I am preparing to run a game of Scion, the new offering from White Wolf. The premise is about as 'up my street' as you could possibly get. The Elder Gods have left this plane, leaving behind their children (the titular Scions) in their wake. The Titans have escaped their Underworld prison and are now trying to invade the Overworld via their children the Titanspawn. All that stands between humanity and the decimation at the hands of these monsters are - The Scions! Magically enhanced beings who twist fate and perform legendary deeds. Sounds rather super doesn't it? Well, it is - it draws from everything that gets me hot under the collar - modern urban fantasy, mythic storytelling, mythology and pantheons in general, pseudo-superheroes and OTT action.
So whats the issue?
Well, and after that above paragraph, it seems silly to say this - it all seems a little ... dry? Basic? Ill-defined? When I look at the character generation, it seems rather one dimensional. You have a demigod. He or she has great power. They are the Scion of a Deity. They have skills and a human life. They are drawn by Fate into the battle. But??
In Scion I have seen where my gaming 'voyage' over these years has taken me. I don't want a game where cookie-cutter PCs come up against cookie-cutter plots with cookie-cutter villains and cookie-cutter monsters. I don't want a game where the players engage with a GM-generated plot to thwart a GM-generated nemesis. It just doesn't seem right anymore.
I want a game where vital and active characters come up against personal and dangerous plots with relevant bad guys and epic monsters. I want the players and the GM to engage with a plot that weaves them all together - forestory and backstory - against a common foe. I want the game to reflect the desires of the players rather than the ego of the GM. Rather than saying 'I will entertain you, this is how, enjoy!' I want to say 'How do we want to be entertained? Cool - right, we can all help make this happen, lets go!'
This is the design brief I have used when I have created Omniverse and MI:666 and I have realised that it is the design features that make games like Burning Empires (moreso than Burning Wheel imo), Spirit of the Century and Primetime Adventures seem so appealing to me.
It's also what makes the initial presentation of Scion look so damned bland. Which leaves me in a dilema - well, actually it doesn't. The dilema would be what to do as I like to play games 'out of the box' on first showing. However, that sort of thing is going to have to go by the wayside now as I am going to have to do some more extensive campaign 'creation' with the players to satisfy my need for a more modern approach to the games we play.
So, Scion - awesome idea, well executed but really, 1998 is calling and they would like their model of roleplay design back please!