Scion is a pen & paper Role-playing Game I’ve mentioned a few times in the past. I truly love it, as it mixes Urban Fantasy, my genre of choice, and mythologies, which I’m sure by now you’re sick of hearing me go on about.
Onyx Path Publishing is currently developing a second edition to this fantastic White Wolf game, and I am excited to see what they come up with—and how they balance the game. In my review of the system and when I spoke of it some days ago, I mentioned how unbalanced it was and how much house-ruling storytellers had to do not to make the game easier, but just to make it work.
It’s not a bad game, but it doesn’t scale well across its three levels of play.
I spoke with my RPG group last week and told them a few stories about my Scion campaign, and mentioned I should write an article or two about it, to which one of them said I should definitely do so. So here we are.
I want to tell you about the plot of that campaign. It spanned three story arcs, one for each level of play and with increasingly higher stakes. I also want to share some of the fun stories, those moments that made the table erupt in laughter or just made me giggle like an idiot.
But without you knowing the system or the major concepts of the setting, telling those stories will be difficult, since I’ll have to stop to tell you what each thing means.
Thinking about that made me decide to write this little piece, to serve as a Primer for Scion, to explain some of those things that I will mention while spinning my tales.
It’s highly likely I’ll still have to explain things during the next two pieces, but I hope most of it will be in this one…otherwise this will all feel rather pointless.
Scions: So, what are Scions? Simply put, they’re traditional demigods, the sons and daughters of deities. Before they awaken to their Fate (see the capitalisation? Fate is important!), Scions are normal human beings like you or me, but then something happens and the divinity in their blood, the ichor, activates, giving them superhuman abilities.
A Scion’s role is twofold: stop the plans of the Titans and their agents on Earth, and serve their Godly Parents in whatever scheme they have right now, usually one involving the endless divine politics that plague all pantheons.
Titans: To us, the word Titan only matters in Greek Mythology. They are the previous generation of Gods. In the Titanomachy, the Olympians fought and imprisoned them in Tartarus, before the three big brothers split the world amongst themselves.
Scion expands this concept and tells you that every pantheon in the world has its Titans, such as Surtr and Ymir for the Norse. In fact, it goes one step further and introduces the concept of Major Titan. In the game’s setting, the Titans we know are just aspects of a greater one, which represents one of the fundamental pillars of the world, such as Earth, Fire, Light and Time. The only way the Gods could imprison the titans was to use a special tool to trap the Major titans into the bodies of their aspects, before sending them to Tartarus. To give out a mental image, a Major Titan is plane-of-existence-big.
You might think, why not just kill them? Well, when Odin killed Ymir, the Ice Age ended and it flooded the world. Killing off a Titan has irreversible effects on the world, and unwilling to let the world go to hell, they decided imprisonment was the right call.
The War: The Titans have broken free and are at war in and out of the world with the Gods. But aside from revenge, what is their motivation? Simple, to return things to the way they were. Remember Disney’s Hercules, that line in “The Gospel Truth:”
Back when the world was new,
The planet Earth was down on its luck.
And everywhere gigantic brutes
called Titans ran amok!
It was a nasty place!
There was a mess wherever you stepped.
Where chaos reigned and earthquakes
and volcanoes never slept!
With the Titans ruling, the world and its elements were in constant flux. The planet heaved and buckled on a daily basis, making it very nigh-impossible for living beings to, well, continue living. When the Gods imprisoned them, they imposed order in their chaos: the earth stood still, the mountains set, the sea level normalized and so much more. Life was now possible.
If the Titans overthrow the Gods…well, it’ll be a nasty place all over again.
Godly Parents: Scions are demigods, so the godly parent is just the biological parent for that Scion, right? Yes and no, because even chaste goddesses like Athena and Artemis can be Godly Parents, and even Titans for those Scions that align with the bad guys.
Gods can claim another deity’s child as their own, provided the other God has no issues with it and often involving some complicated politics. In many cases, the Gods take children whom their biological parent has no intention of awakening.
The Gods have many children, and in their struggle against the titans, they see conceiving new heroes as another part of the war. But among the dozens they have, they will only awaken a handful, those that match the personality traits they’re looking for.
Pantheons: The Game “shipped” with these Pantheons: Greek, Egyptian, Japanese, Voodoo, Norse, Aztec, Irish/Celt, Chinese, Hindu, Persian. In addition to this and to as proof of their Pantheon creation rules, they created the pantheon for Atlantis, with its own Purviews and Virtues.
Virtues: An important concept in Scion. Virtues are the moral backbone of Pantheons. Each has a set of three Virtues that tell you how that group of Gods is like, what they hold dear and what their role and goal is.
