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The Beast

Started by James V. West, November 22, 2001, 02:03:00 AM

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James V. West

Hey all.

I want to share a little of what I'm doing with my game.

THE QUESTING BEAST is a game of Arthurian romance done with anthropomorphics. Instead of being a setting for THE POOL, its a game unto itself using THE POOL's basic concepts.

The game is about telling a story. The jist is you are playing a double role: a bard telling a tale and the hero of the tale. The bard part is kind of metagame because it doesn't necessarily play into the story that much (unless you're clever and creative enough to let it). Its you writing with an alias ("The Book of Garherins by Nascien de Plumme--translated by James V. West).

Instead of having a character story limited in words, you basically get whole pages you can write to your heart's content. You have to pay for Motifs (read: Traits) which allow you to have narrative power (MoV). Each player is writing a romance and all the romances of a group of players is called a cycle.

One thing I like about this is that you don't HAVE to have a group. You can have one player. In fact, you can simply do it by yourself--which is what I've been doing to provide some "sample" romances.

Rules modifications include the Monologue of Defeat when you roll a 6 and no 1s, and a Guided Event which is when neither 1s nor 6s are rolled and indicates full control by the Guide (GM).

Obviously there are plenty of narrativist games already being played, so this is in no way new territory. I decided when I first tackled the project that originality was not my highest priority. My highest priority was to create a game that captures the feel of romance (fantasy).

Status: There are 5 major sections of the game and I've written 3 of them pretty much to my satisfaction. The other two deal with "setting-type stuff" which I've chosen to deal with much differently than I originally planned.

Instead of listing and describing and mapping, I'm laying down ideas about major Arthurian elements such as the King himself and Merlin and so on, plus I'm writing several romances. The goal of these elements is to "suggest" a world of fantasy.

All told, the game is coming together smoothly and I'm getting a big kick out of doing it.


James V. West

Blake Hutchins

Sounds very cool, James.  Looking forward to it.



Ron Edwards

Wow, James, you must be psychic - I was just planning on posting to this forum to ask how TQB was coming along.

Here's my question: what do you mean by "Arthurian?" I see several distinct versions of the term.

- providing psychology (motivations, justifications) for the actions of the characters in the basic legend; this version includes a romantic subset and a kind of "novel" subset

- pure romantic epic - the characters are grander than grand, their failings more like demigods' flaws than human actions (this is the version that usually mashes all the historical periods together, e.g. fighting Saxons in the 14th century, which makes it sort of tricky to explain WHO is fighting the Saxons)

- historical, in the euhemerist sense - trying to retrofit aspects of the legend into "explainable" versions (like saying Merlin had ESP or something similar)

- historical, in the more causal sense - emphasizing the politics and context of the day, and how the characters' actions played a role in bringing the historical events about

- and probably a few others I'm not flashing on at the moment

Does any of these come close to describing The Questing Beast? If not, how would you describe it? After all, one could pick "6th century Britain" or "14th century England" as a historical setting if one really wanted to - but saying "Arthurian" automatically means a lot more than that. In the case of TQB, what is that something more?


Ben Morgan

When you say anthropomorphics, do you mean like talking animals? If so, it is more individualized as far as what animal your character is matches their personality? Or that there are several set "races" like Maus (Cats vs. Mice was an allegory for Nazis vs. Jews)? Or am I totally of the mark here?

-----[Ben Morgan]-----[]-----
"I cast a spell! I wanna cast... Magic... Missile!"  -- Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light

James V. West


#1- Arthurian--

By this I mean the game is meant emulate Arthurian romance. What that means to me is, in essence, pure fantasy. If you've ever read anything from THE MABINOGION or some of the stuff from LE MORT D'ARTHUR you know what I mean.

It is not historical. There is no year given, and indeed not really a specific setting. Just a big dose of atmosphere and discussion of some of the particulars of the legends. Details of "setting" are left up to individual playing groups.

The game is squarely fixed on storytelling. There are no limitations on how you tell it, and the stories of each character can be wildly different from other characters in the playing group. Stories don't have to intersect either.

The way I'm writing it, your group picks a kind of loose premise for the campaign, which is called a Cycle. Each player (called Bards) can work within that premise to tell a Romance (work of fantastic adventure, drama, tragedy, etc.). I'm writing the basics for a few different Cycles. For example, The Beast Cycle involves a premise based on dramatic and violent change in the land. The coming of invaders, the clash of religion, etc.. Then there's The Red Dragon Cycle which focuses on a war between King Arthur and his son Modred.

You get the picture. All of the details I've mentioned are fairly tentative. Until I finish it, I can't say for certain what it will all entail. But I decided early on that I would keep it as fanciful as I could while still injecting *some* realism into the ideas. I've read and read about historical theories of Arthur and I just don't want to get into all that with this game. In my view, King Arthur represents a powerful wellspring of fantasy and myth and I don't want to screw it up by arguing about dates, place names, and wether or not King Arthur was a Christian.

#2- Anthropomorphics--

Yeah, talking animals. Cartoon animals. Zoomorphics.

I think anthropomorphics and Arthurian legends go together like peas in a pod. Plus, animal characters are easy to play.

Actually, I include a list of animal forms and traditional/non-traditional associations (traits like gluttony, speed, etc.) but there are no rules for how to play the characters. There are also no races. While animal-based races are cool in there own right, I believe that the spirit of anthropomorphics is far better represented when there are no restrictions--when the form is a mask and not a stat.

I hope that answers your questions. I'm really excited about getting this game finished. It represents a huge breakthrough for me in terms of understanding how to think about game design from a holistic approach (System Does Matter).

James V. West

Ben Morgan

Nice. Where do I sign?

-----[Ben Morgan]-----[]-----
"I cast a spell! I wanna cast... Magic... Missile!"  -- Galstaff, Sorcerer of Light

Ron Edwards


Also, tell us what physical design you have in mind. I'm not talking about layout and art, but rather the actual object. Paper or electronic? How big? That sort of thing.


James V. West

Hey Ron

The first draft will be free html pages. I don't have any plans for a second version at this point. Right now I'm only interesting in getting it finished and letting people see it. After that, who knows?

At first I thought a print version would be best (and it would be great), but the whole concept is the kind of thing that grows and can be added to for infinity, so online serves it well.

I just finished the opening section of THE BOOK OF BALIN, based on Mallory's version but with mucho tweaking and a comical slant. I'm also in the midst of writing the basic Hallows--these are the standard, time-honored elements of Arthurian legend that can be used as points of reference (everyone's story is different, yet we all know King Arthur was given Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake...etc.).

More later.


James V.