Aberrant Society Edit
Aberrants feature strongly in many Trinity stories, but players and Storytellers both have a tendency to gloss over them as "taint-maddened freaks", or dismiss them entirely. Perhaps they are too alien for one group, not alien enough for another, and a third thinks the concept of 'returning superheroes' is laughable. Like them or not Aberrants are a staple of the setting; not just as the stereotypical default bad guy but as the tragic, twisted reflection of humanity obsessed with power. At its base, Aberrants are storytelling tools for an object lesson in absolute power.
Future Fates Edit
Some players may be wondering what happens to their favorite nova NPC between the end of the detailed Aberrant setting and the time of Trinity. Apart from Divis Mal, we're leaving this up to individual Storytellers. We could detail how Caestus Pax grew disillusioned and turned on the humans who no longer idolized him and now lives on a moon somewhere with Scripture, Kikjak, and Elvis, but quite frankly that’s nothing to do with Trinity. Those characters had their time in the limelight in Aberrant, and while you are certainly free to name-drop them in your own game, we need to focus on the main events of Trinity.
What of Divis Mal? He spent a lot of time away from Earth thinking deep thoughts and developing his powers. He eventually created his own universe and disappeared into it, never to return.
The Aberrant Condition Edit
Aberrants use taint to change the world around them. Thanks to mass-media saturation, people of the Trinity era commonly believe that taint drives the Aberrants mad. This is not the case. It is true that to manipulate taint, Aberrants develop a gland in their brains that presses on the prefrontal cortex — a golf-ball sized lump of flesh called a Mazarin-Rashoud node. This node in and of itself does not necessarily lead to mental decline. In many Aberrants, their lust for more taint sees to that.
Aberrants use taint radiation to affect reality on the quantum level, one step removed from the subquantum level used by psions. Taint applied to the quantum world stimulates the fundamental forces, and as an end result the world changes to match the Aberrant's whim. Taint breaks the normal laws of physics in doing so, and that takes an awful lot of raw power. As people in the Trinity Era understand it, taint is homogeneous; whether it is the power an Aberrant uses to rip holes in reality or the diseases and afflictions that such powers bring with them, though many Edenite “novas” like Apollo Milliken demonstrate a marked difference between the two effects.
Using taint leaves an Aberrant marked both physically and mentally. Aberrants often display physical mutations, from the merely cosmetic (blue skin, three eyes) to the more useful (claws, tentacles). No matter how apparently useless these mutations, they all serve to distance the Aberrant from humanity — the less human he looks, the less human he will feel. Controlling taint also warps the M-R node, putting pressure on the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that discerns right from wrong), leading to psychological damage. Again, this distances the Aberrant from the rest of humanity. Dehumanization was a factor even in the Aberrant Age, with beings such as Divis Mal starting movements that ultimately reveled in the inhumanity of the Aberrant condition. That Mal came to be a spokesperson for Aberrants worldwide is a telling sign.
The dehumanization is not limited to the physical and mental changes that taint wreaks upon the Aberrant's body. The powers that taint grants also challenge the nature of being human. An Aberrant that can survive in hard vacuum and does not sleep will not see the world in the same way as a human. The majority of the effects that taint produces are external expressions of instant gratification, and often over time an Aberrant comes to rely on his unnatural abilities. This of course leads to more taint, and through that more mutations.
Why then do Aberrants only demonstrate a certain few powers? Nobody in the Trinity Era is sure. Certainly, no Aberrant has spontaneously developed an ability at whim, yet the basis of their powers seems to be the ability to do anything. It might be a case of development, the Aberrant only manifesting abilities akin to those it already possesses due to similarities in the use of taint to get the result. It could be a purely subconscious block, but after over a hundred years without any evidence of one Aberrant breaking the block this is unlikely. Other theories include variations in the node affecting how it handles taint, which is close to the developmental theory. There are teams of scientists working for both the Æon Trinity and several private research groups who have been unable to crack this particular mystery.
Of course, not every Aberrant is warped and dehumanized through channeling taint. The numbers of these low-Taint Aberrants have escalated sharply since the Venezuelan Phenomenon, with up to 1 in 20 novas being low-Taint. Most of these novas are new to their condition; their initial jolts of power not enough to trigger mutations or psychological changes. The Aberrant can further stave off these changes by exploring her powers in a controlled fashion, not giving in to the lure of using taint as much as possible “just because,” but applying restraint and self-discipline. Perhaps the best examples of this attitude towards taint are the Edenite “novas,” as exemplified by Apollo Milliken: he destroyed a sizeable part of a Chromatic fleet, yet is not an insane, be-tentacled freak (see Stellar Frontier for more information).
Though Eden is kept a secret from the majority of the world, it does provide a valuable insight into the Aberrant condition; namely that the more taint is used and pushed to its limits, the more mutating effects it has upon the wielder. In many ways, this is like exercise: up to a certain point the development is natural and healthy, but over-exertion will do more harm than good. This is in many ways one of the key issues of Aberrant Syndrome, if the taint is given the chance it will end up controlling the Aberrant as much as he controls it.
Sub-Aberrants as created by the Colony have several notable differences. First and foremost, they are unable to directly control taint. Being born normal humans, they haven't the Mazarin-Rashoud sequence necessary for controlling taint. Instead, the Colony forcibly injects humans that it captures with large quantities of taint radiation. This overloads their bodies, causing massive physical mutations.
A normal Aberrant — if such a thing could be said to exist — gains his powers through a control over taint, guided in some way towards a certain common element between these powers. Sub-Aberrants, on the other hand, have the same thematic concept, but once the taint-radiation from the Colony has done its mutating work there is no more "free" taint for the creature to use for its powers. Instead, this taint will warp the body of the sub-Aberrant to create the powers it possesses. An Aberrant may be able to shoot fire from his palms through taint alone, but a sub-Aberrant would be warped to the point that one appendage was a biological flame-thrower. A side effect of the infusion of taint radiation is to cause lasting psychological damage to the subject, leaving them with an overwhelming loyalty to the Colony.
The majority of Aberrants faced by psions are sub-Aberrants, made by the Colony in order to help it recapture Earth. Because their mutated forms radiate an aura of taint, they often appear no different to psions than regular Aberrants. Indeed, often the regular Aberrants are better able to hide the taint they produce, leading to all manner of trouble for the psions involved.
Taint Radiation Edit
Manipulating the universe on the quantum level takes an incredible amount of energy. Without the precise manipulations made possible by access to the noetic layer, this energy dissipates as taint radiation. This radiation, capable as it is of shearing atoms from molecules and of creating matter from apparent nothingness, is not generally healthy to anything that remains in its general area.
Taint is highly energetic radiation that interacts strangely with matter. The radiation affects DNA worst, making living things mutate. Plants swell and distort, crops are useless, and trees sicken and die. Healthy crops fail, grass yellows even as it grows to head-height and beyond. Trees weep from open sores in the bark. An area of taint radiation that has had time to affect the local plant life should be mistakable for nothing else. Taint is, at its core, unnatural. It is the raw power of gods turned loose onto the normal world without any form of control, and the world should reflect that.
Animals in taint-dense areas mutate too — but in the biological sense. Strange growths often turn cancerous, eyes cloud over and the sense of smell tries to carry on even though the nose is a mess of sores. Teeth may elongate, limbs may wither, but whatever happens to a creature, it will not be beneficial. That's not to say that mutant beasts are entirely out of the question, but that whatever makes them that way should obviously be a bad thing. Some Aberrants may be capable of creating warped animals bred for their own purposes, but without their direction the energies warp an area's fauna almost at random. If this is ever beneficial to the creature in question is debatable. Hybrids between plant and animal are also possible, disturbing fusions that should not happen made possible by the rampaging taint in an area.
Bears With Laser Eyes! Edit
Taint-mutated animals are presented as an option to Storytellers to reinforce the damage that Aberrants can do to an area just by using their powers. They should be a tragic reminder of how taint corrupts living matter — it's not called taint for nothing.
Some players and Storytellers will likely take this as carte blanche to break out some of the wackier mutant creatures featured in other games and claim them as an inviolate part of the setting. That's just not so. More than anything else, these rules are optional. If some Storytellers want their taint-infected fauna to come from the pages of Gamma World, that's fine. This section, however, is not an explicit endorsement of that.
Taint can affect non-living matter as well. Concrete may have molecules sheared off to the point where it is as light as polystyrene. Plastic melts and warps into alien shapes. The ground may parch, moisture leeched away, or the area may flood into swampland. A desert may be blasted into a plain of glass, perfect glittering spires jutting to the sky among trees hunting for the last water. Most of these effects will be very localized — with the exception of the Blight and areas of the Florida Archipelago there are no other large-scale areas suffused with taint radiation on the planet. Smaller areas are certainly possible, especially in more remote locations where sweeps for Aberrants are less frequent and the tainted can hide out for long periods. Small areas that house a couple of Aberrants for a long time that are later destroyed after a massive use of taint are the perfect locations for warped landscapes, but they can occur anywhere the background taint radiation has built up to a high enough level.
