Welcome back, dice fondlers! This week, we’re changing things up from solo letter-writing RPG Quill to discussing the finer points of slaying monsters. That’s right, we’re facing down our challenges with Beast Hunters.
“Kill the Beast!” – Angry Mob
Beast Hunters is a two-player game by Christian and Lisa Griffen. Technically, there are ways to play it with more people, but if you want to see Beast Hunters at its finest, I recommend sticking with just two.
You see, at its core, Beast Hunters is a game about Challenges and how we choose to overcome them. The role, usually filled by a GM in this case, is specifically referred to as “The Challenger” because of … uh… well, because they’re the one creating the challenges! The second major component to Beast Hunters is the rich world the Griffens have created and the role-playing opportunities it provides.
A Beastly World History…
Let’s start with the world. Our piece of land in question is the Berengad Peninsula, once populated by seven kingdoms until they were all crushed beneath the forces of the Karakaan Empire. Now, Karakaan had mages and, like most evil empires with mages, they started tapping into magic like mad. When the remnants of the seven kingdoms finally rose up to oppose them, the mages of Karakaan drew down all the power they could muster, forever ruining the streams of magic in one final attempt to halt the revolution where it stood.
The effects were devastating. While the Empire was defeated, those who had fought them were left to rebuild in a world of consequences. In the wake of the storm of magic, Berengad became filled with abominations. Many were the strange beasts summoned to make war on the side of the Empire, others were the natural flora and fauna of the Berengad, forever changed by their immersion in the magic that drenched the peninsula.
Where the Beast Hunters Come In
Which brings us to the Chel’qhuri, the tribal nomads who live in the southernmost portion of the peninsula. Their mobility and tenacity kept the forces of the Empire at bay from ever being able to take their lands, but their apathy to the plight of the “softlings” who were thrown out of their own kingdoms kept them out of the revolution. Some tribespeople went north as mercenaries, but those that returned were often either exiled or killed on sight for abandoning their people.
The Chel’qhuri are also a matriarchal society, with lineage passed through the mother’s side of the family. Fleeting dalliances between women and their partners of choice are common, with long-term commitments being far rarer. Youths face a trial when they are 14 to be recognized as an adult, but respect only comes from bravery in battle. However, within these tribes, there is a second organization that exists: the Beast Hunters. Within the Beast Hunters society, gender once again becomes irrelevant and all that matters is the Hunt. The Beast Hunters gain powers through tattoos inscribed on their bodies in ink made from the blood of slain beasts.
“Getting into Character” Mechanics
The rest of your enjoyment in Beast Hunters is going to depend heavily on how much the last two paragraphs grabbed you as an interesting setting to play in. This game is roleplay heavy, as the Hunter and the Challenger essentially co-narrate a story, using a Challenge Pool similar to the one in Inspectres (that we covered previously) to build challenges for the player until they are finally ready to face the fearsome Beast at the end of their adventure in one-on-one combat. The entirety of the game’s mechanics all use the push-and-pull of this “challenge” concept at its heart.
Once the Hunter and Challenger negotiate how large the Challenge Pool will be, dictating the length of the adventure, and the Challenge Limit, a measure of how dangerous a given encounter can be, the game can really begin.
And each time the game begins, it begins with The Salute. There are many online who cite “The Salute” as one of the key contributions of Beast Hunters to roleplaying games. While I don’t know if I agree with that fully, I will say that it is certainly an iconic part of the Beast Hunters experience, and a great idea to internalize.
Why We Salute
The Salute is simple. The Challenger and The Hunter each grab each other’s lower right arm. The book itself describes this by asking us to imagine reaching for a handshake but reaching too far and getting someone’s arm instead. With a firm clasp and a nod of mutual respect, the Salute is complete.
It’s simple, if not potentially awkward, gesture. So, what does it mean?
The Salute is a mutual acknowledgment of respect and a signal that the game has begun. The Hunter is going to do everything they can with their character to complete their goal, and the Challenger is going to make life hard for that character wherever possible. They will push that character in ways that will often force the character to risk themselves to complete their tasks and force the character’s growth, sometimes painfully. The Salute is a mechanic for the two players to recognize that what goes on between the opening and closing Salute stays strictly within the game. No one should bear grudges against Challengers for making the adventure difficult, nor should Challengers be upset at Hunters for sometimes defeating their challenges easily. While emotions can get tense during a game session, The Salute is there to remind players that they are still playing by mutual rules in a game together. Should any player feel uncomfortable, the players Salute out, break character, and talk about what is and isn’t working. This way, there is no “table talk” to confuse the line between character action and player action. Everything is regulated under the auspices of Beast Hunter culture.
Next week, we’ll be talking about character building and some of
the amazing Beasts players get to hunt. Until then, my friends, make sure to…