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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Twilight Armies (Sci-fi Western: A Dry, Quiet War  (Read 1844 times)
Old_Scratch
Member

Posts: 128


« on: April 05, 2005, 01:34:17 PM »

Ron, I promise you I'm going to start running some of this stuff once my group finds its legs again! Anyhow, this was crossposted to rpg.net. Seeing as how there is a delay with Sorcerer in Space, I thought I'd post it here. Feedback is appreciated of course...

First of all, this is a post-war sci-fi setting with a strong Western feel based upon Tony Daniel’s excellent novella “A Dry, Quiet War”. Its excellent and worth reading before proceeding as the novella is very evocative and the following setting details may spoil the story:

http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/quietwar.htm

Twilight Armies, Twilight Soldiers, Out from the Twilight, Twilight Behind
 
…there is not enough dark matter to pull the cosmos back together again, not enough mass to undulate in eternal cycle. Instead, there is an end, and all the stars are either dead or dying, and all that there is is nothing but dim night. I told her about the twilight armies gathered there, culled from all times, all places. Creatures, presences, machines, weapons fighting galaxy to galaxy, system to system, fighting until the critical point is reached, when entropy flows no more, but pools, pools in endless, stagnant pools of nothing. No light. No heat. No effect. And the universe is dead, and so those who remain ... inherit the dark field. They win.
-A Dry, Quiet War

What is the Premise?
I kill so that there might be life.
-A Dry, Quiet War

Will you be able to return to that very life that you have killed for?

What is Your Sorcerer?

They sucked down my heart
to a little black hole
You cannot stab me.

They wrote down my brain
on a hard knot of space,
You cannot turn me.

Icicle spike
from the eye of a star
I've come to kill you.

-A Dry, Quiet War

Your Sorcerer is simply a soldier returned home from the war they’ve fought. Yet your Sorcerer is so much more: a Sorcerer is one who has fought in that last and most terrible war at the end of time. They come from a million different galaxies, dimensions, timelines and realities. These twilight warriors have been remade, transformed, and altered forever into multi-dimensional beings, entities that exist beyond time and space. Their physical body is just an anchor in one time and place; their warselves extend billions of years into the future, unfolding like a dark shadow over countless worlds towards the end of time billions of years distant. The most powerful of these twilight warriors are like gods: able to see the future and snuff out entire worlds with a single gesture.

And now they’ve returned home from that nightmare war. Returned to the families, homes, and worlds they had left. All they want now is to return to that life they so desperately warred and killed and bled for.

What is a Demon?

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
-Blade Runner

A gun is a tool, Marion, no better or no worse than any other tool, an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.
-Shane

A Demon is a synthesis of two things: your transformed nature and your war-time past. That person who fought at the end of time has returned with an arsenal unimaginable to those in their actual reality to which they have returned. Your Demon is this power, these weapons of the gods. You may be tempted to use them. Others may drive them to use them. Will you kill again?

What is Humanity?
The war was over… and I knew it was over. I was going to feel something, once again, something besides guile, hate and rage. I didn't yet, that was true, but I could feel the possibility.
-A Dry, Quiet War

Humanity is your ability to retain your past self – that part of you that existed before you were transformed into a killing machine.

There's no living with a killing. There's no going back from it. Right or wrong, it's a brand, a brand that sticks.
-Shane

Humanity can be gained by adjusting and settling in and defending what you love without having to resort to the demon powers of your warself.

Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
-Unforgiven

On the other hand, using your demonic powers in your actual reality where you have retired will compromise your humanity, as will discussing or revealing the outcome of the war at the end of time.

What Happens at Humanity Zero?

How Does the War End? Every time a returning soldier tells that answer, he changes everything. Then he has two choices. He can either go away, leave his own time, and go back to fight again. Or he can stay, and it will all mean nothing, what he did. Not just who won and who lost, but all the things he did in the war spin off into nothing.
-A Dry, Quiet War

The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you… They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.
-Jacob’s Ladder

When Humanity reaches zero, that Sorcerer has compromised the future and two things can happen. The first is that the Sorcerer has failed to adjust and becomes possessed by their demon and turns mad, tyrannical or suicidal, and their contribution to the war at the end of time is undone, possible changing the outcome. The second option is that the Sorcerer who has used their powers and alters the timeline can then return to that unimaginable holocaust at the end of time to fight the war anew. Either case the Sorcerer is removed from play.

