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[Sorcerer] Another "How Would You..." Thread

Started by Lxndr, June 05, 2003, 09:00:53 PM

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Lxndr

Following please find a list of potential demonic concepts, and their powers in narrative terms; my request is that you help me convert concept into game mechanic.


[*]This first one is simple - Puppetman from the Wild Cards setting.  In the writing, Gregg Hartmann comes across as a guy with two separate personalities, one a pretty normal, moral guy, the other a crazed psychopath who wants nothing more than to feed off violence and mayhem.  Puppetman never controls the body; he just eggs "Greggie" into using the power he has to feed him, which "Greggie" does (he says he does it to get Puppetman to shut up, but that's not it).  In addition to the violence and mayhem puppetman loves, Gregg also has used the power to get ahead, politically.
Now, Puppetman has Perception (emotions), with Gregg as the user; that part is simple.  In addition, by touching someone, Gregg can make that person his "puppet." Thereafter, Gregg can adjust and control that individual's emotions by metaphorically tugging on strings.  He can take a small nugget of happiness and turn it into sexual ecstasy; he can take fear and turn it into murderous rage.  He plays his puppets like they were harps.  (It is important to note that the number of puppets he has is potentially infinite though it is difficult to control more than one or two at a time).
How would you do Puppetman in Sorcerer?
[*]An aspiring doctor (let's call him John Brown) could never understand medicine.  So he turned to the dark arts, and managed to discover a demon that would let him be a doctor.  All the demon wanted in return was to be near individuals when they died, something which made John Brown well known as the "Grieving Doctor" for his tireless, tender care in the ICU and the emergency rooms.
That part's pretty simple.  It's basically a demon that gives him a Cover of "Surgeon" or "Doctor" or whatever.  Here's where I get into a bind, though.  John Brown gets greedy.  He doesn't just want to be a good doctor, he wants to be able to HEAL.  With a touch of his hand, he wants to see lost limbs grow back again, he wants to restore sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, he wants to cure AIDS and cancer.  So he summons another demon which would allow him to do that.  
How do you build that second demon?
[*]I'm a little six year old girl.  At my last birthday, I got this magic wand, like Glinda in the Wizard of Oz.  I somehow managed to Bind a demon to it.  With it, I can turn my friends into frogs, until they get kissed by me (I'm a princess!).  If I refuse to kiss them, they'll be frogs forever; I've already done that to one bully who wouldn't leave my brother alone.  It doesn't work on my dad or mom, however, they're too tough!
How do you build that?
[*]I've got a Boy/Girl gun.  What is that?  It's a gun that I can point at anyone (even myself) and, when I pull the trigger, a beam will shoot out that will turn the person I shoot into the opposite gender (unless they resist it somehow).  It's completely permanent, at least until they get shot again.
That's my demon.  How do I build it?
[*]I've got a television demon.  He has perception (far away places), which is conferred on himself.  He's the user.  He also has the ability to display images on his screen, which ANYONE can see if they're looking at it.  He can display what he's actually seeing, or he can display something totally false, both of which are useful things depending on the situation, but which can be bad if he's being naughty.
How do I build his ability to display specific images?  What if, instead of a television demon, he was a hologram projector?  What, if instead of a single tv, he was a tv station, and could manipulate the images in any broadcast?
[*]I want to control a few people, but in addition, I want to humiliate them.  So I summon up a demon who will live in my mouth, and make my kisses both pleasurable and addictive, addictive like heroin.  Thus, I will control the people I want to control, but I will do so by controlling the supply (my kissing them) and thus making them do more and more debasing things in order to feel the pleasure of my kiss.  Yeah, it's a really twisted power trip, but isn't anything demon-related?
I know how to make my kiss pleasurable - special damage or psychic force.  How do I make it ADDICTIVE?  How do I make my victims NEED to come back (barring Will rolls to resist, of course)?
[*]Taken from "So It Is Written" at the Erotic Mind Control Stories Archive.  George Carfax has this book.  Whatever is written in this book, in Latin, becomes true, becomes fact, even if it means altering the past and people's memories to compensate.  Occasionally, though, George finds writing in the book, saying "Do <X>" where X is some reprehensible thing.  If he does NOT do X, the book makes things take a turn for the worse.  He is allowed to do X by writing in the book, thus making X come true.  He's screwed his sister, killed his brother, and so on.
This is obviously an object demon.  How do you do the rest?
[/list:u]

That's a good start.  Let's see what y'all do with my suggestions and creations.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Ron Edwards

Hi Alexander,

OK, I think we need to establish a couple of points.

1. Sorcerer isn't a "universal" system. It's not built to provide mechanics for any and every possible concept one brings to it.

2. There's a root philosophy underlying what is possible to do with it, specifically that you can't get what you want by making the world the way you want it.

So: nothing like, "I want this girl to love me, so whammo, the demon makes her love me." Or, "I want the president to die, so whammo, reality changes so he never lived."

A lot of your suggestions wander close, and in a couple of cases into, this sort of thinking. I suspect it might be the core issue of the Erotic Mind Control topic, and therefore, perhaps a whole sector of story-concept from that site is incompatible with Sorcerer as a role-playing framework.

The key tip-off words are "forever," "permanent," "becomes true," and similar. The boy/girl gun and the healing are all very do-able in Sorcerer when you take away these elements of your descriptions.

3. Let's also think a bit about how to interact with the author and publisher of a game. Bluntly, I can't be "Ask me anything Man" at the rate that you seem to be expecting. When presented with a barrage of questions like this, it shuts down my attention. My response is, "Yeesh ...," rather than getting fired up about the discussion. I need manageable chunks.

Your Puppetman inquiry alone is worth an entire supplement's worth of scenario, character, and conflict examples to present. It's not as simple as you suggest, and I'm not talking about the demon-ability, but rather the narrative-conflict philosophy underlying it.

That said, on to a couple of the questions that seem like they're in the Sorcerer ballpark.

The TV demon's pretty easy - it needs the Perception ability you've described, but it also needs to confer Perception to the viewer of the screen of the first Perception. It perceives something, and then I perceive that. The hologram vs. the screen seems like nothing special to me, but the TV station affecting "any broadcast" grades into the issue I describe in #2 above. It can't affect "any" broadcast - that will be limited by Power, whatever that might be.

The addictive-kiss demon is set up as a Will vs. Stamina roll. The demon can only Boost your Will - making the victim need to come back to the extent that you're expecting (I think) is a matter of interactions, rolls, and variable outcomes per person.

The concept underlying the Erotic Mind Control book example is currently being developed as a mini-supplement that draws upon a great deal of literature and myth concerning Wishes. It's a hell of a good mini-supplement, and the Sorcerer rules work well for it, but it requires a lot of customizing, up to and including character score descriptors - much at the same level as Schism.

Best,
Ron

Ron Edwards

Quick addition for everyone:

Alexander is asking awesome questions. My reply was a bit grumpier than it should be due to volume, not content.

Best,
Ron

jburneko

I have a rather interesting take on the "altering reality" problem.  Really, the core of the problem, as Ron points out, is that everything in Sorcerer risks breaking down at some point.  The power simply runs down, the victim's Will suddenly begins to over come it, or the demon simply revokes its gifts.

So consider a REALLY powerful demon with Perception Psychic Forces and probably one other form of Perception.  And what this Demon does is use Psychic Forces + Perception to make a WHOLE LOT of people BELIEVE that something is the way it is, when it really isn't.

Let's say you want a man to die because you want to make a move on his wife.  And you don't want to deal with a grieving woman, so you can't just kill him out right.  Instead, you want him to have died a year ago.

Wham!  Psychic Forces + Perception on everyone the man knows including his wife to make them think he died a year ago.  Wham!  Psychic Forces + Perception on some other people plus the victim to make him believe he's someone else doing something else.  Maybe the Demon could even confer Cover upon him to give him a whole other job.

The whole idea here is that reality hasn't been altered at all.  What you've got is basically a mass illusion going.  This may sound like a LOT to keep track of but it really isn't.  Only  two people matter, the husband and the wife and depending on the flow of things, maybe only the wife.  So mechanically you'd only be keeping track of penalties and stuff for one or two characters, even though technically probably thousands of people are affected.

The cool, story flowing stuff that happens is stuff like, "What happens when the wife catches a glimpse of her year dead husband at a book store?"  As the illusion begins to decay cool stuff happens.

Just my thoughts.

Jesse

P.S. Rules Question: Is it kosher to EVER say that penalties from some kind of damage ONLY apply to certain kinds of interactions?  For example, I'm tempted to say that the penalties from the use of Psychic Forces above only apply to attempts to remember the past and interactions with things that may violate the illusion but perhaps that's too much Sim thinking.

Lxndr

(A)  Ron - Sorry for the excessive volume.  I'd rather stick it all in a small # of posts than try to spread it out amongst a large selection, especially with the "don't answer a thread if it's dropped off the first page" policy that The Forge has - I both do not want to see my threads pushed off too quickly, nor do I want to see anyone ELSE's thread become death because it got pushed off the top of the list.

(B) Apart from the one question in my other topic directed specifically at you, I'm hoping for the participants of this forum to answer, and am directing the questions towards everybody.  I consider these public fora for the most part, and my questions are barraging at everyone, not just the moderator.  Sorry if it seemed I was targetting you specifically and unduly.

(C)  When I say "permanent" and such things, it should simply be taken to mean "will not return to normal without outside intervention."  If I chop off someone's arm, that's "permanent" - but a demon can grow it back.  If I put explosives in someone's car and blow it up, that's "permanent" - but they can still buy a new car.  A demon bound to a sorcerer, that's "permanent" - but the demon can still be banished, killed, etc. Far as I can tell, the only "permanent" thing is death (though for all I know, there's some resurrection mechanic present in one of the sourcebooks).  

That's my meaning of permanent and such things, and Sorcerer seems to support THAT meaning pretty well (at least, from my reading of the main book and actual plays).

Therefore, to keep with my initial premise, if the boy/girl gun works on a particular boy at all, it "permanently" changes him into a girl - waiting around for it to "wear off" is not an option.  He has to take other, proactive steps, to get rid of it, or he can wait and hope some event changes him back (like getting shot again, or maybe Pacting with a demon with similar ability).  Are you saying that's not supportable?

(D)  The TV demon - I'm once again skeptical about the use of the second perception in this instance, for much the same reason as before.  The mechanics of perception include a user, which means that user has his own circuit-breaker that he has to switch (in addition to the demon's switch).  

The TV, on the other hand, is just displaying an image, not conferring perception onto anyone.  Besides, what happens if there's 100 people watching that TV?  That's got to be one powerful demon, to confer so much perception, doesn't it?  It seems to me perhaps some variant on Shadows (playing with light instead of brightening/darkening an area) might be the "right" answer.

(E)  I'm not quite sure how you've set up the addictive kiss.  Could you provide more in the way of examples?  Anyone else who might understand how he's set it up, feel free to chime in!

(F)  Apparently, I need to pick up this Schism.  Is it a book, or some sort of pdf thing?

(G)  I really like Jesse's take on altering reality - some sort of area effect Psychic Forces (how would you handle that?  is there an "Area" version of "Range"?).  Unfortunately, I have to skeddaddle right now, so I'll post more thoughts about it later.

(H) Jesse - I've been wondering that.  I've also been wondering if it's ever kosher to apply damage ONLY to one attribute.  Can you pound down someone's Will and leave their Stamina intact?  But that might be a subject for another thread.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Ron Edwards

Hi Alexander,

My thinking is that the boy/girl transformation as well as similar effects (not blowing up a car though) wear off until the demon keeps its Power "focused" on the task in question. At the very least, when the demon uses the same or another ability, the original subject can start making Stamina rolls vs. Power in order to see when the effect begins to fade. Now, that's not to say that your interpretation is wrong, but it's the kind of thing to work out according to the suggestions in Chapter 4 ... basically, everyone has to be on the same page about it.

Also, if someone wanted to, they could lift all the complex rules regarding Active/Passive spells, POW expenditure, and similar mechanics from RuneQuest, and 'port them into Sorcerer in order to nail it down. But in my view, the effort isn't worth it and the effect is achieved just as nicely by some negotiatory dialogue both before and during play.

I had a thought about the TV, although frankly it's not very elegant on my part ... Instead of the second Perception, use Shadow in that light and dark are being manipulated to make the images on the screen. Ugly, I know - just the kind of thing which makes Jesse and Ralph scream and throw things at me ("You didn't say it in the text, you bastard!", etc).

The addictive kiss. OK, the demon has Boost Will. I kiss the girl, and use my Boosted Will against her Will (hey! or Humanity! good point, self) to instil an addictive link between the two of us. This is simply established by fiat until such a time, if ever, when she tries to do something counter to it, in which case the victories of the original roll will be a bonus on my side for the new conflict roll.

Schism's one of the Sorcerer mini-supplements; check it out under the Product section of the website.

Jesse, you could do that mass illusion thing, but I think that's different from what Alexander was talking about, which seemed to me to be much more "shape reality" and that's that. All I can say for now is, that mini-supplement will be very good.

Oh yeah, and Alexander, damage applies as a blanket to all rolls. More specific penalties are usually handled through demon abilities (like Daze) or through jury-rigged conflict rolls of some kind. The point is that penalties resulting from such rolls are focused on specific conflicts, not on scores. So if I wanted to give someone a penalty specific to social manipulation, I'd come up with an attack using my Will or Cover to give him penalties for the future in any socially manipulative situation, regardless of what score he would be using.

Best,
Ron

Bankuei

Hi Ron,

QuoteThe addictive kiss. OK, the demon has Boost Will. I kiss the girl, and use my Boosted Will against her Will (hey! or Humanity! good point, self) to instil an addictive link between the two of us. This is simply established by fiat until such a time, if ever, when she tries to do something counter to it, in which case the victories of the original roll will be a bonus on my side for the new conflict roll.

Isn't this awfully like a Binding roll? :)

Chris

Ron Edwards

Hi Chris,

You've been reading that Sex & Sorcery book again, haven't you?

