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Belly of the Beast RPG $14.00
Average Rating:4.6 / 5
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Belly of the Beast RPG
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Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Tim B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/24/2018 15:40:16

A neuronphaser.com review.

Belly of the Beast is a roleplaying game with a terrifyingly unique premise: the players are scavengers living in the guts of a giant, world-eating monster. The entire game is laser-focused on hardy, grim survivors collecting whatever tools, technology, and food they can to stay alive in an environment that is absolutely opposed to their continued existence, and it does a brilliant job of crafting thematic rules to achieve this.

Rating: Content 5/5 and Form 5/5.

Form (5/5)

A standard element of Sigil Stone’s games is the use of brief Summary text-boxes at the end of each section, covering either the rules or setting material presented in that section. This provides extremely useful reinforcement of the material just covered, and can easily be provided to players as a capsule explanation of the game’s setting, rules, or both.

Otherwise, this book is a great example of simple, clean layout that is optimized for PDF, ePUB, and similar reading. I don't have the physical book, so I can only comment on the electronic version(s) of the game.

Content (5/5)

Setting

Hundreds of years ago a massive rock fell from the sky, crushing kingdoms and continents beneath its force. Eventually, life in the realms returned to a state of normalcy, and the many clans continued their incessant struggle for power.

Three generations past, the skyrock – said to possess foul energies and discordant vibrations – erupted in a disgusting ball of effluence and viscera, revealing the creature that dwelt within it – the Swallower of Worlds, the Insatiable God, the Devourer, or simply: the Beast.

Incalculably large, the Beast unfurled its great girth upon the land, consuming thousands of leagues of soil, stone, and forest. One by one, the mighty strongholds and great armies of the age fell against its inexorable consumption.

And yet when legions, empires, and cities are swallowed whole – not all is lost. A rare few survive the Devouring, and test their mettle living in the belly of the Beast.

You are one of these exemplars of grit and greed: a scavenger. Hundreds of great civilizations have been consumed, but their wares, artifacts, and materials are ripe for the taking deep within the recesses of your new home’s guts.

You really can’t get much crazier than that. There’s not a whole lot of pre-built NPCs, locations, or setting material detailed in the core rulebook, but rather there is ample information on the logistics of a world inside a monster’s digestive tract, and even a whole chapter of rules that bring the environment to life.

Thus, an interesting premise is offered, with all of the tools a GM and enterprising players need to run the kind of campaign they want in this unique environment. It’s up to the players and GM to define the type of campaign they want to run in this environment, and you won’t be lacking for details when it comes to questions like, “How would ABC work in this kind of environment?” You have a lot of leeway to build your own setting or steal from existing campaign settings across many game lines, and simply mash them together.

Kinda like what the Beast already does: mashes things (people! towns! continents!) down its gullet and continues on.

Characters

Belly of the Beast focuses on stories that revolve around a ragtag group of scavengers doing everything they can to not only survive, but to thrive living in this stinking cesspit of a monster’s gut.

The characters are tough, cruel, greedy bastards that care mainly about themselves, and the very few people who they might feel a hint of loyalty toward. Driven by instinct and need, only the cunning and the grim can make it as scavengers.

Personal tales of struggle, triumph, betrayal, greed, and the constant and incessant need for supplies in the face of danger fit well with Belly of the Beast.

Characters are made up of several traits:

  • Choose two Instincts that define your character. Instincts include Curiosity, Fear, Greed, Loyalty, and Violence.
  • Each Instinct provides a Maneuver.
  • Define a Specialty that tells what your character is really, really good at.
  • Rank your Skills, of which there are eight. These include things like Awareness, Wits, Stealth, Might, and Resolve.
  • Select or define a Talent, which is kind of like a lesser version of a Specialty, which tells you something that you’re really good at (as opposed to really, really good).

There’s a central set of traits that tend to have a lot of mechanical implications, and in this case these would be the Instincts. They define how your character interacts with the world in a thematic way, define how you go about regaining Instinct Dice which can be used to supplement your dice pools, and provide you Maneuvers that are like special abilities you can activate during combat, social interactions, exploration, and scavenging.

Game Mechanics

Belly of the Beast’s gameplay has a relatively consistent and mechanically enforced cycle: encounter a problem or run out of stuff, look for the stuff that’ll solve the problem, get the stuff, and bring the stuff back in order to fix the issue.

Like all of Sigil Stone Publishing’s Ethos Engine games (such as Vow of Honor and Hunt the Wicked), players do all the rolling, and use six-sided dice they build into a pool. A single Base Die is supplemented with Advantage Dice (from gear and circumstantial benefits) and Instinct Dice, the latter of which is a resource that is awarded and spent throughout the course of a scene.

Once you’ve built your pool of dice, you roll and check each die against your pertinent Skill to see if you get a success or failure. Each success counts towards a Difficulty, and if you equal or exceed that Difficulty, you succeed at the task. Some simple things get one roll, while extended tasks might allow you to keep rolling until you either hit that Difficulty, or until you’ve reached a certain point and fail or simply run out of time.

Enemies, complex tasks, and everything else tend to work in a similar manner: they represent the Difficulty (and whether or not you’re rolling an extended series of rolls or not). The GM never rolls, concentrating instead on the narrative of the scene and the actions, and using the traits of the enemies or environment to determine the damage a player character takes or the general threat they face when they fail at a task.

