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Reviews Comments: A Game Let Down By Its Fluff Beast The Primordial game review by Mechamorph 2

Beast the Primordial is, conceptually, an amalgam of ideas from several different game lines. Mechanically it is solid with Beasts being powerful but not overly so compared to other Chronicle of Darkness supernaturals. The game has a solid foundation to build on and it\'s theme evokes a \"mythic\" feel. Overall it has the makings of an enjoyable game.

So why does it have the reputation of a tire fire?

Simply put, it is let down by its fluff and its meta. The writing for much of the fluff, especially story vignettes, tends to paint Beasts as violent, petty and often cruel people. The narration tries to assert that, in theory, Beasts are supposed to be the good guys although some do not live up to this.

There is only a small problem with this for long time fans of White Wolf, Onyx Path and their associated studios.

The only people who have ever thought of themselves as \"the good guys\" were almost invariably the bad guys. The game\'s tone can be improved simply by removing this conceit; it then shifts towards the personal conscience of the individual Beast and how they react to becoming something of myth and nightmare.

The greatest weakness of Beast\'s mythos is the lack of conflict. Their natural enemies are not each other like in many splats or some powerful supernatural entities like the True Fae. For Beasts they fight largely bog standard humans created largely through the consequences of their own actions. It takes a very crafty Storyteller to make these Heroes a real threat to a canny Beast; most Beasts can wreck a Hero in a straight up fight so the Heroes have to rely on tactics and smarts to win... are we sure the Beasts aren\'t the bad guys? That is the narrative of the bad guys. What have you done writing team!?

A recent book has added \"evil\" forms of Beasts to be adversaries which for practically every other splat is in the corebook itself. Why did it take an expansion book for something so fundamental to come into the world of Beast? Heroes, mechanically, are Hunters that usually exclusively hunt Beasts with a few special tricks. Why not just use Hunters? Make a special Conspiracy that dedicates themselves to policing Beasts. Isn\'t Beast the \"crossover friendly\" splat?

Speaking of which, as Beast is the first \"crossover friendly\" splats it has mechanics to reflect that. For example a Beast can \"feed\" by watching other supernaturals feeding. Theoretically a Beast with a friendly supernatural never needs to hurt anyone unless they want to. Even the best intentioned of all the other supernaturals is typically an intrinsic risk to the people around them. By removing Beasts from this equation, it breaks one of the central conceits of the Chronicles of Darkness.

Playing Beast the Primordial is not unlike playing Infernal Exalted in Exalted 2E. It is mechanically sound, has great flavour but it is better to ignore a lot of the fluff around it. It has great ideas but sometimes fails to realize or convey them well.

Comments

  • SpectralTime
  • 7th Jan 18
This is, by far, the best, most clear-eyed, well-written examination of the successes and failures of the gameline I\'ve ever read, and manages to even-handedly examine the whole thing without devolving into screaming about irrelevant politics. Well done and good show.
  • Theokal3
  • 8th Jan 18
... I gotta admit, that's a surprisingly nuanced review of the game.

I will agree regarding the whole thing about lack of conflict and Heroes; as someone who actually have Beast players (and like the game), I can indeed confirm Heroes are very little match to Beasts in a straight fight (I threw a Hero with an entire gang at my players and he still got wrecked), and that's frustrating as hell for a storyteller. Theorically, reversing the narrative by having the antagonists use guile and wits to take the advantage is a nice idea, but in practice it's very frustrating for storytellers, because it requires having a lot of their stuff done offscreen. Meaning players get very little opportunity to counter... so yeah, that's a big problem, and I am glad the Insatiable were eventually introduced;

I got two things I have to slightly disagree with in your argumentation, though:

A recent book has added "evil" forms of Beasts to be adversaries which for practically every other splat is in the corebook itself. Why did it take an expansion book for something so fundamental to come into the world of Beast?

While I agree they should have introduced them sooner, this statement isn't exactly true; such antagonists WERE lacking in some of the 1e corebooks. The Strix, for example, were introduced in supplements and didn't make it to the corebook until 2e. But to be fair, 1e did have vampires going versus vampires, so I guess it wasn't as big of an issue.

For example a Beast can "feed" by watching other supernaturals feeding. Theoretically a Beast with a friendly supernatural never needs to hurt anyone unless they want to. Even the best intentioned of all the other supernaturals is typically an intrinsic risk to the people around them. By removing Beasts from this equation, it breaks one of the central conceits of the Chronicles of Darkness.

