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The Asylum: A First Pass Sorcerer One Sheet

Started by jburneko, September 12, 2003, 01:50:34 PM

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Yes!  Yes!  Yes!

You may be insane but that doesn't necessarily mean you're the most dysfunctional person around!  In fact your insanity may place you in the unique position of percieving, judging and rectifying those dysfunctions around you.

I THINK this is what I've been trying to get at from the begining.

I just found out that the first of a planned series of compiled reprints for "The Maxx" was just printed last month.  I will have to track this down.


Christopher Kubasik

Hi Jesse and All,

I finally got a chance to read through this thread carefully.  Forgive me if you've all gotten to this point already, but I thought I'd try to make an idea that only seems to be floating around here explicit:

These are people who go to the "other side" of insanity and bring back something for people who are sane in the real world.  This is a typical "mythic pattern," if you will (found in both Joseph Campbell and Tolkien's essay "On Fairie Tales" if anyone wants more info (and for those of you who don't like Campbell much, let it slide, cause it's not key here).  It's also key in the heroquests of HeroQuest.

The idea is that the hero from this world goes to the world of myth and magic and returns with something for people to use.  He's suffered the dangers of Fairie or Myth, grows for it, and comes back with something the real world needs -- a something that could only be found in the realm of myth.

It seems to me that the Sorcerers of the Asylum have found a real, honest to god connection to the world of myth, perhaps even just like HeroQuestors.   But with two unique hitches: 1) They're living in the twentieth century, where the world of magic is viewed as, by definition, a pathological problem, 2) they can't quite actually leave the world of Myth behind.

Number two is very important.  Whether it's Jack in Jack in the Beanstalk or a Hoertling returning to his village, these folks have a real world to return to.  They leave the world of magic, an extraordinary place that they percieve as *alien* behind.  

The Sorcerers in the Asylum have more than one foot in Fairie, it seems to me, and suffer for it.

Because they know how desperately the world needs the cures from Fairie / Myth / Other Place, and will take dangerous risks to stay there.  This is the heroic element Ron asked about (and others have discussed earlier).  

Going with sirogit's comments that the Kicker involves the chance to get out of this pecular job (permanment myth walker), there's a horrible challenge before the Sorcerer: "Should I?"  After all, if there's only three dozen or so of these sorcerers in the world of Asylum attending to this stuff, what happens if *I* stop?  But what would it be like to be like all the people I've been helping?

Imagine HQ, where you're trapped in the world of Myth and you can't get back to the place where all your Key Words mean something....

Anywhoo, that's how I see it.  Give the Sorcerer's real world connections with people who depend (unwittingly or not) upon their forays into the realm of Dreams and it seems to me you're ready to rock.

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


Hello Christopher,

It had been kind of in the back of my mind but I'm glad you spelled it out.  It means the concept is coming across.  Everytime I've talked about this delusional otherworld I've kind of had this little mental coda in my mind say, "kind of Mythic, really."  But I never seem to say it out loud.

You even draw parallels between HeroQuest and my idea and I think that's very interesting.  I recently purchased HeroQuest (I'm about 50% of the way through it) and so far it isn't really doing anything for me.  This concept of an otherworld constructed from the delusions of the insane and that somehow the things from this otherworld might actually be usefull, indeed NEEDED here, excites me to no end.  And I think it has to do with the fact that I really can believe in such a place on the real-but-not-real paradox level of the infamous "Not Here."  I can believe it and it freaks me out, the hallmark of a good Sorcerer setup.

"The Sorcerers in the Asylum have more than one foot in Fairie, it seems to me, and suffer for it."

"Imagine HQ, where you're trapped in the world of Myth and you can't get back to the place where all your Key Words mean something...."

"Give the Sorcerer's real world connections with people who depend (unwittingly or not) upon their forays into the realm of Dreams and it seems to me you're ready to rock."

These three statements in particular are spot on.


Christopher Kubasik

Hi Jesse,

Well, getting some statements spot on is particularly exciting since I might get a chance to play in this game.

