I’m on the boat of people who actually liked Beast, either in part or because I had checked out during the controversy surrounding it and only got to reading it well after the official print copy had been released. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Player’s Guide ever since I heard of its development early last year back when I started getting back into tabletop gaming.
It was promised this would open up in the game in entirely new ways. New Families, New Hungers, something called the Cults of the Dark Mother...and it delivered and then some. This book is only 166 pages but it feels so much longer. It is densely packed and there’s very little wasted space (which was one of my complaints with the Beast core.)
Aside from the obvious fancy new powers (there are Merits, Kinship Merits, Atavisms, Nightmares, and different sets of Birthrights) there’s a good number of new mechanics and subsystems introduced to flesh out the game and show the society and mentality of the Begotten better. Communion and Guidance are perhaps the unsung heroes here, being respectively states of closeness to the Dark Mother, giving the Begotten a deeply spiritual bent which I think enhances their culture quite a bit and makes them feel more distinct. Communion is your primary way of getting the newest addition for Beasts, the Obcasus Rites (which function similarly to Ceremonies or werewolf Rites,) while Guidance gives Beasts a way to refresh Willpower when they’ve run out, and is a prerequisite for gaining the Merit that lets you learn Obcasus Rites. The latter is a particularly interesting patch given Beasts tend to need Willpower pretty badly given it’s a secondary way to fuel Atavisms if they’re in an area afflicted with their own Lair Tilt-- but unlike vampires and werewolves, they have no Touchstones as an alternate way to fill up on Willpower.
While most splats get some sort of magic item subsystem to play around with, like Tokens, Talens, Gadgets, and so on and so forth, Beasts get something entirely different and in my opinion way more fun in its place. They can make smaller, more subservient versions of their Horror, called Horrorspawn, to do their bidding. These Horrorspawn can act as a general utility and make feeding rolls a bit easier, at the cost of taking some of your Satiety gain for themselves. Don’t worry, they can make good use of it-- they heal as Beasts and you have the option of giving them one or more of your own Atavisms to use, among another Dread Powers.
The new Families are the Inguma and Talassii, representing, respectively, fears of the other and fears of confinement, while the new Hungers are for Secrets and Transgression. These Hungers give players who might be a little uneasy about the more explicitly violent Hungers of predation and the like a way to play more heroic or comparatively benevolent Beasts (not that it was impossible to before, but both of these in my opinion give frequently thought-of ways to do so.) All of the above subsplat options provide some compelling options for players and are nearly worth the price of entry alone.
Along with the Cult subsystem (which must be bought into with a Merit, albeit one that most Beasts could easily access with its prerequisites of Occult or Politics 2-- you get a free dot of Occult, after all) a new mini-splat is introduced with the Herald. A Herald is a human who leads a Primordial Cult and has been empowered by its Beast leader with a rite giving them access to Advanced and Epic Merits, a Legend and Life rather than Vice and Virtue, and immunity to some of the Beast’s Lair Traits. Furthermore, the Herald will become a Beast should their Cult leader ever undergo Inheritance. Beware, however-- if your Herald undergoes a Breaking Point and gets a dramatic failure, they may become a Hero. Aside from that, Cults may help a Beast with their feeding rolls, help them to build a Legend so they may pave their way to Incarnation, or just be a simple support network for them.
Inheritance as an endgame stage in general has been greatly expanded upon, and new systems have been put into place to make it more practical by giving specific ways to build a Legend and lower the necessary Lair threshold to carry out the Incarnate form of Inheritance. In addition, new forms of Inheritance are introduced. These are the Divergence, the Erasure, and the Inversion. All three are rather messy and morbid, requiring an active decision to pursue on the Beast’s part, and players may find them unpleasant “bad end” scenarios. Of course, this means they’re absolutely perfect for Beast antagonists.
The Primordial Dream is fleshed out in much greater detail, giving rules for finding unclaimed Chambers while within the Dream, how to travel between Lairs that your own Lair is not connected to, what the Hive could look like, and perhaps most intriguing of all, what lies beyond the Mists that surround the Hive. The Day, the Cave, the Bright Dream, and the Mother’s Land are all given rules for finding and exploring (sharp-eyed fans of other games would recognize the Bright Dream as the Temenos and the Mother’s Land as the Anima Mundi.) The one disappointment is few story seeds are offered for the Mother’s Land, but that’s the sort of thing one would expect within a Storyteller’s Guide instead. I do hope we might get one someday even if I feel like Onyx Path will be primarily focusing on their other gamelines for a while.
This isn’t just a book for players. If anything, my biggest complaint is the book is too necessary and brings in things that should have been in the core in the first place, as I am adamantly of the opinion you should be able to run a full game from just the core-- other books are strictly optional. If you plan on running Beast I truly feel like this is a must-have. It’s reignited my passion for the game and the campaign I have been running.
[5 of 5 Stars!]