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[Sorcerer] Our Fifth Session: Part One

Started by Lisa Padol, February 25, 2006, 03:49:05 AM

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Lisa Padol

Fifth Sorcerer Session -- February 14, 2006

The description of the characters and the write up of the first session are here:

The write up of the second session is here:

The write up of the third session is here:

The write up of the fourth session is here:

Demons are limited to Passers (in animal form) and Possessors (without Hop).

GM: Lisa Padol

Joshua Kronengold: Herr Doktor Professor Sebastian Black, disqualified from being Graf von Black due to his limp. Teaches Philosophy.

His demons: 'Elena, a Passer Raven, and Minerva, a Possessed Mouse. 'Elena is jealous of Minerva, but has not yet tried to eat the new demon.

Dave Demast: Herr Doktor Professor Andreas von Ouranenburg, not himself a noble, but cousin and friend of Graf Rupert von Ouranenburg. Teaches Natural Philosophy, with dissections and vivisections. Potential serial killer, falling in love with Sebastian's niece Ysabel.

His demons: Orion, a Passer Dog, and Leonardo, a nobleman possessed by a rabbit spirit.

Beth Bartley: Ingrid von Pfender, plague-scarred heiress and university student. Wears a veil to hide her scars. Like Andreas and Sebastian, she discovered the existence of Possessor demons a day ago. Unlike them, she has not tried to summon a Possessor.

Her demon: Aquila, a Passer Eagle.

Julian Lighton: Niccolo di Tarci, talented artist who would want to be Leonardo da Vinci if he'd ever heard of him. Horrified at having summoned a Possessor demon into the daughter of his patron, and less than thrilled to learn that he'd given her brother, Marcello, the idea of summoning a Possessor into his brother Leonardo. Before that, Niccolo was blissfully ignorant of sorcery, and Marcello had only summoned demons into his children, not realizing that one could summon them into adults. Niccolo has only recently become aware of the existence of Passer demons.

His demon: Teresa Mantuo, a noblewoman possessed by a fox spirit. Leonardo's sister. Teresa is starting to lose patience with Niccolo. Her Need is physical intimacy; her Desire is Love. Last session, Niccolo gave her plenty of the former, as they had sex as part of an attempt at banishing the latest demon summoned by Marcello.

Pamela Gutman: Sophia von Winterhagen, scandalously unmarried, but hardly celibate. Sophia is a swordswoman, a sort of society-approved assassin-for-hire who takes money to kill people in duels. She does not know about Possessor Demons.

Her demon: Nariya, a Passer Cat.

Game prep got much simpler once things started to click. I prepared the following handouts:

Updated Timeline: One copy for all of us
Updated Who's Who: One copy for all of us
Handdrawn R-map: One copy for all of us
Lore Spreadsheet: A single copy for the players to reference
Lore Spreadsheet: A gm's version for me

It seemed fitting for the classroom setting of Hamilton Hall. Alas, there were no empty classrooms in Hamilton. Josh and I thought about moving the game to Lerner, and made various phone calls to the players, discovering that Pamela had sent two emails that hadn't arrived, informing us that one of her cats had a broken leg. She couldn't leave the cat alone, but she was prepared to IM.


Columbia = 113th Street and Broadway
Pamela = 108th Street and Broadway

Okay, possible issues:

Josh and Lisa have allergies to cats. Answer: Lisa has allergy meds.
Cats pounce on dice. Answer: Not currently an issue for at least one of the cats.
Pamela sounding not thrilled. Answer: Not a problem once I understood that her primary worry was that her place was a mess and she understood that this was not actually a problem for any of us.

Game shifted venue. I gave out the handouts and character sheets, then wolfed down my dinner while Dave looked over everything.

Continued in next post.


Lisa Padol

I started with Ingrid going to the house of her great grandfather, Siegfried von Pfender, 90-year-old patriarch of the von Pfender family. Ingrid warned Burkhardt, Sebastian's majordomo, of Sophia and Sebastian's impending visit, the reason for it, and that Sebastian's doctor should be sent for. Burkhardt assured Ingrid that he had already sent for the doctor, given the last two or three unpleasant surprises Siegfried had had that day.

I then cut back to Sophia and Sebastian. Josh said that they were still talking. I said that this was fine. Sophia and Sebastian each admitted being a sorcerer, and they made a tentative arrangement for Sebastian to teach Sophia. I forget what line they reached Edmund von Black's house on. I think Sebastian had just said something like, "It wouldn't be polite", but I forget the context. Sebastian was about to be quite rude to his younger brother, Edmund.

Six years earlier, Sophia had turned down a proposal to become Edmund's second wife. I passed on an idea that Josh had to Pamela: that Edmund had sent a swordsman to make a challenge before Graf von Winterhagen could make it clear that Sophia was defying his wishes. Sophia had intercepted the swordsman, accepted the challenge herself, and killed her opponent. Pamela liked that. It is now What Happened.

Sebastian knocked Graf Edmund von Black's door, then, accompanied by the woman who had humiliated Eduund and killed his swordsman. The butler was aghast and rude, barely acknowledging Sebastian's presence. He grudgingly said that he'd let Graf von Black know of the company.

Sebastian, who would have been Graf von Black himself, had it not been for his deformed leg, agreed that the butler would do this. Without waiting for the butler's response, he walked into his brother's house, with Sophia. Edumnd, half dressed in a half powdered wig way, rather than in an actual nudity way, went halfway down the stairs to see what was going on. He was also quite rude.

Julian: Just when you thought this relationship couldn't -get- any worse.

Sebastian delivered a note from Siegfried von Pfender. Edmund was courting Siegfried's great-granddaughter, Ingrid, and Ingrid's uncle, Horst, Siegfried's grandson, was courting Edmund's daughter, Ysabel.

Lisa's summary of Siegfried's note: Horst must not marry Ysabel. Horst is an idiot. See me if you want to know more.

Edmund wanted to know why Siegfried had his brother dancing attendance, rather than sending the note with a servant. Sebastian asked if Edmund really wanted someone else carrying this particular message. Edmund made some snarky comment about trust, I think, then said that, as his brother was willing to carry the von Pfender's messages, he could carry Edmund's reply. Sebastian agreed, having anticipated this.

