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Author Topic: Sorcerer and Premise...  (Read 2090 times)
The Dragon Master
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« on: April 20, 2009, 10:25:11 PM »

After stumbling through creating a setting for a quick one-shot for a new member of our group, and while trying to work out a general setting idea for a mini-campaign for my gaming group it hit me. I've been trying to "brute-force" my way through the process (starting with definitions for demons or sorcery), but where I really should be starting is Premise. Once I have that determined, Humanity should be fairly obvious, and of course Sorcery and Demons would follow logically from that.

Problem is that I can't for the life of me think of a premise I'd really get excited about. I guess this is a question of method. How do you come up with a premise for your sorcerer game?
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The names Tony
jburneko
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2009, 12:43:18 AM »

I start with the Look and Feel of Demons and Sorcery.  I dream up images that excite me and then ask myself WHY those images excite me.  For example, I'm a fan of the old D&D setting Ravenloft.  One day I was flipping through some Ravenloft books and thought, man, I could totally do this wither Sorcerer.  I was imagining creepy portrait demons, and bleeding gem stones, and giant spiders, and blood soaked swords and people standing on turrets laughing while lightening strikes in the background.  Catholic imagery like stained glass windows, angles and over wrought cemeteries spoke to me as  well.I went and red some of the original 18th Century Gothics like Castle of Otronto, The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho.  I saw thematic parallels in Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories as well as Elric and Kane's sagas.

For the longest time I used to call Humanity in the setting Emotional Sanity because it seemed to me that's what was going on.  Passions in those stories are raging and the bad guys end up divorcing their wives, imprisoning their lovers and murdering their families all for relatively understandable feelings.  But I never quite got the same spark in other people when I said that.  So I kept trying to reword it and reword it and reword it.  And finally, I found it.  Humanity is LOVE.  Not just romantic love, but love for faith, love for family, love for country or duty.  This stuff is part of the Romantics Era for a reason.  It's about Love.

From there the rest flowed like water.

Humanity is Love!  You gain Humanity when you strengthen bonds between yourself and others.  You lose Humanity when you weaken or break those same bonds.  At zero Humanity you can not Love, only covet.

Sorcerers are people with strong emotional ties to lovers, family, friends, country, faith, etc.

Demons are entities of and symbol of the sorcerer's passions.  A succubus lover, a patriarch's portrait, a biblical plague, your dead mentor's eye, the soul of a fallen comrade in the body of another.  And so forth.

Lore is based on acts of Passion, Obsession and Devotion.

So there you go.  Close your eyes.  What does Sorcery look like?  What kinds of demons are there?  What do the Sorcerers want?

Now.... what is that about to you?

Jesse
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rabindranath72
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Posts: 26


« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2009, 01:14:14 AM »

That's a fairly good explanation/definition of Love. On a related note, my Hyborian Age game which I am running with Pendragon rules includes Love as one of the passions, and something which can be invoked to "resist" sorcerous effects.
I took inspiration from this paragraph of Howard's People of the Black Circle:

Quote
Yasmina understood this better than did Conan. And she dimly understood why Khemsa could withstand the concentrated impact of those four hellish wills which might have blasted into atoms the very rock on which he stood. The reason was the girl that he clutched with the strength of his despair. She was like an anchor to his staggering soul, battered by the waves of those psychic emanations. His weakness was now his strength. His love for the girl, violent and evil though it might be, was yet a tie that bound him to the rest of humanity, providing an earthly leverage for his will, a chain that his inhuman enemies could not break; at least not break through Khemsa.
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greyorm
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My name is Raven.


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« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2009, 01:56:25 AM »

Can I ask what's wrong with the basic Premise of "What would you do for power?"

Also, are you perhaps trying too hard?

I've only run two sessions of Sorcerer for our group so far, and before this game, I never actually defined the premise or humanity. I know, bad me, right? But when I look at what we developed for play, I'm finding we already have that stuff: we had decided on Enochian demons and I had thought about having Humanity be linked to sanity.

Enochian magic is "look at me summoning angels into my head to take over my body and talk through me" kind of stuff (and not "nice" angels full of light and fluffy-poo feathers, we're talking real traditional angels with fiery swords and sixteen eyes and kicked up sex-drives they aren't supposed to use with mortals), and hidden cosmic secrets in lost or heretical books of the Bible.

