[Sorcerer] individualism, the 1980s and modern day ninja

Started by Tveir, July 03, 2009, 08:02:19 AM

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Fairly casual roleplayer who just recently got my hands on Sorcerer and loved what I saw.

Was thinking of running something inspired by japanese historical fiction (like the work of Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima of Lone Wolf and Cub fame, Shirato's Kamui Gaiden or Eiji Yoshikawa's "Musashi", the novel), 1980s movies and videogames (the original Ninja Gaiden in particular), and perhaps a hint of the L5R setting (mostly the shosuro tejina and the lying darkness).

I'm defining humanity as one's sense of self, and thus contact with spirits (ie demons) is achieved by trancending or eliminating self.
Humanity is lost not necessarily by overstepping the ethical standards of your world, but rather the personal beliefs of your character,
or, to some degree, any act of mass-conformity or even highly ritualized, structured ways of living (since you end up doing it without thinking, like a machine).
And consequently humanity is kept/gained through strong (but not absolute) conviction, active (preferably creative) hobbies,
interpersonal relationships and a certain amount of indulgence (as opposed to addiction).
The humanity zero type of person is one of no beliefs, no morals, no interests, resistance to change and a highly structured life - silent and expressionless.
They can be manipulated, by their demons in particular, but they cannot make active choices, only obey, react or follow habit.

Includes concepts like arranged inbreeding (to keep the sorcerous gift, believed to be genetic, alive),
grass (in the sense of ninja planted to act as normal people for generations, ready to be used as potential spies for the clan),
ancient tradition, once motivated primarily by loyalty and war, now mostly out of the very conservatism which cause them to lose their humanity
and the Hollywood vision of America in the 1980s.

The theme is something along the lines of birthright and duty, driven by interpersonal tensions.
Still, despite some focus on blood and clan, it doesn't really seem to be turning into a family drama so much as the subplot of the family drama providing a framework for the larger plot, if there is such a thing.
Many of the characters have grown up in a strangely archaic subculture - ancient hierarchial structures, gempuku ceremonies, strict training for purposes of upholding an increasingly abstract "function"

I did quick sketches of a bunch of the characters we thought up, which will mayhaps serve as character portraits at some point:

I'm especially looking forward to portraying the american grass NPC
the son of a man who moved to the US after the second world war and married a white woman, taking her name.
He believes he is a ninja, nurtures the secret like it implied demigodhood, with all the arrogance that follows,
but has little of the training, few of the responsibilities and none of the sorcerous gifts associated with the clan he's supposed to serve.
Oh, and he's a bit of a douchebag.

I will admit that I do not remember why we decided to name the third kid of the Tsuruga family "third son" yet went with "first son" for the fourth,
but beyond that, any questions, thoughts or suggestions?

Ron Edwards

That diagram looks exactly like the stuff I scribble when preparing for Sorcerer, except your illustrations demonstrate talent and skill. I love that picture because it shows not only the great pictures (and often I like sketches and dashed-off impressions better than fully rendered portraits), but also the relevant groupings and associations.

I like the the way that your Humanity definition both addresses underlying concepts of the society and puts tension upon individuals.

I get the impression that you've already moved into actually preparing for play. Are any of the characters in the sketch player-characters?

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards


Summer's messing up everyone's schedules, so it looks like I may be trial running the system with just my brother for now.

If something opens up and we end up getting more players, we could easily work them into the game, but at the very least Tsuruga Ken will be a PC.
He's a bit over 18 years old, fairly tall, silently temperamental and fond of basketball. Does not particularly like the duties associated with being the eldest, but he does not let it show.

His 16 year old brother, Takezo (fairly serious type), is fiercely jealous of him, but not so much of his skill, talent or achievements as the expectations their parents have of him.
Where Ken sees duty as a cross to bear, Takezo sees a trophy.
Third son Saburo is a trickster, as his Joker-like smile might imply, and Ichiro, by virtue of being the youngest and thus rebelling against the trend, the calmest and bookiest of the four.
Moriashi Kaze - the eldest of a smaller, less influential clan - is likely Ken's closest friend. The friendship originally arranged for diplomatic purposes, they bonded over the similarity of their positions.
Kaze is a sneaky bastard and a bit of a predator, under a handsome and often serene surface. Ken is aware of this, perhaps more than anyone else.

At 17 Ken left for one year as an exchange student to the Americas, partially to escape and forget, if only for a time.
While there he established contact with the slightly older (about 23) grass Greg, the halfblood who studies law and thinks he's a ninja.
He also picked up the habit of reversing his name while speaking english (Ken Tsuruga) and entered into a (diceroll) sexual relationship with Nancy,
which ended as his year was over and he returned to Japan to get married (to cousin Akemi) and mentally prepare for his role as head of the clan.

At which point his father is murdered, and it looks political.

Duty demands, as Takezo insists on reminding him, that he stays put, proceeds with the marriage, runs the family curiosity shop cover.
The head of the clan cannot afford to be reckless, cannot afford any shortsighted vendettas.
Ken has long since stopped listening to his brother.

Thanks for the threads. There's certainly similarity, the second moreso than the first.
I'm consciously trying to avoid much of the american ninja romance of the eighties, rather aiming for american America romance of the same decade and, as mentioned, japanese historical fiction.
In fact the decade was chosen more for its relative middle ground between the second world war and modern times, the end of the cold war and the possibilites of a highly characteristic soundtrack.
But speaking of the threads - the mastery of craft vs. connection to friends and community conflict reminds me of Jason Rohrer's Gravitation.

Also nice to hear you like my sketches. Might make a habit of sharing related doodles when posting about sessions planned or played.
I will most likely round up a larger group for some Sorcerer and Sword in more autumnish times this year,
applying whatever I learn from this.