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Author Topic: Jonathan Tweet's comments on Sorcerer  (Read 4589 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: September 10, 2002, 02:15:54 PM »

Hey folks,

I should have posted this a while ago and completely forgot about it.

Jonathan Tweet's comments about the combat system and book-explanation thereof are here and his review of the game is here.

"Gee, Jonathan, tell us what you really think!" Seriously, though, it's good reading. The links went up on my site just now too.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2002, 05:55:01 AM »

You gotta love a guy who has enough industry cred to casually toss out phrases like "this rule is a crok" without it sounding pretentious :-)

Seriously though, I think the various (and ultimately, it seemed to me, minor) issues that he had with the rules are the same sort of issues that I had with the rules, that I expressed a while back.

IMO the issues are completely the result of the author (Ron, of course) being so intimately familiar with his work from years of effort that he's already filled in all of the blanks in his head so completely and obviously that he doesn't see them as blanks.  But for those of us without the benefit of telepathic powers there are several areas that I'd love to see more explicitly detailed...(the combat and initiative rules I had almost the same exact trouble with as Jonathan did, for instance, but from everything I've heard, they run like a dream for Ron, and others who've managed to master the techniques).

Truth be told (though I think Ron's made it fairly clear that the odds of this happening are slim to none) I'd love to buy a new edition of Sorcerer that clarified things more explicitly.  There's really nothing (or at least not much) thats "broken" with the rules...but they are alot harder to get a handle on than they could be.

Perhaps a PDF release entitled "Getting the most out of Sorcerer" would do the trick...include things like the email conversations you had with Jonathan over how initiative works, and the various things that he pointed out that he wished had been pointed out (like demon stamina, choosing to abort after seeing damage...etc.).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2002, 06:00:21 AM »

Hi Ralph,

Yeah, I noted the similarity between yours and Jonathan's comments. Both are linked prominently at the site.

Another thing I'm writing for the site is a free PDF download regarding Sorcerer combat - all sorts of things, tons of examples, dice, role-playing, dice, and more dice. It's all outlined, but between Trollbabe comics, the move to the new house, the third supplement, and classes starting up, it's going slow.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2002, 06:07:19 AM »

Sweet, I look forward to seeing it...and several of the other projects you're trying to find time for.

Real life is a real pain.  When I think how much cool shit I could accomplish if I didn't have to go to work every day...
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Jeffrey Straszheim
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2002, 06:58:51 AM »

Trollbabe Comics ... Yay !!!!

But back to the topic, Sorcerer, as strong as it is, I think in many ways is a weaker design than Elfs or Trollbabe, at least insofar as it seems to have a lot more fuzziness around the edges.

Gosh, I hope Ron doesn't try to pin me down on exactly what I'm talking about ... For instance, with Trollbabe its always utterly clear who decides what, when they decide, and more or less the allowed scope of the decision.  Sorcerer is much more vague in places, and I think  requires a bit more GM fiat to run smoothly.  A lot of "what you should do" is not found in the text itself.  Reading these boards helps, but at no point have I felt as if Sorcerer has fully gelled in my mind.

Actually, I kind of wonder how Ron feels about Sorcerer now that he has some other games under his belt, plus having seen games like The Pool, Hero Wars, and, perhaps, TROS.  Would he do things differently now?
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Jeffrey Straszheim
Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2002, 07:15:21 AM »

Quote from: stimuli
Actually, I kind of wonder how Ron feels about Sorcerer now that he has some other games under his belt, plus having seen games like The Pool, Hero Wars, and, perhaps, TROS.  Would he do things differently now?


Who wouldn't? Hindsight is 20-20. We can only judge a work in the context of which it was created.

Mike
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Eric
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« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2002, 04:11:16 PM »

Ron, I'm looking forward to that PDF.  Sounds very useful.

About the only issue I take with Jonathan's review is that he doesn't go into the real importance of humanity in the game.  But then I didn't understand it myself (this is assuming that I now do) until I read Soul, so maybe I don't have an issue at all.

Poked around the site a little.  Jonathan is even stranger than I would have guessed.  8)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2002, 07:43:29 AM »

Hi Jeffrey,

That's an interesting question you've posed, so I decided to work out my reply carefully rather than pop one out uncritically.

Gosh, I hope Ron doesn't try to pin me down on exactly what I'm talking about ...

Too late! I am armed with pin and you're in the Adept Press forum. Suck it up!

The first issue, I think, concerns "strength" in design. Sorcerer is built to be very strong for a certain type of role-player, and in fact a very limited type. From the beginning, I've said, "This is going to appeal to folks who aren't happy with XYZ, despite the (then current) assertions that XYZ were exactly what role-playing was and needed. Case studies: Paul Czege, Christopher Kubasik, Clinton R. Nixon. Keep in mind as well that I emphatically had no intention of book publishing and store-distribution until the late summer of 2000; Sorcerer was first made available in fall 1996.

