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Deviant Abilities

Source Dark Archive pg. 98
The frost struck in the time it took him to look. No waving fingers, no incantation, no circle of ancient runes hanging in the air. Just ice covering everything he laid eyes on, his breath hanging white in the summer afternoon as chills wracked his body.

Rarity: Rare

Though Golarion contains classically trained spellcasters, descendants of magical creatures, and entire species who can invoke ancestral patrons for supernatural aid, there are always some who gain unique and unstable powers in strange or unorthodox ways. GMs can use the rules here to grant these so-called deviant abilities to their players and incorporate them into their games. A deviant ability can be the result of exposure to exotic energies, a boon from a powerful entity, cutting-edge scientific experimentation, or any other process that makes sense for your story.

Acquiring a Deviant Ability

Source Dark Archive pg. 98
There are two main ways to approach deviant abilities in your game: as an intentional and persistent part of a player's character that is intrinsic to them and grows throughout their career, or as a more turbulent and transient power they gain as part of an ongoing campaign, intended to be acquired at a certain point in the story and to eventually burn out or fade away when that chapter of the story is told.

Background Deviant Abilities

Source Dark Archive pg. 98
A background deviant ability is a core part of a character's concept—a character may simply have been born with the power to light things on fire by whistling, or they may have gained it as part of whatever incident set them down the road to adventure.

When using background deviant abilities, the player should get to decide what type of deviation they want and build their power. As the player grows, they should be able to improve their deviant ability, whether through special training, seeking out objects of power, or self-improvement, represented as taking additional deviant ability feats. If everyone in your party wishes to make deviant abilities a part of their character, or for a setting where these abilities are more common, consider using a variant similar to the free archetype variant rule to grant each character an extra class feat at 2nd level and every even-numbered level thereafter that they can use only to take deviant feats. In most cases, they can gain every possible deviant ability feat by 16th level in this fashion, so there's no need to grant extra feats after that.

Campaign Deviant Abilities

Source Dark Archive pg. 99
A campaign deviant ability comes about as part of the story of your campaign. The party may find themselves with strangely expanded senses after taking shelter beneath an ancient monolith, or they might drink from a spring of pure magic in a grove and find themselves able to command the elements. As the GM, you should decide the specifics of the deviant abilities yourself, matching them to the event and themes of your campaign. The players might not discover the full capabilities or quirks of their new abilities immediately. Consider waiting for a dramatic moment to reveal that a player has gained a deviant ability, perhaps letting them unleash an unexpected blast of lightning right when they need it the most.

Because a campaign deviant ability is normally only present for a level or maybe two, you usually don't have to worry about advancing the ability or adjusting campaign rewards to take stock of your PCs' additional powers. Rather, simply keep in mind that the players might have an extra source of damage or utility ability up their sleeve while they are in a given town or dungeon. Be clear with your players that their newly acquired abilities are temporary; for instance, it might be that the powers the players gained from the ancient monolith will fade once their journey takes them too far. If a player enjoys their deviant ability and wants to keep it even after the moment in the campaign has passed, work with them to develop a story that fits their character—maybe they take a piece of the monolith with them, letting them keep their powers. In this case, you can give them the opportunity to retrain some of their existing feats into deviant ability feats or let them take those feats again in the future.

Building a Deviant Ability

Source Dark Archive pg. 99
Decide what deviant ability you want to build, and what event led to the deviant ability or awoke it. Each ability comprises a main classification—grouping energy projection or enhanced physiology together—with an attendant backlash effect that can occur when the unstable power is pushed too far, and finally, one or more strange quirks that personalize the deviant ability further.

If building a background deviant ability, take a feat from the classification that best matches the power you want— these ability classifications determine the general theme of your ability, as well as what type of backlash can happen if your ability runs rampant. For instance, if your power is to breathe blasts of electricity, you could take the Storming Breath feat from the dragon classification, which covers energy manipulation. Once you have gained a feat in a given classification, you can take only feats from that classification, as well as universal deviant ability feats. If you are playing with campaign deviant abilities, simply grant your player the abilities that best fit the story, ignoring the split between classifications if needed.

Deviant Classifications

Source Dark Archive pg. 99
The Dark Archive classifies deviant abilities into broad categories, typically filing them according to their ultimate effects, since the source of the deviations range so widely. If you are advancing your deviant ability, you can do so with the below deviant feats. Feats with the deviant trait are class feats, but can be taken by any class. When you take the feat, it gains the trait appropriate for your class.