Taint Diseases Edit
The effect of taint radiation on human bodies is in a special category of its own. Taint is manipulated by humans — or creatures that were human — and it has a special relationship with human biology. Some of the people exposed to high intensities of taint, especially in their formative years, may manifest signs of becoming Aberrants. Far more run the risk of contracting a painful disease that is nearly always fatal. Taint-based diseases run the gamut from spontaneous tumors that put the internal organs under intense pressure to wasting diseases that accelerate the victim's aging. Worse, these diseases cannot be treated by psions. The miasma of taint radiation that each disease carries is enough to throw the noetic field entirely out of line around the patient, making the fine tissue manipulation and regeneration of vitakinetic healing all but impossible.
Subject: Wexler's Disease
Agent Shan, I believe it only fair to inform you that we have completed our investigation into the recent outbreak of Wexler's Disease among the people of Xinjiang. Going by the taint-ridden sample of black sludge you managed to extract from one of the victims, we were able to piece together the spread of the disease. This lead us to an underground storage facility that was being used by a minor drug ring. There were a number of crates of strange machinery, including one full of a similar black sludge in canisters. All of these crates were labeled “Metachinery.” We analyzed the substance in these canisters and believe that they contain active nanotechnological agents. A sample is on its way to a secure Æon holding facility and the remainder will be destroyed in line with Aberrant technology protocols.
Stranger are the diseases picked up after an Aberrant dies. Sometimes his particular taint signature can color the way that the disease manifests. A neutral Legionnaire may help kill a steel-skinned Aberrant only to be caught in the final explosion and, weeks later, find that the taint is slowly converting his skin into unliving steel on a molecular level. The taint from a super-strong Aberrant may inhibit myostatin production, leading to ridiculous levels of muscle growth to the point where the muscle bulk snaps bones with every exertion.
Taint diseases should be both weird and scary. They are what happen when Aberrants meet normal people. Some humans get a mutant cancer. Some have their bones weaken and muscles atrophy. Some of them die as their bodies convert into disordered information. Each of them is dying a slow, lingering death as the world's best doctors — psion and neutral alike — look on, unable to do anything.
Taint and Psi Edit
Psi and taint do not interact at all well because they operate on layers very close to each other, among the building blocks of reality. Taint manipulates the world on the quantum level, grouping together photons and gravitons and other tiny particles that just can't be broken down any further. It also works on the bonds between molecules, atoms and quarks — the basic elements of physical matter. Psi interacts on an even smaller level. Down below the quark level — the quantum level — is the subquantum level. The subquantum (or noetic) level is concerned with the information that describes particles on the quantum level, and psi lets a psion manipulate this information, changing reality on a different level.
Down that small, distance is pretty much meaningless. The problem comes with interference. Too much taint energy sends ripples through the noetic layer and a buildup of noetic flux can backlash against the taint-based quantum manipulations. Taint, even the low-level taint radiation generated by an Aberrant, makes psi use in the surrounding area problematic at best. On the other hand, concentrated psi use can negate an Aberrant's powers by denying it the taint flow that it needs.
—transcript of a presentation to scientists working on the Nakamura Process, December 16, 2122
I am sorry for the lack of information available prior to this meeting, even compared to other information on the Process. I believe that our discovery is pressing enough to inform you all right away.
We have known for a while that there is a single genetic trigger present in both psionically-active individuals and our novas. We now know that this gene is set early in life by one of a range of protein chains produced in reaction to background levels of taint. Given different amino acids, this gene fuses itself into a certain position, allowing the subject to develop further talents only in the area that this 'switch gene' has determined.
The required protein chains appear to be a natural biological reaction to both taint and noetic energies. We have isolated a third class of protein chains that could be used to activate the gene, but given the mutation of the other chains it is likely that the state of the planet has not been conducive towards their creation for at least one hundred and fifty years.
This discovery is important, as we now know that there are classes of protein chains. The swamping of the planet in quantum energies at the end of the twentieth century lead to the chains that precipitate the nova state becoming more complex and increasing the likelihood of their uptake, directly leading to the Nova Age. Likewise, with the coming of the Proxies the psion-trigger chains have grown more complex and the nova-triggers have returned to mid-range production.
In order to curtail the development of both psion and nova abilities, early in the Nakamura process we introduce carefully cultured protein chains that re-set the switch gene. The process goes on to develop the gene into full activity before any outside influence can affect it. This latter part is important, as we have observed the protein chains of natural manifestations mutating when exposed to significant amounts of the energies that originally caused them to develop. While these mutations have not been recorded in activated control groups, the potential (as evidenced by the class of protein chain in the pre-activation state) can increase at any point up to activation. The strange phenomenon that currently sweeps the planet is altering more than just the noetic medium. It is altering the balance of all energies, causing people to produce trigger protein chains of all kinds, though mostly the less-advanced versions. This is, to be blunt, disturbing. If the number of advantaged individuals in the world increases, we will be unable to hide our nova scientific assets.
We have no recourse but to step up screening. Every individual who possesses the trigger gene must either go through the Nakamura Process or leave the country and be placed under special observation. We are on the brink of losing everything we have worked for, and we cannot let that happen.
This is a bit harder to bring out in a game without resorting to a set of opposing modifiers. There's no real pain and no mechanical effects for the interaction except as it applies to psi use. So how do you evoke the right feeling? Nearby taint alters the noetic field in imperceptible ways. Just being near a source of taint — be it an Aberrant or a rock from the Blight — feels subtly wrong, like an oddly-colored smell. Go with it. It's a slight feeling rather than a super-sense, but it can add color if the players start to experience odd feelings almost at random, until one or another makes the connection. Another point to consider is that each psion will have a different kind of odd feeling. One character's head may hurt in the same way as it does before a big storm, another might experience déjà vu or prickling thumbs. Work with your players to determine the odd feeling each character has when something isn't entirely right. If you encourage your players to describe their characters in some detail before a game that's the perfect time to gather details like this without having it seem too suspicious.
Rules for psi and taint interacting are on page 146 of the Trinity Players Guide. As that section indicates, they work best when the rules help the story. Sometimes, that's not so easy to tell. Does it help the story to have the main enemy of a group of psions with mostly low-level powers make it even harder to kill him? Maybe, if it'd be a cakewalk otherwise. But if the characters are fighting for their lives in their underwear the Aberrant doesn't need the extra help. A lot of this decision rests upon the feel of each Aberrant. If you want one to be an example of how far humans have fallen, the disruption is a good idea — the creature is a reminder that the Aberrants have fallen so far that they are no longer in touch with the noetic world. Aberrants that display less signs of taint but have obvious power (like Apollo Milliken from Stellar Frontier) should likely also disrupt low-level powers. This cuts both ways, strong psions will disrupt these Aberrants when they try to use their powers. On the other hand, if every child of the Colony or raiding taint-mutant were to dampen lower levels of psi then Aberrants become more alien, and significantly harder to kill.
All living things have a psi template. As noted above, psi is the “energy” that describes the universe, containing information about every particle, every object, every person and every thought. Neutrals in Trinity possess a dot of Psi to represent this noetic template — their own description on the noetic layer. Aberrants, alone out of everything in the Trinity Era, do not have this noetic template. The noetic disruption caused by so much taint flowing through an Aberrant’s node rips the psi template clean from the Aberrant. Sub-Aberrants also experience this noetic disruption, but as a slow wasting effect. Tainted areas and people inflicted with taint diseases also degrade, but at a much slower rate, though this is one of the reasons that taint-diseases are untreatable by noetic means. Some theoreticians suggest the area at the center of the Blight is close to breaking down entirely and becoming a state of flux as the information describing the area is entirely destroyed.
An Aberrant has to possess a Mazarin-Rashoud node or be exposed to incredibly high levels of taint for this effect to manifest. Some of the earliest Aberrants, and some of those created during and after the Venezuelan Phenomenon do not have nodes — indeed, they have Psi ratings (see Asia Ascendant for an example of such a nova). When the node develops, the psi template goes. In its place, the Aberrant constantly generate a low-level field of taint that keeps her molecules together and her mind attached to them. It is this field that disrupts psi powers in the presence of an Aberrant, and its strength intensifies as the Aberrant becomes more powerful, needing more energy to hold himself together. This quantum-level ‘glue’ is an automatic effect of the Node, and no amount of noetic manipulation has been able to disrupt it.
Quantum is the fundamental difference between Aberrants and novas. It's the term used in the Aberrant game to distinguish the controlled manipulation of quantum energy from the uncontrolled, mutating side effects. This difference isn't present in Trinity as nobody in the setting is aware of it. Nihonjin scientists may know more than anyone else about the Aberrant condition but even they do not distinguish between quantum and taint. And for good reason: they have no reason to. Quantum and taint both affect the world on the same level: why differentiate the two? For the most part this section continues using taint in the same way so as not to sound like a missing chapter of an Aberrant book.
