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Author Topic: My Sorcerer Game is Flagging  (Read 10229 times)
marcus
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Posts: 59


« on: September 23, 2004, 02:03:07 AM »

Although I purchased Sorcerer last year and had my first play session now almost 1 year ago, I have been holding off describing my actual play of the game until the game really started to get going. However, after three sessions of play the game is flagging badly, and perhaps if I don't sort out the problems the game will never really get going and just be quietly shelved.

When I purchased Sorcerer (along with Sorcerer and Sword and The Sorcerer's Soul and Charnel Gods- with Hellbound ariving much much later) I was greatly enthused by the game (and still am to some extent). The main problem seemed to be whether to run a modern campaign or a Sword campaign, both of which greatly appealed to me. I settled in the end for a modern campaign. I decided to start it out set in the vicinity of Sydney, where my RPG group and I live, to help the players identify with the the characters. I thought that later in the game the characters could travel to less familiar foreign places when I wanted to up the general level of menance.

Although the issue never struck me as important as it was made out to be, I thought I better decide on what Humanity was. After much thought I decided to keep things simple and use a the most obvious (to me at least) definition of Humanity as being a combination of sanity and empathy, with Humanity 0 making a character an insane psycopath.

My next job was to sell the idea of playing the game to the players. This was quite difficult, as my players generally prefer to play games they already are well-familiar with. One by one, however, I persuaded most of the players to create characters. Getting them to create kickers for their characters was the hardest thing- there was great resistance to this. With the exception of one or two players, it seemed to be viewed as an unwelcome imposition of GM duties upon a player.

With most of the characters now designed in advance, I finally managed to engineer a play session of the game. Most of this session was, however, devoted to creating the remaining characters, placing all the characters in the game world, and trying to cobble together some sort of tenous link between their kickers to give them some sort of reason to meet one another. I should add that my RPG group tends to have from 4 to 9 people present on any given day, and this session was one of the larger ones, so at any given time most players were sitting idle as another character was in the limelight. The game sort of came together at the end with all characters meeting one another (each for their own diverse reasons) in a single room in which a major demon had appeared and attacked one of them. This seemed a triumph of organisation, but it was of little assistance in the long term because the characters had little reason to continue to associate and would inevitably all go their completely different ways.

At this stage none of the players really had any sort of feel for the game. Nobody seemed to care very much about their kicker, notwithstanding they themselves had wrote it. Nobody but me had read the rules, and nobody seemed to have any interest in doing so. The players seemed to be more tolerating the game than enjoying it.

Although that first session was a start, it was not too encouraging. I then withdrew to lick my wounds. I let many months go by, thinking about the game, re-reading character sheets, reading the Narrativism essay, thinking of more ways to tie together kickers etc. I then tried a second session, this time with only 3 other players. I could now concentrate more on the individual goals of the characters without too many other people getting bored. At least these 3 characters could get to know each other, I thought. And this happened to some degree- one character, a "naive" martial-artist sorecerer came to realise for the first time in his life that it was not just chi-power surging through his veins, but that he was a sorceror with a demon in his blood. He then apprenticed himself to a bookish PC sorcerer with higher Lore, which was a good device to tell the players about the sorcery rules under the guise of the master educating his pupil- remember nobody but me at this time had any idea about how the rules for doing sorcery worked. The game, however, was still flagging., with the characters still just shuffling around unsure of what to do with themselves. I threw in a criminal gang (that was related to several kickers and designed to be one of the unifying aspects of the games), but all that happened was the martial artist decided to fight, got a bad roll, and received a bloody nose, then the fight fizzled.

The third session had a couple more players involved. Things looked promising actionwise with some potentially intersting confrontations with hostile NPCs. The martial artist was now bent on tracking down the thus who had bloodied his nose in the last fight to get his revenge. After an interesting leadup, the encounter occurred, but even rolling about 13 or so dice using Cover, Stamina, Boost etc the character was again greatly unlucky, and rather than trashing 3 knife-wielding thugs with awesome demonic force, simply got slashed and had to use demon power to escape (although at least this was done with style). Meanwhile another character got bored of his self-imposed (via kicker) task of dealing with the grusome murder of a coven member) and went off to join the same criminal gang the martial artist was fighting. The player complained he didn't know what to do in the game. I reminded him of his kicker that he had wrote for himself as to what he wanted to do, but the player complained it was not interesting enough.

