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Extra Weird Sorcerer setting idea.

Started by AnyaTheBlue, August 25, 2003, 05:21:12 PM

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There are three very specific inspirations for this.  First, my experience generating a character for Charnel Gods, specifically a survivor from a previous Epoch.  Second, I was listening to the Dave Matthews Band "When the World Ends" in the background.  Third is Mike Mignola's comic book, "Hellboy".

There are other influences, but those three things all sort of hooked together simultaneously late Saturday night, and I've been mulling this over since then.

The core image of this 'vision' was a sort of animated shot, in a very 'Mignola-esque' style, of a couple of figures, from a distance, flying, while behind them an enormous stone building, with odd carvings and freizes, slowly disintegrated into tumbling rubble.  The 'camera' tracked the flyers, keeping them centered, while the giant building's collapse was in ever-so-slight slow motion.

Out of that grew this...

The basic setting would be a Space Opera-type Four Color comic book setting.  The characters would all be (more or less) humanoids, preferably from different worlds, each of whom is Cosmically Powerful enough to survive the literal destruction of their homeworld.  We're talking Dr. Manhattan, The Phantom Stranger, Silver-age Superman, The Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, and so forth.  Batman and Spiderman need not apply.

Basically, your world has been demolished, whether because of global nuclear catastrophe, world-eating cosmic monstrosities, large red walls of antimatter, or a buildup of pressure in the core, which results in a cataclysmic explosion, complete with green radioactive materials.  Whatever the crisis, however, your character has survived due to his inhuman nature.  Now what?

Most demons should probably be 'possessor' demons, a la Urge's, although obvious exceptions should be made for Objects (ie, GL Rings), Parasites (Hellboy's right hand), and even Passers (the Wizard Shazam) and Inconspicuous (Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt).  Everybody's background is going to have to explain how your character survived the apocalypse, either because she was elsewhere when it happened or because she's so indistructable that it was like a scratch to her.

Need should probably be fairly mundane (ie, Spend time regularly exposed to a Yellow Sun, avoid Red Suns and Kryptonite; Recharge your ring once a day; say 'Shazam' to activate your powers, and so forth).

I'm not sure what to do about Desire.  My thought here is that this particular setting is less about "what do you do to gain power" than it would be about "how does using your power set you apart from others?

Humanity would be more or less defined as Concern for the Nonpowered.    Maybe more specifically as Concern for Individuals.  As you gain in power, you become less connected to individual humans and humanity.  Think Dr. Manhattan at the end of Watchmen.  Even when his interest in humanity is rekindled, his decision isn't to spend more time on Earth interacting with people, but to go off somewhere and Create some life of his own.

That's a perfect example of creepy 0 level humanity in this setting, in my mind.   Galactus is another good example of 0 humanity for such a being, at least in his early appearances.  Pretty much any time after he gained Nova as a herald, he has mostly 'redeemed' himself to a Humanity of 1 or so.

I like Urge's suggestion that you can basically barter your humanity for extra power, and I think it plays into this setting perfectly.  The problem these characters face isn't that using their powers is hard and costly, but that it's easy -- perhaps too easy -- and the more they use, the less like 'normal people' they become.

Taint, in this setting, would have similar changes to that in Charnel Gods, except that the basic thrust would be to sort of 'Cosmically Charge' someone, or give them an understanding of the Universal Truths of the universe, thus touching them with a bit of the Greater Concerns of The Universe At Large.  Hitting Zero Humanity would be characterized by Organian-style 'ascension to a higher plane', and take the character out of play, as her concerns are no longer mired in the purely physical reality that lesser individuals find themselves in.

I think this would be fairly tricky to pull of as a campaign, but I can think of a number of directions to take things.

First, what's destroying worlds?  Is it the same thing?  If not, are the various things in collusion?  Is it a large-scale threat, or was it limited to one world, a small group of worlds, or perhaps only a couple of Galaxies?

Second, how do you stop it?  What if you can't?

Third, what about finding a new home?  Adopting a new people?  What are the consequences of trying to do that (a la The Martian Manhunter and Superman)?  What about if you adopt a very primitive people -- do you give them technology?  Do you play the role of a god?

What about adding a dash of Lensmen/Green Lantern/Legion of Superheroes to the mix?  You could 'team up' with other survivors of similar tragedies and establish an intergalactic alliance of world-protectors.

I'm not entirely sure if Sorcerer is the best system for this, but I think it's got possibilities.

