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Sorcerer - Pre Session Notes

Started by jeffd, January 17, 2004, 05:42:25 AM

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So, this evening I did our Sorcerer pre-session.  One of the players didn't show; I'm not sure why.  Not an auspicious happening, I'm thinking of either a) dropping him or b) replacing him.  

Anyway, we talked for about two hours, coming up with some good stuff.  Some interesting things I observed was 1) a kind of lack of patience with all the definitions and stuff (probably due to my presentation) and 2) a certain drift in the focus of our premise.  Not a bad thing mind you, it was just really interesting to see it in action.

We started off with the premise Love Noir sorcerer.  First thing was to determine what Humanity represents in this context.  Jen proposed a vague "connection to humanity at large" that kind of got abandoned in favor of Empathy.  We jammed over Empathy for a bit before returning to Jen's idea - which she clarified much better as "the ability to form and function in relationships"

So we've got humanity - relationships between people.  From there I went down the list of stuff to derive from that.  I think this is where I made the mistake, as Jen at one point asked "why can't you just do all this, you're the GM?"  Wolf was catching on, he replied to her that the reason was because this was "our" game, not "my" game.  Wolf did comment that he was a bit worried that all of our defining and clarifying was drawing us away from the premise we had come up with.

So anyway, to review - Humanity is forming relationships.  This is anything from the relationships between siblings, parents and children, lovers, or even the guy you share a seat on the bus with for forty five minutes.  Humanity as a mechanic can be used to strengthen or weaken relationships.  I'm not sure I like that one, and I'm open to suggestions.  Maybe allowing a player to roll Humanity to bring the weight of a relationship to bear, or me as a GM calling for Humanity when someone is questioning their relationship with the player?

Anyway, at 0 Humanity characters are unable to form relationships with other people.  This can be because they simply aren't capable of understanding (similar to empathy), or it could be that others can't relate to them - whatever it is they had in common with the rest of humanity that lets them bond is gone.  0 Humanity is utter and complete Isolation.

So that tells us what Demons are after - Demons want to isolate people from one another.  Maybe they view relationships as a threat, or maybe they feed off of the strife or something.  Either way, they see functional relationships as inimical (ironc given that the demon definition is by definition dysfunctional).  

Speaking of Demons, we came up with some nice imagrey.  The players all wanted Demons to be really subtle - nothing overt or obvious.  The thing we came up with - the "special effect" that all demons share is that they always catch the light, even when there's no light to be caught.  So like a Passer Demon down at the end of a dark alleyway will always have eyes that sparkle.  The other idea we had is that they always have more shadows than is natural, but that's just way too goth for our tastes (no offense to anyone).

Power was an area we got stuck on.  The best we came up with was that Power is a measure of the Demon's ability to understand (and thus more effectively undermine) relationships.  One thing Wolf came up with that I really liked - a Demons power are the difference between what you could be and what you are.  Every missed phonecall, every forgotten birthday card, every thought of sleeping with someone else - that's what Demons power is.  I liked that and I think I want to get the group to expand upon it.

We then went on to Rituals.  The only really thing we could think of is that Rituals need to involve some level of isolation - literally or figuratively.  So going off alone in the woods for a few days would work, but so would making a date with your girlfriend and then deliberately breaking it off for the Ritual.  This needs some work, but by the time we were dealing with this I could tell people were getting fatigued and decided to move on to some character stuff.

We only really talked generally about characters - no genning or anything.  Wolf had some really specific ideas - he wants to play someone who is sort of isolated but continues to go after relationships because he intuitively knows they're important.  His kicker was a bit of a sore spot - he wanted his kicker to be a prophetic vision of him destroying the world.  That's a bit too, err, abstract for what I'm looking for but I talked to him about it and we arrived at something a bit better:  His character has previously had a vision in which he destroys someone of significance (a cancer researcher near a major breakthrough, say).  The Kicker itself is him realizing that one of the "prophetic events" from his vision has just occured, literally to the T.  I'm kind of leery of messing with the prophecy thing here, but I think there's some good stuff - just have to be careful that it doesn't degernate into a comedy of errors (where he runs around doing his best to not do thing and they happen anyway).  It has potential, especially if he uses the help of his demon to prevent things - when in actuality it's the fact that he's employing his demon that's the problem.