Where Does This Setting Take Place?

Listen:
   Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time…
…Billy first became unstuck while World War Two was in progress.

-Slaughter House Five, Kurt Vonnegut.

And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
-Judges 15:16 (King James Version)

The settings can be anyplace in any world at any time. The Sorcerers are plucked from every time stream, every dimension, and every reality to fight, and those who survive receive that most precious of rewards: to return back to that place for which they have fought. Their return is often years later, making the adjustment all the more difficult. Some upon returning are feared and reviled, and may meet grisly ends, such as crucifixion, although such measures rarely kill the Sorcerer, thus creating all manners of myths about gods and monsters.

Nor is there a need for the players to necessarily be normal humans: they can be genetically altered or spliced humans from a trans-human future. Other Sorcerers can be aliens or creatures inconceivable to the human mind, but playing such a Sorcerer would be exceedingly difficult for all involved and is not recommended.

Making your Sorcerer

Follow the normal Sorcerer rules on pages 25-26

Stamina Descriptors

Hard as Steel – Your very body is hard as steel and as deadly as any weapon. (Sta 3+)

A Sliver of Time – Your body is an ephemeral thing, like swiftly shifting shadows, fleet and lithe and impossible to catch. (Sta 2+)

Brittle as Iron – Terrible things have been done to your body over the war, even beyond your ability to regenerate and repair yourself. You are still immensely strong, but your endurance gives out suddenly and completely. (Sta 1)

Will Descriptors

Commanding Presence – You were one of those powerful leaders whose very presence inspires unquestioning loyalty and the power to invoke atrocities. (Will 3+)

Smart Enough – You lived by your wits: some called you an opportunist, you called yourself a survivor. (Will 2+)

Merely a Blunt Weapon – You were not relied upon to think: your talents lay elsewhere, doing as instructed as ruthlessly as possible. (Will 1)

Lore
Lore in Twilight Warriors is your knowledge of the War and of demons. This could be the kind of over-arching grand knowledge known by commanding officers, the secret intelligence gathered in covert operations, or the practical day-to-day knowledge of the practical realities of the war. The higher the rating, the more awareness the returning soldier had about their place and importance in the war. Furthermore, Lore offers access to the dataweb that their side was using, allowing them to evaluate the powers and abilities of others Sorcerers and acquire data about the universe as a whole.

Lore Descriptors

Commanding Officer – You were a prominent figure in the war, leader of a decorated unit and party to countless atrocities. (Lore 4+)

A Damn Good Soldier – Somebody had to do the dirty work, and you rose to the occasion. While officers called the shots, it was up to the likes to you to actually fight the war. (Lore 2+)

Conscript – You were among the non-aligned contigency troops, the lowest of the grunts in the fighting; the least likely to know what was going on and the most likely to die. (Lore 1+)

Destiny
It is worth using the Destiny rules in Sorcerer & Sword p. 38, as this is the destiny that that Sorcerer has already carried out, and is what is at risk should their humanity reach zero.

Past
The Sorcerer’s past is what describes whatever role that Sorcerer played in their own society before being inducted into the War. They may have been a hunter in a nomadic pre-history society in Africa, a Napoleanic Cavalry Officer, a farmer in Zhou-era China, or a Time-Possibility Engineer in the far future.

Price
The Price is the result of the Sorcerer’s role in the war. They could be hardened (-1 to intimate situations), jittery (-1 in stressful situations), or scarred (-1 to first impressions).

Humanity Trading
Some people may have undergone even more radical changes to their body, and may trade humanity points to increase their scores (see Sorcerer & Sword p. 44).

Telltale
They look human - sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him.
-The Terminator

The most common “telltales” are the enhancements in the corneas, although other “telltales” such as enhancements under the skin may exist depending on the powers that the demon has.

Demons

It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
-The Terminator

As noted, the “Demons” in this game are the alterations made to the Sorcerer to participate in the war and the experiences that the Sorcerer participated in during the war. Demons are “parasites” (Sorcerer p. 48), and do not communicate normally with its host or ever leave the body. Instead, the demon can only communicate through a virtual display visible in the corner of the Sorcerer’s eye.

Most Demons range in considerable power: nearly all demons have at least a Power of three, with the more powerful ones reaching around ten or even greater.