The difference does help explain novas in the Trinity setting, like those among the Eden colony and the few remaining in Nippon. They have developed their quantum abilities steadily, avoiding the buildup of taint that leads to what most of the Trinity universe thinks of as Aberrant Syndrome. When creating an Aberrant to act as a foil for your characters it can help to consider its quantum and taint as separate things.
What About Daredevils? Edit
With all of this discussion of psi and quantum and taint, some players and Storytellers may be wondering what the third kind of superhuman — paramorphs (the daredevils of Adventure!) — manipulate. After all, they have knacks, they have an equivalent in the Trinity time in the Nihonjin Superiors (detailed in Asia Ascendant), surely they must also manipulate some kind of science-fiction energy?
We're sorry to disappoint, but there is no “third energy.” Eximorphs manipulate quantum and psychomorphs manipulate noetic energy. Daredevils don't work with anything. Their knacks and “powers” are a shorthand, a handy way to show that they really are just that good at something without giving them obscenely high scores in any number of broad skills. Daredevils and Superiors are they way they are naturally.
Also, some fans of all three games may be offended at the idea of daredevils being the biological “missing link” with Aberrants and psions. Certainly, there is as much evidence to suggest that daredevils are nothing more than normal — but highly accomplished — people. If the Storytellers and players prefer, then there's no reason not to go with that idea. It doesn't alter the game to the point where future supplements will be useless, and is just as valid as our official explanation.
For some grades of Aberrant, most notably the sub-Aberrants created by the Colony and many of the taint-crazed creatures trying to take the Earth, the Taint and Quantum will be just about the same. A powerful Aberrant will have a high Taint, making it obviously an Aberrant. Most groups of psions will encounter these Aberrants, either in the solar system or on Khantze Lu Ge.
Other Aberrants will be mildly tainted but possess a greater level of Quantum. This includes Aberrants who manage to pass for human in most locations, as well as novas who have not been able to control their power as well as they had liked. Despite their lack of Taint they are still deformed in some way, and likely insane. Despite that, they have power exceeding what most non-psions would attribute to them.
Aberrants can also have a vast difference between their Taint and Quantum. They are apparently human (or obviously superhuman) but not twisted. Their bodies are an extension of their self-image, and they do not radiate taint in the same way as other Aberrants. Most if not all of these Aberrants consider themselves novas who are, if not overly friendly, at least respectful of humanity as a race.
The important thing to remember is that it is quantum, not taint, that disrupts psi. An Edenite may look perfect and have incredible control over his powers, but the impressions they make in the quantum world when he uses them have serious repercussions on the noetic world. They may not radiate taint as an energy field, but their power unleashed comes from the same source as the taint of all other Aberrants and its effects on psions are the same.
The Doyen are creatures of pure noetic energy, condensed into the physical world. As they have a much more active link to the subquantum world they feel the disruption of quantum energy far more intensely than psions. While a psion finds it harder to manipulate noetic energy when the local area is bombarded with quantum energy, the Doyen are physically and mentally disrupted by the quantum flux — they flicker in and out of existence. They are reminded that humans have the capability within them to manipulate quantum energy and that is one of the very few things that scares the Doyen as a species. Like other psionic disruption, it is actually the quantum manifestation rather than the uncontrolled taint radiation that causes this effect, though the Doyen (along with every other group in Trinity) do not believe that taint and quantum differ.
Building A Better Mousetrap Edit
Every Aberrant in your chronicle should be unique and memorable. This section offers tools to help you do that, from tips on motivation and the psychology of an Aberrant to variant game mechanics for creating Aberrant characters. The last thing you want is your Aberrants to be remembered not as fearsome examples of human potential gone wrong but as a horde of faceless mutant freaks — that's one of the things Aberrant cults are there for, after all.
One of the first things you should do with any Aberrant in your game is work out what its function is as a character in your chronicle. While the fallen paragon angle is the most obvious, it doesn't have to be the only one. Perhaps you want to present some sympathetic novas who live among humans on a colony, only exerting their powers when pressed. Maybe you want a figurehead for a cult who has worked out a new social order that encompasses humans, psions and novas working together to save the planet — but it requires bringing down both the Æon Trinity and the governments of the world. Every Aberrant should have an angle, and the creation process will be much smoother once you have found it.
A large number of Aberrants will have “taint-crazed fallen human” as their angle. Indeed, for sub-Aberrants and other minions of the Colony, that's the main hook, and that is a good thing. Despite everything said about alternate societies and the novas working with humanity there are still a large number of Aberrants who want to take back Earth for themselves and damn the humans living there. Stereotypes exist for a reason. On the other hand, a stereotype isn't a particularly useful tool for creating a character with real depth. Dig deeper, look below the surface for the elements in the stereotype that brought it about, find the archetype and use that as a means to fill in the blanks about each Aberrant.
At some point, you need to work out what powers your Aberrant has. Whatever framework you are using to create your creature try to make sure that there are is some kind of reasoning behind them. The kind of threat you want the Aberrant to be can determine its powers, or perhaps they are a projection of the Aberrant's archetypal role, whether she wants them to be or not. Or maybe they are just all effects of the mutations that have built up on his taint-wracked body. There's no “right” way to create power themes, as long as you can justify the majority of the powers in a way that won't leave the players scratching their heads and wondering what the hell the point of the Aberrant was.
Once you've worked out the angle of your Aberrants and fleshed out some of the details you need to work out their motivation — why they are doing what they do? This can be related to their angle, but doesn't need to be. The motivation should make sense to the Aberrant — nobody thinks, “I'm going to try to take over the Earth today.” People do what they do because they believe that it is what they should, and Aberrants are no different. For example, an Aberrant may attack the Earth because his family and community drove him away when he manifested Aberrant Syndrome and his isolation in space has warped his perceptions of the planet.
An Aberrant driven mad by taint is harder to understand, and therefore it's much harder to work out why he would do what he is doing. Taint-related insanities break the Aberrant away from his old methods of thinking, focusing more on what makes him different. An Aberrant capable of controlling people may see regular humans and even psions as puppets for him to control as he will whereas one with spatial manipulation powers may regard humans moving passively through three dimensions with no control over their surroundings as beneath her notice. This insanity is tied to the Aberrant's powers and mindset in some way, and working it out can give you a greater handle on why she does what she does.
As a Storyteller you don't need to develop a motivation and full psychological profile for every Aberrant that features in your series. If your story has a lot of Aberrants it can quickly become a massive task, most of which will have little impact on your stories. Work on the Aberrants who are going to have the most impact, both ringleaders and manipulators behind the scenes. The Aberrants with less of an impact on your plot should logically have less time spent developing them. If the Colony sends a sub-Aberrant to kill the psions that have disrupted its latest strategy, the motivation of the sub-Aberrant isn't the major concern of your story. The Colony on the other hand (or tentacle) should be given as much detail as your plot needs to make sense, and there should be plenty of chances for the players to find some of these clues.
Spelling it Out Edit
Aberrants were once human. This is their hook, their reason to be in the setting: to show just how far humanity can fall when it reaches too high, too fast. The less-warped Aberrants got to be the way they were because they kept control of the subconscious need for power, but all too many saw their power as a right. Any story featuring Aberrants as more than mystery villains should at least touch upon their human origins — the crab-like thing that disrupts electromagnetic fields around it was once a human with extraordinary powers, like the psions themselves. With that said, it's all too easy to hit the players as well as the characters over the head with the burden of responsibility and the price of power. It's even worse from a player's perspective to listen to Storyteller characters soliloquizing about the price of power every time they encounter an Aberrant than it is to hunt Faceless Aberrant Monster #23. It can be very difficult to set the balance right. Aberrant autopsies should comment on the unaltered human biology that remains — however much or little that is. A raving sub-Aberrant kidnapped from an asteroid mining colony who returns to demolish that colony may pause when he sees his family and friends — or may attack them all the more viciously. An extropian “nova” who acts as a wellspring of technology for a colony may still keep an image of the child he left on Earth. It's the little things, the details around an Aberrant that best illuminate his lost humanity. Working in these details for each Aberrant with a significant impact on your series can add depth to their character while also illustrating their wider metaphoric role in the story.
Memorable Foils Edit
Every good character should stick in your players' minds for some reason. Aberrants make this easier — after all, they each should have something relatively unique that they can do, and taint has left many looking unlike anything else by the effects of taint. Unfortunately, if it were as easy as just looking different, the job of a Storyteller would be much easier. The first, and possibly most obvious piece of advice, is to avoid creating Aberrants that are similar to each other. Just as characters in a story with similar names are harder to distinguish from each other, two Aberrants who have glowing blades in place of one arm will be harder for your players to tell apart, unless the blades are a footnote to their other mutations. Likewise, insectile and crab-like features are an easy way to make Aberrants appear different, but used too often can swiftly become faceless. Without the distinction of hair color and facial description the rest of the creature's description often fades into the background.
