Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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...

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