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Title: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on February 11, 2010, 01:41:14 PM
Sorcerers in Casablanca hit the ground last Thursday night!

The group of four veteran 20- and 30-something gamers has been playing story-now games together for over a year now, but it was our first time playing Sorcerer.  Ron and Co had been very helpful with priming the GM (yours truly) with great advice, on Kickers and Bangs in particular.  The players really rolled up their sleeves in the pre-game session to create some very detailed and lively characters.  See the “Sorcerers in Casablanca (” thread for said advice, plus links to the One Sheet, Setting and character concepts.

Read on to see what a group like this does with the Sorcerer system their first time out!  (Thanks to Ry for providing some of the in-line analysis).  The big issue for me was whether my planned Bangs were free enough of expectations, or if I'd feel lost and unprepared after a couple of player left-turns.  On that front, I was mostly successful.  Besides that, tome things came more easily than others, and we’ve already realized a few things that we’ll do differently going forward.  We’re all eager to see where this tangled web will take us in session 2.

GM is me (John/Paiku), players are Ry (playing Serge, firefighter), Pete (Dr. Von Braun), and Mike (Jacques, fighter for La Résistance)

Jacques came straight from the resistance meeting to Dr. von Braun's house, leaving the dead bodies of his five Résistance comrades in the basement of the bar.  He nervously fingered the NGF calling card which he’d found there.  It was early evening.  Arriving on the doctor’s doorstep at the same time was Serge, who was very concerned about the demon he had let loose, and wanted the doctor's advice.

The two men had never met before.  Poised on the doorstep, each was hesitant to reveal his reasons for visiting Dr. Von Braun at this late hour. They recognized each others' telltales, which put them even more on their guards.  When the doctor answered, each insisted that his business was more pressing.
The awkwardness continued inside the apartment, but after some urging by the doctor (and some evesdropping), the two visitors began to open up.  It seemed they both had trouble with the authorities, and with demons. They spoke at length about what to do. 

Ry: Pete contemplated for a moment and mentioned that he knew von Braun had little to gain from helping these men with their troubles… Ry and Mike interpreted that as Pete’s character hedging, and we responded a bit in the fiction, with Serge appealing to von Braun’s humanity, pointing to the danger of the demon loose in the city, and Jacques noting the mutual threat posed by the Germans.  Pete proceeded to jump into his role as the brains of the operation, with Dr. von Braun choosing this role as the best way to head off further trouble. 

This took the form, somewhat, of the instant party friendship formation, and Pete, Mike, and Ry are certainly comfortable taking those roles.  However, this is an uneasy alliance at best.  Serge keeps looking for ways to get out of all this.

John: This was the “slow start” of a Sorcerer game of which I’d been warned.  I let it play out as the PCs established their relationships and motives, but I was anxious to get to the Bangs!

Pete chose not to reveal his character’s kicker yet: the letter which had arrived that day from the wife of the German doctor whose identity he had stolen.  The letter had been sent en route; she would be arriving any day now.

The doctor telephoned the French hotel La Ville de Cloche, where the night concierge was a (prescription-drug abusing) patient of his.  The concierge was able to reveal that a new group of Nazi officers had stayed at the hotel recently, then moved to a rented house in town.  There was also a new team of soldiers camping in the desert to the south, where a digging operation was under way.  Serge sent his demon Tack out on the town to snoop out further info.  Eventually it was decided that it wouldn't be safe for Jacques to return home. Serge walked over to Jacques' apartment to get the NGF book of sorcery from under his bed, then back to his in-laws' bookstore to await the others. Jacques and von Braun killed time at the doctor's apartment a while, then walked across town to the Jewish quarter where the bookstore lay.

It was night time now and most of the town was quiet, but downtown near La Ville de Cloche the streets were well-lit and busy with night life. As Jacques and von Braun walked past La Ville de Cloche, (BANG) they crossed paths with a horribly scarred German officer wobbling to his car. Too late, Jacques recognized the officer as one of the NGF agents whom he had left for dead back in Paris!  Apparently the agent had lost an eye and an arm in that struggle, but not his life. Thinking quickly, Jacques stepped to the door of the officer's car and opened the door, saying "mein herr."

Ry: John didn’t really know what Mike was trying to do – this was explained as “Act like you’re in control of the situation, and make it true – like James Bond.” Throughout the fight, Ry kept standing up and excitedly offered suggestions for Mike.

The NGF agent looked up as he was stepping into the car, and recognition bloomed on his face.  He yelled "YOU!  Istvan, kill him!"  Jacques slammed the door on the agent's hand, struck him in the face, and shoved him into the back seat of the car, all while the agent tried to disentangle his pistol from his belt.

John: The square was crowded with onlookers, so the agent’s demon refused to get involved.  The PCs assumed that “Istvan” was the driver – I had to bite my tongue!  The PCs’ demons, if called upon, would also have remained on the side lines.

The two men briefly struggled over the car door before the agent suddenly disappeared. Jacques fired his pistol blindly into the car, and a yelp of pain was heard.  An invisible figure escaped out the door on the other side, delayed briefly by the good doctor who managed to quite get in the way.

John: I wanted an early confrontation scene between Jacques and this NPC, to establish the NPC’s motives and his threat level.  I think I succeeded.

John: I should have rewarded Mike's ingenuity a little more, when he snapped to attention and held the car door for the NGF officer.  I should have had the officer get all the way into the car and seated before he recognized Jacques!   Then Jacques would have had a distinct advantage thanks to his quick thinking.  But I was too fixated on making sure a fight broke out.  Anyway, the action that followed was wonderfully cinematic!  So different from the “trading blows” that results from more traditional combat systems.

Jacques, settling into the role of resistance fighter, ordered the driver out of the vehicle and "kidnapped" the doctor. Once out of sight, they pulled over to search the car, whereupon they found NGF calling cards and a map. On the map, a red 'X' indicated a spot in the desert 10 miles south of Casablanca. Jacques continued on foot to the bookstore, while the good doctor took the car to the nearest police station where he told quite a tale.

At the bookstore, Jacques and Serge were talking in the basement (“all you were supposed to do was walk here!  How did you screw that up?” – “There was a problem in my way.  I solved it.”) when (BANG) a squealing sound was heard from the ground floor. Serge climbed the steps and peeked into the darkened bookstore to see the rope demon coiled across the front window, its iron hooks scratching across the glass like fingernails on a blackboard. Serge steeled himself, and went outside to talk to it.

Ry: Pete, whose character (von Braun) was off camera, looked a bit bored throughout this scene… Mike said something like “We’d love it if you’d show up.” Pete however was perfectly happy letting the extreme danger shake itself out without risking his character’s hide.  Ry said “Off camera is the safest place to be!”

He got his first good look at the thing: heavy hemp rope dozens of feet long, with iron hooks at regular intervals. It spoke in a sound like dry rope rubbing together: "Huuuuungry..... Biiiiind meeeee...." Serge swallowed his revulsion and invited it in to parlay. Jacques’ demon Skar was not happy with the tactical situation. Once in the basement, Serge tried to trick the demon into entering a rain barrel, but the demon prevailed against that command. Instead it coiled up Serge's legs and wrapped itself around his body, arms and neck. It squeezed. "Neeeeeeed... muuuurrdeerrrrrr..." it whispered. When Serge refused to Bind it, it went to leave. Skar materialized and attacked. The PCs were witness to an epic battle between an animated heavy rope and an arachnoid demon with bladed limbs. Bookshelves were knocked flying. Serge took a few swings with a fire axe.

Ry: We had a little trouble here – if a character’s action has already “gone off” because they won initiative, do they get to roll full dice for defense?

John: (Yes. I looked it up afterwards.)  I was frustrated that I kept defaulting back to “you hit, what’s the damage” type of combat narration.  I have to remind myself that a combatant who loses the initial roll doesn’t necessarily take damage, he still gets to choose and roll his defence.  And a “hit” does more than just damage, it should change the situation too.

After a few rounds, the rope demon broke free and was retreating out the door when Serge yelled "DEAL!" He agreed to Bind the rope demon. He and the demon arranged to meet in an empty warehouse on the waterfront the following night to perform the ritual.

John: Serge agreeing to bind the demon was a great dramatic moment, and something I really didn’t expect (of course, I should design Bangs without expectation of where they will take the game!)  But it was totally in character: Serge feels responsible for releasing this amoral and violent demon on the city.

Ry: At this point Serge asked the doctor if there was some way to banish the demon.  We could build a Contain at the warehouse, lure the demon into it, and then Banish it from there.  But the PCs also want to use the demon to kill the Nazis.  No one is confident we have a good plan. 

Ry says “I don’t see a lot of ways in the rules to try to attain overwhelming advantage over this demon – no matter what we try (including just going through with binding). We’ll be risking a lot, but then we started risking a lot in character creation when we made Sorcerers.”

