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“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?
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I aim to go to market with a board game idea based on a traditional quiz but with a twist. All of the plan is made, just need backing!
Kickstarter - Tabletop Games
Creator of project: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project goal: £10,000
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Spoiler city here folks, I'm going to brain dump my feelings on A Memory of Light so if you haven't read it walk away...
Twenty some odd years ... to say that there was some anticipation, and even some dread, going into this book is a grand understatement. After twenty some years could a story that I've been reading since middle school end in a satisfying way? In the end the answer is largely yes. Was it perfect? No, but it was close enough that I can forgive the bits I felt were missing.
Sanderson did the impossible, he managed to stick the landing on a series not of his own creation after the death of the original author. These last three books might be colored by his own writing style, his own wit, his own method of pacing, but for me they felt like a return to form for the series and A Memory of Light proves a powerful ending as much because of those things as despite it. Sanderson deftly weaves the dozens of characters Jordan left behind into the final threads of a tapestry of humankind's eternal struggle against the darkness.
Every character of note gets a moment to shine, even if only just that moment. The book is thick with the major players though, with Perrin and Mat anchoring the first half and the second half respectively as Rand faces his destiny. For a book topping 900 pages it reads quickly, incredibly so, as a chapter that is nearly 200 pages long breezes by with shifting focal points and highs and lows that run the reader through and emotional wringer.
What works? Basically everything, enough so that trying to pin down speaking topics is largely impossible, suffice to say that the major plot points get resolved, for good or ill. Particularly strong are the various fates of the Forsaken and the first and second tier heroes. Not everyone survives, on the side of the light, but even in death ... well, as Lan says, "Death is lighter than a feather."
What didn't work for me was the final actions and fate of Padan Fain/Mordeth. Considering the implied importance of the dual wounds in Rand's side, the way that Shadar Logoth aided in the cleansing of saidin, and the implied power that Mordeth was amassing, apparently beyond that of the Forsaken, it seems odd that Mordeth doesn't show until the last hundred pages and that he never even comes within spitting distance of Rand's battle with the Dark One. Either he was a red herring all along, or he could have been removed from consideration a few books ago.
Still. One thing out of so many.
After twenty years the Third Age is over and the next age has begun, by the time the Third age comes again it will have long faded from memory, and the events after Tarmon Gai'don will have come around again to be the distant past. There is no beginning or end to the Wheel of Time after all, but at long last we have come to an ending, and for me I think that for all its many ups and downs over the years I am satisfied with the ending of this tale, and the implications and glimpses at those tales yet to be told, and long since forgotten.
Rest in peace Robert Jordan, Brian Sanderson did you proud, and this book can act as a fitting finale for your magnum opus.
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So every year I go to Thanksgiving out in Wilkes County with my momma's side of the family in the past, me, Momma and my sister would all pile into Momma's Pontiac and drive over to her sister Adie's house in Washington, the county seat, but now that Lou has a family of their own, it was just me and Momma in the car. Adie’s house is just plain huge and very Southern, just a massive Victorian beast with a ceiling fan in every room; she did very well for herself, marrying Montgomery St. Clair, youngest son of a well-to-do Georgia family that owns a large dairy. Uncle Monty wanted to be an artist, but his parents pulled him out of art school and he ended up a vet, a large animal specialist to be exact, which got him in tight with the horsey set. Monty is a quiet little fellow, now retired and meek as a church-mouse, whereas Aunt Adie is a force of nature, let me tell you. Everything is a competition to Adie; who has the biggest house, who has the most grandkids, the whole nine yards. Well let me tell you, if life is a completion, then I suppose she's winning, because she's loaded, has five kids and twelve grandkids. You've won, Adie! So can you stop with all the photo albums already? Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick, as Daddy used to say!
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, Thanksgiving at Adie's this year. Of course Adie and Monty were there, it's there place, but also Aunt Ren and Uncle Frank. Now Frank has almost as much money as Monty, but as he will no doubt tell you if you give him a half a minute, he earned it all 'by the sweat of his brow'. Frank owns a chain of Ford dealerships throughout southeastern Georgia, though he has little to do with their day-to-day operations; mostly he just sits back and counts his money. Aunt Ren is as quiet as Aunt Adie is loud, but don't let her fool you; she's as sharp as a tack and had a fierce temper if you push her.
And of course, all my cousins, nieces and nephews were there, so many that even that big old house was nearly fit to bust; kids running all over the place and underfoot, including my sister Lou's two kids, though mostly she just holds on to little Ricky for dear life. Big Rick was there, too, of course, all full of Hispanic charm and New York style; Lou really hit the jackpot when she snagged him, let me tell you. Little Tony seemed to be everywhere at once, chasing after the girls just like his no-good daddy who left Lou in the lurch; of course, Ray was a sumbitch while little 'Tone' is an angel, and yes I am horribly biased; why do you ask?
So we've got this house just plain packed with folks, and here I come with my head all full of new and improved attachments, and it is like WHAM!, walking into a wall of noise; my eyes crossed and started to water the minute I stepped inside.
"You got a headache, hon?" Momma had her hand on my arm.
I waved her off and told her I was fine, but she knew I was lying; of everyone I've talked to since waking up, she's the only one who gets it, or at least comes close. She watches Medium, Ghost Whisperer, that one show on TLC with the lady with the big hair and ugly clothes, all of them. She might not know exactly how I feel all the time, but she can pretty much figure it out
"How 'bout I get you drink; how's that sound?"
