Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Sorcerer One-Sheet: In His Service

Started by Clinton R. Nixon, March 15, 2002, 10:45:49 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Clinton R. Nixon

I'm starting a Sorcerer campaign next week, and whipped up this one-sheet after talking the game over with my group last night. I'm posting it here, as I plan to continue documenting the campaign in this thread.

Here's something I never admit - I've started two Sorcerer campaigns before. Both lasted one - exactly one - session. I'm not making that mistake this time.


Sorcerer One-Sheet: In His Service

Premise: Can a bad person work for good?

Demons are:
Very, very traditional Judeo-Christian demons. Their Needs are always a variation on the Seven Deadly Sins: greed, lust, sloth, pride, gluttony, anger, and envy. A demon may need to eat offal, or hoard gold, or lie in bed for days on end. Common Desires are: Power, Mayhem, and Corruption. There are no good demon Desires. Creation/artistry, for example, is right out.

The most common demons are Passers and Possessors, with Objects following, and Parasites and Inconspicious demons rarely occuring.

Sorcerers are:
either evil, mad, or confused. Sorcerers either come from traditions of cults (people who have pacted together for power from demons), the twisted and insane (people who perceive a different reality through psychedelic drugs or madness), or pagan religions (who have no idea what they're really dealing with, and tend to be laughed at by real cultists.)

There is one other type of sorcerer, not available as a player character - the God-fearing type. These are more of demon-hunters than anything else, and are usually zealous as fuck.

Sorcery is:
varied. Sorcery rituals differ for practitioners, but the most common ones are:
- Christian mythology devil-worship and Black Masses,
- mind-blasting drug-fueled perceptions into Another Place,
- tree-worshipping pagans about to get their comeuppance.

Humanity is:
individuality. People who are so strictly adherent to either order-inducing goodness (and Godliness) or sodden in blood-thirsty evil that they can make no decisions for themselves have Humanity 0.

Player characters are:
as twisted and fucked-up as you want them to be. They don't have to be horrible people, but that option is open. They must, however, have at least one redeeming quality.

One, and only one, PC may push this, and be a Half-Breed from Sorcerer and Sword. You're Rosemary's baby, and you are a Bad Motherfucker, most likely. No one has to take this option, but it's open.


The setting:
Modern-day America, with the Judeo-Christian mythology cranked to 10. Apocryphal texts and obscure Catholic beliefs are as real as air and rocks. The campaign will center on the city of San Francisco, and appropriate covers could be anything from politicians, big businessmen (especially in high-tech), pagans on Haight and Ashbury, prostitutes and drug addicts on the edge of Chinatown, or average joes.

The Prophecy, Dogma (by Kevin Smith), obscure Christian texts, and James Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter, In Nomine.

The set-up:
Another angel (after Lucifer) has revolted from Heaven. He despises humanity for its lack of devotion to God, and finds Heaven in contempt for giving humanity the free will to spoil the life God has given them. His goal is to establish a true Kingdom of God on Earth.

The PC's, sorcerers and devil-consorters all, are Heaven's only hope on Earth.


A sample PC:

Thomas Rifter

Stamina 3 (athletic regime), Will 3 (user/manipulative), Lore 4 (solitary adept)
Cover 3 (CEO of Internet Entertainment Industry, an online pornography company)
Humanity 3
Price: Arrogant (-1 to all perception rolls)

Thomas' Telltale is a mass of scars running up from the middle of his back to his shoulders.

Thomas' demon is named Violet, and is a sex-doll of a Passer - almost translucently pale skin, orange-red hair, perky pink nipples the size of pencil erasers, and lips that perpetually look ready for a blow-job; her Telltale is her eyes: they're just as violet as her name.

Stamina 3, Will 5, Lore 4, Power 5
Need: forced sexual intercourse - either to herself, or her forcing on someone else.
Desire: Corruption

Abilities: Daze (obviously - +1 vs. men/-1 vs. women), Link, Mark (using sex), Taint (well, not actually. Works just like Taint, but against Will. Also used during sex).

A year ago, Thomas was vice-president of marketing at, trying to sell people on a "new paradigm to procure packing materials leverging the power of the Internet." He was also a member of a cult holding monthly Black Masses in the back room of the Power Exchange, a local sex club. He came in to work to find his network account disabled, and his office already packed in eBoxes. After getting laid off, he made his way home - to find his wife with a picture of him giving it to a Goth girl in the middle of a group of bondage-wearing Satan-worshippers.

Homeless and jobless, he cashed in his stock options, broke from his cult, and started a new life, doing what he knew best: exploiting other people into sexual situations for profit online. IEI has broken $1 million in its first year of business, selling the hottest sex you'll find on-line. He's pretty happy with the way his sorcery's been going as well - Violet's a perfect sexual surrogate for him, especially as she's basically the porn-star version of his ex-wife, even down to the mole on her thigh.

His redeeming quality is: he and his ex-wife have a seven-year-old daughter, Julie. He loves Julie completely, and keeps the rest of his life fastidiously separate from her. He's warned Violet on the threat of Banishment never, ever to even come within a mile of Julie.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Clinton R. Nixon

Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Clinton,

This sounds really cool.

One thought:

The Premise, from my "Haven't done it yet" perspective seems a little flat.

I think I know what you're going for, but it seems to me the answer is clearly, "Yes."  The question might become, "Does he do good accidently?" or "Can he align his badness with the needs of goodness?"  But I can't see how it's going to work into an active choice during scenes.  (The first choice is an issue of metaphysical and moral speculation, the second is a kind of puzzle-game on the order of Clue without the candlestick.)

Since I wasn't there during the discussion with you and your players I'm probably missing -- oh, everything -- about how you're going to make it work...  But it seems somehow off to me.

I don't want to give suggestions, because I don't see exactly what you're up to, but I'd love to hear more about, say, what kind of choice a character might make.


"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Clinton R. Nixon

Great questions, Christopher - seriously. Out of everything up there, the Premise and Humanity were what I was most worried about. I just re-read Soul, and I'm solid with Humanity now. I think it'll work out great.

As for the Premise, though - of course the answer as it's written is "Yes." In play, the sort of questions I'd be asking are "Even though you're an evil person, will you save person X in trouble with no incentive on your part?" and "Will you do something good for humanity even if it costs you your power?"

I'm planning on having the PCs sorely tempted with offers of power, positions of authority, and the like. If they refuse, I'm going to screw them over hard - and expect them to keep going.

I know I'm being vague - all my players read this. :) I think a better Premise might be "Can an essentially evil person change?" and "Does moral goodness trump spiritual goodness?"

Moral goodness and spiritual goodness might sound like the same thing, but in this case, they really aren't.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Christopher Kubasik


Now I am confused.

(And remember, I'd pressing you for selfish reasons.  I'm setting up my own game and am using you as a test case.)

If Humanity is the ability to withstand the dogma of god and satan and act with "indivuduality" -- what incentive do I have to save the innocent person?

According to how I'm reading the mechanics, and how I'm reading the "In His Service" Humanity:

-- If I do save the person I need to make a Humanity check, because I'm not acting as an Individual, but to a moral code outside of myself.  Hence, I'm failing to be Human.

-- If I don't I'm fine, because I'm living in the bounds of this story's Humanity.  I'm evil, I'm living by my own standards. Why would I bother doing something that benefits me not at all and might cost me a bucket of magical trouble?


I'm really curious as to what you've got up your sleeve now, so if you don't want to discuss this further on line, if you'd like, I'd love to go to PM.


"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Clinton R. Nixon


It's totally cool - these questions are helping me incredibly.

Ok - looking back, Humanity would be:
self-determination. This fits perfectly with the Biblical aspect of this, as well, where to be human = free will. Whenever you truck with a demon or angel, you are losing self-determination.

For your example, it's not what ou do, but why - are you making your own decision, or are you following orders? Combined with the vein of "human (secular) morality does not equal Heavenly morality," this should slam home a good game.

Now to the Premise, though - I still don't quite have it. The best I can phrase it so far is, "Do the tenets of man trump the tenets of heaven?"
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Clinton,

I see where you're going now -- and in fact it's where I thought you were going.  Sounds cool.  A couple of suggestions.

First, Be Careful.

Working with the "motivation" (the "why" of why someone does something) is really tricky.  Having talked to Ron my guess is the game doesn't support this concern really well.  It's difficult enough to figure this out in life, as well as in any story.  To hinge the game on a player trying to sort out all the possible reasons his charater is doing something could lead to a lot of internal thinking and odd assumptions.

The game is based on what Sorcerers do.  It might be possible to change this around.  But I would do it with great hesitation.  

(Quick summation of my concern: Quick: why does Ripley risk her life for Newt?  Oh yeah?  Now explain the five other possibilities that leap immediately to mind.  What matters in the story is what she does, not why she does it.)

Second, one  of the things that helped me work all this out for Witch's Brew was nailing down the "Humanity Matrix."

Humanity is...
The Premise is...  
At 0 Humanity you are...
Demons will...
Humanity checks to...
Rituals are based on...

I highly recomend the last four are defined as active, physical manifestations of behavior.  Remember that Demons tend to want the their Sorcerers to have to make Humanity checks.  It seems to me then, that what one sees the demons encouraging/demanding the PCs to do is the opposite of Humanity.  (That's the kind of thing I mean by lining them up.  They work back and forth on each other till they're all balanced and settled.)

Third, you might be setting yourself up for a trap.

Sorcerer is about "self-determination."  Every character by definition makes choices -- that's what the game has as a base premise.  What to do with that self determination is what any Sorcerer game is about no matter how Humanity is defined.

To be blunt, and I only say this because it's a habit I'm trying to break in my own writing, you might be getting too heady.

Fourth, here's a summation of the qualities of a solid premise from another thread:

1) A situation exists which has aroused passion in a fictional character. A character (NPC, PC, whatever) cares passionately about something, and that is manifested through action (past or present, doesn't matter).

2) The passion in question is accessible to us, the real people, because (a) we identify with it or (b) we at least recognize that a person might feel this way, without being an idiot or a psychopath.

3) The situation in question is recognizable to us, the real people, as a representative of some basic human conflict. That conflict is something we know about, we've seen it in the real world, and we have no instant or obvious solution for it.

Also mentioned on the thread is the helpful hint that a good premise offers two worthy choices.  The choice between two appealing desires, that we can all understand, is what keeps the ball in the air, if you will, during scenes, when we wonder which way the character's going to act.  (Will Ripley respond to her instincts of self-interest or nurturing?  Both are good; unfortunately, if you check with any parent, they're often in conflict with each other.)

Fifth... How do I say this...?  Be careful of your metaplot, my friend.  You've got an angel coming down from Heaven to declare war on God -- and the PCs are God's only hope.... Hrrmmmm... My brain might be too heated from re-reading the Sorcerer ouvre this week, but if I'm not mistaken, you're really close to telling the players what their role in the coming conflict is.

I'd really step back for a moment and reconsider this.

Sorcerer, far as I can tell, starts with maybe a teeny-tiny bit of geography or plot -- but really starts from Humanity/Premise, building characters off a solid Humanity/Premise -- and then giving the PCs the chance to proactively explore that premise through their choices based of the kicker.

If by definition the PCs are God's last chance...  Well... Their choices are already limited.

I'm not saying it can't work. But I am saying a hugemotherfuckingredflag is waving in the core of my brain.  I'd suggest this is why you're having trouble with your Premise: You've built a metaplot and are now trying to retrofit a Sorcerer game into it.  This might not work.  (I honestly don't know.)

Sixth, in the screenwriting program I'm in were' not allowed to give story ideas -- we only refer fellow writers to the writing tools we've been taught.  So... That's what I should do here.

But I'll toss this out...

Humanity is... God's Will
The Premise is... Do we serve God by being Sinful  
At 0 Humanity you are... Damned
Demons will... tempt you to transgress God's Will
Humanity checks to... percieve moral consequences
Rituals are based on... the seven sins

Here's the backstory tie in...  The Sorcerers aren't God's last hope. They're Hell's last hope.  The demons they bind are are all fighting the last battle against the turn coat angle and his allies.  God, as usual, is fucking silent on the matter. (And by the way, this last point is crucial if if the games going to work.  But God's Hammer is in place with the Avenging Angel -- see below.)

The demons want to stop the angel.  The PCs may go along with this ambition, or they might try to help the angle, dragging their demons kicking and screaming along the way.  Either way, the only way they have the power to fight is by sinning against God to get power from the Demons.

Hence the Premise.  There's a choice (Sins are fun, God is good), the kind of hink moral complication you're looking for (God's got one fucked up mission statement if this is true), and it retains the wierd twist that the demons are fighting someone who has rebelled against God.  Also, the PCs get hammered on two fronts -- the demons tempting them, and an avenging angel who's going to be on the lookout for moral transgression.  Since God's not invovled, and the PCs need to use the demons to stop the avenger, they'll be actively in conflict with someone enforcing God's Law.  For this reason they might switch sides (or just choose to), but then end up sinning to enforce God's law -- and then you've got some sort of fucked up holy masochist who believes that only by knowing sin can he fight it -- again, playing into the Premise and developing the moral dilema you want to explore.

It's very much the "Humanity is Soul" found in Sorcerer's Soul.  But keeps what you want through the Premise, Humanity and the Situation.

And last, remember -- Beware metaplots!  PC's first and foremost!  There's a Situation, but what the players do with it is their business!  Assume nothing!

Okay.  Time for bed,


edited with one grammatical change to clarify the nature of evil
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Clinton R. Nixon

Chistopher, you just blew my mind. I read that post and - pop.

I've spent too much time writing fiction - I had a whole plot set up. More thanks are coming privately - but, seriously, I'm stunned at how incredible that was.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Christopher Kubasik


That's what we're all here for.

And trust me, I got as much out of that series of exchanges as you did.

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield