Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Error: Tried to destroy world that hadn't been created!

I'm attempting to get back into modding for Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space.
I really love that game, and when the mods work, they're a lot of fun. When the mods are crashing, it's not nearly so much fun.

In the past, when it crashed, I had no clue what exactly was causing it. Now, I have a debug tool. It's not great, but rather than being totally clueless, I get to ready pithy little reports like this:
Error: Tried to destroy world that hadn't been created.
Which is annoying to see pop up when there's nothing in your mod that destroys worlds.

Other interesting bits include:
Can't load asset misc/intro_scrugug.ogg
Frustrating when there's no scrugug.ogg referenced anywhere in your mod. In fact, a search of my harddrive indicates that file doesn't exist. So I thought maybe I'd try to figure out what referencing it. Searching the contents of files, I found the reference. The main game has a line that is supposed to trigger the playing of that file - yet the file did not come with my download.

Oh well, sometimes the debugging mode generates helpful messages. For example, it clued me in that I'd missed an "s" in one occurrence of the command to access the file graphics/items/s_itemssgq1.jpg. Adding in that s got rid of one potential crash.

And it gave me pages of the following:
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
warning: couldn't make new Gongaquai fleet
Fatal signal: Bus Error (SDL Parachute Deployed)
*** malloc[396]: Deallocation of a pointer not malloced: 0x281ca00; This could be a double free(), or free() called with the middle of an allocated block; Try setting environment variable MallocHelp to see tools to help debug
*** malloc[396]: Deallocation of a pointer not malloced: 0x281ca00; This could be a double free(), or free() called with the middle of an allocated block; Try setting environment variable MallocHelp to see tools to help debug
The malloc stuff is right over my head, but I at least have an alien race called the Gongaquai, who only show up if a particular quest is triggered, so I have a solid lead on where to start looking for the source of the trouble.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Epic Willpower

Note: while this starts off all annoyingly nitpicky, it really does get around to being useful eventually. If you're sick of the whining, just skip down to the part is large bold letters.

If I had it all to do over again, I'd massively revamp the Scion rules prior to having started my campaign. There's a lot of things (that didn't look terribly problematic back when all we had was the Hero book) which are now rearing their heads at late Demigod.

One of them has to do with Willpower.

There is no Epic Willpower. Instead, Willpower runs on a scale from 1 to 10. There's technically nothing that stops a legendless mortal from buying it up to 10, which is also the highest the most stubborn and self-centered God can achieve.

This was clearly an intentional design decision. Instead of having a wider Willpower scale, PCs and immortal NPCs have access to a variety of Knacks that replenish Willpower. All involve someone else using them to replenish your Willpower for you. This seems intentionally crafted, likely so that PCs have to work together. Many of those work better on mortals than Scions or Gods. This was also intentional, intended to keep PCs from effectively having infinite Willpower, yet still allow the Knacks to be powerful in certain circumstances such as swaying the masses and raising armies. The unfortunate side effect is that a mortal backed up by Scions can access more Willpower than a Scion backed up by Scions, and that a PC without backup has no more Willpower than a Legendless Mortal.

One solution to the conundrum above is a Knack from the wiki: Refuge in Logic. It's a "must have" knack for the moody friendless God, even though it still only works once per story. With a few dots of Epic Intelligence and that knack, a god effectively has more Willpower than a mortal.

But that's only part of the complaint. Let's examine the rolls involved in most mind-influencing powers. The aggressor / brainwasher rolls Attribute + Skill and adds their corresponding Epic successes. The defender typically rolls Willpower + Skill (almost always Integrity, but sometimes Fortitude) + Legend.

At Legend 2, that means the aggressor rolls (at most) 10 dice + 1 autosuccess. The defender rolls (again, at the maximum for Legend 2) 17 dice. More realistically, the defender probably rolls around 12 dice. Point being that an average L2 Scion has a 50% chance of shrugging off the powers of a built-to-maximize L2 hypnotist.

At Legend 12, the math is very different. The aggressor could be rolling 16 dice + 46 autosuccesses. The defender is now rolling at most 27 dice. Which means success is automatic. Against mortals that'd be no big deal - Gods should always beat mortals. But those 27 dice are actually the max for a defending God. Which means no wonder Loki gets away with most anything - the Gods can't hope to resist his smooth talking.

There's a knack (Blockade of Reason in Scion: God) that solves this, by allowing the defender to add his Epic Int successes to the Willpower + Integrity + Legend roll. So now 16 dice + 46 successes are potentially countered by 27 dice + 46 successes. If the defender is Int-based, the odds have totally flipped, from being impossible to resist, to being nearly impossible (I haven't carried the math far enough, but I'd eyeball it at less than 10% probability) to fall for it. The boost is so much that Blockade of Reason is a must-have knack. Even if you only take Epic Int to 4 - 7 dots it's still a huge defensive swing (+7 to +22 successes) against most tricksters and brainwashers.

Better balance would have been achieved by making Blockade of Reason add dice instead of successes. Admittedly, no one ever wants to roll 40 or 60 dice, but at least then there'd be chance of failure. If the GM allows both Blockade of Reason and Contempt of the Superior Mind, the better purchase is always Blockade, but having both would make you truly immune to manipulation (58 successes instead of 46).

Given the system as it stands, there's really no good solution, but then Scion is full of lopsided conflicts, and you can choose to not see that as a flaw. I think better balance would have been achieved if they'd broken from the World of Darkness / Exalted template for Willpower.

Possible house-rule: Epic Willpower
One option would have been to make Willpower function like Attributes. Give it an Epic version, (possibly complete with Knacks). Limit your mundane Willpower to the higher of 5 or your Legend Rating, like Attributes. Then make brainwash powers roll aggressors Att + Skill + Epic vs defenders Will + Skill + Epic Will + Legend. The result would be always favoring the defender, but by a small margin that keeps with the "Primacy of Defense" concept of the game.

A campaign using this would likely not allow the Blockade of Reason knack from Scion: God, but may use the Contempt of the Superior Mind knack from the wiki.

Here's a handful of Knacks for Epic Willpower. Those intending to use this for a campaign will no doubt want to come up with more.
  • Righteous Empowerment: Whenever you spend a Willpower to channel a Virtue, you also gain an autosuccess on that roll, as if channeling a Virtue and spending Willpower for guaranteed success on the same roll (which normally isn't allowed).
  • Brow-beating: When making a Manipulation roll to influence people, you may add a number of bonus dice equal to your dots in Epic Willpower. You may only use this on rolls that represent extended arguments and unflinching force of personality. In other words, it can't apply to any roll where the target wouldn't know they'd been manipulated or at least verbally abused.
  • Hidden Reserves: A number of times per story equal to your dots of Epic Willpower, you may regain 2 Willpower by meditating. Doing so takes at least 10 seconds of focus and inner reflection. Unless you have the Wits Knack "Meditative Focus" you cannot do this during combat or while otherwise under the threat of immediate harm or death.
  • Master Of My Own Domain: If you attempt to fail a Virtue roll so as to resist taking a course of action, but score one or more successes (and so must normally do what the Virtue demands) you may pay 1 Willpower or 3 Legend per success to cancel them out and retain control of your character. Alternately, you can pay only enough to cancel some of the successes, so as to prevent a Virtue Extremity but not ignore the virtue entirely.
  • All Things In Moderation: You are immune to the addictive quality of drugs, even those of the magical variety. While this does little to boost your resistance to their short term affects, you at least know you won't end up craving them again later. In addition, for any poison (or drug) that has a tolerance value based on Stamina (or Fortitude), you may spend a Legend to determine your tolerance by Willpower (or Integrity) instead for the day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

To outer space and back

Someday, I may end up running a (hard) sci fi game, and thus may find this post I wrote about relativity and the twin paradox useful, so I'm providing a link here. Einstein doesn't get discussed much here, whereas there's no guarantees it'll remain easy to search for amidst all the craziness at Repeated Expletives.

Arete in other's hands

Over at the forum a lot of work's being done on Arete. The version they're hammering out has a lot more flavor than the original version, but it's still just "good at skills" which I think is pretty narrow, and the jury's still out on whether or not it's balanced.

I'll give them credit, though. They've solved issues C, H, and J completely. B is mitigated, and if it's still a problem, it's only because of level 10 being broken in the same way Tsukumo-Gami 3 is broken, so that's a big improvement. F and G are arguably solved as well.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Re-evisioning Arete

Rather than Arete, which is a very narrow Purview (that only exists as somewhat flavorless die-adder), I'd like to make a broader Greco-Roman Purview.

I'd like to see the things Arete does (excellence on a handful of focused skills, aka rerolls and or bonus dice) be just a couple (neither too weak nor too strong) boons within a larger Greek Pantheon Purview.

So, I'd stick some skill boosting boons in the lower stages. Probably 2 boons total.
One grants one free reroll per scene to a small number of Abilities.
The other grants +Legend Dice to those same skills.
I'd be tempted to call those levels 2 and 4, in the absence of a larger context.

Somewhere in the low levels I'd have a power that reveals the trophies of Titanspawn. This is something Scion's been needing for a while, and it jives with the notion of the Greek myths seeming to really emphasize the "use bits of the monsters later" theme.

Some level should involve little models of mortals, being placed upon a chessboard or miniature ampitheatre, since anyone who's seen a Ray Harryhausen film thinks of that when you mention Zeus. This would manipulate mortals or fate.

For that matter, a "View From Olympus" observational power or something that superimposes you as a giant transparent dude in the clouds could work.

Perhaps a Pandora's Box power somewhere in the high levels? We could then reveal that it's what Prometheus used to make cavemen everywhere discover fire simultaneously.

Pomegranites, Golden Apples - there could be a level about accursed fruit, though I don't yet know exactly what it would do.

Some sort of transformative power might work, too. This could represent both Circe's efforts at turning men to beasts, and Zeus's many non-human dalliances. (Zeus doesn't have Animal Avatar, since it's not one of his Favored purviews. That means he probably doesn't have Animal 10 either, so either he has Level 5 a whole bunch of times, or there's some other power at play).

For level 10, I'd be tempted to have it be Zeus's lightningbolts, or perhaps the power that locked the Titans in Tarterus in the first place, but both are possibly better handled elsewhere.

If there was some way to work Hubris and questing into this Purview as well, so much the better.

Other than being paragons of skills, what else do Greco-Roman gods and heroes have in common? What other cool powers could we work into boons and stick beneath the Dodekatheon banner?

Problematic Arete

Several attempts have been made in the past to revise Arete. All (that I've seen, anyway) simply change the nature of the dice pools. They still keep the concept of "Greeks are just better at Skills" and don't branch out at all. Me, I think giving bonuses to skills is pretty narrow design space, not truly worthy of 10 levels of a Pantheon Purview.

There's numerous criticisms that have come up about Arete. Note that this is an attempt to just list everything I've heard/read people complain about it, both in person and on the forums. I'm including them in the same barely-sensible order I used on the Forum, so that I don't get confused and refer to the wrong letters later.

Here's the short version:
A) Not as good as Epics, for around the same cost.
B) Yet way too good in the late campaign, especially Legend 12.
C) Too many dice to fit in your hand. Too many rerolls, too.
D) Better than Abilities.
E) Very cost-prohibitive.
F) Not as flavorful as other Pantheon's Purviews.

G) If you do buy it to a high level, you get called a munchkin/twink.
H) The first dot is rather weak compared to the first dot of anything else.
I) If it applies to DV, Greeks are unhittable.
J) The rerolls are pointless.

Here's the long version:

A)
Not as good as Epics, for around the same cost. Until your Legend gets really high, there's little reason to buy it. Investing the XP in Epics will pay off better. Since my campaign uses "Legend Rating by Storyline" not by XP, this isn't really a problem with my group. They aren't rushing to keep Legend and one or two Epics maxed, so therefore they have time and XP available to spend on little things, like Arete. Even if they were focused on maxing something, they'd get the Epic topped out, and then have to wait till the next time I felt a Legend increase was justified. In that wait-time, they'd be tempted to spend XP on Arete to further max out their pools. But for those who require XP to raise Legend, Arete looks pretty crappy. (And for the record, I think that's just fall-out from the truism that compared to Epics, everything else looks crappy as heck.)

B) In the late God-stage campaign, when it's finally worth spending XP on it, Arete gives the Greeks a huge bonus. Obviously, I'm not at this hurdle yet, but I'm not sure how it'll feel when the one Greek PC in my campaign is rolling 16 to 46 more dice than anyone else at everything. Greeks get all the die-adders the other pantheons have access to, plus Arete on top of it. The only cost is XP, which limits it in the early game, but at Legend 12 it's a sudden pump method.

C) No one really wants to roll +46 bonus dice. Nor do they want to roll +20 or 30 extra dice and a stack of emergency rerolls. Truth be told, there's really no reason to ever hold back more than 1 or 2 rerolls. Still, a Legend 12 Greek Character using their primary schtick will be rolling at least 60 dice total, with one reroll set aside just in case. Since you can't really get more than 20 dice in your hands at once, that's roll and pick out the successes, roll and pick, roll and pick, add them up, decide it's not good enough so you reroll and pick, roll and pick, roll and pick. Yuck.

D) Compared to Abilities, Arete is actually really good. Increasing your overall die pool from 9 to 10 is cheaper if you do it by getting Arete 1 than if you do it by getting Ability 5. It typically takes less XP, and gives a bigger benefit for what you do spend. This is a pretty minor complaint, and it's completely obliviated if the PCs take Fast Learner / Star Pupil / Teaching Prodigy. But still, it's just enough to make certain other complaints (E, H, and J) feel like unwarranted whining. ...which they aren't.

E) Maintaining Arete in more than one or two Abilities is very cost-prohibitive. I actually see this as a balancing factor, since Arete is so powerful at high-legend and/or a Legend by Storyline campaign. Yet it seems to be the #1 complaint by players of Arete, at least on the Forums. It requires them to become narrow specialists, not just broadly amazing at everything. I think that reinforces the concepts of Greek myth, but some folks feel it fails to capture the "We're just better 'cause we're Roman" concept. I suspect that "we're better" statement has been made by every culture in history, but it's just more familiar to us thanks to the heritage of our civilization. Mentioning such doesn't dissuade anyone on the forums, though.

F) Other pantheons get cool powers that have flavor, whereas the Greeks just get dice. As I said, bonus dice is pretty uninteresting for 10 levels of anything.
I also think that as far as dice-adders go, the current Arete does it in a pretty flavorless way. It's just "everytime you roll, add these dice" not something that allows for slightly rarer Heroic feats or truly memorable greatness. Even with 7 dots of Arete: Craft, you can't make a magic item, for example. Compare this to Animal 3 and Animal 5, or Tsukumo-Gami 3. All of those add dice to rolls, but do so in more interesting and flavorful ways. (Though, I'll admit, A3 and TG3 are broken. I've houseruled them in my campaign to solve that, limiting bonus dice by your Legend).

G) Arete is the one Purview that a player can't purchase to it's highest level without being insulted, at least on the Forum. For some reason, using an Avatar or Ultimate to rewrite the plot doesn't get you called a twink, but taking Arete above level 7 does. Using a mirror to talk to your followers via Heku 8 isn't twinkish, but rolling 60 dice (Arete 8 gives 29 dice, plus the 15-30 dice in most of your pools at Legend 9) is likely to unleash the verbal snipage. Sure, it being an impersonal forum makes that easier - but if people are saying that on the net, they must be thinking it when playing face-to-face.

H) The first dot of Arete is rather weak compared to the first dot of any other Pantheon Purview. You're not getting the same payout for your XP. Even original Jotunblut, which was frequently disparaged on the forums, gave you magic puppy dogs for the first dot, and brainwashing for the second! Compare that to +1 die on Animal Ken or Command, and it's clear which is best.

I) If applied to DV, Arete makes Greeks unhittable. The rules are a tiny bit unclear about whether or not it should apply to DV, and this causes big flaming fights on the forum. As I see it, the implication of the rules about bonus dice are that it should affect DV, though I can see why some would disagree (it's not spelled out terribly clearly and is lacking from the DV calculations of the sample PCs). As I said, if you do interpret it to apply to DV, it makes Greeks untouchable in combat somewhere mid-DemiGod (I'd say around 5 or 6 dots of Arete in Melee or Athletics).

J) The rerolls are pointless. This is no big deal, since Arete gives so much power just via the bonus dice. However, it's silly (and annoying to some) that the books mention you could have 23 rerolls with Arete 10. I can't really think of anything where 20 dice and 23 rerolls (so 0-40 successes, most likely a final result in the high teens to low 20s) is actually better than 66 dice (0-122 successes, but most likely a final result just over 30).

Turning my attention to Arete

Things that were on my to-do list:
1) Revise Jotunblut
2) Revise Prophecy
3) Revise Mystery
4) Figure out some way to make Magic cool again once the Companion brings us alternate boons for every Purview
5) Revise Arete before my campaign gets to the God level where it could break down
6) Minor tweaks to all Pantheon-specific purviews and special purviews so that they can all function under the same XP/purchase rules as All Purpose Purviews.

Obviously, 1-3 are dealt with. Not all are perfected, but they don't suck anymore, either. Minor tweaks may occur over time, but I don't need to do anything in the short term.

#4 is almost irrelevant. No PCs in my campaign have Magic, only NPCs, so the need to keep their powers "cool" is pretty minimal. Also, the Companion section with all the alternate boons won't release for over a month, so there's no point to working on it yet - for all I know, they may deal with it directly in the Companion and do the work for me. I'll hold off on it.

That means it's time for project #6: Arete.

I brought up the subject over at the Scion forums. Most people thought I was just trying to make a joke about how much Arete causes flamewars - there's a steady stream of faux insults going back and forth now. Someone actually got flamed for not being flaming enough. It's amusing, but not terribly useful. My own fault, that. I knew it would result in arguments, so I made a joke or two at the get-go, and now everyone takes it as a big laugh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

World Hopping At God-Level

As my campaign approaches Godhood, :) I'm considering the means available to PCs to travel from world to world. World hopping seems fairly vital to the game at that stage, yet not every PC is likely to have true access to it. So, I'm compiling a list of how one could gain access, so that the players can make informed decisions at the time of achieving Godhood.

