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Wanderer

Aberrant RPG - Nova character creation guidelines

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Related to my houserule expanded Chrysalis system (here), years ago I wrote these character creation guidelines for nova characters, which I then basically forgot about. I recently rediscovered and revised them to include all sourcebooks.

A potential area of controversy in Aberrant playing is how much freedom players should have in choosing nova abilities for their characters, at character creation and later. Some advocate near-total freedom, while others call for every ability to fit within the strict frame of an overall theme or special effect. Some super-hero games have gone so far down this approach as to define some kind of character classes: the strong, tough brick, the hot-headed energy projector, and so on.

I have always strongly leaned for the permissive position, since the stereotype I hated the most in superhero RPGs was the way they often tried to pigeonhole characters in decrepit stereotypes right away from Silver-Age comics: the tough-headed, loyal, not-so-intelligent brick, the impulsive, hot-headed energy projector or weather manipulator, the amoral, stealthy skulker, and so on. After one has seen the first ten clones of Hulk, the Flash, or the Human Torch, one has seen all of them.

Moreover, one of the most interesting, refreshing features of Aberrant was the powers array of a given nova was to be not just the direct result of a camp, stupid "origin", but both the projection of the nova-to-be conscious and unconscious psyche, and of the way said psyche reacted to an extreme situation.

However, unguided creative freedom may lead to poorly-thought, awkward assembles of totally-unrelated abilities, evenlack of strict 'theme' for a character's powers is not necessarilyl a symptom of system abuse. Therefore the better option may well be to define some loose guidelines for choosing nova abilities in accordance with the psychology of the character.

The Archetype/Super-Ego

Define the ideal archetype of the character: the ideal image he’d like to become if a genie ever handed him he power to rebuild himself from the ground up. This could be a historical character, a mythical personage, or one out from fiction. It should not necessarily be the one-dimensional incarnation of a strict special-effect theme: think about the gods of polytheistic religions. They usually embody a main archetype as their main feature, like Sun Lord or the Wise Warrior, but they also have several secondary attributes, sometimes apparently unrelated to the main archetype: e.g. Poseidon was the sea god, but he also sent earthquakes. Wotan was a warrior god, and the patron of berserkers, but also a trickster and the god of rune-magic. Translate the abilities of the archetype in mega-attributes and nova powers. These powers often develop immediately after the eruption, as the character realizes he has become a nova. Think about the side effects the features of the archetype would have if they suddenly got out of control. This is often the way a character’s taint manifests as aberrations.

A good guideline to define the ideal self-image of a nova character might be to use a modified, more general form of the Terat Archetypes (Marvel, Monster & Portent): they allow a relatively simple core idea to structure a character’s nova abilities around, and they also have some sound psychological roots and mythological overtones (e.g. the Priest-Shaman, Warrior and Artisan triad of Indo-European mythology). We can define three different Archetypes: the Leader, the Warrior, and the Mind. Every eruption opens up the new nova to previously unattainable levels of self-expression, influence, and control, over the self and the world. An Archetype is the psychological/spiritual facet through such a newfound potential expresses itself. Most of a character’s nova abilities should somehow fit with the character’s Archetype.

The Leader.

This Archetype finds realization though the influence and impact it has on others. Its role is to lead, inspire and challenge, display the full potential of the nova nature for all to see, and offer an irresistible example. Typical powers and Mega-Attributes are those that allow to influence, impress and control others, and flashy, eye-catching powers. Good nova abilities for Leaders include: Social Mega-Attributes, Physical Mega-Attributes, Mega-Wits, Aberration Transfer, Animal/Plant Mastery, Armor, Bioluminescence, Biomanipulation, Bodymorph, Claws, Deflect/Redirect, Disintegration, Disorient, Domination, Elemental Anima, Elemental Authority, Elemental Mastery, Empathic Manipulation, Flight, Force Field, Gravity Control, Healing, Hypermovement, Holo, Hypnosis, Immobilize, Immolate, Immortality, Impact, Magnetic Mastery, Matter Creation, Mirage, Molecular Manipulation, Momentum Control, Neogenesis, Node Spark, Nova Proxy, Quantum Authority, Quantum Bolt, Quantum Conception, Quantum Construct, Quantum Conversion, Quantum Regeneration, Quantum Weapon, Reincarnation, Resurrection, Shapeshift, Shroud, Silence, Sizemorph (Grow), Strobe, Stun Attack, Telekinesis, Teleport, Warp, Weather Manipulation.

Aberrations that Leaders may manifest include: Aberrant Eyes/Ears/Nose/Skin/Tongue, Aberrant Hair, Absent-Minded, Addictive Visage, Allergic Reaction, Altered Biochemistry, Altered Gestation, Altered Tongue, Androgynous, Anima Banner, Antennae, Atavistic Posture, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bad Temper, Bald, Bipolar Disorder, Black Thumb, Boneless Digits, Bug Eyes, Bulging Muscles, Bull in a China Shop, Cannot Lie, Chromatic Hair, Cilia/Suckers, Clockwork, Collateral Damage, Colored Skin, Compulsive Blackmailer, Contagious, Convivial, Cramps, Crushing Grip, Cyclops, Delusions, Dictator, Distinctive Look, Disturbing Voice, Doppelganger Syndrome, Dunamikophobia, Energy Emission, Enlarged Eyes/Ears, Enlarged Hands/Feet, Ennui, Estrus, Extra Sensory Organs, Fashion Disaster, Fast Speech, Feeding Requirement, Fingerprints, Flashbacks, Flippant, Footprints, Four-Color Caricature, Frantic, Fur/Feathers/Scales, Fragile, Gill Flaps, Glory Hound, Glow, Goliath Syndrome, Gravitas, Greedy, Habitually Sneaky, Hairless, Heartthrob, Hermaphrodite, Heavyweight, Hibernation, Hormonal Imbalance (Lust), Hormonal Imbalance (Rage), Hubris, Hyperflexiblity, Ichor, Impulsive, Incredible, Inhuman Grace, Intrigue Junkie, Judas Syndrome, Malformed Muscles, Masochism, Mega-Bitch, Mega-Devious, Mega-Klutz, Mega-Vanity, Megalomania, Metabolic Quirk, Mischievous, Misinterpreted, Mood Swings, Molt, Monodexterity, Multiple Personality Disorder, Muscular Strain, Neckless, Negotiator, Nervous Tic, Obsession, Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, Object of Desire, On Edge, Oozing Skin, Oversized Limbs, Paranoia, Party Animal, Parasite, Pathological Liar, Permanent Power, Prankster, Prima Donna, Psyche Mirror, Quantum Beacon, Quiver, Radioactive/Taint Bleed, Ravenous, Restricted Diet, Retarded Aging, Romance Junkie, Romantic Irresistibility, Sadism, Samson Syndrome, Screwball Magnet, Second Self, Seizures, Sex Object, Sexual Aberrations, Sheer Hideousness, Shifting Features, Sinister, Sloughed Flesh, Sociopathic, Soft Touch, Spastic, Sponge, Strange Scent, Surreality, Sweathog, Symbiont, Tactless, Temperature Change, Teratodactyl, Twisted Limbs, Twisted Perspective, Twisted Sense of Humor, Uncontrollable Power, Unearthly Beauty, Unsure Footing, Vestigial Limbs, Vulnerability.

The Fighter.

This kind of nova focuses on action, struggle and individualistic self-realization. To them, all of existence is a struggle to realize their personal potential and beliefs in the face of a hostile or uncaring cosmos. They find themselves best comfortable with action, not words, and are ready and willing to make their point in the maw of any beast. Typical powers and Mega-Attributes are those that enhance the personal capabilities, allow a greater control on the environment and increase fighting chances and likelihood of survival. Good nova abilities for Fighters include: Physical Mega-Attributes, Mega-Perception, Mega-Wits, Mega-Appearance, Aberration Transfer, Absorption, Armor, Biomanipulation, Body Modification, Bodymorph, Boost, Chimeric Aberration, Claws, Clone, Deflect/Redirect, Density Control, Disintegration, Elemental Anima, Elemental Authority, Elemental Mastery, Entropy Control, Flight, Force Field, Gravity Control, Healing, Hypermovement, Immobilize, Immolate, Immortality, Impact, Invisibility, Invulnerability, Luck, Magnetic Mastery, Matter Chamaleon, Matter Consumption, Matter Creation, Molecular Authority, Molecular Manipulation, Necromimicry, Neogenesis, Node Spark, Poison, Quantum Authority, Quantum Bolt, Quantum Conception, Quantum Construct, Quantum Forgery, Quantum Imprint, Quantum Leech, Quantum Regeneration, Quantum Vampire, Quantum Weapon, Reincarnation, Resurrection, Shapeshift, Sizemorph (Grow), Sizemorph (Shrink), Spatial Manipulation Stun Attack, Telekinesis, Teleport, Transmit, Warp, Weather Manipulation.

Aberrations that Fighters may manifest include: Aberrant Eyes/Ears/Nose/Skin/Tongue, Aberrant Hair, Absent-Minded, Addictive Visage, Allergic Reaction, Altered Biochemistry, Altered Gestation, Anima Banner, Antennae, Atavistic Posture, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bad Luck, Bad Temper, Bipolar Disorder, Black Thumb, Boneless Digits, Bug Eyes, Bulging Muscles, Bull in a China Shop, Chromatic Hair, Cilia/Suckers, Clockwork, Collateral Damage, Colored Skin, Contagious, Cramps, Crushing Grip, Cyclops, Delusions, Distractible, Distinctive Look, Disturbing Voice, Doppelganger Syndrome, Dunamikophobia, Energy Emission, Enlarged Eyes/Ears, Enlarged Hands/Feet, Estrus, Extra Sensory Organs, Eye of the Beholder, Fashion Disaster, Fast Speech, Feeding Requirement, Fingerprints, Flashbacks, Footprints, Four-Color Caricature, Frantic, Fur/Feathers/Scales, Gill Flaps, Glory Hound, Glow, Goliath Syndrome, Habitually Sneaky, Hardened Skin, Heavyweight, Heartthrob, Hibernation, Hormonal Imbalance (Lust), Hormonal Imbalance (Rage), Hubris, Hyperflexibility, Impulsive, Inhuman Grace, Jinx, Malformed Muscles, Masochism, Mega-Bitch, Mega-Klutz, Megalomania, Metabolic Quirk, Mood Swings, Molt, Monodexterity, Multiple Personality Disorder, Muscular Strain, Neckless, Nervous Tic, Obsession, Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, Object of Desire, On Edge, Oozing Skin, Oversized Limbs, Paranoia, Party Animal, Parasite, Permanent Power, Prima Donna, Psyche Mirror, Quantum Beacon, Quiver, Radioactive/Taint Bleed, Rampant Synesthesia, Ravenous, Restricted Diet, Retarded Aging, Romance Junkie, Romantic Irresistibility, Sadism, Samson Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Second Self, Seizures, Sensitive, Sensory Dysfunction, Sex Object, Sexual Aberrations, Sheer Hideousness, Shifting Features, Sinister, Sloughed Flesh, Sociopathic, Spastic, Spurs, Strange Scent, Surreality, Supersensitive, Sweathog, Symbiont, Temperature Change, Teratodactyl, Twisted Limbs, Uncontrollable Power, Uncontrollable Transformation, Unsure Footing, Twisted Perspective, Vestigial Limbs, Voyeurism, Vulnerability.

The Savant

This Archetype focuses on discovery, understanding, insight and introspection. These novas are contemplative and analytical souls driven to explore and uncover the mysteries of the world and the potential of their own mind. Understanding everything beyond their current knowledge and expanding the ability of their will to shape the world are their main concerns. Good nova abilities for Savants include: Mental Mega-Attributes, Mega-Charisma, Mega-Manipulation, Animal/Plant Mastery, Armor, Biomanipulation, Cyberkinesis, Deflect/Redirect, Disease Authority, Disimmunize, Disintegration, Disorient, Disrupt, Domination, Elemental Anima, Elemental Authority, Elemental Mastery, Empathic Manipulation, Entropy Control, ESP, Flight, Force Field, Gravity Control, Healing, Holo, Hypnosis, Immobilize, Immortality, Incorporation, Information Manipulation, Intuition, Invisibility, Luck, Magnetic Mastery, Matter Creation, Mental Blast, Mirage, Molecular Authority, Molecular Manipulation, Momentum Control, Node Spark, Poison, Premonition, Psychic Shield, Quantum Authority, Quantum Awareness, Quantum Bolt, Quantum Construct, Quantum Forgery, Quantum Imprint, Quantum Regeneration, Reanimate, Reincarnation, Resurrection, Sensory Shield, Spatial Manipulation, Strobe, Stun Attack, Telekinesis, Telepathy, Teleport, Temporal Manipulation, Transmit, Warp, Weather Manipulation.

