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For demons- why not ditch all scores but Power?

Started by Bailywolf, June 04, 2004, 04:30:17 PM

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Hey gang- it has been a while since I posted hereabouts.  

I searched for this topic, but didn't see it anywhere, so I'll post my question/idea/thingy.

A Demon's Power is equal to its Will which is equal to its Lore+1 which is equal to its number of Abilities.

Stamina is the only Score a demon has which isn't linked into number of Abilities.

Why not simply ditch all scores for demons other than Power?  

Stamina is used in Punish rituals- weenie demons are easier to zap into submission (or at least into the grudging appearance of submission), and with a single fat score, punish rituals could me more difficult.  Also, effects which reduce a demon's Power (such as a post-boost quiescent period) affect its basic physical capacities.  

It would make demons more tidy (and less like sorcerers), and you always know what you are rolling for a demon.   When I have run Sorcerer, the difference in Will, Lore, and Power is so slight that I generally just use one number for these- especially for NPC controlled demons- and it works very well in play.  

It might be easier to just lump Will, Lore, and Power into one score, and allow the summoning Sorcerer to set Stamina at any desired level up to Power.  If they are equal, then you only need the one number.  

Obviously, the game is what it is and isn't going to change based on my "why nots?"  I'm actually just wondering what are the other mechanical upshots to this cludge that I'm missing?

And out of curiosity- Ron, when you designed the system, why did you elect to differentiate a demon's scores out like a sorcerer's?  

Thanks all,



Maybe it's the Trollbabe fanboy in me, but I really like this.  It's quite elegant, and I do sort of enjoy the alieness of the demons expressed as one number -- it seems to emphasize that they are primarily a Single Intent with a thin veil pulled over them.
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.

Ron Edwards


This, from the fellow who originally whined like a fucking locomotive that Sorcerer had too few scores, and that Stamina obviously needed to be separated into Agility, Endurance, and Strength. Yeah, that was you, Ben (bailywolf)! You, you, you!


Well, the basic idea you're presenting is indeed elegant, and in many ways my design ideas went in this direction a long time ago - Trollbabe being the most obvious example.

For Sorcerer, upon its initial design, I did want some nuances among demons to be possible. Yet the Will/Power thing seemed so important to keep as a non-negotiable ceiling ...

While the revisions for the book were under way, I considered lumping a lot of demon stuff together. I had two things in mind: Power & Will as a single score; then a kind of "flexibility" or "utility" thing that could be dropped down from that, as a second score, more or less as a Stamina & Lore lumped together. I almost went with it.

However, considering all my play-experiences up to that point, the current system does seem, to me, to serve a couple of useful purposes. Let's look at the range, and where my decision to stay with four instead of two came from.

First, consider the bog-standard demon: Stamina X, Will X + 1, Lore X, Power X + 1. Here, they really are just two scores split into four for "no reason."

1. Now consider the above, but with either Stamina or Lore, or both, dropped by whatever amount. This permits big-ass demons who are limited in their range of abilities, or limited in time/utility of their abilities, or both.

Here's where my fateful decision came in: to keep these potential limitations to be independent of one another. Play had shown me that these two demons:

Stamina X - Y, Will X + 1, Lore X, Power X + 1
Stamina X, Will X + 1, Lore X - Y, Power X + 1

... were really two very different beasts. And I'd discovered that players cared greatly about their demon-creation, once they got used to the rules. Yes, players often do want their demons to be "downsized" in either Stamina or Lore, and specifically one but not the other.

2. I then considered whether Power and Will might be lumped, and decided:

a) Either they get lumped, OR
b) I figure out a way for them to become independent of one another.

But I didn't want their "ceiling" role among all the scores to be at great risk. The central design decision (more demon = more Will, no matter what) had to stay intact. So ...

... that's where the possibility of modifying Power or Will quite variably by the victories-issue during Contacting came from. (Can't quote the rules exactly but ...) It is the only mechanic that permits a demon's Will and Power to differ, for example, and that's why they remained split into two scores.

So there's the background, anyway.



Great explanation, Ron.

Ben, I also thought of another mechanical difference.  While lumping in Stamina to Power might make Punish slightly more difficult (vs. a higher score), it would also make Punish much more effective as a lead-in to Banishing, since right now it only lowers one of the two Demon scores involved (Power, but not Will).

Not saying whether that's a good or bad thing -- it changes the complection of the Rituals somewhat, which might be the perfect fit for one setting and dead-wrong for another.
Doyce Testerman ~
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.


Stamina is also used to test length and multi-usage of various demonic powers. Dropping it would seriously affect play in that manner: the demon would no longer have limits to its ability to utilize and extend its powers.

Stamina for demons is like a fatigue threshold, rather than a "look how buff I, Arnold Shwarzendemon, am!" indicator (though it can be that, too).

"Geez, boss, you've have me lightning-shock five times in the last couple minutes...I'm not a frickin' magic spell, let me catch my breath!"
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


I don't think it was me, actually.  

I don't recall ever seriously bitching about Sorcerer's scores- and a search for 'Bailywolf' and 'stamina' (and several other possibilities) didn't turn up any bitching-   unless I have a brain tumor and my memory is playing tricks, I don't think it is me you're recalling.

But anyhow, I do see why you went with the design you chose, and I hadn't considered the Contact mechanic by which the GM can tweak abilities and upgun the demon's Power.

For chuckles I might run a one-shot with power-only demons just to see what happens.  The altered dynamics for sorcery rituals might be a fun twist.



Ron Edwards

Ha! Found it.

Ben, I owe you an apology, because I was mixing "Bailywolf" up with "Bailey," who also happens to be a Ben. Check out this ancient discussion from the Gaming Outpost, prompted by Ralph (Valamir) in his pre-Universalis, what's-this-GNS-crap mode and continued by Bailey.


P.S. Lookit all those old usernames! Ummm ...

Valamir = Ralph Mazza (as here on the Forge)
greyorm = Raven (as here on the Forge)
figaro9 = Josh Neff, emerging from his e.e. cummings no-capitals phase
Memento Mori = Jared Sorensen
Prospero = Clinton R. Nixon (man that takes me back)


Oh creepy- I have a near-perfect online doppelganger.

Here is some Actual Play to report on this hack (sorry about it being so long, it ran away with itself when I started writing it up).

For chuckles, I convinced my wife to play a quick Sorcerer one-shot over the weekend loosely derived from The Training Run in the Sorcerer MRB.  I made a couple of changes- a gender flip for Yvonne notably (made her into Ivan) and played him with the sex dialed to 11.  My wife is always ribbing me about there never being any sex in the games I run, so I figured I'd show her.

My wife has a lower ick-tollerence than I do, so I dialed back the nastiness a bit.  Ivan is more like the Goblin King from Labyrinth than a sicko transgressive moral gross-out- sort of a sexy evil bastard.  His stats are the same as Yvonne's, so no harm, no foul.  I dialed back Yzor's power to 9 because I only had one player, but Yzor is still Yzor though.  A great big demon-house that wants to eat you all up.

The single score hack involved some changes, and these are the ones I was keeping an eye on during play:

1) Demon ability fatigue is measured off Power (like everything else).  When ability uses exceed Power, the demon begins to suffer dice penalties.

2) Demon injury is also based on Power.  When a demon takes lasting penalties greater than twice its power, it goes up in a gooey poof of stink.  Big obviously modifies this.

3) Banish is VS (2 x Power).  

4) I noted Doyce's comments on how Punishing a demon into submission before Banishing might come into play (And I pointed it out when explaining the basics to my player) because I wanted to see how it would work.  It didn't actualy come up in play though (though one of the Spawn got punished).

5) For basic sorcery, you can summon up a demon with as much Power as you like, and as few Abilities, but the Demon's minimum Power is its number of Abilities +1.  Demons that don't have any kind of real physical presence obviously can't do physical things etc.  I played it by ear, and it wasn't an issue.

I won't bore you all with a breakdown on the actual role playing- suffice to say that was normal and enjoyable- but I'll hit on the incidents where the single-stat hack made a difference.  My wife had never played sorcerer before this BTW, so she wouldn't have noticed the differences anyway (but she also wasn't savvy to ways of taking advantage of the change, so YMMV).  I let her make up the Descriptors for her scores and then just added them to the list of acceptable descriptors- I wanted her to get exactly what she wanted.

Here is her character:

Dorothy Blue
Stamina 2 (Yoga Thin)
Will 5 (Zest for Life, Caustic)
Lore 3 (Coven)
Cover 5 (Singer/Songwriter)
Humanity 5
Price:  Sarcastic & Off-putting (-1 to many social interactions)
Telltale:  Occasional hints of movement in the tattoos covering her arms.

Her demon is a parasite called Skin- an ever-changing living tattoo.

Need:  To be stroked (preferable by other people- Dorothy spends a fortune on massages)
Desire: Sensation  
Power: 6
Abilities: Armor, Hint, Cloak, Confuse, Vitality
Binding: +1
Description:  Skin is a living tattoo that can extend itself to cover Dorothy's whole body, and if she strips her clothing off, blend in almost perfectly with the background (cloak).  It protects Dorothy with its Armor, and enhances her Vitality.  It can create swirling hypnotic patterns on her skin (the palm of her hand being a favorite place for covert effects) to Confuse a victim.  It's most terrible power is the ability to create awful images which reveal often mind-shattering insights.  

Dorothy's Kicker:  She got an invite through her Coven connections to play a gig at a private party in this huge old art deco monstrosity of a house.  The money was too good to refuse, so she rounded up her band mates and headed out in the van.  On the way up the drive, she could feel Skin squirming restlessly on her back...

High Points

During the initial battle of wills and wits with Ivan, Dorothy (having made him as a Sorcerer himself, and realizing she was trapped in the house, though not yet aware that the thing was a demon) matched her Will with Ivan's, and eventually ended up in the master bedroom (shedding clothing).  On her back, I gave her the chance to make a Lore check vs. 4 (3 plus Ivan's seduction victory) to notice the creepy ceiling (with Shaw's silently working, stretched out face in the corner of the room), which she did.  Talk about breaking the mood.  Ivan followed her eyes, made some creepy Humanity 1 comments, and when he turned around Dorothy hit him with Hint.  Power 6 vs. Will 5, with 2 Victories going to Skin.  Ivan failed the Humanity vs. Victories as well, so he took an extra die of long term penalty from the convulsions and fell over twitching and clutching at his eyes.  This was the first time I saw Hint used as an attack (I suggested it to my wife because of something I read in the Wiki 'official rulings').  At this point, Skin starts itching (Brat stage rebellion) because it was looking forward to having its need met, and had the prospect of some vigorous rubbing snatched away.  This didn't really have much to do with the rule hack, I just thought this scene was really cool.  The image of the seduced female character noticing something terrible and freaking out, then getting murdered or something is pretty common in movies and horror novels... seeing the seduced female notice and then lay the freak-out on the bloke was fun.  

Dorothy's first encounter with one of the Spawn demons (in the Second stage, and played like creepy 1920's fops) was very interesting.  I reminded my player that as a Sorcerer, she could work her mojo on any demon- not just Skin.  So she surprised me by having Dorothy pull off her shirt and command Skin to Confuse him and to keep doing it until she said quit.  Skin's 6 dice beat the spawn's 5 two rounds in a row, and the demon just stared, slack-jawed at the swirling patterns on Dorothy's torso.  In the next round, she laid a Punish on him (even odds at 5 vs. 5) and scored one victory, cutting his Power down to 4.  This freaked him out, broke the Confusion spell, and sent him shrieking into off to meld with the wall- the subtle pattern on his tie blending into the wallpaper.  

I was tracking Skin's Ability use throughout the whole session- when the two spawn attacked the guests openly, Dorothy had tapped Skin four times.  With only one stat, Skin's ability use tracked to Power automatically, and he was 2 away from suffering penalties.  Dorothy stripped down, and slipped into the art gallery (tapping Skin for the use of Cloak- at this point Skin knows what's going on, and wants OUT of this house), blending in.  The gallery was of course filled with Yzor's telltale art pieces, and Dorothy made the house for a demon finally (she had assumed the spawn were responsible for it all up until now).

Right on cue, the place starts to shake and rumble...almost like someone's stomach grumbling.  At this point, Yzor goes for Skin- the wall behind Dorothy hideously stretching, faint cracks in the plaster opening like a thousand spider eyes, and the edge where floor meets wall distorting open like a gaping mouth.  Yzor is still interested in using sorcerers as a takeout delivery service, but he wants to eat Skin in a bad way, and since Skin is a parasite...  Yzor is clearing going to try and rip Skin right off Dorothy's body (by attacking the Parasite demon directly).  Dorothy tries to shove one of the big creepy bone sculptures into the gaping mouth (+1 die for the good description) with her Stamina.  Skin tries to avoid the tongue with his power of 6.  Everyone rolls.  Skin gets 2 bonus dice for the pure defensive action, and manages to beat Yzor's attack.  Dorothy successfully shoves the sculpture into the mouth (vs. a Difficulty of 3 based on the thing's size and weight).  Yzor has to suck it up and rolls 1 die for defense, loosing by 2 Victories.  

He gags on the sculpture (I figure it would be like having someone shove your own crap in your mouth) and the mouth and eyes close up- his attention wanders to less troublesome morsels.  The parasite- rolling his full Power for this action- fared better than it might have done with a dialed back Stamina (or with a full-power Yzor...).  

