Setting of [Kult] in [Sorcerer]

Started by lachek, February 22, 2008, 11:30:20 AM

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I'm not sure removing "humans are divine and can escape and fight back" robs Sorcerer of its premise at all. "What would you do to escape and fight back?" seems eminently plausible as a riff on the basic Sorcerer premise.

I think, perhaps, you're overfocusing on some beyond-the-pale idea of Existentialism, which is just "individuals create the meaning and essence of their lives, as opposed to deities or authorities creating it for them" (via Wikipedia). To put it in terms of literature: "Every story means something different to each person. The author does not decide the meaning of the work, the reader does." That is, it doesn't matter IF God exists, because even if he does, what a man does with his life and what he makes of that life are his own responsibility, not God's.

In gaming terms: there is no railroad. There is no, "Let's have a story about honor and death, and you'll all die to prove you are honorable." No, instead, honor can either come via death or via not dying, and so can dishonor -- which end is which is wholly up to each individual player and his or her choices. There's no one true answer. This is why I say this is over-thinking what is really a very simple thing: the player makes their choices and lives with them without the GM shoving a theme or label down their throat ("Ah-ha! You did this nasty thing and said it was good, therefore I must make sure to teach you a lesson to show you it wasn't good!" Who knows? Maybe it WAS good. Let things play out naturally and find out.)

That's what Josh means when he says "ascribing meaning to our actions" Sorcerer, the players do that via play, not the GM via notions of alignment, metaphysical truths of the setting, or Humanity scales of 1-10. Each player says "this action means this" or rather decides afterwards "this action means this", just like real life.

As to demons and being real. Think about them narratively: they're dramatic metaphors. The horrid demon in any non-fantasy story would be a gun or alcoholism or anger (etc), that both give power to the individual and demand things from him in turn, with its presence/use often destroying things he loves. In this game, the place of those same things just happens to be filled by supernatural beings bristling with fangs and teeth and occult power. But they're still just guns and anger and bottles of alcohol.

Can the cop put down his gun? Can the alcoholic writer go into rehab? Can the angry kid become a Buddhist? Except...the question isn't "can"'s SHOULD. And the GM isn't allowed to answer*. That's the extent and the purpose of the Existentialism in the game. * I should also say: "...and neither are the setting or the rules."

Should the cop put down his gun? NO! There's vicious perps out there, he must defend himself and others. YES! He doesn't need the gun to enforce the law and it's too tempting to just shoot the bastards.

Does the alcoholic writer go into rehab? Hell NO! He's got to finish that Great American Novel and be somebody and he can't write worth crap when he's sober. YES! His wife is leaving him and he keeps beating up his kid and he can't remember half of what he does at night and it's going to kill him.

Does the angry kid become a Buddhist? NEVER! His anger is power, and people will just push him and others around if he lets them, he can't be weak. OHM! Fighting, fighting, fighting is getting him and the world nowhere, he's going to have a heart attack before he's twenty or hurt the wrong person because he can't see straight anymore.

And you twist that dichotomy. And all the while the demons sit there and remind you why you use them...why you NEED them, even when you COULD walk away from them and the power they have to let you get what you want. If it is worth it.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio


Raven, I think you're right - I'm definitely over-thinking it. Existentialism works as a metaphor for what I was trying to say, but it's counterproductive to use a complex philosophical system as a metaphor for something as simple as "free will".

I don't detect anything in your post that's necessarily contradicting my goals, though (?). I'm not trying to fit Sorcerer's rules into a setting that demands railroading and GM-enforced morality - I'm trying to use Sorcerer's rules, instead of Kult's, to create the Existentialism I think Kult's setting begs for but fails to deliver. Like I mentioned before, Kult's setting encourages players to fight back against the horrors behind the scenes, which as you rightly point out is a perfectly valid Sorcerer hook. But Kult's rule set makes it trivial for players to make their choices - the quickest way to power is also the quickest way to awakening, and all you have to cope with along the way is "insanity". Start the game as an escaped psychiatric patient, acquire the biggest gun you can get your hands on, and start unloading on everything with a meat hook as a prominent facial feature - pretty soon you'll be kicking ass and taking names all over Reality. In my experience with the game, to swim against the flow of this reward cycle is like declining to level in D&D.

Sorcerer, on the other hand, offers you this power but only in exchange for your Humanity. As you rightly point out, there is no built-in or imposed morality there - no stern paternal GM looking down upon you and shaking his head sadly with every demon you summon. As in Kult, sorcerers have priorities that beg to be met and dangerous tools by which to meet them. I'm hoping that by using Sorcerer's rules, Kult's reward system will be exchanged for one which fosters individual choice and is more likely to anchor characters in concerns within Illusion than push for excursions into Reality.

