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Author Topic: [Sorceror Remix] Damned Harvard! New Rules at the Old School  (Read 2385 times)
DevP
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« on: April 14, 2006, 11:24:14 AM »

Henri and I got together to try out the alternate Sorceror mechanics I'd been playing with. We've both gamed together a lot, and I played in a previous Sorceror camapign of his before. We played a quick game with it, and it seemed to work out nicely. We chatted up the equivalent of a one-sheet over dinner (and came up with possible character seeds), spent a half-hour with standard character/demon creation, and then drove the protagonist to a bloody finale in 2 hours. I'll describe our game, and then add the system comments at the end.

The Game: Decided an "old-school" feel. The game took place at a decidedly demonic version of Harvard. Demons were of vaguely Mesopotamian/Egyptian/Sumerian origin, and looked really bad, monstruous like satyrs. These weren't wise-cracking demon pals, but imperious and archaic alien beings who do not care for the differences between ancient times and the modern day. Humanity was roughly a traditional Christian morality of not murdering your fellow man; 0 Humanity as capital-D Damnation, complete with being dragged to hell.

Henri's sorceror, Prof. Arthur Hillary Armstrong, was an arrogant rogue archaeology professor; his demon (Yael) had a need for Power, and was a Passer (looking like an Iraqi gentleman with a goatee or, alternately, a huge towering beast with horns and goatlike legs). The kicker: Dean Genevieve Wall was making a move against Armstrong, trying to nail him for his uber-expensive trips to undocumented dig sites (where he was picking up sorcerous artifacts, of course). Her plan was to cut his funding, cut his tenure, burn him out of academia forever, and figure out just what he was keeping in the archives.

The first Bang is a nasty call from the Dean, telling him how much she was going to enjoy kicking his ass out of her college, and that her officers were coming by to confiscate his files immediately. A conflict ensued, with Armstrong commanding Yael to carry his file cabinet into the basement, while the he was trying to sweet-talk the cops outside and keep them from entering. There was some fancy evasion, followed by a trip back to his apartment to find the place ransacked by other "investigators". He also found a message from a former pupil of his, a (then) failed Sorceror who now had an Inconspicous demon of his own. Armstrong quickly bullied him into doing some investigation for him.

The pupil reported back that a large man with long blond hair and red-tinted glasses - Mr. Kaph - was accompanying the Dean at all times. Aftering checking with some other contacts, he finally decides to rush into the Dean's office with Yael, and is met by the Dean (also wearing red-tinted glasses) and her assistant. They step into her office, where they have a yelling match and Kaph is nearly ready escort them out when Armstrong picks up on his telltale. He tries to deliver a Punish to him - chanting in mystical Sumerian - which fails, but definitely pisses off Kaph. We enter a combat and finale, and this is a case where the Sorceror mechanics made things interesting in a way we wouldn't have come up with on our own.

Round 1: Armstrong will try to get a knife from the Dean's desk; Yael will look on contemplatively; Kaph will grab Armstrong by the throat and throw him into a wall; the Dean will command her demon to restrain Armstrong at all costs.

What happens: Kaph throws Armstrong into the wall (Armstrong aborts to defend), and then the Dean gives the order to restrain Armstrong.

Round 2: Armstrong goes on full defense; Yael will rush and attack Kaph with his Special Damage claws; Kaph will put a Hold on Armstrong; the Dean will command Kaph to attack Yael.

What happens: Yael goes first, and digs his claws into Kaph, who immediately goes down. The Dean just looks on in horror. (I actually am not 100% sure if this was correct? Perhaps Kaph still would have gotten his action, and the -20 cumulative penalties would not have kicked in until the next round. It worked out, however.)

Round 3: The Dean will get the gun from her desk; Armstrong will banish the crippled Kaph; Yael will attack the Dean.

What happens: The Dean goes first, and gets the gun in her hands; finally! Armstrong goes next, and mumbling ancient Sumerian banishes Kaph back to hell. Yael goes next, and just as the Dean looks up from her gun, she sees the Demon bound over her desk and swipe at her neck, killing her instantly. (Power 9 + Special Damage = A Rough Time!)

So, at the combat's end: Armstrong looks proudly over the scorched circle in the floor where Kaph once stood; but Yael's claws are dripping blood, and the Dean's dead body is slumped back in her chair. And suddenly, he hears people coming up the stiars to check on the commotion. End of scene.

The New Rules: I was worried about the possiblity of too many successes coming up, but that definitely wasn't the case; instead (and as should have been expected) a great many rolls resulted in victory by 1 or 2 successes. Overall, results were less variant than we remembered from playing with the normal rules, but characters with lower scores did still win out on various rolls.

In terms of dice, we tried both the d10 and d12 modes, and mostly got reasonable results with both. I vaguely felt that the d12 had a bit too much of the less-interesting 0-success results (which would net 1 success at most), but I don't think it was certain if one was better yet. I think for most Sorceror games, scores of 8 or 9 will be pretty high, and would fit on a d10. If a game had stats much greater than that, the die might be too small. (But both types were adequate for the scale of our game.)

In my other thread, I mentioned newer but untested "abort for defense" rules. In our combats, we definitely had times where a character had a big attack coming towards him, and aborting for defense would only do limited good. The more drastic rule - requiring both sides to reroll - may make it a more enticing option.

The system was definitely much faster to handle for us, and indeed it made us more encouraged to interface with parts of the system I liked, such as using the initiative stuff in situations that were not strictly combat. I think it got us excited to try more Sorceror stuff in general.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2006, 01:49:45 PM »

Well, this is too much fun. I like dice-ideas and dice-innovations.

My general response is a little different from yours ... I'd like to see this applied to stuff which wasn't very Sorcerer-like, getting away from Banishing and Summoning, and more into conflicts of interest in which "I'm better at this than you" were more important than they are in Sorcerer.

In fact, I think I'd like to see this system operating, not with attribute-centric scores, but with skill-centric ones - more like HeroQuest or Zero. If you wanted to stick with the Sorcerer context, here's what I'd try: Cover and the six Rituals would be the only scores. If I were to try this with something, I think I'd take it to a duelling type of setting, of both wits and swords, and have a variety of skills relevant to each, and again, no attribute values at all.

One other thing - I think that drastic consequence would be a useful addition. So that if you beat someone, no matter how small the number of successes, you do in fact win that particular exchange, significantly. Otherwise I think opponents will dink away at one another with no particular meaningful effect, waiting for the successes to accumulate but in fact becoming boring.

Best, Ron
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DevP
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« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2006, 03:12:25 PM »

Ron,

So you find this more interesting as a mechanic divorced from Sorceror? (At the moment I'm more invested in just finding a different way to play the game, but I'll think on it.)

Also, are you suggesting a skill-centric bent because with this mechanic, having a higher score has a greater effect? The idea of scores for each Ritual is rather interesting...
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2006, 08:47:51 PM »

Right, exactly. The philosophy behind rolling in Sorcerer is that even though in the significantly long haul, more dice is better, you really can't be too sure about any one time. Plus you can rack the dice up and down pretty fast based on all kinds of things. It has a gambling, live-wire quality about it.

Whereas what you're coming up with, if I'm understanding it right, has a more "solid" outcomes relative to the different scores in opposition. 7 really is better than 5, right here and right now. That, to me, is more suited to highly specific actions in opposition rather than to general features in opposition.

I say, go for it - tweak it more, try it in different ways. If it works well for Sorcerer by using a specific value per ritual, then it could be the basis for a new game entirely with a different setting or premise.

Best,
Ron
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