Aberrations that Savants may manifest include: Absent-Minded, Aberrant Eyes/Ears/Nose/Skin/Tongue, Albinism, Allergic Reaction, Altered Gestation, Altered Tongue, Amnesia, Analytical, Anima Banner, Antennae, Attention Deficit Disorder, Bad Luck, Bad Temper, Bald, Big Head, Bipolar Disorder, Black Thumb, Bug Eyes, Cannot Lie, Cold, Cold-Blooded, Compulsive Blackmailer, Contagious, Convivial, Cowardice, Delusions, Dictator, Distractible, Disturbing Voice, Enlarged Eyes/Ears, Ennui, Estrus, Extra Sensory Organs, Eye of the Beholder, Fashion Disaster, Feeding Requirement, Flashbacks, Flippant, Four-Color Caricature, Fragile, Frantic, Glory Hound, Gravitas, Greedy, Habitually Sneaky, Hairless, Heartthrob, Heavyweight, Hormonal Imbalance (Lust), Hormonal Imbalance (Rage), Hubris, Hunchback, Hyde Syndrome, Immobile, Impotence, Impulsive, Incredible, Intrigue Junkie, Jinx, Judas Syndrome, Laughable, Legless, Light Touch, Masochism, Mega-Devious, Mega-Klutz, Megalomania, Mischievous, Misinterpreted, Mood Swings, Monodexterity, Multiple Personality Disorder, Muscular Atrophy, Negotiator, Nervous Tic, No Sense of Humor, Obsession, Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, On Edge, Paranoia, Pathological Liar, Permanent Power, Prankster, Prima Donna, Quantum Undeath, Radioactive/Taint Bleed, Rampant Synesthesia, Retarded Aging, Romance Junkie, Romantic Irresistibility, Schizophrenia, Screwball Magnet, Second Self, Seizures, Sensitive, Sensory Dysfunction, Sexless, Sinister, Skeletal Atrophy, Sociopathic, Soft Touch, Sponge, Supersensitive, Surreality, Tactless, Transparent Skull, Twisted Perspective, Twisted Sense of Humor, Uncontrollable Power, Unearthly Beauty, Vestigial Body, Voyeurism, Vulnerability.

The Ego

Many people develop a strong interest and/or identify with some natural or social phenomena, and make up a career or a hobby studying, working, or dealing with it. After the eruption, this may translate in nova powers or enhancements that allow control of this aspect of nature or make the character the best in dealing with it, such as a Mastery technique or a Mega-Attribute. As for the Archetype, these powers develop immediately after the eruption, and may be the source of aberrations.

Everybody has the nagging, recurring fantasy about being significantly better in some personal feature: stronger, tougher, quicker, smarter, more charismatic or appealing than the reality. It is a universal theme since adolescence, so every character is likely and entitled to develop some (up to 4-5) Mega-Attributes even if his Archetype, personality or eruption do not otherwise call for them (most do, anyway). These do not necessarily belong to the same category. Several people desire to be both stronger and smarter, or tougher and sexier. On the other hand, it is a rare person who really cares about being the best at everything, so a nova is unlikely to develop Mega-Attributes in almost all of the attributes. In addition, almost all novas are likely to manifest at least some degree of Mega-Stamina, since anybody desires to lay down the burdens and frailties of the human body, such as age, disease, and physical imperfections, and it is a natural outgrowth of the features of nova form.

The Id

Develop the unconscious side of the character: everybody has hidden fears, desires, impulses he is unaware of. They often show up as the character flaws, personality quirks, weaknesses and vices of the character. Think about how these flaws would translate in superhuman features if magnified beyond all measure. These powers generally are appear either at the moment of eruption or later than other powers, and are often strong but tainted. Many aberrations are the expression of powers tied to the “dark side” of the character. Aggression, seduction and defense are powerful and universal instinctual impulses, so any nova is likely to develop some (1-3) powers that are the manifestation of them, such as an offensive (like Mega-Strength or Quantum Bolt) or defensive power (like Armor or Force Field), or a Social Mega-Attribute.

Fight or Flee Reaction

The eruption is generally a significant force in developing a nova’s outlook. If one or more of the powers or Mega-Attributes called for by the character’s personality are adapt for dealing with the situation, they manifest at the eruption, and are generally the most powerful the character will have. Otherwise, choose one or two powers that might be used to efficiently deal with the situation at hand. In either case, do not limit to the obvious. Human mind may concoct very convolute trails of thought while under stress. Almost any kind of eruption event is a dangerous or stressful event, which is quite likely to activate the instinctual “fight or flee” reaction. This generally expresses in the nova manifesting some (1-3) powers, even otherwise unrelated to his personality, that make him more adept to deal with, survive or escape the situation, such as an offensive or defensive power or a means of rapid escape (like Flight or Teleportation).

Identification

The character may come to manifest some nova abilities simply because of cultural expectations about some powers all novas should have. A century’s worth of superheroic literature, plus several years of having seen those same mythic figures come live on Opnet, has created some deeply-ingrained beliefs about the abilities most novas are likely to display. Moreover, some nova abilities are really more widespread in the nova community than others, further reinforcing the expectation. Therefore the character might have some abilities just because everyone, including him/her, believes that all novas can do these things. Appropriate abilities in this category include Armor, Flight, Force Field, Hypermovement, Mega-Dexterity, Mega-Strength, Mega-Stamina, Quantum Bolt. Similarly, a character might manifest some powers just because they strongly identify with some fictional superhero or famous nova that has a similar ability. This is not usually likely to make the character the carbon-copy of an already-existing nova NPC (unless the identification is strong enough to mold all the mindset of the character and is strongly engrained in his subconscious), but it may cause the two novas to have partly-similar power arrays.

Sublimation

Lastly, the character might have consciously trained himself to develop some power after eruption. As a newly created nova character is supposed to have erupted fairly recently, he is unlikely to have had the time to develop many new abilities. So a character should be allowed to have only one or two unrelated powers that are otherwise not justified from his Archetype, personality or eruption. Some justification is called for this development: the character has a Mentor, belongs to some nova organization (Project Utopia, Teragen, Elite Agency) that offers ample access to training of quantum abilities (with the appropriate Backing) or has dedicated most of his time since eruption to training new powers (and therefore is unlikely to have high ratings in mundane backgrounds like Resources, or Influence).

It is very likely that there will not be enough nova points to translate all the features you think of in nova abilities: nobody said to become one’s own godlike ideal was simple. Earmark the leftover abilities for future developments. These are the new powers the character will develop spontaneously (I.e.: without need of much conscious training) in the future as he accumulates experience.

As regards development of new nova powers after character creation, there are several main routes that might justify this:

  1. Broadening
    The character gains better or expanded control on one of his abilities. This may translate as gaining new enhancements or techniques, or powers that are the outgrowth of lesser or related abilities. E.g.: Quantum bolt into an Elemental technique, Disintegration into Matter Control, Shape shifting or Healing into Biomanipulation, Social Mega-Attributes into Domination, Mega-Strength into Telekinesis.

  2. Expanding
    As time passes, new powers that spring from the personality, ideals, aspirations and unconscious of the character may manifest. The character continues to metamorphose into the ideal or unconscious image of himself.

  3. Second-eruption
    The character may well undergo some extreme experience that he is not able to solve or deal with his existing powers and his node may react by suddenly manifesting a new power under stress.

  4. Training
    The character may realize that some power would be quite useful to cope with his type of work, or address with his chosen agenda, and therefore consciously train to develop it. Since developing a new quantum ability is a significant effort that requires copious amounts of time and/or resources, no nova in his right mind is likely to undergo it without a serious motivation. E.g. an aberrant on the run from Project Utopia or the Directive may see the utility of getting shapeshifting abilities, or an Elite tired of being the biggest target on the field might appreciate the benefits of Invisibility.

  5. Chrysalis
    This is actually a super-efficient way of doing 1 and 2. The Teragen nova becomes more and more closer to her personal archetype in her quest for evolution.

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