Aside from Dr. Manhattan, Superman, The Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Green Lantern Corps, and The Martian Manhunter, obvious sources of inspiration include the Jim Shooter era Dr. Solar (Acclaim?  Valiant?  Can't remember), the Terra Obscura two-issue arc of Tom Strong, where Tom Strange 'runs' across the galaxy for 15 years (or something like that),  the New Gods in general, and I'm sure many others.

Anyway, any comments/ideas/questions/criticisms/disparagement welcome and eagerly awaited!  :)
Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Mike Holmes

QuoteGalactus is another good example of 0 humanity for such a being, at least in his early appearances.

Ooh, Terminus, too.

How do the characters, coming from so far apart, come together?

More importantly, how do you amp up powers for characters so that they'll be the equal of the sources you mention? Truth be told, there are some similarities here with Sorcerer and Space (I just did some major work recently for those interested). One of them is that I, too, had to way pump up demonic powers. So I'm curious as to how you'd do it.

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Quote from: Mike Holmes
How do the characters, coming from so far apart, come together?

Well, a couple of ideas strike me.

    First, they could all be from the same world and, thus, have escape the catastrophe together.

    They could all have sought refuge at the same locale.  Oa, for a DC-centric example.

    Their adventures may run in parallel for awhile (or perhaps indefinitely), only occasionally hooking together.

    They might be near to each other in space and their various disasters might even have happened close to one another.  Depending on the specifics of their abilities, they may have even perceived each other's respective disasters.

    I'm sure there are others...

Quote from: Mike Holmes
More importantly, how do you amp up powers for characters so that they'll be the equal of the sources you mention? Truth be told, there are some similarities here with Sorcerer and Space (I just did some major work recently for those interested). One of them is that I, too, had to way pump up demonic powers. So I'm curious as to how you'd do it.

Ah, well, this is a good question.  Again, I have multiple answers...

First, you could leave well enough alone.  Just make the 'Demons' have much higher scores than their 'hosts' -- 'losing' your binding roll, perhaps by a large margin, mostly means that your grip on your Humanity is weak, and that you are going to find it hard to engage in 'normal' pursuits.  That kind of makes sense.

As an alternative or addition to what I was discussing, above, you could set some other threshold for stopping play of your character.  Obviously, Dr. Manhattan, being at zero humanity, still has a role to play in Watchmen.  Your character can be similar.  Say that you don't ascend to Cosmic Navel Gazing status until you're at -5 humanity, or something like that.  This allows you to start with a low humanity character with a bad binding roll and not just go out of play as soon as you hit Zero...

On the other hand, you could do one (or more) of the following:

    Allow beginning scores to total to, say, 15 or 20 instead of 10 (thus giving the players a larger pool of humanity to balance out their more powerful Demons)

    Give all the Demons some stock 'Freebie' abilities that don't impact their Lore, such as Travel (Interstellar FTL), Perception (Interstellar FTL Navigation), Special Defense (The Harsh Coldness of Deep Space)

    Subtract a stock number from all Demon's Lores as part of the Demon Generation step -- effectively giving them a few Freebie abilities, but not explicitely defining which ones they are.

    Divide a Demon's lore by some fixed number.  I think this might well be far too powerful, but it would work for someone who is truly cosmic...

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, more or less off the top of my head.

Edit:D'oh! losing, not loosing[/b][/i]
Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Ooh! I love this stuff.

My usual question: what would be a good list of descriptors for players to assign to characters' scores?



Hi, Ron!

I can see why you always ask for descriptors.  I thought they'd be easy to come up with, but I've been thinking about it for hours now, getting unsatisfying lists.

Here's some that I think might fit pretty well.


Mighty You have a powerful and imposing physical form.

Quick as Lightning You have honed your reflexes and reactions.

Regimen You follow a specific diet, excercise program, or similar activity to maintain your body's health.

Surprising Vigor Your appearance belies your actual capabilities.

Unusual Physiology You have some biological quirk which contributes to your physicality.

Mind over Matter "Do you think that's air you're breathing?"


Indomitable Your force of personality is powerful and obvious to all.

Intuitive You make seemingly illogical leaps of logic, follow your nose, and trust your gut.

Passionate Your strong emotions guide your actions

Code of Conduct "A jedi craves not these things"

Protective Your desire to protect the weak, innocent, or some other group is your touchstone.

Prepared Everything is knowable, and the more you know, the better you can plan.  Don't guess when you can anticipate or, better yet, know.

Encyclopaedic You have knowledge of the physical Universe, science, and history in great abundance, either through training, study, natural aptitude, or Cosmic Perception.


Wet behind the Ears You have sufficient power and ability to survive  your world's destruction, but your abilities are new and you are inexperienced with them and their implications, as well as the Grand Universe beyond your own home.

Insightful Your comprehension of the Cosmos comes from long hours of observation, thought, and personal deduction.

Evolved You, or your species, has naturally advanced to a greater level of power and understanding of the Cosmos.

Cosmic Patron Some being or species has seen fit to grant you a leg up, providing you with resources, knowledge, and power far beyond the ken of your own world and history.

Holistic Everything is connected.  And you can perceive the connections.

Chance Exposure Some unpredictible, possibly wildly outlandish, event occured, empowering you and giving you a glimpse, a momentary vision, of the Vastness and Nature of the Cosmos.

I'm not entirely happy with these, but it's at least a place to start from.

Oh, and another way to 'pump up' the power of Demons would be to redefine the Demonic Powers.  Leave the Demonic lore/stat rules as well as the character stat pools alone entirely, but redefine Armor as being invulnerable to conventional damage, and Special Damage being instantly fatal to non-Cosmicaly Powerful Entities, but working exactly the same against other Sorcerers.

This allows your Sorcerer and his Demon to use exactly the same range of scores as the rules currently use, be no more or less effective against each other, and yet vastly more powerful with respect to 'mundanes'.

Basically, the 'baseline' normal becomes a mook in relation to the Sorcerers.

And hey, what about 'Special Damage: Star Goes Nova' -- that's got to count for something, right?  :)
Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.


Okay, here's a stab at the rough edges of a couple of characters...

Krogarr, the Living Moon

Stamina:  4 (Mighty)
Will:         3 (Encyclopaedic)
Lore:        3 (Evolved)

Price (Size precludes interacting in most normal environments effectively, -1 when dealing with anything below interplanetary in scale.)
Humanity: 4
Past: 3 (Scholar)

Demon: "Limited" Posessor

Travel (FTL)
Perception (FTL Navigation)
Special Defense (The Depths of Space)
Perception (Omni-cognition -- Perceive anywhere as if he were present.  Can't just 'see Larry', has to specifically look in the closet that Larry is inside of).
Big (He's the size of a small moon)
Spawn (Can create human-sized Avatars)
Special Damage
Range (Directed Radiation fields)

Lore: 12
Stamina: 12
Will: 13
Power: 13

Need: Must spend one day out of every seven orbiting in the life zone of a G-type star
Desire: Fertility and Life -- spreading organic life throughout the galaxy


Zebulon Zaxx, Azure Armsman

Stamina: 3 (Regimen)
Will:        5 (Indomitable, Code of Conduct)
Lore:       2 (Cosmic Patron)

Price: (Righteous, -1 when his judgement is questioned)
Humanity: 5
Past: 3 (Starship Pilot)

Demon: Object, Armsman Artifact, a gauntlet with a large blue crystal inset on it's top.

Travel (FTL)
Perception (FTL Navigation)
Special Defense (Hostile Environments)
Transport (Force bubble)
Special Damage (Beam from gauntlet)
Range (on Special Damage)
Range (on Armor -- Force Field)
Range (Alter physical objects with Gauntlet field)
Range (Pick things up with Gauntlet field)
Range (Immobilize with Gauntlet field)

Lore: 14
Stamina: 14
Will: 15
Power: 15

Need: Must be recharged once per day in it's special Focussing Chamber
Desire: Justice


Now, obviously, this is just a rough stab at putting together a couple of oddball guys using just the stock character rules.  I think either allowing a higher stat total, or giving out a block of 'freebie' powers to scale down the demons would probably, mechanically, work really well.  I'm not sure which would be better, though.

I'm also, obviously, abusing 'Range' fairly heavily in my Green Lantern knockoff, but in reasonably obvious ways -- although it would be fairly simple to define 'Telekinesis' and 'force field' as seperate powers, possibly with a built in range component so that they didn't take up two 'slots'.

Anyway, do people think all of this is viable?  Or is it too weird?  Is having everybody be from a doomed or destroyed planet too limiting?  You could subsume that into a possible past (Survivor of a Doomed World), as Charnel Gods does, and simply work with a generically 'cosmic' setting.  That might have a broader appeal, and hamstring characters and setting a bit less.

Anyone?  Bueller?
Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Ron Edwards

MmmmmmmMinisupplement ... mmmmmmMinisupplement ....


P.S. See also my comments in Genre expectations: a sketch of "Cosmic Zap".