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[Deviant] Logbook of Trivial Conspiracy [Personal Musings Thread]

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  • [Deviant] Logbook of Trivial Conspiracy [Personal Musings Thread]

    Did one of these for Mage some time back and have had a bunch of assorted thoughts bouncing around in my head of late, some of which probably don't merit entire threads on their own. As in the Grimoire, discussion welcome.

    In some ways, Deviant offers a narrative niche similar to what Slasher offered its take on player characters: a certain amount of murder is expected, the near-certainty that your character is going to meet their end in play is part of the book's advisory segments, "made this way by supernatural interference, trauma, or a quirk of genetics" are all backgrounds (character-axis-level or otherwise), Cheiron is there… Considering the line's characters share some of Hunter's relative greater-scope-blindness, this is somewhat amusing.

    Without multi-counting umbrella Variations like Immunity or Lash, the majority of Subtle Variations are Clade Variations — only a third of the twenty-seven Universal Variations aren't Overt, whereas only a fifth of the twenty-five Clade Variations aren't Subtle (across all five Clades, at that — none of those are from the Coactive or Cephalist lists, and only one comes from the Invasive pool). This doesn't necessarily mean anything for the distribution of Variations by Origin (the difference is only one dot of Magnitude, after all), but it's interesting to think about.

    The Invasive and Mutant Adaptations incentivize somewhat opposite allocations of Variations to Scars by virtue of how they work:
    • A Mutant loosing to make the most of Unpredictable is best served by having one or two powerful Variations that they can afford to give up (preferably making use of their free dot of Magnitude from Origin). The way Deviant's Clash of Wills pools work means they should probably be Persistent to take advantage of the Perpetual bonus on e.g. Immunity or Superhuman Stamina/Resolve 3. You can only use the Adaptation once per chapter without taking Instability, so maximizing your options is invaluable. (That said, one-dot Variations are fairly broad, as demonstrated by Electrokinesis, Lash, Specialized Sense, Immunity, etc.)
    • By contrast, an Invasive's best friend for leveraging Redundancy lies in the math for entangling multiple Variations with a single Scar. As with Mutants, the free dot of Magnitude from Origin is valuable here (it effectively lets you treat a Variation as one dot lower for combinatory purposes), but for Invasives, once you're using a Scar of Magnitude 3 or higher to support Variations, you'll want to get as many total dots of Variation Magnitude into that sucker as you can. This means entangling Variations with no more individual Magnitude than half the Scar's (two 2s at Magnitude 3, three 2s or two 3s at Magnitude 4, three 3s at Magnitude 5). Since Redundancy works by removing your access to those Variations, obviously this works best for Variations entangled with a Controlled Scar, many of which are Repeatable; since using Redundancy more than once per chapter requires using Overclock and taking resistant damage, the goldilocks zone is to have as much Magnitude of Variations to spare as your maximum Health.
    The Cephalist and Coactive Adaptations pretty well incentivize topping out your Variations' Magnitude at 3; if you need to use a higher level effect, you can tap into it for a scene once per chapter either for free or at the negligible cost of one Willpower or one box of resistant lethal damage. Since Magnitude 3 is basically the balance point for where most Scars and Variations are designed (i.e. they do the thing they're described to do at a "normal" level), this makes medium and major Instability a slightly bigger deal, particularly for Involuntary-heavy builds.

