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[Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP

Started by Paiku, February 11, 2010, 09:41:14 PM

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Ron Edwards

Hi John,

Thanks, that makes me more confident. I was thinking of Anna-Michelle but clearly both women qualify.

I suggest one minor amendment of your phrasing: "I should be watching all attention and investments devoted to play, including my own, for clues as to what is important to them in the story, and focusing my inter-session prep there."

In other words, instead of thinking of this as a players-to-GM cueing issue, simply toss everything you're saying about them into the same stew that includes everything you are finding important and interesting too. Although your job as GM is different in terms of what you do moment to moment in play, your job as a human at the table is no different from anyone else's: grab what's there to be grabbed and go with it.

Best, Ron


Session 5 – Casablanca, Friday Evening

When we last left our heroes, Serge and Jacques had just decided to attack the four-armed demon, having failed at Banishing it and growing nervous that the Nazi occult research team (NGF) would be there any minute.  They were in the antideluvian vaulted chamber under the bookstore, and the demon was inconspicuous and in an ancient Contain.  Serge had his priest with him, Father André, and Jacques had Skar (also inconspicuous, so far).  Actually, Father André had just run screaming after the Contained demon momentarily appeared.

Mike (playing Jacques) proposed that Skar could use the Contain (ie. a barrier that Skar could cross but the four-armed demon could not) as an advantage in a fight.  We agreed, and I assigned a bonus die (or did we have Skar roll Will against the demon first, and then roll victories into the attack roll?  I forget, but that would have been the better way to do it I think).  Skar attacked and the fight was on, but it was brief, and at the end Skar lay incapacitated.

Dr. von Braun was with his furious "wife" Elsa and his furious demon Bacillus, and preparing to meet her late father's business partner Mr. Schultz for dinner.  Von Braun ventured to break the heavy silence, and Elsa launched into a lengthy monologue.  She recognized that they had been apart for a few years, but to find that her husband has become a satanist or spirit medium or whatever was just too much.  She put him on notice that she hadn't made up her mind about the future of their marriage, but meanwhile she need "and expected" his help and support while she tried to find out what really happened to her father.  The chastened von Braun brought up the fact that, but for the help he received from "the spirit world," he would not have survived the war in Czechoslovakia (which was true, in a way).  Elsa softened a bit at this.

John: Peter continues to play the relationship scenes with great enthusiasm!

The two put their heads together for a bit over the fragment of Meyer's journal.  His cryptic clue as to where he has hidden the ruby mentioned "when the moon pulls on the water."  We randomly determined that the next high tide would be at 8PM, which put a bit of time pressure on their dinner plans.  Yeah, about dinner...

Von Braun opined that Schultz was involved somehow in Elsa's father's death, and proposed that they take extreme measures to get it out of him.  Elsa tentatively agreed to a plan involving sodium pentathol (isn't it convenient, playing a medical doctor??) and a box of chocolates.  They decided to invite Schultz to dine in their rooms, for privacy and to save time.  When they called the front desk to order dinner, their contact Martin informed von Braun of the latest rumours, that the Nazis had cordoned off the entire mellah and were clearing it out.

John: The players commented that Elsa seemed to slide too easily into morally questionable behaviour, ie. drugging her father's ex business partner in order to interrogate him.  I thought it was in character (it's looking more and more like something shady is going on and Schultz is involved), but if the others didn't think so then I haven't been playing Elsa strongly enough.

Meanwhile, under the bookstore, Serge found the panicked priest futilely attempting to climb the rope out of the chamber, and managed to calm him down.  Father André took a moment and then decided that vanquishing this demon was the most important thing in his life, more important THAN his own life.  Second most important was saving Serge's soul.  He asked Serge to take communion with him, NOW.  They did.

Back at the edge of the contain, Serge and Jacques decided there was nothing left to do but to Bind the demon.  If they didn't, the NGF soon would.  Jacques volunteered, this time.  But how to negotiate a Binding with a demon with which you cannot communicate?  And what to tell the priest?

At that moment (deus ex machina, or as my old gaming group used to say, "*POOF* the DM!"), a voice was heard from the bookstore above: "Hello?  I say, hello?  Mr. Moliere?  It's the city engineer!"  Serge threw the priest over his shoulder and climbed out of the chamber (50' straight up a rope – his Stamina is 6) to meet the city engineer, a Moroccan who introduced himself as Waseed ibn Mohammad.  The engineer brought the news that the mellah was being completely cleared out by the Nazis.  Serge knew then that their time was short.  Waseed was a student of ancient history as it turns out, and was anxious to get a look at the chamber – which is exactly what Serge wanted to avoid.  While Serge attempted send the priest home on one hand, and dissuade the engineer on the other hand, Jacques attempted to bargain with the demon without a language in common.  Waseed was distracted by the grunted syllables floating up from below. 

"I say, is someone down there speaking ancient Arabic?  I know the language but I can't quite make out what they're saying..."  Without another word, Serge scooped up the engineer and bore him down to the chamber floor.  The four-armed demon was invisible once again.

