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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] A few mechanical questioms  (Read 2740 times)
Mackie
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Posts: 23


« on: September 25, 2009, 05:37:36 AM »

After playing Sorcerer a few times now, I just had a few questions on rules that are niggling in my brain like an itch I cant quite scratch. I hat rules-lawyer type of playing, but on the other hand a coherent set of rules that one can internalise and not debate is condusive to the immersion of narrative RPGing.

1. Banishing and humanity gain.

OK. Bit confused about this one. As I understand it, you check Humanity vs Demons Power for a gain (providing your humanity is lower than demons power). this seems counter intuitive to me. The stronger (and thus more reality-offensive) the demon, the LESS chance you have of a humanity gain?. And the more human you are the greater the chance?. In effect, the easier it is to perform the task, the more chance of a reward (maybe this is D&D skeleton of risk vs reward... ).

It seems more coherent to me to make a Demons Power vs Humanity check in order to  gain a humanity. Again, im not really interesting in rules lawyering, but it just seems a) more coherent and b) better balance.


2. Temporary penalties / Initiative / Combat.

Ok, say the Superhero Captain Awesome (A) smashes Doctor Bad (B) with his fists and does, hypothetically, 3 Temporary damage (lets ignore Lasting for the moment). Next round happens. Both the costumed goons have, say a stamina of 6. In this case, I presume that (A) rolls 6 dice and (B) rolls 3. Now, lets say (A) does something other than attack (B), like lecture a goon on truth justice etc. Dr B then comes up and attacks (A). What dice does he roll? The three on the table? or has he allready had his temp penalty so now gets to add 3 more to the attack (or subtract 3 from Captain Awesome's stamina defence). In essence, does temp damage JUST apply to the initiative roll?

In a similar vein, lets say the "initiative" rolls of 6 and 3 are made. But captain A decides to skip his lecture and KER-POW doctor B again. His dice stand as the attacking dice. Doctor B says holy-baloney, im going to abort to defend. In this case, what does he roll. 6 dice?, or 3?


3. Cover and combat rolls.

OK. I think I have this in my head, but im going to check. Lets say we have Charlie Chuckle (C) attack  Desmond Dull (D). Charlie happens to have "Wrestler" as his cover, and states he is going to put Desmond in a head lock. Cover seems to apply. So, the actions are stated.

The way I conceive of this is PRIOR to the "initiative" rolls, Charlie would make a Cover roll vs Desmonds Stamina. Any excess victories would then be carried over to the "initiative" roll proper - and that roll only.

Of course, this wouldnt apply if Charlie is fighting with a chainsaw, or unarmed but non-wrestly ("I spin kick him to the head"). He could perhaps make the cover roll again is he was aborting to defend against desmond, if desmond was making a grapple type attack? or not? e.g. Say Desmond one the "initiative" roll and stated he was going to arm-lock Charlie. Charlie aborts: would he roll his stamina again, or would he get a cover vs Desmonds attack, carry bonuses, and then make a stamina vs attack roll (providing he narrates it in a wrestle-mania style!).



Anyone care to help me scratch the itch?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2009, 10:48:49 AM »

Hello,

Quote
1. Banishing and humanity gain.

...As I understand it, you check Humanity vs Demons Power for a gain (providing your humanity is lower than demons power). this seems counter intuitive to me. The stronger (and thus more reality-offensive) the demon, the LESS chance you have of a humanity gain?. And the more human you are the greater the chance?. In effect, the easier it is to perform the task, the more chance of a reward (maybe this is D&D skeleton of risk vs reward... ).

It seems more coherent to me to make a Demons Power vs Humanity check in order to gain a humanity. Again, im not really interesting in rules lawyering, but it just seems a) more coherent and b) better balance.

People ask about this a lot. However, I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. I think the roll terminology may be throwing you, specifically "check." Here's my guide to how I'm using the words:

"Humanity check" - a chance to lose a point
"Humanity gain roll" - a chance to gain a point

When you propose "Demon's Power vs. Humanity check in order to gain a Humanity," as a contrast or suggested replacement for "check Humanity vs. Demon's Power for a gain," I can't tell what you're talking about. Both of those look like the same thing to me, because it doesn't matter which score you list before the "vs." and which one you list after, and neither one matches the terms I use ... and worse, if I do try to translate them to the terms I use, all I see are the already-existing rules in the first place, or part of them.

Why don't I take this from the top, with every possible combination.