Another thing to consider is that not every Aberrant bears the same mutation for the same powers. One may have hands surrounded by crackling black energy, through which strange stars are visible, while another may more prosaically have large, razor-sharp talons. If every Aberrant that can open warp gates glows blue when doing so, you lose the element of surprise, and you run the risk of having your players use an Aberrant's description to catalog its powers. Keep your players thinking on their feet, and make sure that you describe the powers in a way that ties them to each Aberrant. With that in mind: describe the powers. Some Storytellers get into the habit of describing the appearance of an Aberrant, and then resorting to game-terms and statistics. If you want your Aberrants to be memorable, try to avoid that — if nothing else to avoid confusion between Aberrants with similar powers. If one has an arm with no hand that vents plasma from the stump and another breathes flame from a fire-wreathed skull, there's an obvious difference. If one has a stump of an arm, the other a fire-wreathed skull, but both attack with the same dice pool and damage there's not that core difference. Being memorable means making an impression, after all.
Defining Aberrants Edit
Powerful Aberrants don't just come about because of exposure to taint. Some of them are incredibly potent from birth. Trinity-era scientists do not differentiate between the two types simply because they do not realize the difference. There are few enough Aberrants that are sane enough to work with that the idea of letting them breed on Earth is not an idea that any have dared entertain. Fortunately, most of the Earth-bound Aberrants show no wish to procreate, and of the colony-based Aberrants it is hard to tell who was made and who was born.
Among researchers, several divisions have arisen describing various forms of Aberrants. Some groups will use one definition, some will use another. Some organizations use multiple definitions when referring to a given Aberrant, to more accurately describe their origins and relative power level.
The first generation are the Aberrants that most people think of whenever the name comes up. A normal human, exposed to taint radiation and bathed in quantum fires that have burned since the Aberrant War develops a Mazarin-Rashoud node. Generally this classification is reserved for the Aberrants who originated during the height of the Nova Age. As such, they’re generally more rare, and at the same time, more powerful.
The first obvious signs of eruption are splitting headaches that can last for days at a time. The pressure exerted on the brain by the growing lump of proto-matter actively pushes the frontal lobes out of the way, hence the headaches ― and the madness. The changes to the Aberrant's brain are not temporary, and the presence of quantum radiation further alters the electrochemical signals rushing along twisted neural pathways — assuming the Aberrant still has a brain ― twists his thoughts into what normal humans consider insanity.
As well as the mental degeneration, a first generation's taint twists his body. While nowhere near the level of a sub-Aberrant, most do display some physical alterations. Some of these taint-modifications are beneficial, such as a hardened carapace or wings allowing atmospheric flight. Others serve no useful purpose, from eyes mounted on stalks to protruding bony ridges. All of them are permanent. Some are more drastic, such as the Aberrant's body being transformed into a burning skeleton or a collection of electrical impulses in a computer network. None of these changes are necessary ― Aberrants fly just as well without wings as with, and a carapace is just as good as a force field. These changes are physical expressions of how taint will change a human body that is barely able to control it.
There are ways for first generation Aberrants to escape the fate of mutation and insanity, or at least to prolong the period before its onset. So far the Aberrants working for Nippon and the Edenites have demonstrated the broadest acceptance of this practice, but any Aberrant ― including many created during the Venezuelan Phenomenon ― can do so with or without guidance. By not using his powers to their fullest potential whenever the opportunity presents itself, the Aberrant avoids stressing the parts of his psyche that channel taint. It's a slow process, requiring a great deal of self-awareness and voluntary restraint ― discarding the chase for more power can be hard ― but taking things slowly allows the Aberrant to mature into his growing abilities without forcing them.
Third-generation Aberrants are those who have erupted since the Aberrant War. Superficially the same classification as the first-generation novas, these Aberrants could never be mistaken for a nova. They do not accumulate taint over a period of time or due to misuse of their powers; once they erupt, they immediately display signs of high degrees of taint. They mutate to a high degree nearly instantly and display many varied signs of derangement. In short, while first-generation Aberrants may or may not develop Aberrant Syndrome, third-generation Aberrants almost seem to get it automatically. The most often encountered “true” Aberrants in the Trinity Era, third-generation Aberrants are much more common than those of the first generation. Additionally, they also seem to be weaker, almost as if the rapid onset of their mutation somehow puts a cap on how powerful they can become.
Second-generation Aberrants are not formed from exposure to taint. They are the children of the first generation, their bodies better able to channel the taint that has surrounded them from the moment of conception. The strange genetic material that makes up the node of a first generation is found throughout the body of a second generation Aberrant, making taint-spawned insanity much less common. Taint mutations are also less common as the distributed node prevents a great deal of taint focusing at one point and building up to dangerous levels.
The second generation are much more powerful than the first. Without the limitations of taint they have no compelling reason to slow their development and instead forge ahead, growing in power until they outshine all but the greatest of the first generation. They gain powers along a theme, like other Aberrants, but are better able to understand their own abilities and develop them in ways that would seem bizarre to a normal human intelligence.
In addition to their powers the second generation of Aberrants are different from humans in their perceptions of the world. Except in extreme cases, they did not grow up among humans and many never experienced a “birth” as humans understand it ― the parents must have procreated, but with the wide variety of alterations that the first generation possess there is no telling what form that intercourse, and the following pregnancy, may have taken. Each second generation Aberrant has grown up with her powers, surrounded by other taint-fueled gods. Because of this, she doesn't think like a human would. A second generation's powers are as natural to them as breathing (if they still have to), and even those who could frame their thoughts in human-comprehensible terms find little compelling reason to do so. Kali and Yog-Death (Stellar Frontier, page 109), being the offspring of the Colony, are the highest-profile second-generation Aberrants known.
The first and second generations are easier to comprehend. Their powers are secondary to their upbringing, and they still think in broadly human terms. The ability to mutate plants or create electrical charges is a later change that wasn't present during the formative years of their psyche. Taint often alters their thoughts, but in the same way that trauma alters human thoughts ― a good book or website on mental illness can be a great help when working out how an insane Aberrant thinks. The second generation do not have this human grounding. Though a second-generation Aberrant's powers expand throughout his life, he is born and raised thinking very differently from ordinary humans, or even the first generation. They should be inscrutable ― unless they can advance their plans by being open ― doing things for reasons that the players will never hope to understand but that further their own goals.
If two second generation Aberrants managed to procreate, their offspring may well be some kind of fourth generation. So far, there are no known instances of fourth-generation Aberrants anywhere in the universe, and what they would be like is anyone's guess. They could be able to warp all of reality on a grand scale, or perhaps would have no more use for physical bodies, becoming the taint-based equivalent of the Doyen. The possibilities are limited only by the Storyteller's imagination.
Most Trinity-era researchers do not trouble themselves with trying to work out an Aberrant’s parentage, and this goes double for anyone who encounters a live Aberrant without expecting it. For simplicity’s sake the Æon Trinity use a broad scale of threat level. Tier I Aberrants are otherwise referred to as “Prime Threats” and include Caestus Pax, the Colony, and a few others. This small grade includes the oldest and most powerful first-generation Aberrants, as well as second-generation Aberrants that are mature in their power ― a far faster process than the Trinity would like to believe. Third-generation Aberrants rarely, if ever, achieve this sort of power. Young second-generation Aberrants and first- and second-generations of a moderate or high power level are included in Tier II. Finally, weak recent eruptees, powerful sub-Aberrants ― and low-taint Aberrants when they are discovered ― make up Tier III.
This chapter uses the Tiers to refer to all naturally-occurring Aberrants. Sub-Aberrant by their very nature must be handled differently. Where distinctions are made between the generations, each generation is noted with the relevant Tiers.
Sub-Aberrants are victims. They were not born with the potential to become Aberrants; instead, a powerful Aberrant suffused their bodies with taint that warped their body and mind. Hence, a sub-Aberrant doesn't manipulate taint in the same way as other generations of Aberrants; rather than summoning fire from taint energies a sub-Aberrant's body must be mutated to produce a napalm-like substance. Every power a sub-Aberrant possesses must stem from a biological alteration to his body ― though the difference between a sub-Aberrant and a mutated Aberrant would probably only come out at autopsy.
The taint injection alters a sub-Aberrant's thought processes. Though he remains as intelligent as before his sanity is shattered. A sub-Aberrant perceives the world only as it relates to his condition, the friends who fought to stop him being dragged off are now enemies who didn't fight hard enough, a loving family becomes a painful reminder of what he once had. This doesn't mean he will attack things at random ― that wouldn't be rational ― but it does mean that he will be hostile and will make potentially complex plans to take revenge either on the people he used to know or the race that abandoned him.
Who is the Colony? Edit
Lots of Aberrant players are dying to know which of the famous faces of the Nova Age turns into the Colony. While there are a lot of theories, and several have a lot of backing in the setting, for the purposes of Trinity the Colony was a nobody during the Nova Age. Perhaps it erupted after the start of the Aberrant War, perhaps it had been in hiding since the start of things. Nobody knows.
