Monday, March 25, 2019

Scion: Demigod - Part 1

This book really broke my heart. I suppose it's because the "Demigod" power level is generally my favorite - resilient enough that you can face some absolutely absurd opposition and engage in wide-ranging, almost cartoonish set-piece battles, but not so invincible that there's no element of risk. I like my rpg characters to be roughly as powerful as major multinational corporation. Unfortunately, Scion: Demigod completely botches the execution.

Scion: God is worse. Every flaw in the system becomes magnified by the greater scale. But somehow, it doesn't quite matter as much. Like, God is so broken you kind of just have to treat it empirically. Things happen, then other things happen, and who lives and who dies is pretty much random. Scion: Demigod still feels like it should make some kind of sense.

But it doesn't. You can add 22 successes to a Perception roll? What does that even mean? Was the GM not giving you the full story when you were only adding 16 successes to your Perception rolls? And, hey, Manipulation and Charisma at that level will allow you to beat any opposition, but it's probably overkill because social rolls are invariably resisted with Willpower + Integrity, and thus ineligible for an Epic Attribute bonus.

The only realm where ludicrous success totals have an objective, scalable meaning is combat, and the sheer range of variance here totally kills the system. Are you specced to counter the opponent's build? No? Then you're dead. Yes? Then is the opponent specced to counter your build? No? Then you're invincible. Yes? Then you most likely perfectly balance each other out and are going to wind up running the battle like you're both mortals.

It's just aggravating all around.

Boons aren't any better. There's always been an imbalance in their cost in the character creation system, but at this level it's enough to make it completely untenable. You get 10 points when you apply the demigod template, which is enough for 10 dots of Epic Attributes, each one of which brings with it a new knack. Or you can buy 2 mid-level Boons. Why do the designers hate boons?

It would be bad enough if the Boons were consistently powerful, but honestly, a lot of them are kind of underwhelming. The Sun and Moon purviews each have a level 7 Boon that summons a chariot that flies at 500mph . . . and vanishes at sunrise or sunset, respectively. It's useful, but in a modern setting, commercial airlines are more practical in almost all conceivable use cases. The GM pretty much has to design scenarios that have something time-critical happening at short notice a significant distance away.

And those are some of the better Boons. Chaos 7 starts a riot. Which sounds cool, except . . . why can't you do this with the dozens of successes you'd get from a dramatically cheaper Epic Charisma 7? Animal 6 lets you turn into your chosen animal, but then, why are you making players wait until mid-demigod tier for this power that will probably just wind up being a lateral move in effectiveness? And the less said about the Fertility Purview the better.

Okay, I'll say one thing - perfectly healthy plants with no other notable qualities, as many as you want!

I cannot convey how much I yearn to find something redeemable in Scion: Demigod's system. I mean, the cover is so fucking cool! Brigitte De La Croix is in her tophat with the cute skull decoration and she has a cane with a glowing-eyes skull topper, looking for all the world like a death-themed Broadway dancer as screaming poltergeists and mysterious green underworld energy surround her in the ruins of Atlantis. And I want to play that game.

But I can't. Not with the contents of this book. And that's why Scion: Demigod breaks my heart.

(Also, there's a bit of shady mid-aughts era political incorrectness in the opening fiction that just comes off as kind of gross now, but I'm not going to get into it because I've already panned this book enough.)

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