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Author Topic: Advice Needed -- Retooling Gothic Fantasy For a Con  (Read 2601 times)

Posts: 1351

« on: July 31, 2002, 12:22:56 PM »

Hello All,

Imagine my surprise when I was perusing the event schedule of my local con and I see someone is running Sorcerer & Sword.  Then I read the description and I suddenly remember that, *I'M* running Sorcerer & Sword.  I'd totally forgotten that over two months ago I'd sent in a description of my Gothic Fantasy world before I even had a gander at the PCs for the game we just played.  I don't want to back out but I need to seriously think about how I'm going to pull this off and I need some advice.

Here's the deal.  After actual play I realized that Gothic Fantasy is a bit like mixing oil and vinegar.  They taste great together but eventually they seperate and one's got to come out on top.  You either have a Fantasy game with Gothic overtones OR you have a Gothic game with Fantasy overtones.  I feel that the game I just went with did the later.  It was definitely a Gothic game with some Fantasy overtones.

However, the description I wrote for the con definitely promises the former and I don't want to disappoint.  I want to retool the relationship map and backstory from the game I just used and mix in some pregenerated Characters and Kickers that will definitely lend itself more to sword fights on crumbling castle walls and a change for Gorg/Argyle to make use of his monstrous Gargoyle form.  I want more of a Action/Adventure Dark Fantasy story than the complex brooding pseudo-medeval tale we just told.

I'm thinking of paring down the relationship map and backstory to JUST the Lord's family so that it looks like this:

There's Lord Edward Fenris who summoned his demon Gorg as an act of cowardice during a period of war 20 years ago.  Gorg is a Passer demon who serves the Lord's family as Argyle Dagwood.  His Desire is Ruin and his Need is to Touch Dead Things.

There's Lord Fenris's wife, Rochelle, who knows that her husband is a coward and that Gorg is really running the show.  She resents her husband's cowardice and herself for allowing herself to be seduced by Argyle before she truly understood his nature.  (more on this in a minute).

There's Catherine Fenris who is Lord and Lady Fenris's first daughter.  However, Catherine's REAL father is Gorg.  Catherine is aware of this and in fact Lord Fenris is having an affair with Catherine.  In Lord Fenris's twisted cowardly mind this is somehow getting back at Gorg and his wife for betraying him.

Then there is Elizabeth Fenris who is Lord and Lady Fenris's second daughter and really IS both of their children.  She knows nothing of the twisted nature of her family and is a True Innocent as I've defined elsewhere.

I'm thinking of leaving the relationship map just here.  But I feel like it needs something else.  That something else in the original backstory is a murder comitted by Rochelle Fenris in a jealous rage but I don't think that will facilitate the kind of game I'm looking for.

I think this situation needs a McGuffin of some kind, since a lot of pulp fantasy stuff revolves around McGuffins but I don't know what.

I also need some pregenerated Characters/Demons/Kickers that will insert into this situation well.

Also do I need to change the Humanity Definition?  Does Emotional Sanity push the game TOO far in the Gothic direction?

Does anyone have any ideas or advice?

It will be much appreciated.  Thanks.


Posts: 5574

« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2002, 12:37:00 PM »

"Fantasy" is obviously a pretty huge field to play in...but it sounds like what you want is a base of pretty familiar fantasy tropes onto which you can overlay some gothic influence.

I particularly don't see any thing wrong with going with the version you already have (and are thus more familiar with) but if you're set on changing it to the above I would start with the definition of humanity.

The idea of "good vs evil" is a much more familiar division than sanity in "fantasy" RPGs.  Since Humanity is the core of Sorcerer if you want to focus the game on fantasy first I'd start with a humanity definition more evocative of "fantasy".

But again...screw whats written in the guide...go with what you know works is my best advice.


Posts: 729

« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2002, 12:38:53 PM »

Sounds cool.  What is the big kaboom?  What happens in the situation you have described above to produce conflict?  

Some PC options:

Knights- always a good standby.  They serve their Lord, but Argyle gives them orders- he "speaks for the king", or so he says- and his orders are becoming increasingly dangerous and moraly questionable.  But how do they get to Fenris to discover his desires?  The paranoid old man is holdup and seeing no one... so Argyle says...

Foreign Agents- either covert or overt.  Playing a foreign diplomat in the court of Fenris would be intresting as all hell...with the status of 'outsider' it opens up many intresting relationship possibilities as the Scheming Nobles (see the next item) court your favor.  Playing a spy sectretly creating chaos in the Fenris household is equaly cool...

Hostages- the exchange of hostages to secure aliances was common in some parts of the world (the proto-dracula spent some time as a hostage).  The children of a neighboring Lord would make great PC's...

Scheming Nobles- courtiers, land owners, Fenris's old friends and comrades...now alienated and angry at the betrayal of trust, the crippling levies and taxes, and the Lord's other eccesses.  They hate and fear Argyle- some court him, others scheme against him.

Court Regulars- who wants to be the Jester?  talk about a cool as hell role to play in this situation... the only guy allowed to mock the King...  or the Court Astrologer, or the Champion, or the Master of Arms... or a visiting Exotic Foreign Prince...

Servents- play the servents who keep the castle alive... people say things in front of the servents like they arn't even there... and servents know the secret passages and hidden libraries better than their masters...
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2002, 03:52:51 PM »

Hi Jesse,

Convention play for Sorcerer is always difficult, as it guts a good third of the game's foundation, in various different ways.

I suggest really pumping up the starting situation, as I did in my Lincoln High Reunion demo. In email dialogue, you rightly pointed out that such strictly defined "you are here, doing this," isn't very Sorcerer - and the reason, basically, is that for a con game, the GM writes the Kickers.

However, I don't really see any alternative - such play can only be demonstrative, like a simulator "ride" of a space shuttle at a Science Museum.

Christopher Kubasik

Posts: 1153

« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2002, 04:06:57 PM »


Remember that while you'll be handing the kickers out, the players will still be able to choose which kicker they want.  That should mitigate some of the "forcing" a kicker on them.


"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
J B Bell

Posts: 267

« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2002, 06:13:08 PM »

I'd like to chime in re. the Humanity definition.  I'd say it makes the critical difference between Gothic Fantasy vs. Fantasy Gothic.  "Good" vs. "Evil" is maybe a way to go, but you'd want to have the players pretty clear on the meaning of those.  Not to stereotype too much, but many fantasy RPGers are accustomed to understand "Good" as meaning "having a license to kill Evil(tm) Things."


Edit:  I didn't reinforce my point very well.  In the game I ran, the majority of problems in the flow of play (too slow, players flopping about, low investment, etc.) had as a major component either unclear definition of Humanity or poor reinforcement of the Humanity mechanic.  Humanity is, no irony intended, the heart of the game.

"Have mechanics that focus on what the game is about. Then gloss the rest." --Mike Holmes

Posts: 1351

« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2002, 09:41:31 AM »

Hey All,

Good advice so far.  The wheels of creativity are beginning to turn.  For clarity what I meant by "fantasy" was more towords the pulp adventure feel presented in Sorcerer & Sword.  

I think the suggestion of focusing more on direct Good vs. Evil feel might be a good idea, avoiding the pitfalls, J.B. mentioned in that does not hand out a license to kill.  But I think having sort of a hollywoodized notion of Hero & Villain isn't such a difficult idea for most players to grasp quickly and intuitively and will probably fit my needs.

Thanks.  More input is, of course, welcome but all this has definitely helped.

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