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Author Topic: [Sorcerer - Demon Cops] Bound and Tide  (Read 4047 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: November 26, 2004, 08:37:16 PM »

It's celebration time: a new Actual Play thread from Clinton! (I've been trying to get a solid group together for a little while now.)

I'm playing Sorcerer with the Demon Cops setting with three players, a perfect number. Interestingly, I've never gamed with couples before, but I am now - two of my players have been together for five years. The female, Cat, is from Monterey County, CA, where Demon Cops is set, so that makes it all the more interesting.

So far, we've done character creation, but in Sorcerer, that counts as play, I think.

So, what are we playing?
Here's the funny thing about our group: we all like cop movies, but hate anime. The primary influence of Demon Cops is anime, so we had to rip and shred it to get the game we wanted. The suggestions I got were "lots of moral quandaries" and "feds."

We kept the Monterey (Diablo Del Rey) setting and I specified that the look of the game remind animated. Unsurprisingly, we ended up with a Frank Miller look, crossed with Batman the Animated Series. Miller is excellent at presenting moral problems in his comics, and I expect a curious mix of Sin City and The Dark Knight Strikes Again. As Monterey is a beautiful city, I need something upbeat for daytime visuals.

Who are we playing?
Character creation was very fun for this one. The first idea came from Mischa: he wanted to play a fed. I like the "fed moving in our jurisdiction" theme in many cop shows, so I was down with this, even though it's outside the normal Demon Cops setting. It also helps with a problem I'll mention later. He ended up with Bartelby Shackleton, a very old FBI researcher who looks only about 40-50. The inspiration comes from Indiana Jones. At the end of one of those movies, the men in black suits take a cache of treasure from Indy. When he asks what will happen with it, they say that they'll have "top men" on it. Bartelby is a "top man."

Idea the second: This one comes from Judson. He's an ex-NYPD cop named Marlin Crowe that lost it and moved to California, joining the Demon Cops. We filled out his character some more and established he crossed a line in NY that should have never been crossed, but that line's further out with the Demon Cops. Bang - we've got sorcery in the line of duty.

Idea the third: Cat came up with this one, and it's a doozy. Ever seen Point Break? She's Keanu Reeves, surfer-dude Demon Cop. (If you haven't seen Point Break, it's excellent. Really.) His name is Steve Hanson.

So far, so good. I like something about each character. The fed idea is inspired. I've noticed a lot of Demon Cop characters coming from Back East after trouble, so Marlin's perfect. Steve is kind of my favorite, though. He's a straight man to these two weirdos. I've seen a tendency in Sorcerer to make your character dark and forboding, because, hey, we're demon summoners. I like that we've got a character that isn't that way, and is also Demon Cop-trained in sorcery.

So we're summoning what?
Oh, yeah. Demons. Our demons rock it.

Mr. Steve Hanson - he's got a demon surfboard named Bhodi, wouldn't you know it? Powers: Travel and Transport. I instantly get a visual of a perp speeding down Highway 1 in a convertible MG, only to look over at the ocean and see Steve flying down a wave at 90 mph. "Halt!" Its Need is to surf at high tide. Seems innocuous, but it's going to get in the way of duty pretty quickly. And the Binding Strength's 2 in Bhodi's favor. Scary.

Our FBI sorcerer, Bartleby, needs a sorcerous philosophy. We decide on Egyptian-secret/Templar action. Templars are kind of boring and ubiquitious, but we'd all just seen "National Treasure," and this character is totally Harvey Keitel from that movie. His demon is Ur-Shanaz, an inconspicuous little ring (gold, set with an occult-cut ruby) that can turn into a swarm of demon gnats. Its powers are nasty. Hold isn't so bad, but Protection from aging for the sorcerer, which explains his age, is pretty cool, and lethal Special Damage, defined as aging, is terrifying. The Binding Strength: 1 in Ur-Shanaz's favor. His Need: eat carrion, which is gross and fits well. Nothing too plot-shaking about that.

Finally, we get to our NYPD emigrant. What line did he cross? He summoned up a Possessor to inhabit the body of his dead partner, gunned down in the line of duty. Holy shit. I think I peed a little when Judson came up with this idea. His sorcerous philosophy is perverted Catholicism, with inverted crosses and desecration (coincidentally, Mr. Possessor's Need.) His powers are Link (perfect), Armor (zombie terminator cop here),  Shadow, and of course, Cover. Asterolath (nee John Dasque, the partner) is now the scariest cop on Earth. So, who's the dominant partner? Binding Strength is +3 in Asterolath's favor. Good God.

And why are we playing?

The Kickers were great. We were quite tired by this point, but everyone came together.

Steve Hanson: If he doesn't solve his next case, he's off the force. This is great. It's the sort of Kicker that says, "Here, GM. Take and run with it. Have a great time."

Bartelby Shackleton: His demon's anti-aging power just stopped working. He's aging rapidly. At first, I didn't like this. It seems very internal, and Kickers are all about externality. Thinking on it, though, it says, "Someone is opposing my power. Who and why?" That makes it a Kicker.

Marlin Crowe: As expected, this one's dark. Marlin's just got a package in the mail. It's a True Bible (includes things like Jesus' rituals to banish demons and Solomon's to summon and bind them) bound in human skin. The skin belongs to Father O'Malley, Marlin's sorcerous mentor back east. Creepy. My only reservation was the back east part as Demon Cops is all about its small setting, but, well, we'll make that happen.

The GM's game prep

Game prep has been fun. For the first time, I really made a relationship map. I've run plenty of Sorcerer games just sketching my own, but I had a book I wanted to use: The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald. Why? It's got surfers (good for Steve) and uses multiple locations (which is why we need the fed - interstate murders.)

Ron was not kidding in The Sorcerer's Soul when he said this book will make your eyes bleed with complexity. It took six hours to make the relationship map, and it barely fit on a piece of paper. It's insane.

I'm not posting my finalized map yet, as we haven't started play. I will recommend, if you're a Mac user, check out VoodooPad to make relationship maps and store game notes. It's working pretty neatly for me, and it exports to HTML, so I'll post that later in the game. I did combine several characters, and moved all the Mexican portion of the book to Guam. Guam is pretty cool, as my web research found, and I think the high Roman Catholic percentage of the population, as well as the great surfing, will fit perfectly.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
sirogit
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« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2004, 11:03:05 PM »

That sounds totally awesome.

In making the ability: Protection against aging, were you knowledgable of the book's rule that Vitality confers protection against aging, or unaware of it?
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Per Fischer
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2004, 11:28:49 AM »

Superb stuff, Clinton, I look forward to further reports. I never visualised Demon Cops being used in this excellent fashion. Very inspiring.

Thanks for the Voodoo pad link, I'll check it out. I actually use Omnigraffle to build r-maps, it exports to all sorts of image formats and also HTML. The developers post a daily trial registration code so you can actually use it for real. Sorry, OT, but very helpful in daily play design ;)
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Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2004, 11:40:51 AM »

Hey, you know for the guy who's supposed to be really old, he seems like a good candidate for humanity trading. He'd make sense having a high Lore score, but since the ring keeps him from aging, he wouldn't have lame Stamina or Will. Just a thought.

Is this the same group you recently played D&D with? If so, that's double points for you, man.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2004, 01:59:43 PM »

Quote from: Matt Wilson
Hey, you know for the guy who's supposed to be really old, he seems like a good candidate for humanity trading. He'd make sense having a high Lore score, but since the ring keeps him from aging, he wouldn't have lame Stamina or Will. Just a thought.

Is this the same group you recently played D&D with? If so, that's double points for you, man.


Not the same group, but a new one I met using http://roleplayers.meetup.com. They're big into Unknown Armies and Nobilis, and are strangely currently in a Rifts game.

The humanity trading's a good idea. I might bring it up, although the guy likes having only a Lore of 2, representing that he's only on the edge of what he might find.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2004, 11:25:49 AM »

We played session 1 of "Bound and Tide" last night, and it was awesome. Strangely, we didn't see a single demon get really used in play, and no major Humanity checks. I think I pushed the players enough, though - it was the first session. It was also their first time playing Sorcerer. They took to it like fish to water.

My major pre-play problem was Bartelby Shackleton's kicker. One of his demon's powers, Vitality, has quit working. Figuring this one out took forever, and finally I decided it was being "lent out." His demon's got the upper hand in the Binding, but I decided he could get the power back if he won a Will v. Will test. Instead, he investigated why it's being "lent out," and to who. What he found was another sorcerer, a priest back east, who is in a coma and needs the Vitality to stay alive. This sorcerer is the mentor of another character, who has received his most powerful demon, a True Bible bound with a powerful fallen angel, in the mail.

By the way, they brought the Christian imagery in. I'm digging it, though. One of my favorite scenes was Marlin Crowe interrogating the Bible demon. It's a book, so it doesn't talk. Instead, it kept flipping pages to show a Bible verse in response to his questions. When he asked what happened to Father O'Malley, the sorcerous priest, he got Revelation. "The beast will be tossed into a pit and bound there for a thousand years, but the beast will be released and roam the earth again." It was a paraphrase, but it was a whoa moment.

Other notes from play:

I like having some Bangs unrelated to the overall plot, just to spice it up a little and provide time for character exposition. (Ron calls these "Bobs," I think.) We had a great one where there was a report of an unholy, inhuman voice coming from a shed in Pacifica. The shed also contained the homeowner's prize MG convertible. The two cops entered, only to find a very, very angry raccoon whose tail had been pinned by a sharp garden implement. The 'coon ripped through the convertible top upon release, and they shot the car, puncturing the fuel tank. Fun, fun stuff.

The characters are ripping through my relationship map. I expected the game to take five to seven sessions, as the map's quite complex. Instead, I'm guessing three now. They've managed to go to exactly the right NPCs over and over, connecting the dots well. Right now, they're on the trail of Chance Debouse, aka Christian Fellows, who has eloped with the daughter of Col. Nelson Brassfield, who used to be in charge of basic training at Ft. Ord. Brassfield threatened the kid with a shotgun, and they saved him and let him go, only to fight out later that he's a primary suspect in the murder of his wife, and he's been traveling back and forth to Guam on the passport of a dead Gulf War buddy. (The buddy's body was discovered, icepicked, drained of blood, and covered in evidence of being using by a sacrficial cult. No good there.)

We also had a weird moment where one character said an exact line from the book I'm using for the relationship map. The Colonel's yelling, "Arrest that guy. He's taking my daughter across state lines for immoral purposes!" Crowe growled back, "Last I checked, getting married wasn't an immoral purpose." I don't know if that's good or bad, but it struck my fancy.

We had an excellent scene that was all exposition. Our fed character and the surfer cop ate Italian food in a family restaurant in San Francisco's North Beach, spreading notes all over the table and comparing stories, as they kept making cell phone calls to our other cop character and authorities in Guam. By the end of the meal, manicotti and notes spread everywhere, they knew who they thought the killer was.

The end kind of flipped their trail around, though, and creeped out one character. Marlin Crowe's demon, if you recall, is his dead partner possessed. He's a badass, even when attacked by a feral raccoon. Marlin leaves his house to get a bottle of communion wine for Dasque (the partner) to befoul. Upon returning, his carpet's got a huge burn mark, Dasque is collapsed over the True Bible he was supposed to protect, and he reports some woman named Dolly - incidentally, meeting the exact description of Chance Debouse's dead wife - clocked him and tried to steal the book, but it "blew up." The window's broke where he jumped out, and melted doll plastic and fake hair are on the broken glass.

Demon dolls are fun stuff.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2004, 03:12:01 PM »

Hello,

One thing you can consider is that the point of play does not have to be "fully reveal the map." If they have worked through everything on the map, that doesn't mean that no conflicts remain, or that NPCs have nothing to do, or in short, that the end of play is anywhere in sight.

Conceivably, that point is when dedicated Sorcerer play really begins. Give yourself mental room to consider what extensive play might be like following that point.

Best,
Ron
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