You are a scavenger. Driven by the primal instinct to survive, you venture into the depths of the Evergut in search of some remnant of the past that will postpone your inevitable digestion.
The land was resplendent once; sprawling forests, massive ranges, glittering coastlines. Hundreds of clans, nations, and empires carved their homes from mountain and glen - living and killing and loving beneath the sun-kissed boughs.
But that was a lifetime ago. For generations the survivors have known nothing but sorrow. The Hungry God consumed all, leaving the world as little more than a skinned carcass moaning to be put out of its misery. Millions were swallowed during the Great Devourer's gluttonous feast; and yet, humanity pressed on.
Belly of the Beast is a tabletop roleplaying game focusing on scavengers: brazen survivors that plumb the depths of a world-eating monster's guts, scouring the remains of the mighty Empires that were eaten by the Beast.
Why play Belly of the Beast? It tightly examines the lives and stories of the Swallowed survivors. What kind of society would exist within a diabolically massive creature? Who would these people be, and how would they survive? What drives them to press on, to not descend into depression or debauchery?
Primary design focus: Stories about scavengers that harvest a grim and paltry living from the semi-digested leftovers of a bygone age.
Setting highlights: Humanity's remnants live within the stomach of the World Eater - a creature the size of the Himalayas - as it inexorably consumes the planet's crust. Survive roaming bands of reavers, hungry cannibals, digestive acids in the air, and the hazardous innards of the Beast itself.
System focus: Characters are driven by their Instincts - the core values that compel them to seek out treasure deep within the Evergut. The gameplay integrates with the narrative, and every decision is difficult and fraught with danger.
Game format: The game will be released as a PDF and print-on-demand book from bendutter.com and DriveThru RPG. It'll be around 34,000 words, 6x9," professionally edited, laid out, and illustrated in full color.
Belly of the Beast's system revolves around the characters' personal Instincts. How their behavior aligns with these Instincts bolsters and hinders their work as a scavenger.
The Beast didn't swallow just a single kingdom or empire or continent. No, all of humanity's great civilizations and societies were eaten by the Insatiable One, leaving a veritably infinite array of artifacts from countless cultures to be picked over by your characters.
Nowhere to go but down
Scavengers do what they do out of necessity - their loved ones and their stronghold and their best friends' lives depend on it. They climb through endlessly twisting entrails, not for the thrill of adventure nor immortal infamy, but to bring home the best scraps that they can find.
Your characters are united by the common cause of surviving this nightmare. Driven by Instinct, they keep coming back because they're good at what they do - and they're the best shot that the Swallowed society has.
Scavengers: the craziest survivors in the Belly
To have lived through the Devouring means you're downright unkillable. But to choose to go deeper into the disgusting bowels of the Hungry God, to fish out salvage from rotten heaps of who knows what? That kind of insane attitude is exactly what makes scavengers unique. These brave (and often greedy) folk are a vital part of a society that begrudgingly respects them.
"Belly of the Beast is a grim and literally visceral horror game. It's a game of scarcity and desperation, where innocent people are forced to terrible deeds by circumstance. It's a game of fragile people and vulnerable people, oppressed by a massive and uncaring force that seeks only to consume them whole."
"Dark fantasy is a term that gets used quite a lot, but is there anywhere darker than the insides of a gigantic monster? The setting is as grim as can be, and Ben has the writing prowess to bring it to life.
While the premise is both original and disturbing, it is matched with an equally powerful system. The characters' motivations drive the game, which never fails to create an involving and exciting experience."
"Belly of the Beast is unique in that its setting is at once original and also thoroughly horrifying. You can take it [in] any direction of horror, from the gory to the grimdark to the post-apocalyptic, and the tools included within will provide plenty of hooks for a long-term campaign in such a terrifying place, or a great one-shot that feels like nothing else on your game shelf."
"Everything about Belly of the Beast makes sense, and that's an impressive feat. This is a Bronze Age fantasy that somehow also feels like hard sci-fi - just as colonists on Venus would adapt to the planet's harsh realities, so do the inhabitants of the Evergut.
The Beast's bowels not only inform the lives, cultures, and practices of the Swallowed, but also incite exploration of gender, class, and family. Ben's created an authentic sense of time and place in nearly unthinkable conditions. Fantastic."
Your character's Instincts are the guts of the game. What natural predilections motivated your character to become a scavenger? How does descending into the depths of the Evergut conflict or align with those inherent morals and predispositions?
Living within the Belly is a naturally dehumanizing experience - you'll do whatever you have to in order to survive. However, hanging on to what makes you human is equally important, or else you'll spiral into ferality and madness.
