One. Of a kind. [Deviant: The Renegades]

Deviant: The Renegades, Open Development

Welcome back, faithful readers!

Last Time we talked about the elevator pitch for Deviant: The Renegades, the newest Chronicle of Darkness game. Deviant will be the eleventh main gameline in the CofD, the third to be written entirely for a second edition ruleset, and if you include every monster, faction and creature ever published in the “blue” books like Changing Breeds or Second Sight… Well, it’s a lot. Any new game has to do something to make itself stand out from the crowd. Unique points of interest, compared to its big siblings. Why should you play Deviant, rather than a “mortals” game using the Lost Boys in Hurt Locker? What does Deviant have to say about the fallout from trauma that Changeling doesn’t? Demon had the God-Machine, all the way from the original 2004 corebook, as an antagonist. Beast flipped our usual crossover assumption from supported in a supplement, maybe, to talked about throughout the core. Mummy brought back player-Storyteller knowledge separation and inverted our usual character progression.

When we pitched the game to White Wolf, we included the following key points, our design goals that would make Deviant stand out.

Simplification and Clarity

Chronicles of Darkness games have become increasingly complicated over the last decade (and as Awakening Developer, I know of what I speak,) with lots of moving parts and descriptive traits (things like Virtues, Aspirations, and Conditions) for players to keep track of above and beyond the visually-easy dot ratings on the character sheet.

Deviant is designed to be easier on a troupe than our other games. The Remade Template condenses several things; no Virtue or Vice and only one Aspiration, as their mechanical functions (willpower renewal and beat generation) are supplied by other traits. Deviant’s powers are dot-rated, bought individually, and mechanics like Supernatural Tolerance (which for everyone but Demons is supplied by a 1-10 trait like Blood Potency or Gnosis) derived from those powers rather than being bought and recorded separately. Our goal here is to have a clean character sheet that’s easy to read and understand.

Chronicle-specific Settings

And I don’t mean settings as in “LA” or “Moscow”. I mean as in dials and switches.

We’ve spoken here and there about how Deviant will, for the most part, be the lowest-powered game bar Hunter, as the Remade’s opponents are mostly ordinary, if organized, human beings. Well, a troupe can change that. A troupe can change a lot about the game.

Deviant characters buy their powers with Experiences, same as everyone, but how strong those powers are – their dot-rating, if you will – is entirely up to the troupe. The total badassery of a character then feeds into other mechanics, informing how bad her Scars are, how potent her opposing conspiracy is, and other things. While isolation and instability brings further Scars and, as the character rebalances, more powers, that initial setting is entirely up to the troupe. A bare-minimum Deviant character is slightly more potent than someone with a Supernatural Merit, an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Deviant is a walking timebomb. Where you sit on that curve at chronicle’s start is up to you, divorced from Experiences and beats.

It’s not the only thing.

The Remade template itself is somewhat more variable than our other games. The splats alter how many powers, Scars, and Conviction and Loyalty dots a character receives at creation, but that’s a game design element dating back to Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Where Deviant stands out is the support in the game for what we call Forms, modifications to the Remade template as it applies to a particular character. Imagine if Kiths were much more involved, but not every Changeling character had one, or if Vampire presented things like postmortem embraces, clanless vampires, and hollow Mekhet as the game’s customisation option rather than bloodlines. Forms allow us to handle things that require extra rules but don’t fit our splats, like Symbiotes.

Build Your Own Powers

In keeping with the last point, one of the big draws of Deviant is how open-ended the powers list is going to be. All Variations have one of a set list of activation mechanics (I’ll explain this in a later blog) and then the player picks a Variation and “skins” it according to his character’s aesthetics. Creating a Deviant character feels like assembling a custom monster from building blocks, which when combined with the fact that how potent Variations are is divorced from Experiences, gives the game a unique niche among the Chronicles of Darkness, akin to Exigents in Exalted. Mage has the free improvisation of effects within guidelines in play, but Deviant has a power workshop. Our intention is for it to be the go-to game for building playable one-off monsters.

Chronicle Planning / Antagonist Systems

Deviant isn’t just about body-horror; it’s about a struggle with your enemy. A Remade’s Progenitor is not necessarily a member of the Conspiracy hunting them. Many Deviants are self-made, but their antagonists are looking to acquire them just the same. As you’ll see when we get around to blogging about Instability, without some external force to rail against a Deviant’s broken soul metastasizes and inflicts more debilitating aftereffects of their change.

Here’s something I don’t think we’ve spoken about anywhere – at some point between now and Deviant being released, dedicated Chronicles readers will see a ruleset we’ve been working on across several gamelines over the last few years for organization-level play. In the book they’re coming in first, they’re used for player-controlled groups, treating them almost as characters. Deviant will use them, but for the antagonists.

What this means is that the conspiracy hunting Deviant characters will have a character sheet of its own, filled out by the Storyteller from facts established by player choices in character creation and collaborative questions. The more Variations a Remade character has (and how powerful they are) is a key factor in how many points the Storyteller has to spend on their Conspiracy, and multiple players can pool their Conspiracy creation together.

In Deviant‘s Storytelling chapter we’ll have an optional system (in so much as the ST can override it at any time) for determining the Conspiracy’s “actions” in response to what the player characters do in a Story, how active the Conspiracy is in hunting them, and other factors determined by the Conspiracy’s “stats”. This isn’t new ground for rpgs in general, but for a Chronicles of Darkness game we haven’t tried it before.

Tap into Unused Source Material

After two worlds of darkness and 25+ years, there can’t be any monsters we haven’t done a game for before, right?

Wrong.

While inspirational media for some of our games is thin on the ground or requires a sideways view, Deviant taps into horror stories we’ve all seen and read but haven’t had a place in White Wolf games yet. From the last remaining famous gothic horrors – Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Moreau’s creations, and the Invisible Man are all comfortably within the game’s remit – to 1970s and 1980s stories of isolation being linked to mutation and metamorphosis like the works of Cronenburg (especially the Fly), Japanese horror featuring monstrously transformed protagonists like Guyver, Akira, and Tetsuo, to the 1990s and early millennial trend for “minor supernatural beings versus the conspiracy” like Dark Angel, Gargoyles, Beauty and the Beast, and Roswell, to modern classics that draw from all of the above like Orphan Black and Fringe. You’ve all seen a Deviant story, you just didn’t know it.

A Toolkit

To summarize, Deviant is going all-in on the tendency for Chronicles of Darkness games to be “toolkits”. Some of the CofD games have a firmer idea of “canon” than others – compare, for example, the just-as-setting-heavy-as-a-WoD-game Mage and Changeling to the every-Chronicle-is-different Hunter and Beast, but in Deviant no two Chronicles will use exactly the same rules. Within that wide-open customisation, it’s still a Chronicles game, laser-focused on the inner journey of the players’ characters and the story of isolation, revenge, and mutation they tell.

And that story – Deviant‘s themes and mood – will be the subject of our next blog.

Until then!

 

  24 comments for “One. Of a kind. [Deviant: The Renegades]

  1. Robert D
    September 28, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I was already sold on DtR from its first blog on :). Eagerly awaiting more game lore or mechanic tidbits

  2. Peter Westmer
    September 28, 2017 at 8:33 am

    ?

    I was under the impression that Demons used Primum for supernatural tolerance, when they weren’t able to or decided not to use Cover…

    • Dave Brookshaw
      September 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      They almost always use Cover instead, as it’s usually much higher – point is, they’re the only ones so far that don’t simply use their power trait and nothing else.

      Not all Remade have dots in their power trait, and it doesn’t go up to 10, so Remade don’t just use it for their Supernatural Tolerance.

  3. September 28, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Here’s something I don’t think we’ve spoken about anywhere

    If you have, I blinked and missed it.

    In the book they’re coming in first

    Has that book been announced yet? Is it a blue-book supplement, or for a color line?

  4. Axel
    September 28, 2017 at 8:55 am

    To be honest, even if I never actually run a game of Deviant, this sounds like what I’ve always wanted; a book for creating unique monsters. Perfect for creating allies and antagonists in a Chronicle that don’t fit any neat “niche”.

  5. Glamourweaver
    September 28, 2017 at 9:07 am

    As Moreau’s creations aren’t modified humans, they’re something that wasn’t human being made into humans, wouldn’t they be closer to Prometheans than Deviants?

    • September 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      As Moreau’s creations aren’t modified humans, they’re something that wasn’t human being made into humans, wouldn’t they be closer to Prometheans than Deviants?

      Given that the Created are made from dead bodies and Moreau was working with (in the words of a great American poet) “living tissue, warm flesh,” I’d say no. In terms of established CofD content, what they’re really close to IMO is the Animeras from World [sic] of Darkness: Skinchangers.

      • Dave Brookshaw
        September 28, 2017 at 4:19 pm

        There’s a ruke of thumb you can use based on whether the “before” of an experiment had a soul or not – Prometheans have the raw materials of one, but not the finished article, Remade had one but it got broken.

  6. perverseness
    September 28, 2017 at 10:20 am

    BOOYAH, BooYAH!!
    I believed I was going to be happy with this but my expectations seem to be exploding at the edges. The idea that as the ST, I get to make my Biological Preservation Society a character sheet.
    WhEEE!

  7. Josh Stotz
    September 28, 2017 at 11:39 am

    This sound quite intriguing! I am curious about the Rules coming about Antagonists. Will this be something that is going to be applied to all games now? ( I mean, I understand storyteller’s will run it by choice and troupe’s all run their games differently)

    • Dave Brookshaw
      September 28, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      Perhaps, one day. Part of the fun of having all these gamelines is seeing innovations feed back into olther games. Like I said, Deviant is taking the rules for organizations from mystery upcoming book X and flipping them. I’m sure someone will take from it eventually.

      Actually, I know they will, as the work we did on Forms has fed back into Mage already, firming up how we’re going to approach things like metamorphic Awakenings and the Tremere.

  8. Gary Furash
    September 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Dave. If I sent you $50 would you rewrite the other CoD so that they use this approach. Your simplification sounds amazing.

  9. Charlaquin
    September 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    I’m really, really interested in Deviant, I adore how modular it sounds, and trimming down on complexity is always a strong selling point for me. I will say though, as a result of this extreme modularity, I’m having a very difficult time formulating a mental image of what Deviant will look like. Not in terms of story, I think the their narrative role is very well-fleshed out and clear, but on a system level, I’m struggling to grokk it. There are so many variables that depend on other variables, most of which are highly customizable, it’s just a little overwhelming. Exciting in equal measure, don’t get me wrong. I’m more excited for this game than I have been for any other new Chronicles line. But I can’t quite fit the idea of it into my head.

  10. frog
    September 28, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    is it possible to have multiple conspiracies?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      September 28, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      That is an excellent wuestion I must remember when redlining the Conspiracy rules.

  11. Pendragon
    September 28, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Gah, this sounds amazing. I want to fuse it with Ascension and create the perfect, modular “wizards and their spawn” system.

  12. perverseness
    September 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    One side note that comes out of this is that, the progenitors of Deviants can in fact be good people with no ulterior motives. Your maker isn’t some douche who wanted to flavor your eternal existence with their perpetual teenage angst, but instead is a genuinely caring individual trying to make the world better and IS NOT YOUR ENEMY. In the World of Darkness this is somewhat relevatory

  13. September 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Sounds like … more stuff to keep in my head. Was interested, now less certain because even if you simplify the character sheet that doesn’t mean the overall systems is simpler.

  14. WuseMajor
    September 28, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    I’ll be interested to see how this combination of “Simplicity and Clarity” works with the DIY aspect of “building a custom monster out of legos,” since those can often be at odds with each other. As long as there are prebuilt templates and things that people can just pick up and go I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem, but I could imagine some dissonance in there.

    Admittedly, since I’m well experienced with both legos and RPGs, the learning curve doesn’t bother me in the slightest and having another set of custom monster building blocks sounds very, very fun.

    I’m definitely going to pick up a copy of this game.

  15. WuseMajor
    September 30, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Thinking on what other “Classic Horror” stuff hasn’t been mined for CofD yet, I feel like an area that has been mostly untouched is Aliens. Granted, there are plenty of otherworldly non-human entities in the setting, but, aside from Demons, none of them are native to other material planets. And Demons have been so thoroughly coopted by the God Machine that they don’t really count, as they don’t have their own society and culture and everything. From the War of the Worlds to 50’s B movies to the X-Files to Alien, there’s plenty there that Changeling isn’t using.

    Speaking of alien entities, there’s not exactly a Lovecraftian gameline either. Ok, yes, Mage 2e and Hunter both do an excellent job with the whole “Investigator looking into mysterious situations and dealing with eldritch creatures from beyond space and time” thing, but there isn’t a game that lets you PLAY as one of the Fungi from Yuggoth or what have you. I’m not entirely sure how such a game could work, but, yeah there’s another angle for an Alien type game.

    So, if you need a 13th game line idea, I’m not saying it should be Aliens…..but it’s a direction you guys haven’t boldly gone before, not quite.

    • September 30, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      aside from Demons, none of them are native to other material planets. And Demons have been so thoroughly coopted by the God Machine that they don’t really count

      I’m not sure what evidence exists for the propositioning that the Unchained are originally from some other planet, and I thought I had every published Demon: The Descent supplement.

      From the War of the Worlds to 50’s B movies to the X-Files to Alien, there’s plenty there that Changeling isn’t using.

      This point, however, I cannot dispute.

      Speaking of alien entities, there’s not exactly a […] game that lets you PLAY as one of the Fungi from Yuggoth or what have you. I’m not entirely sure how such a game could work, but, yeah there’s another angle for an Alien type game.

      There’s at least one fan-made line that does something similar (though the name is escaping me), but if OPP did an official take on the concept, I would buy the hell out of it.

  16. October 2, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    There’s at least one fan-made line that does something similar (though the name is escaping me)

    Strictu sensu, it wasn’t so much “escaping me” as “wriggling in my grasp”. (“It’s right on the tip of my mind,” as the Fifth Doctor said.) It is, of course, Almarck’s creation Monarch: the Endless (linked from my name). I was pretty sure of “Monarch”, less so of “Endless”, and would’ve autocorrected the lowercase definite article to fit WW/OPP house style.

  17. Jean Correa
    October 8, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Please bring DtR to existence as sooner as possible!

  18. Conin
    October 10, 2017 at 7:58 am

    I was really skeptical and waiting to know what this was about. (not like negative skepticism, just curious caution). Now I’m really hyped for this and eager to see how it shapes new chronicles!

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