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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Session Prep - The Party  (Read 7915 times)
Yokiboy
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« on: September 15, 2004, 05:04:18 AM »

Hello,

I've been away from the boards for a while, pursuing my other hobby of Texas Hold'Em Poker, but now I'm back trying to wrap up the prep work for my first Sorcerer session.

You can get more details on my game, including PC listings, in my previous post.


Look & Feel
It’s 1999 and we’re in NYC, right in the midst of the Millennium chaos and the Y2K bug scare. A quick-paced hustle and bustle setting, where the city truly never sleeps, and people have very little time to get to know each other, or perhaps it’s a lack of desire... There is an evident sense of loneliness hanging over the city.


Premise
How far will you go to get what you want?


Humanity
Trust (Faith and Hope)
Your trust in mankind and your overall trustworthiness. Represents your ability to gain people's trust and how much you trust others (Humanity vs Humanity persuasion rolls). Also used as a resolution for "dare" type situations (Will vs Humanity) and when trying to trust your instincts (Humanity vs Will). It is very much a social attribute, and a low Humanity person gives of bad vibes (Humanity vs Humanity perception roll).

Gain Rolls:
* Leaping into a precarious situation displaying blind faith
* Displaying virtues of empathy, by trusting people to be equally good
* Building trusting, personal relationships by earning a person's trust
* The character trusts a situation and/or person(s) when the player accurately suspects a setup or trap of some sort

Loss Checks:
* Using people for personal gain
* Causing conflict, alienation or grief
* Breaking up personal relationships
* Out-right refusal to trust a person or situation
* Causing someone to lose trust in you or mankind in general

At Humanity 0 you are a sociopath, and become an imminent demon.


Demons
Demons attempt to sow mistrust among people and feed on the anguish and anxiety this leads to. The ultimate goal is to cause conflict, if they can start a war that's all the better! Demons accomplish this by challenging people's trust in each other; Power represents the strength of that challenge. They tempt you to behave in an untrustworthy manner and subvert your commands to further alienate and estrange you from the rest of mankind.

In their natural form (as when contacted), a demon looks like the typical dark fantasy hell-beasts displayed in most RPG monster books. That means they are boney, spiny, spiky, obese, disgusting, puss-dripping, smelly, and utterly horrible beings.

Desires:
Causing conflict, power, vilification, alienation, sowing mistrust, anguish, anxiety, etc…

Needs:
Random violence, mayhem, slaughter, scaring people, binges, wicked habits, etc…


Sorcery
Sorcerous Thinking:
Revolves around the power of one! Singularity is the key. Alienation, paranoia and schizophrenia all empower a sorcerer. "Avoid that there ole hermit on yonder hill at all cost!"

Lore:
Is defined as one's ability to not trust anything or anyone, especially not accepted facts about the way things are, or are supposed to be. The key phrase is; Don't Trust Reality!


Rituals
Rituals are based on alienation and vilification, starting conflict, opposing/disbelieving reality, and self-mutilation (proving that you cannot even trust yourself - with Russian roulette type situations providing solid bonuses).

Contacting (Lore vs Power):
Videodrome-like effects such as reaching into a TV or yourself, and walking through mirrors; i.e. not trusting your instincts. Isolation, such as locking yourself into a small, confined space.

Summoning (Will – Humanity vs Power):
Causing a conflict in scale with the desired demon's Power. Self-mutilation in a manner no sane human would ever consider, in other words, proving that you cannot even trust yourself.

Bind ([appropriate score] vs Will):
Meeting the Need or Desire of the demon at this stage is very appropriate, and promises of future "feedings" are in line. Somehow show that your trust lies with the demon, and not yourself and your associates, perhaps by blatantly breaking the trust of a loved one, in order to complete the binding, if this can be accomplished while satisfying the Demon’s need or desire, all the better!

Punish (Will vs Stamina):
Displaying a strong faith and trust in one's own abilities without the demon.

Banish (Will + Humanity vs Power + Will):
Accepting reality according to known fact and disbelieving the demon, and doing so under your own power, proving that you trust your own abilities

Contain (Lore vs Power):
Contains can be used to keep demons out of a given area, as well as the regular effect of keeping a demon locked up and constrained. Mystical symbology, pentagrams and magical circles used in combination with candles, silver dust, fine sand, rose petals, etc. make up the actual containment area. Containment can easily be negated by even common, everyday folks (by simply erasing the symbols).

Command (Will – Humanity + Lore vs Will):
Not actually a ritual, but highly impacted by your Humanity and Lore scores (notice the non-standard mechanics). A failed roll irks Demons just as much as being pushed around, as it proves that their manipulation hasn’t paid off yet, and the Sorcerer has too much faith in his own abilities and humanity.


Descriptors and Covers
[Will probably use the standard ones for the purposes of the Training Run.]


Inspiration
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982):
For the paranoia, mistrust, fear, and obviously the coolest parasite demon ever!

Twin Peaks (1990 TV):
Demons, drugs, weird characters all in a normal picket fence community. Who knows what hides behind those picturesque picket fences? Agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Truman are forced to trust and rely on each other, and the few times they don't they are forced to pay the consequences. It is also a great tale of mistrust and lecture in not trusting your instincts, plus Bob the possessor demon is fantastic! "Things are not what they seem."

The Silence of the Lambs (1991):
Clarice Starling is forced to trust Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and you can clearly witness her personal Humanity vs Will struggle in order to do so. Lots of discomfort, on several levels.

Dark City (1998):
Where "man has no past... and humanity has no future." Lots of passing demons lusting for souls in this one, and a nightmarish city where you cannot trust anything!

The Truman Show (1998):
A great story of being used, and not knowing who to trust.


I am not so happy with the Sorcerous Thinking part, being somewhat more satisfied with the Lore definition. I would love hearing some feedback, options, and ideas for revisions.

I am heavily into REH's Conan right now, as I'm re-reading all the original stories, and magic without mesmerism feels just wrong (currently in the middle of People of the Black Circle). I think I have to add some sort of mind control power to the list of demon abilities, but I guess that can wait until I try Sorcerer & Sword.

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2004, 05:53:26 AM »

Hi Yokiboy,

Excellent!! This writeup and basic premise is spot-on classic Sorcerer - exactly the mind-set I was in when I wrote and playtested the game. I could not possibly ask for a better application of Chapters 4 and 7 in the core book. This is exactly at the point where you can turn it over to the group as a whole (including yourself) and watch the best possible player-characters emerge.

Here are some specific suggestions.

Quote
Using people for personal gain


I suggest this is too ambiguous and needs something like "Abusing" rather than "using." In fact, this item might be scrapped, as most of what you're implying by "using," as far as I can tell, is accounted for in the other items.

Quote
In their natural form (as when contacted), a demon looks like the typical dark fantasy hell-beasts displayed in most RPG monster books. That means they are boney, spiny, spiky, obese, disgusting, puss-dripping, smelly, and utterly horrible beings.


I cannot recommend the RPG Obsidian and especially its supplement about the Zone too highly for inspirational imagery and even whole-cloth lifting. The demon creation rules 'port to Sorcerer very, very nicely; the primary author is Dav Harnish. Another good source for imagery and nifty ideas are the two Demons books from Mayfair back in the 1980s (Demons, Demons II), by Mike Nystul - you can usually find these for half-price at the larger game stores.

I suggest that the demons' Needs be highly specific, concrete, and short-term acts, to make it clear that Needs are like drug fixes and Desires are like ideologies or philosophies. That seems to have been chronically misunderstood.

Your Sorcerous Thinking section reads a little bit too much like Humanity Loss - I'd describe that paragraph more as Sorcerous Thinking Going Amok. Clearly the sorcerer with any hope of protagonist status values something, trusts it wholly, and would fight to preserve the integrity of its "reality." I suggest that the baseline sorcerer thinking relies on recognizing how much lying and abuse goes on in "normal life," and hence doesn't mind making use of these things for what the sorcerer considers higher purposes.

Regarding Mind Control - you already have it in the demon abilities! Given your definition of Humanity and your description of 0 Humanity, Taint already fills the bill without modification. Taint can bring Humanity to 0, and when that happens, the character's control shifts to the GM (for NPC purposes, just split yourself into two GMs, one who plays the character and one who oversees the rules and plays the demons). That character then acts as a demon would, or rather, as a demonic version of the character would modified by the influence of the Tainting demon. Very simple!

Best,
Ron
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2004, 04:41:58 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Excellent!! This writeup and basic premise is spot-on classic Sorcerer - exactly the mind-set I was in when I wrote and playtested the game. I could not possibly ask for a better application of Chapters 4 and 7 in the core book. This is exactly at the point where you can turn it over to the group as a whole (including yourself) and watch the best possible player-characters emerge.

Well thanks! I feel so much better about the writeup now and will show it to my trio of players at the earliest opportunity.

Quote from: Yokiboy
Using people for personal gain

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I suggest this is too ambiguous and needs something like "Abusing" rather than "using." In fact, this item might be scrapped, as most of what you're implying by "using," as far as I can tell, is accounted for in the other items.

Consider it dropped (as a bonus this evens out the Gains/Losses examples to four apiece), as you're quite right.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I cannot recommend the RPG Obsidian and especially its supplement about the Zone too highly for inspirational imagery and even whole-cloth lifting. The demon creation rules 'port to Sorcerer very, very nicely; the primary author is Dav Harnish. Another good source for imagery and nifty ideas are the two Demons books from Mayfair back in the 1980s (Demons, Demons II), by Mike Nystul - you can usually find these for half-price at the larger game stores.

One can never have enough RPG books, so thanks for the tips. I have not seen or heard anything regarding Obsidian, but noticed you're reviewed it, so I will look into it.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I suggest that the demons' Needs be highly specific, concrete, and short-term acts, to make it clear that Needs are like drug fixes and Desires are like ideologies or philosophies. That seems to have been chronically misunderstood.

Yeah I had failed to really see the distinction between the two, I will go back over my list of Needs and Desires. Btw, are you considering a new edition of the game at any time, or perhaps a Sorcerer compilation including source materials from all the supplements?

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Your Sorcerous Thinking section reads a little bit too much like Humanity Loss - I'd describe that paragraph more as Sorcerous Thinking Going Amok. Clearly the sorcerer with any hope of protagonist status values something, trusts it wholly, and would fight to preserve the integrity of its "reality." I suggest that the baseline sorcerer thinking relies on recognizing how much lying and abuse goes on in "normal life," and hence doesn't mind making use of these things for what the sorcerer considers higher purposes.

Thanks, this is the type of feedback I needed. I can turn this into something that I will enjoy, I wasn't that happy with it as written.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Regarding Mind Control - you already have it in the demon abilities! Given your definition of Humanity and your description of 0 Humanity, Taint already fills the bill without modification. Taint can bring Humanity to 0, and when that happens, the character's control shifts to the GM (for NPC purposes, just split yourself into two GMs, one who plays the character and one who oversees the rules and plays the demons). That character then acts as a demon would, or rather, as a demonic version of the character would modified by the influence of the Tainting demon. Very simple!

That use of Taint didn't even enter my mind yet, I really must playtest Sorcerer at the earliest! This will go quite well with my vision of Demons preying on humans with low Humanity.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2004, 04:45:27 AM »

Hello,

I'll look forward to seeing what your players do with this.

Quote
Btw, are you considering a new edition of the game at any time, or perhaps a Sorcerer compilation including source materials from all the supplements?


No. The best person to explain why not is Ralph (Valamir), so perhaps he'll drop in soon.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2004, 04:50:57 AM »

Here's a quote from another thread in which I explain Desire and Need.

Quote
A demon's Desire is not associated with any specific thing, place, or action. Instead, it tries to bring about its Desire with whatever it encounters. Whether it does the Desire itself, influences others to do it, or simply wants to be around that particular Desire in action, is up to the demon at the moment - any of these are fine.

It does not crave its Desire in a drug-sense. It likes its Desire and thinks the whole world ought to tend that way, and might need a little help to get there. If the demon is a conversational type, then it will always bring a dialogue around to its Desire somehow.

The demon's Binder is not responsible for satisfying its Desire and Binding strength is not affected by how much the demon is getting its Desire stroked. Doing things in accord with the Desire might give a bonus die to interactions, but again, that's not a matter of Binding strength. Failing to satisfy a Desire does not incur penalties to interaction or ritual rolls, nor will it lead a demon down the path of rebellion. A demon will not lose Power by missing out on its Desire as it will with its Need.

A Need, by contrast, is for a specific thing or an action. There is no ambiguity, ever, about whether the demon received its Need and when the last time was. The demon may like its Need, hate it, or regard it as a physiological necessity. What matters is that it's literally addicted to it.

Binding by definition makes the Binder responsible for providing the demon with its Need. Both participants understand this in full, for any and every instance of Binding, even if the sorcerer is Naive. Failure to receive its Need makes the demon lose Power, just as a Parasite or Possessor loses Power when outside a host. Under-supplying or frequently-supplying the Need does affect Binding strength and the demon's tendency to rebel or not to rebel.

Desire is ideology, personality, taste, and preference. Need is addiction, payment, and power.


Best,
Ron
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2004, 05:56:19 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
No. The best person to explain why not is Ralph (Valamir), so perhaps he'll drop in soon.

I think I understand why a small press publisher has a hard time doing compilations and revisions. I find it sad though, as Sorcerer seems to be such a fantastic game, yet very hard to grasp and get into without reading, and re-reading all the source materials, and then doing further research.

But if Ralph wants to fill me in on why that would be appreciated.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Valamir
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2004, 06:44:46 AM »

Quote from: Yokiboy

But if Ralph wants to fill me in on why that would be appreciated.

TTFN,

Yoki


I think he meant that as a joke since I've been pushing him to do a Sorcerer 2nd edition for what...2 years now...

Basically it comes down to two different philosophies for writing game text.

Me, I want to make the text as clear as I can and walk players through it very carefully so when they're done they'll know exactly how to play and where to look for all of the nuances.

Ron, being an educator, believes that the best way for people to learn is for them to figure out the answers for themselves.  So he provides only the few tantalizing hints, subtle implications, and topics for further thought and allows the player to do their own home work.

Me, when I have an important point to make, I make it, generally several times in several different places with the text based equivelent of giant neon arrows that say "pay attention to this, this part is crucial".

Ron...well Ron will bury extraordinary profound ideas that have enormous impact on game play deep in the middle of an otherwise innocuous paragraph.  Many people who are used to skimming through a rule book just reading the highlights will miss alot.  With Ron its part of his assigned homework that you will carefully read and internalize every single word in the book.

Which, is probably the best advice for using the book to new players I can give.  Read every word in there.  Don't assume or imply anything more than what is written.  And after you've read the whole book in order, go back and read the key points (Humanity, Demons, Dice Mechanics) carefully 3 times.

We go around and around in this dance at fairly regular intervals.

Personally, I think he's wrong.  And if I were his line editor I'd take his text and rewrite the hell out of it.  Which, of course, is the key advantage of being indie.  He doesn't have a line editor mucking around in his game and can write it exactly the way he wants and tell me to Fuck Off.  Which he routinely does in that sly Ron Edwards way where he doesn't actually have to use those words to convey that message.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2004, 07:10:10 AM »

Thank you, Ralph.

I'd put it a little differently ...

As I see it, the Sorcerer text has generated massive cries of "why didn't you say that??" ... but the weird thing is, each person cries out about something different.

It's as if I'd written a role-playing game which touched upon every possible dysfunctional bear-trap in role-playing, at least for the frustrated and bewildered would-be Narrativist-tending person. Since every such person has come up with his or her own solutions to most of these bear-traps, most of the Sorcerer text reads like a breath of fresh air to them - except for that bit over here.

And for every single person, that "bit" is a different bit.

Person 1 thinks conflict resolution is the most amazing thing ever, the clearest and simplest possible prose, and I get an email ravaing about it or an Actual Play account in which everyone internalized the procedure without a hitch. But they totally fuck up the Humanity rules, for instance applying victories against a failed Humanity check as how much Humanity is lost (instead of just 1).

Person 2 nails Humanity, Kickers, and the improvement system instantly. And they muddle through resolution pretty well ... but demon abilities? Gah! Terrible! Makes no sense! Why are these here? (Oh, and split this person into two subtypes: the one who wants two or three demon abilities like Fight, Know, and Other; and the one who wants eighty highly-defined and highly-detailed separate in-game effects.)

Person 3 ... etc.

You see, it's not a matter of the book not being clear, although there are plenty of spots I'd like to fix and brush up a little. It's a matter of a weird kind of Rorschach test going on, identifying which features of System a given person or group simply hasn't managed to process that they need to do differently, if they want to play Story Now.

Most folks are pretty easy to deal with individually, as it's merely a matter of asking the right questions to discover what was a weird gray void in their minds. As soon as Ben (Bailywolf) figured out that Descriptors are a set, limited, customized group of terms rather than being an open-ended "oh describe it" like Over the Edge, his posts and suggestions stopped being an ADD-spew of anime-tropes and started being one of our most valuable resources here. He's just one example of many - each with his or her own "little thing" to iron out.

White Wolf veterans are the worst off - they have a very clear notion of how acting, dice-rolling, character creation, and in-game decisions are supposed to interrelate, and at every single step, Sorcerer takes an almost diametrically-opposed approach. Almost as tough are the folks like Ralph, who for a period were highly committed to the idea that if you just accounted for every single last little in-game physical detail through System, then Story would finally "just appear."

Anyway. It's not only a matter of me forcing people to work stuff out for themselves. It's more that I think writing a text that is supposed to help anyone get Sorcerer will only produce a bloated monster which, in application, will lead everyone to be disgruntled with most of the text, as they will perceive it to be overdone and unnecessary.

Best,
Ron
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2004, 01:55:38 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Anyway. It's not only a matter of me forcing people to work stuff out for themselves. It's more that I think writing a text that is supposed to help anyone get Sorcerer will only produce a bloated monster which, in application, will lead everyone to be disgruntled with most of the text, as they will perceive it to be overdone and unnecessary.

Ron, I feel almost apologetic as I must side with Ralph, but how about releasing a mini-supplement for old jaded gamers and simulationists so they to can get into Sorcerer if they'd like to see what it's all about?

TTFN,

Yokiboy
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2004, 02:06:38 PM »

Hiya,

Sounds good, but I don't "release" mini-supplements ... other people do. Anyone feels like writing this thing, they can.

Best,
Ron
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Doyce
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2004, 09:19:41 PM »

This is usually the point where I jump in and site-whore the compilation of Sorcerer-related clarifications & insights that I wiki together: http://random.average-bear.com/Sorcerer/HomePage

So... hey, look, I just did.  It's not 100% complete, by any means, but it does address a lot of topics from many of the Sorcerer texts, and it's generally footnoted back to the posts that provided the answer (if it wasn't just me talking).  Maybe that might be what you're looking for.

----

Now, on to my unsolicited opinion:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
As I see it, the Sorcerer text has generated massive cries of "why didn't you say that??" ... but the weird thing is, each person cries out about something different.


To Ron's point above, I will say this: what I've generally done with the wiki has been simply to gather up the answers and opinions that people have offered up in response to questions or confusions within the text -- what I've found that is that at some point, SOMEONE has been confused or puzzled by almost EVERY possible element of the game at some point:  the only Demon abilities that I haven't found a discussion on are Command, Protection, Shadow, and Shapeshift (if I wanted to I could probably generate my own question about Protection, and I'm just being lazy about Shapeshift).  The only reason there isn't something under the Bind, Contact, and Summon rituals is because I'm too lazy to say "YMMV" and point out the pages on Setting, Demons, and Campaign Preparation.  

I have to agree with Ron that, while some things could definitely be fixed with some text brush-ups (and I would, for the record, order four revised copies IMMEDIATELY, just to have loners available) -- a *significant* portion of the questions/confusions out there are unique to the person asking them -- the sorts of things you might read and say "How can someone not UNDERSTAND that?" It's all well and good for me to dutifully transcribe it just on the off chance that it will come up with someone else in the future, but it would be a waste of space to address it in a revised text.
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--
Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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