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Author Topic: In which we head out into the Sorcerer's Solar System  (Read 3934 times)
Judd
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« on: March 31, 2010, 10:52:37 AM »

Bret, Christine and I are all buddies who don't game together.  Realizing this was silly, we got together to game.  We agreed that we wanted a finite game, 3 session and then we are done and if we want to continue, we can evaluate at that point.  We are all kind of in these odd places in our lives, getting ready to move, and go to new jobs or graduate school or whatever and we all wanted to get a good game or two in before real life swept us all hither and yon.

We agreed over some painless e-mails (agreeing on which game to play can be a real pain in the ass) to play Sorcerer, specifically this untested rough draft of a setting, Sorcerer 2289: Xeno-Demons in the Science Fiction Solar System:  http://docs.google.com/View?id=dc3jjkgb_60fk6m6mcs

I tossed together a one-sheet, with art from concept ships and IO9.com and text from the google doc to make a one-sheet.

http://io9.com/5472264/when-space-opera-becomes-art/gallery/
http://conceptships.blogspot.com/

One-sheet text:

Quote
Xeno-tech Demons in a Science Fiction Solar System

Towards the end of the 22nd century, the solar system is rapidly becoming colonized by nation-states, corporate entities and refugees from earth. Probes have been sent into the void beyond Pluto and Charon; data is transmitted from the deep black. Some settlers have even found xenological remnants in the solar system itself, evidence that something had bathed in the light of sol before us. Something else is out there.

Human space travel is slow and tedious. When one travels to another planet, it is akin to someone in the 16th century venturing to the New World via wind and sea. Even using gravity to sling-shot a ship at speeds thought impossible a century earlier, it is still a harrowing 5 month space journey from Earth to Pluto.

Sorcerers are people who will change the course of human history; they have uncovered a piece of alien technology and are seeking to make sense of it. This xeno-tech artifact is their Demon.

Demons are pieces of alien-tech, be it a suit of some kind of armor, a psychological process for training alien brains or a ship from beyond Charon. There is nothing magical about them, though they are fell and they do not belong here.

When Humanity hits 0, your character becomes a cautionary tale, their technology overcoming them. Even worse, their Demon goes out to affect the world in a terrible way, decided by the GM. If the player's Humanity hits 10, they become a paragon, transcending their human shell. Their tech (or their ideas go on to change the world if they have no Demons) goes on to revolutionize the human worlds and make it a better place in a way decided by the player.

Humanity is empathy with other beings.

And I realized my own face was soaked in tears, my eyes filled with them. I could feel the weeping in my swollen throat, the same ache that the songspires had reflected back, not from the ship, I knew suddenly, but from her millennia-departed crew. The knife running through me was the grief of the Martians, an alien pain stored here in ways that made no sense outside folktales around a campfire out on Mitcham's Point, a frozen unhuman hurt in my chest and the pit of my stomach that would not be dismissed, and not-quite-tuned note in my ears that I knew when it got here would crack me like a raw egg.
- Broken Angels, Richard K. Morgan

We talked about different planets and they both liked what was going on with Mars, a planet with its own identity but still being torn apart by earth politics.

I could tell that after making our characters that we were all a bit cooked, so they wrote down vague names and places on the back of their character sheet (that holiest and most under-rated of Sorcerer prep spots) and we went back and forth a bit over e-mail, which helped to flesh it all out.

I liked that process of e-mailing back and forth, it helped bring out the people and places on the back of the sheet and allowed us all to marinate on things for a while.

What we've got:

Bret made up an Outlaw Medical Researcher by the name of Zhang Rong with a Possessor Demon whose Desire is Power and whose Need is to Tell a story about my life.

Kicker: The cadavers in his research facility get up and start performing tasks.

Christine made up an R&D corporate researcher by the name of (can't find her name at the moment) with an Inconspicuous Demon whose Desire is Knowledge and Need is to Gather Hidden Information.

Kicker: Following a knowledge impulse to follow her demon, she's led to a recent spaceship crash site (as in this ship just crashed in the middle of a small Martian frontier town).

Next up: Backs of the sheets, prep and the first game this coming Thursday.
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2010, 11:36:47 AM »

I could tell that after making our characters that we were all a bit cooked, so they wrote down vague names and places on the back of their character sheet (that holiest and most under-rated of Sorcerer prep spots) and we went back and forth a bit over e-mail, which helped to flesh it all out.

I liked that process of e-mailing back and forth, it helped bring out the people and places on the back of the sheet and allowed us all to marinate on things for a while.

I thought this process was nifty and worked really well, wanted to jot down some more concerning how it went.

Bret had on the back of his sheet:
Quote
Basanti Pathak - young scavenger

Li Fai - saloon owner that is front for underground medical office

Cactus Smith - bitter brother of dead patient

Zhang Park and Zhang Mei - disappointed parents

Zhao Qi - sister

Rahul Sharma - medical teacher

Forever Johnson - colleague and rival

I asked about his sister and we sussed her out a bit, that she is a married photographer.

Christine had:
Quote
Demon Mentor (internet friend)

Online/Forum Community

Spouse Name:

CEO Victoria Hsu

Junior Lab Researcher Name:

Office w/mini-studio Apartment

Personally Supervised Lab

PDA type thing, always on

Name of town near crash site:

I asked some questions about each tidbit:

Quote
Demon Mentor (internet friend)
Could this maybe be an alien cultist who you talked to online, maybe someone who helped you with your first days of being bound to your demon?

Online/Forum Community
What kind of forum?  Tracking alien artifacts?  Something about uncovering information?

Spouse Name:
Was an arranged marriage, maybe by the corporation or your family?  Was it twue wuv?

CEO Victoria Hsu
I like her already.  Not sure why but I do.

Junior Lab Researcher Name:
Do they look up to you as a mentor?

Office w/mini-studio Apartment
I like what it says about the corporate culture that you have an apartment attached to your office.

Lab (personally super-used)
She's a lab-rat.  Nice.

PDA type thing, always on
Is it a hologram all around you or something more like the PDA's as we know it?

Name of town near crash site:
I will look up some Martian geography and suggest some good names if ya want.

And the backs of the sheets were solid.  I had only to look things over and come up with the good ole-fashoined bandoleer of bangs.
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Bret Gillan
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Posts: 375

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 12:02:02 PM »

I feel like I stole the idea for my demon somewhere. The demon itself is a byproduct of alien tech rather than the tech itself. Zhang discovered a device that aliens used to create neural backups and memory mapping. His demon is the copy of himself that he made with it, except it's wrong and strange because the device was not designed for human neurobiology. His Telltale is related in that he occasionally will repeat a word in a sentence. The Demon's Need is for Rhong to tell it a story about his life.
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2010, 12:38:37 PM »

This is a really strange game with people who are at this odd transition in their lives.  We're all moving in the next few months and this will likely get to be the last time we get to game together (and for some of us, its the first time we are gaming together).  All in all, it was a normal Sorcerer first session.  It is the first of three sessions we agreed on when deciding to play, so I eased back on the bangs, didn't jump to the big ones and let things simmer.

Bret and I had a strange disjointed couple of minutes and it was interesting that he said that it was something we had gone through before, but I will leave room for him to post about it.  It boiled down to me taking his kicker in a direction that he had no anticipated.  He thought it was going to be more of a mystery that his character would have to solve and rather than that, I kind of made it something his Demon was doing through its power to Spawn.  There was some kicker-vertigo to deal with, there.

I really liked how Bret's character dealt with the dead getting up and walking, which was to flat-out freak out.

I almost want a table to check off for when Demon's Needs are denied and when they are fed.  There was a nice moment when Christine's R&D exec shooed her demonic martian ravens away from her boss' computer that I really liked.

It was a solid first game, rolled some dice, and fed some Demonic Needs, denied some Demonic Needs.

The next game should get Christine's character hip deep in contact with other Sorcerers and with Bret's Contact -> Summoning -> Binding of an alien intelligence.

We are in second and third gears and next week I hope we start revving up to 4th.
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Bret Gillan
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Posts: 375

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2010, 04:27:19 AM »

Yeah I totally ground to a halt. I had set up the Kicker, that the corpses in his lab were getting up and walking around and doing things, with the idea that it would be a mystery and the who and the why would be something I had to chase down. Having it be Copy was cool and I liked how it worked out, but that meant the Kicker resolved immediately. Copy was making corpses do things, I stopped him, and then the rest of the game was, "Well, okay, now what?" I ended up sputtering because one hour into the session, my character just hadn't developed enough for me to have clear goals yet for him to pursue. So I think really what caused me to stumble wasn't that the Kicker went in a direction I didn't anticipate but that it was over so fast and then there was a lot of, "Okay, now what do you do?" that I just wasn't prepared for. Before next session I think I need a new Kicker.

As for the disjointedness happening before, I think the best example was the Houses of the Blooded game you ran awhile back. Really, though, I think it's a conversation better had offline.
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2010, 11:07:20 AM »

Bret,

I really thought that the mysteries solved were out-weighed by the mysteries that were suddenly  kicked wide open.

