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Author Topic: Ah, this explains Sorcerer  (Read 5231 times)
Jack Spencer Jr
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« on: February 06, 2003, 08:52:36 AM »

Quote from: In another thread Ron Edwards
Let's say, for sake of discussion, that you and I agree that "demons" in the common superstition/religion sense of the word do not exist in real life. That they are pure metaphor for something that is itself very real, very troubling, and instantly mentally-accessible to nearly any human being. So when I say "my game is about summoning and commanding demons," two reactions can ensue. The trivial one is to pop the whole issue into denial and turn it into some adolescent, bogus thing like what White Wolf games do (and do, and do, most recently and most literally in Hunter: the Reckoning). The meaty one is to shudder. Just to shudder.

The person who shudders is the one who can play Sorcerer. My question, embodied in the game as a whole, asked in all seriousness and with great personal empathy, is, What are you shuddering about? Answer (to yourself, not here) in terms of real people, real behavior, real events in the actual world. And this answer is supposed to be the core of defining "demon," defining the game term Humanity, setting parameters for sorcerous rituals, and defining the descriptors for character-creation during play.

The really scary point is that whatever it is you're reacting to, there are people who see no way out except to embrace it. This person must want something, and consider it justified in the eyes of God and man (speaking loosely; "God" is yet another issue Sorcerer leaves up to you). And the scary point under that is that there exists, infinitesmally, the chance for heroism arising from that state, with a very, very high price to pay for the more-common result of failure. We are talking about existential trauma and deep-psychology horror in the context of an emotionally-engaging, utterly unavoidable conflict.

This bit of text has been haunting me lately. "The one who shudders is the one who can play" sounds like a good ad tag line. It works better for me than "Can you handle it?"
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xiombarg
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2003, 08:58:53 AM »

Quote from: Jack Spencer Jr
This bit of text has been haunting me lately. "The one who shudders is the one who can play" sounds like a good ad tag line. It works better for me than "Can you handle it?"
It certainly has all the feel with less of the negative side of the attitude. Several of my players (no offense meant here, I defended the game) thought the whole "An Intense Role-Playing Game" thing was very pretentious. (Ironically, these same people happily play White Wolf -- albiet mainly Changeling.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2003, 09:08:11 AM »

Hi there,

Yeah, but the "shudders" thing requires a whole paragraph to explain first. Doesn't work for tag-lines.

As for pretentious, pish-posh-poo. That's a word people use for something they feel threatened by.

"Do you know about X? It's pretty cool."

"I never heard it. Let me see" [one second later] "Pretentious."

Keeps'em from having to admit that they didn't already know about something that might be pretty cool.

Plus, "intense" is a joke that people who grew up in a real decade understand. You gotta do the thing with the hair and the hands.

Best,
Ron
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2003, 09:30:46 AM »

Pretentious is one of the most poorly used words in the English language. It's right up there with "Awesome" and "Hopefully." ;)

I always take "pretentious" to describe a situation in which someone (person, company, culture, etc.) has taken on a title or definition they can't support on investigation or has taken on an attitude or front in which they don't believe just for appearances. Most often people use the word to describe a certain amount of false intellectualism or false activism.

Example 1: Someone who dresses Goth and writes bad poetry is not necessarily pretentious. Someone who does this specifically for the image of it could be.

Example 2: RPG companies (no names, but one rhymes with "Blight Hoof") with an anti-modernism, anti-West attitude which nonetheless kill trees on a daily basis with their print distribution AND use the evil Internet for their website, and who use these attitudes specifically to attract "outsiders" in the gaming community, rather than to raise money to support their causes, is most likely pretentious.

Example 3: An indie-RPG with the tag-line "An Intense role-playing Game" could be pretentious. Such an RPG that actually is intense and has been shown in repeated examples as such is not pretentious.

There are people who use "pretentious" to describe threatening ideas or art forms, but I use it to describe ideas or art that has no value beyond the superficial. The word is way too often tossed about in the RPG world. I'd say an RPG with mature themes is not pretentious, whereas an RPG with mature themes that considers itself "communal storytelling" rather than gaming (Everlasting and its section on lucid dreaming as a gaming technique) and still can't bother to come up with a viable abstract system for fast combat... well, I think I'd call that pretentious. :)

Anyway, on topic, I really liked the above-quoted description of Sorcerer and found it useful to understanding more of where Ron is coming from with the game's design. I don't think it'd help sell the game, though. I'm convinced that we can do better than "An Intense Role-playing Game," though, but I'm not sure how. :)

Tar
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2003, 10:06:24 AM »

Perhaps not a tagline but the quoted text, properly rephrased, would get the point of Sorcerer across much better than the current What is Sorcerer? blurb. Mostly because that text describes what Sorcerer is not, mostly typical RPG magic, whereas the above tells us why it is.
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2003, 11:40:20 AM »

The problem is that using a tagline of that kind might threaten a whole subset of gamers. The White Wolf-type gamer might be turned off at any suggestion that they can't handle Sorcerer. Granted, those folks likely wouldn't get as much out of Sorcerer as Those Who Shuddered, but losing those possible sales could be badness.