Methods that exist largely irregardless of your character sheet:
  • Cultural Connection: You can get into your Pantheon's regions of the Underworld from places related to your Pantheon's death practices. This tends to be slow and awkward, and it doesn't give you a way back.
  • Death Connection: Can be used to gain access to the Underworld from various tombs, graveyards, etc in the mortal world. Cheap but not easy. It only takes a Birthright (no boons, technically), but it's one-way only, you have no control of exactly where in the Underworld you arrive, and it can take some time and circumstance to work it.
  • Terra Incognita: Mythical places that exist as cul-de-sac's off the main stem of the world. Most can be entered by any Scion for a legend point or two, but it's hard to find them unless you have the 5th level of Psychopomp. They are a destination themselves, not truly a means of transit to other places.
  • Axis Mundi: There are a number of pre-existing bridges between worlds. They aren't as fast as using powers, but they don't cost XP, either. One draw back is you need to know of them and find them, and there's no equivalent of the Terra Incognita Power of Psychopomp. Typically, each Pantheon has one or more that they access, and which they guard from Titans and other intruding outsiders.
The following boons will help you travel more freely:
  • Death 8: Far better than just the generic Underworld transit ability conveyed by having access to the Death Purview and standing around in a graveyard. It's faster and more versatile, but more expensive. It's still just one-way, too.
  • Guardian 5: It's limited to taking you to people under your protection and places you've visited before. Further, you can only use it if that person, place or thing is in danger.
  • Moon 9: You get a private estate on the Moon, which then has doors leading to the world and the overworld (no access to the Underworld) and you are somewhat limited in where in those places it can take you.
  • Psychopomp 4: Let's you drag others with when using other powers. The book seems to specify that this is only other Psychopomp boons, but I don't think it's broken to broaden it a bit (and I've done so in my game) to other travel/movement powers.
  • Psychopomp 5: Gives you access to Terra Incognita. It's not terribly flexible or useful during combat, and you're at the whim of the GM and/or locale.
  • Psychopomp 9: A major transit power. This lets you jump from world to world largely free from restriction. It's expensive, but it's very versatile.
  • Psychopomp 10: You can exist in multiple places at once. Technically not quite as good as Psycho 9 for exploration or retreat, but still an astounding world-hopping power.
  • Avatars: While only a few specifically mention traveling between worlds, I bet most GMs would let most Avatar boons let you world-hop, especially if doing nothing else with the Avatar activation. Earth could burrow anywhere, Water could wash up on any shore, etc.
Other options:
  • Sanctum Background: Gives you a single location that lets you travel between specific places in two worlds. Costs 1 to 5 Birthright points for the Sanctum, plus an extra Birthright point to link it to another world. Basically, you can buy your own little Axis Mundi or Underworld Passage connecting your Divine and Earthly estates for 2 bonus points.
  • Psychopomp 6 & 7, Moon 7, and Sun 7 all speed up Earthly transit significantly. They can't change what world you're on, but they'll cruise across it speedily.
So, one thing I've learned from compiling this list is that I've been playing my Gods as a bit too free to travel. As the books are written, most Gods really don't have a means of easy transit from world to world and (surprisingly) from place-to-place within the same world. So, for Poseidon to get from the Overworld to any specific place in the Ocean, he must
  1. climb Olympus,
  2. descend a mundane mountain,
  3. hoof it to the sea,
  4. and swim,
or pop 30 legend on an Avatar. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Social Combat system from Exalted

I posted this comment at someone else's blog today, and thought I might want to save it here for future reference. He was considering porting over the Social Combat system from Exalted to Scion, as someone had done on the White Wolf Wiki. While I think the notion of Social Combat (making social interactions have more game element and thus giving them more screen time), I think that system is a poor fit for Scion. Here's why:

That system uses temporary Willpower to track how well you’ve convinced, tricked, or intimidated someone. There’s a couple problems with that.

Willpower totals max at 10 in Scion, for both puny mortals and the most strong-willed Gods. So, it doesn’t really scale as you go up, and almost all PCs start at 70% of maximum. Social attributes, however, have a higher cap, and Epic socials expand almost geometrically (+46 automatic successes at the top level). Social characters will wrap the gods around their fingers with fairly minimal XP investment.

Rather than scaling up the willpower pools, the designers just made lots of knacks that restore spent willpower, especially in Demigod and God (but those knacks can be purchased by Hero-level characters). In fact, there’s several different knacks that refresh someone’s entire willpower pool for a single point of legend (and Gods have over 100 legend points). Two characters both armed with that power would render each other immune to ever being dissuaded.

I’d guess by Legend 5 or so it’ll break down almost completely. You’ll always succeed at persuading someone if you talk to them in private, but are incapable of affecting groups of 2 or more. That just doesn’t sound like fun.

A possible solution would be to create a new stat that works similar to willpower, and is the target of social combat, but which scales up like Epics and/or can’t be refreshed infinitely via knacks like some sort of M:TG combo deck. But that may be a lot of work to implement.

I have one other complaint about that Social Combat system, or anything similar. I think allowing a Player to roll to schmooze their way past troubles the character could handle but the player can't is a good idea. However, such a system has to be quick, non-intrusive, and doesn't pull you out of character too much. It'd be very easy to accidentally create a system that smothered the improvisational acting elements of RPGs. You need a system that solves impasses and gives the GM guidance, not a system that undermines peoples efforts to portray their character. That's not an easy tightrope to walk.

Anecdote in June

I have a cute little anecdote to tell you, but I can't share it yet. I promised someone I'd wait until June, because the story I really want to tell today would ruin a surprise they have planned. Remind me then, and I'll tell you more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scion is a Bad Game

Warning: this will be a big ugly rant...

After 8 months of fighting with the system, I've come to the conclusion that Scion is a bad game. The setting's great, the concepts are fun, but the game portions of it suck.

At first, I thought this was just because I like my RPG mechanics a bit more streamlined and elegant. During combat, I'd prefer one roll per attack, for example, not a minimum of two rolls plus the activation of 4 or more powers. The existence of things like DV and Soak indicated that the designers were taking efforts towards trying to reduce the die-rolling and mid-game math. So, thinking it had only the over-complication flaws of a game like D&D, I committed myself to running Scion, figuring I'd get over the learning curve and it'd all start flowing well.

Instead, what I should have been doing is stripping out the setting elements I like and applying them to a different mechanical base. Don't get me wrong, I have no plans of axing my campaign. We've toughed with it this far, and I intend to carry it through till they are Gods and most of the Titans have been dealt with (or the PCs die trying). But I likely won't ever run another Scion campaign, at least not without largescale mechanical modification. To such an extent that it wouldn't even be Scion anymore. It'd be Fate or Amber wearing a Scion costume.

D&D is not a bad game. It's way more complicated than I prefer, but it's good at what it does. Once you grasp the main rules, you'll be fine as long as you avoid a few of the clunky remnants (that will be fixed in 4th anyway, like grapple) and think tactically. Sure, the rules can be tough (and they sometimes get in the way of roleplaying) but once you know the rules well, D&D accomplishes what it sets out to do.

Scion is a whole other ball of wax. The combat system fails.

Characters NEED Epic Dex, or else they die (and never kill any of the bad guys), and quickly. At some point, the players figure this out, and then even the social/mental-based PCs start taking Epic Dex. In our experience, this then resulted in the players discovering how damn cheap and effective the first couple dots of Epics are. Within a few sessions, everyone had the 1st and 2nd dot of all 9 Epics. I'd have liked to say "No" on some of those. But I can't say "for the past 10 sessions, your character has been the brute force and avoided talking - he can't buy Epic Charisma now." I do, it'd be unfair to that character, since I let the PC whose concept is "Prosecuting Attorney" buy Epic Dex. And as I said, if I don't let her buy Dex, she'll die in round one of combat.

Once she started raising that Epic Dex, though, another long-term flaw of the game became obvious. There's this thing referred to on the forums as "The Primacy of Defense". The phrase doesn't occur in the books at all, it's just forum-speak. It alludes to the fact that the rules are set up to make the majority of attacks miss, and the majority of hits fail to do any damage.

In D&D, the fighter hits the typical foe more than half the time. Other characters might miss a lot, but when they do hit they at least know that the action has an impact. Every time you hit, the enemies hitpoints decrease. Two equal characters (twins or mirror reflections) chop each other to bits over time, and so the combat system at least works.

In Scion, two twins or reflections just fight eternally. No one ever wins. You have a less than 50% chance to hit yourself, and even when you do, you have a less than 50% chance to do even one point of damage (unless your attack does Aggravated damage). At God level, characters can have over 50 health levels. Closely matched characters could literally take 200 attacks to kill each other.

While that beautifully captures the saga of the gods, it would be a terrible bore to play through.

To hit, your attack pool is Dex+Skill+Weapon+EpicDex. At Hero level, that's 4 to 12 dice (17 with accuracy-based Relic weapon) plus 0 to 4 auto successes. That averages 2 successes at the low end, to an average roll of 10 or 12 (depending on whether or not they have said Relic) for best Hero-level character. Your DV is ([Dex+Skill+Legend]/2)+Epic Dex, or ([Dex+Skill+Weapon]/2)+Epic Dex. So, at Hero level it ranges from 3 (or 5) to 11 (or 13, if you have a defensive relic). There's plenty of other modifiers that can figure in, but in general, the powers and situations that boost your attacks are only about as common and powerful as those that boost your defense. As a result, every character has a slightly less than 50% chance of being able to hit themselves. (And that's not counting Untouchable Opponent - without a houserule that single-most-important knack renders about a 1% chance of hitting your twin.)

