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Author Topic: Sorcerer One-Shot  (Read 4562 times)
bluegargantua
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Posts: 167


« on: November 26, 2002, 09:24:23 PM »

Hi,

  As mentioned a few threads back, I ran a one-shot demo game of Sorcerer for Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge MA as part of their Iron Gamer Series.

  It's rather late and I'll post full details soonish, but here are my initial thoughts:

  1.)  The combat examples and clarifications found here on the forums were really useful.  Future versions of the rulebook should definately include them.  Beyond that, you need to actually run combat a few times before playing.  Have a feel for how high-stamina characters can pound the snot out of Joe Average (or how wacky die rolls or die streaks can be fatal) .  While every system benefits from experience, there's enough out-of-the-ordinary that you really need to get a better handle on it.

  2.)  My thought was to hide the demon sheets from the players so they've got less of a clue about what they'd bound to themselves.  Bad idea.  The only important information is the Binding Strength and the Desire (and maybe the true stat level).  So pass it out and delegate the work.  Possibly do something like in Wraith (or an early version of it) where other people play your demons.

  3.)  Three hours is a really short time in which to get things done.

  But all in all, I think the experience went really well.  There were 4 players, but one had to drop due to a migrane.  Of the three remaining, two of them had actually bought the book and read over the rules.  The fact that they didn't hammer me on a bunch of rule calls says I probably did  my homework (or at least I fudged well).  

  People laughed, shot up zombies and had a pretty good time.  That's about all I can ask for.

more to follow
Tom
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Emily Care
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2002, 09:43:46 AM »

Hey Tom,

Glad it went well.  How did the players who had read the game already hear about Sorcerer? From you or the publicity about this game? What didn't work about not letting them see the demon write ups?

Three hours does seem like a short time to get it done.  Good job, making it work and having fun!

--Emily Care
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2002, 10:25:01 AM »

Hi Tom,

Great! Thanks for posting about it, and tell more.

I won't say I told you so about the demon sheets, I won't I won't ...

Best,
Ron
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bluegargantua
Member

Posts: 167


« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2002, 10:52:53 PM »

All righty, full disclosure time:


As mentioned earlier, we started off with four people.  One of them was an employee from Pandemonium and another one was acting as "proctor" for the Iron Gamer series.  Sadly, she had a migrane and eventually had to leave, giving free reign to my twisted designs.  :)

I handed out the background sheet which essentially explained that all the players were members of the Ethereal Callsigns -- a group of people who'd met in college and who had developed technology to contact and summon up "spirits".  Their group was centered around a guy named Robert Templeton who'd originally come up with the idea to replicate some expereiments in occult recordings from the 50's.  Using modern science they'd gotten a lot farther.  They had a list of their technical gizmos (most of which conferred dice bonuses to offset their low Lore scores) and a list of demons which had been Summoned and placed into Contains (Ethero-Magnetic Jars).

So far, the Callsigns had Contancted, Summoned and Contained a lot of spirits, but never really Bound any.  Robert did bind an Object Demon with
Warp powers.  It was a magic credit card so he could rack up purchases and not get billed for it.  So with their magically gotten proceeds, they'd
purchased a large house in Lexington and stocked up a huge lab in the basement to continue their work.

Aside from Robert, there were six potential characters for the players to choose from.  Eventually, the PCs wound up running:

  Shawn Thomas -- a social introvert who'd discovered that Robert had stolen some of his design ideas and claimed them as his own.  Played by a guy named Mike who put a very "pro-Spirit" slant on his portrayal.

  Kevin Standage -- computer networking guru and lab security head who knew that Robert had probably Bound another demon that no one knew about.  He'd purchased a gun as a little "real world" insurace along with new security measures.  Played by a woman named Katie (Gender Confusion Round 1) who was true to form and rather skittish about binding.

  Trisha Ventura -- physicist who uncovered the possibility that Robert had committed a rape in the recent past (yeah, in my relationship map, all dirtysecrets lead to Robert).  Trying to find out a bit more info about it.  Played by Chuck (Gender Confusion Round 2!) who had a wide range of very non-sorcerous ideas on how to solve problems (you'll see).

  Sarah James -- biochemist, which is a bizzare member to have in the group, but geeks of many stripes band together.  Robert had brought in a spirit to help heal her mother of cancer.  Played by Christine, the proctor who had to drop out.  So...uh...she got really quiet for the last 2/3rds of the game.

