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Love, Demons, and a Desparate Cry for Help

Started by Jeffrey Straszheim, June 03, 2003, 03:24:45 PM

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Jeffrey Straszheim


I'm starting up a Sorcerer game with my wife.  We've done it before, but I'm having a sad case of creative block this time around.  Anyhow, I'm going to post the player's notes, her character, and some other stuff, and hopefully you fine folks can help me out.

I'll put the player's notes here, and the remaining info in follow up posts.


Humanity will measure Love.  Not the watered down, universal brotherly
love, but the love between family members, very close friends, and
romantic lovers.  Humanity checks will result depending how a
character's acts serve to strengthen bonds of Love, either those
directly involving the character, or between third parties.

Reaching zero Humanity will cause a person to become unlovable by
others, as well as loving no one himself.  This need not happen
instantly.  A mother may think she still loves her zero Humanity son,
but through her actions it will be clear that she does not.

Player characters are somewhat exempt from this effect.  A player may
decide that her character will continue to love a zero Humanity
person, or that her zero Humanity character will continue to love.
However, the player must be aware that doing so breaks the
metaphysical rules of the game world.


For the demons I'm imagining an odd mix of Lovecraft's cosmicism with
the classic notion of Hell Beasts Thirsting for Souls.  Well, not
souls exactly.  (For this game, any afterlife issues are strictly
unknowable by demons or humans.)  Demons, instead, desire to steal
humans, body and mind, from this world.  Also, there is apparently
some pecking order, or bragging rights, depending on whom the demon
takes.  Stealing an everyday human gains almost no credit.  Only
stealing sorcerers seems worth the effort.  And stealing one's own
sorcerer, to whom the demon is bound?  That is considered the premier

However, Demons can only steal people who are at zero Humanity.  The
demon must match its Power versus the person's Stamina.  If it fails
it may keep trying until it succeeds.  Once it succeeds, it and the
human are gone.  That demon can be summoned again.  The human is lost.
Who knows what happens to him, but surely it's not pleasant.  (Note
that it is not sufficient to kill the person.  The demon needs to take
him alive.)

Now, here's the scary part.  The demons (more or less) manage to keep
this stealing sorcerers thing secret, particularly from their masters.
Someone somewhere probably knows what's going on, but the characters
will not.  They just go on, blissfully trading their fundamental
humanity for awsome cosmic power, unaware of an ulterior plans.

The demons still have their standard desires and needs.  They still
love to come to our world and live and play among us.  They're not
necessarily eager to steal a sorcerer and leave here, but it is an
underlying drive they all have.

NPC sorcerers at zero Humanity are pretty much doomed.  Even if their
own demons don't endevor to take them, some other (perhaps unbound)
demon may decide to give it a shot.  Sooner or later he will get

Player characters, on the other hand, have a thin spark of hope.  I
mentioned before that a PC can continue to love even at zero Humanity.
If during the actual attempted stealing of the sorcerer, she does
something that would warrant a Humanity gain, then she immediately
gains one point of Humanity.  This nullifies the demons ability to
steal her.  Note that such a thing has never happened before, and the
demon will be quite surprised.


The game is set in the modern day world, in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale
Jeffrey Straszheim

Jeffrey Straszheim

Her Sorcerer:

   Name: Maggie
Telltale: Wears silver ring with leaf design
Stamina: 4 Athletic Regime
   Will: 4 Social Competence
   Lore: 2 Apprentice
  Cover: 4 Executive assistant at radio station
  Price: -1 Difficulty dealing with authority figures
Humanity: 3

Notes: Maggie is a young, attractive, and shockingly ambitious girl.
It is clear to anyone around her that she is not happy with her place
in the pecking order, and fully intends to run things, to hell with
whoever gets in her way.  And now she has a demon to help her.  Sure,
it came at the cost of cozying up to "Firecracker Greg", one of the
morning DJ's.  He even fancies himself her master, which is fine
enough.  She'll bide her time, get his knowledge, and certainly NOT
let him into her pants.

She is estranged from her parents, but they're seldom in town anyhow,
jetting around the country in a retirement travel binge.  Her sister
is still around, and these days is Maggie's only distinctly human

Her Demon:

   Name: Magnus
   Type: Possessor
Telltale: Hosts have dark red fingernails
Stamina: 5
   Will: 6
   Lore: 5
  Power: 6
 Desire: Creation and artistry
   Need: Must enact a pantomime murder of his master at least weekly
 Powers: Cover, Hop (+Ranged), Cloak, Confuse
  Notes: Only possesses men.  Currently hosted by Angel (see below).

Her Kicker:

At a food court three days back, Maggie noticed a small mote of light
weaving through the crowd.  She lost sight of it, but then from the
direction it had gone she her screaming followed by gun shots.  It
turned out that some guy had suddenly freaked out and shot his
girlfriend during lunch.  There seems to be no logical explanation for
his action.

Then two days ago she saw the same mote of light flash by when she was
waiting to cross the street.  Moments later a driver lost control of
his car and crashed into a pole.  The driver and his two children were

Yesterday morning she again saw the mote, now hovering outside her
building.  When she got home from work that afternoon, there was
police tape blocking the door of the apartment above hers.  She found
out the guy who lived there had hung himself.  He'd just got a new job
a few months back, and seemed to be doing really well.

It's now morning, and she's woken up to see that very same mote of
light hovering just beyond the foot of her bed.

Important NPC:

"Firecracker Greg": Goes by Gregory among his friends.  He's a
hot-shot morning DJ, but hitting his mid-thirties is getting somewhat
past him prime.  He's divorced, collects overpriced Harley Davidson
motorcycles, and smokes smuggled Cuban cigars.  He's tall, a bit
gaunt, but still has a full head of hair.  Oh yeah, and he practices
the Blood Sorcery of Thuul, which he first learnt from the
preposterously titled Black Book of Bones.  No one was more surprised
than him when the magic worked.

He has mainly used his powers to get chicks, money, and set himself up
with a sexy job.  But it is getting old.  He took on an apprentice,
this yummy little number who works upstairs.  He just wanted to bag
her, but inexplicably his demons insisted that he teach her stuff.
Anyhow, she's been a quick study and actually has pulled of some magic
of her own.  But "Firecracker" is getting tired of waiting for,
y'know, the Big Payoff.

Anne: Anne is Maggie's sister.  She is a shade past thirty, has short
dark hair, wears faux-intellectual black-rimmed glasses, and dresses
rather conservatively in greys and earthtones.  She's a partner in a
small advertising agency (12 employees), and lives in an apartment in
the trendier part of Coconut Grove.  She has a new boyfriend, who she
met at church, Richard.  He's an architect from Coral Gables.

Anne is actually a pretty solid person, and has kept up with Maggie
throughout all the problems in the family.  She's taken on the rather
thankless role of peace-maker.  The girls manage to have lunch
together at least a couple times a week.

Angel: Angel is a young Biscayne Boulevard street-walker, and also
currently host to Maggie's demon.  Maggie has cleaned him up pretty
well and dressed him nicely.  He's in rather poor shape physically,
HIV positive, and off his meds since the demon took him.  He's still
alive in there, and although is personally has been pretty well
suppressed, he can still sense what is going on around him.  He's very
Jeffrey Straszheim

Jeffrey Straszheim

The mote of light is, of course, a demon.  I don't have all of its details clear yet, but I'm pretty sure it will have Taint, Special Damage (non-lethal), Travel, and maybe Psychic Blast (waves of sorrow).  Oh, and it's particularly vulneralable tennis rackets and the like.  However, at this point I have no idea what it is up to, and why it's (seemingly) killing people.

I'm having trouble putting together a solid backstory.  There are a few things I'm sure of:

1. Her sister is cool and certainly not involved in any sorcerous  plots, being a good Christian girl and all.  She will no doubt get dragged into things, but only as Maggie does.  (And if Anne's b/f Richard does NOT get possessed by Magnus by the end of the tale I'll cry.)

2. "Firecracker Greg" is no true friend to Maggie, but neither is he a malicious foe.  This guy uns on all the cheap aftertaste of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  It's sad, really.

That means that the two major people in her life are not wrapped into the backstory in any way.  And every idea I come up with is some version of "An Evil Arch-Sorcerer Wants to Destroy Her", which is so lame it frightens me.  And "The Demons are Trying to Drain Her Humanity" is a given; I need more than that.

So, if anyone out there can pitch a few story seeds at me by appreciation of you will know no bounds. :)

Thanks in advance.
Jeffrey Straszheim

Ron Edwards

Hi Jeffrey,

Holy cats. As you might imagine, this will take a little while to sort out and process. And I hate to say it, but in many ways, this is Sex & Sorcery big-time, so I find myself dumbly gesturing toward my text instead of coming up with useful forum advice. With any luck your book will arrive soon and prove helpful.

So as I review and gesture (dumbly), anyone else's input will be vastly appreciated. Go to it.



Well, one thing that immediately came to my mind is the idea of Maggies Ambition.  Beyond being stated...where is it.

My first suggestion would be to detail the office politics of the radio station...there are plenty of movies and such to draw upon for inspiration, not to mention old WKRP episodes.  Make it as sad sack lame as Greg, or as high power corporate as desired.

The mote thing is VERY cool, but its not doing it for me as her kicker, but maybe that's just me coming at it from a different angle.

As an audience member, what *I'd* rather see as a kicker is something like:

"A major national radio corporation just bought out the local radio station.  New bosses, new format, new corporate priorities, maybe even new DJs...if I'm ever going to get anywhere, now is the time".

Now you have something that has Maggie DOING something rather than reacting to "the evil mote coming to get me".  She's ambitious she wants to move's the opportunity...What's she going to do?

Simulataneously you have 'ole Firecracker whose comfortable life has just been shattered...he sees the handwriting on the wall and after a drunken binge of self pity realizes "he doesn't have to go soft into that good night"...he's a sorcerer damnit...and his priorities for dealing with his new bosses might just put him at odds with his young apprentice...

That's the angle I'd go with it anyway.

Mike Holmes

Edited to note the cross post with Ralph.

Bad economy means cuts at the radio station. Who will be let go? Or it turns out the program director has left (or is killed by the mote which follows Maggie to work) and there's a promotion to be had. Who'll get it?

A radio mogul is touring the station today thinking about buying it. Or a celebrity with the power to make carrers in media is visiting the station. Who'll turn his head? Or be assigned by station management to handle this person?

Another sorcerer trying to chase the mote shows up, and insists that Maggie is to blame for it not liking him and that she must help him summon it (essentially keep it in one place long enough to bind it). What can she wrangle in exchange?

Maggie's boyfriend accuses her of cheating because she's been hanging around Greg so much lately.

Maggie's parents return and want to see her (don't let players dictate their families out of their character's lives). They need her to sign off on some papers releasing her aunt's fortune to them. One parent want's to bribe her, but the other wants to reconcile (though they both think her carreer choice is sordid).

Greg gives her a sex for lore ultimatum.

The ghosts of the car accident come back to haunt her to get rid of the mote.

Anne's boyfriend hits on Maggie.

Anne fails to show for a lunch date. Greg, or the mote, or Angel or someone's using her as bait, hostage, etc.

Angel has some sort of episode at an unfortunate moment (socially) requiring hospitalization.

Remember, bangs, not plots.

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

Ron Edwards

Hi Jeffrey,

Dude, you so need a relationship map to be working with. You need it so bad it hurts.

Try this, from John D. MacDonald's A Purple Place for Dying:

Husband A and wife B, plus wife's lover C
Father D of wife B, long dead, was husband's best friend
Sister E of wife's lover
Long-ago lover F of husband A (long before he married the wife)
Their daughter G, unknown to husband A
F's current husband H
Their two sons I and J

In the book: B and C are eloping, but A doesn't mind (contrary to everyone else's POV). F, I, and J are angling for inheritance from A; they kill B and C but keep it secret, then plan kill A later and step forward to claim the intestate inheritance.

Take the above "in the book" part and tweak everything as you see fit. Hell, change it all; the map itself offers tons of potential interpersonal conflict and agendas once you draw it and look at it.

Then: assign parts in the map to some (not all!) of the NPCs so far, including the murder victims. It seems to me perfectly reasonable for the demonic mote to be the agent used by F, I, and J to do the killing - hell, it could even replace I or J, probably a good idea.

So why are they after our sorceress now? Easy peasy. The mote demon and the Possessor demon are in cahoots for demonic purposes of their own.

Remember! The point is not for the sorceress to "discover" all or even any of this material. It shouldn't be hidden from investigation, nor should it be prioritized by the GM. It's just stuff to work with to give all the NPCs something to do, much of which gets in the sorceress' face; sooner or later, the player will get interested enough in one or another NPC for the sorceress to start doing stuff.


Ron Edwards

Oh yeah,

Jeffrey, make sure to catch the very weird old film, Incubus. It stars William Shatner (pre- Star Trek) and it's in Esperanto of all things.

But watch it, you'll see why.


Jeffrey Straszheim

This is great.  Thanks guys.

In no particular order:


I'll run that kicker by her and she if it sounds more interesting to her.  About her ambition, currently it's rather unfocused in her mind, which leaves me little to work with.  She does seem to pull this stuff out during actuall play, thouch, so I'm not super concerned.  Your kicker idea would put it into high gear.


Goint point on her parents.  She (my wife, that is) has a habit of making disconnected characters and its been a problem in the past, so getting her sister involved was progress.  Family will play a big part, I think.

As with Ralph's idea, the office politics stuff is cool.


Yeah, I've been avoiding doing a map for, uh .... well ... no good reason really.  BTW, I'm pretty free to tweak the exact details of who gets killed in the kicker, so I could have B&C be the folks in the car, maybe.  All that is really fixed is that is be a murder, an accident, and a suicide.  I'm not sure why; it just seemed cool to have one of each.

Do you think its imperative to have the other victims fit into the map?  Might their killings just be, well, senseless?

Thinking out loud here, perhaps the murder of B&C was motivated by the mote's master, but the others were added in to fit some grand spectacle of death that Mote (needs a name) just enjoys so.  Perhaps.  Hmmm.

Another possibility is for A to have had a really nasty past and make the other victims possible (however not obvious) rivals for the inheritance. (Actually I like the first idea better.)

Oh, and do I have to know Esperanto? :)
Jeffrey Straszheim

Ron Edwards

Hi Jeffrey,

Couple-three points ...

1. Never fuck with a player's stated Kicker. I've done it in the past and I've always regretted it. If it's kind of light in terms of what Ralph would like to see, then it's merely an opportunity for you to "spike" it during the first session. See my dialogue with Tor in the back of The Sorcerer's Soul.

Personally, I consider this player's Kicker to be perfectly adequate and full of fun things to do. Think of anything vague about it to be a request on her part to you.

2. Yes, by all means, permit some of the killings to be senseless or at least not connected to the map. I'm a big foe of having everything in a scenario be connected and significant. You could combine your two options, you know, such that B & C are the targets, one of the other killings is a kind of an ego toss-off ("Oh yeah, get that bitch who sneered at me in the seventh grade, too"), and let the others be essentially innocent bystanders.

3. Fortunately Incubus is subtitled. Although somehow that seems to me to underscore the basic tragic underpinning of Esperanto and any similar endeavor ... "What if we threw a party celebrating world peace and nobody came?" But I digress.



ehhh, regarding kickers couple of points.

1) While I agree you don't fuck with a player's kicker, (that is the point of kickers after all) there's nothing that says the process can't be collaborative with suggestions and ideas going back and forth.

2) Before making a blanket statement of "Never", I'd distinguish between a kicker that a player is really enthused about and thinks would be really cool, and one that got created because that was the point in character creation when the GM said "ok, now give me a kicker" and this was what got written down.  Obviously, I don't know how devoted she is to the mote idea.

As to the over all concept what didn't work for me was that there were two completely seperate things going on.  On the one hand you have a pretty cool set-up with a radio station and a DJ and a pretty clear if undeveloped concept of the character as possessing great career ambition.  On the other hand, you have the mote thing which is pretty cool, but seems entirely seperate and unrelated to the radio station thing.  

My advice would be to pick one and go with that.  My idea above was a suggestion to pick the radio thing and leave the mote idea in the creative woodpile for later.  On the other hand, focusing on the mote would be pretty cool, but at that point you've pretty much reduced the radio station to background color that doesn't seem particularly important...she could be anyone and have the mote event happen to her.  This to me is the core of the problem Stim's having in not being able to tie the backstory into it without being contrived.

Ron Edwards


Ralph, point taken about the "Never." The trouble is when the GM gets a little too invested in "making the perfect Kicker," all the while insisting that this is an example of player author-power. It happens a lot with new Sorcerer GMs who are trying to be ultra-Ron-ish and frustrates the hell out of players. I'd prefer them to err on the other end of the spectrum.

So this is where the GM gets to be ... well, what people think of when they say "GM." Jeffrey's free to tack that mote (as well as the map I was talking about) into any and all aspects of that radio station as far as he wants to. Your presentation makes it sound like either/or, and I'm suggesting that the one be folded into the other. I provided the map as a tool for that purpose.



Absolutely.  That's why I prefaced my first post with what would be interesting to me as an audience member.  It certainly was not a prescription for the "right way" to do it.

The folding the ideas together may be a fantastic way to go.  From where I'm sitting though it seems like it could equally go the other way.  Sort of like if you're watching The Secret to My Success and watching MJ Fox go through all the gyrations of corporate ambition while flirting with his love interest and then midway through they introduce a murder investigation that takes over the whole story.  It would leave me thinking "whoa, where'd that come from from, what happened to this other stuff I was getting into"

I mention that only to provide context for why I made the suggestion I did, just to bring a little focus to things.

Nev the Deranged

I liked the idea about the corporate takeover at the station, and Greg deciding to make damn sure he remains viable in the new market by using sorcery... Do we know who Greg's demon(s) are?  

I also like the tying together of the mote with the radio events...  which you can do DURING play if you want, without revising the kicker.  Just tie them together whenever it seems appropriate.

Maybe the people killed by the Mote were obstacles to Greg's continued success?  Maybe they were listeners to the station who had called in to complain about his show.  Maybe they were family members of the corporate bigwigs who moved against him, or rival DJs, or whatever.  Maybe the only reason he's held off letting it take the PC is because he's waiting to get laid (or because he fears her own sorcerous revenge if he fails).

Just my 2c. =>

Ron Edwards

See, Nev's got it.

The point is that the player has given the GM the mote. Now it's the GM's job to pretend (I guess you can look at it that way) as if the mote was his idea from the start, and not only that, his cherished and favorite idea.