A new topic.  I'm really intrigued with the idea that each Sorcerer's delusional otherworld are somehow connected and interact with each other.  At first I though, "No way," because each Sorcerer's fucked-up-ness would be pretty unique.  But then I thought of the mythic realm from Moore's Promethea, the place where all dreams reside.  I suddenly saw a playing area where the players and GM bring in a LOT of color (Little Red Ridinghood (maybe carrying an Uzi now), Zeus, Gollum and the Holy Grail, as well as a little boy's room where the shadows really do house monsters all can find a home here.)

Or not.

Where were you thinking of going with this?

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Mike Holmes

This just sounds like my imagination. Where's the insanity? Or....


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Christopher Kubasik

Well, I think that's a good question Mike.

I think (though I might be wrong, I believe I have yet to wrap my head around Sorcerer), is that the demon's Needs and Desires will insure that the Sorcerer has a really hard time with Reality: isolation, destructive behavior, addictions to mind altering substances.

The image I keep getting is an old Irish Fisherman who sits every day by a tavern staring out at... What?  We don't know.  He's a visionary of sorts, who offers up beautiful poetry on occassion, keeping the town's spirit level in a time of destitution...

But he's a drunkard, a violent man on occassion, who can't seem to stay home and show his wife his love, and his children have all disowned him.  ("Poet" is great for the public, but something else when you have to live in the same house with him.)

The thing is, he's more *comfortable* in Fairie than in the real world.  But longs for a place in the real world.  But his Fairie Princess Muse will leave him if he doesn't pay propper homage and remain most loyal above all to her...

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


I've given some thought to that as well.  I hesitate to make the world of dellusions a COMPLETELY shared surreal mixing bowl of elements.  I think your kneejerk reaction that this otherworld is highly personalized is the correct one.  But I also like the idea of Sorcerer's being able to visit each other's dellusions and having SOME kind of impact there.

In fact, it might actually be worth investigating some rules tweaks.  In Sorcerer & Sword it takes a Contact roll to journey to The Otherworld.  I wanted to keep this preserved.  Perhaps it requires some variation on Summoning to enter or allow someone to enter your "domain" of the otherworld.  I very much like to think of Sorcerers as both Master and Prisoners of their own dellusions.  Perhaps you can shape other's "realities" with a Will vs. Will roll of some kind.

As for color I imagine the full range from horrifically nightmarish to freakishly "normal" and the interactions between being quite striking and surreal.

Example: PC A is a shell-shocked war vetran who's dellusional world consists of a blackend WWII battlefield.  PC B is a man with with gender-identity issues and his dellusional world consists of a uber-sterotypical 1950s suburban white-picket fence home where PC B is actually a model Martha Stewart housewife.

The interactions between these dellusions might look something like this:  PC B opens his/her front door to see a WWII wasteland while grass and roses can still be seen from the windows.  PC A sees a picturesq suburan home in the distance illuminated by a single ray of sunlight that breaks through the otherwise bleak and continuous clouds.  Wherever PC B walks in the WWII landscape flowers and grass sprout at his/her feet and everything in PC B's house bleeds or burns whenever PC A touches it.

The problem is I don't know if this compartmentalized but connected concept of the otherworld supports the Mythic concept you so well articulated and was niggling at the back of my mind.  Perhaps it pushes things back too much towards the "Sorcerers helping Sorcerers not be Sorcerers" problem.  When it comes to my personal aesthetic sensibilities I've allways been about sharp contrasts and smooth shading over muddy and fluid lines and mixtures.



Whoa!  I just had an idea.  Up above I wrote about Sorcerer's affecting each other's dellusional domains via Will rolls.  Now, I still see this otherworld being the "home" of and "owned" by the demons.   But what if Sorcerers don't "need" demons here, so to speak.  What if, while in the otherworld, Sorcerer's can weild power directly via Will rolls or better yet Lore rolls.  (i.e. substitue Lore for Power in the Demon Abilities description) but to weild that same power in the REAL world the Sorcerers have got to bring the Demons back with them.

I think this would certainly support my vision of insanity as dysfunctional self-defense mechanism rather than pure mental handicap.



Have you seen Psychosis?  Perhaps the otherworld is like the ship in Psychosis - it's a single unified place, but everyone's PERCEPTIONS of it are fundamentally different, to the point where they wouldn't recognize it as the same place by trying to describe it to one another (and they may not realize that they're interacting with one another INSIDE the space, they'll just recognize that an "other" is there).

So at the SAME TIME PC1 would see the WWII battlefield, PC2 would see the picket fences.  Any challenges would manifest themselves dually to both parties, and each party would recognize the other differently (and likely even filter dialogue and edit it to taste).

Just a thought.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Jesse,

I've been thinking about your "self-defense" mechanism for a couple of days.  I think you're close, but let me offer this.

If a Sorcerer gets is at an advantage in Delusional Land, fine.  It's an advantage.  So, working magic is easier there.  But there's really no "defense" invovled.

What I propose is this: An actual, life threatening penalty of some kind for being in the real world.  Something along the lines of (but this is just an under-baked example): the Sorcerer loses a point of Will for every day he's away from Delusional Land.  Whether or not the penalty kicked in before or after the Sorcerer had summoned his first demon is up to you.  (In one case, learning Sorcerry was means to stay alive, as the Sorcerer's will was draining from the pain of the world.  In the other, the Sorcerer ended up with a kind of alergy to reality after going toward the world of delusion to escape the mundane pain of the world.  From your previous posts it sounds as if you'd set it up so the PC was dying, and found Sorcery to survive.)

Since going to Delusional Land requires Sorcery, then Our Guy is in trouble every time he takes action in order to Survive.

Now, the getting stuff from the other-world to help others is vital, as it answers Ron's questions of Heroic.  But a Sorcery built on I-do-this-to-save-myself-and-others doesn't seem to be broken to me.  Though it does seem a bit squishy.  What I see happening is two very different styles of play: the broken-real-world-moments of pain and misery, where life is just sandpaper on the skin; and the empowered, I am a hero, master of my own domain, I know exactly what I'm doing and belong here kind of moments when in Delusional Land.  

When I see it that way, it seems less squishy than really, really sad. Because Our Guy, while in Delusional Land, really is healthy and at his best.  He's just got no way to transfer that to actual life because life is actually killing him.

How's that?

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


That's very interesting although I'm not sure about attaching an actual on-going mechanic to the condition.  I was thinking about self-defense as being a focus point for the origin story of the sorcerer and as a codifier for the relationship between demon and sorcerer.

Here are some more thoughts.

1) I think the Humanity definition needs to be revised.   "Rejecting delusion" isn't right after all we've discussed.  Now, it's a lot more like "acknowledging and strengthening empathic ties in the real world."

2) I also think I should construct a sample Sorcerer.  This will go a long way towards explaining what I mean by "self-defense."  With regards to this I give you:

Sorcerer: Lilly Savine
Appearance: A pleasent 10 year old girl with pigtails.

Telltale: Cries tears of blood.
Price: Childish (-1 to social interactions with adults)

Stamina: 2 Youthfull
Will: 4  Loving
Lore: 4 Solitary Adept
Cover: 4 School Girl
Humanity: 4

Demon: Billy
Type: Inconspicuous
Appearance: Billy is invisible but can manifest as a young boy a few years younger than Lilly.  He will only do this when Lilly is alone.
Telltale: Casts a shadow even when invisible.

Desire: Mischief
Need: To be talked about to adults.

Stamina: 3
Will: 6
Lore: 5
Power: 6
Abilities: Armor (Billy), Link, Armor(Lilly), Daze(Billy), Confuse(Billy)

Notes: The Armor-Link-Armor combination allows the overly protective "siblings" to suffer damage in place of the other.  Such that any abuse directed at Lilly is taken by Billy and vice versa.  Daze and Confuse are used by Billy to protect Lilly from uncomfortable conversations.

Origin: When Lilly was just three years old her mother got pregnant.  For nine months Lilly got very excited about having a little brother.  Sadly, the child was still born.  Lilly was crushed emotionally.  So much so, that she "invented" (i.e. Summoned) an imaginary brother named Billy.  Her and Billy play together all the time.  At first her parents thought it was just a phase but over the last seven years Lilly has insisted more and more that Billy is real and begun to play with him more and more to the exculsion of other children.  Finally, her parents decided there was nothing they could do and commited her to the asylum.

Kicker: During her stay Lilly has befriend a nurse named Laura.  Laura has taken on a mother-away-from-home role for Lilly.  But during her last visit Laura seemed distant and affraid.  When Lilly asked her what was wrong Laura said that she was being transfered to the "violence wing" and that a new nurse would be replacing her here in the "children's wing."

Her Otherworld: Lilly's otherworld is a large eerily empty amusment park where she and Billy play together alone.

3) Perhaps it's time to bring the other players in on this.  I have a lot of material with which to revise the one sheet and some good questions for players to think about.  I should start seeing if I can start co-ordinating schedules to get together to answer some of these questions and create characters.

However, in this thread I still would like a little feedback on the revised Humanity definition above as well as the sample character I provided.


Ron Edwards

Hi Jesse,

The revised Humanity definition works fine for me - it's actually the default definition for Sorcerer, with special reference to your localized sorcery definition. Sometimes the basics are indeed best.

I like the character, although the Kicker seems a little murky. That's a GM note-to-self, though, not a criticism I'd offer toward a player.

And finally, the set of ideas you've presented are definitely due for player input. I'd venture to say that any more prep on your part before getting them involved would be counter-productive.


Christopher Kubasik

What Ron said... But one quick question?

Could you give an example of Lilly's heroic angle? That's what got us going down the path of a lot of this thread.  Is that an issue anymore?  (I think it still needs to be.... But I may be projecting the game *I'd* run.)

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


No, the heroic angle is still an issue, especially in so far as it is synonimous with proactivity in the progtagonists.

Ron's right in that the Kicker is a little murky.  But writing sample kickers for a game I plan to GM is always very hard for me because it's very easy for me to fall into the playing-before-we-play trap.  So, I just stopped the Kicker at the first point of significant change to Lilly's situation but I could go on and add lots of details.

The way I see it, Lilly is very much a loving child (see Will descriptor) and wants desperately to be part of a functional family and she's not above constructing one if she has to.  First she's created the demon brother out of nothing but her own imagination.  Then, when her real mother abandons her she sets up this nurse as a mother figure in her absence.  But I know all of this mostly because I created her and I don't know how much of this I'd infer as a GM if all I saw was what was written above.

What I DO see is that there's this important figure Laura who's being taken away from Lilly and replaced by an unknown figure.  So I see two possibilities.

1) Laura is the important NPC to the player.  I could see a billion ways to threaten Laura and have Lilly sorcerously intervene.  It's alluded to in the Kicker that Laura is unhappy about her transfer.  Why?  Maybe there's a doctor whose sexual advances were rejected by Laura and he's punishing her by having her transfered to the less desirable more dangerous job.  

To go the weird route maybe there's some freakass dangerous sorcerer over in the violence wing who develops a thing for his new nurse.

The point is the question becomes what's this sweet little 10 year old girl going to do to save her pseudo-mother figure?  The restrictions of the setting, the potential interactions of the dellusional otherworld all provide for interesting creative tools for tackling that problem.

2) Laura isn't the important NPC, she's just gone, and it's the unknown NPC whose important in the player's mind.  In this case I'd make the new NPC either out-and-out hostile (kind of boring) or rather genuingly caring but totally missing the boat (more interesting).  Basically I'd make this nurse some kind of threat (directly or indirectly) to Lilly and the other children in the children's ward.

I can imagine Billy playing a big role in this.  Imagine this new nurse really wants to live up to her predecessor's reputation.  So, she tries to get Lilly to open up and communicate with her.  But Billy intervenes trying to "protect" his "sister" and uses lots of Daze and Confuse.  The poor nurse walks away the impression that Lilly is just too difficult to communicate with.

Because I can spot both possiblities I'd probably plan for both and inter-relate them somehow.  Add in the PCs other Kickers and The Asylum rapidly becomes populated with a nightmarish pile of conflicts and unhappy people.

Is that clear?


Ron Edwards

Hi Jesse,

I got it. But now, it's time to go to the players. Past time.