Beastly Esoteric Deep-Dive

Hey there! Yesterday I ran the third session of my recently started Song of Ice & Fire RP game- a fantastic game by Green Ronin. I'll probably tell you guys all about it sometime, but today I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the games I'm making- Beastly Esoteric. The goal here is to give you some insight into the system, expand a little on what's already been said about the lore, and talk about its origins and goals. 

In the next couple days I'm going to be doing one of these deep-dive introduction posts for all three of the current projects, so look forward to the other two coming soon.

Beastly Esoteric, as mentioned in my very first post, is a game about Big Weapons, Big Monsters, and Big Magic. Imagine a scrappy fighter wearing a couple too many belts with an oversized, ambiguously high-tech-looking sword hurling a massive sphere of colorful energy wreathed in interlocking circles of obscure runic script at a five-story monster with tentacles where its mouth should be- all while badass rock music shreds in the background. Got that mental image? Then you've found Beastly Esoteric. BE is about over-the-top action, physics-defying combat, and players working together to string together wombo-combos against beasties and villains who threaten the world’s continued survival.

At its core, Beastly Esoteric uses what I call the Action10 System (or simply, A10). A10 is based on pools (derived from Skill ratings) of 10-sided dice which seek to roll equal to or under a specific stat, called an Affinity. Which Affinity you use depends on how you're applying your Skills. For example, if you were using the Athletics Skill to run quickly in a footrace you would tie it to the Air Affinity and roll a number of dice equal to your Athletics Skill rating- hoping each will roll equal to or lower than your Air Affinity. Alternately, if you were just trying to run for a really long time, Athletics would be tied to your Earth Affinity, because that Affinity governs fortitude and endurance.

Every die which comes up less than or equal to the Affinity requested by the GM grants you an Action Point, which you then spend to achieve your goals (and then some). Most actions require spending only a single Action Point to succeed on them, so excess AP are spent on enhancing your success. You could complete your stated action in half the normally required time or using half the normally consumed materials, you could feel emboldened by your success and gain bonus dice on your next check, or you could gain a benefit appropriate to the situation. This last one is pretty subjective and requires a bit of creativity on the part of both the player and the GM, but leads to what I think really makes RPGs great: cooperative storytelling. If the GM doesn't have any ideas for your “benefit appropriate to the situation”, or if you like your idea better, pitch them one that makes sense for the context of the roll. 

Maybe as you flee an exploding prison complex, you notice the dead warden, who has a datapad on him that has correspondences revealing the identity of whose lies got you locked up in the first place. Maybe while hacking into a secure government computer system, you discover that you can drain a small amount of unallocated funds into your own untraceable accounts. The best Action Point benefits are ones which progress the story in interesting ways or open up new avenues for drama, but a little personal gain definitely isn't out of the question. One important thing to keep in mind is that exceptionally difficult or gainful Action Point benefits can cost more than one AP to receive. If you want something really beneficial or outlandish to happen, the GM may ask for 2 or even 3 AP to make it happen.

The keys to this style of role-playing are creativity and subjectivity. It's important for the GM to feel comfortable in making rulings on how many AP they should ask from their players to make cool stuff happen. To that end, there are some guidelines in the rules, but I'd trust your gut instinct. Beastly Esoteric relies heavily on the so-called “Rule of Cool”, and the GM’s role isn't to be the players’ nemesis, but to be their cheerleader. A fair-minded GM should allow most narratively plausible Action Point benefits to be achievable, but don't hesitate to ask for more AP if the suggestion is stretching the definition of “narratively plausible”.

I find myself talking a lot about this “Action Point benefit” thing in large part because of how important it is to feeling like you're playing a badass video game/anime/action movie character, and to making your sessions of Beastly Esoteric feel like all those things. It adds cooperation to the storytelling and a degree of the Deus ex Machina so often seen in the forms of dramatic, action-focused storytelling seen in these media. Fortuitous events and unlikely happenstance surround these sorts of characters and lead to unexpected revelations which can sharply turn the focus of the story- or even a fight scene.