Best,
Ron

Lxndr

Your commentary on Shadows is really about what I'd probably do, though it occurred to me that, at least in the case of the TV demon itself, I (and the rest of us) were thinking too hard.  Demons-making-illusions in general probably would want to use Shadows somehow, but for the specific TV demon, why not just the following:

"It's a TV.  Therefore, it can do things a normal TV can do.  It'll pick up broadcasts.  Connect it to cable, you can watch cable TV shows.  Putting images up on the pixels is, well, a television THING.  So it just CAN do it.  It's a TV, so it can manipulate what's shown on its screen.  No special power necessary."

Then again, that's a potential slippery slope there.  Hrm.

Quote
The addictive kiss. OK, the demon has Boost Will. I kiss the girl, and use my Boosted Will against her Will (hey! or Humanity! good point, self) to instil an addictive link between the two of us. This is simply established by fiat until such a time, if ever, when she tries to do something counter to it, in which case the victories of the original roll will be a bonus on my side for the new conflict roll.

You know, this rather elegant mechanic solves a lot of potential "mind control" problems and questions; I'm not sure if it just wasn't explained well enough before now, or if it just wasn't defined AT ALL before now.  

With this, I could theoretically define my mind control effect (let's use the old standby, you-love-me-now) and roll against my victim's Will, Humanity, Stamina, whatever is considered appropriate through GM/PC agreement.  Then, that's established until more resistance occurs (also decided through GM/PC agreement) at which point a the next roll is made.  

Good rolls (or repeated applications, thus collecting more victories) might eventually lead to "permanence" insofar as there's an annoyingly-great amount of dice being rolled.  Bad rolls, on the other hand, would just mean "hey, now SHE's got the victories" until such point as the link is broken (how would that happen?).

Okay.  Did I grok that right?  What am I missing now?
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Ron Edwards

Hey there,

Actually, I'd say you had it on the nose. I think your TV point is well-taken too, and in fact I've used that logic in a variety of Sorcerer situations in the past. How slippery the slope is depends on basic dialogue about the issue among the group.

Best,
Ron

Lxndr

So if I'm following this right, technically I don't even NEED any demonic help to get someone addicted to me kissing them?  I just kiss them, set up a Will vs. (Appropriate Stat) roll, and roll it?  Thus setting up the addiction, assuming my roll beats out the other roll?
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Ron Edwards

Whoops, whoops, not quite. I'm treating the addiction as the "special effect" of the demon Boosting your Will during the kiss.

I knew that was going to be tricky ... think Champions pre-4th edition, when we didn't have to worry about whether Peter Parker was "good at" photography or not.

It also has a hell of a lot to do with the discussion of demons, Humanity, and other pre-play setup concepts for a given game. I was running with the idea that the notions of emotional control and preternatural influence over it had been already established for this particular game.

Best,
Ron

Ron Edwards

Oh yeah, forgot - I'll post my Puppetman discussion on Monday.

Best,
Ron

Lxndr

Some part of me (a part that needs to be quashed, maybe?) wants to see some differential between a standard boost (whose mechanics are "raise Will") and an ability like causing-an-addiction (especially since I think it'd be neat to have that ability without having Boost along with it).  I know there's some power drift in the game, thanks to the coarse grains, but this doesn't seem like mere drifting, this seems like a hole where there should be another grain.

Am I wrong in that feeling?

I'm looking forward to your Puppetman dialogue, no matter how long it might take to write.
Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
Maker of many fine story-games!
Moderator of Indie Netgaming

Ron Edwards

Hi Alexander,

Very good eye. No, this is not a design/play issue to quash; you're right on target.

The key is the middle paragraph on p. 66 of the rulebook. The definition and context of demon abilities absolutely requires local customization. One cannot talk about "how Warp works," in mechanics terms alone, and then shift to an example of play ... without knowing what Sorcerer is for that particular group.

In my current game, it's all about necromancy and the emotions we feel for the dead - and the necessary limits of those emotions if we are to get on in our lives. (The plural "we" refers to you, me, and the six billion other real living people out there.) Manipulating others' emotions isn't part of that picture, so the Boost Will ability couldn't function as I describe above in our game. On the other hand, animating a corpse through Boost Stamina or Vitality (more likely), without a listed ability called "make corpse walk and talk," is perfectly viable.

But in a game such as you describe, in which Humanity probably concerns Identity and emotional honesty, and in which the demons' presence and role is to challenge identity, then tacking on "establish addiction" into the Boost Will ability is perfectly viable.

See? Every game of Sorcerer must be predicated on that thematic foundation, whether it's developed only partly beforehand, or nearly completely. Once you and everyone else shares even an inkling of that, then all these "can you could you" questions about demon abilities snap into focus without any pain at all.

That's the grain you're not seeing - it has to be filled in between the textual description of the demon ability and the actual instance of play. That's what Chapter 4 is all about.

Best,
Ron