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Dave ST

Aberrant RPG - Aberrant, What's Your Gripe?!

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Mala got me thinking, so, I'm curious: What's your biggest problem with Aberrant?

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If you change some things... what would they be?

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I wanna hear it, no holds barred. C'mon, gimme your best.

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(No dick rule applies, guys. Debate if you must, even trash talk, but in the end respect everyone's opinion. What I like, you might not, and that's cool. We're all adults, act like it.)

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I think my single largest complaint with the line is not the mechanics, but scatter-shot support of the setting. It seems so random and often times way less useful than having, y'know, released support books for the Aberrant faction.

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On the mechanics side, I hate the scale up of Megas (especially the auto-damage on M-Str) and the crap-ass mechanics for resistances and social powers.

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I think my single largest complaint with the line is not the mechanics, but scatter-shot support of the setting. It seems so random and often times way less useful than having, y'know, released support books for the Aberrant faction.

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On the mechanics side, I hate the scale up of Megas (especially the auto-damage on M-Str) and the crap-ass mechanics for resistances and social powers.

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She summed it up for me.

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Hm. Well, beyond the bugaboos already mentioned:

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I have problems with how several of the powers work. For example, Adaptation is the only way to gain environmental immunity to different things, but it always applies equally to every kind of environment, including ludicrous ones like the cores of stars and so on. In theory things like Elemental Anima and Mastery are versatile, but in practice they manage to hit an odd sweet spot between too vaguely defined (no one seems to have a clear idea of what constitutes an 'element') and too overdefined (regardless of your chosen 'element,' the list of powers available to you is very specific and rather underwhelming). There's a few other spots that are weird too, like using Mental Illusion to put someone in fake handcuffs...can they move? There's nothing stopping them, but they're also afflicted with the belief they can't. Granted, that's a very specific thing, but it illustrates a general issue I have with the relative lack of mechanical reasoning that's gone into the power design in Aberrant. The powers seem more often designed to be flashy or 'cool,' and often omit or leave vague important information about how to USE them.

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The system puts more emphasis on 'mega-attributes' than I like...with some abilities that really ought to be available regardless of attributes being inextricably linked to possessing super-attributes. The lack of support for super-tech is also disappointing, though partially addressed in later sourcebooks.

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It's not the worst system. It's not even a terrible system. But it's a long way from where my comfort zone for supers-games is right now. I do have to give kudos to the designers for wedging an even somewhat playable system for superheroes into the old paradigm World of Darkness rules.

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I'll admit it. I hate Taint. Like really, really hate it. I know why it was included in the game (aside from all the crap about WW wanting emo superheroes); to serve as a marker of inhumanness, which was only necessary because they tied the meta to another system in another game entirely. However, Taint is largely useless as envisioned. It was way too hard to get rid of ICly, which meant players avoided getting it. Once players knew how to get around it, they invaribly did. Unless the ST forced it on them, they generally ran far, far away from it. The end result of Taint is also annoying. Any mechanic that causes you to lose control of your character forever is a bad mechanic.

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1) Like most TT RPGs, Aberrant lacks a coherent system for gadgeteering/engineering which leaves it helpless when a PC want's to play the equivalent of Iron Man, which is perfectly valid if your PC erupts as a supergenius.

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2) I get what they thought they were doing with Taint (showcasing the dehumanizing aspect of having more power than your fellows and the distance it creates in social settings), but they once-again used it as a cheap morality beat-stick. There was never any reason to mutate a character into an unplayable monster in order to draw attention to that paradigm.

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3) As I understood it the basic thesis of the game is supposed to be "People with Powers" not; comic book caricatures (Utopia), Manchurian conspiracy (Proteus), Cold-war + big brother (Directive), or even theorem of transhumanism (Teragen). They very quickly lost sight of the People aspect and dove face-first into the Factions. Ironically enough, the nova celebrity entertainers held more of a sense of realism to me than the people of the factions, as did the various criminal organizations that employed novas. People in this world given powers like these are less likely to work together and more likely to pursue their own agenda. They're either going to go on a spree of instant gratification and/or vengeance as they shed the limits imposed upon them by society, or they're going to withdraw from all the bullshit entirely and make themselves inaccessible. Only after they purge all that learned helplessness from their system will they deign to think about working towards a common good.

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4) The foregone conclusion of the Aberrant War is yet another iteration of the complex that gives rise to Gehenna/Apocalypse/Ascention War/etc. It's a reflection of the need to spiral all humanity down into self-inflicted destruction. You can't tell me that, given some actual thought on the subject as opposed to hardline dismissal, you could not find a way to progress Aberrant to trinity without this inevitable collapse in the future. And even if you could find a rational reason why it should be inevitable, what makes you think that this supposedly perfect age of Aeon-trinity is in anyway immune to the same? Eventually you step back and look at the real message being sent here: that human society literally cannot function without destroying itself, and then you have yet another zero-sum game.

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I agree with most of what Dark has said. I have one issue with the post (I bolded the parts I am looking at):

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3) As I understood it the basic thesis of the game is supposed to be "People with Powers" not; comic book caricatures (Utopia), Manchurian conspiracy (Proteus), Cold-war + big brother (Directive), or even theorem of transhumanism (Teragen). They very quickly lost sight of the People aspect and dove face-first into the Factions. Ironically enough, the nova celebrity entertainers held more of a sense of realism to me than the people of the factions, as did the various criminal organizations that employed novas. People in this world given powers like these are less likely to work together and more likely to pursue their own agenda. They're either going to go on a spree of instant gratification and/or vengeance as they shed the limits imposed upon them by society, or they're going to withdraw from all the bullshit entirely and make themselves inaccessible. Only after they purge all that learned helplessness from their system will they deign to think about working towards a common good.

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It is in no way true that this is the only way that people are going to react if they are granted powers. Many young men of a certain age bracket will absolutely follow this either/or model, as well some young women. Many older people who have already shaken some of that 'learned helplessness' will choose another path, while older still will likely be far more defensive of themselves and their interests. You also are speaking from a Western perspective, which prizes individual action over the needs of society. Other cultures shape people in other directions.

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To make this an all-encompassing statement, without considering that individuals are individual and shaped by gender, experiences, culture, etc, is as flawed as saying that everyone joins a faction.

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Hm. You're right. Not everyone in the world lives in a coldly exploitative culture like ours. I wouldn't count on many outright altruists, but at least the lion's share of rampage would be from heavily westernized cultures. You must know different older peoples than I do, most of the ones I know harbor deep-rooted grievances that would blossom into more (and perhaps a little more justified) rages.

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I know my family and circle of friends, who'd never feel the need to go on a vengeance spree. They'd never consider a rage justified; while they might entertain the thought, they wouldn't do it. And there's just one example of how a Western culture can also produce people who wouldn't go full-on self-interested but who would see the larger picture. In my own case (because ultimately, that's the only true POV I can offer), my post-powers pattern would look something like:

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1. How can I benefit myself?

2. How can I benefit my blood-family/friend-family?

3. How can I benefit my world?

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I don't think any of those questions could be answered by: killing everyone I felt ever wronged me. Trust me, if angry thoughts alone were enough to kill, my brother-in-law would be a crispy smear on his living room floor. But if I had the power to actually do that to him, I wouldn't, because I don't believe that's the way I should treat another human being - even one as heinous as him. Nor do I believe that Rush Limbaugh should die. I think he's a reprehensible human being who attacks and belittles people because he's a money-hungry attention-whore but he's still a human being, with all the rights and privileges that grants him. He has every right to be a money-hungry attention-whore, just as I have every right to have my own opinions.

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I'd have to agree with dark about the Meta's spiral into oblivion, when logically any player characters if a chronicle goes on long enough could have the swagger to break the chain. But the longer it goes the harder the job it is to fight.

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Also, everyone here knows I -hate- GrimDerp. The spiral to the Aberrant War is one of the defining GrimDerp moments in Roleplaying.

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To be honest, outside of plot there is also something that sort of rustles my jimmies, and that is the Merits and Flaws system.

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Now at least in my case, I usually use flaw points only to buy merits, and if I don't take merits I usually use the BP for small stuff from the Flaws.

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What I have noticed is outside of some obvious flaws that deserve the high value, there are some minor things as Flaws that really don't fit as a flaw at all (Costume Fetish is really a roleplay quirk than a actual Flaw-worthy thing to me), and the stuff on the table for Merits just isn't meaty enough, and some things are overpriced by one or two on the Merit side. Flaw-side, it's just a weird thing. Some things shouldn't be there, and past 1 pointers the RP cost is waaaaay big.

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Yeah, Flaws should hurt, but these flaws are sometimes cruel and unusual in some aspects.

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I'm just stating what people haven't stated, only mentioning something covered here already as I agree and it was the biggest gripe I got.

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In fairness though, the Merits and Flaws were imported more or less wholecloth from World of Darkness, where they also blew chunks. :)

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There's Aberrant-specific stuff in there, but it's all based on the same mindset of how Merits and Flaws should function in the game. Personally, I like that in the nWoD system there are no "flaws". If you want to give your character some kind of complication ala Flaws, that's your rp choice, not a way to bilk more BP points out of the system.

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What about things like being a paraplegic or having missing limbs? Taking something that can be a obvious hindrance should have some sort of payback. Then again the mild psychological quirks getting 1 BP thrown at them makes me laugh.

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Why? Why is the player entitled to points because they chose to have their character have some hindrance? If the hindrance is because the player wants to play a character with those obstacles to overcome, then why do they need the added incentive of more points?

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They'll have more opportunities to showcase their character overcoming said obstacle, which in many systems (the nWoD included) also encourages STs to hand out xp for doing well, so you already have an ongoing potential gain, but one that requires the player to actually role-play the hindrance, as opposed to taking the Flaw for added BP and then only ever remembering it when the ST makes a point about it during the course of game.

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Ya know, coming as I do from a background in GURPS and Champions, I get what you're saying.

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But I've come to disagree with it in the years since.

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A crippling disability is one of two things: A roleplaying challenge that the hero has enough of a solution for that he/she can work around it...or a crippling disability that would preclude the character from being a superhero.

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Getting points for it means you're either getting what amounts to 'free points' or you're making a character who won't be able to participate in the adventures very much, and thus won't be fun. It's a zero sum game, that forces the GM to choose between giving you an unfair advantage, or make the game frustrating for you.

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Keeping that sort of thing in the realm of Complications that can offer you a little spare advancement potential (or similar mechanics in God Machine) means that you get the RP potential, and a little spiff for using it well...but it's generally assumed that your blind hero has some means of operating without sight, or your paraplegic has an awesome mecha-wheelchair, so you're not really at a disadvantage under most circumstances.

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Which is nice, because that is 99% of the time exactly how people play it when they're getting points for it too.

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Yeah, that's sort of mentioned in M&M 3. Most "front loaded" flaw systems leave a player thinking of ways to wiggle out of what's given. I do like how M&M does things, but I don't think that's compatible with Storyteller's paradigm.

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TBH, if I mess with Storyteller... won't touch flaws... Pay for merits with the BP you got...

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God Machine does something very similar to Complications, except that they're even more tightly bound to gameplay.

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It's intriguing...I hope to try it out soon and get a more concrete notion of how it works in play.

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I have a number of issues and gripes with the system, most of which have already been mentioned, but I'll elaborate on one: Mega-Attributes.

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Yes, I love Mega-Attributes, like how they scale up the effects of the base attribute. But what I find annoying is that they are often way better to buy than another dot in a power with the associated attribute. Yes, sometimes you get a benefit for buying another dot in a power (usually just an extra die to roll and a bit more range,which I've almost never had seen being an issue, but sometimes more), but most of the time, the Mega-Die is a superior bonus, and that isn't considering the Mega-Attribute can be applied to a larger array of skills and powers, and can also provide other bonuses (like from M-Str or M-Sta). Further, increasing the Mega Attribute costs usually costs the same as the power (same cost as a Level 2 power) or is cheaper (compared to a Level 3 power). Yeah, buying up Intuition or Bioluminescence would be cheaper (but the Megas are still better).

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Too often, you're set just buying the first dot of a number of powers, then upping your Megas (especially if many of your Powers use the same associated Attribute). I suppose you could level things out by providing a bigger bonus/increase for buying extra dots for a Power, but that is just pumping more and more power.

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A fix I've been toying with would be you can't apply more dots of a Mega-Attribute than you have dots in the Power. That sound reasonable and fair, or am I being too conservative?

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I think that is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Megas are sort of limited by one; by the level of your primary attribute AND two; your quantum rating. To limit their application to a power goes from a balanced use of a Mega into making a Mega attribute lose much of it's use. It adds a further layer of consideration that isn't really necessary. You don't get the "bang for your buck" from your power if you just take one dot then tank up on Mega Dots. You'll not be as good as someone who got both the power dots and the mega dots to match.

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Yeah. look at Shadowrun. Someone with a higher related Stat to a Skill would do just as well as a well-trained individual who wasn't as good with their stat. Also, overall, a person can't build a character in SR on those benchmarks they have as they wouldn't have the points to cover what they're supposed to be good at.

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Any game with a Statistic plus Skill system runs into the paradox of the character who isn't that good in a skill but wicked with an attribute does just as well as the well trained but weak in a stat character. Something that does not happen in real life.

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Of course then we head into GNS theory, and that is a whole different can of worms.

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I have a number of issues and gripes with the system, most of which have already been mentioned, but I'll elaborate on one: Mega-Attributes.

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Yes, I love Mega-Attributes, like how they scale up the effects of the base attribute. But what I find annoying is that they are often way better to buy than another dot in a power with the associated attribute. Yes, sometimes you get a benefit for buying another dot in a power (usually just an extra die to roll and a bit more range,which I've almost never had seen being an issue, but sometimes more), but most of the time, the Mega-Die is a superior bonus, and that isn't considering the Mega-Attribute can be applied to a larger array of skills and powers, and can also provide other bonuses (like from M-Str or M-Sta). Further, increasing the Mega Attribute costs usually costs the same as the power (same cost as a Level 2 power) or is cheaper (compared to a Level 3 power). Yeah, buying up Intuition or Bioluminescence would be cheaper (but the Megas are still better).

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Too often, you're set just buying the first dot of a number of powers, then upping your Megas (especially if many of your Powers use the same associated Attribute). I suppose you could level things out by providing a bigger bonus/increase for buying extra dots for a Power, but that is just pumping more and more power.

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QFT

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It may have been addressed by others on this thread already, but here's my largest gripe with Aberrant: the writers did not provide any support for making deviations from the metaplot. Sure they mentioned that doing so was fine & all that (Aberrant core book p. 103); but they did not go out of their way to actually point out any means, methods or opportunities/events that would alow such changes to be made. Instead, they remained committed to their idea of Aberrant as a historical precursor to (and accordingly trapped by the future history of) Trinity.

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Between the grimderp (I like that new term!) of the First Aberrant War & the prospect of powerful nova PCs sacrificing themselves for a world that hates & fears them (the "Solar Guardians" nova group mentioned in Trinity's The Story So Far), that never held much appeal for most of the people I've ever played Aberrant with.

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I think the issue is this: Many picked up Aberrant because of the Superheroic tropes on the cover and were sorely misled with the typical 1990's WW 2edgy4u concepts inside it's covers. We here have had some success playing outside of canon. and it didn't require much, if anything to do.

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For instance in Aberrant; Taint is the bogeyman that would claim all of the non-Terat novas at some point. But in all honesty with the rules it's hilariously easy to dodge said Taint. So in some of our settings Taint was treated more as a disease in some settings or glossed over as a warning of abusing power.

To be honest one of the variant universes I was in, one of my characters developed a treatment for Taint but Taint-caused aberrations stayed because of the damage such extreme levels of Taint caused. Of course it was a universe that really diverged from core.

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A fix I've been toying with would be you can't apply more dots of a Mega-Attribute than you have dots in the Power. That sound reasonable and fair, or am I being too conservative?

I had that problem, then I began treating powers like skills: the number of dots are a measure of your actual proficiency. Characters who attempt to just max out success with their Megas found that I only allowed them to use a number of mega dice in proportion to their skill in that power.

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So if they had Q-Bolt 1, they could only roll a single Mega-Dexterity die in conjunction with their Attribute + Power activation roll. If they had remaining Mega-Dice they were still permitted to lower the difficulty of the feat they were attempting, so high Mega-Attrbutes were still very useful, and favored, but it put a kibosh on the 'one dot in the power, max the att, blow the wings off a fly from 10 miles away' crap.

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