A sorcerer Banishes a demon that (i) he did not summon and (ii) has a Power higher than his Humanity. He may now attempt a Humanity gain roll, with his Humanity vs. the demon's Power (reverse it and say the demon's Power vs. his Humanity if you want, it's the same thing).

A sorcerer Banishes a demon that (i) he did summon and (ii) has a Power higher than his Humanity: no Humanity roll of any kind.

A sorcerer Banishes a demon that (i) he did not summon and (ii) has a Power lower than his Humanity: no Humanity roll of any kind.

A sorcerer Banishes a demon that (i) he did summon and (ii) has a Power lower than his Humanity: no Humanity roll of any kind.

That's the rule. Is that how you understood it? Again, I cannot tell at all what you are asking (or proposing as an alternative) so it's hard to know what to tell you.

Unfortunately, none of your second set of questions make any sense as written. I think you may have been butchering the system, but perhaps I'm wrong and these are simply detail-questions, with the confusion arising only from how you wrote the questions. You'll have to tell me how well my answers help you.

In your first example,

Quote
Ok, say the Superhero Captain Awesome (A) smashes Doctor Bad (B) with his fists and does, hypothetically, 3 Temporary damage (lets ignore Lasting for the moment). Next round happens. Both the costumed goons have, say a stamina of 6. In this case, I presume that (A) rolls 6 dice and (B) rolls 3. Now, lets say (A) does something other than attack (B), like lecture a goon on truth justice etc. Dr B then comes up and attacks (A). What dice does he roll? The three on the table? or has he allready had his temp penalty so now gets to add 3 more to the attack (or subtract 3 from Captain Awesome's stamina defence). In essence, does temp damage JUST apply to the initiative roll?

Yes, the two begin the second round with six dice (A) and three dice (B). A has announced a lecture to a goon. B is attacking A. Your question is very puzzling because no dice are currently on the table. By definition, at the end of a round, the initially-rolled dice are all used up. So to begin this new round, A rolls six dice, and B rolls three, and that's the end of that. What "three on the table" are you referring to? There aren't any.

Also, your question about damage relies on the idea that B's three-dice roll is somehow not the same as his attack on A. If so, that's not correct. It is exactly and only his attack on A.

Quote
In a similar vein, lets say the "initiative" rolls of 6 and 3 are made. But captain A decides to skip his lecture and KER-POW doctor B again. His dice stand as the attacking dice. Doctor B says holy-baloney, im going to abort to defend. In this case, what does he roll. 6 dice?, or 3?

This question isn't consistent with the rules either. All announcements of actions are made before the dice are rolled. A player cannot wait until the dice are rolled and then choose what his or her character does. Unfortunately, I can come up with two distinct ways to interpret what you're describing.

All right, here goes with the first. A is hitting B (again), with six dice. (Those aren't initiative dice, and I recommend you stop calling them that.) B is doing something with his three dice, but from your example, we don't know what. Let's say it's like your previous example and B is trying to hit A too. So all right: they roll six and three dice, respectively, and we go from there. For your example to make any sense, we have to assume that A has rolled a higher value (he might not). So now B is looking at that high value and must decide, at this point, whether to roll a single die to defend against the existing six-dice roll, or to abort the three-dice action and to roll full Stamina to defend.

That last bit might answer your question. A given temporary penalty only operates on its owner's next roll, which in this case meant that B's attack roll was reduced from six dice to three. Once that happens, the temporary penalty is gone forever. Do not think of a penalty as applying to the next round, only to the affected character's next roll.

The other way to interpret your question is that A announces his attack and B announces his "cover up and defend" before the dice are rolled. In this case, B's statement is not an abort. It's a full defense, and gives him a two-dice bonus, as well as being treated as an oppositional, direct-defend action to the attack (unlike any other combat roll in Sorcerer). Since it is indeed his next roll following being hit last round, his Stamina roll of six dice is reduced by three and increased by two, for a total of five dice to roll. But his only action is to defend.

Quote
3. Cover and combat rolls.

OK. I think I have this in my head, but im going to check. Lets say we have Charlie Chuckle (C) attack Desmond Dull (D). Charlie happens to have "Wrestler" as his cover, and states he is going to put Desmond in a head lock. Cover seems to apply. So, the actions are stated.

The way I conceive of this is PRIOR to the "initiative" rolls, Charlie would make a Cover roll vs Desmonds Stamina. Any excess victories would then be carried over to the "initiative" roll proper - and that roll only.

Of course, this wouldnt apply if Charlie is fighting with a chainsaw, or unarmed but non-wrestly ("I spin kick him to the head").