Of course, I can't speak for Ron and his intentions on the shelves, but coming from a video gaming press/PR background I can see the need to make a tagline imply as much as possible about the game without excluding or specifying an audience. :)

Tar
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2003, 09:29:00 PM »

Hey, Tar. Well, natuarally. You don't want to mention White Wolf by name is this were to be used as a form of advertising. That's just bad form, I think. Like saying "better than D&D" or "Burker King Flame broils, never fries like McDonald's" It's negative advertising, that. "We're better than our competition" It works, but isn't always the sort of image a company wants.

I will disagree with you a bit, Ron. Maybe "shuddering" does require a whole paragraph to explain, but that's the beauty of advertisement. The actual line may need a bit of polish. "Play... Play and Shudder," perhaps? Anyway, if someone sees a game, or just an ad for a game that reads "Play and Shudder" this is likely to make some people look twice. "Shudder? Why would I shudder? What is this game all about?" Which is the point of advertising. to get people to give you a second look.

Well, I was going to post a bit more but I really don't think that a discussion on advertizing is appropriate. If I were you, I'd file this away and the next time you're ready for some kind of advertising push for Sorcerer (alway change things up ad-wise every once in a while. It makes the old look new) this is aa good an idea as another.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2003, 09:44:10 PM »

Hi Jack,

I'm definitely thinking about it. Your point about the negative advertising on the website is very well taken, and I think a webpage has the space to set up the "shudder" issue nicely, unlike a single line on a book cover.

Best,
Ron
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ejh
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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2003, 09:35:34 AM »

It doesn't have to be that complicated.  Look at the word: a pretentious person, thing, game, whatever, is one which maintains a pretense, which pretends (in the sense of "pretender to the throne").

I don't agree with Ron that it's just a word you use to describe things that threaten you.  You might use it to describe things which *wish* they could threaten you...

In any case, it's appropriate for something that spends all its time talking about how X it is, or selling itself as X, rather than *being* X.  None of the above seems especially to apply to sorcerer, as it stands.
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2003, 09:42:44 AM »

Sorcerer is many things, but one thing it's not is pretending to be something it's not. :)

The problem I see with the whole thing is that room exists in Sorcerer, the way I interpret the rulebook, for light-hearted, combat-intensive games of "Make a Demon and Go At It" as much as the deeper, more shudder-worthy themes and moods.

I will say that the "shudder" line is quite good at evoking the idea that the game is different, though, and it makes one take notice. Just for fun, I'm wracking me ol' brain trying to make it a tagline. :)

Tar
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2003, 11:29:22 AM »

Quote from: ejh
I don't agree with Ron that it's just a word you use to describe things that threaten you.  You might use it to describe things which *wish* they could threaten you...

I dig what you're saying, hep cat.

I remember one of the video game consoles (Playstation IIRC) had the tagline "URNOTE" as in "you are not ready." My initial gut reaction was "Nope I guess not," and I moved on. The problem is that this sort of "dare" advertising is pretty widespread, and like most things, many of them are hollow promises, and therefore pretentious. I mena the Playstation is a decent system and had some decent games for it. I own one ferchrissakes, but telling me I'm not ready for it? Puh-lease.

Adversizing is an art, as I had said. URNOTE is ham-handed at best because it tells us little about the game system in question nor does it make us ask any specific questions about it. "Play and Shudder" makes us ask "why should we shudder?" and thus sets this up a bit better to learn about Sorcerer specifically. But this is my opinion.

(side note: Sony has had some real dog ad campaigns for their viedo game systems over the years. Remember the initial ads for the Playstation 2 that were, basically, ads for the Playstation 10? That's like an ad campaign for third edition D&D that reads "Wait until you see fourth edition!" Silly)
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2003, 12:04:54 PM »

I thought it was "shudder then play," not "play and shudder."  It's a subtle and important difference.  The former I found enticing, the latter was quite "RUE" for me.

Fang Langford

p. s. I glommed onto the idea that 'no shudder = no play."
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2003, 01:12:29 PM »

Hi, Fang.
Well, it is a matter of opinion whether any of these tactics works on the individual or not. Plenty probably found URNOTE pretty cool
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Tar Markvar
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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2003, 05:39:26 PM »

Of course, for some reason I read URNOTE as "You are naughty." Lost its appeal on me. ;)

Tar
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2003, 10:23:24 PM »

Hi guys,

In the nicest possible way ...

This thread ain't contributing much any more. Let's kill it and talk about something else in another one.

Best,
Ron
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