In quite separate action elsewhere, a PC surgeon was facing a moral dilemma being blackmailed into performing an illegal kidney removal from an unwilling donor. This bit of play worked OK, but it did little if anything to enrich the game as a whole- it was just one PC dealing with his kicker in a way only vaguely tangentially relevant to any other character.

So at the end of the third session, the game is really going nowhere. The players seem uninterested in their kickers, and are not much more interested in the action I attempt to inject. I think they are feeling the lack of a "genre" they can readily identify and which will tell them what is expected of their characters.

I think that the only way to save my game is to totally abandon all the kickers, come up with my own plotlines from scratch, herd the PCS into a party, and railroad the characters into some serious action. I have resisted doing this so far because that all seems so antithetical to the way the rules suggest Sorcerer is to be played. The play so far has, I suppose, served the purpose of defining the characters to some degree, as well as introducing them to some game mechanics, so at least it has not been entirely wasted. Defining characters through play is obviously important in a game where the charcater sheet of a character is little more than a 4 number affair, with the demons (through their powers) being far better fleshed out on paper than the PCs themselves.

Anyway, that is my experience with Sorcerer so far. Despite the game having rules I like and dealing with subject matter I like (and my players and I normally have reasonably similar likes and dislikes), it is not working out so far. A small element of this would be some natural early awkwardness with a new set of rules, and I admit I have not always run combat exactly right rules-wise. I think the greatest problem, however, is that my players simply don't want any responsibility for anything except for what their character does in some interesting situation the GM has contrived for them to be in. It appears they see the freedom offered by Sorcerer to players (if I am understanding the game correctly) to be a confusing burden rather than any sort of creative bonanza.


Marcus
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Judd
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Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2004, 04:12:39 AM »

Marcus,

Twice in the post you said that your players do not care about their Kickers.  That is why the game is falling flat.  They didn't care where the game started and thus don't care where it goes, it seems to me.

Kickers are the foundation of the story and if the players dont' care about it, the game is going to go nowhere.

What movie, or book or comic book or art is this game inspired by or invoking?  Did the players know what kind of story this was going to be?

How big was the original starting group and what was their gaming background?

Good luck.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2004, 04:54:01 AM »

Hello,

Marcus, what sort of feedback are you looking for? I have a number of observations about your choices as game-organizer and as GM; I think you've summarized the important points about the players already.

I'm hesitant to list what I'm observing about your choices, because if you're not looking for that, then it will come off as accusatory.

Another approach to this conversation concerns some of my recent posts about Sorcerer's audience, gamer-culture, and fun in role-playing.

So let me know what you're interested in talking about. In a thread like this, focusing the goals of the conversation is crucial.

Best,
Ron
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Doyce
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Posts: 442


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« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2004, 08:28:26 AM »

Well, Ron can be diplomatic -- he's the game-designer.  Me, I'm gonna jump right in.

Keep in mind that none of this should come across as haughty or whatnot -- what I say here comes from my own mistakes and Ron-wristslaps :)

Quote from: marcus
...had my first play session now almost 1 year ago, [...] after three sessions of play the game is flagging badly


Well, I'll be honest and say that my first reaction to this was "Three sessions in a year?!?"  Honestly, I think I'd have problems remembering my character's name with that much downtime, let alone their issues.

Quote from: marcus
I thought that later in the game the characters could travel to less familiar foreign places when I wanted to up the general level of menance.


Mmm.  I get that your working a scenario out in your head -- but in my experience with Sorcerer... that doesn't really work.  At all.  If the players decide that their problems can (or 'must') be solved with some globe-trotting, that's cool, but beyond setting up Bangs and a Relationship Map for a campaign, I don't know that thinking in a traditional RPG 'module' vein will work within the Sorcerer framework.  YMMV.

Quote from: marcus
Although the issue never struck me as important as it was made out to be, I thought I better decide on what Humanity was. After much thought I decided to keep things simple and use a the most obvious (to me at least) definition of Humanity as being a combination of sanity and empathy, with Humanity 0 making a character an insane psycopath.


