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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] The Sin Eaters  (Read 2598 times)

Posts: 128

« on: December 30, 2004, 08:10:36 PM »

I came up with this setting while taking my dog for a walk, and even though I haven't had a chance yet, I'd like to throw some ideas out. It uses a modified humanity mechanic... feedback welcome as always...

Its been crossposted to rpg.net as well.

The Sin Eaters

or The Seven Deadlier Sins

or Man – the Sinner

 or Adam’s Folly

He that is proud eats up himself. Pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle; and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise.
-The History of Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare


Who is not ashamed of his sins, sins double.
-German proverb

Who Must Pay the Price for your Power?

What are Demons?

On the following day everyone knew that a flesh-and-blood angel was held captive in Pelayo’s house. Against the judgment of the wise neighbor woman, for whom angels was in those times were the fugitive survivors of a celestial conspiracy, they did not have the heart to club him to death.
   -A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There are two demons in this game, “True Demons” (as per S&S p. 51) are described below under the heading “Other Demons” and are noted by their capitalization, while the “demon” that a Sorcerer summons and deals with is henceforth referred to as a Sin Eater.

The Sin Eater that your Sorcerers command in this case are the servitors of creation, what some would describe as “angels”. In this setting however, they are brought low through the calculated action of Sorcerers. What form these Sin Eaters take and what their role is before being enslaved by the Sorcerer is up to the GM and players, but some examples are provided.

There also we saw the Nephilim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.
-Numbers 13;33

The “angels” that become Sin Eaters could be beautiful yet naïve creatures, dragged forth from their heaven paradise, or they could be a secretive force among us throughout time, watching, observing, and intervening as the divine would have it, or elemental-like Djinn who form the basis of our reality and are constrained by arcane rules and controlled by complex yet obscure rituals, or finally they could be beautiful yet terrible winged and armored avengers of a jealous god’s will. In any case, when first summoned by the Sorcerer, their fall from grace is all but assured. That first act of sin that an Angel carries out transforms this creature from one of divine creation to human folly.

What is a Sorcerer?

When all other sins are old avarice is still young.
   -French proverb

All Sorcerers are foremost driven by a desire for power beyond the temporal. This is the single most important consideration for any Sorcerer. The second thing is that the Sorcerer is one who has bound and enslaved the very power of creation for their own ends. They have taken the divine and bent it to their own baseborn will. The Sorcerer either enslaves the demon through force, possibly keeping the angel bound within an object or tied with duct tape and nylon rope and hidden away within a closet, or subverts the demon to their own end, filling the demon with human needs and human sin, soiling the pure and allowing the Sorcerer to escape the consequences of their action for a short time at least.

The Rituals

The rituals that bind and control an angel, turning it into a Sin Eater, are all rituals in which a human Sorcerer uses human folly to ensnare an angel, sullying the divine and subverting it to the ignoble and vile, either by displacing one’s own sin and heaping it upon the Sin Eater or by encouraging or coercing the Sin Eater into carrying out the acts of its own. These sins are known as the Seven Deadly Sins, not because they can endanger the human soul, but because they are deadly to the pure essence of the angelic. The seven deadly sins are Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Wrath, with Pride being the key.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
- Proverbs XVI: 18)

The Binding

The only way to Summon and then Transform or Create (Bind) a Sin Eater is through Pride. Before the game begins and the initial binding carried out, each Sorcerer must describe how they subverted an angel through Pride. Cunning and manipulative means will earn bonus dice in the summoning. Once the angel itself falls afoul of the sin of Pride, it becomes both fallen and earth-bound and dependent upon the Sorcerer. Initial Sin Eaters are weak and sickly things, with a Power no greater than the Humanity of the Sorcerer, but this Power and available demonic abilities increases as one warps and twists the once-noble form of the divine by heaping greater sin upon it. Much like Dorian Grey’s Portrait, the Sin Eater of a demon becomes the unholy testament to the sins and crimes of a Sorcerer.

(Option, alternately an angel can be first tempted by some other means: convincing it to gorge out on potato chips, vodka, and reality TV shows in the case of Gluttony or convincing the angel to slay another Sorcerer who had horribly abused an angel (Wrath).

The Other Rituals

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
-James, Ch. III, v7-8

Contact: Contacting an angel A contact ritual may take any form appropriate for that angel: reading Quranic verse at the edge of a Djinn-haunted city hidden in the desert sands or saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards in an abandoned church. Summon a sin-riddled demon is easy – use its current need (the Sin it is currently absorbing) to draw it forth. A gluttonous Sin Eater could possibly be contacted by greedily devouring a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich before a picture of Elvis and murmuring the demon’s name with a mouth full of food.

Summons: An Angel can be summoned when some transgression of nature is carried out, and it wings its way forth to remedy the situation. Once the angel arrives amidst creation, it is ripe for perversion by an awaiting Sorcerer. Again, a Sin Eater is easily summoned by contacting it through a vice and urging it to join you in the act of indulgence. An all too eager and depraved Sin Eater will find such entreaties too powerful to resist.

Strange sins, strange punishments.
   -Latin proverb

Punish: The act of Punishing a Sin Eater is obvious, deny the monstrosity the wretched acts it so fervently desires. Accompanying such refusal with puritanical moralizing or a monologue filled with disgust about the creatures fallen nature and current circumstances is even more effective.

Contain: The measure of containing is simply a more extreme version of punishment: confining the physical form of a demon in something anathema to its current need: in a lighter game, putting a chastity belt upon a lustful Sin Eater or chaining a slothful Sin Eater to an exercise machine would be good examples, in a darker game, well, this is no place for such discussion.

So What is Humanity?

What sick ridiculous puppets we are / and what gross little stage we dance on / What fun we have dancing and f*cking / Not a care in the world / Not knowing that we are nothing / We are not what was intended.
   -John Doe in Se7en

Humanity is accountability for one’s own actions.

Old sins cast long shadows.
   -Irish Proverb

In pursuit of power, the Sorcerer has befouled something innocent, and has heaped the sins of the flesh and mind upon it, bloating the Sin Eater with the fruits of the Sorcerer’s own dark labors.

How Does Humanity Work?

Humanity checks are made whenever the Sorcerer commits one of the seven deadly sins. Conceivably any act that hurts or injures (and thus empowers) the Sin Eater is itself an act of Pride, so keep this in mind.

Years and sins are always more than owned.
-Italian proverb

When a Humanity check is successful, the weight of the crime falls upon the shoulders of the Sorcerer, and that Sorcerer must take a Price suitable to the sin committed. If the Sorcerer so desires, they can perform only once another binding ritual (Humanity vs. Demon Power) test to heap that Price and Sin upon the Sin Eater, and if this is successful, the price is lost and the sin is heaped upon the shoulders of the Sin Eater as if the original Humanity Check was a failure, as described below.

Few love to hear the sins they love to act.
- Pericles Prince of Tyre, William Shakespeare

If the Humanity Check is a failure, then the Sorcerer has shifted the guilt and shame and other moral and spiritual consequences upon their Sin Eater. The Sorcerer loses a point of humanity, but the Sin Eater gains a point of Power and a new ability of the player’s choice, as long as it can be justified through the use of the sin. Thus, as humanity is lost and sin heaped upon the Sin Eater, it becomes more monstrous and shameful, a mirror to the Sorcerer’s soul.

What Happens at Humanity Zero?

He's experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I've encountered, give or take, and he still has Hell to look forward to.
   -Dr. Beardsley in Se7en

Endgame: One sin too many has sealed the fate of the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer meets their end or no longer is human. Ultimately, the choice is up to the player and GM, but some possibilities follow.

Swallowed by Sin: The Sin Eater grows too powerful and terrible, and in the final act of their relationship, consumes the Sorcerer.

Divine Retribution: The blight upon earth finally draws the attention of the divine or whatever calls the shots, and the atrocity (in this case the Sorcerer and its Sin Eater) are expunged from creation.

Pride Cometh Before the Fall: The Sorcerer has lost their humanity and tumbles (physically and or spiritually and or metaphorically) to hell, transforming themselves into a True Demon. The Sin Eater goes off to lurk about, fulfilling its own dark needs.


We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore.
-John Doe in Se7en

At any point, the Sorcerer can attempt to seek out redemption, which requires, first and foremost, making amends to the Sin Eater. Over a given period of time (as determined by player and GM), the Sorcerer must make an effort to claim their own sins. Each sin claimed incurs a –1 penalty of a suitable sort. Each sin and price acquired must be redressed individually before another can be accounted for.

During the act of redemption, making amends and coping with each price and sin becomes the Kicker of the player seeking redemption. When that Kicker is resolved, that Price is removed and a new burden can be carried by the redemptive Sorcerer.

For never can true reconcilement grow, Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.
- Paradise Lost, John Milton

Over time, the angel will begin to re-emerge from within the hideous form of the Sin Eater, although it should be noted that the Angel will bear at least one scar from each sin it bore as a testament to the folly of all involved.

The True Nature of Angels

Unless desired otherwise, all Angels are Inconspicuous and eternal, being invulnerable to any mundane physical process. You could use the Angel rules from Sorcerer’s Soul to account for the normal power and actions of Angels.

The Nature of Sin Eaters

Sin Eaters when first bound become Passers, taking whatever form the GM and players decide upon. The first Sin though marks them: if Pride they may have a haughty expression or a twisted sneer. Each additional sin heaped upon them has a dramatic and transformative effect, making them hideous mockeries of what they once were. They still remain eternal, and their bond with the Sorcerer means that the Sorcerers themselves do not age as well. If a GM so desires, the Sin Eater’s Stamina can increase as well as the Power with such acts of Gluttony, Lust, or Wrath that the Sin Eater absorbs.

Other Demons (Sorcerer & Sword p.50-52)

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
-Genesis 6:4

Immanents: If using an “Angels Hidden Amongst Us” concept, then Angels and True Demons (see below) are most likely Immanents. Angels may masquerade as humans among us, while Immanent True Demons lurk in dark corners of our world, whispering to junkies from the shadows, creeping through sewers while harboring ancient resentments, and devouring babies left unattended in their cribs. Note that all Sin Eaters are bound in the temporal and considered Immanents. Another possible set of Immanents are the Nephilim, offspring of human and angel in the ancient past.

Beast: An uncontrolled Sin Eater whose Sorcerer has entered Endgame could be a Beast: Spring Heeled Jack, the Jersey Devil, and possibly even some of the worst serial killers are Beasts, Sin Eaters run amok, untethered and fearless.

Pagan Thing: This would be any entity that resides outside the guiding paradigm that informs the setting. In the case of a setting occupied by Judaic-like Angels, the Pagan Thing would be those creatures inhabiting other mythologies or concepts, the Golden Calf or animistic spirits, things that presaged humans in the scale of creation.

A god must not appear ungracious toward a sacrifice; however he derives no satisfaction from it. He doesn’t know what he wants to eat. There must be something…
   -24 Hours, Neil Gaiman

Old Ones: Old Ones could be those Sin Eaters that have lived for centuries, even millenia. Adam’s first Sin Eater, the Serpent in the Garden of Eden could make a plausible Old One, as was Jonah’s Sin Eater, the Leviathan. These are massive Sin Eaters that have managed in part to transcend the physical and become creatures that exist in part as metaphor. Old Ones could be humans of early Biblical or other religious mythological origins, such as Lilith or Caine, bearing awesome powers.

True Demons: True Demons may exist in a traditional religious manner, being the opposite of Angels, or they could simply be the misshapen fiends that were once Sorcerers. In this sense, the only demons are ourselves.

Undead: Undead could exist in many senses. Those who have died as a result of sin and not received retribution may wander the earth as ghosts or revenants, unable to avenge themselves as a Sorcerer would have misplaced that particular sin upon another – their Sin Eater and thus the ghost is denied justice. A Sorcerer who has died could come back as a revenant in an effort to undo the evil they had committed. Liche-like Sorcerers are possible if the power of the Sin Eater allows their bodies to slowly age and die but keeps the Sorcerer’s willful yet withered soul rattling around inside the corpse.

Inspirations: A Clock-work Orange (book or movie), Se7en (movie), The Prophecy (movie), The Seventh Sign (movie), Power’s Declare, A Christmas Carol, Harvey, Gaiman’s 24 Hours, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and Blacaman the Good, Vendor of Miracles.

Notice was given to an old sire before the door of the house, when some of the family came out and furnished him with a cricket [low stool], on which he sat down facing the door; then they gave him a groat which he put in his pocket, a crust of bread which he ate, and a bowl of ale which he drank off at a draught. After this he got up from the cricket and pronounced the case and rest of the soul departed, for which he would pawn his own soul.
-Bagford’s letter on Leland’s Collectanea, i. 76.
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 1113

Master of the Inkstained Robes

« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2004, 09:59:13 PM »


Okay.  Now that that's out of the way, I really like this (and I'm surprised that the movie The Omen, which actually had a sin-eater of sorts, wasn't listed among your inspirations).  

You've got mechanics in there that I've always wanted out of Sorcerer - mechanics to increase the Power of a "demon", tying it directly into humanity checks, which I love... but I have to ask, with the way Humanity is described, shouldn't it also affect the binding strength when Humanity is lost?

What causes humanity gain rolls?  Remember, humanity checks are all about loss.  Is active redemption the only way to gain Humanity?  Can Humanity not be gained?  I'd like to see a few examples of humanity gain.

Anyway, if you managed to spin this from a one-sheet into a full mini-supplement, I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat.  I think the basic idea is that damn good.

Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2004, 08:14:18 AM »

Works for me. This is the kind of setup that goes perfectly with a relationship map that has been tainted with a single, identifiable, and painful crime.

My only concern is the practical: that successful play will depend on consensual enthusiasm among everyone involved. So if you get several reactions like mine and Alexander's, from the real humans who will be playing, then the next step is to integrate people's suggestions into the basic assumptions of the upcoming game.

That step is awfully hard to get across in some groups, and easier in others - the long-standing assumption that the GM is finished with his prep and needs no suggestions, and that the players are only responsible for "coming up with characters," is a pernicious one.

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