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Started by Ben Lehman, October 07, 2003, 03:06:03 PM

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Ben Lehman

This post is a little off the wall, but I've been stretching Sorcerer inside my head recently, and I've come up with an "interpretation" which I find interesting enough to share with the public.

(note: I come up with more interpretations of Sorcerer than I will ever run, and this is low on the list [on the top are 15 minutes and charnel gods].  However, I post these in the hope that someone might find something they want in them.)

The root of this is a question about the game system:

Q) Are Demons and Humanity fundamentally opposed?
A) Not necessarily.

Setting:  A world, much like our own, but more G rated and with the added presence of cute little space aliens / monsters from another dimensions / collectable battle monsters.  See Pokemon, Digimon, Monster Ranchers, Robotrek, etc.

Sorcery in Setting:  The Sorcerers are kids who are empowered to bind these creatures to them, by a "soul tie," by imprisoning them in a container, or by any other means not too upsetting to family values.  The Sorcerers battle amongst each other for supremacy in collection and use of Demons.

Sorcery in System: The act of Contact is merely hearing about a Demon.  Summoning is a wacky adventure tracking it down, and Binding is the act of placing it under your control (almost always Lore vs. Lore.)  You can't gain a bonus out of human sacrifice (Not G-rated enough) but you can get a bonus from performing some humanity-violating thing in the pursuit of the Demon -- provided that you apologize for it later.

Humanity:  The obvious choice for Humanity is ties to other people outside the Sorcerous world -- but that is wildly untrue to the source material, in which the kids are encouraged to become more involved in their pursuit (gotta sell those toys, after all...)
 In order to generate a Pokemon like atmosphere, we define humanity as "Goodguyness" which is defined as "Good Treatment of Others, Most Especially Demons."  So the good guys are good because they are nice to their demons, and the bad guys are bad because the mistreat them.  The demons, here, are fundamentally innocent, and mistreatment of them is always bad.  This is why the act of binding a demon is a detriment to humanity -- you are taking an innocent and binding it to your will.
 If you wanted a particularly scary version of this, you could define Humanity as "Good Treatment of Demons only," which would lead to a scary, insular, impulsive collector sort of feel.  Very Digimon: "Only you understand me, Demon..."  (This type of humanity definition could also be very good for a medicine man style Sorcerer where Humanity measures how much demons respect you.  Go to 0 and you just can't perform sorcery -- the demons won't obey you.)

This is posted for public consumption.  Consume.


Mike Holmes

I think your central observation is incorrect. I think that Humanity and Demons are neccessarily opposed. Otherwise, there's no balance. That is, in your game, why should I not summon a 100 Power Demon if I can find a way? Why would Humanity make this harder (which the rules accomplish)?

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Ben Lehman

Quote from: Mike HolmesThat is, in your game, why should I not summon a 100 Power Demon if I can find a way? Why would Humanity make this harder (which the rules accomplish)?

BL> First note If You Can Find A Way.  This, in and of itself, is difficult.

 Humanity makes it harder because good guys have to do things "the right way--" i.e. make friends with the demon before binding it.  Bad guys can just walk up and grab it.

 Note that just because demons are innocent doesn't mean that they aren't frustratingly quirky and disobedient.  One of the key principles of the source material is that all Demons have assorted "personality issues" that the Sorcerers have to deal with in some way (Pikachu doesn't like the Pokeballs, Meowth is bitingly sarcastic, I think Bulbasaur eats too much.)  The Sorcerer is required to deal with these and accomplish his own goals, preferably in a way that is nice to both himself and the demon.

 Let me give an example.  You're an 11-year old kid.  You're stuck with your 6-year old very obnoxious younger brother, and you need to make him behave.  You can try to talk to him about it or physically get him in line (restrain.)  You also have a knife (punish) and a gun (banish.)

 Now, let's say your little brother can shoot fire from his eyes, tear down buildings without thinking about it, and can possess people.

 Hurting your little brother is bad.  But what do you do?

 Rampaging Demons is a huge chunk of the source material -- but it always turns out that the demon didn't mean to hurt people, it just didn't understand.  The higher the power, the worse the rampages, and the harder that they are to stop.


edit: Orbit-style punctuation spreads like a virus.

Mike Holmes

Quoteand a gun (banish.)

So, if I have a gun, and banish your demon with it, I gain Humanity by the rules. How is that treating the pocket monsters well?

There are probably more inconsistencies like this that I'm not thinking of right now. I think your humanity/sorcery explanation is ingenious, but I think that you're going to continue to find places where you're going to have to twist things. For example, what is Sorcery? Why does it lower Humanity? If humanity is being nice, then Sorcery is by definition being nasty, as doing Sorcery has the potential to lower humanity. So Sorcerers are all being nasty to the creatures in question.

