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Putting Together a One-Sheet

Started by Ben Lehman, August 19, 2009, 09:42:46 AM

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Ben Lehman

So I'm going to be running a Sorcerer game inspired by the Anime / Novel series Spice and Wolf. If you haven't seen it, and you're a Sorcerer fan, I recommend checking out an episode or two on Youtube. You'll like it. It's basically classic Sorcerer.

The setting is early renaissance / late-medieval faux-European, with a strong feeling of the pre-unification Germanic States. The action of the show is pretty slow-moving and character driven: much of the focus is on the business of being a traveling merchant and compared to most violence is rare and usually over with quickly, and the main characters spend more time running away than fighting. In this sense, it's more related to American detective stories than it is to fantasy stories. Probably "bucolic" is the best adjective for the whole atmosphere, despite the fact that most storylines end with back-stabbing, murder, and running through the night.

The setting is demon-light. There is arguably only two demons in the series that I've seen so far, one of the two main characters, and an unbound relative of hers that they meet in the deep woods. There's another character who might be a sorcerer (speculation about her forms the bulk of one storyline), but probably isn't, and in the anime there's a girl (Claire) who is clearly Lore-enabled but probably without any bound demons. The protagonist's demon, Horo, is an ancient divine wolf who has worked for the past several centuries as a harvest goddess for a local village, but is fed up with their new found monotheism and so hitches a ride with the protagonist to her home in the north. She's a very powerful demon, and is shown as such. If I do the geek thing and add up all her abilities*, she's around power 10-or-so.

So my thought is that demons in my game are either old gods (think animal spirits, not lovecraftian nonsense) or things related to the old gods (someone could have a god-fighting sword as an object demon). Lore is knowledge of the old ways, or of esoteric mysticism, or an intuitive sense of how to deal with them. Demons are probably Passers, Inconspicuous, Possessors, or Objects.

Despite the presence of a monotheistic Church, I don't think that they have any special metaphysical knowledge. Their opposition to the old gods is political, not spiritual.

Given the emphasis in the series on the web of human connections, Humanity is defined as human relationships: whether family, friends, or business relations, it's all the same. Actions which build trust in relationships or forge new ones are humanity gain rolls, actions which burn through relationships or abuse trust are humanity loss. Demons are attention-hungry and love-hungry, and they have a tendency to draw sorcerers away from their other friends and isolate them.

Needs are pretty simply sacrifices from the old religion: wheat, blood, fruits, meat, etc. I'm a bit stumped for desires, though. When I look at the show, I think of Horo's desire as "to be loved" but Sorcerer describes desires as much more general and global, and not necessarily relating directly to the demon. Some more insight into this would be great.

Likewise, I'm sort of at a loss for how to go about writing descriptors. Any thoughts on that would be much appreciated.

Lastly, there's a pretty clear undercurrent in the show that the main character's demon might be on the path to becoming human, even though she doesn't really want to. I know that there's a bit in one of the books about demons becoming human, but as I recall it was just "it's a big dramatic event, there's no clear mechanics for it." Which is fine, but has anyone had experience with that in play? What was it like?

Basically, any insight into the one-sheet-putting-together process would be appreciated.

* By my count: Big, Special Damage, Shapeshift, Travel, Transport, Special Damage, Perception, and Control at least, with possibly Armor, Cover, and Psychic Attack.

Ron Edwards

Hi Ben,

It looks like a great match.

For the Desire, I suggest Worship, from Sorcerer & Sword. It seems about right to me.

For descriptors, I'm hesitant to suggest any without knowing the show. The way to think about it ... well, start with probably the most important one, Will. Who are the strong personalities of the story? Do they gain strength from political stuff (status, position, money) or from motivational stuff (self-esteem, anger, love)? If it's both, then fine. Arrive at some generalized terms which permit variation in actual personality; for example, a high self-esteem character using the core book rules may or may not be egotistic.

For Stamina, don't look at fighting so much as more widely-defined instances of delivering impact to the physical world. Does brawn play a role? Or expertise? The tricky part, and this goes for Will too, is that you might be looking at a wide range of different concepts, or specifications of a single concept.

It seems to me that you've already listed the Lore descriptors perfectly: "Lore is knowledge of the old ways, or of esoteric mysticism, or an intuitive sense of how to deal with them." Ancient knowledge; Esoteric mysticism; Intuitive connection.

Best, Ron

Ben Lehman


Hrm. Stamina descriptors are pretty tricky, in that there's not a ton of stamina action in the show. Compiling from the characters, I can think of:

Relaxed (you basically just take things as they come. No need to work a sweat.)
Cowardly (physical danger frightens you.)
Effete (You're not used to a life of physical challenges.)
Poor (you don't eat enough, but you're used to suffering.)

And that's about it. Noticeably missing is anything remotely positive. I guess, given the tone, I could tack on "hard labor" as a description, for farmers and stuff. And I guess "young" which covers several side-characters who seem pretty active by virtue of, you know, being teenagers. But I still feel like there's something missing. Maybe it's just my old RPG habits wanting to have a "fighter-type" descriptor even though there's nothing like that in the show.

Will is easier:
Religious Beliefs

Where "cunning" is outright trickery and "shrewd" is more about being good at assessing the situation and making the most of it.

What's a good number of descriptors?

Ron Edwards

I'll rename your Stamina descriptors to see what you think. In order:

Fast on your feet
Effete (stays the same)
Thin and hardened

I'm preserving your meanings, pretty much. However, as written, the explanations/definitions contain too much front-loaded role-playing. They read more like LARP character notes than Sorcerer descriptors, which should be applicable through both applying and reserving force, rather than telling the player which to do. Keep in mind that a coward can be very dangerous when cornered, or an effete person may well reveal inobvious reserves when roused.

Regarding the number of descriptors, I trade off several. The first is simple aesthetic range - for instance, if various personality types or stereotypes fit well with the overall concept, then they should be in there. The second is what I keep harping on in this thread - it's better to lump a variety of specific behavioral options into one descriptor rather than split them among descriptors. The third is keeping the number of combinations across the three scores nice and high - having only two descriptors for one score is fine as long as there are lots of them in at least one other score.

That latter point bears reflection. One thing I find crucial in making up Sorcerer characters, or have observed, is not necessarily what a given player picks, but what he or she recognizes that other people might pick. For instance, imagine your batch of Stamina descriptors (for sake of argument, renamed like I did). Now imagine it if it included one more, titled "Killer trained" or something like that - anything fast, active, and lethal sounding.

In the first case, let's say I choose Effete. I'm choosing it from a set which includes no overt lethality. I suggest that this choice's content has a lot to do with economics and societal layering regarding food in particular. Contrast that same choice in the second case, in which overt lethality is an option. By choosing Effete this time, I'm literally posing my character in direct confrontation with potential other characters, PC or NPC, who did take the lethal option; the content is all about the application of violence.

I'm not suggesting you include the lethal option. I am saying that by choosing each set, you are really defining a whole raft of content about the game and what it's about, which profoundly informs the decision-making.

Best, Ron

Ben Lehman

The lethal thing is definitely an eye-opener. Reading about it makes me want to do it, of course, but I think that'll trash the tone that I'm going for, which is low-violence in general. Although there is plenty of fighting (and running from fighting) in the show, it's all done by people who clearly aren't really used to it: there aren't any assassins or warriors, really. Even the nameless hired thugs look a little uncomfortable with the whole business, like they'd rather be somewhere else.

I think I have finalized descriptors now. Thanks for your help.

Oh, should there be a standard list of prices, as well? I'm realizing as I type up some characters from the show that all the prices (naturally) are about how you relate to other people, so a list basically writes itself: Passive (-1 when someone else is giving orders), Arrogant (-1 when you're better than someone else), Jealous (-1 if you're not the center of attention), Shy (-1 when around people you don't know), Afraid of Intimacy (-1 when around that know you well).

Ron Edwards

Prices are like Needs - they are deliberately to be left open to player construction from the ground up.

Best, Ron