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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Our second session  (Read 17522 times)
Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« on: December 15, 2005, 05:05:32 PM »

Write Up of Second Sorcerer Session

The description of the characters and the write up of the first session are here: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17765.0

Demons are limited to Passers (in animal form) and Possessors (without Hop). At the start of this session, only Niccolo knew about Possessors, and he thought all Demons were Possessors.

GM: Lisa Padol
Herr Doktor Professor Sebastian Black: Joshua Kronengold
Herr Doktor Professor Andreas von Ouranenburg: Dave Demast
Ingrid von Pfender: Beth Bartley
Niccolo di Tarci: Julian Lighton
Sophia von Winterhagen: Pamela Gutman

Pamela was sick enough not to make it, but eager to IM and get company that way. We started with experience rolls.

Sebastian: Stamina rose to 2
Ingrid: Lore rose to 2
Andreas: Will rose to 3, to Dave's chagrin. It was the last stat he rolled for.
Niccolo: Stamina rose to 3
Sophia: Cover: Swordswoman rose to 7

Next, Beth and Pamela rejiggered their demons, giving them cover.

Niccolo returned home after listening to Rainer (recently returned professor, Sebastian's rival) gab on. He would have trusted Rainer far more if he'd not realized that Rainer was a sorcerer, for Niccolo knew only of possessor demons, and he -knew- how evil it was to summon one into a person.

Frederiche (Sophia's brother) suggested that Sebastian, Sophia, and Andreas return the following evening, by which time Sigrid (Frederiche's bastard daughter whom they rescued last session) would have rested and told him everything, the prisoners would be questioned, and the boring detective work to be done would be done by the NPCs. They agreed. Andreas suggested that Sebastian meet him at a somewhat disreputable place for breakfast, one catering to students. We dubbed it "The Pit" and decided that, whatever its actual name was, this was what everyone called it. Students had probably stolen the original sign.

The next morning, Teresa (Niccolo's Demon, Possessor) fussed over Niccolo and told him to take care. He went to begin setting up his studio and received a note from Ludwig, to whom he'd sent a note last session, asking if there were any particular books in the University library that he should make sure to read. Ludwig's note invited him over to the van Ouranenburg manor, where he was living as the lover of Graf Rupert von Ouranenburg. For reasons I forget, Ingrid got swept up in a group of students coming to pay him a visit. They asked if they could be of any help, and he tried to send them away, politely. The crowd parted as Teresa came through, staking her claim.

Julian: I knew it was a mistake to tell you to make the demons more active.

Ingrid did not recognize Niccolo as a sorcerer, but she did recognize Teresa as a demon. Niccolo managed to evade Teresa as students filtered out.

Andreas and Sebastian confirmed that neither of them had sent the cat demon. Neither thought, for a moment, that it might belong to Sophia, rather than be watching her for a third party. The two went to teach their respective classes.

Niccolo drifted into the back of Sebastian's class, waiting for it to end. When it did, Ysabel (Sebastian's niece) asked her uncle where he had been the previous evening. When he told her he'd been at the von Winterhagen manor, she dropped him and Sophia a cold curtsey, getting the wrong idea. Confused, Sophia curtsied back. Sebastian made it clear that he understood and had -not- had intentions toward Sophia.

Niccolo and Sebastian talked. Niccolo knew that Rainer was a sorcerer and that Sebastian was Rainer's rival, and wanted to warn Sebastian that Rainer was a sorcerer. He explained to Sebastian that sorcerers were evil, which Sebastian agreed with on a philosophical level, and Niccolo meant on a more literal level. Niccolo explained sorcery.

Niccolo: You summon a demon, and it possesses a person --

Sebastian: What??

Niccolo's claims exploded his worldview. Meanwhile, the artist was in or near tears, explaining more or less what he'd done.

Ingrid saw through her link with Aquila (Passer: Eagle). A possessed Leonardo was causing much damage in a potter shop, like, well, a bull in a potter's shop. Marcello paid for the damage and led him away, chuckling to himself when he fancied that he was alone.

Marcello: And to think that I have Niccolo to thank for this.

[Marcello and Leonardo are the brothers of Teresa.]

Ingird did not spot Marcello's telltale, but she recognized Leonardo as being possessed. Teresa put a hand on her shoulder, arriving unexpectedly. Fortunately, Ingrid's veil concealed that she'd gone white.

Teresa told Ingrid how she was afraid for Niccolo because Marcello had shown up. Ingrid's Perception: Liew revealed that Teresa was telling basically the truth about how she and Niccolo ran off, except for her being a demon. She really does care for Niccolo. She left out everything about Marcello and Niccolo being sorcerers, too.

Ingrid noted that Teresa could talk to various students, but would need to be careful if she did not want them hurting Marcello. Teresa agreed that this would be bad, but Ingrid Perceived that she was somewhat torn about this. Teresa got a bit touchy-feely with Ingrid.

Herr Doktor Professor Volkert Horsenfelt, the Philosophy Chair, took Sebastian to his office / room and berated him for exaggerating rumors of his impending death and the possibility of Sebastian succeeding Volkert as the new Chair. Sebastian indignantly denied this. Volkert also berated him for making a fool of Rainer at the Rathaus.

Sebastian: He made a fool of himself!

