Monday, October 27, 2008

Scion +/-2

Thinking about my latest post, I find I admire Mark Rein-Hagen just a bit more, and the work of the 15 or so authors of White Wolf's more recent Scion line that much less.

  • Mark designed Vampire: The Masquerade. In that first edition, he said there were 13 tribes of vampires, but only let PCs choose from between 7 of them. It was relatively easy to store the archetypes of 7 vampiric tribes in your mind. Easier than 13, anyway.
  • In the game he had 9 attributes, and seemed to know that might be pushing the envelope of some people's memory. So, rather than giving you points to split 9 ways, he instead had you first rank Physical vs Social vs Mental. You'd make that 3-way decision, then move on to subsets of 3-way decisions to make it all easier to handle. Smart move, that.
  • Likewise, instead of 30 skills, you had Skills, Abilities, and Talents, IIRC. You'd prioritize those 3 groups based on your concept of the characters professional or educational background. Then, within each group you'd get some number of points. This wasn't quite as fluid as the Attributes, but it was worthy effort, at least.

But then compare that to Scion:

  • 6 pantheons to choose from in the main book. That's not too bad.
  • But each pantheon has a dozen Gods statted out, and you have to choose one to be your parent. Luckily, you've got mythology to draw upon, it's not clans or characters you've never heard of. You probably already have one or two favorites from mythology.
  • For attributes, they kept the Phy/Soc/Men distinction, and it's subchoices. Good for them. But for skills, they just made one big list of 25 or 30 skills, many of which are further subdivided into specialties. Luckily, skill dice become irrelevant fairly quickly, so poor choices at this stage won't hurt you much.
  • Then you get 10 dots to split between Epics and Boons, combined. Here's where the problems set in.... There's 9 Epics (available at 1-3 dots each, and 15 knacks to choose from for each Epic), and 50+ boons (3 boons each in 16 standard purviews, +3 special purviews that use levels, one of which also has spells which adds another half-dozen choices at least) to choose from if you're making a Hero-level PC. Your divine parent gives you an xp break on half a dozen of those, but it's not such a break that it makes you stay purely "within type" - you can take any boon you want, and most PCs will dip outside the parently purviews.
  • By mid-campaign, you've 200 to 400 things you could be spending your XP on, and it's downright overwhelming.
That last point pisses me off. Faced with a landslide of possible expenditures, the players who are playing for fun, or to portray a character or tell a story just don't work at figuring out the puzzle. They grab whatever strikes their fancy, 'cause they don't want to spend time trying to balance out everything. Meanwhile, the munchkins who are playing to stroke their own egos find it worth their time to analyze and dissect between games. So the very people you don't trust with the most powerful characters end up with characters that are more powerful than everyone else. If you simplify things, and are up-front about the best choices in character design, you end up with minimal power gap between the players you trust and the players you want to throttle.

No comments: