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Author Topic: Sorcerers and the possessed  (Read 4783 times)
coffeestain
Member

Posts: 165


« on: January 12, 2006, 05:22:27 AM »

Hello,

I'm looking for a little guidance in using sorcerers and possessed folk in my Dogs games.  As a GM, I enjoy the opportunity for extra dice and all of the ways that makes the players' lives choices more difficult, but I've historically shied away from them because a) I didn't want to make the towns too black and white and b) my groups tend toward the very low end of the supernatural dial.  Now, I know that sorcerers and possessed don't really need to exist on the supernatural level to be mechanically significant weapons in the GM's arsenal, but I didn't really realize that when I first started playing.

If my understanding is correct, a sorcerer is basically someone who, willingly and knowingly, follows a false doctrine and has actively led others down the same path, while a possessed person is someone who, willingly and knowingly, follows false doctrine and does not actively lead others toward it.  Neither the sorcerer, nor the possessed person, needs to know they are such, so one can have games in which one or both exist without the need for crazy rituals and overt supernatural fluff.  Does this seem correct?

Some media context:

Star Wars.  The Emperor: Sorcerer.  Darth Vader: Possessed.  Luke:  Possibly possessed at some points?
Boondock Saints:  Yakavetta (Mob boss): Sorcerer.   Ivan Checkov, Vincenzo Lipazzi (Ron Jeremy!): Possessed
LA Confidential:  Capt. Dudley Smith: Sorcerer.  Dirty cops: Possessed.  Bud White: Possessed at some points, then redeemed?

Does all of that seem reasonable within the moral structures of those particular movies?  It would seem to me that only in Star Wars does anyone actually realize they're sorcerers or possessed.

Now, regardless of whether or not I'm correct in the above bits, I've got another few questions for everyone.

How often do you feel comfortable using sorcerers?  Possessed?
How high are the supernatural dials in the games you use them in?
Does the supernatural dial have any bearing on how often you use them?
How do you judge who is and who isn't?
How do you explain them in a completely non-supernatural fashion, either mechanically or thematically or both?

That's a lot of questions, I know, but thanks in advance.

Regards,
Daniel
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coffeestain
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2006, 05:26:53 AM »

I'll start by answering my own questions as a point of reference.

1)  Historically, I haven't felt terribly comfortable using sorcerers or the possessed and am trying to get over that.  I don't think I've ever used a possessed without a sorcerer.
2)  I've only run one game with a high supernatural dial and, while it was enjoyable, it seemed a little more jarring and a little less human to the players.  I think we prefer supernaturally light games.
3)  The supernatural dial has had a very strong impact on how often I use them, thus far.
4)  I only used them out of necessity, I suppose.  Willful sinners were just willful sinners, while sorcerers and the possessed were there to be sorcerers and possessed as well as sinners.
5)  I haven't, so far, though I'd love to start.  That's why I started this thread.

Regards,
Daniel
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Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2006, 05:48:40 AM »

I'll have to speak both as a player and as a GM, as I've only GM'd once.

Quote
How often do you feel comfortable using sorcerers?  Possessed?

In the 4 towns we've played (one with me as GM) 3 of them had sorcery at some level. As I understand it through play, a sorcerer is someone who has embraced false doctrine and called upon the power of demons knowingly or not. This is true whether or not your game has demons as an actual presence, because the Dogs and the people believe in them, either way.

Quote
How high are the supernatural dials in the games you use them in?

In both the game I played in and in the one I ran, the supernatural dial was turned up pretty high; In the former it began with supernatural healing and ended with the Dogs summoning up the ghost of a murdered man and ending up doing battle with demon tentacles. In the latter, tarot cards glowed and burst into flames, and the sorceress called a demon into herself and grew claws.

Quote
Does the supernatural dial have any bearing on how often you use them?

I think it does, actually. The players in both games created supernaturally powerful characters, which was a pretty strong indication that they wanted supernaturally powerful problems.

Quote
How do you judge who is and who isn't?

Sometimes, you don't. The players will decide if someone is possessed or not half the time, and you should just go with that. Other times, decide who has embraced false doctrine to the point where they have a relationship with a demon (which is the defining factor of being a sorcerer, as I remember), or whom a sorcerer might influence (as they can cause unwilling people to become possessed.

Quote
How do you explain them in a completely non-supernatural fashion, either mechanically or thematically or both?

Mechanically: Use the rules as written. Exactly as written. Thematically, a sorcerer or a possessed may be someone touched by madness. Perhaps their gilded tongue or unyielding toughness comes from fanaticism. They're unclean, and may possibly need to be put down, or possibly they just need long-term counseling from their Steward until they can recover their mental health. Remember though that the Faithful are a superstitious lot who see the hand of the devil or the Father in all things, from when it rains to who falls sick. Any odd behavior could be explained by demons, especially when that behavior could have a detrimental effect on the community... Because no good Faithful would ever endanger the community intentionally, unless they were under a demon's influence, after all. Play up the superstitious angle, but make sure that no sorcerous or possessed deeds are beyond the realm of normal possibility.

Does this help?
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
daHob
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2006, 07:06:15 AM »

Non-supernatural sorcerers can be represented by a schism in the Faith.

You have a forceful, charismatic leader (the sorcerer) who convinces himself that the Steward is dead *wrong* about in his interetation of the Faith. This is likely because he (the sorcerer) has violated, or desparately wants to violate, that tenet. He argues a good case and has convinced at least two other people he's right. The schism is going to affect the community as a whole, because that's how small frontier towns work.

So sorcerer, possesed and demonic influence. No magic.

Hob
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Steve
Vaxalon
Member

Posts: 1619


« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2006, 07:15:02 AM »

In fact you could rename "Sorcery" as "Schism" if you want to crank the supernatural dial way down low.
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"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
Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2006, 07:20:59 AM »

Okay, something I'm noticing that doesn't quite jive with how I think it works..

Possessed are not just people who follow the sorcerer or are in their cult.

From what I remember, before there's a cult, a person must become a sorcerer to be possessed. Once there is a cult however, the sorcerer can call even non-willing people to be possessed.

In non/low supernatural terms, a possessed person could be anyone acting "strangely" or who seems to be unusually strong or tough or glib. An example where such a person might not be a member of the cult might be something like the shy, mousy schoolteacher who suddenly begins telling her students that Br. Jeb (the leader of the cult, perhaps..) is tainted, and she speaks with such force and fire that they believe her. Now, she already held those beliefs, but say the sorcerer told the demons to possess her to turn her to his side, but the demons have their own agenda, and decided to lend their abilities to creating a schism in the town instead.

This could be explained away, if you wanted to, as the teacher just finding something that she felt strongly enough about to overcome her withdrawing nature, just the same way you could explain the strong, fanatical hold that Br. Jeb has on his followers on his zealous fury. But them what knows better are sure to recognize the demonic influence right away.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
coffeestain
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2006, 07:28:50 AM »

Lance,

From what I understand in the book, a possessed person just needs to be a willing heretic and believer in false doctrine.  No sorcerer needs to be involved.

That was actually a bit of a surprise to me when I read it last night.

It seems to me, then, that anyone who fits that description and you want to have a little more "oomph" can be possessed, regardless of the connotations in your particular game and the supernatural dial you and your players have agreed upon.

If that's the case, I'm probably using them far too infrequently.

Regards,
Daniel
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lumpley
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2006, 07:30:13 AM »

Have you ever noticed in an action movie that the nobodies are easy to beat up, the thugs are harder to beat up, and the ringleader is really hard to beat up? That's what possessed people and sorcerers are, thugs and ringleaders.

In action flicks, thugs and ringleaders don't have supernatural powers, they're just harder to beat up. Same with low-supernatural Dogs.

Most of your towns should have thugs and ringleaders, don't you figure? Any town where something's gone pretty wrong is going to have a ringleader, and every ringleader needs thugs.

-Vincent
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coffeestain
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2006, 07:37:03 AM »

Vincent,

Thanks, that's exactly what I was trying to see if people were using them for, as it's exactly the reason, mechanically, that I'd want to use them.

That whole thread a few days back about sorcerers and the supernatural dial?  That got me to thinking I might just be able to do that, so I came to solicit some opinions and techniques.

Now that you've actually come flat out and said it, I'd love to hear some examples of how they're used in such a way.  Most actual play reports and town writeups don't really get into this aspect of things and, when they do, they tend to have strong supernatural trappings.

If I get a little time, I'll work up a town write up and specify who I think the sorcerers and possessed would be.

Regards,
Daniel
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2006, 07:41:19 AM »

Daniel, you also mentioned not wanting to make your towns too black and white.

Well, having a villain - a genuine villain, a terrible person who's hurting other people for no reason but his own appetite - having a villain doesn't make your town black and white.

The shades-of-gray nuances come from HOW pride leads to injustice leads to sin leads to social disunity leads to the villain.

A black and white town is one where:
Brother Jeb is proud. His pride makes him bold; he sins. His sin works! He develops a cult of himself. It murders people.

A shades of gray town is one where:
Brother Martin is proud. Sister Ann suffers. Sister Cybelle hates Ann's suffering and sins. Her sin provokes Brother Jeb to sin in retaliation. Brother Isaiah sees an opportunity to profit and cultivates Jeb's vainglory, until a cult of Jeb develops. It murdurs people.

It's the same Brother Jeb and his cult. In the first town, hanging brother Jeb from a tree solves the town's problems. In the second ... it's a necessary and unfortunate first step, and much harder judgements follow.

-Vincent
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daHob
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2006, 07:43:15 AM »

So if there are no supernatural demons (just the demons of doubt in men's hearts), why does Ceremony work?

Well, because they know deep in their hearts they are doing wrong. When a recognized agent of the Faith confronts them forcefully with the symbols and rituals they have used since childhood, it unnerves them. They are overcome with shame, guilt, fear and doubt. It sticks with them (as negative traits). Wound won't burn themselves into thier skin, but they might kill themselves in shame or fall off thier horse when they attempt to flee the judgement of the Dogs.


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Steve
coffeestain
Member

Posts: 165


« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2006, 07:56:40 AM »

A shades of gray town is one where:
Brother Martin is proud. Sister Ann suffers. Sister Cybelle hates Ann's suffering and sins. Her sin provokes Brother Jeb to sin in retaliation. Brother Isaiah sees an opportunity to profit and cultivates Jeb's vainglory, until a cult of Jeb develops. It murdurs people.

It's the same Brother Jeb and his cult. In the first town, hanging brother Jeb from a tree solves the town's problems. In the second ... it's a necessary and unfortunate first step, and much harder judgements follow.

-Vincent

This is great and it's something I've done in all my towns so far, just not as elegantly.  Typically, things haven't been as connected.  Thanks for the example.

Quote from: daHob
So if there are no supernatural demons (just the demons of doubt in men's hearts), why does Ceremony work?

Well, because they know deep in their hearts they are doing wrong. When a recognized agent of the Faith confronts them forcefully with the symbols and rituals they have used since childhood, it unnerves them. They are overcome with shame, guilt, fear and doubt. It sticks with them (as negative traits). Wound won't burn themselves into thier skin, but they might kill themselves in shame or fall off thier horse when they attempt to flee the judgement of the Dogs.

Awesome stuff, thanks!

Regards,
Daniel
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TheHappyAnarchist
Member

Posts: 47


« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2006, 01:11:34 PM »

So if there are no supernatural demons (just the demons of doubt in men's hearts), why does Ceremony work?

Well, because they know deep in their hearts they are doing wrong. When a recognized agent of the Faith confronts them forcefully with the symbols and rituals they have used since childhood, it unnerves them. They are overcome with shame, guilt, fear and doubt. It sticks with them (as negative traits). Wound won't burn themselves into thier skin, but they might kill themselves in shame or fall off thier horse when they attempt to flee the judgement of the Dogs.


This is awesome.  What to do when you want one supernatural dial at one time, or another at another time.
Or as another question, what if the group doesn't agree with the supernatural dial? 
Say one person wants the above, and another wants to call down the word of god in a blaze of flame to burn the Word into the sorcerer calling hellfire down on the dogs?  What if everyone else doesn't care?
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Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2006, 03:28:34 PM »

I'm perfectly happy to have the two players who cannot agree take it to a meta-contest, if they're unwilling to compromise, and no one else cares enough to make a tie breaker. Use the dice rules, and have the players duke it out. Whoever wins gets to decide where the dial is.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Vaxalon
Member

Posts: 1619


« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2006, 07:08:54 AM »

Or have each character live in their own worlds.  When one sees hellfire and divine lightning, the other sees a couple of lunatics gabbling at each other until one of them kicks over of a heart attack.
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"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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