Volkert: Since you are so eager to debate Herr Doktor Professor Schwanhausser, I shall announce an academic debate for three days hence. I trust that you will find that agreeable.

Sebastian: Certainly. What shall be the topic of our debate?

Volkert: Why, the Nature of Man, of course.

Sebastian was delighted to agree.

Andreas learned that Niccolo had looked at a book that references the Book Bound in Fur, as had Ludwig and Sophia, and perhaps Ingrid as well. Andreas tutored Ysabel, and they discussed philosophy and humanity, and how all were alike under the skin, and how Andreas doubted that Sebastian had killed Ysabel's grandfather. He confirmed that Sebastian's visit to the Winterhagens was quite proper.

Niccolo approached Ingrid to ask about painting her. She demurred, and warned him about Marcello, saying that Leonardo was like Teresa, not what he seemed. Niccolo seemed to her to brush this aside, and she concluded that:

a) He was a fool, but not necessarily an evil man

b) The demon in Leonardo should be banished

c) Marcello should be fatally poisoned

d) She should give her warning to Teresa, as the demon was more of a realist than the sorcerer Niccolo

Sebastian also spent some time in the University library. The librarian told him all he'd told Andreas, as well as telling him that Andreas was interested. He also mentioned that the library had once had a copy of the Book Bound in Fur, but it went missing. That was around the time that Rainer had left Vindabona, about thirty years ago. Sebastian tipped the man generously enough that the librarian wouldn't gossip about Sebastian's interest to others, or so Sebastian hoped. Sebastian also did not reveal that he himself had stolen the library's copy of the Book Bound in Fur.

Sebastian had dinner with Ysabel, who apologized for her assumptions about Sophia and confirmed that he wasn't courting her.

Sebastian: Certainly not!

Ysabel: Good.

This would, after all, be an insult to her father.

She said that Andreas had corrected her and was helping her study for Sebastian's class. Sebastian warned her about Andreas being a dangerous man. Ysabel noted that he was, too.

Ingrid talked with Aquila, telling about all she had learned -- who the known demons and sorcerers were, and so on. Aquila followed Rainer to The Cock and the Cat. Ingrid easily guessed that it was a brothel.

Beth: He has no wife or obvious mistress, so Ingrid would be surprised if he weren't visiting a brothel.

Sebastian, Sophia, Andreas, and Rupert dined with Frederiche von Winterhagen. He revealed that Sigrid had been blindfolded and questioned by an unseen man who asked if she had a beast's heart. When she said that she had not, he asked if she knew who did. She said no, and he told her guards that he trusted that she would soon be released. He then left.

Beth: Well, she was.

Sebastian, who, thanks to Niccolo, understood the reference to the Book of the Heart of the Beast, decided not to share his knowledge. The captured guards had been hired by someone showing the von Pfender coat of arms, and it took a while before even Beth realized that this meant Ingrid's family -- something that her anonymous note from last session would make look even more likely. Frederiche asked Sophia to challenge von Pfender.

At this point, we arranged a phone call with Pamela via speaker phone. Josh pointed out that there was a potential conflict of interest for Sophia, as Siegfried von Pfender had hired her to kill Rainer. Sophia agreed to visit Siegfried and explain the situation.

Rupert had a couple of good lines.

Rupert: We need an excuse to challenge von Pfender? He has offended Sophia. Sophia, are you offended?

After all, challenging for an insult to a bastard daughter who was not officially acknowledged would be awkward.

Rupert also half jokingly proposed, as he figured Sophia could sleep around, he'd acknowledge any kids while sleeping with his lover Ludwig, and they'd all be happy. Alas, Sophia is just plain not interested in marrying.

Niccolo, having forgotten all about Ludwig's invitation -- Julian's decision, that -- decided to work in his studio. A male student offered to pose for him. Niccolo turned him down, politely, and got his name. (Hans? Heinz?)

He heard noise in a nearby room -- Sebastian's lecture hall / office. Insatiably curious, he went to investigate.

He found Ysabel going through her uncle's papers, and he was unimpressed by her claims that she was studying. He agreed not to tell Sebastian what she was up to, and claimed (truthfully) ignorance of her grandfather's situation and who might have killed him. She edged into topics that touched on sorcery, and Niccolo warned her against them, saying that there were indeed some things better not known. Ysabel hinted that it might be too late for her, but not very clearly. Then, she departed the building. Niccolo followed her discretely, making sure that she returned safely to her lodgings.

He then returned to Teresa, who fretted about Marcello and asked what he could want.

Niccolo: I don't know.

At one point, he snapped at her.

Niccolo: She's dead!

Teresa: I know! I'm sorry!

Julian: Ah, she's tugging -all- the strings.

Sebastian returned home to discover that his papers had been searched, but nothing was missing, nor had his copy of the Book Bound in Fur been touched. Indeed, it had not been found in its secret hiding place, built into the bottom of a heavy, book-laden bookcase.

Sebastian decided to test Niccolo's claims about demons. He asked 'Elena (Passer: Raven) to bring him a mouse.

'Elena: Why?

Sebastian told her to bring two mice, and promised that 'Elena could eat one of them. 'Elena did so. Then, Sebastian set about summoning a Possessor Demon into his mouse. He french kissed the mouse and dressed it in human clothes. We agreed that its telltale would be that it wore clothes. The mouse also talks.

