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Author Topic: [Sorceror] First Time Prep: Big Sky -- The New Primitives  (Read 6789 times)
ivan23
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« on: December 22, 2004, 10:20:41 AM »

Hi, all ... picked up Sorceror from the FLGS on the strength of all the Actual Play and one-sheet prep posts. The missus subscribes to a lot of homesteading magazines, and a lot of the letters to the editor give excellent NPC potential. As a result, I drew this up and would be interested to hear any feedback. I'm especially interested in knowing if my definition of Humanity seems like a hose-job ... is the tightrope too thin for Sorcerors to walk effectively? Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

Big Sky the New Primitives

Influences: Terrence McKenna, Edward Abbey, The Weather Underground, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Homesteading magazines, Northern Exposure.

Humanity is defined as both your own self-reliance, and your connection and contribution to a community. In Western society, this sharp dividing line is what separates you from hermits and cultists (the former having no ties that bind, the latter having no ability to make their own way in the world) as well as the vast majority, who have lost all sense of self-reliance in favor of convenience and comfort.

You lose humanity by becoming reliant upon others to fulfill those needs which you are capable of fulfilling on your own, as well as by acting contrary to communal mores. This is a subjective, not objective more Christian homeschoolers wll have vastly different ideas of what constitutes theft than freegan squatters, for instance. What is important is that the community you have chosen dictates the acceptable actions for your character.

You gain humanity by strengthening and solidifying your ties to a community, by reinforcing your own role within said community, and by seeing to your own needs in the face of adversity rather than seeking assistance from without. Yes, this includes limiting your contact with demons.

When you reach 0 Humanity, you will either become divorced from or dependent upon your community, depending upon the manner in which you've drifted most severely. Hermits and hopheads cause very different stressors on small, self-reliant groups.

Demons are from an alternate timestream, or dimension, or mathematical notation they're pretty evasive about the entire thing. They share an amused antipathy toward all forms of human eschatology, with no interest in religion or history except as it relates to how they are currently being served. In fact, any large and organized groupings of humanity seem anithetical to the demons. They want people scattered, dispersed, and bound together only in small groups.

Sorcerors are the men and women who have rationalized the summoning and binding of demons as being a self-learned skill that opens a new tool to their efforts, much like learning how to distill alcohol or fix their own tractors. Demons tend to encourage this belief, while working to increase their summoner's reliance upon their aid.

Covers include homesteader, survivalist, new generation architect, hobby farmer, eco-activist, militiaman, family farmer, gaian, postindustrialist, archiac revivalist.

Stamina descriptors:
Farmboy you've been up before dawn carrying bales since you could walk.
New Primitive roofs and medicine are for momma's boys.
Urban Transplant (Stamina 2) all this labor might not be unwelcome, but it's new.

Will descriptors:
Daddy's Farm this land's always been yours, and it's always gonna be.
US outta UN resist authority, fight the man.
Lotus Eater (Will 2) Don't have to work with the sunshine on your smile.

Lore descriptors:
Old Blood (Lore 4-5) It's not just daddy's farm, it's grandpa's demons.
Young Stud (Lore 2-4) You've been trained but not yet broken.
New Age (Lore 1-2) Mass-market books and government land.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2004, 01:38:06 PM »

Quote
as well as the vast majority, who have lost all sense of self-reliance in favor of convenience and comfort.
First, this is a POV that I really can't buy into personally, so I won't be playing this one-sheet any time soon. Not that you care, likely, but my point is that it might not appeal to a lot of people. A humanity definition has to appeal to all of the players involved, not just the GM.

But I don't think it's unplayable. For anyone interested in the subject matter, it's not at all too narrow a humanity definition.

So do you have enough players who are going to like this?

I mean, I have this personal pet peeve about people who use the carpool lane when they don't have any passengers. And I could probably write up a sorcerer one-sheet that worked with "Obeying The Carpool Lane Ordinance" as the definition of humanity. But I don't think that anyone but me would want to play it.

I'm not saying that your issue is lame like mine, just that some concepts have limited attractiveness to others.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2004, 02:59:59 PM »

Hello,

Ivan, that's really interesting. You've managed to bring the whole technophilia-technophobia spectrum into the Humanity issue, without making it the issue. Two characters might both have high Humanity through very different social and technological routes. Neat.

