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So after picking up a copy of Scion: Hero, I thought it’d be quite interesting to follow the product along for a bit and try out the Demigod book too. If you’ve read my Scion: Hero review, you’ll have a good idea of what my general attitude with the game is; overall fairly positive. There were a few bumps here and there, and I’m rather pleased to say that some of them were evened out quite nicely in this expansion.
I use the term ‘expansion’ here, because that’s really what this is. Basically, it contains all the info for mid-level Scion characters; it’s fairly reminiscent of the old Basic/Master/Immortal setup from old-school D&D. I mention that so you’ve a good idea what you’re looking at here. Anyway, let’s crack on.
Cover: Eh. It’s not as good as the Scion: Hero cover. It shows a sig character, with lots of ghosts and underworld-style architecture in the backgrou… actually, no, it’s not as cool as it sounds. It feels very muddy and washed-out. The greens are kinda all over the place, and the whole thing looks like the shapes are blending into each other. The Hero book was nice, crisp and tight. This one’s just ugly.
Prologue: And again we have around 40 pages of intro storyline. This is actually a pretty nice piece of fiction. It does a lot more to capture the sense of mythology than the one in Hero, and the fact that it includes a good bunch of protagonist characters gives it a smoother flow. I actually rather liked this one. The ending did feel a bit rushed, though, if I’m fair. And there are several points where characters give asides (rather like this) during actual dialogue, which is something no author should ever do, ever. Aside from that, good points here.
Intro: The intro chapter here is nice and short. Two pages, really. It tells you how many points you get to spend on skills now that your character has leveled up (I know that’s not how it’s referred to in the game, but let’s call a spade a spade). We then have the new stats for the signature characters. They’re an interesting enough bunch, some are more balanced than others. Not badly enough to make me insist that you respec them in order to make them playable, though, but your mileage may vary. I think they’re good enough to run for most quick games.
Knacks: As in Hero, this chapter contains your superhuman abilities. They’ve been raised along with levels, so you can now charm people with a look, knock a car into your enemies, sense people around you without looking, and so on and so forth. They’re not bad. The only thing to keep an eye open is that, between levels six and seven, there is a MASSIVE jump in power. If you’re not paying attention, any character who hits high enough here could easily become a show-stealer.
Boons: The new, more powerful magic spells. Remember what I complained about in Hero? That some of the abilities here were utterly useless? Well it seems that someone noticed this, because these are all pretty cool. I have utterly no beef with them. Previously ‘useless’ abilities like fertility, quickly develop into skills that players would actually want to have. Nice one.
Unknown Lands: This chapter takes up about half of the book. As demigods, you can now venture outside of the earthly realm, and into other places. The realm of the gods is still off-limits to you, but anything else is fair game. What does this mean? Well, it means that I need to divide this up into three parts…
Terra Incognita – Basically, places that mortals can’t go. Think of this being like the lands that Jason found while off sailing with the Argonauts. They’re places that exist on Earth, but mortals aren’t allowed entry to; only demigods and the like can pop in to visit. There’s a good variety of possible ones listed here, some for each pantheon and a few for others we’ve not met yet. Overall, quite nice, but feels like a quick overview rather than genuine ideas. The idea for the Voodoo pantheon, an underwater locale, is unfortunately just too similar to the Underworld that they’re given later, though; kinda redundant to have two, I’d have changed that.
Atlantis – We’re given a bulky segment on Atlantis, including info on the pantheons (for some reason – I really don’t see why), and are told that it’s buried under Antarctica. This section did not need to be as big as it was. And, a real pet peeve of mine – why Atlantis? There are hundreds of lost civilisation myths. Why not Hyperborea, or Mu? While this part adds some flavour, it doesn’t add anything of any real value.
The Underworld – Where mortals go to die, this is way more interesting. Each of the pantheons has an underworld, and they’re all outlined here in nice juicy detail. Although some of them (in particular, the Egyptian) could sure use a lexicon or something, in general this chapter was awesome.
The Ragnarok Gambit is the pre-written adventure in this book, which continues on from where the one in Scion: Hero ended. How can I sum this up adequately?… oh yes; pants!
While the one in Hero was workable, this one is mundane, pointless, and all kinds of uninteresting. It’s in three acts, so let me go through each of them one at a time and tell you why they suck.
Act 1– The characters are traveling somewhere, and get taken to a mystical island somehow. Once there, an oracle tells them that they must go to Atlantis. And… that’s it. Now, I understand that the writers are getting paid by the page here, but do they NEED to have an entire act dedicated to ‘getting the quest’, when they could just as easily put this entire act into a ‘previously, on Scion’ sidebar and use the space to do something interesting?