[Lisa's possibly incorrect ruling: Summoning demons always works, and victories are rolled over to the relevant side for the binding roll. Cover is free for possessor demons and does not raise their stats.]

[Julian's comment: Summoning doesn't always work, but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to
roll successes over into binding. You seemed to be running it right at the time.]

'Elena was jealous of the new demon, Minerva. [Named by Julian, who chose it because it shortens to "Minnie".]

Julian: Lisa, Sebastian didn't praise 'Elena for fetching the mouse. [Praise is 'Elena's Desire.]

Sebastian did eventually manage to soothe 'Elena, for the present, explaining that 'Elena was good at flying and traveling, while Minerva was to stay at home and guard his books. 'Elena has not yet eaten Minerva.

Andreas went hunting with Orion [Passer: Dog] and encountered Leonardo crashing through the woods. Leonardo attacked, moving like a bull. Andreas told Orion to hamstring him. Orion did, as Marcello came on the scene.

A bit of confusion ensued as we wondered how many points of damage constitutes a hamstringing, and then decided that the possessed Leonardo's Vitality would cause the wound to heal before Andreas' astonished eyes.

Marcello played dumb, pretending that Leonardo just hadn't been himself since going to talk to Niccolo, which he hadn't done. And, Marcello talked about how Niccolo had run off with Teresa.

Marcello utterly failed to notice that Andreas was a sorcerer or that Orion was a demon. Andreas realized, to his utter astonishment,, that Lorenzo was possessed. This happened despite Dave assigning himself, with my approval, a 2 die penalty -- one for Andreas' price being Denial and one because Andreas had no reason to think Possessor Demons existed. Lorenzo's telltale was his inability to speak.

And, as the moonlight revealed that Marcello cast no shadow, Andreas recognized him as a sorcerer. He helped Marcello get Lorenzo to a carriage and back to town over the next few hours, and urged Marcello to leave the ailing Leonardo in his care. Marcello saw no reason not to agree, being imperceptive, overconfident, and in a maliciously humorous mood.

So, Marcello left Leonardo to Andreas' tender mercies. Andreas took Leonardo to his lab in the University and strapped him down. The restraining table functioned as a contain. As Dave explained, this made sense given that Humanity is defined in our game as that which makes us civilized, rather than animals: "The restraining table used for vivisections and dissections, barbaric acts in a highly structured and civilized setting, with the added bonus of the fact that there are actual big ass leather restraints."

And, Andreas, looking at his new test subject in delight, uttered the campaign's most chilling words to date:

Andreas: And he heals!

He tried to test this, cutting into Leonardo's chest Alas, the contain did not hold, and Leonardo began to break free of the table. Panicking, Andreas tried a snapshot Banish.

And he succeeded.

Leonardo was now mindless and dying. Dave confirmed that the body was not yet a cold corpse and that the heart was still beating. Desperate, Andreas tried the one thing he could think of to avoid having to explain a nobleman's corpse -- he tried to summon a new demon into poor Leonardo, something he had only just learned might be possible.

After the second snapshot try, he made contact with something resembling what he wanted, and, as with Minerva, I bumped up the Power as per the rules. I might have chosen not to do that if I had remembered how much trickier this would make the Summoning.

Andreas now tried to summon the demon he had just contacted, his hand in Leonardo's chest, frantically pumping the heart. As he did this, a woman's voice chanted in a shaky voice, but Andreas was far too concentrated on his task to register this.

Next, Andreas prepared for a new, careful binding ritual. As he did, he realized that he had an audience. Looking up, covered in blood, he saw Ysabel, trembling and holding out an open book to him.

Ysabel: Herr Doktor Professor? I think you will find this passage most useful.

Dave: Forget my character -- you just broke -me-!

Andreas's jaw dropped, and he stammered. Ysabel held out the complete Book of the Heart of the Beast.

Andreas: Tell me everything!

Ysabel: Yes, Herr Doktor Professor, but perhaps later? For now, should we not --

Andreas: Yes.

Ysabel: What should I do?

Andreas: Help me take off my clothes.

Ysabel did so, her hands trembling when she got to the pants, as she had never done this before.

Ysabel: Should I take off my clothes as well?

Andreas: Perhaps later.

I suggested that the demon's Desire might be to breed. Dave liked this, and he decided that this was a rabbit demon. Its Need was to submit in power games. Dave decided that its telltale was that it was priapic.

Andreas ritually mounted, but did not have actual sex with, Leonardo. The binding strength is +1 in Leonardo's favor, prompting jokes about the demon not being a good submissive or about topping from the bottom. Despite this, Andreas was ecstatic.

Andreas: I did it!

Ysabel then told her story, which I'll put at the end. She was a busy bee tonight, and I didn't worry about strict logic of her movements. It -fit- that she be here.

Julian: She should have listened to Niccolo.

[This following part was done earlier in session, in the same phone call.]

The next day, Sophia visited the von Pfender manor and spoke privately with Siegfried (ancient family patriarch) telling him of the possible conflict of interest due to people kidnapping young women, and the business about the von Pfender coat of arms. Siegfried seemed clearly shocked, and said that he would investigate. Sophia said that she hoped the conflict would soon be resolved. Then, she left.

Siegfried told Ingrid what had happened, and he summoned the household servants to question them. All denied involvement. Ingrid Perceived that one was lying. This was a servant who worked for her uncle Horst, the one who wants to displace her as Siegfried's heir. She wants to reveal this without revealing herself, and to be careful not to assume the worst about Horst.

Ysabel's Story

When the Furst and Furstin were slaughtered, Herzogin Roselinde took the Book of the Heart of the Beast, which they'd used to perpetrate their atrocities, and concealed it. Not trusting her sons, she passed it to her daughter, Adela (who became von Jungen). Adela passed it to her daughter Gudrun, Rosa's niece. Gudrun visited Rosa, Ysabel's grandmother, when Rosa was ill of plague. Gudrun took ill herself, but, before she died, she passed her legacy to Ysabel and revealed that she had summoned a demon into her husband, Albrecht von Ouranenburg, after tiring of his often brutal treatment of her.

Ysabel had tried to help with contacting and summoning, but I had rolled badly. Ysabel has a Lore of 2, but has never successfully contacted, summoned, or bound a demon -- is she a sorcerer or not? Andreas does not want her to become one, I think. [Yes, Ysabel is a sorcerer, as confirmed by this thread: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17998.0

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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2005, 05:08:35 PM »

A quick guide to the important families in Vindabona

Furst and Furstin: Deceased rulers of Vindabona, slaughtered over a century ago by the outraged nobility because they blurred the line between their children and their pet apes. Both children and apes were slaughtered.

Herzogin Roselinde: The Furstin's kid sister. She took the Book of the Heart of the Beast and passed it on to her daughter.

Von Black

Garamond: Deceased Graf, murdered no more than 6 months ago
Rosa: Deceased Grafin, died in plague, born to the von Ouranenburgs
Sebastian: Garamond's oldest son
Edmond: Garamond's younger son, the current Graf, possibly courting Ingrid von Pfender
Ysabel: Edmond's daughter and heir


Von Ouranenburg

Albrecht: Deceased Graf, died in 665 or 666 (need to check my notes).
Folks in the know are aware that he was considered mad and kept inside in the years before his untimely death.
Gudrun: Deceased Grafin, died in plague, passed an unusual legacy to her cousin, Ysabel
Rupert: Son of Albrecht and Gudrun, current Graf, still a bachelor at age 32
Andreas: Rupert's cousin


Von Winterhagen

Frederiche: The von Winterhagen heir
Sigrid: His bastard daughter
Fritz: His younger brother
Sophia: His younger sister, living in one of Fritz's houses. Turned down a proposal from Edmond von Black


Von Pfender

Siegfried: Ancient Patriarch and Graf
Horst: His nephew, contesting the succession
Ingrid: His great grand-daughter and heir, scarred in the plague, possibly being courted by Edmond von Black


Mantuo

Antonio: Family Patriarch
Teresa: His youngest daughter
Marcello: One of his younger sons, unaware that Ingrid is contemplating poisoning him
Leonardo: Another of his younger sons

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Lisa Padol
Member

Posts: 365


« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2005, 05:09:37 PM »

Comments on the system: In a nutshell, my players do not care for the system. The general feeling is that, while we have gotten some amazing results, that is in spite of, not because of, the system.

One thing which may help for combats is that I have rediscovered that Actual, Genuine, No-Foolin' Mook Rule, the one on p. 112 that says that Nameless Minions go down after one hit.

Snapshot rituals and summoning up the second and subsequent demons have us scratching our heads. This is despite the fact that we got good results using the rules as we understood them -- I do not know how much of what happened would have been possible had we tinkered with the rules.

I can see why one might do a snapshot banish. But, a snapshot summon or contact? Outside of a situation like Andreas', why would anyone want to do this? If I'm in the middle of a combat situation, why would I decide to do a snapshot contact or summon that is likely to fail, or at the very least, not get me what I want?

This leads to the question of why anyone would ever contact a second demon. And, the reason it feels like an odd question is that two characters did just that, for reasons that, in character, made good sense. But, there were a couple of out of character factors as well: Josh wanted to see how the system worked, while Dave wants to drive Andreas right up to, and probably over, the line.

I think we pretty much agree that the demon you have from character creation should be as powerful as you think you can handle, and perhaps a bit more. This is the only time you're guaranteed to get what you want. After that, well, Julian wrote a good overview of our questions about the demon rules:

***

On-the-fly demon summoning is too hard to use in crisis situations. Having only one die to play with means that you just aren't going to get anything most of the time. (The fact that Andreas managed to pull it off, and it was really cool when he did, is beside the point. Between contact and summoning, he had no chance.) Summoning before the crisis only works if you know what you need beforehand. The net result is that summoning more demons is not as attractive as the game wants it to be.

Highly skilled sorcerers are worse at getting the right demons than low-skilled ones. Every success you get on the contact roll means the demon's power can go up. Every die result that the demon beats is a power change. The guy with one die to roll may not get his demon, but if he does, it's what he wants. The guy with ten dice gets his demon, but it's more powerful, because he has several successes, and it gets several power changes, because, with all those dice, the demon's going to beat something.

***

[Lisa: Yes, we know that the GM doesn't have to tinker with the demon. That's beside the point.]

Josh's comment:

It's actually "every die of the demon's that beats your lowest die".

More or less, the result of this means that if you try to summon a low powered demon, you'll get a high powered demon which might not have the powers you want.

