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Hamlet, I, iii, 78 -- Towards a Sorcerer Scenario

Started by Michael S. Miller, January 07, 2003, 06:35:52 PM

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Michael S. Miller

OK, so Lincoln High, 15th year Reunion kicked my butt. I did not enjoy running it (far, far too many things to keep track of) and, although my players were impressed with the game, I’m not going to be running it again. However, I’ve signed up to run Sorcerer at A Gazebo of Games convention in Piscataway, NJ in February. So, I’m writing a new scenario. I figured I’d do the full treatment as outlined in Art Deco Melodrama / The Sorcerer’s Soul, and then write the characters and Kickers myself. What else can one do at a convention game?

Here goes:

Step 1: Define Idiom.  As I was walking past a television the other day, I glanced a clip from the new movie Chicago. What struck me was how clean, well-manicured and beautiful the style looked. Like the whole story is a posed fashion shoot. Never a wrinkle in a suit, never a run in a stocking. Just beautiful, clean people in their beautiful, clean lives. The film Gattica also springs to mind, or even Star Trek: TNG; although I know there are a lot of films that use it.

Step 2: Define Humanity. Humanity is Integrity, in that a person’s external façade corresponds with their internal beliefs. At 0 Humanity, a person is a social chameleon, putting on the face whoever they’re with wants to see. It’s not even that they want to please others, it’s that pleasing others is all they can do, because their sense of self is no longer there for them to listen to. This suggests a title: “Hamlet, I, iii, 78” a.k.a. the cliched-yet-true “To thine own self be true”

   It’s used as a Resolution Mechanic when you attempt something that risks social disapproval, or also to get a “feel” of a group of people—what they would consider acceptable.

   Demons are: Masters of deceit, they are slick, and polished. If this were a movie, all demons would be computer-generated, to look as much like genuine people as possible, just impossibly cleaner, crisper. All demons fall somewhere into an infernal hierarchy and jockey with one another for position. Their Power is a measure of their place in the hierarchy and the “slickness” of their charms.

   Humanity Check and Humanity Gain rolls: The former occurs when a character betrays their own beliefs and goals for the expectations of a group. The latter when a character risks rejection for something they believe in.

   Lore is: knowledge and skill at putting up a “good front”; salesmanship; leadership training; charm school; even acting classes, I guess; subterfuge; disguise; skill at lying

   Sorcery revolves around: deceit, lies, people-pleasing, disguise, selling out, denial, putting on airs – the symbolic triumph of appearance over substance

   However, I’m a bit stuck on how these map onto the six individual rituals. Have I chosen a poor definition of Humanity or I am just not seeing how it fits onto the rituals? Anyone have any suggestions? I’ll post PCs as I generate them.
Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!

Ron Edwards

Whooo! Michael, I like this a lot. It reminds me as well of a movie that I enjoyed immensely (apparently not everyone did): Simone.

I suggest letting the rituals bake just for a moment, and turn to the demons. Imagine some demonic-sorcerous interactions. Imagine a "payoff" moment of play. Most especially, think about Binding in a purely interactive way: what do the sorcerer and the demon do?

Then, after that, you can probably come up with rituals quite easily. You can stick with the computer thing (in which case Simone is perfect), or let that remain idiom (rather than in-game "content"), and turn toward the more magical/whacked side. If you do the latter, then think about what it looks, sounds, and smells like. Let Color be your guide. That's the key to rituals.


P.S. I'm prepping a chariot-race scenario for FVLMINATA ...

Henry Fitch

God. I can just imagine the sorcerer, a slick-beyond slick businessman, wheeling and dealing all day, cooler than everybody... except once a week, every week, when nobody's looking, he goes to that nobody's-heard-of-it jazz bar down the street and meets the one guy cooler than him (as far as he knows). The cool guy hands over his dose of Need (whatever it is), and the cooler guy gives him his dose of Boost Cover (administered as terse advice), and they part ways. And the cool guy goes back to his wheeling and dealing, but in the back of his mind it's all really due to the Cooler Guy...

Pretty powerful stuff. I like.
formerly known as Winged Coyote


First I'll say that I'm glad I'm not alone in having the Lincoln High demo eat me for breakfast.

Now, I'll say that I REALLY like your idea for one particular reason.  Your Humanity definition speaks directly to one of the little recognized features of Sorcerer: That nothing in the game dictates character behavior, not stats, not descriptors, nothing.

Your Humanity definition of Integrity really brings that into focus.  It makes me realize that what I said up in the "in character" thread in the Theory forum was related to this issue.  A lot of people seem to mistake "in character" with "character integrity."  So in your game, if you say your character values something and then go against that value, it's a Humanity Check, not poor roleplaying.

Very cool.  


Michael S. Miller

Thanks for the responses, all. Things are cooking up nicely & hope to have characters by the end of the week.

Hi, Jesse.

You bring up a point I hadn't quite considered. Since I've defined Humanity as putting the cart before the horse (i.e., putting social appearance before internal values), I've got to know what both the cart and the horse are at any given time in order to adjudicate the need for Humanity Checks/Gains.

Now, the Cart is no problem. Since I'll be playing the NPCs, I control what they pressure the PCs to do.

The Horse is trickier. After I read your post, I heard the refrain in my head that Sorcerer is designed to kill: "But I'm just playing my character." However, have I just handed the player a Get-Out-Of_Humanity-Check-Free card? They can always say, "My character wants to please people," and therein lies an argument of whether that is appropriate motivation. Since this is intended to be a 4-hour convention game, I think I'll give each character sheet an explicit "Your character values:" section. Possibly, I could have them define it before play as part of customizing the character. Perhaps if they wanted to change it (characters do change, as Jesse pointed out here), I could call for a Humanity Roll, although I'd discourage the practice in general. Does anyone see potential problems with this?

Henry, your Sorcerer is awesome! Can I use him? I wanna make him a film producer. I'm thinking that the demon looks like Clark Gable w/ steel grey hair. His Need: Virgins.
Let me know.
Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!

Ron Edwards

Hi Michael,

I strongly recommend against setting up some kind of pre-game contract regarding character motivations. I think it's potentially - even guaranteed - going to backfire.

The problem is that you're considering internal states rather than behaviors. Don't address that at all - Humanity is not really about "motivation." It doesn't matter that the character "means it" or not. It's about what they do. I suggest instead putting some thought, yourself, into recognizable behaviors that correspond to Humanity gain and loss. Get that straight in your mind, provide Bangs that speak to it, and pass out the Humanity checks and gain rolls thick and fast. That's all you need.

Again, to be perfectly clear, I strongly recommend never defining Humanity according to an internal state of a character.


Spooky Fanboy

QuoteAgain, to be perfectly clear, I strongly recommend never defining Humanity according to an internal state of a character.

I gotta agree, Mike; humans are weasels on the inside. You can only judge a person by what they do in the long run; Sorcerer should be no different. It helps if you never think of Humanity as centered around human flaws, only human ideals.

I'll explain more later when I see you next, but in my Sorcerer thing I'm developing with Ron, I emphasize a lot on the difference between the character's internal state versus what s/he really does.
Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!

Henry Fitch

formerly known as Winged Coyote