Through cajoling and finally threats, Serge and Jacques managed to get the frightened engineer to communicate with the disembodied voice at the end of the chamber.  After the initial pleasantries:

Jacques: ask it what it wants.
Waseed: <something in ancient Arabic>
Demon: <reply in ancient Arabic>
Waseed: (blanches and attempts to flee)
Serge: (restraining Waseed) What did it say!?
Waseed: Oh God, what is that thing!?
Serge: Tell us what it said!!
Waseed: It said it wants to eat me!  It wants you to feed me to it!!

John: Serge was quite rough with the poor engineer.  Come to think of it, Ry had played Serge using intimidation and superior strength with anyone and everyone, even loved ones, whenever demons were concerned.  It really showed how close to the edge Serge was over all this demon business.

Jacques promised the demon "lots of enemies to eat" (via the unwilling translator), and the Binding began.  Serge knocked out the engineer, carried him up to the surface and left him in someone's backyard to recover, then went to sit on the steps of his church.  Mike declared that the matter of the binding would involve Jacques and the Demon scratching in the sand, attempting to develop a means of communication.  We made it a Will roll, which ended up +2 in the demon's favour.  Skar was still unconscious.

Back to Dr. and Mrs. von Braun.  Bacillus was very hungry and impatient.  It lobbied for dismembering Schultz as soon as possible.  Von Braun sent it downstairs to the kitchens to spread food poisoning (AFTER their own meals were on their way up).  Schultz arrived shortly thereafter, much changed from this morning: nervous, distracted and sweating.  He asked for a double scotch, then got straight down to business.

"You must cease your inquiries immediately," he begged.  "I know you think you know something, and I know you've been to visit a Mr. Meyer today.  Nothing you find out now can bring your father back, but believe me, further meddling would be very dangerous for you.  And very dangerous for me!

"Look, I'll pay you," he went on, "twenty thousand deutschmarks to leave Casablanca immediately!"  Doctor and wife pressed him for more details, but he flatly refused, saying only that they were all in danger.

Dr. von Braun and Elsa exchanged a meaningful glance.  "You really shouldn't drink so much on an empty stomach, Mr. Schultz.  Would you like some chocolates?..."

As the sodium pentathol took hold, Schultz became more pliable.  He eventually spilled his guts.

John: Schultz revealed much more in this scene than I was planning on!  But it was a good opportunity to put more info into the players' hands.

Schultz revealed that he had been visited that afternoon by a fearsome fellow named Ah Ling, who was not only Breuer & Schultz's local shipping agent in the Orient, but also the head of The Seven Blessings opium ring and the most feared pirate in all the South China Seas!  Ah Ling had threatened to kill Schultz if he didn't tie up all loose ends regarding the murder of Breuer right away.

(A-hah, opium, Seven Blessings, that explains the funny-smelling pipe found on Meyer, and the waxed paper with seven stars on it.)

More of the story came out.  Breuer and Schultz Shipping Agents was involved with Ah Ling in smuggling opium into Europe, but Schultz and the company secretary Higgs had managed to hide the smuggling well enough that Elsa's father Breuer never knew about it.  Until about six months ago, when Breuer noticed something fishy about the books.  Suspecting his partners, he decided to go down to the Orient himself to investigate.  There, three months ago, Ah Ling murdered him at sea, and sunk the company's ship with all hands lost in order to cover up the murder.  (That explains why Higgs, an unhealthy man with a guilty conscience, suffered a heart attack when Elsa mentioned The Seven Blessings!)  Now Ah Ling was in Casablanca to ensure that all loose ends were tied off, and finds that Breuer's daughter is snooping around!

The confession complete, then began a lengthy and intense discussion amongst the players regarding what von Braun would do with Schultz!  At first the good doctor proposed a chemical lobotomy, which absolutely thrilled Bacillus!  But then a look at his Humanity score (2) and the firm opinion of the group that this WOULD require a Humanity-loss roll made him reconsider.  Bacillus grew more and more impatient while other options were weighed.

Finally, the good doctor decided to infect Schultz with a fatal disease, and direct him to return for the cure AFTER he had given Ah Ling a poison which von Braun also supplied.  We debated whether this course of action would require a Humanity roll, and decided eventually that it didn't.  I don't remember the particulars of that decision – do you, Ry?  Our definition of Humanity was empathy and sanity.

Meanwhile, back in the ancient vaulted chamber... The Binding ritual complete (the four-armed demon's name was 'Cerberus', its Need was to eat people), Jacques broke the Contain and then went to explore the room beyond (the bricked-up room which Cerberus had been guarding for the past thousand years).  He found a circular chamber with a domed roof about 50' high.  The construction was similar to the vaulted chamber, with enormous dry-set stone blocks, but in this chamber the entirety of the walls and domed ceiling were covered in writing etched deep into the rock.  The writing itself was of a language totally unfamiliar to Jacques, but the diagrams gave him the feeling that all of the writing was sorcerous lore.  The room was one big tome of sorcery.

Jacques took some time to examine the writings and made a Lore roll with Cerberus' help.  He rolled badly, but managed at least to determine that the Lore contained herein gave instructions for the Contact and Summoning of enormous demons which could make any army invincible.  He thought of the Nazis who had been digging holes all over Morocco, who had a map indicating this location, and who were even now clearing the mellah above.  Jacques fetched the rest of the box of grenades into the domed chamber.  He used the remains of the wood crate and the bandages in his sachel to rig a system to pull all the pins at once.  And he pulled!  His Cover roll (resistance fighter) was a success, twenty grenades went off at once, and the domed chamber collapsed in on itself!  (The synogogue above collapsed into the hole thus left).  The dangerous lore was partially destroyed and significantly obscured.

Von Braun and Elsa, having disposed of Schultz for now, decided to go on the lam to avoid this Ah Ling character.  They were headed for the bookstore when they ran into Serge, sitting on the steps of his church, contemplating his missing fingers and the fate of his soul.  While they were catching up on events they heard and felt an almighty BOOM...

Jacques dusted himself off and climbed out of the vaulted chamber in style, on the back of his new four-armed demon.

Dr. von Braun, Elsa and Serge drove with all haste to the mellah.  There were Nazis everywhere, including a few tanks.  Von Braun flashed his Nazi ID to get past the check-point.  The car that followed them through bore none other than Oberst Baer, chief Nazi sorcerer and head of the NGF!

Ry felt that Serge could barely contain the urge to attack Baer openly, right now.  He rolled Will vs. Humanity... and Will lost.  Serge leapt from the car and attacked the Nazi sorcerer with his fire axe!  What else could von Braun do but back him up?  Baer's four demons joined the fight, which became the Battle Royale.  Jacques and Cerberus, coming up the street from the bookstore, saw what was happening and sprinted to join in.  Everyone was there and the evil mastermind too.  It was a fight to the finish.  One of Baer's demons had Shadow and Perception:See In The Dark, and it put out the lights.  Von Braun flashed his rank credentials again and commandeered a tank crew!  With Bacillus' help, he helped the tank crew to target in the total darkness.

In the end, the Nazi soldiers had fled, the NGF's demons were vanquished and Baer was mortally wounded.  Jacques knelt over him as he expired, and revealed the NGF's manual of sorcery from his sachel.  "You found the chamber," gasped Baer, "is it wonderful?"

"I just demolished it," answered Jacques.

Baer's last words were "Noooooooooo!"

Post-Game Analysis

It was a great session, with a great climax for both Serge and Jacques.  On the other hand, it was clear that von Braun's arc was still rising, and could take another 2-3 sessions to resolve.  For practical reasons, we decided to end the game here.

If we were planning on a lengthy Sorcerer campaign then it wouldn't have been a problem.  Jacques and Serge would have been re-written and we would have continued on.  But as it is, our next game is waiting in the wings.  As Pete said, we've learned an important lesson that some story arcs can have more momentum than others, and we need to be careful of that. 

For my part, I can see that I didn't apply the R-map correctly (despite the gobs of generous help from the Forge community).  I grafted it onto just one PC (von Braun), because I was trying to preserve too much of the source book's plot.  I really had two stories going at once: the one initiated by the PCs' kickers, and the one that I tried to import via the R-map.  The R-map didn't serve to inter-relate the PCs in interesting ways.  Instead, it was a GM-prepared story poised to explode onto the PCs.  My bad, with apologies to Pete, who played von Braun to the hilt!


Jacques Gaillard:
Now the master of two huge combat-oriented demons (Skar of the bladed limbs, and Cerberus of the four arms who likes to eat people).  Last seen headed for Berlin...

Serge Molière:
Thankfully free of demonic dependents, and sworn off sorcery for life.  Considering a life in the church.  Maybe as an exorcist...

Dr. von Braun:
Determined to help Elsa discover the truth behind her father's death and his involvement with this ruby business.  Moreover, determined to be the good husband that she deserves (despite actually being her husband's murderer, or perhaps because of it).  Last seen preparing a Banishment ritual...

The GM:
My favourite Bang which I DIDN'T get to use was the following:  Michele (NPC Résistance fighter) shows up with his band of fresh Résistance recruits.  They're well armed and ready to take advantage of this opportunity to strike at some Nazi officers.  Amongst the recruits is Serge's young brother-in-law Denis!  This time Denis is determined not to back down to Serge's blustery big-brother act, especially after Serge publicly slapped him and shamed him (session #3).  If ordered home, he will repeat back Serge's advice about knowing when you're a man (from session #2).  "I know I'm a man now, I know what I must do, and you can't order me around anymore!"

Aah, it woulda been cool...

Thanks to all who read this far, and to those who contributed advice and musings throughout.  Our first Sorcerer game was a voted great success, and resulted in rich characters, an exciting story, much heavy tension and many "Oh sh!t!" moments.  We're looking forward to trying out a Sorcery & Sword / Dictionary of Mu game in a couple of months!



I do feel like there's a lot more we could do with this scenario if Mike and I rolled up new characters or wrote new kickers.

The overriding opinion was that we can't wait to see John GM Sorcerer again.  This game was awesome, and with John's experience with both the system and the R-map idea... I am really, really stoked for more.

Next on our docket is Dogs in the Vineyard, followed by Warhammer, followed by me running Dictionary of Mu.