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Independent Game Forums => Adept Press => Topic started by: Paiku on January 14, 2010, 11:35:56 AM

Title: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Paiku on January 14, 2010, 11:35:56 AM
Hello all,

this is about the hundredth post that I've STARTED to write on the Adept Press forum, but the first that I'll actually finish and post.  I've started so many posts because I'm in the middle of planning my first Sorcerer game, and I've had a lot of questions (even though I read the texts a year ago, and have already started using techniques like kickers and bangs and relationship maps in other games).  I haven't had to post any of those aborted missives because a little searching through the incredible wealth of knowledge, answers, alternative explanations, examples and extrapolations that exist in this forum's archives always turned up the answers I needed, and then some.

So there isn't much left for me to say except "Hello!" to all, and "thank-you": to Ron for writing an amazing game and for remaining accessible to its players; and to all the Sorcerer grognards and gaming visionaries who continue to help beginners and to make public their moot courts and rarified discussions.  Some of the lynch-pin ideas of Sorcerer are pretty non-intuitive to we old-school gamers and recent converts to story games.  You just have to keep reading different people's explanations until each concept bursts fully formed into your mind, like your own new idea, except you realize that it's exactly what everyone's been trying to tell you all along.

I'm currently distilling my eureka moments into a series of about a dozen blog posts, pre-game missives to my players. Here's where they can be found ( (Ron, I didn't come here to poach readers, let me know if you'd like me to cross-post them here).  Perhaps they'd be helpful to other beginning Sorcerer players.

Hopefully some AP will follow, too.  We have a series of three Sorcerer games planned for 2010, not all of which will I be GMing.

I'm excited to get started!

Hello and thanks,
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Judd on January 15, 2010, 05:48:58 PM
Quote from: Paiku on January 14, 2010, 11:35:56 AM
Hopefully some AP will follow, too.  We have a series of three Sorcerer games planned for 2010, not all of which will I be GMing.

  • standard setting (I know, I know...), core rulebook only
  • Dictionary of Mu
  • Dictionary of Elric (a work in progress)

I'm excited to get started!

I am excited to see you get started.  Added your blog to my handy-dandy RSS feed.

Dictionary of Elric?  I am intrigued.
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Paiku on January 15, 2010, 09:05:20 PM

Quote from: Paka on January 15, 2010, 05:48:58 PM
Dictionary of Elric?  I am intrigued.

So am I.  I love the concept behind Dictionary of Mu.  And since I'm the only one in our group who has read the Elric saga (I know, there's no helping some people ;-)), we decided that rather than make it required reading, I would just write them up a Dictionary-of-Mu-style collection of Elric-esque assets for the game.

Hey, whatever it takes, right?  :)  So that'll be a fun little writing project.

I'm trying to decide how to set our Elric S&S game.  I thought about starting with characters, kickers and a relationship map that basically set up the opening scene of Elric of Melnibon√©, and see if things unfold like the book.  But that's probably just asking for railroading and disappointment.  The players should tell their own stories. But I do think it's important that the PCs play major roles in the fates of nations and the eternal struggle between the Lords of Law and Chaos.  Any thoughts about achieving that would be most welcome (I probably need to re-read & Sword).

And I've got to get our first game of Sorcerer under my belt, first!
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 18, 2010, 10:17:46 AM
Hi Paika! I apologize for the delay in replying.

I appreciate the kind words and the general enthusiasm about my work. Following an interview with the Walking Eye yesterday, I found myself thinking both about your post and about the following famous image: My Wife and Mother-in-Law ( I have decided, over the years, that reading my game texts, especially Sorcerer, requires not only comprehension at the basic verbal level, but a necessary perspective from which to read. I wrote it completely without regard for readers who might be looking for a mother-in-law when I was writing about the wife.

Regarding posting in your blog and posting at the Forge, I only ask that you don't mirror-post, meaning, have a unique goal for the Forge thread. My post in Etiquitte and Blog Links  ( is my most complete statement about that, so see if what I wrote there makes sense to you.

That said, I enjoyed your blog posts a lot, and I encourage any and all discussion here about what their content, especially compared to others' experiences. There's a fine line between pre-game prep discussion and pre-game-becomes-no-game black-hole talk, and I'd hate to see your work become the latter.

Best, Ron
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Paiku on January 18, 2010, 10:51:11 AM
Hi Ron, it's a pleasure corresponding with you.  The mirror-posting policy makes sense, thanks.  And I know just what you mean about interminable pre-game prep.  Real-life schedules being what they are, the "next game" is never soon enough, and I find myself exercising my enthusiasm the only way I can: by talking about the game to anyone who will listen, and (sometimes) by over-preparing.  But I'm sure this game will get off the ground.  We have a great group of guys who are just as hungry to game as I am.  Our previous game (Lady Blackbird, it was great fun) just wrapped up, and our Sorcerer planning session is tomorrow. *grin*

Speaking of that group, they're a bit ahead of me on the story-gaming curve, and have done a lot to help me broaden my perspective from that of a well-seasoned D&D Player. The game is not about character advancement... the rules are there to help tell a great story... the players drive the story... I'm getting it.  It helps that I'm also a bass player  :)

Communicating with Demons
A quick line of mechanics questioning for anyone out there.  Object Demons generally only communicate by conferring (or withholding) their abilities. That's when they are in the real world (ie. already summoned).  But do they communicate more directly, by speech or otherwise, during the Contact ritual?  How about during Binding, which is post-Summoning, can they bargain verbally, play at riddles, arm-wrestle?  Who decides what form an Object Demon takes, the sorcerer or the Demon?