The next afternoon, von Braun went to meet his "wife" at the train station. *Kicker* The last time she had seen her husband was two years ago; still, the man presenting himself as "Wolfie" and carrying her favourite flowers did not look at all familiar. Von Braun was trying to play the role of Wolfgang without using the conferred Cloak ability.  But Elsa’s joy was rapidly turning to confusion and she looked about to scream.  Von Braun felt that failure was imminent; he triggered Cloak. Suddenly all aspect of unfamiliarity melted away, and she saw her Wolfie before her. They embraced.

Ry: It was nice that Pete had a scene to himself after being left out of the multi-character fight with the rope demon.   

On their way back to his apartment, again she had doubts that this was really her husband.  Pete had his demon strike her down with a sudden fever!  (Special Damage: disease)  Elsa briefly lost consciousness in the cab; Dr. von Braun took her home and put her to bed. With much talk of the exhausting effect of travel, and mention of many details of their life together in Germany, the good doctor convinced her that everything was alright. Once she was asleep again, he went through her luggage and replaced all pictures of her real husband with pictures of himself. But the deception weighed on his conscience (he failed a Humanity check).

Ry: John, Mike and Ry were gaping at this… we got straight to the “Oh, my god.”   “You’re the worst husband ever.  Fake husband, I mean.”  “That’s so evil!”

Also in her bags, he found a letter: (BANG)

Von Braun memorized it, and burned it!

Ry says: “We all left grinning at what a vortex we were getting into, and eager for more.  Outside John’s house we were comparing how evil our characters are… I like how the game is putting us into situations we wouldn’t get into with other games.  We’re definitely hitting the heavy bag.”

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 12, 2010, 09:11:19 AM
Hi John and Ry!

Thanks for the detailed writeup. This is turning into a fine portrait of encountering the game, working through it, prepping for it, and playing it. I'll focus here on what your thread title describes as "imperfect," as far as I can tell from your account.

I was too fixated on making sure a fight broke out.

Well, you've stated the issue fairly, because making sure anything happens in terms of achieving results or implementing specific "do this" player-character decisions is something to abandon for this game. That's distinct, however, from playing an NPC who starts a fight by attacking, which is perfectly within your sphere of action as a GM. Still, in this session and scene, it doesn't appear to me that you strayed far into unwanted territory as a GM, nor with any un-fun effects.

Ry: We had a little trouble here – if a character’s action has already “gone off” because they won initiative, do they get to roll full dice for defense?

John: (Yes. I looked it up afterwards.) I was frustrated that I kept defaulting back to “you hit, what’s the damage” type of combat narration. I have to remind myself that a combatant who loses the initial roll doesn’t necessarily take damage, he still gets to choose and roll his defence. And a “hit” does more than just damage, it should change the situation too.

To be clear about the rules ... (1) In complex conflict, the rolls should not be construed as opposed. Their values set the order, but are not compared in terms of "hitting." We don't know if they hit until a defensive roll against them is made or missed, and that's conducted in order of the high values.

I recommend totally abandoning the term "initiative." It has implications due to its historical use in the hobby that are very distracting in Sorcerer and lead to misplaying the rules. Think of it as an action roll, period. When your action comes along in the order, which is based on an intrinsic feature of its own roll (high value), then you either stick with the action you were engaged in, or, if something awful is barrelling at you based on someone's faster action, abandon it in order to deal with the incoming problem. It's quite simple once you get used to it. Action rolls with ordinal information included. Not initiative.

(2) You automatically get to roll full defensive dice against incoming attacks once the sequence has proceeded past your spot in the order. This means that the fastest person is this round will always be rolling full defensive dice.

So, next ... Wait a minute. Nothing else to describe as problematic? That's a whole little bit of not-quite-perfect. I mean, a very little bit. Is there something you left out of the account which detracted from what appears to be, as I see it, a remarkably successful, thematically charged, and even comparatively action-packed first session of Sorcerer?

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Roger on February 12, 2010, 09:37:13 AM
Thanks for the excellent write-up, John.  I have some questions about the characters:

What were their initial Binding and Humanity results for their starter demons?

When was the last time each of them met the Need of their respective demons?  How did they do so?


Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Roger on February 12, 2010, 11:49:25 AM
In a mental lapse, I failed to realize that there's some good reasons why John might not want to publicly publish the Binding results.

If you want to message me with that information, or disregard that part of the question entirely, please feel free.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on February 12, 2010, 12:39:55 PM
In a mental lapse, I failed to realize that there's some good reasons why John might not want to publicly publish the Binding results.

*LOL*  I was just thinking "I'm not sure I want to post that yet..." when I read your second reply ;-)   I've messaged you the info (Ron too).

I didn't play up Need and feeding of the PCs' demons very much, though the PCs did feed their demons after combat without me having to bring it up.  It's a weighty issue for Jacques in particular: if there's no incapacitated opponent from which Skar can drink some blood, then Jacques has to feed him from his own arm (1 long-term penalty die).

Oh yes, we started the evening with the initial Humanity checks from the Bindings - all three PCs failed!

Ron, thanks for the feedback.  Regarding "imperfect": I meant it as the mildest of criticisms.  The night was successful over-all and we're all anxious to continue the game next week (curse real life and this bi-weekly gaming schedule!).  We're still on the learning curve, and some aspects will go better next time.  With any new game, one expects pauses while rules are looked up.  It's more the hallmarks of Sorcerer and story-gaming that I want to be sure that I pay more attention to: the GM role-playing the PCs' demons, Need, letting the players tell the story, and putting pressure on Humanity.

Another question: we're playing with d10s.  I was expecting more opposed rolls to result in 2,3,4 or more victories.  But almost all our rolls that night were +/- 1, even when the rope demon rolled 17 dice (!!).  Does that align with others' experiences?  Or did we have a shockingly "average" night? ;-)

Thanks guys,

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 12, 2010, 05:31:59 PM
Hi John,

Boy, you are a really velvet-gloved guy ... if I'm reading you right, you're saying you spent a lot of time looking stuff up during play.

If that's so, then I suggest writing out all the demons' powers onto a sheet, organized by name, as well as their Needs and anything else you want to write down. Desire is good for characterization purposes.

You can also write down the complex conflict ("combat") rules in your own words, even by numbers, and use that as your guide during play. You might even write down an instruction to say, "That's the order, now let's see what happens" right after the roll, or something like that.

The sorcery rituals and the damage tables are in the back of the book, so they can probably be used from there.

As far as GMing prep and play are concerned, the only real job you have now, and from now on, is to decide which if any NPCs (including demons) are at some kind of breaking-point, and what they do about it. I find it's useful to note the non-demon NPCs in two columns on a single page, each one represented by only a couple or three lines, summarizing their scores and a couple of adjectives to remind me where their heads are at this point.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 12, 2010, 05:39:18 PM
Oh yeah - those were pretty narrow degrees of victory in my experience, especially since it seems like you (the group) rolled quite a bit. I typically use d10s and am accustomed to seeing a range of degrees of success in which 1 is most common, but 2's are seen a lot, and 3's and 4's do crop up every so often in a given session. The news, though, is that whatever the dice do, sets a kind of "consequence profile" for your particular story, which is especially important in the first session for structural reasons. In your case, since, the margins were close in the first session, when the time comes and someone does blow off the top with 5 victories, you all will really know and feel it as something distinct - "not like how it all started."

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on February 14, 2010, 12:54:25 PM
Boy, you are a really velvet-gloved guy ... if I'm reading you right, you're saying you spent a lot of time looking stuff up during play.

*LOL*  Okay, sometimes I am pretty diplomatic, but in this case my critical comments about our session are very light-handed because, really, it was a great session over-all, and nothing really stood out as a serious problem.  If not for my wish to make this thread more than a "hey come look at my cool gaming" thread, I wouldn't raise these issues at all!  I think the only question that caused a significant pause for consulting the rulebook was whether a Contain or Banish ritual can be performed before the demon shows up (which you and The Dragon Master ably answered in this thread ( - thank-you).

Still, thanks for the pointers, good ideas all.  I have actually done #1 and #4 already (PC demons all on one sheet, NPCs all on one sheet).  And I'll photocopy the page of tables from the back of the book, for next time.

Thanks again,

Title: SESSION-2: Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on February 25, 2010, 01:16:54 PM
Ok, here's the post-game analysis for session 2, delivered a week after the fact.  Time has not been on my side lately...

Coming into the second session, the PCs had a plan to deal with Anaconda the rope demon, and there was a good chance that they were going to deal with Ry's kicker for good.  I was a little stressed about this, because I wasn't finished introducing the consequences of said kicker!  I still had a whole lot of Bangs that I wanted to put into play before Big Things started getting resolved.  So I thought about interrupting the PCs' plans with a lot of "Oh, but first!" scenes.  But too much of that could frustrate the players, who had a course of action in mind that they were jazzed about.  And really, I should let the players drive the story as much as possible.  So, aside from a couple of brief scenes with new NPCs whom I really wanted to introduce, I let things unfold according to the players' plans.

If a gaming session is an episode, then this was a well structured one.  The characters made preparations, encountered a couple of unexpected twists, the side-plots each advanced a step, and then we ended with a battle royale.
  • Jacques (Mike) was ambushed near Serge's bookstore.  He thwarted his lone attacker, who turned out to be a fellow Résistance fighter from the Marrakesh cell.  It was revealed that La Résistance blames Jacques for the deaths of his brothers in arms in Casablanca.  Jacques released his would-be assassin and set things in motion to restore his relationship with La Résistance, without revealing the sorcerous machinations that underlie the whole mess.
  • Serge (Ry) ran into his little brother-in-law Denis, a promising 14-year-old lad who wanted some manly advice.  "How do you know when you're a man?" he asked.  The conversation that followed was kinda fun; I hadn't really decided beforehand where it would go.  Ry and I each played the roles of big brother with big problems and little brother with big questions, and it was a good scene.  I see the relationship with Denis becoming consequential for Serge on a personal level.
  • Dr. von Braun (Pete) received the summons that he was expecting, to attend to the Nazi camp outside of town (he had sent Bacillus there the night before to spread food poisoning).  He treated the sick men, gathered some intel, got a good look at the digging operations, and had a drink with the commanding officer, who turned out to be the head of the NGF, Oberst Baer!  The men recognized each others' telltales, but both played it cool.  It was the classic subverbal pissing contest disguised as polite conversation, between two men who will become bitter enemies.  Well played, Pete :)  Baer asked some very pointed questions though, and von Braun was quite evasive (while Bacillus hysterically urged a hasty retreat).  A third man with a telltale joined them in the tent, a massive bald German who didn't speak a word.  Von Braun finally excused himself, and was almost surprised when the Nazis let him leave.  Baer promised to come visit him soon, as they "have a lot to talk about."
  • Jacques discovered that the café where his resistance cell was wiped out has been closed down, the proprietor arrested.  Surprisingly (to me), Jacques has shown no remorse over this so far.

Now, the big battle that we'd all looked forward to for two weeks.  Serge "condemned" an old warehouse by the docks, and packed it with accelerants.  The PCs converged there in the late afternoon to prepare.  A Contain ritual was completed sans demon, creating a general Contain that could be triggered at any moment.  At the time, the PCs weren't even sure which demon they'd end up springing it on.  Then the PCs prepared to Bind the rope demon, which was expected to arrive at sundown.  Serge, whose grip on reality was strained by thoughts of what he was about to do, suddenly turned on Dr. von Braun and attacked his maimed leg cruelly!  The unexpected betrayal (and blood for the ritual) netted him 3 victories to roll into the imminent Binding, but nearly tore the group apart.  Pete succeeded at a Humanity roll, so von Braun got ahold of himself before ordering Bacillus to attack.  Serge wasn't so lucky with his Humanity check; the betrayal cost him a point of Humanity.  Well played, Ry!

Mike took this as a cue to have Jacques lecture Serge on the horrors of being bound to a demon that he can barely control.  It was a great monologue - well played, Mike! - but Serge was determined to go through with their plan.  He couldn't rest, knowing that a powerful demon which Needed murder was loose in the city because of him.

The murderous rope demon arrived at sundown, as arranged.  Ry added lots of description to the Binding ritual (bonus dice), and cut off two of his fingers for good measure (bonus dice!).  It was group sorcery with Serge as the principal versus a Power-9 demon, and the final Binding roll was +2 in the demon's favour.  Serge lost another point of Humanity on the check.  Meanwhile, Jacques had tipped off the NGF* about the sorcerous gathering, and they arrived right on cue (Nazi Occult Research Team... don't make me look up the German translation that forms the acronym).  Two NGF sorcerer/officers and two armed soldiers walked into one nasty ambush.  There turned out to be three inconspicuous demons with the Nazi sorcerers, but the PCs had the freshly-bound rope demon on their side and it was in Need of some murdering.  The combat was vicious and... difficult, for me.  I had 10 NPCs and demons to manage!  I farmed out the PCs' demons back to them, to help me with the rolling (I maintained role-playing control), and spread out the sheets of the remaining chrs/demons in front of me.  The only way I could keep track of currency dice was to have a pile of dice on top of each sheet, and to apply victories and penalties as they happened.  The first couple of rounds of combat must have taken 15 minutes each, but by the halfway point we'd found a rhythm (and half the combatants were disabled), so things picked up.  The Nazis were defeated, and the rope demon satisfied its Need on the fallen.

The rope demon was wounded in the fight, so the PCs seized the moment and sprang the Contain on it.  The rope demon threw itself against the barrier.  The roll was close!  This time, von Braun was the principal sorcerer.  The damaged demon rolled just two dice, getting a 10,9!  Von Braun received just 1 bonus die from the supporting sorcerers, and rolled... 10,9,7,2.  I'd thought that any sorcerous ritual triggered a Humanity check, but we looked it up: it's only Contacts, Summonings and Bindings.  Then, to the Banishing.  The PCs actually failed in their first attempt!  It was now midnight, and they tried again, suffering the -1 penalty for a repeated action.  At 3am, the second attempt at Banishing... succeeded.

As we packed up, someone commented that the Contain and Banish rolls were very tense moments, with players standing to hover over the table, in contrast to the less-thrilling combat.  The battle was just less exciting, perhaps because we were still stumbling over mechanics.

Ry opined that his kicker seemed resolved with the destruction of the rope demon.  I reflexively disagreed, because I had so much more that I wanted to do with his kicker; but then realized that we'd just experienced a great dramatic climax, that the player should really have more say in this matter, and the Bangs left stranded in my bandolier were not his problem after all.  So, we haven't decided what to do with the character Serge.  Should we re-write him now?  And if so, should we kick off a new kicker for him?  The other two PCs' kickers have barely gotten rolling yet, and I'd like to give their stories more focus in the coming session.  But on the other hand, I don't want the rest of the sessions to be anticlimactic for Ry.  Suggestions?

Another rockin' night of Sorcerer.  T-minus 2 hours til session-3!

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 01, 2010, 06:05:08 AM
That was a hell of a session, and session 3 was a hell of a session too. 
Then the PCs prepared to Bind the rope demon, which was expected to arrive at sundown.  Serge, whose grip on reality was strained by thoughts of what he was about to do, suddenly turned on Dr. von Braun and attacked his maimed leg cruelly!  The unexpected betrayal (and blood for the ritual) netted him 3 victories to roll into the imminent Binding, but nearly tore the group apart.  Pete succeeded at a Humanity roll, so von Braun got ahold of himself before ordering Bacillus to attack.  Serge wasn't so lucky with his Humanity check; the betrayal cost him a point of Humanity.  Well played, Ry!

Mike took this as a cue to have Jacques lecture Serge on the horrors of being bound to a demon that he can barely control.  It was a great monologue - well played, Mike! - but Serge was determined to go through with their plan.  He couldn't rest, knowing that a powerful demon which Needed murder was loose in the city because of him.
This exchange was the best and worst part of the game so far.  I could tell that Mike and Pete were actually a little bit pissed at me for violating the party-as-a-unit compact, but I really felt like it worked in the fiction and in the game.  But I know it was really shocking, and I made a point not to apologize for it (because otherwise it wasn't a 'real' betrayal, which was what I was doing).  Anyway, both Pete and Mike thought it was cool within about half an hour, so I'm not concerned.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 01, 2010, 11:51:35 AM
Hi guys,

I want to focus on the Kicker resolution. From the blog for the game prep:

Serge is Catholic. His wife Anna has converted to Catholicism and attends church with him and takes communion.

A few weeks after binding the rat Tachyorychtes (‘Tack’), Serge was asked by his Jewish in-laws to help them fix something at their bookshop, and to bring his tools. Naturally, Serge agreed, like any good son-in-law, although he puzzled at their insistence that he come alone on a particular Saturday afternoon.

When Serge arrived he found most of the Godechaux men were gathered. Serge was asked to help make sure that nothing was damaged as the family set to clearing out “an old unused back room in the basement.”

Despite the lies, the intent of the enterprise was clear: to open up a new wall in the basement of the Godechaux bookstore. Expanding Jewish businesses was already banned in Casablanca by French decree, and while Serge found the law disturbing he was angry at his father-in-law for drawing him into something illegal.

Nevertheless, Serge carefully inspected the structural integrity of the house, and determined that opening up the new wall was probably safe. Always cautious when working with civilians, he sent the various Godechaux kin out of the house so he could get to work.

Serge used Tack’s conferred materials sight to discern where the weak spot was, and realized one area was particularly vulnerable to being struck. What Serge didn’t realize was that he was aiming straight at the entrance to a prison that had been Containing a powerful demon.

(snipped: the demon gets out and runs off)

I don't see defeating the rope demon as even beginning to resolve that Kicker. The Kicker is about a Jewish woman converted to Catholicism, and the ensuing family crisis. The demon merely amps up the imagery.

If you're in debt to the Mob, and you're married to the don's daughter, and one day the assassin shows up at your door (Kicker), and you kill him instead ... you haven't resolved the Kicker. You've only been shown how serious your entire personal situation is, and you were lucky enough to survive the first salvo in what is now a full-blown, scorched-earth battle over your entire concept of yourself.

My fear is that you guys went ahead and treated it as resolved anyway. Let me know.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 01, 2010, 01:57:02 PM
Hey Ron, I think John lumped some of my other backstory into the Kicker on his site.  At the table the backstory for Serge was this big list of connections, including Anna and some of Serge's firefighter friends.  But the kicker itself began with "A few weeks after binding..."  The idea of the kicker was Serge's trucking with demons leading to negative consequences. Anna-Michelle is in the background to that (and a likely victim in the long run).  The Catholic conversion was a line of tension through Serge's backstory because I didn't want Serge to be one-dimensional kid-saving control-freak firefighter.

I sent John some other stuff about Serge's perspective... John, do you want to comment?

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 01, 2010, 06:31:47 PM
Doesn't matter to me. The story components are there to be used, and if you have chosen for there to be no connection between (a) getting set up for something not-too-good by one's in-laws, and (b) getting attacked by this rope demon, then I think you're missing the GMing opportunities that the prep handed you.

"Resolving the Kicker" does not mean merely dusting it up with whatever immediate threat hopped into the character's field of vision.

Ninjas attack! I escape out the window.
My dog dies mysteriously! I bury him.
My wife has returned from the dead! I get her to sign the divorce papers (finally) and walk out the door.

All of these conduct a conflict with the most immediate elements of the Kicker. None of them resolve it, as far as I'm concerned.

My apologies for the brevity of the post. Its terse qualities should not be translated into a verbal tone and I am definitely not dismissing your prep and play. I'm simply in a rush.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 01, 2010, 07:06:50 PM
I think I get what you're saying - you're saying that the reason the rope demon was grabby as a Kicker is because it hit -both- "Serge needs control" -and- "Serge has a religious faultline running through his marriage". So we got an end of the knot, but we haven't really untied it ... which is a much higher bar. 

When I wrote the character, and we started the prep as a group, I wanted the plight of Jews in Vichy France to be part of the game (i.e. as ignored in "Casablanca") without making the game or my character pedantic.

I can see that we could continue down that road because it's more broadly about family, trust, and religious convictions, and there's no clear moral this story is shooting for. 


John, are you good to go there? I'm asking both in regards to subject matter and in terms of the PCs' stories drifting apart. I feel like Jacques (Mike) headed for murdering Nazis while Von Braun (Peter)'s spousal abuse will eventually catch up with him... These could be very divergent paths and I don't think anyone wants you to be responsible for forcing them back together.   

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on March 02, 2010, 06:05:14 PM
Hi guys, sorry for not getting back to this thread sooner.  Time, ack...

Ron, thanks for weighing in on this.  We haven't done anything irrevocable yet like re-writing Ry's character or kicking off a new kicker.

I too thought that Serge's kicker brought more than just the rope demon into play.  I was also looking forward to playing on Serge's feeling of responsibility towards his in-laws regarding helping them illegally adding to the basement, the better to conduct illegal business (which I started to do in the 3rd session).  But then we had that great climax vs the rope demon, and you/Ryan opined that the scene made a great kicker resolution, and I decided to let you make the call.  To do otherwise felt like it would be akin to telling you how to play your character.  Your kicker, your resolution to call, you know?  But yeah, if the kicker was a stone dropped into a pond, then we called the first wave to reach the shore a resolution, when really there's a tsunami coming...

So Ry, as you saw in the third session, the kicker has set a larger sorcerous situation in motion.  In the most general terms, there's something under the bookstore which the NGF would really like to get their hands on.  And it's going to be really hard, from this point forward, to keep it a secret.  This ties Serge's story to Jacques'.  And, given Oberst Baer's interest in the good doctor, von Braun can't be far behind.

As for Serge's family and religious issues, I'm good to go there... You gave us lots of great detail to work with, and I do want to use it.  I just haven't figured out what to do with it all yet.  Family dynamics in an RPG-SIS is very new to me.  I'll read your original kicker/backstory again tonight and brainstorm on some bangs.  If I get stuck, then I'll tap you for an offline discussion of where you think we could take this.

And yes, diverging stories is beginning to be a problem with this game.  I'm about to bring Serge and Jacques back together pretty neatly I think (see above), if briefly, but the thread with von Braun and his wife has the potential to turn into a one-player arc.  I'll have to pay more attention to making that situation relevant to the other two PCs.  And then there's tying in Serge's family issues...  yeah.

Ry, in other news, I found the rules on advancement again (pg42).  We could celebrate the End of the rope demon with some improvement rolls instead of a complete re-write.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 02, 2010, 07:40:43 PM

I think that you guys seem a bit fixated on "keeping the group together" or perhaps "making sure the storylines stay together" or something of this kind.

I suggest instead embracing chaos - let play proceed strictly on the basis of what you want your characters to do. Not where you want them to go eventually, not how you want things to turn out, not what kind of climax it should be aiming for - but what you are most satisfied with having your characters go right now. This is for Paiku as well, concerning his NPCs (especially all the demons and those family guys).

Key advice? Re-do the diagrams, and when you do that, think in terms of moving the names on that diagram as if you were nudging physical objects. Add anyone new who needs to come in. Get rid of anyone genuinely dead or gone for good. Move names into whole new sectors of the diagram if that's what's called for. Then look at the diagrams and see what's obviously there to do next.

By "do next," I simply and only mean, play the characters. Have them go where you are happiest and most fulfilled at this moment to see them go. By "go" I mean talk to someone, do something, go somewhere.

Never mind keeping them together. Never mind having the stories stay together. Never mind what that means for anything in the future; the future of play should be, for you, always one scene later, and never beyond that.

As long as you play those characters hard, you'll be fine. And guys? Worried about how to play scenes with the characters in different places or even maybe different times? No problem. When one guy gets into a conflict situation, "freeze" him there, and keep going with the others, until one by one they get into conflicts too. Then run the three conflicts simultaneously, using the combat rules as if the characters were in the same place, for purposes of ordering and resolving actions. Obviously, direct interactions among characters are limited only to those who are in the same locations.

This is a magnificent technique that Sorcerer taught me long ago. I call it "flashpoint." In time, you will find that it's one of the most exciting elements of playing the game, especially when you learn that the combat rules are admirably suited to this purpose.

Here's another technique, which I talk about a lot in Sex & Sorcery: Crossing. Use elements of character A's story in character B's ... but not in the forced and lame-ass way that puts the characters into the same room as if shoved by stagehands. Instead, simply show that both stories are happening in the same time and place through effects of past scenes. If character A punches a guy in a bar, then later, character B, stepping out of his apartment to call a cab, sees the punched guy stumbling along the street holding his face. These are not hooks to force the players to interact. Character B can simply get his cab, and probably should as the default. These are instead simply "crosses," business that informs everyone (the real people) how the scenes are present in the same general fictional space.

Crosses should be common, and if that's the case, only when people want, do they turn them into Weaves - genuine causal interconnection between the stories. Forcing Weaves fucking sucks donkey dicks. Frequent Crossing, with opportunistic Weaving when and only when someone really wants to (and thus acts upon the Cross to interconnect), is wonderful. The GM simply needs to let go of all 'story control' in the ordinary role-playing sense, and genuinely get into authorship of who's where and what's happening when, and who's seeing whom next, period.

It does work. All the story-power you'll ever need is firing in those characters, both NPC and PC, and the demons. Right now, trying to "keep it together" and any related stuff actually diminishes and muzzles the real story-power that at this moment, I am not sure you guys are ready to trust in action.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Andrew Norris on March 03, 2010, 08:50:48 AM
Hi John and Ry,

It's exciting to hear about your campaign. I just wanted to throw in some information about my experiences running the game.

When I posted about our sessions a few years back, Ron gave some very specific advice, and I ignored it. Now, I didn't intend to ignore it, in fact I made a note of it, but I sort of missed the point and in actual play failed to follow up on the points he'd raised.

You guys are emphatically not doing that, which is my way of patting you on the back. (And being a bit jealous. I didn't really grok Sorceror until a few months after we ran the campaign. It's also the game that showed me one of our perennial group members simply couldn't imagine his character suffering adversity in any way, and boy howdy that was helpful in understanding our problems.)

This is also my way of leading up to this point: What Ron is saying about adjusting the diagram on the back of the character sheets, and looking at them during play, is very important. It seems like a minor thing, but it's the bit I most wish I could whack my past self with a rolled-up newspaper and say "Pay attention!" about. Same with the "don't worry about PCs staying together". I did follow that advice to the letter, and it led to a number of situations in which the PCs actions had a strong effect on the other PC's situations, the characters didn't know about it but the players did, and the resulting tension was dynamite in terms of spurring play onward.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on March 03, 2010, 05:22:18 PM
Awesome advice guys, thanks Ron and Andrew.  I think I said this before, but: you should give the rulebooks away and charge for access to The Forge  ;-)

After the latest session we did a gut check, and everyone was okay with the way the session went, even though the three characters were acting independently most of the night.  But I thought: maybe they were just being polite Canadians.  As the GM I feel bad about seeing two of the three players sitting out of the action at any given point in time.  But then... sometimes the inseparable party, the three-headed-six-legged monster, doesn't fully engage all the players either.  For tomorrow I'll trust to the story power of the characters, and to the story-making power of the players, and we'll see where it leads us.

A few of my ideas for tomorrow's session would count as "crosses," and I'll keep an eye out for other opportunities to cross the plotlines.  The players can "weave" when it feels right to them.

And we'll let you know how it goes!  Thanks all,

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 03, 2010, 05:33:57 PM

Oh, just a little piece - you know how we were calling Serge's wife "Michelle" at the table, but "Anna" in the prep work?  That's where I got the idea that her name is Anna-Michelle.  If that's cool, her Dad calls (er... called) her Anna, but Serge calls her Michelle.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paul T on March 04, 2010, 08:44:03 AM
This game sounds like it's a blast!

I'm sure you'll find a way to balance "everyone off in their own plotline" and "PCs form a party" play that works with the tone of the story developing in your game. It sounds like you've gone from one extreme to the other. Since you're all paying attention to the issue, I'm sure you'll find a happy medium that works for this game very quickly.

We'll have to talk whenever we get together! I've been playing this game Land of Nodd that's all about the crossing and weaving, and shows how easy a thing it can be to do. I have quite a few thoughts on the matter, depending on whether you want those crosses to be surprising and mysterious or thematically charged and therefore inevitable: almost expected, which would allow you to foreshadow and build expectations, rather than creating a sense of mystery and discovery.

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on March 05, 2010, 12:05:22 PM
4th session was awe - some.  It was three separate storylines almost the entire night, but at the end everybody gave the session two thumbs up.  I guess the don't-split-the-party rule only applies to dungeon crawls. :)  The drama was palpable, the scenes were realistic in terms of human interaction (the arguments between Dr. von Braun and his wife were almost too real).  I did a bit of crossing, as the names of NPCs from one arc show up on a hit list in another arc, for example, and it inspired the players to do some twisting together of the plotlines.

There was no open conflict the whole night!  Just a few telltale check rolls, and a couple of half-assed 1-die Banish attempts against a Contained demon.  So I didn't get to use Ron's suggestion about separate simultaneous conflicts, but I'm still keeping it in mind.  Open combat was about to break out towards the end of the night, so we decided to end it there on a cliffhanger note.  Then we sat around for another half-hour and talked about how awesome that session was.  :)

So, in short, the preceding advice is working a charm!  Thanks Ron, Andrew and others.

Oh, and some serious religious issues have come up for Serge!  Ry is currently writing up synopses and AP for our 3rd and 4th sessions, and we'll post them soon.

Paul, Land of Nodd sounds really interesting, looking forward to meeting you and let's remember to chat about that!

Cheers all,

Title: Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP 3rd Session
Post by: Paiku on March 11, 2010, 06:43:18 PM
In the interest of getting the AP published before heck freezes over, most of the fiction synopsis will be in point form.  It's the game-play analysis that we're all here for anyway, right?  Read on to discover some seriously good Sorcerer moments (and thanks again to Ry for his added commentary):

Session 3: Casablanca, Friday AM

Ry: We gathered in John’s basement for Sorcerer.  I was feeling pretty beat going into the session, so I tried to focus on Serge’s need for control and made sure I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  My notes here are pretty well focused on my character Serge because that’s what I remember best.

John: So at this point we weren't sure whether to treat Serge's kicker as resolved or not.  I promised Ry that I still had some interesting stuff in my bandolier.  We decided to stick with the status quo until I could bring another bang or two into play, before deciding whether to re-write Serge.

  • It's the wee hours, right after the big fight at the warehouse in which the group killed 2 NGF sorcerer/officers, a couple of mooks and 2 demons, including the rope demon Anaconda which Serge had bound just hours before.  We decide that Serge forgot his two severed fingers and left them behind at the warehouse.
  • Nazis have deployed around the city.  Wanted posters are up all over the place, with a poor sketch of Jacques.
  • Jacques apartment is being searched.  Jacques is recognized, beats down a couple of Nazi soldiers and escapes.  Leaves his papers behind.  He heads over to von Braun's house, breaks in and falls asleep on the couch.

Ry: "Beats down" is code here for “sics Scar on” – Scar’s need for blood and Desire for mayhem is disturbingly easy for Jacques to satisfy.

  • Elsa wakes early, discovers Jacques on the couch and screams.  Von Braun comes downstairs to make introductions.  "He's a mental patient" whispers v.B to Elsa
  • Von Braun gives Jacques key to medical office, and closes it for the day.
  • Serge explains to Anna-Michelle about his fingers, lying that he was drinking too much and working on one of the fire engines.  Anna-Michelle is worried that this will end my career as a firefighter – Serge reassures her that things will be fine and she heads off to work.

Ry: So as we’re about to cut away from Serge, Ry say to John something like “I want to go to the grocer’s.”  John looks quizzically at Ry and says … “OK…” so as Serge heads back to the flat with sixteen pickle jars, Mike and Peter start cluing in that my demon is in for some serious punishment. 
John: [background] Serge's demon manifests as a swarm of 16 rats.  This next scene was really intense!

  • Ry: First, Serge unloads all the pickles into the sink. Serge was yelling and haranguing Tack, the rats-demon, for having lead me to the rope. Serge’s good hand darts out and he grabs one of the 16 rats, then puts it into the pickle jar, half-filled with pickling juice.  Tack is pleading that he didn’t mean to, that it was all a mistake, and tells Serge to stop.  Serge punishes Tack, grabs another rat.  Tack retreats, and Serge punishes Tack again. John does a good job of describing the little rat rubbing its face and looking ill inside the sealed jar. Tack slinks back, Serge yelling at him and grabbing another rat, and another, and putting them in the pickle jars.  Tack can’t stand it anymore and as Serge grabs the fourth rat, Tack uses his warp power to weaken the first jar and it cracks. 

Ry: This was fun, because I had everybody hooked on what I was doing.

  • Serge banishes Tack, and is now demon-free.

Ry: Banishing Tachyorychtes was the first Jaws-hit-floor incident of the session.  John  didn’t expect it, and I managed to pull it off with a 1 die instant banish.
John: Truly, it was a stunner, a real turning-point in Serge's story.  We all had a lot more respect for the 1-die act of desperation after that!

  • vB & Elsa go to Breuer & Schultz, shipping agents.  Elsa wants to know what really happened to her father, and what the mysterious letter means.  Higgs (Company secretary) drops dead at mention of "The Seven Blessings."
    they arrange to meet Schultz for dinner @ L'Hotel La Ville de Cloche, 7pm.
  • Marc le Géant (fireman) fetches Serge to the bookstore.  Father-in-law has fallen through the basement floor; vaulted chamber beneath house.  No body in sight.
  • Serge clears the house, cordons off neighbourhood, slaps young brother-in-law Denis to get him to obey.
  • Jacques finds Michele (resistance fighter from the Marrakesh cell) at The Turk's Head.  They team up.  J. pushes M. against the board by his balls: "I'm the leader of this cell, not you."  M., sweating, agrees.

Ry: Nice to see Jacques throw his badass around.

  • Mike takes author's stance, and has Jacques run into von Braun and Elsa strolling on the waterfront.  Jacques asks von Braun to call Martin @ La Ville de Cloche for him, to find out where NGF hiding now.
  • Serge is lowered into the vaulted chamber under the in-laws' bookstore.  50' high, 30' wide, 50' to the West, 100+' to East.  Bookshelf, box of grenades (modern) fallen through. It seems the in-laws were storing contraband weapons for the Resistance.  Drag marks and blood trail lead off to the East.
  • At the Eastern end of the chamber, father-in-law is unconscious within a Contain circle.  Inconspicuous demon, huge, 4 arms, holding him hostage.  Speaking a language Serge doesn't know.  Wants Contain broken in exchange for f-in-law.

