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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] The Brotherhood  (Read 8829 times)
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« on: June 16, 2008, 11:51:09 AM »

We had our fifth session of the Sorcerer game I'm running tonight.  The first sessions was character creation.  We've played four times.

I've got bunches of comments about it, but I'm going to have to dole them out slow because of time.  But here's the first one.


First, here's the breakdown of the setting:

The Brotherood

You’re all Prisoners in state penitentiary located in the middle of nowhere somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Your character might have been guilty. He might have been innocent. But he ended up in The System.

Your character knew no sorcery before getting into prison. But there are a few teachers there — people who know how to get by by summoning the unnatural powers within the walls of the old prison.

Demons are tattoos, shivs, razor blades, cocaine, cigarettes, money, shadows, pin-ups, fantasies of the world outside and all things prison.

The Lore of Sorcery are acts of domination and submission between men.

Humanity is standing up for your own moral code.

It’s important to remember that the word “demon” in this game doesn’t mean “things from hell.” Think more of the girl from “The Ring” -- where something has gone WRONG with the fabric of reality. We’re building our own specific and self-contained story, with it’s own specific mythology and world.


The PCs are:

1) VISILI (player: Colin): a Lifer in the prison who's demon is a cell block; he doesn't want to leave because he's very comfortable where he is. He was part of a russian mob, and while he has ties to his family and is loyal to them, he's pretty much cut off from the world in the safety of his cell block.  (He's been up for parole several times and has always managed to screw it up on purpose.)

His Kicker was this his nephew arrived at the penitentiary and is making a move to take control of his cell block.


2) DAVID KING (player Eric): a man who committed a crime and bound a demon to confront the  cult leader who rules a nationwide organization from inside the prison. (The cult killed the man's daughter.) His demons are snakes down his forearm, and a second demon that is the tattoo of a third eye on his forehead that let's him "astrally" project when he mediates on the cot of his cell and learn more about what's happening many places.

His Kicker was that he found out his daughter was still alive.  (His sister-in-law brought his daughter to jail to visit him.  David's wife went mad from the "death" of their daughter and is in an asylum.)

During play he used Third Eye to go visit his sister-in-law's house and discovers a cult member living there -- as well as the corpse of his sister-in-law and two "doll like" versions of his sister-in-law and his daughter.


3) ROMAN (player Vasco): a corrupt cop sent to jail for killing a fellow police officer who summoned and bound a demon to survive a place where cops are the biggest targets short of child molesters. HIs demon are tattoos that cover his body (he looks just like a criminal now!) that let him to internal damage to people and let him withstand a lot of damage... All while looking like all he did was maybe give you a friendly slap on the shoulder. The tattoos shift and change, showing a collage of all people he beat the hell out of.

His Kicker was someone in his crew ratted him out and set him up to be killed.


Eric is a fellow writer and buddy.  We met two years ago writing for an internet project and became fast friends.  He LOVES games -- and we spend a lot of time killing terrorists on the XBOX.

I met both Colin and Vasco at the local cons.  We've played together in several games.  (Vasco was in a Sorcerer & Sword game I ran at a local con -- again, there's an AP around here somewhere.)

There were a handful of people I wanted in the game, but I had decided to max the number to three players.  These were the first three who said yes as I went down the list.


We play at Eric's place.  We all bring food and drinks.  One of the things I like best is the social atmosphere.  Sometimes we don't get going for an hour or two.  We talk about video games, or P&P RPGs, or movies, or The Shield or The Wire or BSG.  Sometimes we order in pizza.  Sometimes we don't.  If we wrap early we might play a boardgame (Z-man's PANDEMIC rocks, by the way) or some Call of Duty shoot 'em up.  It's all very fun. 


So, here's the incident wanted to bring up.  Last night David backs Roman up when Roman goes to confront Stubbs, one of the men Roman thought he murdered -- but who, in fact, is still very much alive, comfortably ensconced in another cell block and is one of the players making a move to take control of the pentintiary.

Stubbs had offered Roman a settlement -- kill David and all wrongs would be forgiven.  Roman chose not to do this, told David Stubbs was gunning for him, and after almost getting slaughtered by three members of Stubb's Sorcerous crew, go to confront Stubbs.

Stubbs and Roman go at it with some Will rolls, trying to shake the other up.  But then David steps out of the shadows and Stubbs is thrown.  I don't want to go into detail here about what Stubbs does and doesn't know and what his agendas are, but I'll say what was said.

David assumes that Stubbs is working with Carver.  Stubbs laughs, says he's not.  He surprised when he realizes David thinks his daughter is dead.  Now, David's Kicker is that his daughter was alive.  But then he checked it out and it looked like that was a trick, and his daughter was really dead.  But Stubbs was adament that David's daughter was alive.

So David CHARGES Stubbs and grabs him and shakes him -- and Eric's doing this great job of just being  man on the breaking point for so many reasons --

And they make Will rolls, with David trying to make sure Stubbs is going to tell him the truth.  And David wins the roll.  And Stubbs says, "Okay, but I need you to step back."

And David shakes him again and shouts, "Why!"

And Stubbs says, "Because I don't wnat to be next to you when you hear the truth."

As I just wrote to Eric when we were discussing the game via email:

It was so strangely human and off kilter... This street dude with Sorcerous powers sitting safely ensconced in his prison lair suddenly really afraid of some... DAD!

You really turned on the mojo on that one.  It was great.  It's like, that's what
Sorcerer is about.  Ultimately there's nothing as scary, even the demons, as the passions of people activated.


And that, in turn, reminded me of an interview I just read with Shawn Ryan [The Shield].

The Interviewer asked, "What did you learn while working on Angel with Joss Wheadon?"

And Ryan replied, "The main thing I learned from him is to approach stories from a character point of view, as opposed to a plot point of view. Forget about the plot in the beginning, because if you know what emotional journey you want to take your character on, the rest will follow. We break our crime stories [on The Shield] not in terms of who did this and what's the clue; it's what do we want our cops to go through on this particular story. Once we know that, the plot will come later."

And that's what I'm finding works in Sorcerer -- and is easy as pie in Sorcerer if you focus on the Kickers, the Bangs, the Relationship Map and the Humanity.  A much as possible I'm just trying to go from one emotionally strong choice/beat to the next, lettign the "plot" grow out of the choices engenedered by the emotinally strong Bangs and scene framing.

It's a blast.


Oh, by the way... here's the truth Stubbs revealed:

David's daughter, Melodie, is alive.

David's wife, Lisa, is a decendent of Louis Landsfield, the man who built Landsfield Peniteniary in the 19th century.  (and is, they all discovered last night, apparently a liche-sorcerer living in the prison).  Carver wanted to get a child of Landsfield's blood to dominate the child in ritual in the prison for his own ends. 

Not only that -- but Carver wanted the child to be of his own blood as well, to make the ritual especially potent... so he seduced David's wife years ago.  Melodie is not David's child!

Someone used sorcery to make a "fake" Melody and hid the real one.  Carver killed the fake girl when he found out she was a fake.  The real Melodie out there somewhere...

CK
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Per Fischer
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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2008, 01:27:47 PM »

Holy...something. Love it. Your setup, demons, your Lore and Humanity. Really cool - I was reading this with the soundtrack to Heat in my ears, very, very fitting.

Totally agree with your observations regarding Kickers/Bangs/R-map/Humanity - it totally works. Emotional choices indeed.

So when you say Eric loves games, do you mean *other* games - as in this is Eric's first exposure to a game like this?

Do you mind giving an example or two of non-ritual Humanity checks, I would love to hear more...

Cheers,
Per
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Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2008, 01:49:18 PM »

Hi Per,

Regarding Eric:  He's played them in the past (in fact, he has a credits in the RPG world from years ago.)  He loves board games, MMOs, console games.  He's sort of sucked me into the whole electronic game environment, really.  (And I'm grateful.  The shit is cool, and I'm pretty sure it's where the new fun is.)

He, like me, became disenchanted with paper RPGs a while back.  Just as he's pulled me to the electronic games, I've dragged him to a few local cons.  He's played Primetime Adventures, Poison'd, Psi-Run, Mountain Witch, and others with me or with other people.

At last night's game, as we were settling in, we had a brief talk about our game and Sorcerer in general.  Vasco kicked it off, pretty much out of nowhere, by saying, "I'm really liking this game.  Not just our game, but Sorcerer.  The game itself.  I've read it several times and I really didn't get it before.  But now that I'm playing it, I see how all the pieces fit together.  I'm really liking it."

We talked a little more, and Eric jumped in, very animated... "This is the only game I've played where the conflict mechanics make no sense without the fiction.  You know?  Without the context of the story, of the specifics, there's no way the dice rolls make sense.  Most games, there's this big book, and there's this little bit of story stuff, and all this stuff for combat.  And when it's time to fight, you just pull out the big chunk of the book and use it and everything else stops.  Most games you can set up the characters and 'try out' the combat system independent of any actual story.  Here, you could never do that."

Keep in mind Eric's never been to The Forge or Story-Games, as far as I know.  He's just jumping feet first from the land of GURPS straight into the hippy shit. 

So, Eric loves games.


Non-ritual Humanity rolls....

I'll get back to those.  Just realized it's going to take me more time to type up than I thought.  But I will.

CK
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2008, 06:53:52 AM »

Okay, some non-ritual Humanity checks...

- Vasili had his humanity checked at least once when he dominated a guard in his passive-aggressive way by forcing the guard to do him a favor. (Colin is doing this great thing with Vasili -- he's this old Russian guy who always plays him as someone almost innocent and weak and pleading and needing in his requests!)  Vasili was basically putting the guard in serious danger to Vasili's own ends.

- There was a scene where Vasili was trying to get his nephew to think of family first, and defuse the possible coming fight between them.  I asked, to be clear, "Are you trying to manipulate him?  Or are you really an uncle trying to connect with a nephew?  Is Vasili really tapping feelings of connection and family?"  And Colin said, "Oh, this is really sincere.  This guy is all about family.  He took the rap for his brother years ago. That's why he's in jail."  So he gets to make a Humanity Gain roll.  And then there's a few beats to the scene, and Nikoli just keeps refusing Vasili's olive branch and keep fucking getting in the old man's face and finally Vasili snaps and says, "Okay, Cellblock B is losing him!  He's not going to do what I say?  He's gone!"  (Cellblock B, which is Vasili's demon, has a modified Hold power that dominates Will rather than Stamina.  The effect is the same as a Hold, but the color is that the victim is "lost" in 'B'.)  So... that was a Humanity Check.  It was a really great moment, essentially: "Love me, I'm your uncle, Love me, I'm your uncle, love me, I'm your uncle, all right, fuck you I'm dominating your ass with my demon!"

- Roman has rolled against it after brutally pounding the crap out of other inmates -- because he usually did it to get what he wanted, and simply dominated the guards violently to get what he wanted.

- David rolled for a potential gain after acting to save a guard from certain death: once in the yard when he encountered another inmates demon while the guard was helping David get to a phone to call his daughter after lock down, and once when he went after another demon to keep the same guard from being mauled. In both cases I asked Eric, "Why is David doing this?" because I wasn't sure of the emotional and ethical heartbeat underneath the actions.  It could have been simply David was trying to protect himself by preventing a disaster, or because he cared about protecting the man.  In both cases Eric was emphatic he was doing it to because any man needed to be protected from the horrors that he himself had submitted to; that he cared about the guard as another person and desperately wanted to save the life of a man who had been doing him a favor.