  Incidently, I'm just going to refer to character name from here on out to avoid confusion.  Of the four players, Shawn and Trisha had actually purchased copies of the rulebook (Pandemonium is good for quirky, small-press, self-published games).  So explaining the basic mechanics went pretty quickly.

  I started out by telling every player that they were out of the house for some reason and then asked each of them to come up with a reason.  Probably the most interesting in this regard was Shawn, who'd taken Abe (one of the spirits) "out for a walk".  Imagine a sterotypical geek pulling a wagon which holds this bizzare, high-tech version of a water cooler jug hooked up to some cameras and recording equipment.

  Trisha arrives home first to discover that there's smoke coming out of a room on the upper floor of the mansion.  She rushes inside and discovers that Robert's room is on fire.  She looks around for a fire extinguisher [I had Kevin roll his Cover to see if his security measures covered such things, they did.  Cover turned out to be a great "Hey would I have this?" check. Assuming I thought it was reasonable and they got even a medium-high number, they almost certainly got it].  Shawn arrives home and leaves Abe parked in the garage as he runs upstairs to help put out the fire.  Or fires rather as there are several small blazes in the area.  The other two arrive in short order.

  Once they get everything put out, Shawn discovers that one of the burning things appears to be a corpse.  A little investigation proves that it is/was Robert (and that the magic credit card is goo).  Apparently, something caused several small fires, one of which cooked Robert.

  Cue the first inter-party conflict.  Two of the party wanted to call in the cops and have them clean up the corpse.  The other two were nervous about having the cops search the house and finding the lab.  So there was a bit of a struggle.  [Times like this make me wonder why I bother to make up a plot at all -- let 'em duke it out for 3 hours]  Trisha quietly steps outside to make a phone call when she's stopped by a voice.  Looking around, she realizes that her shadow doesn't look quite right.

  Trisha gets the rest of the party and they all get introduced to Sam.  Sam was the other spirit Robert Summoned and Bound to himself.  Sam was an
inconspicuous Shadow-spirit who was supposed to be Robert's bodyguard.  But part of the deal was that Sam got to go off on his own for a couple hours every week -- Sam came home a bit too late to save Robert and drove off the stranger, although at some cost.  Sam is now without a master, and seriously looking to bind to one of the other players.

  Cue the second inter-party conflict.  Shawn was more than ready to Bind to Sam, most of the other party members weren't too thrilled with the idea, especially when Sam said that his Need would be fulfilled if he got let off the hook to wander on his own for a few hours every week.  [His Need was to scare people and his Desire was Panic].  After a fair amount of argument, the case was made to find a tarp to roll Robert up in and a spot in the freezer to store him in (hey, it's a Lexington mansion -- of *course* it's got a walk-in freezer!).

 Trisha made a search of Robert's room and found a laptop (pretty charred, but the hard drive looked salvagable) and a safe in the walk-in closet. Shawn immediately suggested binding up one of the spirits with data access powers.  Trisha was a bit more interested in the safe.  She mentioned that she'd read a method for cracking spin safes using advanced accoustics as detailed in the Cybernomicon.  A bit of a stretch, but hey, the player could grab a copy from the store and quote me and who was I to argue?  So I let her set it up -- only to discover that Robert placed a speaker in the safe to replay a loop of tape over and over to thwart such audio tricks.  So all Trisha hears is "I read the book too" over and over and over. [My GM highlight :)]

  At this point, the doorbell rang.  Shawn answered it to discover that two rather beautiful women.  They claim to represent a lawyer who works for Robert and that they've come to pick up some legal documents from him. Shawn and Kevin being a series of poorly planned out lies to send them away from the door.  The pair slip past Shawn and start heading towards Robert's room, despite the protest.  Just then, the pair spot Sam and initiate combat.  Trisha and Kevin slip off to fetch the disruptor pistols (Banishing tools) from the lab while Shawn tries to hose them down with the fire extinguisher.  He's not too effectual but Sam is striking from the shadows and really pounding them.  Suddenly, Shawn is rendered helpless by some mental attack as is Sam.  The two women converge on Sam and pound him out of existence.

 At this point, Trish and Kevin return with their Disruptors and get the drop on the women.  A brief gunbarrel negotiation sees the women out the door and into the night [they were hurt and needed to rest up for the final conflict].  There is a general consnsus that the stakes have risen considerably.  A consensus confirmed when an incoming message from The Other Side warns them that two forces seek to gain control of the Callsign's technology.  It also warned that the wizard who had killed Robert was now out in the cemetary preparing for a return engagement.  The party can either run for the hills or stay and fight.  Not surprisingly (for a role playing game) they choose to stay and fight.

