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Sprocket

Aberrant RPG - Advice For Playing High-Powered Novas

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Folks, I have some questions for the Aberrant players here, especially those who have played in high-powered chronicles. You see, one of the topics I'm writing up in Aberrant: Nexus - which is about 60% written at this point - will be guidelines for playing high-powered novas and making such chronicles as fun for everyone as possible. This matter was touched on in the "Power Isn't Everything" gray sidebar on p. 67 of the Aberrant Players Guide, but apparently it did not go anywhere near as far as it should have. I'd like to correct that, & it looks like this ebook will be my last shot at doing so.

I also write this after having read the archive for the "Children of Quantum Fire" game held here at RPGPost. From what I can tell - and please do correct me if I'm mistaken - not everyone who played in that game found it as satisfying as it should have been. So there's me second impetus to correct this error.

So my questions are as follows:

1- What were the problems with playing high-powered novas - 2ndGen or otherwise - that you encountered? Were they due to the geopolitical situation of Earth in Aberrant regarding powerful novas, or something else?

2- What do you suggest that a Storyteller could do to fix those problems?

3- If not everyone was getting the type and level of role-playing action they desired, what could a Storyteller do - either before the gaming begins or during it - to fix that?

If you have any other relevant comments, feel free to add them in also _ I might have missed something important.

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1) The main issue with high-powered novas is that they are effectively gods. Most of the characters in QF could have destroyed the world multiple ways if they got into a snit and decided to. How do you make interesting challenges for such characters? I think part of the frustration with the game ended up being "well, it's either all social plots or we blow up the world - maybe even only accidentally - if we actually get into combat". Also, novas as any sort of persecuted minority is just effing laughable at that point, and playing a "future" game becomes a question of "so, how long before novas are the only people that matter because the mega-brains can make a completely need-free civilization through q-tech, the mega-socials can quantum-xanax entire nations into complacency, and the mega-physicals can just threaten to punch your entire continent off the planet if you don't behave." High powered novas make Superman look like chump change, and that makes any sort of realistic Earth-based game an absurd proposition.

 

2) Really, the only two answers I've ever heard are "do something to lower the effective power of the novas" or "take the game off Earth and don't involve baselines at all because they're not even useable as cannon fodder."

 

3) This is far too complex of a question to answer generically and usefully. The answer is always going to be "adjust the game to provide the most fun for everyone involved", but how you do that is going to depend on the specific player, PC, and game mix you have going. 

 

 

The problem with high-powered vanilla Abby games is that the system scales up exponentially, has major mechanics holes, and includes powers like make your own universe. It's not a game at that point, it's interactive cooperative writing because the mechanics don't really matter anymore. By removing pretty much all limitations on characters via high Quantum rating, Mastery, and Lvl 4+ powers, you've removed the ability to actually challenge the characters in any meaningful way, and that means you've removed the capability of plot

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Small questions with big answers.

 

I'm going to try to keep specific to my experiences in that game, so as to hopefully prevent the post bloating and going off the rails.

 

I played Genesis in Children of Quantum Fire, and my experience playing her was simultaneously really interesting and really boring. I was interested in the idea of the character...in exploring her motivations and methods. Very early in the game, she made up her mind about what she wanted to do. Her actions in the game were entirely enacting those plans, and reacting to the complications that arose in the process. She was a transhumanist to the core, but had an emotional attachment to humanity and Earth that prevented her from just up and leaving when she could have. She wanted to leave Earth and its inhabitants in a better place than it was when she started. She wanted everyone to (eventually) have the same chances she'd had to decide with total freedom the course her existence would take.

 

So that was the 'challenge' of the game for her. Never so much about fighting, though that did happen sometimes. It was never about what traditional RPGs call challenges. She wasn't the biggest, baddest-ass nova around, but the level of force she could bring in potentia was more than satisfactory to overcome conventional threats. The challenge was one she selected for herself; fix the world before leaving it. And like the carpenter trying to get all four legs of a chair even, she had to do this without just grinding it down to nothing in the process.

 

That was the interesting part. I really liked that. It was unique to my RPG experiences, and it kept me in the game far longer than I probably should have been.

 

It was also a huge problem, because what makes a game FUN is characters interacting and having conflicts and resolving them and being PEOPLE. And Genesis wasn't that. She was an interesting character, a fascinating one for me in fact, but she wasn't fun. Because so much of what she did was abstract and removed from the world, and designed to create ripples and waves and mid-to-long term perturbations that would resolve ongoing global conflicts that she very rarely actually talked to anyone. And when she did, she didn't have much to say. No one else in the game was operating on the 'wavelength' she was on. And frankly, I don't think anyone else could have. Not because of stats or anything, but just because her plans were as deeply personal as they were global in scope. They were about clearing her conscience, so she could move forward with her own transcendence with no regrets and no lingering doubts. The challenge, the conflict, and the resolution where entirely confined to her own head, her own heart, and the extent to which she could work her will on the world and those in it.

 

When working with other people became not just extraneous but actually counter to her goals, it just kind of all became a sort of solo story couched within the larger framework of the game's setting. A solo story that only interacted with the game in sometimes tenuous ways.

 

And it got boring. Really boring. Interesting, but boring.

 

I don't know if that's something any high power game of Aberrant (or any other game that allows deific power ceilings) is doomed to encompass, and I don't know if others had the same issues I did. Genesis was not like most of the other characters as far as I could see, in terms of her ambitions and the stage on which she worked. But I suspect that creeping alienation that oozed in the gaps between omnipotent people working in their own private sandboxes took it's toll on us all, if in different ways.

 

Perhaps more involvement from the GM could have helped, at least for a time. Complications that hooked PCs and dragged several into the same problem would have helped. Complications that set PCs at odds with one another, forcing them to compromise or conflict would have been interesting. But I recognize too that doing that would have required a LOT of work, and mountains of creativity, and the ability to out-think pretty much everyone on a fairly routine basis. I don't know how realistic that is to expect of anyone.

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A lot of the issues you've mentioned here reach across the game systems and afflict every game that allows god-like power gains.  I ran a D3.5 game fro level 1 to the point of epic levels in excess of 40 and ran into more or less the same issues.  Once you go beyond level 25 a character is like unto a demigod walking the earth and is utterly unassailable by common peoples as well as almost anything in the basic Monstrous Manual. 

 

1- What were the problems with playing high-powered novas - 2ndGen or otherwise - that you encountered? Were they due to the geopolitical situation of Earth in Aberrant regarding powerful novas, or something else?

 

Everything Puck just said regarding hi-level novas (or anything else) applies here.  Once you reach godlike levels of power, mere mortals have no value or meaning.  once you have the power to leave the world behind and take over/terraform/CREATE others, the Earth is just a ball of dirt. No mortal organization is going to stand up to a handful of mildly irritated nova-gods.  And no mere mortal will EVER be as perceptive or clever as a nova super-genius so it doesn't matter how subtle or tricky they are, they WILL be found out and quickly.

 

2- What do you suggest that a Storyteller could do to fix those problems?

 

The only viable opposition to a hi-level nova is another hi-level nova.  An ST must be aware of that before they begin so they can start grooming these nemeses early, or end the game before it gets to that point.

 

3- If not everyone was getting the type and level of role-playing action they desired, what could a Storyteller do - either before the gaming begins or during it - to fix that?

 

There is no easy answer to this question, because there are no ideal game situations.  If an ideal situation existed, you could separate the combat monkeys into one group, the politicos into another, etc... and then cater each game to that specific character need.

 

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OK, that gives me some concrete points to work with (and confirms some of my suspicions). Many thanks for that! Once I distill all this down to the absolute basics, hammering out the last part of Chapter 3 should not take very long.

 

That said, if anyone else wants to give further feedback on this, please do so! I'll be checking this thread every so often as I work on this material.

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Also, I'm finding I like the concept of what Krul is doing with Paragons - keeping it high-powered, but capped at Q5 for PCs - and emphasizing theme a bit more to prevent power bloat across the board.

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I think the most important thing to remember about having a high bar for a game, is to encourage players to stick to a concept, but also to grow "laterally" along that theme, not just trying to find every "I Win" button they can grab and toss > 5 dots into.

Paragons seems to be a game like that... why I'm looking forward to it. :D

 

Also, as an addendum: I've thought if I ever did a high-power Aberrant game, I'd design it where people have what they want for the most part, but there would be no further advancement in XP.

Might create some design forethought with that idea...

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General announcement: Many thanks to you all, the writing has re-commenced. I think I've got everything I need to hammer out some useful rudimentary guidelines for Storyteller attempting to run high-powered Aberrant chronicles. That will finish the writing for Chapter 3 (Storytelling). After that's done, all that's left is to finish up the "Extrasolar Space" section of Chapter 2 (Sojourns In Spacetime) & Appendices #2 (Telluric Weirdness/Fortean Events), #3 (The Discarnate) & #4 (The Doyen). Minor additions to Chapter 4 (New Powers & Stuff) will also be made as needed.

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