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Author Topic: Mental powers (reply to Trevis' inquiry)  (Read 3079 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: January 16, 2009, 09:29:51 AM »

Hi Trevis,

I apologize for the horrendous delay in getting back to you about this.

Mind-control

I made some points a while ago that weren't very popular (or necessarily understood) judging by the responses, but I still stand by my basic points. Puppeteer, total mind-control isn't in Sorcerer because I don't see it in any of its sources, nor do I see any point to including it.

In the sources for Sorcerer, puppet-control is restricted to furniture-characters. In The People of the Black Circle, Khemsa gratuitiously controls a guardsman to let him and his girlfriend out of a city, then tells him to kill himself, and he does. So why doesn't he do it to Conan when they first meet and fight? Because Conan isn't furniture. This is narrative logic, not "he can do it so he can" logic. It's the same reason Cyclops doesn't cut people in half with his eyebeams which can slice apart steel girders - with no mention ever of any modulation or intention of his in making that distinction. The eyebeams simply don't work that way in the story, period.

I do cede that sometimes such control can play a part to accentuate or dramatize pre-existing internal conflict of some kind. When that happens, it is always limited to a brief period in the story, which is more about how the character changes afterwards due to the experience.

In gaming, pure and total puppet-control, is deeply intertwined with control issues endemic to role-playing since its inception, and which by the mid-1990s had become a quagmire. I coped with it throughout my extensive history with Champions, to the extent that by 1990, I refused to permit the power in the game at all for any character, PC or NPC, and I was not surprised to watch players of Vampire tie themselves into knots with whatever-it-was-called in that game, over and over.

More general mind-control, characterized by struggles between commander and commanded, is much more common and I have no special beef with it save for its limited story-scope. It exists in fiction for the same reason that doors exist in tournament-D&D dungeons: for heroes to break. This is found easily in Sorcerer and developed in detail in Chapter 2 in The Sorcerer's Soul.

Mind-reading

I ruled out mind-reading in the core book because it is so ill-defined in gaming. What is it? What's it for? What's it do? None of these things worked out well in my experience of play. When I looked at the literature and film, I either saw that it totally takes over as the actual subject of the story, not itself a bad thing (e.g. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg) but not about demon/morality either; or it gets limited far beyond its usual definitions in role-playing rules at the time.

A big point in Sorcerer is that character action is untrammeled. You may have only one die, but unless the action is literally absurd, then you can still try. Toward that end, all attitude, thought, intent, characterization, and perception prior to the moment of action is not deterministic. No one knows what he himself will do, let alone anyone else. Mind-reading in role-playing rules of the time very clearly crosses that line.

Now, all that said, I actually don't mind the concept of using telepathy as a walkie-talkie or signalling device, as in the John Carter of Mars books - although it's instructive to notice that Burroughs made sure to close off Carter's mind, do not pass Go, from any vulnerability to it, and he often simply ignored the capability in many stories (similar to how he forgot the floating platforms when he wanted a thoat chase).

Nor would various permutations of scanning or psychic awareness be out of line insofar as they operated little differently from typical sensory functions - saying "my psychic sense tells me he's about to attack," in narrative terms, is often exactly the same as invoking "warrior training" or "barbarian senses," or for that matter, "a flicker in the corner of my vision."

I hope the logic is clear: mind reading is basically utility along the lines of technology, or as plain Color, is no big deal. It's the violation of character action/intent that I object to in the context of playing Sorcerer.

Best, Ron
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John Adams
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2009, 07:51:39 AM »

Ron, could you expand on this point to include non-magical forms of coercion, persuasion and the like, especially between PC's?

I was searching and pulled up this ...

Ooh, crap. I screwed up in our last Sorcerer game; when Jake's character was trying to get a name out of his new (possibly crazy) housemate--Seth's character--before he took off to get the rent money, I told them to roll Will vs. Will. Jake won with three victories, and Seth said "that's fine, I'm still leaving without telling him my name." I told them that Jake's PC would then have a +3 bonus for further interaction with Seth, representing Seth's guy seeming really shifty and flaky and failing to inspire confidence.

Your reply dealt with handling the roll-over and said nothing about the broader Technique, that the player had full authority to say "screw your 3 victories, my PC is doing exactly what *I* want him to do." If that's true, why even pick up the dice? If PC/PC social conflicts are not definitively settled by the dice, how should a group handle them? What if 2 players are deadlocked on opposite sides of an issue in the fiction?

As a contrast, if the conflict was physical it would be clear cut: "I grab him before he reaches the door, throw him on the floor and sit on him." Well, if you get victories I am sat apon. In a way this seems no different than "if I win you agree to leave town."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2009, 10:21:01 AM »

Hi John,

Let's review the basic rule: if Adam says to Belvedere, "Sit down!", and Belvedere doesn't want to, then there has to be a dice roll. For purposes of the example, let's say Adam is an NPC and Belvedere is a player-character.

The dice are rolled, and Belvedere loses, to the tune of three victories for Adam. You're the player. Belvedere is your character. What can you do?

1. You can sit down.

2. You can do anything else, but if dice are involved in the "anything else," then you have a three-dice penalty.

I'm not sure whether you knew that. If you didn't, then I think I answered your question about why bother to roll at all. If you did, then help me understand your question.

Best, Ron
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John Adams
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2009, 01:02:29 PM »

Here's the AP for example:

So last night was my first full session ever playing Sorcerer. I'm the GM, Andy and Paul's Kickers are as follows.

Paul's character is an archeologist who uncovers The MacGuffin: an old book of rituals for a secret society of which Andy's PC is a high ranking member. This book has been missing for 50 years. Andy's demon has been keeping tabs on Paul's PC and sees him dig up the book. It reports to Andy's PC. Instant conflict, worked great.

So now Andy's PC wants the book and Paul's PC is threatening to publish the Society's secrets. We have 15 minutes of great back and forth dialog, ending in a deadlock. These two players just might stare each other down till Judgment Day.

So my questions were:

1) How do we break this deadlock?
2) How do we definitively settle verbal disputes between PCs?

When I consider the implications of this system, I see #2 is misguided. As in real life, these conflicts are never definitively settled. All we have are momentary victories which could change at any time.

Andy could rack up victories saying "give me the book", but Paul could still take the book and walk away and the penalties vanish because there's no roll. So Andy has a strong incentive to force a roll, and the only way he can do that and really change the Situation is to escalate and get physical. So "give me the book" becomes "I take the book" and now the rollover dice apply. Knowing this, Paul has a big incentive to give in before things get physical. Hence, no deadlock. This is fucking brilliant.

Do I have this straight?


Followup questions: It doesn't matter in your example who is the PC and who is the NPC right? Any combination would be the same. Exception: If the NPC is a demon it MUST follow the command unless it wins a Will vs Will roll. Does that only apply to commands from the demon's master or any sorcerer/demon interaction? My understanding is that if the Master gives a command and the demon loses it must obey, if it's not the demon's master the demon can disobey with rollover penalties just like any NPC.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2009, 05:46:49 PM »

YES.

The way out of what seems like deadlock (and would be in other systems) is always to say, "Fine, what do you do?" Works like a charm in Sorcerer.

As a secondary but possibly related topic, if characters are ever in a standoff, both willing to do X if the other one moves (X can be different for each), then simply have everyone roll for his or her stated action and proceed as normal. The idea is that if no one's backing down, something will trigger the showdown.

Best, Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2009, 05:56:16 PM »

Whoops, I missed the followup.

Quote
It doesn't matter in your example who is the PC and who is the NPC right? Any combination would be the same.

That's correct.

Quote
Exception: If the NPC is a demon it MUST follow the command unless it wins a Will vs Will roll.

Umm ... in practice, yes. Technically the demon can be played as any NPC and disobey, but it would have significant consequences for the Binding strength, and certainly is not an action a demon might do out of sheer cussedness. It'd be a major step on that road to rebellion described in Chapter 5 in the core book.

So, in practice, play demons to obey such commands even in surprising situations (e.g. Bob tells Joe's demon to stop attacking him, i.e. Bob), and save the disobedience for really really important master-demon relationship calls.

Quote
Does that only apply to commands from the demon's master or any sorcerer/demon interaction?

Any, as I implied above. Yes, another sorcerer is a big risk to a sorcerer ... because the second sorcerer's demons automatically consider the new sorcerer to be a potential authority figure. (This ties directly into the rules for recognizing Telltales, sorcerer-sorcerer, demon-sorcerer, sorcerer-demon. Christopher, I hope you're reading this.)

Quote
My understanding is that if the Master gives a command and the demon loses it must obey, if it's not the demon's master the demon can disobey with rollover penalties just like any NPC.

That's too binary. The "can disobey" applies to all demons at all times. But as I wrote above, when GMing, it's best merely to forget that except for extraordinary situations. So the opposite actually applies in practice: any sorcerer may command any demon to do anything, at any time.

Binding means nothing except as a modifier, in which case who the binder is does matter. If Bob has Bound his demon at a strength of 3 (doesn't matter which way it went), then when Sam tells Bob's demon to kiss his (Sam's) ass, and this is clearly expressly not what Bob and his demon are up to doing at the moment, then the demon gets +3 dice to resist. On the other hand, if Bob tells his own demon to kiss his (Bob's) ass, then the demon either has -3 or +3 to the Will score to resist, depending on which way the Binding went.

Best, Ron

P.S. Editing this in: I thought of another way to put it. When we talk about whether the demon will exercise the "screw your order, I take the penalty" option against a command, then it's very likely to occur against a master it's unhappy with - but no one else, regardless of who it is, as long as it's a sorcerer, and what the command might be.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2009, 05:58:13 PM by Ron Edwards » Logged
Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2009, 05:17:53 AM »

Great thread, answers some questions I had too.
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Regards,
Christoph
Trevis Martin
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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2009, 05:33:29 PM »

Just wanted to acknowledge the thread.  Thanks Ron, that clears it up for me.
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