  The PCs have a grand old time interrogating and Binding a number of spirits to themselves.  In the end...

  Shawn goes whole hog and Binds 3 spirits and loses no Humanity (or Aura as it's called in this game).  He takes on the following:
    [*]Tim:  A Sword with Special Lethal Damage and a thrist for Blood
      [*]Wes:  An ostentatious and gaudy amulet with Armor and Protection who Neeeds to be worn constatnly in public
      [*]May:  A pair of sneakers with Fast and Travel who Needs to jog
    [/list:u]
      [I found it funny that the most socially inept character wound up with a couple of spirits that only made his problems worse.]

      Trisha plays it safe and takes one spirit:
      [*]Dan -- a magic ID card with the power to Shapechange the user into any other human (the card will also change to match).  It's Need stems around being observered (presented frequently as ID).
      [/list:u]
        Kevin (who is extremely nervous about the Binding process) Binds a spirit and loses an Aura point.  Despite this, he still makes another attempt to boost his power.  He winds up with:
        [*]Bob -- an opinionated Palm Pilot who has the Perception (data) power and a Need to be hooked up to the Internet (where he immediately generates hundreds of flame wars).  
          [*]Abe -- a childlike spirit who acts just like the One Ring (Cloak) and Needs stories.
        [/list:u]
          With their newfound demons Bound, Kevin uses Bob to search the damaged hard drive from Robert's laptop.  Lots of detailed schematics and user guides for the Callsign's eqiupment.  Trisha busts open the safe using liquid nitrogen and some expanding water and finds hardcopy printouts of the same and some legal notices from a Greg Sklennar, Attorney at Law who seems to be dealing with Robert regarding some sort of litigation. Trisha copies the data and builds up some "escape packs" containing the group's most valuable data so they can start over if they need to flee and the group runs over to the cemetary (literally in Shawn's case -- May wants to jog).

          Kevin puts on Abe and scouts around invisbly.  He sees a guy who's apparently been digging up corpses and putting them into a truck.  When she goes back to report on this, the truck comes out and drives away.  Shawn sprints after the truck (he could do 35mph easy) and takes a whack at the truck.  While he gets a good hit in, the truck accelerates away.  Shawn hops in with the others in the car and they try to follow along.

          They manage to keep the truck in sight until it pulls into a parking lot next to a small office building.  The man in the truck hops out and breaks something near the back of the truck and then rushes inside.  Again, Shawn is quick to rush into battle, but gets held up by the four zombies that crawl from the truck searching for their particular Need -- brains!

          So begins the wild melee.  Shawn uses fancy footwork from May to dodge the zombies and fancy swordwork from Tim to slice and dice.  Trisha plays car wars and runs over a couple of zombies.  Kevin goes invisible and sneaks afterthe man in the truck.  Quite a bit of intensive combat action which lasts until Trisha pulls out her disruptor and starts blasting zombies who go down in a heap.  Shawn, having terrible luck with his "bloodthirsty sword" opts for a technological approach as well.

          The rest of the group catch up to Kevin who's hiding outside the office of Greg Sklennar, Attorney at Law.  Inside, there's a huge fight going on between a large black man (the driver of the truck) and the two women who'd taken out Sam at the mansion earlier.  Near the back of the room a man is frantically stuffing papers into a courier bag while another man calmly watches the ongoing fight.

          The group elects to sit back and watch events unfold while Kevin will invisibly sneak up to spy on the two men in back.  He manages to make his way to an overturned desk where he can watch the two men in back.  The man calmly watching the fight looks pointedly at Kevin's hiding place.  At this point, the large black guy hammers one of the women and both of them fizzle out of existence.  [Sugar and Spice was a single spirit passing in two bodies, so they had the Karamozov flaw -- hit one, and both were wounded]  As the black guy turned on the two in the back, he spotted Kevin and shot a ball of flame at him.  The desk took most of the attack, but he got singed and decided to move.

          Shawn (at Tim's urging) finally decided to jump into the fray.  He ran in and swung at the fire-breather, but completely wiffed his roll.  Kevin popped up and fired his (non-magical) pistol at the guy.  His shot hit, but he shrugged it off [Armor].  Kevin dived for cover and Tim tried charging the calm man in back, but was casually flung back by some force effect. Trisha grabbed up a large metal ashcan and held back, ready to bop anyone who came through.

          At this point, Shawn's courage failed and he fled the scene.  Kevin and Sarah (run as a quiet NPC by me at this point) started using their disruptor pistols.  One shot hit the black guy and a huge rush of energy flared off of him [Henri had made a deal with a Possessor spirit who got Banished].  Another shot hit the calm man but to no effect.