I'm certainly not going to cast stones here -- my first campaign was simple Humanity = Empathy -- but yeah, defining Humanity is pretty important.  My question regarding this is: did you define, at least for yourself, the kinds of things that would cause a Humanity Check?  How about a Humanity Gain (doing 'good' with some personal risk involved)?

Quote from: marcus
Getting them to create kickers for their characters was the hardest thing- there was great resistance to this. With the exception of one or two players, it seemed to be viewed as an unwelcome imposition of GM duties upon a player.


This is something of a warning sign for me, but I don't know that I have enough experience or information to comment on it much.

Quote from: marcus
With most of the characters now designed in advance, I finally managed to engineer a play session of the game. Most of this session was, however, devoted to creating the remaining characters, placing all the characters in the game world, and trying to cobble together some sort of tenous link between their kickers to give them some sort of reason to meet one another.


Ugh.  Speaking as someone who has made this mistake with Sorcerer SEVERAL times in the past, I cannot sufficiently convery how important I've come to realize some downtime is for the GM between character generation and actual play -- time to tie in those Kickers to the Relationship Map, if nothing else -- hell, time to create a Relationship Map (though I've also realized the R-Map should almost come first of all).

Anyway, doing it the way you did it hard -- VERY hard, and I speak from experience.

Quote from: marcus
I should add that my RPG group tends to have from 4 to 9 people present on any given day, and this session was one of the larger ones, so at any given time most players were sitting idle as another character was in the limelight.


WOW that's a lot of people.  WOW.  Not for all RPGs, but Sorcerer... WOW.  Flip to Chapter 4 in the main book.  Look at the bit right at the beginning about recommended group size.  Realize that nothing in the book is filler or fluff in any way.  That size of group is... well, I wouldn't do it, and I routinely do things wrong with Sorcerer.

Quote from: marcus
This seemed a triumph of organisation, but it was of little assistance in the long term because the characters had little reason to continue to associate and would inevitably all go their completely different ways.


R e l a t i o n s h i p  M a p.  

PCs in sorcerer are individualists with their own network of support in the form of their demons -- they don't HAVE to hang out with other Sorcerers, and there's lots of good reasons not to.  At best, you'll have them bumping into each other and deciding ON THEIR OWN to ally for a few hours -- but only if there's a strong relationship map  that intertwines their personal "stuff".

Quote from: marcus
At this stage none of the players really had any sort of feel for the game. Nobody seemed to care very much about their kicker, notwithstanding they themselves had wrote it.


Here's a good GM litmus test for the Kicker that a player helped me devise:  "After the Kicker, could the PC logically go back to their life as it was before the kicker?"  If the answer's yes, it's a weak kicker -- the Kicker should be an event after which, even if the character IGNORES it, their lives will be changed irrevocably.

If your PCs don't have that kind of kicker, they can afford not to care about it.

Quote from: marcus
one character, a "naive" martial-artist sorecerer came to realise for the first time in his life that it was not just chi-power surging through his veins, but that he was a sorceror with a demon in his blood.


Huge, blinking, neon warning sign here, because this sounds like the player made up a character who "didn't know" they had bound a demon... it happened by accident or something.  Radioactive Spider or Intense Training that Didn't Seem Demonic... either way, this just never works.

The character always has to know they bound a demon, and they had to have WANTED it.  WHY they wanted it is always different, but the bottom line is they wanted a certain kind of POWER and they were willing to do something Reality Altering to get it.

Quote from: marcus
I threw in a criminal gang (that was related to several kickers and designed to be one of the unifying aspects of the games), but all that happened was the martial artist decided to fight, got a bad roll, and received a bloody nose, then the fight fizzled.


I'd like more information about this, because I think there has to be something amiss for a fight to 'fizzle' in Sorcerer.  I CAN happen, but as I said, someone's usually missing something if it does.

Quote from: marcus
The third session had a couple more players involved.


That's a shame -- I'd say you were at about the optimal group size with the second session.

Quote from: marcus
I reminded him of his kicker that he had wrote for himself as to what he wanted to do, but the player complained it was not interesting enough.


Could he walk away from the coven member's death with nothing in his life really changing?  Yeah?  He's probably right.