The world of Beastly Esoteric is heavily inspired by the gorgeous art and slick character designs of video game series like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear, but with a Weird Fiction-style maltheism in a world torn asunder by the heedless curiosity of humanity. Here's an excerpt from the full game document (I'll be posting the finished version as patron-only content in the next few months):

All that is, is called the Fundament. ‘Objective reality’, the periodic table, the forces of gravity and magnetism, causality, all these things and many more make up the Fundament. It is the world in which we walk every day, the chemical and electromagnetic bonds which hold our bodies together and make life possible. It is a rational theory of existence, law, order, mathematical and metaphysical certitude. Galaxies spin on in limitless darkness in gravitic scaffolds of dark matter because they can only exist in such ways. Such is the dictatorial might of the Fundament.

Outside of this reality is an entirely alien universe, which most have taken to calling ‘the Wilderness’. The Wilderness is separated from the Fundament by something called the Boundary, a metaphysical semi-real film of seeming which makes the Wilderness and all matter and energy from it invisible and intangible to most things in the Fundament. Just like dark matter and normal matter, the two coexist and even have substantial effects on one another without ever directly interacting. At least, that was the case until the first Beast Esoteric manifested and tore a screaming hole in the non-fabric of the Boundary.

The world was in a state of panic as this massive living warmachine leveled cities and consumed millions of lives. Nothing seemed to halt its advance, not even our mightiest nuclear weapons could harm it. However, by studying the nature of its birth, the bizarre reality from which it came, and the weirding effect it had on its surroundings, human scientists began to learn of the ‘truth’ of magic and its mortal, regimented form- sorcery. With arts and weapons born of a fusion of the materials and sciences from both the Fundament and the Wilderness, the first Beast Esoteric was finally defeated. But this victory was bought at a horrific cost.

The player characters in a game of Beastly Esoteric are called Wild Devils and they wield extremely powerful magic weapons called Wild Devil Armaments which have a subtle psyche of their own. These weapons aren't exactly sentient, but they are definitely ‘alive’ in a curious manner that is not very well understood by their creators. WDAs are exceedingly rare (fewer than 200 in the whole world) and sought after by all world governments and quasi-governmental entities like those that rule the El Zones- the last 11 bastions of humanity in the deadly monster-haunted wasteland of Ex-Earth. Carrying a WDA is a bit like having a sign around your neck that says “I'm looking for a fight”. Ten of the eleven Zones have officially named all Wild Devils outlaws, meaning no laws apply to them and anyone can do anything they want to them. Often, Wild Devils are feared and attacked on sight, at least until they've proven themselves too tough to mess with. 

Some Wild Devils are freedom fighters, folk heroes, and beloved of the citizens- fighting the corruption and brutally repressive regimes of the El Zones. Such Wild Devils are often aided and hidden by the oppressed classes of people that they champion. Others are themselves agents of those dictatorial regimes and seek to use their incredible power to bring misery and death to their fellow human beings. A third category are sometimes called “nomads”, and have no particular interest in the affairs of the world outside of their own particular goals.

One thing most Wild Devils can agree on is hunting and killing beasts esoteric wherever they might manifest. This is partially due to subtle psychic influence from their weapons, which were created specifically to destroy these monstrous threats and therefore impart a strong, almost undeniable compulsion to destroy all beasts esoteric unto their wielders. WDAs grow stronger by consuming some of the essence of a beast esoteric they help slay, a process which grants their wielders a temporary, almost narcotic euphoria called “the Vigor”. The high produced by the Vigor is stronger than most which can be gained through the ingestion of substances, but without any negative physiological side effects or disruption of concentration. In fact, most Wild Devils claim to be more efficacious and aware of their surroundings during the Vigor than at any other time. The joys of the Vigor are a powerful incentive for many Wild Devils to fulfil their weapons’ desires and slay the beasts wherever they may be.

The specifics of character creation in Beastly Esoteric will be covered in the Lite Rules which I'll publish once they're completely compiled- with regular updates as the game grows and changes. Currently my ETA for a finished Beastly Esoteric Lite Rules document is late October. Fragments and partial documents will be released as patron content as they're finished to both show progress and give patrons a jumpstart on the game.