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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] I'm a clueless newbie with broad questions  (Read 7121 times)
redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« on: April 25, 2004, 10:00:03 AM »

Hi there.
I'm a clueless newbie.  Since I don't see a forum labelled "clueless newbies post here"
I'll discuss my cluelessness about the char-gen process in what seems to be the most appropriate forum.

I have a major problem specific to Sorcerer:  the Humanity rating.

If the primary motivation of gamers is "Kill things and take their stuff," how can the Humanity rating be adapted to a gaming group that expects intense violence and low empathy from players?

If you were to ask me what I would do once I had power, I would probably say, "I'd do horrific things X, Y, and Z, which would cause great pain, chaos, and social disruption.  Maybe it would improve the world and maybe not, but there would definitely be a long period of horrifying behavior."

And the premise of Sorcerer is, "How far out of your comfort zone would you go for power?"

Well, I and my characters might go pretty far.  But there wouldn't be much point if we couldn't stay in power once we got there.

When I'm playing common games like D&D, my character usually has a pragmaticallly brutal attitude toward actions that many characters find morally repugnant.  Sometimes the party backs me up and sometimes they don't.

Example 1:
My character destroys a group of orc women and children in order to deny bases to the enemy.  Most of the party thinks I'm entirelly justified but the D.M. thinks I'm a war criminal.

Example 2:
My character uses non-humane means to restrain, interrogate, and execute orc prisoners.  The party doesn't stop me, but one of them claims I have Evil alignment.

Example 3:
My character regards an entire class of persons in his own community as "targets of opportunity," to be killed whenever it is convenient.  The character may rationalize this, but many parties will regard any violence within the community as treason (whereas violence to orcs outside city walls is profitable freebooting).

Initially, one can say, "Well, Sorcerer only works if violence is rare and shocking," but obviously other folks posting on this forum use movies like "Last Man Standing" to inspire stuff, so some people can make violent games work.

Then one can say (reading from "The Sorcerer's Soul," p.18) that humanity tracks stability of personality, not morality of actions.

Well, okay.  

I can dream up campaigns where Humanity rarely, if ever is challenged.  I could say that my players won't face Humanity checks for sensible levels of violence.  (And I could say, "The U.S. armed forces use violence reasonably.  The party can be as violent as a U.S. military unit, except that the party has no civilian command superstructure and the whole world is its battlefield.")  That makes Sorcerer a trivial game.  You can make overpowered beginning characters who will play smart, never lose Humanity, and act like rampaging sociopaths, destroying all that gets in their way.  It would be a campaign with two My Lai massacres per evening -- minimum.

I can also dream up campaigns where Humanity is challenged for every dehumanizing act -- in which case the whole party will be down to Humanity 0 by the second session or sooner, and they won't enjoy the downward slide.   Real life is full of no-win situations (which is why situations like My Lai happen in real life).

Finally, I could urge the characters to adopt don't-rock-the-boat characters.  In a modern-day American setting, this would be characters who use Cloak and Teleport forms of travel to thwart law enforcement and commit victimless crimes in order to satisfy their Demons' desires.  So great ... the characters don't have to work for a living, but there's no drama in the game.  I'm not terribly good at telling stories about the subtle emotional tensions in (e.g.) a messy divorce.  If I were, I could write great Sorcerer scenarios about how emotional it is when a Sorcerer gets divorced and his Demon is out of control when he has to appear in family court.  If I could tell that kind of story, I could make Humanity work ... but I can't tell that kind of story.  It doesn't motivate me.

So I guess I just don't get it.

(The Humanity thing is just my biggest problem.  I really, really like Sorcerer and Sword, but I need to figure out the Humanity angle first.
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DannyK
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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2004, 11:21:10 AM »

As a slightly less new newbie, I have a couple thoughts:

1) Sorcerer, by design, asks "What would you do to get what you want?"  
If your default answer is "anything and everything, all the time", then it makes that question less interesting.  

2) Consider the Humanity definitions in Sorcerer and Sword.
Perhaps the definitions of Humanity used in that book would work better for you.  Even a brutal warrior can have a personal code of conduct.  I could easily imagine a definition of Humanity which took absolutely no account of one's behavior towards orcs, but rather focused on issues of personal honor, loyalty to the tribe, etc.  After all, in real world societies, groups have frequently had codes of conduct allowing them to murder and torture their neighbors, while still remaining solid citizens.  

