Deviant at Midwinter [Deviant: The Renegades]

Deviant: The Renegades

Eric Zawadzki, here. Some folks expressed interest in seeing the Mid-Winter scenario for the Deviant game Meghan ran, so I’ve posted it as a Google document. This includes the player hand-outs, as well as the Storyteller information. I haven’t included the character sheets because the mechanics of several Variations and Scars have changed so much that I don’t want to post obsolete information, but I’ve provided brief summaries of each character below.

Writing a convention scenario is a lot different from planning a session for an ongoing chronicle. The approach I’ve developed over the years works something like this:

Characters

Although I often have a vague notion of the setting and plot of the scenario before I start (“capture a billionaire on a cruise ship”), when it comes time to write the details, I almost always start by creating the players’ characters. There are some tricks I use for this process.

Each character sheet must be self-contained. This means that all the details of the Variations and Scars need to be printed on the character sheet, but it also means that the character concept needs to be easy to grok. You want characters with a power/skill set that makes their strengths and weaknesses instantly obvious, as well as a personality that doesn’t require much time to settle into it.

Brevity is your friend, here. A long character sheet with too many special rules makes it hard for players to get up to speed quickly. This means a lot of mechanics that are important in a chronicle (conspiracy actions and Instability, for example) are best left by the wayside in a typical convention game. If it doesn’t serve the immediate needs of the scenario, leave it out.

For this scenario, I knew I wanted to showcase several Variations without burdening players with a huge number of Scars to keep track of. I also knew this was an infiltration mission, so while some of the Variations could be flashy and obvious in use, they couldn’t come with Scars that would immediately attract a lot of attention from random passersby. I also knew I wanted to emphasize Divergence as an unwelcome, life-altering change, so I made sure that it was clear what each character had lost as a consequence of it, and I chose Persistent Scars (as opposed to Controlled or Involuntary ones). Finally, I knew I was creating a scenario where all the characters had the same Origin (Exomorphs/Unwilling), so I didn’t even include that information on the character sheets.

Group Dynamics

A convention setting does not afford the time for everyone to meet in a bar and introduce themselves for the first half hour of the session (or, who am I kidding, the first two hours). I have found it helpful to make it clear that the characters know each other – whether through working together before or by reputation. This lets everyone trim down their introductions to “name, summary of the character history summary, and what I can do (Variations/Scars).”

Creating pre-generated characters for a convention scenario also means you have complete control over the connections between those characters and can bake in some of the interpersonal dynamics. You can create tension by giving characters traits that set each other off (“I hate sports” meets “I love talking about sports” or “I’ve always secretly loved you” meets “I’m not worthy of your love”), or you can give them Variations that play off each other well (“create blinding light” with “shield your senses from overwhelming sensory input”).

For this scenario, I wanted the characters to cooperate with each other readily, so I kept the personal dynamic pretty simple (“you’ve been fighting this conspiracy together for quite some time”). With one exception, each had Variations that emphasized infiltration or stealth, and that exception had mundane abilities geared toward investigation.

The Scenario

I love running big, sandboxy chronicles where the players and their characters’ action largely determine the goal of the next story, but a convention scenario is not the place for this. A clear goal, stated up-front (even if later complications change the destination significantly), like a short, simple character sheet, makes it easier for players to immediately grasp what to expect from the scenario.

I usually have a pretty clear idea of the beginning and the end of the scenario, so it’s mostly a matter of creating complications to slow the rate at which the players get from one to the other. When designing obstacles, I keep each character’s abilities (whether mundane or supernatural) in mind and attempt to give each one a chance to shine a few times. That said, I never assume that every character will be at the table every time, so while it is great to write in a submarine so that the aquatic character can be the one to discover it, the scenario must work just as well if the aquatic character isn’t there.

Finally, I find it useful to make a convention scenario an accordion. If the characters are burning through obstacles like thermite through a plastic table, I want to be able to add more complications on the fly to ensure we don’t wrap up too quickly. If the players are struggling (or dawdling), I want to be able to hack out some of the complications to make sure we wrap up within our allotted time. In either case, I want the players to be none the wiser that those Devoted didn’t have full stats or that I originally planned for the security in the oligarch’s quarters to be a lot tighter than that.

Dramatis Personae

Here is a summary of each of the characters I created for the scenario.

Daniel Thompson

Clade: Cephalist.
History: You were a star basketball player in high school, and though your college career didn’t get you into the NBA, you stayed active, and being on the court or field or diamond made you feel alive. Your desk job wasn’t everything you dreamed of as a kid, but you got to travel a lot. The only thing missing in your life was a family. They catfished you on Facebook. You know that now. The pretty face inviting you to meet her at a hotel in Argentina probably wasn’t even real. Instead, they were waiting for you with a black bag stinking of chloroform. What they did in that lab broke your body, and there’s no going back to the basketball court now.
Roleplaying Notes: Deprived of the health you once enjoyed, you live vicariously through others – sometimes by stealing their bodies for hours or days at a time, more often by merely pretending to be someone or something you are not.
Persistent Scars: Genetic Disorder
Variations: Body Snatcher, Face Thief, Pheremones

Holly Poff

Clade: Chimeric
History: You loved vacationing on the beach – with a friend, with your family, or all alone. They lured you with free tickets to a local aquarium – compliments of the hotel where you were staying in Darwin. The deep-sea exhibit featured a pressurized tank of fish from a mile or more below the sea’s surface. You found the bioluminescent creatures fascinating, but you never dreamed you would become like them until you woke up in a hospital bed a week later – the product of bizarre experiments in combining deep sea anatomy with your own. Now, you can’t stand the sight of the sun or its warmth against your skin.
Roleplaying Notes: You used to spend any spare cash that came your way on exotic vacations, but now you’re using it to bankroll precision strikes to dismantle the organization that took the sun away from you forever.
Persistent Scars: Bane
Variations: Aquatic, Bioluminescence, Camouflage, Holographic Projection

Kenneth Post

Clade: Invasive
History: You got into politics when you were still in high school, and when you were in college you were selected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. This was exciting. You always knew you’d be involved in governance – maybe as a politician, but even as a political operative, you knew you’d make the world a better place. At the hotel before the convention, though, you received room service you never requested, and your next memory is of riding in the trunk of a car with a bag over your head. They stuck needles in your skull – nanites meant to perfect your brain, so they said, but it broke you, instead.
Roleplaying Notes: You’ve gone from being the golden child everyone at school voted most likely to become President to a pariah. No one trusts you, and you find it almost impossible to trust anyone in return.
Persistent Scar: Lying Eyes
Variations: Omnicompetence, Onomantic Influence, Sensor Array

Natalie Brown

Clade: Mutant
History: As a working mother of two with large, extended families on both sides, you often joked that it would be nice to be able to clone yourself so that you could be everywhere for everyone who needed you. You don’t make that joke anymore. The hotel was pretty far from Disneyworld, but much cheaper – perfect for a family of four on a budget. Being kidnapped on the first night was not in the brochure. You don’t know exactly what they exposed your family to, but you vividly remember a lab tech describing your husband, son, and daughter as “medical waste” to be “disposed of.” You’ll never forgive that.
Roleplaying Notes: You’ll be the first to admit that you are broken – not like a toy to lie limp on the floor, but like a glass bottle. You are all sharp edges, cutting anyone who comes close. Sometimes you still see your family, or something that could be their ghosts, and that’s hard to bear.
Persistent Scar: Glitch
Variations: Enhanced Speed, Shadow Selves, Translocation

Sister Laura Clements

Clade: Coactive
History: You devoted your life to the Church, to teaching God’s children, and to learning more about the world. You were a gentle soul, good with elementary-aged children and savage only when playing card games like pinochle and hearts with friends and family. You were supposed to go on a retreat with some of your fellow sisters, but the flight to Cleveland was overbooked, and they left you behind to catch the next plane. You must have fallen asleep, a troubled sleep filled with nightmares of devils doing unspeakable things to you. You woke with a demon’s bloodlust that no exorcist has been able to purge.
Roleplaying Notes: You live in an eternal state of guilt, plagued with an impulse to do violence that you can’t control, and the ability to transform into a monster to carry it out. You can’t help but spend every conversation imagining with joy how you will hurt the people around you.
Persistent Scar: Murderous Urge
Variations: Hybrid Transformation (Gigantic, Natural Weapon, Superhuman Strength)

Finally, here is a link to the actual demo: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15q1cXpvmPK05JdBrZNRyaD4gA2mlcedCbhadH-nafnQ/edit?usp=sharing

  8 comments for “Deviant at Midwinter [Deviant: The Renegades]

  1. Nicolas
    April 4, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Super Awesome!

  2. Jude
    April 4, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Hmmm, what do Pheremones and Onomantic Ingluence do?

  3. Iceblade44
    April 5, 2019 at 9:24 am

    really curious whats the reasoning behind the clades, can’t really pick at it through how their named.

    also a lot of kidnapping from hotels and trips

  4. SunlessNick
    April 5, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Fascinating stuff!

  5. DivergentInterest
    April 6, 2019 at 1:53 am

    Is Cohort the official term for a player party in Deviant? Or is that just a general term being used for conveyance?

  6. Noneofyourbusiness
    April 7, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    What does the “Lying Eyes” Scar involve?

  7. C. Truman Aitken
    April 9, 2019 at 7:52 am

    I’m beyond glad I got to play Aberrant at Midwinter, but I’m now a little sad missed out on this. Very intriguing stuff.

  8. Michael
    April 9, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Were you using a safety mechanism? Having an NPC hang themselves is a pretty intense development for a convention game with total strangers.

Comments are closed.