One of the players even has a demon that is demanding he build a mind-twisting Escher staircase out of wood and mirrors. What for? He doesn't know. It was throwaway color for the player and it hasn't come up yet, but it will.

And just taking the stuff written, I'm trying to develop conflicts that mean something to them, that take things off their character sheet and background and explode them. A mysteriously returning mentor, the loss of their jobs, potential jail time, betrayal by their coven, betrayal by their demons, terrible choices between that stuff (esp. revenge) and worse stuff (end-of-the-world apocalypse-type stuff), and death everywhere.

We haven't gotten there yet, but it looks like it is coming: what do you risk everything for? Save yourself, let the world rot? Is the world WORTH saving?

Those kinds of things. But for the moment, we're just playing, having a good time, and I'm not worrying about it. The two players are excited about the game, and there's a third player interested in joining, so clearly I'm doing something right in being somewhat lackadaisical over precise definitions and not worrying about it too much. Now, I don't know if that will work for you, and I'm not sure how this experiment will end.

But it does lead to me to wonder: are you trying too hard? Overthinking the whole thing? (I know I'm guilty of doing that, and I'm enjoying NOT thinking about it this time.)
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
angelfromanotherpin
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2009, 05:13:38 AM »

In my experience, if you have a setting that is cool and engaging, the system will take care of the Premise.  Just pay attention and you'll see it emerge, and then you can play with it.

So don't worry about any of the semiotics stuff too much.  Focus on the cool stuff that can happen in the game and at the table.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2009, 06:18:08 AM »

Hi Tony,

I think it's clear that some folks work better with a verbal articulation right at the start, and others work better with a 'feel it out and see' approach. Unfortunately I do well with either, so I can't really recommend one way as the right one.

I do know that if you, personally, cannot give an example of what constitutes a meatily-necessary Humanity Check during play, then you're not ready. Doing so doesn't mean that you know, fully, why it would be a good example. Nor does this one example have to nail down all conceptual corners of any Checks to come. All that matters is that you can do it this once.

Here are a couple of threads that show Christopher Kubasik working his way through this very issue:
Sorcerer Doesn't Scare Me. What's Wrong with Me? represents the more emotional approach (don't get distracted by the outside-reaction maunderings that were imposed on the later parts of the thread)
So, I'm Flying a Spaceship..., later, is more verbal (don't get distracted by the many interesting issues in this thread; the part about Premise in the first few posts is its own thing)

Best, Ron

P.S. I made up the adverb "meatily" for this post. I rather like it.
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2009, 11:05:52 AM »

I may well be over thinking the issue, problem is that I can't come up with any particular setting that I really get excited about. No books or movies I've dealt with lately have really sparked the fire for me, and I've just mentally been in the doldrums. Right now I'm at work and don't have the time/concentration to devote to those threads, though I'll check them out when I get home. 

I did just have an idea for a game though, how does this sound:

I suppose I could do a more sci-fi game, premise being "technological advance is worth any price". In this game Demons would be computer programs, and other forms of high-technology. Lore would be programing languages (and other such knowledge). Sorcery would be programming and building bleeding edge technology. Not sure how you'd define Humanity, though isolation from others, and lack of social contact would likely be causes for Humanity loss.
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2009, 11:35:33 AM »

Hi Tony,

One thing I've discovered over the years is that the act of creativity is... weird.  It's almost impossible to prompt it in a certain way.  As Ron points out, some people are triggered by verbal articulation, others by look and feel.  Like Ron, I move back and forth between the two of them.  In other words, sometimes I'll see an image that "clicks" with me very strongly, and I'll have to backtrack and map out the words for Lore or Humanity.  Other times I'll know exactly what I want conceptually for the Demons, and then have to figure out what the color will be to make that all work.

I can only offer this as the one dependable like of attack: Your actual, emotional passion for something.  The first thing, always, is find something that genuinely excites you.

It seems to me that you are approaching this task in a fairly intellectual fashion.  If this is the case, I understand this impulse!  You want to get going on this endeavor and you want to "fill in the blanks" so you can get on with it. I used to approach even my writing this way.  But the truth is one can only pull this stuff off if one is first genuinely passionate about the concepts/color/whatever. 

So, really the first question is: What aspect of life do you really care about?  What questions?

When you become impassioned about something in the news or in daily life, what is it?  Or, even better, where do you get confused?  At one points do you get confused about how to behave or which situations would you NOT know which way you'd act if a crisis hit?  What do you spend your time thinking about in actual life?  What subjects of ethics or science or biology or art do you read about?

