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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 147 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: sociopath by proxy  (Read 5891 times)
TheThingInTheMirror
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« on: November 23, 2007, 11:30:09 PM »

I don't necessarily propse any scenario or character from the following. Its more of a thought experiment to test how these things work.

A sorcerer decides to kill a bunch of people. He might be a mobster taking over, he might be a stalker, whatever. He picks a dozen people and slates them to be killed.
But he's coward, so he summons a demon to do it for him. Ok.
The Demon does it's thing, people are dropping dead. Ok.

Let's talk consequences.
The above might be done in some obvious over the top manner, but as it's been said, demon's hate that. All sorts of things will go sproing with this set up
The Sorcerer might have the demon do it loudly yet not obviously. Demon beheads them all with an axe, when the victems are alone.
Now, in one sense this is loud and obvious. The Police, the FBI, and any number of others will be crawling all over it. The whole town will know a dozen people turned up dead with the same MO. But...its not necessarily know there was any supernatural agency.

How does this sort of thing tend to set with the demon?
Ok, so long as no one makes any supernatural connection? Or will the demon sweat and resent the authorities attentions like any other perp would?

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2007, 11:21:25 AM »

Hi Ron,

In order for the demon to be concerned about the cops finding it, the world/setting would have to include the possibility that the cops would look at one another and say, "Gee, this was a supernatural job! Let's go find the demon who must have done it!" Or another relevant situation would include the possibility that some kind of cultural lid would come off, and demons would be exposed in some way.

In most applications of Sorcerer, that is flatly not possible. I really mean it, in the book, when I say that magic doesn't work. Sorcerer settings are best understood as not including demons.

A lot of the games from the 1990s, especially from White Wolf, are best described as "hidden world." The idea is that there's a magical side to reality that most people don't see, and that the magic things tend to stay hidden and to avoid being noticed. This actually isn't what I was driving at in the Sorcerer text at all, although my lack of interest in the other games, at the time, led me to be less pointed about making the distinction than I would have been otherwise. I'll try to articulate it a little better now.

The point of demons in Sorcerer is that they do not exist in the fictional setting, and hence the act of summoning and binding one is truly a transgressive thing.

"Oh no, if they spot me, then they'll know demons exist!" ... that's not the logic underlying the demons' reluctance to be obvious in Sorcerer. There is no reason for them to be that way, in Sorcerer, if we're talking about the in-game, in-fiction logic. That kind of logic isn't the driving force of play, which is to say, the creation of a story via play itself. The driving force of play is the way demons work in myth and fiction. What is that way, in myth and fiction and hence in Sorcerer? It's based on the concept of a demon as a personal thing, dramatizing the problematic issues of power and relationships. It concerns the crisis of power vs. restraint, the crisis of taking an outlaw's path to possible heroism, the crisis of responsibility, and the crisis of treating a thing, to some extent, like a person.

So the demons' reluctance to be obvious is in the rules strictly to keep the focus where it belongs, on the person as he or she relates to the world around them, considering that they have bound a demon.

Therefore, creating fiction about demons simply can't be about "the impact of demons on the world," as in alternate-history fiction or as in the usual approach to an RPG setting. The in-game logic already negates the demons. The cops might be baffled or horrified or go into overdrive to try to solve the crime. But they don't have Lore. They cannot arrive at the conclusion that a demon is on the loose. They're anchored in reality (of that setting), and there are no demons.

Best, Ron

P.S. There are some settings that have been developed for Sorcerer in which demons are more acknowledged in the landscape, so to speak; my own Demon Cops is a good example. But generally such settings work insofar as they are acknowledged, internally, as being weird - moving the setting more into surrealism, rather than naturalizing the demons.
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2007, 06:46:05 PM »

How does [mass murder] tend to set with the demon?
Ok, so long as no one makes any supernatural connection? Or will the demon sweat and resent the authorities attentions like any other perp would?

