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Scion: Hero RPG Review

Posted on March 17, 2008 by Flames


Available at RPGNow.com

Introduction
I haven’t been too happy with White Wolf lately, I make no secret of the fact I can’t stand the nWoD, even though I’ve had to work with some people who worked on it – leading to the occasional awkward silence. The crazy brilliance that’s redolent in oWoD and in Exalted simply hasn’t been present in the new material with the best of the crop – that I’ve read – being the new version of Werewolf and even then not in the form of play itself. The new rules don’t work for me so well as the old, fistfuls of dice notwithstanding, particularly in combat and I didn’t think anything could top the craptacular hatchet job that was Mage Revised… Until I read Magegate: Atlantis and drowned in a morass of collapsed possibility and cheesy Theosophy. Scion was a very welcome return to form compared to that, a sort of modern-day Exalted, after a fashion, with the great idea of introducing Avatars and Children of the various godly pantheons into the modern world, staving off the ‘Titans’ using hand-me-down powers and weapons. Wonderful stuff!

Overview
The characters in Scion are the long-lost, illegitimate, half-human children of the gods of old, the pantheons, the Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Japanese, Aztec and Voodoo pantheons respectively (though I’m not sure Voodoo deserves to be in such company really). There’s the possibility to play scions of other gods and pantheons as well, but these aren’t detailed in this book.

The Scions are contacted, equipped and gifted by their errant parents and put to work to defend humanity from the machinations and monsters impinging on this world at the behest of the Titans. To help them with this they get magical powers, magical items or companions and other gifts from their parents. Superpowered individuals rampaging about the modern world as demigods, fighting monsters and ancient gods (of the wrong sort).

It’s a mash-up, it’s deliriously silly and it also has a some intellectual basis in comparative mythology and knowing things about the old religions. It’s a little lacking in scope, there’s some religious pantheons or belief systems that really could have done with having an outing but what is there is well done and engaging as an idea for a game.

Artwork
In a shocking move this book isn’t full colour (I know… in THIS day and age!) though it does have colour end pieces and some colour plates inside. The cover is wonderfully evocative of the game, a modern day ‘Thor’ with Odins ravens around him and a pistol version of Mjolnir. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the interior art doesn’t carry this feel forward, its good to middling, but nothing really brings the whole game to life in the way the cover does. That might sound shallow but it’s what’s prevented me picking up Scion until now, I’d get all excited about it, pick it up, flip through it and then put it back down because it simply didn’t grab me.

Writing
The book suffers from the usual White Wolf problem of indulging frustrated authors with long screeds of fiction and this detracts from the whole, otherwise it’s relatively clear and concise for a White Wolf book. The background is on the short side, as compared to what we might be more accustomed to from White Wolf and is spread out over the rules sections more than anything else, fortunately it has a relatively good index that makes things easy enough to find when you need them. Furthermore it doesn’t seem to be something that’s planned to ‘bloat up’ like more conventional game lines and White Wolf’s more usual practise, it seems the plan is more like that with Orpheus, a set, limited book run, Scion: Hero, Scion: Demigod, Scion: God – each representing a rise in power of the characters, something that seems to work well – and I hope to review the other two books soon.

Rules
The rules in Scion are a bastardised hybrid of the nWoD rules and Exalted but, thankfully retains the damage roll that Scion excised. This means less smooth sailing but prevents the sense of remoteness and abstraction from the combat you have in the nWoD line. Using Exaltedisms makes sense given the nature of the game but I didn’t feel – particularly – that the Exalted system coped well with Exalted, here, at a lower key power level at least, it seems to work much better.

Character creation should be familiar to most White Wolf players, point assignation, particular traits and powers with their ranges and types determined by the particular clique/bloodline you stem from. It’s all good, familiar ground which – once you get a handle on the differences – means swift character creation and direct access to play, which is nice.

Upsides
* Represents a much needed return to form by White Wolf.
* Rules system finally fitting the mood and needs of the game.
* Rampaging gods with a little Gaimanesque literary legitimacy to excuse the fun of being rampaging gods.

Downsides
* Limited pantheons to choose from.
* Appears to have avoided dealing with monotheism or lack of belief – PC?
* Uninspiring interior presentation.

Score
Style: 4
Substance: 4
Overall: 4

Review by James ‘Grim’ Desborough

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