Onyx Path Publishing have had a run of very successful Kickstarters, built up a loyal fan base and developed a reputation for both looking after popular RPGs and innovation. The latest project is a Kickstarter for Beast: The Primordial which is going strong. This is a brand new title, that’s had some controversy and plenty of successes, so Geek Native was lucky enough to quiz Rich Thomas, Rose Bailey and author Matt McFarland about the game.
Some of Geek Native’s readers will know old World of Darkness very well. What’s new World of Darkness all about? What’s different? Why make the switch?
I’ll take this one since I’ve had a blast working on both the new World of Darkness and the 20th anniversary era of the classic setting.
Since we publish both Worlds of Darkness now, I think of them less as sequels or replacements for each other, and more as sister settings with their own virtues and attitude. Something like Elementary and Sherlock. Or NIN’s “Hurt” and Johnny Cash’s.
For example, you have Vampire: The Requiem, which takes the idea of a hidden culture of vampires existing beneath the surface of our everyday world, but dials in on the personal and social horror, as well as introducing a very different mythology from Masquerade. Then, you have Promethean: The Created, which is an entirely new game exploring the mythology around creatures like Frankenstein’s monster. Beast: The Primordial is another game in that tradition, looking at the gorgons and giants and big bad wolves that haunt our cultures’ histories.
At the end of 2011, I left CCP and started Onyx Path Publishing with the licenses from CCP to create tabletop RPGs for classic World of Darkness, nWoD, and Exalted. Other than the licenses I just mentioned, we also purchased complete ownership of Scion and all the Trinity game lines, and we partnered with Stewart Wieck’s Nocturnal Media company to buy the Scarred Lands fantasy setting from CCP as well. But other than the licenses, we’re a completely independent game publisher.
Could you tell us about Beast? What’s the theme and tone like?
In Beast, players take on the role of the embodiments of ancient nightmares, people adopted (or born?) into families of creatures from humanity’s most terrifying legends. Dragons, krakens, griffins, and stranger things, Beasts are people who heed the wisdom of their nightmares, letting fear act as a cautionary tale instead of trying to ignore it or bury it. Eventually, they attract the notice of other Beasts, and their souls are Devoured during one final nightmare, only to be replaced by a Horror from the Primordial Dream. From then on, they’re the ones teaching lessons through fear.
One of the themes of Beast is “no neat little boxes.” Yes, mages and changelings both refer to place called “Arcadia.” It’s not the same place, as far as anyone knows, but there are some similarities. The World of Darkness is big enough for everyone to exist alongside one another, and Beast acknowledges that and hopefully provides a possible context for it happening.
The theme of family is also pretty strong, and that’s a big part of the inspiration. The Beasts call themselves “Children” or “Begotten,” and they revere the Dark Mother – a kind of Echnida-like nightmare goddess – as their creator. But they also view the vampires, werewolves, and so forth of the World of Darkness as kin. Does that mean they all get along? No way (do you get along with your family all the time?). But it brings a kind of cohesion to the World of Darkness that I think wasn’t there before.
Now, does that mean that the Beasts are right? Is this an objective truth? Not at all. Like most other character types, they have their beliefs, and they seem to have some evidence. The truth is probably bigger than what they can see.
There’s been some negative commentary around the original text planned for the game after you shared it as part of the Kickstarter. Can you walk us through what happened?
Basically, we posted a link to the pretty much completed text for Beast on the Kickstarter page, which is an approach that has really worked well for us when we can do it. The KS funded in like 12 hours, which was awesome, and yet we began to receive messages that indicated to us that something wasn’t right with how the text was being received. At least one social media site blew up with arguments, and a lot of these were based on interpretations of the material we had never intended. This is not that unusual of an occurrence with a new WoD game line, but this time, the arguments were citing the text in ways that we had never considered.
We began to realize that somewhere in the process of making Beast, the complexities and deliberate ambiguities of trying to deliver a game about these terrifying Beasts and their eternal foes the Heroes, the text had lost the point we were trying to make. For a variety of reasons actually, so it wasn’t just one issue. Mostly, we felt like we had all been concerned with some aspects of the book to such a degree that we couldn’t note the issues folks had written in about. The overall tone and specific details just didn’t line up, and we realized we had the responsibility to revise that text so that our original intentions with the game came through to our community.
Which is what Matt is doing this very second, and we will be posting a revised text doc link on the Beast Kickstarter page as soon as we can so folks can see what we always meant to do with the line.
It’s not the first time a White Wolf game’s been controversial. Sometimes we’re misunderstood, sometimes we’re unclear, and sometimes… well, sometimes, we’re just wrong. None of those things feels great. But creating controversy and, sometimes, having to course-correct, is part of producing games that are relevant to real life, that people can relate to. I’d rather work on games that mean something — and risk being misinterpreted, and risk having to revise, and risk falling on my face — than have my work dismissed as “just for fun, don’t think about it too hard.”
The day people stop thinking seriously about World of Darkness games is the day I no longer have any reason to write them.
Beast seems keen to remind us that it is crossover friendly. Is that an important request from fans?
