[Sorcerer] British Empire Steam Punk setting

Started by The Magus, August 24, 2009, 09:54:49 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

The Magus

Quote from: Noclue on September 02, 2009, 06:40:36 AM
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.

I'm the sort of person who needs to be told several times in different ways and with examples.  I'll be one of the first in line to drop the cash when Play Sorcerer arrives.  However, Jesse's posts on Story Games have been really helpful.  Thanks for the pointer, James - your username is way off the mark as far as I'm concerned.

Quote from: Noclue on September 02, 2009, 06:40:36 AM
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?

You've got me thinking about demons - I think I've GMed them rather two dimensionally.  At its worst they are like a technology that gives you abilities and then you just pay attention to the need (Smash something up, Kill a virgin etc.).  I feel that I'm having a lightbulb moment in that they could well be played as living entities (Well, D'uh, they are!!).  No questions about "are you meeting my need?"  Rather, "what the fuck did you do that for?  Are you trying to ruin this relationship?"

Quote from: Ron Edwards on August 31, 2009, 07:18:57 PM
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.

Yes Ron, I think I'm beginning to get this a bit more now.  I'm still left with the questions about System influencing this but slowing down is something I'd like to try.  I'd like to play some combat-free Sorcerer sessions to get under the skins of the characters.  Perhaps the characters can do less and be more.

I feel I'm flipping into therapist mode a little.  In a way I'd like to sit down with the players in characters and ask them lots of personal questions:

Quentin, what is your cowardice all about?
Daniel, why are you so ambitious?
Jarvice, what happened that made you so disillusioned with people?

This is highly surprising - I came to this game to take a break from being a therapist and now find I may start using much the same techniques.  I think for me there are ethical considerations to hold in mind.  I know that it's alluded to in the Rulebook and also in Graham Walmsley's excellent 'Play Unsafe' book.  Which brings me back to the social contract.  How far do you go?  Graham mentions something difficult for him about bringing issues around a character's father into the game (p.12).  I feel obviously it would be extremely cruel if I knew a fellow player's father was ill to then set a scene where a character was at his father' death-bed.  However, somethimes you don't know.  Sometimes both of you don't know about your buttons.

I spoke with Max (Mackie) this evening and he said that I was being too hard on myself.  Max, I disagree - I think we've barely tapped the potential of the game.

Hmm - need to go to bed - am still pondering.

Curse you, Ron Edwards ;-D

Ron Edwards

Hi Piers,

What you're calling the therapist mode is a good thing for the game, but might undergo some tuning and perhaps re-orienting.

Since the characters are fictional, the beneficial context of therapy can be put aside. The questions you listed are there to be represented in a kind of attack mode, via the circumstances of play. So it's not you as a person and the characters as people, it's you as a particular kind of co-author in a state of goosing and firing up the issues that your fellow co-authors have brought to the table. You've listed the principles which can now be used as a really solid foundation for making your Bangs, both before play in prep, and during play through inspiration and current events.

You've also brought Social Contract issues into the picture, quite rightly. I've discussed Lines and Veils here in the forums and also in my book Sex & Sorcery, but I don't know whether you've seen those points. Lines demarcate things that one or another person at the table simply does not want to have happen in play; Veils demarcate things that are OK to happen, but not to depict explicitly. One thing we've found over the years is that Lines and Veils typically should not be pre-set through discussion or pre-assumed for others. People always shrink their comfort zones smaller than they really are in those circumstances.

Then there's the question of what to do with them. You may be familiar with the distinction Meg drew between two social modes at the table, "I Will Not Abandon You" and "No One Gets Hurt," which are incompatible. If you haven't seen this before, then hold on - it's easy to react to that claim based on their names alone, so I ask that you read the discussion in Sex & Sorcery: rereading it; Meg's original presentation is linked in that thread. I'll be interested to see what you bring back from those.

Sorcerer is written directly from an I Will Not Abandon You perspective. This means, not that there are no Lines, but rather, that we are going seek the Lines to a great extent, in the awareness that doing so will bring shit up, and not to shrink back from it out of fear.

Best, Ron


Quote from: The Magus on September 03, 2009, 01:00:40 AM
Which brings me back to the social contract.  How far do you go?  Graham mentions something difficult for him about bringing issues around a character's father into the game (p.12).  I feel obviously it would be extremely cruel if I knew a fellow player's father was ill to then set a scene where a character was at his father' death-bed.  However, somethimes you don't know.  Sometimes both of you don't know about your buttons.

The same is true of any conversation between people. The only thing about gaming is that it actively pokes at things that we normally shy away from (demons, murder, sex, etc.) in discourse. But, if you were chatting with your friends and accidentally stumbled on a sensitive area, they'd probably say "ouch" and you'd go "oops, very sorry" and everyone would move forward with no real harm done and a bit more shared awareness.
James R.


I wil have to consider the above posts more, but they do feed into some previous thinking I have about RPG's.

The first is that I am opposed to a therapeutic stance or mode in RPGs. It is a game, not therapy. If players have the wisdom, motivation, and insight to use it as "Therapy" then good (?) for them. This is not to say that powerful unconscious forces are at work (which psychotherapeutic theoretical architecture you use is probably academic) - they almost certainly are, but that dosen't make it therapy.

The next point, which follows on, is my inclination that RPG's are the natural habitat of a (probably malign) beast. I don't quite have a name for this beast, but it's two heads are sado-masochism and narcisism (hey, maybe thats three heads and we can name it Cerberus). This feeds into the whole issue of control in RPGs.

I haven't fully worked this out, but perhaps it is worth embryonically articulating the possible threats of Cerberus: (please note that all these "threats" are probably largely unconscious)

GM Sadism: The desire to make the players suffer. Playing "to the line" of adventure is one thing, but this motivation can be the disguise of a sadistic quality. If a player is doing "well", with clever ideas or good dice rolls, is the GMing reacting sadistically? is the player doing what he wants / exerting control or is the GM? is the negotiation of this unduly affected by sadism.

GM: Masochism: Yes, I think this can happen. Especially in the context of adopting a "Therapuetic stance" - many therapists find, in the course of their own therapy, a masochistic drive to become therapists - the "wounded doctor". In such a case, the GM may act in a similar way to sadism (yes, I know the two are related), playing an emotional gut-wrangler to satisfy own needs.

GM: Narcissism: the exertion of control for the sake of the ego. This need not be the "GM is god" rule lawyering, but subtle ways of bending the course and flow of the game to satisfy the ego. Again, this is related to sadism and may result in "Punishing" successful characters.

Player: Sadism. This can be played out to the GM, the other players, or the game itself. I think it most often is related to narcisim and the power struggle with the GM. EFfectively, I think it is quite difficult to effect sadism as a player directly in the "Role", but uneffected, it could lead to resentment and undermining of the social gathering.

Player: Masochism. Jumping into the Gut-wrangler. "Look how I bleed" em/cut my veins. This can provoke feelings of guilt and abuse in the GM. Other players may feel uncopmfortable. Is this a projection of an underlying death wish? self loathing?. I wonder if characters played to deliberately "fail" are succumbing (?) to this. I find it odd myself; in real life, every individual (bar those with serious mental illness) wants to "succeed", and I find it hard to roleplay anything other than a desire to succeed (maybe this is my narcisism) - at least broadly succeed.

Player: Narcisism. Here we enter the realm of wish - fufillment. On one level, this is a universal experience, and everybody who has yelled "Yes" as a movie hero impales an particularly odius baddy is "guilty" of this. However, it can lead to power-gaming and sadistic impulses against other players. Power Gaming is related to this.

This is all my initial vague ramblings, so forgive me if they aren't well articulated.

In Piers example, for instance, I would suspect that a GM introducing a father scene to Graham would be due to sadistic (And possibly narcistic and masochistic) impulses from the GM. Perhaps Graham has indicated he would like this (and perhaps this is a masochistic impulse on his part). There is, perhaps, nothing wrong with this; but the danger is that unless these impulses very closely "dovetail", the beast Cerberus will be well fed. Sorcerer may be a relatively safe way of exploring oneself, but psychotherapy is the proper and safe way.

Incidentally, I fully accept that I, along with every human, have sadistic, masochistic, and narcisistic qualities (Piers would probably emphasise the last quality when describing me!). Eliminating these from a game is impossible. However, minimising their malign effect on a game is worthwhile.

I'm just reflecting on my previous statement that every scene needs "Violence" in it to succeed. I still stand by that. In fact, thinking about it, I think every GAME does (with the possible exception of purely solo ones). All games allow violence to be expressed in a safe and socially acceptable way.

The Magus

I regret the use of the term therapist mode.  Perhaps I should clarify further:

Playing these games is not therapy – I absolutely agree.  Cathartic – yes, therapeutic – well, many people mistakenly believe that catharsis is therapy.  However, in my mind there is a link between role-playing and psychodrama or drama therapy.  Situations can be created that replicate events of a real emotional significance, be they from a player's past or within an imagined character's make-up.

I was thinking about a time at work a few months ago which Mackie was aware of and how in some ways Quentin's resolution of matters with the Hadean Order was a parallel to a possible fantasy of mine.  Sir Edmund Radcliffe, the leader of the Hadean Order was clearly a sadist at heart and revelled in his power over the characters.  Also, Mackie, I could give examples from both our personal lives that illustrate the overlap between gaming and personal psychology.  I won't mention them here as they're too personal.

The process by which I ask questions as a therapist to clients is very different to those a GM would ask of characters.  As a therapist I ask questions in a spirit of curiosity whereas as a Sorcerer GM it will be in a more aggressive, almost accusatory tone.  In a sense this is a version of the hermeneutics of suspicion – what the character says should be subject to a scrutiny by other players, NPCs and Demons.  I've not cranked up this side of play yet but intend to do so.  I thought of creating a one-sheet based on the French film 'Ridicule,' a film where the interpersonal conflict is very indirect and also totally vicious.

Ron, I've read the definitions of I Will Not Abandon You and Nobody Gets Hurt.  It reminds me of the BDSM community and their use of safe words.  I get the IWNAY position – I'm not entirely sure I agree with the definitions of Lines.  I found Boundaries and Limits more useful.  A Boundary is something flexible and is constantly explored to find where the Limit is.  Once a Limit is reached descriptors can then become Veiled.  I don't really have an AP description of this as I've not been in this situation yet – I'm keen to play again to crank it up to this point.  My current character in Adam's S&S setting is a swordsman who is in the process of abandoning his Master's teaching.  He has childhood abandonment issues that I'd like to explore too.

Additionally I think how IWNAY or NGH a game is depends on the people around the table.  I'd feel much more happy playing IWNAY with people I know well.  I can sense that if you were at a convention you might end up being rather NGH.  I could envisage a group becoming dysfunctional around these issues.  When I was younger I played in groups that were dysfunctional as paople would argue and bully.  Mark Barrowcliffe's book 'The Elfish Gene' describes these groups well and he explores the dynamics behind that kind of play.  Also I thought of GMing Sorcerer at an upcoming con.  I feel concerned that the game will fall flat as a number of players might expect a GM-authored WoW fest.  Equally, throwing them into an IWNAY setting might be a bit too much.

In terms of the Supplements, Sex & Sorcery is my favourite as it gives the most detail as to how the system translates into actual play.  I was thinking how, if Ron was an author, he'd be Richard Brautigan.  Underneath is Brautigan's short story , The 'Scarlatti Tilt.'

Quote"It's very hard to live in a studio apartment in San Jose with a man who's learning to play the violin."  That's what she told the police when she handed them the empty revolver.