We know why the corpses are making something and who is doing it but where exactly is the information going and to what purpose?

Let's start the game with some sorcery and see how it goes.  I feel like we are still on the same kicker but if you aren't feeling it, we'll figure out something.
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2010, 08:52:43 AM »

There is an interesting thing when players are going back and forth, not directly involved in each other's scenes.  The players kind of watch what is happening, digesting it all and form opinions about what is going on.  Once they are unleashed into each other's environments, there is a kind of release.

Christine's R&D scientist, Vera, is given sway over a lab with a little boy who has an alien artifact just like her's.  His is a synthetic vulture.  Through experimenting with his demon, she is kinda experiment with her own, asking questions she hasn't fully asked about herself, maybe.  Also, the boy's demon is in a state of outright rebellion and has, in its own non-verbal alien-synthetic-vulture way asked that Vera take over the binding.

Christine is skeeved out by vultures, as am I, which is good.  The fact that they are creepy-looking birds is why I chose it as the boy's demon, that and keeping with the bird motif for certain alien tech.

Bret's character, Dr. Rong, is obsessed with using the alien tech to invent something that will allow humans to map their consciousness and imprint that on other shells (like a clone, for example).  Funny he chose that, because it is exactly the tech that largely defines the Takeshi Kovacs books by Richard K. Morgan, the books that inspired this setting.  I don't believe Bret has read them yet, just a funny coincidence.

Through a series of demon-less rolls, he does it...but now what?

Once he applies for a patent, the government folks roll in, bring him to the R&D facility where Vera works.

Bret failed a summoning roll after a successful contact.  He wanted to imprint an alien technologist over his mind but failed the roll and got a vicious demolisher.  He anted a Maker but failed the roll and got a nasty Destroyer.  I felt like a bit of an asshole GM but the game kept flowing, despite the failure.

I asked Christine to make a Humanity roll when, after interacting with the little boy, kept locked up in an R&D lab, she had dinner with her lab assistant.  She mused for a moment on the poor boy's plight and then launched into the exciting scientific possibilities.

Both characters have succeeded in all of their Humanity rolls, meaning that this third and last game will most likely have no alien first contact.  That is fine with me, I think there's more than enough to deal with without the aliens showing up and I rather like them being in the background, mysterious and unknown.

Once the two PC's got in the same room, I really liked their interactions.  I could feel the game shift up a gear at that point.

Next game starts with Dr. Rong being hired by the facility and Vera being asked to finish up her work with the boy and his demon so that she could be given a promotion to the scientists who have an overview of all of the alien tech in the building.

There have been some neat rolls to see who knows who is a Sorcerer, Lore vs. Humanity and who knows what about whom has tipped the balance of play in cool ways.  The Facility Director, Khaza, knows that Dr. Rong is a Sorcerer but still does not know that Vera is and they both know that she is, either through rolls or through hearing directly from NPC's.
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Bret Gillan
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Posts: 375

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2010, 09:34:20 AM »

By the end of this session, I was reluctant to let it end. Having Rong interacting with Vera was cool, and being introduced to this huge research complex full of things for him to examine and form theories about and come up with ideas for new creations will be great. I felt like there was a lot of "okay, now what do you do?" and I needed more in the setting for him to interact with and react to since I was floundering at points.

The demon summoning wasn't a big deal. I mean, yeah it ended up being a dead end but whatever, I failed the roll and he still had a choice. I think what turned it from an "Oh, crap," choice into a dead end wasn't just the fact that it was a destroyer, but it was both a destroyer AND it did not have the ability that Rong had summoned it for in the first place. If it had been a destroyer and still had what Rong needed, it would have left Rong with a much more difficult decision.
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2010, 10:55:21 AM »

By the end of this session, I was reluctant to let it end. Having Rong interacting with Vera was cool, and being introduced to this huge research complex full of things for him to examine and form theories about and come up with ideas for new creations will be great. I felt like there was a lot of "okay, now what do you do?" and I needed more in the setting for him to interact with and react to since I was floundering at points.

I used some of the back of the character sheets for my initial bangs but I found it interesting that you and Christine never sought out any of those NPC's, unless I put them on the plate first and often then, once they were gone they were off-screen and seemingly forgotten.

I definitely did some some "what do you do now" and more than I would generally like but I felt like there were enough plates spinning and didn't quite want to add more.

The demon summoning wasn't a big deal. I mean, yeah it ended up being a dead end but whatever, I failed the roll and he still had a choice. I think what turned it from an "Oh, crap," choice into a dead end wasn't just the fact that it was a destroyer, but it was both a destroyer AND it did not have the ability that Rong had summoned it for in the first place. If it had been a destroyer and still had what Rong needed, it would have left Rong with a much more difficult decision.