          The black guy made a break for it and Trisha caved in his skull as he went by (he'd been pretty beat up when his spirit left).  The calm guy and the man with the bag tried to leave, but Kevin (still invisible) cut the strap on the guy's bag and snatched it up when it fell.  The calm guy told Greg [it was the lawyer] that he should just cut his losses and run now while he could.  There was a brief negotiation with Trisha and Kevin about his safe passage and then Greg split.

          The calm guy stayed behind.  His name was Mike and he was an associate of Mr. Sklennar who was a wizard.  The activities of the Ethereal Callsigns had come to the attention of a number of wizards who were racing to get their hands on the technology they used.  Greg had used Sugar and Spice to fabricate rape charges against Robert and blackmail him into giving up his secrets.  Henri (a voodoo practitioner from the Caribbean) had tried to use his own, more direct methods to get the information.

          What didn't come out (wrap up was literally after the store had closed and the mall was shutting down) was that Mike was really an angel.  He was hoping to save Greg's soul and shut down a few other wizards in the process. The Ethereal Callsigns seemed like perfect dupes to help in this plan.  They'd serve as bait and in the chaos they'd serve as a diversion.  They'd also get a first-hand lesson in the price of sorcery and perhaps quit their investigations without Mike having to put the fear of God into them.

          In answer to Emily's questions:
        [list=1]
          [*] Like I said earlier, Pandemonium stocks a wide range of small-press stuff (both games and SF books) and the clientle includes some rather educated gamers who are interested in quirky little games.  I don't *think* anyone bought the game simply because I was running it (although that'd be kinda neat).

          [*]  Running the demons was a pain in my butt.  The only thing I cared about was their Need and the Binding Strength and who had the advantage.  People could've easily run their own demon and keep track.  I'd wanted to keep everything a secret so player's would be more uncertain about what was going on, but in practice, it just wasn't that important.  I was warned, but obviously *I* know better than the guy who's run more sessions than me of the game he's designed.  :)
        [/list:o]

          Couple other findings:
        [list=1]
          [*] Portraying the PCs as neophytes meant they had low Lore, but really high Will and Humanity (or Aura).  Add in some bonuses from the disruptor guns and Banishing spirits was dirt easy.  They would've had a much harder time Summoning something, but the technology at their disposal probably would've given them a fair chance to succeed.  They also had an extra die or two for Binding so even that was easier for them.  Bottom line is that I need to play around with the system a little bit to get used to the die pool mechanic.  It does some really weird things and I found myself fudging a lot of rolls.

          [*]  I find that most of these little demo games are pretty much one big fight.  This isn't all bad (say for a game that focuses on the fighting) and it does show off the system quite a bit, but I've gotta try and find a more intriguing "short story" for next time.  I think that having everyone have some sort of dirt on Robert made for a really good backstory and helped advance the story.

          [*]  Pacing.  The short format is a real challenge, especially when you want to bring people up to speed on a new system and then turn them loose.  The players really loved interating with the various spirits and had a pretty decent time arguing over what to do about the dead body in their house.  But that did slow things down a bit.

          [*]  Terminology.  You Bind a spirit to you.  But spirits can be Bound into Objects.  This isn't the same thing.  When Sam said he needed to be Bound, someone suggested finding a cat to put him in.  A mis-communication on my part but an easy one to make.
        [/list:o]

          Questions from play:
        [list=1]
          [*]  The rules for Fast seem a little loose as presented in the rulebook. I wound up ruling that the user of fast got to take a second Stamina-related action with a number of dice equal to the Power of the spirit (so you got two dice pools basically).  Was that the intent?

          [*]  Object demons have a Stamina, but how does that come into play?  Is it a general measure of their durability?  The demon sword was my biggest problems.  What I *wanted* was a sword that let you hit things and do lots of damage.  I thought that the demon's Stamina would add or replace the wielder's Stamina when they tried to hit something but that didn't seem right (the sword wasn't acting, just adding to damage).  The problem was that the wielder didn't have much Stamina and after one or two damage penalties, he'd never be able to land a shot.  So pulling out the disruptor and shooting was pretty much always the better option.  I think I wound up spot ruling that you could add in the spirit's stamina dice -- he wasn't going to hit anything without it.
        [/list:o]

          But in conclusion, people seemed to have a good time and claimed they really liked it.  They stuck around from 6 until 9:45 and we even chatted a bit on the street about ideas they'd had for potential characters and rule tweaks and stuff.  The best part was that there was a guy hanging out who was listening in on us, he looked a bit wild-eyed and I'd say he was probably homeless.  So there we are jabbering away about summoning up demons and the children of cults and whatnot and then we break up.  As I wander off I hear the guy yell out "Strrrrraaannge People!"

        heh
        Tom

        ps.  Dunno if anyone who played that night regularly reads these forums but feel free to chime in if I missed/forgot something.
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        Ron Edwards
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        « Reply #4 on: November 28, 2002, 09:56:20 AM »

        Hi Tom,

        The Adept Press forum contains a couple of threads outlining Fast, so a search probably will turn it up for you.

        Also, you might want to review the difference between demon Stamina and demon Power. The special damage an Object sword would do, for instance, is a function of its Power. Stamina, on the other hand, serves as a kind of endurance bank for the use of demon abilities.

        Sorry to be so brief with the message, but it's kind of a guest-ish, holiday-ish day and I'm stealing a moment. More later.

        Best,
        Ron
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        bluegargantua
        Member

        Posts: 167


        « Reply #5 on: November 29, 2002, 10:01:13 AM »

        Quote from: Ron Edwards

        Also, you might want to review the difference between demon Stamina and demon Power. The special damage an Object sword would do, for instance, is a function of its Power. Stamina, on the other hand, serves as a kind of endurance bank for the use of demon abilities.


        Right.  I understood that Power = Special Damage, but the question/problem was that this would only kick in if the guy holding the sword actually hit the target in question (and if the sword was willing to activate the power, but assume that's always true).

        In many situations this was a headache.  Either because the wielder didn't have many Stamina dice or lost them from damage.  So the idea of having the guy jump into combat with a demon sword and lay into his foes quickly became unattractive.   The demon could Boost Stamina, but then the Special Damage would be mitigated.  You'd almost be better off with an Inconspicuous demon with lots of Stamina and Special Damage because they can leap from the ring/shadows/etc. and do their own attacking for you.

        There was some mention about the Object demon being able to move "the way in which objects sometimes move" or something to that effect.  My thought was that the sword might use its innate Stamina to help guide itself into the hearts of those who oppose its owner.

        This may have been a deliberate design decision (lots of dice to hit vs. lots of damage done) and I'm really wishing I'd gotten a copy of the S&S supplement as I think it covers a number of things I'd wanted to know more about.

        later
        Tom
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        Ron Edwards
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        « Reply #6 on: November 30, 2002, 10:05:03 AM »

        Hi Tom,

        Your baseline interpretation of Special Damage is correct: the demon's Power score is not used as the attacking dice. Some abilities work differently, e.g. Hold or Psychic Force or what-have-you, in which case the effect is based on victories.

        That means that a demon weapon is usually not a sufficient solution for a plain wimp. Demon weapons do their horrific damage for fighters who can hit with them, or conversely, they do reg'lar damage for fighters whom they Boost. This is a big deal in sanzoku play, for instance. People swiftly realize that Boost is really not what they wanted in their "power me up" demon; bonuses from improved mobility (Travel), messing with the opponent's perception (Daze, Confuse), and enhancing their own (Perception: combat intent, e.g.) are far, far more effective, in tandem with Special Damage.

        [Side note: I can hear it now ... "Ronnnnn! What about Storm-bringer??" Well, interpretations differ. Here's one way to look at it. Stormbringer does have a Boost ability, but it rarely uses it. Its main ability is Special Damage. Elric's Price, in my opinion, is not his albinism, but his Gullibility ... his physical condition is expressed by Stamina 1 with the descriptor "albino" or "deficient blood." Now I smile. He uses his Cover score to fight, which is at least 5 and perhaps higher.]

        Tom, the finest and most wonderful solution for a fellow who wants both Boost Stamina and Special Damage (oh, and I suggest Vitality as well) in a fight, is to have more than one demon. That's me, smiling again.

        Best,
        Ron
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        bluegargantua
        Member

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        « Reply #7 on: November 30, 2002, 04:58:18 PM »

        Quote from: Ron Edwards

        Tom, the finest and most wonderful solution for a fellow who wants both Boost Stamina and Special Damage (oh, and I suggest Vitality as well) in a fight, is to have more than one demon. That's me, smiling again.


        Yeah, and in this particular game, the wimp jumped at that particular bait.  He loaded up on demons for attack, defense, and mobility.  And of course, like any good GM, I'm only too happy to let the player take on all the grief he wants.  :)

        later
        Tom
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        Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
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