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Author Topic: [Dictionary of Mu & Sorcerer] How to prep a game with only 2 players  (Read 2980 times)
Shadow17
Member

Posts: 7


« on: April 03, 2008, 10:56:09 PM »

Hello Forge,

I have a background with D&D being my first RPG I've played, but really my RPG'ing and GM'ing background lies in indie rpgs. I'd like to thank Mr. Edwards and all the other indie developers for really put into print what I think is a collection of the finest rpg's around. I recently got Dictionary of Mu and Sorcerer in the mail and since then I have been prepping for a game.

I am preparing a Dictionary of Mu game consisting of 2 players, me being one of the two. I might get more players along the way, but this is what I will start out with. Now to the actual problem at hand, the prep itself. I have almost never done any prep for any rpg and I mostly wing my sessions, what seems to work fairly well for me. I have done some extensive prep for some D&D sessions, but really that was a waste of time, as I either never got to use it, or players took different directions. Either way, I read about prepping in the Sorcerer book, as well as the Sorcerer wiki, including r-maps, one-sheets and versatile prepping. I agree with the way of prepping and making it useful, but not set in stone.

I encountered some problems while following this:

1. How do I make an r-map for the Dictionary of Mu and how can I make valuable characters?
I was thinking about making NPCs in the city of Battlehymn, but how do I make relationships? Do I add these relationships as the story progresses or do I start with a fully-fledged r-map? How can I make an r-map for such a grim setting?

2. How do I prep the 'feel' of the game I want to create?
Besides the grim setting of mu, I want to have a fast and lethal setting. Give the PCs the feeling of being in 'hell'.

3. How do I balance the PCs?
I want players to use their demons over and over, whilst also giving starting PCs some extra power in the form of abilities (which do not add dice, however). How can I balance stronger PCs, but still the high need to use demons?

4. How can I challenge the players to the limit, but keep them alive?
I want to throw in murder, natural disasters, traps, all the works. But how can I make sure my only PC stays alive?

5. Do I prep 'quests'?
I have made some starting scenarios including an assassination, a visit to a pyramid, etc. But should I do this or let the players guide the story more? Is there not the danger of the pacing hampering greatly? How much should I intervene, move things forward?

I have decided to do my game in acts and chapters, to enhance the feeling of an epic story.

Thanks in advance for any advice and have a nice day,

Sander K.
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Judd
Member

Posts: 1675

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2008, 08:02:36 AM »

Hey Sander,

My name is Judd, I wrote the Dictionary of Mu.  Let me see which of those questions I can field.

Alright, I was going to go through and read each question and answer them by numbers.  I'm not.

I'd suggest following the suggestions for prep set up in Sorcerer and to a lesser extent, Dictionary of Mu.  Have the players read over Battlehymn and one or two other entries, not too much, err on the side of less is more.  Talk about character concepts, make those characters including those kickers.

And follow the rules set up in Sorcerer for starting a game.  Pay attention to the NPC's and places listed on the all-too-often-ignored-or-neglected back of the character sheet.

I'd suggest you not tinker with Sorcerer first time.  Take it for a spin, see how it works.  Giving your players super-powers is a mistake.  If they want that kind of power, they need to have to turn to their demons or summon something new.  That is how history is created in Dictionary play.

Good luck,

Judd

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Shadow17
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2008, 08:21:06 AM »

Hello Judd,

Thanks for the reply! I totally forgot to thank you and Mr. Edwards for the books, they are amazing! Really, this is a fantastic setting (and idea), and I can't wait to play it.

As for your suggestions. I agree on giving the characters powers. Instead I think I'll give stronger demons, so they can handle the dangers better (but also need to keep them under control more!). I now have a clear idea on how to prep for the session.

Except for two things: The 'feel' and how reviving stuff works. The feel is utterly important for the game I plan on running. I want players to stay on their toes whilst fending of monsters, disasters, demons and fighting with morals. Therefore, I am almost inclined to do things linear, to increase the pace. But, that would not be a good way to go about things. As said by others, the players create the story. So how do I speed up that process of creation? One thing is provide dangers and clear objectives. But what else?

About the reviving of the 'dead' demons I am not quite sure. Is it that when someone summons a demon he is brought back into the world? But if this is true, then it must be alive and no longer be a demon. When a demon is summoned, can it be banished, therefore bringing it back into the world, since the 'dead' aspect is banished? Anyway, could you clarify on how this works, since I'm a bit confused.

Thank you for your time and have a nice day,

Sander K.
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Judd
Member

Posts: 1675

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2008, 08:43:13 AM »

Sander, you are saying things that I dont' understand.

Do things linear to increase the pace?  Speed up the process of creation?

I don't understand what you mean.

Hopefully, I will answer your question by way of an example:

The Atlantean Noble is going to fight off a horde of barbarian invaders by summoning the spirit of the long extinct Atlantean Warrior caste to lead Atlantis' vat-grown hordes.  Contact-Summon, its a success.  Before the sorcerer is this embodiment of Marr'd's history, something that had died, a warrior caste. 

Is the warrior-caste returned?

Nah, its just a demon, nothing in Atlantis is different.

But what if that demon starts training young Atlantean nobles to be warriors as their ancestors were in days of old?

Awesome, the setting might change a bit and a new caste might be born but it wouldn't be the same thing.  The warrior-caste from the days of old is still long dead.

Does that make sense?
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Shadow17
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2008, 11:44:17 AM »

Hello Judd,

I get what you mean by reviving now, thanks. That's really cool! I now have a clear picture to work with.

What I meant by using linear adventures, is that I lead the players to the end-point. What I meant by speeding up the process of creation is how do I help the players in creating the story, or rather moving the story along. Especially, since I want it to move at a high pace.

Moving away from these questions a bit and more towards my actual topic title, how do I prep/play a 2 player game for sorcerer/mu?

Again thanks,

Sander K.
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Judd
Member

Posts: 1675

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2008, 11:59:54 AM »

Sanders,

You don't lead players towards a pre-determined end-point in Sorcerer.  You put situations, called Bangs, for them to deal with (after the Kicker) and in dealing and responding to these Bangs tossed on the table by you, the GM, you will find an end-point; I promise, it will be a chilling and fun surprise.

2 players + a GM is how I playtested Mu and I think no further instructions beyond what is in the book are necessary.  Sorcerer is great with 2 players and a GM and tops out for me at 4 players and a GM.

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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2008, 12:13:04 PM »

Hi Sander!

Do you have "Sorcerer & Sword"? The concept of "Driving with bangs" is well explained there, and I noticed you talked only about "Sorcerer" in your fist post.
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 726


« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2008, 04:53:27 PM »

Hello Forge

Hi Sander!  Welcome to the Forge!

Quote
1. How do I make an r-map for the Dictionary of Mu and how can I make valuable characters?
I was thinking about making NPCs in the city of Battlehymn, but how do I make relationships? Do I add these relationships as the story progresses or do I start with a fully-fledged r-map? How can I make an r-map for such a grim setting?

1.  Start with the character(s) who must be there.  In Dictionary of Mu, Battlehim is ruled by The Damsel Messiah and her demon.  The book also mentions some merchants, some whores or lepers (or, just for fun, whores with leprosy), and her warrior-priests.

2.  See if there's anything implied by the set-up in #1.  For example, the Damsel Messiah is a damsel (i.e., old English word for virgin) and she's a queen, so maybe some of the Warrior-Priests want to find a suitable husband for their high priestess (see Khan).

3.  At the same time as #2, discuss the facts of #1 and your loose ideas about #2 with your players.  See what they think.  Does it sound fun?  Do they want to play a particular character?  Do they have a character in mind that you didn't think of--but who has a place in this setting?  Brainstorm!

4.  Do character generation.  Remember the back of the character sheet!  Encourage the player to include stuff from the earlier material on the back of the sheet.  Maybe the Damsel Messiah taught you Lore, but now that you are learning sorcery, the Merchants fear you (related to Price), etc. 

5.  Include any NPC's mentioned in #4 on your list of NPC's.  Pay special attention to the NPC's involved in the kicker of your players.

6.  Stop!

7.  Figure out who interests you most as a GM.  Don't include everybody!  (I tried, twice, and it was a mistake.)  But you should include the player's kicker NPC's.  For example: I like the Demon, the Merchants, and the Warrior-Priests.  (Let's pretend the kicker involves these characters.)  Figure out some individuals to represent a large group; one from each is probably fine.

8.  Figure out how the people who interest you, feel about each other.  The Demon wants Power over influential people--the Merchants, by humiliating them and converting them into its worshippers.  Tanak the Procurer, one of the most richest merchants, however, just wants to make money; they're too practical to care about religious ecstasy, holy wars, and scripture.  In fact, Tanak might want to overthrow the Damsel Messiah and her crazy Demon: things were better before she came along.  Bishop Esak-14, who commands the city's Martyr Brigade, enjoys the authority of his position... but also enjoys the bribes Tanak pays him. 

9.  Use #8 as background for the player's kicker.  The kicker is what the game is really all about--your job as GM is to show the player a fun time with this kicker--but you can connect it into this other story too, weaving them together.

10.  If you have a bunch of players, #8 may not be necessary.  You might have enough background material just from your players' suggestions alone.  And that's perfectly fine.

This is not the official way to make Relationship Maps, but I think it works pretty well in play. 




2. How do I prep the 'feel' of the game I want to create?
Besides the grim setting of mu, I want to have a fast and lethal setting. Give the PCs the feeling of being in 'hell'.

3. How do I balance the PCs?
I want players to use their demons over and over, whilst also giving starting PCs some extra power in the form of abilities (which do not add dice, however). How can I balance stronger PCs, but still the high need to use demons?

4. How can I challenge the players to the limit, but keep them alive?
I want to throw in murder, natural disasters, traps, all the works. But how can I make sure my only PC stays alive?

5. Do I prep 'quests'?
I have made some starting scenarios including an assassination, a visit to a pyramid, etc. But should I do this or let the players guide the story more? Is there not the danger of the pacing hampering greatly? How much should I intervene, move things forward?

I have decided to do my game in acts and chapters, to enhance the feeling of an epic story.

Thanks in advance for any advice and have a nice day,

Sander K.
[/quote]
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 726


« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2008, 05:45:23 PM »

2. How do I prep the 'feel' of the game I want to create?
Besides the grim setting of mu, I want to have a fast and lethal setting. Give the PCs the feeling of being in 'hell'.

Use devious, twisted "bangs" to do this.  Don't worry about fast and lethal.  The setting will do that for you.

Quote
3. How do I balance the PCs?
I want players to use their demons over and over, whilst also giving starting PCs some extra power in the form of abilities (which do not add dice, however). How can I balance stronger PCs, but still the high need to use demons?

Don't worry about this in your first few games.  First, because you will have enough to worry about.  Second, the game is self-balancing (you'll see this after a while).

Quote
4. How can I challenge the players to the limit, but keep them alive?
I want to throw in murder, natural disasters, traps, all the works. But how can I make sure my only PC stays alive?

This is not your job as a Sorcerer GM.  Your job is to come up with devious, demented "bangs."  Sorcerers are very hard to kill in this game: see the combat rules, particularly page 109.  If a sorcerer does die, it is probably because the player made a deliberate, informed decision to risk the character's life.  If that happens, and you cheat to keep the character alive, you've robbed that decision of its meaning.

At the same time, you might want to use the optional rule for second-rate enemies (they go down after one hit), etc., just to make the PC seem that much more special.

Quote
5. Do I prep 'quests'?
I have made some starting scenarios including an assassination, a visit to a pyramid, etc. But should I do this or let the players guide the story more? Is there not the danger of the pacing hampering greatly? How much should I intervene, move things forward?

Don't prep beyond the next session.  I tend to prep too much--way, way too much.

Here's what you do:

A.  Take the situation from #10 above.  You've got the kicker, connected in some way to a complicated background.

B.  For your first session, you probably have a rough idea of certain things the player might do in the very first scene.  Figure out some likely options, and how these options would affect the NPC's identified in #7 above (remember, this includes the NPC's involved with the kicker, and maybe other characters from the back of the character sheet).  Also, figure out what the player's demon will probably think about this situation (look at its Desire).

C.  What do these characters try to do in response?  Don't be shy or too-subtle.  Think exciting, dramatic, violent, sexy, that kind of thing.  The player's reaction to the kicker is like throwing a big stone into a pond.  The NPC's react to the player's choice, and that sets ripples in motion.  Especially, the player's DEMON will have an agenda of its own.  This is your first session: kick the player, player makes a choice, NPC's react -- and then the player and his demon each begin to pursue their own (possibly separate) agendas.

D.  Don't prep more than that.  if you run out of material in your first session, just call and end to the game.  Chat, eat, drink.  Get to know people.

E.  After the first session: what did the player accomplish?  What did he fail to accomplish?  How will the NPC's and the player's demon try to twist those events to their desires?  This is your prep for the second session, and so on for later sessions.

F.  When figuring out how NPC's react, keep an eye out for really surprising, sick, demented, open-ended things.  Throw the players in a lot of hot water--but other than throwing them into trouble, don't plan for any particular solution or player reaction.  It's enough just to hear them splashing around in the boiling water, trying to think clearly.
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Shadow17
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2008, 02:54:22 AM »

Thanks everyone for the replies!

After re-reading the bangs and combat I have a clearer view of how to do this now. Thanks James for also explaining how to handle the prep and especially the r-map! It really all comes together now and I think I am quite ready to begin my first session. In any case I'm pretty good at improvising so I'll guess I'll see where it goes. I will probably post a play report later. By the way, I only own sorcerer and mu, although I plan on picking up sorcerer & sword sometime too. I guess instead of clear end points I think as you guys pointed out, it is more flowing, using bangs and the like. I still want to add in a book kind of set-up with acts and chapters, but it will be more free-form, chapters ending when the players have concluded something, instead of me leading and ending a chapter.

Really, I am intrigued by both the setting and sorcerer as a system. I think it light enough for any of my players, who donīt like the gamist/simulationist approach, but still has enough meat and customizability to allow me to make it something special. Especially Mu took a load of my shoulders by providing me with such a great setting. It really provokes me to add to it!

In any case, thanks for the quick replies! I really appreciate it!

Have a nice day,

Sander K.
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