Aberrant without the single origin setting, since some people really want to be magical or god-blooded or whatever.
- 1 Gods Among Us
- 2 History
- 3 The World
- 4 Technology And Magic
- 5 The Blessed
- 6 Character Generation
- 7 New Rules
Gods Among Us
In the beginning, there were always those who stood above the pack. Heroes, sorcerers, tyrants, godlings. Those men and women who are gifted with such power are always fulcrums on which history shifts and changes, regardless of what they do with it and what they can do. Supermen have shaped all of history... and are still with us today. You are one of them. Perhaps you have found enlightenment by one of a thousand different fashions. Perhaps you are a descendant of some inhuman god or alien viral weapon, holding divine ichor several times removed. Perhaps you have found your power from some artificial means-whether fortunate accident or mass-produced enhancement. Or finally, perhaps nobody knows why when probabilistic scans are focused on you they find a major fulcrum on which the world will turn.
This is an alternate history of sorts, which postulates that not only are most myths and legends real, but those creatures of myth and legend and their larger-than-life heroes never faded away. The world is one touched by those with power that might let them do much more than normal men and women, no matter what that spark comes from. The major divergences though come in the 19th century and past, wherein the fictional worlds created by Verne, Wells, Lovecraft, and other fantasists are more true than suspected.
There are sunken city-ships under the seas filled with dangerous and incomprehensible alien beings and their servitors. There were aliens on the moon, Martians did invade the Earth and were driven back by a combination of disease and superpowered adventurers, and with the right equipment you can journey to Hollow Earth.
History has been significantly changed in the details, although the general thrust is relatively similar. There was still a World War I and World War II, a Cold War, and more. Some events and people changed, and certainly the wars were fought with more advanced technology, but even so, history is largely familiar events given a fresh coat of paint. Worries have shifted from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia to terrorists and non-state entities, nations still start advanced weapons programs to deter other nations, and people still worry more about how they look for their date than they do about existential risks.
In the 2.0 revision of Aberrant, the assumption made is that humans can reproduce and assist with, but cannot be the primary designers and engineers of, super-scientific advancements such as antigravity devices or faster than light drives. In this setting, this is not only possible but has been happening for more than a century. An additional assumption is that there are more than just the triat of paramorph, eximorph, and psychomorph. The various superhumans in existence can be magically adept, children of ancient gods, government experiments, and more.
What Exactly Has Changed?
Technology is more advanced, with the more optimistic beliefs of science fiction coming true, as well as some level of urban fantasy. In the distant future of the year 2000, there were in fact flying cars and moon colonies, there were aliens, people could get cyberarms with guns in them, and so on. There are werewolves and vampires, and if they aren't precisely hidden, they don't exactly go out of their way to associate with humans or advertise their existence. Aliens have visited the Earth, and some of them are hidden and discreet, while others have happily announced their existence to all involved. Mars actually has canals on it, and had at least one sentient species.
The first and second World Wars were interplanetary wars, fought in orbit and throughout the solar system. The mystic moon is inhabited by humanoids who were once subjects of the British Empire. In the 1950s to the 1970s, America fought wars on Mars, in orbit around Jupiter, and in the lush, life-bearing mystic shadow of Venus. North and South Venus stare warily at each other through a demilitarized zone, and the Martian War was the blow to the west's prestige and a wakeup call, just like the Vietnam War. It's a world where aliens invaded in the 1980s and forced a truce between the Warsaw Pact and NATO to hold them back until mankind could protest its case successfully to the Galactic Council. It's a world where this truce and the resulting boon of technology caused the Soviet Union to crumble years late.
And most importantly, people are stronger, faster, longer-lived, smarter, and better looking. It's a world where the lab accidents that resulted in the birth of superheroes never went away, but like the accident of penecillin, were mass-produced and improved on. It's a world where alien invasions happened and never could be covered up, where research into magic and alien artifacts gives results that are reproducible, mass-producible, and snapped up by governments and private sector corporations throughout the world. It's a world where the existence of mystic forces and realms where elves and fae and dragons dwell has resulted in trade and official recognition of the two. But in the end, it's a world where all these gifts don't result in utopia.
It just results in people acting like people, but more, exaggerating human weakness-and human strength.
The Material World
The Material World is the world that is most familiar to the average resident of Earth. It is the one where billions of men and women make their living, and where tens of millions of superhumans (and even more lesser transhumans) spend most of their time. The prosaic world works largely as reality does, but with several major differences in terms of superscience. The presence of superhumans and superscience have made it possible for humanity to reach space and colonize it long before it has been possible in reality. Millions of people live on colonies on Mars or the Moon, with several other smaller manned outposts throughout the solar system. The space race occurred during the 1860s and 1910s between the Great Powers of Europe, seeking new territories to claim and new worlds to conquer.