Demon Abilities

[You] would not see a man, but a kind of colonial creature, a mash of life pressed into the niches and faultlines of existence like so much grit and lichen. A human is anchored with only his heart and his mind; sever those, and he floats away, floats away. What was I? A medusa fish in an ocean of time. A tight clump of nothing, disguised as a man.

Every Demon offers at least one power: Cover. The Cover accounts for all the military training and experience that the Sorcerer has. In this sense, this is the Sorcerer’s recent military experience and training being reflected as part of the “demon”. The cover can be any military career: officer, military police, space marine, or it can be far more esoteric if desired: Pysker-Inquisitor, Trans-Dimensional Navigator, or Possibility Saboteur.

There are a few other benefits of being possessed by a Demon: most do not need to breathe or eat or even sleep. Those who have fought the war exist through many parallel selves and are exceedingly difficult to kill (Sorcerer p. 108)

Listed are some of the variations of Demon Abilities in this setting.

Armor

But what could possibly be of use against a creature that had survived – will survive that great and final war –¬¬ and so must survive now? You can't kill the future. That's how the old sergeants would explain battle fate to the recruits. If you are meant to be there, they'd say, then nothing can hurt you. And if you're not, then you'll just fade, so you might as well go out fighting.

For those warriors fighting in the Twilight War, physical armor is of little use, so this Armor takes into account the multi-dimensional transformation of the individual, stretching their physical and mental presence across various dimensions, hiding their organs and splintering their mental capacities into extra-dimensional spaces and shadow selves in other time- and dimensional-lines.

Big

In that moment, I spread out, stretched a bit in ways… I showed it myself, all of me spread out and huge, and I let it fear.


Big is another feature of the trans-dimensional-self, in this case the change in size is not a physical one, but a spreading of the self through multiple-dimensions as an attempt to avoid damage by slipping vital organs through cracks in reality.

Command

Effective at controlling a type of animal, or controlling those directly linked to the Sorcerer, as those are tied into a websquad.

Cover
See above Demon Description

Daze
They'd broken his mind and given him a dream of dying.

Fast
I ran for miles and miles, as fast as a jaguar, but never tiring. How could I tire when parts of me stretched off into dimensions of utter stillness, utter rest?

Hop

Normally not usable unless perhaps being used in conjunction with another member of one’s Websquad.

Link

Used with Websquads

Special Damage
I didn't waste time with the creature. With a quick twist in n-space, I pulled it down to the present, down to a local concentration of hate and lust and stupidity that I could kill with a quick thrust into its throat.

Spawn – Not used in this setting.

Transport – Not used in this setting.

Travel
He moved in a new way… slipped and oozed through spaces… questioned the angles… reconfigured them… He inveigled his way through crevices in possible spaces…
-Scar, China Mieville

The Demons

Demon Desires

Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rode around their shores... burning with the fires of Orc.
-Blade Runner

Demon Desires are normally associated with the particular role that the Sorcerer had in the Twilight War: for Infantry: Mayhem, for Intelligence: Knowledge, Psy-Ops: Mischief, for desperate Grunts: Survival, and for the Leadership Cadres: Power or Dominance.

That's all I've got so far, there's a few other things to think over. Feedback is appreciated, in particular, regarding the rituals.

--Garett
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Old_Scratch
Member

Posts: 128


« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2005, 07:27:36 AM »

More on Demons

Nearly all Demons in the game are Parasites: being the internal hardware modifications and wartime experiences that the character has.

Rituals

Binding

Initial Binding Roll: This determines whether the Sorcerer or the Warself has the upper hand. A strong binding suggests one or the other is in control, while a weak binding is uncertain control. This roll can be used to sum up the character’s wartime experience. A strong roll in favor of the Demon or Warself suggests that the character was entirely consumed by the war and carried out all manner of atrocities while their warself ran amok. On the other hand, a roll in favor of the Sorcerer demonstrates a character who remained in control and only used their powers when necessary. This initial binding roll should be described by the player as a particular moment or two in the Twilight War that is evocative of their wartime experience.

In the twists of other times and spaces, I did similar things, horrible, irrevocable things, to the man. I killed him. I killed him in such a way that he would never come to life again, not in any possible place, not in any possible time. I wiped Marek Lambrois from existence. Thoroughly.
-A Dry, Quiet War

Since Demons can only be killed forever once bound, if a Sorcerer wants to destroy another Sorcerer and their Demon, they will have to Bind the other’s demon to finally kill it. Due to their nature, there is generally no such thing as an Unbound Demon/Warself in this game. Binding in this case is seeking out that elusive Warself scattered and  hidden throughout time and space and bringing it together in one place, and then killing it, and the person that Demon is attached to.

Punishing

Punishing your own Demon is the act of punishing its container: yourself. Sitting in the dark, cutting up your arms, injecting drug cocktails, burning yourself, binding yourself in restraints or putting yourself through traumatic physical and psychological ordeals to purge yourself of the horrific flashbacks and urges that the Warself evokes.

I reached into his mouth, past his gnashing teeth, and pulled out his tongue. He reached for it as I extracted it, so I handed it to him. Blood and drool flowed from his mouth and colored the red ground even redder about him. Then, one by one, I broke his arms and legs, then I broke each of the vertebrae in his backbone, moving up his spinal column with quick pinches. It didn't take long.
-A Dry, Quiet War

Punishing another Demon/Warself is different: abusing and crushing its vessel is the means to punishing it and the surest way to reduce its power to levels allowing it to be destroyed. Since a Sorcerer-Demon can bear a lot of damage, this sort of punishment is nothing less than ghastly torture in ways unimaginable by others, and is likely to be a Humanity-altering event.

Banishing

Irrevocably gone from this time line, and that was what mattered. Keeping this possible future uncertain, balanced on the fulcrum of chaos and necessity.
-A Dry, Quiet War

Once a Warself has been Bound by another, it can then by destroyed. Destroying the Warself leaves behind the shattered remains of a person, one bereft of all their powers and with holes burned into their brains and memories. Any Banishing is the murder of a mind and requires a Humanity test. At this time, the Demon’s host, the former Sorcerer can no longer make Will tests to ignore penalties and is able to be killed.

Other Rituals: Contain, Contact, Summoning
I’m not too sure about the others: Maybe Contain can be some sort of technological null cell or a stasis rack on which a Sorcerer or its Demon are pinned, while Contact might possibly be some sort of web communication between demons, although I’m not sure how well that would work or if it even should be possible. As for Summoning, I think I would dispense with that particular ritual.

----

Any other questions? Any ideas? Any comments?

I'm also curious if anyone has any suggestions as to inspirations for this sort of setting, as this is my list:

A Dry, Quiet War (Tony Daniel), The Dirty Dozen, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Pat Barker's Regeneration (novel and movie), Hemmingway's The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.

Also!

Anyone have any ideas on variations or changes to make to this setting: it adheres a little too closely to A Dry, Quiet War, I'd like to see it changed a bit and become more of its own setting and a little less derivative.

A couple other things I would like to throw out for discussion:

1) How to integrate flashbacks into the setting, and a way of encouraging that.

2) Perhaps the Demon should grow, as per Sorcerer's Soul, gaining in Power as it overshadows the normal self, and at Humanity Zero the Demon consumes the whole Sorcerer and the Sorcerer becomes a Demon. Is this an improvement?

3) Suggestions on rituals - is there a way to use Summoning and Contact and Contain in ways that I haven't considered?

4) Possibly complications running the game? Is the premise too limited? Would some people filled ripped off missing out on the whole war and just being an old soldier trying to settle down? Is the format too formulaic? You come home... your wife has remarried, etc... etc...

Come on folks! This isn't some intellectual exercise or an effort at propping up my self-esteem by posting a kewl setting. I posted it here to get some ideas and a fresh perspective by people more experienced than me. I still sometimes have trouble grasping exactly what the needs and desires would be for demons in this setting, for example.

Thanks in advance!

--Garett
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Andrew Norris
Member

Posts: 253


« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2005, 09:05:13 AM »

I thought I'd let you know, the idea's resonating with some Sorcerer thoughts I've had as well. I don't have any specific recommendations to send your way, but I recall several time travel-related war stories that hit on similar issues.

 I'm going to dig around my bookshelves and see if I can find where they were published, because that would certainly help with your goal of expanding the setting possibilities.

Off the top of my head, if I were going to run this I'd cut between the PCs back in their own time after the war, and together in some sort of group during it (keeping in mind that we don't want to find out how the war turns out unless it's to finish the campaign). I'd consider playing their peacetime demon Need and Desire based on how their wartime selves acted. (Or possibly I'd establish that connection, throw them some unexpected behavior from their warself in peacetime, and then let them decide how that comes out in their wartime flashback.)
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