If you try to summon a high powered demon, you'll -get- a higher-powered demon that still doesn't have the powers you want.

***

Back to Julian:

Humanity gain from banishing a demon is backwards. The sorcerer who banishes a powerful demon has little chance to gain humanity. The guy who banishes demons only just more powerful than him has a much easier time of it. Flipping it so that the sorcerer rolled the demon's power vs his own humanity makes much more sense.

What's more, the humanity gain from banishing a demon is harder the more you need it, both directly (fewer dice to roll), and indirectly (you needed that humanity in the first place to banish the demon.)

[Lisa: I am assuming we used the rules correctly, e.g., the sorcerer's Humanity vs the Demon's Power, and the Humanity gain occurs if the Humanity roll beats the Power roll. I am also assuming that I am correct that for Contains, if you roll Lore vs. Stamina, the Lore victories are the ones that roll over.]

-Lisa


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Julian
Member

Posts: 40


« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2005, 12:31:54 AM »

Overall, the game has good, interesting ideas, but the mechanics are getting in the way.

The die mechanic is overly fiddly. There are lots of dice to read, lots of comparison of numbers. Any time you need to roll dice, you have to drop out of the game to deal with the mechanics. Combat appears to be even worse. Both will improve with practice, but so would a simpler system.

The results you get from doing all of that don't feel worth the effort. Big piles of successes aren't that common, even in badly mismatched situations.

It's also hard to understand the probabilities involved. The number of successes you get are based not only on the margin (which is obvious) but on how many dice the weaker side has. (which is not)

The variance is too high, at least with ten-sided dice. This is both good and bad. One one hand, Andreas couldn't have managed what he did with lower variance. On the other hand, it means that tasks that should be easy fail too often, and things that are hard happen more than they should. Overall, it's more bad than good - it makes it hard to predict how things will turn out.


Every roll being opposed by something is not a bad mechanic in principle, but some of the decisions on what just don't make sense. Lisa already mentioned the humanity gain from banishment one. Preparing a binding is another. You roll your lore vs your own stamina. In other words, the tougher you are, the worse you are at binding demons.

Contact is easily the biggest sticking point of the system for me. If a system has a single, general-purpose mechanic, it should be used for everything. Contact deviates from the core mechanic in two different ways:

Successes beyond the first are bad for the person who gets them. If you do well, you're actually doing badly.

The "demon gets stuff from beating your low roll" mechanic badly fails to fit.

The problem is really from trying to squeeze two separate things into one roll. Demon summoning would probably flow more smoothly if there was a fourth roll in the process, separating the contact roll from the Rolling Stones roll. Alternately, one could have contact always work, and just roll to get what you want. (This makes demon summoning easier, with Summoning the only point of failure, but is that a bad thing?)

An interesting question is what this roll should be. Presumably, every success the demon gets would allow the GM to make a change, so it should skew toward the demon, just to make the sorcerer's life interesting.

Lore vs Power allows skilled sorcerers to usually get what they want, unless they're dealing with serious demons, while novice sorcerers could end up with almost anything. That's not bad, certainly better than the way it is now, but it may be a bit too controllable.

My other thought is Lore+Humanity vs Will+Power. This probably makes demon summoning less predictable, as all the interesting demons will have high scores there. I'm not sure it feels right, though. Then again, the sorcerer who's burned away most or all of his Humanity summoning demons and committing other unspeakable acts seems like the type most likely to call up that which he can't put down again.

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Trevis Martin
Member

Posts: 499


« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2005, 01:14:22 AM »

There are a couple of things from my expierence to share with you guys.

1.)  The basic dice mechanic.  It gets easy as pie to read when you just look for your highest die.  When my players and I roll I usually say, "what's your highest?"  If he beats me I say, "how many better than X?"  where X is my highest.  You guys aren't doing a risk thing with highest to highest, next highest to next highest are you?  The loosers best die determines the final target to compare the winner's dice against.  That's it.

2.)  The only time I interpret degrees of success is when it seems important to the game (complex confict is usually it.)  Most of the time you either succeeded or not.  The rules state that degrees of success "applies to situations where success maybe only partial, such as binding a demon or striking someone in combat."

3.) To really make the system sing the players have to take advantage of rollover victories and rp bonuses.  Otherwise stuff will suck pretty hard.  Snapshot ritual?  Roll your lore to suss out the demon and roll those victories into the banish roll.  And describe and RP the heck out of it, enough to make the people around you say "cool."  That's when the GM should know to pile on some bonus dice.  One of the hard things for me to grasp when I first played the system is that in Sorcerer, your character on the sheet is not your character at his best.  It's your character when he isn't trying too hard.  Your character at his best is when you earn those rp dice.

4.) Ron will have to say for sure but it looks like the contact ritual things you're concerned with are options that may be employed, not hard and fast all the time rules.  On the other hand, Sorcery is dangerous.  You can't expect to fuck with the universe and get what you want made to order.  You're not actually doing that badly either.  You may not choose to bind this thing.  You won't know what kind of power it has.  The point is that the GM has the option to cause variance for you.  If your character wants it badly enough, you will have to decide if the risk is worth it, story now all the way baby.

On the first option, it specifically states that the GM may substitute abilities, change type or desire but cannot change any of the scores.

On the second option it is a power increase only, nothing else changes.



