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Creating a Sorcerer Supplement: Discussion

Started by greyorm, October 29, 2002, 04:04:46 AM

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This topic (please go read it, I feel it is necessary to discussing the matter below) obviously didn't generate a great deal of interest, so after considering the matter, I've developed a question: Why not?

Ok, sounds odd, slightly juvenile, perhaps, but what I'm really looking for is: sometimes ideas for Sorcerer make a real splash and everyone agrees they are cool and interesting. Sometimes they don't.  In the context of the creation of a Sorcerer mini-supplement, what makes a good idea for a supplement? What drives the interest in it?

As examples: do the ideas of a sort of Viking-Sorcerer game or a Traditional Fantasy game using Sorcerer not inspire interest because of the subject matter?  Or is it something else? (my presentation, perhaps)

What would be required to be included in each in order to make them interesting?

What do you see as essential to creating a good mini-supplement, a good meta-scenario for Sorcerer, such as "Schism," "Charnel Gods," "Mu's Bed" or "Sorcery & Sixguns"?  What is it about these, not individually but as a collective, that drive the interest in them?

What is it about these specifically that seperate them from ideas which generate less interest or buzz, such as the former two listed above?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Mike Holmes

Actually, I've encouraged people to make the Sorcerer: Standard Fantasy a few times now. That said, it has to be developed form the Sorcerer standpoint. No Standard Fantasy that just happens to be powered by Sorcerer mechanics. There still has to be more weight to the Sorcerer premise than anything else.

Interestingly, in my current Hero Wars game, Josh and I both noted that Sorcerer would have fit well. Not as a Sorcerer & Sword, Sword & Sorcery type game, neccessarily, but the characters both fit the sorcerer mold in a world that's very high magic.

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Uncle Dark


For my part, the "standard fantasy" idea didn't grab me because I wouldn't use Sorcerer to run a standard fantasy.  There are other systems (for my tastes, probably Hero Wars) that would do a better job of capturing the feel without as much retro-fitting.  It was an interseting bit of "what if...", but not to my stylistic tastes.

Reality is what you can get away with.


Honestly, for standard fantasy, I will use Rolemaster or Basic D&D. Nothing else fits the genre better than one of these two games (depending if I'm in the heroic or gritty mode). Well, maybe RotS or Harn.


Alright, some very interesting specific answers here...but I'm looking for something more general, as per the topic of the discussion.

I could easily say, "Well, traditional fantasy doesn't so much mean 'D&D' as 'Tolkien'...and honestly, I could make a very good specifically Sorcerer-feeling game out of Tolkien," so the idea that

Hence, what I'm looking for: "What makes a Sorcerer supplement, regardless of the ideas above, work as a Sorcerer supplement?"

What about the rest of you who've created supplements, or started them, what do you think makes them work, what didn't make them work? What would they need to work? What would they have to lose to not work?

Uncle Dark and especially Chade: what is it about traditional fantasy that Sorcerer can not capture; ie, what makes D&D or Rolemaster or et al. better suited to elves, dragons, magic and warriors than Sorcerer (& Sword)?

Now, can you imagine a way in which it would work?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


I could easily say, "Well, traditional fantasy doesn't so much mean 'D&D' as 'Tolkien'...and honestly, I could make a very good specifically Sorcerer-feeling game out of Tolkien," so the idea that

I think Sorcerer is ripe for a high-fantasy game and I think it could work beautifully.

Hence, what I'm looking for: "What makes a Sorcerer supplement, regardless of the ideas above, work as a Sorcerer supplement?"

I think that initial image or idea or feeling that the supplement puts forth has to grab its audience.  Those opening lines are so key.  They should be able to read that one page and have the rough idea while smiling because they think it is cool and are figuring out what they would play or what kind of campaign they would run in it.  

For me, settings have to grab fast and hard.  Writing is a big part of that but also a big part is a simple idea that rapidly gains complexity through players futzing with it.

Matt Snyder

I'll offer up my own sort of 'out there' notion of why certain ideas work, and why the "standard fantasy" didn't seem to.

Sorcerer is subversive.

Now, before you say, Duh!, I mean in terms of this hobby, this industry (god, I hate that word, especially after recent WZL discussion for anyone other there who knows).

From where I'm sitting, what Ron has done with Sorcerer is amazing. He rather cleverly, even subtly blew the doors off of what people thing this hobby / industry is about.

