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[Sorcerer] Beginning Character Creation

Started by Lisa Padol, October 28, 2005, 02:02:23 AM

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Lisa Padol

Table of contents for this rambly post:

1. Meeting, with notes about food
2. Characters
3. One sheet, third and current draft (with thanks to Jesse, Josh, Julian, Dave, and Pamela)
4. Herr Doktor Black speaks

1. Meeting, with notes about food

We had our first meeting to generate characters. The venue was the wonderful Hungarian Pastry Shop at 110th/111th and Amsterdam, later adjourning to Hamilton in Columbia University and grabbing an empty classroom. We included:

Joshua Kronengold
Julian Lighton
Dave Demast
Pamela Gutman

Beth Bartley couldn't make it at the last minute, but she said it was okay to go ahead without her, and she'd catch up. I've played with her long enough to be confident that she will.

I had never met Pamela before, but we knew everyone else. Pamela had described herself online, and I'd described everyone else. Josh put up a link to photos of him, me, and Beth.

Josh and I were the first ones at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, despite my utter conviction that we didn't have time to stop for dinner, let alone stop at Saigon Grill, 20 blocks from our destination.

Josh: The GM needs to eat.

He pulled me into Saigon Grill, and it was early enough that there was no line. We ordered before even quite sitting down, and I noted that we'd probably be okay.

Me: After all, this is Saigon Grill.

They serve the food fast and get people in and out. So, by the time I'd used the bathroom and returned, one of our dishes was already there. Josh let the staff know that we were in a hurry and that they could bring out the rest whenever it was ready. This they did, and we ate much of the first two dishes. I had a few bites of the third, and we had the food packed to go and paid the bill. We set out at a good clip and arrived a bit earlier than I'd expected. We ordered pastries and drinks, and I set off for the bathroom. The graffiti is still amazing.

By the time I'd returned, Pamela arrived. Julian arrived not too long after. Josh gave Dave a call on his mobile, learning that he was about 30 seconds away. We talked, ate, and drank, and Josh proceeded to ask obnoxious questions about Humanity. Do you make a roll for being rude? (Probably not.) For sleeping with the woman who cleans the lecture halls? (It depends. Presuming this is consensual, not if there's a certain genteel veneer, i.e., you sit her in a nice chair by the fire, and feed her tea and cakes, and work up to a polite seduction. If you take her on top of your desk, quite possibly.) For childish behavior, like giving a raspberry to your opponent in a debate? (I don't think so.)

We paid our bills and headed out to Columbia, grabbing a classroom in Hamilton. By eleven, we'd gotten the characters pretty much statted out and at least began to tackle the back of the character sheet. We knew more or less what everyone's demon was like, but not what its abilities were, so the agenda for next time / email is pretty clear. The energy level was very high, and we walked another twenty block, except for Pamela, who walked as far as her apartment, which we may try as a meeting place for the first session when we play. She's got two cats, and Josh and I have mild-but-annoying allergies and a great fondness for cats. We are hoping to actually play a session before the year's end. We shall see. But I was feeling really psyched as we headed for home.

So was Josh. He told me about the natures of humans and animals, his mind going on a Rebecca Sean Borgstrom inspired flight of fancy, as he's been saturating himself with her prose, reading Weapons of the Gods on his Zaros in pdf format, as we wait for our hard copy to arrive. Tangent: He's been reading me the juiciest excerpts about Taoist sexual techniques as they relate to the game mechanics of kung fu. End Tangent.

We could use a name for the campaign and a name for the university. It was founded by a reigning person. This person's position no longer exists -- if it was a king, there are still nobles, but there's no king any more. We're currently dubbing the position Grand Hi Poo Bah.

Additional notes, probably obvious to everyone:

Having multiple copies of the One Sheet would have been a good idea.
Nev's Quick Ref is less useful for folks who have not read the book.
It's a pity the Strategist is not currently carrying Sorcerer!
The Hungarian Pastry Shop is a pretty good place to meet when there's a table for 6 available.

