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[& Sword] First Time Prep: Atlantis Pulp Fantasy

Started by James_Nostack, December 25, 2005, 01:21:09 AM

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After many months, I finally will have a chance to try out Sorcerer & Sword through IRC.  I'm posting this up here for advice, suggestions, and warnings.  This is the wiki page, for various details.

The Play Situation - Me and Jim Clunie, one of my longtime players from my old sci-fi game.  We only know each other on-line, but go back a couple years.  In the science-fiction game, his play always had great Color and was often quite ingenious ("Our cyborg bodyguard had an optic implant, right?  Let's go visit his cryogenically preserved body, stick this plug in his eye, and upload the video memory onto the Internet to embarrass the Archenemy").  On the other hand, I sometimes had trouble getting the character into strongly Thematic statements: I don't know whether that reflects on my clumsiness as a GM, the trickiness of "transhuman" sci-fi, the character's 'moral chameleon' style, or the player's comfort level addressing those Themes directly.  At any rate, we had a lot of fun, and we're giving this a try.

Look and Feel - The Odyssey, with massive doses of Conan, Elric, Cugel the Clever, and wuxia epics.  We've got Atlantis, the Dreaming City... and ruined, necromantic cities in the darkest jungles... and Eastern warlords fighting each other tooth and claw.  Everyone worth talking to is passionate, ruthless, and in some cases hysterical.

Demons Are... - Beings from the Astral Plane, whatever the heck that is.

Sorcery Is... - Hermetic magic, practiced by the Atlantean culture group (with Color stolen from GURPS Cabal).  Shamanic or Voodoo-style, practiced by the Ten Thousand Tribes.  Yoga or qi-based, practiced by the Easterners.  (PS - Wikipedia is awesome.)

Humanity Is... - "Honor."  I'm not entirely happy with this, but I can't think of any other way to describe the relationship between the classical Greek ideas of Excellence and Rulership, with tribal concepts of Prowess and Bragging Rights, with Japanese ideas of Face and Loyalty.  All of these things relate to one's attachment to the Material Plane.  As you practice sorcery, you become less and less concerned with what other people think of you, and more interested in raw power.



Stamina 5 (Trained Soldier + Big and Vigorous)
Will 4 (Zest for Life)
Lore 1 (Naive)
Past 5 (Mercenary Captain)

Telltale - Ritualistic burn marks
Price - Uncontrollable temper

Hanno was a minor noble of a human city-state loyal to Atlantis.  Disgusted with the fawning priests of the foreigners, he packed up his blade and his armor, and set out for a life of bloody daring.  Driven by greed, lust, laziness, disgust, wanderlust and ambition, he has fought on many sides of many battles, gathering a retinue of followers.

Kicker: Hanno has somewhere between a week and a month to live.[/red]  Due to his unwise meddling with a lost site/mysterious item/magical curse/insane wizard/combination of the above, he has been infested by a grotesque little creature, all spines and hooks and fiendish cunning, that nests in his vitals and stirs painfully now and then.  Hanno's only hope is to find a way to convince or force the parasite to depart.



Jim had two ideas here-- the first was, The King of Swords, a powerful possessor spirit based around the archetype of Ogoun in Voodoo: think of the Incredible Hulk, Zeus, and Machiavelli, rolled into one.  To me, this is an awesome concept for a demon.  Based on details of this setting, major loa in the Shamanic tradition Pact instead of Binding, but even if you don't have a god at your side all the time it's still nice to have his pager number.

He also suggested that perhaps Hanno's cloak is a minor magical demon.  "His cloak usually makes small subtle movements to protect him, such as billowing up to muffle an opponent's weapon or block their vision. Sometimes it eats
people. - Presumably the latter would be its Need and its Desire would be something like mischief-making or moral corruption."

As a GM, I find the King of Swords a much more potent concept, but (a) it probably Pacts, which may not be fun all the time, and (b) I don't want to say no to a potential story idea.  Right now, my thought is to use the King of Swords as the "starting" demon, and give the cloak some eerie Color, so that Hanno can use rituals to bind it later on, if necessary.  Any advice here?

Ogoun, the King of Swords
(Jim does not own Sorcerer so I statted up the demon based on his input.)

Type - Possessor, part of the Shamanic Lore tradition
Telltale - Tourette's Syndrome
Desire - To Be Worshipped
Need - Mayhem and Bloodshed

Stamina 9
Will 10
Lore 9
Power 10

* Armor
* Cover: power politics
* Fast
* Protection: against Fire
* Special Lethal Damage + Ranged: call down lightning
* Daze: heavy downpour
* Shadow: fog blocks the sun or moon
* Warp water: strong winds

The King of Swords is a terrifyingly powerful god, worshipped in various guises by the Ten Thousand Tribes and not a few members of the Atlantean legions. His eyes flash lightning, bringing death to his enemies. His laugh is the crack of thunder. His anger burns like fire, and those under his protection are invulnerable to harm and invincible in battle. In a later age of the world, some will know him as Ogoun, a powerful loa of Voodoo.

Ron Edwards

Hi James,

I can give you some detail-advice. However, given that I do not favor Sorcerer for "old role-playing pals reuniting," and I think IRC is a terrible medium for the game, I'm not sure it'll help you any.

But who knows, perhaps I'm being too pessimistic. So here goes.

1. I'm suspicious that you do not grasp what a demon's Desire and a Need are. If you don't get it, then it's a guarantee that Jim doesn't either. That is a recipe for disaster.

2. The cloak is a mere Telltale.

3. The "month to live" Kicker is awesome. The parasite demon-thing sucks. First, it's just a direct rip from The Eyes of the Overworld, and direct rips don't work. Second, it's a limp dick of a death-sentence - all he has to do is remove the demon, and he's a sorcerer, so that's easy as pie. One Will roll and the thing's out of him.

Nope - that Kicker needs to be a real death sentence. Cancer. Tuberculosis. Cholera. Pneumonia. Lupus. Whatever time-scale or severity Jim wants will do, as long as the character is suffering, badly, as play begins.



Hey, even pessimistic help is better than none!

QuoteI'm suspicious that you do not grasp what a demon's Desire and a Need are. If you don't get it, then it's a guarantee that Jim doesn't either

This is possible, since my only understanding of these things comes from what's been published.  Feel free to correct me if I've got it wrong--

Need is, well, a basic need or addiction.  The demon can't keep it together without this.  The sorcerer is the pusher for a bound demon's Need--this can ensure obedience or resentment, depending on how it's handled.  More importantly, it also makes the sorcerer morally responsible for fulfilling the demon's Need.  In some cases the Need is pretty innocuous, but if you really want to be cruel about it, fulfilling the Need may tie into Humanity.

Desire is the demon's fondest hope, and isn't necessarily linked to Need at all.  It will act to further its Desire whenever nobody's looking, and will twist all commands toward the Desire.  The demon will encourage, advise, or dupe the sorcerer into serving the Desire, but the sorcerer isn't under any obligation here, except to the extent that it's unwise to provoke your demon for no good reason.  The Desire should threaten the Humanity concept somehow.

It sounds like it would go something like this: "I summoned a powerful demon, which has its own sinister agenda.  But I can make it serve me if I'm lucky and ballsy enough."

It's possible that "To be Worshipped" isn't a sufficiently threatening Desire, but based on the list it seemed to fit best.  Might change that to "To be Worshipped Mindlessly," or something.

QuoteNope - that Kicker needs to be a real death sentence. Cancer. Tuberculosis. Cholera. Pneumonia. Lupus. Whatever time-scale or severity Jim wants will do, as long as the character is suffering, badly, as play begins.

So noted, but I want to make sure I understand you: Are you saying the character must die, or simply that this particular death sentence is too easily sidestepped?  These would be two very different stories.

Ron Edwards


Actually, you've articulated Desire & Need very well, but I'm not really seeing them in action. "Worship" is an excellent Desire, and you don't need it to be anything weird or extreme. The important thing about Need, though, is that it is concrete and can be provided by the sorcerer. "Mayhem" is a better Desire than Need. "Get into fights" might be a better Need, although in a sword-and-sorcery setting, perhaps not as meaningful as it would be in modern day.

Solution: see if Jim can describe a scene to you in which he fulfills his demon's Need. What's it like? What does it look like?

Also, regarding my suggestion about the Kicker, there's no requirement that the character must die. But if he doesn't do something about the condition, he sure will.



Thanks!  I'll run those suggestions by him, and see what's what.