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Author Topic: Premise in S&Sword  (Read 8376 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« on: June 14, 2002, 06:18:48 AM »

Hi Ron,

Since Humanity is limited to concerns about buddy and family in S&Sword, does this limit the choices of Premise for the game as well?  It it, essentially, "How far are you willing to screw your friends and family to get what you want?"

And if so, does this become a problem in the long run as one starts running through friends and family and new moral fodder needs to be introduced?

Finally, I remember something around here about S&Sorcerer being about proving yourself the badass you claim to be -- but I can't find it.  Did that have something to do with the premise, and if so, how?  What's the choice in something like that?  (Why not just keep being a badass?)  (And I might be completely confusing this memory all wrong.  So ignore if I am....)

Christopher
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2002, 08:13:46 AM »

Hi Christopher,

Since Humanity is limited to concerns about buddy and family in S&Sword, does this limit the choices of Premise for the game as well? It it, essentially, "How far are you willing to screw your friends and family to get what you want?"

I think that you've made a bit of a leap in this one, and it's a complex issue that deserves more step by step scrutiny.

1) Yes, to some extent, risk to such people is a staple of these stories. However, they are not about the main character trading-off between screwing them and not screwing them. Instead, the stories take those relationships as a given - the main character makes choices with his commitments to them essentially "set." (Best example in a good Conan story: Balthus, in Beyond the Black River. Best example in a sub-par Conan story: Muriela in Teeth of Gwahlur.)

2) Very rarely does the main character face the "friend or gain" question (Teeth of Gwahlur is an example. Instead, he or she sees the friends/family get taken down due to horrific, tormented, unresolvable conflicts and unavoidable physical threats. Example of the former: Ushii and Heinosuke, in the Tomoe Gozen books, both of whom cannot reconcile their romantic lives with samurai obligations. Example of the latter: Yar Afzal, in The People of the Black Circle, is a really good guy - he gets poisoned by a nasty spider-bead-thing, and it's a bummer.

This is happening all around the hero; the world, in these stories, is a brutal and tragic place. Coping with it, and trying not to be part of it, represents his Humanity. Conan tends to succeed at this, as does Owen in The Sorcerer's Skull and Tiana in the War of Wizards trilogy; Kane (the Wagner character, not Solomon Kane) suffers badly on the knife-edge of the experience; and Tomoe Gozen, Skafloc, and Elric all fail miserably at it throughout their stories.

3) And of course, each story has its own rather specific, local form of the Premise, as in Red Nails, where it essentially concerns "when does feud become madness?" (Yes, I know you're not a big fan of this particular story, but I think the analysis stands.) One might think of these situations as presenting arenas for the hero's unique take on life to be expressed, even if it's only to say, "You guys are total loons!" and hack his way out.

And if so, does this become a problem in the long run as one starts running through friends and family and new moral fodder needs to be introduced?

To some extent, this does happen in the literature. One of the aggravating things that deCamp and Carter stories do, with Conan as well as others, is to introduce new sidekicks and kill them regularly. This was a bad idea for Howard, who only did it occasionally (e.g. Taurus in Tower of the Elephant; contrast with Murilo in Rogues in the House, Trocero and Prospero in the "king" stories), and it's repetitive as hell in the secondary canon.

Finally, I remember something around here about S&Sorcerer being about proving yourself the badass you claim to be -- but I can't find it. Did that have something to do with the premise, and if so, how? What's the choice in something like that? (Why not just keep being a badass?)

I remember this passage, or something like it, but I disagreed with it strongly at the time, and I still do. The uber-premise for Sword is much like I state in the character creation chapter - I'll paraphrase it here as, "What is being a bad-ass good for?" The answers concern, at their best, extremely metaphysical and judgmental statements about the universe in general - often very existentialist and/or Romantic in the classic sense.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2002, 08:26:55 AM »

Hi Ron,

As always, a thoughtful, complete and useful reply.

Some notes:

For the record, I scoured the S&Sword book on this matter  (Premise isn't listed in the Index) and couldn't find anything as clear as the paraphrase above.  This feeble mind thanks you.  (For some reason I really like this Premise thing stated clearly -- it's a frickin' obsession.)

I don't disklike the story of Red Nails.  I dislike the passage of the fantabulous he-man gawking at the chain-mail babe -- he might as well be a fifeen year old standing open-mouthed near some GenCon booth bait.  (I find it simply embarassing on Howard's part.)

Tragic, violent world / You're a bad ass how are you going to live?  Got it. Thanks. That's the final piece I was missing to make it all click together.  And it really does click together in such an interesting way.

Thanks again,
Christopher
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2002, 08:36:43 AM »

Hey,

I'm glad I made sense - that was not only hard question, it's a central one. Jesse started a thread a while ago about reconciling the two supplements, and this is a continuation of the concepts we hashed around back then.

The passage I'm referring to is the opening section of the character creation chapter, beginning with hero = "battler against things," specifically the examples or prompt-phrases, and continuing into the open "threat" that if the player doesn't incorporate these issues into character creation, the character will be lame.

Granted, it's not a one-note this-is-Premise in a nutshell. When I wrote that passage (some of which pre-dates Sorcerer itself), my understanding of Premise was largely operational-only.

Best,
Ron
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2002, 08:52:35 AM »

Hi Ron,

Well, I flipped open the book after reading your post and assumed that's the passage you meant.  But yes, now it's clearer.

And yet... I find myself still confused -- If only because of the matter of Humanity.  In Sorcerer that's the guage of how the choice is being made by the Character on the Premise.  S&Sword explicitely states that Humanity goes down when one harms Friend and Family (F&F).

In Red Nail we're saying Conan is outa' here without consequence to his Humanity because these guys are nuts!

It seems to me this expands the issue of Humanity.  It's more like this:

Humanity is living by your Golden Rule, whatever that Golden Rule is for you.  This is why the central tenant is treating friends and family well.  But when you break your own code, for friend, family, yourself, or are caught in any kind of no-win choice, a part of you is wounded by breaking your Golden Rule.  If you're dealing with lunkhead caninbal mutants out in the hills, fine, mow them down.  But what if it turns out they actually live by a code you respect -- and you still have to mow them down to get to the woman you love?  This guys could have been your buddies -- but not in this lifetime -- Ouch!  And your sense of living by your own code is threatened, and thus Humanity is risked.

This keeps Humanity in play for the Premise, opens up Humanity rise and fall for many more options outside of F&F, and I think respects the integrity of the Code these characters live by (or in some cases strive to live by).

That's my take so far.

Take care,
Christopher
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2002, 09:03:16 AM »

Hey,

Works for me. This is now my "point to" thread for the Sorc&Sword Premise inquiry.

Best,
Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2002, 09:29:17 AM »

Hello Christopher,

I think you might be looking for something a little too specific.  I think to run Sorcerer & Sword game you still have to define Humanity as usual.  I think what that passage about 'friends and family' is really doing is that you have to redefine the SCOPE of that definition.

For example, I think you could still define Humanity as Soul and run a Sorcerer & Sword game.  What you'd be getting is sort of a fantastic paladins in the crusades style game.  However, in the MODERN and maybe even a historical setting killing just about anyone is going to net humanity loss.  However, in the more fantastical, more 'black and white' context of a Sorcerer and Sword game, going out and slaying the 'infidels' isn't going to sap your humanity.  

Similarly, take a look at some of the threads I've started about my Gothic Fantasy setting for Sorcerer & Sword.  There, I've defined Humanity as Emotional Stability with Zero Humanity meaning you've sucumbed to becoming the classic Gothic Villain.  Note: To me a Gothic Villain is someone who is emotionally turmoiled to the point of ethical blindness.

Here's the point.  Under this definition of Humanity if a man insults you and you punch him or draw your sword and he fights back and you end up killing him, well that's all well and good.  He started it, you took offense, he had a chance to appoligize or defend himself, no Humanity loss here.  However, if a man insults you and you trick him into following you down into your wine cellar and you brick him up behind a wall to let him die of starvation, well then I think you've gone too far and Humanity check is in order.

Also, I think Ron pointed out a good defining feature of Sorcerer & Sword being the HERO vs. THE WORLD aspect.  Remember, that Demons in Sorcerer & Sword are not necessarily from some otherwordly place that only Sorcerer's can reach.  A lot of them are right here, right now, which means that the common folk must deal with them as well if only in that 'lock your doors at night' superstitious kind of way.

In my Gothic Fantasy setting the imps and goblins creep through unlocked windows to steal away the villagers' children in the hopes of driving their parents over that emotional edge.  Most Nobles are Sorcerers fighting duels that run rimshod over their serfs and wards.

The idea here is that the Premise of my Gothic Fantasy world is: "How does the determined hero cope with an emotionally turmoiled world?"  As such I would think of defining Humanity as that which seperate the HERO from THE WORLD.

Hope that was helpful.

Jesse
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2002, 09:30:49 AM »

WAHoo!

Immortality!

Christopher
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2002, 09:46:38 AM »

Hi Jesse,

Those are all really good points.  You've come up with really cool settings with really cool definitions for Humanity.

However, they're all a bit tweaked from the very concrete S&S or 20's and 30's pulp fantasy Ron's modelling in S&Sword.  I for example, don't see Kane or Conan's emotional stability threatened by any of their actions.  I'm just looking at the text, as written, I trying to tease out something that'll work for me as a Premise for the game.

For me, the idea of the Personal Golden Rule is a great fix for the Howard sort of tale, where these guys really are tested on if they're going to remain true to themselves or get caught up in everybody else shit.  (Which, by the way, is obviously close to or the same as your point of Hero vs. the World.)

Thanks for the post. Your games all sound great, and I hope I get to play in one of them one of these days.

Christopher
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