The system does take a few to get the hang of.  I will say that.

best

Trevis
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2005, 03:57:19 AM »

Snapshot rituals are vehemently intented as a difficult last resort which will only succeed with roll-overs and bonus dice. I fail to see the problem with them, unless you really, really think that only experienced sorcerers should be able to do it - but then you've misunderstood the nature of the game: occult careerism is hardly at the center of sorcerer efficiency at any point, the motivations and will are much more important.

As for secondary summons: my GMing advice is to not worry about it. If players don't want to summon, but otherwise do interesting and dramatic things, then that's fine. Demons are optional when all is said and done. Also note that bitching about the difficulty of summoning demons is sometimes a reaction to shattered expectations - the player wants to summon, but is not willing to pay the price. At that point he shouldn't do it. It's better to stick to the mechanics rather than make sorcery easier until the players are comfortable doing it. The latter would defeat the purpose of the sorcery rules, which is very much to make a player cringe about the choices he makes.

About the die mechanic: Sorcerer has one of the simplest base die mechanics I've ever seen. As Trevis noted, reading a result takes five seconds. The probabilities are also laughably simple: your probability of success is always (your dice)/(your dice + opposing dice). If you really want to find out a percentage before you commit to a roll, you can always calculate it in a couple of seconds with a calculator, which is much better than most games.

I don't have my book with me, so I won't be commenting directly on the different summoning formulae. (It's possible that you're confused about either the formulae or when they're applied, but I'll let somebody else tell us about that.) I've never had problems with them, but I've not played Sorcerer very much either. If, after playing for some time, you think that some formulae need changing, I don't think it's a big mess-up if you decide to switch things around: most of those sorcery mechanics are more or less just applications of the basic conflict resolution reflected on the particular genre of the core book, so it's quite possible to switch things around if you feel the particulars don't line up with your expectations. Of course, there's a number of formulae that are not like this, especially the ones that include Humanity.

Other than that, I find it funny that you liked the session but detest the rules. (Also, that you yourself applied many of the options that you found so bad that a player would never want to use them.) Takes all kinds, I guess. Personally I think that it's a very group-dependent thing whether you should switch to freeform, stick with the rules or what. If you have the patience, perhaps you should play a couple more sessions with the rules as they are. Then again, Sorcerer is not a very broad-appeal game, so you might save yourself some frustration by choosing another rules set, especially if you don't like the basic die mechanics and the complex conflict (aka combat) rules.
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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2005, 04:23:01 AM »

The probabilities are also laughably simple: your probability of success is always (your dice)/(your dice + opposing dice).

This is not true. I don't know what the correct formula is, but that the one you propose isn't it can be seen from these two examples.

1. We're playing with 2-sided dice; I have 1 die, you have two dice. The only way I can win is if I roll a 2 and you roll two 1's: chances of this happening are 1 in 8, not 1 in 3.

2. We're rolling 10-sided dice; I roll n, you roll 2n. As n goes to infinity, the chance becomes 1 that we'll both have at least one 10. So the question is: who has the most tens? Well, as n goes to infinity, the chance of you having most tens becomes 1, and you always win - not just 2 out of 3 times.
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Lisa Padol
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2005, 05:49:00 AM »

As for secondary summons: my GMing advice is to not worry about it. If players don't want to summon, but otherwise do interesting and dramatic things, then that's fine. Demons are optional when all is said and done. Also note that bitching about the difficulty of summoning demons is sometimes a reaction to shattered expectations - the player wants to summon, but is not willing to pay the price. At that point he shouldn't do it. It's better to stick to the mechanics rather than make sorcery easier until the players are comfortable doing it. The latter would defeat the purpose of the sorcery rules, which is very much to make a player cringe about the choices he makes.

Well, that depends on the author's intent. The impression I got was that if the PCs are not summoning more demons, something is wrong, and the GM should be making them more desperate. So, what's going on is not that my players are saying, "I want to have my character summon more demons, but the price is too high," but that we are all scratching our heads saying, "But, why on earth would anyone want to summon more than one demon? If that's how the game is supposed to go, something's not adding up."

Ron, did I misunderstand?

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If, after playing for some time, you think that some formulae need changing, I don't think it's a big mess-up if you decide to switch things around: most of those sorcery mechanics are more or less just applications of the basic conflict resolution reflected on the particular genre of the core book, so it's quite possible to switch things around if you feel the particulars don't line up with your expectations.

I am perfectly capable of doing this, yes.
My players would have no objections, and would be delighted to help.
But.
As far as I can tell, Ron has always maintained that those formulas are as they are for a reason, and that changing them is a bad idea and would break the game. My working hypothesis is that he knows what he is talking about.

This does not mean that I have committed to never changing the rules, but it does mean that I want to consider very carefully before I decide to do that.

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Other than that, I find it funny that you liked the session but detest the rules. (Also, that you yourself applied many of the options that you found so bad that a player would never want to use them.)

Yes, I have noticed this. It is why I am very leary of changing formulae.

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If you have the patience, perhaps you should play a couple more sessions with the rules as they are.

We have since had a third session with the rules as they are, and, as I don't expect this to be a long campaign -- I was estimating 6-12 sessions -- I'd prefer to stick to the rules.

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Then again, Sorcerer is not a very broad-appeal game, so you might save yourself some frustration by choosing another rules set, especially if you don't like the basic die mechanics and the complex conflict (aka combat) rules.