Sorcerer is "disguised" in its way as a game that's not too far in concept or even look and feel to many of the White Wolf games. It has content that folks in this hobby can dig -- magic, demons, heck even Sword and Sorcery. All that cool stuff.

But the game is something different. It's popular in many ways precisly _because_ it challenges the notions of what the hell role-playing is, what that activity is and does, and who can enjoy it.

Basically, Ron & Sorcerer made lot of people grow up, and realize that this can be a grown-up hobby capable of sophisticated, powerful stuff. Not something to hide behind magazines at work for fear of embarassment.

Now, the "culture" of Sorcerer, I think, appreciates that, embraces it. So, when folks point to awesome supplements, they're doing so in that context. Jared's Schism, for example, has been described as "Mage done right." (Am I remembering that correctly?)

Scott's Charnel Gods takes fantasy tropes and says "Fuck off. This is some dark, gruesome shit." It's subversive -- it's saying "Fuck your fantasy world. In fact, go kill it. Literally."

I pose the idea, Raven, that traditional fantasy doesn't resonate with Sorcerer "culture" because it subverts nothing. It "regresses" back to the trappings of the stuff that started this subversion in the first place.

Now, I mean this as no dig at you, man. I'm as big a fantasy fan as the next guy -- often more so than many Forgers I've talked to! I'm just offering up my notion of why I think it's so.

OOh, one last thought. I can imagine someone might say, "You're wrong -- look at Sorcerer and Sword. How more traditional can you get?" To which I'd reply that the book IS subversive. It's Ron challenging the diluted, inbred notion of what fantasy gaming has become. From his vantage point, it's a correction to the far-off course of fantasy gaming back to the "right" path of the tradition as Ron sees it.

I dig it.
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra


Man, you guys keep bringing up Charnel Gods.  Well, at least Matt has seen it...*

I think Mr. Snyder has some interesting points.  Sorcerer is about pushing the envelope, transgressing so to speak.  It is subversive.

But as for writing a mini-supplement...shit, it's hard to explain.  I wanted it to be unique, but not unfamiliar, so you'll find elements of Moorcock and Lovecraft in it.  But mostly I just wanted it to be cool, something I would want to play.  The result, I think, might be called splatter fantasy (which I like to think of as the extreme form of pulp fantasy).

Seriously though, that was my one guiding light: If I liked it and thought it was cool, it followed that someone else would too.  And when I spoke about it, I did so with conviction, knowing that enthusiasm would carry it to others.

I have another, related, question: People rave about certain mini-supplements, but when are we going to see some actual play?    

- Scott

* I swear to God, as soon as we iron out the technology issues, everyone who wants to will get to see it as well.

Uncle Dark


Since you ask...

I agree with a lot of what Matt said.  Rather than go over all that again, let me make a general statement and give some examples.

In Sorcerer, magic (demonics) is inherently (at least potentially) destructive to the sorcerer in specific and the world in general.  Demons, however you dress them up, violate the rules of reality.

This is not true of the heirs of Tolkien.  In this type of fantasy, magic is an integral part of the world.  In Middle Earth, this was so much so that the Elves were mystified when the hobbits asked them if Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship were magic.  To the Elves, it was just what they did every day.  In standard fantasy, magic is morally neutral or good as well as evil.

Therefore, it seems odd to me to include a mechanic for reducing the essential whatever of a character in the practice of magic, or at least all magic.

If I were to run a standard (Tolkien-esque) fantasy game, I might use Hero Wars because it makes magic an integral part of the world and the characters.  I might use The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, as it seems that the "Devil" mechanic would fit perfectly with the temptation and corruption that Sauron represents.

If I were to run a game that owes more to Conan or Elric, I'd use Sorcerer (& Sword), since (in those worlds) magic and magical critters are meant to be alien, even when they're not uncommon (as with certain races/locations in Moorcock's Young Kingdoms).



I think that some supplement ideas fail to take off because either they don't really give a new take on the original rules (i.e., they're more like one-sheets than mini-sups), or they introduce an unwieldy number of changes to the game when an existing, other rules-set already does it better.
Reality is what you can get away with.

Ron Edwards


I let the topic percolate a bit to see what people think, especially because in some ways I'm uniquely un-qualified to say what makes a mini-supplement work, at the customer-base level.

My first reaction is simply to agree with Matt's point. The text of Sorcerer is pretty explicit that magic which is (spiritually speaking) "natural" or "harmonizing" or similar is simply not what the rules of this game do.