None of this is specious or airy-fairy.  I was pitching a project to a producer at Sony BMG records yesterday, and half-way through the meeting he said, "I want to thank you for being so passionate about this project.  For bringing me a project that's something you care about."

Passion and actual concern is the difference between work that actual matters -- whether on TV or in a roleplaying game.  Since Sorcerer is actually built to produce story it's vital it taps issues and subjects that the players really, genuinely care about. 

So, I'll repeat the questions:

What aspect of life do you really care about?  What questions?

The answers might be in the form of images or words or situations or whatever.  But really sitting in those questions, I have found, is where the best play comes from.

Oh, and as an exercise I'd step away from the "premise" for a while.  When you start answering those questions, just start thinking in terms of Humanity or Demons or Lore.  As Ron suggests, especially with Humanity, when you start seeing those moments that's when you know you're on track. 

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rabindranath72
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Posts: 26


« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2009, 03:25:25 AM »

I may well be over thinking the issue, problem is that I can't come up with any particular setting that I really get excited about. No books or movies I've dealt with lately have really sparked the fire for me, and I've just mentally been in the doldrums. Right now I'm at work and don't have the time/concentration to devote to those threads, though I'll check them out when I get home. 

I did just have an idea for a game though, how does this sound:

I suppose I could do a more sci-fi game, premise being "technological advance is worth any price". In this game Demons would be computer programs, and other forms of high-technology. Lore would be programing languages (and other such knowledge). Sorcery would be programming and building bleeding edge technology. Not sure how you'd define Humanity, though isolation from others, and lack of social contact would likely be causes for Humanity loss.

You might go for a Humanity definition as found in the old Cyberpunk 2020 game. Therein, getting too many cybernetics expansions reduced the empathy and, well, humanity of the characters, leading to madness and cyberpsycosis. It would work very well with Sorcerer.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2009, 06:46:04 AM »

Those rules in Cyberpunk (the original, not 2020) were actually the direct and literal inspiration for the Sorcerer mechanic. The first draft version of Sorcerer in 1990 or so used the old Interlock system, the R. Talsorian term for those rules.*

However, I did tweak them very hard in a specific way: unlike those rules and their essentially-identical replication in Vampire, specific values of Humanity above 0 do not dictate specific ranges or modes of behavior in Sorcerer. A character may have Humanity 1 or Humanity 10,** or anything in between, and at any value he or she is still capable of the full range of moral or immoral actions.

Best, Ron

* As a point of historical interest for those who don't know, this initial version (which never saw play nor developed very far as such) was pulp fantasy. A fair amount of its prose and concepts found their way into Sorcerer & Sword later.
** This value does not imply a maximum; I'm merely picking a very big number.
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rabindranath72
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Posts: 26


« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2009, 06:52:31 AM »

Those rules in Cyberpunk (the original, not 2020) were actually the direct and literal inspiration for the Sorcerer mechanic. The first draft version of Sorcerer in 1990 or so used the old Interlock system, the R. Talsorian term for those rules.*

However, I did tweak them very hard in a specific way: unlike those rules and their essentially-identical replication in Vampire, specific values of Humanity above 0 do not dictate specific ranges or modes of behavior in Sorcerer. A character may have Humanity 1 or Humanity 10,** or anything in between, and at any value he or she is still capable of the full range of moral or immoral actions.

Best, Ron

* As a point of historical interest for those who don't know, this initial version (which never saw play nor developed very far as such) was pulp fantasy. A fair amount of its prose and concepts found their way into Sorcerer & Sword later.
** This value does not imply a maximum; I'm merely picking a very big number.
Interesting historical note! I am not familiar with Cyberpunk versions prior to 2020, though.

I guess with the Humanity mechanics as explained in Sorcerer's Soul, one would fall over "the edge of sanity" only at 0; any values larger than 0 would imply a fully functional (though worried!) character/player.
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rabindranath72
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Posts: 26


« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2009, 02:15:05 AM »

Just a note to say that I too got the Charnel Gods pdf without problems! Wish it would be sold in-print...
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rabindranath72
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Posts: 26


« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2009, 02:16:35 AM »

Just a note to say that I too got the Charnel Gods pdf without problems! Wish it would be sold in-print...
Sorry wrong thread :(
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