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Need - how tough?

Started by Mackie, August 21, 2009, 02:19:36 PM

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DIscussing Sorcerer a few days ago over some pints, a topic came up that I had wondered about. How "tough" should a demons needs be?

On the one hand, you could have a completely trivial need, like watching MTV.

On the other hand, you could have some goddam awful need like "Sacrficice a virgin to me".

The first seems rather innocuous. The second may be dramatic, but I cant see how this is sustainable for long - in essence, it means a humanity check every week (well, im sure somehow you may strike lucky with a "justified sacrifice" of some despicably evil virgin, but in principle its a humanity check).

In a game a GMd I had something in between - to smash things for one demon, kisses from beautiful women for another, and fine wine from another. Bear in mind this was set in the depression. The needs were akward to get, but not absolutely devastating to humanity. And I played the demons as asking for them at every oppurtunity, whether they were in need or not. Character passes a fine looking car - stick demon starts buzzing with the desire to smash its engine (even if it wasnt it need).

In a campaign I am playing in, we have some goddam awful needs - cerebrospinal fluid, the need to blind people, and the need for a possessor demon to experience the death of its host. Yoikes. These are tough needs, ones that quite probably (although not absolutely) are going to end up with a humanity check. We play the demons as relatively ungreedy for these, however, only really requiring them once a session.

Looking at most of the rulebooks the demons needs seem generally to take a middle to easy route. A little akward or annoying. It also seems they get more akward the higher power the demon (seems fair enough!).

Any thoughts or reflections on this? I appreciate you can pretty much play sorcerer any which way, but I wondered how people find this whole issue.


Hi Mackie,
I'd say it always depends on the setting and what you want from the story.
Your example of a sacrificial virgin is definitely too hard for a modern setting, but with the right definition of Humantiy and a more visceral surrounding, why not.

Two examples out of our Dictionary of Mu game:
There is a soul-eating lance (called Longinus - yeah pretty obvious) in the hand of a herold of the Damsel Messias. And with all the sinners around it is not too hard to find some soul to devour, but it surely provides distraction.

Another later demon summoned is the garden Gettismane (get it? get it?) and it wants it's seed spread around Marr'd.

On the other hand if you want a short story with the moral core of "Don't mess with the universe" a Need contrary to the definition of Humanity is the way to go.

Hope this helps.

Ron Edwards


There is no one right answer. Nor is the answer necessarily to find some kind of Golden Mean between the extremes you describe. But I actually think you're asking the wrong question. It shouldn't be about what the Need is, but rather how it affects the sorcerer's life and what kinds of risks or inconveniences are involved in the long run.

The principle is: if the Need does not represent some kind of commitment from the sorcerer in terms of energy and time, then it isn't a Need at all. Even if it's just watching MTV, fulfilling the Need does not mean you (the sorcerer) can ignore it, figuring the demon can get MTV any time it wants. No. For it to be a Need, that means that you must in fact make sure the demon is getting its MTV.

Therefore the more trivial the Need, the more aggravatingly trivial the details which you, the Binder, must make sure are guaranteed. That's a certain amount of hours per day (or few days) which the demon is simply not available to you. Want it to stake out a site for a few days? Sure, but not during MTV time. Are its comfy seat and snackies prepared?

Think about it. What if you were actually responsible for someone doing something like having his ears scratched or watching a certain show, routinely? By "responsible," I mean the person in question literally takes no responsibility for making sure it happens. They don't hop into the comfy seat all by themselves. They don't change the channel by themselves. They don't remind you that it's time for the show. All of that is your responsibility, and if you forget or blow it off, they resent you for it.

Frankly, after a few weeks of that, I might be wishing the Need was for sacrificing virgins after all.

Best, Ron


Thanks folks,

I think I get the principle, and perhaps the examples I got were not the best. Also, point taken that they absolutely have to be taken in the context of the game.

The bugging issue though, for me, is something like a demon with a need to do something unequivically bad, like rape a nun or something - or a demon who needs to eat other demons.

It seems to me that in most settings, under most circumstances, this is going to mean a humanity check for the sorcerer. Every week (or at least every week if you want to keep it fed). In such cases, I can only see this being workable in very specific stories, such as one shots, or for summoning some motherfucker demon for a specific short term purpose (yeah, and I can see the problems with that seduction).

So I guess Im asking in relationship to Humanity. It seems to me the best "Toughness" of need is something that is akward, annoying, limiting and potentially damning, but not unequivically so?

Ron Edwards

That sounds like an excellent paraphrase of best for you, and so I recommend going with it.

It so happens, and this is not to be taken as advice, that in my games, Needs typically are not actions which demand Humanity checks. So you and I are on the same page there. If a player wanted a Need of that kind, then I suppose I'd permit it, taking it as a signal that the player wants his or her character to be in a sucking vortex of Humanity risk, rather than merely a tempting one.

Best, Ron


Thanks, that does reassure me that Im loosely on the "right" track. Of course, there dosent seem to be a "right" way of playing sorcerer, but it's nice to know that you are benefitting from the experience of play testing and not falling into obvious pot holes!

I have detected a temptation in games to mitigate the "toughness" of the need (I'm sure there is a better way of saying it given your points above, Ron) with the "Neediness" of the need. In otherwords, watching MTV means daily splurges and whining as you describe (now I think about it, it could be a great fun need for a modern setting!), whilst the sacrificial virgin (or something pretty hard like swallowing some royal jewels) would be something that might extend considerably beyond the "once a week" guideline (and I note it ia guideline). Any thoughts on the modification of "Frequency" of need?