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Author Topic: [Sorcerer & Sword] Dinosaurs and Zebra Women  (Read 2987 times)
Frank T
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« on: July 28, 2006, 01:30:10 PM »

This is another AP thread from the Spione weekend in Berlin. After dinner, I reminded Ron of his promise, and so it was time for some Sorcerer. Ron wanted to limit it to two players, and Georgios joined us.
Ron introduced the setting to us, inviting us to add stuff. Reminding himself, as he said, of whom he had before him, he made up some very primal setting: Virgin forests in the mists, brawny guys with tooth necklaces, tribal wars and such. He made up the following descriptors:

Stamina: wild raised, ancient blood, dark rites
Will: ambitious, lover, learned
Lore: beast soul, medicine man, deep secrets

Humanity was The Primal Law.

Needless to say, I liked it. I made up an ancient blooded loner guy, 1st warrior of the tribe, with a passer demon coming as his dinosaur mount. Georgios was the medicine man of the seven tribes, with an object demon that was his book. Both of us were ambitious conquerer-types.

My kicker was that the chieftain of another tribe, ancient blooded like me, offered me to marry his only daughter and thus become his heir--if I betray my tribe to him. Georgios' kicker was that he was being challenged by a new rival.

We did some talk in advance, and Ron stressed some points about the game, like the none-existence of demons in the game world, and the importance of kickers. Then Ron framed a double scene in which Georgios was being attacked by his rival's bat-like demon and I had to fight a challenger. We had lots of dice and little pieces of paper on the table, and Ron used the dice to determine when to cut from one scene to the other. It was pretty cool.

Georgios seized control over his rival's demon and walked it to the tribes, for them to witness his power. I fought my challenger, who was somehow wrong, turning out to be a possessed youth fighting in his sleep. I managed to overwhelm the boy without harming him, even though he tried to kill himself in the process, which let me roll for humanity gain. When the boy's mother accused me for fighting with her boy in the first place, I just slapped her. I was in trouble, however: I had no idea what had been wrong with the boy--I would have to go see the medicine man. Also, my demon was pissed because its need was challenge and the boy had been insufficient.

As Georgios returned to his tower, he found a half-naked woman with black and white body painting sitting in his chair. She turned out to be his rival, come to a change of mind and asking him for help. Because, you see, her father was going to marry her to this brutish warrior whom she loathed.

This was were we quit play. It was a real good demo of how the game works, and it was also fun to play. I really enjoyed the grabby imagery of the setting. I was instantly getting a feel for the atmosphere of it all, me and Ron adding little details as we went along. Georgios didn't get into that as much, if I recall correctly. The "spiking" of my kicker was also pretty cool. You could see the conflicts emerging right there. I think I would have tried to defeat the father and take his daughter and tribe by force.

We were really eager to continue, but we couldn't have done more than a few scenes, and I guess Ron was also eager to talk a bit more to the people around. I'll just have to play Sorcerer myself. Thanks again, Ron, it was really good.

- Frank
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Paul T
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2006, 08:18:29 AM »

Frank,

We did some talk in advance, and Ron stressed some points about the game, like the none-existence of demons in the game world, and the importance of kickers. Then Ron framed a double scene in which Georgios was being attacked by his rival's bat-like demon and I had to fight a challenger. We had lots of dice and little pieces of paper on the table, and Ron used the dice to determine when to cut from one scene to the other. It was pretty cool.

Do you think you could explain this part? It doesn't sound like it's in the regular Sorcerer rules. How did affect your experience of play (in terms of pacing and suspense)?

Thanks,


Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2006, 12:34:21 PM »

Hello,

I'll try, Paul! First, yes, this is in the Sorcerer rules, in the sense that it requires no new rules. But it's not described explicitly.

Simply, you run two conflicts simultaneously. Everyone rolls at once, just as in the rules, and you go in order of the rolls, just as in the rules.

If you think about it, you can do this with nearly any game. Characters X and Y are fighting the goblins over here, and characters Z and Q are fighting the evil guy with the hat over there. (Imagine a typical 80s game) Roll initiative for everyone, proceed in order, handle defenses and reactive actions as per the system. It's easy as pie.

I didn't invent this technique or use it much before Sorcerer was published. But the more I played Sorcerer, the more the technique seemed to fit in naturally and easily, without stress and with maximum payoff.

Frank, I really enjoyed that game too, and was sorry it had to end. I plead fatigue, more than a desire for socializing, as my reason to stop.

To clarify, my concept for Humanity in that game would be, in English, "the rule of law," meaning that a society's members are subject to a system of judgment, and principles-based laws with some flexibility built in, rather than merely the rule of the fist at any given moment. As I saw it, the tribes were mainly run by might and deception, and thus true law was just struggling into existence for our story.

Regarding Georgios and his experience of play, I think that he was really enjoying his character's persona, and the way he described the character's movements and decisions made it very vivid for me. So he added to the imaginative experience of play as well, as I saw it, but in a different way.

Best, Ron
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Frank T
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2006, 01:13:00 PM »

Hey Ron,

Quote
thus true law was just struggling into existence

That's cool. Like, Kant cool.

I think Georgios will show up soon to give his impressions. I certainly didn't mean he did not contribute to the fiction. Just that he didn't get as much into images and little details.

But you were going to say a bit about your GM'ing decisions, how and why they were made.

- Frank
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2006, 01:46:45 PM »

Thanks, Ron.

Just one question:

Simply, you run two conflicts simultaneously. Everyone rolls at once, just as in the rules, and you go in order of the rolls, just as in the rules.

If you think about it, you can do this with nearly any game. Characters X and Y are fighting the goblins over here, and characters Z and Q are fighting the evil guy with the hat over there. (Imagine a typical 80s game) Roll initiative for everyone, proceed in order, handle defenses and reactive actions as per the system. It's easy as pie.

I didn't invent this technique or use it much before Sorcerer was published. But the more I played Sorcerer, the more the technique seemed to fit in naturally and easily, without stress and with maximum payoff.

When you say "run conflicts simultaneously", how does this work in practice? Does this mean that when a conflict comes up for player A, you switch to player B until he's also facing a conflict, and then resolve them? What if there is a player C, who is not in either of those conflicts? Or is there something you were doing in this game beyond that to create this sort of situation? (For instance, you could arbitrarily decide that when the time to roll to resolve conflict A comes up, conflicts B and n must be rolled as well.)

Frank and Ron: did this form of pacing in your game make things more suspenseful? Does it "feel" like fast cuts in a movie or TV show?

Thanks!


Paul
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2006, 01:52:39 PM »

Hey Paul.  If you do a search on "Flashpoints" by message, the first half dozen or so hits are all various examples of this technique in practice.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2006, 06:20:26 AM »

Hi everyone,

Frank, you rightly reminded me:

Quote
But you were going to say a bit about your GM'ing decisions, how and why they were made.

Yes, I was. I got distracted by a million things ...

OK, here's what I had in mind to explain, because I find it's the one thing people don't get from watching me GM Sorcerer. Simply: I do not have to worry out the outcomes of scenes. Ever. I don't say, "Gee, I'll put the naked girl into the character's tent because they can try to take over the tribe together." I don't say, "OK, when they fall in love, I can have her father try to kill him." I don't say, "So when she tries to steal the book, he'll have to protect it.."

See what I mean? I never have to concern myself with secondary, layered "if" statements when deciding what to bring in or what to do in the very next scene. I distinctly remember suffering and thinking and retrofitting constantly during play, as a GM, for many years, on exactly that issue. Everything had to be introduced in the context of where the story would or might go because of it. I had to project into the future at all moments, and keep my hand on the delicate web of players' attention in order to make sure it was all "working."

I also remember the moment, after some years of realizing that this was both tiring and not reliably effective, when it went "snap" in my head. I was running a Sorcerer game in 1997, and I think it was while prepping for the third session, that I suddenly realized that all such efforts were totally obstructive to what might happen in play ... which is to say, not where the story would or might or should go one step later, but what will happen [/i]when we get there as multiple instances of "right now" arrived, regularly and inevitably. The insight was that what will happen must remain unknown until that instant, and not to worry about it - just to be ready to interact as normal without pre-planning at that instant, just like everyone else at the table.

I'd always that, prior to this moment of realization, that such play must also entail maximal GM-improvisation regarding the back-story and prep of any kind. In other words, what we all called "winging it," or making it all up as one goes along.

And here, at this moment of realization, I found that maximal, even loving back-story prep was consistent with "Story Now." One merely has to distinguish between back-story and here-we-are-this-minute story, and let the latter be what it is, when we get there, and use a system that makes what happens, really happen.

In our game, either of the conflicts could have turned out in any way. The girl might have successfully attacked Georgios' character and the scenes would have moved on from there. The young boy might have beaten the snot out of your character, and the scenes would have moved on from there. There was no bad outcome possible. There was no reason for me to plan the next scene prior to the outcomes. The NPCs were solid, interesting, and ready to do stuff reactively just as if I had been playing a player-character. All I had to do was play, at the moment and in the moment - not plan to play, not play for the sake of what might or would have to happen later, or to manage the players' play in any way at all.

It is so easy, especially with Sorcerer, that it's invisible. I've had people tell me that I must be a master of fiat, playing Sorcerer, because they thought I was so skilled at manipulating scenes into better scenes, that they couldn't see me do it. They simply didn't believe me when I said that I did no such thing, and the reason I was relaxed during play was because play was easy - I didn't have to "think ahead," ever.

Interestingly, the same reaction can be found regarding the dice ... people think the crazed, dramatic, reversal-heavy outcomes are due to me using cunning, manipulative narrations ... until I point out that I always simply follow the order of the dice and make it clear to everyone what their options are at each step, and then I just play the NPCs as my characters, demons included. I'm following the same rules as everyone else during resolution. Of course, the person I'm talking to says, "Ahhh, I see, the magician never reveals his secrets," and winks. Idiotic, but there you are.

Frank, I'm being as clear as I can about this point because I think it might be useful to you, based on some comments you've made over your posts at the Forge. Can you think of any GMing decision of mine that you observed, during play, that seemed like fiat to you? I hope to be able to explain why and how it was absolutely not any such thing.

Best, Ron
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Frank T
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2006, 06:56:27 AM »

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the clarification. No, I did not perceive any GM fiat. I have overcome GM fiat. I do see how this relates to some of my previous posts, though. I may not be planning ahead, as I would have done in my old railroaded Star Wars d6 adventures. But as a person with scene framing power, I am indeed often thinking back and ahead.

“Is this consistent with what happened three scenes ago?”
“Will this lead to a good build-up?”
“How do we include that Next Week On?”

Thinking ahead gets even more difficult when you can’t plan ahead (e.g. because other persons can frame scenes and narrate outcomes as well). Interestingly, I have less trouble with (not) thinking ahead when I’m “just GM’ing”, because I can just play my NPCs and rest assured that the fiction will be consistent. In games with distributed authoring, where NPCs might be played by different persons or framed into scenes by different persons, where different persons share control over setting elements, I’m having much more trouble holding it together in my head.

Here’s why I think this is so: Because I’m a consistency fetishist. I just care much more about consistency than most other role-players. As a “normal” GM, that actually helps me to do what you described above. But in a game with distributed authoring, people dash every direction and never mind what has been established, and that is a constant pain in the arse to me. Come to think about it, that has a lot to do with prep and back-story also.

That helped me to get some things straight in my head. Thank you!

- Frank
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2006, 10:00:25 AM »

Valamir,

All the posts I get as a result of a search on "Flashpoints" just kind of mention them but don't really answer my question. Can anyone help me out?

