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Author Topic: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP  (Read 4977 times)
Paiku
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« on: February 11, 2010, 01:41:14 PM »

Sorcerers in Casablanca<Sorcerers in Casablanca<Thanks to Ry for providing some of the in-line analysis<<The doctor telephoned the French hotel La Ville de Cloche, where the night concierge was a (prescription-drug abusing) patient of his.  The concierge was able to reveal that a new group of Nazi officers had stayed at the hotel recently, then moved to a rented house in town.  There was also a new team of soldiers camping in the desert to the south, where a digging operation was under way.  Serge sent his demon Tack out on the town to snoop out further info.  Eventually it was decided that it wouldn't be safe for Jacques to return home. Serge walked over to Jacques' apartment to get the NGF book of sorcery from under his bed, then back to his in-laws' bookstore to await the others. Jacques and von Braun killed time at the doctor's apartment a while, then walked across town to the Jewish quarter where the bookstore lay.

It was night time now and most of the town was quiet, but downtown near La Ville de Cloche the streets were well-lit and busy with night life. As Jacques and von Braun walked past La Ville de Cloche, (BANG) they crossed paths with a horribly scarred German officer wobbling to his car. Too late, Jacques recognized the officer as one of the NGF agents whom he had left for dead back in Paris!  Apparently the agent had lost an eye and an arm in that struggle, but not his life. Thinking quickly, Jacques stepped to the door of the officer's car and opened the door, saying "mein herr."
<The NGF agent looked up as he was stepping into the car, and recognition bloomed on his face.  He yelled "YOU!  Istvan, kill him!"  Jacques slammed the door on the agent's hand, struck him in the face, and shoved him into the back seat of the car, all while the agent tried to disentangle his pistol from his belt.
<The two men briefly struggled over the car door before the agent suddenly disappeared. Jacques fired his pistol blindly into the car, and a yelp of pain was heard.  An invisible figure escaped out the door on the other side, delayed briefly by the good doctor who managed to quite get in the way.
<BANG) a squealing sound was heard from the ground floor. Serge climbed the steps and peeked into the darkened bookstore to see the rope demon coiled across the front window, its iron hooks scratching across the glass like fingernails on a blackboard. Serge steeled himself, and went outside to talk to it.
<<After a few rounds, the rope demon broke free and was retreating out the door when Serge yelled "DEAL!" He agreed to Bind the rope demon. He and the demon arranged to meet in an empty warehouse on the waterfront the following night to perform the ritual.
<

Ry: It was nice that Pete had a scene to himself after being left out of the multi-character fight with the rope demon.   

On their way back to his apartment, again she had doubts that this was really her husband.  Pete had his demon strike her down with a sudden fever!  (Special Damage: disease)  Elsa briefly lost consciousness in the cab; Dr. von Braun took her home and put her to bed. With much talk of the exhausting effect of travel, and mention of many details of their life together in Germany, the good doctor convinced her that everything was alright. Once she was asleep again, he went through her luggage and replaced all pictures of her real husband with pictures of himself. But the deception weighed on his conscience (he failed a Humanity check).
<Also in her bags, he found a letter: (BANG)
Quote
"LSA, BWARE THE SEVEN BLESSINGS
MEYER WILL HELP
CASEBALNCA
BWARE DARLING."

Von Braun memorized it, and burned it!
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2010, 09:11:19 AM »

Hi John and Ry!

Thanks for the detailed writeup. This is turning into a fine portrait of encountering the game, working through it, prepping for it, and playing it. I'll focus here on what your thread title describes as "imperfect," as far as I can tell from your account.

Quote
I was too fixated on making sure a fight broke out.

Well, you've stated the issue fairly, because making sure anything happens in terms of achieving results or implementing specific "do this" player-character decisions is something to abandon for this game. That's distinct, however, from playing an NPC who starts a fight by attacking, which is perfectly within your sphere of action as a GM. Still, in this session and scene, it doesn't appear to me that you strayed far into unwanted territory as a GM, nor with any un-fun effects.

Quote
Roger
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2010, 09:37:13 AM »

Thanks for the excellent write-up, John.  I have some questions about the characters:

What were their initial Binding and Humanity results for their starter demons?

When was the last time each of them met the Need of their respective demons?  How did they do so?



Thanks,
Roger
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Roger
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2010, 11:49:25 AM »

In a mental lapse, I failed to realize that there's some good reasons why John might not want to publicly publish the Binding results.

If you want to message me with that information, or disregard that part of the question entirely, please feel free.
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Paiku
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« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2010, 12:39:55 PM »

In a mental lapse, I failed to realize that there's some good reasons why John might not want to publicly publish the Binding results.

*LOL*  I was just thinking "I'm not sure I want to post that yet..." when I read your second reply ;-)   I've messaged you the info (Ron too).

I didn't play up Need and feeding of the PCs' demons very much, though the PCs did feed their demons after combat without me having to bring it up.  It's a weighty issue for Jacques in particular: if there's no incapacitated opponent from which Skar can drink some blood, then Jacques has to feed him from his own arm (1 long-term penalty die).

Oh yes, we started the evening with the initial Humanity checks from the Bindings - all three PCs failed!

Ron, thanks for the feedback.  Regarding "imperfect": I meant it as the mildest of criticisms.  The night was successful over-all and we're all anxious to continue the game next week (curse real life and this bi-weekly gaming schedule!).  We're still on the learning curve, and some aspects will go better next time.  With any new game, one expects pauses while rules are looked up.  It's more the hallmarks of Sorcerer and story-gaming that I want to be sure that I pay more attention to: the GM role-playing the PCs' demons, Need, letting the players tell the story, and putting pressure on Humanity.

Another question: we're playing with d10s.  I was expecting more opposed rolls to result in 2,3,4 or more victories.  But almost all our rolls that night were +/- 1, even when the rope demon rolled 17 dice (!!).  Does that align with others' experiences?  Or did we have a shockingly "average" night? ;-)

Thanks guys,
-John
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2010, 05:31:59 PM »

Hi John,

Boy, you are a really velvet-gloved guy ... if I'm reading you right, you're saying you spent a lot of time looking stuff up during play.

If that's so, then I suggest writing out all the demons' powers onto a sheet, organized by name, as well as their Needs and anything else you want to write down. Desire is good for characterization purposes.

You can also write down the complex conflict ("combat") rules in your own words, even by numbers, and use that as your guide during play. You might even write down an instruction to say, "That's the order, now let's see what happens" right after the roll, or something like that.

The sorcery rituals and the damage tables are in the back of the book, so they can probably be used from there.

As far as GMing prep and play are concerned, the only real job you have now, and from now on, is to decide which if any NPCs (including demons) are at some kind of breaking-point, and what they do about it. I find it's useful to note the non-demon NPCs in two columns on a single page, each one represented by only a couple or three lines, summarizing their scores and a couple of adjectives to remind me where their heads are at this point.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2010, 05:39:18 PM »

Oh yeah - those were pretty narrow degrees of victory in my experience, especially since it seems like you (the group) rolled quite a bit. I typically use d10s and am accustomed to seeing a range of degrees of success in which 1 is most common, but 2's are seen a lot, and 3's and 4's do crop up every so often in a given session. The news, though, is that whatever the dice do, sets a kind of "consequence profile" for your particular story, which is especially important in the first session for structural reasons. In your case, since, the margins were close in the first session, when the time comes and someone does blow off the top with 5 victories, you all will really know and feel it as something distinct - "not like how it all started."

Best, Ron
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Paiku
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2010, 12:54:25 PM »

Boy, you are a really velvet-gloved guy ... if I'm reading you right, you're saying you spent a lot of time looking stuff up during play.

*LOL*  Okay, sometimes I am pretty diplomatic, but in this case my critical comments about our session are very light-handed because, really, it was a great session over-all, and nothing really stood out as a serious problem.  If not for my wish to make this thread more than a "hey come look at my cool gaming" thread, I wouldn't raise these issues at all!  I think the only question that caused a significant pause for consulting the rulebook was whether a Contain or Banish ritual can be performed before the demon shows up (which you and The Dragon Master ably answered in this thread - thank-you).