3) On a similar note, you can always draw the line a little lower than where you stand.  Your character may be an outright sociopath, but at least he doesn't kill when there's no reason, and he takes no pleasure in it.  That's a rudimentary code right there.  Or, in some games, the character may be a sadistic killer but at least he's fighting against the Big Bad, so it's alright.

4) There are real reasons why the US military tries to adhere to some code of conduct besides flabby Christian slave morality.  There are real-world consequences for committing atrocities.  In the games you mentioned, how do you take it when other PC's or NPC's react to the awful things your guy does?  It's only logical that there will be in-game consequences for violations of the social contract.  If your character is hunting down and killing city dwellers, does he get in trouble with the authorities and other members of the despised class?  

5) I think your mention of the raw amount of violence is quite misleading; the context, meaning, and significance of the violence is much more important than the number of fictious civilians killed.  Also, the GM should be calling for Humanity rolls based on the definition of Humanity, which might include being unfaithful to one's spouse, ignoring an insult, or engaging in vigilantism.  

Danny
Edit: changed the wording in #2 slightly.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2004, 12:09:33 PM »

A quick addition on point #4:  Reactions by NPCs to atrocity need not be negative.  Sometimes a positive response from a group you despise says far more than violent opposition from authority.

There's nothing quite like getting an "attaboy" from the head of the local grave-robbers guild, and an invitation to their christmas formal, to give people a sense that their character may be edging toward something no longer defined as "heroic" :-)
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redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2004, 01:49:53 PM »

Quote from: DannyK


4) There are real reasons why the US military tries to adhere to some code of conduct besides flabby Christian slave morality.  There are real-world consequences for committing atrocities.  In the games you mentioned, how do you take it when other PC's or NPC's react to the awful things your guy does?  It's only logical that there will be in-game consequences for violations of the social contract.  If your character is hunting down and killing city dwellers, does he get in trouble with the authorities and other members of the despised class?  



All your points are good.  I'll just reply to 4.

There are usually in-game consequences for acting like an unemotional, professional killer.  They are usually manageable, especially if you've played various RPGs in a similar way.  I don't have much emotional reaction when the other players or ref think I'm  a freak.  It neither interests me nor concerns me.  If I had a nice, juicy emotional reaction, I might be able to squeeze some drama out of it.

The reactions of other PCs and NPCs can be managed.  I have a hard time making characters that don't have an internal code of conduct, whether I'm making PCs as a player or NPCs as a ref.  As a result, the other real-life humans instinctively realize that I play by rules, even if they are freaky rules, and they usually let me do the dirty work of the party.  In goofy parties where everyone else is saying, "My character gropes the barmaid!" I am usually the only player with my back to the wall, watching the door for combatants and trying to formulate a plan to accomplish the next task in the party's mission.

The problem is that my characters don't have the emotional depth required for Sorcerer.  Their codes of conduct are usually comprehensive enough to foresee all the problems the game can throw at them, and they're inevitably willing to die for their codes, so the ref can't threaten them into risky behavior with the threat of killing their characters.

My characters inevitably do what I think suits their code.  They don't transgress.  In Sorcerer terms, the PCs would get their starting demon, bind it, and possibly never take risks to grab a lot of power, never form attachments, etc.  

Also, my characters are rarely tempted by the bait of reward systems unless rewards can be held securely.  So I don't see a lot of appeal in grabbing for demons that might turn out to be hard to handle.

The funny thing is that there is clearly a lot of emotional resonance of some kind in the military history that inspires my gaming.  I get ideas for games by reading about Charles Whitman, Pol Pot, the Tet Offensive, Nguyen Ngoc Luan shooting the VC prisoner with his revolver and photographed just as the bullet hits... etc.  These images are emotional on some level, it's just not readily put into the character-driven terms that fiction and RPGs use.

Quite a few of my adventures challenge a party of non-serious beer-and-pretzel gamers to rise to the challenge of bitter warfare rather than self-serving freebooting and looting.  Often my moral conflicts are no-win situations.  They don't inspire much terror, just dread:  the players are standing amid hundreds of bodies and have to choose the lesser of two evils -- e.g. either risk demonic possession by the Hand of Vecna or allow its current possessee to destroy a village.  Neither one is good, but the sheer immensity of the horror makes it impersonal.

Sorcerer seems to require a lot of personal emotion in its horror.

I did look at the Humanity definition in Sword and Sorcerer.  Violence only prompts checks when applied to close associates and the like.   That's a big help, actually.

Oddly enough, the more I read these forums the more I get the sense that I haven't understood the rules at all despite multiple readings.  For example, Ron Edwards posted somewhere that Lore is used to boost all die rolls against demons...  I had totally missed that.  I thought Lore was of very limited usefulness, such as spotting telltales, but apparently one can roll Lore and add the successes to all of one's subsequent dealings with an encountered demon.  I had missed that in the books.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2004, 02:15:22 PM »

Red, you speak as if your characters are calling the shots, and you (the player) are just an innocent victim of their uninspired play-style.  If you don't like what they're doing, what stops you from having them do something else?
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redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2004, 06:12:19 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
Red, you speak as if your characters are calling the shots, and you (the player) are just an innocent victim of their uninspired play-style.  If you don't like what they're doing, what stops you from having them do something else?


Well, my characters aren't vivid enough to be anywhere close to real.  If I really felt that my characters were real personalities, I would either be teaching character acting at a drama school, or eating oatmeal in a straitjacket at a mental institution.  My characters are acceptable as characters for a action-adventure story, which is what most gaming sessions produce.  I think better role-players than myself can produce nuanced characters that could serve even in an emotional drama with no action.


I can  obviously forbid myself from following my typical stereotype, and play against habit.  I just don't have much success in such attempts.

When I'm in a game or running a game, I end up striking a balance between the atmosphere of the game, the energy of the other participants, and my own inspirations.  My grimly-efficient-killer roles are well adapted to the average role-playing game (D&D, Vampire, RoleMaster, Deadlands, etc.) and the average "casts" of fellow actors/gamers.

Part of it is recruiting creative people to make up a creative gaming group ... and that's just as hard as finding good actors to make a small film.  Another part is finding a premise for campaigns that doesn't encourage violence.  (Sorcerer in a modern setting doesn't encourage stereotypical violence;  Sword and Sorcerer does, but that's a separate issue.)  

The single most useful thing I could do would be stop trying to actively create, find refs who tend to discourage violent players, and try to explore emotive, non-violent role-playing as a player in those campaigns.  That would take time, as finding such a ref is not easy.  Even if I could find a game that encouraged nuanced, relatively non-violent play, it would take practice.

Let me add another thing:  The second most useful thing I could do is stop hopping between different gaming groups.  The longer I stick with any given group, the more nuanced and emotional my characters get.  Half the problem is that I am totally stereotyped until I've gamed with a group for several sessions, and I often don't put forth the commitment to stick with a group long enough.
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neelk
Member

Posts: 126


« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2004, 06:59:34 PM »

Quote from: redwalker

The problem is that my characters don't have the emotional depth required for Sorcerer.  Their codes of conduct are usually comprehensive enough to foresee all the problems the game can throw at them, and they're inevitably willing to die for their codes, so the ref can't threaten them into risky behavior with the threat of killing their characters. My characters inevitably do what I think suits their code.  They don't transgress.  In Sorcerer terms, the PCs would get their starting demon, bind it, and possibly never take risks to grab a lot of power, never form attachments, etc.  


Actually, that's okay, and can be a strong part of a very good game, if your PC's code is properly tangled up with the definition of Humanity.  

To be concrete, suppose that the game is a chambara samurai fantasy game, and that sorcerers are the supremely badass samurai and ninja serving the daimyos trying to become shogun. A sorcerer is the warrior who can kill twenty men even when he is ambushed, naked and in bed simply because his zanshin warrior awareness is so great that he is ready for battle even when he sleeps. In this setting full of blood, honor and violence, Humanity gets defined as its opposite: freedom, spontaneity and joy. Humanity 0 is means you meet the warrior's end: death. When you hit zero, the player gets to set up the death-scene which may possibly make his death meaningful -- but his death will come, meaningful or not.  

So if you make a character with a bushido code you know he won't break, then you know what's in store for him, how his story will end. But that's okay -- the thematic structure of the game is improved when the different characters make different choices, and come to different ends. Having someone walk all the way down to the end of the warrior path makes a good contrast to the other choices.
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Neel Krishnaswami
Trevis Martin
Member

Posts: 499


« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2004, 07:25:26 PM »

Hi Red,

I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again: Sorcerer, in my experience, has 0 fat on it.  Almost everything in that book has Implications which are not spelled out.  Those implicatioins are explicitly intended.  Ron has mentioned that at the time he was writing for a very specific auidience highly experienced in a specific type and history of play.  So he didn't always make an effort to spell out all the implications of the rules.  I suggest you reread them again (I do it all the time) and recognize that from the point something is mentioned it is assumed to be applicable to everything that follows even if it isn't explicitly referenced ever again.  Esp cosider the implications of chapter 1 for the rest of the game.

On the humanity issue I'm struggling with how to express this to you.  Sorcerer is a game about significant choices and consequences of those acchoices.  Humanity, whatever it represents, is the issue that your group has agreed to address through their characters.  Its definition changes the general question of Sorcerery from the general 'what would you do to get what you want' to the specific 'Is the loss of X (where x is your definition of humanity) worth the Y (where y is what the character wants and is dealing with demons to get)  you get in exchange?'  Humanity can be anything appropriate.  If self-mastery, then the question becomes Is what you want worth the loss of control over yourself?  The characters answer that everytime they choose a decision that gives them more power.  The key question that has to be answered for players at the outset is 'what do you want.'

The most important thing is humanity is group agreed upon.  And by agreeing on it, the group is agreeing to address the premise it represents through their characters.   Consider that the fundamental acts of the game: contacting, summoning and binding demons all automatically risk humanity loss (and since pacting is a subset of binding, I have to assume it does to, though I can't find it specifically.)    Sorcerer doesn't use humanity to pose a moral standard that is enforced throughout play, instead humanity is simply something that acts as a value against which the characters wants are weighed during the game.    A character who continually makes choices that cause them to loose humanity aren't necessarily bad, the player is saying that whatever it is the character wants IS indeed worth the loss of whatever humanity represents.

Also, frequency of humanity checks is no garuntee of deterioration.  I've had characters that have survived many humanity checks in a row with no loss.  The point was though, that whatever my character did to get a check was a statement about humanity, and that the decisions connected to it contained real risk and is marked and stands out in the game because of it.

How and why the party faces humanity checks is their decision.  It is the fundamental authoring act in Sorcerer.  The first part of that is customizing and or agreeing to the humanity definition, the second part is when they choose to have their characters do stuff that earns them a check.

Your job as GM is to pose situations that cause the question to be put to them.


Hmmm...I find I'm sounding a bit obscure.  I hope it helps though.

regards,

Trevis
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redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2004, 07:46:40 PM »

Quote from: neelk


So if you make a character with a bushido code you know he won't break, then you know what's in store for him, how his story will end. But that's okay -- the thematic structure of the game is improved when the different characters make different choices, and come to different ends. Having someone walk all the way down to the end of the warrior path makes a good contrast to the other choices.


I really like that.  

In particular, I like the sort of Zen overtones of samurai "cherry-blossom" life -- a short and beautiful life.

It would be particularly delightful if there were other ways of Zen -- but that raises a problem.  A samurai on the road of choosing death would be allowed to kill, but if he ever gave up being a samurai, he would have different duties.  (Consider the many historical samurai who became physicians.)

If I get to run a game of Sorcerer (and I suspect I should find a more stable group before trying) I think I would use that -- not medieval Japan, necessarily, but possibly a modern version -- Dirty Harry Callahan or the yakuza thugs from a Fukasaku movie.

Another twist that I would like to see would be characters who start out with a strong sense of morality who somehow decide that they want to change their code after they've seen how the game progresses.

If you're familiar with Dark Ages Vampire, you'll remember that vampires can have different "Roads."  A vampire who follows one "Road" has one set of standards for conduct, but a party-member on a different road gets judged differently.

It would be really cool if I could start out some players as samurai who are looking for glorious life and honorable death -- but then surprise them and shock them into some kind of epiphany, so that one player decides to become a master of tea ceremony, another decides to try to become a masterful flower arranger, et cetera.  All of them are still looking for some kind of Zen perfection.  

I guess the universal dynamic should be that if your Humanity reaches 0, you are no longer able to do whatever makes your life meaningful, and the character is no longer a playable NPC.  For a samurai, this means getting inevitably killed.  For a calligrapher, if might mean losing your eyesight and hands so that you can't write anything.  In any event, the player would roll up a new character.
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redwalker
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2004, 09:23:15 PM »

Quote from: DannyK

5) I think your mention of the raw amount of violence is quite misleading; the context, meaning, and significance of the violence is much more important than the number of fictious civilians killed.  Also, the GM should be calling for Humanity rolls based on the definition of Humanity, which might include being unfaithful to one's spouse, ignoring an insult, or engaging in vigilantism.  



I've been looking at the thread on creating the same character over and over.

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=1095&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=15

and there are some definite applicable points from that thread.

So, I tend to make stone-cold killers partially to resolve some personal issues, but also partially for pragmatic reasons.

In the absence of a long-running campaign, I feel the need to get lots of action into the game quickly, because there may never be a second session for that campaign.

And while my characters are very self-sufficient in that they systematically distance themselves from dependent children or lovers which could be used as hostages against them, they are *very* loyal to something -- Church, principles, vow of specific revenge, etc.  A friend of mine cast me as a Batman-style vigilante "knight" and it worked.  It's not that I object to being a paladin, I just object to D&D's take on the paladin.  Being a highly principled, largely self-reliant man dedicated to a life of violence for the sake of principle/honor/duty is the core of the stereotype.

Now, in the context of gritty settings, the self-reliant killer is often an outlaw, a yakuza, or some other glamorous rebel -- but I always play my outcasts as if I wanted some audience to feel, deep down, that the outcast is a good guy.

The tricky thing is that just one definition of Humanity for every character won't work in most groups because I can't find play-groups that can agree on a single code of ethics for characters -- they want to be able to have a range of "alignments" to make character differentiation easier.  The Dark Ages Vampire system of "Roads" is a possible patch for this problem.

And of course, one of Ron Edwards' comments elsewhere is applicable to my original whining.  My original whining was, "I don't get Humanity."  Edwards' comment to a different thread was along the lines of, "What persons or institutions will your character inconvenience himself for?"  If I want to make a good Sorcerer character, I have to find a way to reconcile my desire for self-sufficiency with a capacity for vulnerability, for choosing to have attachment to something vulnerable that will cause the player to sacrifice his priorities.
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Trevis Martin
Member

Posts: 499


« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2004, 09:54:19 PM »

Red,

Humanity in sorcerer isn't a 'code of ethics.'  It never limits or defines what actions any character in Sorcerer is capable of taking.  Ron has stated elsewhere that a character is capable of any type of action at any time.  Humanity is a metagame indicator of how close your character is to the 'edge' however you've defined it.  Its also binary.  either you have humanity or you don't.  If you don't then by default you no longer have your PC either.  The main purpose of the scale is to see how close you are to falling off that edge.  And how much risk your character is taking when making a particular decision.  

So, because humanity doesn't limit behavior, a definition of it can exist for entire groups.  Its what keeps a group making a commentary and thus a unified 'story' about the same idea, which is what I was trying to explain above.

-Trevis
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John Burdick
Member

Posts: 105


« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2004, 09:58:41 PM »

Hello, I've read Sorcerer and Sorcerer's Soul but not played it.

Quote from: redwalker

...  If I want to make a good Sorcerer character, I have to find a way to reconcile my desire for self-sufficiency with a capacity for vulnerability, for choosing to have attachment to something vulnerable that will cause the player to sacrifice his priorities.


I think that's a good definition of Humanity for some sort of game. The Kurosawa movie Sanjuro comes to mind.

John
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b_bankhead
Member

Posts: 259


« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2004, 11:26:12 PM »

Hey ,  if mass machiavellian slaughter appeals to you try the Charnel Gods supplement for Sorcerer, It allows you to destroy the entire world! You might check out the review I did of the game here:

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/9/9289.phtml
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Sean
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« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2004, 02:07:48 AM »

Two quick things:

1) You would definitely enjoy Charnel Gods, even if you never use the Sorcerer material for anything other than cannibalizing for other games. Your posts indicate it's right up your alley stylistically. The note in it about characters who go straight for an endgame also speaks to the problem you're discussing.

2) I think that you have to 'care' about your humanity in some sense to play Sorcerer. In a dungeon crawl RPG conflict is essentially along one axis: keep your body alive. Challenges are really all physical challenges, even if they're called things like 'soul drain' or whatever. Mental challenges and traps are there to see if you're smart enough to think your way out of the consequences - which will always ultimately be a really smashing physical assault. D&D 3.0 breaks that down into nine bazillion different damage types to try to keep things interesting - I think Arduin was the first game that really broke out damage types so broadly, but never mind the history.