True, though there are a couple of additional factors to take into account here.

1. Speaking strictly for myself, rather than for any of my players, the question in my mind is "What, if anything, am I failing to understand here?"

Before I decide to change the rules, to avoid the game, anything like that, I want to understand what's going on. Is it a matter of personal taste on our part, the game just not clicking for us? Is it that I've misunderstood a mechanic? Is it that there's a principle that's clear to the author and to others that have played the game, but that I've not yet recognized? To my mind, that last is one of Sorcerer's weaknesses. Without the Forge and Ron's constant willingness to give feedback, I would not have realized that, for example, the list of descriptors was supposed to be fixed. I might decide to change that in the future, but first, I need to know that this is not how the game is intended to be run (check), and then I need to know why this is the case (still working on that one).

2. I want to be able to run Sorcerer at the drop of a hat, not just for friends, but to demo for strangers. To be able to do this, I must understand the rules inside and out.

I am aware that getting a handle on the game will take time, and I'm not beating myself up for not "getting it right" the first time. But I do want to know whether other games have had the characters summoning up multiple demons, and, if so, why the characters chose to do this. I want to know how the Humanity rolls went in other games -- gain and loss.

I would also like to know if other groups have changed the rules drastically, and, if so, how, and what results they got.

I guess I'm in the messy experimental stage. We're hoping to fit in a fourth session next week, but this will depend on the situation with the MTA and the transit workers, and on whether we can all talk loudly enough at Neutral Ground on the Thursday before Christmas.

-Lisa
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Bret Gillan
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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2005, 06:20:45 AM »

Hi Lisa! Glad to hear you guys are still plugging along! I wanted to take a poke at some of your problems and see if I can help at all.

+ Why do a snapshot summon or contact?

Because your neckdeep in dookie and summoning another demon might be the only way to get out of it. Because you need to communicate with a demon RIGHT NOW and you can't take hours to do the rituals. Yes, it's more of a longshot than doing the rituals, but as others have said, there's always rollover and RP bonuses. It is not impossible.

+ Why summon a second demon?

Because the sorcerer needs it. In the successful games I've run, I've leaned on the sorcerers pretty hard, and before long they're eyeballing the demon-summoning rules. One of the best "summoning a second demon" instances was when a sorcerer summoned a Possessor demon into his horribly wounded daughter because if he didn't, she would die.

+ Highly skilled sorcerers are worse at getting demons than low-skilled ones because of the power bump.

I'm 99% sure this is an optional rule.

+ Summoning demons is useless because there's a good chance they have powers you don't want.

Demons are mean, and just because they have different powers than the ones you want doesn't mean they're useless. Every single power on the demon powers list is useful.

+ Humanity gain from banishing a demon is backwards.

I'm pretty sure you have it backwards. You roll your Humanity vs. the demon's Power and if you LOSE you gain Humanity.

Lisa,

You say that you and the players think you had fun in spite of, not because of, the rules. You cited some concerns, but do you have any specific instances of in-game events where the system disrupted play, or where you had less fun because of the rules? Frankly, right now it seems like you guys are just grappling with a new system. That happens to everyone. You're learning the rules and figuring out the idiosyncracies.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2005, 06:28:19 AM »

Lisa: I dig, I've been there. What little experience I have suggests that a) I'm always misinterpreting Sorcerer rules in some way and b) usually Ron's way is better. So you could say that I've made changes in the rules, but usually they go awry because I've misunderstood the line between the customisable and fixed rules of the game. I agree with you that the book could be written somewhat more clearly.

Because Ron's on vacation itll take a while for us to get his feedback. I for one am interested to hear what we've misunderstood here. Meanwhile, when looking at common misunderstandings, I'd say the most common one concerns not the rules but the way they should be used: in my experience Sorcerer works much, much better if the currency rules are used to the max and the complex conflict rules are used at all. So if play seems lukewarm, I suggest checking those first. Remember that you can "roll in" any fictional details that you think should affect a given situation either as a supporting roll or a "tactical bonus die".

About demons: my experience is that players will find uses for demons as long as the GM doesn't nerf demon powers, but also doesn't protect anybody from the consequences. This is of course just my experience, but usually details like getting just the demon powers you ordered tend to not matter. If anything, players are more interested in it because the process carries risk. It's an exciting situation when you contact a demon, summon and bind just to find out that you didn't exactly get what you ordered. The demon will likely get the job done anyway, but then you'll have to figure out what to do with it next.

Victor: yeah, if you're using an infinite number of dice, or the dice are 2-sided, but I've never encountered either in practical play. My formula is close enough to truth, even if it doesn't account for the marginal cases. (The simple formula assumes that the loser will actually have dice that are lower than the highest winning die, so it breaks down when you assume a very small number of small dice or a very high disparity between players.)
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joshua neff
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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2005, 06:29:11 AM »

Well, that depends on the author's intent. The impression I got was that if the PCs are not summoning more demons, something is wrong, and the GM should be making them more desperate. So, what's going on is not that my players are saying, "I want to have my character summon more demons, but the price is too high," but that we are all scratching our heads saying, "But, why on earth would anyone want to summon more than one demon? If that's how the game is supposed to go, something's not adding up."

