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[Sorcerer]Sorcerers in Casablanca - AP

Started by Paiku, February 11, 2010, 09:41:14 PM

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Ron Edwards


I think that you guys seem a bit fixated on "keeping the group together" or perhaps "making sure the storylines stay together" or something of this kind.

I suggest instead embracing chaos - let play proceed strictly on the basis of what you want your characters to do. Not where you want them to go eventually, not how you want things to turn out, not what kind of climax it should be aiming for - but what you are most satisfied with having your characters go right now. This is for Paiku as well, concerning his NPCs (especially all the demons and those family guys).

Key advice? Re-do the diagrams, and when you do that, think in terms of moving the names on that diagram as if you were nudging physical objects. Add anyone new who needs to come in. Get rid of anyone genuinely dead or gone for good. Move names into whole new sectors of the diagram if that's what's called for. Then look at the diagrams and see what's obviously there to do next.

By "do next," I simply and only mean, play the characters. Have them go where you are happiest and most fulfilled at this moment to see them go. By "go" I mean talk to someone, do something, go somewhere.

Never mind keeping them together. Never mind having the stories stay together. Never mind what that means for anything in the future; the future of play should be, for you, always one scene later, and never beyond that.

As long as you play those characters hard, you'll be fine. And guys? Worried about how to play scenes with the characters in different places or even maybe different times? No problem. When one guy gets into a conflict situation, "freeze" him there, and keep going with the others, until one by one they get into conflicts too. Then run the three conflicts simultaneously, using the combat rules as if the characters were in the same place, for purposes of ordering and resolving actions. Obviously, direct interactions among characters are limited only to those who are in the same locations.

This is a magnificent technique that Sorcerer taught me long ago. I call it "flashpoint." In time, you will find that it's one of the most exciting elements of playing the game, especially when you learn that the combat rules are admirably suited to this purpose.

Here's another technique, which I talk about a lot in Sex & Sorcery: Crossing. Use elements of character A's story in character B's ... but not in the forced and lame-ass way that puts the characters into the same room as if shoved by stagehands. Instead, simply show that both stories are happening in the same time and place through effects of past scenes. If character A punches a guy in a bar, then later, character B, stepping out of his apartment to call a cab, sees the punched guy stumbling along the street holding his face. These are not hooks to force the players to interact. Character B can simply get his cab, and probably should as the default. These are instead simply "crosses," business that informs everyone (the real people) how the scenes are present in the same general fictional space.

Crosses should be common, and if that's the case, only when people want, do they turn them into Weaves - genuine causal interconnection between the stories. Forcing Weaves fucking sucks donkey dicks. Frequent Crossing, with opportunistic Weaving when and only when someone really wants to (and thus acts upon the Cross to interconnect), is wonderful. The GM simply needs to let go of all 'story control' in the ordinary role-playing sense, and genuinely get into authorship of who's where and what's happening when, and who's seeing whom next, period.

It does work. All the story-power you'll ever need is firing in those characters, both NPC and PC, and the demons. Right now, trying to "keep it together" and any related stuff actually diminishes and muzzles the real story-power that at this moment, I am not sure you guys are ready to trust in action.

Best, Ron

Andrew Norris

Hi John and Ry,

It's exciting to hear about your campaign. I just wanted to throw in some information about my experiences running the game.

When I posted about our sessions a few years back, Ron gave some very specific advice, and I ignored it. Now, I didn't intend to ignore it, in fact I made a note of it, but I sort of missed the point and in actual play failed to follow up on the points he'd raised.

You guys are emphatically not doing that, which is my way of patting you on the back. (And being a bit jealous. I didn't really grok Sorceror until a few months after we ran the campaign. It's also the game that showed me one of our perennial group members simply couldn't imagine his character suffering adversity in any way, and boy howdy that was helpful in understanding our problems.)

This is also my way of leading up to this point: What Ron is saying about adjusting the diagram on the back of the character sheets, and looking at them during play, is very important. It seems like a minor thing, but it's the bit I most wish I could whack my past self with a rolled-up newspaper and say "Pay attention!" about. Same with the "don't worry about PCs staying together". I did follow that advice to the letter, and it led to a number of situations in which the PCs actions had a strong effect on the other PC's situations, the characters didn't know about it but the players did, and the resulting tension was dynamite in terms of spurring play onward.


