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Author Topic: Spartan Sorcerer  (Read 14046 times)
Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« on: January 08, 2003, 10:22:06 PM »

Hi all,

The Iliad. The Odyssey.  The Aeneid.  Medea.  Oedipus Rex.  Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire.  Inspired by the above works I'm about to start a Sorcerer game set in ancient, semi-mythical Greece.  The characters will be heroes along the lines of Achilles, Oedipus, Aeneas, Ajax, Odysseus, Perseus, powerful but flawed, while sorcery will consist of pacting and binding with the gods and other supernatural figures.  

Sorcery dovetails so nicely with Greek sources it makes you wonder.  In the Iliad nearly every important conflict is swayed in one direction or another based on the relationship of the characters to the gods (demons).  The book is full of  sorcerous acts: summoning, pacting, contacting, even punishing; and the gods are just as slippery as the most devious demon.  Take a look at the scene where one of the gods takes the form of Hector's brother to convince him to fight Achilles, then abandons Hector at the crucial moment in the fray because the god wants to see Hector dead.

Has anybody tried this yet?  This is still at a very early stage and I can't figure out what humanity equals, or how to structure the game.  Classic (detective fiction) relationship map, or more S&S bang oriented?  

Any ideas or other sources you think are worthwhile would be appreciated.

Tor
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Thierry Michel
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Posts: 177


« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2003, 04:07:00 AM »

Quote from: Tor Erickson
I can't figure out what humanity equals


Neither do I. On the other hand, the concept of Fate is an important one for that kind of setting, so maybe you could introduce it somehow ?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2003, 07:05:27 AM »

Hello,

Humanity, it seems to me, would Passion at the wholly personal level, regardless of whether it's a "good" or "bad" passion.

Achilles sulks in his tent ... Odysseus misses his wife ... human weakness, what people call the tragic flaw, is a good thing in human terms. That's what people often misunderstand, in my opinion, about Greek legend and drama. It leads to heartbreak, shit-storms, awfulness, and multiple deaths, but dammit, it's plain old real.

The villain in Greek tragedy and legend, it seems to me, is faith in an ideal over personal ties. If the city is more important to you, if the war is more important to you, then you become less and less human, and even in victory your life becomes empty.

Contrast Jason, after the fallout with Medea (based on him putting "city" over her), sitting under the prow of the Argo, dying when a piece falls off and kills him, with Theseus, who stays loyal to Ariadne.

So therefore success or failure at the endeavor can accompany "fullness" or "emptiness" in terms of Humanity - which is exactly the sort of thing the Sorcerer rules are set up to do.

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2003, 04:48:48 PM »

Hey guys,

Thierry, you mentioned Fate, which plays a huge role in the literature; so big that it almost demands to be addressed in the game.  Sword and Sorcerer deals with the topic of fate (destiny), and I've been re-reading those passages, trying to figure out how it fits in.  While not all of the characters in the literature have an explicit fate, almost all the major ones do: and it usually involves dying or something else pretty bad (like killing your father and sleeping with your mother).  I think it's an issue that I'll just have to feel out the players with.

And Ron, you write some intriguing lines about humanity, but I'm not sure I totally follow.  If humanity is passion, then who is a character at humanity zero?  (Jason, as you mention?)  And what do you mean with your last paragraph about fullness and emptiness "in terms of humanity"?

And couldn't one argue that in the Iliad, for example (I just read it so it's freshest in my mind), humanity is a combination of honor and empathy?  I'm thinking of Achilles after he learns of Patroclus' death, and then going out and slaughtering lots of Trojans, finishing up with Hector and (here's the important part) denying Hector's wish to return his body to the Trojans.  Isn't this a big humanity no-no?  Then when Priam visits Achilles and begs for the body and Achilles is flooded with a wave of empathy for the old man, thinking of his own father, isn't this a big humanity surge?

Any thoughts on other must read sources?

Tor
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Thierry Michel
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Posts: 177


« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2003, 03:08:51 AM »

The problem is with that definition I'm not sure how you'd link humanity with the appeal to the Gods (demons). Does Odysseus lose humanity because he's protected by Athena ? Not really.

Maybe you could treat humanity as control over your Fate when summoning Gods. If they show up, it is because they always had some special interest for you, and have something in store for the future. At zero, you are merely a puppet in the God's hands. If you negociate well when asking a favour, you might postpone your final demise.

Does it make sense ?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2003, 07:09:27 AM »

Hello,

Arguably, Apollo and Athena are Humanity-helpers - angels, in The Sorcerer's Soul terms, not demons at all, in direct contrast to patronage by say, Poseidon or Ares. The whole Orestiad trilogy suggests as much to me.

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2003, 12:51:14 PM »

Quote from: Thierry Michel
The problem is with that definition I'm not sure how you'd link humanity with the appeal to the Gods (demons). Does Odysseus lose humanity because he's protected by Athena ? Not really.


Are you talking about Ron's definition of Humanity as passion?

Otherwise, I think your idea about humanity zero = puppet of the gods is a good one.  I've been wrestling with how humanity loss relates to the literature and I think you might have hit the target.  In other words, the more you deal with the gods the closer you get to losing control of your fate.  So what happens at humanity zero then?  In game terms?

Ron:  I went back and read the angelic rules from Soul (did you do a re-write for the book version?  I didn't remember half that stuff from the PDF) and got really excited.  As you mention, the actions of a lot of the gods coincide with the rules option one, treating angels as demons with binding happening in reverse and the gods as the "Good Visitor" (passing) types.  Any other thoughts on how the reverse binding would play out?

