Eric here. Today I’ll be spoiling a few of Deviant’s Universal Variations (which are readily available to members of any Clade), as well as sharing some of the design goals that went into them:
Telekinesis (• to •••••)
Directed, Tiered, Toggled
The Deviant can exert raw telekinetic force to lift, throw, or strike without the need for physical action.
The Broken can affect targets in range with a Size no greater than the Variation’s Magnitude times Scar Power. Targeting an unattended object succeeds automatically. Attempting to grab a living target works like initiating a grapple (p. XX), using a Scar Finesse roll instead of Strength
Brawl, and so must contend with Defense, not a Resistance Attribute.
At Magnitude •, the Deviant arrests the target’s motion until she releases it as a reflexive action, until it is torn free (or escapes the grapple), or until the scene ends. The telekinetic grapple is only capable of the hold, restrain, and drop prone maneuvers, although it is immune to all maneuvers other than break free (p. XX).
At Magnitude ••, the Deviant can push, drag, lift, or operate the target at a Speed no greater than Magnitude times Scar Power. When calling upon the Magnitude • effect, the Remade’s telekinetic grapple is also capable of the control weapon, damage, and disarm maneuvers (p. XX). She can instead manipulate an object as though her telekinesis were extensions of her hands, using Scar Power as its Strength and Scar Finesse as its Dexterity.
At Magnitude •••, choose one:
- Throw: The Deviant can throw the target with enough force to damage it and/or anyone unfortunate enough to be in its path. If throwing an object at an opponent in range, this is a Scar Finesse roll, penalized by one-fifth the object’s Size (rounded up) and resisted by the target’s Defense. If successful, it inflicts lethal damage equal to half the object’s Size (rounded up). If throwing an opponent, it requires a successful Scar Finesse roll and is treated as a fall from a height no greater than Magnitude times Scar Power in yards/meters, and this can be mitigated normally.
- Deflect: As a reflexive action, the Remade may turn aside attacks — be they fists, knives, or bullets. Whenever the Remade (or another character within range) is targeted by an attack with some physical component (not purely supernatural assaults, Environmental Tilts, or explosions), she may call upon this effect before the attack roll. Her successes on a Scar Finesse roll subtract from the attacker’s successes on the attack. Each use of this effect during the same turn imposes a -1 penalty on the Scar Finesse rolls.
At Magnitude ••••, choose one:
- Versatility: The Deviant is capable of both Magnitude ••• effects.
- Crush/Dismember: This is only available if the Remade chose Throw as her Magnitude ••• effect. The Deviant is capable of crushing or tearing apart objects in his telekinetic grip. This deals Scar Power + Acclimation Structure damage to inanimate objects (reduced by Durability). Against living victims, the Remade’s telekinetic grapple deals lethal damage instead of bashing damage with its damage maneuvers.
- Force Field: This is only available if the Deviant chose Deflect as her Magnitude ••• effect. The Remade may erect a transparent barrier of pure telekinetic force — either an immobile, 10-foot-by-10-foot wall, or a protective sphere around herself or a target in range (which moves with her). The force field provides cover as though it were an object with Durability equal to half Scar Power (rounded up). Armor piercing bullets enjoy their usual effect against it, and it blocks the passage of objects in both directions (and so can potentially inconvenience the Deviant, as well). It does not have Structure, however, and so conventional means of destroying it usually fail.
At Magnitude •••••, the Remade is capable of all the Magnitude ••• and •••• options.
The Cephalist can hurl large, heavy objects with her mind, but the exertion causes severe nosebleeds and terrible headaches (Perilous Variation; Controlled; Dexterity).
The Coactive Symbiote plays host to a violent poltergeist who refuses to be bottled up for long before demanding violence of him (Power Build-Up; Involuntary; Resolve; Deviations: Short Circuit [Murderous Urge]).
The Invasive has an experimental implant that manipulates gravity in a small area, but its effects are unpredictable (Fluctuating Variation; Controlled; Wits).
Design Notes: Telekinesis
This Variation’s effect is a mainstay of the media Deviant takes as inspiration. It also provides a good example of a design technique you’ll see a lot in Deviant, which are diverging and converging effects. Deviant sets out to permit an almost limitless range of character concepts, and while sometimes the linear progression common in many other Chronicles of Darkness games (it does X at 1 dot, Y at 2 dots, Z at 3 dots, etc.) works just fine, sometimes you want a character who specializes or generalizes within the definition of the Variation.
Telekinesis also neatly illustrates my “every power should do three things” rule of thumb. It has clearly defined mechanical effects (a ranged grapple effect, defensive effects, and potential for violent applications). It has some pretty obvious narrative uses (catching, carrying, pushing, or throwing objects). And a clever player can come up with countless unexpected ways to use its effects.
Bioluminescence (• to •••••)
The Remade’s body is capable of generating light.
Any Directed effects created by this Variation do not suffer range penalties.
At Magnitude •, the Broken projects a beam of light no greater than that of a bright flashlight from his body. With appropriate Scar Finesse rolls, she can exercise minute control over this Variation, such as to brighten or dim her light, or change the colors and patterns of the light she generates.
