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[Sorcerer] Return to Mu's Bed (Julie and Jeff)

Started by Judd, April 27, 2004, 02:13:20 AM

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Jeff and Julie are a married couple and we did character generation tonight and will play on Saturday.

Jeff runs the local fantasy LARP and Julie has experience gaming there.  She gamed with Jeff in his table-top Vampire game until he killed her character and now she won't play in games he runs.  

I'm interested in how running a game for a couple is going to make the table dynamic.

The e-mail sent to them:

I'm writing a mini-supplement for an amazing game called Sorcerer.  The supplement is called The Dictionary of Mu.  I've included a taste of it below.  If you have any questions or a thirst for more things Mu-ish (funny, he doesn' t look Mu-ish...sorry, bad joke) let me know and I'll gladly send you what I've got but I didn't want to overwhelm you.

We'll deal with character stuff on Monday, face to face.  If you get ideas, that's fine but don't be in any mad rush or think that this e-mail was intended to give you a dozen ideas.  This is just to give you a taste of the world.

This is a gritty setting.  Picture the Scorpion King if it had been a rockin' flick, chock full of sex and violence, directed by David Lynch.  It is inspired by old swords and sorcery fantasy stories like Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Elric of Melnibone, Book of the New Sun and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books.  

Sorcerer is a game where all of the players are -you guessed it- Sorcerers who gain their power by summoning and binding Demons.  This doesn't mean that everyone in the party is a bearded wizard, far from it and it doesn't mean the Demons summoned from Mu will have horns and a red tail.  Strike D&D archetypes from your mind.  It is a game about what your character is willing to do for power and survival.

Excerpts from the Dictionary of Mu:

Lemuria – A dark land on the edge of the Red Waste ruled by the Witch-King and his consorts. Whores though his consorts may be, they are all powerful warlocks and witches who owe their power, their place in the world and their petty baronies to the King's cunning.  

The Witch-King has gathered armies by tooth and claw and holds them together by devil and spirit.  Lemurian opinion of their new King varies greatly with some seeing him as their own messiah and others seeing just as another blight from the waste.

Armies amass from all over Lemuria and word is out that war with the holy lands of Hy-Brasil or even that a siege on pristine Atlantis isn’t far in the future.

As a Lemurian it is perhaps a good time for a boy born in Mu’s Bed to fashion words concerning the Witch-King’s sudden rise to power and the changes to the face of Lemuria.  However, this is not political commentary but a dictionary and opinion on matter would not be prudent.

Mu’s Bed - Mu's Bed is the capital city of Lemuria, seething in the red sand wastes like a pregnant beetle. When the giants Lemur and Mu fought, the Mu fell and this city was built on his body. Most take this tale as only a metaphor. Fools.  

This is Oghma’s birthplace and it is a hodge-podge of desert cultures from the Red Waste, witch and warlock refugees hoping for a crumb from the Witch-King’s plate and Lemurian peasant-folk who no longer wish to be subjected to the harsh law of the waste.  Any number of languages and songs can be heard on its streets as nomads barter with water stolen from a shallow oasis hundreds of glares away as their currency and seers offer to read your sands for only a few wheels.

Mu’s Bed is a bowl, the slums are around the rim of the bowl, where the wind is the most unforgiving and the Witch King’s keep is in the center of the bowl, where the wind only howls rather than the rending and clawing it achieves in the higher streets.  Bonesmiths who wish to see a corpse picked of its meat and sinew need only leave the dead beast out during a sandstorm on the outer rim of Mu’s Bed, where only the plebians make their hovels.  In the morning, when the storms have died down, only virgin white bones will remain.

Life on the Bed is particularly desperate.  Children in Mu’s Bed play games that mostly consist of wrestling over the ownership of sharp rocks or throwing said rocks with deadly accuracy once they chip apart.  If one is weak, there is always the choice to lie down, let the red dust crawl down your throat and join Mu.


Jeff has gamed with me several times in a few games I've run but this is the first time I've gamed with, or even seen Julie play.  While they made dinner, we talked gaming and I explained some of the ideas of Sorcerer, Demons, Kickers and Humanity.

Jeff and Julie's experiences with White Wolf gave them definite opinions on a Humanity stat.  Jeff particularly hated the idea of a stat that dicates how one is supposed to act and was relieved to hear how Humanity worked in this game.

I said, "Humanity can mean a number of different things.  If this was a kung-fu setting it could be some kind of medieval Chinese idea of Honor.  If this was the Matrix, Demons could be programs and Humanity would be knowing that the Matrix is fake.  In this world it is hope in the face of a dying world.  But it isn't the measure of how nice you are supposed to be and never dictates role-playing decisions directly.  It doesn't tell you how nice to be."

