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[Sorcerer] Guarding the scottish homelands

Started by 5niper9, June 22, 2007, 06:30:42 PM

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I played Sorcerer with my Indie-Game-group recently and it was a success.

Group & Setting
Our game group consists of  Edwin, Anna and René (myself). All of us weren't satisfied with roleplaying games, so I suggested to try some indie games and so we did. We started with Dogs in the Vineyard, got through starting problems with Capes, had great experience with Polaris and finally there were Sorcerer. To be honest I was a bit frightend beforehand, because I had high expectations regarding this system. I'll refer to that later.

So we met and talked about the setting. Anna recently read a book about the scottish dark ages and Edwin liked the idea of Highlander, so the game would take place in the 13th century in Scotland.

Anna created ,,Lady Claire MacKenzie". Granddaughter of the Clanleader of the MacLeuds and married to Jules MacKenzie. Also on the back of her sheet is "Jack", a britsh nobleman and leader of the forces, and "Wise Mourna", her magical master.  Her telltale is a strange tattoo on her back.
Stamina 2 - Aristocracy
Will 4 - Master of Puppets
Lore 4 - Adept
Cover 4 - Preparer of poison
Prize -1 - Paranoid
Humanity 4
Her starting demon was ,,Zzzrah" a parasite, which enables her to do lethal  damage (through poisonous stings), Ranged-Warp and Teleport (plus Perception to know the way). That means Power 6. Desire: Power Need: Worship Telletale: Master gets a splitted tongue.
Her Kicker was: ,,My castle is stormed by british forces."

Edwin created ,,Connor MacLeud". Nephew of the Clanleader of the MacLeuds. On the back of his sheet is written ,,Meredith - mother", "Shaun - father" and ,,Julia - younger sister" from his list.  His telltale is a bite wound on his left leg.
Stamina 4 - Warrior
Will 4 - self esteem
Lore 4 - Adept
Cover 4 - ,,Highlander"
Prize -1 - Scarred
Humanity 4
His starting demon was ,,Verminiden", basically a belt which gained him physical power. (Boost Stamina, Protection and Vitality) The telltale is the clip which looks like an eye and blinks. Desire:Competition Need:Cleaning
His Kicker was: "I find my father killed."

Before character creation, I said I would prepare the following days and we could start to play next session. After it, both of them were eager for play and persuaded me to prep a situation now. Since I needed something to kickstart my mind, I used Mo's Relationship Web Builder.(

All I had in mind was the shiny Knight (Jack) and the sly british forces who had prepared their attack through bribery.
Meredith was bribed to kill Connors Dad [Edwin had described the parents of Connor on pretty bad terms].
Julia noticed the bribery and wanted her piece of cake, but was raped by the british prince while she tried to blackmail the man who bribed Meredith.
Jack is on the other side of the map in connection with the british king (as the leader of the troopes) and the british prince (as an idol).

I know it is quite extreme, but I wanted this game to rock and roll and so the scenario needs emotional explosives.

Well, Claire was captured by some soldiers and Jack who immediatly falls in love with her (vice versa). Later she signed a contract which would transfer the castle to the domain of the king. The following scene showed the interruption of the wedding between her and Jack and finally climaxing in several of the soldiers visiting her in her cell. Claire killed the attackers and teleported herself away. Jack - now out of immediate reach - were contacted through letters which were exchanged by spies of the kingdom. They managed to arrange a meeting, but were again interrupted (by the scottish – this time). After this – full of heartache – she met with Connor to get the contract to legalize an attack.

While all this happened Connor found out about the murder of his father, about the rape of his sister and about the attack of his homeland. He wandered northwards to inform another Clan of the misery and defeated their leader so they would send support. Claire and he the stole the contract and prepared for the battle on the next day.

When the game finishes the homelands are secure from the british, but the power structure is broken and currently redefining, another Sorcerer showed up and over the course of the action three (3!) additional demon have been contacted, summoned and bound. The players went wild as they noticed they could do that. In cause of that Connor (who contacted, summoned and bound 2 of the additional demons) lingers at Humanity 2 and Claire at Humanity 3.


As I look back on it I would say it was a success. My main criterium is that Anna and Edwin want to play again and I think we will.

Further Thoughts:

I said, I were a bit hesitant because of my high expectations, but I do not regret doing it like I did. On the contrary, playing it under this circumstances makes me more confident, that it would be a great success when I have more time to prepare.

System-wise there were no problems. Even the fight scenes with multible opponent went without a problem. But a little question raises inside of me:
When do you use the system in relation to social conflicts?
It does not come from the actual game, because there were little to none social conflicts. Let's say one Char want to get past a guard, but does not want to fight it. Could he, just like in a fight, use his Will against the Guards Will to make the guard let him through?

Well, all of us are conditioned by Vampire, so we are used to ignore social conflicts. That's why Dogs made such an impression on my mind, but that's another topic.


PS: Please ignore all punctuation mistakes - I'm mixing up the rules for punctuatin in german and english everytime.

The Dragon Master

Maybe this is nitpicking, but what definition did you choose for humanity? And in what way did summoning the demons require a test of your humanity (which is to say, what "inhuman" act did you have to perform to summon them)?
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony

Sorcerer Workshop, Phoenix Comicon, May 27th - 30th 2010


Humanity was defined as empathy. To describe it: How much you fit in society.

Sorcery leads to highly individualised acts which may hurt the whole society.
As your Humanity passes you lose the ability to get in contact with the world.
And finally, if it reaches zero, the player gets to describe a last scene in which he describes how his heinous acts destroy him.

An example referring to the actual play:
Edwin rolled a humanity check (against humanity) for Connor, when he humiliated his sister in public because he suspected her to be associated with the bribery. He could have done it privately, so this is an indication of acting without empathy and since he gets more and more used to it, Edwin has to roll for humanity.

A gain roll would occur (staying in this example) when Connor does something that indicates emotional response to what has been done to her and when he does something successful to put things right.

Hope that make things clear.

Jon Hastings

Hi Rene,

I'm glad your first session went well.  It sounds like you all had fun.

Quote from: 5niper9 on June 22, 2007, 06:30:42 PM

When do you use the system in relation to social conflicts?
It does not come from the actual game, because there were little to none social conflicts. Let's say one Char want to get past a guard, but does not want to fight it. Could he, just like in a fight, use his Will against the Guards Will to make the guard let him through?

When I've played, social conflicts have generally been treated the same way as other kinds of conflicts:

Whenever characters have a conflict of interest - like, I want my demon to help me and my demon wants to go find some puppies to eat - we'd roll the dice.  In my example here, it would be Will vs. Will.

In your example, handling that as a Will vs. Will roll would work, but (when I've played at least) we tend to roll only when there is a conflict of interest between "important" characters - PCs, Demons, "named" NPCs.  So, if the guard is just background, a roll might not be necessary.  But maybe the guard is under command of your PC's arch-enemy.  Then maybe it would be your PC's Will vs. your arch-enemy's Will to see who has more influence over the guard's decision.  That's the kind of thing the Sorcerer rules allow you to do as you get more comfortable with them.

I hope that helps!


Ron Edwards


Well, it looks like you and your group are Sorcerer's target audience! I'm really glad to learn about your game.

The answer to your question is that social conflicts are properly resolved using dice just like any and all other conflicts in Sorcerer. However, this must be reconciled with the key point in Sorcerer that no one can dictate the actual behavior of someone else's character. There's a great old thread about this somewhere in the Adept Press forum, which I'll try to summarize here.

The first thing to understand is that if a suggestion or command from one character to another is not objectionable to the target (i.e. they are inclined to do it anyway), then there is no conflict and no roll is necessary.

