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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Why Would I Even Want To Play This Game?  (Read 5264 times)
TheThingInTheMirror
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Posts: 16


« on: November 21, 2007, 02:34:07 AM »

I expect that a chronic issue with this game will be a degree of reluctance on the part of those asked to try it.

All my buddies have a copies of Hero-FRED (The black book of vile darkness) by Steve Long, GURPS, Dragonquest by SPI, Nightlife By Stellar Games, ARS MAGICA, Shadowrun, and a godzillion other games. They've done hack and slash, they've done the "my real roleplayers are real'er than your real roleplayers" bit. They've done rules chunky and they've done rules light.

But as worthwhile as Sorcerer is... There is a very natural aversion to it. To even trying it. You've seen it. It's in the FAQ and it's in the posts in this board. Things like "Is this game Vicarious Unpleasantness?" or "Is this game some satanist tripe?"

And to be fair this game won't be for everyone. Still. It's hardly in the top ten most clamoured for rpg's.
I will get asked to run any of a number of games. I will not be asked to run Sorcerer.
I will be the one asking them to give it a try. Why? It's clever and it's relatively new.

When faced with a person who is reluctant, or pre judges, or isn't sure why one would even want to play... I want to take at least a short stab at convinving them the game has potential.

There is a wealth of very natural questions/objections... it would be an error to "arm twist" potentional recruits but it would be an equal error in the opposite direction not to have at least some answer to the questions/objections.

In XYZ fantasy game I have this magic power, in this game the npc has the power for me, why would I want to play this?
But summoners are evil, I wanna play the good guy
This looks depressing
But if these things Don't-Belong-Here maybe we should give the universe its way and never have dealings with them
Maybe I should be a demon hunter instead of a summoner
Ya know, compared to being a 300 point superhero this is sort of dull and lame
There aren't any rules here. It's a magazine article in hardcover.

I suppose you could take a stab at answering these questions and others, but to me the FIRST-AND-MOST-IMPORTANT question is....
Why would a player want to be a sorcerer?
Why pretend to be that, rather than pretend to be a starship captain/superhero/barbarian with mighty thews/ Barbarian Starship Captain With Mighty Thews/Undead Hot Chick?

While it is not too original (it is a summation/quotation of the rules and some posts) here is "MY ANSWER"
I can not wait to hear yours....

In my super hero rpgs I've seen villains, heroes, and vigilantes.
No one wants to be the villain.
Many like to be the hero.
While some prefer being the hero, everyone enjoys being the vilgilante. What is the vigilante? He is someone who does what is right when the world gets so screwy that doing what is right is illegal. This need not be dark. It can actually be done for laughs. I did a game where the villains had pretty much taken over city government. The police worked for the badguys. The public hated the police and loved the players, and there were some pretty amusing scenes where the public would find little ways to resist or help out.

While I would shy away from running sorcerer-superhero games, unless my players clamored for it, there is a common point there.
They are not the villain, and they are not the hero. They are people driven to do the forbidden, for reasons we can sympathize with.

It can be fun to do the forbidden. It can be fun to "play hookey" and playing with "an erector set of the gods" or "the cheat codes of the universe" can be fun.

Thats what I've taken from reading the game and what you've posted.
There that should be about enough rope for you guys to hang me with...
Let the Dog Pile commence!
8-D

-The Thing In The Mirror
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-Ron H
-The Thing In The Mirror
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2007, 05:48:28 AM »

They're right to make those objections, at least from the place they're coming at.

Sorcerer is about creating a certain kind of story.  If the players don't like that kind of story, there's no point trying to "sell" them on the other stuff in the game, because all of that stuff supports that type of story.  For the people who do want to tell that kind of story, very little "selling" is required.

Here's something I worked up for a modern-day game we never played:
Quote
On Sorcerer night, you and your friends will get together to tell stories about the occult, stories that are exciting, creepy, thrilling, sometimes touching, and often laced with lots of black humor.  The protagonists of these stories are men and women who, compelled by lofty goals or ungovernable needs, can command demons to achieve anything they desire.  Why would anyone sign a deal with the Devil?  What happens when you discover that what you thought you wanted and what you really<
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2007, 06:49:07 AM »

Wow!

Thing-man, that is one of the finest distillations of "why to play" I've ever seen.