Edmund said that he and his daughter, Ysabel, would be at the theater that evening, making it pointedly clear that Sebastian was not invited. Edmund would visit Graf von Pfender after the opera, or the next morning, depending on Siegfried's preferences.

Edmund then went upstairs, making sure to snatch the wine, lest his brother presume, although he had been the one raiding Sebastian's larder the previous evening.

When Sophia and Sebastian arrived at the von Pfender mansion, Burkhardt greeted them far more politely than Edmund had, and offered them refreshments, explaining that Siegfried needed to gather himself. It had been an upsetting day. Sophia apologized.

Burkhardt: It is not your fault that his grandson is -- foolish.

Sophia agreed.

Siegfried met his guests and heard their tale of how his grandson, Horst, had challenged Sophia for threatening Rainer Schwanhauser, whom Horst claimed was under his protection. Rainer was Sebastian's academic rival, and the two were to debate the next day. Rainer was also a sorcerer, something Siegfried was well aware of, even though Siegfried was not a sorcerer.

Siegfried asked if Sophia would let the matter of his grandson drop if Horst withdrew his challenge. She agreed, but was dubious that Horst would do that. Siegfried assured her that Horst -would- drop his challenge. He also referred to Horst badmouthing a good woman.

Sebastian delivered his message from Edmund. Siegfried said that he'd send his coach for Edmund after the opera. There was some discussion about Sophia challenging Rainer, though neither Sophia nor Siegfried admitted in front of Sebastian that Siegfried had hired Sophia to kill Rainer.

Meanwhile, Andreas ran to make his class and was intercepted by Rolph, the von Ouranenburg butler. Rolph passed on a request from Graf Rupert von Ouranenburg, Andreas' noble cousing, requesting that Andreas attend him to stitch up the student Orion had wounded. As this was one of the students in the mob Rainer had led to the von Ouranenburg manor to see how Rupert's lover, Ludwig, was doing, Rolph assured Andreas that it wasn't so urgent that Andreas had to skip his class for it. Andreas thanked him, panting, then ran to class.

Dave and Beth each rolled a d10 to see which character would arrive first. Ingrid was a little late to Andreas' class, but she got there before the professor, which is what counts. She arranged to sit near Ysabel, intending to ask about the bruises Ysabel was covering up with make up. Both Ingrid and Niccolo had noticed those. Ingrid was wondering if Ysabel's father, Edmund, had given them to her, while Niccolo wondered whether Sebastian, the uncle Ysabel suspected of murdering her grandfather, was responsible. In fact, the bruises came from Andreas, Ysabel's lover, whose only previous experience of sex had been as the victim of abuse from one of his relatives.

Ysabel, who had no other experience with which to compare, assumed that the bruises were a normal part of sex. She was more concerned with Andreas' panting, wondering whether he'd acted on the obvious attraction he had to Niccolo's, ah, assistant, Teresa. She raised an eyebrow, then looked back down at her folded hands.

Someone asked about the riot at the von Ouranenburg house. Andreas said the rumors were greatly exaggerated. No one had died; folks had fired crossbows into the ground at the students' feet, and everyone had run away.

Andreas lectured on blood. His students crowded around to see what he had to show them, albeit they gave the two women a wide berth, Ysabel because it was only proper, and Ingrid because, well, they might, um, catch the plague from her after three years. No one wanted to get close to the scarred woman.

After class, Ingrid asked Ysabel if they could meet for lunch. Ysabel was unsure, and said that perhaps they could meet later, except that she was to go to the opera with her father. This last just happened to be said loudly enough for Andreas to hear. She added that perhaps her business with Herr Doktor Professor von Ouranenburg wouldn't take long.

Ysabel asked Andreas discreetly if he could examine her grandfather's body after the man had been dead for nearly six months, and perhaps see whether he could identify the man's killer. Andreas was startled, and he pointed out that it might be a distasteful sight. Ysabel said that

a) Sebastian knew of and approved of her request
b) Andreas should talk to Sebastian about this
c) Andreas should please not shield her from any of it

Ysabel also asked if they were to study again that afternoon, or if Andreas were busy. He confirmed that he would be busy, explaining that he had to go to his cousin's house. Ysabel raised her eyebrows. She is well aware that Graf Rupert von Ouranenburg is homosexual. Andreas quickly explained about the wounded man. Ysabel accepted this, and said that she'd try to get away and see Andreas, after the opera.

Andreas (later, to himself): For God's sake, he's my -cousin-!

We wondered what, if anything, Ingrid had overheard, or whether she'd been too polite to listen. As Beth wasn't sure, we let the dice decide. Ingrid remained politely out of earshot.

Andreas headed to the von Ouranenburg manor to see the patient Graf von Ouranenburg had for him.

Someone: Let's hope he doesn't know what happened to the doctor's last patient!

Continued in next post.


Lisa Padol

Niccolo, finished with his tiring attempts to banish the Possessor demon inside Axel the peddler, by the supreme sacrifice of having sex with the possessed Teresa (so that she'd boost his Lore, which is actually not necessary for Banishing rituals, though probably should have netted a rollover roll for Lore successes or somesuch), decided to see if he could figure out why the Banishment ritual wasn't having the desired effect. This was a roll of Niccolo's Lore vs Andreas', and Julian rolled better than Dave. So, Niccolo knew that there was a Contain blocking him. He knew that Orion was a demon. He didn't -know- that Andreas was a sorcerer, but given the rest, well, he decided that he'd better go to Andreas' lab.

Digression: We asked Dave: Would Andreas use a general Contain, which would prevent the possessed Leonardo from carrying out his instructions on the demon within the Contain, i.e. to keep Axel sedated, or a specific one? The chrome -- a table and straps -- argued the latter to me. I was okay with either answer. First, I don't -like- the school of gming that screws people for not -saying- that their PCs are doing what Any Person with a Brain Would Do. It's Un-Fun.

Second, I trust Dave. He's not interested in making the biggest, most invulnerable character -- quite the contrary. Third, either way, I could screw Dave Sorcerer-style, with Bangs. I just needed to know what variables I had.

Dave ultimately decided on a specific binding. Cool. Axel was being kept sedated. Andreas' life was still about to get more complicated. End Digression.

So, Niccolo walked down the stairs and heard a woman screaming, pleading and apologizing in Italian. He recognized her voice. This was Marcello's wife, Bianca.

