Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aberrant 3rd Session

My RPG group and I have decided to play Aberrant in a bi-weekly game.  I figure I'd share my experiences here.

We spent the first week discussing what kind of campaign (chronicle, to use White Wolf's terminology) it would be, which ended up being working for British Military Intelligence as part of an anti-nova task force under a resurrected MI-11. 

The second session was spent building characters, which was greatly hampered by the book's organization.  Truth be known, I never had any problems with the book's organization until actually trying to run a game with it.  At which point it became really clear that the book is not well organized, but this is a picture of White Wolf's products in 1999 and I'd like to think they've gotten better about it since.  Hard for me to judge as I've been told my reading comprehension skills are ridiculously good.

Last night was session 3, some of which was spent tweaking characters and going over the basic rules.  The players were a bit apprehensive about how the mechanics would actually play out and the session was essentially an excuse to put the system through its paces. 

As is typical of our group, some arguments about physics came into play, which had to be settled with "It's comic book physics with only a touch of restraint, stop worrying."  As an example, our speedster wanted to run across the water to their little base of operations and people started arguing over whether it was possible at his speeds.  As the game moderator I quashed the discussion by saying "It is not that you can't do it, it's that MI-11 would rather that you didn't because they're trying to maintain a covert operation here and running across water is hardly covert.", which settled the argument.

Their base of operations is Gruinard Island, which had not only been decontaminated prior to the emergence of Novas, the British government also made doubly sure it was safe by commissioning a nova to make an anthrax eating microorganism and dousing the island with it in 2008.  Yes this ignores bits of real history, but this is a fictional universe with superhumans.  Plus I figure that the owner of Gruinard would probably be happy to have been bought out by the Crown at a sum substantially more than 500 British pounds sterling.  Essentially in the wake of the Project Utopia scandals that revealed the existence of their Proteus Division and the true nature of the Bahrain Rashoud Facility, the British government decided they needed  their own covert Rashoud Facility.  Which they built under Gruinard Island under the guise of a sheep farm.

I've come to the conclusion that this particular iteration of the Storyteller System is not really equipped to deal with this many dice or successes.  I know that in-universe Novas are supposed to be incredibly powerful, and I'm okay with that.  But the system does not really support the kinds of things the universe describes as happening. 

For example.  The drugs that are designed to target novas specifically are utterly useless against any nova with Mega-Stamina 3 or higher, and are quite often simply not effective against novas with just Mega-Stamina 1 or 2.  This wouldn't be a problem except for the conspiracies to render novas sterile and the fact that the novas with the most knowledge about the nova condition are struggling to overcome the effects of those sterilizing drugs.  This problem was illustrated by our big tough 'roid rage guy PC getting shot twice with a drug that shuts down super powers and he just spent his Mega-Stamina 3 to reduce the difficulty of the Resistance roll to 0 each time.  This has understandably terrified everybody else because the one guy that can dismantle the entire facility and murder everybody with just his bare hands is flat out immune to the drugs designed to take him down.

There are also serious problems with the game's conceits about technology standing relatively still in the face of superhuman scientists and engineers (three out of five of our PCs belong in this category to one degree or another).  There are entire sidebars in the books about "Your Character Can't Be Iron Man", which is patently silly because the game is made out to be about superpowered people who change the world.  The PCs are trying to invent a better battery and hit the difficulty I set with change to spare.  In the decade of novas existing in force, the world ought to be a vastly different place with technology that far surpasses what we have today.  In some respects Aberrant's world does that, but in other ways it seems backwards (though that might just be the fact that it was written 14 years ago).

Anyway, there you have it.