Of course, if you as a Storyteller have a theory about the Colony's identity then you should certainly run with it. It gives players an extra mystery to solve and can lead to some interesting reports of life before the Aberrant War. We don't want to answer the question at this late stage because we don't want to tread on your ideas and give your players the answers in one page of one book.
There are a number of systems you can use for Aberrants in your games. The default presented in Trinity is the simplest, offering statistics and powers without any real difference between a sub-Aberrant pawn and the Colony. This section not only expands that method for creating Aberrants but also offers alternatives, including using rules from Aberrant.
The rules for Aberrant creation in the Trinity rulebook are a good point to start from. However, the single template doesn't really cover the broad possibilities of Aberrants, especially given the somewhat disingenuous stats. If Apollo Milliken can devastate a third of a Chromatic war fleet without raising a sweat at Taint 7, why is it that the general Aberrant template starts at Taint 8? The answer of course is that different powers have different scales of effect. Nothing in the back of the Trinity book is nearly as powerful as Milliken's Radiant Conversion, and these descriptions are the real measure of an Aberrant's power level. With that in mind, use the Taint rating as a measure of an Aberrant's power reserves, the raw energy he has available. What he can do with that taint is a function solely of his powers.
As a general guideline, the powers in Trinity are good for creating sub-Aberrants and Tier III first-generation Aberrants. Use the Aberrant's Taint rating to determine the effectiveness of these powers — Strength + (half the Taint rating) Lethal damage for Natural Weapons, Taint rating in damage for Acid and the like. Any further powers should deal a base level of no more than ten dice of Lethal damage, and should not affect more than a hundred kilograms of mass or ten people at once. Sub-Aberrants should be mutated to the full degree of their Taint rating, but cannot possess powers that are not linked to their physical changes. In addition to the Aberrant powers in Trinity and the first few dots of most Modes, Storytellers may find inspiration for new powers in Adventure! or the low-level powers in Aberrant.
The Venezuelan Phenomenon Edit
Many Aberrants have erupted because of the Venezuelan Phenomenon. Creating such Aberrants is possible with the systems in this chapter, but as many of the low-taint Aberrants are of a kind not seen since the 1920s there is a better source. A Storyteller with access to Adventure! is encouraged to create such Storyteller characters as stalwarts. These characters do not have a Taint rating, and the rules of Taint interacting with Psi do not apply to them. Optionally, Storytellers may prefer to use a stalwart’s Inspiration rating in place of Taint whenever a comparison is needed.
When it comes to Tier II Aberrants, you will need more powers. Modes at a certain rating (usually 3 or 4) are a good model for many common Aberrant abilities, as are supercharged versions of the existing powers. Despite this, detail an Aberrant's signature powers separately. For a Tier II Aberrant, a power that costs Taint should be equivalent to a vehicle level attack or something that affects up to a ton of mass or one hundred people. Inspiration can come from mid-level powers in Aberrant, if the Storyteller has access to that game. The level of Taint an Aberrant has indicates how mutated an Aberrant is, one radical mutation for every two points of Taint. Mutations can include taint-related insanity, allowing a high-Taint Aberrant to pass for a human right until space begins to warp in his vicinity.
Tier I Aberrants are old, dating from the Aberrant War, and very rare. The new victims of Aberrant Syndrome have not had the time to develop their powers to the degree as the survivors of the Aberrant War, though second generation Aberrants find themselves developing this level of power relatively early in their lives. At this point, the Aberrant should have a number of Modes at four or five dots, as well as signature powers that can affect more than ten tons of mass or more than one thousand people. Mutation from taint should be either extreme — the Aberrant is a writhing mass of tentacles and teeth, or a sentient mass of solar plasma — or non-present. An untainted Aberrant of this level does not use his powers lightly or tax his limits regularly, relying on his lower-level abilities rather than the extremes of power available to him.
In addition to the systems above, this section presents a number of variant systems for Aberrants. All of them are designed to scale around the three rough grades of power mentioned above.
Enhanced Attributes Edit
Many Aberrants possess Attributes above five dots. In addition to the extra dice conferred by superhuman prowess, there are additional benefits. Perhaps an Aberrant with incredible Dexterity or Wits can automatically win Initiative, or one with incredible Charisma can cause others to go along with her out of sheer force of personality. Sub-Aberrants don't get these benefits, and only Tier I Aberrants should have more than two Attributes that possess these extra benefits.
Taint for Powers Edit
To add more structure to the rather freeform power framework above, limit Aberrants to one power per point of taint. In this case, a “Power” can be any number of powers in a single Mode or an Aberrant Power as appropriate for their power level. Attributes above 5 cost one Taint for three dots.
First- and third-generation Aberrants of any Tier that have warded off the mutating effects of taint should have one less power than their Taint would suggest, but have at most one mutation, usually mental or a beneficial physical modification like functioning wings. Second generation Aberrants do not have this restriction.
Assign each Aberrant a Quantum rating as well as a Taint rating. Base the number of physical mutations on the Taint rating. Taint also determines the level of Ambient Taint surrounding an Aberrant. Most Aberrants will have a Taint rating of at least 3, though low-taint Aberrants are an exception. Use Quantum to work out the damage from powers, and how many powers the Aberrant has if using the Taint for Powers rule above. Use the higher of the two to determine the Ambient Taint left in an area after an extended use of powers.
Sub-Aberrants have no Quantum, basing all their powers off their Taint. Only low-taint novas and first generation Aberrants who have warded off the mutating effects of taint should have a Quantum higher than their Taint.
Expanded Powers Edit
The following powers clarify and expand upon the list of Aberrant powers given in the Trinity rulebook. These by no means make up a comprehensive list of Aberrant abilities, they are presented as a springboard for Storytellers when designing their own Aberrants, as well as to make it easier to create antagonists on the fly. The powers are separated into the same ranks as used in the rest of this section — low power corresponds to sub-Aberrants and Tier III first- and third-generation Aberrants, medium power covers Tier II first-, second- and third-generation Aberrants, and high power is for Tier I Aberrants. Tier I and II Aberrants will likely have only one or two powers from their listed power level, along with Mode-equivalent powers. The majority of their powers will come from lower grades. The Aberrant powers presented in the Trinity rulebook are all low power abilities.
When powers reference expending Taint assume that an Aberrant has a pool of temporary Taint equal to her Taint score. Modes that call for Psi rolls or expenditure instead require Taint rolls or expenditure instead.
Optional Rule: Aggravated Damage Edit
Some of the powers detailed below do damage on a level that disrupts an object’s noetic template. These powers deal a third kind of damage, called Aggravated damage. This damage is marked with an asterisk (*) alongside the normal Bashing and Lethal damage, and “pushes” both Bashing and Lethal along the track in the same way that Lethal pushes Bashing down. Aggravated damage is soaked with the Lethal soak rating of any armor worn. Aggravated damage cannot be healed except by psi powers.
Storytellers who do not want to deal with adding another type of damage to their games should treat all Aggravated damage as unsoakable Lethal damage that does not heal. If used, it is the Storyteller’s decision which Modes deal Aggravated damage.
Low Power Edit
- Burning: The Aberrant can surround himself with a corona of energy, razor-sharp bony spines, or some other all-over defense. The effect costs a point of Taint to manifest for a scene, but deals half the Aberrant's Taint in Lethal damage to anyone touching him. Also, any non-energy weapon used to attack the Aberrant has its damage reduced by two. The Aberrant cannot wear armor.
- Claws: Wicked talons tip the Aberrant's fingers, tentacles, or other primary manipulators. This could also be an energy field or any other rationale for the Aberrant dealing Strength Lethal damage. Every two points of Taint (rounding up) deal an additional point of damage (so an Aberrant with 7 Taint would deal Strength + 4 Lethal damage). These claws do not hinder the function of the Aberrant’s hands.
- Enhanced Reflexes: The Aberrant's nervous system (or what passes for one) conducts signals far faster than the human equivalent. The Aberrant doubles all movement rates, and can take two independent actions each turn. The Aberrant can channel additional actions at a rate of one action per point of Taint, though each action taken in this way deals a level of unsoakable Bashing damage to the Aberrant.
- Extra Limbs: This Aberrant has more than the normal four limbs. While Tentacles covers the replacement of a limb with a mass of tentacles, extra limbs come in addition to the normal human four. Every extra arm lowers the dice pool penalty for multiple physical actions by one die. An extra set of legs doubles the Aberrant's movement rates.
- Growth: Stimulating cellular growth or shunting taint energies into mass allows the Aberrant to grow to terrifying proportions. Spend a point of Taint to grow up to three times normal size. Every multiplier of normal size adds +2 to the Aberrant's Strength and Stamina (and can take these above 5 dots), but adds one to dice pools to hit the Aberrant. Further uses of this power are not cumulative.
- Modes: Several Aberrant powers can be represented using psionic Modes. Tier I Aberrants should not have effects above the third dot of a Mode, but do not need to worry about crossing Aptitudes between the six Aptitudes in the Trinity rulebook. Sub-Aberrants should only have individual powers to suit their mutations.