Everything about the above text is completely correct. The following text asks a reasonable question that's easy to answer.

Quote
He could perhaps make the cover roll again is he was aborting to defend against desmond, if desmond was making a grapple type attack? or not? e.g. Say Desmond one the "initiative" roll and stated he was going to arm-lock Charlie. Charlie aborts: would he roll his stamina again, or would he get a cover vs Desmonds attack, carry bonuses, and then make a stamina vs attack roll (providing he narrates it in a wrestle-mania style!).

Answer: the abort roll does not get a preliminary Cover roll to generate bonus dice. However, the Cover is not totally irrelevant; Charlier will indeed receive a bonus die for his full Stamina roll to defend, if the description of the abort-to-defense action is wrestle-y and not some stupid whore-for-dice monologue.

I hope any or all of that helps! Let me know.

Best, Ron
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Mackie
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Posts: 23


« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2009, 01:22:54 PM »

Thanks Ron, that indeed clears up a lot!!! Especially since I butchered the questions, not the system!!!

Q3. Great. Thought that was how it worked, good its straight in my head now!

Q2. Apologies for a sloppy question. I pretty much conceived of entirely the way you explain it, but thanks for wading through a thoroughly awful question. I understood it exactly as you describe it, but just wanted to make sure I hadn't understood it incorrectly. Apologies for using "Initiative" dice You will notice the paranthesis. COuldnt think of a good name for them. Ermmm.... "Action" dice? maybe?

Q1. This is still unclear to me. Im specifically considering a situation when Sorcerer (S) with Humanity (H) banishes a demon (D) with power (P) - and one he didnt summon himself. In otherwords, the situation when the sorcerer may gain a point of humanity.

I'm not sure how to express this properly. But Ill try.

I appreciate you always roll (H) against (P). But what I dont get is :

a) Does (S) gain a point of humanity if the (H) roll wins? [this seems very peculiar] OR

b) DOes (S) gain a pointy of humanity if the (P) roll wins? (this seems more coherent)

Does that make sense?

Thanks or wading through some bloody awful questions anyway!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2009, 09:49:15 AM »

Hi Mackie,

I'm glad the dialogue is working. For your remaining question, let's use characters and numbers. The sorcerer, whom we will call Mackie, has Humanity 5. The demon, whom we will call Snoggle, has Power 8. Due to a variety of useful and lucky circumstances, Mackie has banished Snoggle. Also, Snoggle was not summoned by Mackie in the first place, but rather by Mackie's ex-wife Eleanor, who is not otherwise involved in this example.

Roll Humanity 5 (five dice) against Power 8 (eight dice). State it the opposite way if you like (Power 8 against Humanity 5), doesn't matter.

- If Mackie's dice (five, for his Humanity) yield a higher value than Snoggle's dice (eight dice, for its Power), then Mackie gains a point of Humanity, for a new value of 6.

- If they don't, he does not gain a point of Humanity and its score remains the same, at 5.

I cannot understand why you think Mackie should gain a point of Humanity if Snoggle's Power wins that roll. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Best, Ron
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Noclue
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Posts: 304


« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2009, 10:50:02 AM »

Hi Ron. I think his issue is that the more powerful the demon, the less likely you are to gain humanity from successfully banishing it. I'm curious about this as well.
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James R.
Mackie
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Posts: 23


« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2009, 11:00:19 AM »

Well, it may be my oddities! But ill try to explain.

The way you describe it, there are some things that grate slightly - for me anyway. They are more loosely "simulationist" and "gamist" concerns, if you will. My personal view is that if it dont "cost" anything in terms of narration then attend to these.

Anyways;

Firstly, it seems that the more powerful the demon you banish, the less likely to are to gain humanity (as long as its power is greater than your humanity). THis feels very peculiar to me; the more powerful the demon, the more you are doing the universe a favour so to speak.

Secondly, a character with 5 humanity is going to have more chance of gaining humanity than one with 1. Again, this feels a little odd to me, both conceptually and for the purposes of gaming. But there may be a reason for this I'm not getting.

THirdly, if you take the broad concept of "risk vs reward"; and I appreciate you may not wish to, it looks weird. The more chance you have of actually banishing a demon, the more likely you are to gain humanity. Feels odd.

Lastly,  if you look at the probability curbve of gining that reward it looks weird. YOu have NO chance up until your humanity is less than the demons power, then you suddenly jump to the MAXIMUM chance of a gain, and it starts decreasing again.


I appreciate my arguments are hardly going to unravel the game, and I always stand by the maxim that story comes first. But the rule for this just feels a little itchy for me. There may be a very good reason for how it is, but I cant quite grasp it.

Thanks again,

PS: If you ever feel like enlightening me how the "Protection" power works that woiuld also be great! does it protect against all "sorcerouys" attacks? or do you have to specify a particular form.
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greyorm
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2009, 09:04:53 PM »

Ron, I wish I could help untangle the question to help it make sense for you--it's pretty apparent to me what's being asked and why--but is your trip up occurring in the success percentages of Mackie's question? That is, Mackie's noted that, statistically, low Humanity sorcerers will have vastly less success in gaining Humanity from banishing big demons, while high Humanity sorcerers will be vastly more successful in gaining Humanity from banishing even big, badass demons.

Or with numbers:
Mackie has a Humanity of 2. He banishes a demon of Power 8. 2 dice against 8 to gain a point of Humanity is pretty low odds.
Ron has a Humanity of 6. He banishes a demon of Power 8. 6 dice against 8 to gain a point of Humanity is good odds.

And the issue is, thematically, why the drugged-out, baby-killing, transgressive wretch with low Humanity who manages to banish a huge demon (making a pretty big thematic statement) is the one whose Humanity gain is least likely to occur? When in comparison, the high Humanity sorcerer who achieves the same feat has the better chance to gain more Humanity for doing something not nearly as thematically punchy.

From the angle he's approaching it, I can see his point about it seeming a bit strange.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Noclue
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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2009, 10:03:37 PM »

That makes sense to me. It's easier to be human the more human you've been.
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James R.
greyorm
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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2009, 10:19:17 PM »

That makes sense to me. It's easier to be human the more human you've been.

That's rather the way I was looking at it, too--via a sort of comparative transgressiveness--but, like I said, I can understand the confusion depending on how one is viewing it.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Mackie
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« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2009, 11:46:42 PM »

I can see the arument "its easier to be human the more humanity you have", but it dosent quite fit with me for a few reasons...

Firstly, it doesen't make sense (at least, in isolation) with the rule (which I totally understand is needed) that you dont gain humanity if the demon is less powerful than your humanity.

Secondly, its isnt actually "its easier to be human the more humanity you have" - its "its easier to gain humanity the more humanity you have". Being human (as an action chpoce), as far as I understand it, has nothing to do with your actual humanity score. Even if it did, we are talking about efficacy in being human, not chance of clawing back some humanity back for yourself. Humanity gains for good actions are, fundamentally, equally "easy" to "win" whatever your humanity is.

Thirdly, there may be a metagame consideration here. The rule "you dont gain a humanity if the humanity score is more than the demons power" is, I presume, to stop banishing-abuse. High humanity characters swanning around easily banishing demons and building up ridiculous (?game breaking) levels of humanity. I would have thought the rule as you describe it feeds into this "banish-abuse" mechanic, whereas the reverse position would be entirely coherent with the metagame consideration of avoiding it.

Lastly, it still dosent answer the niggle in my brain as to why you are more likely to gain a point of humanity for lesser power demons (at least, presuming their power is still higher than your humanity)

Regards
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Per Fischer
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2009, 02:28:28 AM »

Hey,
I'm sure Ron will chime in with the reason behind the design, but I don't really see a problem with this, and here's a couple of my thoughts.

Firstly, it reads like you guys (Mackie a.o.) think that Humanity is somehow a gauge for how "human" a character is. I don't know whether I read that correctly, but I'm pretty sure that all of you know that that is not the case for the rest of the game, thus not for Humanity gain rolls in connection with banish rituals either. Just an observation, but a sorcerer is not more human because he's got a high Humanity and vice versa.

Secondly, a Humanity gain roll is a Humanity gain roll, no matter what triggered it. The rule is simple - the sorcerer rolls his Humanity vs. something else, and in the Banish case (following a Banish ritual that allows a Humanity gain roll) vs. the banished demon's Power. So, yes, if the sorecer's Humanity is low and the demon's POwer is high, then it's hard (but not impossible) - calling that unfair is missing the point I think.

Lastly, it sounds a bit to me that you think it should be "easier" to gain Humanity by banishing demons. If you want your character to earn Humanity gain rolls, there is an easy option already built into the rules, namely having your character doing in-fiction actions that you have deemed as suitable for humanity gain. I'm sure that's a very deliberate design.