    After a lot of sporadic noodling over the past year, my current best-fit no-doubles distribution of Origin and Clade combinations runs as follows:
    • Mutant/Genotypal: "Weird biology stemming from a reaction in your genes" and "your Divergence had something to do with your genetics" kind of goes without saying.
    • Invasive/Epimorphic: "Underwent the Divergence as a means to an end" and "you've merged with and are kind of regarded as a tool to employ" likewise seems straightforward enough.
    • Coactive/Autourgic: I waffled a lot on this one — the weirdness of fate and the tendency of Accidents to create the conspiracies that pursue them almost had me connect the Infused with the Pathological, but (in addition to the other end of this decision) the implicit ego of the Elect, along with the nickname's religious bent and the punnery of power-tripping as the vessel of intangible forces tipped the scales for me.
    • Cephalist/Pathological: For a long while my first inclination was to say the Psychics were best suited to being Autourgic — something something swelled head — but that's mostly down to the attitude presented in the writeup; it's important to remember, I think, that the Cephalist Divergence comes specifically out of trauma, and it's kind of fun to connect the transformed's desperate need for contextualizing relationships to an event that (at least on the surface) wasn't anybody's fault.
    • Chimeric/Exomorphic: In some ways this is the leftover pairing — it's the one that's shifted around the most as my thoughts on the topic have changed — but in the end, it's arguably the most out-there Clade conceptually (probably fewer people would agree to be physically merged with an animal than given a cyborg implant or infused with an otherworldly power), its Variations and Adaptations give it the most influence over the drawbacks of the Divergence, and it makes a weird kind of sense that the Origin for the archetypal Renegades goes with the Clade that best describes the skull for the gameline.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

  • #2
    Originally posted by Satchel View Post
    Considering the line's characters share some of Hunter's relative greater-scope-blindness, this is somewhat amusing.
    It's even better than that. The Deviant corebook is effectively setting-agnostic, only acknowledging other gamelines in passing for a bit of mechanical comparison (or, in the case of Immunity, for the chance to style on them); the splats are broad categories of aesthetic and perspective, without any greater social context; the conspiracies aren't pre-established, but custom-made for each game (and each sample setting).

    Effectively, Deviant isa CofD game only by branding and system, and that's one of its greatest strengths.

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    • #3
      Wanted to add something I've been pondering for a while: Suppression is an interesting Scar for how insidious it is, and kind of requires some additional planning on the player's part to avoid potential pitfalls. Although "You have one less Attribute dot" is less dramatic and immediate than "You hallucinate/can't walk/are terminally ill," it's really the only Scar I can think of that comes with hidden costs: Not only does it affect derived traits, but a player might be put into a situation where they want to increase the Magnitude of an entangled Variation, but can only do so by first purchasing a dot in the Suppressed Attribute, then getting enough Instability to cause it to drop again. Alternatively, at character creation the player could dump a lot of dots into the Attribute in question, but that results in a character with poor abilities across the entire category (leading to a curious situation where one's primary Attribute category ends up being the one in which the character has the fewest total dots). The most obvious Variation to entangle with Suppression is Superhuman Attribute, which effectively gives you (at least) three Attribute dots (plus supernatural power) for the price of one. The trade-off isn't parallel, though: Superhuman Attribute can't affect Scar Power/Finesse/Resistance calculations, while Suppression certainly can.

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      • #4
        Porting over/tweaking some observations from the Kickstarter thread now that there's a set place to put them:

        The design space Involuntary Scars occupy is very Deviation-heavy, since the main drawback to Involuntary Variations is some degree of lack of control; both of the core Involuntary Scars turn their entire Deviation package Overt once they hit a base Magnitude of 2 and can end up in a place where you outright can't use your powers at will most of the time.

        This is part of why Coactives are, to coin a term, stealth-fake-broken: On paper, having Clade Adaptations that spend out of different resources and a tendency toward the least immediately onerous Scar type is great, but in practice it's a recipe for multiple-Attribute dependency and a greater urgency to recovering Stability/developing a Stabilizer. (The hubris angle this lends the above-mentioned Infused Elect combinations is just icing on the cake.)

