Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Legendary Surge vs. Itztli 9

When asked about the similarities between the "Legendary Surge" spell and the "Communal Divinity" level of Itztli (two powers which do the same thing, but have been assigned to power levels 2 and 9), Jesse (of White Wolf) said this:

Legendary Surge vs. Itztli 9: Not only does Legendary Surge have a surcharge, but it creates a Fatebinding automatically (because it's a Magic spell). Being heavily Fatebound to the rest of your group can be liability, especially if it's accentuating a role that pushes you into conflict with the other Scions.
I can't decide whether or not to reply to that on the Official Scion Companion Thread. On one hand, I'm really thankful that he took the time to answer, and I think it's awesome that he's trying to get his explanations and unwritten rules put into the revised version of the Scion Companion pdf. ...But on the other hand, that explanation is bunk.

In regards to the surcharge: The surcharge is just 1 measly point of temporary legend. A character capable of using a 2nd level spell will have a legend pool ranging anywhere between 9 and 144. At the lower end, that's meaningful - the surcharge could be 11% of your total legend pool. But at that low end, you can't even have the 9th dot of a purview - even with the surcharge, having a power is better than not being able to have the power. In order to buy Itzli 9, your Legend pool has to be at least 100 points - so the surcharge is at most 1% of your pool, and is pretty much just trivial. At Legend 10, the surcharge is practically irrelevant in determining which power you'd rather have. Not having a surcharge would explain away a variance of one, maybe two, dots in power level - but not a 7 level gap.

In regards to the fatebonding: Yes, magic does have the drawback of fatebinding, but it will never happen as he described it. The rules specify that Scions don't end up in fatebound roles to other characters. To quote page 223 of Hero: "Unlike mortals, however, supernatural beings don't succumb to Fatebound Roles; the retain their free will. ... At the storyteller's discretion, certain supernatural creatures or beings might come under the effect of a Fatebound Role, but Scions and Gods never do." Even if that paragraph didn't exist, I think it would be very rare that a ST would assign a negative fatebinding role to a PC. Making a PC suddenly become the Nemesis, Traitor, or Weak Link just seems like a recipe for campaign-wrecking disaster. Most players would hate being straight-jacketed into such a role: permanently switching from good guy to bad guy "overnight" because a different PC cast a low-level spell? Yes, there's individual players (and perhaps whole groups) who'd have a blast with that (but if so, then it's not being a limitation or deterrent, is it?). For the rest of us, it'd be a nightmare.

  • Thus, of the two limitations he mentions, neither one would make you choose Itzli 9 over the level 2 spell.
One major reason to by the spell: because it's so much cheaper. The level 2 spell costs 8 to 10 xp (actually, for 7-9 xp you can buy the first 2 dots of the Magic purview, which come with a free 1st level spell and a free 2nd level spell). The 9th dot of a Pantheon Specific Purview (like Itzli) costs 32 xp - on top of the 115 xp you had to spend getting the 8 levels that stand as prerequisites to Itzli 9. To be fair, the Magic purview requires a 1 dot Birthright as well, but I should mention that by the time you reach the requisite legend to buy Itzli 9, you have at least 15 dots of Birthrights, could potentially have as many as 60 Birthright Dots if you went crazy on them, and may even have the stats to be able to make your own Birthrights in-character.

As mentioned above, you only need Legend Rating 3 to use the Spell. To buy Itzli 9 you need to be an Aztec God of Legend Rating 10, 11, or 12. That's yet another way Legendary Surge is better than Communal Divinity.

The spell is also better than Itzli 9 in that the spell requires a miscellaneous action (Speed: 5, DV -1) from just the caster, and can be done at range. Itzli 9 takes a (Speed: 5, DV -2) action from both the caster and the recipient - they have to exchange ichor via close physical contact ranging from a sloppy kiss to becoming blood brothers. So, if you plan on using the power in combat, you're better off with the spell.

The final way that the 2-dot spell is better than Itzli 9 is availability. Literally any Scion character can buy the Magic Purview. Only Scions of Aztec gods can buy Itzli. If the levels were reversed, perhaps my objection would fade away. I might accept that a single pantheon has the advantage of getting an effect cheaper than most PCs. But the inverse, where everyone can get the effect cheaper than the Aztec-exclusive method doesn't make much sense to me.

That said, Jesse didn't mention the 2 ways that Itzli 9 is actually better than the 2-dot Spell:

  1. Itzli doesn't require a die roll. For the 2nd level spell, you can only transfer an amount of legend less than or equal to the successes you roll. At the lower levels of play, this isn't a big deal, as you'll never be transferring more than a couple points of Legend anyway. At the higher end it does matter, as you'd be able to give 30 legend to a fellow God to power their next Avatar. If you're making an Aztec PC, and plan on having no (or low) Epic Wits for in-character reasons, and the campaign is likely to last unto Godhood, and you expect to need to transfer 20 or more points of legend per use, Itzli 9 is better than the spell. I should qualify that, though: Itzli 9 is only significantly better if you need the Legend transferred quickly. If there's no ticking deadline, nothing stops you from using the spell multiple times in a scene.
  2. Itzli 9 is the prerequisite for Itzli 10. If the ability to give temp Legend points to other PCs is of minor concern to you, but you're playing an Aztec PC and plan to advance to Itzli 10, then why waste points on a redundant spell? Of course, I don't really agree that this logic will apply to many characters. Itzli 10 is very powerful, but it's also very grizzly. The activation cost includes sacrificing a close blood relative. In a game with strong heroic leanings, like Scion, the majority of PCs won't want to buy Itzli 10. If, however, Itzli 10 is something you plan to buy, you'll have to get Itzli 9.
*Sigh* I'm probably going to have to go point some of this out to Jesse. His point about Fatebindings indicates a significant divide between the rules as written and how he's using them. Since he's authoring books for the game line, that probably needs to be addressed. But other than the Fatebinding issue, I'll probably not bring up all these other points to him, at least not in the Official Scion Companion Thread. Random grognard bitching on the internet about a rule he doesn't like is pretty much accepted and expected these days, but getting into author's face in his own 'parlor' is probably something I should try to avoid doing when possible.


Lee 'Spikey' Nethersole said...

anything ever happen with this? did you reply to Jesse about it?

r_b_bergstrom said...

Unfortunately since that time WW has rebooted their forum software, so I no longer have a record of it, and I can't be 100% certain.

IIRC, I mentioned some of the points, more politely, at the forum, but Jesse didn't answer my rebuttal or at least never voiced any solid counter-arguments nor any acceptance of my position on it. We just agreed to disagree about the potency of the Boon he'd created.