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Basic Information

A beot is a formalized (and possibly divine or magical) boast common in the sagas of Norse Mythology and Germanic Mythology. A Viking or similar warrior could issue a beot, which was effectively like volunteering to fight your next battle on hard mode or nightmare difficulty, so that extra glory and honor would be yours if you won (and a suitably glorious way to die and earn your place in Valhalla should you fail). A great example is when Beowulf vowed that he would fight Grendel unarmed and unarmored.

Traditionally, a beot has a three-part structure:

  1. You pledge a specific challenge: usually a specific self-imposed restriction on your upcoming battle, but it could also be pledging to attempt some heroic or legendary task.
  2. You speculate on the two possible outcomes. Could be as simple as "I'll slay him with my bare hands, or die trying!"
  3. You call upon a higher power to invest this boast. The Norns, a specific deity, or just Fate or the Wyrd in general.

This focuses the divine on your task, builds up the dramatic tension of the coming challenge, and proves your manliness.

Related Concepts

Presumably there are other equivalent acts of hubris that might be usefully considered in the same context - an example that springs to mind would be that of Gnaeus Pompeius awarding himself the cognomen "Magnus" ("the great") in his early twenties. On a variety of levels, that was a boast that took some living up to - and which he arguably managed, especially given that his contemporaries were men like Gaius Marius, Sulla, and Julius Caesar.



Game and Story Use

  • A beot is a great way to drive up the narrative tension before the final showdown with the big bad evil guy.
  • This added focus of fate could be a voluntary boost that makes your next fight have higher stakes or more dramatic punch. Here's some possible mechanics to emulate this in battle. For the battle that you've beot-ed about, you and your foe (if you named one) get one or more of the following modifiers:
    • Bonus damage on all attacks against, and from the named enemy. When you hit each other, you do more damage than normal. This would conveniently allow one or both sides to forgo weapons for unarmed attacks without slowing the fight down into a boring slog or death of a thousand cuts.
    • A luck "bonus" on all attack rolls or saves that can be positive or negative, and varies from roll to roll. You're taking a big risk, but it could pay off more dramatically.
      • A good way to model this in a d20-based system would be to get some Fudge dice like those used in the Fate RPG and Fudge RPG. These are d6's with two blank sides, two "+" sides, and two "-" sides. You roll 3 or 4 of these at the same time as your d20, and each "plus" adds 1 to your d20 total, but each "minus" subtracts 1. So your adding a potential for swingy twists of fate that makes the outcome of the battle less certain.
      • If you don't have Fudge dice, you could roll two d6's of different colors. The red d6 subtracts from your d20, and the green d6 adds to your d20. It's swingier than the Fudge dice, with less of a bell-curve.
      • If you happen to be playing Warhammer Fantasy third edition, you've already got a mechanism for this basically built-in to the system. Add 2 (or more) white dice and an equal number of black dice.
    • Increased critical range or critical multiplier, so the best hits are amplified. Alternately (or in addition) you might also introduce (or augment) critical fumbles. As with the Fudge bonus, you're looking to make every attack roll feel more important than usual.
    • If the beot inflicts a big self-restriction (like fighting unarmed, unarmored, blindfolded, or with one hand behind your back), the GM may want to give a more solidly beneficial bonus instead (or in addition) to the above. If a PC is taking this extra peril unto themselves for the sake a genre emulation or dramatic emphasis, you should probably take care not to hose them, or else they'll regret it and never do that again.
      • Perhaps all XP gains for the battle are doubled, or some sort of reputation reward is on the line for the victor.
        • If you happen to play the Scion RPG, a big reward of Legend Points would be in order, win or lose.
  • If the PC does issue a beot for the sake of myth-emulation, you might want to emphasize that fight in the narrative to help reinforce that it's a big deal now. One possible way is to include a beasts of battle motif in the intervening scenes that lead to the big battle.
  • You could flavor beot's to the purview or themes of the specific divine being called upon. Example: Calling upon Thor magnifies the strength of your blows (and might even add electrical damage on a crit), but calling upon Odin gets you clever insight into your foe's greatest weakness.
  • If the player fills in the two consequences, the GM should strive to make them possible or even likely. (That is, unless the PC lists only upsides "I'll kill him, or I'll force him to surrender" may or may not fly depending on your setting and the fickleness of the gods. Players who abuse the structure hoping for an automatic win shouldn't get away with it, unless that's especially fitting for the narrative structure of the type of game you're running. That's my 2 cents, anyway.)
  • In a non-magical game, these should still serve to boost the maker's reputation, and related factors such as his oath price - even those that die in the attempt may get a posthumous boost. Those that fail … not so much.
  • This should also play well for bouts of monomachia prior to the start of an actual battle - boasts and challenges between opposing champions, followed by a clash of arms between the two shield walls, was apparently a normal way of doing things in a lot of primitive conflicts. These could potentially have a significant influence on the moral of the two sides…
  • Potential for comedy if several warriors compete to find the "manliest" beot they can. "I will kill him with one hand behind my back!" "No, I will kill him with one hand, bare!" "Wimp! I will kill him with only my head!"

Some potential beot restrictions:

Here's a few ideas to get your imagination going…

  • I will fight {monster or villain} in single combat / I will seek out the leader of the enemy and challenge them personally
  • I will disdain armor and/or weapons for this struggle
  • I shall kill him with the ancestral weapon of those he has terrorized, so that his death restores their honour
  • I will fight {with one hand tied behind my back / while blind folded / while standing on one leg}
  • None shall pass! I will stand against all who try to cross this bridge / enter this gate / flee this room
  • I will not use my magic weapon, nor any spell nor enchantment
  • I will not use any method other than magic, taking up neither arms nor armor
  • I will not surrender or flee, no matter the outcome, and will fight to the death
  • I will be the last to return, and all of the civilians will evacuate before I leave
  • I will not allow harm to any under my command
  • I will not let our flag touch the ground, nor fall into enemy hands
  • I will track the monster to it's lair and fight it on it's own territory
  • I will not let another innocent victim die
  • I will not sleep until the {monster or villain} is slain
  • I will tear off his limbs and beat him to death with his own appendages
  • I will inflict on him each wound he inflicted on his victims
  • I shall fight them all at once, just me against the many
  • I shall fight them one at a time, allowing them neither to group up nor flee
  • I will bring him back alive, as a prisoner for proper justice to be done
  • I will find a way to defeat them without bloodshed
  • To slay {this monster} I will {slay another monster and craft a weapon from their corpse}/{find and retrieve the fabled artifact that has been lost for centuries}
  • I will slip silently into his camp, and slay him under the noses of his guards, then steal away to safety before anyone notices he is dead
  • I will fight my way to him, defeating all of his henchmen who try to stop me
  • I will drag his body three times around the walls of his fortress
  • I will slay him without a dishonorable wound, such that he may receive a proper funeral
  • I will battle him while his fortress burns down around us
  • I will leave his fortress intact that we may claim it after he is slain
  • I shall disarm him and slay him with his own weapon
  • I shall not move from this spot until the entire enemy army is fled or slain
  • I shall not sleep in a bed nor under a roof until my journey is complete
  • I shall force him to surrender, without harming him
  • I will return seated upon his mount, driving his allies before me
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