Onyx Path Publishing have revealed their new vision of the classic table-top roleplaying game Scion, with the combined release of Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero last month. Scion: Origin contains the basic core rules for running games in the Scion universe, whilst Scion: Hero provides players with rules for playing characters who are descendants of the gods.
It would be fair to say that the original Scion, by White Wolf, was a flawed gem. It was a game that had a fantastic premise, but was mechanically broken. In Scion, the gods of myth are real, from the Norse Aesir to the Greek/Roman Theoi. Players take on the roles of the descendants, called “scions”, of these mythical beings. Opposing them are the titans, be they the Norse frost giants or the Fomorians of the Irish Tuatha Dé Danann. Whilst the gods are embodiments of human belief, titans represent primordial forces and care little about mortals, who define the gods.
In White Wolf’s attempt to adapt their existing Storyteller system, which had been used in every World of Darkness game at that point, they had inadvertently stretched it beyond breaking point. Much of this was due to the disparate power levels at play within Scion, meaning that conflicts could take well over an hour to resolve.
Scion 2nd edition developer Neall Ramon Price (interviewed here) could undoubtedly see the promise that lay within the game, but realised that something had to be done about the system. Rather than revising the existing game mechanics, he and Onyx Path created an entirely new system for the game, called “Storypath”. This new system was designed for Scion and thus addresses many of the failings within the original Scion, by introducing – amongst other things – scalability into the mechanics.
Anyone familiar with White Wolf’s Storyteller system, or the Storytelling system in the Chronicles of Darkness (“new World of Darkness”) games, will find Storypath easy to understand, as it shares many similarities. Players roll a number of ten-sided-dice, determined by the skill and attribute for a skill check. The number of successes is determined by the number of dice that roll seven or more, which players use to meet the difficulty of the task assigned by the storyteller. The harder the difficulty, the more successes they need, with excess successes being used to further influence the game to the player’s benefit.
Both books are required to play Scion: Hero for fully-awakened scions. However, Scion: Origin does allow players to take on the role of scions before they are aware of their divine patronage: these are known as “pre-visitation” scions.
The setting in the original edition was akin to today’s modern world, but with the pantheons operating as a secret society, and without taking the worship aspect of the gods into account. In the new Scion, it is still a modern-day setting, but with the gods very much a part of it. This reinforces the core premise that the gods are real and are influencing society.
That said, the degree to which the pantheons can influence the world is limited by “fatebinding”. In fatebinding, mortals can become bound to a god’s duties if their actions set a new precedent. This compels deities to empower scions to operate on their behalf.
The nature of the scions in this new edition of Scion have also changed. Previously they were always children of gods, whereas now they can be ones who have been chosen or even created by gods. This widening of scope allows more flexibility when creating characters, as well as being more in keeping with the original myths.
Scion 2nd edition also incorporates a lot more of the divine essence of the mythological deities into the game, with the rules for virtues and fatebinding. However, as the book states (in their own words), these rules – especially those for virtues – are “wobbly” due to abstract nature of the game.
Both Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero have a great game master’s guide at the back of each book, giving an indication of how the game should be played. It would have been helpful if the developers had also included a variety of story hooks for starting new games. However, Onyx Path recently recorded an actual play session on their podcast and YouTube channel, which gave a useful indicator of a typical game of Scion.
Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero have both been released and can be found in local game stores and online at DriveThruRPG. A subsequent Errata and FAQ document has also been released. Hopefully the errors will be corrected in an updated version of the PDFs. A gamemaster’s screen has also been released, but unfortunately only as a physical item from American suppliers, for which the shipping is more than double the cost of the screen.
Scion has a great system that is – mechanically – perfect for the game and is gorgeous to look at. The artwork is likewise fantastic and captures the epic fables of ancient myth.
However, the explanations of the different rules in Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero occasionally lack clarity, and would have benefited from being more succinct. In this regard, the pdf version is better than the physical book, as it is searchable and has a neatly hyperlinked index tab for quick referencing.
The content of the two books could have also been divided more appropriately, as there seemed to be some repetition, whilst other material – such as the skills – was only in Scion: Origin. It might have been easier to have the core Storypath system in one book, with Scion-specific content in another. It is not clear what the motive would be to play pre-visitation scions when the players can choose to be fully-empowered scions.
It would also have been useful to have reference sheets included in the games, as character creation can involve a lot of flicking between pages for finding lists of the different abilities that scions have access to.
That said, these are relatively minor quibbles for what is a fantastic game. Ultimately, we finally have the game that was promised to us all those years ago. This new Scion captures the spirit of mythological storytelling and provides the tools for playing epic fables.