Dave: How did she get -into- the lab?

Julian: Is it locked?

Lisa: Nope.

Dave: Come on -- Andreas would have locked it.

Lisa: Oh, you did.

Dave: !

Niccolo opened the door to see:

-- Axel strapped to a table, unconscious

-- Marcello in a chair, kind of -- dead

-- Leonardo trying to rape Bianca

-- Bianca screaming and struggling

-- Bianca's and Marcello's two year old son, Renato, staring at all of this

[Quick recap: Niccolo summoned a possessor demon into Teresa, using a fragment of a Dread Tome that, unbeknown to him at the time, belonged to Teresa's brother, Marcello. Marcello reclaimed it, revealing that he summoned possessors into his kids. Now that he realized he could do this do adults, he summoned one into his brother, Leonardo. Unknown to him, Andreas did a panicked snapshot banishment of that demon, and then summoned another so that he wouldn't be left with a corpse. Niccolo set thugs on Marcello, who summoned a demon into one of them, Axel. Andreas, who considered Axel part of his family, lured Marcello into the lab on pretext of tending Marcello's wounds, and bled him to death.]

Niccolo recognized that Leonardo was possessed, and I think had been told as much, though he probably didn't guess that Leonardo was no Possessed by Andreas' demon, not by Marcello's. Niccolo didn't recognize that Renato was possessed via Lore, but between what Marcello had told him earlier and Renato's behavior over the next few scenes, he figured it out.

Julian: Leonardo's a lot bigger than I am, isn't he? I look for a blunt object.

The lab was full of such. He hit Leonardo with one, but merely succeeded in getting the big guy's attention. Fortunately for Niccolo, while Leonardo's Desire is to breed, the demon's Need is to submit in power games.

Leonardo (submissively): I will share.

Niccolo: Get -off- her!

Leonardo: Please! He wouldn't let me have the other one!

Niccolo Punished Leonardo. I tossed Julian 2 dice for the righteous fury Niccolo was displaying. Leonardo went down to 1 Power.

[Side note: I think we did something contrary to the rules here. I think we remembered the snapshot penalty for Punish, but I think I forgot that Punish is the sorcerer's Will only, not Will + Humanity.]

Leonardo groveled and whimpered. Niccolo gathered up Bianca and Renato, bringing them to Sebastian's classroom. We'd established earlier that session that Sebastian did not have an afternoon class, and Niccolo knew that.

Niccolo didn't bother locking the lab door behind him. He didn't have the key, even if he'd thought of it.

Meanwhile, Ingrid went to the library to wait for Ysabel, as Sebastian and Sophia took a coach from Siegfried's. This was the same coach they took to the von Pfender house, I'm sure. As the coach passed the house that Sophia's younger brother, Fritz, let her live in, along with his mistress, Sebastian and Sophia saw through the window of the coach, and Ingrid saw through Aquila's eyes as the demon circled overhead, that the door to the house was off its hinges, and they heard screaming. Sophia and Sebastian hurried inside.

I had previously asked where Sophia's niece, Sigrid, the bastard daughter of her older brother, Frederiche, was. Pamela decided that Sophia would send Sigrid back to where she was staying, rather than keep the woman with her while discussing sorcery. Two men were forcing Sigrid down the stairs, with two more men behind them.

Sophia threw a dagger at one of the men holding Sigrid, and hit him square on. The man fell down dead.

[Lisa hated the nitpicky rolling Cover vs Stamina for successes, then rolling for the action. I'd wondered what I was doing wrong. I see now that Ron's rule of thumb is to roll the "helping" trait vs a GM set difficulty, and that he uses 3 dice as a default. I'll try that. It's much simpler than what I was doing, even if I can't find it in the book or the supplements.]

Sebastian fired a crossbow at the second man holding Sigrid. That man, too, fell down dead.

[After a brief digression as we established that yes, the GM buys without reservation that Sebastian keeps a loaded crossbos in his coach for just such occasions. The streets are clearly dangerous of late.]

Rainer Schwanhausser rode by and saw the open door.

Next round: Josh tells Lisa to use the actual Sorcerer system this time, and we declare intention.

Sigrid: Trip down the stairs -- er, -not- trip down the stairs. She failed.

Sebastian: Catch Sigrid. He succeeded.

[Julian: You're trying to catch her? You're the one with the bad leg.

Lisa: That has no mechanical effect on the outcome.]

Sophia: Behead one of the remaining men with her sword. She succeeded.

Remaining men: Get out of the house alive. One succeeded; one failed.

Rainer: Get off horse, dash in, and tell the brutes to unhand the woman. See below.

Rainer (dashing in after all the excitement): Unhand her, you brutes!

Sebastian (calmly, holding Sigrid): You're late, Rainer.

Rainer took in the situation, said he'd have a word with his patron (i.e., Horst von Pfender), nodded apology to Sophia, went outside, mounted his horse, and rode off.

Players and PCs thought that Rainer might have staged his dramatic entrance. He hadn't, but it was lovely that they thought it. This hasn't been his best day.

The fleeing man and the dead men all wore the livery of Rainer's patron, Ingrid's uncle, Horst von Pfender.

Ingrid wondered what to do, as she officially couldn't know about any of this. She was approached by her cousin Arvid, Horst's oldest son, wondering what was wrong with his father. Ingrid stopped him from talking in front of Otto, the gossipy librarian of the university. She tipped Otto, telling him to let Ysabel know that she would be at the Gilded Swan. (And, no, Otto won't sell this information. Who'd care? And, yes, he will tell Ysabel, who will likely tip him.)

At the Gilded Swan, Arvid said that Horst had been Rainer's patron for some weeks, that great grandfather Siegfried didn't approve, that Horst had supposedly kidnapped someone, that Horst had decided to commmit suicide by challenging Sophia von Winterhagen to a duel, that Horst had been babbling about his son -- the one who had died years ago -- having been murdered. Clearly Rainer had stirred up old ghosts.

Ingrid agreed, and said that Rainer had stirred them up for Siegfried as well. Arvid asked what was going on and what he should do about it all. Ingrid decided to bring Arvid to Fritz's house, to visit Sophia and Sigrid, and, coincidentally, encounter evidence of Horst's latest piece of idiocy.

Meanwhile, now that the excitement was over, the servants hovered around Sigrid, who was having a case of the vapors. This was the second time someone had tried to kidnap her, and she remembered Rainer's voice from the first, successful time. He'd questioned her when she was blindfolded and made her call him Doktor.

A dress arrived from Sigrid's father, Frederiche, as he'd invited Sigrid to the opera. Sophia was also invited. Sigrid was willing to go if Sophia went, but if not, she wanted to stay with the swordswoman. She was quite willing to miss the opera in return for greater safety!

Clearly, the opera and the von Ouranenburg house were the place to be that evening.

Sebastian headed homewards. 'Elena offered to kill Horst.

Sebastian: Is that what you want?

'Elena: I would rather kill your brother. You summoned -- the Other One -- for a purpose. You summoned me for a different purpose, but I was prevented from fulfilling it.

Sebastian had summoned 'Elena to kill his father, Garamond, but someone had beaten the demon to it.

Niccolo waited until Bianca had calmed down. Someone reminded me a couple of times that Bianca was Italian, not German. I can do a bad German accent, but I can't seem to do any kind of Italian accent. [I remember it as Julian reminding me, but he says that it wasn't him.]

Niccolo assured Bianca that he had not killed Marcello.

Bianca: He said that you set ruffians on him.

Niccolo: I know. (declines to mention that Marcello was right about that)

He asked what Bianca was doing there. She said that Marcello had brought her and Renato with him from Italy.

[I'd wanted them to be there to complicate things, but there was no way Marcello could have sent word to them and had them arrive -- hm, well, Travel and Transportation -- but, I'd never established that they -weren't- there, even if I didn't decide that they were until a couple of days before this session.]

Bianca knew that Marcello was dead, and she had come to the lab and knocked, identifying herself to Leonardo. Leonardo, hearing a woman's voice, opened the door and never bothered to lock it.

Niccolo asked how she had known that Marcello was dead or where to find him. She knew because of Renato, the demon-possessed kid. I think Hint covers that, but I'm so not sweating the details.

Previously, the players wondered if Bianca knew that her kid was possessed or if she just chalked it up to how kids get. Now, however --

Niccolo: You -knew-!

Bianca (frightened, and with reason): Who would have believed me?

Yep, she knew that her husband had been putting possessor demons in his kids. He'd boasted of how Niccolo had given him the key to putting a demon in Leonardo. He hadn't previously realized that this could be done to an adult.

Somehow, the question of other sorcerers using the techniques from Marcello's fragment came up, I think. I remember this exchange:

Niccolo: No one else could have done this.

Bianca: You could.

Niccolo: I wouldn't do that.

Bianca: You did it to Teresa.

Niccolo: That was an accident.

[Interestingly, Dave and I remember Julian's delivery different. I remember a fairly intense, though soft, delivery, as a sentence, while Dave remembers it as "That. Was. An. Accident."]

Continued in next post.


Lisa Padol

Meanwhile, servants saw Arvid and Ingrid approaching the house where Sigrid and Sophia were, and they asked if Sophia wanted them to let her fellow nobles in. She thought about it. Horst's son. On the other hand, Ingrid had been helpful. She agreed to see them, and the servants showed them in. As the conversation began, Sophia was tempted to toss the bloody tabard taken off one of the dead men in Arvid's face and say, "Then, how do you explain -this-?"

[I forget whether Sophia did this or something similar.]

I think one of the servants offered to wash the tabard, and Sophia told the woman not to, since she wanted the bloody tabard as evidence. The servant noted that Sophia would look dashing in it, and she agreed.

Arvid was horrified to learn what his father had, probably, done, unless it had, in fact, been Rainer. As Sophia said, it didn't look good for Horst.

Arvid (to Sophia): If we married, would that stop all this?

Sophia: I don't think so. Besides, I'm not interested in marrying.

Arvid (relieved): Good!

Sophia: What?!

Arvid: You would be too much for me!

Sophia: That's true.

Arvid's one of those men who never managed to measure up to their father's expectations and is fairly aware of his shortcomings.

Sophia suggested that Arvid look at the dead men to see if they were Horst's.

Arvid (whispering, his lips actually touching Ingrid's ear): Ingrid! I can't do that! What if I'm sick?

Ingrid: We'll pretend not to notice.

Arvid: Oh, would you do that?

He looked at the men, and got sick. The women pretended not to notice. One of the players said that Arvid was having a worse case of the vapors than Sigrid.

Arvid confirmed that these were indeed his fathers' men. Father used them for certain kinds of... work. Father had used them often.

[This is either a clue or a foreshadowing of a revelation, depending on how things work out.]

But, asked Arvid, what should he do?

(NPCs are supposed to want things from the PCs.)

Bianca: Niccolo, what are we going to do?

Niccolo asked her how many demons there were.

Bianca: The two in the lab --

Niccolo: Forget those.

Bianca: Teresa --

Niccolo: She's my problem.

Bianca: Renato, two others at home. Three, maybe four of his mistress' kids.

And a lovely moment as everyone took in the "mistress' kids".

Niccolo brought Bianca and Renato to his studio and had them wait outside. He explained the situation to Teresa. She asked if she should go to the lab, and he told her not to worry about that, and no.

Teresa: Will we have to flee again?

Niccolo: I don't know.

Teresa: I'll get our things together.

Niccolo: No, don't worry about that.

He brought in Bianca and Renato. The two women were somewhat shrilly Gracious and Normal to each other. The lab door remained unlocked.

Dave wondered if Andreas would have to kill any of these people. He also said, "Just leave the bodies in the lab, and I'll take care of them," a couple of times. But, just then, Andreas was at the von Ouranenburg manor, stitching up the student Orion had attacked, sans anasthetics. The student talked about Great Teacher Rainer, who took his students to a brothel. Why, last night, they went to The Cock and the Cat (aka The Rooster and the Kitten), where there was this Italian guy letting the women ride him like a horse.
[Hm. How many girls did the possessed Leonardo impregnate? How many will have the kids? How easy is it to abort demon babies?]

Rainer brought his horse into the brothel, though it didn't -- you know. Rainer did dom and sub stuff.

Someone: Ah, so that's why his students love him.

Someone: How can he afford to take his class to the brothel?

Lisa: He's got a noble patron, remember?

