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Author Topic: Sorcerer & Sword?  (Read 12055 times)
Paganini
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« on: January 16, 2002, 09:19:06 PM »

The Premise of Sorcerer doesn't really grab me... nothing personal, I'm just not interested in playing a guy who rules demons. Still, I've been thinking about getting it, just for the system and design insight that it contains.

The question is, what is Sorcerer & Sword? Does it contain a different Premise? That is, if I got both books, would I then have a game that I'd actually want to run, instead of just study for educational value? (Assuming the Premise os S&S is one that appeals to me...)
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Ben Morgan
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2002, 09:25:26 PM »

Sword is a way to use the basic mechanics of Sorcerer and use them in a pulp fantasy setting (as opposed to modern fantasy, which is what D&D purports to emulate). It's also a damn fine read.
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2002, 11:10:13 PM »

Paganini,

If you like the pulp fantasy fiction, you'll probably find something of value in S&S.  You don't have to play a guy who controls Demons, although the rules for handling Demons are still in effect for a variety of reasons (Ron explains why Conan is a sorcerer by Sorcerer's logic).

I don't if you'd play it or not, but if the subject matter interests you, you'd be hard pressed to find a better discussion of it anywhere.

- Scott
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contracycle
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2002, 03:55:01 AM »

My answer: No.
On the other hand, its probably interesting enough that if you can you should buy it anyway.

I have not been happy with the barbarian-warrior-as-sorcerer motif that Ron employs. I take the point, that characters like Conan routinely interact with the supernatural, but I cannot visualise it working for what amounts to an all-warrior group; there simply is not enough mechanical differentiation available for non-sorcerers.

This does not mean I think it could not be done, but I don't think I could employ the system as writ for an FRPG.  Possibly mechanically expanding Covers/Pasts would do the trick, but I doubt it.
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Paganini
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2002, 07:44:26 AM »

Quote from: hardcoremoose

If you like the pulp fantasy fiction, you'll probably find something of value in S&S.  You don't have to play a guy who controls Demons, although the rules for handling Demons are still in effect for a variety of reasons (Ron explains why Conan is a sorcerer by Sorcerer's logic).


I was hoping it'd be something like that. The name suggests the sword and  sorcery genre, but I wasn't sure, and I couldn't find a review. I guess I'm going to have to reserve part of my next paycheck for it. :)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2002, 07:49:59 AM »

Hello,

The Premise of Sorcerer and Sword shifts away from that of the primary game to some extent, or rather, to an adjustable extent for different groups.

If you want to get really technical, the Premise is, "How does the alienated person act as a hero?" Read Camus' The Plague, then read Howard's Beyond the Black River, and you're reading the same story, at this level of analysis.

More concretely or emotionally speaking, the Premise is, "What does, or can, a certified cool-ass, bad-ass do?" (This actually turns the intellectual version of the Premise on its head; it's not a paraphrase but a reversal.) To address it, one needs "stuff" to get involved in, and that stuff needs to be extreme, fantastical, and demanding, overwhelmingly so.

And then, to take it to the source material, the Premise is, "You say, your outlook/character rocks? Prove it."

I don't see what Gareth's point about one small option of play (a protagonist without overt sorcerous priorities) has to do with the issue. I also don't see why the traditional "group adventure fantasy" of role-playing should be brought into the picture as any kind of priority at all.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2002, 08:38:02 AM »

Two comments, directed towards Nathan and Gareth, in that order:

Sorcerer's Premise is not "guys ruling demons"...that's fluff, filler, special effects...Sorcerer's premise is "What would YOU do with ultimate power?" and "How far would you go to get the job done?  What would you DO?"
That's the premise.
(and Ron can bitch-slap me if I'm wrong)

Demons are a story detail, and story details don't equate premise as far as I am aware.

In fact, the game doesn't have to include demons/ghosts/spirits or anything of the sort!  And it will still be Sorcerer!  WTF?!

Yep.  Check out Jared's supplement, Schism for an excellent example of this.  Or you can wait around until I get my butt in gear and finish my high-fantasy supplement for Sorcerer for another example of Sorcerer without demons.
Sorcerer & Sword also includes some ideas along these lines.

Now, on to Gareth's comment:
I have the feeling that Gareth didn't read S&S too deeply (if he read it at all, I'm assuming he did), because he missed the fixes to all the "problems" he brought up and dislikes he had.

But that's the problem, if you just glance at Sorcerer or Sorcerer & Sword, it might seem to be very obvious what each is all about.  However, unlike most role-playing games, Sorcerer is much deeper than the surface of the thing, as is the supplement.
Sorcerer isn't about sorcerers controlling demons.
Sorcerer & Sword isn't about swinging swords and controlling demons.

The unfortunate thing is that the majority of gamers are conditioned to accept shallow games that are entirely what they appear to be at first glance.
Sorcerer, in contrast, requires actual in-depth reading of the material to really get at the heart of the game and what you can do with it/what it is about.

Back to the point: non-sorcerer fighter-types.
We're talking an age of superstition -- and humans are superstitious creatures, even today, even if most of us don't admit it to ourselves -- wherein science and technology are not words anyone knows or even cares to know.

They know that if you sneeze, you let demons into your head, and you need to bless someone who does so quick to prevent this from happening.
They know that the stars tell the future.
They know that black cats are simply bad luck.
Or perhaps they know none of that and have completely different superstitions...the point is that even non-Sorcerers know this stuff, and what's scary is that some of it is real.

So your illiterate barbarian warrior isn't a sorcerer?  Fine.  He still believes that if he doesn't call out to Crom during battle, his people's gods will become angry with him.  And maybe it's true...

(the demon here provides "Boost", perhaps...with a Need for being called upon, and a Desire for battle)

So your shining knight isn't a sorcerer?  Fine.  He still knows that the Fey folk live in mounds in the forest, that the only way to survive a meeting with them is to trick them or give them gold, and that they fear cold iron.

(this is an example of Contact or Summoning, Binding/Pacting maybe Banishing and Banishing or Punishment).

And heck, we all know that knights are devoted to the Church, servants of God and so forth...how about running a knight out on the Crusades?
His demon is his faith, his devotion to God and Christ...he prays, God protects him, provides him with the power to vanquish the infidels, he slaughters infidels, prays and fasts, and takes back the Holy Land.

You see, the term "demon" doesn't (have to) mean "demon."  Your character doesn't need to be a wicked, black-robes billowing, ego-maniacal, going to rule the world, pasty-skinned summoner-of-things-from-the-black-pits, knower-of-things-best-forgotten sorcerer cliche.

You can easily play a campaign dealing with "fighter-types" who are, for all intents and purposes mechanically, sorcerers.
Tie it into the theme!

You grow up in the Black Forest, where everyone knows about the things out in the woods.  You aren't a sorcerer, you don't consort with the things, but you do know what keeps them happy, what keeps them at bay, what some of the friendly ones do around the house if kept happy.

So the game revolves around interactions and encounters with the denizens of the wood.
You can defeat the Fey prince in the barrow-mounds because you're the one there dealing with him(it); that's the story...how you deal with the Fey (demons) of the story.

This is how folks lived in the past in our real world: the world was filled with spirits and sprites and other such things; they were as real as the rocks and trees...dangerous, fathomless, cruel or kind...but real, and Lore can be interpreted as simply this knowledge passed on generation by generation...it might not all be correct, it might not all work (or work entirely correctly).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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contracycle
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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2002, 09:00:02 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

I don't see what Gareth's point about one small option of play (a protagonist without overt sorcerous priorities) has to do with the issue. I
Quote


It all depends on what you want to use it for.

Quote

also don't see why the traditional "group adventure fantasy" of role-playing should be brought into the picture as any kind of priority at all.


Because I like it.

There is, in effect, a lot of hype about S&S being almost a replacement for what has been described as "modern FRPG" (as opposed pulp).  It is not.  It is aimed at a totally different function, and thus I feel it fair to challenge said hype and point that out.  If it WAS intended to do that, it failed IMO.  In fact to some extent I feel the effort was misplaced; having picked up some of Howards work for comparison, I was struck by the huge gulf that does indeed exist between what he does and trad modern FRPG; its a lot pacier, for one thing.  On the other hand, I think that trying to tackle Howards oevre from a sorcerous perspective, with the weight of the mechanics on magic, demons and the like, was a mistake.  The swords are much more important than the sorcery, IMO, and that is where the emphasis should have been placed.  It is fair to say that you COULD run a naif sorceror in this environment, but the game remains heavily, heavily magic-oriented.  Not really surprising; but IMO a mature game needs a wider variety of positive roles.  In base Sorcerer, this is OK because it is really the Lore stat that gives the PC their PC'ness - the Pc is Pc by definition of being a sorcerer, you get all your hidden world stuff, all well and good.  Thats because its the sorcery that is novel, fantastic, in the modern day.  But by definition, it is NOT novel and fantastic in the sword & sorcery environment.  There is no cachet of the hidden world.

Thus, I don't think Sword even remotely challenges the existing dynamic of FRPG; it is aimed somewhere totally different, somewhere like Ars Magica.  But this means that the Premise has not changed a jot - it is not a Howardesque approach to fantasy at all, but merely the back-projection of Sorcerer.  Anyone who was not grabbed by the Premise of sorcerer is not going to be grabbed by the Premise of Sword.  I'm afraid I was totally unconvinced by the naif sorcerer demon concept - smacks far too much of rationalising a character concept into the mechanical strictures.  I am simply not interested in a travelling menagerie of supernatural pets for the PC's.

So, maybe my style of play is not suitable for Sword.  But I have reason to suspect that Nathans is not either, and I fear that with some of the hype he will feel that he has been sold a pig in a poke.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2002, 09:10:03 AM »

Quote from: contracycle

There is, in effect, a lot of hype about S&S being almost a replacement for what has been described as "modern FRPG" (as opposed pulp).


Really? Where? I'm not trying to be too sarcastic, but I've never, ever heard this anywhere, and it's certainly not how Ron advertised it. To be honest - and this isn't a bad thing - I'm not certain there's a lot of hype at all about Sorcerer or Sorcerer & Sword. Hype's the sort of thing reserved for fluff-ass commercial games that tend to be all bark and no bite.

Quote

On the other hand, I think that trying to tackle Howards oevre from a sorcerous perspective, with the weight of the mechanics on magic, demons and the like, was a mistake.  The swords are much more important than the sorcery, IMO, and that is where the emphasis should have been placed.


I'll have to disagree with this. The emotions are much more important than any other part of the source literature (which spreads beyond Howard), and emotions are what Sorcerer's really about - not literal demons. Conan proves himself time and time again to be a just-above-average swordsman, really. He makes mistakes and loses fights. But - he gets nigh well pissed off, and then takes control in just about every story.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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greyorm
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2002, 09:13:23 AM »

Quote
Not really surprising; but IMO a mature game needs a wider variety of positive roles.

Again, I hasten to point out that there is a great deal of room for positive, non-sorcerer roles (and by this I do not mean Lore 0 characters, but rather characters who are of not of the stereotypical breed of sorcerers in literature).

As for Nathan being sold a pig-in-a-poke, the book has value far beyond that of a Sorcerer supplement.  I am currently utilizing a number of ideas from it -- non mechanical ones -- in my 3rd Edition D&D game.
The essays on game design and current practices are also extremely valuable even outside of the context of Sorcerer.

Again, I personally feel you've failed to grasp S&S and have instead concentrated far too heavily on the cliched concpet of a black-robed sorcerer, or contrasted it with that of a naive sorcerer who knows sorcery but doesn't know that he knows.

As shown in my other post, there are numerous permutations of standard character types which can be accounted for and run under the Sorcerer rules, none of which have to be either naive sorcerers or full-blown black robed baddies (or half-demon freaks, for that matter).

S&S requires a bit more in-depth reading and critical thinking than does D&D, Rifts, Mythus, GURPs or other games of that ilk...which are simply collections of rules for playing in a particular way or world, and require nothing more than absorbtion of the information.

That is where Sorcerer and S&S differ...the material does not need to merely be absorbed, then regurgitated at a later date.  It must be actively grasped and shaped by the players, you must do something more with it than simply know it.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2002, 09:45:17 AM »

Quote from: greyorm

Demons are a story detail, and story details don't equate premise as far as I am aware.


I have suggested previously this is itself an error.  What is a "demon"?  The fact is that this term has been chose precsiely because of its connotations, its implications - and they DO inform the Premise.  The question about power certainly makes sense in the light of actual demons - but as soon as you move out of that arena, you end up trying to apply a set of mechanics which themselves rest on the demonic premise in an environment which does not.  This requires huge rationalisation - troo much IMO.

Quote

In fact, the game doesn't have to include demons/ghosts/spirits or anything of the sort!  And it will still be Sorcerer!  WTF?!


At which point you have to completely re-rationalise - in effect, re-write - the rules to reflect that new siuation.

Quote

I have the feeling that Gareth didn't read S&S too deeply (if he read it at all, I'm assuming he did),


Thank you for patronising, your custom is appreciated.


Quote

unlike most role-playing games, Sorcerer is much deeper than the surface of the thing, as is the supplement.


I'm sorry, but at this point I have to put on my panto hat and go "whoooooooooo!"

Quote

Or perhaps they know none of that and have completely different superstitions...the point is that even non-Sorcerers know this stuff, and what's scary is that some of it is real.


Faire enough.  The major axis of chaarcter power is still control over demons.  The point is that a character without a pet demon is at a substantial mechanical disadvantage and will continually play seocnd fiddle.  And the kludge around this is the travelling menagerie.

Quote

So your illiterate barbarian warrior isn't a sorcerer?  Fine.  He still believes that if he doesn't call out to Crom during battle, his people's gods will become angry with him.  And maybe it's true...

(the demon here provides "Boost", perhaps...with a Need for being called upon, and a Desire for battle)


And so does your warrior Bind Crom?  Of what value is the relationhsip between Crom and the warrior if defined in such a functional manner?

Quote

You can easily play a campaign dealing with "fighter-types" who are, for all intents and purposes mechanically, sorcerers.
Tie it into the theme!


It's not that I don't get it, I just don't buy it.  Yes, its an elegant rationalisation, and I am not saying it does not work on its own terms.  But I remain unconvinced that it is any sense a significant threat to the existing conventions and structure of FRPG - the mental gymnastics required appear to me to eactly produce the phonmenone where the game being played is not the game as written.
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contracycle
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2002, 09:52:18 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

not literal demons. Conan proves himself time and time again to be a just-above-average swordsman, really. He makes mistakes and loses fights. But - he gets nigh well pissed off, and then takes control in just about every story.


Isn't it a pity, then, that none of that sort of behaviour is mechanicially supported?  No more than any other system with a resolution mechanic.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2002, 10:17:14 AM »

I think it is mechanically supported. The currency system allows for multiple rolls to increase the success of an action. For example, my hero Yarl has been beat down over and over. He's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore. I announce, "Yarl yells at the top of his lungs, trying to intimidate the snake-skinned bastard, and leaps at him, sword forward."

This would be a Will vs. Will roll for the yelling and scaring and whatnot. All successes I got here would immediately roll into a Stamina vs. Stamina roll for the attack, increasing my chance of success for being angry.

The rules specifically state that the GM should award bonuses for good descriptions in actions, to include descriptions of emotional state and purpose when performing actions, adding on to this further.

Sorcerer and Sword brings in a new rule where a PC can add bonuses to his actions by making a declaration of his will. The text used in the book is from a source I haven't read (and can't currently remember) but Yarl, for example, could say, "I'll not be defeated by the soldier of a pagan god, not while I stand on the ground of the good people of Yassara!" Instant bonus to combat actions.

Lastly, in Sorcerer, a character whose Stamina has dropped to 0 can make a Will roll to use his entire Stamina pool (or a portion thereof), even though he's been quite damaged. Non-PC's can't do this - the explanation is that sorcerers (PCs) have a will of iron, able to launch them back into the fray. This is a direct example of emotion overcoming physical adversity. You can beat Yarl down to a bloody pulp. You should defeat him. Instead, I can state my goal in life, describe my action in visceral emotional detail, roll my Will roll successfully, and leap up from the ground, my anger fueling me to strike you down successfully.

It's all right there in the mechanics, actually.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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jburneko
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« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2002, 10:54:06 AM »

Actually, if you're looking for gaming insight then I would say get all three of the books.  Together they will blow your mind and they really do work in concert.

If you *HAD* to get only one for pure insight only, I'd say get Sorcerer & Sword and read Chapter 7.  It's all about Chapter 7.  Did I say I really like Chapter 7?  Chapter 7 rules.

Chapter 4 in Sorcerer is cool too.  But Chapter 7 in Sorcerer and Sword does Chapter 4 in Sorcerer better.

Jesse
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contracycle
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« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2002, 11:12:08 AM »

Quote from: Clinton R Nixon

It's all right there in the mechanics, actually.


It is indeed, as it is in many other forms of resolution mechanic.  The point is that the primary axis of character power is still control over demons, and that may not be appropriate to a given character concept.  That player is just stuffed.  So maybe this is not the right kind of ruleset for that kind of player, and the kind of game they like to play.  I think giving fair warning of this is valid; Nathan asked "does Sword have a different premise", ansd I think the answer is No.  If he didn't bite at Sorcerer, I see no reason to expect that he will bite at Sword.
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