My second is to say, as I've said before, the only mini-supplement concept I can have a legitimate concern with is one that's written out as a formal proposal. It could be brief or long, but it has to say, actually, what the mini-supplement will contain. I can't do much with "Sorcerer with ninjas!" or any other thing that's been pitched only at the high-concept level.

I think the discussion of why and how people play (or don't play) existing mini-supplements belongs in another thread.



I can't claim to be a mini-supplement consumer. But I can tell you that it has to be something that you want to play, and that other people want to play. I also think that it has to offer something really new.

That's why my Northern Forest mini-supplement was strangled in its crib.  When we play-tested it, we found that the stories we told could have been told in any setting. The setting itself was uber-cool. It had atmosphere coming out its ears.  It was the fantasy world I'd always wanted to play in.  But it failed the science-fiction test: there was nothing new here that changed our stories.  It was just Sorcerer with new sets and new costumes.

Maybe someday I'll revive it again (once I finish my other RPG project). Maybe I'll find what it takes to make the world different, to make playing there as opposed to some other setting worth while. But not today.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management


I'll tell you what the coolest, most interesting thing about Sorcerer mini-sups is for me, from a consumer POV.

It's all about what happens with Humanity.  You can dress up the demons and the rituals and whatnot, and that's all good (I really love seeing the different interpretations), but Humanity is the thing.  I'm particularly interested in seeing what happens when it reaches zero.

Ron has said before that the default condition for zero Humanity - that the PC is removed from play - is kind of unsatisfying.  I agree.  But, like everything else in Sorcerer, there's room to wriggle around there, and mini-sups seem like a good place to explore some of the more extreme ideas.

Hellbound is totally whacked in regards to what it does with Humanity.  Schism allows the player to depict their character's final, catastrophic moments.  Charnel Gods actually hands some of the GMing duties over to the player, giving them further incentive to reach that zero Humanity.  There's lots of good stuff to be explored there, and I'd buy any mini-supplement that promises a new take on a Sorcerer style "endgame".

- Scott

P.S.  I agree that a separate thread is the right place to discuss the play or non-play of mini-sups, and it's one I'll be starting sometime in the near future.


As far as why I would prefer D&D or Rolemaster to Sorceror for basic fantasy, some of the previous posters have addressed my concerns.
Magic in Sorceror is alien/evil in its basic nature. Not so in the typical fantasy game. Sure, powerful necromancers raise the dead and try to conquer the world, but the elven queen just uses magic to sustain her forests and defend them. I just can't picture an innately good race dealing with the type of magic presented in Sorceror.
Also, Humanity is another issue that I think just doesn't fit in High Fantasy. Concerns for my players are more along the lines of epic stuff, about how they can defeat the orc horde and rescue the princess. Just in their normal everyday actions, Humanity isn't that big of a concern. They are supposed to be larger-than-life, not worried about affecting their score.
Hope this clears it up a bit.


That is also a very interesting point Shade.  I think Sorcerer is definitely a darker sort of game and its reflected by its concept of magic.  Although, if you wanted to play it lighter, you could play Pokemon/Digimon/Yugi-oh with it, you could count all magic users as Demons, etc.

One of the points that old fantasy had was that violence was brutal, it was not good.  Magic was dangerous, powerful, ripping at reality, and downright wrong in the "Cthulu's happy songbook" sense of the word.  Old fantasy had an edge, primal and threatening.

In a fashion both senses of fantasy come from mythology.  You have the old Grimm Tales, the not-so-friendly little people, and wizards' ghosts come back as werewolves to die to become vampires, etc  Then you have the benevolent mythology of healing spirits, angels, etc.

Although, I think the biggest difference is that Sorcerer is designed around exploring the ugly side of humanity.  Whether we're talking the Sorcerer's themselves, the detective relationship maps, or the brutal savagery in Sword, or even the demons themselves, we're not talking about the happy, good side of people.  

There's no attempt to place a moral compass of Gods, right and wrong on it, just Humanity and how much of it are you willing to pay to get what you want.  In Sorcerer, all power has a price, even the price of using it, or having it available to use.  In D&D, there's no reason not to be a level 30 wizard.  Being a sorcerer on the other hand, is not much different than being a drug dealer.  You do it now, to get what you want, but you certainly didn't plan this career, and don't want to stay in the business longer than you have to.