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An Uncomfortable One-Sheet

Started by Sean, May 25, 2005, 07:57:29 PM

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So I was thinking about

- How far will you go to get what you want?

- Ron’s bit about ‘people, in situations’ from the birthday thread

- Droog’s posts about his In Utero sessions

- Chris Kubasik’s post about why Sorcerer doesn’t scare him, and Ron’s bit about the two kinds of Sorcerer players and the game really being for the ones that get a squicky, ‘oog’ feeling from the game

and I started thinking about a Sorcerer setup that would make me feel squicky and scare me but that I still might find interesting to play. This is the proto-one-sheet I came up with.

Setting: Any strongly patriarchal society where women’s public achievements are highly limited. My initial suggestion would be New York, London, or Paris in the eighteenth century.

Sorceresses are women. They are set apart by at least three features. First, they should have some ambition beyond a woman’s normal role, one which is disapproved of by society. Second, they should be from a background which grants them enough independence that if they wished to, they could have a private existence of little consequence which did not depend upon men, living out their lives as spinster poets, minor scholars, and so on. And third, they are alluring. Many women are beautiful, and some sorceresses are as well, though some may be plain or exotic. But there is something about them that men find irresistable; a man who falls into the constellation of the sorceress’ allure will find himself willing to do anything she wishes, so long as she continues to meet his need.

Demons are men: not just any men, most of whom are just as powerless and ineffectual as women, with the sole difference that they are allowed to imagine themselves superior to slightly over half the human race by virtue of their sex. Demons are men who can make a difference in the world. One might be a boxer who can and will kill with his bare hands; another a tycoon of industry; a third an eminent scholar and man of letters; a fourth highly placed in government; and so on. They may or may not have already achieved anything for themselves; once bound to a woman, her ends become theirs to fulfill as well, within the rough constellation of their own desire.

Humanity is independence: the ability to act meaningfully in the world on one’s own. When a woman does something for herself, without relying on a demon; stands alone on her own merits; publicly takes credit for her own deeds; asserts her own values through her own actions, she is entitled to a Humanity gain.

Allure replaces Lore. In addition to the ordinary functions of Lore, Allure also can be used in place of Will in some sorceress-demon interactions.

Sorcery works as follows. A Contact involves hearing or encountering a powerful man, a demon, and the first interaction with him. Summoning involves the process of seduction, with no actual sex – the bringing of the man under the influence of one’s own allure. Binding is marriage, and a sorceress can have only one bound demon. Pacting (as per Sorcery and Sword) involves sex without marriage. Any base attribute may be used for binding or pacting. If Stamina is used, the sex is carnal and enjoyable, even though it serves other ends. If Will is used, the sorceress does not particularly enjoy the sex, but her self is still involved in it: she understands it as instrumental, something transacted for power. If Allure is used, the Sorceress in her own mind has substituted for herself a male fantasy about her; she makes herself into an object for the purposes of beguiling her demon into service.

Demon Needs should not involve sex: rather flattery, looking good in front of one’s colleagues, strategic advice on something related to their desire which does not concern the sorceress, etc. The need should never relate to the sorceress’ own goals as expressed in her character concept, back-of-sheet diagram, and kicker.

Things this needs:

1) Probably, a different take on the demon powers, or different powers altogether. Financial resources, the power and willingness to kill, scintillating brilliance, the ability to obtain things that can’t otherwise be obtained, the means to travel, these are the sorts of things that demons provide their mistresses.

2) Descriptors.


Hey, that's a great idea :) It doesn't give me a squicky feeling, personally, but I like the "sorcerers:demons::women:men in a patriarchal society" idea.


tone down the violence, and you've got the Jane Austen RPG!
I believe in peace and science.


Great job. Initially, I think it would be better to change the rituals around so that Bind = making a commitment with this person and one form of Pact being marriage, for the purposes of making Banish more viable and allowing players to make the whole thing a total mess by getting multiple demons, but that unfortunately doesn't insert sex into anywhere.


Positive feedback. Thanks!

Sirogit, I think it's important to the idea I had here that pacting and binding involve "I fucked this guy even though I didn't have to or necessarily even want to because it furthered my purposes." This relates to why it makes me feel squicky. You've got these NPCs floating around, most of whom are basically not likeable (they're Demons, after all), but they can get you what you want, if you are willing to undergo the ritual (sex), guide and use them properly, and fulfill their needs. Together with Humanity conceived as independence and self-reliance and player investment in such I find this kind of unsettling, at least initially.

That does leave a hole where Banish is concerned, though.

I think I would allow non-Allure based, non-sorcerous sex to be a Humanity-affirming act in some cases. Setting up nicely vulnerable NPCs. But of course both kinds of sex are Not OK with the surrounding culture.

Mike Holmes

First, brilliant. Captures the whole feminist "Empowered Woman/Bitch" problem in a nutshell.

Second, why must binding be marriage? I think as long as the woman is having a relationship with a man of any sort in order to get power, that should count. I mean, when it comes down to it, isn't that dictated by the demon's need? Remember the sorcerer gives the demon some of it's need in the binding ritual.

And won't it be fun when the demon who realizes that his need to have a wife is being violated by her having another demon with a need for a mistress? :-)


P.S. Banish? Easy, that's divorce, or breaking up, etc. Note how non-easy it will be to break up with this system?
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Divorce?  Yeah, well... okay... I suppose.

Or killing the bastard.  Poison, runaway carriage, or setting your other demons on him.  I'm just saying.

Better yet, of course, is destroying him as a Demon (i.e. a man capable of changing the world), but leaving the withered, impotent husk of his physical form to drift through the world until he works up the will-power to end himself.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Mike Holmes

Quote from: TonyLBDivorce?  Yeah, well... okay... I suppose.

Or killing the bastard.  Poison, runaway carriage, or setting your other demons on him.  I'm just saying.
No, no, no. That's destroying the demon. Always an option in normal Sorcerer. A Banished Demon exists to potentially be bound yet again.

QuoteBetter yet, of course, is destroying him as a Demon (i.e. a man capable of changing the world), but leaving the withered, impotent husk of his physical form to drift through the world until he works up the will-power to end himself.
Might work for banishment. Punishment would certainly seem to head in this direction. But for banishment, the Sorcerer has to be able to put the character back in his place by summoning it again. So it's probably related to need again. So if a man needs flattery, punishment is probably insults. Banishment in this case could be a case of low self-esteem that the sorceress could cure with another summoning and binding.

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There are some different issues with banish and punish and they relate both to the humanity and demon definitions in places where they need development. My original thought was pretty close to Tony's. But I think we need to know more about what demons are to judge how well that works.

Let's say that demons are the husbands and lovers of sorceresses (period). That is, a man's not a demon unless he's been Bound or Pacted with. Otherwise, he's just an ordinary Joe, maybe with the same Stamina and Will, but that's it.

In this case banishment and punishment would all have to do with the way you treat your lovers, and this would be pretty similar to some of the suggestions made.

Alternatively, let's follow the original writeup and just say that demons are 'special men', potential movers and shakers. What are banish and punish in that case? Taking this viewpoint, it would seem to be saying that the same men that are susceptible to Allure are also susceptible to being cowed by sufficiently powerful women, not through their Will necessarily, but just through Allure.

Finally, let's try 'all men are demons'. (Mostly Stamina 1, Will 2, Lore 1, Power 2 demons with the power Male, or something like that, I suppose.) On this variant what the sorceress does, and especially her ability to punish or banish all men (through an acid tongue, 'verbal castration', I suppose) seems to rob her of much of her sympathy, at least to me.

I'm superficially most inclined to the first variant, possibly with a rule that the Demon's Power must equal the Humanity of the man when first bound or pacted to a Sorceress, until a Banish is performed on him, at which point a new Humanity might be assigned or calculated based on what he had done as a demon, etc.

Anyone want to take a stab at demon powers or descriptors?

Ron Edwards

I have not read the book nor seen the movie "The Witches of Eastwick."

Julie has, and at one point, recommended it/them to me regarding this very issue and Sorcerer. So Sean, I pass that on to you.


Mike Holmes

I can vouch for that as a source, Ron.

Who could be more demonic than Jack Nicholson? ;-)

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Mike:  Thanks for clarifying the distinction between Destroy and Banish.  Important issue, in this context.

I get the sense (though perhaps it's just a wierd misperception on my part) that demons in vanilla-sorceror are not expected to be going around acting independently very much.  Which is why it's easy to confuse Banish (which removes from the demon any ability to effect the story until resummoned) with Destroy (which removes from the demon any ability to effect the story, period).

In this setting, though, I get the sense that unbound Demons are actually out there, doing the things that men do, sometimes to the detriment of Sorcerors.  Divorcing a man-Demon would, bluntly, leave him a lot of ways to get back at the Sorceror who did that Banishing.  More of a "Release" than "Banish", really.  Still bad for the Demon (Needs not met, etc.) but a dicey proposition for the Sorceror.

That could be cool, but in different ways than I was thinking Banish was cool.  Am I reading this wrong, or reading it right?  And is this the way Banish typically works in Sorceror?  Is there any one way that it typically works?
Just published: Capes
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Banishing could just as easily be used in circumstances where it is the Sorceresses' station that gets their lovers through the right doors. Invitations to parties simply disappear.

That version, however, would not prevent a demon from entreating a sorceress to welcome them back into the fold. I'm not entirely sure if I'm comfortable with this notion that demons only come from nowhere the first time, and you can never really put them back until they are destroyed. At the same time, that's amazing.

Powers don't seem to be too much of a problem, especially if you go all Duel of Wits and treat fierce discussion as combat.

[edit: which is already well supported in the 'more detailed resolution' sense, I hasten to add.]
my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A


The point about punishing / banishing / destroying made me think of the latest BBC version of Casanova, with Peter O'Toole as old Casanova, burnt out, washed up and desperate to die alone and unmourned, tempted into one last pact...
Pete Darby