[Sorcerer] Trial run one shot...

Started by The Dragon Master, October 03, 2008, 07:39:20 AM

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The Dragon Master

I've had the game for a few years and finally had the chance to run it. The Host of my Friday night game decided about a month ago that he wouldn't be up to running anything two weeks later since he was running games at CopperCon on the week inbetween, so I finally got a chance to run it. I was told I'd have just the one day, so to prepare a one-shot, and ended up going with the one out of the book. By Thursday I was told that we'd probably just play out the campaign, so I decided to work out with the group the definitions of Sorcery, Lore, Demons, and Humanity (not in that order).

The Group:

Me: Been gaming a few years now, my "education" was through games here on The Forge (Donjon, Burning Wheel, Sorcerer, Universalis) but my experience is a little more mainstream (OWoD, Exalted 1/2E, Shadowrun 2E, MURPG, Rifts, and more recently DnD 3.5/4E). My normal group fits the definition of Beer & Pretzels* gamers pretty well, but my tastes fall closer to what may be referred to as Story Games**. And that's why I reached out to find another group, and ended up in this one a few months ago.

Fabien: The Host. I'm somewhat unfamiliar with his gaming background, but he seems to have a pretty broad swath of the gaming spectrum covered. Seems to tend towards Amber over other systems when he has the chance.

Eric: Again not terribly certain, though after all is said and done, I think he would tend towards Beer and Pretzel* gaming. He told us after the session that he'd created his character with the goal of it being completely clueless, and useless in-game.


Dr. Xander Crowe: Played by Fabien. Telltale - Screams in background, Stamina 2 coffee and whiskey, will 4 obsessive, lore 4 solitary adept, access to occult library, cover - Psychologist/writer. Price bookish. Kicker - book recently stolen, had vision of it in the house. Demon Lexarph. Humanity 3.

Ericka: Played by Aerick. Telltale - green hair (as in down to the roots, carpets match the drapes green). Stamina 2, clean living. will 4, spite. Lore 4, solitary adept. Cover, tech support. Price, cynical. Demon, Bamphmalorius. Humanity, 3. Kicker - found photo online of ex-girlfriend (who had disappeared the previous year, and is an ex through that disappearance) in the house.


Lexarph: Type, Parasite. Telltale, Alien hand syndrome. General Appearance, Withered/dead hand. Stamina, 1. Will, 3. Lore, 2. Power, 5. Binding Strength, +2 (Sorcerers favor). Abilities, Warp (user is lexarph), Perception (user is lexarf, allows to see inside workings to be warped). Perception (user is lexarf, target of host, shows "visions"). Desire, knowledge. Need, to disassemble things.

Bamphomalorius: Type, Object. Telltale, demonic flavor/occult markings. General Appearance, Sliver cased deck of playing cards. Stamina 1. Will 3. Lore 2. Power 3. Desire, competition. Need, solitaire. Abilities: Movement (user is sorcerer, teleportation), Perception (user is sorcerer, see where teleporting), spawn. Binding Strength +1 (demons favor).

Bound during game:

Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Type, Object. Telltale, face inside of book, hidden by false pages, that speaks the knowledge it imparts. General Appearance, a small book (roughly the same size as the sorcerer book, though twice as thick) bound in human skin and hair. Stamina, 1. Will, 4. Lore, 4. Power, 6. Desire, . Need, . Abilities, Hint, Perception (grants the sorcerer visions of far off places/times), Vitality.

Karax!ol: Type, Object. Telltale, different reflection in every mirror. Stamina, 2. Will, 4. Lore, 3. Power, 5. Desire, travel through mirrors. Need, . Abilities: transport (user is sorcerer, travel through mirrors), boost (stamina), transport ( user is sorcerer, teleport). Binding Strength, 1 (demons favor)

Unnamed shoes. Type, Object. Telltale, leather of human skin. General Appearance, pair of red leather shoes. Stamina, 1. Will, 3. Lore, 2. Power, 3. Desire, punt kittens. Need, . Abilities, Warp (creating objects), Travel (user is sorcerer, teleport objects to user).


Humanity: Empathy, general concern for others.

Demons: Spirit entities, with telltales falling in the annoying category.

Sorcery: Generally more "old school". Ancient formulas and personal rituals.

Lore: Knowledge of the secret books and such.

And that much took the entire first session, which worked out fine as it gave me time to look over the characters and get a feel for them.

Session 2: The Game

Evening started late, but we finished with an hour to spare, so it worked out fine. I started by refreshing the memories of the players regarding their kickers. Began with Xander. Described the vision and set him towards the house. We played through him finding a secret side entrance, and walking in after a lore roll to determine if he knew what signs and symbols were necessary to enter. He discovered the door by finding the symbol of portals (think Shub Nigorath). Once he was inside, I moved on to Erica. Described the thread that helped her find her ex-girlfriend. The conflicting stories and so forth. Then bounced to her driving up the driveway. Now her demon had the ability "teleport" but she choose to walk up to the front door and bluff her way through (the players seemed somewhat hesitant to deal with the demons at first).

Once inside, I switched back to Xander. He wandered through a hallway and found a secret library with numerous Occult works (many blasphemous, also a version of Das Unasprechen Kulten that was an Object demon). He spoke with DUK, and ended up binding it, and asking it to lead him to his book with the clue "look for the shifting stairs, their the only straight path".And back to Erica. She walked into the room, tried to blend in, and then worked her way backward. I described her traveling down a hallway to find herself back where she started. She found library's but kept coming back to the start. then went upstairs and was redirected before teleporting to "a library", which I had be the library with Xanders book. She looks around, then moves out through the most visible door. This leads to the bedroom, and she notices the skin above the bed. Looks to the mirror and sees "the ex" in it waving at her to follow, then running further into the mirror only to disappear when hitting "the wall". Erica decides to follow by going through the door, then recognizes the hallway to the study. But finds bamph missing, so when she gets an image of it sitting on the table in the dining room (terrified) she ignores the hallway and goes back down, deciding to use teleport to get around.

Back to Xander. He finds his way to the kitchen to get some coffee, and finds "the shifting stairs" and goes up them, I have what amounts to a balance check, and he fails (but only spills coffee on his hand as a result of a failure, no lasting mechanical effect but it came up story wise later). He keeps going and asks DUK about where it is (being quite rude along the way, which cost him). He was told "Sometimes what you're looking for is neither on the straight and narrow, nor the broad and crooked, but rather somewhere in between". He looks around, sees an increasing number of mirrors, and THE door. The one Erica just walked out of a short time earlier. Walks in and finds his way to the library (the door was still ajar). Then looks around to find stuff from his vision, and sees an alcove with a Pitch Black passageway like had been described. Walks through to find DUK gone, and what looks like his book on the table and we go back to Erica. She seeks after the crooked path (she'd seen it earlier upstairs), and finds it in the kitchen ("you know, the kitchen help doesn't seem to have any trouble getting around"). get's upstairs, and decides that rather than going to the study where the gf was seen in the picture, she'll go where SHE saw her last, in the bedroom. Goes up the stairs and bumps into Lydia, after dropping the cards. L tells her that she has to get out "or it will eat them" pointing at the deck of cards. The reflection of Erica, looks at her while holding 1 of the cards. She goes to count them, and each count comes up with one less than the last. the mirrors of the hallway fill with these reflections, all holding a different card. L says "if you want to save them you have to go through the "Maw". Erica passes her off as a wacko, and moves on. Goes to the room.

Back to Xander. He starts grabbing at things and see's that they are not real. The table is, but the books aren't, nor are the items that are increasingly covering the available surfaces. Back to Erica. She walks in, seeing the door wide open, and goes to the library. Finds a bright white version of the same thing Xander saw, in the same place. Walks through.They have a brief interaction that goes nowhere, and the mirrors on one wall shift. First they are just mirrors, then they look like windows, except that they all show different rooms, then they start changing rooms till they land (at diffent times) on The Master Bedroom, where the reflections have gathered and are tossing items (demons) at the skin, which is absorbing them. The items in the room disappear as they do so. Xander decides to summon a "mirror walking stick" to allow him to travel through mirrors. and almost fails every roll (or fails almost every roll, I forget which, but I'll ask later about it in the adept press forum). Then Erica decides to summon some ruby slippers that allow her to summon objects to her. I go with warp and teleport. the shoes end up coming from Satan (players suggestion, some old British monarch had shoes, said to be only 13 in existence and Satan has the 13th pair, well these are them). he offers them for a deal, player slaps him and manages to successfully bind the shoes with that action (and only one die, I gave the player a -1 die for not really playing it out as any kind of ritual, explaining that walking till her feet bled would fit better with the way her rituals had gone so far, but still). Erica then teleports bamf in (4 dice against 11, 2 successes), and then teleports outside (again, and 3 successes). she then goes home.

Xander uses the cane to enter the main room through the mirrors, to see no reflected people, but sees them still at it in the mirrors. notices his book in one and goes in after it. Ends up taking out (single handed) the mirror passer things. Then runs into L who had gotten stuck in here. she recompensed destroying the skin, so he starts to burn it, and has L toss alcohol on it to make it more flammable. This allows for the destruction of the item. But she was using the bed to reach it, and the bed sheets wrap themselves around her feet, taking her down. He decides to try binding it, and using her as a sacrifice to help (again, I'll ask about this in Adept). Destroying the skin took 4 dice from the demon, so it is at 11 dice. Sacrificing her nets him her will dice (highest applicable score) of 5 (yes, she failed in combat against him), on top of which he really played up the ritual among other things gaining an additional 3, totaling to 11. So the roll was 11 to 11 with a guaranteed success, just a question of who is in charge. he wins by a margin of 3. Now we'd been rolling for humanity loss all along, and he lost every roll, was down to one by this time. We get ready to call it a game, but decide to finish out. We roll humanity, and he succeeds. Stays at 1 Humanity. The passers start reappearing and cheer him on as he walks to the mirror, the new master of the house, with his book in hand. If we play further, the book will not be solid on the other side, and he will see that the reflections all have a copy, but one, in this mirror, and may make that a bang, get the right copies and you'll have the whole book (maybe not the same one, but whole ;).


Now, when all of this was done Eric mentioned that he had built and played his character with one specific goal: to create a character who takes no part in the story, and has no value within the adventure. Had I known this, I'd never have allowed him to create a character, but I'm not sure just how I could have known. He had been the most vocal on wanting to try the system out, the one who seemed most enthusiastic about character creation, and continued in that vein up till his character arrived at the mansion. I've layed the events of the two evenings out as best I can remember them, and in as much detail as I could remember, so hopefully that will be enough information. Did I miss something? Was there some point at which I seem to have allowed my own enthusiasm to blind me to his disinterest?  I'd like to say this type of thing was an isolated incident, confined to one player, but I've seen this same attitude (or others very similar) crop up in other games I've run, only involving different players.

I thought I had worked on the Social Contract level to make sure we all were expecting the same thing from the game but when a player creates a character to avoid the game, right down to ignoring his own kicker (aside from allowing it to take him to the site of the adventure).


*Beer and Pretzel Gaming as used here, is in reference to a play style in which the reason the game is played is simply that it is being run. In this mode any game which is pitched to the group will be tried, though rarely (in my experience never) with any buy in from the players. These games in my experience last two to three sessions, with the first being character creation. This is not meant as a derogatory term, but rather a simple way to describe the play style of those referenced here. Simply put, we would achieve as much if we were drinking beer and eating pretzels and just BSing the night away (though none of those referenced here would consider actually taking this play-style to that end).

**Story Games as used here is in reference to a play-style in which the reason the game is being played is to create a story. Not just a story that other gamers would get, but an act of collective story creation, with each player as a co-author in one an others story, where the point of each session is to push some portion of these stories forward, and any session in which this doesn't happen falls flat at best.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony


A) I would be careful with labels like "beer & pretzels". They tend to conflate and distort things. Just saying "The player doesn't value the creative aspect a lot" should be more helpful.

B) How do you tell that the player has no interest? You let them set the pace. If you slowed down moving players around your spooky fun house and spent more time asking "What do you do now?", the answer you would probably get from Eric would be "Not a whole lot." Which would both clue you in and also make the game suck. Which is what Sorcerer is supposed to do, make the game suck when the players enter the game with no intention of being collaborators.

Here's a metaphor: Sorcerer was meant to be like players forming a band. What happens when someone who's in the band goes: "Uh, I'm not really into the whole music thing, what about if I just hold the guitar and dance around a little while you sing?" That band would probably be a bit terrible.

There is another, more common roleplaying school that is like someone got this idea of "Hey, you guys all want to be in a band but you have no interest in music. How about you all just dance around and lipsync while I play this tape. The tape has lyrics about goblins on it and a neat cover."

Eric sounds like he's mostly interested in the latter. Sorcerer doesn't do a very good job of the latter. I would not recommend playing it with people who are shooting for the latter.


I think one problem is using the scenario in the book. 

Sorcerer requires commitment.  There's a process involved in creating characters, filling out the back of the character sheet, brainstorming and then completing the "One Pager" and formulating kickers.  That process would immediately clue you in to who is interested in participating and who is along for the ride.

Then you make a scenario tailored specifically to those kickers, those NPCs, those issues and themes...because thats what your players were excited about.

The problem with the scenario in the book, is it skips all that and asks players to do no more than come up with a reason why theylll go to that house. 

I ran into the exact same issues when I tried running that scenario years ago.  I bet it works fine when enthusiastic sorcerer players run it...but as an introduction to Sorcerer its pretty weak.

Joel P. Shempert

Hey, Dragon master.

Sirogit and Ralph are speaking wisdom. I don't think I can really elaborate much on that.

I'm curious, though, on a different vector (or perhaps the same?): Did Aerik articulate anything about why he entered the game with such a goal? I'm puzzled. Usually when I see behavior like this, it almost looks unconscious, and it's certainly never articulated. So I'm fascinated that Aerik would have this explicit goal and say so. Was he trying to 'test the game by breaking it" or something? I can understand, in a group that just kinda plays, y'know, whatever is being played, if he didn't really want to play the game, then the properly passive-aggressive response is to erect an engagement-proof bubble. But you say he was enthusiastic to try the game. Yet he deliberately avoided playing it.

I can't reconcile those two statements. Any insight?

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


This is maybe silly, but when Eric named is character Ericka, this dint ring some alarm bells?

It would have been interesting to see how Eric would have played if you dint use the pre-made scenario.

The Dragon Master

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this. There has been a lot going on around here. I have thought more about the game and think that one issue I ran into was a disconnect between sorcery and humanity. Our definition for demons, and sorcery work well enough together, but not so much with the definition of humanity. That is something that I'll have to keep in mind if I run this again. I've also been asked by the host to run a campaign in the system, but have told him and the others that I'd expect each of them to read the book before I'd start running another one.

Sirogit: A) Point taken.
         B) The answer I got from both of my players amounted to "not much" (part of why I tried to keep things moving). I'll have to make sure to talk with everyone prior to the next game (assuming there is one) to make sure that everyone understands the game and is on the same page.

Valamir: I'd tend to agree on that. When I was working through the first session of what ended up being a two session game of the one-shot I found myself having to explain to the players that "yes we are creating the kickers to get your character to this location right now, but that's not how the game is played", and it just didn't quite sit right with me.

Joel: This week after our DnD game I asked him about that. He said that is what he does in all one-shots. His words were something to the effect of: "I don't want to put a lot of effort into developing a character for one-shots so I make a character that doesn't work with the scenario" (though to my mind that requires more effort...).

Evlyn: Based on other character concepts that I've seen players use, not really.  It was something of a hectic night, and I was trying to give the players what information for the game that I could, while flipping through the book trying to find bookmarked pages that I had felt had important information for the players (never found half of them till the following week during play).

And I've been asked by the host, as well as the other people in the group, to run an actual campaign in the system now. I've told them that I will require them each to read the book before I run it, I'm also offering to pay for half the cost of the core book if they want to buy it (a standing offer that no one in my other gaming group has taken me up on).
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony