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Author Topic: Sneak preview 2: more Sex & Sorcery  (Read 8648 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: October 24, 2002, 06:23:28 PM »

Hello,

Here are the first paragraphs of Chapter 1 of the new supplement. I thought I'd toss them out there to receive feedback.

But first: Editorial comments are helpful, but they aren't the primary goal of this thread. So if you have any, that's fine, but the baseline requirement of replying, in my mind, is conceptual feedback.

Someone asked me a while ago what a Sorcerer ďdemonĒ represents, in strictly out-of-game terms. The answer is easy: a demon is a dysfunctional relationship.

Can such a thing be fun? Sure. Can there be understandable reasons why it exists, and why the person chose to enter into it? Sure. Can good things potentially occur because of it? Sure. But pound-for-pound, it carries a cost in some way, shape, or form. No one can indefinitely shoulder the burden of another personís desires and needs, and power-based negotiations about doing so have a way of breaking down badly.

Therefore the game is about the different ways in which these relationships can turn out. A kind of "outlaw triumph" satisfaction may be found in achieving one's goals even with such a relationship. Similarly, a kind of "satisfied justice" can result from watching or experiencing the bad side of it all catch up with a character, including one's own.

So far, so cool. Here are all these characters, doing all these neat things, and it all turns out to mean something interesting and emotionally-engaging Ö right? Wrong. Thinking in these terms is missing a crucial point about the whole process.

That point is blunt and undeniable: role-playing characters do not exist. They donít think things, feel things, or do things, ever, because they are fictional. For the content of the game to matter at all, what the characters ďthinkĒ is not the foundation Ė the people must care, because they are the ones who invent what the characters think. Sorcerer is a game about fictional relationships created by a group of people who themselves have real relationships, and what characters think and do begins, happens, and ends based on the people.

So to talk about playing Sorcerer successfully Ė and developing it into new realms of role-playing Ė then itís time to turn the primary attention away from the imagined, fictional content as such and toward the real human beings, as they create it.


All of Chapter 1 is set up to illustrate the points listed in the excerpt above. The next section concerns lines and veils, as initially discussed on the Forge in Actual Play and including interesting examples, one from my play-experience with Violence Future and another involving sex with a demon in an alley. The final section of the chapter concerns another look at Chapter 7 of the core book, including necrophilia, pornography, murder, justice, nymphomania, schizophrenia, serial murder, genius, seduction, films like I Spit on Your Grave, Pi, and Liquid Sky, and Humanity.

Chapter 2 is when I lay out the issues of gender in-game and out-of-game as a fundamental element of play.

Best,
Ron
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J B Bell
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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2002, 06:53:44 PM »

Ron,

As we say here on the Forge, solid.  I like it.  I like the conversational tone, and it lays things out very nicely.  Just what an introduction should do.  I guess people either like the Edwards Way of having supplements be cultural criticism, rules, and designer's notes in one; or they don't.  I do.

BTW, I'm very curious about your material on schizophrenia.  It's an often misunderstood disease.  I assume you'd treat it with your usual rigor, but I have a personal interest in the topic and might be able to cast light on it for you, if you want some input.

--JB
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Fabrice G.
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2002, 11:48:26 PM »

Hi Ron,

sounds good, sounds really good to me. Why ? Well, primary because, once again, reading the book will not shade some new light on the metaplot of a polished gameworld ; but instead, it will mean looking to the act of roleplaying with a new angle. That and having new tools to construct a reflexion about the role of sex in-game and out-of-game... Just great !

What sounds particularily cool to me is the "and now will set aside all the metaphores I used, and we really talk about the game"-approche.

I'm also awaiting the rest of the first chapter : necrophilia, pornography, nymphomania, ... ? Hum...now that's controvertial ! And to know that you'll turn it all in sensed, logical and eye-opening way to approch sorcery...beware, you're giving me ideas !

But I'm here, distracting you when you should be working on this... ;)

Fabrice.

ps: are you using the inclusive fitness theory as a model toward this too ? Because reading the exerpt and relating it with what you said about 1) gender and 2) sex as a mean to gain power as a sorcerer, I can see some pattern emerging. Basically, if you consider inclusive fitness as a means to evaluate how a sane human would act, someone acting deliberately and consciously against its principles would go against Humanity, so in sorcerer terms would be making sorcery. You've quite hooked me... Am I totally of base, here ?
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2002, 12:23:48 AM »

Ron,

I'm interested to know, did you have this concept of demon before you wrote Sorcerer, and was it intentionally designed as such, or was it one of those subconcious design choices that became clear after playing and studying it long enough?  Also, I'm sure we could use the textbook definition of dysfunctional relationship, but what do you see as being the
key element of one?

