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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: Demon: the Descent 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: Demon: the Descent 1e


    • #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: Demon: the Descent 1e


      • #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: Demon: the Descent 1e


        • #5
          Mentioned this offhand in Arc's thread, figured I may as well wordsmith it out here as well: While the book provides many reasons to be infamous on purpose, practicality and a Gorged/low-profile society-such-as-it-is make it clear that there's a reason pursuing the Apex is a thing Beasts only sometimes do as a means of Incarnation.

          The Player's Guide makes it clear in its section on the Dream that the Heart of a Beast's Lair is exempt from the Hive Trait of any hive it is a part of, with the specific exception of hives whose Apex is a Beast. Beasts can further wall of their Lairs from the hive in general, but for the most part the incentive to do so only exists if the Apex is a Beast who can take advantage of the Trait, and if the Beast develops that Trait themselves it becomes a way for low-Lair Beasts to broaden the scope of their Horror's feeding when Starving and force it to change targets before they sleep; walling off the Lair is more attractive for stronger Beasts who won't be pinning themselves down as concretely, or Beasts with more time/better connections who can stay Gorged without their Horror needing to go wandering.

          Beasts are rare enough to be explicitly outnumbered by mages, but hives are the only parts of the Dream with an Apex, and from a Doylist perspective the Devouring exists in part to facilitate Begotten community in the same way that the Kindred have sires, the Created have creators, mages have mentors, and werewolves have packs. It's possible extending the Begotten's ability to research Chambers into something akin to Promethean 2e's introduction of Azothic Memory might help an isolated Beast pick up on the finer points of flying under the radar, but the prosaic elements like "use proxies to avoid getting found out" or "having friends in lots of places gives you more to work with" don't need so much metaphysical backing for a character to figure them out like they would dealing with any sort of underworld business.

          As before, middle gears are good; in a version of the core system where some sort of exposure mechanic is present, the Beasts of any given hive (or smaller community) should be able to credibly pass themselves off as mostly mortal criminals or otherwise unsavory/unpopular sorts when not in the midst of some sort of lean time or crisis. A brood can be a crew of psychic gangsters with some fanciful imagery until they have to lay low for too long, and being able to hide in the shadow of the local witch-king or vampire queen to blunt off the attentions of any Hero that comes calling should be a feasible response even without direct association with the monster in question.

          Resident Lore-Hound
          Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e


          • #6
            Taking two bits that run in opposite directions to each other that aren't directly contrasted in the text, just to highlight them and go from there:

            Heroes gain Gifts — powers either comparable to the Primordial potency of the Begotten or interfering with them like their own ability to inflict Anathema — by killing Beasts. They stalk down the inroads to inhuman power that began with simple awareness, mythmaking, and calling upon human aid, and become more Legendary as they assert superiority on the symbolic level through the act of murder.

            Beasts gain Satiety through the shock of fear their feeding inflicts, allowing them to marshall the Bright sorcery of Nightmares more easily — and in addition to killing people being the biggest singular additive factor in a feeding's success, a sufficiently hungry Beast gains Satiety even at the point where most normal feeding won't sustain them by killing a Hero, to say nothing of "trivialize a Hero in combat" being one route to Incarnation.

            The Astral splits its focus (or unifies it) at the Cave, with the Primordial Dream being the middle ground where the two different types of spiritual power meet to fill a thin space. Chambers mark a bridging the outside world and human interiority, overlapping mortal perception with inhuman truth to make a real and resonant place in a layer of the Astral that is otherwise prosaic aside from its atmospheric darkness and loneliness. Below, in the Mother's Land, the forces that run biology and geology caper and consume, and partaking too comprehensively of that will quickly see you swallowed by the bigger fish that is your Mother, the world herself. Above, in the Bright Dream, the weight of archetype and expectation renders Dark power sluggish and secondhand — you can stand under the spotlight for a time, but too long will force you to retreat to the shadows lest it burn you out.

            In different terms: Beast's metaphysics revolve in part around inhabiting the threshold of the Astral changeover point where mages need to use magically-backed deliberate egotism to hold their identity together while they go vision-questing to speak with an Antelope Master or the soul of Kilimanjaro or the Aeon of Matter, because the human soul is constructed such that there is a mutual incompatibility between worldly and otherworldly power and the psychological territory of collaborative strength and social mores and community (and, to a lesser degree, individual thought and memory). Magic's not inherently evil, but the type of magic you get in a horror setting like Chronicles doesn't play nice with the polite fictions society runs on, and vice versa (which in turn means Bad People tend to be the more likely sorts to find and use magic as a tool).

            Starting as they do on the far end of the map from the Mother's strongest children and lacking an easy view of the connective tissue at the middle, any given random mage in the Dream is more likely to pass by the cultural warfare being conducted on their way to somewhere else, but Beasts and Heroes engage in a hostile dialogue over the traumatic interface between people and the world, and kills from either side translate to a shift in the tide, however major or minor. Beasts are limited by the fact that operating openly taxes their Horror's energy reserves and risks letting nonsense weaknesses slip into the cracks while they work their way closer to people's hearts, while Heroes are limited by the fact that they have to coordinate followers and pick their moments, because until they've outmaneuvered the Begotten at least a couple of times they're not really a threat in a straight fight. (The Insatiable, of course, take Beastly limitations up to 11 and drive their behavior accordingly.)