A neat little trick in Belly of the Beast regarding Instincts is the ability for players to choose to Succumb to or Transcend one of their Instincts to automatically succeed at a task or end a scene in their favor. The thing is, this carries a huge change to that character’s being, and will have a telling affect on them going forward.

If a character Succumbs to their Instinct, they irrevocably give into that Instinct and act in almost animalistic manner, driven by it for a time, and feeling Ashamed afterward (a mechanical game state similar to being Injured or faced with a consequence). If a character Transcends their Instinct, they can no longer gain Instinct Dice or use the Maneuver associated with that Instinct, and have to “Advance” (level-up) in order to select a new Instinct.

Considering the setting, Horror and Sickness both get their own little subsystems, but essentially just act as complex tasks or enemies. Similarly, there is more complex systems than previous Ethos Engine games for dealing with equipment, specifically encumbrance, breakage and wastage. After all, you’re adventuring in the stomach acids of a giant beast, and a key piece of a character’s motivation is to haul loot, food, water, and supplies back to base.

Last but not least, there are several points about the beast’s physical status, which can be affected by the players, but that will in turn have drastic repercussions on the environment they adventure within. The beast has traits such as Hunger and Pain that the players can take advantage of or feel the consequences of. The environmental Hazards are given their own rules, and can grow more dangerous depending on the status of the beast.

For more reviews and resources, check out neuronphaser.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2016 21:24:57

This is excellent. I love the system (the dice engine is fairly standard, but the way characters are built is awesome), I love the setting, and I love how much freedom there is as far as what the world looks like.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Adam W F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 09:35:07

I absolutely love the artwork in this book, and that combined with the unique setting is why I backed the project when it was on Kickstarter. I'm planning to take the Belly of the Beast setting, and use it with another RPG rule set that my group loves. I showed some of the full-page artwork to my group, and they can't wait to start an adventure! Looking forward to see what other products will be developed for this setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Doug T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 21:27:55

The minute I saw Belly of the Beast proposed on Kickstarter, I knew I had to have it. I was immediately struck by the originality of the setting, one so rich and interesting and filled with the potential for original roleplaying situations, I wished that I'd thought of it myself. Since backing the project, I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism and care with which the project was handled... traits that obviously carry through in the game itself. The product itself is beautifully written and illustrated. This is a game that I'm looking forward to enjoying.

-Doug Tabb One-Time Line Editor of Role-Aids, Chill, and Underground at Mayfair Games



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Allana G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 05:35:27

This is an awesome game, I've only had time to run it once but everyone seemed to enjoy it. The concept is good, the system is easy to get your head around and easy to run with. It would be perfect for a one shot or a whole campaign of fighting through increasingly difficult odds just to eek out a megre living.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Duncan K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 18:44:55

What do Resident Evil, World of Darkness, and Deadspace all have in common? They, like many other games, have the label of HORROR put upon them, when that is not what they actually are. Sure, they are all good, and yes, they may be scary at times, but they are not true horror. These are games of Action, Intrigue, and the Supernatural, with elements of horror. A true horror game is one that you have no chance of beating, only surviving. And only if you are very lucky. Horror comes from sense of helplessness, not a struggle to over-power the darkness.

Amnesia, Silent Hill: PT, and Call of Cthulhu are all true horror games, where at best, surviving through the game is your only hope. Heck, even Five Nights at Freddy's is even in this category, even if it is all about jump-scares.

Up until now, Call of Cthulhu has been the only tabletop RPG I could find that truly immerses it's players in an atmosphere of dread. Unfortunately I have never been much of a fan of Lovecraft's work.

Belly of the Beast is a truly unique and horrifying game, played entirely within the digestive tract of a creature the size of mountain, still consuming the land you once called home. You have no chance of escape, no chance of ever seeing daylight again. There will be betrayal, there will be insanity, and there will be horrors. Welcome to the Belly of the Beast.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Belly of the Beast RPG
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Nolan O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 16:18:31

Belly of the Beast is a fun, easy to learn and implement fantasy setting unlike any other I've seen. The world is well described with enough gory details and rules to give you the idea while leaving plenty for your imagination to start generating your own ideas on what could be lurking in the Beast’s gut. It should be said that I don’t enjoy post-apocalyptic games that much. Belly of the Beast immediately captured my imagination and my mind started spinning off possible stories.

The system they use seems to be one that the devs have previously developed and the polish shows. I haven’t extensively run the game or stretched the rules yet the rules have been easy to learn and held up well so far. Particularly the rules on gear, and your ability to sacrifice it as a story consequence, has been one of the biggest things to cement the gritty post-apocalyptic feel as well as creating some memorable scenes.

The biggest problem I have with the game isn't necessarily the game itself but the layout of the book. It's done poorly, things that should be simple section headings given bold title pages. The art is beautiful through the book, greatly enhancing the descriptions of the Beast and the survivors struggling inside but character portraits are left on their own pages with no background, left to spoil surrounded by whitespace. Wrapping text around the portraits seems like it would have been a much better way to do it, though more difficult to setup in regards to layout. These things, combined with someone strange layout quirks or decisions make the PDF feel like a rough draft or reference document more than the relatively substantial RPG book that it is.

The layout issues may seem like a small thing to focus on but significant enough to be the reason that I’m not getting a physical copy of the game. Rather than something I’d be excited to show off it makes the game an interesting curio, a unique idea that is well thought out and executed but held back from being great.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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