- Natural Weapon: One of the Aberrant's manipulator appendages has been grossly altered to deal incredible amounts of damage. Whether it is constantly emitting hard radiation or changed into a diamond-hard lobster claw, the limb deals damage equivalent to the Claws power, but with a vehicle-scale damage add of one half the Aberrant's Taint, rounded down. The limb cannot be used as a normal manipulator.
- Sealed Systems: The Aberrant does not need to breathe and is adapted to survive in a vacuum. This provides no extra protection against attacks but renders the Aberrant immune to gas, suffocation and the effects of pressure extremes. The Aberrant also suffers no penalties for orientation when fighting in microgravity.
Medium Power Edit
- Create Matter: The Aberrant can create matter from nothing, shunting quantum energy en masse into physical form. Ten kilograms of matter costs one Taint, fifty kilograms costs two Taint and a quarter ton costs three Taint. The matter must be naturally-occurring and non-radioactive, and the Aberrant can create it in any basic shape that she desires.
- Duplicate: For two points of Taint the Aberrant can create a perfect duplicate of itself. One duplicate per dot of Taint that the Aberrant possesses can exist at once, though there is no limit on how long a duplicate can remain functional. Each duplicate has the same statistics as the Aberrant, but does not have the Duplicate power and shares the original Aberrant's taint pool.
- Electronic Communion: Unlike technokinesis this power does not allow the Aberrant to control computer systems. Rather, the Aberrant can project her mind from her body, leaving the body capable of reacting only on instinct. The Aberrant's mind inhabits any complex electronic system, and she can control the system instinctively. When inhabiting a machine the Aberrants can survive the “death” of her body and transmit to other electronic systems over hard-lines or the OpNet.
- Hardened: The Aberrant is exceptionally hardy, possibly through possessing multiple (or no) organs or other bodily adaptations that make it incredibly hard to kill. As a result, the Aberrant has a duplicate of each Health Level. As an added bonus, the Aberrant soaks Bashing, Lethal, and Aggravated damage with its full Stamina soak in addition to any armor.
- Modes: Mode-equivalent powers bought for mid-power Aberrants may go as high as five dots in a number of Modes. When rolling or spending Taint to activate these powers, the Aberrant must pay one point less or roll one fewer success to use the Mode. Any Willpower costs are unaffected. The Aberrant can use Teleportation Modes at this level, but Quantakinesis is unavailable.
- Molecular Disruption: This is a brutal demonstration of Aberrant mastery over the strong and weak nuclear forces. Roll Taint in a resisted roll against the target's Psi. Each success deals one level of Aggravated damage to the target that bypasses any armor, as its molecules are torn apart at the subatomic level.
- Power Sink: Taint's connection to the quantum world allows the Aberrant to act as a power sink for a slice of the electromagnetic spectrum (or another category of energy, such as direct kinetic or sonic). Any attacks of the selected type of energy have their damage reduced by the Aberrant's Taint. Every point of energy absorbed in this way can heal one level of Bashing damage.
- Shaping: By restructuring matter on the molecular level the Aberrant can reshape any amount of existing matter. A tree-branch can be formed into a club, raw materials combined into a gun, or a mountain into a vast palace. Two points of Taint allow the Aberrant to reshape up to one ton of matter. The basic elements must all be present — creating a gun out of a block of ice is impossible — but the reshaping process can combine them in new ways.
High Power Edit
- Authority: With this power the Aberrant has incredible control over one particular substance or form of energy. This could be magnetism, plasma, kinetic energy, acid, steel, or anything else that seems appropriate. The Aberrant can create, reshape, control, and destroy volumes of matter of up to 10 tons, or an equivalently large quantity of energy at any distance she can sense.
- Bacterial Consciousness: The Aberrant is not limited to his old body, or even to a single replacement. This power allows the Aberrant to spread its consciousness to others by touch, destroying the minds of any victims as it asserts control. The minds remain linked through the threads of taint, but there is no central point to the web of consciousness that opponents can target — they must destroy a significant proportion of the host bodies. The Aberrant can dominate up to one thousand people without penalty, though psions can resist the Taint roll with Psi.
- Biomanipulation: Extending taint through other beings, the Aberrant can alter the biological processes of living creatures. In addition to forcing growth or atrophy and mutating the base form of a creature, this power allows an Aberrant to affect viruses and bacteria. Such a use can swiftly result in a pandemic outbreak of a tailored plague that only affects certain elements of a population — only men, or those over a certain age. Psions roll Psi in a resisted action to lessen the effects of this power when it is used on them.
- Modes: High power Mode-equivalent abilities have no limitations. The Aberrant can have a rating of five dots in as many non-Quantakinetic Modes as necessary. Using these Modes does not cost Taint or require a Taint roll to access the default power level. If using the Freeform Psi rules from the Trinity Players Guide the Storyteller is encouraged to allow the Aberrant to use the same system.
- Omniscience: By perceiving the threads of quantum entanglement and the interplay of nuclear forces, the Aberrant extends its sensory range to unthinkable levels. The Aberrant can perceive every movement in a given city and with focus can expand this range even further. The Aberrant can project its senses to any point within one kilometer, multiplied by five kilometers per point of Taint, and is always subconsciously aware of movement and discharges of energy within that area.
- Taint Injection: This ability allows an Aberrant to force its taint into the body of a normal human or other creature. Unlike Biomanipulation, this power overloads the target’s body, twisting it into something else entirely. By spending two points of Taint, the Aberrant transforms the human into a sub-Aberrant, with Taint equal to the number of successes the Aberrant gets on a normal Taint roll. Any latent psionic ability or dormant Aberrant Syndrome is lost as taint rewrites the target’s biology. Psions injected with taint die as the foreign energies interact with the psi wrapped in the psion's noetic template.
- Terraform: A slow-acting power, with this ability the Aberrant can channel taint over time to affect the geological and climactic conditions of a whole planet. The power costs one Taint for each major change, which takes six months to fully come about. These changes can be in atmospheric composition, surface temperature, or even the size and shape of continents. Once a planet has been terraformed, the Aberrant can set events in motion that generate hurricanes or earthquakes, or disrupt the planet's magnetic field.
Using Aberrant Rules Edit
Storytellers who also play Aberrant may wonder just how different novas and Aberrants are. Aberrant’s character creation and power systems are flexible enough to be used in both games to good effect. The following section provides rules for using Aberrant rules to create Storyteller characters for your Trinity games. Rules for creating player characters are on page XX.
Note that several of the powers in Aberrant have a level of effect that some Storytellers may deem inappropriate for their games. There is nothing wrong with toning down the power mechanics or indeed keeping the two rulesets for their respective games and using the rules elsewhere in this chapter to create Aberrant Storyteller characters.
Aberrants manifest their powers in times of physical or emotional stress. The form that this stress takes can color their eventual powers. One of the most common causes of eruption in the Trinity Era is proximity to a source of taint, be that a powerful Aberrant or an area of taint radiation like the Blight. Second-generation Aberrants mature into their powers naturally, without needing an external stimulus, and sub-Aberrants are created by taint infusion. Neither kind has an eruption to speak of.
Character Creation Edit
Character creation is handled much the same as in Aberrant, with the following changes.
General Character Creation Edit
For baseline character creation, assign whatever Attributes and Abilities make sense as for any NPC. All kinds of Aberrant start with three free dots of Endurance and Resistance. When selecting Backgrounds, bear in mind that sub-Aberrants cannot have Attunement, Dormancy or Node; and that second generation Aberrants cannot take Dormancy as they have no baseline human form. Eufiber should only be available to old first-generation Aberrants who have kept their supply from before the Aberrant war.
Nova Points Edit
The following are some suggested Nova Point ranges for the various power levels used in this chapter. Power Cap is the maximum rating for that power grade to have in a Mega-Attribute or power. Starting Taint is the number of dots of permanent Taint that the character has before spending any Nova Points.
Power Grade Nova Points Power Cap Starting Taint
Spend Nova Points according to the chart on page 120 of Aberrant as normal. Sub-Aberrants, Tier II and III Aberrants should not be created with a Quantum of more than 5. Throughout the history of the Trinity Universe, only Divis Mal has had a Quantum score higher than 8, and creating characters on his level can have unprecedented effects on your game. Tier III first- or third-generation Aberrants can start with 0 Taint for a cost of 5 Nova Points. If this option is used, no other powers or Quantum can be bought Tainted.
Sub-Aberrants must pick from the following powers: Armor, Bioluminescence, any Body Modifications, Boost, Claws, Disorient, Flight, Force Field, Immobilize, Immolate, Invisibility, Mental Blast, Poison, Quantum Bolt, Sensory Shield, Shroud, Sizemorph: Grow, Strobe, Stun Attack, Warp. Non-Body Modification powers each result in an extra dot of permanent Taint, with an associated biological alteration that produces the power.