        Unlike many other gamelines' Integrity 0 states, going Feral is less an immediate Game Over and more a permanent drop into Hard Mode. (Hitting the End Stage is also not immediate, but "You die forever if you don't resolve this crisis by the end of the chapter" is a little more urgent in scope.) Due to the way Acclimation, unentangled Scars, and healing Instability without Touchstones work, the main takeaway for a character that's gone Feral is that you'll want to…
        • Stockpile Experiences to buy up Attributes, Acclimation, Stabilizer dots, and/or Variations that you can immediately entangle with a new Controlled or Involuntary Scar; rolling exceptional successes on Scar Finesse and Resistance rolls is the only way you can heal Instability now without taking on new Scars, and Scar Finesse rolls offer the best odds on that. Failing that, entangle Persistent Scars with Directed Variations so they still provide a chance to roll. (Overall, leaning into your Scars' Beat conditions is essential.)
        • Limit the Magnitude of your Variations to that of your current highest-rated power until you have at least one Variation with a good Scar Finesse dicepool; if you must develop Persistent Scars to vent Instability, it may be wise to either attach them to Directed Variations (as above) or entangle them with multiple low-Magnitude Variations like Immunity or Specialized Sense or Aquatic or Brachiation, saving Variations whose Magnitude you want to raise later for more Controlled fare. (The trick here is, of course, to limit the amount of Instability you actually incur over time while maximizing the situations in which you can roll a dicepool you're likely to exceptionally succeed at.)
        • Raise Acclimation whenever you can; if you haven't kept your Variation Magnitude low, you'll want to roll Scar Finesse often (since most Variations are activated for the scene, again, this is where Directed Variations are invaluable) and adjust to operating with a high average penalty for minor Instability (for which a Stabilizer is practically essential). Taking on a new permanent Scar to heal a medium Instability effectively buys you at least two chapters until you can't raise Acclimation, but the cost of Acclimation dots and new Variations is sufficiently large that the advice in the first bullet-point still holds.
        • Acquire some alternate sources of Willpower, particularly if Instability and/or growth have saddled you with the Nightmares Deviation. Developing Memory Thief is one way to get more Willpower, but so is getting magically or mundanely good at something that can allow you to take the Inspired Condition on exceptional successes, and of course the Deviant Merits that let you have a Virtue and/or Vice are directly useful to this process. Fight, Flight, Freeze offers some perhaps less desirable methods, but they're there; surrendering when Beaten Down still gives you Willpower, which grants some variants of the Dependency Scar a particular utility for the Feral as well, in this sense.


        Resident Lore-Hound
        Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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        • #5
          Cephalists and Mutants having all of their Adaptations' potential costs key off of Willpower/Instability makes pursuing their Touchstones a slightly higher priority for frequent Variation-users, and weights the benefits of becoming a Guardian/Nemesis somewhat higher by extension. Similarly, Chimerics looking to keep their Scars in check can put those extra sources of Willpower to good use, although the cost of Adrenaline Surge does the strategy no favors for extended use.

          By contrast, Coactives who don't bump their Variations' Magnitude often or otherwise use per-scene/per-chapter effects (and therefore are without a need to use Living Conduit) don't have as much of a natural basis for spending extra Willpower; this adds to the appeal of taking the Nightmares Deviation for a Persistent Scar, in a way, but otherwise the main benefit the Infused get out of Catharsis/Fury is the same manageable Stability as everyone else gets, with particular attention merited for the frequency of Involuntary Scars among the Clade.

          Invasives are odd in that neither of their Adaptations lend themselves to any extra incentive to pursue their Touchstones — Overclock and Redundancy both involve Health rather than Willpower or Instability, and the former directly negates some of its ability to re-engage the latter.

          Speaking of Invasives, another thing about Redundancy is that it lends itself well to Variations whose effects scale in uncomplicated ways, like Superhuman Attribute or Hyper-Competence; any Variation whose effects at lower Magnitude are much the same as at higher Magnitude works out well as fodder for buffer-Health. (The Clade Variations' versatility helps compensate for this, as well.)

          It kind of goes without saying, but the same pressures that make high-Magnitude Variations useful for Mutants and Touchstones and Guardianship especially appealing for them makes Acclimation especially important; even if they're not worried about going Feral, when your ability to frequently pull new superpowers out of your DNA makes you degenerate faster it behooves you to have both a longer track for Instability and a better dicepool for rolled effects.


          Resident Lore-Hound
          Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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          • #6
            Themed after a similar observation in another thread, let's talk basic template stuff for a second:

            It should be noted that, due to the way Supernatural Tolerance works for the transformed, even the most minor of Variations makes a Deviant more resilient to the supernatural — Acclimation adds to it, but your highest-rated Variation forms the most consistent basis for the trait.

