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[Sorcerer]The Flesh Market One-Sheet

Started by Bret Gillan, June 29, 2005, 11:12:18 PM

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Bret Gillan

This is the game I'm preparing for the player group detailed in Homecoming, Forming a Gaming Group, and Sorcerer. I'm worried that it might be a bit "heavy" but I can always de-emphasize a lot of the more intense stuff. I'm looking for more and better influences for this - if you can think of a book, movie, or comic that this setting reminds you of, let me know because I'd like something concrete to show my players - maybe a movie to watch before character creation.

Edit: Oh, and if you think I'm missing anything in the way of Descriptors, let me know.


In the Slums of the City, life has a price, and it's cheap. Want a video of a blonde getting raped then decapitated? Talk to Biz Twelve. Want to spend a night with a twelve-year-old? Talk to Yellow Don. She'll be drugged up a bit, but if you don't mind that you'll find his wares are clean. Want to take her home with you? For a price, she's yours along with the pills to keep her around. You won't be able to afford that on a paycheck from the factories, so you'd better be in the flesh market or come from Uptown.

The noise never stops. The machinery of the plants, the gunfire of the gang wars, the shouts of the street prophets, the screams of some poor shit in a back alley.

The Security Legion doesn't come around here. Their job isn't to enforce laws, not in the Slums anyway. It's to keep us away from them - the Uptowners - the ones paying their salaries. Try and cross the Fence and see what happens. So we get gangs instead. Staking out turf and protecting the folks that live there. Some of them are better than others, but their wars over colors and turf kills folks every day. Sometimes the regular folks get caught up in it. Walking home from work and caught in a drive-by, or wearing the wrong colors. Folks just trying to stay alive working a job at one of the plants or the market, and bang, like that they're dead.

Then there's the other folks - the ones the gangs don't even fuck with. They know something - something the rest of us don't, and the people who fuck with them... well, there isn't anyone who fucks with them anymore. They can do voodoo or hex folks or something. Some people say that shit isn't real, but they still step out of the way when that creepy fucker in the mask or Momma White-Eye walks down the street. They're into somethin', and nobody knows if they're making this shithole better, or pushing it even closer to Hell.


Apocalypse Now in the alleys of the slums instead of the jungles of Vietnam. The brutal, crime-ridden city of Judge Dredd. The look of The Floating Market of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and the rag-wearing have-nots of Land of the Dead. The vile snuff society of 8mm. Demons draw inspiration from Clive Barker's Hellbound Heart, and sorcery draws inspiration from the factually-inaccurate horror movie voodoo. An example of a fictional character that I feel would fit right into this setting is Drexl Spivey from True Romance.


Humanity is respect for human life, and in the Slums that's hard to hang onto. Human life is just a commodity to the flesh market dealers of the Slums, and corpses are a regular acquaintance in a place where gunfights take place daily.


Lusting, grasping, and so close but so far from being human. A dark, spiny figure with the eyes of a wolf and the arms of a praying mantis that only you can see, a locket that opens to reveal a human eye that looks around wildly, a knife that moans with pleasure as it cuts through skin and muscle, or a spirit that possesses unwilling human hosts and debases them to satisfy carnal desires. Some sorcerers even take these dark energies into their own bodies, paying the price for their powers - a dark, rotting patch that flows from their hand down their arm or gnashing teeth set into the sorcerer's chest. (Passers are disallowed)


Sorcerers are indistinguishable from the other street people at a glance, but something sets them apart. A gleam of certainty in the eye of a street preach predicting the coming of Armageddon. The gang member whose tattoos seem to shift slightly every time you see him. The foreman of the meat-packing plant who's followed by a cloud of flies. They're the secret lords of the Slums, and the people know it, but they don't say it.


Sorcery is tied to death and the dead. Going alone into the cemetary during a new moon, whispering to skulls, dripping strange symbols onto the ground with hot candlewax made from human fat are all possible sorcerour rituals. Contacting requires meditation in a place where death is strong. Graveyards, abandoned hospitals, or even a place created through repeated ritual sacrifice. Summoning involves collecting items as directed by the demon - graverobbing, scraping dried blood off a warehouse floor, or digging up a faded photograph in the attic of an abandoned house are possible instructions from the demon. Binding involves a ritual struggle between the newly summoned demon and the sorcerer. Punishing involves damaging, defiling, or threatening to do one of the former. Masturbating with a finger bone, etching your name onto a skull with a switchblade, or smearing excrement on a funeral veil will pain the demon. Banishing involves ritual destruction of one of the objects.


Abuse-toughened: Growing up you were beaten, slapped around, and maybe even carved up. Life was cruel, so you did what you had to do to survive it - you got tough enough to take it.
Drug-wired: Methamphetamines and stimulants run through your veins, giving your body the strength and endurance that your muscles lack.
Street warfare: Instead of baseball, you were swinging bats at people's skulls. Instead of football, you were tackling some fucker so your crew could kick the shit out of him. Your athletic regimen was running from gangs and pulling yourself into second story windows to steal the TV set from that fucker who was rude to your momma. You're a warrior armed with a nine and a switchblade.
Dumpster survival: Eating out of dumpsters has hardened your stomach. Sleeping amongst vermin has strengthened your immune system. Exposure to rain and frost in a shitty tenement or a cardboard box has made discomfort negligible. Others died of starvation, disease, and exposure. You thrived.
Blue-collar strength: One of the kinds of honest work in the Slums is factory work. Days are long, the machinery is dangerous, and the work is backbreaking. Your hands are callused and your muscles are hardened from labor.

Don't take no shit: In the slums, respect is everything, one of the only things it's denizens have got, and nothing will keep you from getting yours
Loco: You're unpredictable, unstable, dangerous, and people know to steer the fuck clear.
True believer: In a city of run-down churches, you believe in something higher - God, the Loa, the Buddha - and that gives you strength.
Smooth: You know how to talk your way out of, and into, tight situations.
Don't give a shit: Nothing bothers you anymore. Corpses, gunfire, child slavery - the slums have left you desensitized, and that's a blessing and a curse.
Street smart: Maybe you read a lot of books, or you just absorbed information like a sponge, but you quickly got a rep for what you got between your ears. Some say your intelligence is wasted in the Slums, but you've got nowhere to go.

Whispers: Ever since you were a kid, you've heard shit - voices. Begging, threatening, cajoling you to set them free. One day, you listened.
Family Traditions: There have always been medicine men, shamans, individuals in touch with mysterious things. Teachings passed from father to son, mother to daughter. When your ancestors came to the city a long time ago, they brought that knowledge with them. You've learned a lot, but there's a lot of bullshit and superstition mixed in with the truth.
Also: Apprentice, Coven, Lone Adept, Mad, Naif from Sorcerer main book.


Very dark. That might be a factor when presenting it to your group. I mean really dark...

I'm no expert on Sorcery, but I'll weigh in with a few thoughts:

There are some great visuals and some great concepts here, but I'm getting a disconnect, personally, between your definition of Humanity, your Demons, and your Sorcery. I'll get back to that in a minute.

I'm also concerned that there' little to contrast with. Your background is so dark and dismal that the players being Sorcerers and working with demons is actually a relief... Evil does exist outside of people. I don't really see anything in the environment to contrast with the players own evil actions. In other words - what's at stake here? In such an environment, what are the characters' connections to humanity?

Back to Humanity, Demons, and Sorcery.

They don't seem very well wed together: Humanity is respect for life, Demons seems to be about Passion, and Sorcery is about Death. I don't see a neat theme running through them.

If Humanity is about "respect for human life", than Sorcery and the Demons should be directly related to this, in my opinion, to make it a bit more cohesive. Example:

Humanity Equals Respect for Life

Demons are Entities that hate life, or need life to live, or negate life.

Sorcery Puts Life at Risk: Human Sacrifice. Stuffing a Possessor Demon into a Loved One.

In your setting, what Happens at Humanity Zero?

I think there are some powerful things in your setting, but it seems to me it could be a little bit tighter.

Also, I'd highly recommend some sort of human connection, but because of your setting, there's a lot of potential for the connections to be orphans, young prostitutes, forgotten elderly people withering away in their lonely rooms.

Some inspirations that popped into mind: "The Bad Lieutenant" (movie), Naked (movie), Spawn (Comic or Animated Series), SLA Industries (rpg), and Sin City. I think your example of Drexl really got the point across quickly.

Bret Gillan

Hey Scratch! Thanks for the reply.

Yes, the setting is very, very dark, and I am nervous about that. I don't want my players leaving the game feeling like I've robbed their lives of light and joy (unless that's what they want, of course). I just enjoy dark fiction and movies, dark roleplaying games, and so when I set about crafting a campaign it shows. I'll put the tone of the game on the docket of things to be discussed in the pre-game/character creation phase. Since I've known these guys for quite awhile, I think I can safely say that they can handle it, and if it's too much for even them, I'll just take cues from their Kickers and in-game actions on how deep they want to get.

I never really got the idea that sorcerers or their demons are necessarily evil.  Sorcery itself is wrong and unnatural, demons are creatures that don't belong in the sorcerer's world, and the sorcerer themselves are beyond arrogant for playing with such things, but evil? I don't think it's beyond a sorcerer to be an anti-hero a la Spawn in this sort of setting. As far as what's at stake, wouldn't that be for the player to define when setting up important NPCs and whatnot during character creation and in defining the Kicker?

As for Sorcery and Demons not being tied to Humanity, I see your point, but is it necessary for Sorcery and Demons to be tied to Humanity? I mean, I see things working like this:
+ Humanity is emphasized through Bang-driven play where the Bangs relate directly to Humanity. Basically, put them in situations that move the plot forward and give the opportunity for Humanity gain or loss.
+ Demons make themselves pains in the ass. Their theme would be better defined as 'perversion' than 'passion' and through Needs for blood, sex, drugs, and so on, push the player characters towards the Flesh Market which is tied up in Humanity. In fact, I came up with the Flesh Market first and set up Humanity so as to directly oppose it.
+ Sorcery is more tied into my vision of demons as the afterlife echoes of sick fucks and sorcerers who hit Humanity 0 (which answers one of your other questions). I think you're right, and the theme for sorcery is Death. How is death NOT related to Humanity in this case? Sorcerers, through practicing their sorcery, dwell in a world of death. When the key to your power is death, can you value life?

A question that this raises for me: Does creating a setting where demons and sorcery aren't married to Humanity end up creating confused play? Are there Actual Play threads about this?

I think the human connection is there, and there's room for a lot of sympathetic NPCs. There are honest, hardworking people in this setting. They're just besieged on all sides.

Thanks for the recommendations. I can't believe I forgot Sin City. That's one of my favorite comics.


I really dig these "Voodoo-lite" sort of settings, about a gang-banger who puts on a skull necklace and starts fighting (for) the power.

I'd suggest playing up Sorcery as a perversopm of Life itself, which may or may not map to a perversion of the lives the Sorcerer effects. So a Sorcerer by nature is placed into the crux of being a singular positive inlfuence on their dreary environment or an embodiement of the inhuman sickness of the city, or a little bit of both.

I could see the negative / positive visions of Demons having a strong similarity to stereotypical christian / aboriginal portrayal, where a grotesque "trickster" figure is either a diabolical fiend or a rather unpleasant but neccessary teacher.


Another movie I see that closesly relates to your setting is Taxi Driver - It's very much a vietnam movie set in the american slums. I'm assuming you've already seen it but if you haven't, rent it.