I’m back today with another Ten Things to Know about the Chronicles of Darkness. If you check out that original post you’ll find a list of all the previous additions to this list, including the seven points shared by all the Chronicles of Darkness gamelines. There aren’t too many of these left but today welcome to my look at Beast: the Primordial.
I love Beast for the simple reason that it is purposefully cross-gameline. Beasts work with all sorts of different types of creatures from vampires and werewolves to mummies and changelings. All the supernatural creatures in the world are children of the Dark Mother who represents all the evil maternal figures in mythology from Lillith to Echidna (something that introduced me to the term Chaoskampf which is wonderful). All supernatural creatures are born of the Dark Mother but the Begotten (as Beasts are known) are their special kiddos.
Beyond that, though, Beast offers the chance to play something unique even in the Chronicles of Darkness settings. Being a Beast means being a monster without the gothic drama of Vampire, the atavistic spiritualism of Werewolf or Promethean, or even the dense cosmology of Mummy. Beasts are agents of destruction and fear, pure nightmares that stalk the Earth. And you get to be one!
6. X Splat is Family, Y Splat is Hunger
The innate axis (X-splat) of a Beast is the Family they come from, the branch of the Dark Mother’s family that represents a particular human fear. Like the First Tongue names of the werewolves, the names of these Families are all vaguely Sumerian and they somewhat resemble types of monsters from Greco-Roman and Middle Eastern traditions. These are universal concepts, though, and easily stretch to cultures around the world. The specific manifestation of the Beast’s monstrous nature, called the Horror, will be similar within a given Family but they are as varied as literal nightmares.
- Anakim, the Giants, are enormous forces of power and strength. Their Horrors might be large creatures or insurmountable forces of nature but they represent nightmares of helplessness.
- Eshmaki, the Lurkers, are the primal nightmares of darkness. As beings who represent the fear of being hunted, they certainly mesh well with a number of other gameline creatures.
- Makara, called the Leviathans, are nightmares of the ocean and the alien threats that lurk there. If you’ve ever looked into the depths and worried about what is swimming under you, you know this feeling.
- Namtaru, the Gorgons, are those ugly, nauseating Horrors that leave people feeling disgusted. Their nickname likens them to the ultimate in ugly monsters but they can be anything that evokes disgust.
- Ugallu, the Raptors, share some territory with the Eshmaki as both represent unseen dangers. Whereas the Lurkers are those horrors that hide in darkness, though, the Raptors are horrors that watch and wait for their chance to pounce.
- Inguma, the Outsiders, are one of two Families introduced in the Beast Player’s Guide. They are a particularly uncomfortable Family as they represent fear of the Other, the foreigner that evokes xenophobic nightmares.
- Talassii, the Captors, are those Horrors which represent the nightmares of confinement. They come from those fears of being trapped, buried, and bound.
The other half of the equation is the social axis (Y-splat) is the Hunger which is the way that the Beast interacts with fear. This includes how the Beast views their relationships to humans, their purpose in the world, but also how they recharge their power. A Beast’s Satiety (terrible name, I’ll grant you) is their reserve of fear that gives them the supernatural energy to use their powers called Nightmares. The type of fear that contributes to a Beast’s Satiety is determined by their Hunger and at high Satiety (when they’re particularly full) they can only gain the most specific type of that fear. For instance, if they normally gather fear from humans feeling hopeless, at high Satiety they can only gain more energy if they really overwhelm someone with a huge show of power.
- Predators are those beasts that hunger for the fear of captured prey. They chase down their targets and relish in the fear as the jaws close around the prey’s neck.
- Tyrants hunger for the fear people feel towards overwhelming power and a sense of helplessness. They dominate others, forcing them to submit and give up their feelings of autonomy.
- Nemeses have a Hunger that feeds on the fear of retribution and punishment. They seek out those who have committed crimes, those who fear their past catching up to them.
- Ravagers feed on the fear of destruction and ruin. They blow things up and rip down whatever others hold dear to feel the pain of that loss. They’re pretty big jerks.
- Collectors are Beast hoarders who take what other people hold dear and they leave them feeling empty. They feed on the fear of loss and even the fear that prized possessions will be stolen.
- Whispers are subtle Beasts who feed on the fear of secrets, both secrets that people fear getting out and secrets that people fear they might not know.