Quantum Powers and Psions Edit
Some powers work differently on psions due to their non-nova nature, and Aberrants have some extra rules for interacting with them.
• Disrupt functions the same as normal, but is resisted by a roll of Psi + the Mode being disrupted, as the Aberrant uses focused taint to disrupt the noetic flow around the psion.
• Any “mental” powers that are resisted with Willpower and Psychic Shield, including Empathic Manipulation, Mental Blast, Telepathy and others, are resisted with the psion's Willpower or Psi, whichever is higher.
• Powers that directly manipulate a target's quantum signature, including Aberration Transfer, Node Spark, Quantum Imprint, Quantum Leech, Quantum Vampire, Quantum Authority, Quantum Supremacy, automatically fail when used on a psion. There's no point in rolling. Using the Node background or Mega-Perception Enhancements to track the quantum signature of a psion works at +2 difficulty.
• A psion can destabilize the flow of quantum through an Aberrant with a focused noetic burst. Each psion can generate an effect akin to the Disrupt power, rolling Psi + highest Mode. This has no effect on sub-Aberrants and non-quantum powered beings.
Aberrant Societies Edit
The material in this chapter is all well and good, but how is a Storyteller supposed to use it? First-generation Aberrants don't swarm at the Earth every month, and the vast majority of powerful Aberrants have no reason to return home at all. There are more ways to introduce Aberrants into a game than to have them attack Earth. After all, if Eden was colonized by Aberrants and humans together, isn't it possible that other planets would have Aberrant inhabitants? There are plenty of reasons to have more planets inhabited by Aberrants — either with humans or not — and such planets can offer a wide range of themes to a game.
There are a number of reasons to explore new planets. The characters may volunteer to accompany an Upeo explorer as he tracks down strange taint-signatures. The Æon Trinity may maintain a project that monitors for potential colony worlds. The characters may be part of a field test of an upgraded Leviathan that ends up far off course. These only scratch the surface, and all include a clue as to how the characters can get to their destination, be it via Leviathan, psionic teleportation, alien (or Aberrant) technology or something even stranger.
Whatever your reason for putting your characters on a planet of Aberrants, stranding them there with no hope of return takes a lot of fun out of the situation. Crippling their spacecraft is fair enough, but if there's no way to repair it and the Aberrants on the planet below want them dead, the game quickly changes tone. If there's no hope of escape then there's a chance you'll lose your players' interest — never a good idea for an ongoing game. Any of the means used to get them to the Aberrant world can be used to get them off again, though some will take more work to be believable than others.
There's no reason to limit yourself to one Aberrant world. In the fine tradition of television, the characters may find themselves moving from planet to planet, trying to reach Earth or a related colony again. The Kupita (Stellar Frontier, page 62) may send a ship out with a psion team to map and initiate contact with potentially friendly Aberrant planets, or a larger Æon expeditionary force may take more than one group of psions aboard a Leviathan to make peace with the Aberrants or wipe them out. A game using this model has to be very careful to have each Aberrant colony be actually different from the last, to drive home just how different groups of humans and gods can be.
Strange Worlds Edit
Aberrant powers can alter the ecosystem of a planet over time. Some Aberrants see nothing wrong with altering a planet to suit their needs,whether the planet is shared with humans or not. Sometimes, this can be beneficial — a few Aberrants possess the power to terraform any planet within reason to an Earth-like standard, given enough time. Many do not stop there. Planets that have been Aberrant colonies since the Aberrant War will likely be twisted more and more towards their inhabitants. This could be apparently simple — natural shelters with furniture all grown from bedrock, a rather more pleasant natural temperature — or obviously complex — weather patterns that shift with the Aberrant's moods, or rivers that flow uphill according to altered gravity.
Changes to a planet do not need to be so drastic. Aberrant colonies need not be functionally different to any other planet with a breathable atmosphere and some gravity, but the technological and social developments can vary widely. Informational nanotech may seed one world, educating every inhabitant and providing perfect recall of every event. The social structures of such a world would develop differently to an extropian world that sees the human body as an imperfect base that merits constant improvement. The social and political establishments of either world could develop in any number of ways and the presence of Aberrants make even bizarre ideas possible.
Aberrant colonies are a chance to explore a wide range of science-fiction ideals that otherwise may not fit with the standard Trinity setting. While no Aberrant could create a Dyson sphere from nothing, on a planetary scale the possible changes are endless. A fascist world where the community always comes before the individual? Definitely possible. How would you like your citizens controlled? Aberrant propaganda? Mind control? Technological implants? Or is the society a rebellion against the Aberrants who initially brought people to the world, hunted as enemies of humanity?
If ideas don't come to mind straight away, look at the world around you. Read the politics section of a newspaper and try to work out what the possible fallout of controversial decisions could be. Add advanced technology and super-powerful humans. You don't have to make every world into a statement about national or global politics, but they can give you a good starting point.
Try to focus on the social changes and the Aberrant impact on the situation, and work out how each will affect how the planet appears to the characters. That is the most important point; you can present a group of players with a beautiful portfolio on the sociocultural structure of each planet they visit but if every world reacts in the same way to the characters then most of your work has been in vain. Social structures are hard to represent, and more than anything else your maxim should be ”show, don't tell.“
You should consider a number of points when creating new planets, though these points differ between solely-Aberrant colonies and mixed Aberrant-human worlds. This section isn’t an exhaustive list, just some common points to think about.
Aberrant-Only worlds Edit
Aberrants have settled worlds in groups for as long as they have dreamed of other worlds. The planets may be impossible for humans to live on, due to a lack of natural resources like food and water — or oxygen. Alternatively, the world could be analogous enough to Earth to support human life, but the Aberrants wanted to get away from the problems of living among humans.
The colony itself could have formed at any time; the pressures that altered the human/Aberrant social dynamics on Earth don't affect the interactions between Aberrants themselves. They do affect, however, how the Aberrants interact with any humans or psions that make their way to the world. Whether the Aberrants remember what it was like to be human, or have abandoned all of their old life and no longer have any ties with the past will shape their interactions with visitors. If they remember leaving amidst the Chinese government threatening to destroy the planet, their reaction to a Ministry expeditionary force is likely to be vastly different to that of a multilateral Æon group.
All-Aberrant planets are not at all easy to create. Do the inhabitants get on? If so, how? If not, what rules have they agreed on to avoid destroying the planet? Have they altered the planet at all? Without the stabilizing force of humanity, it's all too easy for an Aberrant world to fall to infighting and ideological conflicts. The Aberrants are gods without worshipers, and have often developed to the point that they no longer perceive things in the same manner as humans. All too often, their fellow Aberrants do not share their specific frame of reference and vital concepts become lost in translation.
Why then do these worlds exist? Why would a group of powerful Aberrants who can barely agree on anything remain on the same planet as each other? Barring outside pressures such as the only one of the group able to open warp gates teleporting away, the main reason is that deep within their minds the Aberrants were once human, and most still have human social instincts. Being alone gives each Aberrant no insight other than her own, and without conflicting views she can go slowly mad without the influence of taint. Further than that, Aberrants can be friends and lovers despite their disagreements, and many find common points even through their altered states of perceptions.
Aberrant-only worlds are more likely to be strange worlds as described above. Assuming that each Aberrant can survive there really is no limit to the properties a planet can have. Non-Aberrants arriving on the planet may need any of a wide range of survival equipment from environment suits for poison atmospheres to VARG-grade encounter gear for worlds with far higher gravity than Earth normal.
Assuming more than two Aberrants reside on a planet, there will be some form of structure governing encounters between each. The following list includes the most likely, but is by no means conclusive.
Anarchy: Rather than the entire lack of rules, the Aberrants adhere to the tenets of enlightened self-government. Each respects the others and restricts his actions to avoid affecting the others without their consent. At least, that's the idea. Aberrants can affect others without meaning to as their powers fluctuate, and there is no central order to appeal to. Rather, the affected parties must deal with their own problems, and doing so can lead to open warfare that leaves large areas blasted with taint.
Dictatorship: One Aberrant, either through sheer might or possessing the means of producing necessities like food, holds authority over the others. This authority may be by consent, as the others realize that the dictator is necessary and the dictator does not abuse his position, or the dictator himself may be a tyrant and the other Aberrants struggling to overthrow whatever puts him in a position of superiority. In either case, the backing of outsiders can alter the balance of power drastically.
Communal: Each Aberrant does everything he can for the good of the whole, donating creations and artifacts to the group in the manner of an old nomadic tribe. A communal group does not have to meet often, but will do so at set times to make sure that everyone gives back what they take and to share news. As everything is shared by the commune there is no outright ownership of anything, and the concept of someone having something that is not used for the benefit of the group is quite alien to this micro-society. The community runs a communal society above any individual, as opposed to the system of anarchy that is governed by each individual.