Yeah, I can see how I could have made that decision more difficult.  Gotcha.  Something for me to think about.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2010, 07:03:09 AM »

Hi there,

Regarding Kickers, I think some of my comments in [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP may be helpful here:

Quote
"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.

I may be wrong, but Judd, it might be that you're holding hands a little too much in terms of "what happens next," leading everyone else to be a little too comfortable that the story will roll along and all they have to do is react. If I'm playing a sorcerer, especially one I've made up and who has demons like the ones they have ... well, if the GM doesn't hit me with X or Y or Z, you can bet that I'm off like a shot for whatever it is that this sorcerer is bound and determined to do. Your players should have this expectation conveyed to them.

"What do you do?" "I sit and wait for you to tell me what happens now. Because if I wait long enough, you definitely will." "No, actually, I won't. What do you do?"

Best, Ron
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Bret Gillan
Member

Posts: 375

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2010, 11:44:04 AM »

Yeah, I think I am not coming in with enough prep of my own as far as what Rong wants to accomplish. After the last session, though, I think I have a lot more direction. The game has been kind of like the Flintstones operating cars - the first session was the feet kind of scrabbling on the ground and the second session we took off like a shot.

And as far as the Kicker, I see now it was a part of a larger picture that hadn't been revealed yet. After the first session, more mysteries had been revealed, sure, but they were threats that Rong was not going to pursue unless there was pressure on him to do so. He knew that Copy was putting together an apparatus to contact the aliens, he knew that was a bad idea, so he stopped Copy. That seemed kind of like the end, but I'm seeing now that there is some larger agenda that all the demons are a part of and it involves the aliens. So yeah, Kicker is not resolved.
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Roger
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2010, 08:07:46 AM »

He knew that Copy was putting together an apparatus to contact the aliens, he knew that was a bad idea, so he stopped Copy.

Hmmm.  I'm going to dip into Lajos Egri's theories here a bit, which may or may not be applicable, but it might be useful.

Egri says:  The pivotal character is the protagonist. According to Webster's dictionary, the protagonist is -- "one who takes the lead in any movement or cause."  Anyone who opposes the protagonist is an opponent or antagonist.

He offers up an example:  "In Othello, Iago (the pivotal character) is a man of action.  Slighted by Othello, he revenges himself by sowing dissension and jealousy. He started the conflict.  (...)  Iago,  in Othello, is the ruthless, conniving protagonist. Othello is the antagonist."


You can probably see where I'm going with this:  Your character sounds like he might not be an Egrian protagonist.  My suspicion is that such characters might be problematic under Sorcerer.

I feel like I'm shooting in the dark here a bit, though, so let me know if any of that is hitting.
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Judd
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Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2010, 01:16:23 PM »

Ron and Roger,

I think there was some tentative playing on all of our parts, in that the players didn't seek out the folks on the back of their sheet until I put them into play and I didn't push hard enough, in general.  I think folks weren't as aggressive as they could have been.  I'm going to blame most of it on the fact that this is the first game we have all played together and we are getting used to each other a bit.

The end of the second session felt like a big step up in energy and I think the third session a week from today will be spot-on.

Thanks,

Judd
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2010, 04:00:53 PM »

First sessions in Sorcerer are almost always like this, often with a weird, underlying sense of incipient excitement that I can only describe as non-cinematic. In other words, low on spectacle, high on something else.

I also like the Flintstones car analogy.

Best, Ron
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Bret Gillan
Member

Posts: 375

That's Bret with one 't' damn it.


« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2010, 04:23:03 AM »

Roger - he became more of an Egrian protagonist in the second session. He cured death, put himself in a new body, has been trying to give this technology to hospitals that can use it while avoiding corporations and the government, and become a much nicer person than I thought he would be, and I think the way the Kickers are playing out he'll have more of a pivotal role.

Judd - at least for me, I just never saw any reason to seek out the people on my sheet with the exception Basanti who I introduced when I was looking for more alien tech. I mean, I could have if I wanted to do some soft roleplay but as a player and as a GM I often find soft roleplay to be boring unless it's a break in some high-tension or once we've gotten the game rolling and I have some things to say. For example, I was going to instigate some scenes with NPCs (in particular Rong's parents) after the immortality rolls, but then Khaza showed up.

Basically, I see from hereon out if we were to continue playing across many many sessions I would have no problem aggressively seeking out NPCs and goals. That first session I was still trying on a new character and figuring out what he wanted, and I didn't really know until halfway through this last session.
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