In my review of Scion Origin I could only fit so much detail in there but there’s so much more to say! I’m going to try to make a three-person band for a Scion game and see how it turns out. I’ll be trying to break the system a little here so we’ll see what limitations crop up in the process. Join me!
In Scion Origin you can play a child of a god who just hasn’t earned the attention of their divine parent yet, but you can also play some other things. I’m going to make a variety of characters here to see how it all works: a mortal sorcerer, a creature of legend (specifically a cú sith), and (yes) a pre-Visitation Scion.
Step One: Concept
I actually find it pretty challenging to start off with the details that Scion wants you to do at the beginning. A general concept is all well and good but coming up with goals before you even know the character? Rough. I have general concepts listed above but I’m also instructed to pick out Deeds that I’d like my character(s) to accomplish. There are guideline categories given in Scion Origin but the details are up to you.
Short-term Deeds are things I’m hoping to achieve in a single session, so what would I like to see these characters do in the first session of a campaign? Well, for my sorcerer I think I want her to try for an Intellect Deed: “investigate the strange events.” For the cú sith I’m going to connect him to the Scion character with “protect Kyle from something” (Valor). For Kyle the Scion himself I’m planning for things to go wrong: “heal a wounded teammate (Duty).”
Long-term Deeds are more along the lines of a story arc, so something that will happen in the first handful of sessions. For the sorceress that’s going to be “create a magical protection for the city” (Loyalty). For the cú sith a long-term Deed will be “find a place in the mortal world” which is a Harmony goal that I think will make for good drama. Lastly, the Scion will have “hold to the Hippocratic Oath” (Piety) which, honestly, I’m not sure he’ll be able to do. The book says nothing about what happens if a character fails to accomplish their Deed, but that’s a problem for future-Mephit.
Lastly, Band-term Deeds (awful name) are goals for the band as a whole. The band will have one big goal that they’re aiming to accomplish and I think it’s a good idea to collaborate with the Storyguide on this one. I’m going to just spitball a first story-arc that involves faeries from the Irish otherworld infesting Boston (which is why we have a cú sith in the mix, I guess) and these street-level folks are trying to stop them. The Band-term Deed (I’ll never like that) will be “stop the faeries infesting Boston” (Valor).
Step Two: Paths
This is where we start actually defining the character, as opposed to defining our desires as players. Paths are where you get your character definition and also where you start to get your mechanical definition as they feed directly into your Skills and indirectly into your Knacks.
Starting with the sorceress, whom I’m naming Carolyn, I’m liking the “investigate” part of her short-term Deed and the concept of an urban wizard like Harry Dresden who tangles with the mythological but is not the daughter of a god herself. I’m going to connect her with Boston as well by giving her an Origin Path of “Born Along the Charles.” She’s not an MIT or Harvard, but a townie who grew up in their shadows. She was also kind of a rebel (still is) and got into lots of scrapes so for Skills I’ll pick Academics, Close Combat, and Subterfuge. For her Role Path I’m going to lean into this Dresden thing and say she’s a “Sorceress for Hire,” for which I’ll pick Athletics, Empathy, and Occult as Skills. Lastly, her Society Path is The Order of the Golden Tree. Since this isn’t a Pantheon, I pick my own Skills which will be Integrity, Leadership, and Occult (again).
Next up is the cú sith who also needs a name. I kind of like Mac for a talking dog as it sounds like a dog’s name but is also a common Irish word (meaning “son”). His Origin Path is going to reflect his supernatural origins as “Called from Tir na nÓg,” though for what we don’t really know yet. The Skills for that will be Occult, Persuasion, and Subterfuge (faeries are magical but tricksy). His Role Path is going to be “Kyle’s Dog” which is both a cover and, I think, connected to the reason he’s in the mortal world. The Skills for that one will be Empathy, Athletics, and Medicine. Lastly, for a Society Path he is going to pick the pantheon that he is associated with: the Tuatha Dé Danann. This pantheon has the Skills of Culture and Close Combat associated with it and I get to pick a third one: Athletics.
Last up we have Kyle the Scion. I’m going to say that he’s studying to be a doctor so I’m going to start off with his Role Path: “Overworked Med Student.” The Skills for that will be Medicine, Integrity, and Academics. His Origin Path will be, to add some myth-like flair, “Oldest of Nine Sons” which gives him Skills of Athletics, Persuasion, and (obviously) Survival. Lastly, I need to pick a Society Path. I’m going to say that, although I don’t know Kyle’s divine parent yet, he’s going to be of the Tuatha Dé Danann as well because they’re awesome. He also gets Culture and Close Combat from them but I’m going to pick Medicine as his third one.
I also need a “Path Condition” for when each of these is overtaxed and some connections but I’m going to wait on that until the end.
Step Three: Skills
Now time to see how all of those Paths affect the characters mechanically. Each character is going to rank their Paths as primary, secondary, or tertiary according to how strongly they influence the character’s person. The character’s primary Path earns them three dots in each associated Skill, the second Path gets two dots in each, and the tertiary Path gets one dot in each.
Carolyn the sorceress is going to be first and foremost a Sorceress for Hire and her next important connection is to The Order of the Golden Tree. Her tertiary Path is going to be Born Along the Charles since it’s part of her background but she’s sort of reinvented herself since then. Mac the cú sith is most influenced by Called from Tir na nÓg and closely after his connection to the Tuatha Dé Danann with Kyle’s Dog as his most recent and least impactful identity. Kyle the Scion has the strongest influence from Overworked Med Student and then Oldest of Nine Sons with his Tuatha Dé Danann a distant third since he doesn’t feel very connected to them. I’m noting down all of these dots and then on to the next step.
Step Four: Attributes
In Scion 2e, a character’s Attributes are split among three “Arenas” which are the familiar Physical, Mental, and Social. These are then split among three “Approaches” which are Power, Finesse, and Resistance. This creates the three-by-three grid familiar to players of original Scion and any of the World of Darkness or Chronicles of Darkness games: Finesse/Physical is Dexterity, Finesse/Social is Manipulation, etc. This is more than just calling out something that already exists, though, as there are some mechanical impacts to these terms: characters rank their Arenas as primary, secondary, and tertiary just like in previous editions and they also pick a preferred Approach that adds a few more dots. Characters get one dot in each Attribute then they spend six dots on their primary Arena, four dots on the secondary, and two dots on the tertiary. Their favored Approach adds two dots to each Attribute in that Approach.
Carolyn is going to order her Arenas as Mental, Social, then Physical and she prefers the Power Approach. Mac is going to choose Physical, Mental, then Social and prefers the Resistance Approach. Kyle is going with Mental, Physical, then Social and prefers the Finesse Approach. I think that gives us a good spread among the band as well.
Step Five: Calling and Knacks
Characters (well most) pick a Calling from the list in the book: Creator, Guardian, Healer, Hunter, Judge, Leader, Lover, Liminal, Sage, Trickster, and Warrior. If you’re a Scion, like Kyle, your Calling has to come from your divine parent’s list of favored Callings. I guess that means I have to choose a divine parent and I’m going with Dian Cécht the Physician of the Gods (for obvious reasons) and picking the Calling of Healer (again, for obvious reasons). Carolyn gets to pick freely so I’m going with Liminal which is a sort of border-walker between different realms, something I think fits a sorceress well. Legendary creatures are a different matter as they have a Supernatural Path instead of a Calling. That means Mac’s “Calling” is Cú Sith.
Now we’re on to the good stuff. “Knacks” are low-level powers, things that support more powerful magic at the Hero level and higher. You can actually think of this as a spectrum: everyone has access to Stunts, special people have access to Knacks, and divine people have access to Purviews. In any case, these characters are going to pick out Knacks from their Callings and we’ll see if we actually get the theme we’re hoping for. Characters get one Knack and then at the end of character creation they get either two more or some dots in Birthrights… But since there are no Birthrights in Origin (the first appear in Hero) we’ll just be picking out three Knacks for each of these characters.
For Mac the options are easy since the Cú Sith Supernatural Path only has three Knacks. He’ll have a Call the Pack ability for summoning other fairy hounds and Terrifying Howl which inflicts some fear effects on the enemy. There’s also Breed Versatility which lets me pick what sort of hound we get, and I’m going with an “Imperfect Disguise” so he looks like a slightly-off regular doggie.
Kyle picks from the Healer list so he’ll have Damage Conversion (lessen an injury), Surgeon With the Hands of God (treat people in half the time), and Doctor’s Kit which is a trio of stunts for various healing tasks. Carolyn gets weird Liminal Knacks and the options here are cool but don’t all match up with my vision for this character. I guess I’m going with Flatlander (some combat stunts to screw with opponents), Experienced Traveler (blending in to new situations), and Unerring Delivery (basically a message spell but for Scion).
Step Six: Finishing Touches
What’s left now is to assign five more Skill dots, another Attribute dot, and extra Knacks (which we already did). I have to calculate Defense (based on Resistance Attributes) and Health (boosting the Injury track for high Stamina characters). I also should come up with Specialties for all my Skills that have three or more dots (should have done that earlier but whatever).
I did say, though, that I was going to come back to the finer points of Paths so let’s do that now. First there are connections which are the story elements that you can draw on because of your Paths. There are three for every Path: the group you can ask for help, the contacts you can call, the access to equipment or locations. This is a whole bunch for three characters so I’m going to leave it for the character sheets below. You can use each connection of each Path once per session, though you can try for more if you’re willing to strain the relationship and possibly lose access to the Path for a while. You can also apply your Path as a bonus to a roll once per session and you get a special stunt on this roll called Twist of Fate which is where you can affect the world around you because of who you are.
I really like this process and I think I ended up with some great characters. It’s certainly more engaging than the first edition of Scion which made characters that were fun to play but could charitably be described as mini versions of gods. Eric Donner in Scion 1e has a good backstory but his mechanics are pretty much what you’d expect for Thor lowered to a Hero level. Eric Donner in Scion 2e, though, he’s got the Thor stuff but also Paths that let him bring his backstory into the mechanics in a myriad of ways.
On the downside, I still don’t feel like Carolyn seems all that much like a sorceress. She can do some stuff but I think her concept just doesn’t execute as well as some of the others. In retrospect I might have reskinned some of the Knacks from another Calling and gotten something more in line with what I was hoping but… oh well. She’s a good character and I think this campaign would be a lot of fun. Oh, and the last thing I’ll complain about is the interactive sheets that came with the backer pdf. This pdf has plenty of “page XX” references so it’s clearly not done but they better fix the bugs on these sheets because they’re fairly unusable. That’s why I handwrote them.
Overall, though, this game is great and character creation is a blast. I can’t wait to explore and try out Hero next!