Happy 2019! We’re back in the world of Scion 2e. Last time I reviewed the first book in the game, Origin, which (unsurprisingly) is the first steps into the world of Scion. The characters there are more powerful than your average human but they aren’t quite divine. For that, you need this book: Hero.
In the first edition of Scion, the Hero book was the ground floor and in many respects it’s the same way in this edition even though we’re now on Book 2. Heroes are divine and have extraordinary powers but they aren’t gods by any means. Importantly this book can’t be used by itself just like Demigod and God in Scion 1e needed the first book for the basic mechanics. This just means, however, that there is even more packed between these covers than in the last edition.
What Are Scions?
As touched on last time, Scions are people who have a human parent and a divine parent… or at least that was the rule in the first edition. In the second edition, there are four types of Scioncs. Those who are the result of a god gettin’ it on (as the teens are saying) with a mortal, are born Scions and they are still the majority. In addition, some Scions are Created by the gods as a servant who then grows in legend: someone like Galatea or the uplifted cat goddess Mafdet. Similarly, some Scions are Chosen by being really awesome and earning the respect of the gods who raise them to godhood. Most oddly, some Scions are called Incarnate and these are actually gods who (for whatever reason) aren’t really godlike in power. They might be the weak offspring of gods, the avatars of gods who must reclaim their divine mantle, or something weirder.
As you can see, the idea of a “Scion” covers a lot of ground but you can sum it up by saying that a Scion at the Hero level is someone who could conceivably become a god but who is just starting down the path. Among the media touchstones that the authors provide (including Vikings and The Mahabharata) the RPGs Mythender and Godbound are mentioned. I don’t want to let this pass as I think it’s a really open thing to do: those are similar RPGs and using them together with Scion just gives you more tools. There are also discussions of how the Visitation (the moment a Scion realizes their destiny), enemy gods and monsters, the balance of mortal life, and Scion cults are all included to jumpstart your imagination. Regardless, there are many different sources of inspiration here so we’ll have to see if that pans out in the greater game.
There are ten pantheons in the base game of Scion, some old and some new. Each section outlines the general history of the pantheon and the culture(s) it’s associated with, the pantheon’s in-game relationships with other pantheons, birthrights that Scions might have (more on that later), and the religions associated with the pantheon. This last bit is really important, I think, because it makes the tradition a living, breathing thing not some dusty old story that suddenly your character is pulling out of obscurity like a millennial savior complex.
The full list of pantheons can be found in my last post but a detailed exploration of each of the groups described here is going to make this way too long. I’ll get into each one in Thursday’s post but for now let me just point out that this is only a beginning. Whereas creating new gods and pantheons was a little opaque in first edition Scion, here it’s encouraged! Four pantheons that aren’t fully outlined in the book (the Persian Yazatas, the Buddhist Palas, the Voodoo Loa, and the Celtic Nemetondevos) are mentioned throughout anyways as an example of ones you can build. On top of that, adding new gods is even easier than in the last edition and there are rules for including Titans as part of pantheons! The situation is just a lot more nuanced this time around which can only make stories better and more nuanced as well.
Traits and Powers
Character creation is similar to what I described last time with Scion: Origin just, you know, turned up to eleven. For instance, you pick Callings (divine personas) just like in Origins but now you pick three instead of one because, you know, godhood. You also get four magical Knacks for free instead of one (you still get bonus ones or a Birthright at the end too) so you can just generally do more. This is especially true with the Immortal Knacks that cost double normal (Heroic) Knacks but let you do crazy stuff.
Things get really intense, though, as soon as you add in Purviews. In first edition Scion these were discreet powers in the vein (haha) of Disciplines from Vampire: the Masquerade or Vampire: the Requiem. You got a base power, then a better power, and so on for five levels or so. Now, though, things are more freeform like the Gifts in Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Werewolf: the Forsaken. You get two Purviews to start which come from your divine parent and your pantheon respectively. The benefits of each Purview come in three types: innate powers (which you always get), marvels (freeform expressions of a Purview), and boons (the classic “spells” of Scion).
The list of Purviews covers a wide range and will be familiar to players of Scion 1e: Artistry, Beasts, Beauty, Chaos, Darkness, Death, Deception, Earth, Epic Dexterity, Epic Stamina, Epic Strength, Fertility, Fire, Forge, Fortune, Frost, Health, Journeys, Moon, Order, Passion, Prosperity, Sky, Stars, Sun, War, Water, and Wild. Each of these has boons that can be taken in whatever order you want, and there is a Signature Purview for each pantheon. I won’t go into detail about each little one but I will talk a little bit about the marvels. Whatever boons you have in your Purview, you can always do certain things within the realm of your Purview.
With a Blessing you can boost someone’s rolls or cancel a Complication for some actions. You can also create your own Complication on an action or Impose Condition on someone or Resolve Condition that someone or something else put on your team. You can create some Equipment or try straight-up Attacking someone with your powers. An Offscreen Action uses a cut scene to establish something for your characters and an Upheaval causes some big change such as knocking over a building or winning the hearts of a crowd. You can try to Emulate Boons that you don’t yet know (for a higher cost than normal) or you can try to do pretty much anything else as Esoterica.
Each of these marvels can be used once per scene and there are mechanics that can apply to whatever situation you need, but all of this means that your character has the ability to do a lot of different things within their power set. In the first edition of Scion your Hero with one boon in the Purview of Fire could walk through fire without being burnt, but most situations with flames they couldn’t do anything more than any other person. With this, though, your boon of fire is just the coolest thing you can do. You get that awesome fire power but if your band is trapped in a burning building you could try to snuff it out (Upheaval), create a safe corridor to escape (Blessing), set up a mortal flunky who is calling the fire department (Offscreen Action), or magically summon protective jackets for the band (Equipment). You’re a nascent god of fire, after all, so own it!
I’ll be coming back to my ongoing band of characters to step them up to Hero level but I also want to discuss the appendix to this book. Like I mentioned in my Origin review, you have the option of playing legendary creatures instead of a human pre-Scion. The options in that book included saints (people who embody the Virtues of a pantheon), kitsune, satyrs, therianthropes, wolf-warriors, and cú siths. In Hero the kitsune, satyrs, and wolf-warriors get some more knacks to play with but the therianthrope and (especially sad for me) cú sith are missing. Saints are probably obsolete at this level since a Scion covers much of the same ground (although a saint becoming a Scion would be pretty sweet) and instead there are new mortal paths: the prophet (can see the future) and Cassandras who can see the truth.
On Thursday I’ll be taking a look at the individual pantheons in detail and then next week I’ll have my updated band of characters, now at Hero level! See you all then!