Tag Archives: rpg reviews

Scion and StoryPath

I don’t know if this is intentional but the more I read about Scion, and watch actual plays on Youtube the more I am seeing this as the Percy Jackson role playing game.

I absolutely loved the Percy Jackson books, even if they were written for teenagers. Reading those books is a lot like remembering your very first forays into D&D, in my case the basic set. The films on the  other hand appear to have been made by someone who hadn’t read the books. The first film was one of the few films I have gone to and I actually felt like I wanted my money back.

So Scion and Percy Jackson share the same basic idea. Your character is the offspring of a god but doesn’t know it. They have gone through their life quite happily, probably, until now and then weird stuff starts to happen all around them.

Scion 2nd edition comes as two books, conveniently called Book One and Book Two, to save confusion and the pair will set you back $35 or so ($29.99 if you buy the bundle of both books).

The biggest change between first and second edition seems to be the adoption of the newer Storypath system from the older Storyteller system. The intention being that storypath is better able to cope with the most powerful of entities better than the previous rules.

I never played Storyteller so I don’t know if this was much of a problem or not. It looks like all the new Onyx Path games will be converted from Storyteller to Storypath. 

So what is it like?

I am developing an liking for ‘dice pool and count the successes’ based systems so I was already onboard before I even started. I also had a soft spot for Percy Jackson so I knew the sort of thing I wanted to experience.

I have not played this game a lot, I have only had the rules for 10 days or so. This is not an authoritative review. The game is hugely fun to play but I found it demanded a lot when running the session. That could be down to me and my lack of experience of the game. Even the more experienced GM I got to play with started to jump back in time within the scene to clear up confusion or occasionally to change facts. I like rules light games and Scion while not really rules light it is certainly no more than rules medium, it that is a thing. With less rules it often puts more emphasis on the GM to paper over the cracks. That is accepted game play. In scion you are asking, or asked, what do you want to do and how are you going to do it. What skill and what attribute are you going to apply. At times I got the impression that the more experienced players were min/maxing on the fly. They has a kind of stock answer to how they could apply their strongest skill and strongest attribute to just about every situation. The players that could leverage their best abilities had bigger dice pools to play with and got more successes.

If everyone is doing this then it really doesn’t matter, if four successes is the norm then the GM can set the target number of successes accordingly. If only one or two are adept as min/maxing like this then it becomes harder as to challenge most of the group is to allow the others to simply walk all over the challenges.

Is this a Good Game?

I would say yes. I enjoyed it and it was quick to pick up and learn. The caveat is that you need good players who are driven by a desire to explore a great story. I suppose your typical power gamer is not likely to be drawn to the storypath system unless it is the only game in town.

Is reading enough to review?

Michael recently republished his post on review writing. I have come to review writing rather recently, particularly compared to the experienced hands of Michael and Sunglar.

I thought I would share a few thoughts.

Stars Without Number is a game that I know has had very good reviews. I haven’t played it and I haven’t read it. I am not about to review it.

So traditional thinking falls into two camps. Either you read the rules and then try and convey the feel of those rules, probably by comparing it to other popular games and also comment on the quality of the material and art in the final package.

The other camp has you play the game and then describe how the game played.

Part of the problem with the former approach is that a game may look like an ugly duckling but turn out to be a swan or its production values may be terrible but at the table a great game comes out. I am part of an facebook group of RPG writers and many refuse to use page layout tools or art as these increase costs and slow down production times. There is little or no money in RPGs now for indie developers. If GMs expect games to me almost free then you will get what you pay for.

The later approach or actually playing a game is fraught with difficulty. My all time favourite game is Rolemaster and although it is a dangerous combat sort of game combat is the real problem with the system, in my opinion. The game system breaks down when PCs get to about 20th level. Many fantasy games have the stereotype of magic users are really weak at first level but become really powerful at high level. Rolemaster has this model but the ‘really powerful’ end turns out to be ‘really, really powerful so that the GM cannot easily challenge you any more.” So given that ‘design flaw’ can you ever expect a reviewer to  play a game so that his players reach 20th level before he has sufficient material to write an informed review? I think that is a little excessive?

Going back to Star Without Number there was an interesting solution to this balancing act on the TakeOnRules blog (https://takeonrules.com/2018/07/07/lets-read-stars-without-number/) So rather than reading the rulebook and posting a 1000 word review Jeremy Friesen has done a chapter by chapter dissection of the rules. So far he has published eight posts, each dealing with a chapter of the rules. We are looking at something like 8000 words published so far with plenty of examples of how the mechanics work. If the game isn’t for you then you would realise that after a post or two. If it sounds fascinating then you can keep on reading if you haven’t grabbed your own copy already.

I think this works. The game lost me when it was described as build from a foundation of Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons. I have that up decades ago and do not feel the urge to go back there.

Since I have been looking at a wider range of games I have invested hundreds of hours just reading games. Most have never formed the basis of a review. I think it is a case of “If you cannot think of anything good to say then say nothing at all.” Many game have some really merit even if they are not for me. I suspect that SWN is one of those games.

Some games I have read cried out to be played but my players do not feel the same. These I tend to resort to solo rules for. This is a far from perfect solution from a reviewing perspective but at least I can honestly say I have played the game. Reading The Princess Bride left me feeling vaguely dirty and needing a shower. Playing it to test its mechanics revealed its implementation of FUDGE to be very well done. What turned me off was the setting not the game rules. Once I separated these the nature of the game was completely changed. If you like the background to The Princess Bride then the setting would not have turned you off.

So whereas I agree with Michael that there is no perfect way to review a game and reading the rules is not the same as playing and sometimes reading is the only option I would contest that actually there can be other, quite creative, solutions to the whole RPG game reviewing problem.