This is a collection of notes on character generation in White Wolf's Aberrant superhero game. In particular, I want to document some of the more peculiar features of the creation system, and discuss possibilities for how to change it.
A beginning character starts with 24 dots in Attributes (1ea+7/5/3); 23 in Abilities; 7 in Backgrounds; 15 Bonus points; and 30 Nova Points. Bonus points, Nova points, and Experience points can be used to buy many of the same things: but they have very different costs depending on what flavor of point you are spending. The chart below outlines the differences.
If you look at the ratios, it is ridiculous to spend Bonus points on attributes or abilities: +3 dots costs all 15 Bonus points, which would cost only 1 out of 30 Nova points (ratio x15). The example character (p116) demonstrates this: he spends 7 Bonus points on +1 Attributes and +1 Willpower, then 7 Nova points on +1 Quantum and +6 Attributes. By re-arranging, he could get +1 Quantum (7 Bonus pts), +1 Willpower (1 Nova pt), and +9 Attributes (3 Nova pts)... coming out with an extra +2 in attributes and 3 Nova points leftover. Bonus points are best spent on Quantum (ratio x1.4), Initiative (ratio x1), or Willpower (ratio x2).
For experience, it should be clear that it is MUCH easier to start specialized and then diversify with experience, rather than start general and try to specialize. Rather surprisingly, it is often cheaper to get new powers than to raise human stats: i.e. going from Dex 4 to Dex 5 costs more than learning to both fly and teleport.
The rules for Taint in Aberrant seem like a lot of concern over a very minor effect. It appears to be there primarily as a tie-in to the game Trinity rather than an important in-game concern. Taint is extremely difficult to raise except by player choice.
For each point of permanent Taint you are willing to accept, you save either 1 nova point (if buying a L2 power or mega-attribute) or 2 nova points (if buying a L3 power or Quantum trait). Thus, the motivation during character creation are pretty minimal. On the other hand, Taint of up to 3 is described as having virtually no effect, so some player may take it. When building sample characters, I made a Taint-4 character: "Gargoyle". The gain was pitiful (4 extra nova points), but in that case I wanted to have a character who was more distanced from humanity.
Permanent taint can be involuntarily raised only by botching a "maxed" power roll at least ten times. The rules for "maxing" require a lot of quantum points for only small gains over simply spending a Willpower point. i.e. Spend 1 WP + 3 QP will get you an average of 1 extra die on an attack power, while the 1WP would get you an autosuccess. In most situations, "maxing" is not very useful: so maxing enough to botch 10 times is pretty difficult.
The rules suggest a breakdown of "Human" vs "Nova" character creation, where first you create a human character and then conceive of his eruption into a nova. This is an interesting idea, but it is violated by the rules.
During the "human" phase of character generation, you are given points to spend on various inherent nova capabilities: like the Quantum trait along with Attunement, Dormancy, and Node. The example character spends his Bonus points on +1 Quantum and nova-obsessed Followers as part of his "human" phase. Indeed, because of how the point costs are set up, buying Quantum during this stage is the most efficient choice (see the next section).
An interesting campaign options would be to stick to the concept as expressed... Have players make completely normal human characters first, and then role-play through their eruption. If the players are agreeable, you might have the GM assign their powers -- allowing the PC's to role-play through discovering what their abilities are and how they will affect the human they created. I think this is a great tool for getting into playing how a human reacts to finding their superhuman powers, but it requires a lot of trust in the GM. Alternatively, the other players could collaborate (with or without the GM) on secretly assigning a PC's powers.
The powers system has the feature that it is organized around controlling statistic. This has the feature that powers often have a sudden jump in ability. If you have a high rating and/or mega-dice in the controlling attribute, the first dot often gets you a large dice pool. For many powers, it is more effective to stay at one dot and increase the controlling Mega-attribute rather than increasing the power.
For example, a Quantum 4 character who puts just one dot in Sizemorph (Shrink) can immediately shrink to 2 inches tall, with +5 difficulty to hit her. A Quantum-4, Stamina-5 character who buys 1 dot of Force Field instantly gains average +9.0 soak from it. Another dot of Force Field power (3pts) would raise this to +9.8, while buying a dot of Mega-Stamina (also 3pts) would raise it to +10.8, with an extra permanent +1 soak and other benefits for the Mega-Stamina itself.
As noted above, there are often huge leaps in ability. This happens not only because of the attribute base, but also because of the grainy scale in general. One extra dot of Mega-Strength give +5 auto-successes, while one dot of armor is +3 soak. Normal characters have 8 health levels (the equivalent of hit points). All other things being equal, a character with 1 extra dot in Mega-Strength will flatten his opponent very quickly.
This makes it difficult to balance characters unless you pay very close attention.