- Enablers are provided in the Beast Player’s Handbook and they feed on the fear of transgression. They tempt people into breaking taboos, gaining fear of committing the act and then fear of what these actions will lead to.
8. There’s some debate about whether you were ever human.
One of the interesting things about Beasts is the ambiguity of their origins. They lived lives as humans before they began listening to the Hunger but it’s unclear if they were always Beasts and then figured it out (like Prometheans or werewolves), if they were humans who were chosen as the vehicle for their Hunger (like Sin-Eaters or vampires), or if they were warped by an encounter with something dark (like mummies or changelings).
Certainly it’s true that Beasts are not really human anymore and in fact they see the world very differently after hearing the call of their Hunger. This is not without its dangers, of course, since they enter into the chaotic world of other supernatural creatures which can easily lead to getting in over your head (see below) and it also marks them as dangerous and frightening to your average mortal. More disturbingly, Beasts are marked out for death by Heroes who have slain the children of the Dark Mother since stories began. It’s someone upside down for the antagonists of the story to be “heroes” and the protagonists to be creatures of nightmare but that’s the World of Darkness for you.
9. You like making friends!
This is the main crux of the gameline and the aspect of Beast: the Primordial that has always been its chief selling point. You can certainly play a game of Beast with just the core Chronicles of Darkness rulebook and the main Beast book, taking on ghosts and some of the cryptids particular to the Beast setting (let alone the Heroes) but it’s much more exciting to envision a story where every single corner of the World of Darkness is up for grabs.
See, groups of Beasts are called broods, don’t just include Beasts. Any supernatural creature of the World of Darkness is welcomed into Beast culture and the Begotten form spiritual bonds with them, bonds that strengthen both members with power from their shared existence. Vampires and werewolves make excellent companions for the Beast since both are dealing with their own internal Horrors and they view humanity as something to herd and shape. Creatures such as mages and changelings also are driven by a burning desire and they are much changed by their glimpse behind the curtain. Prometheans are a source of primal fear themselves, Sin-Eaters traffic in ghosts and judgement as well, and mummies bring nightmares to the world around them without a thought. Only demons stand apart from Beasts and a clever Storyteller can probably fit those in too.
Beasts have a number of different universal qualities that let them make a good impression on supernatural creatures and they can even use an ability called Family Dinner to gain Satiety while other creatures drink blood, feed on emotion, etc. The most powerful connection, though, is called Kinship, a spiritual bond that Beasts form with supernatural creatures that they’ve connected with. Once they do this, Beasts have an easier time interacting with these creatures in a number of different ways but importantly they can begin to learn Nightmares particular to that type of creature: Kinship with vampires means a Beast can control people who drink their blood, Kinship with a werewolf lets a Beast enter a state of raging bloodlust, etc. There are even splat-specific Nightmares provided in the book (especially for Mekhet vampires, Tammuz Prometheans, and so on) and guidelines for making your own Kinship Nightmares for whatever being enters your chronicle.
10. You have a lair to protect.
While they spend time in other people’s playgrounds a lot, there are aspects of the World of Darkness that are purely the domain of Beasts. Each Beast has a Lair, for instance, which is a transdimensional hideaway where they can be their monstrous self. While it might be accessed through basement stairs or a linen closet door, a a Lair truly lies in the atavistic realm known as the Primordial Dream. The ethereal landscape beyond a Beast’s Lair is all towering mountains and dark caves, fear-laden environments that provide paths to other Beasts’ Lairs through this alternate dimension.
Like changelings, Beasts can use their dreamland to travel between physical locations without crossing the realm world in between, and like werewolves and Sin-Eaters the Beasts are the ones holding the keys to cross over into this other world. The real world does have an impact on the Primordial Dream, partially because it is formed from the collective fears of everyone on Earth and partially because of the apexes. See, the biggest and toughest creature in a region shapes the portion of the Primordial Dream that lies close to that region and the Lairs within it. A city dominated by a vampire Prince becomes subtly changed by the Prince’s beliefs and personality while one under the control of a powerful Thyrsus mage would become something entirely different. In this way, even the Beasts’ own private space is impacted by the other supernatural creatures so there’s no getting away from that crossover angle.