Thursday, December 30, 2010

Scion, Part 2

Back in early November, I did my whole character creation thing for Scion, a game where you play the modern children of ancient gods. I'm looking at actually playing Scion for the first time in a long time now, so I thought I might come back to it. It doesn't hurt that the first Scion book is one of the few I was able to bring with me on 'vacation' to Florida over Christmas break.

I've been interested in mythology for a long time, probably since before middle school. Mostly, I focussed on the myths surrounding the Greek and Norse gods, because they are two of the most well-known Western mythological groups. I've also been into White Wolf as a game company for a long time - since high school, at the very least, where I ran a long-running game of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, as well as some other, shorter games, like Project Twilight. That means I've probably had about 15 years of experience with the Storyteller system - which is a little depressing personally, but not terribly relevant.

Bringing mythology together with the Storyteller system was a big deal for me when I first heard about it; I hadn't really thought about it before, but a game about modern mythic heros and demigods really hit a chord. Initially, however, after reading the books I wasn't too thrilled about the system. Looking at the way powers were divided - the personally focussed epic attributes, and the more wide-ranging divine powers - I thought the game wasn't really all that balanced.

Of course, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that was the point. There's no reason a Scion focussed on fertility god powers should be as effective in combat as a Scion of a war god. And even a Scion of a war god can choose to either focus on personal combat powers - in which case he'll take epic physical attributes - or on causing others to be better in combat, in which case he'll take powers in the War purview. Balance is not one of the key ideas of Scion, because mythologically, the gods were never balanced - they were each focussed on their own area.

The mechanics in some ares of Scion are a little crazy, yeah, but a lot of that only happens when you start getting to the higher power levels. Epic attributes, for example, grant automatic successes on certain types of rolls, and they increase geometrically - Epic Stat 1 gives 1 auto success, Epic Stat 2 gives 2, Epic Stat 3 gives 4, and so on. This is fine early on, while Scion is still played in the Hero stage, but near the end of Demigod or God, the geometric successes mean that someone with, say, Epic Dexterity 7 is essentially guaranteed to defeat someone who only has Epic Dexterity 6. That's because the person with Epic Dexterity 7 has twice the automatic successes of the person with Epic Dexterity 6. But this is easy enough to change by just making the automatic successes and such progress in a linear fashion - Epic Stat 3 gives 3 successes instead of 4, and Epic Stat 4 gives 4 successes instead of 8.

After that, there's only a couple of other problems with Scion, and some of them are only going to come up if a player knows the Storyteller system well and how to game it. Scion uses a stat called Legend, for example; it represents how well-known and powerful your character is, and you can't progress to the next power level - from Hero to Demigod, or Demigod to God, without Legend. Now, in theory, though the base level of Legend is 2, you can push it as high as 4 during character creation - and this means you only need a minimum of experience points to push it to 5, and thus Demigod level. But a character who does that is bypassing everything else, and the GM has an easy way to delay the switch to Demigod - the jump in levels requires a visitation by the Scion's divine parent, and a confirmation by them that the character is ready to move up in the world.

It seems that a lot of the mechanical problems of Scion can be solved - but in most cases, they can only be solved with a good GM who pays attention and players who try to follow a particular theme rather than trying to game the system. I know I've been guilty of that before, so I don't count myself out of that group, but I generally try to keep to the spirit of the game. So I am looking forward to being able to play Scion again in the near future, even if I am playing the combat monkey in a group full of characters who can likely lead my character along by the nose. Because half of the fun of gaming, at least for me, is the interaction with the group, and it'll be a crazy time in a group playing the children of gods.

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