Monday, February 28, 2022

(Scion 2e) Mythical Denizens

 I took a detour from my usual pattern in order to read a really short book and potentially get back on pace for my goal of reading 100 books in 2022. It was probably misguided, because I still have to read and post about another full book by the end of the day to get up to 16 books in 2 months, but nonetheless, I'm glad I made the decision because Mythical Denizens is pretty delightful.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the book's habit of presenting its creatures as specific individuals and then breaking down their entire life story. Like, when an ogre is terrorizing the town, do I really care about its fraught relationship with its parents (this is no exaggeration - one of the monsters here is Grendel's sister)? The M20 book Gods and Monsters did the same thing, though, so I'm guessing it's just Onyx Path's signature style for its Monster Manuals.

I think, on the balance, I like it, because it allows a simple supplement such as this one to double as a setting book and an adventure book. We learn some interesting new tidbits about Scion 2nd Edition's World, like the "Icelandic legal tradition of making sure no civil engineering project disturbs the dwelling-places of the elves" or the fact that the USA kidnapped a bunch of centaurs to basically enslave them (they were compared to Chinese railroad workers) and actually included them in their imperialist wars against the Native Americans in the late 19th century. Also, the World has a lot of paranormal reality shows, and they're kind of a joke, even though their versions of Ghost Hunters ("Nekro-Filez" or "Spirit Stalk") are in constant danger of finding real ghosts (the cast of both shows meet a grisly end at the hands of a haugbui and the nuckelavee, respectively).

We might be treading real close to the central tension of Scion, 2nd Edition though. In this supplement, the World feels more like a living world than it ever has, but the reason the World has so far felt so vague was laid out in the 2nd edition Hero book: 

Several themes run through Scion. One is intentional choice: Purposeful, thoughtful creative decisions both enrich roleplay and reduce offense. Another is prioritizing out-of-character comfort and safety over in-character concerns: Your right not to experience discrimination supersedes my right to align the game with my personal creative preferences.
And it's an editorial choice I respect, but much as I predicted in my Scion: Hero, 2nd Edition post, it's not an ideal that can survive contact with a real table, because real tables require specifics. Case in point:

When the Teōtl made a grand fucking mess of their various Suns (until they finally got it “right,” the fifth time out), rather a lot of living things suffered for the sake of the Gods’ slapdash rough drafts.

Is this the sort of thoughtful, intentional cultural sensitivity that prioritizes out-of-character comfort and safety? I mean, maybe it's okay. I couldn't find any evidence that the Aztec religion still has contemporary followers, and even if it did, maybe describing the creation of the world as "a grand fucking mess" is an uncontroversial opinion. But it certainly feels like a roast.

The thing is, roasting the gods for the . . . colorful parts of their myths is absolutely something that makes the World feel more real. If Jesus walked down the street today, you just know someone would heckle him about the fig tree. However, in context, it feels careless, as if the author forgot they weren't supposed to editorialize.

That's the conflict that is always threatening to tear Scion apart - the fact that sometimes this stuff is silly and awesome and fun to play with . . . and sometimes it's sacred. I have to assume that Onyx Path did their research and felt comfortable with their representation, but I've also heard that the wendigo doesn't really belong in cheesy western horror stories. The Wendigo here seems to me to be respectfully treated and not just a generic movie monster, but also, one of the suggested Story Hooks has the PCs filming a reality TV special where they track down a guy who may have been turned into one.

The core book leaned pretty hard on the "this stuff is sacred, be careful" side of the dilemma, but this book is pretty firmly on the "divine-themed superheroes" part of the divide. There's even an archeologist who find a magic amulet and turns into a vigilante crimefighter with super-soldier abilities, and the pulp isn't even subtext. One of her Story Hooks involves her founding "some manner of divinely powered crime-fighting team."

And look, I'd read that comic. Mythical Denizens is my favorite Scion 2e book so far precisely because it feels so playful, but yeah, it's a change.

Ukss Contribution: One of the Story Hooks suggests that a biotech company captures the nuckelavee and develops a toxin refined from the creature's excretions that is a super effective pesticide. These kind of stories, where industrial evil tries to control fantasy evil, for the glory of capitalism, always intrigue me.

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