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Author Topic: Why no "revised" Sorcerer?  (Read 12868 times)
James_Nostack
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« on: June 20, 2007, 02:13:36 PM »

Ron, in a recent RPG.Net thread, you said that if people wondered why there would never be a "revised" Sorcerer they should take it to the Adept Press forum.  So: done.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2007, 07:10:06 PM »

Hi James,

Let's start with these older threads.

Sorcerer as teaching text
[Sorcerer] Session prep - the party
Helping Sorcerer thrive

I'm not presenting them to shut you down, but to provide a foundation for any further questions or concerns.

Best, Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2007, 11:14:15 AM »

Hello,

I just reread those threads and I thought I understood them at the time but now I really understand.  If I may interject here I'd like to tell you about a folder I have on my computer.  The folder is named Sorcerer Unbound.  In this folder are several documents all numbered and dated.  These documents are all drafts of a mini-supplement which is supposed to address all the problems Ron raises in those threads.  I've been working on it off-and-on for a good two to three years now.

When I originally set out I thought it was mainly going to be a cut-and-paste job.  I figured I'd just come through all my and Ron's posts here and elsewhere and compile them all into some organized fashion and write transitionary text to link all the ideas together.  What I discovered was that half the answers here on The Forge didn't make any sense without their questions and half the questions didn't make any sense without understanding the play example/history of the person asking them.

I've often criticised Ron for doing a really great job of explaining how to setup a Sorcerer game and not a really good job on how to play a Sorcerer game.  The last line of my current draft of Sorcerer Unbound reads: "Chapter 4 Actual Play Part I" with nothing after that.  I have an outline for that chapter and I even played a game of Sorcerer specifically for generating examples to include in the text.  And yet...  it eludes me.

There's something extremely subtle in Sorcerer's mechanics that are obvious in the specific but impossible to describe in the abstract.  There's a very unique relationship between the mechanics, the fiction, and the players that's intentionally designed and yet only has describable meaning within the context of a specific group of people.  It's like Sorcerer is some kind of bizzare quantum role-playing game that doesn't really exist until you play it.

I look at texts like Dogs in the Vineyard and Primetime Adventures and think, "There must be a way to write Sorcerer as clearly as this."  But I've come to realize that the clearity of those texts owes a lot to very specific restrictions placed on the relationship between the mechanics, the fictions, and the players that don't exist in Sorcerer.

That being said I do realize that much of what is talked about in those threads is focused on Ron explaining Story Now play in general.  I do think it might be possible to revise the core text to be a little clearer on the actual mechanics.  As it stands I'd clean up the intro text introducing the game and making the whole "demon's don't exist" thing more explicit (imagine my shock when I discovered that it's actually already there).  I'd clean up the demon powers so as not to refer to specifics like "feet" and so forth and add a more general dicussion of how abilities are powered and limited by a Demon's Power Score.  I'd integrate the material from Chapter 7 of Sorcerer & Sword in with Chapter 4 as well as the Crosses & Weaves, etc material from Sex & Sorcery.  I'd re-write the conflict resolution section to make a strong line between simple vs. complex conflict (and avoid the notion of "combat") perhaps introducing Oppositional and Orthogonal conflicts explicitly.  I'd add in the dice diagram material from Sex & Sorcery here as well.  I'd add in a reduced discussion of "Defining Humanity" and it's impact from Sorcerer & Soul.  The last thing I would do is more strongly emphasize currency (which is where I think the 'quantum' nature of the game really lies) and how the currency takes on different "meaning" at different times.

That's about it, really.

Jesse
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2007, 02:39:23 PM »

Jesse,
Quote
That being said I do realize that much of what is talked about in those threads is focused on Ron explaining Story Now play in general.  I do think it might be possible to revise the core text to be a little clearer on the actual mechanics.  As it stands I'd clean up the intro text introducing the game and making the whole "demon's don't exist" thing more explicit (imagine my shock when I discovered that it's actually already there).  I'd clean up the demon powers so as not to refer to specifics like "feet" and so forth and add a more general dicussion of how abilities are powered and limited by a Demon's Power Score.  I'd integrate the material from Chapter 7 of Sorcerer & Sword in with Chapter 4 as well as the Crosses & Weaves, etc material from Sex & Sorcery.  I'd re-write the conflict resolution section to make a strong line between simple vs. complex conflict (and avoid the notion of "combat") perhaps introducing Oppositional and Orthogonal conflicts explicitly.  I'd add in the dice diagram material from Sex & Sorcery here as well.  I'd add in a reduced discussion of "Defining Humanity" and it's impact from Sorcerer & Soul.  The last thing I would do is more strongly emphasize currency (which is where I think the 'quantum' nature of the game really lies) and how the currency takes on different "meaning" at different times.

