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.

No comments: