What if the gods had never vanished from the universe, and merely wait, watching, letting their agents act out their world-shaking plots? That’s the premise of Scion, a roleplaying game by White Wolf Games. In Scion, the players assumes the roles of one of the titular heroes — the Scions are the mortal but extraordinary children of the gods. The basic idea is that the philandering deities have spawned heroic offspring who have epic destinies — think of Hercules or Loki’s monstrous offspring.
The core plot of the game involves a rather Greco-Roman mythological focus: the gods were born of Titans, usurped them and imprisoned them. Now the titans escaped and have it in for the gods their offspring.
When you create your Scion, you get to choose your progenitor from one of six pantheons: Norse, Greek, Aztec, Voodoo, Egyptian and Japanese. (White Wolf doesn’t specifically disallow other pantheons… Native American, Hindu anyone? But only these six and their principal gods are described in the main book.) Even non-reproducing gods like virginal, man-hating Artemis get in on the Scion action, thanks the concept of divine adoption. For example, neuter god Horus could adopt one of Zeus’s countless offspring and make him a Scion — though he couldn’t do the same with some nobody off the street who lacks that special divine ichor.
But what exactly to Scions do? Like most other characters in roleplaying games, they’re the agents of higher powers, performing inscrutable missions for powerful masters. The tricky part is that their overlords happen to be their mom or dad, and they are the source of all your supernatural powers. The gods are whimsical and ruthless, and really don’t care much about the Scions other than valuing their usefulness.
This book, the first in the core trilogy, covers the rule system and the basics of the game universe. If you’re going to play the game, rather than serve as gamemaster (or Storyteller as they call it at White Wolf) this is the only book you need.
To get you in the mood, the book begins with a fiction segment, a story describing the adventures of a Scion of Thor. To be honest, it’d take divine-level patience to get through this tedious, 40-page mess. Fortunately, you don’t need to read the story to play the game.
The first thing you should know about Scion is that it’s not related to White Wolf’s World of Darkness. It’s a different world and different game system. Mechanics-wise, the rules remind me a lot of Shadowrun’s 4th Edition. Attributes are measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with Abilities (a.k.a. skills) rated 1-5. Add an ability to an attribute and roll that number of 10-sided dice to see if you succeed or fail.
Every Scion also has Knacks (epic-level feats), Birthrights (magic items, animal companions and other divine gifts bestowed on the character) and a few other stats that I won’t get into… with one exception: Legend.
Legend is the measure of the character’s fame and divinity. Every character begins with 2 Legend points. A Legend of 5 through 8 means the character has ascended to the status of demigod, and receives additional boons and knacks. 9 through 12 indicates true godhood and confers even more advantages. Much like Edge in Shadowrun, Legend serves as more than a measure of power. Legend points, equal to your legend rating squared, can be spent to reroll a die roll, add points to a defensive roll, or fuel spells. But Legend can be bad as well — as a Scion’s Legend grows, so do the forces opposing him.
Demigod and God
These two books are more for the gamemaster (er, Storyteller) than the player. They contain a lot of campaign-related material like discussing Atlantis and the Land of the Dead, stuff players don’t really need.
Demigod and God describe the powers you gain as your increasing Legend helps you ascend to the level of the gods. One of the best aspects of the game is that it embodies the upward mobility of RPG characters — short of death, or the campaign ending, how often do we aspire to build up a character to nigh-godlike levels? Well, forget the nigh part — in Scion, once your Legend reaches a 5, you’re a demigod. Once it reaches a 9, you’re a god. This gives the PC a clear path from humble grunt to fighting-with-Zeus.
This campaign book focuses entirely on the Norse mythos, specifically their legend of the end of the world. Nordic legends of Ragnarok tell that the Gods and the Giants (titans?) will fight an epic battle in which all of the bad guys and most of the good guys will perish, and the world will be remade. But will that prophecy come true? Only if the PC Scions let it.
One last observation about these four books: the art is remarkable. Game books are so expensive these days, and even a book that’s all black and white inside often runs $35 retail. White Wolf went all-out on these books, and they are very easy on the eyes.
For more information, check out Scion on my favorite RPG podcast, Atomic Array.