That whole last paragraph sounds like a pretty strong beginning outline for a revised Sorcerer to me.

A revised text doesn't need to take that synergy where the game actually comes to life and put it in cold text; Frankly, I don't think that's possible even with D&D, let alone a game as unique as Sorcerer. What a revised text should do is clean up and clarify the old text, examples, etc. as well as incorporating any "house" rules that have developed that the creator feels address problems or gaps in the game, or which do certain things better and closer to the vision of the game. My definition, for this purpose, of house rules would include key areas of supplements that maybe should have gone into the original core text, like those you mention.

So given my own thoughts on the general matter of revised editions, is a revised Sorcerer pretty much not going to happen, or is it something that may be in the works at some point? I've no real beefs with the text as it exists, but I've also got pretty limited experience with actual play; I've read through it entirely once, and played about.. 2-3 sessions before the events and subject matter of the game got to the point where my girlfriend (who at the time regularly played with Alex Cherry and myself) expressed disinterest in continuing.. Which was disappointing to me, because I was enjoying the game.
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~Lance Allen
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2007, 06:37:36 PM »

I'm going to cherry-pick some quotes from the threads Ron posted.  There is, of course, a risk with plucking quotes out of the air: Ron, if I've omitted something crucial I trust you'll correct me.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Sorcerer, like all rules-texts of any kind, is a teaching text. However, its intended audience was very narrow: . . . people like myself circa 1994 or so. . . . Write what you know to an audience which (a) exists and (b) can understand you. When I wrote Sorcerer, neither (a) nor (b) applied in my mind.

Quote from: Ralph Mazza
it comes down to two different philosophies for writing game text.

Me, I want to make the text as clear as I can and walk players through it very carefully so when they're done they'll know exactly how to play and where to look for all of the nuances.

Ron, being an educator, believes that the best way for people to learn is for them to figure out the answers for themselves.  So he provides only the few tantalizing hints, subtle implications, and topics for further thought and allows the player to do their own home work.

[SNIP!]

Personally, I think he's wrong.  And if I were his line editor I'd take his text and rewrite the hell out of it.  Which, of course, is the key advantage of being indie.  He doesn't have a line editor mucking around in his game and can write it exactly the way he wants and tell me to Fuck Off.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I'm after people who want to role-play Narrativist and who can't see how to do it in the context of gamer culture and existing rules-sets. Most of those folks read the book with no trouble at all; these are the folks who send me enthusiastic emails but never participate here or at RPG.net. Why should they? They're just playing.

[SNIP!]

Nah. You need someone else [to write a Narrativist-pushing game for "gamers"]. I'm too underground, too rude, and too dope-slap oriented. It still astounds me that the game has any attractive value to anyone who's fairly well-entrenched in gamer culture. Why or how that is, is beyond me. I wouldn't even know what aspects of the current book to preserve and emphasize.

(Again: if I've misrepresented or omitted, please correct.)

Paraphrasing --
1.  Sorcerer wasn't intended for a general audience.
2.  Some of the difficulties are, in fact, helpful exercises.
3.  It's not clear how to re-write the book for a more general audience.
4.  I'm indie, and you can't make me! Tongue

I see all that, and I can glom onto that. 

But:

A.  You know it's got a general audience now.
B.  You explain all the exercises on the Adept Press forum anyway.
C.  The three supplements were written for a general audience as were the forum explanations.
D.  Well, okay, you're still not interested.

That's cool, but it still puzzles me a bit.  I've spent a lot of time, and a certain amount of disposable income, figuring out how to play Sorcerer.  (I ended up reading about 40 pages of the Adept Press forum during slow moments at school.)  I don't begrudge Adept Press this effort: I like the game, and I like understanding new things.  All the same, from a consumer's standpoint, it seems like Sorcerer has a very high "cost" due to communication inefficiencies.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2007, 06:53:16 PM »

Hi James,

I must criticize your final sentence. You say,

Quote
from a consumer's standpoint, it seems like Sorcerer has a very high "cost"

The emphasis is mine. I think that word is poorly chosen.

If your point were to be revised such that you were talking about yourself, as in this consumer, then well and good. But as a representative of consumers? Any and all? No. I don't buy it.

Best, Ron
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Alan
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« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2007, 08:44:36 PM »

From this consumer's standpoint, Sorcerer has a very high cost.

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2007, 07:27:10 AM »

Guys, you're not getting it. You are not the people I am deliberately rejecting. You cannot be, because you came here.

You already made a journey in arriving at the Forge, in deciding to post, and in deciding to read my or others' replies. Because you made that journey, you are now "here." You're in the zone of my desired audience.

Desired audience = (a) people who get it right off the bat, and (b) people who see that they'd like to get it and want to know how. That latter group was unexpected by me, but is also welcome, and I give them my personal attention to their learning process. That process is highly individualized and cannot be textual or canonical; it totally depends on where the person is.

Undesired audience = people who bought Sorcerer but didn't want it or like it, or even want to like it. As far as I'm concerned, they should return their books and get their money back. I don't want that money.

Alan, if the cost is too high, then you're in the latter category. If the cost isn't too high, but nevertheless considerable, well, then Sorcerer can be placed with any number of worthwhile things which are fantastic to do or learn, but also costly and demanding to learn. That is no bad thing. I don't think (for instance) a black belt should be anything but costly and demanding in terms of time and personal development, not just-because, but because people who earn easy black belts cannot fight. I've fought many of them. They fall right over.

Therefore: choose. Are you really here, as part of the desired audience who may be considered "looking for individual tutelage?" If so, then you may always rely upon me to seek out exactly how to help you understand, how to get better at it, and how to get to the point where I learn from you, regarding my own game. I'm even sympathetic to your frustration along the way.

On the other hand, are you one of the people who bought the book, but as far as I'm concerned, shouldn't have? In which case, posting here and feeling ever more resentful because I continue to be unsympathetic is a complete waste of your time.

Best, Ron
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Alan
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2007, 08:32:08 AM »

Hi Ron,

I do fall into the (b) category -- I was struggling for something like Sorcerer for years and going the wrong direction. I am skeptical that many buyers fell into the (a) category. I think most of us were/are (b)s. Unfortunately, this isn't something we have data on.

I do agree that the learning (or unlearning) process is individual and requires individual attention. However, I also know that it's possible to anchor a reader's understanding by developing underlying concepts in a useful order and defining concepts both by what they include and what they exclude. Given the development of our understanding over the past 6 years, I believe a text is possible that would require much less individualized instruction.

I wouldn't have spent six years reading the Forge if the cost was too high for me. While I feel the effort has been worth it, I also think I could have absorbed the game a lot sooner had the text been presented differently. I must acknowledge that at the time the text was written, the distinctions and concepts necessary for the kind of presentation I'm looking for had not yet been developed. I do not want recompense for past effort; I am projecting my experience to people like me who might buy it in future and wondering "why should they pay that cost when it's no longer necessary?" Isn't discovery and creation about giving something on to our metaphorical descendants?
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- Alan

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2007, 09:49:11 AM »

Those are reasonable points.

Quick clarifier: I'd always assumed the audience for Sorcerer would be small - very small. I printed less than 1500 copies for the first print run and never expected to print any more; I also planned for the supplements to remain in PDF form with the possible exception of Sorcerer & Sword. The money shocked me and made it possible for things to be different. So yes, (b) is a lot larger than (a). What surprises me, still does, is that (b) exists at all today, relative to Sorcerer. Why not play The Shadow of Yesterday, Dust Devils, Dogs in the Vineyard, Universalis, or The Mountain Witch instead? All of which are strongly influenced by Sorcerer in different ways and far better written toward the (b) audience, mainly because the authors were themselves (b) and went through a kind of Sorcerer apprenticeship.

