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Author Topic: Character meets Kicker  (Read 2109 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« on: August 04, 2006, 09:28:37 PM »

I love Sorcerer (and the variations that spill from Sorcerer... especially Sorcerer and Sword). I just do. I love the dense simplicity. I love the mechanics. I love the Kickers. The bangs. I love 1 die equaling everything. I really do.

But I've been stuck on something, and after reviewing Riddle of Steel and Burning Wheel, I've figured out what it is.

The way I look at stories is this:

There's this guy. And there's this thing that matters to this guy more than anything. And he's not acting on this thing, because either he doesn't have to because he's kind of got what he wants and there's no threat. Or he doesn't have what he wants, but the opportunity to get it hasn't arrived, and this guy's desire seems improbable anyway.

And then SOMETHING HAPPENS. A threat or an opportunity arrives. And BAM! the story begins!

In a movie (and I use movies as examples because a) most people have seen them; and b) Ron's looking to build stories like the good stories I love, so they seem like fair game), the part before the SOMETHING HAPPENS is anywhere from 8 seconds to ten minutes... But there's this little gap just before SOMETHING HAPPENS where we meet the character, and see him in his life with his (often understated) heart's desire. And then BAM! Something Happens.

In Jaws: Sheriff Brody wants to avoid conflict. He left the big city for a beach community. He wants no trouble. Watch in the first half of the movie. Whenever he's got a choice between, "Choose this, and there will be little trouble," and "Ooh, boy, choose that and there'll be trouble," he always choose trouble. And then BAM! a dead girl's body is found washed up on the beach.

Or the crew of the Nostromo in Alien: The opening title card tells us they are on their way home to Earth. And BAM! they get woken up because the ship's computer has picked up an unknown signal.

Or Roy in Close Encounters: in the opening moments with his family he states clearly to his children he wants fantasy and magic, and wants them to want it, too, and they don't, and he doesn't know what to do, and then BAM! he sees a UFO and spend the rest of the movie chasing it.

Now. In Sorcerer terms, I think SOMETHING HAPPENS is the Kicker....

But! There's no place for the heart's desire. There's nothing like Spiritual Attributes or BITS that are essentially activated by a Kicker... The same way that a character who wants something will just go on with their life without an actual story happening because, you known, there was no BAM! SOMETHING HAPPENS!

My question is, Ron, has anything like this occurred to you? Do you see any add-ons, or have you had thoughts about add-ons? Or would something like this get in the way in your view? Or, in your view, is Sorcerer "done" and there's no point in really thinking about something that was built years ago?

Because as it stands, this is the thing that always hangs up the game for me. The Kicker gets a PLOT rolling, but the character isn't INTERSECTING with the plot from those desires and fears that, in my view, keep a story rocking.

Yours in curiosity,

Christopher

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

Posts: 1153


« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2006, 10:09:34 PM »

Hi Ron,

So, going to bed I pulled Sorcerer and Sword along with me and re-read Chapter One.

And I thought:

Oh.

Wow.

I see.


Because when I thought of the Conan stories I've read, they're NOT like the stories I've described above.

There's something else going on in terms of character and structure. Conan (and his tales), are a bit wilder, a bit looser. He moves from situation to situation, defining and revealing himself as he goes. But, oddly, he seldom has anything on his mind at the top of a story aside from: a) survive the death about to smack him, b) steal the thing he's supposed to steal.

That's it. WHO HE IS is revealed not through the intersection of a heart's desire and a Kicker (and attendant Bangs), but simply through the Kicker and the Bangs.

Huh.

So, Ron, the back of the charcter sheet (the part I think a lot of people forget about, that I don't think I fully understood before), is where those details that matter most to the character are recorded, their relationship to the PC and each other detailed. These are the Flags for the GM. And the relative importance of each element to the PC (and the player) is made manifest in play.

Yes?

(This all matters to me on two fronts -- the games and storytelling in general... I think something's gone horribly wrong in a lot of storytelling and I'm trying to crack new ways to do it by exploring other forms -- whether they be RPGs or 20's pulp stories....)

If I'm on track for Sorcerer with the above, and if you're so inclinded, could you discuss the differences between what Sorcerere offers, BITS and SA's -- and how these elements manifest different kinds of play?

Thanks,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2006, 06:53:53 AM »

Heh - I was just about to post, "the back of the character sheet" and also to point out the group orientation of pre-play work. In combination, they serve exactly the purpose you're talking about.

I'll provide a more detailed comparison of TROS, BW, and Sorcerer later. I've given a lot of thought to that.

Best, Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2006, 07:20:55 AM »

Good. I'd really love to see that.

Thanks,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2006, 03:39:48 PM »

Hi -

I'm no expert, but two things that seem sort of obvious also occur to me as replies to the original post (in addition to the back of the sheet):

1) Character creation in Sorcerer I think can establish some of that stuff in the player's and group's mind. I mean, you think of this guy, he's like this, he does this...and you think about that, get the cool mental picture going. This is sort of like the opening scenes where we see the hero talking to his wife or playing with his kid or whatever, not in terms of the content of the narrative, but in terms of the experience of play. In terms of the writeups in the books I think the FBI dude in the core book and Razir in Sword - when I read those character descriptions I think 'aha, I know what this guy is like, what his life is like...now...what's going to happen to him'?'  So you've sort of had that experience a little as a player when you go 'wham, kicker!' at the start of 'actual play'. Especially if there was a prep-break after the chargen session.

2) I don't see any obvious reason you couldn't roleplay a 'teaser' or 'life at home' scene as a character statement prior to the big hit of the initial kicker. I guess one reason is that sometimes stuff like that drags out and/or leads to new tangents, but that's only a possible danger, not a necessary one. But if people have a need to establish their character in play through an early scene before the kicker hits, I don't know why you'd need a rules add on - just come up with a procedure for those scenes.

(That last comment reminds me of the ritualized version of this in DitV, the Initiation sequence. You don't have to ritualize it though to have such a scene - just say, "hey, I want my guy to be talking to his wife at breakfast before the Kicker hits, can we do that scene', or "hey, I want an action scene with Corm  escaping from the Padishah's harem before the kicker hits, can we do that"?)
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2006, 12:06:49 AM »

Hiya,

As for suggestion #2, I think that is the group character/setting creation session, if you will. (I see that now in a way I never did before.)

I'm also now seeing, again, for the first time, how this first session is more than just the character creation stuff. As Ron points out in S&Sword, these stories are often short stories in narrative unit, focused on one location, area or conflict.

It's seems to me then, and I might be wrong, that more time has to be spent as a group building up that centralized setting and story focus. For example, if the group says, "We want to steal something from temple or something," and then we come up with the idea of the "Temple Quarter" in a massive city, we're well on our way to playing out something like "The Tower of the Elephant," even though they'll have no clue about the specifics waiting within. (And we'd have to see how it all plays out. By the time it's over, one of the PC might ally with the evil priest, or try to enslave the Old One.)

That kind of focus in the creation session means we cut out all searching-for-clues-what's-the-story-stuff. We've invoked a lot of the color and situation of the landscape, we've got our characters, and the players have set up the Kickers.... We're already on the same page about so much. By the time the second session rolls around (which commences with the Kickers), the concerns from my first post evaporate as we know what matters to the PCs (and the players), we know what sorts of conflcits the Players are looking for, and so on...

Thoughs on this?

One thing I've been thinking about for a while -- and now I know I will do it -- is to rebuild the character sheets on a larger piece of paper so that the "Back of the Sheet" is on the Front of the Sheet with all the other character data. Right dab in the center if I can work it. I'd really like the players to have that Circle right in front of them -- and me -- so we have the core of the session in our faces at all times.

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2006, 05:26:09 AM »

Hi Christopher,

My only thoughts are, "yes." This seems to me to be a sterling example of you "saying it yourself." You get it, and saying it this way helps you get it, and that's what it is.

Also, Sean's right about playing the Kicker, in that playing a bit of stuff prior to the Kicker may work very well. The text in the book, which defines the Kicker as occurring just before play begins, is playing it a little safer, due to my painful experiences in other games, watching groups wander in circles for hours to set up the beginning just right, which of course they never did.

Best, Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2006, 08:19:16 AM »

Hi Ron,

Yes, not much great-shakes going on there. What's happening is, I've always known that the rules and assumptions for playing S&Sword were radically different than many other RPGs. Something's happening in my brain right now where I see they were even more radical than I had first assumed. Instead of just being, "Not-like-RPGs," I'm seeing them as, "Wow, Ron's suggesting we go down the path of active creation which is shared and spontanious in an astounding way." That's something I simply won't have the words to say "to myself" until I actually get a chance to play. But S&Sword, in my head at least, really is offering me a chance to toss even more assumpltions and habits than I thought it was.

As for Sean's suggestion, great. I too fear the wandering thing. But if the two of you think it's got a shot, it's worth feeling out.

Thanks guys,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Frank T
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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2006, 01:27:36 PM »

Regarding the desires/passions/whatever: I really like that paragraph in Sorcerer where it sais (paraphrasing): You are a fucking Sorcerer! You summon motherfucking Demons is what you do! You are one hell of a driven or desperate bastard, or else you wouldn't be willing to violate the most basic laws of your world, now would you?

Sadly, I read that paragraph only after I made my first Sorcerer character. The game suffered from my character not being enough of a driven bastard. (It also suffered from other problems, but that's not the point here. And no, it wasn't the game I posted about some months back. That was the second Sorcerer character I made.)

- Frank
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