Eric Zawadzki here, co-developer of the new Deviant: The Renegades line. Dave Brookshaw and I are hard at work redlining, but I thought I’d take a moment to share an excerpt from this project. Today we’re going to share Origins with you, which is one axis along which Deviants are organized, the other being Clades.
The usual caveats apply: This is still an early draft, so things could and likely will change in some places. Enjoy!
A Deviant’s Origin is not just a matter of circumstance, but disposition. Some of the Remade readied themselves for transformation, or at least believed it was a worthwhile price to pay. Others were taken against their will, had Divergence forced upon them by a family legacy, or were transformed by accident. While Clade describes the Remade based on the Variations she manifests, the Origin’s effects are influenced by deep-seated attitudes and the way the Deviant’s initiation into their kind supports or offended their physical and spiritual autonomy.
Conspiracies have long studied the nature of Deviant Origins. Some scientists wish to eliminate Origin as an influence on Divergence, to control the manifestation of Variations and Scars precisely. Conspirators wish to instill loyalty, and remain confounded by Origins which seem to promote defiance, or twist careful conditioning into resentment. Not all Conspiracies are so focused on control, however, and believe a subject’s ability to influence their own transformation presents opportunities for further research. Could a carefully conditioned zealot manifest stronger Variations? What about a pretended accident, or torturing a subject so that, in defiance, they develop novel abilities? Established Conspiracies may attempt to manipulate Origins in this way, and the latest generation of Deviants may share stories of the strange, excruciating psychological experiments that followed.
Conspiracy literature identifies five major Origins, with formal and informal designations. They are:
- Autourgics: The Elect wholeheartedly wish to be Remade, to satisfy a sincere personal desire or some ideologically driven urge. They may not know what they will become, exactly, but understand they will break the confines of human nature and welcome it. They tend to manifest overt Variations, and often remain deeply entangled in the Conspiracy that makes them. In fact, many are senior Conspirators themselves, and in a few cases, are their own Progenitors. Most of the Elect are Devoted — they get what they wanted, even if it comes with a certain degree of trauma. Renegades are usually those who chafe against Conspiracy control, or who discover that post-humanity isn’t what they believed it would be. Autourgic Deviants are some of the rarest, least-trusted Renegades, since their very existence indicates that at one point, they believed the Conspiracy was right.
- Epimorphs: With threats and promises, Conspiracies convince Volunteers to become Remade. Where the Elect seek transformation for its own sake, Epimorphs agree to it to pursue some secondary goal: money, freedom, or safety for loved ones. Many Volunteers are lied to about what will happen to them or are desperate enough not to care about the details of a drug study or a mandatory journey to some weird, remote locale. Epimorphs are often Devoted, though not always sincerely so, hunting Renegades for pay and perks. For them, Divergence involves developing deep ties to the Conspiracy, and even if they go Renegade, they must deal with the connections they establish from fellow workers, caregivers and other connections. Volunteers tend to display covert Variations.
- Exomorphs: Remade intentionally, but against their will, the Unwilling usually turn Renegade whenever a safe opportunity presents itself. Conspiracies treat Exomorphs with utter contempt or the grim pity one feels for an enemy who never wanted to be where they are, but who must be put down, nonetheless. Unwilling may be kidnapped, threatened, incapacitated, or even secretly exposed to the means of transformation. At some point, each of them is made aware of the developing Divergence but is unable to escape it. Exomorphs manifest overt Variations. This may be due to the Conspiracy’s callousness promoting bolder action, or it may be that Unwilling antipathy leaves Scars. In many ways the archetypal Renegades, they tend to be especially driven to destroy Conspiracies, and prevent anyone else from suffering as they did.
- Genotypal: Deviants who owe their Divergence to their parents, the circumstances of birth or conception, or some legacy buried within their ancestries. Some of the Born always know they are special, and are either the children of Remade, or possess some recessive trait or lineal quality that designate them as “the One Who Will Arise,” or some other ominous figure prophesized by science or tradition. In other cases, such origins are kept hidden by parents, or even arrive out of the blue, the result of a long-dead Progenitor’s experiments on an ancestor. Genotypal Remade often discover their Variations in adolescence, though this isn’t always the case, as a critical trigger might come earlier or later. These circumstances lead to many types of Variations, and a wide variety of attitudes about the Conspiracy, where some might be “nobility,” and others may have been taken away by caregivers, given new names, and hidden away.
- Pathological: Deviants that are victims of pure circumstance. These Accidents open a strange machine, fall into a pool of otherworldly energy, or happened to have a rare genetic or spiritual condition which ensured that a disease that killed everyone else Remade them, instead. Pathologicals have no clear Progenitors, and no necessary links to a Conspiracy. In fact, the Conspiracy might form because of a Pathological’s accident, as the curious and ambitious organize to pursue their interests.
Epimorphs: The Volunteers
I never knew what I wanted until I tried to get it.