Mars has been the site of several colonies, ever since the British Interplanetary Society set out an ambitious plan to put men on every rocky planet in the solar system. The original Mars colonists were a hardy lot of dreamers and idealists, creating
The Mystic World
There are places in the world, chancels of mystical energy upon ley line intersections or sites of great magical significance or memory leaks in the operating system code of the universe, wherein you can step into a forest or a spooky abandoned house in the prosaic world-and step out somewhere amazing. In the mystic world, unicorns and dragons have never died, there are elves and faeries, the moon has an atmosphere, and you can go frolicking on the forests of Venus, getting there via ley-line travel or a chariot pulled by swans. In the mystic world, many things thought to be solid (or at least quantifiable) in the prosaic realm are less so.
The mystic world is wilder and untamed compared to the material world, with perhaps a hundred million inhabiting the world alongside other sentient species. However, as seductive as the mystic world is, it is more dangerous than the material world, having never been tamed by the hand of man. Dragons and serpents roam free, the woods are filled with mystic animals that are as deadly as they are exotic, and the sentient species in the mystic world are often as capricious as they are powerful, having inspired many of the myths and legends. Even the aetheric void between planets and stars is just as dangerous as the cold vacuum of space, although the chances are much higher that one's death will occur from horrific monsters rather than slow suffocation.
Technology in A World of Magic
The mystic world accepts technology to some degree, but the high ambient magic levels make it harder to apply and more expensive, relatively speaking-and the relative ease of ritual devalues it. Technology is only adopted en masse if it provides something that magic could not, or provides something magic does and is cheaper. And sometimes, there are political concerns. The result is a world where what technology generally is often centuries out of date, outside of fortified high-tech enclaves seized and never returned during the ages of colonization and imperialism. Early 19th century technologies are the norm, as those are the most advanced devices which can still reasonably accept enchantment. Repeating firearms, revolvers, and cannon exist alongside swords, enchanted plate armor, and sorcery.
The high aether levels have stabilized technology at this level for the most part-anything significantly more advanced is hard to enchant and difficult to construct in a world where complex machinery is exceedingly sensitive to ambient conditions, anything more primitive requires too much enchantment to achieve effectiveness-although very high magic races will sometimes eschew post-medieval technology, making up technical disadvantages via extensive enchantment.
On the other hand, mundane colonies have been established, enclaves supported by high technology. Often located in ebbs in the aether field surrounding the world, these colonies use hardened technology to provide themselves with a quality of life that is equal to anything in the prosaic world's metropolises. Often tourist towns for the adventurous, these enclaves are accepted as a fact of life nowadays, providing a constant source of luxuries and trade.
Deep in the Earth, there is a molten mantle and white-hot core. But this is due to the physics of planetary formation, which take an eternal holiday in the mystic world. Underneath the mystic world's Earth, there is a tangle of caverns and underground dwellings, some caverns covering tens of thousands of square kilometers of area with ceilings dozens of kilometers high, others tiny enough that no man can fit inside. Throughout this hollow Earth, lit only by the glows of luminscent fungi growing throughout, strange creatures dwell, the dark-elves so famed for their mastery of the forge, blind predators, wingless dragons, albino cyclops, giant insects, and other stranger creatures.
Nazi Germany found and established cities and slavecamps in Hollow Earth, places to mine for valuable materials and seek resources for the war effort-and finding allies who found the ideals of facism and racial superiority to be not just acceptable but admirable, which brought the second Great War onto the mystic realm. Invasion of Hollow Earth by Allied infantry was slow-going even with superior numbers and technology, and nobody can confirm that every Nazi outpost and colony was found. Perhaps there is still a remnant of the Third Reich, gathering strength in the shadows.
The Shadow Moon
The shadow Moon is a place where you can get to from Earth, on a chariot pulled by swans. It is a place where magical rabbits live, sometimes taking humanoid shape, sometimes not. Unlike the prosaic moon, there is an atmosphere, allowing people to inhabit the moon without any use of breathing gear. However, this is not to say the moon is safe. Where the prosaic world is dead, the mystic is inhabited by all sorts of fey creature, many of which are dangerous if provoked, and some of which are dangerous without any sort of provocation. A handful of cities were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Great Powers, but constant harassment and raids by fey creatures, the Great Wars, and the turning tide of public opinion, have kept human presence small.
Venus, Realm of Life
Underneath the thick clouds of Venus in the mystic realm is not the most hostile environment known to man. Venus in the mythic world is teeming with life, almost every inch overgrown with some sort of living thing. Hot and humid to the point of being nearly unbearable, but not actually deadly, a few paleolithic tribes were the only human settlers on Venus, sharing the elvish forests for millenia, until the prosaic world's appetite for new pharmaceuticals to enhance quality of life brought explorers and scientists here. Some tribes, human or elvish, made accomodations with these new invaders, trading knowledge and land rights to , but others took to the forests to fight a campaign of guerilla war to preserve their way of life, causing the pharmaceutical companies seeking their fortunes to hire adventurers, mercenaries, and occasionally beckon for governmental aid.
Although popular opinion has turned largely against imperialistic conquest, less-scrupulous companies and nations still seek their fortunes regardless of who they step on in the process.
In the mystic world, the high concentration of ambient magic transmutes common materials into something more. These ideal elements, so termed because they are mystically resonant versions of prosaic ones, are valued for their magical properties by many, and their rarity drives their prices through the roof. Although the mystic world uses most of the Ideal Elements, a trickle of trade comes from the colonies and outposts inside the mystic world set up by modern nations, seeking tools to enhance their country's power on the world stage.
Orichalcum (Ideal Bronze): Idealized bronze is prized for its hardness and durability, as well as its ability to hold enchantment. Valuable for enchanted armor and weaponry, orichalcum commonly finds its way into the armor and arms of the knights of the mystic world.
Quicksilver (Ideal Mercury): Quicksilver flows like mercury, but can be solidified with the proper alchemical treatments. In this solid form, it is prized for its flexibility, strength, and light weight, and is easily enchanted with the protean ability to shift shape, as well as with the ability to increase speed.
Thaumium (Ideal Uranium): Thaumium is created when the reflections of uranium ore deposits in the real. Like uranium, it is slightly radioactive, but its radiation is entirely harmless to non-magical beings, tuned solely to be hostile to mystic power. Depleted thaumium is merely extremely resistant to magical effects, but the enriched versions can be used to create the so-called 'spirit nukes', although the radiation pulse of spirit nukes is entirely harmless to humans and mundane creatures. Mystics exposed will find themselves with their ability to command earth and the heavens temporarily gone, while mythic creatures will be annihilated, rendered soul-dead. Like uranium, thaumium is dense, hard, and self-sharpening, allowing for its use in ammunition.
Technology And Magic
Magic is real. Magic is the knowledge of the mind's ability to command weaker, inert matter. Magic is ritual designed to beseech the aid of gods. Magic is a bug, junk code creating errors in the universe that can be exploited for one's own benefit. Magic is some sort of arcane tangent to quantum physics and observer theory. The debate over the origins of magic is as heated as any academic debate gets, but the debate whether it works or not is effectively settled. Magic is real and works, and most reputable colleges offer programs of study in the mystic arts. Magic is dependent on the environment for its power-the fifth classical element, the pure Aether which was believed to power the gods, is used and manipulated by magicians. In the mystic realm and other ares with high concentrations of ambient magical energy (Aether), anyone can work their will on the surrounding world. Outside of those areas, only extended ritual or having the gift of Imagos, the sight that gives mystics their ability, can provide magic the magnitude and scale of effect necessary to be worth the effort.
The most common form of magic is ritual, as the ability of magic to cause harm has largely been outclassed by its ability to function in a support role. Enchantment by smiths, curses and blessings, illusions, and alchemy are the basic cornerstones of magical teachings today. Direct offensive spells, as they take a while to prepare, are woven into charms that can be easily invoked rather than cast 'on the spot', especially since small meteors and lightning bolts might have been impressive in medieval times or antiquity, but are largely outclassed now.
When magic and technology compete directly, magic is often displaced. A ritual to call down lightning bolts and an artillery strike are broadly comparable-but the latter is mass-producible, less environmentally sensitive, and doesn't require someone who's studied the mystical arts for a decade. But there's always a market for blessings, curses, scrying, and wards, and until that stops existing, the mystic arts will not be displaced. Even still, the steep learning curve of becoming a sorcerer, the rarity of the gift of Imagos, and the relatively low demand in the material world have left magic there rare, although in the mystic world the unpredictability of technology (which is, there, essentially just another form of magic) have reversed its proliferation in the mystic realm.
Aether crystals and similar magical batteries allow magical items and weavings to be powered even in low-magic areas, recharging themselves when not in use via ambient aetheric concentrations. Individually handcrafted like all artifacts are, these crystals are rare and expensive, but a prerequisite for any artifacts which still work reliably in low-aether zones. These incredibly durable crystals come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but are generally designed to resemble precious gemstones and decorations for aesthetic reasons.
The subtle fluctuations magic creates in reality often cause problems with sophisticated machinery when placed in direct proximity. Basic Aether hardening takes this into account, allowing for hardened high-tech tools to function reasonably well in high-aether zones, even fairly close to active magic, but enchantment, by definition, infuses all of an item, bypassing the shielding. As such, direct enchantment of complex designs is essentially impossible. The only forms of 'technomagic' are handcrafted, irreproducible wonders, the magnum opuses of highly respected enchanters and smiths which take decades to design and complete.
