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[Sorcery & Sword] Humanity Trading

Started by Calithena, October 29, 2003, 02:46:59 PM

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I'm sure this has come up before, but I couldn't find an old thread. So I'll just ask.

I decide I want to play a strongman type character. Really strong, naive about my inhuman ancestry, the child of some hideous protean demigod under the sea, but basically ignorant of my heritage now. (Actually, the character I have in mind is Vaanes Merinus, played by a fellow who has left my game in Michigan to head off to Oxford University - his priorities are obviously seriously skewed. But I digress.)

So I decide I want to rock the house on Stamina, and decide I want to do some humanity trading to accomodate this. My final character will look like this: Stamina 8, Will 3, Lore 1.

Now: if I start with Stamina 6, Will 3, Lore 1, and trade Humanity for Stamina, then I wind up with Humanity 4. But if I start with Stamina 8, Will 1, Lore 1 and trade Humanity for Will, I wind up with Humanity 6.

In Vaanes' case he'll have a humanity cap and The Chill anyway, assuming we play next summer as planned, and we'll adjudicate this as seems appropriate. But there seems to be a more general issue here. GMs can adjudicate this, I suppose, as with the rulebook example where the GM contemplates limiting the FBI agent's humanity based on his Will but decides to allow it based on Stamina instead. But I was wondering if the mathematical ambiguity would call forth a more definite reading.

(Similarly, Razir's Humanity seems as though it could be 3 in the example, if he had bought up Will with the traded points.)

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I guess I don't see the question. If you're saying that you can arrive at different numerical "places" through different means, and that some of these means end up with higher Humanity than others, then the answer is "Yes." Pick the one that makes the most sense for your character concept.

It ain't GURPS. There's no particular need to balance points in any way.

Oh, and a word of advice? Your Stamina-8 monstrosity is freakin' demon-bait. Take it from me. You aren't talking about a Kane or a Conan, you're talking about a bite-sized morsel. If you want a Kane or a Conan, go with Stamina 5.



That's a fair answer, Ron, and it's the one I expected - although it creates certain difficulties. In particular, what makes it seem odd is that you're supposed to be trading 'down' humanity, and yet if you work the numbers right you don't actually have to lose any humanity to do this, or at any rate less than what you get in return.

'Freakin' demon-bait': does this mean that a player who made this character would be punished by a competent sorcerer GM for minimaxing? I'm not sure I understand this response coming from you, the 'system does matter' guy (and I agree with you about this, BTW - I'm persuaded). Or does it mean that very high-stamina entities are attractive as a food source for demons in S&S settings more generally?

I guess I also have trouble reconciling the idea that Conan is Stamina 5 from your description of 6 as the threshold of 'truly exceptional', like a professional athlete or a visionary leader. I can see not putting Conan above 6, but he's such a force of nature that I wonder about stopping at 5. Well, I guess either way would work, come to think of it.

I certainly don't mean to offend with these questions, and I'm sorry if I did. I don't think it's unreasonable to point out that a mechanic described in the rules as 'trading' allows multiple resolutions, not all of which are actually 'trades'.


Look, just to make it really clear: it's fine with me if the end of the story is 'set your humanity where it makes the most sense for your character, with a maximum dictated by these rules'. One just notices these things that allow ambiguous interpretations and wonders if one has missed something, that's all.


I believe the demon bait quip was referring to how vulnerable the character is having such low Will and Lore scores, not anything regarding the Stamina per se.

Since all PCs in Sorcerer start with 1 bound demon and the first roll you make is the binding roll, you are awful likely to wind up as your demon's pet with scores like this.  And if not with this one than with one down the road.  

One of the key ways of dealing with demons that aren't yours in Sorcerer is to order them.  Any sorcerer can order any demon to obey him.  With scores like this you are going to have trouble ordering another's demon, and trouble keeping yours from being used against you.

For instance, a character like this may well choose an Object demon in the form of some nasty magic sword for his demon.  The character will be rather rudely surprised when baddie sorcerer simply orders your demon to stop helping you right in the middle of a fight with something nasty.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Sean, quick point: I'm reeeal informal in this forum. When I say freakin' this or fuckin' that, think of it like academics over beer - none of it indicates "offense" or anything similar. It's actually about fellowship, if you can believe it.

Quoteit's fine with me if the end of the story is 'set your humanity where it makes the most sense for your character, with a maximum dictated by these rules'. One just notices these things that allow ambiguous interpretations and wonders if one has missed something, that's all.