At 5 Ability uses, Skin was in Need, freaked out about getting eaten, and generally pretty worked up when one of the Spawn jumped them coming down the big wide main staircase, his jaw hinging open freakishly wide, though the carnation on his lapel remained fresh and perfect.  Dorothy tried to get away (full defense) while he tried to bite her (normal attack), and he managed a single Victory- Dorothy took an immediate -1 and would have taken a lasting -6 were it not for Skin's Armor ability (I ruled that a demon bite was as close to pointy/stabby as makes no difference for the Armor ability... and I didn't want her to get killed on the stairs).

The spawn chomped her arm, but the Armor kicked in and She only took -1 immediately and -1 lasting.  Skin is now running on empty- he has used his Abilities 6 times, and further uses will begin to eat away at his Power.  Next round, Dorothy wants to distract the demon, then shove it down the stairs.  I took page from S&S for this one, and suggested she might use Lore to gain some tactical advantage over the Demon.  She throws Lore, trying to recall an old charm for briefly blinding a demon (vs. 3 dice of difficulty) and rolls 2 victories, which add 2 dice to her Stamina, and the toss down the stairs will make the damage Edged rather then Fists.  Skin is panicking, so I use his Confuse power without Dorothy commanding it.

The spawn is going for another bite O sweet sweet sorcerer.  Everyone rolls, and Skin's Confusion hits first (zapping the Demon's next action), and Dorothy's 2 dice would likely have failed, but the Spawn's attack is futzed, so it defends with only 1 die, and Dorothy beats it with 2 Victories- Total Victory.  I had fun describing the spawn's screaming pinwheel as it hurtled down the marble steps, to lie in a crumpled heap at the bottom, leaking unspeakable fluids.  A jagged mouth then opened up beneath it from the saw-tooth pattern of marble tile and swallowed him up.  Skin was down to Power 5.

A side note:  the first stage in combat where everyone hashes out that they want to do before dice or timing is considered works great for one-on-one sessions, better than many more mechanical systems.  I think it actually worked better for one-on-one than it works for normal group play.  Anyhow, back to the show.

OK, last stage.  Total chaos.  Guests are running around screaming, getting eaten by walls and floors, and the other sorcerers in the crowd are doing their level best to get out.  Demons are clawing at the doors, and generally freaking out.  Ivan stumbles down the stairs and begs Dorothy in stage whispers while seemingly menacing her with a kitchen knife (for Yzor's benefit) to join him- together they might be able banish Yzor, but first they must destroy Shaw's skin (and negate some of the Binding dice the demon is enjoying).  

Ivan is of course planning to screw Dorothy over (in lots of different ways) but I was pleased to see my wife wasn't about to believe his crap.  He suggested they grab some of the high-tes 200 proof booze as they pass the drinks table (a party, remember?) for some quick and dirty fire bombs.  Ivan calls out to Yzor "You can have her when I've finished with her!  Wait your turn you damned thing!" and such.  At this point it hits us both that Dorothy is still buck ass naked, and things disintegrate into a laughing fit.  

Upon recovery, they arrive in the room and Ivan puts the moves on heavy- but Dorothy wins this time round, and plays him rather than getting played (she's been down this road before).  While Ivan lights candles, Dorothy opens the bottles, and they both take one of each, and lob them at the ceiling.  To keep things easy, I just assume they break and splatter, and then they touch them off with the candles.  Whoosh!  The roof is one fire!  They both roll Stamina (with a couple of bonus dice) getting a total of 4 Victories (which will cancel the binding strength bonus Yzor enjoyed).  

At this point, the room begins to shake, mouths opening in the walls and floor, while burning droplets fall from the ceiling.  Yzor has figured out what's going on, and he's pissed about it.  Ivan screams for Dorothy to help him draw a protective circle for a defensive Contain (preventing Yzor from doing anything to them within the circle).   They mix their blood together in a bottle of whiskey and pour it in a circle around them.  Dorothy rolls Lore +1 die for the description -1 for her single lasting injury penalty vs. her Stamina of 2, and gets 3 Victories, which roll over as dice to Ivan's Lore (along with his 2 bonus dice) for a total Contain (Lore 5 + 5 bonus dice -1 for Ivan's injury) of 9 dice when Yzor challenges it.  Which it promptly does in a great thrashing of tongues and gnashing of wall-mouths... and fails to break the contain (by 1 victory).  Yzor is locked out.  But the room is still on fire...

