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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 153 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: My first sorceror session (sort of).  (Read 8772 times)
james_west
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« on: July 30, 2001, 07:42:00 PM »

I ran a session Saturday the 28th that mostly used Sorceror rules and genre, although I threw in a whole bunch of other stylistic weirdness.

For instance, scenes were rarely in chronological order (and we switched scenes frequently), the players were explicitly allowed to invent complicated back-story directly involving the main plot, and the characters were never in any fewer than three groups (this with six players plus me.)

Most of the players caught on right away, used the directorial powers I'd given them effectively and appropriately, and in general really ran with it. One of them, I think, spent the evening completely confused (oh, well.)

All in all, though, I was extremely pleased with the session, and once again applaud Edwards' stylistic notes in his various books.

However:
The Sorceror main mechanic I found annoying.

To wit, these were mostly experienced role-players, and all experienced role-players know when you're supposed to make a skill roll. So they would. And then I'd make a roll, and realize that, in a scene in which I had no interest at all in their being anything but completely succesful, I'd beaten their roll (even using two dice to their five or six.)So I'd lie about the results.

Now, sometimes overcoming unexpected difficulties in minor scenes can be very entertaining, but if this happens too often, it just gets annoying; their characters -are- supposed to be hyper-competent, after all.

I haven't run the numbers, but I suspect that the probability distribution is screwy, at least vis-a-vis my expectations of relative success rate at different skill levels.

(I also know somebody's going to say, "Just don't have them roll when they ought to be successfull", but, you know, training players out of when they ought to be rolling their dice is easier said than done. Players LIKE rolling dice.)

             - James
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2001, 08:36:00 PM »

James,

It all comes down to conflict resolution vs. task resolution. Sorcerer is built strictly for the former. I know what you mean, too - I ran into the very same issue myself during playtesting. In many ways, even though I wrote it, the system forced me to re-learn and re-do a lot of things, and I think for the better. It's why I didn't abandon the system, when I realized that it was doing things that I, conceptually, wasn't ready for. All of a sudden, my extensive experience with GURPS, Champions, Cyberpunk, and similar games was irrelevant.

Failure is a big deal in Sorcerer, and it's supposed to make things happen. Many GMs are used to published scenarios in which adversity is pretty much "just for fun," and we all know that the players are going to get through Room #12 or learn all about the family curse from Old Uncle Frim. How many times does the scenario book tell you that the mad hyenas attack, and then go on with, "After the characters deal with the hyenas, they proceed to ..."

Again, not in Sorcerer. There, failure means STORY GOES THIS WAY NOW. I don't call for rolls unless it means - hey - the whole current landscape may change, and this means for me, the GM, just as much as for the players.

All told, though, here's my solution for when it seems right to roll, but also right that the character "should" succeed. It has two parts.

1) Use only one opposed die and give the player some bonus dice. One vs. five-to-seven is pretty reliable.

2) Even better - and here, I think, is what you'll find most useful - is to remember that you, as GM, have control over what "failure" means. This is important! In old-school thinking, failure means "whiff." I am suggesting keeping the success, but adding degrees of inconvenience.

So the player would really like to demonstrate his character's amazing coolness and is temperamentally disinclined to enjoy you handling it through Drama. No, he really wants to roll Will and succeed. So - if he fails, then he succeeds in the task, but with some inconvenience or delay in terms of time or effort. If you want to get really metagamey, and if the task at hand lends itself to it, then simply note down the failure (and its victories vs. the player) to save for a relevant bonus to a die roll against them later.

The conclusion: define success and failure of actions in terms of story oomph, not in terms of modelling hammering the nail vs. hitting your thumb. A failure therefore could be a successful task but with consequences later, either because it took too much time or because the successful event turns out to bite the PC through some devious connection to a later scene.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2001, 05:19:00 AM »

Good advice Ron.  I used this technique often in Pendragon which (depending on the mentality of the players) can result in a lot of deterministic die rolls like:

"I want to talk to the king and ask for his help"
"ok, tell me what you say and make a Curtesy roll"

Initially failures resulted in:
"The king refuses to help you and throws you out of court"

But in a game where failed rolls tend to be pretty common place I eventually hit upon the solution you outlined above.

...the players wanted the king's help, I wanted the king to help them...so he does.  That failed Curtesy check could mean anything.

It could mean the king was less impressed and didn't help as much as he might have.  It could mean the knights came off as eager and devoted but rather provincial...that failed Curtesy check at court might come back as a -5 penelty to a Flirting check with a lady-in-waiting later that evening.

In one case I remember, I used a failed Curtesy roll to generate an enemy.  One of the published scenarios had a noble whose advisor was given no real role, and a brief sidebar highlighting his Suspicious trait.  Well, that failed Curtesy roll triggered his Suspicion ("they're stammering and talking too fast...what are they trying to hide") and I used it to generate a Passion "Suspicious of the PCs" for that advisor...who later developed into a major thorn in their side.

