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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] British Empire Steam Punk setting  (Read 8255 times)
The Magus
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Posts: 47


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« on: August 24, 2009, 12:54:49 PM »

I recently GMed a game of Sorcerer and had mixed feelings about the results although the more I think about it the more satisfied I feel.

There were three characters involved:
Quentin, a minor member of the aristocracy. Many years ago friend of his had died summoning a Demon.
Jarvis, a naturally gifted engineer whom had created his own Demon. He was from a poor working class background but his natural talent meant he was propelled to greater engineering feats.
Daniel, a young ambitious journalist keen to hide his Catholic past.  Daniel was a new character.

Initially we focused on the bind for Daniel's Demon. The Demon was his reflection in a mirror and a conversation ensued. The player had provided me with a Demon sheet.  The Demons need was betrayal. As a GM I was unsure how to deal with this. Role-playing the scene was immensely satisfying but I was unsure whether the need was too vague. I tried clarifying the need in the role of the Demon. I suggested it would be wonderfully sweet to betray his parents. However, we did not actually clarifying what the betrayal was any further and in some senses any situation could be viewed as betraying one set of people over another.

The first scene involved Daniel receiving a letter from a woman sent to his newspaper office. The letter alleged that the woman's brother was incarcerated in an asylum after his dealings with members of a group called The Hadean Order. Both Quentin and Jarvis had been coerced into working for this organisation and their actions in the last session had led to this man becoming traumatised.

Daniel was manipulated into working for The Hadean Order as his editor promised him he could go far by publishing the right sort of stories. In my relationship map the leader of the order had a relationship with the editor of the paper.

The players had chosen a scenario where there had been a mine collapse and shadowy figures had been seen around the area prior to this event. As a GM I felt I set up a number of threads that the players could exploit in whatever way they chose. The first was the involvement of workers in a crisis which Jarvis would be naturally concerned about, as he was a member of the British Revolutionary Workers Party. I also contrived that local party stewards were not too concerned about the welfare of the trapped miners as their deaths might allow them the opportunity to take over the mine. Daniel was naturally interested as a journalist and his editor briefed him that whatever story it should be pinned on the Reds or the Catholics.

We then had a lengthy scene in the mine. This seemed to work very well and provided a good sense of tension. I contrived an explosion once they had entered. I felt I was setting up a lot of threads and red herrings for the players to latch onto in whatever way they chose to interpret.

The final scene involved a meeting up with The Hadean Order again.  Here as a GM is where I felt quite confused. I'd given the players all the threads to make of what they wanted to and would have been satisfied with however they wanted to resolve the scenario. The leader of the Order said that he had contrived the explosion just to let them know who was in charge. However, as they had secured the mine for him bygines were to be bygones and that they would be rewarded for their efforts. At this Quentin said that he had had enough. He had been exploited by the The Hadean Order for over 20 years and chose to attack the leader. Jarvis then went to protect the leader as he had kidnapped his daughter. Daniel did not actively participate in the fight although his Demon did. He he blocked Jarvis' attempts.

I felt quite shocked as I had put quite a bit of effort into constructing a relationship map around the hadean order. The players managed to wipe out the leadership although the game finished with the room being stormed by troops and their capture.

I admired Quentin for refusing to take any more exploitation from the order but I was shocked that  he knew Jarvice's daughter was still captive. Looking back on the situation I feel I did not know enough about the characters. It was as if their natures were revealed there rather than my having a sense of them previously. I don't think I pressed any of the players hard enough on how far their characters would go when we generated them.

The setting we could created was fantastic, reminiscent of the comic books 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' and 'Nemesis the Warlock.'  Two of the players put in a tremendous amount of work in some ways making my life as a GM very easy.  The third player was new to the setting but he too was taken with it.

I think one or two of the scenes absolutely sizzled for me.  When Daniel bound his first demon he was looking in a mirror with a great sense of frustration and his reflection started to talk back to him. The scene in the mine was also very good the players participating really well with their characters interacting with the NPC's and each other to crank up the tension.

I'm not sure whether we're rushing the process of character generation in Sorcerer. I appreciate that some of who or what the character use is generated in gameplay but the question that underpins the game “How far will you go to get what you want?” was a little unclear for me.

I'm not sure about what other members of my group think but I wonder whether we should spend an entire session purely on character generation and character back story rather than such an elaborate setting. Also I wonder if something in the system is a little lacking for my tastes. I've looked at a few other independent RPG's and some of them seemed to provide more in terms of personality within character generation. The example that comes to mind is Burning Wheel where a character's beliefs are stated explicitly. I wonder a little about homebrewing the sorcerer rules to give more in terms of character. Generation.

I posted another thread that asks a hypothetical question about Luke Skywalker's confrontation with Darth Vader in 'The Empire Strikes Back'. This question was a poor attempt on my part to understand a little more about character motivation and its interaction with the GM. In some senses I feel a degree of unpredictability and mystery is needed in the games I play. The players at times are happy for me to dictate a scene provided it reveals a solution to the mystery all the creation of a further mystery. But I wonder if I'm actually looking for some kind of predictability?  Or unpredictability within certain predictable boundaries.

I was wondering about all three characters playing in the example described above. How far would Jarvis go to protect his daughter? Would he sacrifice all his beliefs in the Workers' Revolution for her safety? Would Daniel go as far as to betray his parents in order to further his career as a journalist? What would he do to hide his Catholic past? How far would Quentin go to maintain his status as a landed gentleman? I feel at the end of the session I got my answer regarding Quentin. However, he did this at the expense of Jarvis's daughter which I feel truly shocked by.

Maybe that's what Sorcerer is all about.

As players and GM I feel we did too much non-sceneing/in-betweening. I also think we should have had more individual scenes for a character, with the other two players acting as NPC's or throwing suggestions in.  Also we should have had more discrete scenes.

I was also keen to find out how other players construct bang lists. I created a list of bangs based on the relationship map But I felt the ground shifted too much beneath my feet. I then tried to crank up inter character tension and tensions between what the characters held dear and what I believed to be their darker secrets.

Any feedback on this is most welcome.
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Noclue
Member

Posts: 351


« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2009, 10:23:44 PM »

I recently GMed a game of Sorcerer and had mixed feelings about the results although the more I think about it the more satisfied I feel.
Interesting. I'm curious why you're feeling more satisfied and if the players share the same emotions about the experience.

Quote
Initially we focused on the bind for Daniel's Demon. The Demon was his reflection in a mirror and a conversation ensued. The player had provided me with a Demon sheet.  The Demons need was betrayal. As a GM I was unsure how to deal with this. Role-playing the scene was immensely satisfying but I was unsure whether the need was too vague.

I think player and GM are supposed to work together on the starting demon sheet and then the GM gets to alter it. After that the GM plays the demon, no? Why should the player get to decide in this case how the demon's need for betrayal manifests. If he wanted to specify how the GM brought the need into the game, he really should have pushed for a more specific need on the sheet. So, if the demon is angling for betrayal of his parents, isn't that goal up to the GM?

What were the players' kickers?

Quote
We then had a lengthy scene in the mine. This seemed to work very well and provided a good sense of tension. I contrived an explosion once they had entered. I felt I was setting up a lot of threads and red herrings for the players to latch onto in whatever way they chose to interpret.

I can't tell if you were throwing bangs at them or just stuff?


Quote
The final scene involved a meeting up with The Hadean Order again.  Here as a GM is where I felt quite confused. I'd given the players all the threads to make of what they wanted to and would have been satisfied with however they wanted to resolve the scenario.

Is that really truly the case? Didn't the way they chose to resolve the scenario cause "mixed feelings" of confusion and shock? It sounds like it did from your description.

Quote
I admired Quentin for refusing to take any more exploitation from the order but I was shocked that  he knew Jarvice's daughter was still captive. Looking back on the situation I feel I did not know enough about the characters. It was as if their natures were revealed there rather than my having a sense of them previously.

To me this sounds like a good thing. This sounds like a win. This sounds like story now. Why do you need a sense of them previously?

Quote
I don't think I pressed any of the players hard enough on how far their characters would go when we generated them.

Again, why do you need to know this? And could they really have told you this during character generation? I doubt they knew it themselves.

Quote
The setting we could created was fantastic, reminiscent of the comic books 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' and 'Nemesis the Warlock.'  Two of the players put in a tremendous amount of work in some ways making my life as a GM very easy.  The third player was new to the setting but he too was taken with it.

I think one or two of the scenes absolutely sizzled for me.  When Daniel bound his first demon he was looking in a mirror with a great sense of frustration and his reflection started to talk back to him. The scene in the mine was also very good the players participating really well with their characters interacting with the NPC's and each other to crank up the tension.

Again this sounds awesome and fantastic. Good job!

Quote
I'm not sure whether we're rushing the process of character generation in Sorcerer. I appreciate that some of who or what the character use is generated in gameplay but the question that underpins the game “How far will you go to get what you want?” was a little unclear for me.

Umm...didn't you kinda find out how far they would go in game?

Quote
I'm not sure about what other members of my group think but I wonder whether we should spend an entire session purely on character generation and character back story rather than such an elaborate setting. Also I wonder if something in the system is a little lacking for my tastes. I've looked at a few other independent RPG's and some of them seemed to provide more in terms of personality within character generation. The example that comes to mind is Burning Wheel where a character's beliefs are stated explicitly. I wonder a little about homebrewing the sorcerer rules to give more in terms of character.

Only you can decide what games you like. I suggest playing a bunch of them and deciding. However, creating fully wrought back stories will kill Burning Wheel as fast as it will kill Sorcerer. If you ask me, and you kinda did, I wouldn't do that. In Burning Wheel, I would burn the world together and then create characters with beliefs tailored to that world. In Sorcerer, why not just use the Cover, Lore, Will and Stamina relationships along with a relationship map to figure out what the Situation is and how the characters fit into it and then let the characters loose to play?

Quote
I was wondering about all three characters playing in the example described above. How far would Jarvis go to protect his daughter? Would he sacrifice all his beliefs in the Workers' Revolution for her safety? Would Daniel go as far as to betray his parents in order to further his career as a journalist? What would he do to hide his Catholic past? How far would Quentin go to maintain his status as a landed gentleman? I feel at the end of the session I got my answer regarding Quentin. However, he did this at the expense of Jarvis's daughter which I feel truly shocked by.

What bangs did you throw out that threatened Jarvis' daughter? Did you hit him with a choice between the revolution or her safety? I can't see it in the post.

What bangs did you throw out that pushed Daniel to betray his parents? It sounded like you wanted to, but pulled back. Did you throw out bangs that threatened to uncover his catholic background? Again, I'm not seeing it in the post.

Why is your shock at Quentin's behavior sounding negative? What is wrong with Quentin sacrificing Jarvis' daughter for his own goals? Also, what did Jarvis do when this happened?

Quote
As players and GM I feel we did too much non-sceneing/in-betweening. I also think we should have had more individual scenes for a character, with the other two players acting as NPC's or throwing suggestions in.  Also we should have had more discrete scenes.

I think it may be that you should have had more bangs or better targetted bangs, but I'm not sure. Scenes that aren't hitting anything tend to meander and feel flat.

Quote
I was also keen to find out how other players construct bang lists. I created a list of bangs based on the relationship map But I felt the ground shifted too much beneath my feet. I then tried to crank up inter character tension and tensions between what the characters held dear and what I believed to be their darker secrets.

Can you post your list? Its hard to pull them out of the narrative. I'm seeing stuff that pertained to the character's professions or backgrounds, but not necessarily bangs, open-ended events that demand a player choice in response.
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James R.
Noclue
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Posts: 351


« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2009, 10:41:29 PM »

By the way, this actual play example is much more useful than the hypothetical with Luke and Vader. As I read that other post I was thinking "Wait, is Vader's revelation a GM bang? Or is it a player-authored kicker at the start of play? If its a bang, what is the kicker that Luke is resolving?"

Then I am just in a free fall, so I delete my post.
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James R.
Per Fischer
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2009, 12:15:38 AM »

Hi :)

(Do you have a name besides your handle?)

Would you mind posting your setting details (one-sheet, if you made one), and some more details about the characters and demons? And what were the other characters' Kickers? I take it the letter was Daniel's Kicker.

Cheers,
Per
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Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Mackie
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2009, 04:37:21 AM »

Hi

I was playing Quentin in this game. I recognize the last scene was a bit of a shocker!

Firstly, I had no idea that Quentin would do this. I had conceived as a coward who had been living in fear for twenty years, his whole life devoted to staying alive after "the incident" twenty years ago when his best friend had died.

However, after his kicker (a will which contradicted his aquired wealth from his best friend) and being effectively blackmailed into the Hadean Order, this session ended with evidence implicating the Hadean order for "the incident", and them effectively trying to kill him (and this is contrary to his prime motivation; staying alive). After a previous session driven by his paranoia (where he summoned up a nasty combat-bodyguard demon), he is beginning to ask the question - is a life dominated by fear worth living?. Combined with an attempt on his life and twenty years of misery, he simply snapped. Fear turns to rage.

Now, there is no way I would have known this response, and quite frankly, if I did the game isnt worth playing. This was how he felt to me. Fear turns to rage. I have no doubt that this was a "temporary madness of rage", and he will probably be cursing his lack of self control when he is doing hard labour or standing next to the hangmans noose (consequence of his behaviour), although a part of him will be saying "At last... peace".

To me the final scene was in keeping with the character and felt dynamic, violent, and bangy... even though a bang wasnt obviously thrown at me... to me it was a bang "Keep getting screwed over and live in fear... or succumb to revenge, escape, and even righteousness". Live by the principle of fear or the principle of justice even. At this point, Jarvice's daughter didn't even enter his mind. Quentin is self serving. Not a self serving bastard (he does have morals), but ultimately self serving. This was about HIS survival against HIS desire for vengeance. At this point, Quentin would have gladly died, and indeed, he had half-jokingly spoke about blowing his brains out in the mine, so tired he was of his fear.

For my character at least, this was a clear  bang. It probably was for Jarvice too (to I aide the order who I hate because they have my daughter?) to a lesser extent. It was certainly one of the highlights of the session and felt delicious.

In strikes me that a scene needs violence to work. I dont mean violence in terms of punches, kicks, or +3 swords of twatting, but the very broadest definition of violence. Intimidation, betrayal, gambling, robbery, destruction, humiliation, danger, seduction, the list goes on. Violence in terms of - yes, my adrenaline levels are rising, my heart is beating faster. The movie "music" is there.

I'm not sure analysis of setting, characters, or method is particularly productive. It is a game. What are we looking for? That heartbeat, that drama, that "violence". Look at the scenes that worked well, thats what they had. Its been the same for my other sorcerer sessions (GM and Player) - those are the scenes that stick in the head.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2009, 09:40:05 AM »

Hi there,

Mackie, that nails it to the wall. You are a born Sorcerer player.

"The Magus," I apologize if you've told us already, but remind me - what is your actual name? I am psychologically impaired when relying on handles alone.

It seems to me as if the game (a) functioned perfectly for you and (b) scared you. The fear is specifically about not knowing where the story is going. A certain predictability, as you called it, is absent, and perhaps the weirdest thing for you is that it actually happened. Not that it happened and was bad, but happened at all and worked.

GMing, in nearly every game published prior to Sorcerer, was privileged by a very strong sense of story control. Perhaps not control over every decision made by a character, but certainly control over such decisions' contexts and ramifications, and also control in the sense of knowing decision-points were coming, and what the options were going to be be.

Sorcerer throws that out the window. You aren't the lead instrument, when by "lead" I mean having authority over plot outcomes. The players are. You're the bass player in terms of traditional 12-bar blues, holding the rhythm, acting as unavoidable, unignorable, inspiring platform. Without you, they cannot play, and exactly what you do is definitely individualized and artistic. You alone, however, aren't the blues.

Traditionally, GM authority over plot outcomes is something of a dirty secret. Of course, players make the crucial decisions for their characters ... except that they don't. Their decisions are little left-right turns in your maze. Or to stay with the music analogy, they get to play penny-whistles overlaid on your Moog organ. "Good GMing" often meant maintaining that degree of overall control without annoying anyone.

Sorcerer throws that out the window, as I say. You just learned what you have to let go of. What you describe is exactly what the game is designed to do.

Here's my final point: there is one way in which your voice is heard at these moments which goes vastly above and beyond, say, having NPCs react (which is cool too). That way is Humanity.