Andreas listened to Hedolf, the student, occasionally deliberately jabbing him the guy more sharply than necessary with his needle.

Niccolo headed to the von Ouranenburg house, Sebastian a few minutes behind him. Sophia wondered whether she wanted to go to the theater. Graf Edmund von Black would be there. That decided her. She would go.

Ingrid told Arvid that they'd go talk to Siegfried. She was silently pleased at having now gotten legitimate possession of the information that Aquila had discovered.

'Elena asked Sebastian if she should go to the opera and tell him about it later. Her Need is to be sung to. Sebastian agreed.

Josh (no fool): Okay, Lisa, you've successfully separated Sebastian from his demon.

Continued in next post.


Lisa Padol

Rupert invited Andreas to stay for dinner. Originally the youngest of many children, his homosexuality and eccentric desire to be a scholar were discreetly tolerated. Now, the sole survivor of his family, he was Graf von Ouranenburg, with far more responsibility than he'd ever wanted, and he missed educated company. He joked about selling the right to copy his labnotes and exams if he returned to the university.

Andreas: Careful. You might wind up as one of my specimens.

Rupert laughed, utterly convinced that Andreas was joking. Besides, he'd make sure that his cousin got a cut. Andreas tried to draw Rupert out about his being closeted with Frederiche von Winterhagen after the rescue of Sigrid. Rupert explained this. Sigrid, Frederiche's bastard daughter, was also Rupert's half sister. Yep, his mother, Grafin Gudrun von Ouranenburg, had given birth to Sigrid at age 40. He'd always assumed that Andreas knew.

Andreas hadn't known that, but he had recently learned that Gudrun was a sorcerer. Vitality makes that giving birth at age 40 possible. Indeed, the reason Gudrun died of plague is that, when she became ill, she wasn't at home, where her demon was.

Rupert also talked about how his father had died, defending his mother from a wild boar that had somehow gotten into the house, even though his father had been mad for years, pacing wildly like a deer.

[e.g., Rainer's passer boar and Gudrun's possessed husband killed each other.]

Andreas: You have to take care of your family. Even in his madness, your father knew that.

This is a fairly charged statement. Andreas could not take care of his sister, and he killed Marcello after Marcello summoned a possessor demon in the peddler that Andreas considered part of his family. The peddler had sold him corpses and a dread tome of lore. Rupert knew none of this, or so Andreas likely assumed.

Oh yes, people started figuring out something I'd dangled a session ago that had gone, as far as I could tell, unnoticed. Rupert is homosexual and would like to marry a woman who doesn't want to have sex with him, but who will have kids that he can then pretend are his. Ysabel wants to have sex with Andreas, but, as a noblewoman, will have to marry a nobleman some day. These two problems might be made for each other.

Niccolo arrived at the von Ouranburg house. Rolph, the butler, asked if he were a student. He said, haughtily, that he wasn't, and he identified himself. Rolph was impressed. Niccolo was a student of the same great artist who taught his master's lover's father.

Niccolo entered and realized that Rolph was Possessed by a dog spirit. Telltale: Does not cast a reflection. Funny thing, the von Ouranenburg house doesn't have any mirrors. Oh yes, and this is where the dogs from last session came from. Rolph has Command: Dogs.

Niccolo failed to recognize Ludwig with a Lore roll, but he might have guessed that Ludwig was a sorcerer anyway, as he recognized that all the cats in the room were Passer demons.

Sebastian arrived now, failing to recognize Rolph as a demon, just as Andreas had. Dave said that it was likely because Niccolo was the only one with the artistic eye, and suggested that Niccolo likely caught a reflection, or lack of same, from a chandelier crystal.

Sebastian didn't recognize the cats as demons via Lore roll, but he did recognize Ludwig as a sorcerer. Ludwig was suckling one of the cats. His telltale is that he lactates. Classic witch mark, which got recognized as such by Dave, and got a delightful "ew" from Pamela. Ludwig recognized Sebastian as a sorcerer, but not Niccolo.

Dave: It's a regular sorcerer's convention in that room!

Julian: Shouldn't Niccolo have gotten a roll for Ludwig when they first met? [2 sessions earlier]

Lisa: Well, he was wearing his shirt. More to the point, I forgot.

Julian: Thought so. Okay.

Ludwig said that he'd thought that Sebastian had been too afraid to put his theories into practice, but that he now realized he was wrong. Sebastian suggested Ludwig return to the university, and they talked about the possibility of private lessons with Sebastian. He did miss the university, but he said that Rupert needed him. Sebastian liked the idea of private lessons, even, or especially, because there might be some question about who was learning from whom. He agreed that Ludwig should come to the debate he was having with Rainer the next day, but soon wondered whther this invitation was a good idea, given Ludwig's lack of subtlety. (Ludwig has a Lore of 6, the highest in the game, but a Humanity of 2.)

Digression: One of my mantras this session was, in James T. Kirk delivery: Must. Not. Fudge die rolls!

And, I stuck to that, as I've been doing this campaign. It's tempting to fudge Lore rolls so that the PCs know shit. Oh, the current situation is fine. The players know all, and each bit of information, except one, is known by at least one PC.

But. CoC, which I love for what it is, not for what it fails to be, has many flaws. One of these is that too many authors write scenarios that depend on a mythos roll, something folks are too likely to flub. If the roll is missed, no progress, no adventure, no story, no fun. Bad. <shrug> I have ways of dealing with this, much practice, some mistakes, but, overall, much fun.

But, none of these tricks work for Sorcerer if I insist on using the rules. No fudging! No automatic GM fiat, though I'm cool with "Well, I know he's a sorcerer. And, I know he's suckling a cat, so I think I can assume, even if i don't -know-, that the cat is a demon." That's fine. It's within the system.

But, what should I have done if -no one- had identified Rolph, the cats, or Ludwig?

Or, am I at fault if failing to make any and all demons and sorcerers grinds things to a halt, leaving the PCs in the dark in a deprotagonizing way, or otherwise deprotagonizes them?

I think perhaps I am, just as I think that it is the fault of a scenario author for making an adventure hinge on a roll that is really likely to be flubbed. Yes, GMs can, and, IMAO, should break or tweak the system or scenario here for fun, but the authors ought to add more vectors of information, for goodness' sake! Thus, yes, if the information needed to get out and Lore rolls wouldn't do it, it's my job to find another way to get the information out.

Oh yes, the one thing the players now know that none of the PCs, I think, yet know: Rupert is half-demon. Gudrun had sex with the possessed Albrecht at least once. It's irrelevant whether any of the other kids were the product of such sex; they're all dead. Julian realized that this was the real reason for the questions I asked on this thread:

Rupert is not a sorcerer. He has no Lore score. He doesn't know jack about sorcery. But, if his Humanity ever hits zero, he will become a demon.

End of Digression

Rupert told Andreas that Ludwig had gotten more company that day than in the three years since the plague. Ludwig had been fortunate to survive it, albeit hideously scarred, and he'd been something of a recluse ever since. Rupert added that, while people didn't know how to fight the plague now, someday, they would, thanks to the work of people like Andreas.

In any case, today, since the mob of students followed Rainer in an attempt to see how Ludwig was doing,

-- Volkert Horsenfeldt had arrived, visiting Ludwig. Volkert hadn't been happy when he left. He was already angry with Sebastian for, as he thought, presuming to be Volkert's successor when Volkert wasn't dead yet! Volkert backed the newly arrived Rainer, who had not presented himself in anything remotely resembling a good light that day, what with the near riot.

-- Niccolo di Tarci

-- Herr Doktor Professor Sebastian Black

In the opera house, the von Black box was empty, though it was an hour into the opera, about half an hour late for a fashionable appearance. Frederiche von Winterhagen had not arrived at the von Winterhagen box.

As Ingrid rode with Arvid towards their great grandfather's house, she saw through Aquila's eyes the same thing that Sebastian saw through 'Elena's eyes.

Ysabel was being forced into a coach by men in Horst von Pfender's livery. She screamed Andreas's name.

The look on Dave's face as he realized the magnitude of what was waiting to fall on the unsuspecting Andreas' head was priceless.

Inside the coach, Edmund roared out his demands to know the meaning of this.

And 'Elena screamed, "Cheated! Cheated again!" She had hoped to win her Desire, praise from Sebastian, by killing his brother on the sly.

At the same moment, Sebastian saw through Minerva's eyes: Ludwig's uncle and head of the university, Einhardt Schilderote was inside Sebastian's home, directing men who were carrying in Volkert Horsenfeldt's dead body.

Einhardt: Put the body over there.

Julian: Ah, Sebastian's price at work.

(Sebastian's price is arrogance.)

Meanwhile, at the opera, Sophia and Sigrid shifted over to Fritz. Sophia asked where Frederiche was. Fritz didn't know.

There was a knock at the door of the box. A package and a note was delivered to Sophia. It read:

To the Honored Swordswoman Sophia von Winterhagen --

As my grandfather wishes it, I withdraw my earlier challenge. Perhaps we may find common ground. You wish your brother safe. I wish to possess a book -- The Book of the Heart of the Beast. When I have it, Frederiche von Winterhagen may be released from his obligation to provide me with entertainment. I await your answer.

--Horst von Pfender

In the box was Frederiche's severed sword hand, with the von Winterhagen signet ring on one of the fingers.

Someone: He -signed- it? That idiot!

Sophia showed the hand and the message to Fritz. Sigrid, who had been close enough to see it all first, screamed and fainted.

By now, our 10:30 alarms had gone off 5-10 minutes earlier, and I wanted to break here. I was asked what Fritz's reaction would be. I suggested, "Oh shit," which folks agreed would do well.

Pamela: Well, at least I know it's a book now.

Dave: Andreas has it, right?

Lisa: No, Ysabel has it. She always takes it with her when she goes.

Someone: So, Horst finally got the right person.

Beth noted that, at this point, the thing for Sophia to do was not to challenge Horst, but to have him hung like a common criminal. Dave was skeptical, but, as I pointed out, we were no longer talking sending thugs into a nobleman's house to kidnap his bastard niece. We were talking kidnapping a noble heir and cutting off his swordhand. And, that's not to mention kidnapping a graf and his heir.

We broke, Beth noting that Ingrid had about decided that, never mind her inheritance squabble with Horst, the von Pfender family was better off without Horst in it. He has kidnapped a graf and his heir, effectively declaring war against the von Blacks. This is something only Siegrfied von Pfender has the authority to do for the von Pfender family. The fact that Ingrid is supposed to get engaged to Graf von Black is beside the point here.

Still, Ingrid now knows what advice to give Arvid: He should take his siblings and get out of the city.

Dave thinks that Rolph and Orion have known about each other for a long time. They probably kept silent about this due to professional courtesy among, um, doggie demons.

Julian noted that Bianca probably knew where Marcello's fragment of the Book of the Heart of the Beast was, and that she's probably drop it in Niccolo's lap, if he asked. He added that Niccolo would be willing to help against Horst if he knew a) that the fragment he had was from the Book of the Heart of the Beast and b) that Horst wanted this book.

Out of context game quote: Okay, yes, I have thought of this.

Continued in next post.


Lisa Padol


On the whole, I'm more approaching Sorcerer than playing the platonic Sorcerer. This is not surprising, as it's my first time running the thing. There have been moments of genuine This is Sorcerer, Accept No Imitation. The sturm und drang with Andreas desperately summoning a demon into Leonardo, as Ysabel offers him the book he needs was definitely a high point. This session, there were a lot of good Sorcerer moments, from the gradual pile up of stuff that will hit Andreas, even though the character doesn't know it to the anything-could-happen scenes between Niccolo and Bianca to the multiple cliffhanger ending.

I was tinkering with bits until they clicked. I wanted Leonardo trying to pounce on a woman, and I wanted Bianca complicating things. Hm. Rather than have Leonardo pounce on a charwoman and Bianca run into some NPC or other, insert Bianca for charwoman, and have the first PC to the lab find the whole mess. It was wonderful that this was Niccolo. No, I didn't actually firm up this plan until Niccolo headed down. The shape of it was in my head, along with the shape of similar plans.

I wanted a second attempt on Sigrid, and if she hadn't been alone, well, thugs would have attacked while she was with Sophia. I wanted Rainer to attempt to be gallant, and I wanted Sophia to have a chance to swashbuckle.

