Nine Years and a Week [Scion Second Edition Open Development]
“His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.”
– Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light
We often sneer as we say the word “myth”, using it as a way to deride ideas and concepts as fanciful falsehoods that have no basis in fact. We do this to exalt our own narrative, our own truth, reducing all others to, well, myths. But the root of the word myth has a different meaning – ‘story’, no more true or false than any other.
What if all those stories we call myth were true after all?
The Roman Sallustius said “Myths are things that never happened but always are.” Mircea Eliade said, “A myth is a true story that may or may not have happened.”
But what if they did happen?
Those ancient powers never went away. They wander our roads and cities, mingling with the teeming masses of humanity. You are one of their children, born to the magic of yesterday and the promise of tomorrow.
Your ancient enemies, the Titans, have stirred in their prisons beneath the lands of the dead, beyond the edges of the world, and even in amnesty in the heavens. Their spawn come forth from lands of myth, and the specter of war falls across the World. Titanomachy. Into this age of turmoil, you are called on to seize your birthrights and feel the mantle within your blood. Family has brought you here, and heroism will take you to your end, whatever that may be.
Find your destiny. Live the myth. Embrace your Fate.
Last week was Scion’s ninth anniversary — April 18, 2007. I remember exactly where I was the first time I read the book, four laptops ago — in my college coffeeshop, drinking a hot chocolate (okay, okay…a hot chocolate with Bailey’s). It was raining then, just like it’s raining now outside my window. The air was chilly enough that my hot chocolate was really comforting, and the light was dim enough that the brightness of my screen didn’t bother me. I waited for the file to finish downloading on the coffeeshop’s crappy wi-fi, opened it up, and started reading.
Since then, I’ve run countless Scion games and played in countless others. One Scion game even managed to heal a rift in my gaming group that had split it for years, just on the thought of being really awesome badass demigods running around.
But really, what is Scion?
Scion is a game about gods and humanity and everything in between. It’s a game about mythic deeds and the reasons why people talk about those mythic deeds. It’s also about modernity – the World today is a very different place than the anything our ancestors could’ve conceived – yet their lessons and their actions are still with us.
Scion 2nd Edition is four books, defining and expanding the setting (hereafter: the World) and some of the more primary pantheons defining that World.
What I’d like to keep in this edition is the focus on “divine pulp heroes”, the sense of adventuring towards apotheosis, the focus on divinity, and the slightly gonzo feel of 1e. Most importantly, the overwhelming idea that all myths are true. What I’d like to change in this edition is to introduce a sense of religious wonder, clear up some of the “foggy setting”, but allow for alternate settings and modes of play, and to give the players a much tighter, narrative, and play-focused base system and power set.
Scion 2e has a lot of themes running through it, but the three biggest themes are relationships, heroism, and faith. Every myth cycle is, at the heart, a story told by real humans to inspire, caution, and explain the way we think and believe. At the core of those myth cycles are the heroes, the figures whose virtues and flaws are larger than life.
Scion’s about two things: modern myth, and myth in the modern day. Modern myth in the sense that these are ancient tales and tropes that never truly grow old, that recur eternally, that are intrinsically tied to human nature. That’s the modern myth part. Yet there’s a lot in these stories that makes us sick, that doesn’t jive with our understanding of the world and morality, that’s at odds with who we are and how we want the World to be. This is myth in the modern day – the past is a different country. Some things never change, but a lot of things do. Modern mythologies can change to suit modern needs, even if it means discarding old traditions.
But there’s one more thing. If you need to sum up Scion in a single sentence, it’s this: “Who you are is very much tied to who you are to other people”. You are bound, and somewhat defined, by your relationships. It’s in the name of the game: being a scion of something means you’re from a greater parent, which defines your identity by someone or something else.
Scion’s Alpha Slice
Here’s the link to part of Scion’s Alpha Slice.
I commissioned the Scion Alpha Slice for Midwinter 2016, and my team made a really cool proof of concept game that nonetheless made me want to do a lot of things differently from how the slice ended up. In gaming parlance, an alpha slice is a chunk of the game – a little à la carte gaming design, taking each separate piece of the system, making an example of it, and plugging it in to see if it works. By doing so, we are able to tell a rough shape of how things work, and what’s superfluous (and what’s missing).
A lot of things worked. A lot didn’t. That’s what an alpha slice is for. The Midwinter players seemed to enjoy it a lot, though, so I’m going to show you some of it here. There’s a lot in this alpha slice that you’ve seen before, though a good bit that you haven’t. We don’t have labors or milestones in the experience pools. We don’t have the movement dice and actions in here that we do now, nor do we have the Knacks system fully written up – part of the alpha involved deciding just how Boons and Knacks and Edges worked, so I ended up scrapping a lot of them out of the alpha that you see here, just so the final version doesn’t look too different. Heck, we don’t even have the shifting continuum between Virtures.
(Paths have also changed a bit to involve more twists and turns and specializations, but they’re largely the same format as before.)
But everything else! Everything else is here.
Don’t take Emanuel Montero’s stats as gospel – he was written up as an alpha character, and like I said I excised some of the stuff we’ve totally changed. A character of Legend 3 will probably have at least three Boons and certainly that many Knacks! In the final version, the Pantheon-Specific Purview also details how your character works marvels with their other Purviews, and each PSP has specific Boons of their own.
And now, for next week: do you want to hear more about the World, Scion’s setting, so like our modern Earth yet teeming with divinity and mystically connected the Unknown Lands; or would you rather hear about the Titans, the progenitors of the gods, consumed by their Purviews? Vote in the comments below!
Today’s Music: Something appropriate to heroes, wouldn’t you say?