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Author Topic: Sorcerer in the Vineyard  (Read 7765 times)
Bill Cook

Posts: 501

« on: November 26, 2005, 03:31:36 AM »

Sorcerer in the Vineyard

Hey, all. Iíve been reading (among other things) some John Constantine: Hellblazer graphic novels. The first story in the Red Sepulchre graphic novel, ďHigh on Life,Ē struck me as a story that an RPG, somewhere between Sorcerer and DitV, should be able to produce. Hereís what happened:
  • John returns to London.
  • Outside Johnís sister, Cherylís, apartment, a man hangs himself from a stairwell rail.
  • Cheryl is pissed at John for faking his death. John learns that his niece, Gemma, has left for school in France. Lower occupancy required Cherylís family to downgrade their residence per government subsidy requirements. (Donít ask a Yank.) They now live in Elster Tower.
  • John stops at Uncle Joeís Diner and learns of bizarre, violent crime in the area. He meets novice magician, Angie. She suggests the councilís tenant register as a starting point for his witch hunt.
  • John poses as a caller to work a list he compiles. Significantly, he meets a hostile skinhead, Nigel, and his dear old mother, Gladys, outside their door. Itís inscribed with magical wards. John registers a marked contrast from the general evil of Elster Tower with the serenity of this level.
  • John meets Cheryl and her husband, Tony, in a bar. He learns from Tony that Cheryl is drugging with pills.
  • Angie does a site survey of Elster Tower.
  • John confronts Cheryl about the pills and learns that sheís coping with missing Gemma more than their new digs. Tony explodes at John. Cheryl interrupts their argument, having Tony order take out and ordering John out after they return.
  • Angie is spelled by Gladys. Her sons attack her, mutilating her body in a specific manner.
  • John and family interrupt the attack. At the hospital, the doctor reveals that the wounding is consistent with the striptease killerís pattern, whoís killed eight women in the past year.
  • John calls inspector Watford to alert him to the renewed activity.
  • John revives Angie with demon blood in her IV drip. She relays that her survey revealed an absence of magical taint from the top floor of Elster Tower, where Gladys lives.
  • A teenage beggar asks John for cash in an alleyway. He offers a pack of cigarettes for the young man to reveal his stash.
  • John picks up his coat at Cherylís and agrees to leave in the morning.
  • John visits Gladys at her apartment. She is waiting with the door open and offers him tea. Their discourse devolves into accusations as John rummages about and finds her stash of body parts from her victims. Gladys confesses the nature of her addiction, reliving the sexual exploits of street girls while discarding their sorrows.
  • The drugged tea kicks in as Gladysí boys arrive, intent on cutting John to pieces. He breaks open a bottle on one of their heads and runs. The other bashes Johnís head against the doorframe. John mars the ward and vengeful spirits possess and destroy Gladys. Distraught, Gladysí skinhead son kicks John in the face and threatens slow torture. Angie sneaks up behind the skinhead and bashes his head in with a metal boot scraper. John collects himself and rebuffs Angieís inquiry.
  • John boards a train to follow a clue and safeguard his niece.

The setup reminds me so much of coming to a DitV town. And yet, the whole thing screams Sorcerer. Somethingís Wrong, alright. Gladys couldnít be satisfied to live one life, so she had her sons kill hookers to relive their experiences by sorcerous means. But she discarded their suffering, which flitted about in the ether, driving the tenants of Elster Tower to horrible violence and murder.

I like how the NPCs practically sat down in Johnís lap and told him about the crime and that magic was the cause of it. And suggested how he should go about getting to the bottom of things. Each scene had a purpose: either to compound Johnís guilt or to put him one step closer to the heart of the problem. Lots of non-RPG things going on, too.
  • John found his way to the top boss pretty quickly, but of his own accord, passed himself off as mistaken and left. No gamer would do this! And if they did, it would lead to an actual play post about a problem player that wonít take the bait. But in the story, this romanced the eventual showdown considerably.
  • The interplay of dysfunctional family strife provided a counterpoint to the mystery of Elster Tower. It also served to intensify Johnís resolve, because ultimately, his actions had put his family in harmís way.
  • What about that fight scene at Gladysí place! Bottle to the face, shock, run away, caught and bashed, ritual to leverage the demons, destruction, dismay, gloating, retaliation, threats, surprise deliverance. Thatís a pretty far cry from ďI hit the guy.Ē ďOk, he hits you back.Ē ďOk, I hit him again,Ē etc.

A lot of whatís cool about Constantine is that heís so vulnerable, so smug, and doesnít push things when heís at a loss, which is often; but in the end, mainly through bluffing and trickery, he kicks ass.

Anyway, I think there are some techniques demonstrated in this story that could shake loose and liven a lot of traditional RPG play.

Posts: 3453

« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2005, 06:09:07 AM »

The setup reminds me so much of coming to a DitV town. And yet, the whole thing screams Sorcerer.

No need for "and yet"! Dogs' town creation is a direct descendent of chapter four of The Sorcerer's Soul.


Posts: 1619

« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2005, 07:39:23 AM »

Damn.  I REALLY need the entire Sorceror set, and my game buying budget is on hold until at least January.

"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
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