Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why we need more Aberrant

I love roleplaying games. For those who don't know, a roleplaying game (or RPG) is a game where you take on the persona of someone more exciting, sexy and awesome than you. You then guide your persona through adventures orchestrated by your "Game-Master", who plays the other characters, handles the rules, arbitrates differences, and describes the world.

It is group storytelling at its finest, with the storytelling mediated by rules and random chance (via dice rolling) so that everything has a structure and flow that just a group of people making shit up couldn't quite manage.

The grand-daddy RPG is Dungeons and Dragons (though it rarely involves either, oddly enough) but there are many others: Eclipse Phase, Pathfinder, Exalted, Star Wars the RPG, Mutants and Masterminds, just to name a few.

But my favorite RPG of all time is a child of the 1990s.


Aberrant takes place in the (then) future year of 2008. In 1998, an exploding satellite called the Galateia spreads radioactive materials in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, and immediately afterwards, human beings with astounding powers explode onto the scene: Dubbed Homo Sapiens Novus, these meta-humans have a special gland in their brain that let them subconsciously manipulate quantum forces to produce various effects.

So, if a nova (as they were soon called) has a subconscious desire, their brains would literally change themselves and the world around them to fulfill it. A latent nova could be in a car crash, have their gland (called a node) "erupt" into full power...and suddenly be super tough. Or be able to teleport. Or have mastery of magnet!

(Maybe two people got that. Everyone else is just going to call it a typo.)

You might go, "pff, that's not special. That's just like X-Men, but with some quantum handwavium."

And yes, there IS an organization that trains novas to fight for the betterment of humanity. And yes, there is a nova who preaches a credo of nova supremacy and he has an organization of vaguely terrorist novas who bash things up and get into scrums with novas working for the other guys.

But that's where Aberrant gets awesome.

Firstly, the "good guy" organization is Project Utopia: A UN backed regulatory and training organization who is primarily an environmental cleanup and  peacekeeping force. They're more famous for cleaning up after disasters and fixing that hole in the Ozone Layer. And, more importantly, only 20-30% of novas actually work for them, and those that do work for them due to the paycheck and chance at marketing deals. Because novas are basically just people: They're not superheros.

They don't wear masks (most of them at least), they don't have flashy code names (unless they want to sell more records at Quantum Boom, or get that serialized comic book that every money savvy nova wants) and they don't all have a uniform desire to either save the world...or destroy it.

Novas with super-strength don't have a new villain to fight every week. Instead, they usually work a day job: Construction, demolitions, or if they can fly, freight trafficking. Novas who can survive anything that life throws at them have found more work exploring the Challenger Deepness than surviving blasts from Dr. Evilos Ray of Doom-Laser. Of course, those with more violent temperament find flamboyant wrestlers with the eXtreme Warfare Federation, or if they're a few steps more psychotic, as superpowered mercenaries called Elites.

And to add a cherry ontop, Aberrant takes an angle I hadn't seen done very often: That if someone could shoot webs out of their wrists, or fly, or do anything a comic book superhero could do...well, they'd be famous as SHIT. In Aberrant, there is a channel called N!: Thing a combination of TMZ and E! and focused purely on superpowered individuals who can melt tanks with their eyelasers and you've got a good idea of N!. There are nova popstars, nova gay rights activists (or in Tommy Orgy's case, a combination of the two), nova Muslims, Mormons,  Wicca and Buddhists.

It's a great system, a great world, and it is all around great.

But here is one problem.

Aberrant is dead.

It lasted into the year 2000, but was discontinued due to disinterest and poor sales. People just weren't into superheroes at the time. Which is a huge shame, as the game had even more potential that hadn't quite been reached.

But now, it is 2012. RPGs seem to be doing better than ever, with the popularity of Pathfinder, D&D 4th ed...even indi-games like Eclipse Phase are doing better than expected. The company that makes Aberrant - White Wolf - is still in business, mostly by making World of Darkness and Exalted (both fine games, mind you).

And we've just had a huge EXPLOSION of superhero popularity. Bale's Batman movies, the Avengers and every movie that lead up to it, the new Spiderman, superheroes dominate this cinematic landscape. And hell, the last X-Men movie was pretty much the best X-Men movie EVER MADE.

The time is right for Aberrant.

They may not be superheroes...

But they damn well deserve another chance in the spotlight.


  1. I have never heard of this! I just re-bought some Rifts books at a used bookstore. "For research" I say.

    1. Well, you're in luck! Drive Thru RPG has most of the Aberrant books for like 5 bucks a pop. Just...don't buy the D20 versions. Dear. God. No! NOT THE D20 EDITIONS!

      Seriously, they took everything that made Aberrant unique ruleswise, nixed that, and made it a really pathetic M&M clone. They had CLASSES, I say. CLASSES. In a game that is inherently about creating any wild and weird combination of powers as you can think of!

      Grumbles. Grumbles.

  2. It is a great game and fortunely I can play it with my friends until this days. And I must say that now we play better than before, maybe is because we are more mature and can understand better the concept of having all and having nothing and how to shift it.

    It is something anybody who are so in the RPG and the Superheroes must play inmediatly.

    I´m glad that somebody still remember that game.