What's your name? I'd like to be able to address you directly, and due to my age and non-hipness, internet handles don't work for me.

Best, Ron
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Cooper
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2007, 08:08:47 AM »

It was easy for me to convince my players because they were all Call of Cthulhu rpg fans (a little too easy if you ask me). Will your players just not try anything once or is their time that important? I mean if they are not interested in the "trading your humanity for power" premise, then it may not be the game for them.

How many players do you have? Here are two ideas that I would try:

1.) You could just tell them that unless they want to run a game, then this is the game you are running and there is the front door.

2.) Try blowing up and them and saying "FORGET! You guys are wusses and could not handle this game anyway" and see if that peaks their interest.

Good luck!

Dustin
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jburneko
Member

Posts: 1351


« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2007, 11:34:27 AM »

Wow, I'm with Ron, you nailed the game in one right here:

"They are not the villain, and they are not the hero. They are people driven to do the forbidden, for reasons we can sympathize with."

The game requires that characters be built with a touch of arrogance.  All my power is tied up in an NPC?  FIE!  I've *bound* that NPC.  It *serves* me.

Jesse

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Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2007, 11:49:42 PM »


How many players do you have? Here are two ideas that I would try:

1.) You could just tell them that unless they want to run a game, then this is the game you are running and there is the front door.

2.) Try blowing up and them and saying "FORGET! You guys are wusses and could not handle this game anyway" and see if that peaks their interest.

1) Not likely to work. You can't force people to have fun against their will.

2) But you definitely can taunt them into having fun against their will!
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James R.
TheThingInTheMirror
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Posts: 16


« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2007, 01:55:41 AM »

Well, actually Ron, I have the same first name as you! We can keep it straight among ourselves but I bet we could stir up some serious confusion among everyone else.
You can also call me "Hap" which fits and wouldn't be confusing. However, I am not sure if thats any more comfortable than an internet handle.
Oh well, at least no one's taken to calling me "Thingie"

Thank you for the kind words.

Noclue is right, you can't force them if they don't want to.
Hmmmm taunt people into having fun against their will?.... how utterly intrigueing. I do not think I've mastered that art. It sounds.....useful.
Bwahahahahahahaha!!!!!  }:-)>
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-Ron H
-The Thing In The Mirror
-(Absolutely not related to The Thing In The Closet.)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2007, 08:40:53 AM »

Hey, people with the same names communicate all the time, and you're Ron here just like I am. If you'd like, maybe your surname's initial could be included?

Best, Ron
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TheThingInTheMirror
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2007, 12:24:15 AM »

Well then Ron, Ron H it is!

I'm still reading the game, I've been slightly obsessed by thoughts of Gorg, the demonic infotainment junkie, and Yzor from page 81.

First question comes to my mind. Say I contact and try to summon an object demon.
If you want a demon sportscar, do you have to have a sportscar, then invest the demon into it?
Or would you say when the demon is called, it appears as the object?
Or would you throw it back at the gm, saying something like "Hey man, its your game, you chose, what do you want your world to be like?"

I could see people feeling that allowing someone to summon a sportscar without buying one is a murderous threat to game balance.
Then again, I've always felt that game balance was overrated. Or, at the least, frequently mis-invoked and in need of the occasional banishing.
Also... If I can summon a sportscar or a yacht or some other really cool toy, then it does go a long way toward motivating someone to be a sorcerer.

On the other hand, if you can literally summon a car, rather than buy one and invest a spirit into it, where does it end? "I want demon M1 tank" "Well, I want Polaris Sub" "Ooooh! I want a Titan III ICBM!!!" "Well, I want a Saturn V with Apollo capsule!" "I want a time machine!" "Hey can we get things from the future? Because I want The Enterprise" "Can I summon Ultimus Prime?"

Ok I am being silly, but you see my point.... Hmmm the rules also speak of avoiding telling players they can't....but of letting them live down the consequences.

Of couse you could let them do it but say rituals that summon cooler and more expensive toys require more expensive rituals. Better yet, don't make such a thing more expensive... just more challenging. Make it require a more powerful, less managable demon.

Come to that... Clearly a demon whose desires and needs go ignored is a problem.
How much trouble is a demon who is treated well? I could see Gorg as a loyal faithful friend, unless you neglect him.
I could also imagine a weak binding resulting in accelerated demands.
"At first, he only wanted CNN. Then he wanted to tape EVERYTHING on the news and archive it ALL. Then he wanted to take tours of all the studios. But now he wants me to kill this Anchor-Babe, and have a taxidermist stuff her and mount her behind a desk so he ooh and ahh at her. And he's already talking about starting an entire collection of the OJ anchors..."

What about a slight variation of the utility demon abuse? Suppose you wanted a demonic servant to watch everything that happened in the news, and then give you a daily report? Now Gorgs job is his desire. Do you see that as working well?
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-Ron H
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2007, 06:29:44 AM »

Hi Ron H,

All of these questions have the same foundational concerns, so after I answer them, let's see if I can identify that concern and take care of it once and for all.

Quote
First question comes to my mind. Say I contact and try to summon an object demon.
If you want a demon sportscar, do you have to have a sportscar, then invest the demon into it?
Or would you say when the demon is called, it appears as the object?
Or would you throw it back at the gm, saying something like "Hey man, its your game, you chose, what do you want your world to be like?"

To some extent, it depends on the look and feel of sorcery in that particular game, but the default is that one can summon up the car as a whole, or summon up a demon who finally manifests as a car, or however you want to say it. In other words, not buying a real car first.

As you're probably perceiving more and more, the term "game balance" does not apply in its usual way to Sorcerer. For one thing, I don't think that the term ever meaningfully applied to role-playing in any coherent way (see my essays if you're interested). More specifically, and using the term to mean some kind of parity either (a) among characters or (b) between players' vs. GM's ability to affect the events of play, Sorcerer is built to render such a concern entirely irrelevant.

Quote
On the other hand, if you can literally summon a car, rather than buy one and invest a spirit into it, where does it end? "I want demon M1 tank" "Well, I want Polaris Sub" "Ooooh! I want a Titan III ICBM!!!" "Well, I want a Saturn V with Apollo capsule!" "I want a time machine!" "Hey can we get things from the future? Because I want The Enterprise" "Can I summon Ultimus Prime?"

It ends where such things always end. You can ask the same thing if we're talking about demon animals, demon soul-snatchers, demon computer intelligences, demon ghosts, or demon anything. The answer is very simple:

1. A sorcerer can bind as many demons as he or she wants, subject to Humanity limits as they play out in rolls. Even if Humanity permits it, owning lots of demons can turn into a lot of power, but also into a lot of demons to feed. Plus they may well not get along together.

2. The demon's actual impact on play will be defined by its abilities, and upon its Power score. One might have a Sherman tank demon, but if it has a Power of 2, so what?

3. The sorcerer must deal with life in general, too. So I have a Saturn V with an Apollo capsule ... where do I put it, my back yard? How do I crew it, both in space and on the ground? Remember, the demons don't like to be noticed ...

Quote
Ok I am being silly, but you see my point.... Hmmm the rules also speak of avoiding telling players they can't....but of letting them live down the consequences.

By "see your point," I'm going to say, I see that you are being a bit reflexive and reactive, at least in that first sentence. But on the plus side, you are clearly a thoughtful reader and saw exactly what I do say - no GM-imposed limits on demon summoning or binding. The game is about consequences; without provoking consequences, for instance by binding "just one more demon," there is no game. The important point is that both player and GM can provoke consequences, rather than the one-way-flow assumed by many games.

Quote
Of couse you could let them do it but say rituals that summon cooler and more expensive toys require more expensive rituals. Better yet, don't make such a thing more expensive... just more challenging. Make it require a more powerful, less managable demon.

None of the above. There's no need to "make it" more anything. Just use the rules and pay attention to #1-3 above. Which brings us directly to your next points and questions, itself (the direct-proceeding) a sign that your reading and your thinking are proceeding in tune with the game text and design. I'm harping on that not to compliment you, but to express my relief, because many Sorcerer question-marathons require me to keep grabbing the person by the top of the head and saying "no, look here," over and over.

Quote
How much trouble is a demon who is treated well? I could see Gorg as a loyal faithful friend, unless you neglect him.

That is correct ... except that, by definition, fulfilling a demon's Need must be at least inconvenient for the sorcerer. Unless it puts him or her out in some way, at least some of the time, then it's not a Need. Nor can the demon do it for itself, by definition.

And let's not forget that Sorcerer play does not concern the sorcerer at the top of his or her game, with all the ducks in a row, with a fed demon and a comfy place in life. It concerns a Sorcerer who has just encountered his or her Kicker. Therefore, even if the concept of the sorcerer was so comfortable, well, that's all the more ducks who just ran quacking in all directions.

So Gorg is a faithful friend, is he? OK, now is he? How about now? What do you do when X happens? Oh, you did that? Well, then, how's Gorg now?

Quote
I could also imagine a weak binding resulting in accelerated demands.
"At first, he only wanted CNN. Then he wanted to tape EVERYTHING on the news and archive it ALL. Then he wanted to take tours of all the studios. But now he wants me to kill this Anchor-Babe, and have a taxidermist stuff her and mount her behind a desk so he ooh and ahh at her. And he's already talking about starting an entire collection of the OJ anchors..."

This sort of progression isn't a function of a weak Binding. It's a function of the convenience factor, as I said. Let's say the demon starts as a CNN junkie, and so the sorcerer decides to cut corners and tape it - i.e., make it more convenient for himself. Well, by definition, that doesn't meet the demon's Need. So it gets cranky and wants everything taped and archived. It can stop there, because that's inconvenient. But let's say the sorcerer finds a way to make that easy too ... and that's when the demon ups the ante and wants to tour all the studios.

See what I mean? It's not about the GM arbitrarily deciding to make the demon or the Binding annoying for the player, nor does it have anything to do with "balancing" the demon. It's about playing the demon relative to how its Need is being met, or unmet.

Quote
What about a slight variation of the utility demon abuse? Suppose you wanted a demonic servant to watch everything that happened in the news, and then give you a daily report? Now Gorgs job is his desire. Do you see that as working well?

OK, that part is getting a bit confused. First, we were talking about Needs, not Desires, and I'm going to assume you meant Need. We can talk about the difference between the two later, if you'd like. Think of a Need as a substance to which the demon is addicted. Think of the Desire as an ideology or an obsessive hobby.

Second, I think you can probably see that this situation won't meet the demon's Need. Unless the sorcerer is making some distinctive effort to meet that Need, then I don't care how much the demon watches, it's going to get cranky.

Third, demons are not automata. If it decides to do something or to influence its master in a particular way, it may not report accurately. The guide to go by in making these decisions, as GM/demon-player, is to think in terms of the Desire. Let's say its Desire is mayhem, which means it likes mayhem and wants to see it and be around it, maybe even commit it. So why not report the news accordingly?

Does that help? If you understand the Need rules, the Desire rules, the Binding rules, and the Kicker rules, then you'll see that it is impossible to game the system into pure convenience. You cannot build a demon who does everything you want exactly the way you want it, all the time. You can build a really reliable one, get a good solid Binding, and keep it well fed, and you're close ... but by definition, this is a dysfunctional relationship, and also by definition, your life has just changed.

Best, Ron
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TheThingInTheMirror
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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2007, 09:18:56 AM »

Quote
By "see your point," I'm going to say, I see that you are being a bit reflexive and reactive, at least in that first sentence.

Out of the entire response, I seem to be having a brain cramp on this one sentance. Two points of uncertainty.
One ..."By that first sentance".... you meant when i said "Ok I am being silly, but you see my point"?
Two. I am not sure what you mean by the terms "Reflexive and Reactive"

Yes I was a little muddled talking about needs and desires. However, I really was trying to cover both issues, since either should make a demon harder to deal with. However, Need does take the lead here. It's the more critical issue in many ways.

I'm going to print this one out and save it. It gives me much to think about.

Everything you say makes sense. It raises a problem for me.
Sometimes I try to run games that deal both with that safe comfortable life with all ducks in a row, and then sometimes I run games that deal with what happens "when the ducks run quacking in all directions". (That was a great image, thank you.)
Doing both allows for a number of useful functions.

The biggest is simply this... If you know how things work when things work right, you will gm with greater confidence and fairness when things go wild. Maybe don't actually run this, if it seems too boring, but at least map it out in your head.

Oops. Gorg was supposed to be Zogg, from page 95 of the rules. Sheesh, I can just picture a cartoon with a worried looking sorcerer surrounded by five resentful looking demons, saying "Sorry guys, I always confuse people's names...."

Your last point, about binding, needs, and kickers is very helpful.