You roll giant handfuls of dice with steep bellcurves that make every roll predictable, and can spend a Legend point to reroll if there is a fluke. If their DV is more than just a few points above your average roll, you'll never hit.

Even if you do hit, the chance of you doing damage is minimal. There's this thing called soak. Let's look at unarmed attacks first. Damage is 1+Strength+EpicStr. If it's a "heavy attack" it jumps up by 3 more dice, but is slower and less likely to hit. You add to that dice equal to any extra successes above the number needed to hit on the attack - but against your twin that's maybe a die or two. So, at the weak end of Hero, a punch does 2 or 3 dice, and at the very pinnacle of hero it's 8 dice + 4 successes. Bashing soak is Stamina+EpicStamina, so a character with Stamina equal to your Strength has bashing soak at most a couple points below your punching damage. Thing is, soak isn't dice. It's a static value, subtracted from damage. So the big Hero's heavy attack rolls 8+4, averaging 8 levels of bashing. But his soak is also 8, meaning the typical attack does zero damage.

Weapons, of course, spike that up a bit. With a big honkin' axe, the PC might do 12 lethal. Lethal soak is a bit lower, so the character in question probably has lethal soak of 6. Now we're lookin' at 6 damage getting through, which is almost enough for a one-hit-kill. But of course, there's a catch. We allowed the attacker a weapon, but didn't give the defender armor. Putting the best Relic weapon against the best Relic armor generates around 15 lethal vs a lethal soak of 16. Mundane axe vs mundane armor is 12 vs 11, so you have to hit half a dozen times to kill.

Conveniently, you don't fight your doppleganger very often. Not every NPC will have Stamina equal to your Strength, either. But some will have more. Dex determines both how well you attack and how well you dodge. So a character who you can hit easily also can't hit you, and one who can hit you fairly often is probably immune to your attacks. Doesn't that suck?

Epic Attributes make this even worse. As the characters go up in power, the gaps between them get wider because the damn auto-successes raise at a rate that's technically neither geometric nor exponential nor even fibonaccian, but any of those terms catches the spirit of it. The more you specialize, the better it pays off. Which is where the whole "must have Epic Dex or die" motif came in. A social/mental PC, trailing just two dots of Dex behind the combat-monkey of the group, gets hit nearly twice as often and takes 50% more damage per attack. An extra level of Epic doesn't mean a little more damage, it means a huge spike in effectiveness. Rarely are you just a little outclassed - instead every battle is either a lop-sided foregone conclusion or a very painful and slow war of attrition.

I don't know which is more embarrassing - the fact that WWP published a game with such fundamental flaws, or the fact that I'm subjecting myself and my play group to it.

In order to make Scion fun, you have to either ditch combat entirely, or make every battle stupidly one-sided. And since it's a very cinematic game about godly ass-whupin', ditching combat isn't truly an option. Which means you have to accept that the players will win every damn fight, or occassionally get slaughtered without a reprieve.

Luckily, the game designers had the foresight to create a world in which combat is not the right thematic/in-character answer to the Titans. Had they failed to do that, the game would be utterly, totally broken at the God level. But even with that, you just might feel that you wasted most of those XP you spent on combat-related things in the early stages of the campaign. That's unfortunate.

Alternate Mystery Purview (by Sidhe16)

As I said before, my intention was to make an alternate version of Mystery to compliment my alternate version of the Prophecy purview. However, it was low-priority for me, since I have no PCs or major NPCs with Mystery in my Scion campaign. So, I never really got past the brainstorming stage. Thankfully, Sidhe16 over at the forum picked up the ball and ran with it. While I'm not in 100% agreement about one or two of these boons, they at least form a framework against which I can make alternate boons if it ever becomes important. Plus, he really designed it to compliment/mirror my version of Prophecy, which is kinda cool and flattering. Anyhow, here's Sidhe16's version of Mystery, which has some pretty cool ideas (and boons)...

Uncanny Intuition
(Mystery o)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: None
Every session, the GM provides you with a minor small amount of enlightenment. This usually takes the form of the ST pointing out an item of interest that pertains to current or recent events, but not in an obvious way. The GM chooses what he wants to reveal, and it can range from trivial to vital, as he or she sees fit. It must apply to a current or previous scene. If by the ST has not yet provided such insight in the session, the player may request it, but may not demand a specific plot or topic for the insight to apply to.

Unnatural Insight
(Mystery oo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: None
Your intuition and eye for abnormal detail give you greater information about any given situation. Whenever rolling Perception + Skill to notice something pertaining to that skill, you gain a bonus die equal to your highest level boon in this purview.

For example a Perception + Melee rolls might reveal to a normal Scion that his opponent is using a Shotokan Bo stance, the insight of this Scion grants him the conclusion that he studied under a teacher from the YMCA and never practiced against left-handed opponents. Perception + Investigation might tell other Scion that the battle site was a Scion against a fire giant due to the burning smell, while this Scion gains mysterious insight that the Scion actually lit a Formorian on fire using the fire purview.

This does not include join battle roll, rolls of reaction to the current such surprise, or boon knack activations.

Drawing Conclusions
(Mystery ooo)
Dice Pool: Perception + Awareness
Cost: 1 legend
The Scion is capable of truly unnaturally feats of insight. Upon entering a scene that is already in progress, he may take 3 seconds to attempt to conclude what has been occurring. Upon entering the scene, be it a combat already in progress, or a hopping club, the Scion spends a Legend and makes a Perception + Awareness roll against the highest legend of everyone previously in the scene. Success reveals to the Scion a brief, but detailed and accurate, replay of what has occurred for a number of minutes equal to the threshold successes prior to the Scions arrival.

Where a normal person would walk into a room full of giants standing around a phone and conclude they were waiting for a call from their evil Scion leader, this Scion would somehow conclude accurately that they just ordered a pizza and had argued over pepperoni verse sausage.

Post Cognition
(Mystery oooo)
Dice Pool: Perception + Investigation
Cost: 1 Willpower + ? Legend
The Fates themselves guide your intuitive process, gifting you with true post cognition. Upon entering a site the Scion can spend a willpower to relive something that occurred at the same site within one day per success on the activation roll. Use of this power costs one Legend per year in the past that the scene occurred, with a minimum of 1 legend.

Connect the Dot
(Mystery ooooo)
Dice Pool: Wits + Investigation
Cost: 1 Willpower
Gifted with flashes of insight, you may sense a particular target's connection to a specific targeted event, character, or object. Using this power costs a willpower and requires a number of successes on the activation roll equal to their legend plus a factor of connection of increase difficulty based on the distance of the connection. The target must be on line of site to attempt this.

For example tracing Loki's connection to some mysteriously knowledgeable man you met in a bar would have a difficulty of 12 (12+0) if Loki was the man, 13 if the man was one of Loki's Scions or servants ordered by Loki directly to feed you information, 14 if it is a servant of one of Loki's Scion given orders by his Scion who was given orders by Loki's Scion, 15 if that servant was given orders by the Scion without Loki's intervention but works with the overall plans given to the Scion by Loki. Basically every step of displacement increases the difficulty by 1.

Pull Back the Veil of the Unknown
(Mystery ooooo o)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: 3 legend
Legends of some creatures and their weaknesses are well known by even the average mortal movie watcher. Those that study the occult may even be able to separate truth from fiction. But none are as capable of putting it all together as a Scion with this level of power. With the expenditure of a point of willpower the player may ask for a specific statistic value or weakness of the target being. The storyteller must answer the question truthfully.

Unlocking the Greater Mysteries
(Mystery ooooo oo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: None
The Scion has now been gifted with some of the greatest mysteries of the worlds. Upon purchasing this level of Mystery, the Scion chooses a single purview. From this point on all uses of that purview enjoy a number of bonus automatic successes to all rolls equal to the characters level of Mystery.

Mysteries of the World
(Mystery ooooo ooo)
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Presence
Cost: 1 legend / level of Mystery sent
The Scion's powers of mystery allow him to activate the power through another, granting them the same insight as he is able to obtain himself. The god spends the legend while watching his chosen target, who must be talking about, either with the god or another person, the topic that is the target of the Mystery power. The power is rolled as normal as if the target had attempted the roll, with all willpower and legend being provided by the god.

The god could for example lead a detective at a crime scene to the inspiration to track a minor immortal that is actually behind a murder that the mortal would never normally be able to connect. Or the god could even use this power to help guide his own Scion while watching his child via clairvoyance or some other means of sensing from a distance.

Distorting the Figures
(Mystery ooooo oooo)
Dice Pool: Wits + Stealth
Cost: 1 Willpower and 10 or 20 Legend
You have great understanding about the workings of the world. You've learned much about unlocking the worlds secrets, and in extension you've learned how to hide things as well. For the cost a willpower and 10 legend, this god can hide a place or object from fate. For 20 legend instead an event planned for the future can be hidden as well.

The target hidden from Fate has a bonus to its defenses against any fate using power by the result of the Wits + Stealth roll. Against powers that get no rolls, if defeat powers of lower levels automatically. Powers of equal or higher level only succeed if the user is of HIGHER legend than the hider. If the target uses legend, then its defense erodes any at the rate of 1 bonus defense die lost per legend spent. Do not forget about the requirements for maintaining one's Legend Rating. This protects its target predominately from the powers of Prophesy, Magic, and Mystery. Other powers may apply at the Story Teller's whim. While under the influence of the Wyrd, this power holds no protection.

