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Author Topic: Xuphia - a Sorcerer and Sword campaign . . .  (Read 10601 times)
Rod Anderson
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Posts: 59


« on: May 07, 2003, 08:28:28 PM »

. . . with that ubiquitous 'z' sound at the beginning!

Anyhow, hello to everyone. I'm about to start a S&S campaign that I got going through the indie-netgaming Yahoo Group, and I thought I'd post a little about it on the Forge. I've had some shaky starts with Sorcerer prior to this . . . a game that was supposed to be "like Conan"; a game that was supposed to be "like Elric". These "ideas" drew the sort of character concepts you might expect ("So, I'm . . . like Elric. You know, a king. With demons.") These games produced a couple of interesting "set piece" moments, but didn't have any momentum to keep them alive for more than a single session.

Time passed. . . I continued lurking at the Forge . . . I started to let my own ideas percolate about what I would want to see in the Sorcerer game of my dreams, and what it oughta all be about.

When I finally put my imagination through the ringer and wrote the pitch for Xuphia, I felt like it was the most lucidly written presentation I had ever done for a role-playing campaign, and it really seems to have resonated with the folks who've signed on to play (Chris, Mike and Ben). I've gotten the kinds of delicious, punchy character concepts from them that I never saw before in my previous attempts. So, I'm posting this with a touch of self-congratulation . . . I'm really happy about what's been done with this concept so far, and where it's hopefully going.

So, here follows the letter I sent to the indie-netgaming list to start it off (at the start, I briefly address Mike about a 'near-miss' idea I had discussed with him a few days earlier):

***
 
Okay, I want to pitch a Sorcerer & Sword concept here.

(To Mike: we had talked earlier about some ideas I had for
Sorcerer, but I kept feeling burdened by the sense that I wasn't
really doing something I wanted to do -- I wasn't getting that
"Fuck yeah!" moment from it. I started reading Sorcerer & Sword
again, and felt my way to a concept that buzzed me a lot more; so
what follows represents a substantial departure from what I
discussed with you!)

So, what I want to do is Sorcerer & Sword straight out of the
book. In the context of pitching a game to a mailing list, however,
I'll take a little more upon myself creatively than is suggested in
the book, in the hopes of jazzing some folks enough to come on
board and play. Here goes . . .


The Characters:

Larger-than-life heroes with a flair for reckless adventure and
cheeky outrage. Their personal power as sorcerers gives them
the wherewithal to call their own shots, stick their necks out and
express their personalities without restraint.


The World:

Xuphia, a rococo funhouse of sensory extravagance. People live
in opulent cities of gingerbread palaces and clockwork
contraptions, or in strange little communities with a visual/
conceptual bang ("Here's the town that's full of birdcages";
"Here's the town that hangs from the underside of a cliff").
Between one city and the next are grotesque or sublime
wildernesses of big, dramatic terrain, bursting with color, where
Old Ones rule pagan courts from deep forest or high
mountaintop. It's a world where people embark whole-heartedly
on grand, fate-tempting schemes, and if they tumble down, grin
and bear it with a sardonic wisecrack. Here and there, too, you
may find a ruined castle or a rusty, weed-grown automaton --
colorful shards of broken dreams that may yet be assembled
into a new design.


The Look:

Baroque, over-the-top, Technicolor fantasy. See the book "The Art
of Final Fantasy IX" as a style reference for places and objects;
you might even choose to envision the characters in Japanese-
cartoon style. Of note, humanity is more than usually plastic in
Xuphia; someone might have blue skin, or scales, or the head of
an animal and still be human. To be "Inhuman" is to get into
really weird effects, such as having fire for hair, or being
translucent.

The Demons:

Demons in Xuphia are ostentatious, dramatic, and as indulgent
of their own personalities as the sorcerers who bind them. They
may be True Demons hailing from mystic otherworlds, or Old
Ones and Pagan Things who "went native" in our reality a long
time ago. They're generally Passers (defined liberally, as with
the demons from the Clicking Sands setting in the S&S book) or
Inconspicuous Demons (defined as very small but having
definite material bodies).
Whatever the case, all demons have a strong visual/conceptual
theme, be it one of the four classical elements, or something
animalistic, or natural -- thus you might have a fire demon, or a
spider demon, or a mountain demon . . . or something more
abstract, like a demon of decay, or despair. Demons with like
themes consider themselves related, and may talk "family
business", or squabble with each other, or whatever.
Let's add one more type of demon: Some sorcerers verse
themselves in clockworks and craftsmanship to make and bind
Object Demons, in the form of toys, tools, weapons or what you
will. Whether these Demons are called by the sorcerer from
beyond or actually created from whole cloth is a matter for
scholars; the end result is the same. Whatever their form,
Xuphian Object Demons are oversized, overwrought and have
moving parts even if they don't need any.

EDIT: I'll also add a later message where I went into more detail about what Sorcery is like:

Sorcery in Xuphia is *big* and requires a lot of physical work, along the lines
of erecting standing stones, waving banners and things like that. Even if
you're not performing cooperative sorcery, you typically need confidants to
help you fulfill the ritual requirements. When a demon is summoned, the
effects are dramatic -- earthquakes, spontaneous combustion of nearby
trees, swarms of hornets -- so a good source for sorcerous Humanity rolls is
simply putting your confidants at physical risk. (Or allowing the Demon to take
Need from your confidant.) Alternate possibilities are assembling ritual
materials by stealing them from your friends, or throwing an orgy and using
it to generate the sorcerous energy for a summoning, leaving the
participants sick and drained.

***

Any questions or comments are welcome. I wouldn't mind if Mike, Chris or Ben wanted to pop in and discuss their responses to the material as well, and their character concepts and like that!


Rod


P.S. I talked with Chris about posting some of our correspondence about his character on this thread, since I thought it might be interesting in a "Look, here's some Sorcerer prep" way. I'm a little embarassed about it now because I feel like I fussed untowardly over his backstory, but if anyone's interested I'll post it.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2003, 10:31:35 PM »

Hi Rod,

Glad to see you post on this, since its got me excited. I think your description is part of the "Hell Yeah!" and the fact that I know Mike and I have a good grasp of the Sorcerer and Sword character philosophy(how bout you Ben?).

I think the fact that your world is described so visually helped a lot for me, since I started with the visual of my character and flew from that.  Second, since my character concept hit me before I got a chance to hear Mike's idea, or Ben's, I was aiming to make fairly flexible and GM-friendly sort of kicker that would let you put my character anywhere, so don't worry about the fussin'.

For the folks that are interested, here's the summary of my character:

Sabbo Aladeus Mercaecio

“Fools abound, and I will not wait on them.”

Driven, confident, believes only divine forces can deter him from his goals, therefore only takes failure with a grin and works twice as hard to spite the gods.  

Appearance:
Dark blue skin, intense yellow eyes.  Slim, tall, muscular in a b-ball player sort of build.  Usually sports royal finery, but has recently taken up swathing himself with black cloth.  Think Amano meets Brom in terms of artwork.

Kicker:
King Marcaecio recently passed.  And then returned.  Neither dead nor living, he ran mad from the castle, chased by guards and family alike.  Now Minister Guiseppe has declared through a loophole in the law that the Mercaecio line has committed a crime against life, and the entire bloodline has been exiled.  Prince Mercaecio is less than pleased.

And of course, demon:

Ouroburos(Oro for short)

This Immanent has served(manipulated?) the Mercacio line for thousands of years.  Oro has been responsible for the survival and the success of the kingdom.  Now, Oro serves as faithfully as ever, although it fears that its time in the sun is over, and is desperate to do anything to restore the Royal lineage.

Oro moves about with a mad whimsy, like a malignant faerie, other times snatching folks into the darkness.  To Sabbo, he is rather like a stern servant, always encouraging him to “demand his respect from this scum” in order to fulfill his Desire.  

Appearance: Dark translucent, sapphire blue wings(2 pairs, total 4 wings), plus 4 spider legs.  It’s wings with legs.  Most of the time, Oro “perches” on Sabbo’s back, using its 4 legs to lock on to his back, the legs crossing over his abdomen, forming a chintinous “ribcage”

Desire- Dominance
Need- Needs people to bow to the sorcerer once a day

The basic idea is that while the Prince is a fairly arrogant bastard to begin with, Oro serves as his "external meglomania" egging him on to really put it to people.  Between the two I expect extravagant cruelty, ruthlessness, and the venom to blast forth like a firehose on a riot crowd :)

Chris
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Ben Lehman
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Posts: 2094

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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2003, 12:31:20 AM »

Hey all--

Player #2 sounding off here...  I'm very excited about this game.  It's a lot of 1sts for me -- 1st IRC play and 1st sorcerer game.  I am playing the sorcerer/demon couple that I mentioned in a previous thread, and I've had a lot of fun laying out their powers and relationship.

What hooked me into the game (aside from the fact that I'm about to leave my area and want to have a "portable" RPG) is the Final Fantasy images -- the aesthetics of the game series are simply gorgeous and I've always liked the way that they portrayed the summoned monsters as people, rather than just tools.  For my character(s), I've taken this and turned it up -- each of the characters is both equally person and a monster, and they take their turns at each.  Of course, this being Sorcerer, it's a totally screwed up power dynamic and there is an eventual doom...  ;-)  But that's just the fun.

I'm not yet done writing my characters yet, but I will post after I've batted things back and forth with Rod some more.

Now if I can just get IRC working...

yrs--
--Ben

edited 4:37 EST for type
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2003, 05:58:23 AM »

I'm getting a kind of Dying Earth vibe except Xuphia is in the spring of its life cycle rather than the autumn.   A "birthing" Earth if you will.

In other words, the same reckless devil may care attitude only now motivated by actual energy of spirit and faith, rather than end of days despiration.
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Rod Anderson
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2003, 06:35:48 AM »

Ralph,


Yes, The Dying Earth was a major influence on my imagination. In fact, this game almost was the Dying Earth until I decided that "end times desperation" just wasn't me, and made a U-turn, resulting in what you see here.


I've also been reading Vance's "Planet of Adventure" lately, so Adam Reith going sacred-cow-tipping all over Tschai was in the back of my mind as well.


Rod
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2003, 06:39:12 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
I'm getting a kind of Dying Earth vibe except Xuphia is in the spring of its life cycle rather than the autumn.   A "birthing" Earth if you will.


I get the sense that it's in a Spring, too; only one that was preceeded by other full cycles. I fully expect to encounter half buried thousand foot tall metal statues from civilizations long gone...

Here's the dirt on my character.

Note that the write up doesn't really describe what he does well. Basically he's a sorta self-centered version of the "Summoner" archetype from Final Fantasy. That is, he summons up great big really powerful demons mostly to Pact and do his short term bidding (like being rid of foes). Very Gamist in that way. In fact his demon is blatantly a "utility" demon, though it does highlight his issues. That demon really only exists so that the character can accomplish the sorts of summonings that I imagine he makes regularly.

Basically power isn't his issue, other things are. So I've tried to make him "abusively" powerful. Won't really matter, however. Also, I fully expect him to meet NPCs who are as powerful or worse, so that won't be an issue, really, either. Basically his story is all about whether or not he's "savable" from his own self-centeredness. Will he fall prey to "solo sorcerer syndrome (what does happen at Humanity 0, Rod?), or will he find somebody to call friends and family. He's not as unredeemable as the write-up may make him seem. His issue is, in fact, Sorcery itself.

I hope this little expansion above helps in play.

Zorleb the Wanderer
Zorleb once had a lot of people that he cared about in a place far away. But he lost them all due to his Sorcery. Rather than give it up, he's decided that he doesn't need people anymore (which just isn't true), and has decided to take up a nomadic life travelling from place to place. This is further driven by his insatiable curiosity, and a near manic desire for power. His demonic summoining is fueled by knowing the secret names of the creatures that he calls to himself for power. To find these names he has to travel to far places, especially the ancient ruins, where once civilizations scrawled the names of these creatures on giant rocks and masonry for all to see.

Kicker: Recently he arrived in the Kingdom (where the game is set, and Chris's family once ruled), and found a new demonic name. Upon summoning the creature, however, it escaped. It is Immanent, does not want to be bound particularly, and left in another person before Zorleb could figure out what had happened. Plague, the name of the demon, has traveled to the capitol city to infect people and instill terror, which as a possessor it is imminently capable of doing (lot's of Hop). Zorleb has pursued the thing in an attempt to find a way to stop it. He's not really as much concerned about the people it may kill so much as that someone else will bind it, determine that Zorleb is responsible, and then hunt him down for the crime of releasing it on the public.

OTOH, Plague is an ancient demon, and probably knows many of the names that Zorleb wants to find. So Zorleb might not want to just kill it right off...meanwhile the question is how many more people will Plague kill...

Stamina 1 (Traveler)
Will 3 (Curiosity)
Lore 6 (Adept, Warped by Sorcery)

Humanity 3
Past: Wanderer 3
Price: Strange (-1 die dealing with down to earth people; well, most people)

Demon
Alsiloor - Inconspicuous Demon
Alsiloor is a fist sized eyeball that Zorleb keeps floating in a tall jar of some glowey transparent blue substance. It's powers are what enable Zorleb to summon, bind, and otherwise deal with Demons as regularly as he does (always using Will to bind). Zorleb is always changing out demons as circumstances dictate, and to do so he occasionally needs help.  

Stamina 1
Will 5
Lore 4
Power 5

Telltale: eyeball in a jar.
Need: Perform in sorcerous rituals
Desire: strangeness

Powers
Boost (Will) - occurs as one sits in front of the jar and is entranced by the stare of the demon. This is how it supports summoning.
Perception - staring into the eye can also cause one to see far off vistas. Not usually detailed, but rather large landscapes as though one were flying overhead.
Hint - Alsiloor can hit users unexpectedly with this, but it can't be activated intentionally.
Taint - Alsiloor can also taint a user, and will do so if it thinks that this will make life more odd for the user.

Note: Staring into the eye is also like taking hits of drugs for purposes of contacting, with the attendant danger of Will dropping.


Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2003, 07:31:21 AM »

Holy crap ... all you guys are getting really good at knowing how much to present to the group such that character creation enriches and helps to define the setting.

Best,
Ron
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Rod Anderson
Member

Posts: 59


« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2003, 07:34:20 AM »

Mike,

Humanity 0 is as in S&S -- I don't have the book with me, but it's basically loss of all empathy, seeing other people only as means to an end (for the single-minded obsessive type) or as toys and puzzle pieces (for the more aimless and frivolous type). Given the sensory nature of the setting, this will entail some sort of concrete perceptual derangement. For instance, if Zorleb's scary eyeball Taints him to Humanity 0, he might become acutely aware of people moving in big, intricate patterns of action and reaction -- but actual individuals are blurry and unmemorable. (and there's where Hint comes in too, I'm thinking)

Another fun thing about Humanity 0 is that mystic otherworlds become much easier to enter. In fact, if a character is Tainted, you can expect him to have one foot out of reality as he knows it, on general principle.

Rod

(edited for spelling)
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Bankuei
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2003, 07:59:30 AM »

Like Ben, it was the Final Fantasy concepts that hooked me.  I like the fact that in their games, the summons as demons are clearly unique, and strange beyond all belief, without any sort explaination as to "what the hell they really are".  

You'll find stuff like lightning unicorns that wear jewelry, such as horn rings, weird, unexplainable "things" that fly from across the galaxy and mystically re-calculate space/time to whomp your enemies, and weird 4 armed swordsmen seeking mystical weapons across dimensions who occasionally show up and help you out in return for helping them get a weapon.

Likewise, their worlds are usually unexplained in how they work, so stuff like towns made of birdcages and clockwork stuff flies just right.  In other words, you have no problem jumping into pure fantasy without having to step back into reality too much.

I'm really excited to play, and looking forward to your final write up Ben.

Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2003, 08:02:14 AM »

More specifically, what happens to player control at Humanity 0. I assume character loss? Permenant? Negotiable? I mean that doesn't sound like too far gone to come back from, so I think permenant would be a bit harsh.

Mike
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Rod Anderson
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2003, 08:10:44 AM »

Mike,

Oh, okay. To be honest, I'd been assuming, that outside of Taint, it's permanent. I'm willing to bend on that, but I'll have to go home and read "Sorcerer's Soul"again and acquaint myself with the whole coming-back-from-0-Humanity concept. Any suggestions from the experienced would be appreciated, of course!


Rod


P.S. You know, having a demon that Taints you could be kind of a safety net against losing your character in itself, right? I mean, if you do Sorcery while you're tainted to zero, do you still check Humanity? CAN you do Sorcery in those circvumstances. Again, suggestions from the experienced are eagerly invited.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2003, 08:13:55 AM »

Hi Rod,

There's a list of options for Humanity 0 consequences, in terms of player and GM take-over stuff, in the first chapter of The Sorcerer's Soul.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2003, 08:21:47 AM »

Quote from: Rod Anderson

P.S. You know, having a demon that Taints you could be kind of a safety net against losing your character in itself, right? I mean, if you do Sorcery while you're tainted to zero, do you still check Humanity? CAN you do Sorcery in those circvumstances. Again, suggestions from the experienced are eagerly invited.


In my group's Charnel Gods game, I did exactly this, and it works well. Knowing my character was about to enter a mystic otherworld, and not having a lot of Humanity at the time, I used my demon to Taint myself, basically providing one point of Humanity I knew I'd get back later, using it as a buffer.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2003, 07:30:41 AM »

I'ma bit confused on this, Clinton. How does it work again?

Mike
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2003, 08:20:49 AM »

Mike,

Charnel Gods is pretty explicit about it, stating how Humanity 0 via Taint results in some, but not all, the effects of normal Humanity 0.

For standard Sorcerer, as I read the rules, getting Tainted to Humanity 0 would result in all the effects of Humanity 0, with the caveat that Taint wears off in a few hours or days, and your character would again have some Humanity, thereby sending him into a dire, but limited, streak of nastiness - however Humanity 0 is defined in your game.

In that way, you can consider a point of Taint as a buffer against total character loss or destruction. For my character, he was entering a mystic otherworld, which Sorcerer and Sword states requires constant Humanity checks until you lose a point, and then constant checks until you don't lose a point. The thing to notice is that you can lose more than one point before the barrage is over. (Ron, correct me if I'm wrong on this.) I used Taint to bring my character to Humanity 2, and he lost two Humanity in the journey, bringing his Humanity to 0. However, 1 Humanity would return in a while, bringing him back to, well, as normal as he ever got.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
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