Awesome advice guys, thanks Ron and Andrew.  I think I said this before, but: you should give the rulebooks away and charge for access to The Forge  ;-)

After the latest session we did a gut check, and everyone was okay with the way the session went, even though the three characters were acting independently most of the night.  But I thought: maybe they were just being polite Canadians.  As the GM I feel bad about seeing two of the three players sitting out of the action at any given point in time.  But then... sometimes the inseparable party, the three-headed-six-legged monster, doesn't fully engage all the players either.  For tomorrow I'll trust to the story power of the characters, and to the story-making power of the players, and we'll see where it leads us.

A few of my ideas for tomorrow's session would count as "crosses," and I'll keep an eye out for other opportunities to cross the plotlines.  The players can "weave" when it feels right to them.

And we'll let you know how it goes!  Thanks all,


Oh, just a little piece - you know how we were calling Serge's wife "Michelle" at the table, but "Anna" in the prep work?  That's where I got the idea that her name is Anna-Michelle.  If that's cool, her Dad calls (er... called) her Anna, but Serge calls her Michelle.

Paul T

This game sounds like it's a blast!

I'm sure you'll find a way to balance "everyone off in their own plotline" and "PCs form a party" play that works with the tone of the story developing in your game. It sounds like you've gone from one extreme to the other. Since you're all paying attention to the issue, I'm sure you'll find a happy medium that works for this game very quickly.

We'll have to talk whenever we get together! I've been playing this game Land of Nodd that's all about the crossing and weaving, and shows how easy a thing it can be to do. I have quite a few thoughts on the matter, depending on whether you want those crosses to be surprising and mysterious or thematically charged and therefore inevitable: almost expected, which would allow you to foreshadow and build expectations, rather than creating a sense of mystery and discovery.


4th session was awe - some.  It was three separate storylines almost the entire night, but at the end everybody gave the session two thumbs up.  I guess the don't-split-the-party rule only applies to dungeon crawls. :)  The drama was palpable, the scenes were realistic in terms of human interaction (the arguments between Dr. von Braun and his wife were almost too real).  I did a bit of crossing, as the names of NPCs from one arc show up on a hit list in another arc, for example, and it inspired the players to do some twisting together of the plotlines.

There was no open conflict the whole night!  Just a few telltale check rolls, and a couple of half-assed 1-die Banish attempts against a Contained demon.  So I didn't get to use Ron's suggestion about separate simultaneous conflicts, but I'm still keeping it in mind.  Open combat was about to break out towards the end of the night, so we decided to end it there on a cliffhanger note.  Then we sat around for another half-hour and talked about how awesome that session was.  :)

So, in short, the preceding advice is working a charm!  Thanks Ron, Andrew and others.

Oh, and some serious religious issues have come up for Serge!  Ry is currently writing up synopses and AP for our 3rd and 4th sessions, and we'll post them soon.

Paul, Land of Nodd sounds really interesting, looking forward to meeting you and let's remember to chat about that!

Cheers all,


In the interest of getting the AP published before heck freezes over, most of the fiction synopsis will be in point form.  It's the game-play analysis that we're all here for anyway, right?  Read on to discover some seriously good Sorcerer moments (and thanks again to Ry for his added commentary):

Session 3: Casablanca, Friday AM

Ry: We gathered in John's basement for Sorcerer.  I was feeling pretty beat going into the session, so I tried to focus on Serge's need for control and made sure I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  My notes here are pretty well focused on my character Serge because that's what I remember best.

John: So at this point we weren't sure whether to treat Serge's kicker as resolved or not.  I promised Ry that I still had some interesting stuff in my bandolier.  We decided to stick with the status quo until I could bring another bang or two into play, before deciding whether to re-write Serge.

  • It's the wee hours, right after the big fight at the warehouse in which the group killed 2 NGF sorcerer/officers, a couple of mooks and 2 demons, including the rope demon Anaconda which Serge had bound just hours before.  We decide that Serge forgot his two severed fingers and left them behind at the warehouse.
  • Nazis have deployed around the city.  Wanted posters are up all over the place, with a poor sketch of Jacques.
  • Jacques apartment is being searched.  Jacques is recognized, beats down a couple of Nazi soldiers and escapes.  Leaves his papers behind.  He heads over to von Braun's house, breaks in and falls asleep on the couch.

Ry: "Beats down" is code here for "sics Scar on" – Scar's need for blood and Desire for mayhem is disturbingly easy for Jacques to satisfy.

  • Elsa wakes early, discovers Jacques on the couch and screams.  Von Braun comes downstairs to make introductions.  "He's a mental patient" whispers v.B to Elsa
  • Von Braun gives Jacques key to medical office, and closes it for the day.
  • Serge explains to Anna-Michelle about his fingers, lying that he was drinking too much and working on one of the fire engines.  Anna-Michelle is worried that this will end my career as a firefighter – Serge reassures her that things will be fine and she heads off to work.

Ry: So as we're about to cut away from Serge, Ry say to John something like "I want to go to the grocer's."  John looks quizzically at Ry and says ... "OK..." so as Serge heads back to the flat with sixteen pickle jars, Mike and Peter start cluing in that my demon is in for some serious punishment. 
John: [background] Serge's demon manifests as a swarm of 16 rats.  This next scene was really intense!

  • Ry: First, Serge unloads all the pickles into the sink. Serge was yelling and haranguing Tack, the rats-demon, for having lead me to the rope. Serge's good hand darts out and he grabs one of the 16 rats, then puts it into the pickle jar, half-filled with pickling juice.  Tack is pleading that he didn't mean to, that it was all a mistake, and tells Serge to stop.  Serge punishes Tack, grabs another rat.  Tack retreats, and Serge punishes Tack again. John does a good job of describing the little rat rubbing its face and looking ill inside the sealed jar. Tack slinks back, Serge yelling at him and grabbing another rat, and another, and putting them in the pickle jars.  Tack can't stand it anymore and as Serge grabs the fourth rat, Tack uses his warp power to weaken the first jar and it cracks. 

Ry: This was fun, because I had everybody hooked on what I was doing.

  • Serge banishes Tack, and is now demon-free.

Ry: Banishing Tachyorychtes was the first Jaws-hit-floor incident of the session.  John  didn't expect it, and I managed to pull it off with a 1 die instant banish.
John: Truly, it was a stunner, a real turning-point in Serge's story.  We all had a lot more respect for the 1-die act of desperation after that!

  • vB & Elsa go to Breuer & Schultz, shipping agents.  Elsa wants to know what really happened to her father, and what the mysterious letter means.  Higgs (Company secretary) drops dead at mention of "The Seven Blessings."
    they arrange to meet Schultz for dinner @ L'Hotel La Ville de Cloche, 7pm.
  • Marc le Géant (fireman) fetches Serge to the bookstore.  Father-in-law has fallen through the basement floor; vaulted chamber beneath house.  No body in sight.
  • Serge clears the house, cordons off neighbourhood, slaps young brother-in-law Denis to get him to obey.
  • Jacques finds Michele (resistance fighter from the Marrakesh cell) at The Turk's Head.  They team up.  J. pushes M. against the board by his balls: "I'm the leader of this cell, not you."  M., sweating, agrees.

Ry: Nice to see Jacques throw his badass around.

  • Mike takes author's stance, and has Jacques run into von Braun and Elsa strolling on the waterfront.  Jacques asks von Braun to call Martin @ La Ville de Cloche for him, to find out where NGF hiding now.
  • Serge is lowered into the vaulted chamber under the in-laws' bookstore.  50' high, 30' wide, 50' to the West, 100+' to East.  Bookshelf, box of grenades (modern) fallen through. It seems the in-laws were storing contraband weapons for the Resistance.  Drag marks and blood trail lead off to the East.
  • At the Eastern end of the chamber, father-in-law is unconscious within a Contain circle.  Inconspicuous demon, huge, 4 arms, holding him hostage.  Speaking a language Serge doesn't know.  Wants Contain broken in exchange for f-in-law.

Ry: Here I had Serge approaching, axe in hand.  I knew what I wanted to do but I knew that if I gave it away it would be ruined, so I made sure to not look John or the guys in the eyes when I had Serge point at his father-in-law's body.

  • Serge asks to see father-in-law.  Demon brings body to edge of Contain.  Father-in-law is unconscious but alive.  Serge kills him with his axe!  He was unwilling to repeat situation with Anaconda and unleash another demon on the city.  Fails Humanity roll.

Ry: This went off like a bomb; the guys didn't see it coming and I won the roll against the demon (I had a pretty solid advantage from surprise). The Humanity roll is a fair cop; I'm a little stymied on what it would take to boost Humanity without demons, though.
John: This was awesome: totally unexpected, but totally in character for Serge, who has had just about enough of demons at this point!

Ending: Jacques and Michele are going to investigate NGF's last hideout.  von Braun is heading to La Ville de Cloche.  Serge has just declared Pierre dead.  City chief engineer needs to inspect the underground area.  Stay tuned for the next session, in which Serge airs his religious angst.  Do practicing Catholics make good Sorcerers?  Not if your definition of Humanity includes "sanity"!



We've now figured out (thanks to The Forge) that Serge has NOT resolved his kicker, which entailed a lot more than just one demon on the loose.  We prepare to crack open a whole mess of family and religious tension.  We've also agreed not to sweat the fact that we effectively have three separate storylines going here, and see how it goes.

