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11/27/2019 07:10:10 •••

Scion Second Edition: Nice Try but Has Severe Flaws

The original Scion game was an awesome concept that died under its mechanics. A single dot of difference in stats during mid-level play meant one PC was invincible while another was mincemeat. Still it was a reasonably well-loved game line so how does the Second Edition fare?

Honestly it is a good start but has severe shortcomings that may very well prevent it from reaching greatness.

Firstly, the crunch. The new mechanics are far more balanced compared to the original but are still poorly internally balanced. Some boons and knacks are radically more useful. Access to the type and number of boons and knacks are also much more restricted resulting in overall weaker Scions.

One good thing is that most Purviews come with the necessary immunities that were once level one boons. Gods of water no longer drown nor do fire gods burn to death because their players were cheap. The bad thing? Epic Attributes are mostly gone and with them most of the formidability of Scions. Before even a starting Scion could, with the right knacks, weather a hail of gunfire or hurl an SUV at a giant. Now this could only be achieved by Feats of Scale which basically means only as a dramatic action once per session if that. Instead of bonus dice or automatic successes, Scions receive enhancements. Bonus successes that only count if the roll succeeds.

Without automatic successes, gods are just as prone to failure as talented mortals. It is entirely mechanically possible for Heimdall to fail a spot check in the current system. It robs the game of a lot of the epic feel that was Scion’s calling card. Mechanically, Hero scions are not markedly more formidable than well-trained humans.

The fluff however is where the game falls flat. It expects Newthink level of cognitive dissonance from the players. The game asserts all myths are true despite their contradictory nature, instead of the old “all myths are true but not all are accurate”. It posits a world where monotheism is predominant despite the fact that the gods are demonstrably real and active. Gods are written up as ridiculously powerful but a single scion is credited with destroying an entire pantheon. Titans are no longer primeval beings who are often an existential threat to mankind. Instead those are Primordials and Titans are basically undefined aside from “enemy of an existing pantheon”. The game itself lampshades it.

It does not help that the writer(s) wear their politics on their sleeve. Two African gods are written as violent thugs, one is afraid of cultural appropriation. Their pantheon weakness is systemic racism. Yes, really. A Chinese goddess regards her poor reputation as the result of sexism. Guan Yu, a Chinese culture hero lauded as a paragon of valor, seeks restitution for his “toxic masculinity”. Its too heavy-handed and egregious.

Overall the fluff lets the game down and the mechanics, while serviceable, are not the best fit for a Scion game.

11/26/2019 00:00:00

I like later paragraphs describing their impact on the system, but that bit about knacks and boons was pretty opaque as someone familiar with the idea of Scion more than the nitty-gritty of comparative XP pricings. And I think that a few bits of red pen could leave room for a decent final paragraph that ties it all together instead of petering off.

I\'m not sure how to read the current final paragraph. On the one hand, there\'s definitely an argument to be made about shoehorning in Important Moral Lessons to try to demonstrate your game has grown with the times, and doing it poorly. But on the other hand, it could easily be read as complaining that that kind of thing is touched on at all, in which case, I\'m not sure I understand what you mean. Hasn\'t White Wolf always tried to be pretty progressive, even if they were just as 90\'s about it in the 90\'s as they are new 10\'s about it in the new 10\'s?

That part about the new story being weak and the new setting poorly-thought-out and a downgrade from the original is pretty well-put, and one of the strongest parts of the review.

Overall, I liked it, and it definitely helped me decide whether or not to go spending money on it now that they don\'t release physical books and leafing through a copy at my friendly local game story is out of the question. Thanks.

11/26/2019 00:00:00

I would have loved to have gone on about the mechanics but I only had 3000 characters to work with so I chose to highlight changes relative to First Edition, presuming that readers were at least somewhat familiar with it. Had to work within the constraints which nixed my concluding paragraph too until I have enough time to do some serious editing work.

TL;DR on Knacks and Boons: much more restricted on number and choice for character customization.

I do apologize if my stance seems kinda murky in the last paragraph. While I do think that politics should not be too big a factor in games, mainly for the discord it has the potential to sow at the gaming table, Scion 2E mainly gets my goat for doing it very, very badly.

The Orisha in particular get it pretty bad. "Yes queen slay" is part of the description of one of the characters. I believe that the author intend for this to be jocular but it comes across just a tad juvenile. The fact that the Pantheon weakness of the Oriba has nothing to do with their pantheon and everything to do with the plight of their worshipers also does not sit well with me. Yes racism is a problem. A very serious problem that everyone ought to work towards resolving. However every other pantheon has a weakness that described its gods, not the worshipers. Is the author implying that the Yoriba otherwise have no weaknesses? They already have no Titans and thus no natural enemies. The author has a point that the worst thing ever done to the Oriba was done by mortals. Somehow. As if a slave trade would not have brought out every available Scion of the Oriba to combat it.

And that is where the story fluff goes completely kaput. The history of the World is very similar to ours including an Age of Reason. In a world where Scions are present and work miracles that defy all science, in a world where Scions defend their worshipers and cultural groups and in a world where getting "struck by the fist of an angry god" is not a figure of speech, history would have progressed in a myriad other paths than the one that unfolded in our world.

The Shen write up has the same tone as the Oriba's so I suspect it is one or perhaps a small number of like minded authors putting their politics into the game. White Wolf being progressive is nothing new, on that we are in accord. Nor do I think it is a problem generally. It is just that in Scion 2E, it is done so poorly as to be egregious. Take Guan Yu for example. He is a god that values camaraderie, loyalty and valor. In life he was a warrior and general who fought for his sworn brother, fought to restore the Han Dynasty. To the Chinese, he is the epitome of what it means to be a warrior. To label his life as "toxic masculinity" is to spit on everyone who admires him today and tries to emulate his virtues. It disrespects the Chinese warrior ethos and frankly is one of the few examples of where the author basically says that the people (as in real life) who think well of Guan Yu are wrong to do so. Scion has always taken care not to tread on too many toes since many of these pantheons have real life worshipers, this time they dropped the ball.

Not that he's the only god described so dismissively mind you. Several deities have overtly negative descriptions which is not all that surprising given that not all characters of myth were very nice people. On the one hand, the write up on the Devas is chock full of flavour; invocations in the style one might see in epic poems or prayers. On the other hand you have write ups like that of Chang Er who stole the Elixir of Immortality to keep it away from her evil husband... and suddenly the next paragraph talks about how everyone sees her as flighty and selfish. For some reason not actually explained. 1E Scion's write ups were better as they tried to give players a quick summary of the deity's Legend and broad strokes on personality; 2E sometimes strays into how others see them or, perhaps more cynically, how others ought to see them.

I think Scion 2E has potential. Unrealized potential but its still there.

11/27/2019 00:00:00

For what it's worth, I mostly agree about wanting to have their cake and eat it too in terms of presenting a history broadly similar to our own but also having gods and monsters running about.

And while I like the idea of doing different takes on gods than their original mythologies did (I rather enjoyed an Amber Diceless-system game I once played in based on Greek mythology, where the creator/game runner had interesting tweaks like Zeus being a better king than his father and grandfather because unlike them, he has learned from his mistakes and become a better ruler, father, and person than he used to be/was in Greek myth, while Poseidon ended up being the villain because he did not, and so was basically just Zeus), I agree there is space to do it badly, whether through politics or just throwing pointless edge in there.

Certainly, the apocalyptic impact of European chattel slavery can't be understated in real life, and I get that they wouldn't want to trivialize that. And I could see room for focusing on how this pantheon is, more deeply than any other, traumatized by human beings and the things humans have done. But it should also be paired with actually looking into the original myths so that you're actually presenting them too, instead of just, ironically, engaging in cultural appropriation to use the myths as a means to talk about something else.

If I had to make a suggestion, I think that cutting out specific examples in favor of broader generalizations (I don't think you need to mention that people can't throw cars anymore twice for instance) would free up room for that final paragraph.

11/27/2019 00:00:00

Well it is early days and we will see where they go with Scion Demigod. Honestly it is bringing back bad memories of Exalted\'s Infernals and some of the bad fiction surrounding Beast the Primordial (decent game; bad, BAD fluff and world building). Seems to be a thing with White Wolf; Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand and Samuel Haight show that it has long been a bad habit of theirs to let authors run headlong off a cliff in terms of fluff.

\"If I had to make a suggestion, I think that cutting out specific examples in favor of broader generalizations (I don\'t think you need to mention that people can\'t throw cars anymore twice for instance) would free up room for that final paragraph.\"

That is indeed an excellent suggestion. Thank you, I\'ll do just that.

11/27/2019 00:00:00

Glad to help, and I think the rework works well.

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