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[Sorcerer] Suburban Fairy Tale: Grade-School Sorcerers

Started by Judd, May 25, 2004, 04:46:11 AM

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Judd

The setting and descriptors were hammered out at this thread:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=121099#121099

Auspicious Beginnings

While we made up characters on Matt's porch, kids were running by and playing,  Matt's 5 year old son was coloring.  He didn't want us to use his crayons.

"Grown-ups don't use crayon, they use pencils.  They can use crayons if they are coloring iwth a kid but otherwise they have to use a pencil."

I left from character creation to volunteer at my local public library and was assigned to sorting the entire kid's video section.  Nice.

Thoughts

I'm not sure if the Kickers are weak or not.  I was in a rush to get to the library as we finished 'em up and I'm worried they got rushed and aren't properly dramatic.

I'm happy with the characters, that we drew up in crayon but I wonder how worried we are all going to be about playing 2nd graders, a time in our lives that we only remember ever-so vaguely.  I'm thinking of getting children's books out of the library for the players to look at.

I didn't get any family names or who their best friends are.  The process was rushed, which is too bad.  Another half-hour could have really fleshed 'em out.  I even saw them after the library and should have pushed for more but didn't.  Bummer.

Matt asked how violent this game would or would not be and I think it is an interesting question.  I wonder how much more frightening this game is going to be because it represents children or if it will go past people's ability to disbelieve and kill the mood.  Should be interesting.

Matt is a father of a 5 year old.

Robert just had his brother, his sister-in-law and their children move in to his house.

Miriam doesn't have any contact with children that I know of.

Interesting.

On to the characters.

Amanda...Manny played by Miriam

Appearance: hand-me downs

Telltale: disheveled

Stamina: 3 Tomboy

Will: Ignored/Neglected

Lore: 3 Animal Hermit

Cover: Last Child

Past: Old Soul

Price: -1 Inadequate

Kicker: Manny is at the Breakfast Before School Program in the cafeteria and a bully takes her snail demon in its shoebox and threatens to destroy it.

Demon: pet snail (passer)

Desire/Need: Mayhem/Kindness and equality for animals


Josie...Jo, played by Robert

Appearance:

Telltale: elfin look

Stamina: 2 Tomboy

Will: 3 Shrinked

Lore: 3 Changeling

Cover: 3 Serial Runaway

Past: 4 Knight

Price: -1 Impulsive

Kicker: Jo began to climb a tree outside her classroom window when a boy told her that she couldn't climb as well as he could.  As the teacher screams for them to get back in, she climbs to ascend higher than her opponent.

Demon: The 13th Fairy from Sleeping Beauty (Inconspicuous)

Desire/Need: Mischief/To be included in what's going on


Sigmund played by Matt

Appearance: school prep

Telltale: Flashing eyes

Stamina: 3 Cute

Will: 3 Spaz

Lore: 4 Terrorized

Cover: 2 Shrink's Kid

Past: 4 Dragonmaster

Price: -1 Paranoid

Kicker: As Sigmund approaches the library to return his books, he finds that his Dragon has eaten them.

Demon: stuffed animal Dragon, Flamey (Object)

Desire/Need: Knowledge, New books

Next:  Bangs, Bangs, Bangs and more Bangs, contributions appreciated.

Judd

Some Bangs:

    * Jo returns home to find her mundane twin has taken her place (do NOT spring this one too early)

    * Older metalhead (or goth, or punk?) boy has captured a Pixie in a wrought iron lantern

    * Stray dog tells Manny about a local dog abuser in a nearby trailer park

    * Squirrels in a vicious nut dispute demand Manny arbitrates

    * Worms have died after the last rain and the snail is demanding funerals and perhaps a memorial grave marker of some kind

    * Sigmund's parents tell him they are getting a divorce and it isn't his fault

    * a little boy dragon-slayer moves in next door and Sigmund's parents want them to be friends

    * the monster under Sigmund's bed vomits up in his sheets while he is getting a cup of water and there is golden hair and a beret in the bile[/list:u]

Other Thoughts:

    * I need a map of the neighborhood done in crayon in a tremendous piece of paper.  On the map:
broken bridge, school, cat-lady's house, haunted house, baby-sitter's house, The Woods, sewage tunnel entrance (hobo's house), train tracks, Check E. Cheese, Toy Store, 5 & Dime, Playground w/Tire Castle, Church/Graveyard, Junkyard, the library

* I want to get children's books on dragons, snails and Sleeping Beauty or Fairies to hand to the players before the game.

* Play-doh and some other shit like that should be on hand for the game.

* I want a list of things the kids would have learned in 2nd grade.

* For a brief interlude we might conduct parent/teacher conferences with the players playing their character's parents talking to their teacher.

* I need to think about their 2nd grade teacher....who is she?  Do I model her after Mrs. Sevcovic, a nice lady and great teacher, or do I make her a demon like Mrs. Rosenthal, my 1st grade teacher?

* I want to mention before the game starts that if the players want to gather their characters together, they should discuss it out of game, player to play.  Very often they've been waiting for me to bring 'em all into the same room and it feels wrong[/list:u]

Bill Cook

Quote from: PakaMatt asked how violent this game would or would not be and I think it is an interesting question. I wonder how much more frightening this game is going to be because it represents children or if it will go past people's ability to disbelieve and kill the mood. Should be interesting.

One of the PCs in my Sorcerer campaign is a five-year-old girl.  So far no violence in her scenes, but it's on the way.

IMO, if players run vulnerable characters, they typically have to shift their expectations away from combat.  Using demonic proxies or Hellified conferment can get you there, regardless, with Sorcerer.

It is a little . . . awkward, mixing children characters into mature scenes.  Last session, the little girl wandered about a mansion 'til she came upon an orgy.  I said, "You see lots of mommies and daddies making babies."

Quote from: PakaVery often they've been waiting for me to bring 'em all into the same room and it feels wrong

My group has been struggling with disparate narrative threads giving rise to disinterest for players not in the scene.  Call it fallout from a culture of instant gratification:)

Weaving was an effective palliative in our last session.

Judd

Quote from: bcook1971

Quote from: PakaVery often they've been waiting for me to bring 'em all into the same room and it feels wrong

My group has been struggling with disparate narrative threads giving rise to disinterest for players not in the scene.  Call it fallout from a culture of instant gratification:)

Weaving was an effective palliative in our last session.

This group is fantastic and they really enjoy watching each other role-play but I can feel a certain uncomfortable vibe growing as the plot progresses, the players see the links between the characters but the characters don't have enough information to put it all together.  I thought that talking it all out player to playerwould aid in the process and bring down the vague uneasy feelings I sense during play.

Robert Bohl

Quote from: bcook1971It is a little . . . awkward, mixing children characters into mature scenes.  Last session, the little girl wandered about a mansion 'til she came upon an orgy.  I said, "You see lots of mommies and daddies making babies."
"Everybody's hugging!"
Game:
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Shows:
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG

Judd

Thoughts on their Kickers

Kicker: Manny is at the Breakfast Before School Program in the cafeteria and a bully takes her snail demon in its shoebox and threatens to destroy it.

She's given me a villain here.  I think this kid is the serial killer of local animals.  If he should discover that she can talk to creatures he is going to be titilated.  "You can tell what they're saying, while I cut off their tails, pour salt on them, pull off their fur?"

I've got a real bastard here, who isn't just a bully but a kid who is, in his mind, working his way up the food chain towards killing humans.

Kicker: Jo began to climb a tree outside her classroom window when a boy told her that she couldn't climb as well as he could.  As the teacher screams for them to get back in, she climbs to ascend higher than her opponent.

I don't see this boy as a villain as much as a worthy antagonist.  The oak they climb has limbs that spread across the entire school, a branch touching every window and it reaches to the roof.  I'm not sure who I'm going to play this one out, but I think this kid is going to disappear, the oak itself going into the clouds if the right person is climbing it.

Kicker: As Sigmund approaches the library to return his books, he finds that his Dragon has eaten them.

Oddly, Sigmund has handed me my arch-villain, I think.  The school librarian is a peon of the town's Head Librarian, a woman who once was a Sorcerer but grew out of it and now resents the children who believe in this hogwash drivel.  She destroys the budget for fantasy books for chidlren with every tool at her disposal.

Perhaps her old Demon was a toy knight, a toy Dragon-slayer.  Hmmm.

Can hatred for this boy and his book eating Dragon bring this villain back into the fold.  For the Kicker I will just have the school librarian talk about this woman in hushed tones, build her mystique up.

The Sadistic Bully, the tree-climbing antagonist and the Head Librarian who hates children's fantasy.

Things are coalescing in my head.

Old_Scratch

Crossposted with rpg.net

First: Did you write up a one-sheet for this? I'd like to see it!

It was really hard to come up with bangs since I don't know the context.

But I did want to say a few things:

I really liked some of the bangs and they really fit the characters well.

I also like the map idea, but it might be a good idea to get the players to help you compose it as well, and I really dug the parent - teacher conference. Great idea.

For the character sheets - have you thought of putting stars in place of numbers? Instead of three, you could do three stars in Stamina for example...

As for Bangs, I was really hard pressed to come up with anything. Many of your ideas were pretty good.

As for the bully scene with the snail, it made me think a bit of that film Ratcatcher (a great film), where bullies urge a kid to tie his rat to a balloon... a pretty chilling and heart breaking scene with a surreal end to it.

I like the kid disappearing into the tree... but it might also be possible that the other kid falls and ends up in the hospital. This could cause some life or death drama as well as make the kid guilty - and maybe he saw something up there, and is now handicapped and spends all day in a wheel chair staring up at the oak tree, wishing desperately that he could climb it. Or he could climb up the tree, disappear, and then be found underneath it a month later dressed and looking the same as when he climbed it (sort of "Picnic at Hanging Rock") in a way.

I'd like to see a bit of temptation - a real life family crisis (grandma sick in hospital or something of the sort) and the kid has to make a tough decision between visiting a dying grandma and going out to the park on the one night when the Lord of Summer arrives to bring wondrous gifts.

Or one of the children is being disciplined, and their demon urges them to sneak out or to go through the closet into the Otherworld.

For the kid's whose demon has a desire for books: What if that demon demands the kid go down under the railroad bridge where adult books and magazines are hidden? That can result in some potential "loss of innocence" as well as encounters with homeless or displaced people.

For the animal rights snail - what if a monstrous wolf comes and starts stalking children? What will the child and the snail-demon do? Or a dog, like "Sam" that convinces his owner or neighbor to kill. Why would a nice dog do a thing like that?

Sigmund's dragon may accidentally set fire to something important in the house, and the child may have a bit of explaining to do.

I suppose there's a lot of other things you can do that might be a bit more mundane: students being caught cheating on tests, coping with the schoolyard bully, a fellow student disappearing or showing up at school beaten and bruised, a kid who always comes to school without a lunch, incidents of racism at the school.

Maybe the kids meet a runaway pig from a nearby slaughterhouse that escapes and wants them to hide it, or the local farmer may bring a cow or pig to school, and when the farmer is not looking it begs or pleads with them to help it, its due to die soon. A nearby puppy farm where animals are abused or maltreated or the home of a man who cares for (and secretly disposes of) greyhounds past their prime. A crazy old woman who lives in a house piled high with newspapers and magazines (what secret is she searching for in them?).

I'd like to see some sort of demon house that feeds on misery: important letters or mail get lost, precious things inexplicably break, the television picture breaks up when something good is on, but clears up when something horrible is on, and those inside the house slowly waste away. Perhaps one of the kids at school lives in this house.

You might also want to look up some of the scripts for that old show Eerie, Indiana. Its a pretty trippy show from what I remember:
http://www.tvtome.com/EerieIndiana/guide.html

Lastly, you might want to think about holidays - as a kid these things always seemed pretty important to me, so you can do bangs centered on holidays at the appropriate time - I'm sure Halloween is a big one, but there are other holidays as well worthy of exploring the themes and the occasion.

I'm sorry I don't have much to contribute right now... if anything comes to mind I'll post it, but you seem to have a lot of great ideas to coast upon so far!

As for children's books - I'd like to recommend "The Secret Garden" and "The Little Princess" (particularly the latter, the film is very good as well) for sources of inspiration - more mundane, but they capture a children's world in some ways I think (or at least one adult's idea of the children's world).

What themes in particular are you planning on exploring in this game, besides maturity and responsibility?

Judd

Great comments, Old Scratch.  I particularly like the Wolf.  Nice.

QuoteOriginally posted by Old Scratch
What themes in particular are you planning on exploring in this game, besides maturity and responsibility?

I'm not much of a theme GM.  I will set up what Humanity means but after that I take a look at the Kickers and think about what will make for a good story and give the PC's dramatic choices to make.

Doyce

Quote from: Old_ScratchI really dug the parent - teacher conference. Great idea.

Heh.  To get that cross-player investment -- have the other two players play that player's parents :)
--
Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.

Judd

I sent the players an e-mail asking about their home lives, which were skipped over in my Monday evening chargen rush.  Here's Jo, played by Robert, the others will be posted when I have obtained the player's permission.

'You're not my mom and dad! I don't belong here! And I am NOT a little lady!!!!!!!!'

Josephine Frances Renaud, nicknamed Josie but preferring Jo, lives with the people who call themselves her parents. Maybe they are, but she doesn't think so. Marie Renaud is middle management for a video retailer chain; Francis Renaud owns a rather popular french-italian fusion restaurant in town (Josie's Place, you should try it sometime). They live in a comfortable enough suburban home, with bars on the windows and a tall wooden fence around the back yard. It's not that they're paranoid about home security. Their daughter just keeps running off (bars and fence and pleas to the neighbours' vigilance notwithstanding).

Sometimes, Jo goes haring off in the hopes of getting away. Sometimes, she thinks to go someplace interesting and actually intends to return home but forgets. It drives the elder Renauds to distraction, although not nearly as much as the constant back-talk and especially the assertions of misplaced parentage. Marie drives her to school in the morning, where one of the crosswalk monitors physically escorts the girl inside. The baby-sitter (Karen) is supposed to pick her up, take her to therapy, and bring her straight home but sometimes Jo gives her the slip. Karen's a big dumb sissy-girl, and Jo doesn't like her very much. Occasionally, with many dire warnings, she is entrusted to other parents for play dates.

Jo's a little slip of a thing, with pointed chin and almost pointed ears and pretty twinkling eyes and perky curly hair and twin dimples and mud under her fingernails and tears in the knees of her jeans. She wears jeans, thank you. She tears dresses to shreds whenever she gets the chance. Her own, usually. Sometimes other girls', if they're being snotty and pushy.

She's not a mean kid. She just thinks lots of things are stupid, and that her real family misplaced her and would really like her back. She likes climbing trees, building things, and sometimes baseball.

In fantasy-land, she is Sir Jo the wandering knight. Sometimes she works for the Goblin King, but sometimes not. It all depends on where the monsters worth fighting and the mighty deeds worth doing are.

Yeah. Just you try being the one to tell her that cowboys and indians don't have any knights.

Judd

More Bangs:

The Wolf has been going back and forth in my mind.  Scarlet Chudinski (Red Riding Hood) is missing and her parents are preparing to put her name on a milk carton.  These Bangs are likely to be dropped but its fun to muse.  

    * Some of the PC's are delicately questioned by the police.

    * Sigmund finds the Monster Under the Bed bleeding, having been mauled.

    * Jo discovers that she was placed in this town by her parents because many fairy tales settled here when they came to the New World and so many iconic stories repeat themselves here over and over.

    * Sigmund discovers that Flamy has been hoarding books in a secret lair in the basement, books too good or too rare to eat.

    * The Big Bad Wolf is on the prowl, always a cross-dresser, has taken the guise of the local babysitter.  He is settling into life as a sixteen year old girl rather well and looks forward to the many babysitting gigs the summer will soon bring.  With a successful Lore role a player can notice a Telltale tail or teeth or wolf's eyes, etc.

    * 3 Pigs come to Manny, begging for bricks and mortar.[/list:u]

Ron Edwards

Hi Judd,

I am getting very confused by your multiple postings ... is this game currently being played? I thought yes, then reviewed the thread and it seems like not, then ...

Best,
Ron

Judd

Quote from: Ron EdwardsHi Judd,

I am getting very confused by your multiple postings ... is this game currently being played? I thought yes, then reviewed the thread and it seems like not, then ...

Best,
Ron

I'm playing this game at 7 o'clock tonight.

What was confusing?

Judd

The other two players are cool with me posting their ideas about their PC's family life.  Here they are:

Amanda aka Manny, played by Miriam

Her mother is gone, and her father is a drunk. There are five children,
the eldest are both boys, and the latter three are all girls; Manny is
the youngest. Her eldest brother graduated from highschool no one has heard from him in about three years. The next eldest brother is in
high school, and working hard to get a full scholarship to college, a weak and reclusive boy, he barely talks to anyone else.

She lives in a two bedroom house on the outskirts of town. Her brother
keeps to himself in the basement, her father has one bedroom (not that
he spends much time in it) and Manny and her sisters share the other. Her
sisters are busy with their own lives and boyfriends. It seems they are
finding a way out of their lives through those relationships while
Manny has been left to fend for herself.

Their father spends most of his time out "fishing" with his friends,
always coming home drunk and in a stupor, occasionally angry. From a
very early age Manny learned how to tread lightly and stay out of sight
while he is around. He never speaks to her, but she has seen how he treats her eldest sister when he is in one of his moods.

They live on welfare, when Pop occasionally buys food with the welfare
check, and other people's charity. There are some good people arond
where she lives, but a decent walk away, an old couple that talk to her and feed her. They are Manny's only real friends in her area.

Her home is a place of disquiet, especially while her father is home.
She has spent a decent amount of her time in the woods playing and takes
solace there. She remembers talk of how home was not always like this,
but to Manny these stories are the real "faerie tales".


Sigmund, played by Matt

At 11:43 PM 5/24/2004 -0700, Judd Karlman wrote:

If anyone feels like sending me a paragraph or more or less concerning their character's home life, that'd be keen.  Who do you live with mom(s), dad(s), sibling(s), step-beast(s), grand-parent(s), aunt, uncle, etc.  
 

Burrhus Sigmund Childs IV lives at 1100 Pleasant Valley Hill Drive. His house has 43 bedrooms and 17 and a half bathrooms. His father, B. S. Childs III, is a cardiologist at Upstate Medical and his mother, Emily Katherine Childs-Snubbs is the host of a syndicated cable cooking program and spokesperson for a line of cookware and kitchen apparel. The last time Sigmund saw his father was at breakfast eightweeks ago. Happily, he sees his mother every day, from 3:30 until 4:30, hammocked between a professional wrestling show and a dog grooming program.

His minders are Gretchen and Klaus Sugarkrauts, a Slovakian couple who serve as cook and grounds keeper. Their seven year old son died two years ago from a cerebral aneurysm, and his death has left them sullen and sorrowful. Still, they have composure enough to feed and dress Sigmund and march him through his ordered daily routine.

Sigmund is driven to school by Joe the chauffeur, an elderly Irishman who claims a colorful past. After school he is driven to piano lessons on Monday, karate on Tuesday, Zen meditation classes on Wednesday, and a elitist playgroup on Thursday. Friday after school he spents at the studio with Mother, watching her argue with her producers as the make-up girls pinch his cheeks and tussle his hair.

Sigmund is as cute as a button and always dressed immaculately in a blue blazer and an ever-present book bag. While not exactly gregarious, neither is he shy and withdrawn, falling somewhere in the middle. He is nervous at times, especially when separated from his book bag and the secrets therein.

But in fairytale land . . .

Sigmund is towering and strong, a brawny warrior with a blazing scar running down his face. He has the power to command mighty monsters, fiery dragons, vicious griffins and mottled snarks, binding this fell monstrosities to his fell will. At his whim they ravage cities, straighten coastlines, and raze fields and torment cattle. All must bow to the power of Sigmund, Dragon Master!

Kicker comment: As you recall, Sigmund is in a bind when he discoveres that his bound demon, Flamy the Dragon, had eaten his borrowed library books. These books were supposed to be returned by day's end. Sigmund's parents are certainly wealthy enough to purchase replacement copies, but that would mean talking to them, an odious task in the best circumstances, which asking for money would not be. No, Sigmund was replace the books by other means . . .

Judd

How the Kickers Played Out

Some famous general once said, "No plan of war survives contact with the enemy."

Kicker: Manny is at the Breakfast Before School Program in the cafeteria and a bully takes her snail demon in its shoebox and threatens to destroy it.

I used my girlfriend's elementary school bully's name, Damien Steele.  I described his metallic braces and his cruel laugh.  Fun.

Manny took Damien down but her snail got a crack in its shell.  Damien cracked his head open on the cafeteria floor.

The principal made her draw a get-well card, telling her that they might still be friends.  Once the adults left the kids alone, Damien ate the card, telling Manny that he was going to eat her snail too. "They eat snails in France, y'know."

He was a good villain.

Kicker: Jo began to climb a tree outside her classroom window when a boy told her that she couldn't climb as well as he could.  As the teacher screams for them to get back in, she climbs to ascend higher than her opponent.

Jo's worthy antagonist turned into the Big Bad Wolf's first victim.  They both climbed into Fairyland, perplexing the firemen who searched the expansive Oak.  

Kicker: As Sigmund approaches the library to return his books, he finds that his Dragon has eaten them.

This ended up being an important plot, as they found out the local librarian was a Sorcerer-kid too and had dated the Goblin King but Banished (read...dumped) him when she got accepted to college at age 16.

How the Game Played Out

In the end, the kids made a book to give to the librarian, detailing their adventures and she was quietly touched.  They had brought some magic back into her old decrepit life.  Humanity gain rolls all around.  

They also summoned the Big Bad Wolf and Contained him in Damien's bed, using a circle of bricks and SUmmoned him by singing, "Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf."  once they had grandma-ish clothes for the Wolf to wear, they left him in Damien's bed, not waiting to see how it turned out.

In the end Damien Bound the Wolf as his own Demon, becoming a Sorcerer in his own right.  Neat.

The parent-teacher conferences were great.  The players elected to play each other's parents and it really rounded out the game well in a moment that might've been otherwise slow.  It perked the game right up.

Moreso, perhaps, than in other games, stories with kids in them make their players ask, "Why are they like this?"  The parent-teacher conferences were vivid illustrations as to why the kids were the way they were.

A few Bangs were left untouched and others got thrown in without a change and others were moulded to fit.

We only had a few bits of Sorcery, with Sigmund, Contacting the Boiler Room monster in the first few minutes of play.  I feel as if that is a result of me not pushing the game hard enough.  I have been happy with good stories and sometimes intensity might've been sacrificed.  My next Sorcerer one-shot like this will be driven HARD.  If a player doesn't sweat, I won't consider it a good game.

As it was, the players had a great time and are interested in playing these characters again, perhaps taking them up after they return to town from college, to deal with Damien Steele once and for all.

If I had been a real bastard, I would've had Damien track them down, and they would have watched the Wolf gut the old librarian before their eyes.

Naturally, I think of this an hour after the game is over.

Thoughts

After two weeks of playing Sorcerer with this group, it has been a fun run.  A few of the players expressed interest in picking the game up for themselves and I think each game was successful.  I feel like I am just geting my feet under me, just getting the hang of it.

I've gotten to test out 3 ideas for this system in the past month or so and I've played gangster noir, Clark Ashton Smith-esque Sword and Sorcery and Grimm meets Therapy childhood fantasy and all of them worked and worked well.  The lego-like nature of this game has seduced me.

I'm eager to take this system out for more of a spin, as I'm just getting a feel for what it can do, which is quite a wide range.