It’s time to rise above it all and take a look at the Scion Player’s Guide: Saints and Monsters. Scion 2nd Edition is Onyx Path’s game of modern urban fantasy, where players are the children of the gods, just waking up to their power and their place in the grand schemes of Fate. But what if you weren’t the children of gods, you just hang out with them? That’s part of what gets examined in the Scion Player’s Guide: Saints and Monsters.
This is a supplement to Scion 2nd Edition, which is currently comprised of Scion Origin, Scion Hero, and Scion Demigod. This particular supplement makes a few references to Scion: Dragon as well, which, at the time of this review, is not available.
I purchased my copy of this product and was not offered a review copy. I have played both Scion 1st Edition and Scion 2nd Edition as a player, but have not had the opportunity to run the game as a storyguide, and I have not used any of the information in this book at the table.
Scion Player’s Guide: Saints and Monsters
Lead Developer: Neall Raemonn Price
Developer: Vera Vartanian
Writers: David Castro, Steffie de Vaan, Erykah Fasset, Violet Green, Catie Griffin, Josh Krutt, Geoffrey McVey, Spider B. Perry, John Snead, Monica Speca, H. Ulrich, Pablo Vasquez, Vera Vartanian
Editor: Matt Click
Art: Pat McEvoy, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Andrea Payne, Farri Lensen
Art Director: Mike Chaney
Creative Director: Richard Thomas
This review is based on the PDF version of the product, which is currently the only format in which it is available. It is 138 pages long, including a title page, a credits page, and a three-page table of contents.
The PDF has the familiar borders, layout, and formatting as the rest of the Scion line. Chapters are introduced with full-page art pieces, and there are several half and quarter-page illustrations that appear throughout the book.
The Order of Things
The supplement is broken up into the following sections:
- Chapter One: Heroic Compendium
- Chapter Two: Denizens
- Chapter Three: Sorcerers
- Chapter Four: Titanic Scions
- Chapter Five: New Rules
While the credits page indicates that this supplement requires the use of Origin, Hero, and Demigod, most of the material in the book only touches on the Demigod tier of play, with most of the material directly interacting with Origin or Hero-level characters.
Character Creation and Options
When making a character in Scion, players go through a specific process to create a character, with the following steps:
- Deeds (Short, Long, and Band)
- Paths (Origin, Role, Society/Pantheon)
- Knacks (Derived from one suitable to their Calling)
- Finishing Touches
This process remains largely the same when creating a character using these rules, however, each main section of this book summarizes this process to emphasize where new options or deviations from this formula might happen.
The Player’s Guide adds the following roles to the game:
The Outsider role looks like it could be interesting for characters that might be a Scion of a different pantheon than the rest of the band, which gets around the concept of them being too much of a loaner. The Shepherd role is interesting, in that it’s all about supporting another character and/or pushing them towards greatness. What strikes me as strange about this role is that it works in the opposite direction that I would assume. While it makes sense for a teacher to be more powerful than a student, if the primary role of the character is to boost another character, it feels strange to be the more powerful booster, using game mechanics to shift your power into your student. I guess this role is always going to be a bit strange when it’s both a supporting role and when there are dramatic power differences between tiers of play.
One of my favorite parts of Origin was the Appendix that introduced Supernatural Paths. Obviously, I’m on board for playing the children of gods, accepting or rejecting the expectations that come from that association, in a supernaturally infused modern world. That said, I liked the idea that people could play characters that don’t quite fit into that same paradigm, but would exist in the same world. Origin introduced Saints, Kitsune, Satyr, Therianthrope, Wolf-Warriors, and Cu Sith. It also introduced examples of how to customize these options to make Amazons, Shield Maidens, Deer Women, and Hulder.
Even though these are just one of the three paths a character can have, they can have a big effect on the tone of the game, especially when a character doesn’t end up walking the path of a god. A lot was going on in those original eight pages, and while I liked the options, I also wished there were more examples and more room to let the concepts breathe. That’s what a lot of this product is . . . the breathing room for alternate Scion character concepts.