Tor
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2003, 01:38:12 PM »

Tor,

I think that both parts of your post (one to Thierry and one to me) are related.

Bear in mind that "puppet of the gods" means something concrete - it usually means committing to a city-state's interest of some kind. So 0 Humanity means becoming a person who really only exists as an extension or expression of that city-state or national interest, not as a person with needs/feelings of his own. The fate of such a person is usually to die "used up."

I might be thinking too much in terms of Jason and the Argonauts, as well as the Iliad and the Odyssey, but that's how those look to me.

The reverse Binding in angel terms, then, represents a commitment on the "angel's" part toward the human Needs of the protagonist. See, the "demon" says, Give your all to Polypolis and you will be famed forever; the "angel" says, Stick with your passions and yourself as just a person, and I'll help you get through all this war/city crap.

Best,
Ron
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Mithras
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2003, 02:23:08 PM »

Couldn't Humanity simply measure a Hero's freedom of action, free of the gods? A Hero with Humanity 3 is a pawn of Hera, pushed and pulled, a Hero with a Humanity of 10 is proud and fearless of Hera (or who-ever). He retains his human dignity.

Lovely idea by the way. The setting and genre is always a source of fascination for me - an obsession. But I have yet to create anything worthy of it. It will one day be my magnus opus (or it'll come out in D20 next year and I'll be crying in my beer!!).
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Paul Elliott

Zozer Game Designs: Home to ultra-lite game The Ladder, ZENOBIA the fantasy Roman RPG, and Japanese cyberpunk game ZAIBATSU, Cthulhu add-ons, ancient Greeks and more -  http://www.geocities.com/mithrapolis/games.html
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2003, 03:46:12 PM »

Hi Paul,

One of the difficulties (or opportunities) of Humanity in Sorcerer is that it doesn't literally measure anything in-game. A low Humanity means it's more at risk, not that you have "less" of something.

Best,
Ron
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Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2003, 05:40:36 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Tor,

I think that both parts of your post (one to Thierry and one to me) are related.

Bear in mind that "puppet of the gods" means something concrete - it usually means committing to a city-state's interest of some kind. So 0 Humanity means becoming a person who really only exists as an extension or expression of that city-state or national interest, not as a person with needs/feelings of his own. The fate of such a person is usually to die "used up."


Great.  I love it.  

What's your source for Jason and the Argonauts?

Thanks for your ideas Ron and Thierry.  And Paul, it sounds like you've delved into the literature.  Any thoughts on the most appropriate (Sorcerer relevant or just the best) stuff?

Tor
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Clay
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2003, 08:32:00 AM »

For recommendations, I'm going to bring up my perennial favorite, Orestia (previously mentioned by Ron).  The level of transgression and drama is incredibly intense, with at least three kinslayers throughout the plays, and the pursuit of the fates.  These are just the points that stick out in my mind.  I'm certain that there are many more.

For rituals, I recommend using the traditional Greek rituals, which always involved a blood sacrifice.
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
Thierry Michel
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Posts: 177


« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2003, 02:24:00 PM »

Quote from: Tor Erickson
Any thoughts on the most appropriate (Sorcerer relevant or just the best) stuff?


If you want to keep the Homeric tone, I'm not sure classical writers are all that appropriate: despite the fact that they use the heroic tales, their values are those of classical Greece.
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Tor Erickson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2003, 09:34:25 PM »

Quote from: Clay
For recommendations, I'm going to bring up my perennial favorite, Orestia (previously mentioned by Ron).


Funny that you should mention it; I just started reading Ted Hughes' translation and so far I'm loving it.

Quote
For rituals, I recommend using the traditional Greek rituals, which always involved a blood sacrifice.


What's interesting though, is that all different levels of appeals to the gods exist in the literature.  Sure, sometimes Odysseus takes the time to make sacrifices and visit the temple, but more often he just offers up a fervent prayer just prior to swinging his sword.  Of course, taking the time out to make those sacrifices is usually a more sure technique... just like in Sorcerer :)

The question I'm posing to my players right now is whether they want to run something more adventurous  (ranging from the trials of Hercules to the Odyssey), a la Sword and Sorcery, or something more dramatic/tragic (ranging from the Iliad to Oresteia), a la Sorcerer's Soul.  We'll see.

Tor
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Tor Erickson
Member

Posts: 134


« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2003, 10:05:57 AM »

Okay, I've been thinking about this for the past week or so, and discussing matters with my players, and here are my current thoughts.  

Humanity is human passion (feeling things deeply).  Demons are the Gods and perhaps other mythical creatures (one of the players has mentioned satyrs and nymphs).  In contrast to humanity, the demons are interested in the welfare of the city-state, but care very little for individual people (or their Passions).

Okay?

If that's the case, then what exactly is sorcery, given that it must transgress on human passion (humanity)?  Do rituals involve making some sort of commitment to the state?  In other words, how does sorcery deaden the passions?  I'm worried that sorcery which was based on commitment to the state wouldn't be very exciting.

Also, I'm toying with the idea of using Jared Sorenson's zero-humanity mechanic (as paraphrased in Soul): to wit, in the session following the drop to zero, the character dies.  This seems most proper given the literature (see Creon in Antigone, or Jason in Medea--if i'm recalling correctly), and appropriately dramatic.

So?

Tor
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