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In which we head out into the Sorcerer's Solar System

Started by Judd, March 31, 2010, 02:52:37 PM

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David Berg

Quote from: Judd on April 16, 2010, 12:52:43 PM
There is an interesting thing when players are going back and forth, not directly involved in each other's scenes.  The players kind of watch what is happening, digesting it all and form opinions about what is going on.  Once they are unleashed into each other's environments, there is a kind of release.

Judd, this is great.  Do you plan for and/or advertise this crossover in advance?  As a spectator, I'd be much more psyched about watching Bret's lab go nuts if I knew I'd get to interact with it next.

From an initial buy-in perspective, this might be huge.  When I describe non-party play to some of my buddies, "sit and watch" is a major deterrent.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


Good questions, Dave.

When I start up Dictionary of Mu games at cons, the characters start off all over the globe of Marr'd.  I inform the players that if they want to get into a scene with one another (and they don't have to) that they need to play towards one another and get there.  So, the Khan of Khans announces that he is marching the horde towards Mu's Bed, right after the player watches a scene in which the Witch-King inspects the city's outer-rim defenses.  The characters don't know but the players do and I ask them to use that kind of information to play towards one another.

In this game, the weaving (I think that is the term from Sex & Sorcery, yes?) has been a bit more subtle but I noticed that as soon as Bret's character got into that lab, Bret perked up. Part of this was that his character had all of these new toys to interact with but also, I think, Bret had been watching Christine's play actively and had ideas on how to deal with various elements, even if he wasn't consciously doing it, he was mulling it over.

I am not going to speak for Bret or Christine but I know I do that when I play, watch the fiction go down and get myself pumped to interact with what I see going on around me.

Does that make sense?

More questions are welcome.

David Berg

Ah, gotcha.  So it's more a matter of the players, rather than the GM, throwing their characters into the settings they want.  And there's presumably some social expectation that the GM will facilitate this rather than block it. 

So when I'm watching Bret in the lab, if I go, "Ohh, now I want to play with those toys!", I can plan on saying, for my next scene, "I want to start in the lab, I have some great ideas for that place!" and knowing that you (Judd) will say, "Okay, there you are!" (after perhaps establishing a few hows and whys).

I'm assuming also that you trust that I plan to do something story-relevant with those toys, rather than just, y'know, poke them and say "cool".  If this trust hasn't yet been established, you might ask me, "Whatchya gonna do in the toy room?" before assenting.

Am I getting this right?

It's interesting: I think "keep an eye on settings you might milk" would grab my interest in a completely different way than "keep an eye on if you want to play toward other characters" would.
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development


I'd say it is more subtle than that, Dave.

There has to be a part of the game where the players enjoy watching each other play too.  That is key, rather than just waiting with baited breath to have something to say in someone else's spot.

If your buddies don't want to play these kinds of games, I'm not sure just re-wording how they work is going to help.

Ron Edwards


David, ordinarily I wouldn't be so didactic as I'm about to be, but this is concerning Sorcerer after all. Also, my experience of generating and writing the rules makes me especially sympathetic to what you're saying, as I hope to illustrate.

You wrote,

QuoteI'm assuming also that you trust that I plan to do something story-relevant with those toys, rather than just, y'know, poke them and say "cool".  If this trust hasn't yet been established, you might ask me, "Whatchya gonna do in the toy room?" before assenting.

No. A thousand times no. The term "GM" includes no imaginable role of this kind in Sorcerer. Storylines as wholes, scenes as units of attention, and conflicts as events within scenes cannot be front-loaded in terms of acceptable content or outcomes, by anyone. Of the various levels of authority I've outlined in the past, plot authority is conspicuous absent from Sorcerer play except solely as an emergent outcome.

That may not have seemed like a sympathetic reply, but it is, because I was initially unable to say such a thing in the early stages of designing and writing the game.

Going through the history: If you start with Sorcerer's uber-ultra-first-scribbly form, I was planning to use the Interlock system, as it had appeared in the first version of Cyberpunk. I shifted among various models of design between then and the publication of Over the Edge, and I arrived at a fairly useful form of the current mechanics in late 1994. The first commercial version of the game appeared on-line in late 1996; a more-developed version was available in PDF in 1998 and followed closely by the first Sorcerer & Sword. The book version appeared in August 2001.

I provide this review in order to show how long and with how much brutal playtesting (which was constant) was needed in order for me to stop including text like what you wrote in the how-to-play elements of the text. The turning point was very definitely in 1994, when I realized that most of the prep I was doing was unnecessary, anything to do with "how the adventure will go" and "when they get to the so-and-so." But being able to write the instructions accordingly was a different story - first, it was a matter of overcoming my assumption that no one else out there would understand; and second, it was a matter of overcoming my thoughts on what an RPG text was supposed to have in it, no matter what. Throughout all the versions I mentioned above, including interim drafts, language of this kind was scrubbed away, line by line. It was definitely driven by playtesting, as I'd play, go back over the text, and find yet more phrasing and instruction that simply was irrelevant or wrong.

I don't think I fully succeeded. There are parts of Chapter Four, especially, that show I was unable to let go of various techniques I'd honed in a decade of GMing Champions, even though I had come to think that those techniques were not quite functional for what I was driving at here. I would place the first version of The Sorcerer's Soul, the finished version of Sorcerer & Sword, and the first version of Trollbabe as a kind of triumvirate work that finally allowed me to write and instruct transparently between what I was doing/designing, and what the reader was seeing.

So - I see what you're saying. I lived it. But the answer is, with as much dramatic sound-effect underlying it as possible, "no."

Best, Ron

David Berg


It's tough for me to tell whether this play style really isn't something my buddies would ever like, or whether there's just a period of transition that I might be able to help smooth over.  We only have so many RPG opportunities, so no one wants to play something un-fun... so the more I can pitch how it might be fun, the better the chance they'll give it a shot.  But yeah, I see how gearing up for "my turn" is way less functional than digging "your turn" for its own sake.


Cool, thanks for the backstory.  I suspect I may be employing a lot of the same writing habits that you had to weed out of your early drafts.  In my head, I wasn't actually thinking, "GM Judd decides if Player Bret's contribution is permissible," I was more thinking that the guy who bought the book and is teaching the game to a noob* is trying to impart some Story Now mindset.

(I'm used to doing this for most games I introduce; I'm not claiming that it's inherently an issue for Sorcerer.)

Anyway, I totally hear you: if I was sitting down to play Sorcerer, as either player or GM, I wouldn't want any anticipatory content-wrangling either.


* noob to Sorcerer, but perhaps veteran of AD&D2 / Call of Cthulhu / Marvel Superheroes
here's my blog, discussing Delve, my game in development