As such, few people put much stock into technomagical advancements, limiting commonly produced magical items to relatively primitive designs. As many magical schools are isolated whether by location or by choice, few of their graduates come out with the knowledge of advanced technology necessary to create technomagical artifacts. Vice versa are the schools of science and engineering which offer study programs in sorcery-a four year program simply cannot cover what often takes two decades of apprenticeship or more to learn, and few people have the masochistic streak necessary to double-major in engineering and witchcraft.
The bread and butter of the world, technology here is more advanced, more idiosyncratic, and much less prosaic than the real 21st century. In the 1800s, Wells-Effect antigravity cruisers, using cavorite crystal to escape the grasping fingers of Earth's gravity reduced the importance of the oceangoing battleship, and were soon upgraded to allow them to break atmosphere and achieve interstellar flight. The early naval clashes between Great Powers around the Earth, Moon, and Mars setup modern naval doctrines, which proved themselves during the Great War and Second Great War. Who could forget the race to send extrasolar probes in the 1960s and 1970s? Or the temporary pause in the Cold War due to having to fight off a conquering alien flotilla in a similar situation, just having found their feet in the sea of stars and deciding to find more territory to conquer and impound?
But technology is not merely steampunk and retro-futuristic ray guns and rocketships. Super-science is as often cutting-edge work involving cybernetics or genetic manipulation as it is pulp sci-fi, and when someone figures out something that's useful, they make use of it. Those who have lost limbs to war or accident have the choice of gene-typed flash clones, or replacement with superior prosthetics. More than a few wounded military veterans, out of a sense of duty, or perhaps the need to be the best they can be, choose to eschew being rebuilt 'just as good as they were' for lightweight hex-frame skeletal members and carbon nanotube musculature. Railguns, seeker rifles, and a plethora of technologies that are more cyberpunk than Forbidden Planet exist alongside atomic rayguns and flying aircraft carriers.
The first thing people said when someone in a tragic lab accident or weapons test turned out to get superhuman abilities was "that's amazing!" The second thing they said was "can we duplicate it for our own use?" The answer is, more often than not, "yes, to some extent". Ever since the first incidents of mad science gone wrong (or right) creating monsters and saviors, heroes and villains, people have sought the secrets of being more than they were. Whether via pharmaceutical, cybernetic, genetic, or other, more arcane means, uncountable trillions of man-hours and the GDP of entire nations has been sunk into harnessing these processes and making use of them.
And more often than not, they work. Their results may be too expensive to provide everyone with, or otherwise flawed, but becoming more than human has increasingly become a requirement rather than an option, with boosted soldiers increasingly becoming the norm ever since the success of supersoldier battalions on both sides in the Second Great War. Increasing proliferation of these to third-world countries and extranational groups, despite attempts to restrict such augmentation to non-combat improvements only, has become an increasing concern as costs have gone down and the percentage of the population which can accept augmentation has increased.
The side benefits from military research have leaked into the civilian world, creating men and women who are faster, stronger, healthier, and often somewhat smarter than their pre-historic predecessors, often by significant degrees.
Dynamic archetypes come from all walks, but their claim to fame is that they make things happen in accordance to their imagination, rather than having fixed powers and boons.
Mystics are those who harness their wills and magic to do amazing things. These mystics come in many forms, from ancient gurus to kung-fu masters to dreamers and solipsists, and harness their overwhelming knowledge of reality to provide themselves with strength. Most mystics come from an ancient tradition, but there are more cutting-edge 'mystics' who believe in the existence of the universe as a computer system, with rules and access priorities which can be hacked-or other more esoteric methods of harnessing their power. These men and women come in many forms but are universally forged via some form of epiphany, an enlightenment that comes with an understanding of structures in the universe that have been harnessed by shamans and seers for ages.
The gift of the mystic is Imagos, the ability to shift and warp the world via willpower alone. Their failing is Paradox, the fact that the human mind, no matter how enlightened, cannot account for every variable in the universe-not well enough to prevent any backlash from happening.
Gurus are mystics who came to their power by birth, gifted already with power despite never having formal training. Their gifts and failings are identical to those of mystics, but they do not come to their knowledge via study.
The power of the mystic is a valuable one, but the intensive training needed to allow most mystics to use their powers fully was a problem for those who sought to win the posthuman arms race. In the 1940s, Nazi Germany had stumbled upon a few mystics of incredible talent, one as young as 12, and subdued them at great cost. They sought to find out why they had such talent with almost no training through painful, horrific experiments. Although unsuccessful in the end, their research was distributed across all the Allies and eventually developed by the CIA and Soviet Union, in Project STARGATE and Project SV8 respectively. By recruting those few with the talent for 'Wild Magic', the use of Imagos without formal training, they eventually cracked the problem. Initial trials were incredible, creating mystics so attuned to the fabric of the universe that they were immune to their failings and required little training to use their power. This came at a price. They soon found out that the human mind was not intended to have enlightenment forced onto it, not this sort of horrible, dangerous enlightenment-and the children of this experiment gained some of their power. These children are Espers.
