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Author Topic: First Sorceror Game  (Read 9493 times)
Steve Dustin
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« on: December 10, 2002, 04:30:03 PM »

Finally getting around to it. After giving some friends a choice on different games, I'm running a one-shot Sorceror game on Friday (note: if this should go in the Adept Press forum, I'm sorry -- I wasn't sure if Actual Play or the AP forum for this).

BTW, those of you coming to my game on Friday, this thread is off-limits. I know a few of you lurk on the Forge.


Here's the set-up I sent them:

The year is 1668. You live in the coastal New England town of New Haven. You are a member of a coven of witches and warlocks. A member of the coven, Matilda Coffey, wife of Nathaniel Coffey has been arrested on the charges of witchcraft by the notorious witch hunter Heronymous Steens, whose recently arrived in New Haven.

I told them I'd make a relationship map, and they should come with a character concept and a kicker.

Here's what I didn't tell them:

Heronymous Steens is a sorceror. His demon either is into torture or into eating other demons. I remember this Barlowe picture of a white skin Puritan in one of his art books. That impression is kind of where I'm heading with Steens. I'm trying to keep it fairly simple, since (1) its my first game and (2) the kickers are the point of play.

I pretty much whipped this all out of my butt today. I have to work up some back story. I'll develop a map including some townsfolk, the coven, and where Steens fits in this. If anyone wants to roll out an interesting idea I could use, great.

I've read a lot of the Sorceror threads -- including the recent one shot thread, but I'd be a sucker for any advice anyone wanted to dole out. Where should I invest my limited prep time? Demons? NPCs? Set Pieces? Bangs? Has anybody run a kicker-influenced one-shot?

Also, anyone have any experience with this type of Sorceror setting? Any examples of the witchhunt-era?

Thanks for any help in advance,
Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2002, 08:31:23 PM »

Hi Steve,

Cool! A Sorcerer game in development. I'm happy to help - oh, and this forum is just fine. Anyone playing Sorcerer is welcome to post here or in the Adept Press forum (same goes for any specialty forum and its respective game, unless its moderator says differently).

Check out Sean's (ADGboss') Sorcerer, Labyrinth of Worlds thread for my post full of links for first-time Sorcerer GMs. Pretty much everything I'd start with is in those.

Best,
Ron
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2002, 01:14:15 PM »

Thought I'd present my prep for tonight's Sorceror game.

The game is set in Puritan New England in the year 1668. Some of my players have started to develop their kickers for the game tonight. One player sent me this: his character is a mute who communes with the "Dark Mistress" of the Forest. He's been raped by a deacon of the church, whose privates shrivel up (I assume magically -- is this a case of Special Damage?). I'd like to get a kicker that's more instantly dramatic -- but maybe that's good enough. Thoughts?

I ran with that and came up with a real depraved relationship map, including all matter of sex and violence. At the center of the map is Zebulon Bishop, an archdeacon of the Church, whose massively influential, even if no one likes him. The rapist deacon is his son, Cyril, whose privates not only whither but rot off. Cyril commits suicide. Zebulon takes his body to the Reverend Duncan Good, showing how Cyril died from "witchcraft." Zebulon then calls an old buddy, Hieronymous Steens, to come look for witches. Steens recognizes Matilda Coffey as a witch, and charge her with not only the death of Cyril, but, after her husband repents at the Church, the death of her infant boy, Isaiah.

What's not known is that Zebulon is a friggin' monster. He's a child rapist and killer, whose raped many of the boys of New Haven, who've grown up to be the men of New Haven. Everyone is terrified of him. Zebulon's house has quite the crawlspace littered with bones also. Hieronymous has known Zebulon and his habits for years. In fact, Hieronymous has been quite helpful -- see H is a sorceror, and his demon's need is to watch people be tortured. H kidnaps little boys for Zebulon, and then his demon gets his kicks watch Zeb's pure evil. Zeb's responsible for Matilda's boy's death.

There's a lot of other stuff going on too -- a teenage girl screwing half the town (she's a witch), and Zeb's niece sleeping with a slave, a overzealous prosecutor's wife, etc. Maybe i'm a little over-the-top, but we'll how it all comes together. I'll let you know.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2002, 02:22:25 PM »

Quote from: Steve Dustin
The game is set in Puritan New England in the year 1668. Some of my players have started to develop their kickers for the game tonight. One player sent me this: his character is a mute who communes with the "Dark Mistress" of the Forest. He's been raped by a deacon of the church, whose privates shrivel up (I assume magically -- is this a case of Special Damage?). I'd like to get a kicker that's more instantly dramatic -- but maybe that's good enough. Thoughts?

Hmm. Made the R-Map up without knowing all the kickers, eh? That's a bit against the CW (Common Wisdom) of Sorcerer prep, but it'll probably go fine.

For the future, lot's of people have found it useful in making up the "scenario" details to know what the Kickers are before hand. So as to incorporate the elements of them into the backstory better. It seems to work well.

BTW, as long as the PC has to confront the Deacon at some point (Bang or whatever), that's a plenty good Kicker. In fact, as long as the character is confronted with the fact's of his rape that's fine. Basically, as long as you as GM use Bangs to make the fact of the rape come to the forefront in some way, that's an excellent kicker. Perhaps the rape becomes known to people important to the character. Or, worse, later becomes public. These are the sort's of things that will force the player to make decisions pertinent to the character's "predicament".

Quote
Zebulon's house has quite the crawlspace littered with bones also.
Got a Bang set for how this is discovered? This is the kind of detail that you just have to ensure shows up at some appropriate moment. And it's unlikely that the players are going to just stumble over it from how you describe it. So have something prepared to pop it on the PCs.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2002, 07:47:06 AM »

Hi Steve,

Actually, I think it sounds pretty nicely done so far. Most of Mike's comments, I think, are more tailored to his style of play/approach rather than "the" way to play. For example, I usually set up relationship maps prior to knowing Kickers - they undergo some subsequent tweaking, usually, but it's a valid way to go.

Best,
Ron
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b_bankhead
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2002, 08:24:37 AM »

Just a burst of nostalgia ,but did you know there was an entire rpg based on this subject. It was called 'Witch Hunt' and the characters played either witches or magistrates in puritan New England. If you could find that game on ebay (long gone and I imagine rare) I bet it would be a setting treasure trove.
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Steve Dustin
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« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2002, 12:31:18 PM »

This is longest post I've ever written. For those who make it through it, thank you.

Ok, so we played Friday. The roleplaying went great, but I didn't spend enough time reviewing the system before play, and that hurt the game in spots (maybe from only my vantage point, but still).

Characters

All the characters were members of a witch coven. Demographically, the coven was composed mostly of 16-18 year old girls. The coven started six months ago, when Jubal Bishop's sister, Agnes, started sleeping with his slave Mtumbo. There, Agnes involved Jubal's daughters, Rebecca and Abigail. Eventually, Jubal's other slaves, Tootiba and Sumamba start the coven.

Increase Adams: church deacon and town printer. Husband of Prudence and father of Faith Adams. His demon is Balthazar, a combat demon that lives in his shadow, whose Need is sex with women. Increase's kicker was that Harriet Corey, town busybody, saw Increase conducting occult rituals in his basement, through a window, late at night.

John Sumpter: farmer, and husband of Goodie Sumpter. His demon was Brown Junior, a demonic cat that teleports, talks and has little human-like paws.  Brown Junior's Need was human breast milk, which John was getting from his unsuspecting wife. His Kicker involved him awaking in his room, naked, covered in blood and mud, with no knowledge of the last two days. I adjusted it in play, to mean that his wife suspected him of being a witch.

Lumilla: a raped and battered teenage mute girl. Her demon was Lilith, a worm-like parasite which attacked with paralyzing mouths out of her mouth and vagina.

Note: The player thought the mouths' paralyzing attack should have used Hold -- I ruled it was a special case of Special Damage. My reasoning was that it seemed, the way Hold was written, that it involved a demon with multiple appendages -- one set to capture, and two other sets to immobilize, and not about paralyzing. Thoughts?

