[Sorcerer & Sword] The Eye of Gnarlitobe

Started by Zak Arntson, January 03, 2008, 09:03:31 PM

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Zak Arntson

Hoo boy. So I managed to pull off the annual pulp fantasy gaming with my brothers this year. Another round of Sorcerer & Sword (though not in the world of Conan, as happened previously).

This time I wised up and actually bound demons to the players at PC creation time.

In a nutshell, it went swimmingly, even with what I would consider some major boners on my part.

Story Summary:

PCs are hiding in the border-town of Grandelune from their nemeses when they overhear a chance to find the lost treasure of Gnarlitobe in the nearby mountains. During the night, the two wound up attacked by, but ruining a trio of brutes, earning the enmity of a local cult. After some travel, at the mouth of the temple, the savage beast-men of the hills poured down to attack, led on by the cult! The trio (two PCs and their guide) run into the temple, and wound up reviving the mummified corpses of the interred priests. The ramifications of sharing a temple with mummies fighting beast men is about where we ended.

Game Setup, What Went Right

  • A short Question and Answer period for PC generation, beginning with "Describe the coolest scene your PC would be in, like a full cover comic spread"
  • A short Question and Answer period for the world, focusing on how sorcery works, technology, a brief world history, etc.
  • Quick demon creation: Read aloud each demon power fairly quickly, have the players jot down interesting ones. Then have the players pick from their notes.
Game Setup, What Went Wrong

  • Names! I forgot to give the Demons names! I need a big gigantic book of names next to me while I play or something.

Game Play, What Went Right

  • Bangs! In a very short play session we had a very violent encounter, setting up antagonism with a local cult. Then a pursuit by savage beast-men into the ruined Temple of Gnarlitobe.
  • Relationship Map. I started by writing down the PCs and their demons. Then I added their antagonists (see What Went Wrong, below). Then, as NPCs showed up, I'd add them and tie them into things. By the end of the session, we had an angry deity, two cult members (one dead), and a weaselly guide added to the map, all tied to each other and the PCs.
  • Brutal Combat. Both demons have violent needs. Which made for some awesomely gruesome combat. It took a short adjustment period for our group to move from wondering how to make up new demon powers to using the existing powers with a lot of special effects for the same result.
Game Play, What Went Wrong

  • Ignoring Player Flags. During the PC generation Q&A, I asked, "Who is your PC's nemesis?" Both players gave compelling responses. The Sorcerer was being hunted by a demon (other than his bound demon). The Assassin was being hunted by a friend-turned-rival assassin. I then ignored these two NPCs in favor of a more traditional adventure setup. WHAT WAS I THINKING!? My players handed me the meat of the story and I tossed it aside. Consider it a lesson learned.
  • Not Pushing the Demons' Needs. Granted, this was my first venture into proper Sorcerer (i.e., PCs with bound demons). In retrospect, I had a chance or two to push the demons' needs, especially since the demon's had similar needs that could have created some nice conflict. Oh well, consider that another lesson learned.

Shreeekech, Duke of Salamanders, I Call Upon thy Aid!

Something I'd like to add to the game would be quick demon summoning and pacting. I told players that they can spend three combat actions to Contact, Summon and Pact. I was going for an Elric-style approach. But three actions were instead filled with using existing demons and plain old fighting.

I'm happy with that, but I may add some kind of rule where successes during combat can be set aside for  Contact/Summon/Pact rolls that happens concurrently with the combat actions.

The Sessions PCs

Luke's PC:
Chen, Sorcerer
Stamina 2 (Just Healthy), Will 3 (Brush with the Unknown since he was possessed as a child), Lore: 5 (Adept)
Past 3 (Immortal, his experiences with the other planes have left him with abnormal aging)
Price Demonic Feature (Half of his body is slightly demonic from his possession, he keeps it in wraps)
Humanity 3
Tell-Tale Anything his demonic half touches smolders slightly without heat.

Chen's Demon (d'oh! I forgot demon names):
A demonic rose vine wrapped around a staff. It remains living out of Hell by virtue of the staff's otherworldly material and the drinking of demon souls.
Type Object
Stamina 4
Will 5
Lore 3
Power 5
Powers Hold, Daze, Range
Binding Roll +1 vs. Chen
Tell-Tale If the demon is pleased the roses are in bloom. If it is unpleased the plant withers and smells of rot.
Desire To dominate through drinking blood.
Need Eat demon carcasses.
Chen found his demon on a foray into Hell, where he bound it to his staff and brought it back to Earth.

Jake's PC
R (short for Ramlovichzorenthorn), Assassin
Stamina 6 (Arcane regimen, savage-raised)
Will 3 (Angry due to a betrayal)
Lore 1 (Naive)
Past 6 (Outlaw)
Flaw Horribly scarred
Humanity 6
Tell Tale Wrapped in dark blue robes.

Jake's Demon
A necklace with the appearance of a serpent eating its own tail.
Type Object
Stamina 6
Will 7
Lore 3
Power 7
Powers Boost, Cloak, Fast
Binding Roll +1 vs. R
Tell-Tale Snake-skin moves
Desire Mayhem & violence
Need Gross & strange blood
R was visited by his demon while meditating. He sees it as a lucky gift from a god.

Ron Edwards

Fantastic! I love everything about the characters.

As for your boners, none of that is really a big deal. You can push the Needs later.

I suggest following scenario creation as described in Chapter 7 of the book. I'm not surprised that you forgot about the nemesis NPCs, because you asked about it in isolation and thus the material existed in isolation. That kind of conversation shouldn't be necessary if you follow the steps I outline.

This will also keep the story from merely being a bunch of fights, which is sort of what it looks like at present.

As for during-combat demon summoning, the snapshot rules do work with good management. I'll give away one of the best tricks for this purpose, which I've held off talking about for a long time now. Get a demon with Taint. Have it hit you really hard with the ability, ramming your Humanity to 0. Summon! (Humanity is no longer subtracting) And although you are using just one die, if you play it right, then the victories of the Taint, as well as the actions of the fight (such as the damage you just did) can turn into bonus dice.

A lot of this relies on what Humanity 0 means for your game, especially in the temporary context of the Taint. Given the easy definition I presented in the supplement, your friends better look out.

Best, Ron

Frank Tarcikowski

Hey Zak, what was the reason for the players to give only 3 powers to each demon when they could have given them [Power - 1]?

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English

Zak Arntson

Me too, Ron. Both characters were awfully gnarly. I was especially impressed by Luke's weird sorcerer character -- he hasn't read any of the source fiction, but totally understood the vibe.

I went and reread chapter seven. And yoinks! Yes, I used this in a short session I played last night (with three players, one of which was Jake from this session).

The sessions was a pair of fights, yeah, and was shaping up to be more fights. Though I was doing my best to tie them into the characters. I.e., the first fight happened because the brute trio were cult members whose high priest wanted possession of Chen's staff. The next fight had the beast-men hovering at the temple's edge, goaded on only by one of the brutes, who apparently made nice with the beast-men.

Also, I love that Taint trick. Now I want to try it out, as a player!

Frank, I encouraged the players to have only a few powers since we're all relatively new to the rules.

Lastly, I'm still having trouble finding things in the text quickly. There's no plan for a Sorcerer "reorganized" (I remember reading you aren't going to do a Sorcerer 2nd edition), is there?