My first response to the guy would be 'well, write something interesting', but I'd perhaps pose it to him in the way I mentioned above -- identify something that could happen that would make it impossible for you to continue, business as usual.

Quote from: marcus
This bit of play worked OK, but it did little if anything to enrich the game as a whole- it was just one PC dealing with his kicker in a way only vaguely tangentially relevant to any other character.


Humanity.  If everyone's dealing with the same definitions of Humanity, than everything has something to do with everyone else, because everyone has to deal with threats to their Humanity that follow a certain kind of theme -- in this case, empathy.  This little paragraph was one of the first wrist-slap/eye-openers I got from Ron, and it's a good one.

Quote from: marcus
I think that the only way to save my game is to totally abandon all the kickers, come up with my own plotlines from scratch, herd the PCS into a party


Oh, then don't play Sorcerer.  Seriously, it just might not be for your group.  Sorcerer is damn near zero-point energy for the GM -- this kind of work you're talking about not only shouldn't be necessary, it runs contrary to everything from the conflict mechanics to character generation.

You said something about the demon's being defined better than the PCs.  I can only say this one way, because I'm strapped for time: PC's have descriptors.  Demon's don't.  PC's win in this regard.

Don't mean to be abrupt in any of this -- I see you've got a real desire to run this game and a sense that you'll enjoy it -- I think you CAN, and I think you're close -- there's just a lot of cruft being carried around from other games and styles of gaming.  Junk it -- it's no help to you here :)

Best,
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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.
A.Neill
Member

Posts: 62


« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2004, 08:55:55 AM »

Hi Marcus,

The thing that stuck out about your post for me is:

Quote
This seemed a triumph of organisation, but it was of little assistance in the long term because the characters had little reason to continue to associate and would inevitably all go their completely different ways.


Sorceror depends a lot on the players driving the “action” of the game. You as the GM have designed (or in my case, stolen!) your beautiful relationship map and back story.

Now they players must come together (not necessarily as characters) with you to create a sorceror story, driven by the awful choices implied by humanity (however you’ve defined it).

Your players must accept this duty if they are to have fun playing sorcerer. I’m extrapolating from your quote that your players not done this - exemplified by the disjointedness of their character interactions.

If your players are not likely to accept this “duty of care” when it comes to building the story then sorcerer is not the game for them. I wonder if they know though, that they must sign up to this style of play?

Alan.
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Bill Cook
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Posts: 501


« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2004, 11:06:45 AM »

Marcus:

At the risk of piling on before receiving your point(s) of focus for this thread . . .

It sounds like you've taken on a number of challenges all at once: switching to a modern setting, a new system, a new aesthetic and a per individual focus (as opposed to troupe-style play). Don't feel too bad if it's not smooth, yet. You've got a lot on your plate!

I echo Doyce's comments and recommend that you tighten up your session pace. The variability in attendance you cite is worth addressing with your group as a seperate issue. Were I you, I would make it clear that I expect consistency. I think the best motivator of group behavior is respect for its leader; by building the value of your preparation and outlining their part in the exchange, you support their equity.

Quote from: Marcus
I think that the only way to save my game is to totally abandon all the kickers, come up with my own plotlines from scratch, herd the PCS into a party, and railroad the characters into some serious action.


Sure, but you already know how to do that. Don't lose faith;)

Another thing: what is serious action? Do you mean combat? If so, that's a bias that you may benefit from escaping. I read somewhere (game text? postings?) that often the rituals become the biggest climaxes during play. And I remember thinking, Z'ah? Freaking how? But as I look back on the experience, I see some truth in that statement. I would also include Humanity checks as markers of intense game play. (Examples from my campaign: a five-year old girl wakes up at 2am and wanders about a mansion until she walks onto a balcony, overlooking a writhing orgy; a retired university professor cuts the heart from his adoring graduate student to bind a posessor that will confer eternal life.)

Quote from: Doyce
Sorcerer is damn near zero-point energy for the GM ..


I can't remember the last time I worked so hard as when I ran my Sorcerer campaign. But it was a different set of muscles.

Quote from: Doyce
Huge, blinking, neon warning sign here, because this sounds like the player made up a character who "didn't know" they had bound a demon... it happened by accident or something. Radioactive Spider or Intense Training that Didn't Seem Demonic... either way, this just never works.

The character always has to know they bound a demon, and they had to have WANTED it. WHY they wanted it is always different, but the bottom line is they wanted a certain kind of POWER and they were willing to do something Reality Altering to get it.


So true. Players must be fully knowing, willfully choosing, in Sorcerer chargen. The one player I had whose narrative thread fizzled with the meekest whimper suffered from this very deficiency.

So you're convinced. How do you overcome player apathy? I guess there's no best answer. What I did was to praise success and encourage those who weren't getting it to "keep trying." Trust to synergy and how success can cascade inspiration across a group.

I had a range of reactions from my players. One guy totally got it. Everything he did was right in line with the aesthetic. (Even more so than my choices as GM.) Another guy was excited and fearless, but had some trust issues that hampered his effectiveness; I call this "Back-Story reluctance." Some came across the middle; they could role-play, but they caught some blind alleys and had some batshit frustration moments trying to grok the purpose of play (i.e. use bad for good and lapse into depravity.) And finally, I had a player who I just couldn't reach. We even developed his thread some, but it never rose above pulp fiction.

*******************

Also wanted to comment: I noticed that the demands on attention outside troupe play jump sharply. The payoff is the a-ha! of interrelatedness.

For players that have never experienced it, you may have to assure them that it's something to look forward to and stop play to point it out. After I noticed myself getting off on how things were revealling their interconnectedness, I started interrupting my non-limelight players' side conversations and saying, "Hey! Do you realize that Vinnie just killed Mellisa's only living relative?" or "You guys, Gerard just noticed camera equipment in his contact's torture chamber and a bookcase of reels marked 'Nefero.' (Silence.) Well?! He must've shot the snuff of Vinnie's wife's murder!"
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2004, 11:40:11 AM »

Quote from: bcook1971


Quote from: Doyce
Sorcerer is damn near zero-point energy for the GM ..


I can't remember the last time I worked so hard as when I ran my Sorcerer campaign. But it was a different set of muscles.



Right.  Right, yes, damn... should have clarified.  I was talking about less effort in terms of setting up a Series of Unfortunate Events that Will Happen and all that kind of typical stuff -- your prep goes into tying things into the Relationship map and escalating things with Bangs that force people to make choices.  That said, once the R-Map is locked in in my head and the NPCs are all properly yammering for attention in my head, most of my pre-game prep amounts to writing down a couple Bangs for each character, in case I need them (usually I need half or less).
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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.
marcus
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2004, 03:30:14 AM »

Thanks for the responses so far. They are the sort of think I was looking for, being diagnoses of what has been going wrong and suggestions for improvements. What I need the most, however, are some good suggestions as to how to kick-restart the game to save it from the a slow downward spiral I think will otherwise kill it. I trust this answers Ron's important question as to what I want to talk about.

Before I answer any other questions posed to me, I should say a little about my gaming group situation as this is useful background and may make some of my choices more understandable.

I have only one gaming group- together there are about 10 of us, if one includes seldom-appearing hangers on. Although there are some newcomers, most of us have gamed together for 20 years. We meet together on average for 1 day a fortnight, provided that at least 4 people are available to attend. The typical size of the group is about 5 or 6 people, although on some days almost everyone turns up. There can also be considerable fluctuation in attendance in the course of a day, as many people arrive late or leave early. I usually have some idea in advance as to who is coming or not, but I never know precisely. There are usually 2 or 3 sessions of play on any given day- usually, but not always, consisting of a different RPG being played each session. In recent times (for the last 10 years, after the other major GM moved to another state and now seldom plays) I have been the GM for the great majority of the games.

There are several time-honoured rules that make up the social contract of our games group, two of which are of relevance. The first is that games are never chosen for play in advance of the games day- one thus cannot announce, for example, that Sorcerer will be played on a given day, it can only be chosen on the day. The second is that before each play session is to begin, the players in attendance all play a short card game called "Bullshit Poker" ( agme with rules that have been augumented gradually over the last 20 years of play), the winner of which has a free choice of any RPG (or, rather, any RPG one of us owns or has written, which still provides quite a large choice) to play during that session, provided there is someone willing to act as a GM to run that game. Over the years we have played in, I guess, several dozen RPGS, with about half a dozen being popular at any point in time. Some games are played almost every games day, whilst others lie fallow for months or even years only to be revamped and revived.

