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Author Topic: Some More Cronenberg Inspired Madness  (Read 5510 times)
hardcoremoose
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« on: June 12, 2001, 12:20:00 AM »

Here I sit with my newly purchased copy of Sorceror and Sorceror's Soul.  I've only read the first half of the first tome, but I am already awash with ideas.  So against my better judgement, I've decided to throw them out here and see what people say.  Part of this is to get some response to a scenario I hope to run (Paul and Eloran should not read beyond this paragraph), and part of it is just to hear what you guys have to say.  And I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was at least somewhat hoping to garner Jared's tacit approval and feedback, since it was his fetishistic worship of David Cronenberg that first gave me this idea (I've intentionally avoided buying or reading anything else about Schism just so I could avoid plagiarizing what I'm sure is a fantastic piece of writing).

Some of what follows may seem derivative of modern films such as The Matrix, or even Cronenberg's more recent eXistenZ.  I am drawing from those, but my real inspiration is the movie Videodrome.

The game would take place in a major metropolitan city - which one doesn't really matter, and I very much like Jared's idea of just keeping it nameless (yeah, I read that much of the Schism post).  The era would be reminescent of the early to mid-80's - around the time that VCRs were starting to pop-up in most everyones' homes - but the actual date would be kept vague.  What's more, I may toss in some anachronistically modern news stories, just to keep things a little surreal.

The basic conflict in the game revolves around the idea that TV has become the eye through which people view the world. Literally.  Ultra-realistic programming has managed to eradicate the boundary between viewer and content, effectively removing the TV screen, and placing the audience in the show.  Or maybe the show has left the TV and come to them.  

Of course the whole thing could be explained as a hallucination, but then again, what is reality?  What our minds perceive as reality is simply our brains accepting whatever stimulus our senses provide it with.  Our most obvious source of sensory stimulus is vision, but if all we choose to view is TV...

This is where the Sorcerors come in.  Sorcerors, for whatever reason, have somehow fallen through the cracks.  They realize that reality is at least partially created in the minds of humans by what they view on the cathode ray tube.  What's more, they've started to figure out what's behind the subversive TV programs...

The Demons are entities of pure digital media.  They exist as transmitted particles of information, broadcast via airwaves to where ever they need to be.  As such, the most common type of Contain would be a simple videocassette.  What they can not do for themselves, their sorcerous allies do for them.  

By my estimation, Demons are actually former Sorcerors who were so corrupted by their delvings into the television medium that they actually "evolved" to become part of it.  Having lost all humanity, they became what Cronenberg termed The New Flesh.

I envision three sects of Demons, each with its own agenda.  One would be committed to keeping the humans in line (why would they need to do this?) by maintaining a controlled evironment, ala The Matrix.  The second group would see The New Flesh as being the next natural step in human evolution, and would be actively trying to bring more mortals into the fold.  The third group would be more sympathetic to the humans (perhaps they somehow recall what it was like to be one) and would be trying to break the grip the other two factions have over the fleshie flock.      

The Sorcerors would only have partial knowledge of any of this, as each of the three groups is constantly undermining the others with misinformation, disinformation, and propoganda.  Ultimately, the side each Sorceror takes would reflect his own personal goals...

That's what I've got right now.  It's pretty much Videodrome dead-on, as seen through Sorceror-colored glasses.  The movie itself has plenty of cool imagery which I'd love to incorporate - audio/visual equipment taking on the properties of living things, Sorcerors growing vagina-like cassette ports to house their Demon videotapes, and scenery that changes depending upon whether or not your TV set is on.  At least no one will ever accuse me of being original. :smile:

It needs some more work, but I think it could be an entertaining run.  It's also fairly topical, what with the recent controversies about violence in entertainment and its effects on viewers (Cronenberg was a bit of a prophet, eh?).  So what says all you Sorceror vets?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2001, 05:49:00 AM »

Hi Scott,

Glad to hear that the li'l game has this effect on you. One of my original goals was to move people from reading role-playing games into actually playing them.

Make sure and delve deeply into The Sorcerer's Soul. I think that if you want the actual story to be more than a re-hash of Videodrome, you'll need to take a relationship-map approach.

It also sounds like the kind of game in which you should let the players provide a huge amount of the story-meat, via character creation. In other words, don't dump in the kitchen sink before they make up their PCs. Instead, take the PCs and incorporate many aspects of their concepts into the mix, BEFORE you bake.

Best,
Ron
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Clay
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2001, 08:41:00 AM »

You might want to read The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury.  It was written long before video cassette recorders were common fare (and possibly before they were even invented), but it dealt with this issue of television as reality in a very haunting way.