Thanks all,
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 18, 2010, 03:39:31 PM
Hi there,

I'll break this into two separate issues.

First, when and how might Object demons communicate in the ordinary course of events. You have a demon gun. What does it do, and what does it (or can it) say? Going by the text, it's basically a gun - it doesn't talk, doesn't write hieroglyphics on the wall with its laser-pointer, doesn't tap in Morse code against the table, or anything.* How could this not be boring? Or even more importantly, how can the crucial conflict/cooperation interaction between sorcerer and demon be discovered in play?

i) Withholding abilities should be understood in terms of the user rules. Object demons' abilities may be used either by the demon or by someone else, depending on how the ability is defined at the outset. If it's used by the demon, then withholding that use may not be perceived as rebellion; the demon merely happens not to do it when it could or might, that's all. So that's a weak communication. But if the ability is used by the (let's say) sorcerer player-character, then the demon withholding it becomes quite obvious. "I zap him!" "Sput sput." So the communication is stronger there, and if you're GMing an Object demon, I recommend favoring other-user abilities for that reason. It pretty much depends on the demon having such abilities, and for the sorcerer to rely on those abilities often enough to spot their absence. It also relies on the GM staying quite focused on the demon gun or whatever in terms of Need. It's fair to say that if you GM an Object demon, pay very close attention to its current Need status and be willing to play it "hungry" as clearly as possible.

ii) I have also become better at playing Object (and certain Inconspicuous) demons through "body language," meaning, moving the demon around when no one's looking, and giving certain 'intent' information in terms of physically interacting with it. If a character grabs for his demon gun, and he gets it just as he always would, but I narrate as being uncharacteristically heavy or perhaps a bit too attached to the holster, then the demon's reluctance is communicated without putting any mechanical penalty or role-playing roadblock into things. I now always narrate Object demons as being clearly eager or clearly disinclined when called into use, through such details. Again, it has nothing to do with stopping the player from having his or her character do something; it's merely Color narration which carries character-based role-playing content.

Now, all that said, I think the text about Object demons' limited communication can be overridden by the general rules about "look and feel." I suggest that if you really want an Object demon that can simply and openly talk, and if that fits with how you and the group are thinking about how things look for your game, then that's more important than a decree to the contrary. In some games, the solidity and impassivity of physical objects, especially weapons, is a powerful aesthetic constraint. In others, the fluidity and shiftiness of objects (especially as influenced by 1990s anime) is an aesthetic opportunity. In the first example, a gun opening a mouth in its side and addressing the user is offputting, even silly; in the second, it's right in line with what we expect.

Second, let's consider during-Contacting, during-Summoning, and during-Binding, which is a very different topic and in fact applies to all demons in your game, not just objects. You'll notice I didn't have a word about this in the book, and that was on purpose, because I wanted that topic to be completely customizable and couldn't find a way to communicate it well at the time.

The simplest way is clear: it appears as a gun, it gets summoned as a gun, and now you're holding a gun, and that's it. There's nothing wrong with that as long as direct communication during Binding is possible somehow. I suggest, however, that the sky's the limit for any given group depending on how they want to do it. If all demons are contacted as psychedelic mandalas (which can talk), but then take on whatever form is specified during summoning (which might talk), I think that's cool. Or anything at all like that which you and the rest of the group like. Regarding post-Summons interactions, including Binding, I would tend to think that's after the form is fixed in place, but even that is open to modification. One might conceive of demons as being talking animals when contacted, changing to a human shape when summoned, and then taking on a very specific and individualized human identity only when bound. Again, I think that's cool.

Let me know if any of that was helpful.

Best, Ron

* Leaving aside such things as demon laptops or Blackberries, which can of course simply speak through their speakers or by printing words on their screens.
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Paiku on January 18, 2010, 08:30:22 PM
Very helpful, thank-you Ron! 

Good insight about role-playing object demons better, I'm going to use that.  Puts me in mind of Stormbringer.  I'm sure that technique maintains good atmosphere too, reminding the player that a demonic object is a living, creepy thing which he is bound to for better or worse - not just a gun with bonuses or a broach of Will +5.

Regarding communication (and demonic form) during sorcery, I did have a feeling that the "it's up to the group to define" reasoning was behind it.  I like the idea that demons are originally somewhat formless or totally alien, and are given (Earthly) form partly by the sorcerer's design or expectations (and partly by the demons' own desires) during Summoning.  And I like the particular challenge of completing a Binding agreement with a demon that can no longer speak.  Research plus thoughtful discussion and role-playing during the Contact ritual would be necessary, in that case, to avoid significant penalties to the Binding roll!   I'll bring it up with the group in tomorrow's planning session and see which way they want to  take it.

Can't wait.  Real life's interference with gaming is almost over.  We've tossed around the idea of using the setting of Casablanca (French Morocco 1940) as the setting for our game.  Just the setting; I already have a R-map from another source.  It all gets decided tomorrow.  I'll start an AP thread, then.

Thanks again,
Title: Re: [Sorcerer] New player, bootstrapping
Post by: Ry on January 18, 2010, 11:43:31 PM
Quote from: Paka on January 15, 2010, 05:48:58 PM
Dictionary of Elric?  I am intrigued.
I'm in Paiku's group - I'll be running Dictionary of Mu to get us started, not sure how many sessions but at least enough to really see the dictionary added to and changed.  Once we're experienced with that, we'll do Dictionary of Elric, using Sorcerer, Sword, and Mu's mechanics, Paiku's setting, and (I think) a starting dictionary/lexicon we make up as a group.

Sometime after that I will try to combine IAWA and Mu, as I have long threatened.