Twice, in your post, you describe yourself as shocked by what Quentin did. What do you do, in play, as Sorcerer GM? You say: Roll a Humanity check.

It's not a punishment. It's not telling Mackie to play his character different or look out. It's you, at the table, adding your voice and your judgment and your sense of audience to play. It's crucial.

If you didn't do it in play, then start the next session with that roll.

Best, Ron
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Mackie
Member

Posts: 23


« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2009, 10:01:58 AM »

Funnily enough, Quentin felt most "human" in the entire campaign at that point. It was almost one of those situations you could have a humanity gain roll for taking revenge on his dead freind and ridding the world of an odius little manipulator, AND a humanity loss roll for ignoring the threat to Jarvice's daughter. In retrospect, I see now how critical the definition of humanity is! Ultimately - irrespective if it was humanity gain, loss, both, or neither, it still felt so goddam right! Funny - I am very attatched to this character (strong concept I think), but at that point, I could have quite easily let him die, dissapear to zero humanity, or simply evaporate in a puff of smoke.

I think Magus (Real name Piers!) was more shocked at "Out of characterness" (Although to me it fitted: It was like the tightly contained dam suddenly cracking and twenty years of internalised rage came out) than "oh my lord, how truly evil!", although it may have been both (or I may have got it wrong). 

My one qualm about his actions was disrupting the other character's stories. But I think it is probably better to go with what your character feels that to second guess what other characters want? Nevertheless, its a nagging concern. I do wonder how the other players felt.

[PS My real name is Max, Mackie is the wife's nickname for me!]
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Neon White
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Posts: 16


« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2009, 10:14:38 AM »

[I just saw the comments by Ron and Max, written while I was composing this.  Most of it is still valid, however, so here it is anyway].

I played Daniel.  I’d echo the comments already posted by the others. 

This was the first session in which I’d played a) with the other players and b) Sorcerer (though I have acquainted myself with the sorcerer rules via online play/play by post).  I found that both players and system were well matched/suited to each other and there wasn’t any visible dissent between players on any level, which was a pleasant experience compared to other gaming experiences I have had! 

The game was satisying for a number of reasons I’ll elaborate on below and there were also a few things I found noteworthy and/or novel. 

1)      I found it unusual how we spent time in-between scenes choosing (as players+GM) which way the game may go and what the next scene may be.  Most of my previous gaming experience has been (implicitly rather than explicitly) gamist or simulationist.  We adopted an explicitly narrativist approach, which I was (and am) very keen for, however it surprised me to have this amount of player direction as compared with GM direction. Ron touched on this partly in his post above.

By way of example: As the play session was drawing to a close (running out of time), we held an open discussion between players and GM and eventually agreed to make the final ‘cimactic scene’ of the session a visit to the leader of the Hadeon Order.  Alternatives might have been more exploration of other plot elements that arose during play that day (e.g. a visit to the soldiers who were potentially responsible for the sabotage/ cave-in at the mine. 

The distinction / novel element for me here was the explicit discussion between players about what scene we would like to have next.  Typically such planning has always been ‘characters’ planning their ‘next move’. 

This was interesting because as a player I felt involved in the direction of the game.  It was more of a democracy than an autocracy.  I had the chance to intervene if I had a  definite preference for game pacing or direction.  On the other hand I am used to the GM taking a strong role in framing scenes and governing the pace and energy of the game.  There is more risk/burden on the GM to get it right however there was less risk of the game wandering due to too many opinions being expressed.

Another instance of this quite open approach to player directorship was where on one or two occasions another player put their character into a scene previously only containing one of the other characters + NPCs.  It was worked ok and was quite casual: ‘I guess this might be a dramatic moment for my guy to walk in and say 'x’.


2)      We kept ‘things’ quite abstract, focussing on concepts and issues rather than details.

Examples are:
•         generic descriptions of character actions (especially evident in the final combat scene where probably nothing we did warranted bonus dice for roleplay)
•         minimal physical descriptions of PCs or NPCs or even setting aside from crucial detail (was Jarvice tall, skinny, and white, or was he short, fat, and of mixed heritage?  Was the mine dark, smoky, hot, cold, suffocating, spacious? For that matter, what was being mined there? )

This focus on ‘necessary colour only’ definitely lent itself to fast progress and never getting stuck in irrelevant details.  On the other hand as a player I found I had a lot less to work with in a given scene, or even in relation to other characters.  Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that I was coming into the game and the setting on the third session and a lot of this had already been clarified in the minds of the other players.  As per (1) above, I note of course that I was free to inject colour as needed and there was wide scope to act as director.  Despite knowing that I had the creative freedom, I didn't quite get the balance right for me, however.


3)      It struck me how tough our demon’s needs were and the corresponding impact on players/characters (this ties in with the thread already posted by Max (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=28545.0).  Our demons all had pretty tough needs and desires and a part consqeuence of that was that our characters were not very likeable.  I’m not sure that our characters met the ‘protagonist’ test required in the rulebook?

Examples:
•         I (me, Adam) didn’t like Jarvice at all (though I thought Justin played him very appropriately!) because of the lack of humanity the character displayed.  In some cases he acted like a sociopath, either in the cause of meeting his demon’s need (cerebrospinal fluid), or doing what he needed to ingratiate himself with those who had kidnapped his daughter and were using that against him.  Jarvice lost a couple of points of humanity through the session and would have been on 1 point remaining had he not successfully made one of the humanity loss checks.  Again, all very understandable within the drama of the game.  I just didn’t like the guy!