In theory, yes. In practice, Family Dinner (said ability) only provides a small amont of Satiety (2 max, 3 if they have close relationship with said supernaturals) and require to actually have such supernaturals in the chronicle, which a Storyteller is free to refuse, and even if he does allow it, finding them and either convincing them or stalking them while they eat might be troublesome. And Family Dinner just stops working if the Beast fall to Satiety 0, because at this point only methods to feed above 3 at once work. So the ability isn't actually quite as much of an easy solution as it appears at first. Safe and easy way to acquire your "Mana" also isn't actually something new; both Sin-Eaters and Mages, for example, can easily get Plasm/Mana on regular basis just by having an Haunt or a Hollow, and neither of these two things require hurting people.

Still, I appreciate your review and the fact you examine both the good and bad of the game. Thank you^^
  • Mechamorph2
  • 8th Jan 18
I have to say that while I do not particularly like Beast, I don't hate it either. I have to admit my antipathy for the Family Dinner mechanic stems from a long history of roleplay that created the notion that "something for nothing" is usually a bad mechanic because it can be easily abused. And honestly I thought the Strix are slightly superfluous. From the very beginning of the World of Darkness, the worst enemy of a vampire is another vampire followed closely by themselves due to Frenzy and Rotschreck. Ooga booga scary spirit thingys? Well okay but that just adds another nasty to fight. The Vamps will do their best to drive it away so that they can go back to business as usual. Which largely involves trying to backstab and one-up each other.

I think the crux of Beast's story as a game line is simply "wasted potential". The concept is perfectly sound albeit sometimes presented in a way that raised a few eyebrows (and many, many hate threads). Beasts hate Demons quite a fair bit in their corebook, they generally have nothing good to say about them. Why not just make Beasts and Demons natural enemies? If the God Machine is some insidious force lurking in the shadows and haunting the World of Darkness, why not make the Primordial Dream its antithesis? It is after all the ancestral memory of Humanity, why wouldn't it lash out against something attempting to subjugate humanity at large? The Dark Mother simply represents the wrathful aspects of the Primordial Dream, Beasts have always been around but in very small numbers. Their existence is mainly to keep humanity honest. Now the Dark Mother awakens far more Beasts so that they can serve as warriors in the fight for the soul of humanity. What better to fight something that seeks to corrupt Humanity than humanity's own nightmares?

It is that lack of driving conflict that I think sinks Beast as a narrative game. A Beast who feeds moderately will almost never create a Hero. Keep your Satiety at the sweet spot and basically you can lead a comfortable life with nothing to challenge you. At that point the Storyteller must keep contriving something to keep the Beast characters invested in the plot. An all Beast Chronicle can be strangled just for lack of motivation and drama which is quite bad in terms of narrative design. Just adding that aspect to the mythos of Beast and it would go from a decent RPG setting to a good if not great one.
  • Theokal3
  • 9th Jan 18
I have to admit my antipathy for the Family Dinner mechanic stems from a long history of roleplay that created the notion that \"something for nothing\" is usually a bad mechanic because it can be easily abused.

An understandable opinion. Personally I didn\'t bother me, and is actually one of my favourite mechanics, but I do see why you\'re concerned about it.

And honestly I thought the Strix are slightly superfluous. From the very beginning of the World of Darkness, the worst enemy of a vampire is another vampire followed closely by themselves due to Frenzy and Rotschreck. Ooga booga scary spirit thingys? Well okay but that just adds another nasty to fight. The Vamps will do their best to drive it away so that they can go back to business as usual. Which largely involves trying to backstab and one-up each other.

Fair enough. My personal opinion is that the Strix and, for Werewolves, the Indigam, both serve as something to throw at your players as an Outside-Context Problem. You know, having them deal with other backstabbing vampires or spirits for the majority of the Chronicle, then throw in one of these guys when you want to get them out of their comfort zone for a while. My guess is the intent was the same with the Insatiable (the \"evil\" Beasts from Conquering Heroes), but as you said, in Beast this probably should have been here from day one, because Heroes don\'t really feel like a serious threat.

It is that lack of driving conflict that I think sinks Beast as a narrative game. A Beast who feeds moderately will almost never create a Hero. Keep your Satiety at the sweet spot and basically you can lead a comfortable life with nothing to challenge you. At that point the Storyteller must keep contriving something to keep the Beast characters invested in the plot.

Yeah, I noticed that too. It\'s indeed quite a problem, especially since a smart player will usually do his best to keep his Satiety high and not attract Heroes.

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