Still, thanks for the pointers, good ideas all.  I have actually done #1 and #4 already (PC demons all on one sheet, NPCs all on one sheet).  And I'll photocopy the page of tables from the back of the book, for next time.

Thanks again,
-J
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Paiku
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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2010, 01:16:54 PM »

Ok, here's the post-game analysis for session 2, delivered a week after the fact.  Time has not been on my side lately...

Coming into the second session, the PCs had a plan to deal with Anaconda the rope demon, and there was a good chance that they were going to deal with Ry's kicker for good.  I was a little stressed about this, because I wasn't finished introducing the consequences of said kicker!  I still had a whole lot of Bangs that I wanted to put into play before Big Things started getting resolved.  So I thought about interrupting the PCs' plans with a lot of "Oh, but first!" scenes.  But too much of that could frustrate the players, who had a course of action in mind that they were jazzed about.  And really, I should let the players drive the story as much as possible.  So, aside from a couple of brief scenes with new NPCs whom I really wanted to introduce, I let things unfold according to the players' plans.

If a gaming session is an episode, then this was a well structured one.  The characters made preparations, encountered a couple of unexpected twists, the side-plots each advanced a step, and then we ended with a battle royale.
    <
  • Serge (Ry) ran into his little brother-in-law Denis, a promising 14-year-old lad who wanted some manly advice.  "How do you know when you're a man?" he asked.  The conversation that followed was kinda fun; I hadn't really decided beforehand where it would go.  Ry and I each played the roles of big brother with big problems and little brother with big questions, and it was a good scene.  I see the relationship with Denis becoming consequential for Serge on a personal level.
  • Dr. von Braun (Pete) received the summons that he was expecting, to attend to the Nazi camp outside of town (he had sent Bacillus there the night before to spread food poisoning).  He treated the sick men, gathered some intel, got a good look at the digging operations, and had a drink with the commanding officer, who turned out to be the head of the NGF, Oberst Baer!  The men recognized each others' telltales, but both played it cool.  It was the classic subverbal pissing contest disguised as polite conversation, between two men who will become bitter enemies.  Well played, Pete Smiley  Baer asked some very pointed questions though, and von Braun was quite evasive (while Bacillus hysterically urged a hasty retreat).  A third man with a telltale joined them in the tent, a massive bald German who didn't speak a word.  Von Braun finally excused himself, and was almost surprised when the Nazis let him leave.  Baer promised to come visit him soon, as they "have a lot to talk about."
  • <

Now, the big battle that we'd all looked forward to for two weeks.  Serge "condemned" an old warehouse by the docks, and packed it with accelerants.  The PCs converged there in the late afternoon to prepare.  A Contain ritual was completed sans demon, creating a general Contain that could be triggered at any moment.  At the time, the PCs weren't even sure which demon they'd end up springing it on.  Then the PCs prepared to Bind the rope demon, which was expected to arrive at sundown.  Serge, whose grip on reality was strained by thoughts of what he was about to do, suddenly turned on Dr. von Braun and attacked his maimed leg cruelly!  The unexpected betrayal (and blood for the ritual) netted him 3 victories to roll into the imminent Binding, but nearly tore the group apart.  Pete succeeded at a Humanity roll, so von Braun got ahold of himself before ordering Bacillus to attack.  Serge wasn't so lucky with his Humanity check; the betrayal cost him a point of Humanity.  Well played, Ry!

Mike took this as a cue to have Jacques lecture Serge on the horrors of being bound to a demon that he can barely control.  It was a great monologue - well played, Mike! - but Serge was determined to go through with their plan.  He couldn't rest, knowing that a powerful demon which Needed murder was loose in the city because of him.