Antagonistic: The Aberrants form small groups based on ties of friendship or beliefs, with each group antagonistic towards the other. This could be something as simple as a professional rivalry or as complex as any courtly intrigue. The groups will rarely break out into open conflict out of a sense of mutual preservation. Rather, each group tries to get one up on the others, by discovering something new, finding a new supply of food, or some other means of improving their lot.
Besieged: The Aberrants are not alone, and are not prospering. Another group, either powerful aliens or another group of Aberrants, are holding the colonists under siege, trying to get them to evacuate the planet. For whatever reason, the Aberrants cannot leave — perhaps the first one to be killed was the only one able to teleport, or they have children who would not yet survive the rigors of spaceflight. Another group of outsiders could be a big advantage to either side, and characters embroiled in such a situation would have to work out who to help, if anyone.
Anthony Selas was one of the novas who fled Earth after the Chinese Ultimatum. His friends and companions left him behind, teleporting or warping to distant planets. With nowhere to go, Anthony tagged along with a group of other novas he only knew from their research. Together, the ten found an isolated planet with an atmosphere of inert gases that would allow the group to continue their experimental work. Agreeing to meet only to share results, they descended on the planet and prepared a central meeting place in addition to their individual settlements. None of the group needed to eat or breathe, and for most sleep was optional. The group didn't expect to leave the planet, and met to share results and to ensure that their experiments were not disrupting each other.
Five years ago, their warper was killed. Nobody knows who did it, the death isn't an obvious match for the powers of any of the group. They are at each other's throats still, wanting to know who would kill to keep them on the planet. The fact that each Aberrant has discovered something that gives them a good reason to leave the planet does not help matters. Actual combat hasn't broken out, but each of the novas believes that one of the others is a killer and is not about to tell which one for fear of being right. The psions arrive to an atmosphere of paranoia and distrust. How they handle the situation and who they decide to trust will have a big impact on the other novas, and will probably decide the fate of the whole colony.
Mixed worlds Edit
Colonies that incorporate both Aberrants and humans have a different dynamic to Aberrant-only worlds. The humans have basic needs that Aberrants don't necessarily require, like food, water and a breathable atmosphere. In turn, the presence of weaker beings can lead to a number of societies evolving based on the obvious differences in strengths between the two castes.
Something to consider is when the colony was formed. Novas were exploring space throughout the early 21st century, through warp gates, teleportation, relativistic travel, and even some hypertech spacecraft produced by nova inventors that could carry human passengers. The intent of these early expeditions was for research and curiosity. Once the Aberrant War broke out, novas left the planet to escape the fighting, and many begged those who could leave to take human friends and loved ones with them. Rather than the curiosity of early nova explorers, these were refugees looking for a planet where they could live without the horrors of a war involving quantum Gods. Finally, the Ultimatum drove the remaining Aberrants off-world, and a number of humans chose to go with them rather than remaining on a world that was prepared to destroy itself. Knowing the origin of a colony planet can give you a wealth of ideas when working out the social structure and how the colony would respond to visitors, both psion and human.
The presence of humans means that the atmosphere will be breathable (assuming that the Aberrants haven't altered the humans to breathe methane), and that the basic needs of human life will be available. The technology could be of any level; an Aberrant who chose to leave the planet may create wondrous nanotechnology or prefer a tribal lifestyle without modern conveniences like electricity. Humans again limit the situation, making the more extreme planetary alterations unfeasible.
Socially, the role of humans and Aberrants varies widely. Aberrants are far above humans through the simple fact of their powers, and these only increase over time. This does not lend itself to happy cohabitation. The following list is intended to illustrate some of the many ways in which Aberrants and humans can exist on the same planet.
Benevolent Dictatorship: The Aberrants ultimately have total control. While an Aberrant may listen to the humans, nothing mandates that she must give weight to the humans' concerns. The Aberrants in such a case are concerned with the well-being of the whole colony, and will use their powers to ensure that it functions as smoothly as possible. The colony on Eden is a good example of this system at work.
Separation: The Aberrants and humans have little interaction, living apart from each other. The Aberrants still ensure the well-being of the human population, but will not interfere in conflicts between individual humans. After several generations the humans may come to regard the Aberrants in the way that the ancient Greeks regarded their gods, with tales of the colony's founding and of the Aberrants' actions as myths and legends.
Uplifted: There are a number of reasons that an Aberrant may have altered the humans of a colony. Perhaps they went in search of a singularity or had some similarly lofty goal, or the humans were committed to finding the limits of “humanity”. In this state, Aberrant-designed hyper-technology has blurred the line between human and Aberrant; from intelligence augmentations and biological customization to seemingly sentient AIs far more powerful than an SI or human mind, and even humans uploaded out of their biological forms.
Tribal: The humans have formed into small tribes, grouped around an Aberrant who acts as a moral and political leader. It's rare for research colonies to take this path, but in a refugee colony it is all too possible. This isn't a “de-evolution” to a “primitive” level; the tribes are microcosms of the countries of Earth with Aberrants in place of both government and military — and many of the problems of the real world.
Providers: The Aberrants may remove themselves from the humans as with Separation above, but remain involved with the human colonists by supplying anything from advanced technology (if the colony is otherwise self-sustaining) to food, if the world is a harsh place to live. Such worlds lend to closer links between the Aberrants and humans without constant interaction and the problems that that can lead to.
Oppressed: One group, probably the humans, is oppressed in some way by the other group. Aberrants may flaunt their abilities, not caring how many baselines they injure or kill in their lust for more power. Alternately, with powerful weapons or alien assistance combined with Aberrants disinterested in increasing their power the humans could find themselves oppressing the Aberrants. This would give the world a super-powered underclass who are looking for any excuse to revolt.
The nova known as Mercury Jones was a rising star in the late 2030s. His body converted to living plasma and gravitic anomalies on eruption, he needed a containment suit to function without destroying a large area around him. His destructive potential lead to him being highly sought-after in the Aberrant War, but nobody could find him. A pacifist, he had arranged to leave Earth with a group of friends, relatives, and others to found a colony on a habitable world far from Earth. Opening a warp gate, they left without fanfare. The world they found was a rock orbiting a dying sun, nothing like what the astronomers had promised. With his containment suit badly damaged from the warp, he sent the humans to land and tore himself free.
Mercury Jones lives on, his body now a tiny star providing heat and light to the colony on the planet he orbits. He still communicates with the colonists — over 1000 of them by 2121 — through a form of telepathy, but he will leave any visitors for the colonists to deal with alone. The humans on the planet live a mostly agrarian lifestyle, but brought and maintain enough technology to give them an edge. Every homestead has a communications center, linking everyone on the planet, and anything that affects the colony as a whole is put to a communal vote. By and large, the populace are pacifists, nobody owning weapons aside from their farming tools. Psions who attempt to attack Mercury simply because of the taint he gives off will draw the ire of a whole planet — and even with his help reintegrating the separatist colony into the modern world will be an uphill struggle.
Back Home Edit
Social interplay between Aberrants and humans doesn't start and end with undiscovered colonies. Aberrant cults exist throughout known space, humans flocking to (usually first-generation) Aberrants to serve them. Aberrant cults aren't named by accident; they are insular societies with members who often cut their ties to their former life in favor of the cult. Cultists put Aberrant above all others in the social order, and members expect each other to obey her every command. If the Aberrant can create sub-Aberrants or otherwise empower individual cultists, these members are elevated to a position between the normal humans and the Aberrant. Aberrant cults do not always form around one Aberrant: a group of sub-Aberrants or newly-erupted first-generation Aberrants may soon find themselves leading a cult.
There is a great temptation for the Aberrants that a cult worships to be cruel. The humans volunteer to degrade themselves in front of their masters, and the urge to treat them like playthings is strong. Some cults may have Byzantine hierarchies that exist only so the Aberrants can play with the power and morality of his subjects, or all the humans may occupy a bottom rung, with the Aberrant able to destroy any of them for no good reason. Aberrants who find themselves with a cult must be careful not to get too careless, or else they will kill or cripple all of their followers.
If the Aberrants in charge of a given cult will randomly start killing cultists for their own amusement, why would anyone want to join in the first place? There are a few reasons. The Aberrant will usually reward loyal followers with power within the cult, money, forbidden technology, or anything else the cultists would find useful. In addition, if anyone starts persecuting the cultist then he has a group of like-minded individuals — and, in extremes, tainted mutants — to seek retribution. More than that, in the 22nd century there are more reasons than ever for a human to go through life feeling unfulfilled, and the pseudo-religious trappings that many Aberrant cults use are a chance to belong to a shared secret, to belong to a group that knows something that the world does not.
In turn, the Aberrant gets more than mindless adoration from the cult. It's hard for an inhuman taint-ridden creature to do many things in society, thus human attendants who can arrange transport or special equipment, or keep human authorities from detecting the Aberrant and his cult, is an obvious bonus. The Aberrant also gets a psychological boost from people willing to serve him. The world is not kind to Aberrants, and the influence of a number of humans who really don't think that he should be killed and dissected can help the Aberrant avoid ruining long-term plans in a fit of rage.