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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 174 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Sorcerer in play, some things worked, some didn't  (Read 2599 times)
Jeffrey Straszheim
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Posts: 112


« on: July 09, 2002, 05:42:49 PM »

It has been literally years since I've had a good roleplaying experience.  In the past year I've made two attempts: an Everway group that played for about three sessions before everyone drifted away, and a failed attempt at Sorcerer with my wife.  In both cases the source of failure was obvious (at least in retrospect).  I didn't get to the bangs.  The characters floundered around with not much interesting happening, following the obvious tracks but not really getting anywhere.  I chalk this up to my own stage fright.

I used to be a pretty effective GM, years ago.

Anyhow, the wife and I gave Sorcerer another shot this weekend.  I swore I'd have bangs right and left.  And you know what, things went pretty well.  At least, by the end, we both agreed it had been fun and wanted more.

Her character is a lone adept, following in the footsteps of her dead father.  She publishes a newspaper in NYC, and is all in all a pretty powerful and effective person.  Humanity is defined as empathy, and a general sense of connection to other people.  I had a simple relationship map (from my head, not a novel); she had a decent kicker (she gets word that photos of her taking a bribe from the mayor were found in the possession of a competing reporter).

I think the big help was I had a clear idea of who my NPC's were, and was able to play them effectively.

So, we had fun, but we did not achieve anything like narrativism.

Two issues come to mind.  The first is that, while there were interesting bangs, in the sense that they were emotionally compelling and generated action, there was nothing that seemed to require humanity checks.  My idea for humanity was that it would increase by building up meaningful relationships, and go down if relationships were destroyed.  However, while she did interact with folks in perfectly normal ways, her character was never faced any important choices on relationship issues.  And its not obvious to me, given the situation she was in, how I could have included them.

The second issue is more specific, and is a huge error I made while GM'ing the game.  I talked her out of talking a risky action.  She was in the study of her father's enemy, Aquarius Northwood, and she decided to attack him.  I talked her out of it.  He was backed up by two ugly spider-like demons, and had an allied (but weak) sorcerer with him in the room.  Her starting demon is pretty tough (power 6), but focuses more on stealth than combat.  Oh, and she was unarmed.

Yes, she was way outgunned, and in a certain sense "live to fight another day" was very prudent advice.  But it was a stupid decision on my part.  I should have let her fight it out.  She's not an experienced roleplayer, and could surely have used lots of advice on how to fight smart, but the chance fizzled away.

She did come up with an effective means of outsmarting the enemy: kidnapping his daughter -- who was in on the plot -- and exchanging her for the photo negatives.  That worked, but was pretty anticlimactic.

Anyhow, I learned some things I'll do better next time.  I'm still not clear on how to build humanity driven bangs.  I mean, sure it's obvious, except that it's not.
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Jeffrey Straszheim
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2002, 07:05:18 PM »

Hi Jeffrey,

Given your account of your history and experiences, I would chalk this one up as an unqualified success.  

"Achieving Narrativism" isn't really a goal anyone should worry about. Right now, the key is to enjoy the role-playing experience and to get the Sorcerer system working for you. It sounds like you're on the right track.

Best,
Ron
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Jared A. Sorensen
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Posts: 1463

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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2002, 04:36:59 AM »

Jeff,

Sounds like you're well on your way -- like Ron said.

Remember that in Sorcerer, there are no hard and fast rules for player death. It's a question of making Will rolls (and doing everything you can to boost them with bonus dice) in able to do anything once you find yourself bleeding on the floor. Next time, don't worry about whether the player will survive...that's kinda her choice.

Rock on.

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
Blake Hutchins
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Posts: 614


« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2002, 09:51:23 AM »

Jeff,

In my opinion, Humanity must be tested on the moral plane.  From my experience with Humanity in Vampire -- and I suggest it's congruent to Sorcerer humanity in this wise -- the best way to facilitate Humanity tests is to pose a devil (er, demon) or deep blue sea kinda choice.  To the extent you can recognize opportunities to pose that kind of decision point to the player(s), you may be able to ramp up the tension.

