Saturday, February 3, 2018

How To Keep Up As A Gunslinger in Scion

White Wolf was best known for the World of Darkness, but one of the most popular titles outside that particular setting was Scion. The premise is that the titans have escaped from their prisons, and the Godwar has resumed. What's your part in this? Well, you are the children of the gods, and as they awaken the ichor in your veins, you need to step up to stop the titans from tearing the world down to its foundations, and burning away everything you've ever known in an apocalyptic inferno.

No pressure, though, no pressure. 
Scions are gifted with extraordinary powers, and they're capable of epic feats. They can lift loads of several tons, leap to the heavens, wrestle giants, and instantly heal from grievous wounds. These are the main tools in their fight against the titans and their spawn... but for players who like to mix the modern with the mythic, it can feel like there's a small hiccough when it comes to weapon choice.

The Scaling Problem of Guns in Scion

When you start off in Scion, guns are going to be your best friend. Pretty much every attack, except for grappling a foe, is your Dexterity plus your relevant skill (Brawl, Marksmanship, Thrown, or Melee). Then, if you successfully overcome the opponent's defense, you roll your damage. Your damage pool for a firearm is made up of the damage dealt by your weapon, and the number of threshold successes you achieved (one die for every success you beat the opponent's defense by), plus one. However, your damage with melee weapons, thrown weapons, or your fists is that, but you also add bonus damage dice to your pool equal to your Strength score (with additional successes from epic Strength factored in).

So, while it might take a little while to invest the necessary points to get both a high Dexterity to actually hit your target and a high Strength to deal a lot of damage, the guy throwing javelins, or the woman swinging the sword, is capable of doing a lot of harm once they hit their stride. Which leads some players who have invested in firearms wondering how they are going to keep up.

Don't panic... seriously, you've got this.

Piercing, Increased Damage, And Threshold Successes

The first thing to remember about guns is, well, they're guns. A firearm allows you to keep some healthy distance between you and an enemy, ensuring that unless they have eye lasers, or the ability to throw a semi-truck a few blocks (not uncommon in Scion), that you might be able to poke them in the eye without them poking back. This is particularly useful if you can turn yourself invisible, or if you want to shoot from behind cover while you and your fellow godlings are trying to take down a rampaging frost giant.

Tactical benefits aside, there are some good reasons to use guns. The first is that they all inherently have the piercing quality, which cuts the damage soak from armor in half unless it has the bulletproof quality. Guns all have a bonus to damage, ranging from +3 to +7 lethal, as well. This allows you to bypass all that bashing damage malarchy, and the traditionally higher damage soak that comes with bashing damage. To compare, no melee weapon offers a higher starting bonus than +5 lethal, even if the wielder could use their Strength to increase the damage.

And when we crunch the numbers...
Where you get money for value with firearms is in your threshold successes (the number that you beat your target's defense value on). Well, that, and because you can't parry bullets without some very specific abilities, which means the target has to use their dodge defensive value. So, in order to deal the biggest amount of damage with your gun, you need to make sure you hit your enemy's sweet spot every time.

The first thing you want to do is make sure you have the highest Dexterity, epic Dexterity, and Marksmanship scores possible (easy enough to do). As a starting character, it's possible to have 10 dice (5 Dexterity and 5 Marksmanship), plus one automatic success to throw around in that setup. Then you add in your weapon's accuracy rating, which for a gun will typically give you another +1 to +3 (though not all guns give you more accuracy to your attack). So, you could potentially be rolling 13 dice, with 1 automatic success from epic Dexterity. If you take the Aim action, that adds between +1 and +3 bonus dice to your attack, or a +2 to a +6 if you have the Trick Shot knack.

So, if you need to make that big shot on the rampaging titan, you could have a dice pool of 19 plus one automatic success with the right skill, attribute, knack, and weapon. Not too shabby. Then, if you want to add on to your pool, a relic firearm can have increased accuracy, which allows you to get even more bonuses to your shots. You could also spend a Willpower to add a number of bonus dice equal to an applicable virtue, which can bulk up your dice pool substantially.

However, if you're an unlucky player, even an attack pool of 20 with a free automatic success might not net you more than 7 or 8 successes. Which is enough to hit an enemy, but not really enough to get you a lot of threshold successes (assuming you're fighting titanspawn who are slightly tougher than a beefy scion). That's why you need to take advantage of defensive value penalties on your target.

The More You Do, The Lower Your Defense

Your defensive values are your dodge, and your parry. However, those values will change depending on the circumstances you're fighting in.

As a good example, if your target is unaware that combat has been joined (or simply can't see you, in many cases), then they can't apply their defensive values against your attack. That means if you quick draw your widowmaker, or squeeze that trigger from 200 yards out, the target won't be able to apply their defensive values against that attack without some kind of power that lets them. In that case, you only need one success to hit them, which means those 7 or 8 successes now nets you 6 or 7 bonus damage dice on your shot.

However, even if your target is aware of you and on the defensive, you can still take advantage of timing and environment to hit them when they're vulnerable. If a target does pretty much anything (like attack, or cast a spell, etc.) that action will give them a defensive penalty. Not only that, but if the target is getting attacked, then they'll be subject to an onslaught penalty as well (receiving a number of attacks equal to Legend rating + 1 before their next action) which reduces their defense by -1. If the target is wearing bulky armor, that reduces their dodge and mobility. If there is poor footing, they're slogging through mud, or some other environmental negative, then their defense goes down even further. This is a great reason to take the Aim action, and wait for your friends to smack the bad guy around. After all, you can interrupt your Aim at any time to take your shot.

One And Done

Godlings are tough, and titans are tougher, but it's important to remember that if you can get past their defensive values, and punch through their soak, they don't have all that many health levels. A scion has 7 health levels, and if you fill all those levels up with bashing, their lights go out, and they're down for the count. You fill it up with lethal, and unless they get some medical attention in a big hurry, they're dead. While titans might have more health levels, or just be harder to hurt because of increased soak, doing even a few lethal damage is not nothing. You put two or three of those "small" holes into them, and they aren't long for this world.

That's all for this week's Crunch topic. Figured folks could use a break from Pathfinder, and for those who want to give Scion a try, it's time to lock and load. For more content from yours truly, check out my Vocal archive, and head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio to take a listen to skits, world building, and advice videos that several talented gamers as well as myself make. If you want to stay on top of all my releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. To help support Improved Initiative so I can keep bringing content right to you, consider dropping some change over at The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. It really helps, and as little as $1 a month gets you some sweet gaming swag as a thank you.

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