So aside from whatever the cops might be thinking, the demon still might have its own ideas about what it's doing, depending on its Desire, Need, and relationship with its master.  Maybe master is taking the demon for granted; maybe master needs to be taught a lesson; maybe life's a lot more fun when master sweats a little bit.  Or, maybe it's a lot of fun to play hide-the-bodies, and snicker at the detectives as the trail runs cold.  Or maybe the demon would really like to transcend its nature, and feels horrified by what it's been ordered to do.

N.B. that just because the cops don't know a demon's responsible for a crime, they might be able to figure out that the sorcerer had a motive (but no apparent method).  This can lead to the archetypal scene where the detectives pay a visit to the suspect, and a battle of wits ensues.  There also could be a "sorcerous technicality" side - maybe someone on the police force, looking into these murders, learns just enough to gain Lore 1 (Naive). 

Oh God, I really don't want to do my class work tonight!
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Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2007, 06:49:20 PM »

Hi Ron H,

The way I tend to describe it is to think of many horror movie monsters- Freddy Krueger, Jason, Candyman, Chucky, Pan, the girl from The Ring etc*.   It's not like they're part of a larger metaphysical existence- they're some kind of bizarre exception that shouldn't exist and breaks the rules -by- existing and everything they do.

These things don't have to "run" from the cops.  They simply aren't around when the cops show up.  If you think about them this way, in cinematic terms, it becomes clear that most of the nitpicky "what would happen" questions disappear.

Chris

*Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent, Paprika, or Perfect Blue also would fit perfectly.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2007, 09:38:14 PM »

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Um, I guess that's all.

Best, Ron
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TheThingInTheMirror
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2007, 11:45:06 PM »

Hooboy.
Ron E, I really doubt I understood much of anything you said.
About the only thing I do feel convident that I understood was the comment about summoning demons being "truly transgressive"

To save people from having to cover all cases possible in an rpg I think I should mention a few decisions made about the world. (even if this is not strictly speaking, something that will occur in play, but more of a thought experiment about how this world works)

The world is basically the one we live in. It is the present date and the stories in the news are quite similar. I chose a small fictional town in Pennsylvania and so the local news is completely made up. But the national news is pretty much the real world stuff.

The police do not believe in demons. If a series of crimes are committed and the evidence looks like a demon, sounds like a demon, feels, smells and tastes like a demon they will conclude that it obviously must be something else, because there are no such things as demons.

There are a few sorcerer's out there likely to be hostile... But I am trying to keep myself on a strict diet, and to try to have things be much more the pc sorcerer vrs things that are scary-but-natural. Seriously, vicious ruthless human beings are quite scary enough, and I see little need to clutter my game with npc sorcerers. Let being a sorcerer be the pc's almost unique cool thing.

The best I can understand it, you seem to be saying mundane people literally can not see the demon at all. But that raises the question "how an ordinary person would percieve a demon with or without Cloak?"

Jeez I hope I am not pestering you with too many questions...



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-Ron H
-The Thing In The Mirror
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Plotin
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« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2007, 07:44:41 AM »

Hello Ron H!

Quote
The police do not believe in demons.

Quote
The best I can understand it, you seem to be saying mundane people literally can not see the demon at all. But that raises the question "how an ordinary person would percieve a demon with or without Cloak?"
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2007, 08:38:43 AM »

Hello,

Michael's pointing you in the right direction. It's not that the police "don't believe in" demons. It's that demons don't exist, not in your setting or mine or most anyone else's. Sorcerer settings, however weird, are places without demons. (Even in the settings where they are more common than the default, which is another topic that we should ignore for present purposes. Let's stick with here-and-now, modern day.)

But your character has a demon. Maybe he summoned it, and he's definitely bound it. It can now run around and cause trouble and, for instance, kill people. So when the character's demon kills the ten guys, it was a physical act which was perceivable by anyone present, certainly including the ten guys. It is present, although it should not exist. Really should not exist; that's not just a wanky voice-over.

So how do demons interact with others? First, put aside the notion that demons are somehow invisible or not perceived by other people. That's a wrong turn. That's not what I'm saying.

Second, let's be specific and talk about those cops. What I'm saying is that they will conclude that some real whacko killed these guys in some incredible way that we haven't figured out yet. They have the bodies and a bunch of stuff they'll call forensic evidence, and that's what they can conclude from them. They will not come to the conclusion that (a) demons exist, (b) a demon did this, and (c) their job is to track it down. That little progression is what you have to throw away too; it's an internal feature of those "hidden world" games I was discussing and nothing else. (Same goes for notions about government programs that utilize demons, like some sort of sorcerer-CIA branch. Bah.)

Think more like pulp horror and fantasy. Whatever the cops find out, whatever an eye-witness says, and whatever a cop himself stares straight in the eye, the cultural consensus will be that something physically explainable happened - even if no one can say what it was. Individuals who say "but I saw it! it was a demon! really!" will receive precisely the same reaction they receive in the real world, and may well come to rationalize the experience into something else over time. Or they may crack due to the metaphysical dissonance they try to reconcile in their heads, who knows. Or they might arrive at a Lore score of 1. The point is that the belief that demons don't exist is correct. They do not. Your player-character is not merely the owner of a big nasty pet that no one knows about; he is a metaphysical criminal. Having a Lore score means tearing literal existence apart.

Demons' desire for secrecy is, as I say, part of this picture, rather than its root cause.

Given that the universe/society/whatever typically rejects knowledge of their existence in the long-term or the larger scale, why do they bother? Again, the reasoning is based on narrative, not on internal-world cause. Demons avoid conflict with the larger frame of existence because demon stories concern the immediate ethical and personal crisis of the sorcerer. So the rule exists to conform with, and to reinforce, that approach.

Best, Ron

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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2007, 03:27:43 PM »

Isn't that a bit convoluted a way of saying it? Really asking, since I might be way off and want to know how 'way' I am.

Why is the player sending the demon out? If he's doing it for some personal examination about him and his demon, and your all about him and his demon, then your cool. If he's sending it out 'just to see what happens when demons go wild' then he's naturalised it in his own mind to the game world. As I understand it, no amount of talking about the game world and what is part of it there will unnaturalise it (probably reinforce it). You'd have to talk direct player motivations (assuming he has any beyond dreaming).

Say the demon is a sort of manifestation of the players reason/desire to play the game in the first place. Ie, the demon's not part of the dream, it's part of the player. I'm not sure it hurts or takes away from that manifestation to talk about it in terms of pure player motivation? Err, except perhaps the nakedness of the ambition.

I get the feeling there are two sides of a curtain, I'm looking from the very meta game side 'Player motives for playing and manifesting those motives into a demon that is iconic of those motives', and the other dream side is 'This thing is not part of this world'. Both are correct. But doesn't the latter kind of make things harder to organise?

I hope this post isn't wasting time, cause I'm damn curious and can't stop myself (which isn't an excuse, but here I am).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2007, 06:23:47 PM »

Hi Callan,

Here are some questions and points to illustrate how much your post confuses me.

1. Whom are you asking, Ron H or me?

2. I chose my replies in the thread carefully after reading the first post over and over. Despite the thread title, the only question in the post concerns the visibility or vulnerability of the demon to mundane perception and investigation. In fact, the description of the sorcerer fully includes the possibility of a rational, directed action. There doesn't seem to be any sociopath in the issue as described.

3. I'm not at all sure that when you say "the player" you actually mean the player, or the character.

4. Remember, too, that Ron H is new to the scene and may not have any idea of what you mean by "the dream."

Best, Ron
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TheThingInTheMirror
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« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2007, 12:35:30 AM »

The second time around it was much clearer. I confess that now I think I understand your argument, but I am not sure I am persuaded by it. That is to say, given the fiction of the game world, I am not sure there are many audience members who would accept the premise of the fiction. The idea that there are sorcerers and they can summon demons? sure. This list and my own interest in the games are proof that people would accept such fiction. That they are unnatural and really should not exist? Fine, If nothing else in makes pretty good "mood-speak". But to say people won't believe that unnatural occurances occur or that unnatual beings exist?

The police and the courts will be singularly resistant to the idea. But churches? People who are gullible? People who are superstitious? People who just want to discover something new? Whole organizations can fit in to any one of the above catagories.

Plotin thanks for showing me the other thread. If I may quote it...

from Ron E.
Quote
So where do demons come from? The answer is, they don't. There aren't demons. They don't exist. Reality doesn't permit demons to exist. Demons are not in the setting, not in another dimension, not in Hell, and not in any sort of alternate or even psychological space.
 

from Plotin
Quote
Quote
Hot! Yes, it is a device toward that purpose, but it's an important device, much in the same way that the phrase "Once upon a time" is a device, or perhaps the phrase in modern film theater experience, "Feature presentation," is a device

and finally, from the rulebook itself on pg 58, more or less the bottom half of the page...
Quote
  Demon is one of those "open concepts" of Sorcer, meaning that it's fundamental definitions is left entirely up to the individual group (the other one is Humanity).

So what I am left with is that the explanation of a demon as not existing is a heck of a cool idea, but the only interpretation. Page 58 goes on to cite many other possibilities. The secrecy rule really isn't presented as a very optional thing. If you rthe gm rules that demons are golems, the rules will pretty much insist you have secretive golems with needs and desires. Or secretive needful alien fighter jets. (Which actually does fit UFO related fiction, more or less.)

But if it is not the only option available, it does appear to be the coolest option available. And perhaps the only one that truly fits The Three Rules on page 59. Certainly I like the idea of the player as a metaphysical criminal.

Can I assume that this definition I am learning now is something developed since the publication of the core rules?

If it matters, I bought The Sorcerer's Soul, Sorcery and Sword, and Sex and Sorcery. I have stuck to the core rules, however, and will read them after I've worked with the core rules long enough to begin wanting something more.

I am amazed at how little there is in the way of rules, yet how robust a game... and of the rules there are, how much can change if the gm should opt to tinker with only one of them.
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2007, 06:07:05 AM »

But to say people won't believe that unnatural occurances occur or that unnatual beings exist? The police and the courts will be singularly resistant to the idea. But churches? People who are gullible? People who are superstitious? People who just want to discover something new? Whole organizations can fit in to any one of the above catagories.

Ron H., you know in horror movies, when the Zombie Vampire Voodoo Chupacabra eats the unpopular teenager... and the cops are standing around arguing about what must have done it.... and the good-looking teenager who knows the score says to the police, "Come on, guys, it's the Zombie Vampire Voodoo Chupacabra!  Look at all the evidence!  It practically left you a business card!"... And the cops are like, "Yeah sure, kid.  Zombie Vampire Whatever-Whatever.  Get lost."... And then you as the audience know that this particular cop is next, because don't these guys realize they're in a horror movie?!

Because that's what we're talking about.

Same deal works for gullible/superstitious people.  Let's say the Zombie Vampire Voodoo Chupacabra is going after the proprietor of the local New Age Healing Shop.  And the lady there is like, "Oh, you're not a regular customer, are you?  Hmmmm... I bet you're a Jungian archetype keying off the akashic record from ancient Atlantis - ow, stop biting me, stop biting me!!! - I'll show you, I've got some pumice in my store, and some Indian dream-catchers, that will keep me safe -- AGGGHGH OW IT HURTS (sounds of store clerk being messily devoured by something which is beyond mortal understanding)."

The notion is that, okay, maybe a primitivist church group, or zany New Age guy, or the local UFO kook, looks at those Zombie Vampire Voodoo Chupacabra murders, and thinks, "Hey, there's something eerie going on here."  But you know what?  He/she has no more idea what's really going on, than the dismissive cops.  The demon, in the imaginary world, is something ineffable and inexplicable, and you're not going to nail it down with any cute academic or theological treatise.  Sorcerers have dealt with demons frequently, in some traditions maybe for centuries, and even they don't have any real idea of what they are/where they come from/what they're really all about.

As for the "they don't exist, yet they affect things in the world", or "they're completely beyond classification, yet they always take the form of Zombie Vampires" - if your head hurts thinking about those paradoxes as a player, it's probably a whole lot worse for the characters, right?

Quote
So what I am left with is that the explanation of a demon as not existing is a heck of a cool idea, but the only interpretation. Page 58 goes on to cite many other possibilities. The secrecy rule really isn't presented as a very optional thing. If you rthe gm rules that demons are golems, the rules will pretty much insist you have secretive golems with needs and desires. Or secretive needful alien fighter jets. (Which actually does fit UFO related fiction, more or less.)

I think it's important to separate this out, because there are settings where demons are much more common, for example Azk'arn or the World of Marr'd, and I'm curious to hear the "official" take on this.  In those settings, I imagine that common (Lore 0) people know that demons exist, but not much else of substance - and that the sorcerers have methods which work, but which are neither fully understood nor logically consistent.

edited to fix formatting - RE
« Last Edit: November 27, 2007, 06:49:48 AM by Ron Edwards » Logged

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Chris_Chinn
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« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2007, 01:45:08 AM »

Hi Ron H,

Really do take a chance to watch one of the movies or anime I've mentioned.  The transgressive part is like:

- One day, your sneakers start talking to you.   And, apparently, when you -really- want something, they have some kind of magical way of making them happen.  At first you find money on the street, get away from some bullies at school, they tell you what to tell the girl you're crushing on and that's all cool.   And then you get angry at your best friend and he gets hit by a car.   And the shoes laugh and ask you if you want the car to back up on him as well.-

So who do the cops go looking for?   What's the metaphysical explaination for your shoes?  Frankly, no one really knows what the fuck is going on, except that you might be crazy, but weird things are happening and you're probably in over your head.

I'm not talking about -all- movie monsters, the ones I pointed out work in just that way- they're exceptions that have no predecessor.   They're weird.   And when you watch these movies, there's maybe a handful of folks who figure out it's not just bad luck, or a sociopathic killer, and you know what happens to the folks who figure out what a monster/demon is?  In game, they're Sorcerers.   They know there is no rational explaination, and if anything, your shoes need to go...

And your best friend in the hospital keeps going on about the shoes were at fault, and your sneakers are getting nervous cause he won't shut up and now you've got to decide who you're going to side with.

That's Sorcerer.

Chris
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Callan S.
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« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2007, 12:07:22 AM »

1. My question was for Ron E., 2. I don't see sociopathy as an issue either, except if it's being asked that way because character motive is a non issue. 3. I'm refering to the player as the situation only seems to be being set up, ie, after heads roll, then we can see the character start to make choices. 4. *Nod*

When I watched the movie 'The matrix' I was facinated by the big question, which might be phrased 'What is freedom?'

Okay, I was so facinated by it, I never thought 'Hey, why don't they just plug cows into the matrix?'. To emphasize it, I was so facinated by the scenario and what it ment to the protagonists and how they lived.

Some time after the movie I head the suggestion they could have used cows. Of course, I thought, why didn't I think of that? Why - because the question 'what is freedom' was far more important than thinking about all the little details.

I was blinkered - like a horse with those little panels to keep it from seeing anything to the left or right. And this is GOOD! No one wants to hear a mobile phone go off during a movie and frankly, if you have an amazing question like 'What is freedom?', do you want to think about the piffly details? It's about as good to think about as that mobile.

BUT, I have made up answers in my head why they use humans and not cows. Just for fun, really. But these answers satisfy only me - they wont convince someone who doesn't care about 'what is freedom' to stop focusing on the flawed setting.

I think this effort to describe how demons just aren't part of the world, how the cops just can't internalise it, is like my explanation to myself of why the machines didn't use cows. If the other person isn't interested in the big question to begin with, my cows explanation or this 'demons aren't part of the universe' wont stick.

That said, I find the idea of impressing that 'They aren't supposed to be there, this is wrong' and such really facinating. Perhaps I don't get it and certainly it sounds so cool, perhaps there's more to it than how I'm perceiving it right now. Or it could be both - how I describe it and a really cool rule to impress over an imagined universe.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2007, 06:48:06 AM »

Hi Ron H,

I'm reluctant to continue with the conversation, because in my experience, discussing these matters causes problems until a person has played the game a few times and become comfortable with its mechanical features - and most importantly, learned what's it's like among members of the play group to undergo such an experience. I'm not shutting it down, if you really want to continue, but I also think we won't get too much farther, and perhaps the more I expound, the more distracting or the more counter-productive the conversation will become.

Considering that the conversation arose, not from any instance of problematic play, but rather from a casual musing-moment over an imagined situation during play, I'm a bit sorry I didn't say "Play a little first" in my first reply, and leave it at that.

However, considering that you've asked questions and raised points, it will be rude not to give them attention. Please take the following two notions as a look into my mind-set as a game designer, rather than as an attempt to convince you of anything. I do not expect that you should agree with me. Nor will I interpret a lack of response as tacit agreement.

1. Churches, gullible people, superstitious people, and so on, are not distinguished from the cops and courts in the metaphysics of Sorcerer. People are people, normal things are normal things, and a belief in God or in magic or in whatever is still a belief.

I rarely use real-world reference to talk about Sorcerer, preferring to stay in the realm of the internal narrative dynamics of fiction, but in this case, I think I'll pull that particular string. Right now, there are lots and lots of people who believe in demons. They insist that demons are active among us, and that we all should be mindful that they exist. They insist that we are making a mistake by not changing our behaviors in this regard.

I am not saying these folks have no impact on the world, either historically or right now. Arguably they did, and do. The point from a Sorcerer perspective, though, is that this impact has nothing to do with whether demons exist or not.

Imagine a whole church insisting that demons exist, there's evidence, here's a film of one right here, and oh my God, everyone, do something! ... And look, nothing much happens. Some members of the church feel strongly about it, and most of the members don't. No one minds or cares. Is this "realistic"? Can it be this way? Oddly enough, that's how it really is.

Conversely, and also in support of my point, imagine a whole church insisting the same thing, and controlling education, economics, and terror techniques over a society in order to enforce that concept and to inflict consequences on everyone's lives. Do they need evidence of demons to do it? Do people resist because the church people have no such evidence? ... And look, no, those things don't feature into the picture. They dominate the culture through education, economics, and terror. Can it be that way? Oddly enough, that's how it really is.

Again, I suggest that the common assumption in horror/occult RPGs that the "mundanes must never find out!" is a genre convention, which 1990s horror borrowed from the X-Men. I suggest that it, and its corollary that they are constantly on the verge of "finding out," have no relation to classic horror film, to pulp fiction, or to anything else - and most especially, not to the logic of human reactions/behaviors as we know them from reality. What I'm saying is, during play, a demon might materialize in the middle of the police station itself and rip apart ten cops! And ... same thing. Cultural impact, long-term knowledge, "discovery" of demons = 0. It's a feature of Sorcerer play in part because it's truer to how people really are.

2. In the suggested definitions for demons, I think you're missing a key point. Let's say that demons are AI constructs in a given game of Sorcerer. Does that mean that they became mundane, part of the normal world, not Wrong in the NaN sense? Just scary machines?

No, it does not. This is key. The AI demons in the game are as Not-There and as whacked-out as I've been attempting to describe to you from the beginning of this thread. My reference for this is the novel Neuromancer, in which the key AI antagonist is nothing more nor less than a demon; the computer stuff is merely colorful frippery to make the story more fun. Real computers are not demons, nor are most of them in the story. This thing is, and that's why it must be brought to heel by the utterance of its true name. I am nearly positive that my point will be misunderstood, because "magic" is not part of the story in Neuromancer either. Demons are not magic, no more than they are technological - they are other, and the computer stuff in Neuromancer accesses the other just as magical stuff does in other stories.

As for whether this is a later development in the history of Sorcerer, the answer is no. All of what I've posted in this thread is an attempt to clarify the first paragraph in Chapter 1 of the core book.

Best, Ron

P.S. Callan, Ron H's question was couched strictly in terms of the SIS, so that's where I'm keeping the answer, mostly. The level to which you're taking the question is precisely the level at which it loses interest for him, I think.
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