Deviation Saves and Attack Rolls

Source Dark Archive pg. 99
Many deviations allow for a saving throw or have other abilities that change as you go up in level. The DC for any saving throw called for by a deviation is the higher of your class DC or spell DC. The attack modifier of a deviation is 10 lower than that DC, unless the deviation calls for a Strike, in which case the attack modifier is the normal attack modifier of the Strike. A deviation's counteract modifier is equal to your counteract modifier.


Source Dark Archive pg. 100
The same blood that lets one of the dragon-descended spit out a gout of flame is precisely what keeps the inside of their mouth from being singed in the furnace. Deviations, unfortunately, lack these safeguards, their powers coming from haphazard circumstance and interactions rather than intentional design. A character using their deviation always risks the chance of backlash.

Whenever you attempt to use a deviation, roll a DC 5 flat check. On a success, you use your deviation and the DC for subsequent checks increases by 5, to a maximum of 20; on a failure, you use your deviation and then suffer a backlash effect, after which your flat check DC resets to 5. Backlash progresses from mild, to moderate, to severe. When you have already taken mild backlash in a given day, the next time you would take backlash, you take the moderate backlash instead, and if you have already taken moderate backlash, you take the severe backlash instead, and your deviation can't be used for the rest of the day— attempting to use it simply brings pain. When you make your daily preparations, your flat check DC returns to 5 and your next backlash returns to mild.

Any effects from backlash can't be reduced, prevented, or otherwise bypassed. Conditions and damage you take from backlash can't be reduced or prevented by resistance or immunity, but still triggers any weakness you have to it.

Awakened Powers

Source Dark Archive pg. 100
A deviant ability's unstable nature means it can grow in power at a later point, responding to a stressful moment or continuing to evolve along a mysterious path. “Awakening” lines in deviant feats represent possible paths the power's awakening can take. You don't gain the awakening unless you take a feat that grants you those benefits. You can gain only one awakening for a given deviant feat.


Source Dark Archive pg. 103
No two deviant abilities are exactly alike, and even when two characters gain the same ability in the same event, individual factors like age, ancestry, and personality alter how their abilities manifest. Every deviant ability has one or two quirks, determined when the ability is gained. If playing with background deviant abilities, collaborate with your player to decide the quirk, maybe each suggesting one. If playing with campaign deviant abilities, simply pick quirks that fit the story or roll randomly.

You can also use the quirks on Table 5 as a guide to invent new ones for your players. These quirks don't normally have any mechanical effect, since their purpose is only to alter minor details of a power to make them stand out, though they may have narrative implications on occasion. If you want to give a quirk a mechanical effect, it should never grant more than a +1 status bonus or –1 status penalty, and even then the statistic or check it applies to should be narrow and not in the direct control of the character with the quirk.

Table 5: Ability Quirks

1Temporal Effectiveness The deviation's power feels slightly stronger (or slightly weaker) at a specific time of day.
2Musical Notation Your deviation produces strange ethereal tones or chimes when activated, or you activate it through singing, whistling, or similar performance.
3Strange Biology When you gained your deviation, you grew extra eyes, a set of chitinous antennae, or some other strange biological feature unusual for your ancestry. While you might be able to hide it underneath clothing, your deviant abilities all center around this organ, so it must be uncovered and unobstructed for you to use your deviation.
4Chromatic Absorption Whenever you use your deviation, you absorb or mute a specific color from an object near you, and any manifestation of your deviant ability has that color. The absorbed colors return to your surroundings within an hour.
5Selective Application The deviation works slightly better (or slightly worse) on a certain type of creature (such as gnomes or caterpillars) or material (such as glass or silver).
6Atmospheric Disturbance When you use your deviation, tiny clouds, light wind, or other small atmospheric disturbances occur within 5 feet of your body.
7Fractal Sign Your deviation causes sand, droplets, small insects, or other lightweight objects to organize themselves into strange, geometric patterns whenever activated.
8Harmless Wound When you use your deviation, trace amounts of blood drip from your eyes or nose.
9Strange Fuel Each day, you must consume a small amount of a specific material, such as quartz or holy water (which you can do harmlessly), or your deviation is painful to use.
10Forgotten Prayers When you gain your deviation, piecemeal knowledge of a forgotten language fills your mind—not enough to communicate, but enough that you control your deviation by commanding or beseeching some higher power in the language.