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That's me, arf arf. My throat was a bit sore before the party last night (thanks to everyone who came, to everyone who didn't - catch ya next year, yeah?), but then I unwisely sang during Rock Band. Oops. I now can't speak above a hoarse, grating whisper, and as an SLP, I know not to do that. So I'm vocal rest today.

What's going to suck is if I feel this way tomorrow. I have sick time, but this week isn't the time to be using it. Tomorrow is an Xmas party for one of my classes, to which I said I'd go, and then the rest of the week consists of appointments and therapy that I really shouldn't miss. So the question is: Can I hang on until the end of the week, whereupon I get 2 weeks off?

I think that going to bed somewhat earlier tonight than I did last night, or, more accurately, this morning, might be a start.

Today, Heather and I watched Dogville, which I've had from Netflix since, oh, August, and haven't watched because a) it's long and b) it's an indy drama, which takes a certain mood. But it was a beautifully artistic film. I'm a fan of Brecht, and you can clearly see the influence here. It's really more like watching a play than a film (except for the jump cuts), and I love live theater. I'd talk more about the movie, but I want to make a character while I've got an idea bubbling around.

You know, the opening essay to the Aberrant Players Guide just doesn't do it for me. It's the one titles "Not the Super-Friends", and it spends several pages explaining the novas aren't (necessarily) superheroes.

Here's where it fails, IMO. You take an audience (gamers) that, like Fry, knows that when you get superpowers, you fight crime!. You give them a game with an opening spread like Aberrant, showing some pretty damned comic-booky stuff. You give them the XWF, the competing factions, and ultra-pop that most of the core book presents...and then you turn around and say, "No, it's not a superhero game?" C'mon, now. Sure it is. That's like saying Watchmen isn't a superhero graphic novel.

Well, it's not four-color, sure (and we have games like that). It takes the notion of "what would you do with superpowers?", melds it with our vapid pop culture, and sees what shakes loose. I just think that the essay does, with apologies to Kraig Blackwelder who is a writer and developer that I truly respect, a pretty poor job of explaining it. And, more to the point, when I read that essay, I have no idea how to run Aberrant with an eye toward that essay, but still making it fun.

I think the point of it is this: When most people answer the question, "What would you do with the power of a god?", they'll answer in rather the same way as Ken Cliffe did, "Drink beer and fish." That is to say, the addition of superpowers, like, perhaps, the addition of a lottery win, doesn't change whether a person is miserable or happy, moral or immoral. Or if it does, it does so by degrees - by altering experiences and potential experiences. I could point to Dogville, with nary a superpower to be seen, for a look at this. The addition of something new (Grace) doesn't change the rot and bitterness at the heart of the townsfolk. The novelty of it - her - just let them ignore it a while.

Enough babble, and if you're still reading, thanks. I'll get on to the character, now - maybe check it out and give me a comment? Let me know that someone's still reading these?

The Game: Aberrant
The publisher: White Wolf
Degree of familiarity: Some. I've played it a couple of times, I ran it in Atlanta. It's what I like to call the larval Exalted system - about halfway between OWoD and Exalted
Books Required: Just the Aberrant core, but I have the Players Guide if I feel I need it.

Our first phase, just like Adventure!, is the human one.

Step One: Concept. Looking over the list, I like Nobody (not coincidentally, I started reading The Graveyard Book last week). My character's name is Victor Ford, but no one has called him by name (except maybe at the DMV) in a long time. He worked as an archivist, record keeper and general paper-pusher at a government agency, and the events of 1/1/2000 kept him employed (in this game, the Y2K problem really was a problem). The world thinks that the novas of Project: Utopia got them through it unscathed, but guys like Vic, willing to sit in a dark room and sort papers so that records could be properly archived again, sure did their part.

Vic is a taciturn and maudlin guy. It's not that he's depressed or even sad, he's just slow to move and speak, and he doesn't smile much. He's tenacious and helpful, but not cheerful, and it annoys him that folks seem to want the latter more than the former. For his Nature, I think I'll take Bureaucrat. Vic wants to follow the rules. It's the only way he ever felt safe.

Allegiance, I'll work for Project: Utopia. They follow the rules, they're making the world a better place. Vic is too boring-looking to go all glamorous and work for Team Tomorrow, but his skills make him useful for the organization.

Step Two: Attributes. The old 7/5/3 split, noting that if any Attribute goes to 4 or better, I need a quality for it. I know I want Vic to be perceptive as heck, probably pretty strong, but weak in social graces. That shakes out to Physical primary, then Mental, then Social.

Physical: I throw three into Stamina and two into the others, and pick the "Tenacious" quality for Stamina.
Mental: Three dots into Perception and one into the others, with the "Incisive" quality.
Social: Even across the board.

Step Three: Abilities. Nothing higher than 3 just now. No categories, just 23 points. I put three into Stealth, Bureaucracy, Awareness and Investigation; two into Academics, Computer and Rapport; one into Might, Legerdemain, Engineering, Arts and Biz. On we go.

Step Four: Backgrounds. Seven points to throw around. I think Attunement is always a good idea; 2 dots. I know I want Cipher 5, so I'll just do that now and buy any other Backgrounds I want in phase 2.

Step Five: Finishing Touches. Willpower 3 as a base, Quantum 1, and the other stuff might change in phase 2, so I'll leave it alone. 15 bonus points...hmm. Backgrounds are cheap, so I'll start there. I'll take Backing (Project: Utopia) at two dots - Vic's not very important, and certainly not public. I'll dump 5 into Dormancy; if Vic doesn't want you to know he's a nova, you won't. And as I recall, Node is a good idea, so I'll put 2 dots there.

Six more points. Damn. I'll buy Willpower up by 3, and that's phase 1 done.

Phase Two: NOVA!

Step One: Eruption. Vic got laid off from his job in 2001, after new technology made paper-shuffling even more obsolete than it had been. Walking home, bitter, he started thinking about the bastard responsible, whoever that might have been. His head started to pound...and a short time later, Vic was outside the door of a mid-level bureaucrat who felt Vic's job was expendable. Vic never confronted him. He was too terrified by the fact that he had just sought the guy out, almost reflexively. Ever pragmatic, he started searching for someone who could help, and wound up hooked up with Project: Utopia.

Step Two: Nova Points. Clearly Vic's a bloodhound. Let's see. I get 30 nova points to kick around. I'll first put a few points into Attributes and Skills. 2 into Attributes jacks my Dexterity Intelligence to 3 and Strength and Wits to 4, my Perception and Stamina to 5. For Abilities, I buy Brawl 4, Athletics 2, Stealth 5 (from 3), Intrusion 1, Streetwise 3, Interrogation 4, Awareness 5, Investigation 5, Intimidation 1, Subterfuge 3. That's 4 Nova Points, 6 spent altogether.

Now, I'll buy Mega-Perception. I think since this is Vic's forte, I'll put it to 3 dots (9 Nova Points, 16 altogether). I'll take the Quantum Attunement enhancement, since Vic's job for Utopia is tracking novas. And I'll spend 3 more for a dot of Mega-Wits, and take Enhanced Initiative. I'll also take a dot of Mega-Strength, with the Enhancement Crush. If Vic grabs you, you're hurtin'. 19 points spent, 11 to go.

I'll spend 5 to bump Quantum to 2, and now with my remaining 6 points, I'll have a look at powers. I spend 1 to buy Intuition; I don't think I need it at a level higher than 1, given my Mega-Perception. And then I'll take Quantum Leech, a level 2 power. I like the notion that Vic can drain off other nova's energies - helps calm them down if they're newly Erupted, or take the wind out of their sails if they're hostile. But it doesn't hurt them.

Ha. I'll take that power as Tainted. That halves the cost, but gives me one dot of Taint per dots purchased. I shall purchase 3 dots tainted, and then a fourth without Taint. That puts me at 0 Nova Points, dunnit?

Step Three: Finishing Touches. My Quantum pool is 24. I need qualities for my remaining Attributes above 3, so I add those in by pen, since there's nowhere to do it on the pdf. Also, I decide Vic doesn't have a nova "code name", at least not yet. If asked, he might say that's because no one told him he needed one, but the truth is that people generally don't use his name. In a world where novas are growing more numerous, Vic is somehow growing more anonymous (which I'd totally play with in a series with this guy).

There ya have it. Back to work tomorrow...maybe. If I still have no voice, not much point.


Date: 2008-12-15 12:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like it. I could see some cool stories with this guy.

Date: 2008-12-15 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Still reading!

Date: 2008-12-15 01:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The one Adventure! game I played in, I made a character like Vic. Put his points toward attributes and skills and subtle, non-blowshituppus powers. He lasted all the way to the first fight where, for whatever reason, the baddies to whom he had lead the group decided to shoot him first and utterly ignore the superman type guy and the guy as big as a house. Apparently they were operating off the 'obviously badass novas are obvious, go after the wussy looking guy because it'll turn out he can tear buildings in half!' school of thought. =\

Date: 2008-12-15 01:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
edit: "The one Abberant game I played in..."

Date: 2008-12-15 03:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
But he's not a superhero! :(

I played in a couple of Aberrant games, and I loved making characters for this system. I made a character who had every single Level 1 power tainted in some way. He had physical aberrations that made him look like a bug, which is where the name 'The Fly' came in.

Great game! I GMed a game of Teragen agents once and had them fighting their way into a Project Utopia building during this big fight between Divis Mal and that-hero-guy-whose-name-I-cant-remember.

My main characters in World of Warcraft are also a couple of paladins named Divismal, one is human (Alliance) and the othe ris a blood elf (Horde).

I am a geek.

Date: 2008-12-15 08:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I, and I think everyone else who actually played Aberrant, agrees with you on that essay from the Player's Guide. A lot of folks on the old Aberrant forum found it downright insulting.

Date: 2008-12-15 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Eep at the throat related crapiness. Hope that clears up fast.


Date: 2008-12-15 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I loved Dogville because it gave me the reckoning that I so desired.

Date: 2008-12-24 01:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For a long time, Aberrant and Adventure! (less so Trinity) were my favourite WW games. They're the only ones I have all the books for (not that it's hard for Adventure!...), and yeah, the "This is not the Super-Friends" essay didn't rub me the right way either. I agree that you can't really take the superheroes out of Aberrant - that's not what it's for. I mean, Elites and XWF shootfighters? The thing is to de-emphasize the "hero" aspect. It's superheroes with a dose of realism mixed in, and as you say, Watchmen is along similar lines.

The big difference for me was that Aberrant and it's sister games take a global approach, which as an Australian I really dug. Obviously the big market for English-language RPGs is the US, and then I guess the UK, so as a GM wanting to run Australian stories I spend a lot of my time figuring out how to transpose stuff to our culture and geography. (Werewolf works pretty well; Vampire can get really interesting, especially the new edition.) But I always felt that I'd have no problem running an Australian Aberrant chronicle, because just the core book gives a great overview of such a wide range of attitudes and factions and opinions. It's like X-Men but with way more thought: rather than the "either they're with us or against us" mentality faced by mutants in Marvel's title, here we see a much more interesting mix of responses from the public, from organisations and from Novas themselves.

(Incidentally I rather liked the little hints that pop up about what's going on with Novas in Australia - even if some of it was clearly written by people whose main idea of Australia was derived from Crocodile Dundee...)

Vic's a great character - I really dig him. I always liked giving Novas powers and attributes that, while they made emotional and psychological sense, meant they didn't quite match their pre-Nova skillset. Not in terms of traits, necessarily - that just leads to annoyance in actual play - but here you've taken a guy who used to sit in a dark room pushing paper and put him on the streets searching for people, probably in broad daylight. That transformative aspect of Aberrant - and all White Wolf games, really - is one of things I find most appealing.

I've made a tonne of Novas, but I always have ideas for more. Same with the Inspired.
Edited Date: 2008-12-24 01:37 am (UTC)


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