Now for the fun part. When any non-demon characters are engaged in legitimate conflict about what one or another of them will or must do, then roll the dice as normal, using the ordering rules and all other details just as in combat. The loser of such a conflict is assessed for damage penalties.

Now, the player of this character has a choice: the character may obey the terms of the conflict's loss, and those penalties vanish; or the character may continue to take action in line with his or her original statements, but in doing so, accept the penalties inflicted by the victor's roll.


Frank, a player-character, is confronted by James, his enemy, and Philip, James' friend; both are NPCs. Frank tells Philip (truly or falsely, doesn't matter for our purposes) that James is planning to kill him, so he (Philip) should fight James with him (Frank).

Frank wins the roll, with (let's say) three victories. The GM now has a choice. He may state that Philip is convinced by Frank, and changes his behavior to fight with Frank against James. Or, he may state that Philip will continue to fight with James, i.e., not have his original behavior altered, but in so doing, Philip's attack against Frank will suffer three dice of penalties.

Does that help, or make sense?

If so, then consider as well that demon characters do not get this choice. If they are commanded to do anything by a sorcerer, then they must do it. Binding strength operates as a bonus in their favor if the commanding sorcerer is not their Binder. They don't have to do it for long - one action is usually all the sorcerer can get out of them, unless other issues apply (i.e. they were already trying to rebel against their Binder) - but they do in fact have to do it.

Once your players understand this, then complex conflicts with more than one sorcerer and more than one demon become utterly unpredictable. No one can foretell who will command whom to do what.

Best, Ron


As I think about the rules they seem more and more like a big fat bomb ready to explode.
And that's pretty cool.

So one of the keys is: "Demons are the only ones, who have to obey when a command is given."
Everyone else can be influenced, but not controlled.

To transfer this to my example: The Guard in front of a door.
Frank wants to get through the door. Frank wins the social conflict by three victories. As he wants to move by, the guard starts to attack him (because he fears his master and he said nobody may get through this door). The attack roll is lessen by three dice or, if his stamina score should be lesser than 4, he rolls one die and the difference between Franks victory and the guards Stamina plus one is added to Franks roll. [This sounds terrible complicated, but it is not.]
I hope I'm right.

That is mechanical stuff - and not that important.
Let's talk about premise.
Well, although all of us had fun and will play again, where is the contact with the premise?

When I look at Polaris, I see this mainly in the last part of the game. The knight is about to fall, do you give in to the mistaken or does the knight reach a worthy end? Will your knight stand for good or bad?

When we look on Dogs, we have the question whether justice can be done by voilence. And when the Dogs move from town to town the player asks themselves is this a man/woman of faith or a sociopath?

Where is it in this game? I can only guess, but it will occur when they reach Humanity 1, right?
Because since yet, the question how far will you go, wasn't really a matter. They just did.
Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me that the humanity score is a pacing mechanism. At first player will do all the kind of things: summon demons and so on. When they get to a critical score, they have to choose which way the story should go. Whether they repent and start banishing their demons and the demons of others (to push their humanity), or finish their attempt at whatever they were after and probably fall to Humanity 0.

So far,

Ron Edwards

Hi René,

QuoteFrank wants to get through the door. Frank wins the social conflict by three victories. As he wants to move by, the guard starts to attack him (because he fears his master and he said nobody may get through this door). The attack roll is lessen by three dice or, if his stamina score should be lesser than 4, he rolls one die and the difference between Franks victory and the guards Stamina plus one is added to Franks roll. [This sounds terrible complicated, but it is not.]
I hope I'm right.

That is correct, beautiful, and perfect.

Regarding Premise, I think it's both closer and more constant than you're currently perceiving. Sorcerer is a bit different from games like Polaris. Everything you say about the "critical" score of Humanity is correct, but in fact, every value is critical. Every action taken which increases or decreases Humanity is a source of consequences, in terms of upcoming situations. This is one of the arts of play - that to everyone at the table, when they see that value increase or decrease, is primed and attentive to the consequences, which is to say, "what happens next."