We went over basic ideas, Jeff wanted to play a farmer who summoned a local diety of the harvest and death when his beloved son, the only relative he had left, died in an accident he blamed himself for.

Julie wanted to play a noble girl in a family of Sorcerers who had summoned and bound the wrong thing and thus wasn't the Golden Child anymore in the family.

Rock on, the game is afoot.


I showed the Relationship Map while the character ideas were rather vague.  

The Witch King
Overlord of Stygia,
Master of Lemuria,
High Warlock of Mu’s Bed

Father of The Prince and Lovers with Lady Dresda

Lady Dresda
Witch-King’s Concubine

Mother of The Prince and lovers with the Witch King

The Prince
Witch-King’s Heir

Son of Dresda and the Witch King and lovers with Carv

Witch-King’s Assassin (formerly the Duke's Assassin)

Lovers with The Prince
Duke Malteek
Lord of Mu’s Bed

Father of Kessen

Kessen Malteek
Mu’s Bed socialite

Daughter of the Duke and Lovers with Doggod

Slave-master of the Witch King

Lovers with Kessen

We inserted Julie's character right into the R-Map as the Duke's daughter, no disinhereted after her father found her summoning a disappointment, hoping for a more powerful spirit that would cement his hold over Mu's Bed, precarious since the Witch-King declared it the capital of his kingdom.

Julie's Demon took a while to create but we settled on a spirit of a now destroyed guard tower that once kept Mu's Bed safe.  It manifests as a greenish fire in a lantern that can hop to wherever else there is a fire.  We thought about how to pervert and twist its function as a guardian of the city.

Julie was having trouble coming up with a name and so we agreed she would think about it and come up with one during the week before the game.

b]Name - [/b] None yet.

Stamina 3
Will 6
Lore 5

Telltale Green tint to the flame

Desire Voyeurism
Need Create a network of watchers all over Mu's Bed

Powers: Boost-Lore, Cover-Guard, Hop-Flames, link, Shadow

Name - Keselle Malteek
Player - Julie

Stamina 3 Basalt-Hewn
Will 3 Survive This Rock
Lore 4 Stygian Schooled

Cover 3 Witchling Princess
Price Arrogant -1 Perception

Humanity 3
Telltale Uncanny Grooming

Kicker: Her Demon has ascertained that her sister is having an illicit affair with the Witch-King's Slavemaster and she has gained an audience with her father in order to tell him.

I feel like her Kicker is a weak link in the chain but she's so entrenched in the R-Map that I'm not too worried.  Perhaps I'm wrong.

We discussed Jeff's story and decided that his son was killed using an antiquated piece of farm machinery powered by the magic known as science.  When he summoned the Demon to bring his son back, it came in the form of a local diety of the harvest.

He took up a scythe, an antiquated tool that since wheat died off in this area of the world, farmers only kept for harvest festivals.  The object became his Demon, demanding souls in return for the life of his son.

I noticed Jeff didn't name his Demon either but I believe he did mention a few possiblities.  Another detail to be cleared up over e-mail.

Name - None yet.
Stamina 4
Will 8

Lore 7
Telltale whispered wailing of souls eaten by the scythe

Desire To be reborn as ?
Need Blood & Souls

Powers: Boost-Stamina, Boost-Will, Cover- Mid-Wife, Link, Special Damage: Rot, Vitality

Name - Ghiath
Player - Jeff

Stamina 4 Child of the Waste
Will 5 Lemurian Ox
Lore 1 Through the Epochs

Cover 5 Farmer
Price Gullible - -1 die at 1st meeting with Demon

Humanity 4
Telltale Nearby plants go through cycles as if season are rapidly changing

Kicker: Wanted man is killed by Ghiath.  As he claims his first soul in the name of his Demon, the Duke's guards find them.  He is taken to the Duke under an armed guard.

Jeff noticed right away that Carv used to be the Duke's assassin and that the position was now open.  He also suggested that the two different Boosts related to the seasons somehow, Will in the winter and Stamina in the spring and summer.

Any thoughts on the Demon's Needs and the character's Kickers would be appreciated as I take the next few days to formulate Bangs for my bandolier.

In particular I wonder if Julie's Demon doesn't have its Desire and Need mixed up now that I take a look at it.

joshua neff

Wow, what a great pair of protagonists! I can't wait to hear how the actual play goes.

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes


Bangs in the Bandolier

I'm finding that Julie's character is easier to come up with bangs for.

- The sister is pregnant with the Slavemaster's baby.  The Slavemaster is a Demon, bound to the Witch King.

- The Prince, the Witch-King's son and heir comes courting for the sister.