This act adds nothing, mostly because the characters ALREADY have a quest to start with; they’re traveling somewhere to meet Loki, and are transported to this island to be told “No, go somewhere else instead.” Just give them the bloody quest when they’re starting the adventure, already!
Act 2– After being given numerous sidebars on how to beat the players over the head with the plot (!), this part takes them to Atlantis, where they need to stop an evil Scion from raising the island, which would destroy the world.
This act also begins what I call ‘The Saga of Captain Nestor’, who is a possible NPC who you might want to include in your game, maybe – and is discussed at about SEVEN TIMES throughout this game! There is no subtlety here; the guy writing it loves this NPC and wants you to use him. Why not just write him into the game already, rather than pretending that he’s optional? It is not subtle and not amusing.
Also, the game makes it very clear that the evil Scion must not die. This is so that he can follow the characters, Gollum-like, through their journey in act three, whereupon he… does nothing. That is POINTLESS!!
Act 3– So having stopped the evil Scion from raising Atlantis, the heroes now travel through the Underworld and up into the Overworld, to meet their parents who have been sealed there away from the earthly realm… Wait, what??
Yes, that’s a bit of the old ‘metaplot’ of which White Wolf used to be famous for in their ‘Vampire the Masquerade’ days sneaking in. You see, by the time your characters are demigods, the heavens are meant to have gone silent. Your godly parents cannot be contacted. Why? Well, surely that’s for you to decide – maybe they are at war? Maybe they’re all dead? Maybe… oh no, wait, it’s just the work of the evil Scion in this very adventure. Way to rob us of the mystery, guys.
Anyway, this act is meant to be good. Travel through the Underworld, the lands of the dead, and ascend into the heavens. That just has to be exciting, right? Well, no. The way it is written here, your characters emerge in a grey forest and climb a hill. THAT IS NOT EPIC!! The description of everything in this chapter is dull, dull, dull. Where are the great twelve challenges? It’s not even a particularly epic climb up the hill. Hint for the writers; MAKE THINGS INTERESTING!!
And on the topic of writers; were you stoned when you wrote this? I’m going to quote from the actual text here;
“As Storyteller, you just have to be flexible enough to see disaster as an opportunity. (In this sense, it’s a lot like being a Dallas Cowboys fan.)”
And it goes on like this. I don’t know why. There were a few passing ‘jokes’ like this in Hero, but in this adventure they’ve just got out of hand. The guy writing these sections rambles on like this frequently, meaning that you have to try to piece together something vaguely useful. For instance, remember the evil Scion from act 2? If your characters see him and chase him, you are told that he runs, and “He’ll ultimately head back to the “down” path, to where Charon’s boat still waits, and then he’ll… What? You think we’re just going to tell you? You’ll see Kane Taoka again soon enough.”
THIS IS NOT HELPFUL!!
In short, this adventure had a lot of potential to it; journey to Atlantis, breach the gates of the underworld, and venture into the unknown country. And it could have been really quite excellent too; if the writers weren’t utter freaking psycho.
Antagonists: Okay, remember all the stuff I said about good ideas? Forget the adventure in this book; HERE is where you’ll find all the interesting bits to make your games. No stupid jokes that aren’t funny, no uninspired climbing up hills. THIS is the good stuff.
And in a way, I can understand that. A good story is defined by the problems that the protagonists face. So, when they describe a possible antagonist here, quite often you’ll get some really awesome info about how they can work in the game. It’s not just a list of stats. Some of them, you’d probably not even use in combat; there’s one Colossi whose entire backstory is that he’s going to be resurrected, unless someone stops him; now that’s a good concept for a game right there.
This chapter is possibly the best I’ve read for story ideas in the whole book. Even if some of the monsters don’t appeal, there’s just so many in here that you won’t be short for possible ideas. You could grab an antagonist from here, and with the info given about them in terms of background and character info, create a whole series of games; games that would be far better than the one that came with this book. I’m actually surprised. I… like this. What a strange feeling.
Index: Oh no, that feeling is gone again. White Wolf – Stop trying to make indexes! You don’t know how they work! GAH!! Phew, back to my old self again.
In conclusion, Scion Demigod is a pretty nice game. It has a lot of potential, and a lot of great ideas. Those ideas aren’t always executed well, as the book’s scenario shows, but it more than makes up for that in the possibilities that it does offer. The system itself actually seems to even out quite a bit by this point; all of your abilities are useful now. Just as long as you never remind me of the embarassing adventure included herein, I can recommend this book quite strongly.
Reviewed by Marsten