I don't really have a strong visual or aesthetic grasp of your concept of "demons," though. What's their look and feel?

Best,
Ron
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jc_madden
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Posts: 37


« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2004, 03:23:32 PM »

Quote from: ivan23
I'm especially interested in knowing if my definition of Humanity seems like a hose-job ... is the tightrope too thin for Sorcerors to walk effectively?


No, I think not.  As a matter of fact I think that this makes Sorcerers take up the 'cosmic outlaw' role just fine.

Quote

Humanity is defined as both your own self-reliance, and your connection and contribution to a community.   etc....


I like this definition.  It sort of reminds me of the french CG movie "Kaena" where if one does not conform to contributing the community (which includes worshiping false gods) one is ostrasized.  It makes it easy for me to see how one's own humanity could be a reflection of what one gives back to the whole.

Also I like the language of your descriptors they really do make it easy to build a charcter from them.  It makes me know something about the person with little effort, that's what a good descriptor is to me.
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ivan23
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« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2004, 07:09:30 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, this is a POV that I really can't buy into personally, so I won't be playing this one-sheet any time soon. <snip> A humanity definition has to appeal to all of the players involved, not just the GM.


Heck, it's not a POV I buy into wholeheartedly myself. I can't even fix a flat tire, much less build a house, so I'm not intending to use this as a crusading schtick or anything - it was intended more as a springboard.  That POV comes across in a lot of the letters to the editor I mentioned, and so I figured it would be an easy handle to show the kinds of folks that players are likely to be surrounded by.

But I definitely see your point, and appreciate it.

Quote from: Mike Holmes
So do you have enough players who are going to like this?


I don't have enough players, period. ; ) And the ones I do have access to probably wouldn't be into this idea, no. Essentially, I'm testing out the manner in which one defines a Sorceror world - a dry run that I'm not expecting to see realized.
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ivan23
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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2004, 07:22:08 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Two characters might both have high Humanity through very different social and technological routes. Neat.


Very cool! I'm glad that came through ... I wanted to avoid cookie-cutter Humanity definitions that feel too much like "Lawful Good," if you know what I mean.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I don't really have a strong visual or aesthetic grasp of your concept of "demons," though. What's their look and feel?


I'd be re-reading a lot of McKenna's stuff before trying to solidify it. He was basically a Leary-ish psychedelic researcher who proposed this alternate universe thing, this "not-Here" as the book so nicely puts it. He described the inhabitants as "machine elves and mushrooms," which ties in nicely with the distrust of anything made by other people's hands. That seemed to me a good start for most of the incorporeal style of demons, but I'd really look up some of his weirder stuff to

As far as Passers go, I tend to think of them as animalistic rather than human. Any farm or compound is going to have dogs, cats, livestock ... and there's always one among the group that's a little bigger, a little meaner. I like the idea of a bound demon animal choosing which of the other animals gets the axe for Christmas dinner, kind of "Babe in reverse."
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ivan23
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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2004, 07:26:03 AM »

Quote from: jc_madden
It makes it easy for me to see how one's own humanity could be a reflection of what one gives back to the whole.


Great - that puts my mind at ease, thanks! It makes bringing in NPCs a little simpler as well.

Quote from: jc_madden
]Also I like the language of your descriptors they really do make it easy to build a charcter from them.  It makes me know something about the person with little effort, that's what a good descriptor is to me.


Great, thank you! I hadn't realized until reading some of Ron's posts yesterday that it's not a UA-style "make up whatever you want" thing, so I'd definitely work to add several more - but I thought the ones I did cite had a specific "why are you out here" point to them.
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Snowden
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« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2004, 08:09:55 AM »

I like the idea behind this but I'm fuzzy on a couple of things...

1.  Your Humanity definition:
Quote
Humanity is defined as both your own self-reliance, and your connection and contribution to a community. In Western society, this sharp dividing line is what separates you from hermits and cultists (the former having no ties that bind, the latter having no ability to make their own way in the world) as well as the vast majority, who have lost all sense of self-reliance in favor of convenience and comfort.