            As earlier, we come back to the Loud/Quiet dichotomy of the Satiety scale, transposed over both paired antagonism and the cosmological divide that the game is built on. There is power in that liminal space, even as different horrors await deeper inland and further out to sea.

            Resident Lore-Hound
            Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e


            • #7
              Gonna mooch off this thread-- errr I mean, do a Family Dinner with this Satchel fella, he knows what's good.

              Hear me out, my fellow ghouls n' goblins. There is no Family about the Fear of Technology for a good reason. And not just because crafting stuff is generally an idea that resonates with the Bright Dream and thus not very relevant for the psycho-spiritual death-sex horror-show that is the Primordial Dream.

              To put it in a meme-tastic way, the Dark Mother doesn't read newspapers. She's not gonna keep up with the silly little variations of spears, wheels and fires that humans keep inventing, and if she did it anyway for a laff, she wouldn't get spooked to the point of thinking "oh shit, my kiddos are becoming obsolete, better do some [DATA EXPUNGED] real quick to create a new Family".

              Rather, the Dark Mother is thinking "no need to worry, the Families that already exist will grow and evolve in tandem with humanity's little tricks and tools". In other words, rather than a dedicated Family for all fears of all types of technology, we can map the official Families to more specific techno-phobias of the zeitgeist.

              Anakim: Powerlessness as the expression of lifestyle-crushing, back-breaking, dream-killing progress. Go eat shit and get mangled in a factory, warehouse or sweatshop just to afford a miserable half-existence under the covetous grip and thunderous laughter of people who are Bigger Than You.

              Ugallu: Exposure as the expression of doxxing, organized campaigns of harassment, artificial deplatforming, performative and ritualized humiliation, and a generalized immortality of intimately vivisecting grudges. You will not be forgiven, you will not be forgotten, you won't even get to enjoy your own company.

              Namtaru: Revulsion as the expression of the pitch-black, carrion-licking spiritual corruption infesting the darkweb and leaking upwards into the light of day just when you thought the last thing you saw was the most disgusting of them all. No further details are necessary, and seeking them is done at your own peril.

              Makara: Depths as the expression of multi-layered malware-schemes, tentacle-like corporate and governmental over-reach, the drowning of genuine innovation under the abyssal pressure of Terms Of Service Nobody Reads But Are Definitely Fucking You Over Beneath The Surface.

              Eshmaki: Darkness as the expression of peripheral-threats like kidnapping and blackmail scams, liminal-conspiracies of suppressed/repressed socio-political aggression, and unknown-variables of Who's Behind That Screen, Really?

              Talasii: Confinement as the expression of doom-scrolling, pornography-addiction, and the forged-obligation to keep up with every single atrocity and mistake going on in every country, every single day, until you develop Stockholm-Claustrophobia-HELL-IS-OTHER-PEOPLE Syndrome.

              Inguma: People are machines, machines are people. There is no division between Self and Other, only the Almighty Algorithm. You are replaceable, and it's not even expensive to do so. But by all means, keep telling yourself that you are So Much Better Than Them.
              Last edited by GibberingEloquence; 12-14-2022, 12:16 AM.

              [Future Under Construction, Do Not Disturb The Chrono-Robots]


              • #8
                Have mentioned this here and there, but another thing that would benefit Beast, right alongside having the bluebook Horror creation mechanics to work with from the jump, is a stronger grasp of Fortean phenomena and other strangeness — Hunter 2e's material on Mysterious Places, particularly nests, is a useful basis here, between providing another source of Lair Traits (and, potentially, Chambers) and offering a possible gathering point for kin.

                Tainted and sentient places also have some use, obviously, when dealing with a splat whose power's provenance comes from the soul of the world, including the minds of geography, and the creation of Bygones can likewise make for some valuable peripheral material (closer to talen creation in Werewolf or Hallow features messing with tass in Mage than a native "magic item creation" system). Chamber creation is highly focused on fears being relevant to humanity, so digging up the bones of old sites of terror is less likely to be immediately relevant, but high-Satiety beasts are no strangers to doing legwork for a meal or a connection; experimenting with a cursed urn made by a Gorgon offshoot is in many ways the prelude to making its power and creator part of your Legend just as much as luring someone to a supernaturally bug-infested ruin you discovered.

                Also mentioned this once or twice before, but being able to directly or indirectly turn other people into monsters — Horrors rather than necessarily beasts, because the Devouring does have its preconditions — as Integrity degrades would be another fun point of tension to work with. Maybe guests and/or characters with Family Ties can gradually start adapting to your Lair in a similar sense to how broodmates can start developing the same Atavisms as you.

                Basically, more integration of environmental strangeness into Beast's toolkit would be good.

                Resident Lore-Hound
                Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e