Lilith's Need was sex with molesters, which Lilith could find by looking into their eyes. Yeah, unbelievably grotesque -- Lumilla proved to be more of a plot mover than Zebulon Bishop. Lumilla was the one raped by Cyril Bishop, but I had the player construct a new kicker, since I wasn't sure what to do with that. Lumilla's kicker was that someone was in her cave, where she kept various human body parts as trophies. Oddly, Lumilla acted with a lot of empathy for rape victims, and everything she did centered around that idea.

Play

Most of these details happen over a few days, and for some reason, I've gotten a few of them mixed up. In hindsight, I think I got my timeline screwed up, but no one noticed.

Inside Lumilla's cave is a magistrate of the court, Caleb Pritchard, who she kills when he attempts to come onto her. She peels his face off, and burns the summonings for her he has. In hindsight, I should have forced a Humanity check (and on a few other occassions) but didn't.

John wakes at home, and has Brown Junior confuse his wife, so that he can leave without her discovering his state. Brown Junior taunts John, claiming he knows where he's been. He cleans up in a crick, heads down down to Jubal Bishop's place, the last place he remembers being. After talking to Jubal, he talks to Jubal's slave, Tootiba. Tootiba informs him there will be a coven meeting that night, and that he should also talk to Abraham Abbott about where he's been. He then goes to Agnes Bishop's house, Jubal's sister.

Increase Adams and Balthazar follow Harriet Corey and discover she's coming from court prosecutor Hyrum Brown's house. Increase talks to Hyrum about Matilda's confession, where Hyrum talks about Hieronymous Steens' torture practices. Increase confronts Harriet later, basically threatening blackmail if she tells anyone of his occult practices. Prudence Adams professes her love for Increase, and her worry about the "witch problem."

During this whole time, everyone is hearing gossip about Matilda Coffey's coerced "confessions," and the long list of people she's implicated. We spent a bit of time talking about torture of witches.

That night John returns home, only to have his wife, Goodie, accuse him of witchcraft. In attempt to keep her from going anywhere, he ties her up in the basement. This was my favorite part of the game -- John tries to get Goodie to listen to him, but she barrages him with "Satan-spawn! Your soul will burn in Hell, John Sumpter!" When he drags back home, she screams at him, "You're trying to make me fornicate with demons!" Everyone was amused.

John goes to the coven meeting. At the meeting is sex and a plan to free Matilda Coffee and Prudence Adams.

Over two nights, Lumilla, angry at John and Increase for having sex with underage girls at coven meetings, decides to frame them. Lumilla goes to Increase's place, and plants the burnt summonings in his fireplace. She then has her demon reach into Hyrum Brown's house through a window, and whispers in his ear about Increase's fireplace. Then Lumilla goes to John's and plants Caleb Pritchard's face in his dresser, and frees Goodie Sumpter.

John returns home to find his wife missing, and heads back to Agnes Bishop's, obviously distraught. He sends Brown Junior to find his wife. Brown is upset he hasn't seen any breast milk for a few days.

Meanwhile, Silas Corey (Harriet's husband) and Abraham Abbott arrive at Increase's place with a warrant. They search the fireplace, and then arrest Prudence Adams for the "murder by witchcraft" of Caleb Pritchard. Abraham Abbott has thick mud on his boots. Increase goes to the courthouse to find out what is going on, and has Balthazar find out what's going on with Abraham.

At the courthouse, Increase sees John's wife Goodie crying about John, and talking about how "that angel of girl, Lumilla," saved her. The town's women find it in their hearts to bring Lumilla from the cave and integrate her into the town. They bring her back to the courthouse. When Lumilla arrives at the courthouse, she looks into Silas Corey's eyes and see that, as a boy, he's been raped by Zebulon Bishop.

Meanwhile, the town converge upon Increase to repent for his wife's sins, and have the Reverend Duncan Good spiritually cleanse his house. Increase prays with the men, and plays up the part of husband of an accussed witch. When he has a moment alone, Balthazar, upset he hasn't had sex in a few days, gives him a tongue lashing, but still tells him of Abraham Abbott's jaunts to to Zebulon Bishop's house.
 
Brown Junior returns to John, and explains to him where Goodie Sumpter is at. Brown Junior also tells him of the court discovered Caleb Pritchard's face in his dresser drawer. He has Brown Junior find Abraham Abbott, and discovers Abraham's been up at Zebulon's house also.

