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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] First time woes  (Read 6944 times)
JMendes
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« on: February 26, 2005, 10:48:19 AM »

Ahey, :)

So, I finally got a chance to try out Sorcerer last night.

Not long ago, I met a guy who is big on Indie games and has some friends who are alos big on Indie games, and the guy said, let's get together in my house Friday night and pick something to play. Like what? Oh, I'll think of something. Ok, let's try Sorcerer, he says. Cool.

Thing is, neither of us had played it before, and I think we kinda failed to make its point (if there is such a thing).

The Players:

Ricardo - He was the GM. He was the guy I met not long ago.

Me - I was playing John Adams, politician, the mayor of San Francisco, who tags along with Baramon, an inconspicuous demon.

Ana - My wife. She was playing Raindrop Williams, the head librarian for the San Francisco public library. Her demon was a white persian cat.

Joćo - (yeah, same name as me) He was playing Sven Hendriks, an ex-military AWOL guy, with a demon in his bloodstream.

So, we got together, glanced through the rules, and made up characters.

It took me about 10 minutes to get a character together, threw about four NPCs into the mix, didn't actually even name them or write a background for my character, and then I wrote the kicker. I got a letter of blackmail with a video of my binding ritual.

Ana's kicker was that Raindop's mother, thought dead since she was seven, was also a sorcerer, who, like herself, had learned from her grandmother. She sent a letter saying she was back in town, and her grandmother had a heart attack over it.

Joćo's kicker, I didn't quite understand, but it had something to do with finding someone from Sven's former chain of command, who he held responsible for forcing him to go AWOL.

And then we looked at the GM and the GM looked at us and we all went, ok, what happens next? And nobody knew.

So, the GM paused everything while he took some time building an R-map including some of the NPCs we had mentioned.

Sven's kicker character turned out to be my new media consultant, who was also a sorcerer. My mentor was fleshed out to be a US Senator, involved in the comittee that put Sven in his awkward position, and he also had a prior relationship with Raindrop's mother.

So, the GM had the Senator contact me, show me a picture of Raindrop's mother, and another of Raindrop, "she works for you, get in touch with her mother, find out what she wants and why she's back in town after all these years". And then we go from there.

Thing is, the GM was really struggling to find some decent bangs to throw at us, so that finally, he just ended up throwing some armed combat at us. Someone tried to take Raindrop down while the mayor was in her house. And then Sven showed up, saying he might know who they are.

By this time, it was past 3AM, so we decided to stop and pick it up again in another couple of weeks.

What I liked: I liked how you can thorw a character concept together in less than 15 minutes, complete with kicker. I'm now pretty confident that I could think up a killer kicker for pretty much any character in under a minute. I liked how the game comes preloaded with a strong premise.

What I didn't like: I didn't like that the connection between premise and kicker is rather vague. I don't know if we're actually supposed to write kickers that have some immediate connection to the premise, and if we are, I don't know that I'd ever be able to do that. I also didn't like the bonus dice for narrative color rule. I found myself hesitating to state my actions while I was trying to think up some silly little snippet to throw into the mix, so as to get the bonus dice.

All in all, I think my experience with this is still rather limited, and I have comitted myself to learn more. But my expectations for enjoyment are much lower now than they were yesterday afternoon.

Are we doing something wrong?

Cheers,

J.
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2005, 11:33:35 AM »

Quote
What I didn't like: I didn't like that the connection between premise and kicker is rather vague.


Well, it could be that you have a preconcieved notion of what the premise is supposed to be that you're having trouble shoehorning into.  The premise of Sorcerer overall is "if you were possessed of nearly unlimited power, what would you do with it".  Therefor any time the GM puts the players in a situation where they choose to call upon sorcery to solve it...you're by definition addressing that premise.  "What am I willing to risk 0 Humanity for?...This...this right here that I'm doing right now."  or "Not this...this isn't worth it, its ok if I don't get what I want today...this is important enough to risk damnation for (or whatever your group's definition of 0 Humanity is).

