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Pondering the Beast

Started by James V. West, January 12, 2002, 10:17:36 PM

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James V. West

Apologies in advance for the somewhat rambling nature of this post. This is called thining out loud.

You can find The Questing Beast here:

Now that I've put some time between me and The Questing Beast, I'm ready to start looking at it again. I've been thinking about it and I have a few questions to ask you all (and myself).

1)  Does the game go too far into player-driven narrativism? With both Monologues of Victory and Monologues of Defeat in play, do you think players will be overwhelmed?

2)  Does the game ask too much? This is related to the first question. I believe GM input is crucial to establishing a sense of being part of something bigger. Do you think TQB provides the Guide with enough tools to be effective in this way?

3)  What elements of the game seem like they would work together well and what needs to go?

4)  The fact that Heroes are animal forms is actually irrelevant to the way the game is played. There is nothing in the mechanics that directly involves the anthropomorphic nature of the game except the simple rule that your form has to be a Motif. Does this work? Should the animal element play a more important factor? And if so, how?

5)  Is the game playable in short order? Can you sit down, make some Heroes and be playing in half an hour? If you play only once, is it worth it?

The game came out in short fits of inspiration so I know damn well that there is stuff in there that really needs to get lost. I also know reading it is like listening to a man tripping on some mushrooms trying to describe his really neat idea about ancient Peruvian massage parlors (well, hopefully not that bad). So, as I prepare to enter into a stage of re-writing, I need to answer these questions.

I'm currently scoping for a new group to play with. I have one lined up, but I'm fairly sure its going to be a group composed primarily of munchkins and munchkins-by-default. There might be two among them that really want something grander than slashing orcs and raiding treasure troves (not that that's a bad day's work, mind you). With luck and planning, I'll have a legitimate TQB group going pretty soon. The playtesting stage is something I'm eager to dive into. There has been quite a bit of playtesting for The Pool which by default transfers a lot of insights to how this game might work--but getting my hands dirty in it is something I'm starting to look forward to doing.

Because of my own erratic nature, I want my games to be playable in short order. This is probably my biggest problem with TQB as it stands: too much emphasis on a sustained narrative creation. Certainly, a long-running game should be no sweat for the rules to handle, but I want the game to really be something that can be plowed into and played in one night for good results. How can I alter it to emphasize this idea?

To my mind, these are the most important elements of the game:

Animal form

One thought that crossed my mind was emphasizing the Sword in the Stone Accord as the game's default setting. Its easy to grasp as it pretty much sums up the standard legends (although it is currently incomplete). Then, the concept of using a different Accord would be treated more like a game option--although not in that kind of dismissive language. Basically, I don't want to confuse the fast-play potential by throwing a lot of prep time in the works with Accords, but I like the idea very much and I want to give it plenty of air time in the game.

What I'm getting at is this: I like the game. The game is rough and over-burdened as is. It needs some serious editing and trimming (and a fair amount of expanding in some areas).

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to make The Questing Beast a better game?


Forgive me James, but I'm posting this with only a cursory check of TQB's rules.  If I'm treading on old ground here, please wave me off dismissively.

My favorite part of The Pool is an easily overlooked one - the Guide's perogative to award 1-3 dice when players attempt a roll.  This is as straightforward and powerful a reward system as Sorcerer has, and I love it (note how I've been playing around with that idea in any number of my own game designs).  There are a lot of things you can do with that mechanic.

There should definitely be some discussion in the Guide's section about how he should dish out these rewards.  Maybe he gives them out when players incorporate their Animal Forms into the narrative in some especially creative way.  Maybe it's useful in enforcing the conventions of an Accord.  I's one of the Guide's most powerful tools, there's gotta' be something you can do with it.

- Moose

James V. West

This is what I'm talking about. TQB came out as a kind of series of lumpy writings that I cleaned up a bit and put together. Some of the ideas are very new while others are older. In the process, I feel like I lost some sight of what the game actually does.

The awarded dice in The Pool are indeed important. I didn't really address them in TQB except to say the Guide has the option of giving them. Thanks for pointing that one out.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Here's a quick note to let you know that The Questing Beast is getting a short workout with me and some folks next Tuesday. Watch this space.