John heads up to Zebulon's house. He has a horrifying flashback about bones. When he arrives, he finds no one's home, but hears the rattle of chains somewhere in the house. As he's looking about, he falls through some loose boards, and comes face-to-face with Zebulon Bishop's crawlspace -- which is where he was for the last few days. John was a victim of Zebulon also, but Zebulon tried to recently kill him. He heads down into the basement to find a young boy chained to the wall.

At that moment, Hieronymous Steens and Zebulon Bishop arrive with someone in a sack. John watches them club the person in the sack. John tries to free the boy, but makes a lot of racket -- as he gets to the top of the stairs he's met with Hieronymous Steens, whose demon causes him to begin to change into a demonic beast. John has the boy run out first as a diversion (Humanity check). Steens catches the boy, but John (getting an outstanding roll) escapes the house.

John tells Agnes about it, and it is decided the coven will go first to deal with Zebulon, and then to the courthouse to free the women and then escape town.

That night, Lumilla arrives at Zebulon's house, and kills him easily. She then goes to the courthouse. Later, Increase arrives at Zebulon's, and the coven comes soon afterwards, all finding Zebulon dead. Some of the young witches have their demons fly everyone to the courthouse.

Lumilla, arriving at the courthouse earlier, meets Hieronymous Steens. With a particularly devastating strike, she eviscerates Steens, and then does battle with his invisble demon. Eventually, she dispatches it. My lack of energy by this time of night and my lack of familiarity with the system hurt the climax big-time. I didn't play Steens smartly, who should have been a powerhouse loaded, as he was, with Armor, Vitality, Special Damage, Fast, etc. But my confusion with the combat rules ended up with him badly hurt immediately by Lumilla. Another player knew the rules better, and the combat was largely run by him. Bad, bad GM.

When the coven arrives, Lumilla is able to sneak away. Increase takes some belongs of hers, and uses it to implicate her in the murder of Hieronymous.

If I had to do it over, I'd forced the showdown between Lumilla, John and Increase. It's what the story demanded, but I wasn't thinking on my feet very well, and didn't do anything to stop Lumilla.

The coven frees the women, battered and cut-up, and they escape town, moving out west (Western Massachusetts!) to live. Lumilla lurks in the forest, but eventually has to go to another town to fulfill her demon's Need.

Thoughts

Relationship maps rock. It made a big impact on play -- unlike most sessions which are very linear, the map forced all kinds of twists and turns upon the players. As one player told me he expected things to go one way, but everything kept shifting around.

With that said, I think I made a map that really was a short campaign. In the end, a few things got glossed over. If we had played this game over a few sessions, I think it really would been able to explore the implications of everything involved. Hieronymous and Zebulon didn't have much play in the session, and they really demanded it. Also, I'm little sad there wasn't a trial of Matilda Coffey.

Kickers rock, also. I think if I had more time (this was a one-shot) integrating the kickers to the map it could have developed some really dramatic issues. With that said though, they really made play go-go-go.

I didn't arrive with any pre-determined Bangs, so I can't comment on that.

I loved playing the demons -- I played them up as "bad conscience" of the players. I never thought of the impact of "demons as characters" and it was really huge. I just wish, in hindsight, I had them become more rebellious -- no one satisfied their demon's Need.

The setting was a lot of fun to play, actually. There's nothing like roleplaying out religous fits about fire and brimstone, and recommend it to anyone. It amused everyone when I'd have people say some really outrageous things like "you'll force me to fornicate with demons!" or when Increase Adams said to the church congregration, "Let us pray."

The system works good, but I really flubbed it, especially combat. Still, everyone liked it, and with some practice, Sorceror would play very smoothly.

I needed to make more Humanity checks on everyone. I can see several points where I failed to force Humanity checks. I did pretty good with the character of John -- but oddly, he was the most sympathetic sorceror. Lumilla especially should have had more Humanity checks.

Also, Humanity needs to be concretely defined: when you roll and what the consequences are. Humanity was about the mortal soul, and I had the characters gain a kind of "depraved" look as their Humanity lowered. I don't think I took it far enough though.