- Vasili started a riot in B -- both to please B and to get the attention of the Warden, who is Vasili's mentor and friend and has decided Vasili isn't strong enough to survive the growing and utterly crazy sorcererous turf war that's breaking out across the prison.  (I think this game has more sorcerers per square foot than has ever been played in any sorcerer game ever.)  He wanted to prove to the Warden he's still got full control of the cell block away from the Warden and the warden's guards.  So, the riot is going on, and Vasili has used B to have him end up the security/monitors station in the cell block. He's locked the door behind him, watching his growing carnage with glee and senses a figure has arrived behind him.  He's assuming it's the Warden come to talk.  WHAM!  He's smacked across the back of the head with a cold, cold hand -- and is facing down this lich figure in clothes from the 19th century.  It turns out to be Stanton Landsfield... the guy who designed and built Landsfield Penitentiary a hundred and thirty years ago.  He gets busy trying to dominate Vasili, using it as a sorcerer ritual to banish Cellblock 'B'!  (This involved guy-on-guy lich kissing... we were all kind of doing the 'guys close-thighs, hunch over, protect the penis' body language thing at this moment -- very funny, very creepy, really visceral!) 

Anyway, Vasili says, not knowing who this guy is or what's going on, "I can help you get out of here."  And Landsfield says, "What makes you think I want to leave."  And at that moment, looking up into the dead man's cold, rotted eyes, Vasilil sees himself and his own future and the hell is scared out of him because he knows suddenly he is the same guy, a man who never wants to leave prison.  And as the lich is making Will rolls to break Vasili and sliding a hand down Vasili's pants and tonguing him, Vasili is suddenly CONNECTING to the guy, saying, "You don't have to do this... this isn't a way to live..." And I'm like, "What the hell's going on?  Are you really trying to connect with this guy? Or are you doing that Vasili passive-aggressive thing?"  And Colin is all, "NO! NO! I see what's going to happen to Vasili.  I have to connect to this guy.  I have to understand him because I do not what this to happen to me!" 

So, he got a Humanity Check roll, because he really wanted to make a connection with this creature and help the man find peace.  (Of course, as so often happens with Vasili, he goes down that road, but if the person doesn't respond in kind he goes all sorcerer on the guy!)


Anyway, those are some that I and my players remembered.


I think what is significant, after typing them up, is that I, as GM, tend to ask for clarification for what's happening in the Sorcerer's heart.  A lot of time one action might not be clear in intent.  This isn't usually too complicated for cop-killer thug Roman, but David is very subtle (he's a good man doing bad things for all the right reasons), and Vasili is somewhere in the middle.  (I do this for Bonus Dice as well, on occasion asking questions of the Players as to why or in what context their character is doing one thing or another.  This usually prompts some more details that gets some more bonus dice.  All I write below applies to bonus dice as well as Humanity rolls...)

I see it as something akin to a novelist slowing down the action to focus on the thoughts or emotions of a character.  I know this is very important to me: granularity and details in the narrative and color the game.  One of the things I like about Sorcerer is that the rules have all these check points for doing this kind of focus on details: Humanity checks, Bonus Dice demand specificity, so you're not just stopping the game to get more color (which is fine in and of itself, but not as cool in my view as having mechanics that have everyone holding their dice tighter as they describe more details.)  So, whenever there's a "Humanity Moment" at play, I'll slow things down and have a question or two to get clarification.  What I like about this is it opens the floor to the Players to get more juice and details out of their characters and the moment.  And, again, it doesn't feel indulgent or like it's stopping anything, because they realize there's mechanical effects about to happen, so they tend to really lay out all the details and juice they can think of at the moment. 

Sometimes everyone gets involved, commenting on the character's behavior up to this point, or doing a call back to another parallel incident from a session or two back, or whatever.  Strangely (or not) this doesn't seem to break immersion or whatever.  It seems to magnify the intensity and moment of choice for the character, and all the players are more invested because we have more details, and are often investing as a group into the moment.  We're valuing it together, and this shared work means we all care about it more and are really curious to see how the dice fall.

These conversations and expansion of detail don't only involve the internal state of the characters, but usually end up adding more specifics about action, details of objects, location and so on. 

CK
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2008, 07:21:43 AM »

I feel compelled to add (because it's teh Internets) that the questions I ask are never a grilling of the Player, nor a demand the Player justify anything.

It's more like we're all staff writers on this really cool HBO series (OZ meets Clive Barker), and someone will toss out a cool moment or idea, and I'm the Head Writer and I'll be like, "That's really good.  Let's open that up a moment."  Like that.

CK
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Frank Tarcikowski
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a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2008, 09:53:54 AM »

Hey Christopher,

Quote
And Ryan replied, "The main thing I learned from him is to approach stories from a character point of view, as opposed to a plot point of view. Forget about the plot in the beginning, because if you know what emotional journey you want to take your character on, the rest will follow. We break our crime stories [on The Shield] not in terms of who did this and what's the clue; it's what do we want our cops to go through on this particular story. Once we know that, the plot will come later."

And that's what I'm finding works in Sorcerer -- and is easy as pie in Sorcerer if you focus on the Kickers, the Bangs, the Relationship Map and the Humanity.  A much as possible I'm just trying to go from one emotionally strong choice/beat to the next, lettign the "plot" grow out of the choices engenedered by the emotinally strong Bangs and scene framing.

It's a blast.

I like that! It kind of fits my approach in my current Sorcerer game, which focusses on relationships.

- Frank
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1159


« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2008, 11:50:08 AM »

I like that! It kind of fits my approach in my current Sorcerer game, which focusses on relationships.

- Frank

Hi Frank,

Excellent!

One of the things that first blew me away about Sorcerer the first time I read it was that it was designed to be about relationships right from the get go.  I'm not talking about The Relationship Map chapter form S&Soul....

I mean, I start reading this book and Ron has hand the GM NPCs that the PC is intimately tied to.  It's not the typical "dependent" that we might or might not ever use from so many other games (or someone to simply dick the Player over with, if used in the hands of some GMs... no relationship, but always someone the GM can say, "She's dead! The bad guys killed her!")

Demons were direct, dramatic narrative characters that changed the core dynamic between the GM and the Player as a matter of the rules.  It was no longer a matter of "You have the PCs, I have world, I send the world after you, you fight back (or visa versa...)" it was, "We're in this together.  We're not on opposite sides of the drama. We're joined at the hip."

Then, when you carry this kind of rule and play into the "back of the character sheet" -- which lists all important NPCs to the PLAYER (not the GM's "plot" but to the Player), you see how the game really is suggesting that the game is all about the dramatic interation of the PCs with the NPCs -- not the PCs with the GM's Plot.

The Relationship Map is simply the extension of this thinking to GM prep.  The R-Map is not a model of relationships (again, Sorcerer's rules aren't any kind of simulation engine.)  The R-Map is simply a tool to build grabby bits of human behavior and lay them out in an organized fashion. It's a telescoping of the relationship between Demons and Sorcerers, through the "back of the character sheet" and out into the GM's prep.  We don't have a GM Plot... but we do have a web of characters with their own agendas connected at the level that tend to grab us at the level it's easist to grab us human beings: familial and romantic relationships -- which have been the core of grabby narrative hooks from Greeks through Battlestar Galactica.

Rather than having a "story" to run the Players through, story is produced through the interaction between characters in the tale.  This doesn't mean that the stories just happen because there are relationships: agendas, concrete goals, objects and property at stake make the conflicts something people can grab onto and understand.  But relationshps, from bound demon outward from the PC, are what drive the game.

So, it sounds like all of your game's pistons are firing.

CK
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Frank Tarcikowski
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a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2008, 01:08:16 AM »

Yeah, the relationship approach is pretty much just good old Sorcerer as written, even though I didn’t explicitly use the relationship map technique as described in Sorcerer & Sword. I also have some NPCs that I made up myself to challenge the PCs in interesting ways, some of which didn’t receive much attention by the players and some of which did. I find it very rewarding when an NPC I created, or my interpretation of an NPC a player created, really grabs the players’ interest.

When I read that quote above, and compared it to what I’ve been doing, I easily saw the connections: The relationships are about the character and how she feels. They are actually the easiest and most effective way of getting at the character and how she feels. And the demons are of course superb because it’s just so easy to rely on them, to even like them somehow (because, let’s face it, they’re really pretty fucking cool), and then suddenly they decide they don’t like this other relationship of yours and woah are you in trouble.

And the most fun part is, as opposed to Shawn Ryan writing his screenplay, it’s someone else who controls the character’s reaction. That’s authored role-playing, baby!

- Frank
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Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1159


« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2008, 06:09:56 AM »

A bunch of things:

You wrote:  "The relationships are about the character and how she feels."  Absolutely.  And, keeping in mind that Sorcerer Prep still involved lots of "plot" stuff as well (who is doing what to whom, what is the McGuffing everyone is fighting over etc.) the relationships are the "adventure".  Dogs in the Vineyard is identical in this regard.


You wrote: "Even though I didn’t explicitly use the relationship map technique as described in Sorcerer & Sword."  (I think you meant Sorcerer & Soul?)  Well, I don't do that particular technique either.  I was just talking about this Ron the other day.  When I first read the Relationship Map chapter years ago, I thought it was absolutely the coolest thing, but I circled it for months because I felt like there was something about it I didn't understand.  And then, finally, I realized my problem was: "This is too much work!"  I mean, read a whole novel just and draw the relationship map from the book and erase the names and re-draw some lines.... I was confused because I thought that was a vital part of the process Ron was describing... but what interested me was the end result (the Relationship Map itself).  That's what I wanted and what I cared about.  And because of the reading I'd done through the years (plays from the Greek tragedies onward, lots of stories, and my own efforts at writing) I was much, much happier just pulling out a piece of paper and starting to create a map of characters bound by family and romance and just going to town.  As Ron pointed out in the conversation, because of my own training and experiences, this was just something I do.  Suddenly Relationship Maps seemed easy and I happily whip them off today with glee.

The big epiphany of the Relationship Map for me, was that -- just like the GM's "adventure" used to do -- it provides a focus of interest for the Players.  (Again, just like the Town Creation in Dogs.)  They're a thing floating -- mostly unseen -- between all the players at the table, that they can slowly chew their way through, discovering mysteries and conflicts, help and hinderance.  In this way they are stand ins for dungeons or "adventures" -- not literally, but in function.  Their advantage is that they are more fluid than a pre-written dungeon or adventure: nothing will stop because Players don't go to one place or fail to speak to this one person.  Bound with the techniques of Kickers and Bangs, the Players are rushing toward what they want and the GM is throwing new revelations and reversals at them via the Bangs.

Another advantage is what you mention above -- they're a big ink blot test of what the Players find interesting, and they're free to choose who and what interests them and (importantly) interact with such characters and objects in any way they want, since they are making their own statements for and with their characters.  As I said above, the R-Map is not a "model" of relationships that matter to people.  They are a short hand tool to get Players at a table to focus on something together and build a shared narrative as they interact with it.  Because human beings are innately curious about other human beings and we're specifically curious about relationships involving families and sex (and how people treat each other in other in relationships) we tend to seize the opportunity to examine such relationships.  This is true even in fictional relationships from epic poems to TV, from Greek Tragedies to the musical Sweeney Todd.  We might not know much about the lead characters in Law & Order -- but those would be our PCs, and so they're not the point.  We're curious about the perp and the witnesses and the other suspects... and as the cops and the lawyers dig deeper, they invariably find a hot and active R-Map of some kind, where wives lie to save their husbands, or sons murdered their fathers for making a pass at their girlfriend.  We're curious about this kind of stuff, so we keep watching the show.  That's the function of an R-Map (and, again, a Town in Dogs) -- a tool to draw our curiosity and focus the Players as they chew their way in through the relationships and make judgments and decisions as to how to respond to them.


You wrote: "I also have some NPCs that I made up myself to challenge the PCs in interesting ways, some of which didn’t receive much attention by the players and some of which did." Well, absolutely!  Again, a Sorcerer game isn't a happy Christmas day family reunion.  In the game I'm running now I have plenty of NPCs that aren't in the R-Map, but certainly give the Players grief.  Cramming every NPC onto the map would be difficult and probably dangerous!  It'd be a parody of a family tree from Greek mythology.  Like Kickers, Lore, and Demons, I look at the R-Map as one set of tools that helps keep the Players imaginatively focused on building something robust in terms of theme and color.  To me, they are like Strange Attractors from Chaos theory, that interact with each other to help create a pattern (the emergent play) that we might not have anticipated, but which certainly makes sense as a pattern given the strange attractors.  But that doesn't mean everything is a part of one of these strange attractors.  Other, random elements can certainly be dropped into the mix and see how the affect the emerging pattern of play -- which becomes, ultimately, the story.


You wrote: " They are actually the easiest and most effective way of getting at the character and how she feels."  I want to add: "... and to get to the PLAYERS and how he or she feels."  This was the biggest ah-ha moment I had when I started hanging around here years ago.  It seems obvious now, but back in the day RPG techniques were usually focused on "How do I hook the character?" or "What does the character care about?" and so on.  Now, in terms of the fictional content these are good questions to ask.  But people seldom asked, "Say, what are the Players interested in?"  That's why the player authored kickers were such a big deal deal -- they're not just a plot hook for the character to "get into the adventure."  They're statements by the Player about what they want their game play to be about.  Huge difference!  And the same thing with R-Maps and Players: players have a field of emotional and provoking relationships they can choose to interact with or ignore.  What does the Player feel about these relationships?  What judgment or forgiveness do the Players want to dole out?  This, to me, is the meat of the story-now stuff. 

In my current game, Eric (a Player) has a character (David) who had a daughter murder who was murdered by a cult.  His wife goes insane from the murder is is sent to a hospital.  The cult leader is safely ensconced in a prison and gets off an a technicality, though David's own (pre-game) research makes him certain this man ordered the murder.  He goes to jail to get vengeance upon this man.  While in prison he realizes there's Sorcerous Lore floating around.  He grabs at it in oder to accomplish his goals. In his last session he just found out that his wife had an affair with the cult leader years ago and the daughter isn't even his daughter -- her father is the cult leader!  His Kicker is that he found out his daughter is still alive!  She's out there somewhere! 

So, here's a man who has ruined his life to get vengeance, who has just discovered he's trying to avenge the murder of a daughter who isn't his daughter, that he's a cuckold, and that the cult leader is still trying to kill the little girl.  What is David going to do?  Well, that's Eric's decision and I have no idea!  I mean, it wasn't just Eric that got all electric cold when this Bang hit the table.  You can bet that Colin and Vasco, the other two players, might have some opinions about this as well.  I mean, should David try to save the little girl's life anyway?  Will Vasco or Colin have their characters try to save her if Eric has David blow the little girl off?  What is David's relationship to the little girl?  What will his relationship to his wife be?  Will he continue his agenda to beat out vengeance -- and is his wife on that list now?  I don't know and all of us at the table can't wait to find out.  And, as mentioned, the other Players have their stake in this as well, if only because they're human beings.  Vasco's character, Roman, was standing right there when an NPC hit David with this Bang.  If David goes off to kill his wife (and again, he might! I don't know!) will Vasco have Roman try to stop him, and so on...

This, I think, is why the R-Map as a replacement to the dungeon or adventure is so powerful: it opens up all sorts of compelling choices to the PLAYERS... because we, as humans, find these things so compelling.  Given compelling circumstances to plug into, we have compelling feelings, and make compelling choices in response, which create compelling conflict.  And sits it is driven by the feelings of the Players, it's more compelling and electric than it would be than if I was just "playing my character."


CK
 
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
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