Thursday, January 22, 2009

(If I'm smart) this will be my last post about Scion...

...but I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'll probably think about it more again sometime, and when I do, I may feel compelled to blog about it.

I love the concepts behind Scion. The idea of an overly cinematic game about playing the modern child of a classical god and the ascension to divine/mythic proportions is awesome. There's some great stories to be told within that setting/theme. I was absolutely gonzo about the game for a long while. In my last few months at the game store I used to manage, I hand-sold Hero to several dozen people. It was our top non-d20 RPG by a wide margin.

I remained happy with the game for most of Hero. The flaws were noteworthy, but didn't appear insurmountable. Vampire had a lot of flaws, but I'd still had great fun running it (both tabletop and LARP) for years. The longer we played Scion though, the more pronounced the flaws became. Creating a balanced action scene was nearing impossible by late Demigod, as a variation in just one dot of Epic can mean a task goes from guaranteed to impossible, or a fight from stalemate to murder.

I have a certain amount of time I'm willing to spend on GM-prep between sessions. Normally, I spend that time working on not just plot, but character motivations, scenery, artsy descriptions and other fun surprises to work into the game. With a wide-open setting like Scion, there was a lot of freedom to push the envelope. You'd think I'd have been spending my time happily crafting a campaign that was full of artistry. Instead, as things progressed, it took more and more of my time trying to create action scenes that wouldn't fizzle out anticlimactically, nor wipe out the whole party in 5 ticks. You can't balance that game, at least not without a lot more work than I was willing to put in each week, and I'm a kept man!

In the early stages, I would apply little band-aid fixes as problems cropped up. By mid-demigod, I was proactively searching out problems, since we'd had such headaches from the ones that had blindsided us. At God, I rewrote large sections because I could see the default interactions (and math) at Legends 9-11 were just plain broken. Problem was, the more house-rules we threw at it to fix the problems, the more unstable the whole thing became. Yet I kept trying, because I loved the setting and concepts so much, I was dedicated to making the darned mechanics work somehow.

Two computer crashes, NaNoWriMo, and holiday scheduling conflicts made it hard for us to get together for our weekly sessions. Once I got away from the game for a little while, I was able to see:
  • how much energy and fun that mountain of prep-work was sucking away,
  • how the campaign wasn't living up to it's potential because of my having to focus on mechanics instead of theme, setting or character,
  • and how happy I was to not work on it for a week.
Once I'd done that analysis, it was clear it wasn't worth my running Scion anymore. I needed to get away from it.

I could still see myself running a game in the Scion setting some time, but I'd no doubt use mechanics from Wushu (or some other really light-weight narrative game) instead, so that we could focus on the story rather than the mechanical imbalance.

1 comment:

Vampir said...

I was beginning to think the same thing...

I still feel kinda bad for running Scion on a con and getting people into it...