Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Scion: Ragnarok - Chapters 1-3

My enjoyment of Scion: Ragnarok was slightly muted by my enjoyment of Thor: Ragnarok. Not by a lot, but by enough to be noticeable. The book would show a picture of Heimdall and I'd be like "hey, that looks nothing like Idris Elba." You know, silly stuff like that.

Leaving aside pop-culture cross pollution, Scion: Ragnarok (or at least the 1st half) is absolutely the sort of book the Scion line needed more of while simultaneously being just a little bit pointless.

The best and most useful part of the book was Chapter 1, which summarized some of the major stories of Norse mythology. Like none of the other material seen in Scion so far, it gave a real feel for the Aesir as a living pantheon and cultural tradition, sketching out core relationships and delivering deeper, more nuanced characterization for some of the game's most important NPCs. And yet . . .

Very little of it was actually specific to the game. A book on Norse mythology would likely have worked even better, and may have even had time to go into details about the secondary characters that only briefly got introduced. As much as I thought "this is great, I need this for all of Scion's signature PC pantheons," it was inevitably followed up by "wait, I could have it, were I willing to hit the internet and do my own research."

But that sounds like a total drag. The problem with doing your own research for a Scion game is that a lot of the directly useful information is going to be broken up into a dozen sources, some of which are going to be fragmentary (say because a society did not have widespread literacy before the Christians came and forced the stories to go underground) and most of which is going to be wrapped up in the ponderously flowery language favored by the generations that first translated them into English (when they've been translated at all). And that's not even getting into the multiple versions that stem from theological conflicts, historical evolution over time, and plain old translation decay.

In other words, it was very useful to have someone do the work for me, but ultimately, if they're doing the work anyway, why wouldn't they just write a mythology book for a general audience?

So, I wish there were an equivalent book for all of Scion's default pantheons, but I recognize that such a wish is ridiculous in the extreme.

Chapter 2 was another mechanical chapter, and I have nothing new to say about Scion's mechanics here. Ragnarok did not correct the game's mechanical problems, but for the most part it also didn't make them worse. Some of the spells were a bit more functional than we're accustomed to seeing in Scion's magic system, but there aren't enough of them that we can start talking about it as a flaw.

Chapter 3 was pretty bad, though. It's stats for the gods of the Norse pantheon. So already you know they're junk. But the weird thing is that with only two exceptions, all of the gods were Legend 12. It's not a detail we've covered before, but in Scion, you've got a stat, called Legend, that measure's your character's overall power. It ranges from 1 to 12. In theory, everyone with a Legend rating of 9-12 is a god, but in practice, those lower ratings never get used. If your name made it into the history books, you've got a maximum Legend rating, and that's just how the overworld works.

The reason for this is pretty clear - the rules in Scion: God say that you can't pass down favored purviews unless you can use the purview's avatar power. Avatar powers are only available at Legend 12. All of the divine parents listed in the books pass along favored purviews. Ergo, Legend ratings 9,10, and 11 are for PCs working their way up to full godhood and certain mythological monsters with godlike characteristics. It's ridiculous, because the Legend system is supposed to give you the ability to express the nuances and hierarchies of divine power, but the stats in this book's 3rd chapter tell a different story. Bragi, the God of Poetry and Odin, the All-Father, have the exact same mystical potency and that's the system working as intended.

Oh, Scion. I have such high hopes for second edition.

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