Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Beast: The Primordial - Character Advancement

Storyteller was one of the first games that combined the scaling experience point requirements of Dungeons and Dragons with the point buy systems like Hero System. Where as in Hero System the first improvement will cost the same as the second, third, fourth, and onward improvements (unless a limit or advantage was specifically attached to that improvement), in Storyteller systems each increasing rank in skills, attributes, and other abilities is more costly than the last. This has been a structure that has been duplicated in a number of different games including Shadowrun, Legend of the Five Rings, and 7th Sea. When it was originally going by the New World of Darkness, Chronicles of Darkness also followed this method but then came the God-Machine rules which came just before the rebranding.

In Chronicles of Darkness, the characters earn beats in a number of situations. Getting five of these beats results in one experience. You then spend these experience points to get merits or improve stats. These costs, contrary to earlier versions of Storyteller, do not ramp up with each level. The 1st dot of a skill will cost the same amount as the fifth dot. The methods of gaining a Beat are as follows:
  • When you fulfill an Aspiration, take a Beat and replace the Aspiration.
  • When you resolve a Condition, you can take a Beat. (This can only be done once per scene.)
  • When you fail a roll, you can change it to a Dramatic Failure to gain a Beat. This can be simultaneous with resolving a Condition.
  • If a character takes damage in one of their last, right-most, health boxes, take a Beat.
  • The Storyteller can award Beats for exceptional roleplaying, tactics, or character development.
  • Take a Beat at the end of a session.
In the CoD campaign I am currently part of, the characters mostly keep between five and fifteen Aspirations, basically, there are no caps. We also use a variation where all Beats earned go into a communal pool and are distributed evenly at the end of the session so that one person earning a lot of Beats benefits everybody. In general, the pattern we've noted is that in the first session or two of a new case, there are only a few Beats earned. Then we start getting into the danger and the Beats start exploding into being.

The prices for Experience Points are as follows: (as another note, I hate that they're called "Experiences" and much prefer "Experience Points" it's a petty thing, I know)
  • Attribute - 4 Experience per dot 
  • Merit - 1 Experience per dot
  • Skill Specialties - 1 Experience
  • Skill - 2 Experience per dot
  • Nightmares - 3 Experience
  • In-Family Atavisms - 3 Experience
  • Out-of-Family Atavisms - 4 Experience
  • Lair - 5 Experience per dot
  • Willpower - Increase when Composure and Resolve increase.
I am going to assume eighteen sessions.


Session One - The group of mixed templates (off the top of my head: VASCU Hunter, an Ogre Changeling, a Reaper Sin-Eater, a Coils of the Dragon Vampire, and the Gorgon) is investigating missing persons on the edge of the city near the gorgon's wilderness haunt. Some minor progress is made. +2 Beats

Session Two - The characters make some further investigations and find that a cell of Ashwood Abbey Hunters are active around the area and have a skirmish broken up by arrival of mortal authority. +3 Beats. - +1 Experience

Session Three - The characters do some more investigations to find that the Abbey Hunters are kidnapping people to draw in other investigators hoping to find some supernaturals to capture or have fun fighting. They track them to their operating area and start assaulting the Abbey. +6 Beats. - +1 Experience / 1 Beat

Athletics +1

Session Four - The battle against these rogue hunters gets desperate as the decadent rich thrill-seekers seem to have been working with a Slasher. +6 Beats - +1 Experience / 2 Beats

Session Five - The characters are recovering from the battle. The gorgon hunts some poachers to feed, scaring them out of the park. The vampire PC is attacked in one of her sanctuaries during the day.  +1 Beat / 3 Beats

Session Six - Investigating into the thugs sent to attack the vampire, it seems to lead to a rival of the vampire's sire. Going to investigate the sire, they find the vampire has already been apparently staked and they are targeted by the allies of the fallen. +3 Beats / +1 Experience / 1 Beat

Stealth +1

Session Seven - The characters go to ground to escape the vampires and their minions. Managing to elude the hunt, they contact the vampire PC's mentor to get an idea of what's happening. They start looking for evidence of what happened. +5 Beats / +1 Experience / 1 Beat

Session Eight - They track the source of the mystery to the presumed destroyed vampire faking his death to rally an effort against his enemies. A battle ensues as the characters combined harry the vampire while trying to get him to show himself to other vampires and manage it at the end. +6 Beats / +1 Experience / 2 Beats

Session Nine - Strange things seem to be occurring around the edge of the city. There are rumors of monsters and strange lights. Investigating, the characters manage to save some bystanders from a strange phenomena. A Hero arrives at the end of the session the Gorgon recognizes them from her military career. +2 Beats / 4 Beats

Session Ten - The Hero is getting in the way of investigating the strange things around the edge of the city and trying to kill the Gorgon as he does so. The party has issues trying to nail him down where they can confront him and the other dangers are still occuring +3 Beats / +1 Experience / 2 Beats

Session Eleven - The strange phenomena around the edge of town are related to a True Fae encroaching out of the Fae. The Gorgon and the Hero confront and it is revealed that the Hero resulted in the death of her unit as an attempt to kill her. He escapes. +4 Beats / +1 Experience / 1 Beat

Session Twelve - The group starts investigating and recruiting help to take on the Fae laying siege to the city. At the same time, they set up a trap for the Hero and they end up using VASCU's resources to get him arrested, the trap fails but the Hero is now hunted by public law enforcement. +4 Beats / +1 Experience

Lair +1

Session Thirteen - The first elements of the effort to either destroy or seal away the Fae starts setting up. Spirits and people driven mad attack the party as the Fae's influence further affects the city. +3 Beats / 3 Beats

