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[Sorcerer] Gun-fu Ghost Story

Started by Judd, June 08, 2004, 04:44:23 AM

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This game is something of a mess.  The concept was written up by a buddy of mine, the Thursday Night 7th Sea GM, who hasn't ever played Sorcerer before.  The concept was good but the Humanity defintion didn't work for me at all but his idea of what ghosts were rocked.

After running 7th Sea for years and almost never getting to play, I thought it would be fun to take over as GM and let him play for a night while the game is on hiatus.


Set in an ancient and byzantine walled city in china,
which has now been destroyed. The city is the home to
the dead and to spirits, and interacts with the
modern, Hong-Kong-esque city which stands in its

The Sorcerers are Ghost Masters, binding the spirits
of either the dead or infernal folkloric beasties to
their will. Humanity measures their resistance over
the power of the dead. When it falls to zero a
Sorcerer experiences true death and goes over to the
other side, becoming a demon himself, and subject to
the will of other Ghost Masters.

Each Sorcerer's first demon must be a Possessor. This
demon represents his "inner ghost" which he has
awakened in order to become a Ghost Master. The Inner
Ghost provides various Boost type abilities, allowing
the sorcerers to go forth and perform ... well not
really "heavenly" Kung Fu, but certainly a fair amount
of John Wooishness.

And that's all I got. But I was thinking it could be
a great backdrop to mix the ancient, entangled city
with its culture of ghosts with a modern chinese
cop/bad guy drama. Kind of 'City On Fire' with
'Spirited Away' going on in the background.

We fiddled with this, throwing out the possessor bit, keeping the flavor.

I don't like his Humanity definition at all and since all of the PC's in this game are cops, I'm thinking of making the Humanity Law or Justice, perhaps even a plural with both.

Okay, so I have 5 people playing Sorcerer this Thursday but five felt like way too many people for everyone to have Kickers and make it work.  So, I paired two of 'em up.

"You're partners."

And they came up with joint Kickers.  I think it worked out alright.  We'll see how it plays.

Character Name Blue-Eyed Chan
Player Name Rob

Concept: Squeaky clean Internal Affairs cop in over his head with a Demon who is way more powerful than he is.

Telltale: Eyes permanently unfocused

Stamina: 2 Sinewy Muscle
Will: 5 University
Lore: 3 Emperor Reborn

Cover: 5 Wild-Eyed Genius
Price: -1 to all social interactions, spooky

Demon Concept: Sun Yat-il, Emperor of China
Need/Desire: To have his agenda enacted/Power

Kicker: While on a case Chan runs across a loose Demon who was a vassal of Sun Yat-il.  The Demon beckons to the Emperor, "I'm set up with an organization and power.  Join me."

Character Name -
Player Name Dan

Concept: Undercover forensic scientist.

Telltale: Doesn't blink.

Stamina: 2 Whip-fast
Will: 3 University
Lore: 5 Born Dead

Cover: 3 Undercover Cop (Chemist)
Price: -1 off first roll in any scene, bookish

Demon Concept:Wise woman, ancestor
Need/Desire: maintaining family graveyard/???

Character Name -
Player Name Matt

Concept: Undercover cop trying to live up to his ancestor's deeds

Telltale: Breath of Death

Stamina: 6 Muscle Under the Fat
Will: 2 Long Line of Cops
Lore: 2 Opium Dreams

Cover: 6 Undercover as Major Buyer
Price: -1 to social interactions, intimidatingly large

Demon Concept: his grandfather
Need/Desire: make arrests/justice

Kicker: Matt's character has a long line of partners dying, all on the same day for the past seven years.  Today is that day.  It is also the day of a tremendous drug buy, to bring Matt's character deeper into the fold and when Dan's character goes to the lab, everyone is on edge.

Character Name Kim Li
Player Name Robert

Concept: Homocide detective who enjoys his work.

Telltale: Has the shadow of a Chinese warlord in full regalia.

Stamina: 4 Martial Arts
Will: 2 Street Education
Lore: Chinese Warlord Heritage

Cover: 4 Bad Cop
Price: -1 Cynical

Demon Concept:snake tattoos that writhe on his body
Need/Desire:Require prey/mayhem

Character Name -
Player Name Miriam

Concept: Another homocide detective who enjoys his job.

Telltale: mesmerizing eyes

Stamina: 2 Whip-Fast
Will: 5 Long Line of Cops
Lore: 3 Immortal

Cover: 5 Worse Cop
Price: -1 impulsive, -1 to any action where he doesn't immediately jump in.

Demon Concept: High priestess gone bad
Need/Desire: blood/power

Kicker:  They are driving along on a routine day when they witness a gangland execution.

Thanks again to Old Scratch over at for the fantastic Lore Descriptors.

Some things occur to me as I wrote this down but more on all of this tomorrow.


Things I'm thinking about:


a good web site for Chinese names

re-reading my book of Chinese myths and legends.

I forgot to mention that Lore is the ability to see the Ghost World that pervades the city.

John Harper

This is a very cool idea for a Sorcerer setting. And I'm itching to run Sorcerer. Between this and the "armageddon clock" Charnel Gods setting, I have a very tough choice to make.

Of course, I could always combine the two...
Fell weapons in the Ghost World with heavenly kung fu and clockworks. Groovy.
Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!


Quote from: John HarperThis is a very cool idea for a Sorcerer setting. And I'm itching to run Sorcerer. Between this and the "armageddon clock" Charnel Gods setting, I have a very tough choice to make.

Of course, I could always combine the two...
Fell weapons in the Ghost World with heavenly kung fu and clockworks. Groovy.

Cool.  Let me know how it goes.

I've had a month to run games with my 7th Sea group while the game's been on hiatus and its been Sorcerer for four weeks, 3 different games.  All of the sessions have had very different feels to them and all of them have worked extraordinarily well.

There is definitely a post coming called, A Month of Straight Sorcerer after I've played this Thursday and have had some time to digest this month's games and how they worked out.


I'm thinking that a Criminal Overlord who was a Sorcerer has been whacked and now the gangs of Pseudo-Hong Kong are out to snag his Demons who have run amok.

It is a basic adventure idea in the Sorcerer main rulebook and for this setting I think it'll work out well.  I might have to outline his kids and some members of the force who were on his payroll.

What this means is that all of the Kickers are ramifications of this crimelord's death that will drive the adventure.


    * Blue Eyed Chen hears a wire tap of two leutenants in the overlord's hierarchy arguing over how get's dominion over the Police Comissioner, who was in their pocket the whole time.

    * The Bad and Worse Cop are offered a deal from one of the crime lord's children, who wants them working for her and she'll pay them handsomely and aid them with their Demon's Needs that she knows.  She isn't a Sorcerer but her father Pacted a Demon to work with her and it keeps her up to date on some Demon's needs.

    * The Undercover Duo are told about a computer disk that details all of the rats and undercover cops currently on the payroll that will be bought with the upcoming drug deal.[/list:u]

    I'm spent.  Next I'll make a few more Bangs and think about how I'm going to use and abuse the Kickers.


Quote from: PakaKicker #1: While on a case Chan runs across a loose Demon who was a vassal of Sun Yat-il.  The Demon beckons to the Emperor, "I'm set up with an organization and power.  Join me."

Kicker#2: Matt's character has a long line of partners dying, all on the same day for the past seven years.  Today is that day.  It is also the day of a tremendous drug buy, to bring Matt's character deeper into the fold and when Dan's character goes to the lab, everyone is on edge.

Kicker #3:  They are driving along on a routine day when they witness a gangland execution.

Kicker #1 - I'm not sure where to go with this rampaging Demon.  Is it truly loyal to the Emperor and sincerely wants him to rule again?

Was it involved in the Emperor's death and wants to earn his trust to trap him again?

I think the second option is more interesting.  It wants to draw the Emperor into the mess of crime and blood so that he can feed his Sorcerer to the first bad situation that arises.

Kicker #2 - Due to last minute real life obligations, Matt can't make it.  So Dan's PC will also be learning about how Matt's character is captured and is being tortured in a warehouse for answers.  "They want to know if there are other rats in the house.  He can't last too much longer."

Kicker #3 - Gangland execution or the end of a ritual to summon a vicious demon?



Bangin' on some more BANGS:

    * Sun Ya-Til blows a newspaper at Blue Eyed Chen about ancient Chinese relics being moved into the psuedo-Hong Kong Museum of Antiquities.  He wants Chen to jack the shipment.

    * Worse Cop and Bad Cop are brought before a comittee for a past (or present) atrocity they perpetrated.

    * The Undercover Chemist is supposed to train a new drug-maker and it is an ex-con who he helped put away, testified against him in court.  Will the convict recognize him?[/list:u]


So, there's a Sorcerer crime boss who died with leaving an obvious heir.

He had three kids.

1 - a criminal bad-ass but with no Sorcerous ability.  He's going to deal with this by gathering magical artifacts and destroying them in a great ritual that will rend the ghost world from the real world, making it far more difficult to contact, summon or bind.

2 - a daughter who is dating a captain in the criminal hierarchy.  She is a Sorcerer but because she's a woman her father refused to leave her in charge.  She is planning to take control of the family through her soon to be husband boyfriend.

3 - a Sorcerer civilian.  He wants nothing to do with his family and is quietly going about his normal life, running the family shipping business.  But now Demons will begin knocking on his door, begging to be bound.  Will he be able to say no for long?

Will I use these characters?  We'll see where the PC's lead me, how they play their Kickers.


And More Bangs:

    * Mugging - I think it will be interesting to see how the different characters deal with a mugging and might do a parallel sequence where The Bad & Worse Cops, the Undercover Cop and the Internal Affairs Guy all witness a mugging, just to draw out their differences in how they handle it.

    * Ghost Cop - Might have a ghost cop who will enigmatically appear throughout the adventure, who was killed by his partner or something right out of this game's main inspiration, Planetary #3.

    * A Hearing - The Internal Affairs cop should have to at some point, testify against a dirty cop at a hearing.  Might be a PC he has to testify against.[/list:u]

    I really need to re-read their Lore descriptors.


After a month of running at least one and often two Sorcerer games a week, I think I've run my strongest session yet.  For pure use of the summoning and binding mechanics, for complicated demonic machinations and for bloody aristeias with bullets and attitude, this one took the cake.

It didn't get wrapped up this session but will spill into a second session, to wrap things up well, with everyone at full throttle.

Introduced quickly throughout the Kickers was the concept that Old Man Gui, criminal overlord of the city died.  The complication was that his 13 Demons were sent away by him as he died.

In the aftermath his children and other criminal and sorcerous folk fought for pieces of the criminal pie.

Gui had three children.  One, Hento, was a mook and not a Sorcerer but has a strong force of guns and troops.  The sister, Wei-Jing, is a sorceress but her father was loathe to leave his empire to a girl.  Mei, the youngest, is known to be an upstanding civilian who has nothing to do with the criminal side of things but he IS a Sorcerer.

A hint was dropped and picked up that Hento will sell his big shipment of drugs not only for money but for artifacts that will seal the Ghostworld from the city, leveling the playing field between him and his Sorcerous siblings.

The Bindings:

Bindings have become a kind of prelude for the games.  They allow me and the player to role-play with one another, Demon to Sorcerer, so we can get a feel for how the relationship will basically work.  

Preludes were a gaming tool I learned from White Wolf books and I like the mightily.  These bindings rocked.  I set it up so that the two players who have gamed Sorcerer with me, Robert and Miriam, went first, kind of modeling how it works and then, Rob and Dan, the gamers who have never gamed Sorcerer with me went after.

It set the tone.

The Kickers:

Kicker #1: While on a case Chan runs across a loose Demon who was a vassal of Sun Yat-il. The Demon beckons to the Emperor, "I'm set up with an organization and power. Join me."

Blue-Eyed Chen's case is the death of Old Man Gui.  It was a quiet death in the bed of his girlfriend but the cops managed to barge their way in before Gui's family lawyers could kick them out.

Knowing Chen has a way with "weird shit" they invited him to take a look at Gui's body and the strange circle drawn around his bed.

Gui's ghost was still lingering in the Ghostworld, Chen noticed with a Lore roll.  But then, from out of the body, came the ghost of an Imperial Eunuch.  If made the offer mentioned in the Kicker but Chen ran.

He regained his nerve and managed to get back but by then the daughter had already bound the eunuch to her.

Too late.

Chen gave her his business card before heading out.

By the end of the game she hadn't called yet.

Kicker#2: Matt's character has a long line of partners dying, all on the same day for the past seven years. Today is that day. It is also the day of a tremendous drug buy, to bring Matt's character deeper into the fold and when Dan's character goes to the lab, everyone is on edge.

This was the kicker that gave me the most trouble.  I had trouble getting Dan into the game until the very last scenes, which I'll talk about later.

Dan found out that they had his partner in the warehouse and were beating information out of him.  He crept through the Ghostworld and came across his partner's ghost, having been beaten to death.

Dan bound him, making for the first binding of the night.

We also set up Dan's relationship with his PC's ghost, a kind of motherly disapproval of her life, wanting her to get married, maybe turn in her badge to become a nurse to meet a nice doctor.  Dan told me before the game started that he wanted the character to be a woman.

*shrug*  Okay.

But I think it made his relationship with his grandmotherly ghost much clearer.  

Kicker #3: They are driving along on a routine day when they witness a gangland execution.

Bad Cop and Worse Cop are bad mamba-jamba's.  I used mook rules for the nameless dudes and they mopped the floor with them.  Both Robert and Miriam have played with me in Hell-side of Town, Grade-School Sorcerers and Rob in Mu's Bed.  They understand how to describe a combat to get maximum dice.

It was a fast and brutal mopping of mooks.  When Robert's Bad Cop called in the action on the radio, he said (and I'm paraphrasing), "A messy situation is about to happen..."  The slaughter in the alley was thereafter referred to as the messy situation.

Quickly, they all got caught up in the retrieval, binding, summoning, and contacting (and sometimes banishing) of Old Man Gui's Demons.  It was an unholy mess.  My only regret is that they weren't thinking outside of those 13 Demons.  I feel that the concept of Demons wasn't clear enough.  I will make it clear that Demons are out there, ripe for the picking.

Rob made up some cool-ass rituals for contacting, summoning and banishing and his relationship with his demon really progressed nicely, from naked fear to a kind of intrigued truce.

There were several failed Summoning and Contact rolls that ended up in the wrong Demon being summoned or contacted.  That made for some nice plot as Rob tried to summoning an Empress' Consort and instead summoned the Emperor's Assassin, whom he later banished.

Dan tried to summon the Empress' Consort and instead got the Dragon of Vice, who he allowed to Bind with him, letting one of his needle claws inject his heroin into his veins.  Nice.

The concept of failed rolls not just sputtering out into nothing but actually adding to the story as much as a success, just in an unanticipated direction is key and has made games go from cruising at 55 miles per hour to red-lining at 120 on the wrong side of the highway, screaming with glee.

It was an intense roller-coaster ride and I think everyone had a bunch of fun, watching everyone else's role-playing.  I can't stress how important that is.  The audience aspect is probably one of the most important in the game of Sorcerer.

Four is a crowded table and although the missing play, Matt, is a credit to whatever gaming table he sits at, it might have been for the best that he wasn't there.  The rotations were a little long.

The only time characters met other than the Bad and Worse Cop, who were always in each other's company, was when Chen interviewed the Bad and Worse Cop about a shooting they had witnessed.

Written Bangs used:

* The Undercover Duo are told about a computer disk that details all of the rats and undercover cops currently on the payroll that will be bought with the upcoming drug deal.

Oddly, I think this was the only written bang I used.  Others were twisted and contorted or just thrown away.  This was probably the weakest Bang of the bunch.  I fear Dan didn't feel he could do much after binding his late partner's ghost and convincing his drug lord bosses that he had nothing to do with the dead men who had beaten the cop to death.

Dan's undercover chemist's plot didn't pick up until he met Mei and his grandmotherly demon began prodding him to be nice to this university boy (who is not only a Sorcerer but a soon to be doctor).  Mei saw Dan’s PC's Telltale and asked pretty forwardly about his Sorcery and if he could help him.

"My brother and sister are going to kill me.  I need help."

Yeah, he has nothing to do with the family business....just like Michael Corleone.

After announcing that Old Man Gui had 13 Demons bound to him I realized I did NOT have 13 ideas.  I took a moment, stopped the game for a second and jotted down ideas.

Here's what I wrote with a star next to the ones mentioned or met in game.

Qun, the Emperor's eunuch - crafty with lore boost.  Contacted by Rob

* Blood-taster, hound with human face and long snout that can drink blood and tell about the person whose blood they taste, tracking them or their ghost if necessary.  Bound by Robert's Bad Cop

* Hark, the emperor's assassin, a brutal killer who was banished by Blue-Eyed Chen into the hells in a great scene.  Accidentally Summoned but purposefully Bound by Blue-Eyed Chen, later Banished in a great scene when Chen realized how heinous Hark could be.

* Tung, consort to the empress, a courtier who everyone wanted to bind but no PC did.  Little do they know that Mei already bound him.  They think the sister has Tung.  Contacted twice by Blue-Eyed Chen.

The Pear Tree - I read a Chinese folk tale about it.  Picture the ghost of Shel Silverstien's Giving Tree with an angry chip on its shoulder, giving out fruits that bestow terrible gifts on those who eat them.

The First Gun - the ghost of the first gun that ever killed a man in China, an object Demon.

* Dragon of Vice - body the color of smoke from a crack pipe, eyes like twin flames and claws like a junkie’s needles.  Accidentally contacted in a failed roll but purposefully Summoned but purposefully Bound by Dan's PC.

Dragon of Weakness - never elaborated upon or mentioned in game.

The 4 Winds - figure there's one for East, North, South and West but have no ideas other than that.  Honestly, I needed four more Demons and figured they'd be good ways to take up space.[/list:u]

If anyone has any ideas for Needs or Desires for these Demons...shoot away.  The Blood-Taster and the Dragon of Vice have been done but the others remain untouched.  Also I might very well throw many of the unmentioned of the 13 away and substitute ones I like better.  These were made up truly spur of the moment and I'm not thrilled with all of them.

I'm looking forward to the next game, where we see which Demons have settled with whom and the big drug shipment will get sold and many of the plots will come together in a heinous BANG of bullets, blood and mayhem.


And one more very important thing.

When I got to the game I talked about Humanity being about Law but the group didn't like that.

So we made Humanity about Life.  Taking Life alone wasn't worth a Humanity check, unless it was gratuitous and in a Hong Kong Action movie universe, that'd be pretty intense.  

Gains would be the simple things one does for their ancestors and their families but cannot have anything to do with one's Demon.

Humanity at 0 launches one into a their bloody finale.  They create a kind of second Kicker, starting their final scenes, after which their character will perish in a hail of bullets and haze of smoke.

People are teetering on the edge now.

I'm eager for my first 0 Humanity.

The next setting I run will have a great mechanic for 0 Humanity that will have PC's RUSHING to get to it.


Tuesday we are finishing up Gun-fu Ghost Story in what I'm calling Gun-fu Ghost Story II: Aristiea of Bullets and Blood!

Truth is, its just finishing up last week's kickers.  Should be a kind of mini-session, in which the Big Bang is played out.  The big drug deal is going down, an artifact designed to cut off the real world from the Ghostworld is in the mix, the 13 Demons of Old Man Gui are bound, running and killing hither and yon.  New Demons are being called up ("Wait, we don't have to ONLY Summong Old Man Gui's 13.  There are tons of 'em out there.  There's a big fight-a-comin' so let's get to work.").

I like starting the game with a kind of warm-up.  This week I'm going to run a two to three minute flashback in which the players run their PC's at their entry interview to Police Academy, young and naive.  "Why do you want to be a police officer?"

Should be fun to see who they were before they fell from grace and began trafficking with the dead.

I'll jot down what happened Tuesday and mayhaps even some players will log in and give their thoughts.


We'll finish up this game on Tuesday but I don't consider it a full session.  There will be time to prep for the big showdown, the big buy in which the undercover cop will attempt to make the arrests and all hell will break loose.

I've got a few bangs in my GM's Bag-o-Tricks but don't want many.  Really, I just want to allow them to summon, bind and contact whatthey want to prep for the final Big Bang and bring this story to a close.  We didn't finish it last week because energy was lagging and pushing on would have done more harm than good with folk needing to go to work the next morning and such.

A Few Bangs:

    * The Bad Cop and the Worse Cop's Demons try to turn them against one another.  I think this will be a complicated parallel scene in which tehy both get asked this at the same time.  We'll see.  A wedge driven between these two insepperable partners could be really dramatic.

    *The Undercover Chemist discovers that her love interest isn't really a civilian.  Dan told me that his character is seriously considering taking the Dragon of Vice adn becoming an Underworld Boss on her own.  The fact that this nice guy, Mei, the supposed civilian son, has summoned and bound one of his father's most cunning demons might have some effect.

    *Blue-Eyed Chan needs a Bang but I've got a bit to think it over.  We'll see.[/list:u]


We had the final game tonight.  Bullets flew, summonings went down, banishments were attempted and one of the PC's hit Humanity 0.

Bad Cop and Worse Cop came to the realization that Bad Cop still had 5 Humanity, by far the highest in the game and went on a Contact frenzy.

Miriam failed her rolls left and right.  She contacted an ancient courtesan, hoping to gain her insight into the Ghostworld, failed her summon roll and Summoned her pimp.  She bound him.

She tried to summon one of Old Man Gui's 13 Ghosts, the Dream-eater, and failed the Summon roll again, accidentally summoning the ghost of her mother because I refused to make a failed sorcery roll mean a fizzled silence.  In hindsight I should have gotten nasty.  Shoudl've had the Dream-Eater go rabid but such is life.

Blue Eyed Chen tried to banish another ghost, one of Old Man Gui's children's demons and failed twice.

The undercover chemist kicked Mei out when she caught him in a lie.  Then she tried to summon the Ghost of the Imperial City but it was a big one, Power 10.  Between that and the strain of the Ghostworld, using mystic otherworld rules, he went to Humanity 0.

His kicker was that dies taking the artifact that Hento was going to use to cut the Ghostworld off from the real world, letting his demons rampage as his bindings break.

The players had fun doing Gun-fu in the warehouse as Hento's troops, Wei-Jing and her husband Ming's goons, the Russian mobsters making the drug buy and the SWAT Team all converged on the warehouse.

The players caught both of Gui's children, forcing Wei-Jing to banish all but one of her Demons at gun-point.  Rough.

There was a nice bit of witty repartee between the Internal Affairs and Straight-Laced blue Eyed Chen and the Bad and Worse Cops.

The Undercover Chemist's player had nothing to do during the combat, having taken herself out early.  He described how ghosts were coming through from the ghostworld, effecting the combat in various ways.

The game ended with an epilogue, the Undercover Chemist being Summoned as a Demon, bound to Mei, the new Crimelord.

The game worked, a good time was had by all.

Thumbs up.

I think I had trouble with a big combat and need to brush up heavily on the combat system.  Had a great time but I need to brush up, have it down pat.

It has been a good month of Sorcerer playing and I've gotten to indulge in many different kinds of games.  Fun stuff.

I'm looking forward to playing with the game further.


Thanks to Rob (Scorpio Rising) for the idea and to Old Scratch for the fantastic descriptors.