How does an insane manipulative social user deal with this situation?  He starts a legalistic argument to convince Yzor to shed its old binding, and accept his, offering Dorothy and her demon as tasty treat.  Dorothy responds by physically attacking Ivan.  Yzor waits to see what these new developments will produce (but keeps up the pressure of thrashing and gnashing).  Ivan lumps it- defaulting to one die- and Dorothy lunges at him to try and shove him outside the circle, while screaming something especially cutting about his manhood (bonus die).  2 vs. 1, and manages 1 victory- Ivan totters on the edge of the Contain, and falls outside.  

Next round Yzor uses Hold to stick Ivan to the floor, Ivan tries to scramble back inside the contain, and Dorothy lays down a Will based argument- a basic, idiot-proof deal.  Reject the old binding, hook up with me, and I'll see to it you get the demons you need to eat- oh, and feel free to eat this chump as a small sample of what is to come.  Everyone rolls, Yzor's Hold hits first, and Ivan is stuck to the floor, almost entirely within the demon's power.  Dorothy rolls her 5 will (minus the injury penalty, plus 2 for role playing & a somewhat tempting offer) for 6 vs. Yzor's Power of 9.  I wrote the numbers down here.  Yzor rolled 10,8,7,6,5,3,3,3,1 and Dorothy got 10,10,9,5,5,3.  2 victories.  Yzor is sick of Ivan shit, and being bound with a steady supply of food might be nice again.  Next round, he eats Ivan (a 9 dice Special Damage attack vs. Ivan's 1 die proves pretty messy).  Dorothy fails her Humanity check, loosing a point of Humanity for sending another human being (even a nasty piece of work like Ivan) down into a demon's guts.  

So begins the formal binding process, which is based on Will vs. Power and to which circumstances & role playing add 4 dice (including the 2 from the Will roll to convince Yzor to go with it).    So 8 dice vs. 9 dice, which Yzor wins with 2 victories.  

So now Dorothy finds herself in (I use the term loosely) control of a big evil demon-eating house for whom she has to provide food...  it actually makes a pretty good Kicker for a later game.  Oh, and she's down 2 Humanity for her trouble and likely feeling wrung out and used.  

And that is pretty much a wrap.

I played pretty fast and loose with the time needed for Sorcerous actions, and I didn't see all the possible variations on how this one-stat rule hack might affect the Sorcerer ruleset in a more typical game.  My players also wasn't especially savvy to the game, or to RPG's in general, so she didn't try and milk some of the kinks this hack created.

Based on this entirely unscientific study though, I found the one-stat for demons to be pretty easy to deal with as GM, and pretty satisfactory in play.  It draws a shaper line between demons and regular folks.

It was a good time.


Ron Edwards

Oh yeah! Now this is what that scenario is supposed to do!

Quote... eventually ended up in the master bedroom (shedding clothing). On her back, I gave her the chance to make a Lore check vs. 4 (3 plus Ivan's seduction victory) to notice the creepy ceiling (with Shaw's silently working, stretched out face in the corner of the room), which she did. Talk about breaking the mood.

This kind of stuff always seems to happen when I run this scenario. Perhaps it's my mid-1990s fantasy of an amoral, sex-hungry sorceress played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

(I just had to stop typing for a moment to contemplate that image.)

Anyway, thanks for running the test, although I'm not sure it really means much without having a bunch of "non-bog-standard" demons around to compare (i.e. not SX, WX+1, LX, PX+1). I don't see any reason not to include your idea as a valid rules variant, with of course its limitations relative to the textual rules made clear.

It was great reading!



That little scenario is a diamond-solid place to jump things off.  I've never run it before, and just grabbed it because it was handy and easy to run on the fly- but it rocked in play.  I'm going to run it for a more normal group when I get the chance to see how they react to it... it sort of reminds of a twisted psychological experiment of the Prisoner's Dilemma sort...  

Yzor is just so awful powerful- he could pretty easily kill many PC's with a single attack.  With a more tactical group, I can see them setting up a group Banish within a protected Contain, then putting some hurt to him (perhaps by releasing gas from the kitchen stove and blowing up as much of the house as possible... this is what I might try if I were playing in this one).

If you ever want to write another Sorcerer book, I would love one of nothing but little three or four page firecracker scenarios like this one.



Thanks for the great read.  I've had a lot of trouble figuring out how to run this scenario for my group -- I just wasn't "getting it."  But reading this really helped me get a solid idea of where to go with the scenario.   I'm looking forward to our play, now.

Oh, and this:

QuoteIf you ever want to write another Sorcerer book, I would love one of nothing but little three or four page firecracker scenarios like this one.

is a really cool idea.