Sorcerer Without Demons, Magic Or Demons

Started by Ranko, January 09, 2008, 04:58:23 PM

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For a while now I keep thinking and rethinking Sorceror. There is an undefined bug going around my head and I can't make it stop.

I keep thinking about Sorceror without demons and magic. They would be in the game obviously, but in different forms. Deamons are enablers, sorcerors are people who chose to go after the "power". Substitution is more than possible while keeping the same game with different names.

S, anyone do it? And how did it go?

Ron Edwards


I'm totally with you on this. Here are a couple of older threads that discussed it: Humans with Needs and Desires and Humans as demons and The Matador.

So my response is pretty much just "yes."

Best, Ron


Hi Ron.

Thanks for the links. I had no idea what to search for to get the results I was after.

Did anyone ever make a setting for Sorcerer that embedded that presentation in?

Disclaimer: I haven't actually touched a Sorcerer book in some years now. I'd be really curious too see something to that effect because I am trying to figure out a way to do it. The biggest problem I can see for a setup like that is being really obvious with the price you pay/character responsibility.

The way I see the current setup working is that right out of the gate you have the humans who are built around the concept of going the way of summoning demons. And demons being tangible proof of that effort.

So what I am worried is setting up an alternative approach where I leave an open door for people to cope out of that responsibility.

By the way, it was great listening to you on Theory From The Closet, if nothing else to hear your voice. New perspective and all.

Thanks again.


Is there a good filmography for this sort of thing?  The Matador and Live Flesh are mentioned in the linked posts, how about some more?

Personally, I just saw the Sweeney Todd movie, which is wonderfully rife with Sorcerer/Demon relationships, and also has excellent  examples of Binding rituals.
-My real name is Jules

"Now that we know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine how many angels are dancing, at a given time, on the head of a given pin?"
"What if angels from another pin engaged them in melee combat?"

Ron Edwards

Hi Jules,

Well, the trouble is that it's almost too easy to "Sorcerize" many, many movies and other fiction. In some ways, doing so is actually trivial ... the demonic metaphor in Sorcerer is, after all, an artificial (or at least dramatic) add-on to the essential and real dysfunctions we know exist among real humans. So if the story is about those dysfunctions, using humans and no artificial/dramatic add-on, then in some ways it's more honest than the same story which uses demons and sorcery as a device. So adding that device, even as a verbal metaphor (i.e. Tyler Durden's "demon" in Fight Club) may actually weaken that particular story rather than strengthen it or make it more interesting.

I could easily see The Godfather (just the original story, speaking here of the novel) as a Sorcerer story, with characters like Luca Brasi as minor demons, and with Michael's Humanity obviously going into a tailspin. But why do so? The novel is most powerful, I think, because it's specifically about people.

Clearly, I don't think that's always the case - otherwise Sorcerer would be called something else and would have had no demons in it. I think that a lot of times, the dramatic/colorful metaphor is important and permits a story to dig deeper than it otherwise might.

So that's an interesting question. When is a non-sorcerized story given bite and fascination by adding that element, and when is it better left alone? I've already answered the first part through an extensive example - the Ross MacDonald novels, and works by related authors, as discussed in The Sorcerer's Soul. But I've never considered the dividing line - for instance, why I think Live Flesh would only be diminished by adding a demonic/sorcery element, and what the line is that separates it from, for instance, The Goodbye Look, which adopts that element almost as if it had a missing piece in that shape.

So, that's a damn good question - probably one of the finest, most interesting questions I have ever been asked as a creative person and game designer.

Best, Ron


I've actually been toying with this for awhile, and here's what I came up with:
The PCs are not sorcerers, they are mad scientists.  For some reason, they have an insight into the way the world works, even though it shouldn't work that way.  The replacement for the "demon" is an "unnatural law," that is, a law of nature that shouldn't be.

The unnatural law could be unnatural for any reason that the GM and players find acceptable.  They could bends in space/time, methods for focusing chi, perpetual motion machines, etc.

Inconspicuous demons have a clear counterpart here, in the form of little gusts of wind that follow a Quantum Meteorologist around or distortions in space that accompany an expert in Transdimensional Portals.

Object demons translate into Gadgets.

Parasites become anything internal to the mad scientist's body, such someone who focuses chi to perform stunts like a movie martial arts master, or an electricity manipulator who acts as a human battery.

Passing demons translate into creatures: alien life forms, realistic humanoid robots, or bioengineered beings.

(I can't really think of a way to justify Possessors.  Mind control, perhaps?)

The six rituals that manipulate demons handily translate as follows:
Contact --> Theory
Summon --> Practice
Bind --> Control
Punish -->  Diminish
Banish --> Contradict
Contain --> Contain

The mad scientist Theorizes a new unnatural law.  Instead of talking to it, he does thought experiments to project what it might be like.  Afterwards, he brings it into Practice.  Immediately after doing this, it is Uncontrolled, so he must bring it under Control, perhaps by building a weird science device to contain it (Lore based Control contest) or by being physically fit enough to dominate a creature or contain a "parasite" internally (Stamina based), or being smart or perceptive enough to intuitively understand things about it that all the calculations can't work out (Will based).  Someone looking to deal with an aggressive Unnatural Law could figure out a way to Diminish its power, or "remind" the natural world how its laws Contradict it, or build a device to Contain it.

Here's a mostly-made character:
Dr. Phillip Taratowski
Stamina 2 (Clean Living)
Will 4 (Belief System (extreme rationalism))
Lore 4 (Self-Taught, "adept")
Cover 4 (Physics Professor)
Price: Bookish (-1 to the first roll in any scene)
Telltale: His breathing is far too slow.

Unnatural Law: Paraconsistent Chronodynamics
Object (a fancy programmable calculator)
Desire: Knowledge
Need: To be used in "grading" (evaluating other people's faults)
Stamina 3
Will 5
Lore 4
Power 5
Abilities: Fast, Travel (super-fast running), Special Damage (lethal) (aging), Hold
Telltale: Reacts to input a split second before it is actually entered.

Ron Edwards

Hey, that's pretty good. Not quite as extreme as what I was thinking - in which the game is played, essentially, 100% naturalistically. But I do like it.

Best, Ron