[Beast]Atavisms

Beast: The Primordial

Still from Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990, dir. Joe Dante)

Still from Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990, dir. Joe Dante)

(I apologize, I know it’s a terrible movie, but he actually uses the word “atavism” in a monologue.)

OK! So! I know I’ve been a little lax in Beast updates this week, and the reason for that is that another project I’m working on – not for Onyx Path, but for my own company, Growling Door Games – just went up for sale in PDF and I’ve been wrangling that. But I promise I’m not going to turn this into a commercial for Chill. We’re here to talk about Beast.

Atavisms

A Beast’s true self is a mythic monster armed with natural weapons and fearsome abilities, some of which bleed over into his human form as Atavisms. Atavisms are intrinsic. They are the Giant’s strength or the Raptor’s talons, and using them is as natural as breathing. Manifesting aspects of his Lair is just as instinctive. They are part of him, too, from the oppressive cold of a Makara’s underwater abode to the darkness of a Namtaru’s subterranean refuge. Unleashing them feels good. The Beast breaches the illusion of normalcy and exposes his true self to the world.

A Beast can pass for human because his Atavisms are typically subtle. They manifest in surreal ways reflecting the nightmarish nature of the Primordial Dream. The Beast can dig deep in times of need and force more of his Soul into the world, abnegating natural law with nightmarish consequences. The Raptor’s hands still look normal but he can dismember victims as if he were the legendary monster in the flesh.

Beings with supernatural senses, however, catch a glimpse of the Soul when the Beast activates an Atavism. This includes any supernatural creature (vampire, werewolf, changeling, Sin-Eater, etc.), normal human beings with the Unseen Sense Merit (no matter what it usually detects), Heroes, ephemeral beings and anyone else with sensitivity to otherworldly phenomena at the Storyteller’s discretion.

Glimpsing the Soul in this way doesn’t grant the witness any real understanding of what he is seeing. The witness sees the Eshmaki inhale deeply and then exhale a gout of blue fire, but if he is at all supernaturally aware, he always sees the mighty dragon superimposed over the Beast’s mortal form, unleashing its hellish breath. The Makara activates Monster From the Deep and everyone in the room feels the pressure of the tentacles around their necks, but only the Beast’s Promethean companion actually sees the kraken lurking below.

Systems

Atavisms are not magic spells. They are inherent abilities and require little to no conscious effort on the part of the Beast who possesses them. At the same time, their effects are straightforward, physical, and typically confined to the Beast herself (or her victims). A dragon can breathe fire, for example, but has no control whatsoever over existing flames.

A handful of Atavisms, such as Shadowed Soul or Storm-Lashed, draw down aspects of the Beast’s Lair and project them onto her environment. They create a temporary convergence between the mundane and the nightmarish landscape of the Primordial Dream, similar to imposing the Environmental Tilts of her Lair Traits, but with augmented or unusual effects and greater control over how those forces play out.

The one thing Atavisms cannot do is directly control someone’s mind. A Beast can leverage heart-stopping beauty (Alien Allure) or prey upon victims’ natural curiosity (Siren’s Treacherous Song), but she cannot control what they think. Hence, resistance rolls — including supernatural resistance — rarely apply. Direct emotional and mental influence is the realm of Nightmares, not Atavisms.

Many Atavisms resemble Merits in that they have persistent effects, which need not be activated, such as modifying other actions or dice pools, or they confer abilities that are available at no cost, such as a special attack form. Dice rolls are rarely required. When they are, they are usually reflexive and folded into another action such an attack. An Atavism’s dice pool always consists of an Attribute plus a Skill.

Atavisms have three levels of effect depending on the Beast’s Satiety:

  • Normal Effect: This is the Atavism’s default effect and is available whenever the Beast’s Satiety is 4 dots or higher. Normal effects never cost Willpower or other resources to use. Such an effect may be overtly supernatural, like superhuman speed or blasts of wind, but the Beast still looks human while doing so.
  • Low Satiety Effect: The Atavism has a modified effect when the Beast’s Satiety drops to 3 dots or less. This is often an enhanced version of the normal effect, such as extra damage or an increased bonus, and gives the Beast an edge when her back is up against the wall. However, it may come with risks as Hunger increasingly sways her behavior.
  • Satiety Expenditure: The Beast unleashes a powerful effect by spending a dot of Satiety. Doing so is a reflexive action unless otherwise specified. These effects are often dramatic and obviously supernatural as the Primordial Dream overrides the material world, threatening panic.

Different levels of effect are cumulative as long as the Beast meets the requirements for each. The Beast could combine the normal and Satiety expenditure effects, for example, or the low Satiety and Satiety expenditure effects if spending the dot of Satiety would reduce his current rating to 3 or less. This is particularly true when the Satiety expenditure effect is an enhanced version of the normal effect and not a separate ability. Each Atavism’s description states whether effects can be combined this way.

Infestation [Namtaru]

No Beast is ever truly alone, not even in his own head. The Soul constantly pushes him to fulfill its Hunger, and a Beast with this Atavism has it worse than most. Instead of one Soul, he has many, perhaps hundreds of insect voices. He hears them buzzing and chewing and crawling over each other at all hours of the day. He can — and must — surrender to them on occasion, dissolving his body into a cloud of angry red wasps or a carpet of writhing maggots. He is them and only them and their only united thought is to feed.

Dice Pool: N/A

Action: Reflexive

Normal Effect: The Beast need not surrender completely. He can squeeze through narrow gaps just by loosening himself a little, turning his body into a gestalt assemblage of insects that still — barely — looks human. His skin ripples and bulges as they move underneath, and individual insects occasionally crawl from his mouth and other openings. They are quickly swallowed or burrow under his skin again, but the effect is…unpleasant to say the least.

The Beast can safely squirm through any opening at least one foot in diameter, including many air conditioning ducts and major water pipes. He can hold his breath indefinitely while doing so, effectively being many insects instead of a single bony mammal. However, his Speed is halved and he is unable to apply his Defense against attackers in a confined space, not that anyone is likely to attack him while he is in a pipe.

Low Satiety: The Beast’s appearance as a unified whole is just an illusion, and a fragile one at that. Being less constrained by his bulky human form, though, he can go faster while squirming, moving up this normal Speed.

Push the Beast too hard, though, and he nearly falls apart. Pieces of him get dislodged and turn into a mass of chewing insects before reforming seconds later. The Beast takes bashing, not lethal, damage from firearms and piercing weapons. Since he can activate this Atavism reflexively, the Beast can use it to avoid damage from an attack in combat, assuming he isn’t surprised. Ordinary fists and bludgeoning weapons do full normal damage, however, crushing multiple insects at a time. The Beast can brace himself for an attack, however, and turn the tables in horrible fashion. By giving up his Defense for a turn, the Beast can automatically inflict lethal damage equal to his Lair rating on any opponent foolish enough to strike him. The Beast’s skin ruptures and thousands of tiny bugs or creatures sting the attacker.

Satiety Expenditure: By spending a dot of Satiety, the Beast surrenders to the hive within, and his entire body disintegrates into a mass of insects or spiders, leaving his clothing and worldly possessions behind. In so doing, he becomes a swarm with a radius of two yards per dot of Lair. The area is reduced proportionate to the amount of damage inflicted on him. In other words, the swarm is reduced to half size once half of his Health boxes are filled with damage. The Beast can also condense to attack a single target, inflicting lethal damage each turn equal to his Lair dots.

In swarm form, the Beast can move at double his normal Speed. That includes through any opening, no matter how small, and in three dimensions, since the swarm can crawl or fly over virtually any surface. Furthermore, he can use other Atavisms, Nightmares, or supernatural abilities that do not require human faculties such as speech. Witnessing the swarm in action may be a breaking point for someone with a phobia of insects.

  50 comments for “[Beast]Atavisms

  1. Aiden
    April 30, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    I find this simultaneously awesome and terrifying to behold.

    Though now I am curious: It seems as if the Soul has something of a will of its own. Am I right to assume it is still equally as much you as, well, the conscious part of you?

    • Leliel
      April 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      I assume. Everyone’s had that feeling where your subconscious and your ego want different things, this is simply a more Beastial version of that.

  2. Leliel
    April 30, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Question:

    People with supernatural awareness see a Beast’s true form when they activate an Atavism, but what about persistent Atavisms? Do Children with those always look like human-scale mythical monsters or is it something else?

  3. Ninjar
    April 30, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    Very cool stuff! I really like how the mechanics are working for this game so far. This post in general has me very interested in Satiety, Lair and Hunger.

    I’m guessing that one of these 3 represent the templates ‘core’ backbone trait; Blood Potency, Primum, Gnosis, ect. While one is an expenditure trait; Vitae, Aether, Mana, ect. While the other is an Integrity comparable trait; Humanity, Cover, Wisdom, ect.

    I just can’t quite see, which is which yet. Any hints?

    • Leliel
      April 30, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      It’s been said before that Satiety is both the moral stat and the fuel stat. It can be a power stat too, in the case of Nightmares.

    • Aiden
      April 30, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Lair is the Blood Potency equivalent. Satiety is the Integrity and the Vitae/etc equivalent.

      Most powers do not require Satiety expenditure, as we’ve seen so far.

      Source: Matt’s posts on the RPG.net thread.

      • Ninjar
        April 30, 2015 at 10:57 pm

        Ok. Any idea where Hunger comes in? Is it a stat, or possibly a Condition.

        • ale
          April 30, 2015 at 11:02 pm

          you are hungry when your Satiety is low

          • Ninjar
            May 1, 2015 at 7:17 am

            “However, it may come with risks as Hunger increasingly sways her behavior.”

            This makes me think Hunger is a mechanic. Either a stat/pool or a special Condition.

        • Aiden
          April 30, 2015 at 11:03 pm

          To my understanding it goes like this:

          You pick your two splats: Family, and Hunger.

          Family is like your Clan equivalent. Hunger is like a Promethean’s Refinement, not so much a social faction but still filling that equivalent spot.

          To put it another way, to use Vampire as an example:

          If Clan is your X Splat, and Covenant is your Y Splat? Beasts have Family as their X-Splat and Hunger as their Y-Splat. The part where it breaks down is that unlike for most monsters both their X and Y splats seem built in.

          • SunlessNick
            May 1, 2015 at 10:12 am

            I seem to recall Matt saying there’d be some discussion in the game of changing your Hunger, but I agree it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would happen often.

        • May 2, 2015 at 9:15 am

          Scroll back a few entries, you’ll find a full explanation of Hunger.

          • Ninjar
            May 2, 2015 at 10:05 am

            I read the descriptions of the Hungers, along with each of their Concepts. My question is: Are their any mechanics involved with Hungers? Are their Conditions that dictate a Beast’s actions when their Satiety is low, based on their Hunger? Or is it simply supposed to be roleplayed out?

      • May 1, 2015 at 6:57 am

        Actually I don’t think any powers require Satiety expenditure, but both Nightmares and Atavisms can use it for greater effect.

  4. YOLF
    April 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Okay then. That is rightfully terrifying. Christ all my bug phobias.

    All those Atavism names and related details are just painfully teasing, but I am liking what I’m seeing very much.

    Actually, question. I take it that since it isn’t specified, activating Infestation lasts a Scene whether you spend Satiety or not?

  5. Freemind
    April 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    So cool! I love it! These just feel so…right.

    Not to push cross-over questions, but you kinda invited it with the mention of how Atavisms interact with other templates:

    Can a Mage use their Mage Sight to study a Beast and see what they are, even if the Beast isn’t activating an Atavism? Maybe not reflexively, but in a similar manner to how a Mage studying a Changeling could potentially see past the Mask (not easy but with persistence they can get through). The same question extends to Auspex or other supernatural abilities that let you investigate the supernatural.

  6. April 30, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Am I only one to see some problems with “Atavisms are not seen by humans” rule? If spoiled Infestation power is indication, characters can become very in-human in actions. Sadiety Expenditure can make so supernatural things that I cannot imagine how mortals cannot see them. Like in Infestation, with Expenditure, your “entire body disintegrates into a mass of insects or spiders, leaving his clothing and worldly possessions behind”. How can something like that be “overlooked” by mortals?

    • Aiden
      April 30, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      Considering the sight is said to be able to cause Breaking Points, I suspect that there is a point past which certain Atavisms are pretty obvious.

    • Eolirin
      April 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      Reading it a few times, what I think is going on is that while aspects of the Atavisms can be visibly supernatural (the wording on the Dragon breathing fire, seems to imply that everyone sees the fire) the actual soul form of the Beast stays hidden except to those with supernatural sight. So even it the case of breaking apart into spiders, they seem like normal spiders to mortals, but a supernatural type will see something deeper and even weirder and more horrifying behind the spiders.

    • Brian Goubeaux
      May 2, 2015 at 3:57 am

      I agree with this one, since Mages, Hunters, and Sin-Eaters in general are considered Human in a fashion.

  7. ale
    April 30, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    So Beast’s true self is a mythic monster but they never got “this is my final form”?
    they just hit you and you bleed as if you have been mauled by a gigant claw?

    • Aiden
      April 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Well I mean, if you get them into your Lair they’ll probably have to deal with that.

      • May 1, 2015 at 9:32 am

        Or if the Beast brings the Lair to you, yeah.

  8. April 30, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    Was talking with one of my players (hunters) about their escape from the city (since they started a war) and where they were going to go (since they’re also fugitives from the law) and the discussion of sailing to south america came up. I realized that although I’ve got tons of land monsters, I don’t seem to have as many sea monsters (not that land monsters can’t sail).

    now the first beastly story was of a kraken descendent any hope that we might get a sea monster or two? or maybe they said kraken descendent could also be a sea monster in some state?

    • WuseMajor
      April 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      One of the Families are all sea monsters and things, so I’d imagine so.

      • May 1, 2015 at 12:35 am

        yeah the only problem I see is that beasts seem to spend their time in human form, and this implies that humans don’t see the kraken, so it would seam that there won’t be a kraken beast that has decided it prefers to live in the ocean as a kraken. I guess I’m hoping to encourage that option (perhaps as a (to compare to vampire) low humanity). you become more animal/horror than human and live as your beast, or something. Perhaps at that point humans can see.

        • Andrew Thomas
          May 1, 2015 at 4:00 am

          If no one in your troupe has Unseen Sense or Endowments that give them some medium abilities, you could always inflict Heroism on a few of them. Or you could plot device in a way for them to enter the Beast’s Lair.

  9. Michael Stein
    April 30, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    ‘not that anyone is likely to attack him while he is in a pipe’

    Hello Mr Tooms

  10. Michael Vides
    May 1, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Hold up now… what in the hell is terrible about Gremlins 2? Them’s fightin’ words, McFarland…

    • May 1, 2015 at 6:56 am

      I draw a sharp distinction between “good” and “entertaining.” 🙂

      • BigDamnHero
        May 1, 2015 at 8:39 am

        I’m afraid I don’t bother drawing that distinction. 🙂

      • Jason Inczauskis
        May 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm

        Oh, okay. I had been about to object to the statement of Gremlins 2 being a terrible movie as well, but if you distinguish good from entertaining, then I guess I can accept that Gremlins 2 was an entertaining movie. It was always one of my favorites as a child, and I still enjoy watching it from time to time now that I’ve grown older.

        More on topic, I like what I’ve seen of Atavisms so far. Will Lairs be revealed soon?

  11. JohnD
    May 1, 2015 at 3:29 am

    So question – when we were previewed on Nightmares last week, it was mentioned that any Beast could learn any Nightmare. That implied that Atavisms were family restricted. It doesn’t specifically say so here, but it seems, based on the flavor and assigning the Atavism to a particular family, that this is the case. Can this be confirmed?

    • Aiden
      May 1, 2015 at 6:30 am

      Since the name of one of the families is there next to it that sounds like a safe bet.

    • May 1, 2015 at 6:55 am

      They’re not restricted, but some Atavisms are easier to learn for certain families.

  12. Andrew Thomas
    May 1, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Needed: Atavisms that can inflict Vertigo, grant reach and grapple buffs, some manner of burning grasp, and ways to fly and shrug off injury-related Tilts. The first I could likely manage with a Nightmare… maybe a gale-force updraft all around me if I want something more dramatic?

  13. Hemata
    May 1, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Matthew, you there? I need to tell you that I have absolutely loved everything you’ve done here. From the stories to the teasers of certain features to the way you’ve described beasts. If I might ask, are you or any friends that you might draw inspiration from Otherkin? A simple curiosity of mine. Keep up the great work!

    • May 1, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Thanks!

      Otherkin weren’t really a source of inspiration to me; can’t speak for the writers, but it didn’t come up during brainstorming.

  14. robert small
    May 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

    so the question on every ones mind, when is the KickStarter? lol. as for me I now need to go searching through my collection of myths for the right monsters. between this and demon I am excited about new world of darkness, and everyone should take pity on my party of hunters.

  15. The Cowardly Scion
    May 1, 2015 at 11:28 am

    The description of the primordial beasts dwelling in lairs of nightmare pushing themselves through to “our side” is now head canon for how some of the things in Supernatural that are a bit hard to swallow as being just within the bleeding edge of a Winchester to kill if they push themselves hard enough and have the right relic. The cosmic scale of the power claimed by beings like Castiel or the pagan gods is always at odds with their human limitations.

    • Ninjar
      May 1, 2015 at 11:37 am

      I just had a very awesome thought. Since Beast has crossover ability built into the system. My question, does that apply to Hero’s and Hunters?

      Perhaps a new Conspiracy that links the two?

  16. Full Time GM
    May 1, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Man, even if I don’t run the game for players this book is gonna make for some amazing antagonists in my other World of Darkness games.

  17. Sam
    May 1, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I think I know what my Storm Lords are gonna be hunting from now on lol

  18. BenS
    May 1, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I have to admit, I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster with Beast. Sometimes it looks really promising, sometimes it looks really silly. Sometimes I can see where potential huge problems or imbalances could be, other times I’m severely tempted to ignore that and just enjoy it.

    One thing I will say, though, Matthew, is that I am looking at a very flavorful expansion, and I sincerely hope that it’ll be as fun to play as it has been to read about. That said, any chance of sharing another Atavism, one less direct- like the Alien Allure you mentioned? One big concern I have is the possibility of no-save auto-win abilities, and Atavisms strike me as one possibility for that. That, and it’d be good to see one of the powers that might add more versatility than “Run from the Beast screaming in terror.” Just a request, mm? Looking forward to reading more!

  19. Brian Goubeaux
    May 2, 2015 at 4:01 am

    I can see the embarrassment now. The more reckless supernatural members of the Beast’s Kinship are going to razz them for being the first race in the World of Darkness that DOESN’T have the ability to mindfuck people.

    • YOLF
      May 2, 2015 at 6:30 am

      *cough*
      Nightmares.

    • May 2, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Oh, Beasts have plenty of ways to mindfuck you.

      • DR.Dre
        May 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm

        you could argue Beasts do not Mindfucking people,beasts ARE the Mindfucking

        • ale
          May 2, 2015 at 5:41 pm

          thats so Zen

  20. Ceycil
    May 2, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Ah theres some monsterous shape shifting I was hoping for.
    Or rather projecting a monsterous aspect of your sould over your physical form.
    Is there some manner of atavism that lets your Raptors manifest wings for flight?
    Please saw yes I want a monster that can swoop down on its unsuspecting prey

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