The gift of the Esper is Imagos. Like mystics, they can shift and warp the world via willpower alone. Their failing, though, is Insanity. They have been enlightened beyond what the human mind was supposed to comprehend, and the mind rebels.
Those who have blatantly superhuman ability, whether it includes the ability to lift a tank over their shoulders while running, firing bolts of lethal energy, creating forcefields, manipulating the elements, or the like, come from a variety of sources. There are those who are the sons and daughters of gods or other powerful beings that exist in the mythic world, blessed by the ancient and powerful blood of god or demon or dragon or spirit. Some were never actually human in the first place, harnessing these mythic powers because everyone in their race can. On the flipside, there are those who have been infected and altered by the dragon's teeth of the Priors, enhanced with the ability to warp reality until they get what they demand, or the successor programs based on the legacy of the Priors.
The Priors disappeared millions of years ago, but left a legacy. Sometimes this legacy was a honeypot, other times a genuine gift, yet other times a Trojan Horse. Humanity has encountered all three. Their main gift was an augmentation virus that has long since infiltrated the genetic code of mankind, laying dormant for a trigger that will never come. But sometimes, the virus mutates. And sometimes, this mutant virus goes active, and gives someone in a threatening situation great power, metastasizing into a network of augmentations which allow them to reshape themselves and the world around them. For a brief moment, they have near-omnipotence. And then the limitations of the interface and the human mind kick in, damping them down to a much lower level, generally giving the subject 'merely' what they have dreamed of being. Or perhaps feared-the augmentation virus was never properly calibrated.
The gift of the metahuman is Interface. The machinery in the virus has given them the ability to reshape reality, in theory to their whims, but in practice a power much more limited than that-as the interface deepens between machine and man, the power they have grows in depth and often breadth. Their failing is Inhumanity, as the virus slowly shifts them into a form most suited for survival and its unknown agenda.
Angels and demons, gods and monsters, have walked among mankind for eons. During this time, some of them have taken mortal lovers, and some of these lovers (or these demigods) have borne children. These children are heroes, one and all, given powers from the union of their parents. Most of them find their way into the arms of mankind and seek out their destiny there, being a god among men rather than a man among gods. Others are powerful enough that they can survive and thrive in the realms of their supernatural parent, finding their destiny there.
The gift of the Scion is Blood Potency. The more potent the supernatural blood that flows in them, the more potent their powers. Their failing is sometimes Inhumanity, sometimes Hubris. Some Scions come from such inhuman bloodlines that to think as a human and to look like one is a chore. Other Scions find it easy to become arrogant about their superiority to most of humanity.
Dragons, powerful demons and spirits, angels, and more all have their own powers. Some of these races are powerful enough to count as major superhumans without any aid, or perhaps have legendary members of their own race, heroes in their own right. The most powerful races are rare, often long-lived, reproducing and growing extremely slowly. Weaker ones may be almost as numerous as humanity, or perhaps even more numerous, in the case of alien empires.
Most alien races lack gifts or failings, they simply do what they do and thus have a fixed Power level rather than a gift. If statting them out as a player character in, use the Scion template.
Those who do not have the luck to be born to a god, one of the rare people with the talent and skill to become a true mystic rather than just dabble in the arts, or have a motivation and a destiny heroic enough to have the weight of history rest on their shoulders have a few options. They can live life as themselves, or they can attempt to seek out some form of technological improvement. Although out of reach of many due to sky-high demand driving already exorbitant prices even higher, it is quite possible, although often risky, to buy godhood if one is so inclined, seeking out ancient djinns or celestial beings, becoming inducted in the armed forces of a nation capable of affording significant enhancement, or just outright buying the technology . Whether the price comes in servitude, in money, or in other favors, it is rarely anything less than onerous.
Those who become Augmented have the blessing of Augmentation, super-science alterations imprinted in their genetic code, kilometers of enhancement circuitry winding its way through body and mind. Their failing is Rejection, as their body sees the alien technology as an invader and fights against it with all the force it can muster.
Heroes are those who do not have any incredible superhuman power, just pluck, luck, and a hell of a lot of skill. Heroes are superhuman but barely so, unlocking hidden potential that few knew existed that seethes in the human genome and incredible good luck, paired with near-inhuman levels of ability. Heroes lack the might of the mystics or the supermen, but they do not need it. Their supernatural luck, incredible skill, and ability to do the seemingly impossible is more than enough to make them competitive with the others.
The gift of the hero is Arete-excellence. In every way, they are excellent, in every way, they can succeed. Their failing is Hubris, for with great power often comes arrogance, and pride goeth before a fall.
"Nova Points" no longer exist and are called "Transformation Points" (TP) instead. Similarly, Quantum no longer exists, instead all character archetypes have their own powerstat. Furthermore, powers no longer have a minimum Quantum requirement. To compensate, buying up a character's Blessing is made somewhat more useful and generally adds +1d to the activation rolls for any power which is not already affected by Quantum/etc (such as, for example, Animal/Plant Mastery). Powers which lack activation rolls and are independent of Quantum in Aberrant gain their own special effects.
Blessings are the name for the source of power that a character draws from. Each blessing provides the character an ever-more-refined ability to affect the world with their incredible superhuman ability.
Being a great man is not all cookies and sunshine. Failings are the side effects of power. Some character types have Failings that work like Taint, slowly accumulating permanent disability. Others have Failings which work more like Exalted's Limit, relatively quickly accumulating points and bleeding them off. Failings can bring benefits, but are often more trouble than they're worth.
The control of Imagos demands strength of psyche and spirit, and the mystic learns this through the motions of ritual magic. Mystics start with Willpower 5 instead of Willpower 3, and 3 free dots in the Occult ability.
Gurus and Espers
Scions inherit traits from their inhuman parent. Scions gain up to 15 XP in body modifications in accordance to what abilities the parent had. The son or daughter of a shapeshifter, for example, may gain Appearance Modification and Multitools to represent limited shapeshifting.
Augmented characters pay 4 TP per level of Augmentation rather than 5 due to the relatively harsh penalties of Rejection and the low benefits of Augmentation.
Heroes are men and women to whom excellence is second nature. Heroes gain an additional attribute dot for each category (primary, secondary, and tertiary), making their attributes 8/6/4 instead of 7/5/3, and gain 5 free dots in any one ability, above and beyond their 30 starting ability dots.
New Character Abilities and Backgrounds
Secret Identity: This background is primarily for 4-color inspired games wherein characters are expected to be costumed superheroes (or villains) although it can be used for espionage-heavy games as well. This background gives the character a secret identity and an alibi, allowing them to live at least one life without being noticed. Each dot in this background adds +1 difficulty to any attempts to recognize the character or find their secret identity as long as they take basic precautions. In a 4-color game, those precautions may be as simple as 'have a different costume and a small mask' but in a grittier game it may involve separating superhuman and mundane life, keeping even close friends and family members in the dark. A character may buy this background multiple times for multiple secret identities.
Device/Artifact: Replacing Eufiber and Gadget, this background provides enhancements to a single mundane device of any sort (Vehicle, weapon, armor). However, this background costs double if enhancing very heavy weapons, vehicles, or similar large devices (anything weighing more than 20-30kg), and cannot be used to enhance anything larger than a car. Signature Gear gives a single item indestructability under normal conditions and attunes the item to the character, and also each dot in the background improves an item, with all benefits being cumulative. Device may be purchased multiple times to have multiple signature items, and is often the basis for a gadget.
- Device or Artifact */**/***/****/*****: The character has a single exceptional example of a (relatively) mundane item. Each dot in the background provides two of the following enhancements to the item, although no enhancement may be bought more than (Device rating) times. In addition, Devices are always attuned to the character and are considered nearly indestructable.
- +1 Accuracy and +1 Defense (for melee weapons), or +1 Accuracy and +100% Range (for ranged weapons)
- +2 Damage
- +100% Rate of Fire and Magazine Size
- + to all damage adds
- +1B/1L/0A Soak, and 1 Armor HL, or +2 Armor and 5 Vehicle HLs
- -2 Penalty (for armor), or +1 to Maneuverability and +25% to safe and maximum speed (for vehicles)
- +1 to a single attribute while in use
- +2 to a single ability while in use
- Item is disguised or has enhanced concealability (reduce concealability category by 1, or disguise the device as another device entirely)
Alternate Form (replaces Dormancy): Some characters have limited shapeshifting between two forms, typically with one much more powerful than the other. Alternate Form provides these characters with the ability to freely switch between such forms, taking 1 combat turn (3 seconds) per change. Even a single dot of Alternate Form allows for massive changes between the two forms, but additional dots allow for the alternate form to have some powers in its own right. Body modifications may apply to both forms or only the primary form. The rules given below assume a human or humanoid alternate form-characters who can transform into cats or rabbits or crows or the like may start with attribute adjustments and body modifications (such as Tiny). As a special benefit/restriction, Alternate Form does not adjust a character's health levels to reduce bookkeeping and also provide characters a margin of safety in their alternate forms.
- Alternate Form *: A weak alternate form. Lose all access to powers and Mega-Attributes, including the basic benefits of the character's powerstat. Body modifications may be used in either form by default, but may be defined as only manifesting in a single form (for disguise purposes).
- Alternate Form **: A moderately capable alternate form. The alternate form may have up to 2 TP of powers, retains the character's powerstat (at 1), and may alter attributes by +/- 1 dot, as long as the totals for each category (physical, social, mental) remain the same. The alternate form's powers do not have to be identical to those the primary form has, but should have some relation.
- Alternate Form ***: A more powerful alternate form. This form may have up to 5 TP of powers, retains the character's powerstat (at 1), and may alter attributes by +/- 2 dots, as long as the total attribute dots remain the same.
- Alternate Form ****: An even more powerful alternate form. This form may have up to 8 TP of powers and retains the character's powerstat (at 2). The character may have altered attributes as with Alternate Form ***. The character may also switch around body modifications for the alternate form as long as the XP total remains the same.
- Alternate Form *****: An alternate form which is extremely powerful in its own right. This form has up to 10 TP of powers and retains the character's powerstat at 2. The character may switch body modifications and alter attributes for this alternate form in an identical fashion to Alternate Form ****.
Adamant Hand (Dex, Special): The platonic ideal of a 'martial art', Adamant Hand is ritual magic in motion, with every forms and kata being a step in a magical ritual, providing masters of the art with supernatural ability. Rare and difficult to learn, this combat art costs double per dot to purchase with XP or BP and cannot be purchased via starting ability dots (this includes the bonus ability dots for being a Hero). If a character seeks to teach Adamant Hand via Instruction, the difficulty is (10 - lowest physical, mental, or social ability), and a student who seeks to learn Adamant Hand must have a total number of dots in Martial Arts (both Hard and Soft) equal to (desired rating + 3), and an Occult of at least 3. Furthermore, characters with any attribute lower than 2 cannot learn Adamant Hand at all, for it requires perfection in all things. Characters with any attribute lower than 3 may not advance past 2 dots, and characters with any attribute lower than 4 may not advance past 3 dots.
- Adamant Hand *: +1 Accuracy and Defense to all unarmed attacks. Add Adamant Hand rating to Stamina for calculating soak.
- Adamant Hand **: +1 Damage to all unarmed attacks. Character needs half as much water, air, food, and sleep (rolls for asphyxiation/dehydration/etc double their intervals). Double healing rates, reduce wound penalties by 1, and add Adamant Hand rating to Willpower for health levels.
- Adamant Hand ***: +1 Accuracy and Defense to all unarmed attacks. Reduce multiple action penalties by 1 for unarmed attacks only. Add Adamant Hand rating to Dexterity for movement speed and Initiative. Add Adamant Hand rating to Strength for jump distances and lifting ability.
- Adamant Hand ****: +1 Damage to all unarmed attacks. Reduce wound penalties by an additional 1 (total 2).
- Adamant Hand *****: +1 Accuracy and Defense to all unarmed attacks. Character may parry any attacks unarmed, even bullets and other fast-moving projectiles.
Occult (Int): Occult is applied and theoretical magic, the skill of using normal (i.e. not imagos) magical methods to accomplish tasks. It is used for rituals, enchantment, blessings and curses, and examining magical items. Although everyone can in theory learn magic, in low-aether areas the difficulty for all but the most minor tasks is quite high and requires extended rolls to succeed on. Occult has its own rules for common use.
Thought Control (None): Thought Control is mental hardening against mind control and reading, a method of thinking and mental discipline that allows a character to resist and shrug off mind control. Unlike in Aberrant, where superhumans are new and rare, the relative prevalance of militarized posthumans has led to this becoming a necessary skill for many. Each dot of Thought Control adds +1 to Willpower for the purposes of resisting mind-affecting powers.
Gadget Heroes and Limited Powers
Unlike in normal Aberrant, heroes can get their powers via advanced cybernetic implants, suits of powered armor, giant mecha, extended mystical rituals to unlock their actual power, and so on. This has mechanical support, as powers which are not always available are more effective for their cost. In general, if the powers can be denied to the character, they are worth less. Note that the TP gained in this way are by default limited to improving the power of the item in question which contains the character's powers. If the character wishes to use them to discount the gadget (and get Mega-Attributes, powers, imagos aptitudes, and so on that are not so limited), they halve the bonus TP.
Having powers come from a source that can be stolen or is not always available (due to hiding in hyperspace, requiring a few hours a day to recharge, or whathaveyou) gives 1 bonus TP per 10 TP invested. Having a source which are difficult to conceal, unsuitable for going around day in and day out with, and cannot be trivially summoned out of the aether when necessary (such as a bulky suit of power armor that weighs a ton, only having powers in certain areas, or a magical ritual that turns you into an eldritch horror, grant 1 bonus TP per 5 TP invested. Powers which are extremely difficult to use in normal circumstances due to size, locational, or other restrictions (examples include a ritual which only works in a specific set of circumstances, a giant robot, or powers that only work when in defense of the country or people whose soil you stand on) grant 1 bonus TP per 2 TP invested. Note that these limited power bonuses are only relevant if they are significant. A suit of skintight power armor that can be hidden under clothing (or even emulate clothing) is not considered 'unsuitable for day to day wear'.