Best,

Blake
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J B Bell
Member

Posts: 267


« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2002, 05:24:35 PM »

Jeff,

It sounds like you're treading on the territory I was in for my first game of Sorcerer.  Don't worry about it, as others have said.  The feeling that you're totally screwing up even though everyone had fun is a strange thing.  I think it comes from the feeling of incompetence that always accompanies trying something new.  This is especially a problem for experienced people trying a new way of doing something they are familiar with.  I had a good rep as a fun GM back in the day, and when I set out to GM a new way (not that I hadn't used the techniques before, but you know), with newbie players, it was a very nerve-wracking experience.

Remember:  that sinking feeling in the gut is realizing that you still have stuff to learn and that your old tricks don't work.  This is good!  You have all the signs of success; be happy and proud and forge ahead.  And read some of the Actual Play threads--many juicy ones are linked from the main Sorcerer site, and they're very instructive.

--JB
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"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2002, 08:34:41 AM »

Hi Jeffrey,

I've been thinking about this thread a little, and I have a question for you.

Why, do you think, did you advise the player in the almost-combat scene? Notice that the question is not, "why did you advise her not to fight," but rather, why did you advise her at all?

This is a very important point. A hell of a lot of illusionist play I've participated in relies on blatant cues and instructions from GM to players that, oddly, are forgotten after the scene. In other words, the players do look for and follow the cues, but then everyone somehow ... just pretends that didn't happen, and that the players/characters had the precious Free Will that everyone talks about.

One of my current groups includes two players who were so used to this form of play, that at first they stared at me in horror in any kind of decision scene. They kept looking for the instruction, and it wasn't there. They watched my face carefully, looking for hints of approval or disapproval, and the hints weren't there. Later, they began to accept that maybe I was "Roads to Rome"-ing, so they became willing to make decisions. Even later than that, when they suspected that I wasn't even planning paths for them to follow, they started asking "But what if I had ..." after every session. I'd just shrug and answer, "Something interesting, I'm sure."

It wasn't until about halfway through our sixteen-month run of Hero Wars that they could see that Story Now was in action - that there really was a story, and it really emerged from the key decisions of the protagonists, and that their own emotional contact with all the characters (PCs and NPCs) was producing those decisions.

The next game we played was Dust Devils. Now we're playing Sorcerer & Sword. As you might imagine, I am suddenly a mighty happy GM.

So Jeffrey, I'm not asking for any sort of self-justification on your part; you've already decided that the behavior itself wasn't satisfactory. I'm asking for reflection - where did that particular act, on your part, in play, come from? What, emotionally or creatively, was going on? Why? That sort of thing.

Best,
Ron
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Jeffrey Straszheim
Member

Posts: 112


« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2002, 10:36:45 AM »

Hey Ron,

I only have time for a short reply now, but here it goes.

In retrospect I think there were two main reasons I talked my wife out of attacking.  The first being I was afraid she'd lose terribly.  I had already narrated that the big bad guy was in the room with two big spider-demon thingies, and his sidekick sorcerer.  She was unarmed and her demon is OK in combat, but not great. I had asked her before if she carried a gun and she had said no.  Also, combat oriented tactical situations are not her forte.

The second reason was, I think, that I was a bit apprehensive of managing a crunchy fight at that moment, with that many NPC's.

Obviously, neither of these were very good reasons.

On the other hand, I do think that I avoided the sort of pitfalls you refer to in your post.  In this respect her being an inexperienced player is a good thing.  She's never learned the bad habits of playing like a sheep.  Other than having a hard time coming up with a good kicker, she really seems to have grokked the whole, "Be interesting, by gosh, and DO THINGS," riff.

In fact, that's the whole point.  She was being a protagonist in this scene, and I blocked her.
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Jeffrey Straszheim
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