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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 27 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: (Sorcerer) Cybernetic Hackers with a First-Time GM  (Read 2488 times)
Raquel
Member

Posts: 12


« on: April 16, 2008, 12:24:24 PM »

I'm a bit late getting this play report up anyway, so I didn't try to fill in too many details, but here's the overview and a couple of thoughts.

 Last week I got to GM for the very first time. I had a bit of a feel for it, because I've played GMless games that share out the GMing responsibilities, but this was the first time the whole responsibility was on me. So naturally, I started with a game I'd never played before, one player (Seth) who'd also never played before but was familiar with the rules, and one player (Seth's sister Gabrielle) who barely knew anything about the rules before we started. Yeah, we're smart like that...

Background:
We set our story in The City, a futuristic construct of glass and metal and gleaming white, where the buildings are so tall the streets are in perpetual twilight. The upper class live near the tops of the buildings in a clean, sterile world of strict regulations, traveling between buildings on monorails without ever descending to the street level. The lowest classes live Downstairs—on the street level—where nothing is ever clean or well-lit, but you're less likely to be bothered by government enforcers, known as White Coats.

The whole premise of the game actually spiraled out of a vague idea of playing cyborgs, so sorcery is very technical. It involves manipulation of the MetaNet, those spaces between computers. Demons are cold and rational. Humanity is empathy, a connection to other human beings.

Quotables:
"Next time I'll be the bloodthirsty beefy guy and you be the creepy manipulative social character."--Gabrielle

"And we're up so high you'd die of old age before you ever hit the ground."--Beck

Seth's character, Beck, was apparently Vin Diesel in disguise, judging by his story thus far. He'd been gathering forces to to unite all the street gangs under his command, with the help of his freaky cybernetic arm. He doesn't understand exactly what the arm is; he found it by walking to "The Edge" and returning with the arm--and without the guide who'd taken him there.

Beck's story started off when Lieutenant Gor brought in a traitor he'd just found, a spy from the White Coats. Beck didn't get what he wanted out of the spy, but after catching a hint that his girl, Kesha, might be in danger, went storming off to the the White Coat headquarters for a big fight scene involving futuristic bayonets (laser guns with tasers on the end) and plenty of bloodshed to keep Beck's arm happy. Beck fought his way right into General Kaiser's office, where they had a little chat, each deciding that working together would be just fine, but only if he got to be in charge. So being at an impasse, Beck dropped General Kaiser out the several hundred story high window and went on his way.

Gabrielle's character, Nezumi, was a twelve-year old Japanese school girl from the upper side of the city (think a cross between Harriet the Spy and anime). She found Merv while poking around her teacher's MetaNet trash, and since then they have engaged in a mutual exchange of information. Her kicker was that Merv started to get bored with the little tidbits she was feeding him and wanted something juicier. With some help from Merv she managed to unearth that her Nanny Emuri had given birth to the child of Nezumi's father, but he had killed the child. This barely fazed her, and she also got her hands on some of her father's files which suggested he and General Kaiser were working together, and ended by utterly failing to get anything out of Nanny Emuri by dropping hints face-to-face.

Post Game Thoughts:
 Up to the this point in time my roleplaying experience could be summed up (probably unfairly, but summed up nonetheless) in these words: "There is one GM and that is Seth. If there is no GM, then instead of being GM Seth is the person who keeps everyone on track and remembers how the rules work." So it's a little weird for me not just to be the GM, but to be the GM with Seth as a player. On the other hand, it worked out very nicely because every time I got stuck or might have missed something important Seth switched from 'player' to 'GM trainer', explained what needed to happen, then switched back to 'player' and let me pronounce my final decision as GM.

 I realized that my habits from playing the Mistaken in Polaris could besurprisingly helpful if I let them be. My instinct as GM is to overprepare, check my notes frequently to make sure I'm not missing anything, and forget my overall goals in all the little details. As Mistaken I was perfectly happy to come up with a couple of stressful, experience-check-inducing moments beforehand and then roll with the punches.

 Along those lines, how much is the relationship map supposed to be set in stone once play starts? Obviously, new relationships could start or be broken at any time, but what about retroactively saying, "Yeah, and besides that, these two were actually working together the whole time?"

 The other thing I noticed was my instinct to conceal information. I have no idea why, but I felt like I should make it as difficult as possible for Nezumi to find the information that she wanted, and that I wanted her to have. I tried to fight it off, but it crept in a little during play, and I can't figure out where it came from. Having started roleplaying just a couple years ago, and mostly with indie games, it's not like I have old roleplaying habits to break...

 Overall, I think it went about how a first session of Sorcerer is supposed to go. I could have taken the opportunity to dump a little more information, but there was enough to get things moving, and some questions raised for the characters for next session. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next, so that's a good sign. Seth, Gabrielle, anything to add?
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GreatWolf
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Posts: 1157

designer of Dirty Secrets


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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2008, 12:56:36 PM »

You forgot to say all the kewl things that I can do with my arm! Force fields and force blasts and punching people's hearts out!

I'm also looking forward to having Beck be seriously challenged. In my head (and apparently the GM agrees with me), Beck's busting into White Coat HQ, killing various soldiers (both on and off camera), and then defenestrating their leader never actually warranted a Humanity check. This is because they are all on the "other" side. There's a definite "us/them" line in Beck's head that I want to see challenged.

Also, I can't take credit for the Beck quote. While I tweaked it a bit, someone else actually came up with it. I rather like the way it turned out.

I'll comment more, later.
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Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Gabrielle
Member

Posts: 16


« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2008, 07:40:14 AM »

My opinion of the game is heavily, heavily, colored by the really bad day I'd had and all the children staying up way later than their bedtimes. I felt like I spent most of the evening playing catch-up, trying to engage, but feeling like a tired and stupid Gabrielle rather than quick-witted Nezumi. When I finally clicked in it was a lot of fun.

I'm serious- next time I'm gonna play the straight forward, 'by the strength of my right arm' character. Nezumi spent most of her time playing subtle control games with Merv and hacking into the private files of the people closest to her. There weren't any moments of kewl. But she clicked in my head as a character when I realized she is a combination Harriet the Spy, anime character, and the freaky kids from horror movies. The lightbulb turned on and I had a much better grasp on how to play her. She still won't get many moments of kewl, but she got the moments of freaky so I'm content.

I too am looking forward to playing again. There is a mystery to solve now and my father to interrogate. Good times, good times.
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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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Posts: 17707


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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2008, 08:06:57 AM »

Hi everyone,

I apologize for not getting to this sooner. I'd like to know more about later play, if any occurred.

Raquel, you wrote,

Quote
Along those lines, how much is the relationship map supposed to be set in stone once play starts? Obviously, new relationships could start or be broken at any time, but what about retroactively saying, "Yeah, and besides that, these two were actually working together the whole time?"

I have to stop you there - you're not talking about a relationship map with this question. You're talking about a story map, as used in Legends of Alyria, but not a Sorcerer-style relationship map. The difference between the two is that a relationship map is composed only, or mainly, of immutable ties: kinship and sexual contact. It doesn't involve emotional circumstances, alliances, or any other changeable conditions.

Fortunately, a guy asked about this fairly recently and so I already wrote about it here: School me on relationship maps. I hope you'll see that your concerns more-or-less evaporate if you apply the points I make there.

Also,

Quote
The other thing I noticed was my instinct to conceal information. I have no idea why, but I felt like I should make it as difficult as possible for Nezumi to find the information that she wanted, and that I wanted her to have. I tried to fight it off, but it crept in a little during play, and I can't figure out where it came from. Having started roleplaying just a couple years ago, and mostly with indie games, it's not like I have old roleplaying habits to break...

That's an interesting point because I had to develop sort of an immunity against this urge, and it took years. I decided that in my case at least, the problem is a matter of control. When a person acquires the information that I have prepared, and especially if they do so in a way that I have not orchestrated in every possible detail, then how they use that information leaves my hands and enters theirs. Even though I still retain authority over scene-framing and NPC action, something is no longer mine alone and is now collectively owned in crucial ways. It's not a healthy urge to retain that control and has never, in all my years of role-playing, turned out better if I succumb to it, but it sure was there to overcome.

Best, Ron
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Raquel
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2008, 09:37:50 AM »

Argh. I was so hoping I could skip the obligatory confusion on relationship maps. I think I've finally got it figured out now--thanks for your help.

We haven't yet played the second session, but we're pushing to move forward with it soon. Hopefully by the end of the month or so I'll have the next actual play report.
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Arturo G.
Member

Posts: 333


« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2008, 11:18:14 AM »

Thanks for the link, Ron! It was also useful to me.

I find very interesting your comments about the urge to hide information to the players. I have got so many times in troubles due to it. I always thought I was too use to wait for special preconceived story moments to show the information pieces. But I'm sure it is not always the case. I have been talking about it with one friend who plays with me since long long time ago. He also says it is something that become more and more aggravated with time, when my adventures got more and more complex. Now, it is also pervading my play with story-games. But when Raquel said she has been playing mostly indie games I was amazed she was developing the same problem. Ron's explanation of the possible reason (losing control) is still resonating in my head.

To try to fight it, I have been working on reminding myself that I can trust my players, and that I really enjoy what they are doing with the stuff I throw to them. As soon as I manage to spill the beans once, it becomes easier as I got a kind of relief feeling. Perhaps because I also have the feeling that keeping that control I have also a responsibility to use it at the appropriate moments? I don't know.

As a general comment to Raquel, I think your Post-Game thoughts are really nice and focused. You pointed out a couple of interesting things. After years and years playing as a GM, doing the Mistaken job in Polaris was also teaching me a lot about how to create interested conflict on the fly. I think it taught me to pay more attention to the other players interests, and to the things they write on the character sheet. And in Sorcerer there is a lot of information to use in the character sheet.
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