Gadgets have a powerstat, Power Level, independent of the character's own capabilities, that determines their ability to throw around firepower. A character's power stat (Imagos, Interface, Arete, etc.) gives any gadgets they have that Power Level for free. For example, a Hero with Arete 3 may buy gadgets with Power Level 3 for free, without paying additional TP for enhancing these gadgets, and a gadget they buy with Power Level 5 only costs 10 TP to go up to PL 5. Characters who do not have powerstats may buy gadgets, but pay full price for the Power Level of each.
As opposed to Imagos, ritual magic is the purview of the sorcerer, witch-doctor, alchemist, and other occultist. Anyone can in theory learn ritual magic, although in practice acquisition of this knowleddge is difficult enough that few seriously immerse themselves into the occult. Those who do almost always live beyond the veil in the mystic realms, where technology is rarer and often generations behind what is available in the material realm due to aetheric disruptions. Ritual Magic provides a valuable service there, curing the sick, blessing the fields, providing enchanted tools and weapons, and more.
The ambient aether levels of the environment give all tasks via ritual magic a base difficulty-lower-aether areas make it nearly impossible for any rituals to be properly accomplished without significant teamwork and effort. Each roll for ritual magic is assumed to take 1 hour.
- Null Aether Zones: +8 difficulty, multiply successes required by 10
- Low-Aether Zones (most of the material world): +4 difficulty, successes required multiplied by 2
- Adequate Aether (low-power zones in the mystic world, chancels allowing travel between the material and mystic): +2 difficulty
- High Aether (most of the mystic world): +0 difficulty
- Aether-Rich: Successful magic ritual rolls gain an additional automatic success.
- Very Aether-Rich: Successful magic ritual rolls gain an additional 3 automatic successes.
Additional sorcerers can assist in rituals. Characters with Occult 1 add +1d, characters with Occult 3 add +2d, and characters with Occult 5+ add +3d to the roll. Similar to lab assistants, only up to (Charisma + Occult) additional participants can be used in a ritual.
Ritual magic can be used for various purposes:
- Blessings: For a blessing, each success rolled adds +1 to a character's dice pool for a single roll related to the blessing, or +1 to an attribute for the purposes of a static value (such as soak or movement speed). Although any number of successes can be accumulated, only a number of bonus dice equal to the caster's Occult score can be used at any one time. Additional successes past that allow the blessing to last longer. For unrolled blessings, the benefits last 1 scene, plus 1 additional scene per multiple of the bonus. For example, a ritualist with Occult 4 blesses someone with +Stamina for soak purposes and rolls 6 successes. He could have a blessing of +4 Stamina for soak that lasts 1 scene then becomes a blessing of +2 Stamina for 1 scene after that, +3 Stamina for soak that lasts 2 scenes, +2 Stamina for soak that lasts 3 scenes, or +1 Stamina that lasts 6 scenes. A character may only apply a single blessing to a roll at once.
- Curses: Curses work the opposite way of blessings. Every 3 successes rolled add +1 to the difficulty of an action that the curse affects, up to a bonus difficulty equal to the caster's Occult score. An individual curse only lasts for one roll, but multiple curses (up to a character's Occult score) may be stacked on a character.
- Healing: Healing rituals are a common application for ritual magic, providing characters rapid recuperation from wounds. Ritual healing has a base difficulty of +0, but this difficulty is increased by +1 for every 3 levels of wound penalty the subject of the ritual is suffering (so a character at -3 is at +1 difficulty, a character at -6 is at +2, and so on). Characters who are incapacitated count their wound penalty as their highest pre-incapacitated penalty, and add an additional +1 to the difficulty of the ritual. Each success heals 1 bashing health level or transforms a lethal health level to a bashing health level. This healing is not instant, but occurs over the span of 1 hour per health level healed. A character may not be subjected to such a use of ritual magic more than once per day.
- Enchantment: Enchantment is base +0 difficulty for anything simple (swords, bows, helmets, cuirasses), but more finely machined components increase the relative difficulty of enchantment. Anything more advanced than medieval equipment, such as muskets or late-era platemail, is at +1 difficulty to enchant. Machined tools and weapons such as repeating firearms are +2 difficulty. Extremely finely machined systems (such as engines, modern firearms, and the like) add an additional +2 difficulty, and being powered by an internal source (i.e. not being wind, water, or muscle-powered-this includes automatic and semi-automatic firearms, which are recoil-operated) add yet another +2 difficulty. Electronics add an additional +4 difficulty, and anything more complex than a vacuum tube cannot be enchanted. Each success on an Enchantment roll adds +1 to an item characteristic (accuracy, defense, damage, Bashing/Lethal soak, Destruction rating, reducing armor Penalty by 1, etc.) or +1 to any rolls where the item is applicable (so an enchanted rope can add its bonus to all climbing rolls, for example). 3 successes on an Enchantment roll allow the item to add +1 to any attribute or ability. No item may provide more benefits in any single category than the enchanter's Occult rating, and no item may have more total enhancements than three times the enchanter's Occult rating.