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[Sorcerer] Con DFW 2006

Started by Bill Cook, February 25, 2006, 03:03:16 AM

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Bill Cook

I ran a four-hour one-shot of Sorcerer at Con DFW tonight, and geez, it couldn't have been better. Here are the pre-gens:

Name: Rex Short.
Player: Marco. (No! Not JAGS Marco!)
Appearance: Kinky dirty blond. Leather jacket and sunglasses. Pimped out ride. Goatee. Mixed race. Gregarious. Ice cold treacherous.
Telltale: Pupils cloud over with inky black, going schleral.
Scores: Humanity 3, Stamina 3 (Wiry), Will 3 (Dogged), Lore 4 (Solitary Adept), Price: Spaced out (-1 to be convincing).
Kicker: Reuben digs a knife under Rex's jaw. "I want my money, now."
Bound Demons: Juevo, Jiminy.
Back Sheet Notes: Picked up his demons from heroin buddies. Racing colors and sounds flood Rex's mind. Sex worker treats for VIPs. Brown paper blocks of coke that Reggie owes payment against. Ghetto fabulous atmosphere and kill squad. Reggie is out of cash; only a safe of bonds remains. Reuben Madi wants his take or Rex is a memory. Hustler boys are overdue for a cash perk.

Name: Aaron Chevelle.
Player: Aaron.
Appearance: Harrowed look. Curly hair. Tired features. Prison clothes. Cigarette-stained hands.
Telltale: Pulsing coils of prison tat's.
Scores: Humanity 5 4 3, Stamina 4 (Free weights pumped), Will 5 (Distraught; desperate), Lore 1 (Prison circle initiate), Price: Distracted (-1 to react).
Kicker: Archibald reports on confronting Reggie. He swears he'll put the family fortune up his nose.
Bound Demons: Mason, pocket watch demon.
Back Sheet Notes: Punked by a brutal inside tough's boy. Drunken vehicular manslaughter. Coke binging younger brother, Reggie. Trapped in jail, powerless to prevent disaster. Plane crash killed parents. Family business mismanaged into failure. Family lawyer, Archibald, provides weekly updates.

Name: Gregory Thatcher.
Player: Gary.
Appearance: Ripe. Straggly hair. Sweat ruined rags. Disheveled. Emaciated beggar.
Telltale: Racing wind lifts clothes and hair. Illumination.
Scores: Humanity 6, Stamina 2 (Steady), Will 6 (Zealous; crazed), Lore 2 (Demon's apprentice), Cover 6 (Street corner bum), Price: Despondent (-1 to appreciate compassion).
Kicker: You wake to find you've dug up Yvette's body. You see the creature from your dreams. "It wasn't an accident."
Bound Demons: Yvette.
Back Sheet Notes: The grinning goblin promises to make sense of everything. Love is stolen by spiteful whimsy. All my friend have their own families now; the fools. The rail had been unbolted! but no one would listen. Alcohol is my only solace. Yvette was taken from me. On that day, before she fell, a grinning goblin, juggling bolts.

Name: Lisa Reynolds.
Player: Mike.
Appearance: White. Mid-thirties. Eccentric dress. Brunette. Short, straight hair. Tattoo.
Telltale: Laugh ends in a passion cry of ritual ecstasy.
Scores: Humanity 5 6, Stamina 2 (Energetic), Will 5 (Determined; upbeat), Lore 3 (Former coven member), Cover 5 (High school drama teacher), Price: Exhausts self (-1 to being steady).
Kicker: A catwalk rail gives way. A female student falls and breaks her arm.
Bound Demons: Honker.
Back Sheet Notes: Honker, mischievous imp. Errands of revenge. Ridiculed by cute guys. Always the weird girl. College crush, Gregory. College rival, Yvette. Terrible, accidental death. My redemption: Stacy and Allen, my zany kids; Thom, my lovable husband.

Here are the demons:

Name: Juevo.
Type: Parasite.
Appearance: -
Telltale: -
Bound to: Alex Short.
Binding Strength: -3.
Scores: Stamina 7, Will 8, Lore 8, Power 8.
Desire: -
Need: Regular psychotropic drug infusion.
Abilities: Armor, Hold (Psychic Paralysis), Protection (Psi), Travel (Dimension Portal), Boost (Will).

Name: Jiminy
Type: Innocuous.
Appearance: Heatwave.
Telltale: Local distortion.
Bound to: Alex Short.
Binding Strength: +3.
Scores: Power 2
Desire: -
Need: -
Abilities: Cover, Hint.

Name: Yvette ("My angel ..")
Type: Passer.
Appearance: Mature, modestly dressed woman.
Telltale: Rotting corpse in reflections.
Bound to: Gregory Thatcher.
Binding Strength: -1.
Scores: Stamina 5, Will 5, Lore 4, Power 6.
Desire: Everything is couched in terms of "If you love me, .."
Need: Feeding on eyes, the mirror of the soul.
Abilities: Cover, Boost (Will), Boost (Lore), Lethal Special Damage (darting, eye-plucking tongue).

Name: Honker.
Type: Innocuous.
Appearance: Green-skinned, bulbous, short, ground tooth smile.
Telltale: Barbed tail sticks out.
Bound to: Lisa Reynolds.
Binding Strength: +1.
Scores: Stamina 2, Will 7, Lore 6, Power 7.
Desire: Gloating.
Need: Dissembler pranks of progressing danger.
Abilities: Non-lethal Special Damage (Barbed Tail), Lethal Special Damage (Bite), Non-lethal Special Damage (Artifice), Cloak, Travel (Walks out of dreams), Perception (Sense sleeping minds).

Name: Mason.
Type: Passer.
Appearance: Big, black. Broad-shouldered. Quiet. Pacing. Untamed animal quality.
Telltale: Baleful eyes, gator growl.
Bound to: Aaron Chevelle.
Binding Strength: +1.
Scores: Stamina 8, Will 9, Lore 5, Power 9.
Desire: Combing through slum streets at night.
Need: Sodomite rape.
Abilities: Armor (Flesh spits out bullets, heals over punctures within minutes), Cover, Big, Mark (Warning that the Marked is under protection), Hold + Lethal Special Damage (Bear hug).

Name: The pocket watch demon.
Type: Object.
Appearance: A pocket watch.
Telltale: -
Bound to: Aaron Chevelle.
Binding Strength: -
Scores: Power 2
Desire: -
Need: -
Abilities: Cover (?), Vitality.

My seed idea to do this, sometime between August and November of last year, was the following:

Another nightmare of burning corpses. You kiss your wife as she leaves to drive the kids to school. Leaning over to collect their lunch sacks, she exposes that tattoo in the small of her back, a postcard from wilder days. The Jetta turns the corner. The kids argue over whose turn it is to play the Game Boy. A homeless man in sunglasses shares the street corner with a dog.
- "Is that her?" It bears a wolfish grin, tongue lolling, looking more like a goblin.
- "Yes, master."

The back story to that snippet is that your wife was a sorcerer, but due to unsavory consequences, put it behind her. But the past is not done with her .. In this case, the consequence was murder. Something that seemed harmless (taking revenge by ruining a special moment) went horribly wrong. I got this idea by ruminating on the sorcerer-to-demon relationship and trying to think of some demonic needs that would really shatter your world view.

I originally planned for Thom (the husband) to be a PC but needed some space from the wife's concept. Of course, her nemesis would be another. I was thinking of placing Greg in prison, but as I wrote him, he became an entirely different PC: Aaron Chevelle, whose life was going to hell and could do nothing to stop it. And finally, a character to put the screws to Reggie (Aaron's brother), who would like nothing more than to find a score big enough to quit the dealer scene and retire to a sunny island nation.

As you can see, I took the back sheets seriously. They appear as scattered lines on the paper. This was so much more powerful than providing a paragraph of character background. The players used much of what I put down, but the loose presentation allowed for greater interpretation. For example: Gary, playing Greg Thatcher, summoned a possessor to animate his ex-girlfriend's corpse! Well, shit, I had planned for Honker to come out from behind a tombstone and offer to train him to be a sorcerer, that they might together take revenge on their shared enemy, Lisa; Honker for the past Banishing and Greg for the murder of his beloved. But Gary's move was so much better that I threw Honker at Lisa, instead, the angle being that "It'd be just like old times" and  Honker would get his Need met once more.

A bit about the players: I had mostly con staffers and a majority sample of Living Room Games employees. A number of passing interest ("Hey guys. So what's this?") and some steady spectators (Michelle, Ruth, Jasmine and maybe some Battletech guys to the side). I learned later from Michelle that these guys are long-time friends and all experienced gamers. Their background showed favorably. Very open to the Sorcerer experience. Mike said he'd heard of the game and was interested to see how it played.

Back to prep, briefly: I wrote one Bang only. And I used it, but didn't feel the dearth. These guys were bang on about providing direction for the story. Greatly appreciated. Also, see an R-map, here. I made a letter-size layout copy of the sheets to eliminate flipping and provided the rules redux from the addend ix. And I had a two-page demon abilities redux on hand. "That's all you need to play." They liked that.

** ** **

What happened during play? (Let me see if I can remember ..) Archibald conferred with Aaron to have Reggie sign a document authorizing Archibald to run the Chevelle family business, with the unwritten proviso of a coke stipend. They taped Aaron's plea to do what Archibald asked, for both their sake. Lisa returned after hours to the stage where her student had fallen to find Honker, juggling nuts and bolts. It said a vengeful spirit from Hell was on her path. Fun for help was the deal. Greg took his newly regained "precious one" to the 24-hour pizza diner.
- "Just a minute. They left off one topping." Moments later, the counter help lay eyeless and dead. The security camera caught it all.

Rex fed Juevo while Archibald confirmed Reggie. Later, Reggie gave up a few sheets of bonds from a safe behind the office to pay Rex. Rex noted the potential for heist. Thom ended up on his back in a rollerskate incident. Lisa shocked Honker out the window. Yvette explained Lisa's role in her demise and entreated him to revenge.
- "Just this one thing, and then we begin our love." (Whispered: "Yes. This one thing. And then one thing more ..")

Rex 'ported in and took the bonds and jewelry. He paid Madi with the latter and picked up a stash to move. While hauling trash from the cafeteria, Aaron was repeatedly stabbed. His assailant was crushed and raped by Mason. RBM waved away the guards and repaired Aaron with a candlelight ritual. He said the hit came from outside and that his family wasn't safe. For an unspecified future favor, he offered to cover his break with a transfigured guard copy that Aaron might safeguard Reggie and secure the family's physical assets. Mason shrugged off rifle fire and broke a few necks getting them free.

Thom ran into Greg, his old fraternity buddy, dumpster diving behind a Wal-Mart. Greg noticed Lisa in a wallet photo when Thom gave him a double twenty spot. So Lisa Palmer is now Lisa Reynolds .. Greg fingered Thom's business card.
- "Seriously, call me. You should come by the house for dinner one night."

Greg stole a car. By coincidence, it belonged to Rex and had the bonds and coke still inside. The condo complex security camera got it all. Rex woke up, booked a flight online, packed his bags and walked outside. Shit! Aaron confronted Reggie about the missing bonds and barely prevented Mason from ravishing him. The hidden camera on the safe ID'ed Rex. Lisa answered the phone. It was Greg Thatcher, from college! Of course tonight was alright. She hung up, gave the kids lots of cash and had a friend's mom take them to the mall.
- "What now, imp?"
- "We wait."

Rex felt a cloud of energy pass over him. He had a vision of Rex and Yvette, pulling into a driveway in a residential neighborhood.
- "Taxi!"

At the Red Hat Club, one of Rex's toughs, the wise guy who'd put the hit on Aaron, fled at the sight of him. Aaron pursued and got shot. Mason annihilated him and handed over Archibald's microcassette player and a cell phone.
- "Rex? I'm a friend of Reggie's. I need you to hook me up. Fern Glen? No, I can meet you there." Aaron stopped at a pawn shop along the way and picked up an alluring pocket watch.

Thom arrived as Greg and Yvette walked up to the house. Lisa stood in the doorway, fighting nausea from the stench of rotting flesh. Greg introduced "Angel."
- "I swear you look just like an old friend .. Whoa! I'm being rude. Get inside, you two!" A taxi let Rex out at the end of the street. In the driveway, he saw his car. Blocked in by a shitty Hundai. Dinner pleasantries were exchanged and Greg excused himself to the lavatory.
- "Just this one thing, and then .." He pressed his face to a hand towel and returned. Out the window, he saw Thom's car, rolling into the neighbor's lawn and someone leaning into the backseat of the car he stole.
- "Is someone stealing my car?" The Reynolds turned to look outside. Greg drew a gun he'd taken from Rex's glove compartment and pointed it at Thom. Cli- cli- .. What the? .. On the kitchen island, Honker fingered a spring.

Outside, Aaron arrived. Rex, turned around and looked up, a few bond sheets spilling from the two boxes.
- "Mason. Rape."

Inside, Lisa winked Yvette away, her bones collapsing in a sinewy heap. Thom leaned against the wall, terrified. Honker leapt at Greg, stinging again and again. Greg used the turkey tray as a crude shield. And then he remembered he was a sorcerer and banished the nasty creature. Now, to Li-

Crack! A knuckle sandwich to the jaw had him seeing stars. Thom looked at Lisa. Lisa looked at Thom.
- "Honey, they're all demons."

Outside, Aaron collected blood-soaked bond sheets.

** ** **

This was some spirited play. Mike is a real natural at implying intent through IC dialog. I had sooo much fun role-playing Honker and Reggie. Aaron exploded into play in the scene where he confronted Reggie. It was unexpected and powerful. Gary was in a trance, portraying Greg's fevered obsession and the stress of contemplating murder. Most Valuable Input has to go to Gary for stealing Rex's car. That moved everything into a massive cross. Also, at the outset, choosing to summon a demon into Yvette supercharged the whole scenario.

I decided to try to mix in a DitV-style round of initiatory conflict in the form of binding a demon. For two PCs, I had pregen demons (Mason, Honker). Honker began unbound. RBM had set Mason to punk Aaron just prior to play, which bound it to him. The others, they made. Some were dynamite and others were more like utilities (Jiminy, the pocket watch demon). But feeding the need cropped up sufficiently to forgive such beginning efforts. And it did what I wanted. They got into the habit of summoning demons to solve their problems.

Two comments I remember: Mike: "This was a  lot of fun. It was more rules heavy than I thought it would be." Michelle: "That was very amusing. Highly entertaining."

I got a bit flustered by the few instances of a many-sided conflict. I got the ordering right and (I think) made the best choices as to when to rollover and when to order announcements. It was just a little stressful going for good enough. But that's my hangup; I expect excellence. I think the best way to ease this level of personal performance is to solo practice many-sided hypotheticals.

Mechanical oddities: Aaron spent most of the session at Stamina+ lasting damage penalties. Mason was like a Wand of Instant Death. The endgame banishing was a little too free.

Enough of my nit-picking. Thanks to my players. Thanks to Ron. This game is a real gem.