Yup, we has communicated. Sorry about the shift in tone, but bear in mind that after-you-Alphonse isn't necessary after a few posts here.

I was wondering about the Stamina 6 myself ... I grant ya, 6 seems about right for Kane or Conan. But for a starting strongman/naive character, it's safer (in my view and experience of the game) to start with a Stamina 5 and have a decent Will too. "Decent" in Sorcerer terms, for something as critical as Will, is usually the 3/4 boundary. The character's Stamina can go up, eventually.

Ralph (Valamir) is right about the "demon bait" thing - I see a character with Will 3 and Lore 1 as being pretty vulnerable to most interactions that tip the story-scales in Sorcerer. The GM doesn't have to punish the player or take any special extra actions - just to play, period. Again, this is merely advice and may be discounted. When it comes down to it, your game will have its own features and standards regarding the point of scores.

Quick clarification for Ralph, though: the character might use Stamina for Binding the demon and thus have a nice strong starting demon relationship. So his own demon might be less of a source of risk. I say "might" because the odds are never guaranteed, and because of the low Lore.



QuoteQuick clarification for Ralph, though: the character might use Stamina for Binding the demon

That's true, I forgot that option.  Gives "wrestling with ones personal demons" a whole new slant...

Robert Ahrens

Well there is a temptation to "milk" points out of Humanity, as it's set by the higher of Stamina and Will but its points can be traded for either of the core stats.


Player #1 chooses Stm 7 Will 2 Lore 1 (base Humanity 7)
and then "sells off" 3 pts of Humanity, ending up with
Stm 7 Will 5 Lore 1 Humanity 4.

Player #2 chooses Stm 5 Will 4 Lore 1 (base Humanity 5)
and then "sells off" 1 pt of Humanity, ending up with
Stm 5 Will 5 Lore 1 Humanity 4.

Yeah, yeah, I know these are "gamist" thoughts" but it does kind of seem like Player #1 is getting "something for nothing".  If "system matters" then Player #1 is no more "Demon Bait" than your "acceptable Conan Level" Player #2, and has managed to squeeze 2 extra dice of badassosity out of the system.

This is one of several things that perplex me about Sorcerer & Sword.

- Scorpio not feeling too human himself.

EDIT:  Humanity's points can not be traded for Humanity points....

Mike Holmes

The point is that the player should min-max. If he wants to min-max, that's fine. Sorcerer doesn't present "balanced" characters in terms of power. So what's the problem?

If you're really worried about power balance, try playing around with the demons abilities.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Ron Edwards

Hi guys,

With respect, neither of you have played Sorcerer. I think you're bringing concerns that are appropriate to other games into the picture, without much cause.

The ways that the dice, real-people decisions, score descriptors, characters' relative abilities, and role-playing work in Sorcerer really aren't the same ways that everyone learns from their previous experience in role-playing. Rather than lay all of these differences out one by one, in several thousand words, I'd rather shrug and say, "Play."

The Humanity trading rules in Sorcerer & Sword in particular don't cause trouble the way they might in other games. "Two extra dice of badassosity" are available, yes - for characters who are supposed to be extra badass. That's the point, not a problem.

Scorps, your contrast between the two characters simply presents a contrast between exactly that: two characters. Does the player want the "extra dice" for this character concept? If yes, then use the first guy; if no, then use the second guy.

"But why wouldn't I choose to take those extra dice?" My answer is, I don't know, as long as we're talking about you. Obviously you want them, so take them.

System does matter. But Sorcerer isn't the same kind of system. Every single decision during character creation has consequences.

It's kind of weird: earlier in this very thread, Sean struggles to find extra dice for a character who (admittedly) is over-the-top. And later, a mechanism is provided for a few extra dice. Like Mike, I don't see the problem.


Clinton R. Nixon

My quick summary - which I've always used in Sorcerer and Sword - of Ron's points:

If your character has traded in three points of Humanity during creation, then those points were lost over something thematically important. Sure, he's extra bad-ass, but there's some significant reason that he's lost that Humanity, and that significant reason - well, it'll be just as bad-ass.

Ask Dan Root, and his Stamina 9 character, Denn, about this one.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ron Edwards


There ya go. Actual play reveals the relationships among the parts of the system - thanks, Clinton. I needed that.

Here's another point, based on a private message inquiry: the concept of Humanity trading, taken in pure literal verbal terms, applies to the points within a single character. Both of the characters Scorpio Rising presented traded Humanity, within each of their point frameworks. The fact that they did it differently simply contributes to their identities as different characters.