I knew Horst would kidnap Frederiche, but it wasn't until a day or two before the session that I thought of the mutilation. I'd been thinking vague and implied threats. But, this is Sorcerer. I am trying to raise the intensity level. Yep, cutting off the hand is the right call.

I said after the session that I wouldn't have done that sort of cliffhanger for my Cthulhupunk campaign. Beth said that she would hate it for the Cthulhupunk game, but that she liked it for Sorcerer. Josh noted that breaking on a cliffhanger does have the potential to compromise the reaction shot for next time. Forewarned, I'll try to avoid that problem.

Oh yes, Beth again brought up the fact that Ingrid's had lessons shooting a derringer (or at least, the closest thing this period has to one). This is a Chekhov's Gun. It must be fired by the end of the campaign. I don't yet know how, especially as Ingrid isn't carrying a gun around, but it has to happen, IMAO.

I note that Beth and I both avoided having to answer a question I'd raised after the last session. With Ingrid planning to ask Ysabel about her bruises, and planning to say, "Is there any reason I shouldn't tell your father about them?" I noted that how I had Ysabel respond would influence how likely Ingrid was to go on a collision course with Andreas. I was fairly sure that if this happened, it would not be a problem for Dave, but I wasn't sure whether it would be one for Beth, and I am not of the school of thought that says that one should put the player -- not merely the PC -- through the emotional wringer in the name of Excellent Hard Hitting Roleplaying / Story Telling or Deep Psychological Exploration on the grounds that either the player will thank you in the morning or the player will prove Not Worthy. I knew dang well that Beth would -not- thank me in the morning if I sprang a nasty player vs player situation on her without warning, and I know that she's quite willing to stretch herself in the name of good roleplaying and storytelling if given sufficient warning and respect for her lines.

Beth was glad of the heads up, and said that she wasn't sure if she wanted to go that route or not, and that she'd let me know what she decided. She never did get back to me on that before the session. I did not warp events to keep Ingrid from talking with Ysabel, and I did come up with a default, no player vs player collision, way to play Ysabel. But, I am sure that it was no coincidence that, for perfectly logical, story-driven reasons, Ingrid just happened to be too busy to meet Ysabel. Then again, so did Niccolo, and I wasn't worried about a potential collision between Niccolo and Andreas.

I don't usually plan out Themes. They tend to evolve without conscious direction on my part. Sorcerer is different; I actually planned the whole animal / civilization dichotomy with the one sheet. Nevertheless, a more interesting theme has emerged in play.

Family. Who do you consider to be part of your family? What will you do for and to your family? Where do you fit into your family, and where do you want to fit in? How has your family treated you?

Andreas has killed for Axel after failing to protect Axel and, earlier, his sister. Ingrid is thinking that Horst must be excised from the family for the good of the family. Sebastian tried to kill his father for refusing to let his wife be buried with the family, but he never acted against the family for casting him out of the succession. Sophia gets along fine with her brothers, but none of the von Winterhagen children get along with their parents. Niccolo seems to be gathering a family of the possessed and the, hm, dispossessed. Or something like that.

Julian notes that if Ysabel wants to summon a demon, given that she only knows how to summon Possessors, the person she's most likely to have opportunity to summon it into is her own father. Will she do that? Should I allow this to happen offstage? It's one thing declaring by fiat that Marcello summoned a demon into Axel. This is a bang that engages Niccolo and Andreas. I need to make sure that, whatever decision I make, it opens options for the PCs, rather than closing them, and presents ways for them to be cool. They are the protagonists; Ysabel is not. At the same time, Josh notes that it breaks the story to have the characters act stupidly, and that includes Ysabel. I'll need to review the whole situation.

I'm currently looking over the R-map, which is almost completely out in the open for the players. It is tricky to put on one sheet of paper, but I more or less managed. I sent out a post about the way the legal system works in the city of Vindabona. Current consensus is: There are probably magistrates appointed for commoners, and there's a Council of Nobles for nobles, and, possibly, as in my source material, either an inner council for things that the most powerful nobles don't want becoming common knowledge even among nobles, and / or a council of honor, for questions regarding duels, which would likely have both nobles and non-noble professional swordsmen on it. This may well come up for Horst and Sophia, and possibly for others as well.

I also asked about the legal status of sorcery. Josh said that it was illegal, of course. Julian said that it might not be, as everyone knew it didn't exist. He said that I have pretty much GM fiat about what would happen if a sorcerer were unmasked. Unless I hear otherwise, I'll play it by ear if and when such a situation arises, and keep my options open.

I've been told that one shouldn't run Sorcerer for five players. It is a bit much, but I am not convinced this is because of the demons per se. Five players with the style of play that Sorcerer demands is a bit much, demons or no demons. This is also exacerbated by the fact that I've never gm'd for 3 of the players before. That said, it's a fun ride, if a hectic one. The group clicks nicely, and the energy is overall high, despite my less than perfect job of giving everyone enough stuff each session.

I am far from perfect on the demons, and still a bit weak on the combat system. I'm not sure if I made the correct call about experience, but this really doesn't worry me. I erred on the side of too much generosity on the grounds that there's only one story, and it's a 6-12 session game, which seems a bit long to go without character advancement. Whatever headaches I give myself by my decision, they are far less of an issue than not playing all the demons to the hilt and not making the combat crisp and edge-of-the-seat interesting. And, I'm not worrying too much about those, either. They're important, and I want to get them right, but my first time with Sorcerer isn't going to be perfect.

Some of the rule still seem to be getting in the way of what the game seems to be trying to do. Fr'ex, Josh would probably have Sebastian summon a 3rd demon if he had 4 Humanity. As it is, he doesn't want to lose the PC to a bad die roll for anything less that the correct dramatic moment, like the king in The Worm Ourobouros trying a final, fatal summoning.

We reckon 2-3 more sessions might wrap up the campaign. Next session? Mm, I favor Tuesday, March 7, but could do Wednesday, March 8. If I don't hear otherwise, I shall assume Tuesday, March 7, Lerner Hall Lobby meeting place, 7 pm. Can't do it sooner than that because Josh, Beth, and I have to work our tails off to get ready for Intercon F, where we're re-running the Jamais Vue and Roman Baths larps, but I don't want to wait later than that, as I'd like to get in a session before Pamela heads off for Spring Break, and Julian paid me the compliment of saying that he doesn't want to wait a whole month for the next session.

Steps for next time:

List the information that still ought to get out there, with a couple of possibilities for how. (At least one piece may be easier than I'd thought, as Beth plans to have Ingrid tell Siegfried that she needs to know some of this stuff. Lisa: Great-grandfather, give! Beth: Basically, yes.)

Update handouts -- R-map and Who's Who (done on GM's copy, can be photocopied, and best to wait till last minute on that and give them out at next session)

Review NPC plots and plans. This may involve spreadsheets.

List Bangs

Stop and wait for next session, be flexible, and watch it all come crashing down in interesting patterns.


Peter Nordstrand

Hi Lisa,

What kind of response are you looking for?

Do you have any specific questions?

Can you summarize your session in two or three short paragraphs?


Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

Lisa Padol

Quote from: Peter Nordstrand on February 25, 2006, 09:27:09 AMWhat kind of response are you looking for?

Hm. Good question. I'd gotten in the habit of posting my Sorcerer write ups here, but, to the degree I've gotten a response, it's been that folks haven't had the energy to read my write ups. Serious question: Shall I stop posting my write ups? I'll be doing them in any case, so, if they're useful, it's little extra work to post them here, but if not, I don't have to clog the Forge's bandwidth.

QuoteDo you have any specific questions?

I don't think so, or at least, not ones I've not asked before. Julian thinks he has enough of a grasp of the combat system to run a combat, which we hope will make me more comfortable doing likewise.

Combat aside -- and combat GMing has long been an area I'm weak in -- one telling thing about this session is that I felt more comfortable with what I was doing and more confident that I was actually hitting the right feel for what makes the game Sorcerer.

Hm, actually, yes, there is a question: I have an NPC, Ysabel, who might try to summon a demon offstage. Julian notes that the person she's most likely to summon it into is her father. Should I consider having her do such a thing? The last time I had such a thing happen, it was blazingly clear that it opened up things for the PCs, but I'm concerned about a) solving any PC's problem offstage or b) making Ysabel too much of a protagonist. NPCs do not get to steal the PCs' thunder. At the same time, Josh notes that one should avoid breaking the story by making NPCs too stupid.

QuoteCan you summarize your session in two or three short paragraphs?

Very briefly: Lots of shoes dropped, and all of the sorcerers and demons are now known to the players, if not to the PCs.

Andreas has a heap of unpleasant surprises waiting for him. Sebastian knows about the ones waiting for him. Niccolo just accepted responsibility for about 8 demons that a murdered man had summoned into kids. Sophia got her brother's sword hand delivered to her with a demand that she give her brother's kidnapper a book the whereabouts of which she is unaware. Ingrid has decided that her uncle, the kidnapper (though this is one thing she doesn't yet know he's done) needs to wind up very dead, for the good of her family.

The GM is trying to decide the likely course of action of the various NPCs, and the likely reaction of nobility and commoner if a sorcerer is revealed. Oh, and I still have to figure out Ysabel's telltale and price.



Lisa, I would certainly like to continue seeing your session write-ups; if not here, then please post a link to where you put them.

I polled my group for the setting for our first Sorcerer setting and included Medieveal/Renaissance German University as one choice purely as a result of your setting. If you hadn't posted your sessions I never would have thought of it!

As a thought, the most obvious reaction if a Sorcerer is unmasked is a crowd baying for blood. Or, if you needed to introduce a new npc - not that I think you do - you could always have a witchfinder ride into town. Give him Church backing (or even make him a churchman) and you have another problem for the PCs to deal with ...



If she doesn't put them here, they'll go on, "Notes from the Lab".

The concept of organized religion, or churches, hasn't actually hit the game; presumably, there's religion, but how it's followed is very unclear based on what's been played.
-- Joshua Kronengold

Lisa Padol

Quote from: mneme on March 09, 2006, 08:12:22 PMThe concept of organized religion, or churches, hasn't actually hit the game; presumably, there's religion, but how it's followed is very unclear based on what's been played.

Yes. This is actually by choice, given that we didn't want to nail down what the religion was, and that, in a group of folks of decidedly mixed religious beliefs, there are certain fences we want to keep.

It's likely to stay that way, given that demons are defined as being in opposition to civilization (well, it's actually a bit more complicated) rather than religion. We did agree that Ysabel's Telltale could be claws. Dear Uncle Sebastian chewed her out in the most recent session for not thinking like a sorcerer, and he has just thoughtfully summoned up a demon to deliver to his niece to bind. It should have an ability to make her claws seem to vanish, which sounds like Warp, near as I can tell. Or would it be Cloak? Is there a power that makes organic matter appear other than it is?


Ron Edwards

Just Cloak should work fine for that.

You guys sure seem big on this whole "spot the Telltale" issue. It seems to be at the heart of a number of your conflicts or situations. Any thoughts on that?


Lisa Padol

Quote from: Ron Edwards on March 09, 2006, 10:52:31 PMJust Cloak should work fine for that.

Oh good. Ysabel has another use for that power.

QuoteYou guys sure seem big on this whole "spot the Telltale" issue. It seems to be at the heart of a number of your conflicts or situations. Any thoughts on that?

Two things come to mind:

-- If there's a mechanic, it signals to people that they're supposed to use it.
-- We started with an automatic roll-to-spot, and it's stuck.

I'm not sure how I'd do it the next time I run Sorcerer. I do not want another mass dice off. Brr. The spreadsheet I have is useful.

Completely off topic, if you ever have opportunity to play in a larp called Across the Sea of Stars, take it. It's a ten hour game alternating playing the "home" character in a more-or-less traditional mechanics-light negotiation-fest and playing the tales people tell, where you grab a few people, go to the GMs, take a tale envelope, hand out new characters and background, and play without any GM interference. I described a couple of these to Josh, and he said it was pure Nar.



Ron: good question.  I don't think we've been satisfied with the way were doing it, but since the game involved a combination of:

Covert PC sorcerors, and players who were cool with not always recognizing one another are sorcerors.
Covert NPC sorcerors, where the -players- didn't know they were sorcerors until it entered the game.

We ended up getting into the "roll against everyone you haven't rolled against" rut.  How do you handle the question?
-- Joshua Kronengold

Lisa Padol

Still pondering the uses of Cloak. It's not invisibility, but it's sort of illusion?