It can be seen that the above rules create a considerable competition between different RPGS. Many players have their favourite RPG or couple of RPGS, and will strive to win to choose these games. Naturally players tend to choose games they are well familiar with, rather than games of which they have little or no knowledge. One can try to "sell" a new game to the other players in advance in the hope one of them will choose it if they win, but from experience this seldom works. Usually the best I can do is to persuade a few potential players to generate characters in advance, although many will not even do this unless the game has been first officially chosen by the approved methodology.

Thus in order for me to introduce a new game to the group, such as Sorcerer, what I usually need to do is to prepare it for play as best I can with only a few characters being created, win Bullshit Poker on the day, announce that Sorcerer will be played, and only then are the other players compelled by convention to create for themselves characters, listen to a brief explanation of how the game works, and start playing the game as run by me. I then must rely on generating sufficient interest in the game through enjoyable play so that other players may consider choosing the game next time they win Bullshit Poker. This I have not yet succeeded in doing with respect to Sorcerer- all 3 play sessions of Sorcerer have been my own election. This is one part of the explanation as to why there have been extensive gaps in play, although the principal reason is that after the first session in which all the characters were created I wanted to have a good long think about how to make the game work.

Now, to answer the other questions which have been posed in the responses.

Judd asked "What movie, or book or comic book or art is this game inspired by or invoking? Did the players know what kind of story this was going to be?"

The answer is that I wasn't particularly trying to invoke any comic book, movie or art, although I could think of several things, such as the movies The Ninth Gate and The Matrix, that I would be happy to see the game reflect. Rightly or wrongly, however, I thought that in Sorcerer I should not impose too much of my own views on the players, but let them set the tone, with my own input being nothing more than a subtle crafting of the play as it naturally evolved. So neither the players nor myself knew what sort of story it is going to be, and still don't. I am happy to formulate a vision and impose it on the players, however, if that is what is being recommended.

As for Judd's question about group size, I have answered that already. In terms of gaming background, as I have said it is vert diverse for the great majority of players. Space does not permit a complete listing of games played, but the most popular games played over the last 20 years would probably be Superhero 2044 (with rules now almost completely rewritten ion the course of play), Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia, Dr Who RPG, and several games written by group members, including one based on the Pliocene Saga of Julian May and one called "The Powers Game" set in the contemporary world with a variety of characters with different abilities and "powers".

Doyce asked" did you define, at least for yourself, the kinds of things that would cause a Humanity Check? How about a Humanity Gain (doing 'good' with some personal risk involved)?"

The answer is that I did define it to myself to at least a fair extent. Humanity checks would be required if people did things that placed them too far beyond the pale of conventional reality- this could be dealing too closely with demons (the antithesis of conventional reality) or violating accepted moral norms in too dramatic a fashion (such as kidnapping peoplke and sacrificing them). Humanity gain would flow from restoring reality (like banishing demons) or showing that the character cared greatlky for the conventional world (like doing particularly good deeds for the benefit of others).

In terms of kickers, I thought they generally sounded pretty good, but then again I'm no expert (as I have proved amply in my postings on this topic). I have mentioned the one about the hideously dismembered coven member. A sample of the others are as follows:

- I lost my job and returned home, only to find my house has disappeared off the face of the earth as if it had never existed.

- I discover the special amulet I had been wearing all my life came from another planet.

- I find that some of my university students have been mysteriously exploding.

- My demon discovers that one of my school students is inhabited by a very powerful demon.

- I cannot work out why this rival reporter always seems to get the story before me.

-I am reunited with my brother, who demands I give him one of my kidneys.

As for Doyce's enquiry about my combat experiences, I should admit here that I got the combat rules a little wrong, at least in the last 2 play sessions. The 2 combats in these sessions were very brief, and consisted merely of the 2 combatants throwing their dice in an opposed fashion as seeing who had the higher number and how many successes. After the Martial Artist's failure in the second game session, I decided to give him a roll on Cover to get bonus dice to add to stamina (by preparing himself with his martial arts training), to which his Demon's Boost was added. The charactert then rolled, I think, 13 dice against 4 for the baddy, but lost. I was using d20s, primarily because I had spent a small fortune buying about 50 of them for an abortive foray into Donjon and wanted to get some value out of this investment.

Bill asked "Another thing: what is serious action? Do you mean combat?".

I would answer that "serious action" to my mind usually involves some combat, but not always. What I am talking about is the sort of thing that tends to stop side-conversations and cause the players to focuss very much at what is happening. For this, generally one needs a direct threat (or at least a perceived threat) to one or more character, to which threat the players will feel there needs to be a rapid reaction to ameliorate. So combat fits the bill nicely, but not exclusively- phycological expense, for example, can also work if credible and not overused.

I think that answers all the questions so far posed directly, and several that were only implied.


Marcus
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Judd
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2004, 04:26:27 AM »

Marcus,

It is not that I have a problem with the Kickers.  It is not even worth reading them because you stated twice in your first post that your players are not invested in them.  Kickers must be something the players dig.  Kickers should be a neon sign, "I dig this!"

Also I don't think anywhere in the Sorcerer text does it say that the GM is not supposed to lead the game.  I always notify my players as to what kind of game we are going to be playing.  It can be more of a collaborative process with the group deciding together what Humanity means etc. but don't get that mixed up with an everything goes stew with anything any player wants as a PC thrown in because the GM can't tell them no.

The GM in Sorcerer is a leader and a strong one.

Hope this helps.
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Alan
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2004, 08:37:55 AM »

Hi Marcus,

I understand that your group has long established traditions for how a game day works and how rpgs get chosen.  If I understand correctly, you end up with different players and different numbers of players almost every session, you can't predict which game you will be playing, and it might be months before you return to a given rpg.  Such an environment does not lend itself to player investment in anything.

Sorcerer runs best in a short "story arc" of 5 or 6 weekly sessions, each of 3 or 4 hours.  The game should be restricted to the GM and two or three players (always the same players for a given story arc).

To achieve player investment and consistency I would suggest the following:

1) Invite the 2 or 3 players who are most interested in Sorcerer to play on a _different_ night.

If others complain you're being exclusive, tell them you'd be happy to run a story arc for anyone else  - as soon as this one is over.  Tell them sorcerer works best in small groups that can meet regularly for 5 or 6 sessions in a row.

2) Ask your Sorceerer volunteers to commit to attenting for 5 or 6 weeks in a row, to commit to showing up at a specific time, and to play for 3 or 4 hours.  

3) Follow the advice others have given you about game prep etc.

Don't be afraid to assert yourself.  It sounds like you do a lot of work for this group.  Your vision deserves some attention.
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- Alan

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Judd
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« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2004, 08:44:24 AM »

Quote from: Alan
1) Invite the 2 or 3 players who are most interested in Sorcerer to play on a _different_ night.


That is great advice.

Good luck, Marcus.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2004, 12:12:01 PM »

I don't think this is going to work.

Because it sounds like Sorcerer isn't somthing that the players want to play. That is, Sorcerer shouldn't be played, unless every player says, "Hey, that sounds like fun, yeah." Now, sometimes you can get at least some committment by doing what they guys above have suggested. But, from what you've said about the whole poker thing, you're basically inflicting Sorcerer upon these people.

I don't think any RPG will hold up against that. No matter how potentially entertaining. You have to have buy in from the players to start. Period. No surprise to me that they keep coming back to the other games that they do have an investment in.

Which sounds pretty doom and gloom for old Sorcerer. There's another soluton - you note, "I have one gaming group."  Start another. Again, I'm betting that you won't find anyone amongst this group that's interested. And, if so, then don't worry it too much, just go back to playing what they want to play, and not watering that down with Sorcerer sessions.

Instead, ask some other friends if they'd like to play an RPG with you. When they ask what it is, tell em about Sorcerer. Play. Have fun.

I could be wrong about your players. Give Alan's idea a try - can't hurt. But if I were a player in this group, I too would always be trying to get back to the games in which I already had a huge investment in time. One other thing to try, possibly, is ending those other games. If you don't want to be playing them, bring them to some nifty dramatic conclusions.

If you do want to be playing these games, then I think that you're just trying to do too much at once with one group. How did this social contract get established? Have you considered rocking the boat, shaking it up, and seeing if something better would work?

Mike
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marcus
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« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2004, 04:08:14 PM »

I realise I could announce a separate set of gaming sessions for Sorcerer, but I am unwilling to do that for two reasons. The first is that to do so risks the destruction of the entire gaming group, as everyone will start demanding special sessions devoted to their own favourite game. Instead of the simplicity of 1 gaming session per fortnight, there will be consant debates as to which of the current half-dozen games will be played in the next session. Players will then start boycotting the sessions of their less favourite games and the whole structure will fragment overnight. I'm not prepared to do this for just one game out of many RPGs I'm interested in. The second is that Sorcerer has not yet built up a fan base in the group, and there is good chance nobody would come to the Sorcerer sessions.

Perhaps it seems strange, or even disfunctional, for every game chosen for play to be nominated by one person rather than be chosen in advance or by a group vote. This system has, however, served very well over the years, and I thing having a large group stay together over a space of 20 years under this system means that the ststem has something going for it. In the past, many new games have risen to popularity through this system, nothwithstanding the fact they were initially foisted on the group by only a single enthusiast- indeed, these games would proably never have been played at all if a majority vote were required, as the majority will tend to vote for a tried and true game for which they do not need to create new characters. What often happens is that although the players are initially reluctant to play, when they actually start playing they like the game and will choose it again next time. This is indeed what happened when I introduced My Life With Master to the group- although I cannot say it is the most favoured game, others in the group have chosen it for replay.

The problem is that this is not happening for Sorcerer. This could be that there is something special about Sorcerer that means the player commitment must come before the game in enjoyable, and thus my standard technique of selling the game to the players through actual play will not work. I think there is something to this, but that I could have minimised this problem if I had started the game differently. In retrospect, perhaps what I should have done was:

(a) As Judd suggested, based the game closely on a movie or comic book and told my players in advance what it was based upon, so they would have this to draw upon from the start; and

(b) Used the in media res technique at the start of the game to throw them all together into some exciting situation. The fun of this might have sold them much better on the game. The players could then write their kickers, and then choose either have their characters separate to explore their individual issues, or recombine as they saw fit.

To get the game going again, I think I should restart it. The next session should be set a year or so after the last session, in some other part of the world. I'll give them a few sentences as to what they are doing there, and then I'll throw them all straight into the action they should have had in session 1. The brief description and action will more closely identify the game with some established fictional precedent. I will then ask the players to rewrite their kickers now that they have a better idea what the game is about and what a kicker is for. If that doesn't do the trick, then I'll simply drop the game, perhaps to try again in a year or so with a Sword-style campaign instead.

Any further comments?


Marcus
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2004, 09:58:15 PM »

Hello,

I've read over the thread to date in detail now, a couple of times, and here's my call.

1. Alan, Judd, Mike, and A.Neill are 100% on the money. Everything they have said is pure gold.

2. I am hesitant to speak in any judgmental way of how this group of people has chosen to role-play. Not even after some tequila. It does look as though you're saying "We have to play this way because it keeps us together, and we stay together because we play this way." I'm not at all sure where the value is coming from, especially for you, who seem to be the workhorse in the picture.

3. I have no personal interest whatsoever in helping you get a Sorcerer game going with these folks, in the context that you've described. That might sound really mean, but I do have a considerable interest in helping you play Sorcerer. Is there any hope at all of separating the two?

Best,
Ron
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marcus
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Posts: 59


« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2004, 11:24:24 PM »

I think the answer to that last question is in the negative. If Sorcerer just cannot work in the context of my group  for some reason, then I will just have to give the game a miss.

This seems to me, however, rather defeatist thinking- my group's methodology never seems to have been an obstacle to RPG enjoyment with any other game, and we have played quite a fair number over quite a long time. I think I will thus implement the strategy I outlined in my last post, and see how that works out.

I think this thread has probably now come to its logical endpoint. Thank you everyone for your assistance.


Marcus
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