A Storytelling Game of Vengeance.
Deviant: The Renegades is the eleventh game in the Chronicles of Darkness, and the second to be released since the name change from "New World of Darkness". You play a Deviant, somebody who had something... wrong done to them. Whether at the hands of scientists with an eye towards profit margins over humanity, a secret project seeking to make the perfect weapon out of imperfect flesh, or a group of mad cultists who wanted to strap you to an altar and invite interesting and horrifying occult forces into you, you were changed, made less yourself and more their toy. It broke you so badly you no longer quite know what makes you you anymore.
Then you got away. The people who changed you didn't exactly like that; they're still out there, and they're looking for you. But you've got the power in you now. They wanted to make you a weapon. Show them just how much damage you can do.
Terminology: The Remade (or Broken) are those changed, made less human through horrid means by a Progenitor, a mortal who wanted to harness the hidden forces of the world for themselves, but didn't necessarily care about the human cost. Though not all Progenitors are evil (and some are, in fact, the Deviants themselves), many work for Conspiracies who want to control the Remade and the manifestation of Deviants invariably interests those groups who wish to have their power for themselves. The Renegades are those who fight back against the Conspiracies for revenge or to retain their freedom, while the Devoted are those who have chosen to side with them.
Each Remade has an Origin that traces the path that led them to becoming a Deviant, be it volunteering (Epimorphs, the Volunteers), being born that way, whether through inheritance or modification (Genotypal, the Born), intentionally choosing to be changed (Autourgics, the Elect), falling victim to a Freak Lab Accident (Pathological, the Accidents), or getting snatched off the street to have something shoved into you (Exomorphs, the Unwilling). Such experimentation places them within a Clade, which roughly defines what the resulting change was, be it developing Psychic Powers (Cephalists, the Psychics), becoming a Half-Human Hybrid (Chimerics, the Hybrids), being bound to something intangible (Coactives, the Infused), having inanimate objects incorporated into your body, as with cyborgs (Invasives, the Cyborgs), or experiencing a biological reaction to a supernatural stimulus (Mutants, the Grotesques). Those changed gain Variations, powers that arose as a result of their experimentation; the power of said Variations is tied to Scars, the ways in which their transformation screws them up. Beyond that, Deviant is supposed to be an extremely customizable game, with Forms that alter both the manifestation of powers and the overall power level.
Conspiracies are hardly going to take their potential assets going rogue lying down however; most utilize strange powers and devices called Icons that give them preternatural and supernatural abilities, and many have learned to create Manticores, nonsapient animals put through the Remade process and used as more disposable muscle (though some Deviants have won Manticores over to them). Most common, and worst of all, however, is the informal set of alliances and dealings between conspiracies willing to create Deviants, known to Renegades as the Web of Pain. Even if a conspiracy has no ability to, for example, interface with the government, it's more than possible for them to call a favor from someone who can, or even for an unrelated conspiracy to hear about a potential asset through the grapevine and try to win them over.
Deviant: The Tropes:
- Ancient Conspiracy: Subverted with the Web of Pain; it may seem like a vast, seemingly immortal organization, but in reality, it's really more of a phenomenon; conspiracies that share interests inevitably come into contact with each other and many come to an agreement or at least a non-aggression pact. Behind the scenes, many nodes of the Web loathe each other and only work together out of shared interest, assuming they just didn't bumble into the same goals.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Autourgics are aware of what their changes will entail and choose them willingly, but many find that they gravely miscalculated to side effects of their quests or find that their new abilities don't quite make up for their Scars and the burden of being something less than human.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: This is a legit way for someone to become a Loyalty Touchstone of one (or more) of the Broken, since everyone else they meet either utterly fears them for one reason or another, or want to control them for their own ends. From the Deviant's point of view, this random schmuck has every reason to either chase you out or attempt to kill you, and could just as easily use their newfound status to manipulate or cripple you, but instead they decide to stick with you through thick or thin simply because that's what friends are for.
- Blessed with Suck: A Remade has superpowers, but beyond the Damaged Soul aspects, they universally suffer Scars that constantly interfere with their lives and constantly have to worry about a Superpower Meltdown — and Deviants have the enmity of Conspiracies who want to use them for their own purposes.
- Body Horror: One of the game's themes is finding yourself changed against your will, with your body ever at risk of progressively mutating into something inhuman.
- Bullying a Dragon: What causes Autourgics to go Renegade is coming to understand the people who elevated them don't actually see them as human or members of their organization.
- Captured Super-Entity: The default goal for a Conspiracy is to either create or capture superhuman beings to use as weapons, tools of control, or founts of resources. The fact that their prospective captives can read minds, throw lightning bolts, punch through cinderblocks, or hijack technology makes this a dicey proposition, but Conspiracies have developed enough practice at keeping their subjects under control that Renegades genuinely fear being recaptured by their makers.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: This trope definitely applies, considering the state of the Deviant soul, and the fact that cybernetic modification is one of the ways a person can become a Deviant. However, not all body modification and prosthetics trigger this, only those which cause Divergence via the absolutely horrific methods and experiments performed on the new Deviant simply because the conspiracy didn't care about the human/moral costs(s) at all.