If the moral of the story is to be good, then why don't all the good Sorcerers just let the little monsters go? Why is the competition so damn important? Why do we have to "collect them all"? As it stands, the only motives seem selfish.

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Ron Edwards

Hi there,

As it happens, I was working up a Sorcerer model for all this myself. I decided that I needed to go to the source material and learn more about the difference between all Pokemon-wranglers and everyone else. If there isn't any, then something has to be invented.

Mike, I'm also thinking that every corner doesn't have to be nailed down tight in terms of in-game justification. The whole culture of Pokemon-based competition, for instance, can just be accepted, to my way of thinking, for purposes of play. Sometimes Color is enough.


Mike Holmes

I dunno. I just think I like the version that says that Humanity is giving up your CCG addiction. :-)

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.


It'd seem to me the strongest issue dividing the good monster-keepers versus the bad monster-keepers is "Taking good care of your pets". It's somewhat hard to think of a catchy one-word name for humanity in such a case, "Patronage", "benevolence" or "Caring", understandingly applied to the monsters, would seem to work. As far as "Caring"(Humanity) being opposed to "Monster-use"(Sorcery), to use them is not bad, but it can lead to seeing them as a tool which is wrong. It would be understandable that in capturing a monster, you

A) antagonize it to a certain extent(Trapping it, weakekening it to capture it, training it to fight, etc.)

B)By collecting more monsters for the sole purpose of using them, you lower the intimate connection between you and your monsters.

Banishing causing you to gain Caring seems to make some sense in the whole scheme of teammanship bringing you together, competetion, winning is good for the monsters, and success means triumphing through your values, even if that idea is a little wonky in reality.

Two other suggestions I would make is rolling your Humanity for interaction with the creatures, and for monsters to be able to increase in power, wherein they gain new Abilities, like the doppleganger example demon in the Sorcerer book such as:

Some, ghost monster thing:

At Power 2: Psychic Force(It has a hypnotic, sleep-inducing power)
At Power 3: Hold(It can strangle creatures with it's tounge)
At Power 4: Daze(It's intense stare makes one lose their balance)
At Power 5: Taint(Hexing)
At Power 6: Shadow(It gains control over the movement of shadows)
At Power 7: Confuse(It's mastery of it's own presence)
At Power 8: Special Damage:Lethal(Some sort of energy sucking ability)


I think there are some other differences with respect to the 'good' vs. 'bad' guys.

Look at Team Rocket vs. Ash & Co.

Ash & Co.:
o Respect Authority
o Help those in need
o Value Knowledge
o Treat their pets well
o Have Empathy
o Earnest

Team Rocket:
o Self Centered
o Greedy
o Sneaky
o Lying
o Arrogant
o Disdainful

Another important thing is how they use their pokemon.  Aside from ritual battles, Ash uses his pokemon to help other pokemon or other people.  Team Rocket primarily use their pokemon to further selfish goals.

I think Ben is right in that the Pokemon seem to be more or less innocent.  The only 'evil' one appears to be Meowth, who is also the only one capable of speaking english.

Anyway, I think you need to broaden Humanity beyond just being nice to your pets.  I think it needs to include empathy for others (both pokemon and person) and also the ends to which you put your abilities.

Being a sorcerer (ie, a Pokemon trainer) is a worthwhile goal, but it's not a sufficient end unto itself.  It's the primary motivator of Ash's journey, but Misty and Brock have other, complimentary goals and none of them let their goals keep them from excercising their Empathy for others.  Actually, maybe this is Humanity -- having goals outside of sorcery?  Ash is motivated to become a great Pokemon trainer, but he still puts helping others ahead of that goal.  Brock wants to be a Pokemon breeder (I think), and Misty has some focus on Water pokemon.  Team Rocket, on the other hand, has gaining more and more powerful pokemon as their primary goal, and subvert everything else to it.  So it seems like either obsession in general, or with Sorcery in particular, indicates low Humanity.

Also, look at how you become a good sorcerer.  By understanding your pets, taking care of them, and respecting them.

Plus, Ash doesn't achieve the goal of being a great sorcerer.  I haven't seen all of them, but I seem to recall a big climactic tournament at the end of the first or second season where Ash DID NOT win first place.  He wasn't the best sorcerer, but he was still the good-guy protagonist...

(Yes, I watch too much kiddie tv.  Sue me =)   Next up, Sorcerers Calvin, Charlie Brown, and Binkley, and their demons Hobbes, Snoopy, and Opus)
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,

Check out the conversation in Sorcerer and ... Pokemon begun by the illustrious Madcat.