Session Fourteen - They are starting the battle with the Fae and the Sin-Eater discovers one of their allies, a mummy, is working their own angle that is going to screw everything up. The group has to split to deal with both problems. +2 Beats / +1 Experience

Session Fifteen - The overall battle comes to a close in an epic two front match up with the Fae, Mummy, and the group facing things off. The Fae is driven off, but the mummy is partially successful in their goals and their Cult settles in to greater influence. +6 Beats / +1 Experience / 1 Beat

Session Sixteen - The mummy is trying to strengthen his hold over the city and manipulates problems for all the characters. In the gorgon's case, it's Pure werewolves harassing her forest and Forsaken friends. +2 Beats / 3 Beats

Session Seventeen - The gorgon is still trying to get the forest free of the Pure while the Sin-Eater gets free of their danger and moves to help the VASCU hunter. The vampire gets clear at the end of the session. +5 Beats / +1 Experience / 3 Beats

Basilisk's Touch

Session Eighteen - The gorgon fights clear and moves to save the changeling and regrouping with the others. They are assaulted en masse by minions of the mummy's cult. +4 Beats / +1 Experience / 2 Beats

Gorgon Archer

Experience: 1 Unspent / 12 Spent / 13 Total
Beats: 2
Family: Namtaru, Nightmare of Revulsion
Hunger: Nemesis, Hunger for Punishment
Legend: Merciless
Life: Lonely 
Aspirations: Learn who betrayed my unit. Protect the rangers in the woods. Investigate the odd events at the camping grounds.
Concept: War Veteran
Intelligence: 2, Wits: 2, Resolve: 3
Strength: 2, Dexterity: 3, Stamina: 3
Presence: 2, Manipulation: 1, Composure: 3
Crafts 1
Investigation 2
Medicine 2
Occult 2
Athletics 3
Firearms 3 (Archery)
Stealth 3 (Forests, Stalking)
Survival 2 (Forests, Hunting)
Weaponry 2
Animal Ken 2
Empathy 1
Intimidation 1
Thicker than Water - Allows for aiding peaceful meetings with the supernatural.
Family Resemblance - Allows the Beast to detect supernaturals.
Mother's Kiss - Allows the Beast to enhance the abilities of other supernaturals.
Passing Resemblance - Allows the Beast to pass themselves off as a different supernatural.
Family Dinner - Allows the Beast to sate their Horror by watching another supernatural feed.
Shadowed Soul - The Beast can sense through darkness and merge with it.
From the Shadows - The Beast knows how to maximize the benefit of shadows for stealth and hunting.
Basilisk's Touch - The Beast gains poison powers.
Behold My True Form! - Reveals the Beast's Horror in all it's horrific, primordial glory to deal lethal damage.
You Deserve This - Inflicts the target with intense feeling of guilt and that everything happening to them is something they learned.
Lair: 2
Professional Training: Soldier *** - Asset Skills: Firearms, Stealth, Survival - Bonus Asset Skill: Firearms, Two Free Asset Skill Specialties, 9 Again on Asset Skills, Military Contacts ** (Professional Training is amazing.)
Area of Expertise * - Archery specialization grants +2 dice instead of +1.
Anonymity **** - Almost non-existent in paperwork.
Indomitable ** - Resistance to mind-control.
Willpower: 6
Health: 8
Defense: 5
Speed 10
Initiative 6
Satiety 5/10

Further Notes

The experience point gain and spending here allows for you to take Merits or Skill Specialties at any given time which means that you are always able to get some amount of advancement if you want to. In the past, Storyteller experience point gain, especially in World of Darkness, has been almost painfully slow. Adapting to this method still keeps things slow, but it comes without the crushingly high prices that some of the older versions had looming over you. This all means that things like havens, hallows, sanctums, and the like are much cheaper to build than they were before.

The Beat system provides extra incentive for pushing your character goals and also to resolve Conditions. Conditions are often applied to a person due to attacks and these can be quite debilitating and annoying. Giving you a Beat for getting past that is a nice extra reward for overcoming an obstacle. There is the option to turn any one failure into a Dramatic Failure which rewards the player for giving the GM the option to make the game more interesting.

A lot of the ways to gain Beats are connected to the emotional extremes going on which really help underscore the theme of Chronicles of Darkness game which often very heavily involve the struggle to hold tight to humanity or else accept what you are without turning into a rampaging monster. Even small boosts like increasing a skill by 1 can be substantial in terms of gameplay.

On the matter of emotional extremes, Beast is an interesting case as their Satiety replaces the Integrity stat.  This is not unusual. Vampires have Humanity, werewolves have Harmony, mages have Wisdom, sin-eaters have Synergy, and changelings have Clarity. Of these, Synergy is the closest in nature to Satiety but even then it is best to have high Synergy. With the Beast your expect to have this stat fluctuate from one side to the other. This has a very different impact on gameplay decisions from a lot of the other similar stats.

While most other characters are concerned with keeping their stats high and think carefully about their actions in fear that a Breaking Point might occur that sends their sanity reeling. By comparison, Beasts are in a permanent lock of Feast and Famine trying find a delicate balance between too hungry and not hungry enough. It will make their gameplay a little bit more erratic and hard to predict as in one instance they may be trying to avoid a behavior that they were earlier trying to follow.
I've shown similar such mechanics in many of the other games here and have commented on them. Getting an advancement mechanic that produces a metagame behavior to mirror the in-character behavior and motivations of the PC is a delicate task and this sample here is a good example of a success at that.

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