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Non-linear play and Sorcerer

Started by Dav, May 01, 2003, 09:32:01 PM

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All right.  I tried something a bit different last night... and it worked!

What we did was begin a game of Sorcerer.  Everyone created their characters, then we roleplayed a final scene wherein everyone heroically or tragically died fighting a bad menace to the earth.  (By the way, we were using the Demon Cops setting mixed with Hellbound humanity tweaks)

Then we swapped, stamped "96 hours earlier" across the bottom of the screen, and played from the beginning.  I became fascinated with Endgame and various "this is where it goes" styles of play since Ron, Mario, Kyber, and I played Little Fears with the character futures tweaks (a thread that is REALLY old, but in the Little Fears forum).  From there, I did Violence Future (where the term "Endgame" is an actual mechanic).  Anyway, the idea is that eventually, the penultimate scene of the game will be the great final showdown that was already played-out.  After that, depending on character development, humanity scores (I am thinking some sort of opposed Humanity vs. SOMETHING roll), the scene was that "trick photography" from movies, where the people you thought died end up stumbling out of the door.  In worst-case scenario, the bad evil was doing the "play dead" routine.  

Every time a person incurs a humanity roll to see if they lose humanity, a check goes against mankind.  Should a person actually lose humanity, another check is incurred.  Every time a Kicker is resolved or humanity somehow increased, a check for humanity is incurred.

Players get to decide their checks, I get to decide the bad checks (a twist on a mechanic that I liked from Human Wreckage (I think it was that game, with the "Blood on Your Hands" mechanic and such... it might have been Cthonian, but I don't think so)).  Thus far, everything has proceeded brilliantly.  A player asked if he could preemptively spent "goodguy points" (our term for the good checks) previous to the encounter with the big bad ugly.  I allowed it, which means that players can screw each other by spending out their karma and feeling it come back to bite them in the ass (I like the cohesive party with interplayer conflict as opposed to cohesive players and intercharacter conflict).  

I am having a blast.  

The game IS dark, and adult, but then, I'm running it, what do you expect?

Anyway, I will post more as the game progresses.  We are playing again Monday night.  Hopefully, I will have things a bit more cohesive and defined by then, but anyone who has played in one of my games knows that I do a strange stream-of-consciousness style of running, and slowly narrow the focus after I get character motives and interactions down.  I am playing hugely on psychological fears and stuff of the players, as well as having daemons not truly enjoy those they are bound to, which makes things at once more draining on me, and more tense for them.  At least one character has a demon actively working against the other characters, but that has yet to be discovered.  

For this game, I think actually writing the contracts (in Hellbound style) really helped me as a GM, as I can always refer back to the contract for narrative direction.

Anyway, just a quick sharing on what the hell I've gotten myself into.



Sorry, forgot to mention...

When the players prespend their goodguy points, they can "flashforward" or "flashback" to previous scenes or future scenes.  When they flashback, they can grab something that would be useful in their present situation.  Or, if they flashforward, they can use the narrative to detail the resolution of the previous scene.  The cost of flashing forward is something called: "The Devil's Due".  No one is yet sure what that means in my group, but I let them know about it.  Thus far, 1 Devil's Due point.  

What this means is that at some point, they will be needed somewhere, for something, that they won't be able to get to (because they are somewhere else bragging about how they got out of a tight spot, or the like).  It's kind of like shifting something that should have wounded/killed/troubled you to someone close to you.  (Like having your sidekick take the blow in Trollbabe).


Christopher Kubasik

Hi Dav,

Quick question:

In the "final" first scene, I'm assuming you did not play out until the end of the scene, but simply showed a lot of intense panic, suggesting the stakes were HUGE and then cutting back 96 hours.  Was this the case?

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield


Nah, we played it out to the end.  That should be "end".  What we did was take the characters, use really loose system mechanics, and let the dice fly.  Then, after I murdered, mayhemed, and generally maimed most of the characters, some of them really got into the meat of things and started crafting storyline of "weaknesses" and "discovered clues" for how and why to defeat the evil.  Thus, the entire storyline is mapped for me, and now the characters need to somehow spend 96 hours getting to the point in time where their characters can act accordingly and with such knowledge of the evil.  

My whole thing is that I'm trying really hard to get rid of the Bobby G scenario (as put forward in older posts by Ron).  I don't want it all to hinge on getting to GUY X, who has all the keys and knowledge needed.  Instead, I give them the keys and knowledge, and now they have to go back and figure out how/why/where all of this came from.  Kind of like roleplaying a Pulp Fiction meets complete EVIL idea.

So far, it's all working out.  The real climax is who actually survived and who died.  The endgame is already largely been played through, now we are just adjusting the focus on the camera.


Ron Edwards

Hi there,

One of the bits in the last chapter of Sorcerer, in the section called Over the Edge, presents a fully-reverse-order story sequence idea for playing the game. Like Dav, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how creativity and authoring is often extremely "bird's-eye-view" over the in-world time-line, and also about how few to no role-playing mechanics permit such a view.

Theatrix is just about the only one I can think of prior to 2000. In media res techniques have been around a long time, but in most cases I'd seen, that just meant "start with fight scene and GM tells you why later." Sorcerer & Sword, of course, explicitly presents an out-of-order approach to authoring individual stories, but not so much within stories.

Dav, how much "revising of who the character is" went on? By which I mean, were there any characters who, going by the initial played-scene (i.e. in-game final scene) only, were real assholes ... but when the lead-up scenes were played, were their final-scene actions suddenly recast into more positive forms given the new knowledge about their background?

I suppose the reverse, positive actions being recast as negative ones, could be possible, too.



There has been a little bit of rearrangement of displayed traits.  One character, in the final scene, claimed to want the "evil" dead so badly he was willing to sacrifice the whole of Del Ray Diablo to accomplish it.  When we flashback 96 hours, however, he has a family, a job, and is generally a nice guy (he coaches his son's softball team).

I see it as my job to help engineer the change... and I think it is fairly obvious how I will be going about this.

There were a few other minor changes.  One of the characters is named Jennifer Munez, and yet, in the heat of the battle, someone referred to her as Cynthia.  THAT will be a treat to figure out.

Oh, and one of the better tidbits, in the final battle, Silas Vaughn, an NPC, was shown to be one of the core reasons for the threatened wakeneing of the slumbering demon... Yet in the beginning, he's just the nicest guy in the world.

Right now, I'm having fun with it.  I suspect things will get a bit more stressful as the game shoots toward the big showdown deadline.  The general idea is that each gaming session is 24 hours... however long that takes.  We did the first day in about 5 hours of play.  

Things are moving apace.


Nev the Deranged

Quote from: DavIt's kind of like shifting something that should have wounded/killed/troubled you to someone close to you.  (Like having your sidekick take the blow in Trollbabe).

Alright, this is an offhand, out of context remark which will be of no service to this thread at all, but I'm all about that kind of thing because that's how my brain works.  Just yell at me if you don't like it, I'm used to it.

Way back in the day I ran a freeform game in which one of the characters had (unbeknownst to her at first) what I called "Ogre Luck" (Ogre in this case being the English translation of the Japanese "Oni", a type of humanoid demon).  She was possessed by (or possessed of.. or both) an Ogre spirit that protected her from harm.  The catch?  It protected her, but always at the expense of someone nearby.  Like if a car ran off the road and was headed right for her, the Ogre would cause it to miss... and plow through a playground full of children instead.  If I remember correctly, I partially lifted this idea from an anime called Ogre Slayer, in which one of the female characters had an Ogre (or two) living in her womb.  I seem to recall a glass window falling out of a building and slicing her best friend in half, but it was a long time ago.

Alright, I've gotten it out of my head now, it's midnight and I wouldn't have been able to sleep without expunging it from my brain, so I apologize to everyone.

Brian Leybourne

Quote from: Nev the DerangedWay back in the day I ran a freeform game in which one of the characters had (unbeknownst to her at first) what I called "Ogre Luck"

There's a flaw/hinderance/whatever they're called in Deadlands very like this as well. It's called "mark of Death" or some such, and it means that every time you spend fate chips (the main Deadlands meta-mechanic) to save your own bacon, someone else nearby cops it instead. A very cool concept, as long as your players are the kind who care about this kind of thing and you're not stuck with a "so there's no downside then?" crowd.

Brian Leybourne

RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion