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[Sorcerer] Ordinary Tragedies, flashpoint play

Started by Tim Alexander, February 18, 2005, 04:37:03 PM

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Tim Alexander

Hey Folks,

We played another session of our ongoing Sorcerer game last night, and I made a lot of effort to try and use Ron's "flashpoint" technique during play. I've been toying with it for a bit, but last night was done in earnest, and I have to say it's pretty powerful. By way of recap this is a group of friends who have not until this point been a group that gamed together. I broached the subject a couple of months ago in hopes of finding some additional game outlet and got a lot of interest. We've got a husband and wife, the husband having been a D&D player in highschool but nothing much else, and the wife having almost no play experience. Our other member is a current gamer, mostly D20/D&D, and I'm a long time player of all sorts of crap who's trying desperately to lose his illusionist GMing habits after years of ingraining them. You can see a lot of less focused talk about the game here, here, and over here. We're on our sixth or seventh session of the story, and we've been having a pretty good time with it. I still feel like I'm floundering on occasion, and I've become acutely aware of how Sorcerer punishes you (at least me) if you don't do prep. I'll talk about that in a minute.

So anyhow, we generally manage to get together every other week or so, and I've been the weak link lately because of various life conflicts, but the players have all been motivated and interested in the game. The one place I've seen us sort of bog down is when the dice have come out. We've gotten into a couple of conflicts that got a little dice involved with multiple rounds, and I could tell some of the players not directly involved started to wander. Part of this is me still floundering around a bit as the guy who ostensibly knows the system best, and the Sorcerer system does seem to have a lot of stuff that just didn't read through to me in the text, but becomes very apparent during play. Another part I'm convinced is contributing is Sorcerer's system can pretend to be task resolution, or sort of tempts me to use it as task resolution, but it fails pretty miserably in execution as such. This sort of falls into lockstep with another contributor that seems to be us still figuring out the best granularity to resolve conflict even when using the system correctly. Flashpoints really help this out actually, and I'm beginning to see conflicts break into a few categories:

a) No conflict; this the 'say yes' equivalent from DitV, and this covers a whole heck of a lot of ground.
b) Minor Conflict; We've got legitimate conflict, and we need some FitM, but this a set stakes and roll once sort of thing, not incredibly granular.
c) Major Conflict; Legitimate, big, important, conflict, would benefit from a granular resolution. These get rolled into a flashpoint.

In the case of this last session everything was handled via a or b until what ended up being the final conflict of the night, and a big flashpoint. The fact that it ended up being the final conflict is somewhat incidental, I certainly wasn't trying to make for a single big conflict, but it worked out timing wise to allow the resolution of that flashpoint to be a great place to break for the night. Basically we ended up with the following setup:

-Vic is trying to convince Jack Hardin to open his office safe while the demonic puppet (Chip) looks on. He's hoping to get the combination so that he can steal some cash to get his blackmailer to give him some breathing room.
-Darlene and Helga are throwing down with a demon who's currently residing in the body of a state cop lieutenant.
-Gordy is in the midst of a fight with a man he previously saw absorbed by a big demon casino (and who previous to that was found enaged in sex with Gordy's mom for money,) who is now inhabited by a spawn of the casino.

Flashpoints are complex things, especially for the GM. I had a whole crapload of dice out on the table when we were getting ready to roll and it wasn't always simple to remember who had what pool. There was a lot of discussion about stakes, a lot of negotiations in free and clear, a lot of lovely whoring for RP bonuses, and at the same time a fair amount of handling time as we worked on the system at a fairly large scale. This was totally the moment in a Shadowrun game where you roll dice for hours to resolve combat. The neat thing is that while there were some hiccups and some hems, haws, and missteps, everybody was really enaged. This is really important; because I was frankly clumsy with the rules, and generally sort of oafish, but it didn't matter because everyone was really hard into what was going on and the dice were really important to that. So what happened?

Well, Vic gets Jack drunk, really drunk, and really paranoid, and he's looking good. Darlene and Helga are really putting a hurt on the possessor, who's getting trounced in the dice. Gordy is back and forth with the demon spawn, who's trying to get hold of an object demon, and who had a big dice edge because Gordy didn't have the object demon on hand. Helga has the possesor held, it's screwed, Darlene's just nailed it with a bunch of successes and it's now trying to take her up on an earlier offer of letting everyone walk away but Darlene's pissed and the player plans on rolling those successes over into a snapshot banish. Jack's managed to turn the tables on Vic's manipulation, and the player is now pulling out all the stops and dropping really incriminating info and laying on the pressure but in spite of the extra dice he's not making headway anymore and it's manifesting as Jack being a bit too drunk. The demon spawn has gotten tired of pussy footing around and has Gordy dazed, the room cloaked in shadow, and he's moving in to put him out of the picture so he can get the object demon and be done with it. Darlene's banish goes off, but the possesor beats her to the punch, hopping to a new host. She blows the followup lore roll and she's convinced she's got it banished, but Helga earns her keep and succeeds in noticing the switch (boy is Darlene about to be hit up for some need satisfaction.) Gordy snaps a banish, 10s up, and the demon who's now chucking a 10 die defense flubs it, and he goes pop. Man that ruled, everybody loved how that part flipped around. The possesor demon pleads for it's life and offers to cut a deal, and Darlene now securely with the upper hand is at least willing to entertain the idea. Vic can't quite get the rolls he needs, and Jack passes out, no go on the safe.

I'm not entirely sure how much time the above took, my gut says around 45 minutes. In the past 45 minutes of dice would have been something I avoided like the plague. In this case it really served to help the game and didn't feel like we completely lost the flow. It really really worked well. So anyway, that's my big revelation about flashpoint play, and it's definitely something I'm doing again. It's work, but it's well worth it in the payoff. I've got stuff to say about prep, and I've also got some stuff to talk about how we rolled no humanity checks, only one humanity gain, and yet humanity was all over the place and that was all good. I'll follow up in additional posts.


Peter Nordstrand

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Tim Alexander

Hey thanks Peter,

Sorry about the acronyms, DitV (Dogs in the Vineyard) in which one of the things Vincent talks about is "say yes or roll the dice." The other one is FitM (Fortune in the Middle.)

Hope that helps,