The book introduces and revisits a lot of the concepts introduced in that appendix with more information and mechanics to use to model various characters, including the following:
- Animal Headed Creatures
- Fair Folk
- Hidden Folk
- Small Folk
- Water Spirit
- Motorcycle Centaur
- Komainu, Shisa, Shishi
- Magical Animals
In addition to all of these options, there is also a section on playing a Titanic Scion, someone who is the child of a titan, in contrast to the child of the gods. This option was touched upon in the Titanomachy book for Scion 2nd edition, including reprinting the Collateral pool mechanics from that book, as well as the Titanic callings:
The difference with a lot of these options comes from how they interact with Legend. Saints don’t gain legend, because they are dedicated to embodying certain virtues. Prophets decide on a Prophetic Destiny, which determines why you are heralding the specific thing you herald. Denizens can gain Legend, but that is often due to the assumptions people make of a magical population. Titanic Scions interact with Legend in a manner somewhat similar to divine Scions, but they gain certain effects that are “always on,” which they may need to use infused Legend to suppress. These effects range from just marking you as obviously magical, to being passively dangerous and destructive.
Sorcerers may have the most interesting interaction with legend. They pick how their magic works, which determines their relationship with Legend, but that Legend generally isn’t their own. Sorcerers using Invocation are masquerading as gods or the servants of gods to siphon off Legend to use for their magic. Sorcerers using Patronage bind themself to a creature that has its own Legend. Prohibition is essentially betting against Fate that you can keep from doing something specific, and gaining Legend from the denial. Sorcerers that work their magic through Talismans don’t have Legend themselves but have a famous relic of some sort that is well known, from which they can derive Legend.
There is an extensive discussion about setting lines and veils, revisiting previous safety discussions, using active safety tools, and using player profiles and questionnaires. This is meant not only to promote safety but also to calibrate the kinds of stories that the player and the group want to actively cultivate. I enjoy this section, but its placement is a little strange. Ostensibly, it’s because denizens are more likely to play in story spaces that reflect real-world themes of race, ethnicity, and marginalized communities, but this still feels like a section that could have gone under a broader character creation section. Regardless, I enjoy the example of Denizen communities in this section, as they provide some good examples of world-building and adventure hooks.
All of these new character options, except saints and prophets, can eventually become divine, and there are sidebars and sections of each of these weave in and out of the standard rules for ascending to different levels of play. Saints and prophets are going to miss out on God’s level of play, but still gain Demigod-level abilities. Titanic Scions can become gods, and much of how they work isn’t drastically different than standard Scions, but at their point of Apotheosis, there is a dramatic moment where they might become gods or monsters.
The Titanic Scions were especially interesting to me because in some ways, they work enough like other Scions that they seem like they would fit into a standard band fairly well, but there are a few issues with that. For one, they have the above-mentioned ongoing effects that make it hard to conceal their powers, and they may potentially cause harm. There is also the recommended Collateral system that creates a Collateral dice pool that can do dramatic things to the world during a conflict. One thing that I like about that system, however, is that players triggering the potential disaster get to pick the stunts that are triggered, so you could harm nearby mortals, but you may also cause a rift to an extraplanar realm to open, or cause a garden or stream to appear.
Scion is interesting when it comes to its setting of The World. The World is assumed to look like our Earth, except the gods are still concerned about modern events, and many gods that may have very few modern worshippers are likely to still be actively worshiped. However, The World has differing levels of assumptions about how much the supernatural penetrates the lives of mortal beings. Other books have ranked different types of campaigns as Gold, Silver, or Bronze, regarding the assumptions of the setting. Silver is the “default,” where people know the supernatural exists, but they don’t necessarily see it daily.