What I did not anticipate was the large number of people who were best-described as "vaguely dissatisfied," rather than solidly in my target market. Case studies would be Ralph Mazza, Peter Adkison, Jesse Burneko, and many more. Both reading and play, for these people, has been extremely problematic - although their support for the game is greatly appreciated, I'll be the first to admit that they were not whom I was writing for.

But in all harshness, they were not the intended audience as I saw it at the time. In many ways, that harshness (and keeping to the intended audience in the book-form of the game) is on purpose - it sets up kind of a "rock in the stormy sea" atmosphere for the game, and says, "Swim over here. Yeah, I'm here, but I ain't sending out dinghies for you, you gotta swim." Then of course I back it up with lots of direct support here on the Forge and by email.

So is Sorcerer a strong design? Yeah - for Christopher Kubasik. Yeah - for Kris, Jenny, Alex, and Andy (a phenomenal gamer-group who played with me at GenCon). Yeah - for Dav Harnish.

The "should do" is expected to be worked out in the social contract (e.g. narration, as you point out), and my response to cries for help about it is - in part - a shrug - "Work it out. Swim." Or to stick with my old metaphor, "This is whiskey. If you're going to be drinkin' it, you should know a few things and not be throwin' up routinely already on beer."

...  at no point have I felt as if Sorcerer has fully gelled in my mind.

It will, if you keep going. My point is that "Sorcerer" as a gelled object in your mind will be quite different from its shape, appearance, and feel in mine. I am not interested in anyone learning more about me via Sorcerer; I'm interested in learning about them.

As a side note, I think this is why people love Sorcerer & Sword so much, because it is a window into my preferences and passions. The Sorcerer's Soul, as well as the upcoming Sex & Sorcery, are more akin to the main book - they aren't reassuring, they provide a ton of stormy notions and say, "Swim."

Actually, I kind of wonder how Ron feels about Sorcerer now that he has some other games under his belt, plus having seen games like The Pool, Hero Wars, and, perhaps, TROS. Would he do things differently now?

For Sorcerer? No. I love it just as it is, a very clearly-staked-out "build it" kit, with the proviso of "Are you sure you want to be building this?"

Whereas Trollbabe and Elfs are much more welcoming, and also, much more revealing about me. Yeah, I'm angry with D&D, or rather, with many gamer-culture and publications aspects of its existence, and Elfs says so. Yeah, I like women, and I think they're important, and some (few) ways of expressing that are inherent to Trollbabe.

But Sorcerer works just fine for me by saying, purely through metaphor, "How do you objectify / dehumanize the people whom you rely on?" - and by saying nothing else at all.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2002, 09:15:24 AM »

Jeffrey,

Two questions I've got in response to your post:

Have you actually played it yet?  I ask only because I've become a big believer in experience over concept.  When Jesse and I played Sorcerer, everything that had been slightly fuzzy focused immediately.

What do you mean by GM fiat -- and how does it apply to Sorcerer?  I'm not sure how this applies to the game, and it seems to be that the style of play the game demands that "we're all in this together."  How the GM is "fiat-ing" more than anyone else at the table is unclear to me.

Thanks,
Christopher
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Clay
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2002, 12:39:16 PM »

There's another factor that I found is a pre-requisite for falling into the Sorcerer target market: you'd better have a good logical mind for working things out from first principles.  I found that the rules implied a lot of things that weren't explicitly spelled out.  They were good, clear, sensible things, but play became confusing quickly if you missed them.  That's made it tough going for me; coupled with the need to assemble a separate game group to play Sorcerer.

A good analogy for my experiences with this game might be drawn from a current home improvement project.  I've been dissatisfied with a small retaining wall at our cottage for years. This last weekend, armed with a trowel, a bag of concrete, and more ambition than knowledge, I ripped the wall up and started to rebuild it.  

First, I found that concrete and mortar are two very different things, even though they look the same to the lay person (concrete has fine gravel in it, which makes it a real bear for spreading on something small like a brick). Second, I found that I can't fudge my footings; they really need to be level. Third, I discovered that to really figure out what I need to do, I needed to learn a lot more information than I'll actually use when I'm building the wall.

As a consequence of both my lack of knowledge setting out on this project, and my research since, I'll be knocking down my work from last weekend on this coming weekend, and rebuilding.