James V. West

Cool deal, Ron. Looking forward to seeing how it fares--especially in a short-run manner.


Hello James,

Just another boring post to tell you I just finished reading TQB, and found it simply amazing; dripping with promises of great, great naratives, and I'm sure it delivers !! Well done !

I mght even use it as a basis for something unexpected...but this is for later (evil grin)

You might want to clarify a few points, mainly:

-specify that upon a MoV, the player keeps his gambled dice.
-include the way a dice pool refreshes (or not) between game sessions; as I understand it, a pool begins where it last ended, right?

Kudos !

Mike Holmes

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I don't get the fuzzies in TQB. I think that it makes for an interesting motif to have an animal characteristic, but I don't see how playing the character as an animal is incorporated into the game in a Premise sense. The concept seems to me to be about creating Arthurian legends. The problem is that none of the RL stories are told in that fashion. The fuzzy thing very much seems to be an "oh, by the way" sort of addition. I understand that it has some particular resonance for you, but it's not coming across for me, and that's not surprising sice it isn't incorporated mechanically except as an afterthought.

Heck, in Ron's game he described an event in a character's background where a knight was traveling along and came upon a flock of ravens that transformed into a woman. Didn't mention it being a vixen or a female lion or anything, just a woman. Might have been an omission, or, perhaps he forgot about the fuzzy part for a moment. When reading his descriptions, I forgot that the characters were fuzzies, visualizing them as humans until I got to the part where he listed their options and choices of animal. Would the game have suffered if the characters had been human? Or rather what does the game gain by having anthropomorphic characters?

In order to give the fuzzy thing support, your game would need to have some additional mechanics to remind us that the characters are fuzzies and what impact that has. I think part of the problem with how Ron did it with pregenerated characters was in allowing a choice of animal motif. It seems to me that at the very least the animal choice should be the primary consideration, and the other motifs should work off that, emulating at least superficially the animal selected. (not knocking your efforts here Ron, but I do think they make my point).

But that's still not enough. Perhaps an additional animal flaw mechanic, or something. Some fairly strong mechanic that drives the animal/legend concept home. If you can't find a way to link the ideas well, I'd just suggest dropping them and go with humans. I think it would work just fine that way.

All IMHO, and YMMV,
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Ron Edwards

Hi Mike,

People glommed onto the "animal-characters" without being "character races" very, very easily in our session. I'd even suggest that they did so with a lot of relief, and I think that matches my long-standing argument that "character races" in most anthropomorphic RPGs bear absolutely no conceptual relationship to what fuzzy-fans like in fuzzies (ie characterization and nothing more).

As for the woman in the character story, I'd decided to wait on clarifying her animality until the player-characters were set, in order to get the variety or thematic consistency down for all NPCs. (However, Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot were set ahead of time; they were the only exceptions.)

Sir Bertelot ended up being a wolf. Morgan le Fay, interestingly (and borrowing from one important page in Usagi Yojimbo), actually turned out to be human, very sinister that way.


James V. West

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. I don't get the fuzzies in TQB. I think that it makes for an interesting motif to have an animal characteristic, but I don't see how playing the character as an animal is incorporated into the game in a Premise sense.

This is a good point, Mike, and one that I certainly struggle with myself. But I can't see any way to incorporate the animal motif into the rules any more than what they are without it seeming even more tacked on. Personally, it would work for me as is. I share Ron's feelings about anthropomorphics. All too often we get games that treat them as races with special abilities. That makes them more like non-human characters, in my opinion, when in fact, if you're a true fan of the (lost for a word here...genre?), then furries are simply expressions of character, not necessarily of ability or whatever. Its a mask.

Would the game have suffered if the characters had been human? Or rather what does the game gain by having anthropomorphic characters?

This might sound like a cop out, but its not. Basically, if you don't dig furries, you won't understand why they're in the game. It really is that simple (for me, anyway). When I first conceived the idea of doing something Arthurian, it was immediately anthropomorphic. I can't see it any other way. If I took the animal out of the game, I'd toss the game out and do something different.

However, I do understand you're feelings on this. Maybe you'll find my next anthro game more appealing (working title: Fauna). In it, your animal form has a distinct impact on everything you do. More later (perhaps much later).