At Magnitude ••, the Remade’s light rivals that of a floodlight. As a Directed effect, she may shine the light into a target’s eyes to impose the Blinded Tilt (in both eyes, on an exceptional success), unless the victim is wearing protective eyewear.
At Magnitude •••, the Remade can produce light as bright and intense as direct sunlight. This bioluminescence has the same effects as sunlight, which includes triggering the vulnerability of certain supernatural creatures. If successfully Directed into a target’s unprotected eyes, it imposes the Blindness Tilt in both eyes on the victim’s next turn (only one eye, if he has protective eyewear).
At Magnitude ••••, the Remade can project Intensity 4 ionizing radiation (Intensity 5, in action scenes), which can be Directed at a living target (p. XX).
• Aura (+1 Magnitude): The Deviant can make her whole body glow, illuminating the entire area within her light’s range. Paired with the Magnitude •• or ••• effect, she can create the Blazing Light Environmental Tilt, which affects anyone within short range, other than herself.
The Cephalist’s psychic powers include conjuring light, but she can only maintain it for short periods (Cooldown; Controlled; Manipulation).
The Chimeric generates bioluminescent chemicals, but she lost an arm to infection during her Divergence (Missing Limb; Persistent).
The Coactive burns with terrible light, which she cannot keep hidden for long and which causes tales of an angel to crop up wherever she goes (Power Build-Up, Involuntary; Deviation: Wild Variation).
Design Notes: Bioluminescence
Sometimes I design Variation effects specifically to mess with other kinds of supernatural creature. The Coactive Variations, particularly, are riddled with effects meant to make demons, mages, or what-have-you nervous. The reasons for this are largely in-world. It doesn’t take much to imagine a conspiracy with a sworn enmity toward vampires that would cheerfully recruit (forcibly, if necessary) a Deviant with Magnitude 3+ Bioluminescence. Think what they could do with an army of such Remade! Of course, the local vampires are going to be pretty keen to exterminate the human sunlamp. For Storytellers who like to raid other Chronicles of Darkness games for antagonists, this makes Deviants an interesting challenge in another game or puts them in the crosshairs of occult beings in their own game.
Finally, when crafting a Magnitude 5 effect, I tend to want something that is objectively terrifying. Being essentially impossible to kill certainly counts, but I think generating lethal doses of radiation in your vicinity and the ability to tear apart a city bus with Telekinesis also qualify.
Boneless (• to ••••)
The Deviant’s skeleton is pliable and flexible, and her organs can tolerate a great deal of compression and distortion without ill effects.
The Remade can contort her body.
If the Variation ends while the Deviant is in a position that would be impossible for human anatomy, her body returns to its natural shape if it is not actively harmful to do so — moving up to one yard/meter beforehand if necessary. If returning to her natural shape would cause a human body harm (such as if she is stretched out in a 3-inch wide pipe), she is ejected into the nearest space that can accommodate her normal shape and suffers a medium Instability.
At Magnitude •, the Remade can dislocate joints and contort her body as expertly as a circus performer. She automatically escapes from any mundane bonds without a roll. The Deviant adds Scar Power to all grapple rolls.
At Magnitude ••, the Deviant’s body behaves more like that of an octopus — able to stretch and squeeze through narrow spaces. This allows her to fit into places whose dimensions are not normally large enough for a human or to wriggle through pipes. These actions are usually automatic. Grapple rolls made against the Deviant suffer a penalty equal to Scar Power.
At Magnitude •••, the Remade can become a true liquid, albeit one that looks unhealthy or unearthly. While in this state, she can flow uphill at her normal speed and will not suffocate. Although she cannot pass through certain barriers like water filters, ordinary grilles and grates present no obstacle to her, and most weapons have little or no effect. Fire and electrocution still pose real risks, as do purely supernatural attacks.
At Magnitude ••••, the Deviant can take the form of a sickly vapor. This gas hugs the ground rather than rising into the air, although the Remade can move uphill along the ground at her normal Speed. Most weapons have no effect on a Deviant in this state, but Environmental Tilts frequently have their normal, full effects.
The Chimeric’s cephalopod anatomy allows her to squeeze and stretch into impossible shapes, but she heals more slowly when injured (Sluggish Metabolism; Persistent).
The Coactive submits to the occult energies within, which cause her body to lose its cohesion, but this can range from mere flexibility to transformation into vapor (Fluctuating Variation; Controlled; Manipulation).
When the Mutant assumes a liquid form, she become exceptionally vulnerable to electricity (Persistent Drawback [Bane]; Controlled; Dexterity).
Design Notes: Boneless
Like Rapid Healing, this Variation has a steep power curve as it rises in Magnitude. It serves as an example of a Variation that doesn’t cover the full 1-5 Magnitude range, which is not unusual.
It also previews one of the ways the game uses Instability. Nobody wants their character to die because they accidentally attempted to teleport into a solid object. Even in a game where characters frequently confront their mortality, that just isn’t fun. So, whenever a Variation would outright kill the Deviant using it (or at the time of deactivation), it instead inflicts a medium Instability and allows them to avoid that fate. Similarly, events that would inflict the Soul-Shocked Condition in other games (dying while astrally projecting, for example) instead causes a minor Instability. These inch the Remade a little closer to destruction by Instability, but it isn’t an immediate and wholly arbitrary character death.