- The Demon of the Fallen Tower sees a beggar who was once a guard in his tower but now, maimed and disfigured, begs for food near an alley.  The Demon will want Julie to approach him and ask him to begin his duties again, the beginnings of this Demon's conspiracy of Watchers to spread across Mu's Bed, hoping to create its Tower again.

- The sister goes into labor, despite only being pregnant for a few days, giving birth to a demonic child.  Jeff's character's Demon's power (Cover: Midwife) will play into this as an Immenent is born.

This isn't a bang but I'm thinking that Jeff's character will be offered the position of Executioner to the Duke, a possibility that Jeff and I even discussed at character creation.

- He must swear to kill the Duke's enemies upon a headsman's stone in the courtyard of their manor and a successful Lore role finds a powerful Demon within it (the Demonic gestalt of all of the people slain here), waiting to be bound.

- Julie's character is invited to the Prince's mother's place for a meal in order to discuss the wedding arrangements.  This is after all, first and foremost, a business deal between two powerful Sorcerous families.  It is her duty to arrange it all since her mother is no longer alive, even thought it is an insult that her sister is being given this marriage instead of her.

Any thoughts on these bangs would be appreciated.


Other bits of Prep:

Other than writing The Dictionary of Mu furiously when not working on other projects or studying for the GRE's that I take this Saturday, there is one other thing I've done to get ready for this game.

I have a one sheet made up, just a cheat sheet.   Its centerpiece is the Summoning table from the back of the book with Ron's blurb descriptions of what each action is paraphrased from his Necromancy hand-out.

Also on the hand-out are the Dictionary entries for Demons and the Witch-King.

A small banner with the quotes:

QuoteRole-playing during combat rules the dice!
-   Ron Edwards, Sorcerer

"...but theirs is a hard and pitiless struggle for existence upon a dying planet..."
 -Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars

And for the cherry on the cake, I also threw on some of Zak's beautiful art that he drew up back in the day when this project was young.


If anyone has any thoughts on the Bangs listed, that would be appreciated.

This game goes live on Saturday.



I took the GRE's this afternoon and went directly from the test to the game.  When I showed up, a buddy of mine and Jeff's, JJ, was at the game.  JJ's a single dad who is an asset to any gaming table he sits at.  I couldn't say no to him in good conscience.

I was worried about making up a PC with JJ and playing that same day but fuckit, we did it anyway and it turned out to work really well.

JJ made a scribe to the Duke's court who is in reality a spy for the Witch King's Stygian spymaster, an old man JJ dubbed the Master of Webs.  His Demon is a scroll made of flesh that is a Demonic representative from an old library from ancient Mu's Bed that was burned down.  The scroll is all that's left and its Telltale was that it was made of skin and had a pulse.

Jeff's character was very much a country bumpkin suddenly elevated to the role of Lord Executioner and it made for some great interactions.  

Julie's character was a cold bitch seeking the approval of her father and it really worked, a neat character.

JJ managed to play a scared, paranoid spy, whose act as a dutiful servant was so complete that he really was a rather dutiful servant.

There were two things from Sorcerer's supplements that really changed the game.  The part of Sorcerer and Sword about what happens when a failure is rolled really rocked the game twice.

During this bangish thing:

Jeff's character was spilling his first blood on the Duke's family execution stone, in order to be properly ordained as the proper Lord Executioner of Mu's Bed.  He rolled for the beheading and failed the roll.

Rather than not kill the victim I had him knock the head off and spray the entire crowd, including the Duke, with blood.


The other interesting story-driving failure was when Jeff's PC was trying to summon the spirit of a courtier who died after some time in the Duke's dungeons.  He attempted to Contact the Demon and failed miserably.

Rather than nothing, I had the spiritof his dead son's voice come through on the wind.  It led to a ton of good role-playing, with Jeff eventually Banishing the Demon when he thought that the ghost wuldn't aid him in getting his son back.

Julie and JJ then summoned the ghost back and Bound it to Julie, in order to have leverage over the Lord Executioner.  Mean!


- He must swear to kill the Duke's enemies upon a headsman's stone in the courtyard of their manor and a successful Lore role finds a powerful Demon within it (the Demonic gestalt of all of the people slain here), waiting to be bound.

As noted above, this went alright but Jeff failed his Lore roll, as did everyone at the table, so the Demon was left unfound but I'm sure there will be more opportunties to discover it and I wasn't too terribly excited about it anyway.

- Julie's character is invited to the Prince's mother's place for a meal in order to discuss the wedding arrangements. This is after all, first and foremost, a business deal between two powerful Sorcerous families. It is her duty to arrange it all since her mother is no longer alive, even thought it is an insult that her sister is being given this marriage instead of her.

Thsi went really well with Jeff's character having a little psych-out face-off against Carv, the Witch-King's assassin and Julie getting to flex her social muscles with the aid of her trusty scholar.

I'm sure there were more impromptu bangs than this.  It is a theory that I've used subconsciously for years but didn't know what to call it or how to go about putting it to use in a productive way.  Knowing that the players were invested in their kickers allowed me to come up with Bangs, many of which I didn't even get to tonight's 5+ hour game.

The Kickers were resolved fairly well and I think they weren't as strong as I would have liked but that didn't make the game any less enjoyable.  For a first game, the Kickers were fine.  I will be pickier with the second game's Kickers, no doubt about it.

Everyone at the table was really happy with the game and I think we will play out this first period, seeing who the Prince ends up marrying and how things with the sister plays out before going to another period of the character's lives, perhaps resuming with JJ's character as Spymaster of Stygia, Julie as Witch-Queen of Lemuria with JEff as her Unholy Warlock Executioner.


I'm still having thoughts about this game.

I think reading and re-reading my Sorcerer books really tightened up my GMing game.  The game was lean and tight.  Encounters were designed to compel the players to make dramatic and difficult decisions.  

I've had the problem in the past of having lots of role-play time that was mildly entertaining but didn't put anything other than some improv play-acting between the players and players or palyers and the NPC's.  I feel like tonight's game was more driven.  Not driven as in railroaded to a plot point but the players were driven to make decisions on their way and decide how to react.

It made the game more unpredictable for me and I think it created a game that saw its PC's grow and evolve in the first session.


At last the Return of Return to Mu's Bed...

I'll give it a more solid read through and post my questions/comments, especially about your Bangs as presented.
Katanapunk...The Riddle of Midnight...

Ron Edwards


Yay! I hope this is leading to lots of scribbled notes and ideas for the manuscript of Mu's Bed.

My comment I have about the altar-stone demon and the failed Lore rolls is this: it's your cue to have the demon do something now. So Jeff's character didn't see it, so what? It saw him.



The idea of giving players extra dice for good descriptions of their actions really shined through.  They were really doing amazing stuff and at one point Julie oculdn't think of anything and I went to hand her some dice for effort and she said, "No, don't give me anything, I don't deserve shit for that.  I'll do better next time."

And ya know what?  After going around the table and coming back to her, she really did.  It was nice.

At one point Jeff's PC had to go to the Duke's Dungeons and decide which prisoner to execute for his inauguration as the household's executioner.  I had each player come up with a prisoner to role-play as he went up to the cell's doors.  

Everyone shined, Julie played a zealot of the Damsel Messiah (yay!  She read the copy of the dictionary I loaned her!) and JJ came up with a multiple amputee who didn't even remember what he had done to get in there, just begging to not have anything else cut off.  GLORIOUS.

I should have given them dice to apply to their PC's somehow but I didn't.  Next time, I will just give them a floating die or two for contributing to the table like that.


As things are occuring to me while doing good ole spring cleaning around the house, I'll post 'em.

I found the character sheets from the previous time I ran Sorcerer in Mu's Bed.

What set this game apart from the earlier effort was the descriptors.  They realy cement the game in the setting, giving the players ideas on how their characters fit into and are affected by the world around them.

Anyone running Sorcerer should pay close attention to their available descriptors.

During the last game I allowed players to make up their own.  Note that we didn't get together and create a list as a group, that would have been cool too.  No, each person made up their own for their character.

It made the group even more disjointed and seeming to be characters from the wrong novel stuck in a dark fantasy setting.  Some worked better than others and there were glimmers of brilliant character work that I expect from those gamers but the effort and energy didn't come together.

Having re-read the Sorcerer rules, I know that the players are supposed to choose from a fixed set of Descriptors but I threw that away during my first game.  I freely admit that I'm used to reading the RPG rulebook, eyeing the rules as written and throwing the shit away I think might not be to my liking.

I am not saying that Sorcerer is a holy text that shouldn't be touched but the game, as written, works for me, I now realize.  The way creation and fiddling with what the game means is written into the text is all of the editing I need for now.

For this session, I showed the group the list of descriptors and that was that.  With the Pasts, I was more forgiving, allowing them to really make up their own from scratch.  Descriptors seemed to help find the character's place in the world, while the Past, created by the player, seemed to give the player room to find their PC's niche in the setting.

The pasts the players chose were pretty good:  Witchling Princess, Lemurian Farmer and Witch-King's Spy.

Just more musings on the game with more to come, no doubt.   Jeff and Julie will be heading to England for a few weeks and so I'll be starting up another game of this with a different duo in the coming weeks, just to see how different folk react on the dark windy streets of Mu's Bed.