I’ve played Scion a couple of times over the last few years, and, while the concept is one that I love and always makes me want to play it at the mention of its name, the actual execution of the game leaves something to be desired. When we first discovered Scion: Hero amongst the shelves of our local gaming store, we were pretty excited. From Exalted and World of Darkness we were pretty well associated with the Storyteller system White Wolf so loves to use in its games, and the idea of playing what seemed like a modern-day more streamlined and easier to understand version of Exalted seemed pretty exciting. However, in the first session our ship rapidly ran aground, when we ran across a number of problems.
Following here is a list of the house rules and modifications to the Scion system that I’ve found helpful when running the game, and hopefully solve some of the problems I’ve run across.
The first problem we ran across when playing Scion cropped up during character creation; namely that your character’s ratings in your magical attributes/powers is limited to (permanent Legend rating -1), meaning that when you build a character with 0xp, the maximum ratings they can possess in their supernatural stats is a massive 1. While I know some people will like the feel of only being sort ofsupernatural, for me it runs against the grain of what Scion is about. You’re young godlings; even at a low level it should feel epic, and I think having 1 dot being the max level of power just doesn’t provide that feeling. As such, when I’ve run games, I’ve done so with the following rule in place:
All Scions are created with a starting Legend score of 3 as standard. This is to represent at least a little time and experience with their powers and abilities, and results in a character who has enough experience to be assigned missions from gods and expect to complete them. If Storytellers want a lower powered game, where players have only just come into their powers and have had little chance to use them, then a Legend score of 2 could be allowed, but at default it starts at 3.
The second issue we experienced is the simple scale of the Epic Attributes. Obviously, the bonuses they offer start small, but because they’re on an exponential curve, they rapidly offer massive bonuses, which can mean even a small difference in the number of dots of epic attributes can result in massive differences in effectiveness, even to the point, at high levels, where there is little to no point rolling due to the difference in automatic successes. This problem also rolls over and has an effect on damage and soak, which I talk about below, but for the moment, I’ll just concern myself with the Epic Attribute system itself.
Epic Attributes do not add automatic successes; instead they add dice to the roll.
After all, everyone loves hefting huge handfulls of dice, and while, at high levels, it might be a truly ridiculous amount of dice, it at least keeps the power balance competitive. Invest in dice rollers people!
Damage and Soak
Okay, so because of the above issues with Epic Attributes, Scion’s damage system has evolved as a sort of broken version of Exalted’s system. More specifically, because characters with Epic Strength are not applying bonus damage dice but instead are applying automatic damage successes, it completely knackers the classic Exalted soak system, as traditionally soak is removed from damage dice pools before they are rolled, most often down to a minumum number of damage dice. If this was done in Scion, it’d be of no use, since Epic Strength would be added on post-soak doing a truly ridiculous amount of damage.
And so, in Scion, soak works differently as well; it’s applied after damage is rolled, which makes sense, since otherwise Epic Strength would remain unsoaked and pulversize everyone. But now we have a different problem; because the soak of most enemies needs to be of the level that it can effectively soak the damage of a character of a similar level with a decent level of Epic Strength, it means that soak values have shot through the roof compared to classic Exalted soak values, as damage has now done the same. The problem with this? Well, let’s say you’re a character without Epic Strength, and rather than 20 damage successes on a standard attack, you can expect maybe 5, 10 on a good day; the enemy with a soak of 15 is pretty much invulnerable to you now. Scion doesn’t have much of a developed combat system (when compared to Exalted’s host of charms), and so there are no options for working around this. You basically just can’t hurt the guy unless you’re real lucky, wheras Mr Epic Strength over there is doing damage every turn.
My solution to this is as follows (bearing in mind the above rule; Epic Attributes now add dice, not auto-successes):
Soak is applied to an attacker’s damage pool before it is rolled, reducing the number of dice in the pool on a one-for-one basis equal to the number of points of Soak a target has. This is limited to a minimum of 1 damage die, and cannot be reduced below this number.
Another issue that raised its head is that, using the Relic rules, it’s quite easy to create a weapon which has a speed of 1 or 2, which means that, in a game where most actions are speed 5-6, you’re taking an action around 3 times as often as everyone else. While this certainly sounds cool, especially as part of an occasional use power or boon, as an effect that is always active whenever you use the weapon, it gets a little ridiculous. As such, I always go with the following rule:
The speed value of an attack cannot be reduced below 3, regardless of source.