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Aberrant RPG - Taint Misbehavin


Ruckus
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My last post got me thinking...

How do you guys run taint?

My personal take on it is quite different from the books. To me it seems that taint was some what shoehored into the Aberrant game. I have always played taint as very different from aberrantions. For Instance, a player can buy "Tainted" abilities but must choose an aberration or gain a point in taint. They are not effected by one another. Nor do mental Aberrations actually exist in my game. Mostly they are byproducts of a unhinged individual and I let them get role-played out. In effect Abberations are the by products of your powers.

Taint on the other hand is more mental. It is the fact that you may thing you are human but you no longer are.

I think the best example of this is from ironically "Kill Bill Vol 2". To paraphrase: Superman is always Superman, he wakes up Superman, he pretends to be Clark Kent. And what are Clark Kents Attributes? He is weak, cowardly, and incompetitant. Clark Kent is Supermans opinion and characture of the human race"

In effect Taint could better be described as inhumanity ( to keep in check with our "gothic" betters).

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But Bill was wrong and was putting his own personal spin on Superman to better justify his own existance. Superman doesn't want to link Clark to Supes, so he plays Clark as a bit of a goof. I don't feel that is how he sees his parents, Lois, or most of humanity.

Please remember that Bill was a psychopath.

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Yes bil was a psyhco ( a very fun one) but you have to look at how Superman interrelates to humanity, What does he really have in common with any of them.

Has he ever been sick? Cut himself shaving, been scared of being mugged, attacked etc? In fact some people have commented on why superman always charges into something only to be run head long in an attack. Its because so little actually phases him that he has no need to be cautious.

To quote ZOD: He loves these people... Like Pets.

Second I must point out that he may care about lois, his parents, etc, but what odes he have in common woth them. I love my cat and care for him but we dont have much in common.

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I would disagree with Bill. Supes is always presented as basically being in love with humanity. If anything he would prefer to just be able to live life in Smallville being a farmer.

Supes is the disguise. The real man is Clark Kent. This is in complete opposition to Batman, who is the real guy, and Bruce Wayne, who is the disguise.

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I agree with Bill. Especially with Batman. Batman is a mask Bruce Wayne pulls on to deal with trauma and a fucked up psyche that never healed. Bats is as much psychotic as any of his Rogue's Gallery, which is why the stories are generally intriguing. He has a code of honor which keeps alot of his violent tendencies in check...MOST of the time...but Bats isn't sane and at heart he's just a fucked up, insane, genius kid that wants to hurt people. I think Frank Miller was closer to this in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS than people realize.

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Now another opinion. wink

Superman. Assuming Bill is approximately the age of the actor that played him, there was a time when Superman was exactly as Bill described him. A power fantasy living by his own rules that routinely played cruel tricks on his friends because keeping his secret was more important. Clark was the fiction and although there's truth to what Jager says on the subject Superman never failed to go over the top in making Clark the epitome of the worst in humanity. That superman's parents were long since dead and his ties to humanity were few and far between.

Eventually better writers took over, John Byrne recreated Clark Kent as the man with Superman as the fiction and we have a completely different view at the top today.

Batman. Definitely a fiction as has been explored by a variety of writers. The red herring is that although he is really Bruce Wayne, he is only truly himself when acting under the cowl. But while I think Ashnod is correct in most respects she missed the one defining motivation that overrides all others. Take away all else and you still have a man that is driven to see to it that no one else has to die. Miller played fast and loose with that in Dark Knight but even he didn't abandon it completely.

Power. When you're as powerful as Superman you (usually) don't need to worry about tactics and strategies.

What are they going to do? Kill him?

Taint. The default condition of the setting is that you don't have to worry about it unless you screw up routinely or decide that you actually want to explore it.

To quote a great insight "Nitzche was just another monkey." Taint is both one way to begin exploring what's possible, and a way to remind us that whether it takes us where we want to go or not the ride still isn't free.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Ashnod:
I agree with Bill. Especially with Batman. Batman is a mask Bruce Wayne pulls on to deal with trauma and a fucked up psyche that never healed.
And that's the point with Batman. Batman was born the moment his parents were killed. He was driven and focused to learn and to grow. "Bruce Wayne" became the social disguise for him to hide what he was doing and what he was becoming. Bruce Wayne is the guy who pretends to drink too much and fuck around constantly. That isn't real, that's Batman putting on the show. Batman isn't the costume, it's the behavior, the belief, the attitude. Bruce Wayne is only a show.
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Well, I disagree again. But you knew that. ^_~

Every tormented "hero" in the books has a trigger moment where they became someone else, using their public persona as a cover. The trigger moment doesn't change the fact that this person is still at their core a damaged being dealing with their trauma in the way that most satisfies them.

He still has to "put on the costume" in order to do Batman things. People aren't scared of him as Bruce Wayne as evidenced in Year One, where he almost got killed. Depending on the writer, Bats is nigh-unbeatable all the time or the intimidation factor gives him an unmistakable psychological and intimidating edge that he does not have without the cowl.

Batman is the disguise. He's a creation. Something that is a fabrication to mask the truth.

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I suddenly picture a seedy bar in the worst section in Gotham. A group of villianesses sit around a table when the latest villian to blow into town comes storming into the bar. After a stiff shot, she goes over to the table and joins the rest.

Newcomer: "I can't believe it! The guy I'm setting up turns out to be my mystery lover."

Catwoman: "So Bats told you he was Bruce, eh?"

N: "Wha!"

Poison Ivy: "Yeah. You feel kind of silly not having figured it out before. I mean, with all those gadgets and goodies, you would figure he would have to be a billionaire."

Harley: "Who? Billions?"

N: "I thought it was a secret identity?"

C: "Oh, it is. Joker's his oldest nemisis and he hasn't figured it out yet."

H: "Pudden?"

PI: "No, Bruce Wayne."

H: "Oh. Pudden is Bruce Wayne?"

C: "No, you idiot. Batman is Bruce Wayne."

H: "Ooooohhhhh ....."

N: "And I thought I was special."

PI: "Oh, you are. We all are."

C: "Indeed."

H: "Ivy?"

PI: "Yeah?"

H: "Whose Bruce Wayne?"

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I'm of the opinion that when it comes to Superman, Clark Kent and Kal-El, there isn't really a 'real guy' - they're all aspects of the same person, and part of the philosophical debate of nature vs. nurture. If given a choice of which one is real, though, I'd point to Superman.

He was born Kal-El, he was raised Clark Kent - he chose to be Superman. Kal-El isn't fully 'the real guy' unless you believe firmly that nature dictates everything about who you are, and Kal-El's culture is all but completely gone. Clark Kent isn't fully the 'real guy' unless you believe that your environment is the primary motivating factor in your life - and besides, Clark Kent wears glasses even though he doesn't need them, which means that Clark has an aspect of a disguise to him. And Superman is 'the real guy' if you're of the philosophy that you are who you choose to be. Superman is him saying "I'm not going to hide being an alien, but that doesn't mean I don't belong here and that I don't love this planet and everyone on it." Superman is his choice of who he wants to be and what he wants to do.

And all of them have to put on a facade of sorts when interacting with their respective spheres. Superman exists, in most people's minds, to save the day - he's got little time for friendship outside the club of heroes. He's using his abilities to his fullest, but his social interaction is limited to "Look out behind you!" Clark Kent is where he gets to socialize, but even there, he has to pretend he's a normal human being and he has to hold himself in check. He can't play pickup basketball or help you move, and he can't allow himself to stand out and be noticed. And Kal-El, on the off-chance he does get to deal with an element from Krypton's past, is reminded that their ways aren't his ways, and that even the powers he most associates with Krypton came about as a fluke in his environment.

Ultimately, Superman is unique. There's no one else like him in the whole universe. And the other side of being unique is being alone, and searching for who you really are. It's the story of the immigrant writ large - how do you assimilate without losing your cultural identity?

It's the same with Batman, only in some ways it's the opposite. Bruce Wayne, to his way of thinking, is a weapon and a means of support, a way to gather information and funding and turning it towards his endeavors. However, Batman is also the means of executing his endeavors - and Batman is a shield of sorts, unstoppable and always with a plan. Even Batman's weapon of fear is just that - a weapon. With Batman, the secret hidden fear of the character is that there isn't a real him at all - that all there is, are various weapons he's developed for a cause. To my way of thinking, he's gone so far turning himself into a one-man war on crime, that he's almost become just like the Batarangs and Batmobiles and Bat Mitzvahs he employs, and his struggle is to keep a small part of himself in control of his endeavor, instead of letting it control him.

I think this is why Superman & Batman know all of the other's various identities - in some ways they might be opposites, but one thing they have in common is a desire to forge their own identities rather than let others forge it for them. Superman wants to embrace both sides of his heritage in defiance of people who tell him he has to choose, and Batman wants to master his environment instead of letting it wound him again. I think that each of them know what the other one's like underneath the various facades they put on for people. And it's probably why they both get along fairly well with Wonder Woman - Diana, as the personification of truth, knows who she is and what she wants to be, and is the most confident of the three of them in her own sense of identity.

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Very good points Vixen.

Also, Clark is rarely portrayed as weak and cowardly in the comics. He's like every other human in Metropolis in that he's not going to try and take on posthuman villains with his bare hands. That's a job for (Da dadada daaa) Superman.

Supes is a pretty well-balanced fella. There is no distinction between Clark the human, Superman the hero, or Kal-El the alien for him.

Batman on the other hand is the true personality. Bruce Wayne is just a fiction-suit he wears in the daytime.

Regarding Taint and Aberrations. In the game I run they come from the same source. The quantum powers the Novas unleash are damaging to the very fabric of the universe. Like that Star Trek episode where they find out warp drives wear holes in space/time. The newly-formed Nova has yet to adapt to channel quantum, and so gets damaged in weird and nasty ways when it does it.

The Terats are on the road to finding a way to adapt. But Chrysalis takes too long, and taint moves too darn quickly.

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Batman has serious issues. Ashnod is right when she pointed out "Dark Knight Returns" as an example.

Superman also has issues. He's a nice guy, but he does tend to be a bit of a 'yes man' to American governments, even when they're wrong. The most I ever saw Superman act independently was in 'Kingdom Come'.

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All intelligent conversation aside, Kingdom Come rocked...

That being said, I think that taint and aberrations need to be more fully explored. Ive seen it as

A - A way novas are different from humanity on a basic level (we become less human)

B - A malfunction of quantum... basically side effects (Q-Backlash disorder so to speak)

C - An evolutionary thingy (Crysalis)

D - An effective tool to munchkin the hell out of an already abusable system (Pretty much anyone who takes the "permanant power" option without it actually negatively effecting their char)

To that end, Ive actually been interested for some time in quantifying the different taint systems... basically some system variations. Id like to see some options because the current system seems kind of catch all and

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Taint is definitely vulnerable to munchkins. However, in the games I GM I have set the following rules.

1) Starting characters cannot have a Permanent Taint higher than 4. As it's still in character creation I allow the Player to choose the aberration they recieve.

2) Beyond that first aberration it is the decision of the GM what the Player recieves as they taint up. That tends to prevent people using Taint to buy half-priced powers, etc unless they really have to because they know I'll take full advantage of their greediness to hit them with something nasty!

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Depends on what you're roleplaying doesn't it? Some nutballs actually enjoy being solid mercury 20 seconds away from a mental melt down and wouldn't go into a coffee house or a bar on a dare.

Those are the ones that want chow down taint.

ST: Okay, so Billy the radioactive cyclops pops into the chemist and the two old ladies at the counter immediately begin melting while the other customers scream in terror. So what's Billy doing now?

Player: MUHAHAHAHAHAHA

ST: Aw heck with it. Let's just play DandD.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Jager:
Permanent Flight is an interesting one. Looks kind of mundane, but what happens to you when you sleep?
guess it depends on whether you can hover. smile makes bad dreams more threatening, doesn't it? One wrong twitch and poooooof, across the sky with you!

Otherwise if you can't hover in your sleep, I imagine you could have some kind of harness to reign you in while catching winks.
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Quote:
Ashnod:Otherwise if you can't hover in your sleep, I imagine you could have some kind of harness to reign you in while catching winks.
They better be strong if you have Mega-Strength.

Quote:
Tarot: Depends on what you're roleplaying doesn't it? Some nutballs actually enjoy being solid mercury 20 seconds away from a mental melt down and wouldn't go into a coffee house or a bar on a dare.

Those are the ones that want chow down taint.

ST: Okay, so Billy the radioactive cyclops pops into the chemist and the two old ladies at the counter immediately begin melting while the other customers scream in terror. So what's Billy doing now?
More importantly, what is T2M doing right now? They will show up for something like this (as will the Directive, local heroes, etc). Billy’s player then perhaps gets a sliver of wisdom on what levels of taint he wants to live with and he can put this to use with his next character.
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Local heroes? Oh, you mean public defenders. wink

That's kind of an interesting observation on taint. I don't disagree with it but as much as the character Tarot likes to needle the character Totem, I as a player kind of like the fact that characters like that can be around. Without being actively persecuted T2M, Public Defenders and every other node floating around the area jsut for being him anyway.

As a simple response to a simple scenario your response is okay but as a definition of conflict or the usual response its pretty limited and will get boring quickly. As far as longevity fo characters; look around at the characters that populate Prime and tell me honesty how many of them you really think would survive a year in an Aberrant world.

Yeah, that player might get a sliver of wisdom out of the experience. Or the ST may have to start looking for people that are more interested in having the higher initiative and winning the combat. Both reactions are valid and depend on the group you're gaming with.

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Quote:
Originally posted by Tarot:
... so Billy the radioactive cyclops pops into the chemist and the two old ladies at the counter immediately begin melting while the other customers scream in terror...
Even though I was using a system very similar to Sphere:- A maximum of 7 taint for beginning characters (since revised downwards to 5). Also the ST get's a large amount of input on the initial aberrations and most of the input with regard to future developments. Something like this happened...

Player: I'm standing next to him and using my molecular manipulation power to transform a small stone into a gold nugget.

Myself: Puzzled expression OK... May I ask why?

Player: Because you said that when I use my powers my taint makes me give off hard radiation and it will do aggravated damage to most Novas.

Myself: Stunned silence.

If there is a way for a player to manipulate and abuse the taint system some of them will just have to find it.
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The thing was I was trying to give the character concerned a moral dilema. It doesn't hurt you when you use your powers but it hurts those around you. Of course the player turned the whole thing on it's head and made it into a weapon.

Thus munchkining his way out of some roleplaying wink

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Quote:
Originally posted by Samhra:
I need to get myself a real-time roleplaying group.
For me, its four years and change before I can back to TT gaming. I'm getting really tired of getting invited and having to say "No".
frown
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