Wolf also had a neat idea for a Demon.  He wanted a Parasite whose need is to consume large amounts of liquor - I suggested a once a week drinking pinge.  Of course this means his character would have to cope with it.  I thought the need segued really nicely into the whole Isolation thing - relationships destroyed by alcohol, all that stuff.  

One thing I'm noticing - Wolf didn't get the idea that Demons are as much a liability as they are a help.  I explained the whole Need/Desire thing, along with the whole "Demons are Transgressive" thing and he just kind of boggled.  "Why would any idiot summon demons?  Seems like the first thing I'd do upon starting the game is banish the damned thing."  I explained it to him as best I could - pointing out that this was one of the central questions of Sorcerer (why do you summon demons) and that a sorcerer doesn't necessarily know what a Faustian bargain he's making when he does a Summoning.  I think I got the point across, but I think I left him less than satisfied.  Wolf came in to it tonight with a few ideas for his character that didn't necessarily gel - for one thing he explicitly wanted his demon to be largely benign.  

Jen's ideas for characters were more vague.  She's quitting smoking and was feeling kind of bitchy - seemed to not really want to interact, which is why we cut tonight short.  She at a few points seemed to be impatient with all the pre-game prep, but once she got into it she had some good insight.  Character-wise she was pretty vague (like I mentioned).  Her idea was for a rich heiress, pretty cut off - she learned Sorcery from her grandmother or nana or something, who died.  She does sorcery as a proxy for having real friends - her idea for a Demon was a Passer who plays the part of an older sister, helping her get out and meet people.  

Anyway, I'm pretty fragged - I'll probably post a reply to this thread in a day or two when I've had some time to think over the stuff we came up with.  


Ron Edwards


I'm a little boggled at the effort you're putting into defining things, and frankly, Jen's point seems reasonable.

Here's how it works best for me.

1. Define Humanity briefly. Stop at the first "nod" among the group.

2. Describe aesthetics of demons and rituals - center-man provides examples, other people toss in an idea or too.

3. Make up characters - let further demon, sorcery, and Humanity subtleties discussions occur as this step proceeds. Character creation affords plenty of opportunity to do that.

It strikes me as you kept almost-moving to the next step, then saying, "No, we have to discuss and process and nail down every frigging aspect of how Humanity operates before we can move on." Then moving on to step 2 (eventually), everyone is shagged and bagged ... and seeing no particular product in the effort spent so far.


Fabrice G.

Hi Jeff,

I think Ron gots it right here (of course he got it right ;) ).

I've run a few Sorecer games now, and I tend to make the same mistake as you : tending to over analyse and over detail all the definitions and customizations that the game seems to require before play with the players. And almost every time I fall into this trap I get unhappy and unsure players that feel that I'm not completly decided about the game.
A nice solution is to come up with a Humanity definition and having already thinked about demons, sorcery, rituals,... But stay open about it. That way you can guide the 'unsure' or undecided player and can listen to those who have strong and/or imaginative idea.

IME, players feel negative when they perceive that there isn't a (strong) frame they can use or rest upon.

Don't be afraid to guide the player, even if you feel you're taking the creative stuff away from them -- sometime it's just what they need to feel confident in you and in themselves.

Take care,


Ron Edwards


As it turns out, Fabrice, the real creative stuff doesn't get taken away: the demon creation and the Kickers.

Once you're working with people who know and like Sorcerer, then a full-on Universalis-style ground-up preparation session is possible. But before then, the GM should arrive armed with a defining aesthetic, at least a gut-level readiness for Humanity standards, and the ability to take suggestions. Character creation and the first session will do the rest.


P.S. By the way, my ability to be wrong is well-documented.

Fabrice G.

Hi Ron,

Quote from: you wroteAs it turns out, Fabrice, the real creative stuff doesn't get taken away:...

Oh, but now I know that. What I meant to say was that when you start playing Sorcerer, after reading in the book and on the Forge about sharing the creative power, a new GM might feel like he was "robbing" the players when not doing it the Universalis way.

It surely was my case, and still is even now... Yet, having some experience with new players, I can put that feeling aside to get the game going and give them all the creative power they need during caracter and demon creation and during the game.


ps: I knew that.


Yeah, it makes sense - in retrospect I went overboard with the preparation.  Oh well, lesson learned.  :)