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Stat Scaling in Sorcerer

Started by Calithena, October 27, 2003, 02:58:12 PM

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I've seen Ron imply in a thread on that demons with Power 15 can 'eat Cthulhu'.

Where does that leave demons like Gutterblax and Lashtipus from Charnel Gods, with stats in the thirties and fifties? Well, OK, so they ate all the gods a long time ago, but you see the problem: I'm wondering about scaling issues.

Part of this is obviously 'to taste', but Ron and others more experienced with the system may have useful advice here.

Particularly I'm wondering: what sort of stats would you expect the highest exemplars of the sorcerous type to have on a particular game-world. It might vary highly: the best sorcerors might just have the best demons. But still: is it possible to communicate a rough sense of 'the ceiling' here?

A beginning character who buys down Humanity under the S&S rules can start e.g. with Stamina or Will 9, the other one 3, Lore 1, and Humanity 3. So it seems like the 'stronger' characters should be higher than this. But every point is a pretty big deal in a system like this, so I'm just trying to get a sense for how this could or should work itself out.

Ron Edwards


With all respect to Scott, those high-Power demons were not playtested especially carefully ... and I think he may have found himself using a misinterpretation of Boost during playtesting as well, such that he wasn't dropping the Power of Special Damage when the demon Boosted. So a certain artificial inflation of the system might have been going on.

Now, I could be wrong, but I suspect that those humungous scores might be much better off as 15s, and perhaps 20s, in actual play. I can't say for sure because I haven't tried them myself yet. Also, the majority of the Fell Weapons in the text are built dead-on to what I'd expect and prefer - "down" there at Power 8 and 12 and such-like.

On a slightly different topic, I strongly encourage people not to apply standard game-up logic to Sorcerer. That logic would suggest that whatever a starting character can do or be, characters who play for a while would necessarily "go higher." There are several undesirable assumptions being made with this logic.

The first one, specifically, is that NPCs "work like" PCs. They may well not. In a particular game, start a character with Stamina 9 ... and that's the strongest guy around, ever, even if he is "starting." That could be an irrelevant consideration for that game.

The second undesirable assumption is that characters will necessarily increase as time goes by. Scores increase when you successfully roll Humanity against them, per Kicker. In our Azk'Arn and Demon Cops games, that usually took four to six sessions. And a session of one of those games was worth about four to six sessions of traditional (e.g. AD&D2 or RuneQuest) play, in terms of how much happened.

So extrapolating from a "beginning" character to an "advanced" one just doesn't follow the usual role-playing model in Sorcerer. There's no need to pile on extra points to NPCs because "they've been around."




Your points make good sense, and I will drop the 'beginning' logic from future posts - it's not a good one for the S&S genre, which is the aspect of Sorcerer I'm most interested in, anyway.

If I were to infer an oblique answer to my actual question from what you wrote, it might go something like this: almost nothing needs to be over 10; nothing whatsoever really needs to be over 20.

Maybe to get a little more precise: if you were statting the villain back from the dead in Hour of the Dragon, what would his Will and Lore scores be?

Elric at the pinnacle of his sorcerous career?

I'm not really meaning to pin you down absolutely, and different campaigns may need different numbers, and all of that - I'm just trying to get a rough guideline here. I could see why you might not want to give one, but it can't hurt to ask.

Ron Edwards

H'mmm ....

Xaltotun I'd put at the following:

Stamina 3 (big and vigorous), Will 5 (leader of men + aristocrat), Lore 4 (inhuman), Past 6 (king of Acheron)

People might be surprised at these "low" scores, but really, what's the point of making him way tougher? It's not like he has to be like a Champions villain, built to withstand a swarm of player-characters in combat. I don't remember a whole lot of him doing much in the story besides looming around and being scary; he doesn't even fight Conan at any particular point.

No, what Xaltotun has going for him is his scheme to restore Acheron. I figure he's got at least 10 dice going for him in the form of a Token already, and there's your huckleberry in terms of in-game effectiveness. If he can butcher all those armies at once like he plans, then the Token kicks in literally to change the setting in a very Charnel Gods kind of way.

Then again, if you want to use the lich rules, that modifies the above scores and gives him a few demon abilities as well, so apply as you see fit.

As for Elric, let's see, didn't I do this already? Maybe it was back on the Gaming Outpost.

Stamina 1 (sickly), Will 5 (inhuman aristocrat + unlucky in love), Lore 5 (inhuman), Past 4 (emperor of Melnibone), starting Humanity 3 (traded 1 up), Price -1 (gullible)

You'll notice he's written up as a starting character, and I don't see any special need to ramp him up from that. I figure if you want to pop on another point or two, here and there, that's OK ... maybe Stamina up to 2 for the novel Stormbringer, when he's not such a jellyfish without the sword to suck on (I mean! to draw energy from! that's what I meant).

How about Stormbringer itself?
Stamina 6, Will 7, Lore 6, Power 7

Abilities: Special Damage, Travel, Vitality (confers to Elric), Armor (for itself), Boost Lore, possibly Taint
Desire: Ruin, Need: Love
All the "soul-sucking" doesn't have to be quantified; it's just damage. The notion of a transfer from sucked-soul to the Vitality is dependent not on the amount stolen (as mis-understood by most gamers) but rather on Elric meeting the sword's Need (which he barely understands).

Wow, Stormbringer seems kind of piddly, doesn't it? Until you recognize that it's a Token as well as an Object demon, and has racked up a considerable score based on murders Elric commits with it. Note, not just deaths - murders, of those he cares about. I'm talking about Cymoril, Rackhir, Moonglum, and so on ... interestingly, since Zarozinia sacrifices herself to the sword, it gains nothing (and even complains about it). So that's a fair amount of dice you can add to the blade's Power too, at least 4 or 5 at any given moment.