Ry: Here I had Serge approaching, axe in hand.  I knew what I wanted to do but I knew that if I gave it away it would be ruined, so I made sure to not look John or the guys in the eyes when I had Serge point at his father-in-law’s body.

  • Serge asks to see father-in-law.  Demon brings body to edge of Contain.  Father-in-law is unconscious but alive.  Serge kills him with his axe!  He was unwilling to repeat situation with Anaconda and unleash another demon on the city.  Fails Humanity roll.

Ry: This went off like a bomb; the guys didn’t see it coming and I won the roll against the demon (I had a pretty solid advantage from surprise). The Humanity roll is a fair cop; I’m a little stymied on what it would take to boost Humanity without demons, though.
John: This was awesome: totally unexpected, but totally in character for Serge, who has had just about enough of demons at this point!

Ending: Jacques and Michele are going to investigate NGF's last hideout.  von Braun is heading to La Ville de Cloche.  Serge has just declared Pierre dead.  City chief engineer needs to inspect the underground area.  Stay tuned for the next session, in which Serge airs his religious angst.  Do practicing Catholics make good Sorcerers?  Not if your definition of Humanity includes "sanity"!


Title: Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP 4th Session
Post by: Paiku on March 11, 2010, 07:02:11 PM
We've now figured out (thanks to The Forge) that Serge has NOT resolved his kicker, which entailed a lot more than just one demon on the loose.  We prepare to crack open a whole mess of family and religious tension.  We've also agreed not to sweat the fact that we effectively have three separate storylines going here, and see how it goes.

Session 4: Casablanca, Friday PM

  • Did belated advancement rolls for everyone, for the warehouse conflict (Sess 2)
  • von Braun & Elsa ran into Timo Meyer at La Ville de Cloche (Elsa's note mentioned "Meyer will help").  50s, pale man, looking at Elsa like he's seen a ghost. "You look so much like your mother."  Old friend of her father's (Victor Breuer), didn't know he'd died recently.  Wants to see them later that afternoon at his house, but needs a couple hours to clear up some personal business first.  He gives address.  vB spots telltale. 
  • Jacques and Michele ransack NGF's abandoned hideout.  Find list of names: "Casablanca: Jacques Gaillard, Timo Meyer, Victor Breuer, Margaritte Pfeifer." and a telegraph to Oberst Baer explaining peculiarities of navigation in the islamic golden age and suggests they're digging in the wrong place.
  • Serge offers his place to the in-laws.  Tries to make up with Denis for slapping him.  Takes Anna-Michelle with him to see his priest.  "I need to confess."
  • von Braun tries to explain about sorcery to Elsa.  Forces Bacillus to reveal himself (Punishes him, and contest of Wills), but the demon refuses absolutely.  Jacques, who is hiding out there at the office, gets Skar to perform some feats.  Elsa and Bacillus are both extremely pissed.

Ry: PLEASE NOTE – this was the most “wow” piece of roleplaying I’ve seen Peter do, and John’s play of Elsa and Bacillus were like an assist from Iginla.  This was totally, totally great – the doctor squirming, trying to say-without-saying, be convincing, and do something his demon DID NOT WANT.  Peter seemed a little surprised that Bacillus was reacting so badly to “let’s tell the wife about demons” – but I thought it made sense since Elsa is the most natural target for the escalation of von Braun’s malpractise (Bacillus' Need).

  • Serge gives confession re: demons.  And "oh yeah, and I killed my father-in-law today."  Gets Father André to come to do an exorcism for him.  Priest thinks he needs a head doctor.

Ry: Yeah, I messed up the confession a bit.  The thing still went OK though.
John: I had no idea if  I was playing a Catholic priest right!

  • Jacques deciphers the captured map: whatever clues the NGF were following would actually indicate a spot in Casablanca itself, in the Mellah, maybe under the bookstore...  Michele returns from post office with address for Meyer.
  • Jacques&Michele go to see Meyer (swanky part of town).  First house: he doesn't live there anymore.  Bribes helpful manservant.  Meyer moved because he doesn't want to be found. Nazis looking for him recently too.  Gives new address.
  • Meyer is an old sorcerer.  Warns Jacques of the dangers.  Gets paranoid, thinks he's after "the ruby."  They agree to meet that night at the bookstore.
  • von braun & Elsa visit Meyer.  Screaming upstairs.  v.B tries to get Bacillus to convey Cloak, but the demon is rebellious.  It wants to seriously harm the landlord's daughter, or Elsa.  They agree on "a feast of medical malpractice" soon.  But it's too late, Meyer is eviscerated, his assailant escaped out the window.  Dying, he gives them the remains of his journal: only the first and last pages, the rest was ripped out and stolen by the attacker.  "You have a powerful enemy, she'll think I've given you the ruby..." and many apologies to Elsa for something, and he dies.  Search the room: Meyer has been selling off a rare book collection piece by piece.  Not much left except 1 fat tome on sorcery.  Funny-smelling pipe, waxed paper with 7 stars on it.

Ry: Pete mentioned this first, but: John really, really outdid himself with the props – a note here, a couple of pages there, and so on.  Completely fit, and were fun to see and handle.
John: Thanks, glad you liked 'em!  I'll post the text of Meyer's journal (the few pages that von Braun and Elsa found) on my gaming blog ( right after I post this.

  • vB and Elsa go to get a room at La Ville de Cloche - don't feel safe returning home.
  • Serge and the priest head down into the vault under the bookstore.  The priest is starting to doubt that Serge is crazy.
  • Serge tries to get the demon to appear - tries 1-die Banish and Punish, tries threatening w. grenades, but no luck (GM's note: this demon has been Contained down here for a thousand years, how should it know what a grenade is??).  Enjoins the priest to begin exorcism anyway.  *Point of order: can the priest Banish?  We decide yes, with 1 die, and if he succeeds he will become a 1-Lore sorcerer.  Serge is helping (group sorcery).

John: Ry really played up Serge's religious anguish over all this demon business. 

  • Michele is off recruiting for the Résistance when Jacques gets wind of goings-on in the Mellah.  He sneaks past the cordon to the bookstore and downstairs and down into the vaulted chamber to join Serge and the priest.
  • Jacques arrives, and after catching up on events he selects a concussion grenade and throws it into the Contain (Serge shields priest).  Boom.  Demon appears, enraged.  Priest runs for his life.  The back wall has fallen in a bit, there is a chamber beyond.  Perhaps the demon was Contained here to guard something...

John: As I said in a previous previous post, it was an excellent and engrossing session despite the three nearly-separate storylines.  We left it on a cliffhanger note, with Jacques and Serge having just taken the decision to attack the four-armed demon and attempt to destroy it before the Nazi occult research team arrives.  Next scene will be von Braun and his dinner with Schultz, Elsa's father's ex business partner and the only person they know who might possibly be able to shed any light on what's really going on...


Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 11, 2010, 07:33:33 PM
Fan-tastic. I really appreciate the reflective nature of the posts as at the same time I'm able to enjoy the story for its own sake. A few semi-unconstructed points:

1. I totally saw the axe-murder of the father-in-law coming. I would have been surprised if he didn't do it.

2. That one-die desperation roll is serious! I mean, you do have a chance ... and in practice it pays off just enough to matter.

3. John, I have advice: sit down with the priest character, when you prep, and work him up as a distinct personality, especially someone you care about, and who has both strengths and weaknesses you sympathize with. Also, it's probably time to beef up the wife too, and think of her as someone with a powerful commitment to her decisions in life so far. If someone really devalued or showed contempt for those decisions, what might she do?

4. One thing I'm noticing: the group of you, as people, are becoming enthusiastic fans of one another's role-playing. Isn't that cool?

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 14, 2010, 09:28:40 AM
Hey Ron, does Big help a demon absorb damage during combat?  That was one stumbling block for us.  Some of the APs I've checked out seem to suggest it helps the demon take punishment, but we can't figure out where in the procedure the extra dice from big would go (since attack & damage are 1 roll and Big doesn't help defense).

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Karl on March 14, 2010, 12:12:40 PM
The sorcerer wiki ( is a great resource for questions like that, including links back to discussions here: (

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on March 14, 2010, 05:49:31 PM
Ron, glad you're still enjoying the thread, and thanks for more great advice about fleshing out the priest and the wife.  That would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.  Excellent!

Karl, thanks for the links, that clears it up.  Big sounded simple until I tried to apply it at the table, and we had three different interpretations of the rule between the four of us!


Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 14, 2010, 07:49:16 PM
Hi there,

John, this sentence is full of weird things, or maybe I'm being foolish:

That would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.

I hope you mean by "taking the lead," simply, working with the material as played and continuing to play. In which case there's no real change in what's happening or how things are being played. That would make sense, and that might be what you intended. Let me know if that's it.

On the other hand, I fear a subtext of either the players or the GM being in charge in some kind of way: with either (1) the GM being basically a gormless lout while the players "run things," or (2) the GM suddenly ramping up and being the boss to give the players cues they must follow. Let me know if my fear is grounded.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 14, 2010, 07:50:39 PM
Oh yeah. Ry, regarding Big, pay close attention to the role it plays when dealing with the two damage tables. In fact, at this point in play, it might be helpful for you to review how those tables work without Big or anything else. Let me know if you have any questions about that. Your game is at the point where those rules applications will become crucial.

Best, Ron

Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Paiku on March 15, 2010, 05:28:40 AM
Hmmm, I didn't notice how ambiguous that sentence was, when I wrote it:

Hi there,

John, this sentence is full of weird things, or maybe I'm being foolish:

That would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.

I hope you mean by "taking the lead," simply, working with the material as played and continuing to play. In which case there's no real change in what's happening or how things are being played. That would make sense, and that might be what you intended. Let me know if that's it.

On the other hand, I fear a subtext of either the players or the GM being in charge in some kind of way: with either (1) the GM being basically a gormless lout while the players "run things," or (2) the GM suddenly ramping up and being the boss to give the players cues they must follow. Let me know if my fear is grounded.

Best, Ron

I meant that your advice was a timely reminder that I should be watching the players for clues as to what is important to them in the story, and focusing my inter-session prep there.  Through their play, Ry and Pete have both indicated that the tensions between their respective characters and their wives and the priest are important, thematically and to character development.  I should respond by preparing to let the story expand and deepen in those areas.

In other words, without your reminder, I might have blithely continued to treat the priest and the wives as minor stage props while I continued to spring the bangs that I'd already planned. 

(truth be told, I'm not sure whether you originally meant Dr. von Braun's wife Elsa or Serge's wife Anna-Michelle, but I think both NPCs have become important at this point).


Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ron Edwards on March 15, 2010, 08:14:29 AM
Hi John,

Thanks, that makes me more confident. I was thinking of Anna-Michelle but clearly both women qualify.

I suggest one minor amendment of your phrasing: "I should be watching all attention and investments devoted to play, including my own, for clues as to what is important to them in the story, and focusing my inter-session prep there."

In other words, instead of thinking of this as a players-to-GM cueing issue, simply toss everything you're saying about them into the same stew that includes everything you are finding important and interesting too. Although your job as GM is different in terms of what you do moment to moment in play, your job as a human at the table is no different from anyone else's: grab what's there to be grabbed and go with it.

Best, Ron

Title: Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP 5th Session
Post by: Paiku on March 31, 2010, 05:30:37 AM
Session 5 – Casablanca, Friday Evening

When we last left our heroes, Serge and Jacques had just decided to attack the four-armed demon, having failed at Banishing it and growing nervous that the Nazi occult research team (NGF) would be there any minute.  They were in the antideluvian vaulted chamber under the bookstore, and the demon was inconspicuous and in an ancient Contain.  Serge had his priest with him, Father André, and Jacques had Skar (also inconspicuous, so far).  Actually, Father André had just run screaming after the Contained demon momentarily appeared.

Mike (playing Jacques) proposed that Skar could use the Contain (ie. a barrier that Skar could cross but the four-armed demon could not) as an advantage in a fight.  We agreed, and I assigned a bonus die (or did we have Skar roll Will against the demon first, and then roll victories into the attack roll?  I forget, but that would have been the better way to do it I think).  Skar attacked and the fight was on, but it was brief, and at the end Skar lay incapacitated.

Dr. von Braun was with his furious "wife" Elsa and his furious demon Bacillus, and preparing to meet her late father's business partner Mr. Schultz for dinner.  Von Braun ventured to break the heavy silence, and Elsa launched into a lengthy monologue.  She recognized that they had been apart for a few years, but to find that her husband has become a satanist or spirit medium or whatever was just too much.  She put him on notice that she hadn't made up her mind about the future of their marriage, but meanwhile she need "and expected" his help and support while she tried to find out what really happened to her father.  The chastened von Braun brought up the fact that, but for the help he received from "the spirit world," he would not have survived the war in Czechoslovakia (which was true, in a way).  Elsa softened a bit at this.

John: Peter continues to play the relationship scenes with great enthusiasm!

The two put their heads together for a bit over the fragment of Meyer's journal.  His cryptic clue as to where he has hidden the ruby mentioned "when the moon pulls on the water."  We randomly determined that the next high tide would be at 8PM, which put a bit of time pressure on their dinner plans.  Yeah, about dinner...

Von Braun opined that Schultz was involved somehow in Elsa's father's death, and proposed that they take extreme measures to get it out of him.  Elsa tentatively agreed to a plan involving sodium pentathol (isn't it convenient, playing a medical doctor??) and a box of chocolates.  They decided to invite Schultz to dine in their rooms, for privacy and to save time.  When they called the front desk to order dinner, their contact Martin informed von Braun of the latest rumours, that the Nazis had cordoned off the entire mellah and were clearing it out.

John: The players commented that Elsa seemed to slide too easily into morally questionable behaviour, ie. drugging her father's ex business partner in order to interrogate him.  I thought it was in character (it's looking more and more like something shady is going on and Schultz is involved), but if the others didn't think so then I haven't been playing Elsa strongly enough.

Meanwhile, under the bookstore, Serge found the panicked priest futilely attempting to climb the rope out of the chamber, and managed to calm him down.  Father André took a moment and then decided that vanquishing this demon was the most important thing in his life, more important THAN his own life.  Second most important was saving Serge's soul.  He asked Serge to take communion with him, NOW.  They did.

Back at the edge of the contain, Serge and Jacques decided there was nothing left to do but to Bind the demon.  If they didn't, the NGF soon would.  Jacques volunteered, this time.  But how to negotiate a Binding with a demon with which you cannot communicate?  And what to tell the priest?

At that moment (deus ex machina, or as my old gaming group used to say, "*POOF* the DM!"), a voice was heard from the bookstore above: "Hello?  I say, hello?  Mr. Moliere?  It's the city engineer!"  Serge threw the priest over his shoulder and climbed out of the chamber (50' straight up a rope – his Stamina is 6) to meet the city engineer, a Moroccan who introduced himself as Waseed ibn Mohammad.  The engineer brought the news that the mellah was being completely cleared out by the Nazis.  Serge knew then that their time was short.  Waseed was a student of ancient history as it turns out, and was anxious to get a look at the chamber – which is exactly what Serge wanted to avoid.  While Serge attempted send the priest home on one hand, and dissuade the engineer on the other hand, Jacques attempted to bargain with the demon without a language in common.  Waseed was distracted by the grunted syllables floating up from below. 

"I say, is someone down there speaking ancient Arabic?  I know the language but I can't quite make out what they're saying..."  Without another word, Serge scooped up the engineer and bore him down to the chamber floor.  The four-armed demon was invisible once again.

Through cajoling and finally threats, Serge and Jacques managed to get the frightened engineer to communicate with the disembodied voice at the end of the chamber.  After the initial pleasantries:

Jacques: ask it what it wants.
Waseed: <something in ancient Arabic>
Demon: <reply in ancient Arabic>
Waseed: (blanches and attempts to flee)
Serge: (restraining Waseed) What did it say!?
Waseed: Oh God, what is that thing!?
Serge: Tell us what it said!!
Waseed: It said it wants to eat me!  It wants you to feed me to it!!

John: Serge was quite rough with the poor engineer.  Come to think of it, Ry had played Serge using intimidation and superior strength with anyone and everyone, even loved ones, whenever demons were concerned.  It really showed how close to the edge Serge was over all this demon business.

Jacques promised the demon "lots of enemies to eat" (via the unwilling translator), and the Binding began.  Serge knocked out the engineer, carried him up to the surface and left him in someone's backyard to recover, then went to sit on the steps of his church.  Mike declared that the matter of the binding would involve Jacques and the Demon scratching in the sand, attempting to develop a means of communication.  We made it a Will roll, which ended up +2 in the demon's favour.  Skar was still unconscious.

Back to Dr. and Mrs. von Braun.  Bacillus was very hungry and impatient.  It lobbied for dismembering Schultz as soon as possible.  Von Braun sent it downstairs to the kitchens to spread food poisoning (AFTER their own meals were on their way up).  Schultz arrived shortly thereafter, much changed from this morning: nervous, distracted and sweating.  He asked for a double scotch, then got straight down to business.

