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Author Topic: A Sorcerer Idea  (Read 12966 times)
jburneko
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« on: June 04, 2001, 09:06:00 AM »

I read the main Sorcerer book last night.  I also read certain key sections of The Sorcerer's Soul.  I then proceeded to send a rather rambly email to Ron on my 'impressions' which turned out to me more of a personal catharsis on how I can't write characters, only characatures and clever plots.  It was late.  So, I'm apologizing to Ron upfront for my sleep induced impulsive action.

Since then I've had time to think about what I'd like to do with Sorcerer and following the suggestions in the books I've come up with a few concepts for what demons are and what Humanity means.  I thought I'd share and get some feedback for while I think my idea is pretty nifty I don't have any actual STORY ideas for it.

First some background on myself.  I have a degree in computer science with a minor in theoretical mathematics.  As a result I enjoy stories that screw with our concepts of technology, mathematics, logic and science.  My favorite movies include Pi and Cube.  I'm facinated by any smooth blending of mathematics and mysticism.  This is where my view of sorcerer has sprung.

One other note: This idea borrows heavily from the mad scientist concept in Deadlands.

Demons seek to enslave humanity.  They do it through a horribly effective recursive feedback loop.  Humans have the ability to shape the universe on their own, they just don't know it.  Mathematics and Technology are in fact a creative process that LIMITS human achievement.  Everytime a mathematician solves a proof a human loses it's wings so to speak.  Once gravity is "discovered" we are limited by it.  Sure science has given us the ability go to the moon but what good is it if it prevents us from traveling to other galaxies?  Modern medicine allows us to cure disease with drugs and horrible side effects but what good is it if it robs us of our ability to lay on hands?  This is the sort of theme I'm going for.

That's what Humanity is.  It in essance a human beings one internal 'magic.'  Ancient history is filled with legends of people performing miricles, not so much today.  Why?  Because collectively we have come to believe it impossible; our humanity has dropped.  We can't turn water into wine because we have 'proven' it impossible.  We can't fly because we've 'discovered' gravity.  And so on.  When Humanity hits 0 you are essencially a Vulcan.  You are a machine of perfect reason and logic.  You might actually benefit from this in the short term.  You might become a brilliant coporate strategist or stock market trader.  And that's the point.  I'm a very liberal anti-corporate greed hating person.  When your Humanity hits 0 you become a VERY effective rationalist.  But you lose your compassion, you lose your perspective on spirituality and you lose your connection to other people.  

Demons are born of mathematical proof and technological achievement.  ANYONE who has ever built something new or constructed a new proof has contacted a demon.  They just don't know it.  Demons are the source of scientific inspiration.  Einstein had a demon whispering special relativity into his ear.  Sorcerers are those mathematicions, engineers, scientists and logicians who have figured out what they're doing and take the next step to summon and bind the demon.  Demons have the ability to redefine the 'laws' humans have discovered(created).  Hence their 'magical' abilities.  

So this is where the horrible feedback loop comes into play.  As we make scientific discoveries we limit our reality.  As we limit our reality we desire to overcome those limitations.  To overcome those limitations we turn to demons.  To summon a demon we must make scientific discoveries which limit our reality which makes us want to overcome that reality even more which means we turn to MORE demons which means we make MORE scientific discoveries which limit our reality and so on....

Its true that this concept limits the player charcters to someone who works with mathematical concepts but that's still pretty broad.  Even a philosophy professer constructs logic proofs.

And that's where I'm stuck.  I have little details like I'd like all the demons to have mathematics related names like Pi and Delta.  Great concept, not sure what to do with it.  So what do you think?


Jesse
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2001, 09:30:00 AM »

First of all, great idea. This sort of mind-bending rocks my world.

Second, if you haven't seen Pi (the movie), go rent it immediately. Lots of good ideas there.

In another thread ("I really like Sorcerer, but..."), Ron recommends taking out a couple of sheets of paper and recording your ideas: what exactly is Humanity? what does sorcery look like? what is a demon?

I'd recommend doing this. It seems like you have a lot of the questions answered. For example:

How do you contact a demon? Through intricate mathematical formulas. The more esoteric the formula, the greater the demon's power. If you solve a theorum previously unsolved, the demon's power may be extraordinary. (For example, if a sorcerer solved Fermat's theorum, he might well contact a demon of world-shaking power.)

What does a Contain look like? You'd think mathematical formulas again, but I'd take this in the opposite direction. Anything used to control a demon, like Punishing or Containing one, might spring from illogic. By baffling a demon with formulas or sentences that are obfuscatory, confusing, and downright illogical, you can control it. The optimum use would be a sentence that makes no sense, but can't be disproven.

Who are sorcerers? I'd have several factions here. One, the Order of the Prime (or whatever), are malevolent sorcerers that realize humanity is trapped by logic. They erringly believe that they can escape this fate and enslave other minds by being the supreme logicians. By summoning demons themselves, they think to be immune to the encroaching restrictive reality. Another faction, loosely organized, calling themselves Oroborus, and using a Moebius strip as their symbol (I just like the Oroborus/Moebius obvious connection), attempt to break the encroaching reality by spreading discord.

The interesting thing about this setting I like is that you will have many ordinary people with low Humanity. Imagine the everyday office worker who accepts as fact in his mind that he must wake up every morning at 6am, and he must eat bran for breakfast, and he must drive between 50 and 60 mph to work, and must enter at least 1,000 entries each day into the corporate database. The more restrictions he accepts, the lower his Humanity. 0 Humanity in this setting doesn't mean insanity, or soullessness, or lack of empathy--it represents a robotic simulacrum of humanity. Sweet Lord, that seems cool.

Rock on, Jesse--I like it.

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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2001, 09:50:00 AM »

Let me share Clinton's enthusiasm on this one...sounds like an excellent set-up for Sorcerer.  And if you run with Clinton's idea on Contains...that would make Lewis Carroll one of the most powerful Sorcerers ever.  Not only was he a a mathmatician, but the poem Jabberwocky would have to be a Contain of stupendous power :smile:
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Dav
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« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2001, 11:23:00 AM »

Jesse, I can't wait to buy your mini-supplement for Sorcerer.  (You *are* going to write this up as a mini-supplement aren't you?)

Dav
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2001, 12:19:00 PM »

Jesse,

Another great mini-supplement idea, within a week of the first. Amazing.

I hope you get a chance to put this into some actual role-playing with some friends. Two or three players should be plenty!

I suggest that you scribble a note or two about it, then approach the players and let THEM blow your mind about the possibilities, up to and including creating their characters, and then you're all set for scenario preparation. You'll have their Kickers right there to work into things, and a bit o'relationship map work will fall right into place, I think.

Best,
Ron
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greyorm
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2001, 12:34:00 PM »

This sounds a sight similar to Mage, but trippy-cool and more focused (Mage has always been a favorite based on the premise, but I've never been quite certain what to actually DO with it).

It also sounds similar to the material in "Electric Ghosts", the supplement I'm developing, though I take the technological angle rather than the mathematical in dealing with demons and sorcery.

Excellent, excellent material...I especially like that Humanity is what allows mankind to, paradoxically, create demons (Humanity seems to be linked to "creativity" in some sense).

There may also be older demons still running around...someone invented a sword, right?  That's technology...and someone invented the forge that created that sword, right?  More technology...those are demons as well.

But are they more primitive, more human demons because the technology to create them at the time was also seen as or mixed with magic and spiritualism?
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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jburneko
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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2001, 01:03:00 PM »

Quote

On 2001-06-04 16:34, greyorm wrote:
There may also be older demons still running around...someone invented a sword, right?  That's technology...and someone invented the forge that created that sword, right?  More technology...those are demons as well.

But are they more primitive, more human demons because the technology to create them at the time was also seen as or mixed with magic and spiritualism?


To address what I had in mind -- the creation of a technology in and unto itself does not necessarily contact or require a demon.

If I melt down some metal and make a sword, fine I've just made a sword.  The theme I want to play with is man's arrogance that he is capable of having the 'one true preception of reality.'  It is a study of the obseenly bold statement that your reality has ANYTHING to do with my reality.  A demon comes into being when the man attempts to understand WHY when he melts steal he can mold it into a sword.  A demon is what turns simple and isolated action into universal law that constrains people from taking alternative simple and isolated actions.

The premise is that we are restrained by the most commonly held belief.  It's fine and dandy for you to believe in gravity and make good use of it but it's the demon inside you that makes you want to make ME believe in gravity.  Even if I were to believe I could fly if I willed it, I still can't because I'm constrained by the majority belief around me.  If I want to fly I must rely on a demon to bend the rule it helped put there in the first place.  This is why enlightened monks must isolate themselves from the world and go into deep deep meditation in order to escape the belief force field the demons have slowly been tightening around us.