That clarifier, though, raises a key point which I haven't articulated in any of the discussions yet, or barely. It is that a given work, to me, exists in a given place and time. Sorcerer is my mid-late 1990s game, written by me shortly before and during my thirtieth birthday. It was born from my deliberate decision to return to role-playing after I'd done what I could with Champions and Cyberpunk, after I'd read Prince Valiant and Over the Edge, and after I'd been astonished at playing Zero.

I'm 42 now. My gaming history is different, resting on over ten years of joyous, continuous, highly social play with dozens and even hundreds of people, and almost as many games. My desired audiences for my work are different, and my creative ambitions are different. Rather than endlessly revise and update Piece of Work #1, I have moved on to Piece of Work #2 (Trollbabe), and then, as time went on, to Piece of Work #3 (Mutual Decision and possible upcoming related work). Also, I am now highly committed to types of creative work which are not even oriented toward this subculture and market (Spione).

The aging prof in his early 40s, contemplating things like fatherhood and job-threatening political activism, is not the Ph.D. candidate who needed to write, play, and publish Sorcerer over ten years ago. I'm that man now, and the work I want and need to produce isn't Sorcerer.

I mean, I love the game, and I still play it, and playing it still surprises and transforms me. I haven't posted about our game last summer because I don't think it's suitable for internet discussion, politically and emotionally. I think as a game it's stood up to time's usage far better, far more amazingly, then anyone could have expected. (Ten years of successful commerce with no revision? an RPG? wow! That's like Amber.) I also respect and even quite like the (b) audience, and I'm here for them.

But I don't need - and quite possibly am incapable of - writing a text for it again.

Best, Ron
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David Artman
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2007, 11:30:40 AM »

The aging prof in his early 40s, contemplating things like fatherhood and job-threatening political activism, is not the Ph.D. candidate who needed to write, play, and publish Sorcerer over ten years ago. I'm that man now, and the work I want and need to produce isn't Sorcerer.
...
But I don't need - and quite possibly am incapable of - writing a text for it again.

I am wondering if you might consider a middle ground:

1) There seems to be a fairly regular call for revision and expansion of the base Sorcerer. Perhaps even a full compilation of rules that might have once only been in supplements or house rules.

2) You do not feel  the desire to do the above; yet you don't seem to continue to say that "figuring it out" is part of the process ("teaching tool"). You even seemed to somewhat agree with the point that Alan made about "discovery [being] about giving something on to our... descendants."

3) There is a sort of "early adopters" group that not only was able to grok Sorcerer as written but even went on to springboard from it to write their own games ("The Shadow of Yesterday, Dust Devils, Dogs in the Vineyard, Universalis, or The Mountain Witch").

4) Gary Gygax didn't write the Second Edition D&D manuals; David Cook did. David Cook didn't write D&D3E; Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams did.

Hypothesis: You could leverage the hard-earned comprehension and writing ability of those referenced in #3, the enthusiasm of those referenced in #1, and the industry precedent shown in #4 to create The Compleat Sorcerer without having to lift a finger (obviating #2), except to upload the PDF to your favorite POD/short-run provider.

I leave it as an exercise for the IP owner (Ron) to figure out what a good chop would be, regarding sales revenue based on contributions versus value of the IP. It would not surprise me if you got a significant amount of synthesis, clarification, and actual play text pro bono, in exchange for contributory credit; though, of course, though I can not speak for those whom you might tap for the job.

I encourage you to consider alternative routes that you and others could follow to create a more (b)-type Sorcerer release without dragging you away from your contemporary interests.
David
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2007, 12:38:02 PM »

Hi David,

Way ahead of you - long ago, I invited anyone who wants to write a "How to play Sorcerer" book, any time, and in any context they'd like. I don't need a but and I don't care about the IP side of things as long as it's not plagiarized and as long as correct references are given.

But it doesn't happen, and I know why. Jesse's experience with Sorcerer Unbound is typical: once the person moves from (b) to (a) in order to write it, they suddenly find that they don't feel the need to write it, or that it doesn't need to be written after all. In fact, they start saying things like, "You really ought to go through this yourself" to others.

(That's not to say that Jesse's specific points in his earlier post are invalid, but they are corrections for clarity, not revisions of presentation and vision. I might get around to tweaking the text in such fashions between printings, one of these days.)

I remember Ralph going through this, or later, Dave, or Nev as he posts here. In doping out the resolution rules, for instance, they found that once they understood it, they didn't think the text failed after all. My take on their experiences is that most readers of RPGs are not actually reading at all. Instead, they are arriving with a well-established model of "what is an RPG" in their minds already, and seeking to match what they are seeing in the text to that model as they go. They call this "learning the rules," but in reality, their own rules for play are already locked into place. What they encounter in Sorcerer, however, is that the pegs they find in its pages not only do not fit, but are in fact totally unrelated to the slots they have in their mental model. They say, "This text is unclear! This text is a barrier! I will fix it!"

Then when they try, they throw out their model in order to settle down and see what the Sorcerer text is saying. In my view, this is actually the first time they are actually reading it. Then they say, "Hey! This actually makes sense!" and all their talk about how much the book needs to be rewritten slowly slips away.

I stand by my point about the black belt. Do you want to become a Sorcerer role-player? Not ready for it? Here I am. Here is the heavy bag. Here is a lesson tailor-made for you. But it's a good thing that it's not easy.

Best, Ron
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xenopulse
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2007, 12:42:54 PM »

Ron,

I'm chiming in here because we're also discussing this on Story Games and I didn't want to just throw things out there where you might not see them.

I think it's all well and good that you created Sorcerer for a specific audience and that a secondary audience needs to work hard to "get" the game.  I don't see a problem with it per se.  The only thing I'd say would be fair, though, is that this is made explicitly clear before people buy the game. As in, have a note that says: "Warning. You might not understand and be able to truly play this game successfully without going through a tough and time-consuming process of personal interaction with the author."

Does that sound reasonable?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2007, 12:58:54 PM »

Take a look at the last line on the back cover. It's not hyperbole. The reader has been warned.

Also, do you think that Nabokov's Pale Fire<The Black Pirates? Am I seeing advocacy for a viewer's warning which says, "This film was made without blue-screen technology, and as such the stunts may appear cheesy to the modern viewer?"

Don't misunderstand me - I am not claiming that Sorcerer is as good or significant as any of these works. I am saying that any created product exists in the space and time of its creation, and that anyone who wants to partake of it will have to grapple with the artifacts emerging from that. (This goes back to the revised-edition question too, because revisions only compound that phenomenon; they cannot negate it.)

Finally, for everyone - please do not criss-cross between this thread and whatever might be happening at Story Games. I am not interested in that discussion and will not read it. I also think if you arrive here armed with phrases and issues gleaned from there, or go trotting back there to say "Ron says!", that you will be abusing me as a person. I am discussing the issue here and here only, brought up here by folks who are willing to be here too. I don't participate here in order to provide ammunition for status-games and talking-points elsewhere.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2007, 01:46:28 PM »

Hi Ron,

Quote from:  Alan
While I feel the effort has been worth it, I also think I could have absorbed the game a lot sooner had the text been presented differently. I must acknowledge that at the time the text was written, the distinctions and concepts necessary for the kind of presentation I'm looking for had not yet been developed. I do not want recompense for past effort; I am projecting my experience to people like me who might buy it in future and wondering "why should they pay that cost when it's no longer necessary?"

Alan says it better than I could.  Your answer is quite sufficient for me:

Quote from: Ron Edwards
[A] given work, to me, exists in a given place and time. . . . I'm 42 now. My gaming history is different, resting on over ten years of joyous, continuous, highly social play with dozens and even hundreds of people, and almost as many games. My desired audiences for my work are different, and my creative ambitions are different. . . . [T]he work I want and need to produce isn't Sorcerer.

Q: "Why are in a dojo instead a bookstore?"
A: "Because the bookstore is way the hell across town."

Works for me.  No doubt it is unnecessary to add, but none of this was meant as any kind of challenge.  Merely idle curiosity about business decisions you've made w/r/t potential customers.  I appreciate your candor and willingness to discuss it.
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