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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] First Date: Characters (session to follow)  (Read 7549 times)
Doyce
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« on: March 28, 2004, 12:08:15 PM »

So, with half of my inner posse out of town for the second weekend in a row I found myself starting to suffering from gaming DTs.  (You can't just cold-turkey from three-games-to-zero per weekend, nor do I want to).

Anyway, by Saturday afternoon I was quite ready to do something.  One of my players who was still in town had, as a result of my raving, already picked up a copy of Sorcerer and was interested in playing, and my wife Jackie and I had gone through most of character creation, excepting naming her character, naming her demon, and coming up with a kicker.

Between one player coming up with a librarian and the other coming up with a post-grad ivy-league prick, we decided to go with Yale/Cambridge as a setting.  This let's us do some fun stuff with the (largely poseur) Skull and Bones group and some other things.

Here's the characters they came up with:

Quote
Jackie played Shannon O'Neil:
Stamina: 2 (Clean Living)
Will: 4 (Rageful/Vengeful)
Lore: 4 (Solitary Adept)
Cover: 4 (Librarian)
Humanity: 4
Price: Scarred 1 to all casual relationships
Telltale: Eyes change color constantly but subtly (frex: girl in The Ninth Gate)

Shannon's background is that she inherited most of the personal effects of her Professor father when he died (her estranged and long-traumatized mother wanted none of it).  Dad was apparently a sorcerer of some skill and everything she has since learned was from his own notes and books he'd collected -- she an excellent self-directed learner.  (I'd decided that Dad was Black Wheel, but as her character is ignorant of Sorcerous factions et al., that hasn't come out yet.)  She is trying to learn more about her father-whom-she-never-knew, and to that end is working as a senior librarian at Yale, where he used to teach.

Her demon is Bister, an inconspicuous who usually expressed himself as various shades of color tint on his master's person.
Stamina: 6, Will: 7, Lore: 6, Power: 7 with Armor conferred to master, Special NL Damage (NL selected to keep Shannon from making Humanity checks for Bister attacking people :), Vitality (demon), Shadow (demon), Perception (darkvision), Confuse (confer to master).
His Desire is knowledge and his Need is Internet access -- he's a net junkie who reads and comments on upwards of forty-five news sites and pundit-blogs a day as "Auburn".

His telltale is that Shannon's hair changes color fairly regularly and shifts unnaturally in breezes that aren't really there.  I believe the word 'undulates' was bandied about.

Bister's Binding is, incredibly, +1 in favor of Shannon.


Whew... lots of stuff to write out.

Quote
Randy played Sebastian Ryan
Stamina: 3 (Naturally fit)
Will: 5 (Socially Adept)
Lore: 2 (Apprentice)
Cover: 5 (Rich-prick Ivy League post-grad)
Price: Arrogant (from the book) 1
Telltale: Always perfectly groomed.

His demon is Shade, an inconspicuous who usually expressed himself as Sebastian's shadow.  He has kind of a lame name because he was bound to Sebastian as an 'invisible friend' when Seb was a little kid -- Sebastian's uncaring high-society parents did not lead to a happy childhood.

Shade is Stamina: 5, Will: 7, Lore: 6, Power: 7 with Armor conferred to master, Travel (demon teleports from shadow to shadow), Big (demon), Perception (demon -- seeing where he's going with Travel), Warp (demon), and Link.
His Desire is 'poetic justice' (which I like but am still processing) and his Need is Voyeurism -- preferably watching someone he knows, but in the end he can get by with anyone.  This need has become more carnally-oriented as Sebastian got older, and as a result Sebastian's sexual encounters (which come easily to him -- think of the male lead in Cruel Intentions, because the player was) have become... work; mechanical situations in which he has to concern himself far too much with the angles of hidden cameras and the like -- all the joy has gone out of it for him.

Shade's binding is +1 in favor Sebastian and his Telltale is the fact that Sebastian's shadow is often distorted or (when Shade is off doing something for him) simply gone.


Since Sebastian's an apprentice, we defined his Mentor/Master (player said the former, I said the latter :) as an Anthropology professor on Campus by the name of Candace Lynn Voight (she never uses her first name, only the initial).  I detailed Candace's stats privately, but basically she's built on approximately the same points as the players with a bit higher Lore and a somewhat reduced Humanity.  Her only demon that Sebastian knows about is a parasite living in the body of a cat... a "Renfrew demon" (bug-eater) that neither Shade nor Sebastian have much real respect for (I used Sipe from Sorcerer's Soul, stuck in the body of a cat).  Voight uses the cat as a means of getting dirt on the mundane university staff to maintain her precious tenure.

Whew!  Okay, with the next post I'm going to actually talk about Kickers and what happened in the session (where a few questions arose).
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
clehrich
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« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2004, 02:21:48 PM »

Looks like fun!

One very minor point:
Quote from: Doyce
Voight uses the cat as a means of getting dirt on the mundane university staff to maintain her precious tenure.
Tenure doesn't need to be maintained: it's permanent.  

I recommend that she have some sort of perk, like a longstanding large research grant, and that she uses the dirt to prevent people challenging the grant (since she doesn't really do anything to justify it).  Another possibility would be that she has an appointment as Director of a research group, named for some famous former faculty member.  This gives her lots of funding and grad students to do all her work for her.  This could be taken away easily, but for the dirt she has on everybody.  

There are other possibilities, but the point is that she has to get something above and beyond the usual to justify the continual use of the demon.  Maybe she got tenure that way in the first place, but now that she's got it, she can't lose it unless she starts sleeping with students or something.

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
Doyce
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« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2004, 06:37:44 PM »

Quote from: clehrich

I recommend that she have some sort of perk, like a longstanding large research grant, and that she uses the dirt to prevent people challenging the grant (since she doesn't really do anything to justify it).  


A great idea, one which I'll happily steal. :)

Quote from: clehrich

There are other possibilities, but the point is that she has to get something above and beyond the usual to justify the continual use of the demon.  Maybe she got tenure that way in the first place, but now that she's got it, she can't lose it unless she starts sleeping with students or something.


Which, I should have mentioned, is exactly what she's doing: abusing her authority, terrorizing peers and undergrads, using Teaching Assistants for running errands and doing chores around her house, et cetera :)

But your other ideas were equally useful :)
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Doyce
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2004, 09:34:08 PM »

So in sketching out the Shannon character for this post, I became aware of a really cool 'dark-side/light-side' thing going on:

When she was setting the character up, she chose to connect Humanity to 'Mastery'. I'm naturally inclined toward connecting it to something like Empathy, but one of the example sorcerer groups (the Black Wheel) fit the Mastery idea pretty well, and I thought her history could tie into that, and that might be interesting. End result, we went with Humanity=Mastery for her, even though I didn't really have the impression that it would be a compelling definition of the Attribute.

And then she chose "Rageful/Vengeful" as her descriptor on Will.

Now, for those of you (all of you) who don't know my wife, imagine she and I smirking about this and making jokes about Playing to Her Strengths -- Jackie has a... pretty easy time playing characters who channel their anger in both constructive and destructive ways -- call it a talent if you like, or art imitating life.   Anyway, what we ended up with was this quiet librarian who's not very good at social situations and for whom the core of her Will is basically a hard kernel of anger and resentment... lots of which is generated by the awkward social scenes that seem to gravitate toward her.  (Sounds like the bad-guy/girl for a Stalker-Thriller movie.)

Also, within the game, you can (in theory) get bonuses for using an Attribute in such as way that it dramatically emphasizes the descriptor for the Score. (Note emphasis on 'dramatically' -- I understand that it's no good to just say "I hit him, and I'm mad".)

What this boils down to is that, in the short term, it's in the player's (mechanical, game-based) interests for Shannon to 'lose it' in critical situations -- it's interesting, it's appropriate to the character, it's dramatic, and it's also potentially worth a bonus on her dice.

It's also, long-term, a bad idea.

See, the definition of her Humanity is "Mastery", remember?. There's lots of things that could cause a character to risk a drop in Humanity (contacting and summon Demons is a universal risk for anyone, regardless of how they define Humanity), but in addition to the 'standard' reason, things that cross the line in regards to your personal definition of Humanity also mean you're risking a drop in the stat.

Well, "Losing it" in some violently emotional way is one of those things that causes a Humanity test in our definition of Mastery/Humanity.

First response: Hmm... nice dynamic.

Second response: What a great, classic bit of character drama! (Particularly fun since we didn't set out to create that crisis for the character... we only realized it later.)