On the other hand, in Call of Cthulhu you can also go insane, and that invovles a different set of mechanics. Likewise, in Sorcerer, you can lose your Humanity. So you kind of need (mechanically speaking) to 'care' about the ethical standing of your character, just like you need to care about what's happening to your character's body. In fact, you may need to care more about your character's ethical standing, insofar as Sorcerer combat never reduces you below 'dying' and the GM has to make a choice to turn that into 'death'; but hitting Humanity 0 almost always has a specific, well-defined meaning that isn't good.

Furthermore, a Sorcerer GM is effectively involved in challenging your characters ethically with situations that involve hard choices, and making moral judgments about the characters by calling for Humanity checks.
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2004, 11:29:17 AM »

Hello,

I'll throw my thoughts in on this.

1) It's entirely possible that Sorcerer just isn't the game for you.  Nothing wrong with that.  But obviously it's caught your interest.

2) You might want to check out The Riddle of Steel.  Ron has often said that Sorcerer and The Riddle of Steel are two different solutions to the same set of design problems.  When you compare the two and can see that yes indeed they are two different versions of the same kind-of game most of your stated problems go away.

3) A lot of people have the impression that Sorcerer is some kind of deep psycho-drama designed to produce supernatural versions of Steel Magnolias.  That's someting that I think characterizes more recent play but Ron has said that his earliest play testing of Sorcerer was inspired by stuff like the Mortal Kombat movie and Sorcerer and Sword's primary reference is Conan!  Sorcerer really is a game all about Sex and Violence, really it is.

So let me show you how Humanity works in a violent/adventurous setting by doing something that Ron really hates, mapping Humanity to a pre-existing story.  But please bear in mind that I'm doing this for illustration purposes only with A LOT of assumptions.  I'm assuming first of all that the game plays out exactly as this story goes, it is a guide for how Humanity would be handled in a game that went like this, NOT as an example how to prepare or otherwise plan for MAKING a game that goes like this.

So, I've been reading Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories.  One of my favorites has been Jewels in the Forest.  The setup is that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are off to find this ancient sorcerer's house that supposedly contains a fortune in treasure.

They arrive late and are supprised to find a small peasent family living nearby.  They decide to pay the peasents for room and board.  But in addition they proceed to entertain the peasents with stories and magic tricks.  (Humanity Gain checks for both characters).

As they set off the next morning the youngest child of the peasent family begs them not to go as she believes the place they are going is protected by an evil giant.  They dismiss her warning as fanciful childhood fear.  (No check or gain either way.  They don't really devalue her genuine concern, they just don't believe the source of her concern is real.  This is highly personal decision on my part and may very well be a Check in the eys of some GMs.)

Upon arriving at the house they discover that their primary rival for the treasure and six of his guards have arrived first.  They end up in a long extended battle with the guards and end up killing all six of them.  (No check or gain, either way.  I'll explain why in a minute).

Inside the house they find their rival cowering in a room claiming that "it" is toying with him.  In a blind panic the rival attacks Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and they kill him.  (Humainty Check for both characters.  Why?  It is established earlier in the story that this character is a direct rival of the two characters.  The kind of rival that also carries a kind of mutual respect.  This killing was personal unlike the six guards outside.  From Fafhrd and Grey Mouser's reactions in the story one gets the impression that it's kind of a tragety that it had to end like this.  Here I'm working directly off the Humanity discussion in Sorcerer and Sword.)

Next a Sorcerer shows up and claims that he has arrived to banish the evil that lies within the house.  He walks into a room and is instantly crushed to death by something Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser don't (and can't see).

Finally, the two locate the treasure and Fafhrd busies himself removing the wall stone that covers it.  During the process the Grey Mouser looks out a window and sees the young peasent girl fearfully approaching the house.  Motivated by his growing sense of unease the Mouser dashes out of the building in attempt to get the girl away from house (Humanity Gain for the Mouser alone).

The story ends with Fafhrd discovering that the large jewel behind the wall stone is infact the "brain" of the house (in Sorcerer terms an Object Demon with Warp and Special Leathal Damage, maybe Big and Armor).  The walls begin to animate and try to kill Fafhrd as he tries to flee.  He ends up breaking the jewel in the process effectively killing the house.  End of story.

See?  No deep psycho-drama.  Just a simple action-adventure story about two guys going to get some jewels in a house.

Does that help?

Jesse
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