In this setting the Angelic force is the human spirit.  An enlightened monk who can lower the temperature around him is doing so with the angelic power of his soul and not with the aid of a demon.

Going back to what Mr. Nixon suggested -- I LOVE the idea of Contain and Punish coming from forms of passion induced creativity.  The follow up Jabberwocky example is perfect.  The one I'm having trouble with is the Summon part.  I want the idea to be that it is EASY to contact a demon.  Scientific experimentation and working out proofs will do that.  Every scientist has at some point spoken with demons they just don't realise it.  What makes the Sorcerer RARE and unusual is that they realise the source of scientific inspiration is demonic in nature and they seek to exploit that.  So if mathematical proof Contacts a demon, poetry, literature, and passion Contain and Punish it, publication and patent Binds it (therefore making the problem worse by diseminating your restrictive discovery to the public) and counter-proof and doubt Banish the demon (It's possible that special-relativity was a Banishing ritual for Newton's Demon), what exactly Summons the demon?

Also I was thinking about the Sacrifice issue.  That was key in the core rules.  I have a few options. I could simply remove it but I'd rather not.   I could still keep it at the basic concept of sacrifice and inolve having to 'show your work' in blood.  But that seems too trite and cheesy given the context.  What concept of a Sacrifice fits this theme?

And Ron, I know you're big on giving your players LOTS and LOTS of information but I'd rather not.  I'm thinking of basically telling the players: 1) You must be a scientist of some sort.  2) You know that mathematical discovery contacts a demon and that patent and publication Bind it to you.  You also know that creative and random processes Punish and Contain them and finally that Counter-Proofs and Doubt Banish them.

But I'd rather not let them in on WHY all of this is so and what the demon's purpose is.  I'd rather that come out in a slow steady trickle and watch the light of horror dawn upon them.

Thanks for all the feedback.  As always more is appreciated.

Jesse
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2001, 01:20:00 PM »

It seems Summoning is the crux between people who understand demons and those who don't--any scientist or mathematician Contacts demons inadvertantly, but only those who realize can Summon.

Personally, I'd make it a rite involving "the truth"--the reality behind all this mathematical build-up humans and demons have caused. For math, perhaps some arcane formula, mind-bending in nature, that ends with a proof of "1 + 1 = 3". (Note: I'm obviously not a mathematician and have no clue what I'm talking about.) From this discloaking of common thought, a rift is torn in the human-created reality, drawing a demon in.

As far as the sacrifice issue goes, your landscape seems to be antiseptic. I'd go ahead and spill some blood--one idea is sorcerers carving formula into their own skin. (I just really like the mental image of a mathematics professor in his classroom late at night, the moon shining in, chalkboards surrounding him in a pentagonal shape with formulae all over them, and a knife in his hand carving Greek letters into his arms and chest. Creepy stuff.)
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
jburneko
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« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2001, 01:33:00 PM »

Quote

As far as the sacrifice issue goes, your landscape seems to be antiseptic. I'd go ahead and spill some blood--one idea is sorcerers carving formula into their own skin. (I just really like the mental image of a mathematics professor in his classroom late at night, the moon shining in, chalkboards surrounding him in a pentagonal shape with formulae all over them, and a knife in his hand carving Greek letters into his arms and chest. Creepy stuff.)


Oooo... That is a good image.  And it goes with what I was thinking about.  I was thinking that the Summon is the link between mathematics and mysticism.  To Contact a demon takes rigorous scientific thought but to actually Summon the demon takes good old blood letting, candles and chants.

Oh... And what was all that about me writing a 'mini-supplement'?  What's a 'mini-supplement'?

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2001, 02:19:00 PM »

Hey Jesse,

Check out the new thread.

Also, there's some discussion about this back at GO, if we can ever get back into the forums.

Best,
Ron
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Clay
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2001, 05:45:00 PM »

Blood sacrifice is okay, but some others seem more appropriate here.

Destruction of a work of art and passion might be a better sacrifice. Chastity could become a requirement. I can see a cadre of dominatrixes (what is the plural of dominatrix?) making war on the sorcerers.

This makes the average college campus a fearsome battle ground for sorcery.  That religious guy down the hall, who smashes heavy metal CDs?  He's a sorcerer. The vamp who keeps trying to get his pants off him?  A priestess fighting the encroaching banality.

This concept starts to remind me of John Brunner's Traveler in Black.  I always thought it would be fun to play in that world too.  Maybe something like is via the rules set out in Sorcerer & Sword.
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Clay Dowling
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2001, 05:13:00 AM »

Well, everyone's pounding in personal takes on Jesse's idea, but we should remember one thing: it is not the specific ANSWER to a single question that matters, when prepping Sorcerer, but making sure that the full range of crucial questions is not being missed.

In other words, rather than continue to elaborate on possibilities for Summoning, we should specify what ELSE should be considered.

In this mathematical-sorcery setting,
1) What would demons look like? There is absolutely NO obligation to accord with any established model.
2) How many sorcerers? Hordes, as implied by Clay? Few?
3) Why bother? What passions and personality traits tend to go with being a sorcerer? Is it totally case-by-case?
4) What do demons (often) do regarding sorcerers? Drive them bonkers (e.g. Pi)? Drag them screaming into N-dimensional space?

These are primarily questions for Jesse. Past experience leads me to believe that any number of people who frequent this forum are already full of fun answers to the above questions, but remember - the whole point of the game is to answer them for ONESELF. We can kick around some of the results as a group after that.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2001, 10:50:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-06-04 17:20, Clinton R Nixon wrote:

As far as the sacrifice issue goes, your landscape seems to be antiseptic. I'd go ahead and spill some blood--one idea is sorcerers carving formula into their own skin. (I just really like the mental image of a mathematics professor in his classroom late at night, the moon shining in, chalkboards surrounding him in a pentagonal shape with formulae all over them, and a knife in his hand carving Greek letters into his arms and chest. Creepy stuff.)



More subtle, and fitting with the overall idea, would be that of Sacrificing the everyday things we love. And not only Sorcerers do it, but also those scientists and corporate types and other lifeless drones of society. For example, the scientist who used to like hiking and fishing as a kid now never gets outside, but spends all his time in the lab looking for answers. The beaurocrat who sacrifices his integrity when he looks the other way at corruption to protect his personal project. Or the corporate VP who sacrifices his child's love by skipping her first piano recital to stay late and work. Now that's scary because it's real...

The Sorcerer with his bloody chest just understands what he is doing when sacrificing and expects something special for it. The others only expect financial gain or a scientific breakthrough; mundane thngs. That is the difference.

Mike Holmes
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jburneko
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2001, 12:35:00 PM »

Quote

More subtle, and fitting with the overall idea, would be that of Sacrificing the everyday things we love. And not only Sorcerers do it, but also those scientists and corporate types and other lifeless drones of society. For example, the scientist who used to like hiking and fishing as a kid now never gets outside, but spends all his time in the lab looking for answers. The beaurocrat who sacrifices his integrity when he looks the other way at corruption to protect his personal project. Or the corporate VP who sacrifices his child's love by skipping her first piano recital to stay late and work. Now that's scary because it's real...


I think a light just went on.

My first reaction to this was, 'This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I want, but this is so subtle that I'd never be able to pull it off in an RPG.'  I was thinking, god, I'd have to keep track of every little league game the player's children went to, and figure out some way to model the reprocusions of letting other 'hobbies' fall by the way side, otherwise it's not a sacrifice.  No way, these details are too small for me to manage as a GM without MONTHS of detailed planning and some pretty heavy handed micromanagement.

But then, this is where the whole director-stance thing comes into play doesn't it?  This is what I wasn't getting before.  When I was thinking about the players introducing material into the game I was thinking about the players being concered with the SAME details that I as the GM am concerned with.  The major NPCs and the backstory.  But that's not it at all, is it?  We're talking about letting the players decide that their kid has a little league game and their going to skip it to summon a demon and that their wife is going to file for divorce over it.  And then I as the GM can run with that; like a ripple effect out into the other events of the story.

Or maybe I'm still off base.  I don't know.  In any event this opens up a whole new can of worms because of things I know about the players.  Anyway this really belongs in the other thread that I started but it was easier just to reply here.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2001, 08:53:00 PM »

You are ON BASE.

And now you're right - the success of such activity in role-playing depends not only on the GM, nor only on the players, but on the role-playing group as a whole.

The band metaphor, the band metaphor.

Best,
Ron
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