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[Sorcerer] Write & Run Demons from the Hell-side of Town

Started by Judd, May 13, 2004, 05:00:05 AM

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The Above is the link to the setting I'm going to be putting the finishing touches on and running.  Character generation is next Monday and the game is next Thursday.

Out of Game Story

Forgive me if this bores the heck outta ya.  But this is how this game came to be.  I'll be doign more crunchy Sorcerer system stuff in my next post.

I've met a new group that I dig and we play 7th Sea every Thursday.  But the next two Thursdays are 7th Sea-less due to scheduling conflicts and so I took that opportunity to offer to run a one-shot.

Ithaca's a small gaming town and so the local Ars Magica GM caught wind of thinsg and after he and I talked gaming at a party last week, he's in the mix too.  This is cool, I've been meaning to make a connection with him and this is the perfect opportunity to complete my stranglehold over every gaming connection in the ENTIRE TOWN! *insert maniacal cackling*

I sent them an e-mail with 3 possiblities, all Sorcerer.  Between Heavenly Kung-fu, Birthright Sorcerer and Demons from the Hell-side of Town, they chose the latter.  I didn't mention that this was theone that interested me the least but that's cool.  Now I HAVE To develop it and its growing on me.

Here's what I want to prep.

1. Descriptors
2. Relationships Map
2a. might just take one from Sorcerer's Soul and save myself some hassle
3. One-Sheet with art, flavor text and the summoning chart
4. Bangs (to be written post character generation)
5. Play!

Next: Descriptors!



While writing and running The Dictionary of Mu's Bed the importance of Descriptors has become really evident.  In both games, due to interesting descriptors, a character went from a vague idea to a kick-ass high-gear concept due to a descriptor that just brought it all together for a player.  They can really tie the characters to the setting.

Like in the Big Lebowski, "That carpet really tied the room together, Dude."  Descriptors are the carpet.

I want this setting to be gritty.  I'm looking over my inspirational list and thinking about it, adding to the list as I go.

Influences: Miller's Crossing, The Soprano's, The Godfather, The Road to Perdition (comic book, haven't seen movie) and Streets of Fire, Heat, Sin City, The Usual Suspects

Referrencing my holy text for this kind of work, the Art Deco Melodrama Thread, I know I want a world with rich flavor but history isn't so important.

I want people just on the edge of two worlds, the legit city and the Hell-side of town.  The descriptors should say that.

Flavor?  Okay, flavor we can do.

Stamina Descriptors

Dishonorable Discharge- "In the Army?  See any action?"

Just Outta the Joint - "9th Circle Federal as tough as they say?"

Rough Drinker, Rough Life - "You can't treat his body like this forever, it can't hold up."

Police Academy Trained - "So, you's just a part of that gang from City Hall with the blue uniforms and the badge."

Foxy Dame - "You got a fire extinguisher to go with that dress?"

I'm not thrilled with the list, I'm afraid they are too much like covers.  For now I'll leave 'em and move on to others.

Will Descriptors

Mad Dog - "That guy's crazy, don't mess with him. He won't beatcha.  He'll burn down your house and murder your dog.  The other dogs and wolves in town, they just seem drawn to him, like the more he foams at the mouth, the more cred he's got."
Big Shot Ivy Leaguer - "Don't get haughty taughty on me with yer big-shot college degree.  It don't do you no good at that bar you hang around at."

Courting Death - "Ever since X happened, he's just been looking for a reason to get himself perished."

Too Dumb to Lie Down - "Some people are too dumb to know when to lie down and take a good beating.  Sometimes putting conflict to rest is the rightest thing a fella can do.  Fer heaven's sake, let this one go."

John Q. Citizen - "He tries so hard to be an upright, upstanding tax-payer that ya know something's up.  He's hiding something.  Still, he's squeaky clean on paper."

I'm fairly happy with the Will Descriptors.

Lore Descriptors

Gladiator Academy - "That's a fuckin' tough place to spend your formative years.  He got his education in the yard, meditated in a dank solitary cell and took beatings for extra credit."

Family Business - "You can't be brought up where he was brought up and not know what he knows.  He can call a hit like you or I could call a tailor.  Its in the blood.  You can't fight that."

Naive Enabler - "He don't know much about the Hell-side of things.  He just looks after the person he loves who went over, never admitting how deep he's into it."

Tarnished Badge - "Cops know what happens on the Hell-side and he learned about about the life from the other side of a badge.  The scumbags he can call forth outta the gutter with a phone call or a well-placed word are the same bastards he cuffed and beat just yesterday."

Mastermind - "I dont' know him and don't know nothin' you're talkin' about and won't say no more until I see my lawyer.  I talk to you here, sure I get immunity but my life expency shrinks to nothing out on the street.  There's a legion of killers, junkies and whores who would jump over their dying grandma to do his bidding."

The Lore desciptors seem to have brought it all together for me.  I don't like to write Covers if I don't have to.  Some players will feel like they HAVE to choose one and I'd rather they found their own niche.

I'm going to sleep on these and see how they look in the morning and if any of you have any feedback or comments that'll be swell.

Thanks for reading.

Andrew Norris

Hi, Judd --

I like the descriptors, and I think they're evocative of the setting. I agree with you that it's hard to pick apart whether some of the Stamina Descriptors could be covers as well. But some cross-over may very well be fine.

For instance, I could see "Just Out of the Joint" as a Cover, including things like handling being unemployed and knowing how to placate your parole officer. But that seems to describe different things from "Just out of the Joint" as a Stamina descriptor.

I think the important thing is that all the descriptors put an image in your head, and they do that well.


Here's a stab at rewriting the stamina descriptors to be more stamina evocative, rather than cover like.  Hope they're useful and that they don't loose too much of the flavor.

Army (or other service) P.T. replaces Dishonorable Discharge
Prison Weights Regimen replaces Just Outta the Joint
Rough Drinker, Rough Life seems fine as a Stamina descriptor.
Obstacle Course Monkey replaces Police Academy Trained
Anorexic replaces Foxy Dame

--Scott Martin
Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.


Hmm, I'd use "Pretty Boy/Pretty Girl" to replace Foxy Dame.  Physical beauty is important.  

I agree with the importance of separating out Cover and descriptors -- that way you can have Pretty Boy cops and so on.  

How about something like "Musclebound" for all the ex-prize fighters and professional wrestlers out there?  

I'd also vote for "Fat" or "Muscles under the fat" as a descriptor, thinking of "The Big Lebowski."  

And maybe one for the fast, skinny guys.  Something like "Snake-like" or "Quick as a Weasel".  

My other thought: this might be a good game to use dual Cover stats for, one for the legit job and one for the underworld side.  Alternatively, you could have Cover be the legit job or role, and Lore describe one's place in the underworld.  So you could have "Lawyer 4" as your Cover and "Bagman 2" as your Lore score.  

I would also suggest "Connected Guy" instead of "Family Business", as a reader of too many Mob books over the years.


Stamina Descriptors (additional)

Sweet Science - "Kid's got hands like hammers.  If the Hell-side of town hadn't gotten its hook in him, he might've been a contender."


Will Descriptor (Additional)

Workin’ Stiff “He does every-day errands for very bad people.  But it pays the rent.”

Wrote up a Relationship Map that is loosely based on Adam and Eve.  I think the underworld is going to have alot of Old Testament references and names.

Tonight we'll make up characters.  Rob, from my Dictionary of Mu game that I ran last night with he and Paula will be there, which is nice.  Having one player who understands the system and will aid in the explanation of Kickers will help quite a bit.

Next:  Player Characters and the Kickers who love them

Ron Edwards


I do think that keeping Cover, Will, and Stamina descriptors independent of one another is a very good idea.

Cover - think of this as a set of signs and behaviors that other people would use to identify the person as X.

Will - think of this as a preferred, specific, and uncompromising way that the person expresses himself or herself to influence others. He or she can do any number of things to influence others, but this is the way that has worked best in the past.

Stamina - think of this as just like Will, except exerting influence over physical motion and impact rather than over others' behavior.

Can they overlap? Sure. But not necessarily. "Martial artist" as a Stamina descriptor might have nothing to do with the signs, behaviors, and other things that tip people off to "high-paid advertising exec" as the character's Cover descriptor. Whereas "scrapper" for a Stamina descriptor and "martial arts instructor" as a Cover indicates a very different character.

As a related issue, sometimes I want to remind people that the Stamina and Will descriptors in Sorcerer are both physical and mental, or rather, that the game does not distinguish between body and mind in the same way that most RPGs do. If you roll all the character's Stamina dice, he is putting everything he has into that action, including the force of his intention. If you roll all of hisWill dice, he is using his physical presence to its utmost as well as tone of voice or whatever.

Anyway, back to the main topic of this post, which concerns Cover. Cover descriptors should be specific and also extremely culture-embedded: "soccer mom," "CEO of top radio station," "tenured philosophy professor," "FBI trainee." This is very different from the Will and Stamina descriptors, which should be fairly generalized - they express how the character deals with things, across a wide range of situations.

I'm making a big deal out of this, Judd, because it's a major concern for me in the current Mu MS as well.



So, are my Descriptors for this game broken badly and in need of re-tooling?

Any specific comments you can make would be appreciated.


Ron Edwards

Let's see ...

As you knew from the beginning, the problem with most of your Stamina Descriptors is that, in your effort to invoke Color, you're bringing in too much Cover and potentially too much Kicker. I think that Uncle Sam's Man replaces Dishonorable Discharge all right; that Just Outta the Joint is best as a Lore descriptor; Police Academy Trained is definitely a Cover. "Sweet science" and "Working stiff" seem much better as Cover descriptors. For one thing, as Covers, they each imply a whole host of NPCs and places that would go into the diagram on the back.
Rough Drinker Rough Life is just fine, and I like Foxy Dame. The suggested "Muscles under the Fat" and "Nervous weasel" seem about right to me.

So it seems to me that a few more Stamina descriptors are called for. See my guidelines above: stuff like "Granite Jaw" or "Whip-thin" seem along those lines. I also suggest being open to player suggestions, as long as everyone is aware that you-all are adding to a customized list in doing so, rather than playing any kind of "invent your own descriptor" game.

Will Descriptors: Mad Dog, Big Shot Ivy Leaguer, Courting Death (I'd rename this Walking Dead Man), Too Dumb to Lie Down, John Q. Citizen are all beautiful. I suggest Devil May Care and Do-Gooder as well.

Lore Descriptors: Family Business, Naive Enabler, Tarnished Badge (note that this Lore descriptor doesn't imply the character is currently a cop),  Mastermind - all awesome. I suggest replacing Gladiator Academy with Just Outta the Joint. Another one for this category might be Defrocked Scholar.

Damn it. Merely by composing this post, I just hit upon a character concept I wanna play now.



Quote from: Ron EdwardsDamn it. Merely by composing this post, I just hit upon a character concept I wanna play now.

Then I'm onto something.

Thanks for the reply.  Appreciated.


Only 1 of 3 gamers showed up to the character generation session due to complications and miscommunication.  

Matt, the local Ars Magica ST, and I sat down and made up his character.  He had e-mailed me that his concept was a midling mob boss' family drive whose Demon is the boss' mistress.

Joe Kelly

Telltale - Driver's cap

Stamina - 4 Rough drinks, Rough life
Will - 4 Too Dumb to Lie Down
Lore - Workin' Stiff

Cover - 4 Mob wheelman
Price - -1 Cynical

Kicker - Driving back from a late night party with the boss' oldest son and someone drives by the car while shooting and the son is shot dead in the back seat.


Gangster Moll - As yet unnamed

Need - A compassionate ear
Desire - Power


Boost - Stamina
Can bestow the Cover - Lovestruck Tough Guy
Boost - Lore

We decided that Joe would fight better when defending her and would know the underworld better when guided by her.  She just wants someone to really listen to her but Joe's in love with her and has trouble listening at all much of the time.

Its a rough start but its a start.


Miriam is who I walk to the 7th Sea games with and I knew from our talks on those walks that her mother was a psychiatrist.  When she said she wanted to play a career woman who was dating a drug dealer, roughly paralleling a real relationship she had.  Knowing she would get right into it I dropped the idea of her PC being a shrink, rather than her original idea, a copy editor.  We tweaked it so that she is some kind of mad cross between Dr. Melfi from the Soprano's and Keyser Soje from The Usual Suspects.  Nice.

Telltale - Track marks

Stamina - 2 Rough Drinker, Rough Life
Will - 3 Big Shot Ivy Leaguer
Lore - 5 Mastermind

Cover - 3 Shrink
Price - -1 Cynical

Kicker - She comes home from a rough day at the office to find Sal, her drug dealer boyfriend (and Demon) calmly waiting for her with a gun in his lap.  "My warehouse with the shit in it was robbed last night.  Only you and a few others know that place exists.  Who did it?"


Drug Dealer Boyfriend - Sal

Need - Someone to be an addict with him
Desire - Competition


Boost - Will
Boost - Lore
Can bestow the Cover - Dirty Fighter
Perception - Weaknesses

I have yet to meet with the third gamer, which is a pain in my ass.  I'll meet with him before the game tomorrow but coming up with Bangs with only two of the three Kickers in front of me is annoying.

Shit happens.

The good side is that the third gamer is Robert, now a Sorcerer veteran from my Intrigue in Mu's Bed game, will know how to craft a P.C.  The other two gamers have cottoned on to this game with remarkable speed, probably a combination of me having more of a grip on the system and them being smart brother and sister geeks.

I have a relationship map which I might or might not use fully.  I have some Tom Waits albums, Bruce Springsteen's creepy-ass Nebraska album and a few other CD's picked out for the 5 CD carousel at the apartment we'll game at.  

Tomorrow evening the game's on.

Demons in this game's powers are funky to pull off.  I'd like to fiddle with them more, think of rationales for each and every power and how they'd work.


Sounds good so far... two comments.

First, is Miriam's character a junkie? If so, were you planning to represent that in any way in her character sheet?  

Second, the Demons seem pretty cool to me.  Interesting how both of them are significant others, instead of the bodyguards and autistic younger brothers that would have ocurred to me.  

Third, Sal's Need just blows me away.  That's a wonderfully twisted setup right there.  

Please keep the updates coming, this is nifty stuff.  My Nobilis PBEM just met its final reward, so I'm jonesing for a new game to run.


Quote from: DannyKSounds good so far... two comments.

First, is Miriam's character a junkie? If so, were you planning to represent that in any way in her character sheet?

Miriam's character is a former junky.  She has recently kicked and taken to drinking.  The drinking is close enough for Sal...for now but things have been tense between them.

The most we see of her junky side on her sheet is her track mark Telltale.

Quote from: DannKSecond, the Demons seem pretty cool to me.  Interesting how both of them are significant others, instead of the bodyguards and autistic younger brothers that would have ocurred to me.  

Autistic younger brothers?  Wow, pitch that Demon to me.  I'm intrigued.

Matt really dove in, renting movies on my inspiration list and reading a book I suggested, Devil in a Blue Dress.

Miriam drew her Sorcerer/Demon relationship from her life and I'm really interested in how that is going to charge up her play.

When I tell people that Sorcerer-Demon relationships are fundamentally just a metaphor for dysfunctional relationships, sometimes that's what makes the light go on.

QuoteThird, Sal's Need just blows me away.  That's a wonderfully twisted setup right there.  

Thanks for reading.  It has the makings of an intersting night of gaming.  We'll see how it goes.

QuotePlease keep the updates coming, this is nifty stuff.  My Nobilis PBEM just met its final reward, so I'm jonesing for a new game to run.

I'm just making my way through Nobilis.  We should exchange PM's at some point.  I'm enamored of that game and can't wait to have a chance to run it.