A kicker is nothing more than a situation that forces your character right out of the gate to make that choice.  "Do I or don't I use Sorcery to deal with this situation right here right now".


The premise of any specific Sorcerer game, however, is tied intimately into the definition of Humanity that you're using.  Since you didn't provide any comments on Humanity in your game...I suspect that may be where you went wrong.  What was the definition of Humanity you were using?  How much time did you as a group spend discussing Humanity and how were gain and loss rolls called for in your session?  If you're kind of vague on that...that's where the problem lies


Quote
I also didn't like the bonus dice for narrative color rule. I found myself hesitating to state my actions while I was trying to think up some silly little snippet to throw into the mix, so as to get the bonus dice.


I think you're under another misconception of what these dice is for.  If you delayed the game to think up something witty to say...whatever you came up with is unlikely to be worth a bonus die.

Bonus dice come from 2 main sources:

1) Did you come up with some clever strategy for attacking a particular problem?  You know.  The kind of thing that in other games you'd look up on a big table o'modifiers to see what kind of plus you get.  That can be worth dice...as long as its not lame and boring.  I suggest using the "Yeah, great idea" standard.  If you announce some clever tactic to deal with a situation and the GM can look at the other players and see them thinking "Yeah, great idea!"...that's probably worth a bonus die.  If he sees them thinking "what...again" or just not paying any attention to it...its probably not.

2) Did anyone make a decision that gave everybody else at the table pause...you know...everyone just freezes for a second while slow grins spread across their faces and they start to nod because whatever was said was just so...right...and everybody there knows it and is jonesing on it?  THAT's worth dice.

Just describing some new version of a sweeping leg kick or a new spin on witty banter...not so much.  So don't feel like you need to wrack your brains trying to come up with such things.  Those moments are what is being rewarded.  You generally can't manufacture them.
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Danny_K
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2005, 12:30:39 PM »

Sorcerer is a tough game to get your head around, I can say from two failed game experiences (one as player, one as GM).  So take this as the voice of rueful experience, not advice from a Sorcerer master.  

Sorcerer doesn't really have a default mode of play, the way Buffy or D&D or many other games do.  Also, the game doesn't seem to come into its own unless you've worked through the questions of how does Sorcery work, what does Humanity mean, what are Demons like, etc.  

And Sorcerer requires some real skull sweat from the GM (I wrote a post about this on the Adept Press forum a while back, based on my stillborn attempt to run a Sorcerer game online).  You have to develop the R-Map, develop a bandolier of Bangs for each character, make up some NPC's and their Demons, if any.  In other words, Sorcerer is definitely not a game that you can easily run by the seat of your pants.  

In most of the good Actual Play examples I've read about Sorcerer, there's lots of juicy interactions between the PC's and their Demons -- something that seems to be missing from your play experience, probably because nobody had a chance to really develop their Demons.  

Please post again if you give it another try; I think it's a fascinating game, once you get your head around it.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2005, 03:16:29 PM »

Hi J,

Sorcerer is not a light prep game.  Character creation might not seem so tough, at least crunch-wise, but the key is getting a group consensus together on setting, style, etc. and building characters as a cast.  Then, for the GM- its all about taking those Kickers and really spiking them hard and tying them together.  That's some work.  Subsequent session have a LOT less work- but that first establishment of conflict and situation is the where the work really happens.

For quick pick-up play, try Trollbabe, Inspectres, octaNe, the Pool or Donjon :)  For crunchier pick up play, you can't go wrong with Universalis.

Chris
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JMendes
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« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2005, 09:03:02 PM »

Hey, all, :)

First off, thanks for your comments, cool stuff.

Chris, we really weren't looking specifically for a light-prep game. We wanted to play Sorcerer because, well, it's Sorcerer. We assumed Sorcerer could light-prep, and I guess that's (one of the spots) where we went wrong.

Danny, not only did we not develop the Demons, we didn't even develop the Characters. But again, we assumed we could play light-background. (I hesitate to call it prep, as I tend to think of prep as 'the GM's job', but you know what I mean.)

Ralph, to answer your questions:

Demons are alien beings from a diferent physical dimension, like a paralel universe. No one knows why they're here.

Humanity represents your physical attachment to this dimention. You risk humanity during rituals because you have to open a gate to the parallel universe and it draws you in.

For additional humanity rolls in play, we decided that each character would have a defining feature that linked him/her to the physical universe. For my character, the politician, it was my public image.

We did spend some time discussing this as a group, but that some time was around 15 minutes altogether. We seemed to agree fairly quickly that we didn't want the vanilla empathy definition, so we bounced around some ideas until one of them stuck. I don't know if that's supposed to be enough or not.

Also, the extra die thing. At one point in time, during a firefight, the GM announced that a small round object was being thrown into the house, through the door, from outside. I was in the house near the door. I described myself spinning in mid-air and throwing a sweeping kick at it. Everybody grinned and went wow. The GM gave me an extra die. I disliked that. (Though I did use the extra die, go figure...)

Again, guys, thanks a lot for your advice and comments, cool stuff.

Cheers,

J.
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ricmadeira
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2005, 04:02:34 AM »

Hi all!

I was the GM for this thing, so I have a few comments. :)

Quote from: JMendes
We assumed Sorcerer could light-prep, and I guess that's (one of the spots) where we went wrong.


Well, that's the classic mistake... you just got to read other similiar experiences (character creation & first session on the same day) to realize that. What I originally had planned was a kind of one-shot with pre-gen characters I already tried with great success. You can read about it in my blog (Portuguese only, but here's a google translated version) and on this Forge Sorcerer thread right here.

What happened is J. Mendes over here grabbed the book and seemed so intent on creating a character from scratch and playing it, that I ditched the one-shot early on. So... I just tried to wing it (and ask the players for help with it, because four heads always think better than one), huge mistake! :)

I made up a R-Map on the spot, just for the single purpose of having something that linked all these three characters together. I knew who was double-crossing who and who was sleeping with whom, but not why they were doing it, so the R-Map was pretty worthless to try to introduce new bangs on the spot and react quickly to players actions... the only bangs I could think up on the spot were a bit too long term to introduce on first session, before the PCs could at least meet all these NPCs in person. :)

So we had an entire session without a single bang worhty of that name, I think. Right after the game was over, the players had left, and I was able to collect my thoughts, I came up with a few bangs you could have have thrown in their faces... wish I could have given it more thought first!
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ricmadeira
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2005, 04:33:53 AM »

Quote from: JMendes
What I didn't like: I didn't like that the connection between premise and kicker is rather vague. I don't know if we're actually supposed to write kickers that have some immediate connection to the premise, and if we are, I don't know that I'd ever be able to do that.


As far as I know, the Kicker has little to do with premise... unless you, the player, create one that really digs it in and sets up the tone for a question you'd like to see answered in play. All our kickers were mostly generic... what I mean is, your kicker, for instance, implies that someone is blackmailing your character, but not what the blackmailer wants from you (if he really want's something, that is). There's a question asked that goes "Are you willing to do X to keep this videotape out of the public's eyes?" but, basically, you left the X all up to me with no guidance or guidelines whatsoever... and, frankly, I wasn't able to approach that question in anyway during the session. I was more hellbent on getting the PCs to meet and interact (which would give me more time to think while the characters chatted) than to address kickers and bangs right away. :)

Anyway, you're looking in the wrong place for the premise. Where you should be looking to is the entire core of the game: Humanity, sorcery, and demons. That's where the secret is.

Everytime you make an Humanity check, there's a question asked that goes like "are you willing to risk one of your few Humanity points to do X?" and the questions become harder as your humanity dwindles. A great bang is one that has you make an Humanity check either way you choose, eheh.

The sorcery & demons bit works by being entirely at odds with Humanity. So, everytime you use magic and put your Humanity on the line, you are in a way answering that basic premise of Sorcerer that is "How far will you go to get what you want?".

This leaves the entire game absolutely soaked in premise. That you didn't get to see it in play so far is entirely my fault, coupled with the lack of any pre-play preparation. I, as the GM, am suposed to throw bangs in your face and keep those Humanity checks coming; the way to do that is to mess up the PCs' life so much they can't help being tempted into summoning more demons to get some kind of grip on their problems despite all the dangers of doing that. Also, I have to play up to the demon's nature of opposing Humanity so that just keeping the demons you already have is also a source of continuous problems and Humanity checks. That's the right way to really ask that million-dollar question: "How far are you willing to go to get what you want?"

Now if I could only go from theory to practice, that would be something! :)
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joshua neff
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2005, 06:05:35 AM »

Quote from: JMendes
Also, the extra die thing. At one point in time, during a firefight, the GM announced that a small round object was being thrown into the house, through the door, from outside. I was in the house near the door. I described myself spinning in mid-air and throwing a sweeping kick at it. Everybody grinned and went wow. The GM gave me an extra die. I disliked that. (Though I did use the extra die, go figure...)


So, you described something that wowed everyone at the table, and the GM rewarded you with a bonus die.

Can you go into more detail about why you didn't like that?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2005, 08:59:03 AM »

Hi,

No prep?

... um, I dunno what to say. Chapter 4 is an important part of the rules.

What's kind of heartbreaking about this thread is that I see that the players were pumped and ready to go.

Best,
Ron
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Judd
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2005, 09:56:02 AM »

I tried to run Sorcerer off the cuff the first time I ran it too and it wasn't a horrible game but I knew it wasn't firing on all cylinders.  My cycle now is:

1) A 2-3 hour session of characte generation with kickers ready to go when everyone leaves.

2) I take a week to go through the kickers, descriptors and NPC's on their sheets in order to come up with a good list of bangs and think about the kickers a little bit.

3) Get together at the end of that week and PLAY.

Sorcerer, and all of the Forge-related games, are games in which you can trust the game designer, a new prospect for me.  I was used to reading a gaming book and throwing away what seemed lame to me at the time.  But with Sorcerer the game really works as written.

Good luck with another session and I hope we get to hear more feedback as to why JMendes didn't like the bonus die.
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JMendes
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« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2005, 06:16:30 PM »

Ahey, :)

Quote from: joshua neff
So, you described something that wowed everyone at the table, and the GM rewarded you with a bonus die.

Can you go into more detail about why you didn't like that?
Quote from: Paka
I hope we get to hear more feedback as to why JMendes didn't like the bonus die.

Lol, ok, ok, I get it, already... ;)

Basically, it's a preference thing. I don't like this kind of subjective stuff to be directly in the mechanics proper. Sure, the (Lumpley) System is always laden with subjective stuff, in one way or another, but to thave that directly in the mechanics disconnects me from the thing on some basic level.

I feel induced by the system into pausing and trying to come up with some other thing that will wow everyone, struggling for that extra die, and that just feels silly to me...

Cheers,

J.
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JMendes
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« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2005, 06:39:28 PM »

Hi, Ron, :)

Quote from: Ron Edwards
What's kind of heartbreaking about this thread is that I see that the players were pumped and ready to go.

Could you expand on this? Ya lost me...

Did you mean heartbreaking as in good or heartbreaking as in bad?

Cheers,

J.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2005, 06:55:46 PM »

Hello,

Seems that a fog has descended on the discussion ... I'll try ...

Joao, it makes me sad that the players put forth some really great effort into their characters, primarily the Kickers and similar stuff, and yet the GM's prep (as well as a general group sense of the "demon aesthetic") did not match that effort. Sorcerer really isn't a winging-it game; back-story is a big deal.

Best,
Ron
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JMendes
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« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2005, 07:03:03 PM »

Hey, :)

Ah, ok, yes, we gathered as much. :)

No worries, though, the next session is already scheduled, and from what I see in this thread, none of the potential is wasted as of yet.

Cheers,

J.
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