You guys need to play with Mike Holmes. The last time I ran Sorcerer, 10 minutes into the first session he was egging the other players on, "Summon another demon! Summon another demon!"

Why summon more demons? Here are some actual play circumstances from my own games:

* One PC's first demon was an emotionally abusive, mean-spirited, rules-bending bastard who treated his own master as horribly as he could get away with. So the player had his PC summon a second demon to help him subdue and banish the first demon.

* Another PC (played by Mike Holmes) was a straightlaced office worker who had summoned and bound the ghost of his dead wife. His wife was pushing him to summon and bind the ghost of their dead daughter, but Mike's character was conflicted. Instead, he summoned other dead loved ones--he beat their dog to death with a shovel, then summoned and bound the ghost in regret--instead, as a way of waffling on the issue of his daughter.

* Another PC was a real arrogant bastard who believed he was basically an incarnate god. He was also a Catholic priest. He summoned a second demon because more demons means more power, and he was all about getting more power. Plus, some investigators from the Church were nosing around, and he wanted to make sure he had enough strength to take them on if they directly confronted him.

Basically, it seems to me there are plenty of good reasons to summon more demons. More demons means more power for the PC. More demons means more complicated relationships for the PC. And more demons means more potential for Humanity loss for the PC, which can be loads of fun. And I would agree, the GM should be really putting the pressure on the PCs, putting them in desperate situations, so that the players feel like they have to summons more demons to get their characters out of these jams.

Of course, players don't really have to summons more demons, and going the other route--banishing every demon you come across--can be fun, too.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2005, 08:48:01 AM »

I hate the Sorcerer die roll mechanic.

I hate it primarily because I didn't think of it.
The more I learn, observe and experience the Sorcerer die roll mechanic the more I realize its one of the most elegant, flexible, functional, and blazingly fast die roll mechanics ever invented...therefor I must resent it.
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Lisa Padol
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« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2005, 09:03:00 AM »

+ Why summon a second demon?

Because the sorcerer needs it. In the successful games I've run, I've leaned on the sorcerers pretty hard, and before long they're eyeballing the demon-summoning rules. One of the best "summoning a second demon" instances was when a sorcerer summoned a Possessor demon into his horribly wounded daughter because if he didn't, she would die.

This is similar to one of the two "second summonings" we've had -- Andreas panicked because Leonardo was dying.
The second case was Sebastian's decision that he had to see if what Niccolo told him was correct -- and to see if one could do it to an animal, rather than to a human. Totally the opposite end of the spectrum.

I will be extremely surprised if Ingrid ever summons a second demon.
Sophia? IMO, unlikely, but certainly possible.
Niccolo? Very unlikely, but because of how Julian plays him and how Beth plays Ingrid, more likely than Ingrid, and Niccolo can make rash decisions.

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+ Highly skilled sorcerers are worse at getting demons than low-skilled ones because of the power bump.

I'm 99% sure this is an optional rule.

IIRC, it's at the GM's option -- the GM may bump up the power, but is under no obligation to do so.

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+ Summoning demons is useless because there's a good chance they have powers you don't want.

Demons are mean, and just because they have different powers than the ones you want doesn't mean they're useless. Every single power on the demon powers list is useful.

How would you use one to help you win an academic debate? Josh has told me that there's no way Sebastian would summon up a new demon to do that, because the risk is simply far too great -- Sebastian could lose 3 points of Humanity, and anyway, he's pretty good at debating on his own. That's fine, but hypothetically speaking, how would you use one to win an academic debate? Restrictions: Possessors and Passers (as animals) only, the debate has to actually happen, and having the demon kill the opponent in the middle of a public debate is Right Out.

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+ Humanity gain from banishing a demon is backwards.

I'm pretty sure you have it backwards. You roll your Humanity vs. the demon's Power and if you LOSE you gain Humanity.

This would make a huge difference -- anyone have the exact rule to hand?

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You say that you and the players think you had fun in spite of, not because of, the rules. You cited some concerns, but do you have any specific instances of in-game events where the system disrupted play, or where you had less fun because of the rules? Frankly, right now it seems like you guys are just grappling with a new system. That happens to everyone. You're learning the rules and figuring out the idiosyncracies.

This is quite possible. For me, the one which comes to mind is Combat, which is always tricky. For my players? Well, they'll have to field this one individually.

-Lisa
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Bret Gillan
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« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2005, 09:10:42 AM »

How would you use a Demon to win an academic debate? Summon a demon that has the power Cover (Expert in Whatever Field is Being Debated) or Boost: Will.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2005, 09:11:58 AM »

How would you use one to help you win an academic debate? Josh has told me that there's no way Sebastian would summon up a new demon to do that, because the risk is simply far too great -- Sebastian could lose 3 points of Humanity, and anyway, he's pretty good at debating on his own. That's fine, but hypothetically speaking, how would you use one to win an academic debate? Restrictions: Possessors and Passers (as animals) only, the debate has to actually happen, and having the demon kill the opponent in the middle of a public debate is Right Out.

The character is already pretty good at debate. But he could summon and bind a Possessor with Boost: Will and turn himself into a debating dynamo! Personally, I think that would be very, very cool.

Or he could not summon another demon and not risk losing Humanity. That, too, is a valid statement to make on the premise. It's the player's choice.

EDIT: Crossposted with Bret.
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--josh

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