I'm sorry to say that I don't know which of Mr. Bradbury's excellent books this story appeared in.  A little research at the local library might turn it up for you.  You may also be able to find copies of it in anthologies of mixed authors. I first encountered it in a Junior Great Books program.
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Clay Dowling
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2001, 07:20:00 PM »

Clay,

Thanks for the advice.  I know a little Bradbury, but I'm not familiar with that one.  I'll have to start looking.


Ron,

Thanks for the advice.  I've pretty much waded through all of Sorceror and am starting on Soul.  Naturally, I'm finding many answers, and thinking of some new questions.  I'm not one of those guys who never plays, but I am one of those people who is never quite satisfied with what it is he is playing.  That's why I design games, I guess.  But after much discussion about Sorceror, I had to buy it just to see what I could make of it.  I love the fact that it's so open to interpretation...

In fact, I'm having difficulties reigning myself in.  I had already envisioned a story in my head when I wrote the first post in this thread, but several things bothered me about it.  You touched on one when you said I should leave the meat of the game for the players to decide; that's what I want to do, but my idea wasn't allowing for that.  The other things bothering me were issues of creativity - essentially that I had none.  I pretty much rehashed the plot of a movie I happen to like a lot, which might have been fine, except that Jared has already cornered the market on Cronenberg stuff.  So in classic Memento-Mor fashion, I stepped back from my convoluted back story and went minimal.

What I came up with was essentially a few ideas that I really like.  Being the horror movie nut that I am, I'm in love with the idea that movies and TV can blur reality...even become reality.  I'm also quite taken with the notion that a videocassette could be an Aladdin's bottle, Containing a Bound demon (or perhaps it is the Demon...an Object, obviously).  And it only makes sense that the Sorceror himslef should be the machine that plays that videotape.

Humanity would measure a Sorceror's grip on "reality" - his ability to stay grounded in the world of Flesh and Blood, as opposed to that of the Digital Domain.  Falling to zero Humanity would cause the character to shed his mortal frame and become a denizen of the strange, otherworldly digital realm - A Demon whose only connection to the real world is through the visual mediums of TV.   I understand that Soul discusses the possibility of Sorcerors becoming Demons - I haven't gotten that far, but I'm looking forward to it.

Sorcery would take on interesting shapes in this game.  Contacting Demons could only be accomplished through hours of channel surfing or adjusting the rabbit ears (or, by the much preferred method of searching mom-and-pop video stores for nifty pre-Contained Demons).  Summoning and Binding Demons could be achieved by viewing and recording the Demonic "programming".  Other possibilities for Sorcerous activity present themselves as well...perhaps writing a film review could be a Binding ritual. The Demons themselves would mostly Confer powers upon characters, being largely incapable of action themselves.  I'm still working out the details, but if anyone has any ideas, feel free to shout 'em out.

I guess I need to find out if my players would be interested in this sort of a game.  Even so, I think it's interesting...aside from the obvious comparison to Videodrome, I'm also starting to see elements of 8mm, Blair Witch, and even Pleasantville creeping into it.  That's good...I hope.

Take care,
Moose
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2001, 06:15:00 AM »

Hey Scott,

If you can get into that interesting head-space in which B-movies are regarded as "the pure stuff," then the horror flick "Demons" might be a ... somewhat less intellectual approach to what you're thinking about. It takes place in a movie theater.

What you tell me about your reaction to the game is exactly what I wanted.

Back in the dark ages, it seemed to me that there were only three ways to role-play: video-game style (kill until killed, then get resurrected and repeat), rehash style (imitate books and movies near-verbatim), and karaoke style (follow the published scenario scene for scene). My views on the range of role-playing are now wider and more tolerant, but back then, my frustration with those three modes led me to write Sorcerer - it was written to be unplayable unless the actual users were exercising personal creativity.
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2001, 08:36:00 PM »

Hey there everyone,

First of all, Paul and Matt (and even Tom and Dani)...feel free to read any of the following...I don't think it'll give anything away.

Okay...

I just finished guiding the above group of players through a Sorceror character creation session.  Okay, maybe they guided me, but what the hell...I was there in some capacity.  It wasn't even complete, really - we ran out of time to crunch the numbers on the starting Demons.  No big whoop...everyone had a good idea of what they wanted, so the stats will be easy.

If you read my other posts within this thread, you'll see that I had a narrowly focused idea of what the game was going to be about.  What I ended up with bears almost no resemblance to that at all.  That's because of the players...they twisted my idea into something far more compelling.  I redefined Demons so they were sort of ghosts of the media age; unknowable presences who can only be contacted through - and who have a desperate interest in - the media and methods of mass communication (whether that be news or entertainment, print or otherwise).

My impressions so far?  It was great.  Absolutely wonderful.  Maybe it was the fact that we took a whole evening to build the characters.  Maybe it was the committment on the part of this particular group of players.  Maybe it was the rules.  Whatever it was, the whole process was great, and we ended up with what I think are some very compelling characters with very interesting stories to tell.

The stories - that's the best part.  In coming up with their Kickers, it was all I could do to keep one player from moving the story too far along.  The Kicker segues into the roleplaying so well that I think maybe I should have saved that part for the first real session.  But I need time to do some mapping...

Which brings up a question.  Are the players Kickers necessarily supposed to hook into the main storyline of the game, or can they be resolved as personal subplots?  Obviously, I can choose to do either, but I'm curious to hear some war stories from Sorceror vets about how they handled and resolved Kickers within their own campaigns.

Here's another question for you vets.  A player of mine wants a starting Demon that is essentially a Video Toaster.  He wants to be able to edit real people that he videotapes into existing films.  The mystical effect here is that the real person will begin to act out the role of whatever film he/she has been inserted into (not by reciting dialogue, but by reacting to people and situations in the same way the character in the film would)  This is a broadly defined power, with certain limitations, that deals with an Ability that Ron deliberately avoided: Mind Control (or maybe, Personality Control?).  This concept has thematic appeal, presents interesting role-playing opportunities, and is tied in to a very cool Desire for the Demon (the Demon has a Spielberg complex, wanting to direct people in even their ordinary lives; but he also wishes to cast them against type, hoping that they will come to embrace lifestyle choices they might otherwise have been too scared to pursue).  Obviously, I can just make up new Abilities to match the player's wishes, but how would you guys quantify this Demon?  And how powerful would it be?  

[Editorial Note:  It's about an hour later, and I think I've figured out how to handle the Video Toaster Demon.  A variation of the Cover Ability that allows the User (the Demon) to confer upon a Target a specific role from a movie (ie. John McClean, Princess Leia, etc.).  Each Cover "role" would be a different Ability, would replace the Target's actual Cover, and would imply a necessitated roleplaying of that Cover.  Does that make sense, or is there a better way to do it?]

That's what I've got so far.  I'm sure I'll think of more questions later.

Take care,
Scott

[ This Message was edited by: hardcoremoose on 2001-06-21 01:47 ]
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2001, 12:32:00 PM »

Hi Scott,

"Are the players Kickers necessarily supposed to hook into the main storyline of the game, or can they be resolved as personal subplots? Obviously, I can choose to do either, but I'm curious to hear some war stories"

I like to answer this question with examples. Take the movie Die Hard. If you consider the Kicker to be that the guy's trying to restore his relationship with his wife, and the Situation to be that very ruthless thieves are invading the office building, then you're all set.

(Note also that this example further illustrates the fundamental difference between the Sorcerer Kicker and the Feng Shui Melodramatic Hook.)

So my guiding principle is that the Kicker creates Situational overlap with the Relationship Map. That's the minimum. Then, after the first run, I take a look at what's happened and decide whether (e.g.) NPCs introduced via the Kicker have a stronger connection to the Big Picture than I'd thought, or whether (e.g.) the Kicker works better for a relatively easily-resolved subplot.

Dav, you can probably see that in our first Demon Cops run, Mario's revenge-murder and your daughter-situation had to become the former, and Elizabeth's mentor-situation had to become the latter.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2001, 12:32:00 PM »

Hi Scott,

"Are the players Kickers necessarily supposed to hook into the main storyline of the game, or can they be resolved as personal subplots? Obviously, I can choose to do either, but I'm curious to hear some war stories"

I like to answer this question with examples. Take the movie Die Hard. If you consider the Kicker to be that the guy's trying to restore his relationship with his wife, and the Situation to be that very ruthless thieves are invading the office building, then you're all set.

(Note also that this example further illustrates the fundamental difference between the Sorcerer Kicker and the Feng Shui Melodramatic Hook.)

So my guiding principle is that the Kicker creates Situational overlap with the Relationship Map. That's the minimum. Then, after the first run, I take a look at what's happened and decide whether (e.g.) NPCs introduced via the Kicker have a stronger connection to the Big Picture than I'd thought, or whether (e.g.) the Kicker works better for a relatively easily-resolved subplot.

Dav, you can probably see that in our first Demon Cops run, Mario's revenge-murder and your daughter-situation had to become the former, and Elizabeth's mentor-situation had to become the latter.

Best,
Ron
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Ian Freeman
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« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2001, 07:38:00 AM »

The Veldt is in the Ray Bradbury Book "Thew Illustrated Man", if you're looking for it.
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erithromycin
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2001, 02:33:00 PM »

You might want to investigate "The Ring Trilogy" a group of japanes films that deal with a videotape that causes those who watch it to commit suicide within 24 hours. At the very least it might be an adventure.
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my name is drew

"I wouldn't be satisfied with a roleplaying  session if I wasn't turned into a turkey or something" - A
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