Second, as you've said, there's some common archtypical demons that tend to always pop up(the tatoo, the hot chick, the sword, etc).  Do you see these as what the player envisions as an ideal relationship?  Does there tend to be a common theme in terms of the power relationship between characters and their demons as established by their players from the outset?

Chris
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Manu
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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2002, 01:25:35 AM »

ok, I WANT I WANT I WANT !!! Is that clear enough ? I'm hooked...But, tell me Ron, this bit about schizophrenia, are you going to discuss it as pertaining to the relationship angle, or as an overall mental condition? And why just schizo, and not some other disorders, like borderline personality, or classes of disorders, like neuroses? I'm very curious...feel free to reply privately if you feel this would go off-topic? I'd really like to know.
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Manu
Thor Olavsrud
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« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2002, 05:48:19 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Someone asked me a while ago what a Sorcerer "demon" represents, in strictly out-of-game terms. The answer is easy: a demon is a dysfunctional relationship.

Can such a thing be fun? Sure. Can there be understandable reasons why it exists, and why the person chose to enter into it? Sure. Can good things potentially occur because of it? Sure. But pound-for-pound, it carries a cost in some way, shape, or form. No one can indefinitely shoulder the burden of another person's desires and needs, and power-based negotiations about doing so have a way of breaking down badly.


Interesting stuff, Ron!

The last point about shouldering another person's desires and needs strikes a chord, especially since the sorcerer is paid in the coin of power for shouldering that burden. So, to use a gender-charged term, who's the whore in the Sorcerer/Demon relationship?
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Tim C Koppang
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« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2002, 09:55:05 AM »

To be sure, the part about the players needing to be the ones to care is great.  I know I've seen you post this somewhere else before, and both times it got my brain ticking.  I'd say that general idea is right on.

Now, about the dysfunctional relationship: I think I know what you are talking about, but "dysfunctinoal relationship" seems broad.  I'm sure you know exactly what you mean and I have my own ideas, but I have no way to know if my conclusions match yours.

Do you mean this to be interpreted generaly, or do you have a specific dynamic that you are getting at?  Personaly, I'd like to see you spend a paragraph giving a little more detail; really talk about what it means and define your terms.  Then I'd know we were on the same page.

The only reason I bring this up is because you spend some time discussing what can come out of the dysfunctional relationship, and the first thing I though when I read the first paragraph was, "Well what does that mean?  Disfuctional relationships come in all sorts of forms."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2002, 01:19:53 PM »

Hello,

1. Well, I confess that all the icky stuff I listed is being handled in a summary-kind of way, as part of a big diagram based on the material in Ch. 7 of the core book. Some of it ends up in examples, like the undertaker Black Wheel sorcerer (zombies, and a hint of sex with zombies, yuck), but most of it is listed and placed into a conceptual framework with everything else, rather than being verbally treated in detail.

2. Boy, people sure seem interested in schizophrenia. Iím using it as a related issue to insight and pattern-perception, and Iím not summarizing or describing it as a disorder. Remember that anything I present is in terms of its use as a story component, which may or may not correlate to its real presence and features in the actual world. Iím treating schizophrenia more as itís depicted in movies like Pi and A Beautiful mind

3. Inclusive fitness - Fabrice, to equate fitness-increase with "good" or "Human" (in the case of Sorcerer) would be to commit a terrible no-no called the naturalistic fallacy. But you are correct that humming underneath the concepts of the entire supplement are the disturbing tones of sociobiology. What a lot of people don't understand is that this science is based on the concept that human biology/ecology makes trade-offs among many possible routes toward "fitness" necessary. Thus defining human merely as doing so is too broad - it's about which routes are or are not acceptable.

4. Demon first or dysfunctional-relationship first? Dunno. Probably demon first, with the insight not arising from play itself but rather from my own experiences in life and self-reflection.

