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Author Topic: the Technicality; the Back Story; the Ending  (Read 3539 times)
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2341

« on: May 04, 2001, 08:59:00 AM »

Hey everyone,

Over the past few weeks, I've been doing the fleshing out part of developing a Sorcerer mini-supplement, thinking about the nature of sorcery, Lore, and Humanity. And now, following the customization method detailed in the rules, I'm at the scenario stage trying to develop the Technicality, Back Story, and Ending, and I'm blocked. So I figure I'll leak you a summary of what I've got. I'm looking for suggestions and comments.

My inspiration, partly from the movie Altered States, is that sorcery is an almost academic pursuit of knowledge, making use of sensory deprivation (perhaps drug-aided), that becomes hard to manage. I'm combining that with the idea of demons being the genetic detritus of Atlantean personalities inhabiting the cells of humans as "past lives". Through the right kind of self-imposed privation they can be brought up into shared consciousness with the sorcerer, "re taught" how to function again as a coherent personality, and manifest a fraction of their former power. So an Atlantean is essentially a possessor demon that the sorcerer hosts within himself.

A sorcerer with Lore 1 understands only that he has bound a "past life". With Lore 2 he knows that the past life is an Atlantean. But sorcerers with Lore 4/5 know the real truth; Atlanteans are not human past lives. They're an entirely different species that when faced with their own extinction, seeded their identities into the fledgling human species in such a way that they'd be reborn as coherent personalities, reassembled through human breeding, many millennia in the future. Sorcery itself was something the Atlanteans never anticipated; it's a partial skipping-ahead on the timetable of the Atlantean plan. They are our collective unconscious, the source of dream symbolism, of premonitions, our capacity for alienation, etc. Their immortal identities will be reborn and they'll again rule the planet. But what it means is that there's no such thing as human. Embedded in who you are is all this alien stuff that even though it's exploiting you, you can't get rid of it without utterly destroying who you are.

So the definition of Humanity is "that about you which is not Atlantean," but it comes down to being what you might expect. Humans are a chattel species to Atlanteans, so something like decapitating a human isn't going to phase them much. Which means a Humanity roll is having a "human" reaction. A sorcerer who happens to decapitate someone makes Humanity roll as usual, and hopes to have the human response. If he doesn't, he's one step closer to being a nice comfy host for an Atlantean.

An Atlantean's powers are limited in that for the majority of them the Atlantean is the User. Which means the Atlantean needs to be in control of the body to use them. No more than 20% of an Atlantean's powers can have the Host as the User, which will likely drive the sorcerer to cede control of the body to the Atlantean in order to make use of the other powers. And if Need is being met and Desire isn't complicating things, the Atlantean will generally cede control of the body back to the sorcerer. However, Atlanteans do have their own Desires and a relationship map. Imagine what happens when a given Atlantean encounters an old Atlantean enemy...perhaps even the Atlantean who killed him the first time around! The rules state that a possessor can take control of the Host on a roll of Power vs. Stamina. I've changed that to Will vs. Will, with an optional pre-roll of Power vs. Humanity for bonus dice on the Will vs. Will roll. If the Atlantean wins the challenge for control, the sorcerer is left controlling one part of the body; the Atlantean is controlling the rest. The sorcerer can use that body part on a roll of Will vs. Will. Imagine if the Atlantean is fully rogue, frustrated by the sorcerer's effective use of this, and decides to nix the body part.

The sorcerer can regain control of the body by making a Will vs. Will challenge, with an optional Humanity vs. Power pre-roll for bonus dice. Given an Atlantean who's not ceding back control of the body, the first thing the sorcerer might attempt is negotiation. And maybe that'll work. Another thing a sorcerer could do is Punish the Atlantean, which would certainly impair the Atlantean's pursuit of his Desire.

But if that doesn't work, and the sorcerer can't wrest control of the body back, he can try to Banish the Atlantean, or he can Contact, Summon and Bind another one, negotiating promises to it if it'll come in and match Will vs. Will, with a Power vs. Power pre-roll, with the Atlantean in control and then cede control back to the sorcerer.

When I first detailed the concept in the Sorcerer forum on G.O., I described how I envisioned the Atlanteans having their own personal animosities and relationships. The pushback from Ron was that I somehow needed to ensure that the heroic/moral crisis in the game was still located with the sorcerer, not eclipsed by the relationships of the Atlanteans in the back story. I think I've solved that very neatly.

I'll base the Atlanteans on figures from Greek mythology, probably with the names changed, and probably rearranged into a different relationship map. The Atlantean's Desire will equate to the source figure's mythic sphere of influence. Using a major God as an example, Aphrodite would have a Desire of Love, and a Need of probably either Sex or Esteem.

The mechanic that I think drives the focus of the narrative into the player character is a second kind of Humanity test that doesn't risk the sorcerer's Humanity, but which is very specific to the Desire (Sphere) of the Atlantean he's hosting; the result of a failed roll is a permanent one point increase in the Atlantean's Power. So when the sorcerer who's hosting Aphrodite is in a situation where he casually ignores an incident of physical abuse in his neighbor's yard, that warrants the first (traditional) type of Humanity roll. But if he's in a situation where his girlfriend is asking him why he always makes excuses for not getting married, then it's the second type of Humanity challenge and a failed roll results in an increase in Aphrodite's Power (representing somehow that his reactions in the situation are making her cellular presence within him more coherent and resulting in her being less of a fraction of her former self).

So the question is, what do I do with it? Technicality? Back Story? Ending? Other comments?


Paul Czege

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans

Posts: 432

« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2001, 05:14:00 PM »


I have a friend who is a Hermetic, and your premise sounds close (in some ways) to the Hermetic tradition.  I suggest getting your hands on some of the Hermetic texts (just not Golden Dawn!).  As a strating point, try "Corpus Hermeticum".

I also point you towrd Micahel Swanwick's "Jack Faust", which, while not exactly "past lives", is very much using a sorcerous ideal to pursue knowledge.  It's an entertaining read, and it may have an idea or two to plumb from it.

I think you may be overthinking things a bit, however.  You have a solid premise.  I don't know how much more you actually need for a playable and enjoyable setting.  Maybe a few mentions on how widespread the Atlantean "contagion" has become.

I'm not certain what else you are looking for int erms of your premise.  I think you are well on your way.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2001, 06:46:00 PM »

I think you've got the groundwork laid well too, but my call is that this setup just cries out for a couple of playable scenarios - in short, Situation.

Technicality? Try  thinking about Contains - what would that mean, in this context? How about Banishing, or the actual DEATH of a demon?

Back-story? Sure - try thinking about an Atlantean who took over a sorcerer totally, then fell in love with a human woman. What IS the kid they have? Why are the parents now deadly enemies?

Ending? It cries out for a "let freedom ring, though I die" kind of ending, the whole FREEEEEE-DOM!! Braveheart deal (if I may invoke such a silly movie). Or maybe I'm all wrong, and it's more a matter of intrigue and victory-through-cleverness ... This, more than anything, can only be up to you.

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