The murderous rope demon arrived at sundown, as arranged.  Ry added lots of description to the Binding ritual (bonus dice), and cut off two of his fingers for good measure (bonus dice!).  It was group sorcery with Serge as the principal versus a Power-9 demon, and the final Binding roll was +2 in the demon's favour.  Serge lost another point of Humanity on the check.  Meanwhile, Jacques had tipped off the NGF* about the sorcerous gathering, and they arrived right on cue (Nazi Occult Research Team... don't make me look up the German translation that forms the acronym).  Two NGF sorcerer/officers and two armed soldiers walked into one nasty ambush.  There turned out to be three inconspicuous demons with the Nazi sorcerers, but the PCs had the freshly-bound rope demon on their side and it was in Need of some murdering.  The combat was vicious and... difficult, for me.  I had 10 NPCs and demons to manage!  I farmed out the PCs' demons back to them, to help me with the rolling (I maintained role-playing control), and spread out the sheets of the remaining chrs/demons in front of me.  The only way I could keep track of currency dice was to have a pile of dice on top of each sheet, and to apply victories and penalties as they happened.  The first couple of rounds of combat must have taken 15 minutes each, but by the halfway point we'd found a rhythm (and half the combatants were disabled), so things picked up.  The Nazis were defeated, and the rope demon satisfied its Need on the fallen.

The rope demon was wounded in the fight, so the PCs seized the moment and sprang the Contain on it.  The rope demon threw itself against the barrier.  The roll was close!  This time, von Braun was the principal sorcerer.  The damaged demon rolled just two dice, getting a 10,9!  Von Braun received just 1 bonus die from the supporting sorcerers, and rolled... 10,9,7,2.  I'd thought that any sorcerous ritual triggered a Humanity check, but we looked it up: it's only Contacts, Summonings and Bindings.  Then, to the Banishing.  The PCs actually failed in their first attempt!  It was now midnight, and they tried again, suffering the -1 penalty for a repeated action.  At 3am, the second attempt at Banishing... succeeded.

As we packed up, someone commented that the Contain and Banish rolls were very tense moments, with players standing to hover over the table, in contrast to the less-thrilling combat.  The battle was just less exciting, perhaps because we were still stumbling over mechanics.

Ry opined that his kicker seemed resolved with the destruction of the rope demon.  I reflexively disagreed, because I had so much more that I wanted to do with his kicker; but then realized that we'd just experienced a great dramatic climax, that the player should really have more say in this matter, and the Bangs left stranded in my bandolier were not his problem after all.  So, we haven't decided what to do with the character Serge.  Should we re-write him now?  And if so, should we kick off a new kicker for him?  The other two PCs' kickers have barely gotten rolling yet, and I'd like to give their stories more focus in the coming session.  But on the other hand, I don't want the rest of the sessions to be anticlimactic for Ry.  Suggestions?

Another rockin' night of Sorcerer.  T-minus 2 hours til session-3!
-John
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Ry
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2010, 06:05:08 AM »

That was a hell of a session, and session 3 was a hell of a session too. 
Then the PCs prepared to Bind the rope demon, which was expected to arrive at sundown.  Serge, whose grip on reality was strained by thoughts of what he was about to do, suddenly turned on Dr. von Braun and attacked his maimed leg cruelly!  The unexpected betrayal (and blood for the ritual) netted him 3 victories to roll into the imminent Binding, but nearly tore the group apart.  Pete succeeded at a Humanity roll, so von Braun got ahold of himself before ordering Bacillus to attack.  Serge wasn't so lucky with his Humanity check; the betrayal cost him a point of Humanity.  Well played, Ry!

Mike took this as a cue to have Jacques lecture Serge on the horrors of being bound to a demon that he can barely control.  It was a great monologue - well played, Mike! - but Serge was determined to go through with their plan.  He couldn't rest, knowing that a powerful demon which Needed murder was loose in the city because of him.
This exchange was the best and worst part of the game so far.  I could tell that Mike and Pete were actually a little bit pissed at me for violating the party-as-a-unit compact, but I really felt like it worked in the fiction and in the game.  But I know it was really shocking, and I made a point not to apologize for it (because otherwise it wasn't a 'real' betrayal, which was what I was doing).  Anyway, both Pete and Mike thought it was cool within about half an hour, so I'm not concerned.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2010, 11:51:35 AM »

Hi guys,

I want to focus on the Kicker resolution. From the blog for the game prep:

Quote
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Ry
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2010, 01:57:02 PM »

Hey Ron, I think John lumped some of my other backstory into the Kicker on his site.  At the table the backstory for Serge was this big list of connections, including Anna and some of Serge's firefighter friends.  But the kicker itself began with "A few weeks after binding..."  The idea of the kicker was Serge's trucking with demons leading to negative consequences. Anna-Michelle is in the background to that (and a likely victim in the long run).  The Catholic conversion was a line of tension through Serge's backstory because I didn't want Serge to be one-dimensional kid-saving control-freak firefighter.

I sent John some other stuff about Serge's perspective... John, do you want to comment?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2010, 06:31:47 PM »

Doesn't matter to me. The story components are there to be used, and if you have chosen for there to be no connection between (a) getting set up for something not-too-good by one's in-laws, and (b) getting attacked by this rope demon, then I think you're missing the GMing opportunities that the prep handed you.

"Resolving the Kicker" does not mean merely dusting it up with whatever immediate threat hopped into the character's field of vision.

Ninjas attack! I escape out the window.
My dog dies mysteriously! I bury him.
My wife has returned from the dead! I get her to sign the divorce papers (finally) and walk out the door.


All of these conduct a conflict with the most immediate elements of the Kicker. None of them resolve it, as far as I'm concerned.

My apologies for the brevity of the post. Its terse qualities should not be translated into a verbal tone and I am definitely not dismissing your prep and play. I'm simply in a rush.

Best, Ron
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Ry
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2010, 07:06:50 PM »

I think I get what you're saying - you're saying that the reason the rope demon was grabby as a Kicker is because it hit -both- "Serge needs control" -and- "Serge has a religious faultline running through his marriage". So we got an end of the knot, but we haven't really untied it ... which is a much higher bar. 

When I wrote the character, and we started the prep as a group, I wanted the plight of Jews in Vichy France to be part of the game (i.e. as ignored in "Casablanca") without making the game or my character pedantic.

I can see that we could continue down that road because it's more broadly about family, trust, and religious convictions, and there's no clear moral this story is shooting for. 

But...   

John, are you good to go there? I'm asking both in regards to subject matter and in terms of the PCs' stories drifting apart. I feel like Jacques (Mike) headed for murdering Nazis while Von Braun (Peter)'s spousal abuse will eventually catch up with him... These could be very divergent paths and I don't think anyone wants you to be responsible for forcing them back together.   
   
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Paiku
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« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2010, 06:05:14 PM »

Hi guys, sorry for not getting back to this thread sooner.  Time, ack...

Ron, thanks for weighing in on this.  We haven't done anything irrevocable yet like re-writing Ry's character or kicking off a new kicker.

I too thought that Serge's kicker brought more than just the rope demon into play.  I was also looking forward to playing on Serge's feeling of responsibility towards his in-laws regarding helping them illegally adding to the basement, the better to conduct illegal business (which I started to do in the 3rd session).  But then we had that great climax vs the rope demon, and you/Ryan opined that the scene made a great kicker resolution, and I decided to let you make the call.  To do otherwise felt like it would be akin to telling you how to play your character.  Your kicker, your resolution to call, you know?  But yeah, if the kicker was a stone dropped into a pond, then we called the first wave to reach the shore a resolution, when really there's a tsunami coming...

So Ry, as you saw in the third session, the kicker has set a larger sorcerous situation in motion.  In the most general terms, there's something under the bookstore which the NGF would really like to get their hands on.  And it's going to be really hard, from this point forward, to keep it a secret.  This ties Serge's story to Jacques'.  And, given Oberst Baer's interest in the good doctor, von Braun can't be far behind.

As for Serge's family and religious issues, I'm good to go there... You gave us lots of great detail to work with, and I do want to use it.  I just haven't figured out what to do with it all yet.  Family dynamics in an RPG-SIS is very new to me.  I'll read your original kicker/backstory again tonight and brainstorm on some bangs.  If I get stuck, then I'll tap you for an offline discussion of where you think we could take this.

And yes, diverging stories is beginning to be a problem with this game.  I'm about to bring Serge and Jacques back together pretty neatly I think (see above), if briefly, but the thread with von Braun and his wife has the potential to turn into a one-player arc.  I'll have to pay more attention to making that situation relevant to the other two PCs.  And then there's tying in Serge's family issues...  yeah.

Ry, in other news, I found the rules on advancement again (pg42).  We could celebrate the End of the rope demon with some improvement rolls instead of a complete re-write.
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