- Cyborg: The archetypal Invasives are enhanced with a variety of visibly mechanical parts, such as robot limbs, bound swarms of nanotech, or silicon circuits wired into their brains, nerves or eyes.
- Damaged Soul: This, above all else, is why Deviants are supernatural beings — how they got there varies, but Deviants have been so mutilated that their very souls are busted, to the point where they don't even have human Virtues and Vices any more. The more they forget who they are and were, the worse it gets. This is not only a part of the Divergence process, but necessary to develop their abilities, because that's the only way to make the soul a viable catalyst and power source for major supernatural abilities.
- Determinator: Conviction is one of the twin Integrity equivalents of Deviants. For Renegades, fulfilling it is easy, but it doesn't last very long, keeping their Scars temporarily stable. For Devoted, fulfilling it is more difficult, but it lasts longer and is more effective, even potentially reversing a Super-Power Meltdown in extreme circumstances.
- Escaped from the Lab: A key part of each Deviant's backstory, to the extent a big part of choosing your "character alignment" is deciding if you played the trope straight and became a Renegade or if you subverted it and became one of the Devoted.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Manifest Destiny Foundation conspiracy in the Delaware setting is explicitly this, having a Courteous Virtue and a Xenophobic Vice. Their favorite Progenitor, Dr. Lisa Gottfred, is an even better example, being a sweet and grandmotherly woman up until you get close to her and realize she's a neo-Nazi and specialist in using genetic engineering to create Deviants.
- The Fettered: As a result of getting broken, the Remade can only define themselves by external things, such as a cause, a loved one, or getting back at the bastards who did this to them. Any Remade who just isolates themselves and gives up will fall prey to Instability, as they're consumed by their Scars, reach a period of high power and even higher anomie, and then die.
- Freak Lab Accident: Many Pathologicals were once researchers, scientists or lab techs who were working one some delicate project — a high-energy physics experiment, incautious bioengineering, an attempt to contact noncorporeal entities — that went horribly wrong. When the dust clears and the hazmat crews arrive, the survivors find that this exposure permanently and traumatically altered them, turning them into something inhuman.
- Fusion Dance: Deviants with the Amalgam Form are the Composite, multiple people mentally and physically fused into one.
- Hunter of Their Own Kind: The main purpose that Devoted are put to is tracking down other Deviants and dragging them back to the Conspiracy's labs.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: Cephalists usually affect a sense of arrogance and superiority, presenting themselves as having exceeded the limitations of humanity, tweaked their makers' noses and achieved heights that both baseline humans and other Deviants can only dream of. Beneath this confident veneer, they are burdened by just as much mental trauma as any other Deviant, and are particularly haunted by the fear that they should lose control again and return to being a helpless lab rat.
- Kidnapped for Experimentation: Some Exomorphs were simply snatched off the street or stolen from their deathbeds by Progenitors who were banking on the hope that nobody would think or bother to look for them in order to gain a contact-less and disposable test subject.
- Loss of Identity: The defining trait of the Remade is no longer being able to define who they are except in relation to other people.
- Milkman Conspiracy: Some Conspiracies have... rather undignified fronts. For example, the demo has The Mafiya running fake travel agencies to grab unwitting tourists, hence the In-Series Nickname "Black Bag Hospitality."
- Morality Pet: Mechanically, this is the purpose of a Deviant's Loyalty Touchstones. These are friends and family who have remained loyal to them, often in spite of the Remade's own initial efforts to cut ties, or else strangers that they met later but who gave them food, shelter and aid anyway. These bonds are immensely important to Deviants, as they represent their last tangible links to humanity and provide emotional outlets distinct from the burning rage and sense of alienation that haunts their lives, and may be the only things keeping them from being utterly consumed by their gnawing desire for revenge on their Progenitors and society at large.
- Motherly Scientist: Nothing prevents a Progenitor from getting along with their Deviants, apart from previous mistreatment. There are Merits that represent a more positive bond between Deviant and Progenitor, whether as a true honest bond or on a "prized possession" level.
- Perspective Flip: The corebook focuses on the Renegade experience, with a later sourcebook covering the Devoted as PCs.
- Phlebotinum Rebel: The premise of the game. You were turned into a monster, and those who did it are still looking to use you for their own gain. It's your job to show them that that's not going to happen.
- Playing with Syringes: The very process of becoming a Deviant typically involves being forced into a situation where people who just don't give a damn about safety standards and clinical testing shove something dangerous and untested into you because they want results.
- Post-Modern Magik: Deviant creation is not a new thing, and Conspiracies have long studied how they're made, and how the variables involved can be altered. Deviants are just as likely to be created through alchemy, spirit pacts, or other horrid occult experiments as they are to be created through genetic engineering or cybernetics.
