Krendel Characters: The Scion

This week’s character type is the Scion. Where the Guardsman is the professional soldier, the Scion is the professional politician. The most notable Scions are the leaders and administrators of Ravishan’s houses, but anywhere there’s so much as a village to run, a Scion could exist, be it a mayor or a courtier. Here’s the basic stats: 


Background: Courtier
Elective Traits: Attractive (Enticing), Charismatic (Eloquent)
Skills: Academics (Civics) 2, Acrobatics (Tumbling) 1, Influence (Charming, Manipulative) 2, Intuition (Reading People) 2, Melee (Balanced) 1, Performance (Acting) 2
Powers: Canny Recovery, Captivate, Empathy, Fascinate, Fortitude
Equipment: Light Blade, Personal Blade, Nice Clothes, Heavy Purse

Traits are based entirely on social interaction. Charismatic gives a second expertise for Influence, but attractive doesn't give an expertise. It gives automatic minor favor (a rename of positive leverage) in social situations, which basically means a +1 with a chance to combine with other sources to get to a +2. Attractive is also something of a Ravishan centric trait because of the inordinate value placed on appearance in that nation. Someone looking to customize a Scion could easily swap another trait in its place.

Academics has received a major facelift and now only has three expertises. The Civics focus is all about law and politics. It is intended to combine well with social characters.

Acrobatics (Tumbling) gives the Scion the barest of combat defenses to dodge an assassin’s arrow; however, it is easily switchable with Craft (Weaving) or similar based on the character’s history. You could also do with Artistry (Legerdemain) to put a bit of a spy spin on the character.

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Influence is talking, which is most of what the Scion does. He comes packaged with the ability to be nice or devious (Manipulative replaces the old Submissive) instead of intimidating. This is the foundation for about half of his actions.

Intuition (Reading People) is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than paying attention to the environment, which he can still do at half his skill level, the Scion pays attention to people, gauging their mood and trying to pick out if they’re lying. This is the other main skill he’ll be flexing.

Melee (Balanced) is simple self defense. As this character would likely be mixed in with combatants, its good if he can contribute a little bit. Just remember, the Scion is a middling swordsman and the battlefield is littered with the corpses of middling swordsmen.

Performance is something you see from those with leisure time and professionals. Acting was chosen since disguises run off it, but you could easily change it to Dancing, Singing, or Instruments as you see fit.

The Scion’s powers are less self explanatory, and social abilities in general have seen a major face lift. The changes are most noticeable at the higher tiers.

Canny Recovery lets the Scion get away with protocol errors. He can recover from insults, negating or diminishing their penalty. He can also remove the penalty from using blackmail and other forms of leverage (formerly negative leverage). 

Captivate leverages any Performance expertise, augmenting either an Influence action or a Performance action. The Scion keeps his target’s attention on him. This can give him minor favor after a performance, but it also allows him or someone else to surprise the target. So he could engage her in conversation that is so captivating that she fails to notice his compatriot attempting to steal her purse or the knife he slips between her ribs.

Empathy augments a series of other actions: read person, socialize, teach, and treat condition. What it does varies by action. As the Scion is most likely to use it, with read person he can learn his target’s temptation if he first learns her motivation and with socialize he can independently adjust the attitudes of two different targets, making them harder or easier to convince of things.

With Fascinate the Scion can impress his target with small talk about her culture, local politics, or appropriate news items, giving him minor favor. 

As with the Guardsman, Fortitude gives extra Health. Everyone in a High Campaign starts with it or Determined. Here, I just flipped a coin to see which one the character got since he has neither Athletics or Reflection.

The Scion’s battle cry is “not in the face!”, which is to say, combat is not his thing. Sure, he can lend a hand, but he’s really all about talking.

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You can probably get a sense for how to use a Scion just by his powers. Your goal in conversations is to stack as much favor or leverage as you can. The bonuses don’t stack directly. Attractive, Fascinate, playing to someone’s Temptation (learned through Empathy), a Captivating performance, and friendly attitude, lending a hand, and that bag of silver all grant minor favor, which is a +1. Blackmail or implied threats can give minor leverage, which is also a +1; though, they have negative repercussions if you don’t use Canny Recovery.  However, these don’t stack up to be a +7. It takes five minors to equal one major, which is a +2. Of course, some targets might not care about a pretty face or are harder to impress. Hence you usually want to maneuver as much as you can before going into a conversation with your primary target before you make that roll.

I mentioned several potential modifiers in there, but how do you get them? Some of them are already explained traits or powers. Some are items or information. In the real world, if you want something you don't always just go up and ask: You study your target first, and/or you work your way up to asking. Same thing here. The Gather Information and Read Person actions can net you things like your target's interests so you know what gifts to give, what topics to avoid, what her mood is and the cause of it, what her motivation is, and more. You can also Socialize for a while, hopefully moving your target's attitude a direction you want. Armed with this prep work, you then try to sell you target on what you want.

The test for convince has been turned about as well. As published, the GM first determines the difficulty, which is a penalty to your roll, and then you test. It’s all or nothing with some general rules for Using Failures. That page long chart for determining difficulty was also a bit of a mess. I didn't like this approach then, but I stuck with it because applying difficulty made it consistent with everything else. I still don’t like it, and I’m saying screw it. 

Now, your target simply starts at some level of agreement. These are easily thought of as “yes, double and”, “yes, and”, “yes”, “yes, but”, “no, but”, “no”, “no, and”, and “no, double and” (I’m still debating on a “shrug” right in the middle). With one success you shift your target’s agreement one step, and every two additional successes moves it one more. With Using Failures, you can suffer one cost for two more successes. Example: your target starts at “no” (she won’t help you). You roll three successes, moving her two steps. Now she’s at “yes, but” (she will help you if you do something for her first). Difficulty can still play into things, but that's codified in incentives: attitude, favor, leverage, and insults.

Where the Scion’s abilities don’t automatically shift his target’s agreement, they give him the potential for greater gains and increase his ability to not totally screw the pooch.

Outside of just talking, the Scion is also great for setting up a target. Captivate distracts a target, making sure she has to test to resist surprise, which is penalized by the Scion’s Performance instead of Stealth. As mentioned above, this can help a friendly thief filch something or stab her in the back.

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I also need to mention that karma can be exceedingly important for a Scion. Where a warrior gets multiple swings to whittle down a foe, you usually only get one real shot at convincing someone of anything (you can try again with a new argument and a penalty). This means that karma’s ability to adjust target numbers and grant additional successes can have a greater individual impact. In turn, this means that the character probably will be indulging his drives more often than others to build his karma reserves. It also means he may want to start with the Mental Disorder trait, since indulging insanity can also reward karma. Mentally unstable nobility? Never!

Advancement with a Scion plays to her strengths. Her main focuses will be Academics (Civics), Influence, and Intuition (Reading People) all of which lead to social core powers.

For powers, the Scion's immediate goals include Deprecation (burden someone you talk to with a temporary mental disorder), Fakery (even if you fail your action, you still look good doing it; people will over or underestimate your ability), Impersonation (better general disguise or disguise yourself as a specific person), Karma Slave (gain karma quicker), Mockery (temporarily give a target the Failure reputation after they screw up), and Oration (earshot range powers, typically talking or performing, affect more targets). You should also consider additional Languages and Literacy. 

Both Fakery and Impersonation run off Performance (Acting), so if you went with another expertise there, you’d skip those powers. If you still wanted to leverage your Performance, then you could consider Command Performance (increases targets and successes of the perform action) and Memorable Performance (successful performance gives you the Star reputation, while a failed one gives you the Wanna Be reputation). I should probably also mention, that reputation can act as favor, leverage, or insult in conversations, so you can easily leverage your Scion’s ability to sing at a party with improved social rolls.

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The greater tier is where things get truly interesting. You’ll want to pick up Body Language (enhances lots of actions, similar to Empathy), Connections (form temporary contact for things like cutters, dealers, fences, smugglers, and more), First Impressions (automatically improve a target’s attitude towards you), Flourish (if your action succeeds, then two targets of your choice get a +1 when trying the same thing), Gossip (target will later attempt to convince others of what you just convinced them of and you can create a reputation of your choice in a local area), Networking (enhance the Gather Information power or invert it to get power players to invite you to meet with them), Public Mask (hide your drives from others), Silver Tongue (re-roll Influence tests), Sway (if you successfully convinced one person of a group your were trying to convince, then she retroactively grants you two more successes over the others as she works to convince them on your behalf), and Watcher (re-roll Intuition tests). That’s a lot of powers. Actually, that’s 9 of the 15 greater social powers. Just as important is that’s a lot of powers that increase your options for approaching situations.  Connections may not fully fit, but its utility makes it an attractive purchase.

If you give more attention to your Performance skill, then you could consider Artistic Talent (re-roll Performance) and Jaded (reduce incentives and horror used against you).

If you opted for Artistry (Legerdemain) and work to develop it, there’s a few more options. Forgery (exactly what it sounds like) and Lip Reading (also exactly what it sounds like) can be useful tools.

On the lore  front, in Ravishan, most "nobility", meaning the members of the family at the core of a house, may be called Scions, but they are likely to have a very different build. They would likely have the Schooling trait and combine some social ability with either sorcery or soldiering. Outside of the minor houses, these characters are also unlikely to go on adventures as they are too valuable to the house to risk. So if you see someone labels as "Scion of House Derthin" or similar, know that, in addition to everything above, they will likely also be very good with a wand or sword.

As a final note, the Scion isn't great in every social situation. As mentioned, people have attitude, which can be a bonus or penalty. Social circles and prejudices are very real things. These will dictate people’s base attitude towards any given character. Most Scions are upper crust. Lower class folks won’t volunteer information to someone like that. In fact, they may be just as likely to rough him up as they are to feed him false information. This gives rogues and more lice ridden face men arenas where they can excel. Such characters would probably have a similar build to the Scion.