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Author Topic: The Wrath of Gaia  (Read 4414 times)
Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« on: September 02, 2003, 08:33:22 PM »

Hello.

I've been lurking in the Forge for a while, and the discussions here have changed my views about what roleplaying can be at its best. I have GM:ed Amber and other games back when I was a teenager, but for many years now I've been strictly a player. I've been wanting to GM, but all of my projects have somehow died before the play even started. I've been doing wrong kind of preparation, I think: I've been building whole artificial worlds when I should have been creating engaging stories together with my friends.

Some very basic ideas here have reminded me that gamemastering can really be fun, and not just tedious work: 1) four-session stories are a valid alternative for those boring, everlasting campaigns. 2) give players more power!

Reading Sorcerer made me very happy, as I instantly knew that I would be gamemastering again. This game was just made for me. Our group has nothing against it, either. I have two players ready to play.

We decided to set our story here in Finland, in a small town in the middle of great forests, far from the cities of the south. Demons are ancient nature spirits with a twist: Gaia has finally decided that giving birth to mankind was a mistake, and ordered her minions to destroy human civilization. Sorcerers are followers of the ancient shamanic tradition, negotiators between mankind and the wild nature, who are faced with this new, alarming situation. Should they still aim for the peace between man and nature, to try and change human society so that Gaia would cancel her declaration of war? Or is it too late for that, and they should just pick sides? Whatever they choose, they should be real wary of their now-malicious spirit-friends, who try to seduce the sorcerers to forget humanity and succumb to the call of the wild.

Humanity is defined as having a place in the human society: friends, a family, a cause to follow. When humanity is 0, demons have succeeded in seducing the shaman to forget about civilization and join the forces of Nature in their quest to destroy mankind. Gaia will gladly use these fallen shamans as potent weapons against mankind.

We've already had a character generation session and everything went smoothly. My players didn't need much time to come up with very intense characters. Most importantly, we had fun.

I'll perhaps write more about our game after we have played a couple of sessions. But now I have some questions that need to be answered before the campaign can start.

1) Do demon's damage penalties affect those powers that don't require dice-rolling? For example, does Special Damage get less dangerous when the demon is hurt? It seems counter-intuitive that Vitality would be weakened when the demon is in a dire need of healing...

2) What powers actually give demon fatigue? All of them? If a demon has Armor, Fast, and Special Damage, it would be getting three points of fatigue a round.

3) So only sorcerers can attempt to shake away their damage penalties?

4) How do you actually handle those one-action damage penalties: when are they considered "used up"? Does defending use up the penalties? How about "sucking up" an attack? What if the character doesn't get to dodge because he is too wounded to do that? I house ruled that penalties won't apply until the beginning of the next round, and the momentary penalties last for the whole round; to me this seems a lot clearer, but the combat does lose some flavour.

5) I think I'll be able to roleplay passers and possessors, but I need some clarifications about other kind of demons. How do object demons and parasites perceive the world? Can they see and hear, and use their Lore to spot sorcerers?

6) One of the characters has a parasite fire spirit bound to himself. Is it up to the player to define whether the spirit can move freely outside the host's body and interact with the world?

7) Any tips on how to make a non-moving, non-talking object demon an active antagonist? (Other than occasionally shutting down it's powers.)

That's it for now. Thank you, Ron, for creating this great game!
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Mikko
Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2003, 06:10:22 AM »

Hey Mikko,

As someone who has yet to actually play, but has read the texts, I'll give your questions a shot.

Quote
1) Do demon's damage penalties affect those powers that don't require dice-rolling? For example, does Special Damage get less dangerous when the demon is hurt? It seems counter-intuitive that Vitality would be weakened when the demon is in a dire need of healing...


Indirectly, I think yes. Damage penalities via currency are essentially a loss of dice, so a demon who's down three dice is essentially down three power for the application of special damage and vitality. It's an interesting question though, and one I hadn't considered.

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2) What powers actually give demon fatigue? All of them? If a demon has Armor, Fast, and Special Damage, it would be getting three points of fatigue a round.


I don't have the book on me, but at least for armor and special damage I think I'd apply a one time application of the fatigue concept. Basically once armor or special damage is powered (force field on, claws out) they no longer add to the total of powers used until they go down and are brought up again. Also, I'm pretty sure that it's only when the demons use the powers, not when the powers are conferred and someone else uses them.

Quote
3) So only sorcerers can attempt to shake away their damage penalties?


Yep.

Quote
4) How do you actually handle those one-action damage penalties: when are they considered "used up"? Does defending use up the penalties? How about "sucking up" an attack? What if the character doesn't get to dodge because he is too wounded to do that? I house ruled that penalties won't apply until the beginning of the next round, and the momentary penalties last for the whole round; to me this seems a lot clearer, but the combat does lose some flavour.


Have you got a copy of Sex and Sorcery? The dice drawings answer some of this question, and you may want to check out this thread for more detail.

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5) I think I'll be able to roleplay passers and possessors, but I need some clarifications about other kind of demons. How do object demons and parasites perceive the world? Can they see and hear, and use their Lore to spot sorcerers?


It sort of depends on how you've characterized them in your game, but in general I think they're still fully realized entities. They have ways of perceiving and communicating, though they're often limited by their shape.

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6) One of the characters has a parasite fire spirit bound to himself. Is it up to the player to define whether the spirit can move freely outside the host's body and interact with the world?


I think by definition parasites are stuck with the host and can't wander about.

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7) Any tips on how to make a non-moving, non-talking object demon an active antagonist? (Other than occasionally shutting down it's powers.)


Well, all object demons can move, if only in that limited way that objects move without your interaction. You turn your back, you swore your keys were on the table, and 'lo they're on the floor. Beyond that though, powers are a pretty good way to imply what the demon wants. Not just removing them, but using them without the call of the Sorcerer, conferring them on other folks, etc. There's also plenty of indirect methods of communication, dreams, scratchings on the wall, interactive television programs, etc.

-Tim
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2003, 06:24:41 AM »

Hello Mikko,

Thank you! This is great for a game designer to read.

Let's go through your questions one by one.

Quote
1) Do demon's damage penalties affect those powers that don't require dice-rolling? For example, does Special Damage get less dangerous when the demon is hurt? It seems counter-intuitive that Vitality would be weakened when the demon is in a dire need of healing...


Typically, no, these abilities' Power are not affected by injury. A demon with Power 6 uses 6 on the Special Damage table regardless of injury, and its Vitality is rated at 6 at all times.

Sometimes, though, one does roll those abilities, in a variety of on-the-spot situations during play. For instance, if a demon with fiery Special Damage is burning through an obstacle, which is not "fighting back," but some other person or entity is rolling against the demon for some reason. So you'd roll the Power of the Special Damage in order to see whether the demon finishes burning through the obstacle in time, or something. When that kind of thing happens in play, then yes, the ability is affected by damage penalties.

Quote
2) What powers actually give demon fatigue? All of them? If a demon has Armor, Fast, and Special Damage, it would be getting three points of fatigue a round.


All the abilities do fatigue the demon, but recognize that Sorcerer isn't based on "physics," and so it's about seeing the ability happen, not about whether it's "turned on." So if that demon were not hit in that round, the Armor wouldn't cost it any energy.

And yes, demons do burn out fast in combat. A lot of people who get into "hit ... hit ... hit" Sorcerer combat forget about this.

Usually, the way I play it, unless a combat goes on for many rounds, I just have the demons go into fierce Need after violent confrontations.

Quote
3) So only sorcerers can attempt to shake away their damage penalties?


Yes. That's the "sorcerer advantage."

Quote
4) How do you actually handle those one-action damage penalties: when are they considered "used up"? Does defending use up the penalties? How about "sucking up" an attack? What if the character doesn't get to dodge because he is too wounded to do that? I house ruled that penalties won't apply until the beginning of the next round, and the momentary penalties last for the whole round; to me this seems a lot clearer, but the combat does lose some flavour.


Ah. This is important. Damage penalties always apply to the character's next roll, whether in this current round or in the next round. Don't "time" the penalties. Just say, "next roll" and that always works out best.

Quote
5) I think I'll be able to roleplay passers and possessors, but I need some clarifications about other kind of demons. How do object demons and parasites perceive the world? Can they see and hear, and use their Lore to spot sorcerers?


That's a very good inquiry, because I always play these sorts of demons as fully perceptive as any other person or demon in the story. To pick the most basic example, object demons like Stormbringer or even the extremely "non-verbal" sword Tyrfing in The Broken Sword, always seem to know what's going on and to pick their "actions" (usually working vs. not working, or striking unexpectedly) in an extremely calculated fashion.

Quote
6) One of the characters has a parasite fire spirit bound to himself. Is it up to the player to define whether the spirit can move freely outside the host's body and interact with the world?


To a great extent, this relies on the group's shared understanding (or better, "aesthetic") about demons in their particular game. But by the rules, yes, a Parasite can do exactly as you're describing. Recognize, though, that it'll suffer when it's outside its host (losing Power) and also that typically Parasites' abilities are only conferred to their hosts, so the demon wouldn't be very effective out there.

That last point can certainly be stretched through customizing; in my Azk'Arn game, a character had a spinal parasite that could slither free and go kill people.

Quote
7) Any tips on how to make a non-moving, non-talking object demon an active antagonist? (Other than occasionally shutting down it's powers.)


It depends again on that shared aesthetic, but I used a couple of techniques, back during playtesting when people inevitably made characters with demonic fighting-knives and demonic black-rune-swords.

1. Role-play the weight and awkwardness vs. ease of handling the object as if it expressed the object's opinion of the situation. This never provided penalties or made it difficult for the the object to be used, but it worked very well to let the player know that the demon was being cranky.

2. As real people in the real world, we often project emotions and intentions onto inanimate objects. Pens try to escape. Checkbooks burrow to the bottom of purses. Bank accounts subtract sums from themselves, perhaps on gambling sprees when we're not looking.

Since this projection is a real-life behavior on our part, it's easy to incorporate into a Sorcerer game as a fictional behavior on the demon's part. The players instantly "know" what the object is doing, because (in their minds) their own real-life car keys and laptops do the same damn thing.

So when no one's looking at an object demon, exercise some "inanimate animation" creativity. If the character goes to his closet to get his demon sword, hey look, it's already outside the closet, leaning against it, with the scabbard snaps undone. That kind of thing.

Again, thanks for writing. I love answering questions like this and I'm excited about your game.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2003, 06:37:55 AM »

Cool idea for the game. I was supposed to play one a lot like this but it fell through. Which I thought was a shame.

Anyhow, on the whole object communicating idea, consider that not only turning off powers can be communicative but so can turning them on. If the demon is the user of a Stamina Boost and you're the target, it can say a lot if the demon uses the power to boost you when you'd not requested it. Just another technique.

Mike
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Tim Alexander
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Posts: 304


« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2003, 07:10:34 AM »

Wow, shows what I know. :)

Quote
Typically, no, these abilities' Power are not affected by injury. A demon with Power 6 uses 6 on the Special Damage table regardless of injury, and its Vitality is rated at 6 at all times.


How come? In one of the threads on wacky demons you mention an instance of transport's power to stamina limit being increased by bonus dice which via currency become power. It essentially lets an otherwise wimpy demon eat bigger stamina folks. Why is the application of special damage and vitality immune to this? Simply because they aren't rolled? Doesn't ability point=dice apply whether it's rolled or not? I'm sure I'm missing something but not sure what.

Quote
All the abilities do fatigue the demon, but recognize that Sorcerer isn't based on "physics," and so it's about seeing the ability happen, not about whether it's "turned on." So if that demon were not hit in that round, the Armor wouldn't cost it any energy.


Oh that's cool actually. So what about the situation of conferring, the demon still gets worn out when others are using it's powers, or no?

Quote
To a great extent, this relies on the group's shared understanding (or better, "aesthetic") about demons in their particular game. But by the rules, yes, a Parasite can do exactly as you're describing. Recognize, though, that it'll suffer when it's outside its host (losing Power) and also that typically Parasites' abilities are only conferred to their hosts, so the demon wouldn't be very effective out there.


Oh duh, why the heck didn't I realized this.

-Tim
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Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2003, 08:34:18 AM »

Thanks a lot for the helpful answers! Just one more inquiry...

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Quote
4) How do you actually handle those one-action damage penalties: when are they considered "used up"? Does defending use up the penalties? How about "sucking up" an attack? What if the character doesn't get to dodge because he is too wounded to do that? I house ruled that penalties won't apply until the beginning of the next round, and the momentary penalties last for the whole round; to me this seems a lot clearer, but the combat does lose some flavour.


Ah. This is important. Damage penalties always apply to the character's next roll, whether in this current round or in the next round. Don't "time" the penalties. Just say, "next roll" and that always works out best.


The one thing that still confuses me here is that I'm not sure whether "sucking up an attack" works just like other actions.

1) Can you/do you have to roll even if you are incapable of any action?
2) Can the player get role-playing bonuses to add to this one-die roll?
3) Do you substract damage penalties from this roll (actually adding dice to the attacker's roll)? So if you had 10 points of lasting damage, lying unconscious and dying on the ground, the attacker would get to add 10 dice to his attack roll? That would be brutal.

I guess you clear up all momentary damage any incapacitated characters might have during the announce actions step, as they "choose" to do nothing at all. And the same is true for sorcerers who succeed in shaking away the pain.

Hmm. One more little thing. How do you handle zero-dice characters during the intentions step? Do you add the die to other characters' rolls before or after the initiative roll?
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Mikko
Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2003, 08:55:44 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Anyhow, on the whole object communicating idea, consider that not only turning off powers can be communicative but so can turning them on. If the demon is the user of a Stamina Boost and you're the target, it can say a lot if the demon uses the power to boost you when you'd not requested it. Just another technique.

Mike


Yeah, I thought about this. It gets even more interesting when the demon with Boost Lore and Power greater than your Lore decides to fill the sorcerer's mortal mind with visions of dark glory and wonder. The task on hand must be REALLY important for the demon!
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Mikko
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2003, 09:23:57 AM »

Hint is like that, but even better for punctuating a message.

Mike
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2003, 09:24:33 AM »

Wow, rules-talk! This is great.

OK, let's start with you, Tim. First, you really weren't off the mark at all in any of your answers; the difference between our posts arises from one simple thing. I'll illustrate it using the demon injury and effects-on-Power issue.

Quote
How come? In one of the threads on wacky demons you mention an instance of transport's power to stamina limit being increased by bonus dice which via currency become power. It essentially lets an otherwise wimpy demon eat bigger stamina folks. Why is the application of special damage and vitality immune to this? Simply because they aren't rolled? Doesn't ability point=dice apply whether it's rolled or not? I'm sure I'm missing something but not sure what.


Well, it's really a matter of whether you want to apply the Currency or not. If you do, then yes, it works as you say. If you don't, then it doesn't. My favorite example concerns rolling-over victories ... let's say you perform roll A, you succeed with two victories, and thus add two dice to your roll B. No problem. But now let's say, you perform roll A, you fail with two victories against you, and thus ... do you subtract two dice from your roll B? By the Currency, you could, and it'd be "consistent" in System terms. But that's not part of the textual rules, because that particular application of the Currency is obstructive to fun play in most cases.

So I figure the non-rolled ability situation, in terms of Power and damage penalties, is exactly the same. Yeah, if you wanted to have that be the case, you can, and it'd work just as you'd expect using the Currency equation. But whether to apply the Currency is a choice, not a fixed expectation.

Regarding conferring, yup, the demon is still providing the "power," so it still gets fatigued. Remember the circuit-breaker analogy, and consider the demon to be the battery at all times.

Now for Mikko.

Quote
The one thing that still confuses me here is that I'm not sure whether "sucking up an attack" works just like other actions.


It only shows up after everyone's already rolled, so it's not announced during the intentions phase. The "suck up" applies when you've announced action A, then see a faster action aimed at you, and then choose not to abort action A.

Quote
1) Can you/do you have to roll even if you are incapable of any action?


Yes. Do note that if a character is reduced to 0 dice for an action, he or she still rolls one die, and the opponent gets to add a die.
Now, I'll qualify the above answer by referring you as well to the list of special combat situations at the end of Chapter 6, which includes grossly high damage categories and a few other time-savers for dealing with targets who are immobilized or at very close range or both.
Quote
2) Can the player get role-playing bonuses to add to this one-die roll?


Yes, but keep it snappy and brief. It's a bonus for intense and emotionally-affecting role-playing, not for gaudy and verbose description.
3) Do you substract damage penalties from this roll (actually adding dice to the attacker's roll)? So if you had 10 points of lasting damage, lying unconscious and dying on the ground, the attacker would get to add 10 dice to his attack roll? That would be brutal.[/quote]
Ah! As you can see from above, the answer is Yes, and yes, it is brutal.  

Quote
I guess you clear up all momentary damage any incapacitated characters might have during the announce actions step, as they "choose" to do nothing at all. And the same is true for sorcerers who succeed in shaking away the pain.

Actually those are two different issues. Let me do the easy one first. Basically, when a sorcerer shakes off the pain, he or she gets no damage penalties at all for the next action. And after that, the temporary ones are "gone" (they were never applied in the first place) and only the lasting ones now remain.
Your other question (the first part of the above quote) confuses me. During the announce actions step, incapacitated characters are pretty much hosed - they wheeze and clutch themselves, or writhe around on the ground, or just bleed. (The exception would be a sorcerer character who announces (a) he's going for the Will roll and (b) what he intends to do if he makes it.) But these characters will roll, if they're targeted by someone, and if that roll is the first one since they took the damage, then yes, their penalties will apply as described above. The penalties just "clear" if that character doesn't get attacked or otherwise have to roll.


Quote
Hmm. One more little thing. How do you handle zero-dice characters during the intentions step? Do you add the die to other characters' rolls before or after the initiative roll?


H'mm ... I'm not sure if you're seeing that the "initiative" rolls and the resolution rolls are same things. I think the above text answers your question about the intentions step, but since every active character rolls only once, that's the roll that gets the bonus dice if any.

Best,
Ron
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Tim Alexander
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2003, 10:00:28 AM »

Again, let me just say how cool it is to have you here to answer this stuff Ron.

Quote
So I figure the non-rolled ability situation, in terms of Power and damage penalties, is exactly the same. Yeah, if you wanted to have that be the case, you can, and it'd work just as you'd expect using the Currency equation. But whether to apply the Currency is a choice, not a fixed expectation.


Ok cool, so whether you use the Currency in a given situation is determined by social contract, that makes sense to me.

Quote
Regarding conferring, yup, the demon is still providing the "power," so it still gets fatigued. Remember the circuit-breaker analogy, and consider the demon to be the battery at all times.


The battery analogy makes it really clear, I like it.

-Tim
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Mikko Lehtinen
Member

Posts: 41


« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2003, 10:25:52 AM »

Yes, I did get the "one roll to rule them all" from the beginning. No separate initiative rolls. I think I now know pretty much how everything should work, and I really like the fast and deadly feel of Sorcerer combat. I like it so much that I've been happy to invest a fortune on new, shiny d10s. ;-)

The first part that confused you in my last message: I was only interested about when the momentary penalties clear if the character doesn't get to roll any dice for some time. And the answer seems to be "at the end of the next round after getting the damage." This is when the momentarily incapacitated characters get back their ability to function.

In the second confusing part I was worrying about how to handle characters with zero dice in combat. (It might be my sometimes awkward English that is causing these slight misunderstandings.)

Let's see. Camilla, with zero dice, is trying to slice into Anna with her sabre. It just seems a little weird that Anna would get a bonus die for whatever action she was trying. The other option would be not to add the die until Anna actually has to defend against Camilla. This is what I meant by adding dice "after the initiative roll".
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Mikko
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2003, 10:43:21 AM »

Hi Mikko,

I see! All right, I can help.

Quote
Camilla, with zero dice, is trying to slice into Anna with her sabre. It just seems a little weird that Anna would get a bonus die for whatever action she was trying. The other option would be not to add the die until Anna actually has to defend against Camilla. This is what I meant by adding dice "after the initiative roll".


Here's the idea. Camilla is currently very badly injured or stunned in some way, and her sabre-strike at Anna is pretty lame. Camilla has to roll something; she does have some little chance at succeeding. But her 0-dice roll should be worse than if she'd been reduced to 1 die instead of 0. That "worse-ness" is reflected by giving Anna another die. It's not her "bonus" - it's still Camilla's penalty, acting in Anna's favor.

I've playtested the rules using the alternative, which is to roll more dice and add them into the existing already-rolled pools. I think the current version is more playable, faster, and makes just as much sense.

Best,
Ron
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