Do you go for the quick and easy pay-off of flipping your lid and letting out your anger or do you keep control of yourself, thereby protecting your Humanity in the long-term but robbing yourself of some easy strength at this particular moment?

Give in to your anger... Heh. Classic stuff.  I'm loving this game and we've only played one session.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2004, 01:06:06 PM »

Neat stuff. Question: How much exposure did you have to The Forge, if any, before posting this?

Mike
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Doyce
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2004, 02:27:41 PM »

(Note: this response should almost go into a "How did you find the Forge" birthday-thread.)

Well, lesse:

I think, when it's all said and done, I was destined to end up here eventually.  Before the end of '03, I had purchased and was thoroughly jonesing on the chance to GM (which term I use synonymously for "play") HeroQuest, InSpectres, and MLwM...  I had begun poking around on the Forge at that point because Googling those two games invariably led me here -- let me state for the record that I've never really been much of a Forum-person.  I perfer mailing lists, but I completely understand that there's no way a mailing list could ever handle sheer depth of the Forge material, and I've gotten to quite like the format of the place.

Anyway, in digging around the Forge for stuff on MLwM and Heroquest and so forth, I found myself thinking (after about the 300th mention of GNS) "Gee, sure would be helpful if this theory were put together in one place were a newb like me could get a handle on it."

About three days later, (January 29, 2004) -- http://www.20by20room.com posted a link and comments on Ron's Narrativist Essay.

At the time, my response wasn't particularly receptive.   This was due to two things:

1.  My regular group enthusiastically plays all of these styles, in turns and altogether, so my immediate response to the theory was "so what?"  (Though I really liked the ideas of Kickers and Bangs and the Czege-fu of aggressive scene framing.)

2. I don't like how Ron writes.  Now, I love what he writes (Trollbabe, Sorcerer, et cetera), but somehow (and I'm not the only person who's commented on this, I suppose) his style of delivery is such that I find it necessary to read, play, read again, play.  Everything is there, it's just slightly obscured to my sight -- I can't yet decide if it's because something isn't stated explicitly or that it's so explicit that I miss it because I'm looking past it (I think it's years of expecting different delivery -- game texts generally differ from the essay-style Ron uses and which I associate with my Degree Thesis -- or whatever, but there it is).

Having said all that about how I react to his games, imagine how little I probably really got out of the three GNS essays on my first read-through.

Yeah.  About that much.  Again, it was very much a "read, play, read, play again" thing.

In the meantime, I've been hoovering everything up I can get my hands on regarding Trollbabe and Sorcerer (plus all the minis and everything but Sex&) play, as well as picking up Paladin, Donjon, MLwM, Nicotine Girls, and a clump of other stuff that I'm mainlining so constantly that it's all started to blend together.

So, to answer your question, I'd say my exposure's been pretty high for the last... two months... it's basically every game-related bit of text I've read in that period of time.  (Though I do largely avoid the game-design and Theory forums.)

I've even taken another stab at Ron's essays today, and of course the added Forge-cabulary has made the whole thing... well, clearer, at least -- it's personal relevance to me, I'm not sure of yet.

Now, my counter-question: what prompted that question?  

(I'm curious if I 'read' as un utter newbie, neophyte convert, or what.)
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2004, 02:45:08 PM »

Well, you really seem to have a good grasp of Sorcerer, and I was wondering how much of it was "natural," and how much was influenced by what you'd read here. So I'll ask that: How large an impact did the two months have on the posted play, if at all?

Mike
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Doyce
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2004, 03:20:17 PM »

I'd say that I've found that the Forge discussions inspire me toward using my better GMing habits over less-productive (but sometimes easier) ones, which has resulted in a higher occurance of 'good sessions'.

That's the short version response.  The rest of this is rambling and chaff.  You can easily stop reading here.

Mmm... hmm.

As regards understanding rules for the system, the Forge has been a help -- the examples of play for each system have helped me see how different tasks would resolve, which lets me get past the inherent learning curve of any game more quickly and avoid the natural pitfalls (by watching what tripped up other folks).

As for style of play, I think that some of that just comes out of the system -- there's just a certain way that Sorcerer's going to play out, will-ye nil-ye, and it happens to coincide with what feels like a 'good session' to me in any of the games I run (which are things like Nobilis, granted, which can have a lot of player-as-author empowerment anyway).

As for practicing of some of the Forge-ish gaming techniques (like aggressive framing) that I'm less in the habit of using, that's been more hit and miss -- we get wrapped up in the story and I forget, or maybe I'm already doing it as part of any session that really 'clicks'.

Wow, what a supremely uninformative response.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Mulciber
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« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2004, 06:55:40 PM »

Hey Doyce,

Quote from: Doyce
I'd say that I've found that the Forge discussions inspire me toward using my better GMing habits over less-productive (but sometimes easier) ones, which has resulted in a higher occurance of 'good sessions'.


Do you mind delineating "better GM habits?" And if you don't, will you also expand on "less-productive (but maybe easier) ones?" Thanks.


Cordially,
Will Whatley
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Doyce
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2004, 08:37:47 PM »

1. Specific to narrative stuff, that would be moving dramatically to the Stuff that Matters -- in essence, "Story Now", based on a unifying premise (or several, if I'm doing different ones for different people).

This is one of those things that (like others I imagine) I've done for a long time, but didn't have this vocabulary to describe.

2. Steering the story with dynamic Player Choices -- importantly, real choices. (Bangs, in Forge-talk).

Lazier/easier would be just letting a scene or session drift along in a cloud of minutiae in which, to twist the Tao, Much is Done and Nothing is Actually Done... the least provative of Simulation play, perhaps, or the kind of session where you just set up a series of rooms full of monsters for the players to knock down (which can be a kind of fun thing once in a great while, yes... but not when you're doing it in lieu of thinking).

Anyone see where I'm going here?
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2004, 06:30:15 AM »

Actually, I think that you've given very good answers.

I think that you're running a slight risk of denigrating other play styles accidentally - what I think you mean to say is that the methods that you're using are more consistently producing play of the sort you want to see. But that's a quibble.

My overall point is that I'm glad to have another example of someone who's benefitted from the posts here. It's just rewarding to know that I'm a member of a community that actually helps improve play for people. I sometimes wonder if there are other lurkers who are being helped, and just not posting about it, or to what extent that happens. Your example shows that it does happen.

It also shows, I think, what we've always said - that there's no better way to improve play than sharing actual play (none of the theory stuff is worth anything in terms of improving play until it's tested). It seems that you've gotten the most out of other's posts on the games that they've played. As you say, avoiding pitfalls. I'm just glad to have more confirmation that this forum is doing it's job.

Thanks,
Mike
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Doyce
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« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2004, 07:38:23 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
I think that you're running a slight risk of denigrating other play styles accidentally - what I think you mean to say is that the methods that you're using are more consistently producing play of the sort you want to see. But that's a quibble.


Y'know, you're right and that's neither fair or accurate on my part.  I really do enjoy all styles of play.  When I'm actually playing, I honestly and truly love the Challenge and the tactics inherent in what the essays call Step On Up.

By the same token, there are certain settings ('30's pulp adventure, for a really stong example) in which I want nothing but immersive Actor stance and living the Dream of that setting.

I should have been more clear -- what I've realized I sometimes do is set out with one style of play and, for a session or whatever, substitute in another style that doesn't really match just because.

And not 'good' versions of that style -- I'll switch to 'Sim' so I can slow the pace down to a crawl with an extended "Shopping Trip" or a mystery where the Clues just lead to more Clues, or (bad gamist) simply write up a bunch of combat encounters with no soul in them by photocopying a few pages and dropping miniatures on the mat.

Regardless of the style of play, one of the things I've realized is that I'm playing to have fun and if I want to really have a session to remember I need to be engaged.

There: on the third try I think I said it somewhat accurately.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2004, 08:14:54 AM »

Hi Doyce,

Everything you're saying makes plenty of good sense to me.

I'd like to know more about actual play. Did any Humanity concerns arise for characters? How did you enjoy playing the demons, and how much of that was Sidekick Color vs. Double-bladed Sword?

Which is, I suppose, my way of saying, this thread's done what it can for me, so let's head to the Session thread. Or at least, that's where I'll be.

Best,
Ron
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Doyce
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« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2004, 08:29:55 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Which is, I suppose, my way of saying, this thread's done what it can for me, so let's head to the Session thread. Or at least, that's where I'll be.


I'd be happy to, since the session itself raised a question here and there (though most have been answered, I still had some thoughts I was hoping to address).

The session log has actually been up for awhile here.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
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