If, for instance, a character is at Humanity 4, and loses a point, it is indeed significant. Why? Because this might be a momentary lapse, "just this once," or it might be a warning-glimpse and prompt very different behavior in the future, or it might be the opened door to similar choices made ... perhaps quite soon. That is completely and totally up to the player, but it's also up to the other people at the table, because whatever situation arises next which has Humanity-heavy consequences, will not be absolutely identical to the last one.

All of this is to agree as well with your identification of Humanity as a pacing mechanism, but its rate is established internally, through the SIS, far more so than in Polaris. My favorite analogy is with theme music. Raising or lowering Humanity (or really, even just calling for a roll of either kind) corresponds to that character's theme music ... and the volume and underlying tension of the music in any particular moment depends on (a) the current value of the score and also (b) the nature of all changes in the score so far.

Best, Ron


I'm not sure I understand, why you say every score is critical.
Well, Stamina can rise an fall for a single roll in terms of bonus/malus dice, but whatever its score it will never mix with your granted ability to play the character. And Humanity does this thing. When it reaches 0 the character is lost - it can no longer be played by the player.

In regard to your music analogy: Did you say that the emotional investment increases with the increased contact with the (humanity-)system?

It's like we yjust learn to walk and our expectations want to run with us.

We'll see,


Hello Ron,

I'm sorry. In my last post I misread the word value for another stat - like stamina or will - whereas you talked about every score of humanity.
Although this source of confusion is now destroyed I still cannot grab the whole of your post.
Where is the connection between the humanity (of one character) and the other player?
As I read your post, you say that every roll for or against humanity is a getting used to what triggers a h-check and what triggers a h-gain - which makes absolute sense, but I see not how this leads to "what happens next".

Well, let's try to work on an example:
Frank comes home after years and years of practicing sorcery and meets his father on the marketplace, but does not recognize him. The father barges into him and the pride of Frank drives him to kill this man. Its absolutely time for an humanity-check. We roll humanity-vs-humanity and (let's say) he loses. We take away one of his humanity score.

Now, what about the other players? What are the consequences? What happens next?
Does Frank have to marry his mother because of this?
I typed this just for fun - but is it one of the things you talk about?

The main difference I notice between Polaris and Sorcerer is that Humanity can go back up again. Where are the others? Both of them get checked when the character acted in a specific way and both scores can be used mechanically ("It shall not come to pass" / eg. rolls to surpress facial reaction).  Are there so much differences?



Maybe Ron's talking about the effect of that action on the other player characters and the rest of the game world.

What if one of the PCs is the mother? What if one of the PCs is the son from the father's other family? How do they react to the (possibly) Humanity-changing act of killing the father?

What if the father was valuable to one of the big NPCs in the game? How does that NPC respond, and what pressures does she put on the other PCs?

How do the other PCs treat this murderer now? How do they treat him after they find out he's killed his father?

Hopefully all of these things raise further opportunities for Humanity-checks by placing pressure on the PCs to make decisions.

Gametime: a New Zealand blog about RPGs

Simon C

Another cool thing about humanity in Sorcerer is that it's significant even when you're not rolling the dice.  Just considering the potential impact of an action on your humanity is an important part of esteblishing them.  In a recent game in which humanity was defined as "what makes humans different from other animals", a character killed a man to stop the authorities finding out about her.  But because it was a premeditated, calculated act, there was no humanity roll.  Later, she punched a police-woman in the face, then pistol-whipped her to the ground, in order to get away.  She could have gone quietly.  This caused a humanity roll, because it was an impulsive, fight-or-flight reaction.  What was cool was that in both cases, I felt like we were establishing the thematic parameters of the game.  When she punched the police-woman, (and lost humanity) it felt like the game had taken a significant step, like, together we'd stepped into a dangerous, animalistic place.