"You must cease your inquiries immediately," he begged.  "I know you think you know something, and I know you've been to visit a Mr. Meyer today.  Nothing you find out now can bring your father back, but believe me, further meddling would be very dangerous for you.  And very dangerous for me!

"Look, I'll pay you," he went on, "twenty thousand deutschmarks to leave Casablanca immediately!"  Doctor and wife pressed him for more details, but he flatly refused, saying only that they were all in danger.

Dr. von Braun and Elsa exchanged a meaningful glance.  "You really shouldn't drink so much on an empty stomach, Mr. Schultz.  Would you like some chocolates?..."

As the sodium pentathol took hold, Schultz became more pliable.  He eventually spilled his guts.

John: Schultz revealed much more in this scene than I was planning on!  But it was a good opportunity to put more info into the players' hands.

Schultz revealed that he had been visited that afternoon by a fearsome fellow named Ah Ling, who was not only Breuer & Schultz's local shipping agent in the Orient, but also the head of The Seven Blessings opium ring and the most feared pirate in all the South China Seas!  Ah Ling had threatened to kill Schultz if he didn't tie up all loose ends regarding the murder of Breuer right away.

(A-hah, opium, Seven Blessings, that explains the funny-smelling pipe found on Meyer, and the waxed paper with seven stars on it.)

More of the story came out.  Breuer and Schultz Shipping Agents was involved with Ah Ling in smuggling opium into Europe, but Schultz and the company secretary Higgs had managed to hide the smuggling well enough that Elsa's father Breuer never knew about it.  Until about six months ago, when Breuer noticed something fishy about the books.  Suspecting his partners, he decided to go down to the Orient himself to investigate.  There, three months ago, Ah Ling murdered him at sea, and sunk the company's ship with all hands lost in order to cover up the murder.  (That explains why Higgs, an unhealthy man with a guilty conscience, suffered a heart attack when Elsa mentioned The Seven Blessings!)  Now Ah Ling was in Casablanca to ensure that all loose ends were tied off, and finds that Breuer's daughter is snooping around!

The confession complete, then began a lengthy and intense discussion amongst the players regarding what von Braun would do with Schultz!  At first the good doctor proposed a chemical lobotomy, which absolutely thrilled Bacillus!  But then a look at his Humanity score (2) and the firm opinion of the group that this WOULD require a Humanity-loss roll made him reconsider.  Bacillus grew more and more impatient while other options were weighed.

Finally, the good doctor decided to infect Schultz with a fatal disease, and direct him to return for the cure AFTER he had given Ah Ling a poison which von Braun also supplied.  We debated whether this course of action would require a Humanity roll, and decided eventually that it didn't.  I don't remember the particulars of that decision – do you, Ry?  Our definition of Humanity was empathy and sanity.

Meanwhile, back in the ancient vaulted chamber... The Binding ritual complete (the four-armed demon's name was 'Cerberus', its Need was to eat people), Jacques broke the Contain and then went to explore the room beyond (the bricked-up room which Cerberus had been guarding for the past thousand years).  He found a circular chamber with a domed roof about 50' high.  The construction was similar to the vaulted chamber, with enormous dry-set stone blocks, but in this chamber the entirety of the walls and domed ceiling were covered in writing etched deep into the rock.  The writing itself was of a language totally unfamiliar to Jacques, but the diagrams gave him the feeling that all of the writing was sorcerous lore.  The room was one big tome of sorcery.

Jacques took some time to examine the writings and made a Lore roll with Cerberus' help.  He rolled badly, but managed at least to determine that the Lore contained herein gave instructions for the Contact and Summoning of enormous demons which could make any army invincible.  He thought of the Nazis who had been digging holes all over Morocco, who had a map indicating this location, and who were even now clearing the mellah above.  Jacques fetched the rest of the box of grenades into the domed chamber.  He used the remains of the wood crate and the bandages in his sachel to rig a system to pull all the pins at once.  And he pulled!  His Cover roll (resistance fighter) was a success, twenty grenades went off at once, and the domed chamber collapsed in on itself!  (The synogogue above collapsed into the hole thus left).  The dangerous lore was partially destroyed and significantly obscured.

Von Braun and Elsa, having disposed of Schultz for now, decided to go on the lam to avoid this Ah Ling character.  They were headed for the bookstore when they ran into Serge, sitting on the steps of his church, contemplating his missing fingers and the fate of his soul.  While they were catching up on events they heard and felt an almighty BOOM...

Jacques dusted himself off and climbed out of the vaulted chamber in style, on the back of his new four-armed demon.

Dr. von Braun, Elsa and Serge drove with all haste to the mellah.  There were Nazis everywhere, including a few tanks.  Von Braun flashed his Nazi ID to get past the check-point.  The car that followed them through bore none other than Oberst Baer, chief Nazi sorcerer and head of the NGF!

Ry felt that Serge could barely contain the urge to attack Baer openly, right now.  He rolled Will vs. Humanity... and Will lost.  Serge leapt from the car and attacked the Nazi sorcerer with his fire axe!  What else could von Braun do but back him up?  Baer's four demons joined the fight, which became the Battle Royale.  Jacques and Cerberus, coming up the street from the bookstore, saw what was happening and sprinted to join in.  Everyone was there and the evil mastermind too.  It was a fight to the finish.  One of Baer's demons had Shadow and Perception:See In The Dark, and it put out the lights.  Von Braun flashed his rank credentials again and commandeered a tank crew!  With Bacillus' help, he helped the tank crew to target in the total darkness.

In the end, the Nazi soldiers had fled, the NGF's demons were vanquished and Baer was mortally wounded.  Jacques knelt over him as he expired, and revealed the NGF's manual of sorcery from his sachel.  "You found the chamber," gasped Baer, "is it wonderful?"

"I just demolished it," answered Jacques.

Baer's last words were "Noooooooooo!"

Post-Game Analysis

It was a great session, with a great climax for both Serge and Jacques.  On the other hand, it was clear that von Braun's arc was still rising, and could take another 2-3 sessions to resolve.  For practical reasons, we decided to end the game here.

If we were planning on a lengthy Sorcerer campaign then it wouldn't have been a problem.  Jacques and Serge would have been re-written and we would have continued on.  But as it is, our next game is waiting in the wings.  As Pete said, we've learned an important lesson that some story arcs can have more momentum than others, and we need to be careful of that. 

For my part, I can see that I didn't apply the R-map correctly (despite the gobs of generous help from the Forge community).  I grafted it onto just one PC (von Braun), because I was trying to preserve too much of the source book's plot.  I really had two stories going at once: the one initiated by the PCs' kickers, and the one that I tried to import via the R-map.  The R-map didn't serve to inter-relate the PCs in interesting ways.  Instead, it was a GM-prepared story poised to explode onto the PCs.  My bad, with apologies to Pete, who played von Braun to the hilt!


Jacques Gaillard:
Now the master of two huge combat-oriented demons (Skar of the bladed limbs, and Cerberus of the four arms who likes to eat people).  Last seen headed for Berlin...

Serge Molière:
Thankfully free of demonic dependents, and sworn off sorcery for life.  Considering a life in the church.  Maybe as an exorcist...

Dr. von Braun:
Determined to help Elsa discover the truth behind her father's death and his involvement with this ruby business.  Moreover, determined to be the good husband that she deserves (despite actually being her husband's murderer, or perhaps because of it).  Last seen preparing a Banishment ritual...

The GM:
My favourite Bang which I DIDN'T get to use was the following:  Michele (NPC Résistance fighter) shows up with his band of fresh Résistance recruits.  They're well armed and ready to take advantage of this opportunity to strike at some Nazi officers.  Amongst the recruits is Serge's young brother-in-law Denis!  This time Denis is determined not to back down to Serge's blustery big-brother act, especially after Serge publicly slapped him and shamed him (session #3).  If ordered home, he will repeat back Serge's advice about knowing when you're a man (from session #2).  "I know I'm a man now, I know what I must do, and you can't order me around anymore!"

Aah, it woulda been cool...

Thanks to all who read this far, and to those who contributed advice and musings throughout.  Our first Sorcerer game was a voted great success, and resulted in rich characters, an exciting story, much heavy tension and many "Oh sh!t!" moments.  We're looking forward to trying out a Sorcery & Sword / Dictionary of Mu game in a couple of months!


Title: Re: [Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP
Post by: Ry on March 31, 2010, 06:20:12 AM
I do feel like there's a lot more we could do with this scenario if Mike and I rolled up new characters or wrote new kickers.

The overriding opinion was that we can't wait to see John GM Sorcerer again.  This game was awesome, and with John's experience with both the system and the R-map idea... I am really, really stoked for more.

Next on our docket is Dogs in the Vineyard, followed by Warhammer, followed by me running Dictionary of Mu.