The reason I mention this is that the Titanic Scion’s story is going to vary a lot based on this assumption, but unlike other Scion books, those metal-rated assumptions aren’t referenced. Titanic Spawn are assumed to have a hard time if they appear too supernatural too often. The Titans are assumed to be active enough that they will actively oppose a Titanic Scion ascending to godhood and allying against the Titans. I would have been interested to see how the different assumptions for different levels of the supernatural would have played with this idea. Especially since some of the advancement paths for Titanic Spawn involve mutations that are permanent changes to the Titanic Scion’s form (although there are still plenty of ways to actively shapeshift or illusion your way out of being noticed).
This section presents several optional rules that can be used in a game. The simplest of these are Edges, borrowed from other implementations of the Storypath Rules. These are similar to Knacks but generally less powerful or constant than them. These are broken up into Mental, Physical, and Social Edges, to dovetail with the way Attributes are divided in the game. There are also Mythic Edges which require that characters possess Legend before they can be taken. These are expressed as dots that a character can spend to acquire them, so they fit pretty neatly into the existing rules.
The next optional rule system includes adding a Lifepath system. If you haven’t encountered games with this option before, it generally means you can answer questions about different junctures in your life, and instead of just spreading out your abilities or skills, you get specific advancements based on the decisions you make and the evolving story of who you were before play started.
The Lifepath System adds the following age categories to characters:
- Young Adult
- Mature Adult
Adolescent characters end up with a lot fewer skills, so they gain a special rule that allows them to gain two Momentum on a failed roll instead of one. Elderly characters gain a specific condition that increases the difficulty of Strength or Stamina rolls specifically. If they happen to make it to Demigod status, this condition goes away. Being on the verge of godhood has its benefits.
Another optional new rule set introduces “Mythic Scion,” which is meant to be less granular and more narrative. Instead of determining specific skills, characters add a die pool derived from the Calling + Attribute, meaning they are likely to be more broadly skillful depending on what Calling they can leverage.
Combat still tracks health, but also makes greater use of conditions. It’s easier to narrate supernatural events as well. The confusion, for me, often comes at the simple end of the spectrum, not the granular side of the rules. In this case, I feel like there are almost as many steps added back into the gameplay as there are steps that are eliminated, so characters may be referencing fewer stats, but also adhering to a more exacting procedure.
The final new optional rule is Tempting Fate for advancement. I love this one. A character can “bet” XP that a given situation will turn out the way they expect, and if they are correct, they get twice that amount back. If they are wrong, they don’t lose XP, but they do gain a condition that is relevant to the situation. It’s a great way for a player to signal future content they want to engage with, as well as to model Scions that are big on pushing boundaries.
Divine Gift I love a lot of the touches added to these alternative paths, such as the “always on” abilities of the Titanic Scions, and the built-in story tension of how Sorcerers fuel their magic.
If you are the kind of person that wants to have the maximum number of options within a game system, this offers a lot. There are a lot of strong roleplaying options included within these options, and many of them can diverge from the primary Scion experience while diving back into those elements as the campaign progresses. I love a lot of the touches added to these alternative paths, such as the “always on” abilities of the Titanic Scions, and the built-in story tension of how Sorcerers fuel their magic.
This is more a comment about the game line in general, rather than this particular product, but there have been some complaints about Origin being an unnecessary precursor product since Scion 1st edition started at Hero level. There is material in here to start at Origin level, but a lot of the content is squarely focused on the bells and whistles of Hero level and beyond, which doesn’t help to justify Origin as your starting point ruleset. The Mythic rules feel less simplified and more like rearranged complexity in the game system, and the Lifepath system is interesting, but it feels like it doesn’t have enough room devoted to it to really sell the concept for this game.
Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.
If you want a lot of broad options, and lean more towards an expansive taste in modern urban fantasy, this will likely be a better purchase for you than if you are focused on the core experience of playing the children of the gods finding their place as they become more important and powerful.
Given the full range of other directions the line is going, with the Demigod rules out now, and Scion: Dragon on the way, this may not be the highest priority. On the other hand, if you want broader options and want to play in the more fantastical, but maybe less epic, parts of The World, you will probably not regret this product.