It sounded pretty great, to be honest, so I let her wander off into the crowd while I leaned up against the wall and took a few deep breaths and just sort of pushed everybody's thoughts off into their own corners. The good news is that since I came back, I have a tendency to put people off, so no one really bothered me as I pulled off my leather jacket and closed my eyes; the bad news is...well, this is my own damn family, and I don't really like them being scared of me all the time! But you can't have one without the other, so I counted my blessings and did my best to become one with the wallpaper.
I used to like these kinds of get-togethers, I thought to myself.
"There's our little angel! How are you, Darla?"
"Hey there, Uncle Frank! Happy Thanksgiving!" I gave him a big hug; at least someone in the family wasn't too spooked to be social.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Dar! Where's your momma gone off to?"
"Oh, she's off gettin' me a drink; what else is new, right?"
Uncle Frank laughed, his face all red from his own little celebrations.
<My God, look at that sweet little ass! I could take a bite right out of it!>
For a second, it felt like the floor had dropped out from under me, like on one of those rides at Six Flags, and I shook my head; please tell me I did not hear what I just thought I heard! Well, not 'heard', but you know what I mean. But sadly, I was correct, as a new side of Uncle Frank was suddenly revealed to me; not only was he a letch, but a cheater and a pig pretty much all around. The images that spilled out of his head, all the women he’d been with, naked girls in every possible position, doing all kinds of things-
"Will you excuse me for a sec? I just need to get a little air?" I gave him my friendliest smile.
Frank looked slightly disappointed. "Oh, well sure, Dar, but you come right back, you hear? We're gonna be eatin' soon."
Not if I throw up first, I thought. Momma found me a few minutes later, sitting out on the porch, and she handed me a whiskey on the rocks, which I nearly downed in one gulp.
"You okay, Dar?" She gently rubbed my back between the shoulder blades.
"Uncle Frank is a filthy pig, Momma! How did I never see that?"
She laughed. "You just sussed that out now? Hell, I've known that for years, and I didn't need a bump on the head to figure it out." She jerked her head back towards the house. "That there is a nest of vipers, hon; not one of them is worth a dime." Momma shook her head and chuckled. "Well, except maybe Monty; he's a sweet old thing. And your cousin Danny is just the nicest young man."
That reminded me of another set of thoughts that had pushed its way into my head a few weeks ago, when Danny and his girlfriend Pauline came to visit. I leaned over to whisper in Momma's ear. "Is Cousin Danny...is he gay?"
She shrugged and whispered back. "I don't know for sure, but I think he might be; can you imagine coming out to Uncle Frank?" She shuddered. "There may be a reason he moved to Atlanta."
I took another sip of my whiskey and sighed. "Life sure is a lot more complicated than I ever knew."
Momma smiled and rested a hand on my arm. "'Bout time you figured that out, I guess. You ready to go back inside? I promise to keep Frank at bay."
I nodded and followed her back in; the rest of the evening proved to be just as interesting, although the whiskey helped a lot.
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Last week, we settled on some important points. I’ll keep an ongoing Q&A page about what we decide for reference in my blog. The link is here.
This week, we should settle on how big the area we’re dealing with is going to be. There was a lot of discussion on it this week, and it will factor directly into travel time. So I’m going to combine the two here this week to work out what we want, and we can talk specifics, like engines and means of travel, but don’t have to.
So the questions to focus us this week are:
- How much area do we want to cover? In terms of AU (Astronomical Units), what do we want our hard numbers to be?
- What is the maximum amount of time for our group to cross from the central world (seat of power) to the furthest rim? I think this might help us set our travel speeds so that we don’t get too fast or too slow – keeping us right where we want.
- We have established two types of travel, established travel and “off the path”. How prevalent do we want the easy travel? How often do people have to go off the path?
- Are the sizes of groups limited by space or by expansion? In other words, ICly do we cover a sector only because that’s the limit of exploration at this time, or is it because something is stopping further expansion?
Feel free to talk about these below, as always. I’ll give some of my own answers to get things started.
I’m not sure what hard numbers I want to see here, but I’d like to say that it doesn’t take more than six months to travel the “empire” or whatever the central group of beings (presumably human) are. I think that if you get much further out than 3 months from the central authority, the ability to hold planets to the governing body diminishes. And since we’re not all Star Trek and we don’t have (as yet, we might) a Federation in which people join for various reasons based not entirely on reality, we have some practical limits.
I think I’d like around 25% of the planets to be reachable by the easy travel, with up to 75% being a month or less from one of the easy travel points. The remaining 25% are long stretches of hard travel – like going to the northern stretches of Alaska in the early 1900’s.
I like the idea that there’s some kind of barrier or block to expansion in one direction or another. Star Trek never did anything with it, but the concept of Space Empires is an intriguing one to me. Even a cold war has its interest to me.
- How much area do we want to cover? In terms of AU (Astronomical Units), what do we want our hard numbers to be?
We have modified the way that we handle user account registrations for new/alternate characters. Instead of using the standing sign up method, you will now need to use the "Register Alt Character" link in the extras menu. This simplifies the sign up process greatly. In fact, all you need to enter is a unique login and display name to get your new character created. There is no painful captcha to try to decipher and there is no email validation. It is just the 2 simple fields.
To register a new character you will need to be using an account that has over 50 posts. The new account will use the same email address and password as the account that you are using to create it.
Alternate logins are limited to 3 every 3 months.