Session 4: Casablanca, Friday PM

  • Did belated advancement rolls for everyone, for the warehouse conflict (Sess 2)
  • von Braun & Elsa ran into Timo Meyer at La Ville de Cloche (Elsa's note mentioned "Meyer will help").  50s, pale man, looking at Elsa like he's seen a ghost. "You look so much like your mother."  Old friend of her father's (Victor Breuer), didn't know he'd died recently.  Wants to see them later that afternoon at his house, but needs a couple hours to clear up some personal business first.  He gives address.  vB spots telltale. 
  • Jacques and Michele ransack NGF's abandoned hideout.  Find list of names: "Casablanca: Jacques Gaillard, Timo Meyer, Victor Breuer, Margaritte Pfeifer." and a telegraph to Oberst Baer explaining peculiarities of navigation in the islamic golden age and suggests they're digging in the wrong place.
  • Serge offers his place to the in-laws.  Tries to make up with Denis for slapping him.  Takes Anna-Michelle with him to see his priest.  "I need to confess."
  • von Braun tries to explain about sorcery to Elsa.  Forces Bacillus to reveal himself (Punishes him, and contest of Wills), but the demon refuses absolutely.  Jacques, who is hiding out there at the office, gets Skar to perform some feats.  Elsa and Bacillus are both extremely pissed.

Ry: PLEASE NOTE – this was the most "wow" piece of roleplaying I've seen Peter do, and John's play of Elsa and Bacillus were like an assist from Iginla.  This was totally, totally great – the doctor squirming, trying to say-without-saying, be convincing, and do something his demon DID NOT WANT.  Peter seemed a little surprised that Bacillus was reacting so badly to "let's tell the wife about demons" – but I thought it made sense since Elsa is the most natural target for the escalation of von Braun's malpractise (Bacillus' Need).

  • Serge gives confession re: demons.  And "oh yeah, and I killed my father-in-law today."  Gets Father André to come to do an exorcism for him.  Priest thinks he needs a head doctor.

Ry: Yeah, I messed up the confession a bit.  The thing still went OK though.
John: I had no idea if  I was playing a Catholic priest right!

  • Jacques deciphers the captured map: whatever clues the NGF were following would actually indicate a spot in Casablanca itself, in the Mellah, maybe under the bookstore...  Michele returns from post office with address for Meyer.
  • Jacques&Michele go to see Meyer (swanky part of town).  First house: he doesn't live there anymore.  Bribes helpful manservant.  Meyer moved because he doesn't want to be found. Nazis looking for him recently too.  Gives new address.
  • Meyer is an old sorcerer.  Warns Jacques of the dangers.  Gets paranoid, thinks he's after "the ruby."  They agree to meet that night at the bookstore.
  • von braun & Elsa visit Meyer.  Screaming upstairs.  v.B tries to get Bacillus to convey Cloak, but the demon is rebellious.  It wants to seriously harm the landlord's daughter, or Elsa.  They agree on "a feast of medical malpractice" soon.  But it's too late, Meyer is eviscerated, his assailant escaped out the window.  Dying, he gives them the remains of his journal: only the first and last pages, the rest was ripped out and stolen by the attacker.  "You have a powerful enemy, she'll think I've given you the ruby..." and many apologies to Elsa for something, and he dies.  Search the room: Meyer has been selling off a rare book collection piece by piece.  Not much left except 1 fat tome on sorcery.  Funny-smelling pipe, waxed paper with 7 stars on it.

Ry: Pete mentioned this first, but: John really, really outdid himself with the props – a note here, a couple of pages there, and so on.  Completely fit, and were fun to see and handle.
John: Thanks, glad you liked 'em!  I'll post the text of Meyer's journal (the few pages that von Braun and Elsa found) on my gaming blog right after I post this.

  • vB and Elsa go to get a room at La Ville de Cloche - don't feel safe returning home.
  • Serge and the priest head down into the vault under the bookstore.  The priest is starting to doubt that Serge is crazy.
  • Serge tries to get the demon to appear - tries 1-die Banish and Punish, tries threatening w. grenades, but no luck (GM's note: this demon has been Contained down here for a thousand years, how should it know what a grenade is??).  Enjoins the priest to begin exorcism anyway.  *Point of order: can the priest Banish?  We decide yes, with 1 die, and if he succeeds he will become a 1-Lore sorcerer.  Serge is helping (group sorcery).

John: Ry really played up Serge's religious anguish over all this demon business. 

