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Author Topic: Prep for first-time Hellblazer-ish Sorcerer  (Read 6604 times)
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2008, 07:47:12 PM »

Oh thanks, Jesse. I read that just before going to bed. Now I don't wanna go.

I thought I'd amend one of James' questions a wee bit:

Quote
* How has sorcery made this character's life better?

I understand that James was asking in such a way as to arrive at the character's Price, so I'm not replacing his question so much as adding a new one. Sometimes I get the idea, from some folks, that they think Sorcerer must be a game about stupid people. "What would anyone want to do that?"

Heh. Ask yourself the next time someone cuts you off by driving 'round on the right at a stoplight. Me, I ask myself every time I do my rounds of today's news. Don't ask what I fantasize about accomplishing, and what price I'd be willing to pay for it.

So anyway, my additional question is useful because the character is (obviously) not opening play by attempting to break the Binding. After all, it's pretty easy - just stop giving the demon its Need and it either starves or it rebels and goes away, right? (well, more or less) So the character really is getting what they want, or closer to it, by being a sorcerer. Yes, it's riding the tiger, but again by definition, the character hasn't fallen off or been turned upon yet, now have they.

I'm not suggesting you ask the players this now. I suggest you ask them as part of the table-talk during actual play, particularly in their first scenes. Not as storyboard or long-backstory questions either - just brief and straightforward, and carry on with play as you go.

In fact, I think you might do well simply to state your final requirements to the players and not negotiate one bit more. It must be pushing the limits of "tedious" pretty hard by now, actually, if they send you X and you send them marked-up red pen commentary, and then it goes 'round again. It's time to work with what you got.

Well, as long as you have Kickers, demon Needs and Desires, brief circumstances of Binding, short labels on the backs of the sheets (lots of names and places with no depth is better than one or two full of ten-page depth), and that's it.

I do have some comments about some of the Desires which are written too much like Needs, and about that no-'count excuse for a Kicker (which you'll be stuck with, in the interest of no more negotiation), but now I have to de-anime my mind (thanks a whole fucking heap, Jesse) and try to get to bed.

Best, Ron
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2008, 08:17:11 PM »

(cross posted with Jesse)

Joel, if you've read a bunch of Sorcerer threads you probably already know the answer: "Depends on your setting."  Lately I've been thinking a lot about the modern-day sorcery described in Chapter 7 of Sorcerer and further developed in Sex & Sorcery.  Odds are this isn't too terribly different from your Hellblazer-inspired stuff.  I hope some of it will be useful for you.

One thing at the outset: despite what it says in the Sorcerer core book, a character's Lore score isn't necessarily tied to the character's Lore descriptor.  Your Lore score, technically, simply represents how effective this character's going to be at getting his or her way on Lore-related matters.  So an Adept might have Lore 1, which could mean (if we're interpreting stuff in-fiction) that this guy spent ages learning every last bit of sorcery but totally sucks at applying it, or (at the player level) the player just wants to have this quite competent guy fail a lot due to the exigencies of this story.

So: as a description, naive just means, "Ain't been to school."  The description, by itself, has nothing to do with the character's talent and/or "story juice" on these matters, only that the character is bamboozled by all this metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and doesn't understand (or care about) the fine print. 

With that in mind, a Naif can acquire a Lore score simply by coming to appreciate whatever demons are all about.  Y'know on your one-sheet where you define what demons are, or what sorcery is, in this setting?  The Naif has figured this out intuitively, through one particular experience or through the course of a lifetime.

Let's work with Sex & Sorcery's notion that sorcery is about attempting to perceive Reality-in-the-Raw.  Here, a Naif sorcerer might be someone who, through an extreme experience, somehow learned something about how the Cosmos really works, even if the lesson is vague, numinous, and difficult to comprehend.  Let me use an example from Wikipedia: Ed Gein, the inspiration for Psycho's Norman Bates.  Gein is hopelessly, obsessively, desperately in love with his harridan of a mother.  A lifetime of sublimated hatred, sexual longing, completely unselfish love, and blind faith in the face of unbearable suffering have combined to give Gein, in his darkest moments, a strangely tender glimpse of some Ultimate Truth.  He doesn't know what to do with it; he doesn't know anything about "rituals" or "magic."  He just knows a thing or two about his situation; it's numinous to him.  (This is much too wordy, of course: my notes say, "obsessive, sublimated, unbearable love" which is really about all you need.)  (Note that this explanation might work for "Mad" too.  But also note that unlike a not of "Naive" explanations, there isn't some "superhero origin" event: "Naive" can work that way, but it can also just be something that builds up over time.)

As to how/why he summoned a demon: well, that's easy.  Mother is out of the picture for some reason (dead, dying, whatever).  He's adrift and lonely; being abused, cheated, enslaved and damned by a demon is how he feels loved.

Anyway: the character is a terribly unoriginal cliche, and is still too repulsive to serve as a player-character, but serves to get the point across.
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2008, 05:25:30 AM »

Hi, Jesse!

Regarding Seth/Nobody.  Yeah, it sounds like there's a lot of ingrained gamer habits there.  However, may I suggest that backing Seth down from being involved with two other PCs was a mistake?  You're right in that Sorcerer has no requirements that the PCs must "group up" but it also has no such requirement that they *don't* group up.  It's indifferent.  I ran a Sorcerer game where all the PCs were family members living in the same house and it was awesome.  The human connection you're looking for with Nobody might very well be with the other PCs.

I just wanna clarify that I negotiated him down from being connected to 2 PCs, to being connected to one. One of the connections was frankly weak. We kept the one that made more sense.

Also, thanks for the example of Naive Binding. That gives me a pretty good picture.

Ron,

Me, I ask myself every time I do my rounds of today's news.

Heh. Have you read the Manga Death Note? It's available on the web here. it's the ultimate answer to that question.

In fact, I think you might do well simply to state your final requirements to the players and not negotiate one bit more. It must be pushing the limits of "tedious" pretty hard by now, actually, if they send you X and you send them marked-up red pen commentary, and then it goes 'round again. It's time to work with what you got.

Yeah, no worries. We play tonight, so I'm just going to wait till we're face to face, get 'is that your final answer?" commitments on all the uncertain stuff (which fortunately includes some Kicker stuff), and roll straight ahead.

Peace,
-Joel
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2008, 06:59:54 AM »

Hi Joel,

Tonight? Oy. I thought we had a couple more days. I'll have to make this quick - all of it is about you as GM and not about talking to the players.

First, here's a bit from an older thread that I repeat a lot:

Quote
A demon's Desire is not associated with any specific thing, place, or action. Instead, it tries to bring about its Desire with whatever it encounters. Whether it does the Desire itself, influences others to do it, or simply wants to be around that particular Desire in action, is up to the demon at the moment - any of these are fine.

It does not crave its Desire in a drug-sense. It likes its Desire and thinks the whole world ought to tend that way, and might need a little help to get there. If the demon is a conversational type, then it will always bring a dialogue around to its Desire somehow.

The demon's Binder is not responsible for satisfying its Desire and Binding strength is not affected by how much the demon is getting its Desire stroked. Doing things in accord with the Desire might give a bonus die to interactions, but again, that's not a matter of Binding strength. Failing to satisfy a Desire does not incur penalties to interaction or ritual rolls, nor will it lead a demon down the path of rebellion. A demon will not lose Power by missing out on its Desire as it will with its Need.

A Need, by contrast, is for a specific thing or an action. There is no ambiguity, ever, about whether the demon received its Need and when the last time was. The demon may like its Need, hate it, or regard it as a physiological necessity. What matters is that it's literally addicted to it.

Binding by definition makes the Binder responsible for providing the demon with its Need. Both participants understand this in full, for any and every instance of Binding, even if the sorcerer is Naive. Failure to receive its Need makes the demon lose Power, just as a Parasite or Possessor loses Power when outside a host. Under-supplying or frequently-supplying the Need does affect Binding strength and the demon's tendency to rebel or not to rebel.

Desire is ideology, personality, taste, and preference. Need is addiction, payment, and power.

One more point about Desire: the sorcerer does not please or appease the demon by providing it. Or more accurately, you can't provide Desire.

Looking over the listed Desires of the demons so far, I see a couple that are not on my list in the core book. You know those aren't just examples, right? Those are the Desires you pick from, period. It's like the descriptors and not like the Needs. If you're going to change the list, then you change the list, you don't improvise new bits in a free-form way. Such a change is very consequential and not to be done casually. Given your current uneasiness and enthusiasm, I suggest letting the game text do the work for you and not changing it at this level.

Theft is easily changed to Mischief. I strongly suggest doing so because theft is too specific, and it's an action, not a principle or general effect like a Desire must be. If you want to play the demon as focused on theft for now, sure, why not, but a non-mischievous theft would be uninteresting to it.

Sudden violence is similarly easily changed to Mayhem, for the same reasons.

Fear ... h'mm, I think that needs to become Power, with fear being the demon's current focus on establishing Power.

So, now for playing these things. I think they look like fun.

First of all, don't forget that demons can and do communicate. You can always find ways, even if they don't talk. Objects can get heavier or lighter, be misplaced (not in a "can't use it" way, just mildly inconvenient), or anything else like that. Parasites ... well, it depends on what they are. Some of them just talk to their hosts, others manifest as physiological effects like sweating or exuding drops of blood on the skin, and still others are machine-like and therefore would be more like Objects except for the misplaced part.

Second, one thing you can do as GM is to provide examples of the Desires in the scenes the character's in, so that gives you the opportunity to play the demons' enjoyment of those things. Twitch likes Mayhem, does it? No problem. A guy gets mugged on the street near Nobody, when he's on his way to go do something (that's important), and Twitch wants to stay and watch, like a kid watching construction equipment. No reason, no planned time-period, it just likes it. Twitch is a Parasite, right? Well, it doesn't have automatic control over Nobody's limbs, but it might try to take control briefly, or want to "discuss" the scene by vibrating all of Nobody's muscles briefly.

(One of the points you might want to make verbally during play, conveying it as a given rather than a negotiating point, is that Twitch does not make Nobody a sorcerer. Nobody is a sorcerer with or without Twitch.)

I hope these ideas help a little bit. Don't try to "make a story" tonight, and most especially do not try to recapitulate the classic first session from many White Wolf, Unknown Armies, and related play experiences, in which the characters "get clues to what's going on" or "come together in common interest" or "meet the introductory NPC." You have Kickers, Desires, Needs, and a few NPCs with notions of their own. Just play all those things, and weave player-characters' paths together, very occasionally, rather than their conflicts.

Best, Ron
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2008, 05:15:45 PM »

Well. . .we had to cancel for tonight, so I guess that's a bit of reprieve. We're now planning on playing next Wednesday. Feel free to add anything you were too rushed to post.

So, Desires. Huh. No, I did not realize that the Desires were a fixed list. I guess I do now. Your proposed tweaks to the Desires sound fine. And thanks for the advice on handling Desires in play. Looks like really solid stuff.

(One of the points you might want to make verbally during play, conveying it as a given rather than a negotiating point, is that Twitch does not make Nobody a sorcerer. Nobody is a sorcerer with or without Twitch.)

Yeah, that's a point I've made regarding Robin and Ravengod, actually, since Willem seems resistant to the idea that Robin would or might ever even consider summoning another Demon, and his Sorcerous telltale is sloughing off Raven feathers. My take is that it's fine for him to never perform another Summoning/Binding, so long as he understands that he IS still a Sorcerer with access to the rituals.

RE: Weaving paths together, not conflicts. Wow. I'd never looked at it from that angle. Sounds like a great idea for kicking "let's team up!" straight in the teeth. Excellent.

Peace,
Joel
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #20 on: July 09, 2008, 07:35:12 PM »

Joel, one thing to watch out for is simply coming up with anything beyond the most minimal backstory at all.  I find that the "relationship map" approach of Sorcerer's Soul is, in practice, far more heavy-handed than I need, at least given my relative inexperience with Sorcerer: if you've got an R-Map controlling your overall Situation, it can become very easy for the game to be about "resolving" that R-Map, rather than just rollin' with the player's Kickers and seeing where it takes you.

Take a hard look at the characters' Kickers.  Figure out a couple connections between them.  These might be causative connections ("this one Kicker happened because this one NPC is still reeling from this other player's Kicker"), or there might be some links between NPC's whose own goals are affected, at least in some way, by the upheavals in these Kickers.  So long as a couple of these NPC's are "grabby", operating at cross-purposes (either with respect to each other, or with respect to some/all of the players), and get plenty of screen time, you're golden.  Find the bare minimum number of NPC's you need to develop each character's Kicker, and then play the hell out of them. 
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2008, 07:23:46 AM »

The relationship map method is explicitly designed for Sorcerer games which are directed toward the Humanity score as the primary interest-point of play. That direction is intended for people who are already pretty familiar with the game, which is why it's a supplement.

So I don't recommend using it for your game, Joel. I suggest instead merely working with the NPCs from the characters' sheets as well as anyone that you make up and feel especially inspired to play. James is right, though - a little bit will go a long way.

Best, Ron
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jburneko
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« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2008, 11:36:25 AM »

Ron's post about the R-Map technique being supplementary to the core game reminded me of something.  Have you taken a close look at the two sections in Chapter 4 titled, "The Sorcerous Technicality" and "The Back Story."  Because I find those two sections to be really the core of "basic" Sorcerer prep.

Basically you start by considering potential ramifications of Sorcery and root that in a real-world human conflict.  Then once you have that you attach the PCs via their kickers, demons, back of the sheet stuff etc.  This isn't classic mystery prep.  Play still very much focuses on the PC's kicker and their personal situation but it gives you a ready made stress (i.e. bang) generator.

The technique often makes the game a little more pulpy or comic booky because that central point of stress tends to get worked up into full fledged villain status.  It also pushes things a little more towards the "group up" mentality, if not exactly "team up", as play tends to spiral in towards that central conflict, such that players often end up in a unified climax scene even if they're all working at cross purposes from one another.  It very much harkens to Sorcerer's Champions roots.

The whole thing is a little bit like the GM creating his own PC and I often (but not always) do it before character creation.  For example, for a Southern Gothic flavored game, I imagined an old family patriarch using a Contain the way some fathers use a belt as threat to misbehaving children.  Since the game took place in New Orleans just after the Katrina Hurricane I imagined this huge cracked mosaic sitting under three inches of water in the basement of a sunken and flooded house.  I imagined this demon, now free, whose total purpose was to punish members of the family.  I created the eldest son of the patriarch, trained in his father's sorcerous ways desperate to save his family from the thing OUT THERE.  The thing he has been so utterly terrified since childhood when his father would rattle the keys to the basement when he caught his son stepping out of line.

That's the same game where the players created characters that were all members of the same family.  So I simply asked if the players were okay with the idea of having a rival family.  They LOVED the idea.  Indeed since most the PCs were black they liked the idea of their family once having been the slaves of the other family.  There were rumors that the white family stole their sorcerous knowledge from their family.

It worked out very well in play.

Jesse




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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #23 on: July 10, 2008, 04:38:57 PM »

Wow. I just got through re-reading my old over the Edge threads, and. . .holy shit, those things are good. Chock full of goddamn insight, a lot of it by my own hand. it's a far cry from my usual forum role of guidance-seeker and wisdom-receiver. You're right, Ron, the way I want to play and how to achieve it is all in there. I forget about these insights and breakthroughs over time and slip back into the pattern of "gee, i don't know how to do this why won't it turn out the way I want it!" in actual games and "Help, I'm in over my head, someone tell me what to do" online. I need a reminder like that from time to time, to kick me into confidence and proactive pursuit of my priorities.

Thanks.

Peace,
-Joel

PS. Thanks also, everyone, for the latest round of clarification and advice. I'm mulling it over contendedly, internalizing and applying.
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2008, 09:20:43 PM »

Well, we played last night, and it went very well! Just as you suggested, Ron, my methodology from the OTE threads was a perfect touchstone for effortlessly roleplaying NPCs and responding nimbly to player input, all free from pressure or performance anxiety. I'll post a full AP report with some observations and questions in a few days, when I have full internet access again (I post this missive powered by a Netzero dialup free trial!). Thanks for all the info and support.

Peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: July 18, 2008, 07:43:57 AM »

Hooray! That sounds wonderful.

Thanks for sticking with it.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: July 23, 2008, 04:52:09 PM »

Considering their importance to the discussion, I thought it'd be good to reference all Joel's Over the Edge threads here.
[Over the Edge] Killing the dilemma
[Over the Edge] Bangs or whimpers?
[OtE] Cats successfully herded
[OtE] A paper trail to nowhere
[OtE] Rewards
Confessional: I was an illusionist wanker!
[OtE] Dice for the masses

I forgot how damn many there were! I had to go back and follow up with some edits to get them all. What should be the overall title? "Joel's Long Dark Night of the Narrativist Soul," or something like that.

Best, Ron
« Last Edit: July 23, 2008, 05:10:52 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #27 on: July 23, 2008, 09:06:54 PM »

Yeah, I was surprised as well to discover how many I'd cranked out. I had to do a lot of skimming to remember which ones I really wanted to read, when I was reviewing! Thanks for compiling them all. That'll save me a lot of search time in the future (though I suppose I could just bookmark 'em, eh?).

Peace,
-Joel

PS hope to get the AP up of the Sorcerer session before I leave for the weekend. The next session will be next Wednesday.
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #28 on: July 23, 2008, 09:18:34 PM »

Oh! I almost forgot, I wanted to give a bit of commentary/guide fr those who want to go hunting, so you don't necessarily have to dredge through all the threads.

Killing the Dilemma,
Paper trail to Nowhere,
and Illusionist Wanker!

all document various facets of my frustration and failings. I actually recommend reading Wanker! First, since it actually chronicles the earliest stage of my struggle.

Bangs or Whimpers?
Cats Successfully Herded,
and Dice for the Masses

Are the threads about games that went more or less right, and I started to enjoy myself in the endeavor. Here and there are little snippets of me stating with clarity and conviction what I want out o roleplaying and how to get it (which of course I completely forgot about practicing as the last couple of years went by!)

And Rewards is just a little hiccup of a thread as I feel out possible gimmicky little mechanical mods to jumpstart the Narr. . .except that it contains the absolute gem of Ron explaining lucidly how OTE can rock hard, which turns out to be NOT AT ALL how I and my group was approaching it.* :P

Happy reading!

Peace,
-Joel

*oddly enough, Ron, immediately after you posted that, I was talking with one of my players, and he expressed to me (quite independently) that Over the Edge seems like it would be cool in a sort of rotating cast game of short overlapping story arcs. If only we had a time machine!
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