In the end though, I'm definitely playing Sorceror again, because it does things I've never really seen other games do well.

Anyway, take care,

Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2002, 07:13:31 PM »

Hi Steve,

Shuddering ... and very pleased.

I hadn't realized that you'd been prepping for a single-session game; if I missed that from your posts, I apologize. I think the only way for Sorcerer to work unequivocally as a one-shot is to focus on a single quality of the game and bring it into the forefront. For instance, in the In Utero scenario I ran so much at GenCon 2002, the Kickers and much of the characters' history were locked into place, so the in-play material was about the last 15% of what I'd expect to play if I'd been running the game in any other context. And since, in Sorcerer, both the system and player-power make play very unpredictable, fast-forwarding it to the last 15% is obviously losing a lot of the game's power. Again, it served its purpose, but the tradeoffs are clear.

I'd have gone with Hold for the paralyzing thing, myself. Definitely a concept issue, though. It's all a matter of whether you want the person to be stuck (which requires Stamina rolls to break it) or penalized (i.e. damage, which requires time for recovery).

Combat requires definite re-constructing of many role-playing assumptions. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about that.

Best,
Ron
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jrients
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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2002, 09:53:55 AM »

Quote
Another player knew the rules better, and the combat was largely run by him. Bad, bad GM.


Don't scold yourself too sharply.  Take the gift of a helpful player and run with it.  Just as many players sometimes cling too tightly to "my guy" so do GMs occasionally become possessive over the title of Chief Rules-Monkey.

Wicked cool report.  After the game, how did you feel about the work you did prior to character creation?  Did you end up undoing or re-doing more than you initially expected?
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Jeff Rients
Steve Dustin
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« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2002, 12:20:29 AM »

Quote from: jrients

Wicked cool report.  After the game, how did you feel about the work you did prior to character creation?  Did you end up undoing or re-doing more than you initially expected?


Thanks. 90% of my prep went into the relationship map. I didn't pull the structure from any plots or novels -- just kind of ran up on it myself. I didn't have "bangs" or specific scenes set-up -- instead I mostly "winged-it" with the relationship map in my hand. Still, it worked suprisingly well, and big chunks of the map ended up in the game. I used colored links to represents different relationships between characters -- red for sexual relations, blue for familial relationships, and green for professional. My map was mostly red. There was about 30 people on the map -- lots of families, the entire coven, and many of Zebulon Bishop's victims and their families.

The only things I needed to add later were PCs families, and a little shifting about (Abraham Abbott was given basically the role Caleb Pritchard meant to have). Other than that, it all worked really perfectly, I was impressed how it well it facilitated my game. I'm totally sold on relationship maps.

Of course, I've also been "honing" my "winging-it" skill for the past 2 years. My games have become a lot more fun the less and less I rely on a structured "storyline." So far, this has been the ultimate expression of that. I also think that when I allow my players to overtly know I'm not relying on a very specific structure, it frees them up to "protaginize their characters" instead of feeling like they need to meet certain objectives to keep the game "on-track." Lumilla was a great example of that.

Take care,
Steve Dustin
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2002, 08:54:09 AM »

Hi Steve,

Fantastic material, all around. Thanks!

Here's a thought, though - it strikes me that what you call "winging it" is much like what I call a "bandolier of Bangs." The reason I use a different term is that many people consider winging-it to mean GM-driven setting and backstory creation during play. As such, it's most usually utilized as a form of Illusionism, basically operating as if the setting etc had been created before play, but instead it's moment to moment. But once you use a relationship map, that sort of winging-it is no longer possible - you do have a "solid" foundation of prep to work from. What you don't have is pre-fixed story-line.

I'm emphasizing this because I think a lot of people are working from a falsely dichotomous position when playing to "story": either the GM sets up the setting, back-story, pre-planned plot, etc; or he or she wings all of the above as play progresses. Either way, the "story" goes as he or she likes it to go.

But the relationship-map concept destroys that dichotomy. The prep and content is there, but the plot/protagonism must arise from play. The GM's role during that time is to be Bang-y, which may include a lot of prep or it may not.

Best,
Ron
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