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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Mystery Demon Abilities  (Read 2460 times)
Andrew Norris

Posts: 253

« on: March 10, 2005, 11:47:49 AM »

This week our group met for the starting session of our Sorcerer campaign, "The Tenure Game". I'm sufficiently jazzed by the ideas the players came up with to start an Actual Play thread soon, so I'll restrict this to a specific question.

One of the characters is an academic researcher with a focus in historic occult lore. His only Demon comes from one of many unsuccessful summoning rituals. The player's idea for this Demon is that it's a shapechanger with a number of disparate Powers, each tied to a specific form. (The player really got excited when he presented the idea as a conflict between the character's drive to understand how Things Really Work and the demon's ability to keep changing the rules.)

Depending on how the character is fleshed out, it may be entirely possible that he's not sure whether or not these various forms of the demon are even the same being.

The player specifically requested a relatively high Power demon with a number of abilities, and so far I've got these:

Type: Inconspicuous
Powers: Cloak, Shapechange (self), Boost Lore (conferred, master).

(The demon's hidden its Boost ability, which is going to drive its master crazy trying to figure out why his precise, historically accurate rituals work  one time and totally fail the next.)

Rather than get into the campaign specifics in this post, I'd like to talk more generally about "mystery abilities". I'm familiar with the idea of changing a Demon based on how well the Contact/Summon/Bind process goes, but this player's handed me a golden opportunity to drive him with demon-related Bangs, so I don't want to disappoint him.

If anyone has ideas or play experience involving
(a) interesting situations in play driven by a master not fully understanding his demon, or
(b) abilities (or combinations of abilities) that have been "grabby" and intrigued your group,
I'd love to hear them.

For reference, this Demon has 4-5 abilities as yet unnamed. Considering that the player is researching actual myths of demons and mythological beings, I imagine one of them is going to be either Big or Special Damage(Claws/Fangs) representing a "combat form". I have the feeling that something like Hint, Taint, or Spawn might cause a ruckus, as well.

Thanks in advance for any ideas or relevant play experiences you feel like sharing.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2005, 02:22:56 PM »


I have not yet had a player say, "Oh, surprise me," when it comes to a starting demon. I've typically preferred for the player to stake as much specific creativity into the starting conditions as play by possible, by making them wholly responsible for the starting demons.

However! It sounds to me like this particular guy really has the right idea, if you two are going to take the Mystery Demon approach from the start.

I've played the Mystery Demon (how big is it? what can it do?) situation more typically by introducing the demon myself, and as it turns out, the player-character Binds it during the course of play. [I've grown accustomed to not knowing, for every single demon in play, whether it will end up (a) dead as a doornail, (b) Banished, or (c) Bound or Un-Bound, by the end of the next session.]

Anyway, when this happens, I find myself in the interesting position of deciding whether the demon makes it fairly clear what it can do to its new master. Sometimes it's pretty forthright, usually in the case of a demon who really gets a lot out of being with this particular master at this particular time. In many cases, the answer is "no," and the little bugger holds back a little. I mainly base this decision depending on how suitably and often the master provides the Need.

Fabrice G.

Posts: 206

« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2005, 12:48:04 AM »

Hi Andrew,

to the contrary of Ron's experience, I've almost always had one player that wanted to "be surprised" with his demon. I've found that it can profundly change the way you play Sorcerer, as it may be a way to engage in a Sim rather than a Nar way : my character wouldn't know, so I must not.

As for you particular questions :

I've had this situation play a significant role in play twice.
The first time, it was a 1 player-1GM game that mostly revolved around the player character and his demon. The demon was a replica of the sorcerer's wife, and his Desire was to be loved. I played that up to 11, and the story really was about the relationship between the demon and the sorcerer, with the wife, the nephew and the young son thrown in. We played maybe two or three sessions, until the conclusion of the story.

The second time, it was a game heavilly inspired by the Naked Lunch (the novel and the movie). The players made caracters and told me about their respective demons, but the whole deal was that I was in charge of their demons (abilities, type, etc.) as they wanted the surprise as what exactly they were and wanted.

From this I learned to play the Desire. Of course, the player know about that first demon desire, but for the most part, in many of my games, the character (and sometimes even the player) doesn't fully understand the extend of the desire's impact on the demon. So, one solution for me was to underline the addiction like nature of the Desire with some excalating scale. For exemple, the wife-demon did take the place of the wife, but confronted the character to what would happen to his wife (who was being held captive in the cellar).

This was magnified in the second game, and came close to what you have described here. The players wasn't even aware of the actual type of their demon. One believed that he had a evil twins passer kind of demon, when in fact it was a possessor. The moment of surprise was really great, as I was carefull to hide it from him, and played on the character's perceptions the whole time.

So, my advice would be to play the demon really strongly, using the player's misundertanding about the demon as story fodder, but giving him the opportunity to fully learn/aknowledge what is going on. The important part isn't to keep things secret, but to see how the character will react when he is faced with the conscequences of his actions.
On the other hand, from my experience, you should be prepared to see that aspect of the thing become the main "story" for that character. Still, if you weave it in the humanity definition you're playing with, that can make interesting Bangs out of those discoveries.

Hope it was helpfull.

Andrew Norris

Posts: 253

« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2005, 10:08:27 PM »

Sorry for waiting so long to reply; I've been gathering my notes in preparation of a new thread about our play group's first session. I've decided to make the sorcerer-demon relationship directly about the character's lust for knowledge, and so we're going to spend less time in game having the sorcerer try to figure out how his demon works. (We're probably going to focus on the "why" instead.)

Fabrice, I agree that having several demon abilities undefined early on might turn into a Sim situation. Nothing wrong with that, but everybody else's demons are tightly bound to theme, so it doesn't quite fit here. Thanks for your analysis; I found it helpful.

Ron, I appreciate your advice. I'm going to have the character's first Bang involve a confrontation with his demon that really gets across the "what it can do to me/what I'm really dealing with" angle.
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