James N-  What you said made perfect sense. Only thing that confused me was "handwave color as irrelevant to the story"... by that I assume you do not mean the story so much as the crunchy parts of resolution. By thats just being picky-picky on my end.

As for the national guard getting called out on the teenage with a demon tank on his leash... well, that just goes back to the game being about consequences.

I am being a little extreme in my hypothetical scenarios. A guy who does something forbidden like calling demons, may very well do other forbidden things... like stockpiling ordinance or driving tanks around. I could well imagine someone learning this stuff and gradually spiralling totally out of control.



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-Ron H
-The Thing In The Mirror
-(Absolutely not related to The Thing In The Closet.)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2007, 08:06:21 PM »

I figured Gorg was Zogg. I like your cartoon suggestion.

Quote
One ..."By that first sentance".... you meant when i said "Ok I am being silly, but you see my point"?
Two. I am not sure what you mean by the terms "Reflexive and Reactive"

Doesn't matter. The point is that you worked through some difficulty with reading and understanding by yourself, and that's good.

Quote
Everything you say makes sense. It raises a problem for me.
Sometimes I try to run games that deal both with that safe comfortable life with all ducks in a row, and then sometimes I run games that deal with what happens "when the ducks run quacking in all directions". (That was a great image, thank you.)
Doing both allows for a number of useful functions.

The biggest is simply this... If you know how things work when things work right, you will gm with greater confidence and fairness when things go wild. Maybe don't actually run this, if it seems too boring, but at least map it out in your head.

I don't understand what the problem is, that is, the one you say is raised for you. My lack of understanding is probably due to the level of abstraction involved ("things work right" / "things go wild"). If this point is important to you, and if you'd like me to process it and give you feedback, I'd do better with an example from your actual play experiences, in any system or any time you've GMed. But if it was important only in terms of you typing it out and working through whatever it is on your own, then that's OK too, and you don't have to explain it any further to me. I don't want to seem to challenge you or to drive toward further critique if that's not what you're looking for.

Best, Ron
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TheThingInTheMirror
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« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2007, 11:16:16 PM »

Well Ron, just to keep things from making much sense (Sorry, we can't make sense on the weekend. It would be wrong) I am going to answer your question with a question.

As a general percentage, how many games that you run qualify as quiet, sedate, a snapshot of the Sorcerer's "ordinary" life? A time of rest, peace, order, industry and ambition?

As a general percentage, how many game that you run qualify as periods in the protagonists life of upset, confusion, turmoil, crisis and conflict?

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-Ron H
-The Thing In The Mirror
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2007, 04:14:39 AM »

The Kicker rules guarantee the latter. Sorcerer play leaves the quiet and sedate part of a sorcerer's "life" (if we can use that word for a fictional character) for back-story and reference.

It's not a game about "being a sorcerer," but rather about how a sorcerer hits the crunch point of the choices he or she has made so far.

Pacing is another issue, and perhaps it's relevant to what you're asking. The manifestation of a Kicker and the particular game and sorcerer concept may lead to slow, nuanced play, in which "normal" actions are carried out more often than crisis actions.

To understand how that works, we should discuss the basis for resolution in the game ... for instance, that unlike most RPGs, in Sorcerer, one does not roll "to hop over the fence" or any other task considered in its own right as a physical act. The dice are only used, ever, for situations in which characters encounter a conflict of interest with one another.

If you had a character whose Cover was "Olympic gymnast," and if he or she were going for the gold medal in a scene ... then that doesn't necessarily mean that dice are rolled. They are only rolled if the situation can be considered a conflict of that kind. Normal actions, devoid of conflict, are simply out of the picture as far as resolution is concerned. In this particular case, if I were GMing, I'd say "is he good enough to win?", and whatever you'd say, that's what would happen. (The final authority over that kind of resolution rests with the GM in Sorcerer, but the player's viewpoint seems like the best consultation in this case.) However, if there were a conflict of any kind in which that Olympic contest was involved/relevant, then wham, we have to go to the dice.

So if we were playing the slower-paced, more normal-stuff situation that I brought up, a fair amount of what would require task resolution in other games would not be handled by rolls at all. Such events would occur, shift into new scenes, and gel over time into a context for a conflict situation, often in ways that cannot be predicted prior to play.

Let me know if that helps or makes sense.

Best, Ron
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