[Let’s Study Beast: the Primordial] Part 7: Conclusions and Review

Posted: June 16, 2016 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Beast: the Primordial, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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Beast: the Primordial calls itself “A Storytelling Game of Endless Hunger” and it’s easy to see why. The role you play is that of a creature driven by the unending need to feed, mechanically simulated by the Satiety system.

It is perhaps the Chronicles of Darkness game that adheres strongest to its themes. The Beasts are helpless to the call of their nature, while their opponents, the Heroes are subject to the instincts driven into them by who they are.

To side with “higher” human qualities like free will and determination in the face of your impulses is to lose, as both factions are brought together to enact an eternal cycle of hate and violence.

Let me get this out out of the way: Mechanically, Beast: the Primordial is evocative, interesting and has a lot of cool powers and options. The artwork is definitely creepy, and the layout is decent, with perhaps a few fiction pages looking a little bit too busy and distracting.

Gameplay-wise it fits perfectly withing the power levels expected of most Supernaturals, and Beasts can run with the best of Vampires and Werewolves and still be able to bring something interesting to the table.

But I can’t run it.

This is where I will go firmly into opinion mode, so please bear with me. I find Beast a truly disturbing book, with the implications of the loss of control and being unable to change your place in destiny (and where transcending it only makes you a WORSE sort of creature) bothers me deeply.

I believe that the game itself is good, and for certain players, who are responsible, mature adults, can do it a great deal of justice to explore their darker sides.

However in the hands of a less mature group, this game is an invitation to commit imaginary atrocity and revel in it. There’s potential here to go very, very wrong.

Can I recommend it? As a system, then yes. It’s well written, creepy in all the right ways, and has potential to stick with you long after you’ve played it. If you and your group have the trust, and emotional fortitude to tackle some really disturbing facets of a Beast’s existence then by all means, get this game.

But will I ever run Beast? I’m going to have to give this one a pass.

Interested in checking out Beast: the Primordial? You can grab a PDF for only $19.99 over at DriveThruRPG!

  1. text on heros let’s study was supposed to be here. i don’t know what happened.

  2. jetstreamgw says:

    Y’know… I don’t think Beast works very well as a stand alone game. I don’t.

    I think where it’d shine is when you have one in a crossover game. Especially in a game of Vampire.

  3. RDC says:

    Honestly, all your problems with Beast are the things I find most evocative about it. Chronicles of Darkness is ABOUT being disturbed. You’re not supposed to empathize (much) with the horrible things your characters do.

    Werewolves frequently engage in Death Rage to fight their enemies – slaughtering mortals left and right when they do, and ruining the lives of those who simply witness it, even if they escape being killed to keep the werewolf’s existence secret. They do this to enforce a cosmic law that most humans don’t know exist, and do so regardless of the spirit’s type or motivations – a spirit of love is as much a victim for a werewolf as a spirit of murder. A spirit of depravity is as likely to be a totem as one of kindness, and werewolves whose locus generates Essence resonating with negative emotions don’t want their territory to be a good place. But werewolf isn’t disturbing?

    Vampires literally feed off of humanity – in a more brutal and violent way than many Beasts, oftentimes. Their Covenants for the most part push inhuman and brutal ways of life – even the “nicest”, the Carthians, borrow as much from tyrannical regimes as they do from democracy…they simply believe in progress, and experiment with everything. Invictus see nothing (not even breaking their own law) as superior to their ability to enforce the Traditions. Humanity are tools at BEST. The Crones don’t give two shits about humanity – they are more than willing to slaughter a dozen humans for a ritual. The Ordo Dracul is fine with flensing the flesh off of still-living people for “science”. The Lancea et Sanctum believe it’s a vampire’s DUTY to torment humanity…and most vampires are members of the Church even if they’re not members of the Lance.

    Demons are robot pod people that steal your life. He doesn’t just drink your blood, he makes your wife believe she’s been in love with him for 30 years and that something she’s done is why he’s so different now. They raise your children. And then, when the shit hits the fan? They Go Loud and abandon your life to the tatters it is, now that the supernatural has destroyed it.

    But Beast is too much? You didn’t mention the Autumn Court of Changeling or the Scarecrow Ministry, of which Beast is simply the same concept writ large. We won’t even talk about the Durance basically being a metaphor for violent rape.

    I honestly can’t figure out what it is that makes Beast more disturbing than the rest. So many of your points are good that I was going to use this for a primer for my Beast players, but your opinion pieces are going to drive them away.

    • Hey there,

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts! I actually do believe that you’re correct in your point that the rest of the CoD can be (and often is) bleaker than Beast.

      I suppose my discomfort in Beast is that it hits harder to me than in the rest. In everything else, it wasn’t your choice to become a monster. In Beast it was a deliberate acceptance of your chosen “role” as a monster. The Durance was something that happened to you. The Devouring is something you made happen.

      That’s probably the big “step” that made it a bit tricker for me to accept. And in many ways, it’s what makes Beast a TRUE horror game. You no longer get the chance to point to something else and blame it for what you are.

      I’ll confess, I’m a fan of Mage first, the mortal line next, and everything else is a morbid fascination. I’ve tried running Demon and couldn’t find it in me to run more of it. It was good, but just not my cup of tea.

      I’m glad my review works as a primer for you, though. If it helps, feel free to strip my opinions out when you show the text to your players. My preferences shouldn’t impact your ability to have fun with this game, and I would certainly want as many people to enjoy Beast as possible.

    • @RDC I posted on the let’s play before but i think the primary objection someone like me would make to a game like this is that “you” are overshadowed by the mythology of the setting to the point that a story is being told about you rather then for you. It’s more that your told to have a meaning rather being able to choice meaning for yourself. vampires can choose feeding method, werewolf can pick a territory, changeling can choose the form of fear they evoke, etc. but beasts are basically “you need an x (enemy, thing to eat, etc.) or you can’t get any power unless you pick a splat to befriend you and bum off of them, and btw the splat must stay friendly even if you cause them actual problems.” not exactly a good pitch for someone that has actual problems with being told that they need to be a monster without any choice in the matter.

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