To clarify a couple of things, I consider the Beast/Elemental Lord stuff to be Contact + Summon + Pact, most of it. Elric's relationship with Arioch is a bit more problematic, as some of the stories involve Binding and some don't ... I consider Elric not to be Bound to Arioch in the final novel, for instance.



I think I'm getting the hang of this a little better now.

If you think about these characters, they do change a little over time, but only a little. Conan gains several points of Past over his adventures, but only 1-2 Will, 1 Lore, and 0-1 Stamina. Elric gains maybe 1 of each, maybe 2 of Lore. Many characters don't even change that much.  Cyrion, for instance, probably doesn't change at all - of course, he only has one book. And Liran Wolfbaiter, why, he hasn't changed one bit.

Ron Edwards

Hi Sean,

As far as I can tell, characters in most Sorcerer-type stories, of whatever genre or "genre," change mainly in terms of Cover/Past, occasionally descriptors, demons Bound or not-Bound, and Humanity.

Character effectiveness in Sorcerer increases dramatically when the character develops something of a personal theme over time, both in terms of "cool!" bonuses and "affects story greatly" bonuses.

So even if your character Calithena had Will 6 or so, given all this play history and all this dramatic context for her as she currently stands, you could rack in a few extra dice on almost every roll when the fires are really burning in a particular game session. There's no need to give her a Will of 9 or 10 just because you can't stand to think of her being out-Willed by anyone.



Hey! You switched back to the topic of the other thread!


No, it's not that. It's just that she's supposed to be this super-talented but erratically schooled adept...and I was trying to think of a way to represent off the scale magical talent with the numbers given, and Will made the most sense on a first pass. But actually having had this discussion I think I'd lower her numbers to 2/8/6/6/-1/3 or something around there based on this conversation...still got to think about the more central narrativist elements harder though.

Mike Holmes

I think part of the "gamer" psychology that some people have to overcome is the idea of what makes a character impressive. In most RPGs, there's something about the character that makes them stand out as quite superhuman. In D&D warriors can take obscene amounts of abuse (or avoid them, depending on perspective), and wizards can cast tremendous spells.

Consider the first level Wizard in D&D. He's pathetic, right? Well, only in the context of his world. What if he only existed in a world where humans typically had 4 Hit Points? Then that magic missile starts looking like a horrific weapon, doesn't it?

There's no "scaling up" in Sorcerer, much like in the real world. If you have a power that allows you to do something like cast "light" from D&D, you are better than everyone else in the whole world, with the possible exception of the demons and other Sorcerers. It doesn't take a 15 Power demon to be horrifically impressive, just a 2 power one that makes you invisible will do fine. Consider the novel and movie, the Invisible Man. In his world are his powers "meager"? No, he's the most dangerous man on earth. Because he can do stuff that nobody else can, and worse, that nobody believes can be done.

So, if you're an "experienced gamer", you have to leave your RPG assumptions at the door. I could create a Stormbringer that was much weaker than Rons that would still be impressive, because it has horrible abilities that nobody else (well, one other sword) has.

Also, consider that what makes somebody dangerous in the real world isn't some special ability to be dangerous. Sorcerer puts danger where it belongs, in the hands of those willing to be dangerous. The scariest person is the one willing to kill you. Not "the biggest one willing to kill you", just anyone.

Once people start thinking in terms of Sorcerer being set in the real world, the "scale" suddenly snaps into place, IMO, and Sorcerers become dangerous badasses. No matter what scores are assigned to them.

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That's right, Mike. I made an error in thought connected to familiar experiences in the fantasy gaming milieu, which has now been corrected.

"Experienced" gamers are usually experienced gamers - there's no need to put the word under quotation, I think. What's really at issue in your quotation marks is that some people who have been gaming a long time have inflexible ideas about what gaming ought to be. I am not among them, however.

Interestingly, there was a time when D&D normals had from one to seven hit points, and magic missiles could well be regarded as terrifying. 3e has more or less gotten rid of that as well, but again, the sense that a first level character was in some ways already a superman (note "Veteran" as the title for first level fighters) was a background assumption of OD&D and 1e. But that's probably a subject for another thread, in another forum.


This may be somewhat unrelated, but couldn't a 15 Power demon be defeated by say, 10 reasonably trained men quite easily?  I'm not really sure how the System treats groups of people versus powerful characters...

Does this come up much in playing Charnel Gods? the calvary coming in against the big demons and whatnot...

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Generally, the game system handles such an event as per usual - what it usually means is that the multiple opponents get so many attacks that they typically force the single target to abort his attacks consistently, for defense. Sooner or later, attacks will get through.

However, as far as a demon of monstrous Power is concerned, bear in mind that it has lots of demon abilities. The impact of its attacks can therefore be quite horrible, if its abilities are cleverly constructed. A squad of cavalrymen (and their horses) who encounters a Taint of 15 will probably be thrown into disarray immediately, by the rules. Travel, Warp, Perception, and others will all play similar roles ... and hell, a Special Damage of Power higher than 6 or 7 will vaporize most normal characters. Note that "overkill" successes can quite easily be 'ported to secondary targets ...

So I'm saying that yes, a demon with Power 15 or 20 is typically able to massacre considerable numbers of people, armed with cavalry lances or machine-guns or perhaps even tanks. I suggest that Sorcerer GMs need to get very accustomed to the abilities concept and applications to be good at this, but it is indeed possible and even predictable.

I've seen demons of Power 10 or 12 be brought low by a group of sorcerer player-characters, yes, but only when they were packing demons themselves, and only when they worked in very committed tandem.