  • Michele is off recruiting for the Résistance when Jacques gets wind of goings-on in the Mellah.  He sneaks past the cordon to the bookstore and downstairs and down into the vaulted chamber to join Serge and the priest.
  • Jacques arrives, and after catching up on events he selects a concussion grenade and throws it into the Contain (Serge shields priest).  Boom.  Demon appears, enraged.  Priest runs for his life.  The back wall has fallen in a bit, there is a chamber beyond.  Perhaps the demon was Contained here to guard something...

John: As I said in a previous previous post, it was an excellent and engrossing session despite the three nearly-separate storylines.  We left it on a cliffhanger note, with Jacques and Serge having just taken the decision to attack the four-armed demon and attempt to destroy it before the Nazi occult research team arrives.  Next scene will be von Braun and his dinner with Schultz, Elsa's father's ex business partner and the only person they know who might possibly be able to shed any light on what's really going on...


Ron Edwards

Fan-tastic. I really appreciate the reflective nature of the posts as at the same time I'm able to enjoy the story for its own sake. A few semi-unconstructed points:

1. I totally saw the axe-murder of the father-in-law coming. I would have been surprised if he didn't do it.

2. That one-die desperation roll is serious! I mean, you do have a chance ... and in practice it pays off just enough to matter.

3. John, I have advice: sit down with the priest character, when you prep, and work him up as a distinct personality, especially someone you care about, and who has both strengths and weaknesses you sympathize with. Also, it's probably time to beef up the wife too, and think of her as someone with a powerful commitment to her decisions in life so far. If someone really devalued or showed contempt for those decisions, what might she do?

4. One thing I'm noticing: the group of you, as people, are becoming enthusiastic fans of one another's role-playing. Isn't that cool?

Best, Ron


Hey Ron, does Big help a demon absorb damage during combat?  That was one stumbling block for us.  Some of the APs I've checked out seem to suggest it helps the demon take punishment, but we can't figure out where in the procedure the extra dice from big would go (since attack & damage are 1 roll and Big doesn't help defense).


The sorcerer wiki is a great resource for questions like that, including links back to discussions here:


Ron, glad you're still enjoying the thread, and thanks for more great advice about fleshing out the priest and the wife.  That would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.  Excellent!

Karl, thanks for the links, that clears it up.  Big sounded simple until I tried to apply it at the table, and we had three different interpretations of the rule between the four of us!


Ron Edwards

Hi there,

John, this sentence is full of weird things, or maybe I'm being foolish:

QuoteThat would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.

I hope you mean by "taking the lead," simply, working with the material as played and continuing to play. In which case there's no real change in what's happening or how things are being played. That would make sense, and that might be what you intended. Let me know if that's it.

On the other hand, I fear a subtext of either the players or the GM being in charge in some kind of way: with either (1) the GM being basically a gormless lout while the players "run things," or (2) the GM suddenly ramping up and being the boss to give the players cues they must follow. Let me know if my fear is grounded.

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards

Oh yeah. Ry, regarding Big, pay close attention to the role it plays when dealing with the two damage tables. In fact, at this point in play, it might be helpful for you to review how those tables work without Big or anything else. Let me know if you have any questions about that. Your game is at the point where those rules applications will become crucial.

Best, Ron


Hmmm, I didn't notice how ambiguous that sentence was, when I wrote it:

Quote from: Ron Edwards on March 15, 2010, 03:49:16 AM
Hi there,

John, this sentence is full of weird things, or maybe I'm being foolish:

QuoteThat would be the GM taking the lead from the players with regard to which story elements (NPCs) are important to the stories that they want to tell.

I hope you mean by "taking the lead," simply, working with the material as played and continuing to play. In which case there's no real change in what's happening or how things are being played. That would make sense, and that might be what you intended. Let me know if that's it.

On the other hand, I fear a subtext of either the players or the GM being in charge in some kind of way: with either (1) the GM being basically a gormless lout while the players "run things," or (2) the GM suddenly ramping up and being the boss to give the players cues they must follow. Let me know if my fear is grounded.

Best, Ron

I meant that your advice was a timely reminder that I should be watching the players for clues as to what is important to them in the story, and focusing my inter-session prep there.  Through their play, Ry and Pete have both indicated that the tensions between their respective characters and their wives and the priest are important, thematically and to character development.  I should respond by preparing to let the story expand and deepen in those areas.

In other words, without your reminder, I might have blithely continued to treat the priest and the wives as minor stage props while I continued to spring the bangs that I'd already planned. 

(truth be told, I'm not sure whether you originally meant Dr. von Braun's wife Elsa or Serge's wife Anna-Michelle, but I think both NPCs have become important at this point).