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[Sorcerer] Big Fat Greek Tragedy

Started by W. Don, November 22, 2006, 02:42:23 PM

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W. Don


My friends and I have been working together to get a Sorcerer game running. This is going to be our second time playing Sorcerer. Our first was Ghoulish Pyrates, a trashy romance novel + carribean voodoo setting. Tons of fun, but we're looking to squeeze out more enjoyment from the game with some stronger pre-game prep this time around. The game below will be played via email, nice and slow (and hopefully a little deep), with a few of our other friends (new to Sorcerer) joining in.   

The starting point for our pre-game talk was the 300 movie and Troy (touching on some of the stuff in the Spartan Sorcerer thread). However, for some reason we've veered away from more academic source material and have ended up with the D&D-ish monstrosity below (thus "Big Fat") -- we are liking it anyway and will probably play it until we die.

The setting is mythic ancient Greece -- complete with sea monsters, one-eyed giants, and fantastic beasts. The River Styx, Mount Olympus, and The Underworld are real places that people speak of in awe and fear. Zeus lusts after maidens and rapes them in the woods, Hera turns people into beasts in fits of jealous rage, and Poseidon's wrath makes the ground beneath the city states shake and tremble.

Sorcerers are larger-than-life heroes of Greek antiquity. They are heroes in both the epic sense, as the doers of great deeds, and, more significantly, in the tragic sense as well -- as mortals who wrestle with their passions and who might be overtaken by them.

Descriptors for Will:

lion's courage
cunning like the fox
noble as an eagle
keen as an owl


Will = 1 doesn't even deserve an animal: impotent, meek, witless, ...

Unearthly (inhuman) Will descriptors: son of Zeus, the shining dignity of Apollo, the peircing gaze of Athena, ...

Descriptors for Stamina:

ox-like endurance
mighty as a bear
savage as a wolf
equine grace
swift as a hare


Stamina = 1:  blighted, frail, old, ...

Unearthly (inhuman) Stamina descriptors: son of Zeus, sister to Artemis, the savage prowess of Typhon, ...

Humanity is self-sacrifice for your kinsman's sake.

Devoting yourself to an abstract ideal, despite its loftiness (or perhaps because of it), does not count. Self-sacrifice is only meaningful in the context of human relationships. Kinsman usually means friends and family, people with whom you share a strong personal bond.

Putting yourself at risk for the people close to you can help you gain Humanity as will loosing something you value for their sake.

Hurting the people close to you or putting them in danger will make you loose Humanity. Placing yourself, your desires, or a "higher purpose" ahead of these persons will do the same.

Daemons are powerful, unearthly forces born of a hero's passions. They can take many forms including weapons or simple objects. They can even be people or places. They can also have no form at all such as a curse or a vow.

Weapon or object daemons tend to have brief one-word names like Ember, Spine, or Scar. People and place daemons can have normal proper names like Socrates or The City of Abydos. Daemon names like Jason's Oath or The Blight of Hera can be used for curses or vows.

Lore is replaced by Pathos, the primal well of a hero's most deeply felt passions. Depth here also implies breadth and Pathos allows the hero to quickly grasp all things of a similar nature and intuitively see their implications.

Acquiring Pathos: Pathos is primal emotion, a gut-level thing. There are no scrolls to read; no magic circles to etch; and no incantations to mutter. Given something of such a visceral nature, it is no surprise that the only way of acquiring Pathos is to stand in the full fury another's emotions.

Pathos Descriptors: Pathos scores are described like so: Pathos 2 (fierce ambition) -- where the descriptor is based on an intense emotion that a hero most identifies with, preceeded by an adjective denoting the depth of that emotion. There are four levels of Pathos, as follows:

1:  capricious
2:  fierce
3-4: burning
5+: undying

Unearthly (inhuman) Pathos descriptors: vengeful envy of Hera, the terrible wrath of Poseidon, ...

A hero's base emotion at the beginning of play is connected to his or her first acts of sorcery. Think of your hero's motives for calling up your daemon (eg: desire, hatred, grief, vengeance, etc). If your motives seem convoluted and difficult to parse, sort through them and get at the root. Try very hard to distill it all into one single shining word.

The base emotion that constitutes a hero's Pathos may change when he or she demonstrates a clear shift in motives during play. Typically this occurs when a the hero makes significant decisions or commitments (always involving Humanity somewhere in the equation).

Will and Pathos. Pathos is pure, primal emotion. Will is what the hero uses to own that emotion and focus it toward sorcerous ends.

Rituals are replaced by Telling Deeds, small, structured story arcs that demonstrate or enact a hero's Pathos. A Contact ritual can be a difficult journey to an unearthly place (eg: The Gates of The Underworld); Contain preparation can be the grueling task of forging a unique artifact; a Punish or Banish ritual can be dealing the daemon a symbolic, but also physically enacted, blow.

Zero Humanity means that now nothing else matters to the hero except himself and the morbid fulfillment his passions.

At Humanity = 0 roll the hero's Will versus his own Pathos, adding modifiers if appropriate. This will end in one of three possibilities:

a) Will wins over Pathos.The hero expunges the Pathos within him in a scene of catharsis in classic Greek tragedy fashion. This is usually either suicide (eg: impaling himself upon the enemy pikes, throwing himself off a cliff) or the slaying of kin (eg: patricide, infanticide, etc.). However which way this happens, the scene following the catharsis is the hero's death.

b) Pathos wins over Will. The hero becomes a living embodiment of his Pathos and becomes a daemon. If the Pathos is a dark or negative emotion it becomes the new daemon's Desire and the player decides its Need. In cases where the Pathos is a  positive emotion (eg: loyalty, love) the new daemon's Need is directly related to such (eg: need for tokens of loyalty, need to display gestures of love to a real person) and the player decides on an appropriately daemonic Desire. The succeeding scene is the new daemon being bound to a its first master.

c) It's a tie. The hero's Pathos forces him to the very edge of catharsis but he lacks the Will to make the final decisive lunge. The hero flees the scene and becomes a pitiful, crazed shade of his former self.

When things went epic, I belatedly realised that sending for Sorcerer & Sword way back in June would've been a really good idea. As it is, that book won't be here until the end of December. So I'm running with what I understand about Humanity Trading (the implications of "inhuman", for example) from all the different threads mentioning it. I think it's going to work out just fine though.

I do need to work a bit more on descriptors and mull over how to structure the Telling Deeds (ie: rituals) better.

Right now, is there anything a little too twisty about it, like maybe with that "name your Pathos" add-on or the 3-way option (ala MLwM) for Zero Humanity?


— W.

W. Don


While in the process of writing a low-fat version of the above to hand over to the players, I've concluded that the "Name Your Pathos" idea (and how "changes in the base emotion" works) is whacked. Playing it out as I've written it just seems so rigid and unweildy . So I've moved back to the original rules in the Sorcerer manual. (Heh.)

And so, a rewrite:

PATHOS. Pathos is the well of your most deeply felt passions. It is what gives you the power to enact the Telling Deeds. Pathos helps you recognise other heroes. It also allows you to sense daemons and find out all sorts of important things about them.

A hero's Pathos is a direct response to the powerful, but not necessarily negative, passions of other people. There is no other means to obtain it.

Descriptors: A Pathos score of 1 is capricious; 2 is fierce; 4-5 is burning; and 6 or greater is undying.

Pathos Notes: Emotions are always directed towards someone or something. In the Pathos section in your character sheet, write down the important persons (or things) related to your passions and briefly note down the emotions you associate with each.

... which seems a much simpler and more practical way of doing. (And now I know why the rules are written the way they are.)

I've also made a collage to show the guys (from stuff lifted from here and there):

And little greek-y stuff to pepper the inside of the "one-sheet" with:

And that's it so far. Just a little more work and it's ready. Cannot wait to play.

— W.

Ron Edwards

I'm glad you did that. I was trying to figure out how to say "what is all this extra crust, that should arise during play," while facing a few time constraints. But now, looking over the leaner version, I think you are right on track and ready to go.

Technically, one's lover or spouse is not a kinsman. Does that relationship still count regarding Humanity? I'm quite tempted to suggest that it does not.

Best, Ron

W. Don

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm glad you did that. I was trying to figure out how to say "what is all this extra crust, that should arise during play," while facing a few time constraints. But now, looking over the leaner version, I think you are right on track and ready to go.


QuoteTechnically, one's lover or spouse is not a kinsman. Does that relationship still count regarding Humanity? I'm quite tempted to suggest that it does not.

Right. I agree. Lover/spouse is not included in kinsman. It's much more fun that way and a good match to the Greek myth & tragedy source material as well. Some of the talk with the players last week covered this ground a bit. I do believe they get it (looking at they way they were setting up and talking about their character backstories). I should spell it out very clearly in the one-sheet though.