            In this sense, much like Promethean gives a lower cost for buying Azoth with Vitriol Experiences, buying powerful new Variations or raising the Magnitude of an existing one serves as a tempting cheaper route to greater power compared to the more gradual process of qualifying to buy dots of Acclimation. (The comparison isn't perfect, since buying Azoth with Vitriol is more about locking in experiences that could otherwise be stolen from you through lacuna and/or the same "you're not spending this on Pilgrimage dots" characterization tool that almost everything else you can spend Vitriol on fits into, but the mutual incompatibility of stable existence with high supernatural power is a well-observed phenomenon across the gamelines.)

            Relatedly, this means that your Origin serves the twin purposes of giving you a minimum Supernatural Tolerance rating of 1 at character creation and ensuring that you don't start out Feral. (Which, as mentioned previously, is Hard Mode for the Remade.)

            Feeding into that thing about stable existence, it probably stands to reason that games with a low Threat Level are going to have more opportunities and incentives for the cohort to raise Acclimation, between reduced start-of-story Instability, low-Standing conspiracies, and lower Variation dicepools and Supernatural Tolerance from lesser Magnitude. Contrariwise, at higher Threat Level you're likely encouraged to at least not start the story with a maximum Magnitude of 1 when a major conspiracy is after you, but that in turn heightens the importance of Touchstone maintenance out the gate.


            Resident Lore-Hound
            Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Satchel View Post
              Relatedly, this means that your Origin serves the twin purposes of giving you a minimum Supernatural Tolerance rating of 1 at character creation and ensuring that you don't start out Feral. (Which, as mentioned previously, is Hard Mode for the Remade.)
              Are you talking about the extradiegetic character creation process, or the intradiegetic moment of Divergence? I don't think this line of thought bears out on either.

              In the former case, there isn't an option to start out below Threat Level 1, with less than three total dots of Magnitude, and unless you take the Self-Made form, you can't forgo having Touchstones (though if you do take it, Origin factor indeed serves as a barrier against collapse). In the latter case, not only can Variations and Scars develop before the final cracking of the soul, but the Divergences that produce Ferals explicitly preclude the formation of Touchstones, regardless of Origin.

              I think it's more useful to view Origin factors as a tool to define and distinguish characters, giving players a few predetermined options in the potentially daunting process of choosing Scars and Variations.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by The MG View Post
                Are you talking about the extradiegetic character creation process, or the intradiegetic moment of Divergence?
                Neither. I am literally just making the observation that one function of Deviant's character splats is to ensure that their characters fit into the standard model of playable starting characters, as part of a larger digression on how Deviants relate to their Supernatural Tolerance ratings. This is not a line of thought, it is a point, and not one I am terribly eager to argue with you about in a thread explicitly titled "Personal Musings."


                Resident Lore-Hound
                Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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                • #9
                  Addendum for my observations on Redundancy now that it works differently from the KS draft: since Magnitude only matters for how long it takes a deactivated Variation to become available again, making the most of the Adaptation biases toward having a lot of low-Magnitude Adaptations irrespective of your number of Scars (and in fact you're now better off linking them to separate Scars), since the Magnitude is lost all at once.

                  Simple Variations that can be purchased more than once work well for this, particularly when you can lean into the name of the Adaptation — it's easier to suspend your access to improved mundane stats than capabilities you wouldn't otherwise possess, and if you need to shrug off a Tilt you aren't immune to then losing Immunity to a Tilt you're not in danger of getting for a couple days is a small price to pay.

                  On the other end of things, Untamed now really neatly encourages maintaining multiple nontrivial Scars; Adrenaline Surge is for using it multiple times in a chapter, but suppressing multiple Scars is now the demesne of Willpower costs, and you specifically can't defer those by resetting Untamed in the same scene. In a sense, Chimerics now have the Invasives' old dynamic, since maximizing the Magnitude of Variations you can access with negligible Scars is so much less expensive.


                  Resident Lore-Hound
                  Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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