Scavengers select two of the five Instincts:
Scavengers venture into the caustic wastes of the Evergut, often battling against reavers and cannibals, mutated beasts and the hazards of the Belly itself. If they behave in a way that aligns with their Instincts, they gain Instinct Dice (ID), which are used to perform certain maneuvers and add dice to rolls.
Sometimes one has to succumb to their Instincts, ignoring their reason and intellect for the sake of survival. Whipped into a frenzied bloodlust, jumping heedlessly to aid your kin, pushing to get just one more piece despite the danger - all things a more reasonable scavenger would avoid.
Once you've succumbed to an Instinct, you become Ashamed, and can no longer Advance until you've atoned for your savagery.
Scavengers can recognize that our feral tendencies - made acute from a life on the cusp of death - must be ignored at times, and transcend above them. Setting aside Greed or closed-minded Loyalty for the sake of progress can be beneficial, but prevents a scavenger from acquiring Instinct Dice after they have forsaken the ignoble qualities that drive them.
Hundreds of years ago a massive rock fell from the sky, crushing kingdoms and continents in a shower of molten stone. Eventually, life in the realms returned to a state of normalcy, and the many clans continued their incessant struggle for power.
Three generations ago, the skyrock - possessed with foul energies and discordant vibrations - erupted in a disgusting ball of effluence and viscera, birthing 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 to 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.
Plenty are brave, desperate, or insane enough to try to make a living as a scavenger in this horrid place - but few survive, and even fewer thrive.
Belly of the Beast uses a modified version of the Ethos Engine (Vow of Honor, Hunt the Wicked) and has been tailored specifically for horrific, desperate, survivalist adventures.
The system focuses on skilled survivors compelled by their innate Instincts. It highlights the dynamic between their need to cooperate with each other and their personal, selfish, and often dangerous desires.
Belly of the Beast uses a pool of d6 to resolve Tasks. Successes are counted based on the face value of each die (1-6), with the number determining success based on a character's Skill. Poorly skilled characters succeed on a 6, while the most competent succeed on 3s or better.
Characters' abilities are based upon the eight Skills (Awareness, Coordination, Cunning, Influence, Lore, Might, Resolve, and Stealth). The better at a particular Skill, the more likely an action within that Skill will succeed.
Players roll a relevant Skill to overcome a Task, and can add Instinct Dice (ID) to their base roll. When characters fail to overcome Tasks, they suffer Consequences. Combat, mental challenges, physical obstacles, and social interactions are all handled in the same Task system.
Players select two Instincts that drive their characters to act, earning ID when acting Instinctively, and spending them to activate Instinct Maneuvers or add dice to their roll. A character with the Greed Instinct can consistently find the most valuable item in a given area, while one driven by Loyalty allows the character to suffer a Consequence in another's stead.
Each character has player-defined Talents, freeform abilities that provide bonuses when relevant. A character could be especially Nimble, granting them a bonus when they're attempting to balance over a chasm, or an Expert Alchemist, gaining an advantage when brewing potions and harvesting ingredients.
Scavengers fill their role with a single Specialty - a narrow field of expertise or innate capability that grants an edge when relevant. An Engineer automatically succeeds when creating simple tools, while a Tracker has permission to attempt otherwise impossible tracking Tasks.
Hazards, the Beast, and more
Belly of the Beast is further fleshed out with rules for hazardous environments, favors, breaking and making equipment, abstract wealth, forcing the environment within the Beast to change upon the scavengers' actions, and more to create a compelling game focused on the scavengers' dangerous lives.
The team and I have worked on many projects together, and I know exactly what to expect during the fulfillment process. The people working on this are the best in the business, and I'm confident that we will deliver on schedule, within budget, and above expectations.
The game will be released in PDF as well as through print-on-demand at DriveThru RPG. If you back at the $13 or $125 reward level, you'll get an at-cost code to print the book (about $10 for softcover, $25 for hardcover), plus shipping, depending on the final page count and DT's current price.
I'm a firm believer in improving the core product as opposed to adding content. For every $1,000 we reach beyond the goal we'll add another complement of artwork. I keep my stretch goals simple so that our production timeline is quick, and everybody knows what they're getting at the start of the campaign.
If you want to take a look at the current working draft of the game, you can do so here. No, you don't need to pledge. Yes, this is a raw and unedited file that is pretty rough around the edges. Yes, you can start playing this right away (as my playtesters have been doing over the last year). If you just want a quick gist of the game, you can read the quick start rules.