • #9
                  The thing about Promethean is that its bleak status quo is only the backdrop, the starting point. Where you go from there is up to you, and the Pilgrimage is explicitly about making positive change to your situation. That change might be gradual, it might be painful, but its always on the way up. There's plenty of room for hope, redemption, and even comedy in Promethean.

                  Also, Disquiet upon reading often comes off a lot more punishing than it is in play. It doesn't have to be used as a cudgel. Its a real and corrosive influence on all the Promethean's relationships, which is part of the tragedy of the game, but it doesn't go from zero to a hundred overnight and there are ways to manage it.

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                  • #10
                    I have to second Caitiff Primogen, Promethean starts you out in a very depressing place, but it's all uphill from there. It's a game about struggling with dysphoria and predjudice, and finding a way to work through them, to form an identity that is wholely your own and finally being accepted. It has to start from the lowest lows so that it can bring you, through the course of the Chronicle, to the highest highs. Though the road there is by no means an easy one, full of its own ups and downs, it is all worthwhile in the end.

                    That's how I see it from reading the book anyway, I've never played it as-written. I did kind of a freeform roleplay that was loosely based on it once, but that's the closest I've come.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BloodiedPorcelain View Post

                      Thank you for admitting you don't understand the depressive side of things. You have no idea how many people don't understand and just assume people who struggle with it are blowing things out of proportion or whatever. It's really appreciated to see someone admit to not understanding it but not making those claims.

                      Anyway, yes, I will go back and re-read that section later today. I may have sort of glossed over that section since I'm sure by that point I was already in the "god this sucks" mindset for how depressing things were, so I might not have really grasped it as well.
                      Oh, you're welcome! Thank you for saying so -- it's something I've been working on lately in terms of my own personal growth.

                      I hope that section helps you -- I think what everyone else is saying is an important part of looking at the game line, but the Elpis vision is key to understand how the gameline works. It's what supernaturally instills hope in every Promethean. It's the thing Centamani turn away from.

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                      • #12
                        I am currently in one Promethean game, and despite some very dark moments, I have to agree with the others in that Promethean is actually very hopeful.
                        1. It has an achievable (HAPPY!) end-game.
                        2. The game is more about exploration and identity than the nifty cool superpowers. E.g. my aspiring Superhero was more of a monster to other people, because the concept of "intention" was not something he took into account or was aware of. To learn that "Your Actions" are not "You" was worldshaking. And got me thinking about some things myself. It also made the aspiring Superhero realize that he had been anything but.
                        3. You start at the very worst place possible, I agree. But as was already said: it is upwards from there. And while there are bad spots on the road, there are always hope spots, and those beautiful moments of understanding, and not to forget the wonderful strangeness of the Elpis visions.

                        and 4. The Game is also crazy awesome. You can have a nanite-colony posing as a person, a Golem, a shadow-bleeding shaman, a mummy and a pretty stone statue go to a city and infiltrate a gangster syndicate because a bloody and bloodied angel with a flaming sword told them to do so, and they will each leave with different lessons: one will learn about loyalty's importance, another about conviction, one about cruelty and betrayal, another about why clothes matter and the last that eating meals together every once in a while is important. None of those lessons was more important than the others, all of them were about humans, and starting points for the next questions.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wormwood View Post
                          I am currently in one Promethean game, and despite some very dark moments, I have to agree with the others in that Promethean is actually very hopeful.
                          1. It has an achievable (HAPPY!) end-game.
                          2. The game is more about exploration and identity than the nifty cool superpowers. E.g. my aspiring Superhero was more of a monster to other people, because the concept of "intention" was not something he took into account or was aware of. To learn that "Your Actions" are not "You" was worldshaking. And got me thinking about some things myself. It also made the aspiring Superhero realize that he had been anything but.
                          3. You start at the very worst place possible, I agree. But as was already said: it is upwards from there. And while there are bad spots on the road, there are always hope spots, and those beautiful moments of understanding, and not to forget the wonderful strangeness of the Elpis visions.

                          and 4. The Game is also crazy awesome. You can have a nanite-colony posing as a person, a Golem, a shadow-bleeding shaman, a mummy and a pretty stone statue go to a city and infiltrate a gangster syndicate because a bloody and bloodied angel with a flaming sword told them to do so, and they will each leave with different lessons: one will learn about loyalty's importance, another about conviction, one about cruelty and betrayal, another about why clothes matter and the last that eating meals together every once in a while is important. None of those lessons was more important than the others, all of them were about humans, and starting points for the next questions.

                          That game sounds so great. I read the promethean core twice now and i think i just found my favorite gameline from OPP (used to be Changeling). Sad thing is i'm the traditionnal ST for chronicles games and weirdly enough this is a game that i want to play more than i want to run. Oh well maybe one day.

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                          • #14
                            Promethean is a game with a happy ending. Also, for someone who personally reads the game as one big trans metaphor, it isn't any more depressing than living my life every day. It has hope. It has friendship. It lets the protagonists see the best in humanity, and build something amazing for themselves.


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                            • #15
                              Remember the human bits. Characters should go to block parties, watch movies, make love and bad jokes, play games, eat a hot dog-the little things that make each day more than just entropy.
                              Last edited by ArcaneArts; 09-06-2017, 09:45 PM.


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