Apologies if I sound like a broken record. I'm verbalizing and revising ideas which apparently started mostly as intuitions.


With regards to the reality of demons - is the consensus that by not stressing the UNreality of demons, but instead establishing them as "real" by revealing a definite model reality which they inhabit within the fiction, you make it harder for players to see them as dramatic allegories? If so, surely it is just a matter of decreased accessibility to such conclusions, and not an impossibility? Claiming impossibility would appear to also discredit the allegorical impact of all manners of literary works, such as the Narnia Chronicles, where the world of allegory was presented as "real".

In one sense, Kult's setting provides a one-to-one shortcut for allegory, by making the Archons and Death Angels representative of specific concepts such as Dictatorship, Child Abuse, Uncaring Justice, War, etc. That is, not by absolving humanity from responsibility for such things, but by personifying human attributes and behaviours.

Peter Nordstrand


This has been a good thread. You have asked some really good questions, and you have recieved a whole bunch of answers. However, I think it's time for you to step back from the specualation and get your hands dirty. Play the game. You are ready.

And the great thing is that you can post about it right here in this forum, and I know that you'll get lots of help and encouragement. Then we would be talking about problems that appear in real, actual play, instead of just some vague speculations and discussions about game design choices.

Do some preparations for a Sorcerer game, answering the basic questions outlined in the rulesbook. What is humanity? What are demons? Stuff like that. (Sorcerer's Soul has some great advice in this regard, and I can't recommend it enough.) Then post it to The Forge, and we'll talk about it! Then you get two or three friends to come over for character generation, and again, post about it. We would love to help you out should you have any troubles. Then you would play with your friends, and again, we could talk about it here. Then we would have a discussion based on actual experiences. Wouldn't that be great!?
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law

joshua neff


I see your experiences with Kult are similar to mine. I do see where you're going with this, and I think it looks good. Like Peter says, now's a good time to stop pondering and start acting on it: do a one-page write-up to sell people on your game. Ask what Humanity is--but don't make the definition too rigid, laying out what will raise or lower Humanity, setting up Humanity parameters. That's what play is for. All of the players have a say in interpreting Humanity. Also, ask what demons are, suggest what they'll probably look like and how they'll generally behave, but again, don't make it too rigid. Demons may all say they're Archons from the Truth behind the Illusion--but that doesn't mean they really are, or that there is any Truth behind the Illusion. (Who says what demons tell you is the truth? They're demons!) And ask what sorcery is, what kinds of rituals you might typically do, what sorcerous effects may look like, but once again, don't make it too rigid. Basically, the point isn't to set everything in stone but to share your vision and get the other players excited about it.

And I agree with Raven, don't overthink this stuff. Raven explained what I meant by referencing existentialism (see also Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, especially the quote, "If there's no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world."), so I'll drop that. But going back to your question about the unreality of demons...again, don't overthink it. Demons don't come from some occult truth, they aren't from some special "demon dimension," they're from outside of all reality, they should not exist--because that's what the game Sorcerer is. That's it. Sorcerer involves sorcerers summoning demons, but that's not what the game is about. You don't have to dig into any deeper meanings, your game play doesn't have to be all scratching your chin and discussing what everything symbolizes. It can easily just be asskicking sorcerer heroes and their wicked cool demons, with thrill-a-minute fight scenes and cliffhanger escapades. But I do think it's important to remember that Sorcerer deals with people who summon and bind demons, but the game is about the question "How far are you willing to go for power?", and in the end, the "reality" of demons isn't crucial. They're here, they offer you power, they extract a price--so what are you going to do?

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes


Quote from: lachek on February 29, 2008, 02:28:19 AMI don't detect anything in your post that's necessarily contradicting my goals, though (?). I'm not trying to fit Sorcerer's rules into a setting that demands railroading and GM-enforced morality -

Sorry, I must not have been clear enough. I didn't mean to imply anything was contradicting your play goals, or suggest that you were in danger of railroading, just trying to explain the use of the concept and reasons it gets discussed (and to talk you down from the Cliff of Navel Gazing we've all stood on one time or another!).

QuoteI'm hoping that by using Sorcerer's rules, Kult's reward system will be exchanged for one which fosters individual choice and is more likely to anchor characters in concerns within Illusion than push for excursions into Reality.

Awesome. Most of the stuff we could discuss now and that we're moving into should be things you determine and discover in play, and as stated above, you sound like you're ready to go. So, go, play, have fun, then come back and tell us about it!
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio