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Author Topic: Role-Playing Object Demons  (Read 9554 times)
jburneko
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« on: November 08, 2001, 11:58:00 AM »

My players seem to have really gotten into Object demons.  I have at least two so far.  

One is a pair of glasses that allow it's master to see into the emotional state of a person via the Hint ability.  It has a Need to witness pain and suffering.  

The other is a class ring that uses the Hint ability to gather information about an individual and then shapeshifts into an appropriately influential ring.  "Oh, I see you graduated from Harvard what a coincidence."  "Wow, I was class of '63 too."  "Is that a topaz on your ring? I didn't know you were a scorpio!"  It's Need is for religious debate.

I think both of these demons are pretty neat but the thought of ROLEPLAYING them is pretty daunting.  With no telepathy in Sorcerer how does an Object demon communicate with it's master?  How does an Object demon 'behave.'

So the first thing I came up with allowed me to turn what I perceived as a weakness into a strength.  How does the demon get the master to fullfill its need?  Then I realized, well, it will just stop working.  And how scary is that?  So, the ring starts being mean and shapeshifting into the LEAST influencing thing it can come up with.  The glasses don't show its master anything.  Obviously the demon wants something.  But what?  You can't ask it.  Scary stuff.

The other complication can be the junkie escalating adiction phenomenon.  One day just seeing the pain of marital problems isn't enough for those glasses.  So their master has to start talking to rape victims and soon that isn't enough.  So their master has to go seek out POW torture survivors.  And eventually the MEMORIES of pain and suffering aren't enough and the master has to provide more immediate forms.  And so on.

The last thing I thought of was the fact that object demons can move but just in a behind your back kind of way.  I see the master of the glasses pined down to a bed by some sexy femme fatal figure and suddenly wanting insight into this woman's motives.  He reaches over to the bedside table where he put his demon down and, "Oh god, where'd it go?"  And then over her shoulder he spots the glasses on the dresser all the way across the room!

These are pretty good ideas but they will get old.  And since I have more than ONE object demon, I don't want to use these tricks for BOTH of them.  How do you make object demons distinct in personality?  How do you roleplay and object demon?

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2001, 12:14:00 PM »

Jesse,

"These are pretty good ideas but they will get old."

No they won't. You just named three great approaches. Pick one for each demon. Even if you use the same two, one might be playful and the other might be malevolent, in terms of their specific moments of rebellion.

Also, take a look at the sanzoku material in Chapter 7 of the rulebook, and consider how totally screwed those sorcerers are, in exactly the terms you've described.

I love Object Demons. "Oh cool, a magic item," players say. I just smile.

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2001, 12:30:00 PM »

Hi Jesse,
  I'm having the exact same issue right now.  A player has a locket that confers all sorts of powers.  Its need is to be "baptized," or returned to some sort of natural water (river, lake, spring).  Its desire is for justice in a very eye-for-an-eye kind of way (is this a valid desire?).
  The need I can handle.  The desire, on the other hand... I mean, it's a complicated idea in the first place, and I'm worried that what I might see as an act of injustice the player might see totally differently.  And since the demon can't talk, we might end up with some major confusion.  
  But I like your three suggestions, I think I'll have to apply one of them.
  Anyway, I'd be curious to see how you resolve this, or how it turns out in play.  Contact me by private email if you want.
-Tor
ps Is this for your Pi inspired game?
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jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2001, 01:19:00 PM »

Hello Tor,

No, these object demons are not for my Pi inspired game.  That idea fell flat.  Instead we went with a sort of Urban Professionalism premise.  The glasses belong to a psychologist and the ring belongs to a politition.  I think we're lookng at a your job vs. empathy thing.

These characters have been built in advance for me to think about.  We're currently playing another game and we won't get to the Sorcerer game for a while.  So unfortunately I can't give you any sort of in game examples.

However, I did want to comment about the Desire and Need thing.  For a while I really couldn't figure out how Desire was suposed to be used since Need is the only thing that really matters at the end of the day.  I mentioned this problem to my girlfriend and she offered a REALLY good explination that I now use.  You can think of the Desire as the MOTIVATION for the Need.

For example I can tell you that the ring demon Needs religious debate.  But WHY?  If it's Desire is Knowledge than it only wants to learn things.  It genuinely cares about the academic exercise of debate.  It's not trying to kill you.  However if its Desire is of Mayhem then it's not really into the academic exercise.  It's into the Crusades.  Its into the bloody aftermath of dogmatic differences.  It WANTS things to get emotional and heated and for two people of differing faiths to kill each other.

You see? Same need, different desire, different demons.

Using that thinking I have slight issues with the locket demon.  First of all I find the need to be baptised a bit tame.  The justice desire is interesting in sort of a good ideals with an extremist approach to it.  Where I start to have problems is that the Desire, doesn't really explain the Need.  Granted it doesn't have to, but man does that make life so much easier when you think of it that way.

Oh and as far as having different views on justice.  Don't sweat it.  Just because the demon thinks one thing is justice and the player/character thinks another thing is justice doesn't make it a bad thing.  That makes it a plot point.  So the player does what he/she thinks is just and it doesn't line up with the demon. The demon just stops working.  Why?  Who knows?  Can't ask it.  Go with the flow and watch the confused character wreck all kind of havoc trying to figure out what the demon wants.

This is why I have issues with the Desire not being linked to the Need.  So the player doesn't deliver Justice.  So what?  The player doesn't have to.  The player has to dip the locket in water.  As long as that's okay, the Desire is just there and doesn't have any punch or impact.

Hope this helps.

Jesse
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jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2001, 01:20:00 PM »

Quote

I love Object Demons. "Oh cool, a magic item," players say. I just smile.


I have one word to say this: Exactly. :smile:

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2001, 02:31:00 PM »

Hi there,

ONE
Linking the Desire and the Need is a matter of GM and group taste. I personally like them to be pretty different, just in general, but I don't mind if they're not. I can see why Jesse is more comfortable having a clear link between them, and I agree that combos can lead to a very nice diversity of meaningful demon types. A little part of me likes some puzzlement in the universe regarding demons, though, so therefore I will also make demons whose Desire/Need combo simply doesn't have an easy explanation.

TWO
I'm afraid that you guys might be missing the role-playing element of the Desire, which is that the demon does want it, and it will take steps and act upon it as much as possible. Unlike a Need, a Desire is never satisfied. Unlike a Need, a Desire may be fulfilled in a wide variety of ways (they're abstract). And LIKE a Need, an unfulfilled Desire makes a cranky and rebellious demon.

No, the sorcerer does not HAVE to fulfil the Desire. But an unfulfilled Desire still makes a cranky and rebellious demon ...

THREE
As for the acquisition or fulfillment of the Desire, this issue is kind of tricky. It breaks up into demons that can move about and do stuff on their own (passers, most obviously) and those that can't (objects, most obviously).

Both kinds depend on the sorcerer to get their Need. That's given. However, the more autonomous sorts ALSO do stuff on their own without being told, or comment on things, or negotiate about stuff, and generally be ... well, more autonomous. The Desire gives the GM a basis to play those actions.

The less autonomous sorts are harder on the sorcerer, because not only does he or she have to supply the Need (which is known), but the demon ALSO gets cranky without the Desire as well (which is not known).

Best,
Ron

P.S. Oh! Just thought of this, too. I can see that in-game sorcerers would have a term for the demon's Need, in their particular school or style of sorcery. But the Desire is strictly a metagame term. Sorcerers do not KNOW about the Desire; it's basically a way to describe the demon's personality.

[ This Message was edited by: Ron Edwards on 2001-11-08 18:10 ]
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Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2001, 07:43:00 PM »

Well, I didn't get much of an opportunity to role-play the locket during our game: i pretty much ran demons hassle free this first session (with a couple of notable exceptions).  

However, for the future I'm nervous enough that the demon's desire is so complex that it will be impossible to have the player figure out what it wants.  It's occurred to me for the player to communicate every once in awhile via dreams with the locket: not really a two-way communication, but since they have link it seems like the locket might reasonably influence the emotional content of dreams from time to time.

Also, the player asked me a couple of tough questions during the game that i really couldn't answer off the top of my head.  How do I tell when my demon is happy? (he asks in character)  How do I know what it wants?  What does it need?

Anyway, hopefully i'll be prepared for this saturday.
tor
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2001, 07:48:00 AM »

Hi Tor,

"... I'm nervous enough that the demon's desire is so complex that it will be impossible to have the player figure out what it wants."

I don't see any particular reason that a player should ever figure out his or her demon's Desire. As I wrote earlier, the Desire is there as an aid to the GM in role-playing the demon.

If the demon can't communicate at all, the player will simply have to pay attention to when it is reluctant to be useful and when it is eager to be useful, independently of Need.

If the player and GM are not up to this level of subtle, reactive role-playing, then much of the point of playing an Object demon has been lost.

Fortunately, since Need is the real priority, and all that the sorcerer is FORMALLY responsible for, that ought to be enough to maintain a decent working relationship.

"It's occurred to me for the player to communicate every once in awhile via dreams with the locket: not really a two-way communication, but since they have link it seems like the locket might reasonably influence the emotional content of dreams from time to time."

That's a viable solution if the the above suggestion is not likely to work. I regard it as a bit of a cop-out (dreams and visions are very common means for simply instructing players what to do, or what clue to look for), but it is familiar  and potentially effective. You might want to compare films that use dream sequences, to nail down the difference between a bogus pseudo-plot device and a genuinely interesting turn of events.

"Also, the player asked me a couple of tough questions during the game that i really couldn't answer off the top of my head. How do I tell when my demon is happy? (he asks in character) How do I know what it wants? What does it need?"

This is an Object, right? It can't tell you anything. It sits there.

Oh, all right. I pull various stunts to make Object demons a bit less opaque. It comes more or less easily to the character's hand. It suddenly weighs a ton and snaps its chain or refuses to be picked up (use Stamina vs. Stamina for the roll). Stuff like that.

[Of course, laptops or watches with LED displays or stuff like that can always "talk" to you, although I play them as notably alien.]

One more thing: if you talking about how the character knows the demon's formal Need, recall that there is a Binding scene in the character's history. Ask the player what that might have been like, as Binding by definition makes the sorcerer responsible for meeting the demon's Need.

If the player stares at you like a deer in the headlights, then consider actually PLAYING this scene, as a flashback or otherwise-surreal element of a session.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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Posts: 1351


« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2001, 09:39:00 AM »

Hello Tor,

I have to go with Ron on this one.  Since the whole point to the Sorcerer design philosophy is to aid in generating stories that are about the player's character and not the GM's scenario of the week then all the "problems" you're seeing with object demons aren't problems at all.  They're story meat.

Take a look at my psychologist with the glasses that give him insight into a targets emotions.  Those glasses have a need to see pain and suffering.  His kicker involves a couple who he witnessed having a sexual experience over a car wreck and have now shown up as patients of his.  Now, look up a few posts and see my suggestion about an object demon being a drug junkie.

This guy has signed on for one roller coaster of a story.  I don't NEED a backstory to make this guy's life interesting.  As the couple draws the well meaning psychologist into their seductive and destructive web the glasses get hooked.  It wants MORE, it wants MORE.  The psychologist starts turning to the glasses for help but the glasses start abandoning him because it's need has grown so large.  So, the poor psychologist is left alone with a needy demon and a pair of psychopaths.  Does he reject the demon and try to help the couple on their own or does he join the couple on a destructive rampage in an effort to feed the demon?

Obviously this is speculation and I'll have to see what the player actually does before putting any of this into practice but the possibilities are already presenting themselves.  If someone takes an Object Demon they're signing up for some pretty heavy confusion.  My demon just stopped working, why?  Just shrug and smile malevolently.  

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2001, 09:50:00 AM »

Hey,

Ah geez! I totally forgot. It's a LOCKET, right? That means it opens and closes.

Cool - talk about an opportunity to do some surrealistic demon interaction. He opens the locket ... and "X" happens. He opens the locket again ... and "Y" happens. Keep it weird, use it for some information transfer if you really want to, and have the demon go into savage Need each time it's done.

Is there a picture in the locket (ie a cameo)? Or what?

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2001, 08:54:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-15 12:50, Ron Edwards wrote:

Is there a picture in the locket (ie a cameo)? Or what?

Best,
Ron


There's a bit of bloody cloth inside.  At this point we're playing around with the idea that demons are "restless spirits" and I've encouraged the player to think of what kind of spirit lives in this locket.

-Tor
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2001, 09:11:00 AM »

A bit of bloody cloth? What's it from? If it's from the binding ceremony then perhaps it bleeds more when the demon is in distress. I can see a cool scene where the demon wants something so bad that the blood actually oozes out of the locket and drips downthe character's shirt.

Or if the blood is from a sacrifice or something, maybe it gets depleted when the demon is hungry. Lots of possibilities.

But I think that Ron's implication of a picture (the usual contents of a locket) would be really cool. The picture could change indicating the mood of the demon. Very Night Gallery.

Mike
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Tor Erickson
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« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2001, 09:43:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-11-16 12:11, Mike Holmes wrote:
A bit of bloody cloth? What's it from? If it's from the binding ceremony then perhaps it bleeds more when the demon is in distress. I can see a cool scene where the demon wants something so bad that the blood actually oozes out of the locket and drips downthe character's shirt.

Or if the blood is from a sacrifice or something, maybe it gets depleted when the demon is hungry. Lots of possibilities.


Nice.  Good ideas.  I'm going to push the player a little bit to develop the locket a little more.  About the picture, though, he's made it pretty clear that there isn't one.

-Tor
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2001, 09:50:00 AM »

BTW, what was the demon's telltale?
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Tor Erickson
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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2001, 05:14:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-11-16 12:50, Mike Holmes wrote:
BTW, what was the demon's telltale?


Hi Mike,

I've taken awhile to answer this because we forgot to include demon telltales in chargen.  :smile:  However, I asked the player this last game and he said that whenever somebody touches the locket they hear the sound of water running.  

He also mentioned that the character has never opened the locket, and doesn't know what is inside.

I incorporated the idea of the locket oozing blood when its desire was taking effect, and the player instantly picked up on what was going on.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much opportunity to really push its desire... however, I've got plans.

So far, the demon has been somewhat complacent, but I'm waiting for the right moment when it witnesses an injustice that goes unpunished, and then I'm going to just hammer the player with the consequences as the locket slavers to effect justice, old-testament style.

-Tor

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