Sunday morning musings, I hope they make sense Smiley

Per
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Per
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Mackie
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2009, 03:40:39 AM »

It makes some sense. Just not as much as the other way round, I guess.

I'm totally with you with regards to humanity, its not a measure of humanity (i tried to convey that in last post). With rtegards to your commend about being "easier" to gain humanity by banishing demons - not really; and in a sense its academic. I wasnt comparing i to other ways.

I'll throw in a comparison with say, summoning a demon. This is easier the lower your humanity. and you are more likely to loose humanity the lower your humanity score. Or to put it another way, a high humanity makes it harder to perform but less likely to loose humanity. Or yet another way. Low humanity = good chance of performing action but negative for humanity.

So, if we take banishing as the flip side, the rules seems to say that the lower your humanit the less likely you are to succeed and the less likely you are to gain a humanity. Or in other words = poor chance of performing action AND bad for humanity.

It dosen't feel internally consistent to me.

I dont wont to look at this in isolation either. Look at demon power; again, the more powerful the demon you summon the more likely you are to loose humanity. But, when you bansih, the more powerful the demon you banish the LESS likelly you are to gain humanity. Again, it just desosent feel consistent.

Maybe it dosent need to, after all demons are weird things. But, as I said, its an itch for me.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2009, 09:18:05 AM »

Hi Mackie,

Thanks for that explanation. I can see where your concerns are coming from, now.

The first thing I want to clarify is that this issue has nothing to do with Creative Agenda. You aren't bringing up Simulationist or Gamist concerns, but rather in-fiction plausibility and system-currency concerns. Those are common to any good game design regardless of CA.

The second issue is the basic relationship of Power to Humanity, and "the universe" if we're speaking in thematic terms about story-creation via the Sorcerer rules. Power is best understood as the demon's successful imposition upon reality - not only the degree to which the universe is violated, but also the degree which the universe is forced to accept once the demon is here. (This is also related to the issue of Binding, meaning that the imposition is made lasting, perhaps even permanent, through the collaboration with a human will and willingness to enter into the dangerous economy of Need. But that's too distracting to get into here, for me.)

Comparing it with Summoning may be useful. It's quite hard to Summon a high-Power demon because the universe resists such a nasty violation. But it's also hard to get rid of that same demon because once it's here, the universe has been bitch-slapped and now favors the demon - at least temporarily, until Need erodes the demon's Power.

The third issue concerns the distribution of probabilities, which is actually two things. The first of them is why a sorcerer cannot gain Humanity by Banishing a demon of lower Power. The logic here is that in terms of score totals, the demon is "less here" than the sorcerer's Humanity. Although success is not guaranteed, effectively the sorcerer is operating within his or her already-established range of impact on the universe via Humanity. (In thematic terms, protagonism, but again, that's distracting me, so I'll stop there.) You are also correct to note that during playtesting, I was indeed concerned about game-mechanics and Banishing piddly demons, but I didn't answer that issue by wondering about "balance," but rather thinking in terms of sorcerers as thematic, consequential presences in a story. It seemed to me then, and does now, that Humanity gain in this context requires getting out of what might be considered a Humanity comfort zone - especially because unlike all other modes of Humanity gain, this one is not explicitly associated with doing something decent.

Let me know whether any of this makes sense, or at least clarifies my thinking. Since all of these issues saw extensive playtesting through different versions of the possible mechanics, I'm confident that the current rules work consistently, but I also agree that one should critique them to understand them well.

Best, Ron
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Noclue
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2009, 11:18:21 AM »

Run, my assumption was that banishing piddly demons had no effect because, hey, they're piddly demons. No big deal. Banishing powerful demons might lead to humanity gain, but as the power level of the stuff you're messing with goes up, you're less and less involved in things that are human concerns. You may be doing a very very decent thing by banishing the uber demon, but you're messing with some heavy mojo in terms of universe altering forces. That's not really the stuff of which humanness is made.

Is that a fair assumption?
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James R.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2009, 11:23:54 AM »

Hi James,

That analysis falls more into how you want to interpret (or better, to apply) the rules, not so much into how the rules work in pure systemic and overall thematic terms. In other words, what you're saying is a fine way to apply the rules in a particular game, but you aren't describing the system as such either.

Again, my take on "Banishing big demons" is that they are a whole lot of (corrupted) reality to be revising. So it ain't easy, and doing it is ... well, it's like making the universe more like your own Humanity. So now there's more "you" to the universe (bearing mind that "the universe," in Sorcerer, is a thematic landscape rather than a physics-based simulative one).

Best, Ron
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