Sorcerer has been like that for me as well. I purchased it, built a game and played, foudn that some things from my game were a little like football bats (my wall is shaped very much like a football bat), and had to start over.  There's probably no cure for me though: I had to learn about whiskey the same way.
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Clay Dowling
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Valamir
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« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2002, 12:44:09 PM »

Quote from: Clay
There's another factor that I found is a pre-requisite for falling into the Sorcerer target market: you'd better have a good logical mind for working things out from first principles.  I found that the rules implied a lot of things that weren't explicitly spelled out.  They were good, clear, sensible things, but play became confusing quickly if you missed them.


That is about the most perfect way of saying it I can imagine.  This quote should go up somewhere on the Sorcerer site.  Perhaps as an introduction to the FAQ.

In Sorcerer, the calculus isn't done for you.  You actually have to derive your answers from the original formulae.
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Jeffrey Straszheim
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« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2002, 04:05:18 PM »

I think I should get around to responding to Christopher :)

Yes, I have played Sorcerer a few times, and I think I had an opposite reaction.  Things that seemed clear when reading the game seemed to become more fuzzy as I played.  Regarding GM fiat, I think that I used the wrong term.  In fact, Clay's description is closer to what I was trying to say, along with being more specific.  In some ways, I think there is a detach between Sorcerer as it exists in Ron's mind, and Sorcerer as it exists on the page.  And I don't find this detach in Elfs or Trollbabe.

I can actually give a specific example.  In this post, Ron makes it quite clear that NPC's simply don't roll the same as PC's, nor ever get bonuses of any kind.  He doesn't clarify if they get carry-over dice, but as those are termed "bonus dice" on page 19 of Sorcerer, I assume that they don't.  Since these sorts of dice are critical in some of the Sorcery rituals, in ends up that NPC's just don't work like PC's.

But here is the problem, no where in the text itself is it so clear that NPC's differ this way from PC's.  They are seemingly rated on the same scale as PC's; they use the same sorcery rituals as PC's; they have the same sort of binding strengths; and so on.  I assumed, more or less, that they work the same mechanically.  Now, one could read the text on page 99 of Sorcerer and say that's Ron's clarification is implied by the text, but how much better it would have been if the text of his post had appeared in the text of the game.

Now, I will go as far to say that, in this respect, Elfs and Trollbabe are cleaner designs than Sorcerer, simply because they make it utterly clear that NPC's and PC's don't work the same.  NPC's lack the statistics that PC's have.  In Trollbabe they practically have no stats at all.  Where in Sorcerer there is a lingering doubt whether my NPC with a lore of 3 and a humanity of 2 can summon such-and-such a demon (given that she may only roll one die according to the rules).  In Trollbabe I just decide and do it.

Now, given the text of Ron's post, obviously I should not worry about the NPC's lore or humanity.  If I want her to summon the demon she just does.  But that leaves me wondering just what does her lore and humanity mean?  Obviously it is not what they mean for a PC.
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Jeffrey Straszheim
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2002, 01:27:32 PM »

Hi Jeffrey,

I'm beginning to strangle among the tentacles of separate explanations, each couched in terms specific to its own context as well as being from different phases of design-awareness ...

I thinking you're reading way too much into suggestions or explanations of mine to a given person, at a given time, about a given concern - making them become "The Real Sorcerer" in your mind in some kind of unified way. It's not very realistic then to say, "Ron said bonus here and here, so mathematically speaking, what he said applies to here [a] must also apply to here ." We're dealing with an evolving art form - terminology is going to get screwy. Let me see if I can do a little separating-out.

1) In retrospect, I think the word "bonus" has served too many meanings, because clearly I've used it merely to mean "more." When Paul asked about NPCs and bonus dice, he was specifically and only asking about role-playing bonus dice. In that case, no, NPCs don't get them.

However, referring to the "more dice" you get on roll B because you succeeded on roll A as bonuses isn't the same thing. NPCs do get these in the midst of a scene, just as player-characters do, if the actions seem like they'd be related.

2) When I'm talking about resolving NPC actions through Drama, I'm talking about off-screen and between-session time. During a scene in a session, I roll for them just as with the player-characters. In that context the Lore, Stamina, Humanity, etc, of an NPC is handled quite typically for a role-playing game. Nothing near as special as you have inferred from that post.

3) The "detach" you mention does exist, in several ways. The first is the way it always exists for any created arty-thing; the final version or object is always a faded or incomplete or even left-turned version of the creator's concept. The second arises from the fact that Sorcerer is highly customizable and a lot of my responses on the Forge are necessarily going to reflect my customization - I try hard to encourage people to do it themselves, but there's a hell of a lot of neediness out there sometimes.

However, I think you're seeing a far greater detachment than exists, because you're trying to construct a unified "what Ron thinks" out of many separate explanations, most of which are fine-tuned to a particular person's needs and are not intended to be (a) applied as widely as you're doing or (b) taken as a huge and total uber-explanation of the game.

Best,
Ron
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