5. Chris wrote,
as you've said, there's some common archtypical demons that tend to always pop up(the tatoo, the hot chick, the sword, etc). Do you see these as what the player envisions as an ideal relationship? Does there tend to be a common theme in terms of the power relationship between characters and their demons as established by their players from the outset?

I hadn't thought about that, but I think some element of your "ideal relationship" notion is involved - at least in terms of role-playing content, perhaps not at the uber-psychological Rorschach level. Interestingly, the tattoo-demon is a female-player phenomenon, and the sword and the hot chick are male-player phenomena. I think the obvious correlations for the men may be too simplistic, but maybe it is that simple. And I admit that the data-set is very small.

6. Thor wrote,
who's the whore in the Sorcerer/Demon relationship?

The demon. Always, the demon. The sorcerer pays the Price of and meets the Need of the demon, and I hasten to add that the Need of the demon is best analogized to the heroin habit of a prostitute, not sexual desire. Now, a quickie trick is like a Pact. But Binding would be like an uptown business guy who pays one or more young women for "dates" once every three weeks or so, usually on his lunch hour or if he takes off work early. It's a relationship, and it has any number of features that look or smell like a real romance, and it's littered with a variety of small euphemisms or topics-of-avoidance that reinforce the illusion.

Now remove the sexual context. Imagine, if you would, a client who gained (rather than brief fantasy or gratification) tremendous power from such a Binding, and also, who supplied a Need of surpassing importance to the prostitute.

That's why the occasional sexual sorcerer-demon relationship is not actually sex. It's kind of layered: prostitution without sex, disguised as sex. Wild, huh?

Personal question (to consider, not to answer): have you ever had interacted in good faith with someone with a heavy drug habit? It's really horrifying - it seems as if you're dealing with another human being, and then - like the android going "click" in an SF movie - they (without thinking about it) reveal  that the entire interaction was, is, and can only be about this One Thing: scoring some change for another dose.

Best,
Ron
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2002, 04:12:07 PM »

Ron,

I (as I guess is obvious) am immensely interested in the concepts here, and I think this text does a good job of geting them on the table.  But I'm not quite seeing the overall flow in this initial section - from demons as dysfunctional relationships, to the important, often-missed-even-though-it's-obvious realization that they are *fictional*, to the idea that we should therefore look at the real human beings.  I mean, it's not ILlogical, especially the last two bits, but . . . in this fragment, I'm not quite seeing why we start with "demons as dysfunctional" and end up at "let's look at the real human's engaged in roleplaying."  Seem like two very interesting subjects, but not directly related.

Of course, the next paragraph could fix that.  Not that I think this is where you're going, but if the next sentence were (e.g.) "Therefore, your pre-game discussions should include conversations about each person's real life experience with dysfunctional relationships", the tie becomes clear.  Or perhaps there's something I'm missing (either missing in your expression, or missing because I'm being dense) in the bridging paragraphs "So far, so cool . . ." and "That point . . . " - just what is it we lose by "missing a crucial point about the whole process?"  The ability to plan a scenario well?  Or - what?  You've told me something interesting about Demonic relationships in Sorcerer, and something interesting about how we think about RPGs in general.  I'm confident the two CAN be linked - in fact, I'm certain that they are - but, while I'm pretty sure the rest of this chapter (and the book as a whole) will develop that link, I'm not seeing it here.

Your call as to whether or not this opening piece needs to be that directly focused.  Certainly it's not so muddled that I'm going to stop reading.  But my somewhat distant LitCrit training tells me to tighten up the conceptual linkage here to get a high mark on my paper.

Hope that's something like what you were looking for as conceptual feedback,

Gordon
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Adam
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« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2002, 04:37:25 PM »

Hrm. I don't have really solid opinions about what I'm going to say, but I feel like the first part of the section - "Demons are dysfunctional relationships" [which I do think is a VERY good way of putting it] doesn't mesh so well with the second part.

I really have nothing constructive, no suggested solution, nothing beyond that gut feeling that it's not tied together as tightly or as well as I would like.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2002, 07:19:33 AM »

Hi Gordon & Adam,

I agree with you guys completely. The connections you're seeking are actually there in terms of certain words, but since the reader doesn't necessarily translate isolated words into conceptually-meaningful sentences that match their meaning to me, I have to spell it out a lot more.

Thanks,
Ron
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