Another good one is to not have a failed lockpicking roll fail to open the lock.  Instead have the lock open, but the player leave behind some evidence of his activity (obvious scratches alerting someone that their had been a break in...a smudged fingerprint, etc.)
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2001, 07:35:00 AM »

Hey Ron,

2) ... This is important! In old-school thinking, failure means "whiff." I am suggesting keeping the success, but adding degrees of inconvenience....

This is awesome advice! If it's not part of the rewrite of Sorcerer, I suggest that it's a great starting point for a Sorcerer FAQ for the game's website.

Paul

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Dav
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2001, 07:58:00 AM »

I second Paul's notion regarding the faq.

Also, I see Sorcerer being run with a strong karmic system for task resolution.  That may just be my take on things, but that is generally how I like to handle task resolution anyway.  Conflict... and task resolution during a conflict are different animals.  But investigation incidents, and the like, are usually done with quick comparison on my part (unless there is something extremely urgent about the situation that calls for a roll).

Dav
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2001, 09:45:00 PM »

Quote
2) ... This is important! In old-school thinking, failure means "whiff." I am suggesting keeping the success, but adding degrees of inconvenience....


This is amazing to me!  I suggested this very same idea some months ago to a game design group I belong to, and was met with the equivalent of blank stares.  Except for one guy, who knew I was taking it in a narrativist direction and immediately erected some kind of simulationist wall...

Not that there's anything wrong with simulationists...or their walls.  :smile:

Point being is that this is an idea easily scaleable to nearly any resolution mechanic.  Even 3E.

Gawd...I luv The Forge.

 

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-08-01 01:47 ]
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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2001, 11:31:00 PM »

I think the major danger in assigning varying degrees of inconvenience to failed rolls is the gaming group itself.

They would really have to be there for the game and not for their character's personal gain. If you sprain X's ankle, but break Y's kneecap on a failed roll, chances are they are going to whine about it (or at least Y is).

Personally, I think varying degrees of inconvenience is something natural. Sometimes I really don't want people to fail at what they attempt. So they don't. They might not completely get what they wanted or produce a side effect that turns into a hindrance later on, but they will succeed.

Crayne
http://www.crayne.nl">The BlackLight Bar
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greyorm
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2001, 12:51:00 AM »

Quote

2) Even better - and here, I think, is what you'll find most useful - is to remember that you, as GM, have control over what "failure" means. This is important! In old-school thinking, failure means "whiff." I am suggesting keeping the success, but adding degrees of inconvenience.

really wants to roll Will and succeed. So - if he fails, then he succeeds in the task, but with some inconvenience or delay in terms of time or effort.

And here I was looking for a solution to exactly this problem...a player comes to me and says, "I hate failing.  I hate rolling dice and failing at every damn thing I try to do because I roll bad."  (the dice have been just cruel to this group lately)

My solutions were, "Ok, you can burn hit-points to achieve automatic success at tasks.  What do you think is a fair amount?" or "Well, if we could figure out a way to use a deck of cards on-line, we could use SAGA task resolution, so you could choose high cards for important tasks."

This, though...oooooo nelly.  This would work great.  Now I'll have to pitch this to them to see what they think.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2001, 05:05:00 AM »

Ferry (Crayne) wrote,

"They would really have to be there for the game and not for their character's personal gain. If you sprain X's ankle, but break Y's kneecap on a failed roll, chances are they are going to whine about it (or at least Y is)."

I think that "character's personal gain" is not really the point at issue, but "player's ego," which is not a bad thing! After all, we are humans and our egos are important to us.

What I am suggesting is that the player's ego may be stroked very well by the RIGHT kind of failure - it makes the character a protagonist, which as Paul says is the big plus of Narrativist play (for those who like it).

As for the inconsistency among players or situations, you are right to be cautious, if it looks as though failure is always hurting one player and not-really-hurting another. My solution is to be very, very clear about what is at stake for each roll, until the players get used to the idea that roll X with a skill is not the same thing as roll Y with the same skill.

This especially applies to scenes throughout a story - early in the story, failures and successes mean different things (usually less severe) than later in the story. Since this idea applies across the whole group, the player-favoritism issue doesn't come up.

I have just realized that this principle IS in fact in the Sorcerer rules, in Chapter Four. Damn, that game surprises me.

Best,
Ron

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Ferry Bazelmans
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2001, 01:21:00 AM »

Quote

Ron wrote:

I think that "character's personal gain" is not really the point at issue, but "player's ego," which is not a bad thing! After all, we are humans and our egos are important to us.

What I am suggesting is that the player's ego may be stroked very well by the RIGHT kind of failure - it makes the character a protagonist, which as Paul says is the big plus of Narrativist play (for those who like it).



You're right. Basically, a controlled failure can put a character in the spotlight, allow the player to make the most of the scene and really draw out everything possible.

Give a player a challenge to live up to and he will probably take it (the ego again).

Crayne

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james_west
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2001, 04:05:00 PM »

Boy, you guys are smart.
No, really.

      - James
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