Virtues are advantages but can also be drawbacks. If a Scion or God is acting in a way that aligns with the virtue, such as battling a hard opponent for those with the Courage purview, then the Virtue helps them along, granting bonuses. But if a Legendary being tries to go against the virtue, they’ll feel it tugging at their soul, trying to stop them from betraying their morals.
Awakening/Visitation: Scions were normal people before something happened to them. In the best of cases, the awakening comes with a Visitation, where the parents themselves or envoys come to the Scion and explain things to them, granting them their Birthrights in the process and setting them on their first adventure.
But that’s not always the case and the Scions awaken because they meet the supernatural. They see something normal people aren’t meant to see and it triggers their Ichor.
Take Eric Donner, son of Thor and one of the pregenerated characters, he awakens when his dead grandfather visits him, tells him how the underworld is in tatters—the Titans kinda wrecked all Underworlds during their jailbreak—and how something bad is coming. The ghost tells him about a box her mom had, which had information on Eric’s dad. Using the clues in the box he sets out and it’s during this journey that he notices his new abilities.
The Visitation itself only happens near the end of the journey, when Odin’s ravens Hugin and Munin come to him and explain things—and getting quite cross at Eric thinking that Thor is blonde and not a redhead. It’s during this conversation that he also receives Giantbane, his relic weapon. This revolver has a chip of Mjolnir in the hammer.
Birthrights: Gods shower their children with gifts. These can be:
- Creatures, a mythical monster to call their own, to love and throw out like a Pokémon.
- Followers are an army of disposable minions—from goons to supernatural warriors.
- Guide is a human or supernatural entity that offers counsel or favours.
- Relic is an item. A tool with supernatural abilities. Relics are profoundly important as Heroes and Demigods need to have them on hand to use their Purviews.
Purviews: The truly supernatural powers in the game, tied to roles of the Gods: Fire, Earth, Darkness, War, etc. These all have powers available to Scions. The cool thing about the game is that Scions don’t need to follow their parents’ example and can develop any number of powers.
Pantheons also have a Pantheon-specific purview. The Egyptian’s relates to funeral rites, the Greek is on excellence. The Norse can use their blood to create berserkers. The Japanese can talk to the Kami in objects and places, and so on.
Legend: Legend is at the core of Scion in both mechanics and lore. Legend determines how powerful a Scion is and it’s with high enough Legend that they reach godhood. This value represents how well-known they are in the world, how much people remember and tell the tales of their exploits.
But Legend is also dangerous, because the higher it is, the more the hand of Fate intervenes in events.
But most problematic of all is that Fate can bind the Legend of a Scion or God (or Titan even) to a person, a place or another deity, forcing roles on them.
In Scion, the ancient Gods left the world of man for this reason, because their Legends were too tightly bound to their human followers and so their beliefs changed the Gods against their will.
Fate: Fate is not just the Sisters of Fate, the Moirai, but a primordial force of the universe that takes sick pleasure in screwing with Legendary beings. The phrase “S*** Happens” seems to be Fate’s favourite because it’s not unusual for things to completely unravel and go to hell the second a Scion steps foot in town.
Fate wants Scions to raise their Legend, it wants them to grow, but it also punishes them for abusing their powers. If it’s a sentient force, that’s left to you to decide.
Levels of Play: Scion has three stages of play:
- Hero: Where the Scion is still mostly human. Super-human, sure, but still has more blood than Ichor running through his veins. This is for Legend Scores 1-4.
- Demigod: The Second stage and where Scions start to come into their power, allowing them to do things you’d expect from Marvel Super Heroes. This is Legend Scores 5-8
- God: When the Scions ascend to their pantheon’s home-plane and earn their new Godly name and role (example, Kadrell, God of Lawful Geeks). This is where they take the fight to the Titans themselves to end the war. This is Legend Scores 9 – 12.
Soak: This is a mechanic present in almost all White Wolf games, and it’s simply the ability of a character to negate damage of a given type. In Scion there are three types:
- Bashing: Anything blunt.
- Lethal: Anything that can pierce or cut.
- Aggravated: This is Supernatural damage. It’s a lot more complicated and often arbitrary what is or not aggravated. Just know that this is the big bad damage, the kind you can’t easily heal.
Epic Attribute: As with many RPGs, characters have Attributes (strength, dexterity, stamina, etc.), but Scion also gives you epic versions which grant some insane bonuses. A person with high strength can push a car. A person with Epic strength can lift and juggle three cars.
Scion is the only game that has the phrase “High Impact Sex.” I’ll let that image sink in.
I think that covers it all! I know it’s a lot, but I wanted to go over most of the common concepts of the game before I went into my stories, because at least some of these come into play at one point or another.
And if this makes you curious about playing Scion, then let me know and I can point you in the right direction!