- Power at a Price:
- All Variations, the Deviant powers, have a flat cost. Their power level is affected not by experience cost, but by the degree of the Scars linked to them, as well as the influence of the conspiracy hunting the Deviant. A Deviant that is low-powered is going to look fairly human, be fairly stable, and be pursued by a group with somewhat weak grip; a Deviant that is high-powered is going to have issues physically, mentally, or both, and be pursued by some tough bastards.
- Additionally, if a Deviant goes too long without engagement with the things that represent their Conviction and Loyalty, their Scars get worse — and if they get bad enough, either the Deviant's Variations get more powerful, they get new Variations, or both.
- High-powered Forms also come with a worse caliber of Scars.
- Power Incontinence: The main issue faced by Coactives is that their powers, or the entities that they are bound to, do not want to be contained. The Infused need to walk a fine line between releasing their powers too freely, which risks both alerting their pursuers and unleashing devastation, and bottling them up for too long and losing control when the pressure grows too great.
- The Power of Friendship: Loyalty, the other of the two Integrity equivalents. It serves as the counterpoint to Conviction for the Deviant factions — for Renegades, it has the long-term effects Conviction has for Devoted, while for Devoted it has the short-term effects Conviction does for Renegades. A Guardian is a Renegade who manages to strengthen their loyalties to match their convictions, stabilizing their powers... at least until such time as they end up betraying their principles or losing those things they care about.
- The Power of Hate: The Remade's bread and butter: unlike vampires or werewolves, who get a quick rush of rage to work with, a Remade's power comes from always being pissed off at something: what made them, who's hunting them, themselves. Special note should go to Nemeses, Devoted who have grown to despise something (such as a particular Renegade) so much their anger helps them stabilize their powers.
- Professor Guinea Pig: In some cases, a Deviant transforms themselves (a la Jekyll and The Invisible Man), but still ends up getting hunted by people who want to make use of their powers; mechanically, this is handled by the Self-Made Form.
- Secret Project Refugee Family: When hunted by a vast assortment of bastards with mad science and occult powers at their beck and call, it's best for Renegades to band together.
- Shout-Out: The Deviant skull symbol is half-human, half-fly. Specifically referenced as solid reference points or ideas for characters are Jarod, Eleven, Tetsuo, the aforementioned Fly, Lucy, Albert Wesker and Takeshi Hongo or Hayato Ichimonji.
- Smug Super: Cephalists have a marked tendency towards arrogance. They view themselves as having transcended both their human nature and the controls placed on them, and are prone to looking down on both the masses of unaltered humanity for their mundane nature and on other Broken due to perceiving them as cruder and less in control of themselves.
- Soul Power: What makes a Deviant a Deviant; by breaking the soul, it becomes a power source for the myriad of unpredictable supernatural abilities they have. Unfortunately, the soul was not meant to do this at all, hence why Deviants have Scars.
- Super-Power Meltdown: While Deviants are said to be somewhat more powerful than Hunters in terms of their powers at minimum, it's still possible for them to flare up and wreak carnage... usually at the cost of their lives. This is reflected by the End Stage Condition, which happens when the Remade reaches full Instability; the only way to stop it without dying is to destroy a Conviction Touchstone.
- Super-Soldier: A common concept for Deviants, Dark Eras 2 offers it as a Form that allows them to boost their physical capabilities at the expense of their mental and social capabilities (although they can revert the change in a later game session), and exchange starting Willpower for additional powers they gain access to when acting in support of one particular thing they care about (in game terms, a Loyalty Touchstone).
- The Symbiote:
- Deviants with the Symbiote Form have powers with a mind of their own that have to be bargained with.
- Some Manticores are symbionts, granting a human (or Deviant) host access to one or two powers, although some of them also inflict Scars on their users, and long-term use by a baseline human can run the risk of unexpectedly triggering the Divergence.
- Traumatic Superpower Awakening: The process by which a human becomes a Deviant is invariably a horrific and traumatic one. It awakens or engenders incredible powers, but in so doing also alters the subject so profoundly that their soul becomes permanently scarred, burdening the new transhuman with both persistent physical problems and indelible mental afflictions.
- The Unfettered: While a Deviant's sense of self is externalized and not pursuing their Convictions and Loyalties will kill eventually kill them, that however, is the extent of the restrictions when it comes to their actions. Within the context of the CoD, Deviants don't have a traditional Morality Stat that risks degeneration when a PC does immoral or unhinged actions. Unlike the other Splats who can fall over the Moral Event Horizon into unplayable evil NPCs if they commit atrocities or recklessly harm or manipulate others, there is no mechanical penalty for a Deviant who does the same.
- Undead Tax Exemption: This is explicitly a significant issue for Renegades, as many of the Merits that would reflect a baseline economic profile, such as Resources and Professional Training, have the "Overt" tag, indicating that they make it easier for the conspiracies to track them. The book notes the best options for survival for Deviants trying to avoid notice are living off the land, dumpster diving, identity theft, or getting involved in organized crime.
- Viral Transformation: Remade with the Transmissible Form have a contagious Divergence.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: Specifically a wound of the metaphysical variety, as once a human becomes a Deviant nothing can be done to heal their Scars; the best thing they can do is live with it as best they can.