If the being trying to Fatefully detect the hidden target fails to achieve the necessary number of successes their power simply fails. The person may or may not know they even failed. Failing to see something in the future, the prophet would never know, attempting a spell on someone you are looking at is a little more obvious that you failed, you just don’t know why you failed.

For Example: Loki is planning a coup against Odin and figures it would be best that no one get tipped off by Fate, so he enacts this power on his plans. Odin’s “Minor Visions” would not see the coup coming. If faced with a choice of two paths one of which would lead to Loki’s plan succeeding, and he used “Read the Signs” the power would act as if the number of successes were reduced by Loki’s activation roll.

If Loki wished to hide himself from Fate he could do that as well. Assume he rolled 40 successes for the activation. If in the future someone attempted to use mystery to look back 5 years to see his actions and they only rolled 20 successes, they would see the scene, but fail to see anything indicating Loki was there. If Odin attempted to use the spell Fateful Connection or Ariadne's Thread on Loki the difficulty to use such powers would increase by 40. However if Loki had to defend himself and used 20 legend in that scene to do so, his protection would reduce to 20 instead of 40.

Raising the Monolith
(Mystery ooooo ooooo)
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Academics
Cost: 1 Willpower and 5+ Legend
You have unlocked the greatest mysteries of existence, you post cognition is fine tuned well beyond the simple gathering of information from the past few days. You may now look upon an object, person, or site and see much of its history. You roll Intelligence + Academics against a difficulty equal to the target's Legend + the number of boons from the Chaos purview the target has. Every threshold success is one significant event you witness from the past of the target.
The cost of this power it 1 willpower and 5 legend for the first Legend Rating events for a number of events in the target’s past equal to your Legend Rating, an additional event for is seen for every additional legend spent. The god lives through the events as if he were that target, which makes this power somewhat risky if used on a very powerful or deranged target or on someone who has died violently or suffered great torture. The dangers are not to the god’s body, but rather to his mind. Anything that plays out the events is replayed upon the god. This could mean the rigors of brainwashing using the same number of successes would challenge the god’s mind as well as he relives the event. At the very least this should require an Intelligence + Integrity + Legend test against the Perception + Awareness + Legend + Number of Chaos boons of the target. If the god fails this he should escape the visions in a virtue extremity of the target’s greatest virtue, and will suffer personality twitches, becoming the target in personality, when faced with events similar to those experienced, the only known cure for this powerful of an affliction is Tranquility ( Moon 8 )

The God may declare how significant of events are played out, but gets only of that significance and greater from the target's point of view. He can't omit things he knows about the cut costs.
Note: Every use of an Ultimate Attribute or Avatar Boon by or on the target is a greatly significant event in the fate stream of that person's fate, and ALWAYS comes up in the stream. This understandably makes Gods very difficult to use this power on.
For example a legend 12 god could attempt to use this on Loki and declare that only events of life changing significance could would be seen. If said god rolled 50 successes, he would have 50-23=27 threshold successes. The power would cost 1 willpower and 5 legend for the most 12 most recent life altering events, the god could choose to spend 15 more legend and see the full 27 events. What these events are is up to the storyteller, and some may/should not make sense to the Scion. Continuing this example the god relives the moment Loki learned of the Feathered Cloak, the birth of Hel, the moment he learned of Garm’s fate, the moment he learned of the Midgard Serpent’s Fate, the moment he saw how the world changed since the dark ages (may not seem that significant to others), the moment he fell in love with a mortal woman (not the moment they met, may not even have been anything special, to the spying god it could be Loki looking across a boardroom table at a secretary typing), the last 5 times he became the void and the last 10 times he used Ultimate Manipulation, etc.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Jotunblut Revisited

Most of the following was written by Sidhe16 at the Scion forum, who had great ideas about how to fix Jotunblut. This new Jotunblut functions as do most Pantheon-Specific Purviews, and has the same costs and requirements. Elements of the blood-bonding version of Jotunblut remain, for those who liked that theme. However, the dominant paradigm of the Purview has been shifted towards being half-giant, and thus able to mingle amongst their kind.

I edited his boons to better fit my campaign. In particular, I reigned in the bonus health levels it grants, clearly spelled out that the boosts to Strength and Stamina were dice (not dots) and put a cap on those boosts. I also fine-tuned the "growing" powers. Gods can now stand eye-to-eye (or nearly so) with Jotunheimers, but are still dwarfed by Surtr and Sinmore.


Heroic Stature
Jotunblut Level 1
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: None
Even at this most basic level the blood of the Giant shines through. The young Aesir are larger than most men and typically stronger and tougher. Aesir Scions with the blood of the Giants showing through their veins may purchase their mundane Strength and Stamina to one dot higher than normally allowed by their Legend.

In addition, they gain a single additional -4 health level. The penalty on that level is reduced via Epic Stamina as per the normal rules.

After achieving Godhood, if the Aesir purchases an avatar, their avatar can support an additional level of epic strength and epic stamina beyond what should be possible at the legend of their avatar. However, no Avatar may have the full value that the Gods pure form does, so this only applies to 2-dot or higher Avatar manifestations.


Giant among Men
Jotunblut Level 2
Dicepool:
Cost:
Whenever the Aesir Scion rolls a die pool based on Strength or Stamina, he or she gains +1 bonus die to the roll. This die is also calculated into derived statistics, such as Soak, carrying capacity, alcohol consumption, and the Feats of Strength chart.



Form of the Giant
Jotunblut Level 3
Dicepool: Appearance + Fortitude
Cost: 1 willpower + 3 Legend
By channeling his Giant ichors into his body the Scion grows noticeable amount, becoming half again as tall, and his bulk increasing many fold. He makes a roll of Appearance + Fortitude and may distribute these successes as additional bonus dice on rolls of strength and stamina equal in total to the number of successes gained. However, neither attribute may gain more bonus dice than the Scion's Legend Rating. These bonuses last for a single scene unless the Scion chooses to dismiss the power early. Your clothing and carried equipment grows to match your stature, but this gives no further bonuses and they revert to normal if separated from you by more than a few seconds or meters.

The benefits of this power stack with Giant Among Men/Demigods/Gods. If you had all those boons, the maximum number of bonus dice would be 5+Legend.


Gift of Blood
Jotunblut Level 4
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: 1 Lethal and 1 Legend
The demigods blood is now potent enough to be used by others in the same manner as the heartblood of a true Jotun. By conducting a short blood-sharing ritual (speed 8 should it come up in combat) you may bind a mortal or beast to you. They become somewhat gruff and prone to foul moods, but they are steadfastly loyal. Such a bond must be renewed a few times a year.

This allows the demigod to boost his allies, as well as enthrall mortals. Such a bound individual gains a number of bonus dice they can add to Strength or Stamina equal to 1/2 your Legend Rating at the time of imbuement. The difficulty of any rolls to keep their cool and control their temper raises by 2. In combat, they fly into a berserk fury, though beyond the affects listed above, this is mostly a thing of flavor and description.


Giant among Demigods
Jotunblut Level 5
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: None
The bonus dice from Giant Among Men are increased to a total of +3 to all rolls (and derived stats) of Strength or Stamina.

In addition, they gain a single additional -0 health level. This is in addition to the -4 Health level granted by the first level of Jotunblut, which now likewise becomes a -0 level regardless of your Epic Stamina.


Hounds of War
Jotunblut Level 6
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: 1 willpower + 5 Legend + 1 Lethal
The Demigod's blood is now potent enough to cause great physical changes in beasts which fate doesn't really watch over, meaning animals without Legend.

By feeding his ichors to such a beast, the Demigod infuses it with Giant traits. It grows to clearly impossible size, gaining the Nemean template with a starting Legend of 2 and its creator's virtues in place of the dark virtues a Nemean would normally have. It is also bound to the Scion as per the Gift of Blood.



Form of the Jotun

Jotunblut Level 7
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: 2 Legend per Action
By allowing his Giant heritage to burst through, the demigod gains an even greater refinement to his body. In the few seconds of activating this power, the Demigod increases even more in size, easily tripling his or her height. Against man-sized foes, this functions much as a higher-ground bonus, raising his DV (since his vitals are harder to reach) and lowering the DV of targets he faces in combat.

This power lasts for as many actions as he can afford the cost. You may activate it reflexively at the same time as you activate Form of the Giant, and maintaining it is a reflexive expenditure as well. While at maximum size, you apply your bonus dice from Form of the Giant to both attributes, instead of having to split them between the two. When you stop paying the higher Legend, you may choose to revert to mere Giant size, or to your mortal dimensions.



The Gift of Battle Eternal
Jotunblut Level 8
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: 1 willpower + 5 Legend + 1 Lethal
The God's blood functions much like that of a Cyclops, not merely augmenting those who drink of it, but wholly transforming them. A mortal, or near-mortal such as an Einherjar, who drinks the God's Divine Ichors is transformed into a full blooded Legend 3 giant. The bonus dice given by Gift of Blood instead become permanent bonus dots of mundane Strength and Stamina, and the giants maximum for those traits can be taken as high as 5+Legend. In addition, they gain two dots in Epic Strength and Epic Stamina, plus 2 knacks for each. It gains 8 dots of Norse or Dark virtues (the God's choice), though none can be taken above their new Legend Rating. You may chose to penalize their Intelligence by 1 if you wish, but it is not necessary and only a cruel god would do so.

The default assumption is that they become a "normal" giant, such as a hill giant, with no additional powers. However, a God with access to other purviews may have additional options if they spend a little XP. An alternate level two boon may be taken in the Water, Frost, or Fire Purviews that, when used simultaneous with this power will wield an Ice or Fire Giant. Other purviews and giant types are up to the GM.

This change is permanent and generally irreversible. The Giant will be a loyal servant as long as he lives, and as long as he doesn't listen too closely to the seductive words of the Titans.

This power does not prevent you from using Gifts of the Blood normally to make berserker thralls instead of giants.


Giant among Gods
Jotunblut Level 9
Dicepool: N/A
Cost: None
The bonus dice from Giant Among Men are increased to a total of +5 to all rolls (and derived stats) of Strength or Stamina. In addition, they gain one more -0 health level, bringing the total gained from this purview to 3.

When creating your physical body from your ichor (regardless of whether it's via Avatar or the regular Godly method) you may choose to have it manifest at your mundane height, or up to 1 foot taller for an extra Legend. That's one foot total, not one foot per legend. Such a body has an additional -0 health level, ramping the bonus up to 4 health levels.

If you do so raise it, the taller body is used also to determine the height you grow to via Form of the Giant and Form of the Jotun, granting and extra +6 inches and +3 feet in those forms, respectively.


The Truth In The Blood
Jotunblut Level 10
Dicepool: As per other levels
Cost: As per other levels
The God may take on a stature nearly rivaling that of the Jotun side of the family. When using Form of the Jotun, he may grow up to 10 times his normal size. Doing so follows the same rules and restrictions as that power, however instead of granting bonus dice, it grants bonus successes to both Strength and Stamina up to the lesser of your Legend Rating or the total on your Appearance + Fortitude roll. The higher ground benefits now extend when fighting against things the size of a "normal" giant or even something as large as a full-grown bull elephant.

In addition, your blood has the ability to break down bonds created by Eitr or Jotunblut, and return to human sized those who were made into Giants or Nemeans by means of Jotunblut (but not those who were born as such). Doing so costs the same as whatever level you are counteracting. If you use your blood to bond someone to you, they gain a bonus equivalent to 3 dots of Loyalty, and do not suffer the usual penalties to Intelligence or rolls to remain calm.

Lastly, The Truth In The Blood gives you one more health level, and allows you access to the second health level from Giant Among Gods regardless of your size, bringing the total maximum health bonus via this purview to +5 health levels all the time, all of the -0 variety.

The Jotunblut Problem

In Scion, Jotunblut (the Norse Pantheon-Specific Purview) puts all it's power in the first two dots - you can make mortals and beasts do your bidding. Thereafter, instead of branching out, the power meekly increments the dice pools of your new Followers. The scale at which it does so is genuinely inferior to most other Purviews - instead of scaling up like Arete or Epics, it just adds one die to one stat on the NPCs per level.

Since none of those dice affect Dexterity, blooded mortals become all but useless in combat by Demigod level. Since those you bond become crazed berserkers with nasty tempers, they cease being useful outside of combat well before that.

Furthermore, this blood-bonding power isn't terribly well themed for Norse myths. There's not a lot (or, honestly, any that I can think of off the top of my head) of tales of the Aesir using their blood to enslave men. Whereas Heku involves numerous notions from Egyptian folklore, and Arete captures the spirit of the Greco ideals of perfection, Jotunblut is in a league with Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Myth.

For all of the above reasons, I feel an alternate version of Jotunblut is necessary. Supposedly, one will release in Scion: Ragnarok, but that book doesn't even have a release date yet (and every Scion product thus far has missed it's release date two or more times). My campaign needs a solution now, not 4-6 months down the road. Conveniently, I'm not the only person to have that thought.

Friday, April 11, 2008

P is for Narwhal


I've been meaning, for months, to blog a bunch about my favorite PC of all time. It was an Amber DRPG character, made by a good friend of mine, J. Starr Welty. Since it's an Amber character, and a picture is worth a thousand words, I put a few in-game Trumps of him just to the left of this paragraph.


The character came about because of a conversation Starr and I had at the used bookstore we were both working at. Someone was selling the store a copy of the Blue Planet RPG. Checking the binding, I flipped it open to a random page, and there was a picture of a dolphin. The text was about play Cetacean characters. The rules were pretty minimal, suggesting something to the effect of "the GM will decide what is and isn't feasible for a cetacean to have. For example, a dolphin with the hang-gliding skill would be inappropriate."

I turned to Starr and said "that's the difference between a game like this, and the Amber Diceless RPG. In Amber, as long as you had a good story to explain it, the GM would have no problem with a hang-gliding dolphin." Apparently that struck a chord with Starr, and that weekend saw the launch of the coolest (in other words, weirdest and most poetic) RPG campaign I've ever been a part of.

I introduce you to Lucid, the Parachuting Narwhal. A quick look to the right will show that he has a Narwhal body, plus little T-Rex arms, big Kangaroo legs, and a red parachute. What you wouldn't know by looking is that the Parachute is a magic artifact capable of sailing air currents between worlds or alternate realities, and that the Narwhal is an incredibly powerful psychic (1st Rank in Psyche plus a 10-point Telepathy power). You also wouldn't guess he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from being tortured by Clowns. It sounds so goofy on the surface, but he was actually a very serious character and Starr put a lot of thought into him. Lucid was a complex, and truly unique. There's just nothing else like him.

He evolved significantly, having an awesome development arc over a couple years. Bits of his story have shown up on this blog from time to time, occasionally getting the "Narwhal" label. Sometimes it's hard to tell I'm talking about a Narwhal, since he eventually purchased the Shapeshifting power. I'd tell you more, but he's really Starr's intellectual property, and I'd hate to steal her thunder.

Lucid the Parachuting Narwhal was freakin' cool, and despites years of really good gaming before and since, he remains my favorite character of all time.

I wonder if they ever caught them?

This is old news, but I just heard about it today. The gaming-related implications are pretty wicked. There's some fun scenarios in that, I tell you. Roll for Initiative...
It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Alternate Prophecy Purview

I just posted 10 new boons for the Prophecy Purview in Scion. For campaigns using this version, Prophecy moves from being a Special Purview to being an All-Purpose Purview, and uses the cost and progression rules for APPs. The existing powers (and dice) presented in the Scion: Hero rulebook are NOT used in conjunction with these boons, which totally replace that system (except for the Avatar level).

The new boons are:
  1. Minor Visions
  2. Danger Sense
  3. Search For A Sign
  4. Lateral Prognostication
  5. Foretelling The Messiah
  6. Forespeak Destruction
  7. Friend or Foe
  8. Voice of Fate
  9. Negative Prophecy
  10. It's A Wonderful Life
  11. The Wyrd (The Avatar level given in Scion: God by White Wolf)
Those interested in the rationales behind this change should click here and here. These boons would not be possible without a great deal of brainstorming and feedback by people at the Scion forums - thanks, guys - and, of course, the framework and ubercoolness provided by White Wolf Publishing.
EDIT: This is now also available at the White Wolf Wiki. You can see all the boons on one screen here by clicking on the Prophecy (Scion) label.

Minor Visions (Prophecy 1)

Minor Visions
(Prophecy o)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: None
Every session, the GM provides you with a minor Vision. This can take the form of a dream or meditation, or just an insight given you. The GM choses what he wants to reveal, and it can range from trivial to vital, as he or she sees fit. It must apply to a future (not the current) scene. If by the end of a session the GM has not given you a Minor Vision, you may prompt them for one and they must deliver. Minor Visions prove truthful and accurate unless a being with a Legend Rating takes actions to thwart or prevent it.

Danger Sense (Prophecy 2)

Danger Sense
(Prophecy oo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: None
Your intuition and second sight give you warnings when you are in dangerous situations. Whenever rolling to Join Battle, you may roll bonus dice equal to the level rating of your highest Prophecy boon. The same bonus applies when rolling Perception + Awareness to detect an unexpected attack. While mechanical traps such as covered pits and poisoned needles are exceedingly rare in Scion, these bonus dice would be applied to attempts to avoid those, as well.

Search For A Sign (Prophecy 3)

Search For A Sign
(Prophecy ooo)
Dice Pool: Perception + Occult
Cost: 1 legend
By consulting tarot, star charts, runestones, or other divinatory tools, you may determine the better of two possible courses of action. Doing so takes 10 minutes of focus. You name two possible approaches to the situation at hand, and then roll Perception + Occult. Record the number of successes you score.

The GM decides which of those two paths is most suitable to his or her campaign plans, and tells you that the stars/cards/runes favor that path. Every success becomes a bonus die that is set aside. You may use those dice on any action while on that path, up to a number of dice equal to your Legend rating on any given roll. Doing so is reflexive, and involves no effort or involvement on the part of your character. Each bonus die may only be used once, then it goes away. You may even use the dice to augment rolls made by other characters, but you cannot expend more dice than your legend on any one tick.

Should the players for some reason decide to follow the other path instead, the successes become bonus dice the GM can use to boost villains and obstacles that stand against the PCs. Should the two options the player presented have only trivial cosmetic differences, the GM can apply the dice to both - the players get one pool of bonus dice to the things they are doing, but an equal pool of obstacle dice is reserved to apply anytime they step even just a bit outside the narrow path they created. Far better to pick two methods that are dynamically opposed, so that the penalty dice can only be invoked if you stray afar from the better path.

To prevent potential abuse, a few additional restrictions govern the use of this power. First, bonus dice can never be used in the same scene that the power is activated - they apply only to future scenes. Secondly, activating the power again wastes/eliminates any remaining dice from previous uses, and dice from this power cannot be used on future activations of this power. Lastly, all bonus dice go away at the end of the story.

Lateral Prognostication (Prophecy 4)

Lateral Prognostication
(Prophecy oooo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: 1 Willpower
The Fates themselves guide your intuitive process, gifting you with precognitive vision and great ability to "think outside the box." You may spend a willpower to request from the GM a vision pertaining to a specific upcoming challenge or plot point that has you stymied. This boon stomps all over traditional mystery plotlines, by providing access to breaks that no mortal detective could ever reasonably expect to receive. However, it does nothing to protect against short-term deceptions. It is rare that the methods prompted by these visions involve doing things within the current scene - generally this power puts you on a path to solving things tomorrow or at least a few hours from now.

The vision so granted comes in the format of "If you do A, the result will be B". The GM has a lot of leeway in what to slot into that statement, and it can involve some very overt "coincidence" or even obvious manipulation by the Fates themselves.

To reap the benefit of B, the PC must do A. The only real restrictions are that "A" must be something the PC is capable of doing, and "B" must be must be beneficial to the PC, and must consist of new data/leads. You can't just confirm things the player likely already figured out. The point of this power is to provide new avenues for information gathering, and ways for players to sidestep impasses and mental obstacles.

For example, if your PC is trying to battle an epidemic, this boon might reveal "If you go to park at 9 am tomorrow, the man in a red hat will hold the key to the cure." The GM has plenty of latitude there. The man in the red hat could be a powerful supernatural who is spreading the infection. He could be the poor accursed mortal whose hubris provoked a god to unleash the disease. Or he could be an otherwise normal human with a random genetic immunity, the existence of which could enable a Science or Medicine roll to create a vaccine. Such a vision provides a lead that the PCs never would have gotten to via logic or mundane detective work, but still requires some efforts on their part to get the full reward.

Foretelling The Messiah (Prophecy 5)

Foretelling The Messiah
(Prophecy ooooo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: 1 Willpower and 1 or more Legend.
Gifted with flashes of insight, you may predict that a particular PC or NPC holds the solution to the problem at hand. Making such a declaration costs 1 Willpower point, and any number of Legend points up to a limit equal to your Legend Rating. This insight comes to you in a (Speed: 5) vision - while the player chooses who will fulfill the role of the prophecy, the character does not (they see it as Fate itself having chosen).

In a later scene this same story, the player of the prophecied character may announce that they are attempting to fulfill your prophecy with their current action. Any stunts they perform on that action add auto-successes instead of dice. In addition, if they expend a legendary deed on that action, it grants successes equal to their Legend Rating (as normal) plus one success for every point of legend you spent while activating this Boon. This bonus affects a maximum of one roll, and that roll cannot be made in the same scene in which this power is activated.

You may only name one person to be your messiah at a time. Using the power again immediately ends the effects of all previous activations. You may name yourself as the messiah, but doing so increases the cost of this power by 3 extra legend points. Regardless of whether or not you ever name yourself messiah, you may not indicate the same character in back-to-back messianic prophecies. Someone else must have used the bonus before you can give it to the same person a second time.

Forspeak Destruction (Prophecy 6)

Forespeak Destruction
(Prophecy ooooo o)
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Occult
Cost: 1 willpower
By looking into the future, you may learn a person's fatal flaw, the tragic destiny that will be their undoing. By spending 5 ticks gazing at a person, you learn their Legend rating, and their greatest Virtue or Dark Virtue (or multiple of the same if they have several rated at the same level) along with the effects of the related virtue extremity. Armed with this information, you may predict what will be their undoing. This itself costs nothing, and involves no die roll. Those come in when you actually tell them the horrible fate you foresaw.

For creatures with Virtues or Dark Virtues, the answer is that they will fall victim to the dark side of their strongest virtue. If their legend is less than yours, you may roll Manipulation + Occult (they contest via Willpower+Integrity+Legend), if you succeed, you gain the ability to force that extremity upon them at any time (from any distance) by spending a willpower. You may do so immediately, and/or wait till later. You may do so no more than once per day. Note that if you personalize the destruction you announce (such as "your rapacity will cause you to gorge yourself to death eating your own children"), it will probably score you stunt dice on the roll.

For victims who lack virtues (and have Legend less than yours), you may predict any terrible fate of your wishing, provided that it's something the GM deems befitting of that person's Legend Rating. You thereafter gain the ability to spend a willpower to make them flee or cower in terror. For victims without a Legend Rating, you may choose that they die in a totally mundane way, such as a car crash or a virus, or even in some humiliating fashion, such as an accident during autoerotic asphyxiation.

For those of equal or greater legend than yourself, your pronouncement increases the chance of that flaw impacting them. If you succeed on the contested roll, they lose the ability spend willpower to suppress that Virtue. Instead, they must roll against it whenever attempting to override the virtue. For those of equal legend, this penalty lasts for one month, for those of greater legend it lasts but a scene.

The effects of this boon may also be canceled by a variety of mind-affecting powers, including Moon 7, Prophecy 9, Justice 9, or any of several different Avatar/Ultimate level powers.

Friend Or Foe (Prophecy 7)

Friend or Foe
(Prophecy ooooo oo)
Dice Pool: Typically none, but sometimes Perception + Empathy
Cost: 3 legend (though sometimes 20 legend plus a willpower)
When you first meet someone, a montage of key moments from your future interactions with them cascade before your eyes. This means that when you first see a person, you can know immediately whether they are destined to be a friend or a foe. This three-tick action costs 3 legend to activate, and succeeds automatically, if done in the scene where you first meet the NPC. It can only be done once per NPC.

The GM then must choose whether your fate is to be friends or foes. If destined to be a friend, you gain bonus (successes equal to your Legend) on all Charisma and Appearance rolls directed at that person, though only for positive interactions. (In order to knowingly take a harmful action against you, they must roll dice equal to your Legend, and score no successes.) If instead they are destined to be an enemy, both parties gain bonus dice on all harmful actions against each other equal to their respective Legend ratings. These effects last forever. As potent as such bonuses may be, they are insignificant compared to the benefit of knowing without a doubt whether or not you can trust someone.

If used later than the introduction, such as when talking with an NPC you'd met in a previous scene or story, the visions are not as pure or objective. In such a case, the cost is increased to 20 legend and a point of willpower, and you must roll Perception + Empathy vs a difficulty of (5 times their Legend). The difficulty increases by 10 if they have even a single level of the Chaos or Magic Purviews. If they have both, the penalty increases to +15 total. Failure on your roll prevents you from using this power on them again for one year.

Altering an NPCs friend/foe status is extremely difficult, something to rival the greatest Herculean task, though it could be sped up considerably by The Wyrd or Ultimate Charisma. Note also that while this power will no doubt color your first impression, and dictate the final fate between two characters, nothing mechanically prevents a Friend from betraying you for a good cause, or keeps you from making a truce with a Foe. But doing so would be a waste of good bonus dice, and probably require exceptional circumstances.

Voice Of Fate (Prophecy 8)

Voice of Fate
(Prophecy ooooo ooo)
Dice Pool: Typically none, but sometimes Intelligence + Occult
Cost: 1 legend / level of Prophecy sent
Following the example set by the Fates, you've learned to delegate. You may pass your visions on to your own mortal oracles. Whenever you use Prophecy, you may choose to pass it on to one of your followers instead of gaining the benefits yourself. You still roll, and make any decisions involving the activation, but your chosen oracle sees with your eyes and speaks with your voice. Combined with the Hear Prayers knack, you can selectively send the visions only to those who pray for them, but there's nothing that stops you from inflicting prophecy on those who don't want it.

When you send a prophecy to a Follower or worshiper (or your own child) you use the normal activation cost of the boon being sent, plus extra legend points equal to the level of the boon being transmitted. The range of this power is unlimited, you can even send visions to an oracle on another plane of existence. The only Prophecy boons you can't send are this one, the avatar level, and the tenth level boon. Once you have used it on a worshiper in at least 3 different scenes, you also gain the ability to communicate to them for one legend per sentence, similar to a long-range version of the Telepathy knack.

For those who are not allied to you, you may force Prophecy upon them, as Apollo did to Kassandra. This requires a roll of your Intelligence + Occult vs their Willpower + Integrity + Legend, in addition to the costs listed for followers. If you fail the roll, the prophecy cannot be sent to them (though all costs must still be paid).

Negative Prophecy (Prophecy 9)

Negative Prophecy
(Prophecy ooooo oooo)
Dice Pool: None
Cost: 1 Willpower and 15 Legend
As a speed 5 action, you can declare that something "shall not come to pass" and the power of fate will back up your prophecy. As with foretelling the Messiah, the character is not choosing the thing that will not happen, the fates are. However, the player of the character gets to choose the restriction, rather than leaving it up to the GM.

Anyone who attempts to work against your negative prophecy will find the difficulty of all rolls they make (to that end) raised significantly. Legendless mortals just fail automatically. Hero-level Scions and most Titanspawn find their difficulties raised by +10 for even the most mundane tasks opposing this prophecy. Demigods and lesser immortals face +5 difficulty. Gods and the Avatars of the Titans face +1 difficulty. Such penalties do not stack, not even if spoken by multiple goddesses of fate.

Note that this power only allows for banning events/outcomes, it cannot force events to occur. The GM is free to deny any use of this power that he or she feels is contradicts this clause, though they should ask the player to rephrase to something that more specifically pinpoints that which it seeks to ban. For example, you could say "McCain will not become President" but you couldn't say "Obama will become President". Any number of reasons could prevent McCain from being sworn in: Obama or Clinton could win, McCain could win but abdicate to his running mate for a variety of reasons, or (in a world as epic as that depicted in Scion) the US government could fall apart before the election.

It's A Wonderful Life (Prophecy 10)

It's A Wonderful Life
(Prophecy ooooo ooooo)
Dice Pool: Intelligence + Occult
Cost: 1 Willpower Dot and 20 Legend Points
You have the ability to foretell how the worlds would develop without you if you just kept to yourself.

To use this power, you must expend a permanent willpower dot and 20 temporary legend points. Roll Intelligence + Occult, including the full bonus of any Epics, Arete, or other powers that add dice or successes. For every success, the GM must reveal one major plot point they intend to carry out. These come in the form of "if you don't do something to stop it..." Most are bad things that will happen without your intervention, but they reveal secret plans or capabilities of enemies both known and unknown. A few can be good things that will happen, but that should be no more than a dozen (or so) of the successes. With a really good roll, this could leave very little unrevealed in the campaign.

Alternately, the player can forgo rolling the dice to simply ask the GM one question, which he or she must answer truthfully and fully - no tricks.

This is a massive power, capable of warping and derailing storylines, revealing hidden allegiances, spoiling numerous mysteries, etc. Conveniently, the power level of challenges and NPCs at Legend 11+ is sweeping enough that simply knowing who the badguys are (and what their plans entail) doesn't guarantee you can foil them. Knowing that Loki will trick Thor into killing you doesn't automatically undo his trickery, and you'll still have to act to prevent it - or be prepared to weather the storm.

White Wolf

I sometimes complain about some issues in their mechanics that could have used some more development / playtest time, but I can't deny these two facts about White Wolf Publishing:

  1. Their settings are fun to explore and play in.
  2. Their customer service amazes me.

Thank you, White Wolf.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When It Rains It... is pretty darned cool

Expect output here to go down again for a little bit. I just picked up another contract job. Hooray!

Special and Pantheon Purviews flaw rant

Scion has these things called Purviews. A purview is a category of boon, a listing of 10 boons and an Avatar, all thematically linked. A boon is a power. An avatar, in this definition, is an ultimate-power, like a super-boon.

These purviews fall into 3 official categories:

  1. All-Purpose Purviews, of which there are 16. Armed with such, you may buy any of the 10 levels in any order, subject to a limit based on Legend Rating, and only need buy the entire Purview if you plan to eventually buy the Avatar. Each boon is unique and does something different. None, save the Avatar, require having the others. Some compliment each other quite well, but others don't - sometimes a high-level boon renders a lower one nearly obsolete past a certain Legend Rating.
  2. Special Purviews, of which there are 3. Unlike All-Purpose Purviews, you can't buy these out of order. You must have level 1 to get level 2 to get level 3 to get level 4, etc. Two out of the three are particularly annoying - each new "boon" is just 1 more die on the power granted by the very first boon. The other special purview, Magic, has no core power but gives you access to spells. Since you can make your own spells, it could easily be the most versatile purview in the game.
  3. Pantheon-Specific Purviews, of which there are 6, but no character can have more than one. They have the same "buy in order" restriction that the Special Purviews do. Some of them are very narrow. The Greek purview is just a die-adding mechanic, though it is more impressive and more versatile than Mystery or Prophecy. The Norse purview does just one thing - with 9 terribly minor alterations to that one thing for boons - and it's not even something that happens very often in Norse myth. The other 4 purviews are certainly themed, (Japanese manipulates Kami/Spirits, Egyptian messes with Ba/Ka/Ra/BaBaBaran, etc) but have a variety of boon effects.
So the issues then are as follows:

For All-Purpose Purviews, you get a lot of variety for your investment. And if there's a level or two you don't like, you can skip it at no real disadvantage until the late-campaign "I'm a freakin' God now!" stage, which, statistically speaking, most campaigns will never get to. The versatility of spells makes the special purview of Magic have similar advantages. So far, so good.

However, for the other two Special (Mystery and Prophecy) and the Pantheon Purviews, you're stuck with buying everything in order.

Level 10 of the Prophecy and Mystery purviews are the two most expensive dice in Scion. They each cost a minimum of 36 xp (about 6 sessions by the book) to gain that single die, plus a couple hundred points to qualify for that level. For level one you get the base power and four to six dice. For each level thereafter, you spend ever larger wads of XP to get just one more die. I doubt any player would ever do that.

Sadly, all 3 Special Purviews share the same Avatar, so if you had Magic and one of the other two, there's exactly zero motivation to raise Prophecy or Mystery above the first level or two. Plus, it's the one and only Avatar power that comes with strings attached. Some players will just say "no thank you" even if they could reach it via Magic instead of Proph/Myst.

According to poll data at the forum, majority of Norse characters/players find the Norse purview useless or out-of-theme. It boosts your sidekicks, but fails to do so enough to make said sidekicks stay useful at Demigod and God levels.

The Greek purview is strong at Hero, then rather weak at Demigod through Legend 11, but busted good at late stages of the Legend 12 God plateau, so it's only really worth buying if you're gonna pump it till it breaks.

For the typical US gamer, Greek and Norse are the two best-known / most popular pantheons, so huge numbers of players end up with these largely non-functional Purviews.

Even for the Pantheons where the boons have more variety run afoul of the "must buy in order" restriction. I'm thinking of Kevin's Egyptian/Pesedjet PC here, who has the Health Purview, and has a fellow party-member with the Death purview. Should he decide he wants the 9th or 10th level of Heku, he'll be forced to first buy 1 power that is completely redundant due to a better boon he already has from Health, plus 1 power that steps on another PCs conceptual toes, plus 1 power that's just plain too dangerous to use. That, in a word, SUCKS.

And I can't just remove the "order" clause from Pantheon Purviews, as that would simultaneously make high-level Greek purview even more broken and make the first seven levels of the Norse purview suck even worse than they do now.

I think the solution involves a massive re-envisioning of Prophecy, Mystery, Arete (Greek) and Jotunblutt (Norse) coupled with the removal of the "in order" clause from all Special and Pantheon Purviews, subtly tweaking Spells to be a bit more like Boons, and the adoption of a single XP progression for all Boons/Purviews. And that's a hell of a lot of work.

Guess I'd better get started...

Prophecy Brainstorm

I posted the following to the Scion forum last week:
Has anyone put any serious effort to making Prophecy (and/or Mystery) worth raising above the first level?

My experience with it is that the PC who has it will likely never buy the second level. She gets enough to be interesting off of her 6 dice nearly every time she uses it, without it wrecking the plot by revealing too much. If the rare cases where she really needs more info, she spends a Deed or Channel on it. At Legend 7, you can imagine what a shot-in-the-arm those Legendary Deeds do, easily tripling the number of successes.

Anyhow, I was considering ways to make it more engaging, but didn't want to spend a lot of effort if someone else already has done so.

I was thinking that it'd be a good idea to strip the die rolls out completely, and/or give it boons.

Say, the first boon could be:

Minor Visions
(Prophecy o)
Dice Pool: None
Every session, the GM provides you with a minor Vision. This can take the form of a dream or meditation, or just an insight given you. The GM choses what he wants to reveal, and it can be fairly trivial. It must apply to a future (not the current) scene. If by the end of a session the GM has not given you a Minor Vision, you may prompt them for one and they must deliver. Minor Visions prove truthful and accurate unless a being with Legend who is aware of your prophecy takes actions to thwart or prevent it.

EDIT: To be clear, I'm intending this to be kinda like rolling a single success (under the old system) every session, except it happens automatically and the GM is free to make the tidbit given up by that success somewhat less useful.

Higher levels could involve:
bigger visions,
more frequent visions,
visions you can actively summon up,
powers not unlike that Rube Goldberg knack,
bonuses to dice pools when acting to fulfill visions,
bonuses to Perception or Wits rolls to act intuitively,
the ability to influence the dreams of others,
etc.

The die-roll for visions effect of the current purview could be made into a high-level boon that allows Epics.
It's such a pain to search for things on the white wolf forums, so I put this link here.

There's some feedback from people in that thread, but not much in terms of actual boon ideas. I plan to do some more brainstorming, pick it apart a bit, and then construct an entire new Purview out of it. We're talking top to bottom - 10 new boons, plus possibly a change to the avatar to separate Prophecy / Mystery / Magic a bit more. I mean, the Avatar power is really cool and quite flavorful, but if you had 2 or 3 of the three "fate-based" Purviews, you'd be a bit let down in a long-running God-level campaign - though I suppose revising prophecy would remove enough of the let down that a person might not care or complain about Avatar overlap.