Down on your luck. Bored, Desperate. Willing, though not entirely wanting. Conspiracies call people like you “Epimorphs,” because even though you don’t have an urge to be Remade, your neediness provides fertile soil for whatever they want to grow — or graft, or inject. The method matters less than the psychic factor you present, which might also be imagined as a certain hollowness. That emptiness drove you to accept Divergence, to ask few questions than you should have, and subordinate yourself to the Conspiracy’s needs.
Whether you think about this potential as emptiness or new, raw earth, its origins aren’t so poetic. You might have volunteered because of deep debt — your own, or a that of someone you love. On the flipside, you might be greedy, willing to “join the program” and take its six-figure salary. Conspiracies take Epimorphs from prisons, setting themselves up as ways to reduce convicts’ sentences. You might be an ex-con unable to find a job, and the Conspiracy’s willing to ignore your record. You might have medical bills, gambling debts, or a sick friend or relative the Conspiracy can cure. You might have hit a dead end, where your personal dreams seem dead, and becoming Remade, while not being what you wanted, is a way to begin again. Unlike Autourgic electives, Divergence isn’t your goal, but what you’re willing to do to renew yourself — or fill that hole in your life.
Nicknames: volunteer, mark (as in “Mark X,” of an experimental type, or a “mark” in the sense of the victim of a deception).
Beginnings and Divergences: Who’d be classified as an Epimorph?
Him. He was going to get cancer by his 40s. That’s how his father went out, and how his father’s father died. He made his money early, motivated by early death, but spent it fast, going to specialists who might help him cheat it. The last one ran his genome and showed him the code that would kill him, but told him there was a way to beat it — maybe. She saw him reach for his checkbook and assured him it wouldn’t cost a dime, but he’d have to fill out numerous, complex forms. He didn’t even wait for his lawyer before he signed the form forbidding him from talking to one. Over the next few weeks, he endured the surgeries and injections, the pulsing new organs and masked doctors muttering about “chimeric horizontal gene transfer.” He healed in a haze of drugs, over hours he thought were days. But the new flesh, taken and delicately modified from their animal origins, help him cast of injury and toxins fast. He’ll never get cancer now. That was a human thing.
Another volunteer never had the kind of money that would open the door to elite labs. He rode that edge where you couldn’t technically call him homeless; he mostly couch-surfed, and when he couldn’t find a place to stay, relied on meth and willpower to avoid sleeping at all. He was blessed with exceptional intuition. He always knew when a deal would turn bad, or when the cops would come knocking. Eventually, he parleyed it into a career as a psychic, combining his gift with a hustler’s patter. Every dollar went back to meth and gambling debts — his gift tempted him to play, but sometimes he was too high to listen to it. Bookies shook him down, but he knew where he could sell his blood, and wouldn’t you know, one of the technicians there was an old client — one he helped with his real intuitive abilities. The man took him aside, noted his shitty teeth and yellow eyes, and said there’s be a way to leave that all behind. People — an “esoteric society”—would pay him to use his gift, even help him develop it. He used to make up mumbo jumbo, but when the society put him in the circle and chanted, even though they told him it was “psychodrama” to help him build his psychic abilities, he knew they were deadly serious — and they controlled the Presence he felt during the rite, and it still watches him, even now.
She got Remade for the bonus. She knew they’d never give her tenure, and student loans pushed her from archaeologist to thief, specializing in artifacts demanded by a select circle of collectors. Nobody else wanted to enter the site; after a fellow educated thief never came out of the pit, they offered her a year’s income to follow. She descended, and found the thing: an ancient design, rendered in anachronistic steel, slick with the blue oil it was submerged in. As she climbed back, agony gripped her limbs. She looked in a mirror and screamed at the alien face that greeted her. “Occult mutation,” said her contact. They knew it was going to happen. She didn’t stick around for the next offer.
Going Renegade: Few Epimorphs really know what they’re getting into. They volunteered to seal up the holes in their lives, and even if they were told about the changes and sacrifices due, couldn’t anticipate the reality of being Remade, from its physical and psychological demands to the costs imposed by the Conspiracies which took them. Some of them rationalize terrible scars and callous demands as the price of doing business, or volunteered for reasons so pressing that any pain is worth it. They stay Devoted.
Epimorphs who rebel see these arrangements as exploitative, no matter what they got in return. At the very least, they know they deserve to be treated with basic dignity. For some, it takes the pain of Divergence to force them to value their own lives. Sometimes they lose everything volunteering won them. They blow their money escaping, or turn their backs on loved ones they wanted to help. Sometimes these factors provide further complications. The Conspiracy knows all about the volunteer’s debtors, and uses them as catspaws, or holds family members hostage.
Origin Factor: Volunteers sought out Divergence, though they didn’t always know their actions would lead to it. Nevertheless, their needs defined why the changed, and those connections linger, giving them an extra dot of Loyalty. That proactive drive also provides one Scar-free, subtle Magnitude, as part of them braced for the consequences of their actions.
Character Concepts: super soldier, street hustler, executive, gambler