We’ve certainly had that request from fans, but the crossover aspect of Beast is something developer Matt McFarland was very keen on, and he pitched the idea in a way that made a lot of sense in terms of how to provide even more richness to nWoD. The upcoming text revision is going to really fine-tune the existing information and that provides many, many plot hooks and solid rules info to enable crossovers already. But, you know, even with the material in Beast to weave these various types of supernatural creatures together, the info in there is still something that can be used as Storytellers desire. A single Chronicle doesn’t have to include every single other game line to be fun, and Beast gives players the choice in how to tell the kind of stories they want to tell, as usual.
Can you give us some suggestions or examples of how you think Beast: the Primordial works nicely with other new World of Darkness titles?
Glimpses of the Unknown and Mysterious Places are good collections of the all-around weirdness of the World of Darkness, that isn’t specific to any one game line. Both can serve as good fodder for Beast.
Which are your favourite parts of the game?
I love the Nightmares that Travis Stout wrote. Nightmares are one of the power sets that Beasts use, and they allow the Beast to bring out archetypal fears and make them manifest. One of them is called “All Your Teeth Are Falling Out,” and it makes the target feel sick and weak, like his body is getting older and betraying them.
I also like Lairs. I enjoy customizabilty in games generally. In Beast, all the characters have a little pocket realm between the nightmares of humanity where their Horror – the terrible creature that replaces their soul – lives. The Lair can look like whatever the player wants, but if the characters finds herself somewhere that resembles the Lair in some way, she was bring the Lair to the physical world. It’s one of the aspects of Beast I’m looking forward to exploring as I run my own Beast chronicle.
What three tips would you give Storytellers preparing to run their first Beast: the Primordial game?
1) Talk to your players and get a sense of their comfort zones. Beast is a game that explores some dark, violent, territory. Make sure that what you’re going to allow at the table is fun for everyone.
2) Do character creation as a group. Find the points of connection between characters. Figure out why they’re together and how they go about supporting each other. Help the players design their Lairs and encourage connections between them.
3) Discuss crossover. Find out how the players want to handle it. If someone at the table really doesn’t like a given game, don’t include those characters, at least not at first. Find out if the players would be interested in having one member of the group take on a non-Beast role. Maybe one player would like to play a changeling in the Beast game; that means that the other players need to make characters that complement that character. That’s actually true no matter whether or not the characters are all of a type or not, but it’s doubly important to make crossover work.Do character creation as a group. Find the points of connection between characters.Click To Tweet
What three tips would you give players looking to contribute to their first Beast session?
1) Remember that your characters are family. That means you should squabble, argue, fight, gossip, and be ready to have each other’s backs.
2) Make the Storyteller’s life easy. Follow leads. Make up details about the world. Talk in character and tell anecdotes about weird things your character has seen. Break Rule 0 with gleeful abandon (Rule 0, if you don’t know, is “don’t give the GM ideas).
3) Learn the systems. The Storytelling System works when you use it. Know what your character’s powers do, know how Conditions work, and exploit the bits of the system that benefit your characters. Some people talk about “power gaming” like it’s a bad thing, but as I say in the Book of Mirrors, there’s no shame in being awesome. Just make sure you’re not doing it to step on other players’ toes.
If the Kickstarter breaks the $90,000 mark you’ll publish a fiction anthology. Can you tell us the titles of some of those (possible) books?
The anthology will probably be entitled something like “Primordial: the Beast the Primordial fiction anthology” for a while, until Matt or another developer decides that’s not interesting enough and pitches me a different title. :)
But in terms of the stories in the book, we haven’t yet pulled in writers for the stories, and pretty much won’t until the KS is over and we see how many stories we need in total. I’m sure Matt and Rose have already heard from authors who’d like to be part of the project, so it’s something we can make happen pretty quickly.
In general, we’re planning on continuing to re-energize the wonderful White Wolf game worlds as we have been. Exalted 3rd Edition is in the last stages of initial layout, and we continue with new and acclaimed editions of the nWoD game lines. Both Vampire: the Requiem 2nd and Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd have thrilled old fans and brought in new ones and those who gave them a pass last edition, we’re up to Mage: the Awakening 2nd Edition, and Promethean 2nd and Changeling: the Lost 2nd are coming right up. Writing is moving along on the Wraith: the Oblivion 2nd Edition, Changeling: the Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition is going to Kickstart this Fall, and we continue to dig into the other 20th Anniversary lines with new projects.
Besides that massive roster of amazing games, we’re starting to reveal the new die 10 dice pool system we’re using for new editions of Scion and what we are calling the Trinity Continuum (Adventure!, Aberrant, Aeon, and more), Our new edition of Scarred Lands is being worked on as you read this by Onyx Path and Nocturnal Media – initially using Pathfinder’s system, but we are looking at other systems for Scarred Lands as well. Justin Achilli is working on a Vampire: the Masquerade special project that presents a rules-light but setting and plot rich entry-level card-based game called The Prince’s Judgment. And both Cavaliers of Mars and Pugmire, our creator-owned partnerships, will be having new intro material at Gen Con this year as they ramp up to publication. Phew!
If you’re asking specifically about our Kickstarters, then we expect to KS the Deluxe Changeling: the Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition this Fall, as well as a Kickstarter for W20 Shattered Dreams, a book that details the many times through history the Garou have fought with their fellow shapeshifters, and Beckett’s Jyhad Diary for V20 if we can get that KS in this year.