Mechanically, I don't see how the system supports the notion of Humanity as a balance point between two opposite extremes.  What happens to characters who lose self-reliance (Humanity loss) by throwing themselves into community life (Humanity gain)?  What about characters who cut themselves off from their community (Humanity loss) by living ascetic lifestyles that forgo convenience and comfort (Humanity gain)?  It seems like the only way to consistently lose Humanity would be to live as a helpless outsider, and I'm not sure how you would balance "self-reliance" and "connection to community" in order to gain Humanity; I'd worry this would make for a static game, Humanity-wise at least.  This could well be caused by my lack of direct Sorcerer experience, however...

2.  Your definition of Demons:
Quote
Demons are from an alternate timestream, or dimension, or mathematical notation they're pretty evasive about the entire thing. They share an amused antipathy toward all forms of human eschatology, with no interest in religion or history except as it relates to how they are currently being served. In fact, any large and organized groupings of humanity seem anithetical to the demons. They want people scattered, dispersed, and bound together only in small groups.

I don't really see how this would oppose Humanity as you've defined it.  If anything, it looks like Demons would support the "self-reliance" part of your definition; I don't think "small, scattered groups" are necessarily incompatible with the notion of "community" either.

Anyhow, I'm curious to see how this turns out!
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ivan23
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2004, 10:14:16 PM »

Quote from: Snowden
Mechanically, I don't see how the system supports the notion of Humanity as a balance point between two opposite extremes.


Which had kind of been my question to begin with ... is it too much of a tightrope to force the Sorcerors to walk? Is it, in short, a screw-job, damned-if-you-do-or-don't kind of thing?

My thought had been: You're not expected to know everything, but the things you do know, you shouldn't rely on others to provide for you. If you're a gardener, eat your produce. If you're a cobbler, wear your shoes. Don't rely on others to hand you things you can manage on your own. Of course, that ties directly into the idea of demons - if you can achieve your goals without them but use them anyway, you lose Humanity.

Again, i don't have any direct experience with the system, either; so I'd been worried about the static nature of this ideal.

Quote
I don't really see how this would oppose Humanity as you've defined it.  If anything, it looks like Demons would support the "self-reliance" part of your definition; I don't think "small, scattered groups" are necessarily incompatible with the notion of "community" either.


They're not. And I wan't sure - are Demons meant to always oppose Humanity, or not? Again, this is part of the reason I wanted to get feedback ... the idea behind it was essentially to make the characters use their demons, the big guns, only when they really had to - or pay the price for using a crop duster on a flea, if you take my meaning.

Thanks for the thoughts!
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Trevis Martin
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2004, 11:44:30 PM »

Sorcerer can  support play using more than one humanity definition.  Its discussed in Sex and Sorcery (about p22).  What it does is bring into sharp relief the conflict between two different value systems.

It's just fine to set up an opposed humanity defintion.  And it causes interesting circumstances when your character may get a humanity loss roll for violating one aspect of humanity and a humanity gain roll for the other aspect.  Its a straight 50% shot both times so its entirely possible the character could gain a humanity point!

Snowden, I may be mistaken, but it seems implied in your post that you expect the point of Sorcerer is to cause the characters to loose humanity.  It really isn't.  Humanity exists as a real marker of significant moral decision (within the context of its definition.)  Because there is a real-life hard core mechanical consequence to loosing humanity then rolls for gain or loss become significant events and gain meaning to the players.  In fact players may never get to zero, or it may be so hard not to drop that they do drop inevitably.  What is significant is that they are making decision which require a roll be made one way or another.  

I can see demons working against both definitions, if demons do both of a.) help the character to such an extent that he does not rely on himself and b.) serve the character at the expense of the community  I can see how that would work.

best

Trevis
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Snowden
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« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2004, 09:20:06 AM »

I actually haven't seen the dual Humanity rules, so there may be something I'm missing there.  However, this setting seems like it's not so much as "two different Humanity descriptions" as "two opposite Humanity descriptions"!  I don't think I explained it well, but what I was trying to say was that it seems like doing anything that would cause a PC to lose Humanity by one standard would often cause them to gain it by the other; I would be concerned that this would have the effect of nullifying the effect of Humanity by making it hard for PCs to gain or lose it in the long run.

I guess my suggestion would be to keep half of your Humanity definition, and redefine Demons so that they do the balancing work that was originally done by the other half of the definition.  If Humanity represents independence, then Demons want to draw the Sorcerers into communities; if Humanity represents community, then Demons want to make loners of them -- I'm pretty sure Demons don't have to be "evil" as long as they are powerful and opposed to whatever you've decided it means to be Human.  Come up with a suitable end condition for zero Humanity, and you're all set to go.  You could even play two opposite games in the same setting, if you wanted to explore both sides...
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ivan23
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« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2005, 11:57:19 AM »

Quote from: Snowden
I actually haven't seen the dual Humanity rules, so there may be something I'm missing there.  However, this setting seems like it's not so much as "two different Humanity descriptions" as "two opposite Humanity descriptions ...


Snowden, sorry for the delay in getting back - holidays and all.

What I was aiming for was the tightrope effect of yes, one needs to work within a communal structure to be considered fully human - "the ties that bind" and all that - but that turning over one's own independence to the community as a whole actually damages the community rather than assisting it. It's not a screed against welfare or anything, but a system that states humanity is based upon one's contribution to, rather than reliance upon, a community of like-minded individuals.

For example: In a community of friends, everything begins well. One of the friends succumbs to alcoholism. Now the community must support or abandon this individual who is no longer fully capable of supporting himself. That puts stress upon all members of the community, and reduces the Humanity of the alcoholic.

In this sense, the demons work as alcohol does. They seek to increase human reliance upon demonic assistance, forcing the sorceror to summon and bind more demons, which makes him both more powerful and less self-reliant. The demons work to get the sorceror into more and more dangerous situations, to get him to truly begin needing their assistance on a regular basis - as well as to offer assistance in minor, little things; which again undermines the self-reliance of the sorceror.

Additionally, having demons around - demons who need things like michief and mayhem to continue behaving - will place additional stress on a community, thus creating conflict, which breaks up communities and causes Humanity loss all around. Voila, the demons have what they want.

Does that put things a little better?
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Nev the Deranged
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Dave. Yeah, that Dave.


« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2005, 08:26:47 AM »

Ivan, I think you've got a good grasp on what Humanity definitions are supposed to be about, and having equal-but-opposing definitions is not a problem. It happens all the time in real life.

Both Sorcerer's Soul and Sex & Sorcery fully support the model you have layed out here. Especially in Sex&, the section on Plural Humanity, which openly states that Humanity definitions can be contradictory; followed shortly by the section on Morality and Social Life, which illustrates exactly the kinds of conflicts it seems like you want to focus on, in this case "innermost circle" Self/Mate/Offspring priorities vs "third circle" Community priorities.

I definitely reccommend picking up all three of the "supplements", even though they were published separately they really represent a single text. Yes, you can play the game with just the first book, but to get the full measure of the game and the underlying themes, it's really helpful to have all of them.

Good luck with your plans, and hopefully you'll find some folks willing to give it a shot; but either way it's a valuable experience.

**edit**

oh yeah, before I forget, I was interested to know more about the setting. It sounds to me like almost a post-apocalyptic, or retro-future kind of thing, along the lines of Fallout or some such; or perhaps colonists on a new planet? I'm not sure if you were aiming for anything that exotic or not, but a little more background would be neat.
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ivan23
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2005, 09:06:58 AM »

Hi Nev,

thanks for the kind words! I picked up Soul recently and found it very helpful; I'll probably leave it at that unless / until I can find some folks to play with.

As to the setting, "Big Sky" is usually used for Montana. The setting I had in mind was nothing as exotic as your suggestions, though I think that would be a fun twist. I'd pictured a 'fringe area' of the West - the kind of small town you find off the beaten tracks, inhabited by people who either chose to get away from society or who never had a chance to get away. You have other 'camps' and communities around - reservations, militiamen, communes and racist boot camps - members of which can play well into a relationship map of love, hate, and shared interests.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2005, 10:32:13 AM »

Hello,

I have a great recommendation for you: the movie No Name on the Bullet, one of the finest westerns I've ever seen.

Best,
Ron
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