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Relationship maps and the Rat-Bastard

Started by sirogit, October 26, 2003, 10:24:45 AM

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When I was freely constructing my own relationship map for my sorcerer game, I noticed something rather peculier that connects with two of the examples of relationship maps in Sorcerer & Soul, and that is.

They're composed of either A)A chain of connections, usually along family/affair lines(Day of Dupes )B)A series of isolated groups(The Forbidden Tome; My sorcerer game.). It seems non-obstructive yet not really conductive to dynamic storytelling until one modification: The Rat Bastard. The guy that is running around, dealing out shit to everyone. While it's quite possible to have the relationships centered on a more innocent character, they tend to have the events happen to them, so it would lack the dyanamcy that comes with being a Rat Bastard.  

Though, I would think that, once you kill/disable/remove the Rat Bastard, as characterss acting in everyone's best intereast would be motivated to do,  it would seem that the majority of conflicts and much of the verve of the story would be gone, so that it would be time to develop a new Scenario, no?

I'm quite aware I lack the elegance for literary discussion that most people here possess,  so I will try to focus on what's going on in my game and let others expound on what I said if any wish to do so.

In my game, I'm building the relationship map on there being a Rat Bastard, made up to be someone who would be antithetical to all of the characters ideals in some way, and is the connecting point for the relationship maps which are based on everyone's concepts for NPCs and are otherwise unconnected. By doing so, I'd hope that it creates an incentive for the characters to work together, without any sort of GM push aside from a perfectly legitimate setting.

One issue I have is though: If a character finds out about the bastardness of the rat bastard and removes him from the picture, it would make everyone considerably less connected, and I think it would be somewhat hard to make a another convinceing  connecting point for the PCs if they did not have much meaningful interaction beforehand, without seeming terribly coincidental.


Well, won't the characters have to deal with the fall out of the rat bastard's actions? That should provide a few sessions worth of entertainment.

What if they got the wrong guy?

Or he has buddies?

Or is a VIP in some manner in the 'normal' world?

Ron Edwards


This issue is a key factor in playing Sorcerer - relationship maps generate tension and conflict among the NPCs specifically as they interact with and about the player-characters. That is to say, whatever conflict spawned the current problems and tensions (i.e., whatever the Rat Bastard did), is not what anyone is "trying to stop." Those problems and tensions have snowballed. Other things have happened, specifically during play.

Don't think of it as one guy with one plot/crime that generates one problem for player-characters. That's low-grade superhero scenario creation: suss out bad guy's plot, find bad guy, fight and stop bad guy. Sorcerer is very, very different.

You see, conflicts develop through actual play itself. The Kicker is not a conflict; it "opens" conflict. The back-story is not a conflict; it "feeds" conflicts. The real issues of play develop by and through the player-characters and whom they choose to care about, and why.

Head over to the Actual Play at the Sorcerer site, and click on the following games:

Sorcerer, 1st game (by Trevis Martin)
My current Sorcerer game: modern necromancy and all related threads
The last girl on Earth (especially the third link in the series: the J B Bell's Sorcerer game one)
Southern Fried Sorcerer and all related threads

And last but not least, the Art-Deco Melodrama series of threads.

You'll see again and again that people fear that "find bad guy, stop bad guy" will be the focus of play, and then to their astonishment discover that it's not really what play is about. In fact, in my necromancy game, you'll find that it's practically trivial.



Quote from: Ron Edwards
Don't think of it as one guy with one plot/crime that generates one problem for player-characters. That's low-grade superhero scenario creation: suss out bad guy's plot, find bad guy, fight and stop bad guy. Sorcerer is very, very different.

Oh, that's the first thing I would wish to avoid. One of the mantras I had going into this game was "Keep everything personal." I think that one bit about the sister showing up at the doorstep vs. the lich founding a civilization was golden.

I don't see the villian as providing the majority of the conflict, but rather, he provides a coherent means for the PCs to be connected. I just imagine this being a solid backbone of a reason for the isolated groups of NPCs to interact with each other.  

If the villian is removed somehow(And I personally disfavor the idea of putting anopther henchmen in his place, it seems like invaliding the PCs choice in disposing of the villian. On the otherhand, I could understand if it gives rise to an equally depraved counterpower, if they were thematicly distinct.)the problem I would see is that the characters are less connected than they would be if the villian existed.

I think the part where I slipped up was that I was thinking of making it so that the NPCS significant interactions would come in play. Perhpas it would be better if the game is written so that it begins with the NPCs already having the most significant interactions with each other, meaning

A)The whole "dependning on a villian as catalyst" angle would be moot.
B)The plot would focus more on the NPCs significant interactions with the PCs.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

You might be overestimating the importance of the villain in keeping the player-characters together for two reasons.

1. Player-characters and their demons have a way of getting very close, very fast - either positively or negatively. A shared external problem may put them together, yes, but a few interactions among the (at least) four characters involved (per pair of PCs) will often go quite a long way.

2. "Keeping them together" may not be a big deal anyway. In fact, in many Sorcerer games, it's completely irrelevant. As long as the actual people at the table are emotionally engaged with one another's characters, it doesn't really matter whether the characters are either in the same imaginary locale or concerned with the same in-game problems.