2. Characters

Player: Dave Demast
Character: Sigfried von Ouranoburg

Appearance: Normal, Average, Perfectly Non-descript

Stamina: 4 Clean Living
Will: 2 Lover
Lore: 4 Mad
Cover: 4 Professor of Natural Sciences (Biology)
Humanity: 4

Price: In Denial: -1 to first interaction with demons
Telltale: Small animals flee or cower
Kicker: Falling in love with Sebastian's niece, Ysabel

Demon: Possessor Demon. Dog, medium size, grey, drooling

[From discussion: Sigfried is a potential serial killer, ala the character from Doll's House -- I forget the exact details Dave worked out. Josh and Dave need to talk about whether Sigfried and Sebastian are in danger of coming into direct conflict too early. I know Josh saw this as a potential failure mode.]

Player: Pamela Gutman
Character: Sophia

Stamina: 6 Swordsman, Athletic Regime
Will: 3 Hunter / Predator
Lore: 1 Folklore
Cover: 6 Swordsman
Humanity: 6

Price: Cynical: -1 to all Humanity checks
Telltale: Slightly elongated canines
Kicker: Hired to kill a powerful sorcerer [From discussion: not feeling up to the job, hence wants more power, hence taking a class as an excuse to search the University's library]

Back of sheet, cover box
Near Lore: Brothers began training
Below that: Escaped from arranged marriage to Sebastian's younger
brother, Edmund

Demon: Cat

[From discussion: Sophia is a noble and needs a last name]

Player: Julian Lighton
Character: TBD [Julian's looking for an Italianesque name that feels right]

Stamina: 2 Natural Vigor
Will: 6 High Self Esteem, Inquisitive
Lore: 2 Scholar
Cover: 6 Artist
Humanity: 6

Price: Never finishes things: -1 on anything involving acting quickly
Telltale: My eye color is never quite what you remember it being.
Kicker: My demon is pregnant

Demon: Fox spirit possessing daughter of former patron (And yes, this means it's probably clever enough to manipulate me quite well.)
Former Patron: Antonio Mantuo
Girl's name: Teresa

[From discussion: He would want to be Leonardo da Vinci if he knew about the man. He was sleeping with patron's daughter, and she wanted to help him in his ritual to summon a demon, something he wanted to do for knowledge's sake. He would have banished the demon, except it said that this would leave the daughter a corpse. NB: If the motive for summoning the demon was sheer curiosity / lust for knowledge, the indication is that it's a powerful drive for the character, which makes sense given the second Will descriptor. He fled with the possessed daughter, and is not from the area where the University is. He probably has a more Italian name, as opposed to a Germanic name.]

Player: Joshua Kronengold
Character: Sebastian Black (entitled to von, does not use it, styles himself Herr Doktor Black instead).

Stamina: 1 Wizenned
Will: 5 Aristocrat, Magnetic Personality
Lore: 4 Adept
Cover: Professor of Philosophy: 5
Humanity: 5

Price: Arrogant: -1 on all social roles when dealing with social superiors
Telltale: One leg is twisted, looking more like a bird's than a man's.
Kicker: Gets a letter from his younger brother Edmund, asking him to aid and abet his niece, Ysabel, the heir, who is attending the university.

[From discussion: Sebastian's father, now deceased, made Edmund his heir because of Sebastian's deformity. Sebastian's father is now dead, as are all of his siblings except for Edmund. Josh wants to keep it unclear for now whether Sebastian had anything to do with this. He thinks Edmund should think he did, but that may be playing before we play. Sebastian is based on the Crotchety Old Professor Zivancevic  from Mystery Date, and his price is defined as it is because the professor is quite popular, so he clearly doesn't turn off his students, despite his arrogance.]

Demon: 'Elena the Raven
Needs: To be sung to.
Wants: Praise.

3. One sheet, third and current draft (with thanks to Jesse, Josh, Julian, Dave, and Pamela)

Sorcerer One Sheet, Third Draft

Demons: Bestial entities. Note that this does not mean stupid
entities. There are two types of demons: Animal Passers and Possessor
demons. Possessors can possess animals or humans. A human possessed
by a demon acts more animal like, but can usually still talk.

Demon Names: These should be elegant and civilized, in contrast to
the nature of demons.

Rituals: Involve animalistic behavior.

Humanity: Humanity is civilized behavior and acting according to the
social contract. Josh has a nifty discussion of this from his
character's point of view.

0 Humanity means a kind of insanity. Too animal, and you've got Sir
Lancelot running through the woods, cutting himself with thorns.

Setting: Renaissance like university. The role of women is in
question, and they are just starting to enter the university.

Premise, largely quoting Jesse here: The animal nature of humans does
not go away as we become more civilized, but it becomes more
complicated. Is civilization an attempt to tame or remove these
things? To what degree is that good? Or, if not, what is the drawing
room jungle like? The academia jungle?

Inspirational source material includes: The Fall of the Kings, His
Dark Materials, An Instance of the Finger Post, The Illusionists, The
Name of the Rose, Austen, Wharton, et alia, The Vampire Tapestry and
other works by Charnas



Folklore / Superstition 1-2
Instinctive 1-3
Scholar (someone who's learning lore via research, on his own) 2-3
Student (someone studying under a Sorcerer) 2-3
In a Study Group (sorta like a coven -- not sure I want to include
this one) 1-3
Adept 4+
Mad 4+


Belief System [Is there a more acadamese way of saying this?]
High Self Esteem
Social Lion / Animal Magnetism
Magnetic Personality
Alpha Male / Female
User / Manipulator
Zest for Life and Sensation


Natural Vigor
Clean Living
Athletic Regime
Military Training
Wizened (Stamina 1)
Dissipated (Stamina 1)


[Descriptors are set once we agree on them all. Covers are not -- feel free to come up with one not on the list.]

Student / Scholar
Swordsman / Swordswoman


Looking over this, I see that Lore descriptors remained unchanged from the previous draft, the one I brought with me to show everyone. We added two descriptors for Stamina 1. We added four descriptors for Will.

4. Herr Doktor Black speaks

[From Josh]

First: Since I'm playing a Doctor of Philosophy, I did a bit of brainstorming about the world's moral codes, the nature of humanity (from the character's point of view, anyway) and the nature of transgression.

Sebastian Black, my PC, has given lectures that more or less match the following:


The essential nature of humans is that we are different from animals -- it is anethema for humans to act in a way that animals do or to pretend to be an animal, or for animals to act the way that humans do or to ape a human (and, in fact, this is why "all right-thinking peoples" slaughter the evil creatures of the dark continent [JK: apes and monkeys, not something/someone else!] whenever they can -- apes transgress the order of nature by mimicking humans!).  Lesser transgressions--acting like an animal or deriving pleasure from someone else acting like an animal, or training an animal to shake hands, count, etc--are practiced by dissipated nobles, secret brothels, primitive peasants, and traveling people as a forbidden pleasure.

As [this world's version of] Plato said, the essential nature of animals is to act in an animalsistic fashion--to make unintelligable noises, to move themselves about on four, six, eight, or no legs, to fight with claws and teeth, and to act for instinctive reasons, whereas it's the essential nature of humans is to act in a humane fashion--to speak using words and communicate in symbols, to walk on two legs, to fight with tools and science, and to act for reasons of logic, culture, honor, and social ties.  To breach the wall that lies between animals and humans is to transgress against the laws of nature--to attack the world at its foundation.


The above may, in fact, strike a chord with the metaphysics of this world -- certainly, the wall between humans and animals is a true wall (and like all sorcerors, Herr Doktor Black has transgressed against the laws he advocates and supports), and only by breaching it can you become a sorceror.

It's likely that the great fear and suspision European culture has for apes and monkeys is a misguided one -- apes are natural creatures, not the half-man, half-animal abominations they fear.   However, it may be that their fears come from true causes -- that transgressive humans who do not become sorcerors may become monsters who look more or less like apes (lycanthropes, even), or even that in rare cases, animals can become a bizarre kind of sorceror, (or a demon, or perhaps this is the origin of all demons?), by mimicking humans, eating human food, et cetera.   It may even be that apes and monkeys, because of their talents for mimickry, are prone to becoming false humans or demons, explaining why humans have been unable to wipe them out -- if so, humans are right--they are dangerous, but wrong in thinking that apes are a form that animals have taken, rather than merely normal animals with a greater likelyhood of transformation.


[End of Josh section for this post.]


Trevis Martin

Hi Lisa!

Sounds pretty good.  What about NPC's attached to the character's various descriptors?  And did people fill out the diagram on the back of the sheet?


Lisa Padol

Quote from: Trevis Martin on October 28, 2005, 03:28:54 AMSounds pretty good.  What about NPC's attached to the character's various descriptors?  And did people fill out the diagram on the back of the sheet?

In progress. Pamela started to. Josh has a handwriting problem, so he's going to be working on his pda. I think if he lists the quadrants in clockwise or counterclockwise order, and types stuff in each category, we'll be good.


Trevis Martin

Remember that the diagram on the back is a spatial thing, so once he lists stuff, maybe someone can draw it out with him.  You see the stuff that clusters towards the center will be the characters most fertile area.  The diagram is a story now crosshair.  You can tell whether the character has a focus. 



I'll likely just write it out when I get around to making a physical sheet -- the reason I tend to do stuff on pdas has less to do with my disgraphia and more to do with the tendency of physical sheets to get lost.

Of course, I could just make a diagram via a drawing program. :)
-- Joshua Kronengold

Lisa Padol

Quote from: Trevis Martin on October 28, 2005, 06:21:25 AMRemember that the diagram on the back is a spatial thing, so once he lists stuff, maybe someone can draw it out with him.  You see the stuff that clusters towards the center will be the characters most fertile area.  The diagram is a story now crosshair.  You can tell whether the character has a focus.

Oh yes, I can copy what Josh types into the diagram, especially if he says, "This should be close to this." I wonder if there's a version of the character sheet that he could type into. (I see he's thought about that.)

Aside to Josh: Take a photo of the char sheets on your digital camera, like you did for the HeroQuest game.

At the moment, I'd say his character is pretty focused. He's got a mini R-map, what with father, brother, and niece all named, and an interesting conflict here. Sebastian should have been the heir, as he is the oldest son, but his father passed him over because of his deformity. His brother is sending his niece to him, maybe as a test, maybe for some other reason. Honor and pride conflict here. How is going to cope with this girl who is the heir to everything that could have been his?

There are links built in this R-map to two other PCs. Sophia turned down his brother's proposal of marriage. Given the relative ages of the people involved, we agreed that the brother must be a widower, and that he wanted Sophia as a second wife. Sophia is at the university so that she can hunt up information on getting a bigger and better demon, the university being where the good books are. How is Sebastian going to deal with this woman who thought she was too good to marry his brother? His brother, who has everything he could have had.

Sigfried is or is about to be falling in love with Sebastian's niece. How is this going to affect Sebastian? Sigfried is of noble lineage, but, if I remember correctly, is not exactly a noble. And, there are Sigfried's, ah, issues. As his passions are aroused, so is his desire to kill, I believe. This is why Josh and Dave need to talk, to make sure they're on the same page with pacing and player, as opposed to character, goals.

Then, there's stuff that's cool and doesn't exactly go into that diagram. Sebastian's lecture and Josh's analysis tell a great deal about this guy. They also offer me material for all sorts of wicked ideas. Sebastian is based on a character from Finder. Josh is not making the mistake of having his character be anything resembling a carbon copy of this guy. Nevertheless, there's a spot in my head that's considering how I can play with the source material. Do I want someone who is attracted to Sebastian the way Vary is to Professor Zee? Do I want him to have a colleague, as Zee does, albeit one who is not a bird-lizardy alien?

Let's consider that last question. Because I know that Sebastian is based on Professor Zee, I mull over the central R-map of Mystery Date. I look at one relationship: a relationship to a professional colleague. I've already got an idea that there should be such a relationship here, even if I take nothing else from the source material that Josh is using -- even if I make this guy a rival, an enemy, whatever, the though is in my head. Then, I get other questions and possibilities. Should this guy be a sorcerer? Should he have a personality like the character he's inspired by? Should he be a woman? Should he be someone that Sebastian can relax with? I think so. Is this because, like Sebastian, he's a bit of an outcast in his normal circle? This thought, too, is inspired by the source material, as Zee's colleague doesn't quite fit into academia. He doesn't worry about it, though. And I like the idea of a very relaxed guy as a foil to Sebastian. Or, maybe he's not an outcast of any kind. Maybe he's one of those people who just naturally relax and coast.

So, I've got a bunch of ideas and questions, thanks to Josh saying, "I'm basing this guy loosely on that guy from this comic." I'm curious to know if there's any way that maps onto the character sheet diagram. I don't think so.

Now that I have these questions, my next step is to stop. I can't really begin to come up with answers. One of my players hasn't had a chance to do any character creation. No one's statted out demons. No one has finished the diagram on the back. Pamela is the only one who started it.

Even without diagrams, I have a sense of some of what is missing.

For example, how did Sebastian become a sorcerer? And, thinking about this, I realize that it's a good question for all of the characters. Do any of them have mentors? Sophia probably doesn't, but Sigfried and Sebastian might. I need to ask Josh and Dave about that.

Julian's character doesn't have a mentor. The artist and his patron's daughter worked together to summon up the fox spirit that possessed her. She was helping him, and, presumably, he's the one who knew how to do it. And, as Julian reminds me, I need to decide whether the daughter is still saveable, or whether her soul's been destroyed, as the demon claims.

Julian's character does not have links to the other three. This could be a problem, though I may be making the mistake of assuming that the problems Julian has had with most of the larps he's played in will translate into problems with a tabletop game. It's something to keep an eye on. I have a couple of ideas about making links, but, at this point, I can't make any decisions. The characters aren't done yet. Mm, and I need some idea of how long ago the daughter got possessed. A vague one will do.


Lisa Padol

Dave's character is not named Sigfried, and I don't know how I got the idea he was. He's Andreas von Ouranenburg.

We worked on statting out his demon. Here's what we have so far:

Name: Orion
Type: Passer demon
Appearance: dog, medium size, growly, drooling
Telltale: Has human eyes, cornflower blue, like the eyes of an innocent young girl

(Trying to make sure we're clear on user, target, whatever)

Big (that is, demon gets big)
Link (between Orion and Andreas)
Vitality (used on someone else: Orion licks the person to make him better)
Travel (for Orion, only when hunting)
Travel (for someone else, generally Andreas, only when hunting -- Josh thinks this should be Transport, and that I'm confusing chrome with mechanics)

Need: Eating small animals
Desire: The Hunt

Lore: 5
Stamina: 5
Will: 6
Power: 6


Lisa Padol

While Dave began working on Andreas' demon, Beth began working on her PC. She still needs a name, but has the preliminary stats:

Stamina: 2
Will: 7
Lore: 1
Humanity: 7
Cover: 7

Cover will probably be Noblewoman. Beth's creating a student, but it didn't make sense for a cover of 7 for someone who's a beginning student.

The character wouldn't normally want to create the kind of minor scandal a woman going to university makes, but, well, she bound this demon, possibly to avoid an unwanted marriage, and wants to learn more, because she doesn't feel in control of the demon.

I sense a pattern here -- two PCs want to go to the university because that's where the books are, and they somehow know, even though the university does not teach sorcery, that this is where the books on it would be.

This means that there probably is a body of work, whether it's one book or many, or references in several, that contain what is Lore. Okay, I can work with this. It means that superstition / folklore almost certainly contains at least vague references to books of magic.

We're hoping to set up a session to finish character creation on Saturday.


Ron Edwards

Lisa, these posts are starting to look like your free-associative notes. Let's try to keep this from becoming a LiveJournal.

if you have more questions about prepping, take them to the Adept Press forum.

When you and the group actually play, then post here again and let us all know about it.