•         It seemed we were all (possibly excluding Max) caving in to our demon’s needs rather than struggling to maintain our humanity.  The way I was playing, Daniel didn’t present much of a fight against his demon’s need for betrayal and I could see him heading for a few humanity checks pretty soon. 

4)      There is, however, a risk we are too tough on ourselves.  Max had three sessions with his character (Quentin), Jarvice’s player had two sessions and me only one.  I think it showed in that Max had the most rounded/developed sense of character.  Jarvice had a tough demon/need and it was already starting to take its toll, however there was little time for his player to explore resistance (or not) of the demon and its need.  I was still getting a feel for Daniel when the crucial final conflict with the Hadeon Order came in.  I had to make a call (to support Quentin) that seemed right but which hadn’t had much grounding in play.  We are now discussing whether to have a final wrap-up session, or else draw the line there.

Again, my experience has been more the long-term ‘campaign’ that always starts and ends with no end-in-sight and no satisfying conclusion.  So it’s good to experience a tight and purposeful game.  One session seems too brief to develop a character arc, however.  I suppose three might be ok though instinctively I want more.  I guess preference varies for each player, GM and play group.  Does anyone have a useful way to think about optimal number of sessions.

Max came up with a one-pager for the setting, which is very strong, I think.  I’ll leave it for him to post it if he feels appropriate as it is his ‘IP’.

Characters were:
Daniel Ward, journalist (played by me).  Daniel was a young ambitious guy prepared to sell small pieces of his soul to get ahead one step at a time.  He was hoping to have enough of it left at the end of the process to be able to do ‘something good’ with his power and status.  His demon was a passer called ‘Danny’ with cover of ‘Daniel Ward, Journalist’.  Abilities were cloak, travel (short-range teleport), perception (see through solid objects), link and spawn.  We didn’t actually get to create one through play, however the idea was for the spawn to present as more ‘clones’ of Daniel, though technically inconspicuous demons rather than passers.  The character concept was one of Daniel at one point having needed to be in two places at the same time (one selfish, one unselfish).  He chose selfishly and thus summoned ‘Danny’ who appeared at the other venue but (deliberately) too late, thus betraying his family. 

Jarvice Yaxley, engineer (played by Justin).  Demon was a steampunk ‘laptop’ that was ‘powered’ (need) by draining cerebrospinal fluid from living humans (thus killing them).  Not sure of the demon’s abilities.  Jarvice had communist leanings (discouraged by the establishment but not strictly illegal) and his key relationship was with his daughter via her kidnapping/absence from play.

Quentin St. John Smyth, university educated, middle-class kid come into money (played by Max).  Demons were a) a ball of light called ‘Sparks’ which had a need to blind people and b) a possessor with Hop which had a need to experience the death of its host.  Quentin is explained above in Max's post.  Essentially a coward, motivated by self-survival and living in fear of losing the wealth he obtained 20 years ago.  He would relax with an occasional visit to an opium den of London. 

The way I see it Max resolved his (Quentin's) core question: “is a life in perpetual fear worth it? Do I run and evade or fight?” by taking a stand and fighting.  He almost lost his life and has almost certainly lost his liberty.  This played out very nicely indeed. 

Jarvice and Daniel are/were still in the midst of working out what they stand for and how far they are prepared to go for it.


… Well I guess that’s a bit rambling, however hopefully it provides something of use. Any thoughts appreciated.

adam
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Adam
The Magus
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2009, 11:18:11 AM »

Hi Per and Ron

My name is Piers (Mackie outed me).  I'll post my thoughts on this soon - am off out tonight but printed all the posts to read on the train.

Piers
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The Magus
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« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2009, 04:10:11 PM »

Initially we focused on the bind for Daniel's Demon. The Demon was his reflection in a mirror and a conversation ensued. The player had provided me with a Demon sheet.  The Demons need was betrayal. As a GM I was unsure how to deal with this. Role-playing the scene was immensely satisfying but I was unsure whether the need was too vague.

I think player and GM are supposed to work together on the starting demon sheet and then the GM gets to alter it. After that the GM plays the demon, no? Why should the player get to decide in this case how the demon's need for betrayal manifests. If he wanted to specify how the GM brought the need into the game, he really should have pushed for a more specific need on the sheet. So, if the demon is angling for betrayal of his parents, isn't that goal up to the GM?

Yes - you're right.  I didn't push it hard enough.  It was the first time Adam and I had played together and I should have taken much more of a risk in being ruthless with his character.

What were the players' kickers?

I didn't push these hard enough either.  From the play session before Max had summoned a truly awful Possessor demon to spy on the Hadean Order.  But again I should have pressed harder for more defined kickers.

We then had a lengthy scene in the mine. This seemed to work very well and provided a good sense of tension. I contrived an explosion once they had entered. I felt I was setting up a lot of threads and red herrings for the players to latch onto in whatever way they chose to interpret.

I can't tell if you were throwing bangs at them or just stuff?

It was a combination - a secret chamber they are forbidden by the Foreman to enter.  The presence of revolutionaries in the mine who fell sold out by the Party.  A new element being mined, used in summoning (+2 to summonings, a bit like a drugs boost).  The explosion sealing the mine.

The final scene involved a meeting up with The Hadean Order again.  Here as a GM is where I felt quite confused. I'd given the players all the threads to make of what they wanted to and would have been satisfied with however they wanted to resolve the scenario.

Is that really truly the case? Didn't the way they chose to resolve the scenario cause "mixed feelings" of confusion and shock? It sounds like it did from your description.

You're absolutely right - although I think I wanted it to end a certain way, having become rather attached to my creation of the Hadean Order.

I don't think I pressed any of the players hard enough on how far their characters would go when we generated them.

Again, why do you need to know this? And could they really have told you this during character generation? I doubt they knew it themselves.

Yes, again you're right.  I feel a little foolish having read my original sentence again.  I think though I would like statements like "I would never betray my country."  "Everyone has a price"  Almost bland cliched sentences that any of us might trot out in real life which then get tested throughout the game.

I was wondering about all three characters playing in the example described above. How far would Jarvis go to protect his daughter? Would he sacrifice all his beliefs in the Workers' Revolution for her safety? Would Daniel go as far as to betray his parents in order to further his career as a journalist? What would he do to hide his Catholic past? How far would Quentin go to maintain his status as a landed gentleman? I feel at the end of the session I got my answer regarding Quentin. However, he did this at the expense of Jarvis's daughter which I feel truly shocked by.

What bangs did you throw out that threatened Jarvis' daughter? Did you hit him with a choice between the revolution or her safety? I can't see it in the post.

What bangs did you throw out that pushed Daniel to betray his parents? It sounded like you wanted to, but pulled back. Did you throw out bangs that threatened to uncover his catholic background? Again, I'm not seeing it in the post.

Why is your shock at Quentin's behavior sounding negative? What is wrong with Quentin sacrificing Jarvis' daughter for his own goals? Also, what did Jarvis do when this happened?

I think that my bangs weren't bangy enough but a bit more like crossess and weaves.  Jarvice did attempt to stop Quentin.  I had a bang in my bandolier that at some point in the game, just as he had to do something really important Jarvice would see Emily (his daughter) fleetingly.  We never got to it though.

As players and GM I feel we did too much non-sceneing/in-betweening. I also think we should have had more individual scenes for a character, with the other two players acting as NPC's or throwing suggestions in.  Also we should have had more discrete scenes.

I think it may be that you should have had more bangs or better targetted bangs, but I'm not sure. Scenes that aren't hitting anything tend to meander and feel flat.

I was also keen to find out how other players construct bang lists. I created a list of bangs based on the relationship map. But I felt the ground shifted too much beneath my feet. I then tried to crank up inter character tension and tensions between what the characters held dear and what I believed to be their darker secrets.

Can you post your list? Its hard to pull them out of the narrative. I'm seeing stuff that pertained to the character's professions or backgrounds, but not necessarily bangs, open-ended events that demand a player choice in response.

Bang List
Daniel gets the scoop but is offered money and a promotion to publish a totally different version of events, thereby alienating his source.

Daniel meets his father and has the opportunity to hand him over to the authorities for anti Empire dissent.  Alternatively he could have protected him.

One of them is told "Should you pass this point you will discover the secret of the Hadean Order." - It was to be linked to the Royal Family.  A son of Victoria as a Sorcerer.

The Royal Family have Catholic connections

Daniel confronted by a Sorcerer - I know how you get your stories

A meeting with the man who went insane who mentins the Hadean Order

Arthur Hill asks Jarvice to kill a "snooping peeler" (policeman).  It turns out to be Daniel brother-in-law or Jarvice'sbrother, Uriah.

The British Revolutionary Workers' Party will gladly sacrifice workers if it feels it will gain in status or power.

Quentin finds a reference ot a mysterious 'A' in documents left in the will to him. 

Quentin finds an 'amplifying chamber' in his house

A confrontation with Lady Amanda Bellowforth at an important social function.

Sutton, a demon member of the Hadean Order disappears.


I'm still very keen to see other sample bangs.  I tend to feed off confictual relationships on the map I constructed but feel I need a bit more advice.

By the way, this actual play example is much more useful than the hypothetical with Luke and Vader. As I read that other post I was thinking "Wait, is Vader's revelation a GM bang? Or is it a player-authored kicker at the start of play? If its a bang, what is the kicker that Luke is resolving?"

Then I am just in a free fall, so I delete my post.

I think I was trying to get at Luke's motivations if he were a PC.  The conflict of Destroy the Empire vs Discover who my father is. If those things were on his character sheet then you would hopefully get a GM constructing that.  But then what if the player wasn't satisfied with that?  That's my fear as a GM, I construct something I think is OK and it falls flat.

Would you mind posting your setting details (one-sheet, if you made one), and some more details about the characters and demons? And what were the other characters' Kickers? I take it the letter was Daniel's Kicker.

There was no one-sheet.  Yes, the letter was the kicker.


Mackie said to me in an e-mail that Sorcerer alternated between the hum-drum and the visceral.  I'm keen to get our play to a point where we at least finish a scene with wry smiles on our faces.  However, I don't want to set the bar too high for us.  We're stil learning a lot of this.  I think Mackie fairs better with knowledge of the ruleset, whereas I feel more comfortable with adopting some of the newer RPG techniques.

I'm still amazed by this outcome.  It's rather like receiving a piece of life changing information one day.  I'm looking forward to our next session although Justin (Jarvice) can't play for a while.  Hence we'll start another setting.  Any ideas for where this one goes next gratefully received.

And thanks to everyone who posted a response.

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Noclue
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« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2009, 06:33:37 PM »

You're absolutely right - although I think I wanted it to end a certain way, having become rather attached to my creation of the Hadean Order.

Yes. I think you were attached to a certain outcome but the game poses open ended questions for the players to answer. It is supposed to surprise you.

Yes, again you're right.  I feel a little foolish having read my original sentence again.  I think though I would like statements like "I would never betray my country."  "Everyone has a price"  Almost bland cliched sentences that any of us might trot out in real life which then get tested throughout the game.

Those sound like great Beliefs for Burning Wheel or Mouse Guard. Sorcerer does something else.

Bang List
Daniel gets the scoop but is offered money and a promotion to publish a totally different version of events, thereby alienating his source.

Daniel meets his father and has the opportunity to hand him over to the authorities for anti Empire dissent.  Alternatively he could have protected him.

Daniel confronted by a Sorcerer - I know how you get your stories

Arthur Hill asks Jarvice to kill a "snooping peeler" (policeman).  It turns out to be Daniel brother-in-law or Jarvice'sbrother, Uriah.

Those seem bangy. Did you throw all of them out in play? How did the players react to them?

These others feel more like stuff:
Quote
One of them is told "Should you pass this point you will discover the secret of the Hadean Order." - It was to be linked to the Royal Family.  A son of Victoria as a Sorcerer.

The Royal Family have Catholic connections

A meeting with the man who went insane who mentins the Hadean Order

The British Revolutionary Workers' Party will gladly sacrifice workers if it feels it will gain in status or power.

Quentin finds a reference ot a mysterious 'A' in documents left in the will to him. 

Quentin finds an 'amplifying chamber' in his house

A confrontation with Lady Amanda Bellowforth at an important social function.

Sutton, a demon member of the Hadean Order disappears.

If those things were on his character sheet then you would hopefully get a GM constructing that.  But then what if the player wasn't satisfied with that?  That's my fear as a GM, I construct something I think is OK and it falls flat.

I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Some will. If a bang falls flat then it just wasn’t a bang and you throw out the next one.
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James R.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2009, 10:18:57 AM »

Hi folks,

I have some advice if you're interested. Most of it is based on Mackie's comments.

1. Move away from your current "group jam" process to generate new scenes, and back toward a more traditional GM-based scene framing approach. The way to keep this from becoming GM authorship is for the players to be quite proactive in announcing what their characters will do next. At its best, this will evolve into a more character-centric, action-centric mode of generating scenes, with only a few being wholly GM-originated. Therefore it's not an autocracy, and hence not the same as what you (Mackie) are thinking of as the older/common method.

(Mackie, as an aside, the group-scene method you describe is itself not a "Narrativist thing." It's a technique that could be employed toward the ends of any Creative Agenda. In this particular case, the Narrativist context of Sorcerer's design is actually undercut (damaged) by this technique.)

Quote
Another instance of this quite open approach to player directorship was where on one or two occasions another player put their character into a scene previously only containing one of the other characters + NPCs. It was worked ok and was quite casual: ‘I guess this might be a dramatic moment for my guy to walk in and say 'x’.

This, on the other hand, is a much more delimited technique that is well-suited to Sorcerer, and I recommend it.

2. You guys are being way too abstract. I recommend slowing down, coming up with details, enjoying the visual or other sensory experience, and basically providing a lot more immediate physical context for the events. I understand why you're doing it the way you're doing it, because it's happened with me and others quite a lot. Once the actual dynamic power of the decisions/actions of Sorcerer characters gets under way, there's a strong temptation to "rock hard" with getting to those points and making them flip the emergent plot further along. And that's fine, as a phase of learning the game.

But now, I recommend basking in the knowledge that the game really does make wide-open story creation work, especially in terms of illuminating a character in terms of raw plot outcomes ... and now that you know it does work, you can dial down the "get there get there" factor and enjoy the process in greater imaginative detail. Furthermore, you'll find that material introduced as Color has a way of becoming System-relevant, more often than not.

3. I think you should play the game further to see how the characters besides Quentin play out. You're right that they haven't really worked through their various Kickers yet, nor experienced a full arc (which is sort of the same thing). Piers, I suggest giving some thought to playing relatively low-pressure but possibly illuminating scenes for Quentin during the next session, to extend and examine the conclusion of his Kicker. After that, Max may or may not want to start a new Kicker for Quentin - it's allowed, incidentally, for people to resolve Kickers at different times and thus experience the reward cycle non-synchronously.

Best, Ron
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The Magus
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2009, 04:19:03 PM »

Hi folks,

I have some advice if you're interested. Most of it is based on Mackie's comments.

1. Move away from your current "group jam" process to generate new scenes, and back toward a more traditional GM-based scene framing approach. The way to keep this from becoming GM authorship is for the players to be quite proactive in announcing what their characters will do next. At its best, this will evolve into a more character-centric, action-centric mode of generating scenes, with only a few being wholly GM-originated.

Another instance of this quite open approach to player directorship was where on one or two occasions another player put their character into a scene previously only containing one of the other characters + NPCs. It was worked ok and was quite casual: ‘I guess this might be a dramatic moment for my guy to walk in and say 'x’.


This, on the other hand, is a much more delimited technique that is well-suited to Sorcerer, and I recommend it.

Noted - thanks for the tip

2. You guys are being way too abstract. I recommend slowing down, coming up with details, enjoying the visual or other sensory experience, and basically providing a lot more immediate physical context for the events. I understand why you're doing it the way you're doing it, because it's happened with me and others quite a lot. Once the actual dynamic power of the decisions/actions of Sorcerer characters gets under way, there's a strong temptation to "rock hard" with getting to those points and making them flip the emergent plot further along. And that's fine, as a phase of learning the game.

But now, I recommend basking in the knowledge that the game really does make wide-open story creation work, especially in terms of illuminating a character in terms of raw plot outcomes ... and now that you know it does work, you can dial down the "get there get there" factor and enjoy the process in greater imaginative detail. Furthermore, you'll find that material introduced as Color has a way of becoming System-relevant, more often than not.

Again noted - but I'd be interested to know what you think of my comments further down about this

3. I think you should play the game further to see how the characters besides Quentin play out. You're right that they haven't really worked through their various Kickers yet, nor experienced a full arc (which is sort of the same thing). Piers, I suggest giving some thought to playing relatively low-pressure but possibly illuminating scenes for Quentin during the next session, to extend and examine the conclusion of his Kicker. After that, Max may or may not want to start a new Kicker for Quentin - it's allowed, incidentally, for people to resolve Kickers at different times and thus experience the reward cycle non-synchronously.

I have given this some thought.  Possibly a confrontation with the sister who lost out because of the will that favoured Quentin.  The tables are now reversed.  Later on the will she is the beneficiary in is shown to be a fake.  I like the idea of Quentin being in prison - some form of hard labour and reflecting on his relationship with his friend who died 20 or so years ago.  Doing some flashbacks to explore the origins of Quentin's cowardice and how he thought demons could solve this problem.

I was also wondering about Daniel and Jarvice.  Daniel has ruined his career - in my mind he is effectively blacklisted.  Possibly he is deported to Catholic Europe when his parent Catholicism becomes known about.  I'm also keen on the idea of Jarvice being utterly corrupted, selling out everyone of his revolutionary values as he stuck up for the Hadean Order.  I'd like to explore his relationship with his (still missing) daughter to see how unlikeable he really is.

We've played a different setting with Adam as GM - I think he was better than I - I'm not really a good bass player, more like Hendrix or Keith Moon (but living).

The other point I wish to make is something that Ron described in point 2 which is the interaction between Color and System.  I don't feel that it is stated explicitly enough in the rules (for me at least) and what drives it mechanically is not very clear to me.  It seems reliant on the players to riff and the GM to hold the riffing together (bass analogy).  My only other experience with an Indie RPG was Cold City.  I liked that because all our characters had personal and national agendas that conflicted and gave them a depth.  I'm not sure for me as a player or GM whether I need something like that there.  I want to get hold of a copy of Play Sorcerer when it's out as I get the impression that Christopher Kubasik is attempting to iron out some of these difficulties I've encountered.

I completely agree with Ron's assertion that system does matter.  I am unclear about how far a system should go to regulate player interaction and creativity and how explicit it should be in stating that this is what it does.  The more I play Sorcerer the more I appreciate its aesthetics.  It is utterly stripped down and the resolution mechanics are sharp.  In a sense I feel I've been given a skeleton to dress but I don't understand anatomy that well and I'm not sure whether my fashion sense is any good.

I posted about this before and never fully developed my thoughts.  I think I should out myself a little more by way of explanations.  I have worked as a group psychotherapist and am interested in the processes by which groups achieve tasks set.  Additionally I am now finishing my training in Family and Systems Therapy which allows another way of looking at group process.  I think it is an exceptional group that can manage the anxiety of not having a clear process to work to.  One of the things about Gamism is that it gives you a clear set of goals (Win/Lose/Level up).  The process of Story Now is a little more ephemeral to me.  Sure, I get that Color, Character, Setting and Situation are critical to this process but it's the interaction with System that seems so key to me.  I feel that my Sorcerer GMing and play occasionally misfires with regard to the interaction and for me the System in Sorcerer does not quite give an indication on how to get it firing on a good enough level. 

Additionally I think there is an interaction between System and Social Contract that is not clearly defined.  It is for me to do with how groups manage tasks and how groups are led.  Another lens I'd like to look at this with is via Co-ordinated Management of Meaning.  However, as it's a bit late and I'm rambling now I think I'll collect my thoughts some more and post again later.

Thanks
Piers
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Noclue
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« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2009, 08:48:33 PM »

Magus, have you had a look at Jesse Burneko's series of posts about Sorcerer over at Story-Games.com called Practice: Sorcerer?

If not, I highly recommend them.
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James R.
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« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2009, 09:40:36 PM »

Sorry for the double. I had thoughts.

I was also wondering about Daniel and Jarvice.  Daniel has ruined his career - in my mind he is effectively blacklisted.  Possibly he is deported to Catholic Europe when his parent Catholicism becomes known about.

A cool setup. But what is the situation that compel Daniel to act? He's in Europe. He's blacklisted. These are things that "have happened." What's happening?


I'm also keen on the idea of Jarvice being utterly corrupted, selling out everyone of his revolutionary values as he stuck up for the Hadean Order.  I'd like to explore his relationship with his (still missing) daughter to see how unlikeable he really is.

This raises similar questions. Also, has the character been utterly corrupted and unlikeable in play already? If not, I would probably present a tense situation where selling out is a compelling course of action, but leave the decision of how to respond to the player. Any choice the player makes should lead to interesting story fodder, but you won't know where its going until the choices are made.

The other point I wish to make is something that Ron described in point 2 which is the interaction between Color and System.  I don't feel that it is stated explicitly enough in the rules (for me at least) and what drives it mechanically is not very clear to me. 
....
In a sense I feel I've been given a skeleton to dress but I don't understand anatomy that well and I'm not sure whether my fashion sense is any good.

There's tons of discussions out there about whether the text is explicit enough in conveying its design goals. From reading lots of CK and Jesse posts, my working answer is "what you want is in there, but it might only be in there once." That's why CK is writing his Play Sorcerer, which should be very shiny when it comes out.

There is some stuff about GMing and social contract that is pertinent in Chapter 4 of the text. Along those lines, what have the demons been up to so far in the game?



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James R.
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