Frank and Ron,

I'm just reading over this thread, and getting very curious about the whole "lovingly crafted backstory" or situation (with the Stakes in Trollbabe), and trying to see where player interest intercets with that.

How do you balance a carefully crafted back-story with Story Now and letting the players drive the boat? I mean, for instance, if you have a story where NPC A is involved in the mafia, and this is causing all sorts of problems, but no one knows who exactly is part of the mafia... how do you deal with a situation where more people are involved than your relationship map can handle?

For instance, if the game is taking place in a city, and you just improvised a store clerk or another NPC that was necessary for a particular scene, the players suddenly take total avid interest in the clerk. Your backstory makes it clear that there were three people, and only three (say), involved in some Important Event. The clerk was not one of them. However, given the players' interest in the clerk, it seems really dramatically appropriate that the clerk have some kind of involvement in the backstory.

I may not be expressing myself very clearly. What I'm trying to get at is that the "lovingly crafted backstory" can come into conflict with what the players seem to be driving towards. I had this problem recently (I just posted the actual play account) and can't quite figure out how those two things co-exist (especially in a system where the players can have some narrative control).

I feel like I'm missing something important here. Would you care to share your methods, or explain what I'm missing?

Thanks,


Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2006, 10:06:45 AM »

Hi Paul,

With respect, it sounds like you're missing quite a lot, actually. I'm not really sure where to begin.

Are you familiar with the Art Deco Melodrama threads from a few years back? Check out the very bottom of the Sorcerer actual play for the links. I suggest then, if you want follow up, we should adjourn to the Adept Press forum.

Best, Ron
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2006, 10:35:26 AM »

Ron,

I've made a bit of a mistake. I was _posting_ to this thread, but I was _thinking_ about another one (the Trollbabe thread).

I can see how in Sorcerer, since the Kickers are written by the players, this may never be an issue at all. I can see that discussing this issue in the context of other games might not be on-topic for this thread.

I'll go read some Actual Play and get back to this thread if it doesn't answer my questions.

All the best,


Paul
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Paul T
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Posts: 369


« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2006, 09:44:34 AM »

Ron,

I've read the Art-Deco threads. I withdraw my original question, since it isn't pertinent to this thread. Instead, do you think you could explain what you meant by the last bit in this quote ("...and let the latter be what it is, when we get there, and use a system that makes what happens, really happen")? I feel like there's a lot packed into that phrase.

And here, at this moment of realization, I found that maximal, even loving back-story prep was consistent with "Story Now." One merely has to distinguish between back-story and here-we-are-this-minute story, and let the latter be what it is, when we get there, and use a system that makes what happens, really happen.

Are you, as GM, taking some measures to make sure that the "here-we-are-this-minute-story" doesn't conflict with your "lovingly prepped back-story"? My conclusion from reading the Art-Deco thread is that you are. Or does the "here-we-are-this-minute" story always take precedence? Sorcerer doesn't have a mechanic to apportion credibility to the players when introducing new material, so the GM always has the "right" to decide as he or she wills--how do you make this decision? I fully grasp that we aren't talking about "what if?" or "what might happen" but purely about backward-compatibility.

(I've posted the relevant quote from the Art-Deco thread in this thread. If this is getting off-topic here, I would be very obliged if you could answer my question there instead.)

Thank you very much!

All the best,


Paul
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Frank T
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2006, 10:11:44 AM »

Hi Paul,

I'm not Ron, but let me have a go at this:

There is no conflict. How could there be? The players are - through their characters - interacting with your back-story. Whatever comes of that, comes of that. Thus, the back-story automatically interweaves with the right-here-right-now story. Note that back-story is just what happened before, and possibly what would happen if the player characters never show up. It stops at the moment the action begins. When the players act, that has consequences. All you have to do is accept those consequences, instead of negating them because they conflict with how you intended your back-story to eventually turn out. If you leave your idea of how the back-story should continue behind, there can be no conflict.

- Frank
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2006, 03:24:30 PM »

Frank nails it in one!

Best, Ron
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