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Author Topic: [Sorc] Idea for Setting  (Read 2825 times)
James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« on: July 10, 2005, 07:00:35 PM »

Here is a loose idea for a Sorcerer setting.  I am still trying to figure out...

1.  What would Humanity be, in a game like this? and
2.  Is it too "Big Picture"?  How do I rein it in?
3.  Is this playable?
4.  Have I failed to take (important Sorcerer thing) into consideration?

Cosmology
The Godhead is the ultimate reality, but is so pure that it annihilates consciousness.  Its radiance diffuses through the Realm of Platonic Ideals, and from there cascades into the Astral Plane, also known as the dream dimension or the world of imagination.  Only the last drippy-drips of reality collect at the bottom, and make up physical reality as we know it.  

We cannot see the Astral Plane or the Ideal Space very clearly, but that's because our Third Eye is weak, like the eyes of a cave-fish.

What's a demon?
A "demon" is anything too real for the material plane.  In this setting, the game-mechanical term "demon" would include...
* A genie
* A voodoo loa
* Excalibur, the Archetypal Sword
* Helen of Troy
* A sentient imagination-disease spore from the Astral Plane
* Monstrous soul-devouring creatures from the Abyss

Splitting things up a bit along the five types:
* Inconspicuous Demons are natives of the Astral--genies, and other such things.  They don't like coming here.

* Object Demons tend to be stolen from the Realm of Archetypes.

* Parasites are Astral predators, diseases, or criminals intent on escaping the City of Brass.  They have a preference for naive sorcerers.

* Passer Demons are sculpted from the qlippothic False Matter left over from when God destroyed His first attempt at making the universe.  The Passers are eager to exist again... but they are extraordinarily evil.

* Possessors tend to be identified with Voodoo loa and folk spirits.  "Respectable" magicians don't truck with them.  They are, generally, gods--and as such almost always Pact instead of Bind.

What's a sorcerer?
Anyone who truly understands that our world is not real.  This is a fairly common thought, and shows up in several religions (and their latter day equivalent, obsessively studied Sci-Fi films), but to be sorcerer you have to know it in your bones.  

What is Lore?
Sorcery began in Atlantis a zillion years ago, but was shifted into the Astral Plane after the End Times of the First Creation.  The learning of the Atlantean Philosopher-Kings was scattered over the Earth, accounting for commonalities of certain myths.  A big chunk of the lore ended up in Ancient Egypt, where it was (over thousands of years) transmitted into two different culture blocks.

I'm thinking of doing three "schools" of magic:
* A fairly Eurocentric mixture of Neoplatonism & Kabbalah
* Voodoo, and similar possession rites among New World tribes
* A Middle Eastern branch focusing on the djinni and their City of Brass

Naturally there would be room for DIY Lore stuff, cobbled together from a lot of different sources, to account for Lone Adepts and Crazies.

I should probably have a Far Eastern version of this, but I don't know enough, and also do not want to "clutter the field" so to speak.  I've got my classical magicians, my "pagan" magicians, and my Arabian magicians--that's probably enough.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2005, 07:36:21 PM »

It's tricky... because you're defining Humanity as a failure to understand reality.  Which makes it hard for me to think exactly what it would be when described in positive terms.

I'm getting James-Kirk flashbacks though:  "You've come to understand... the essence of... reality... but still don't know the... meaning of love."  Star Trek had an ongoing love affair with the notion that transcending to awareness of the cosmic meant sacrificing human elements that, in the end, were more important than Godhood.  Does that strike any chords for you?
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2005, 07:59:17 PM »

Yes, it's kind of what I was gravitating toward: Humanity = mundanity, with all the wonderful little slice of life stuff that implies: eating nachos, paying your taxes, making lemonade, giving your girlfriend a back rub....

Humanity 0, in that case, might refer to full-blown schizophrenia, catatonia, or simply dissolving into the Astral.

....which strikes me as functional, but doesn't quite have the emotional bite that Humanity ought to have.

To me, the setting seems fun--but not disturbing or unsettling, which I gather is meant to be part of the Sorcerer experience.  This feels a bit too much like a fun "D20 Modern" setting, rather than Sorcerer.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2005, 10:03:06 AM »

Small quibbling point, which might however help you with your "clutter the field" problem:
Arabic magic would probably also be a "mixture of Neoplatonism and Kabbalah," since the medieval Islamic scholars inherited more of the Greek/Latin tradition of learning than Christendom did, and since they got along better with Jews than Christians did. So you can plausibly have, alongside African magic and Eastern magic, a single Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition of magic -- with faeries and djinni being hangovers from paganism in Europe and Arabia respectively, rather than defining features, especially since they don't go along that well with your very Platonist cosmology anyway.

Larger point -- and this is where I think you've got a lot of potential:
In this setting, the more fully you understand the nature of reality, the less human you become. Think about that. Now think about what that implies for human conceptions of "good" and "evil."
If enlightenment makes you less human, what does that say about the true nature of reality? That the universe is horrific? That God is amoral, or even evil? This takes you in the direction of H.P. Lovecraft's existential despair very quickly.
Conversely, if being more human makes you less enlightened, what does that say about the true nature of humanity? That the things we cherish about ourselves -- eating, drinking, making love, looking at sunsets, even caring about each other -- are fundamentally corrupt? That true goodness is utterly inhuman? This takes you in the direction of some of the bleaker forms of Buddhism and, especially, Gnosticism, particularly the Cathar variant suppressed during the Albigensian Crusades.
Maybe a "demon" is actually not a malign entity at all, but simply "too good for this world" (you touch on that a bit by including Helen of Troy); and demonic Desires are actually things like for truth, beauty, and justice, which are more than sinful humanity can bear. Or maybe the "good guys" are worse than the evils they seek to eradicate: Morpheus in The Matrix comes to mind (in the "woman in the red dress" scene), telling Neo that while their ultimate goal is to liberate humanity, it is sometimes necessary and permissible to kill any individual human without remorse -- as of course all the heroes of the Matrix do whenever they mow down lambs-to-the-slaughter security guards and beat cops, who are presumably just working stiffs doing their jobs.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2005, 10:58:41 AM »

Sydney,

Those are excellent points.  They touch on themes that were important in my life a decade ago; it's amusing to see them resurface when I least expect them.  (And sad, too, because they aren't particularly happy thoughts to dwell on.  But hey, that's what I asked for.)  Thanks!

=====
Okay -- open casting for the Eastern-style sorcery stuff... I know a little bit about Zen Buddhism, and a smidgen of Taoism, but neither seem particularly well suited for a sorcerer game.  I'm open to influences from India, Afghanistan, Tibet and the Pacific Rim countries... Historical links are a plus, along with obscure funkiness.
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