[Sorcerer] How do you play it?

Started by Klaus_Welten, December 28, 2009, 01:39:29 AM

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I got my greedy hands on Sorcerer and the first two supplements. I red them. The game looks fantastic, but I found I have problems understaing how exactly you do play it -  what do the players do? What does the GM do?
As far as I understood, the GM:

- provides a backstory for the characters to crash into;
- frames scenese;
- acts on behalf of NPCs and the environment;
- judges roleplaying bonuses
- judges on, allows and provides ideas for "tricks" - that is, clever applications of the rules like "roll Humanity vs. Power to turn the demon with the purity of your soul" (I made this up on the fly and it sounds a bit, well, dull, buy I'm sure you got the point).

OTOH, the players:

- interact with the scenario through their characters, guiding their actions;
- control their characters' emotions and feelings.

Am I missing something? If so, what am I missing? When does Playing Sorcerer come out? :-P
Thanks for your attention.

Ron Edwards

Hi Klaus,

I think I can fill in some of the pieces that will make your list more practical.

1. The GM frames scenes based on two things.

i) Specific information from the players regarding what their characters are doing, or "about to do." So the GM frequently asks "What do you do?" Based on what the players say, that becomes the basis for the next scene getting framed.

ii) His or her own conclusions regarding what the GM characters will do next. Sometimes what they do is so urgent that it will either disrupt one of the scenes framed according to (i), or it will begin a scene of its own.

So both of these things are really the same: what characters are stated to do. As long as the GM listens well to what the players say their characters are doing, and honors the statements by framing to logical and sensible scenes, and as long as it's clear that when the GM frames a scene based on an NPC's action, that the action makes equal sense based on what they know about the NPC (or learn), then "how to play" becomes very easy.

Overall, I hope you can see that "framing scenes" is not some kind of independent process or action. It most especially should never be based on something the GM intends or hopes will happen because of the as-yet-unplayed scene. Play is primarily composed of what people say their characters are engaged in doing, and that goes for everyone at the table although it is mediated/implemented by the GM. Scene framing is a technical feature built on that foundation.

2. Some of your items should be considered reactive on the GM's part: judging bonus dice of all kinds, and something you didn't list but is actually much more important, judging when Humanity checks and Humanity gain rolls are conducted. By "reactive," I mean that again, the GM isn't doing anything but working with what the players are saying and doing.

Let me know if any of this makes sense to you. It would help if you were to provide some examples of play you've experienced yourself, either to say "I know what you mean, we did it too in this way," or, "I don't understand, because when we play, it goes like this instead."

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards

Hello again,

This is a follow-up post to outline some of the game-play features which reinforce my point in the previous post. It's a list of things the players and GM should be paying attention to.

1. Before beginning, and between sessions, people should attend to the Diagram on the back of the character sheet. For a beginning character, there should be at least ten words written into it: the people, places, and things (including demons) associated with the four sectors of the sheet. If a given item is associated with a single sector, then it should be placed toward the edge of the diagram. If a given item is associated with more than one sector, then write it near or at the border of those sectors. If those sectors are next to one another, then the effect is to draw the item sideways; if they are opposite one another, then the effect is to draw it to the center. If it's associated with three or four sectors, then it's drawn toward the center.

As the GM, and players may do this to, use the diagram to consider what features of the character's life are currently undergoing the most tension, and therefore should be the most involved features (and for characters, the most active ones) in the next moments of play.

Between sessions, the events of the past session may well remove, add, and rearrange the items on the diagram.

2. For every player-character's starting demon, consider the combination of the following:

i) The fictional circumstances of how the character Bound his or her starting demon. This does not have to be an elaborate, pre-written story. A single sentence is enough. It does have to demonstrate the voluntary nature of this act. The GM should have a solid idea of why the character felt it so profoundly necessary to bind a demon.

ii) The Binding strength, derived from the initial Binding roll, and which 'side' it favors. The GM should understand that all demon-Binder relationships are dysfunctional - they are founded on one or the other exploiting an advantage, not on mutualism nor on any genuine friendship, loyalty, or love. The demon knows this. So the GM should know who's the 'bitch,' as the demon sees it.

iii) The demon's Desire is like its religion, its political ideology, and its favorite hobby all rolled into one. The sorcerer cannot satisfy the demon's Desire. it cannot be satisfied. The demon likes and enjoys its Desire, and at all times, it will try to perform the Desire, to observe it in action, or to influence others to do it too.

iv) The demon's Need is its addiction. It needs it at all times, but sometimes more desperately than others, if it has been using some abilities or if it's been a while since its last 'feeding.' Crucially, the GM should understand that the demon will never satisfy its Need by itself. It relies wholly on the sorcerer to make sure the Need gets to it.  The GM should always know whether the demon is currently 'hungry,' and play the demon accordingly.

Those four items are an ongoing feature of play. (ii) and (iv) are dynamic; they change, and so the GM should play any and all demons as an ever-changing wave-front, in terms of what this NPC is going to do next.

3. The definition of Humanity should be simple and easy, because that means its application during play will be profound. Both Humanity checks and Humanity gain rolls are a top priority for the GM. It may happen that you forget to call for the roll during play itself, which is not a big deal. You can begin the next session by calling for the roll retroactively.

4. Here are some words of advice phrased differently depending on who is listening. They are the same, though.

i) To the player - nothing will take care of you. This game is not intended to preserve your character's life, to make him or her look good all the time, or to make him or her the hero in some guaranteed way. The only thing the character can rely upon is you.

ii) The GM - there is no "plot" you have to manage or to engineer. All the mechanisms I've described in this post (all in service to the points in my previous post) are aimed at what you bring into play, and let the events of play itself become whatever they will. This idea applies especially to NPCs' decisions - don't play your NPCs as if they were robots. If circumstances change, then they can change. Overall, play will produce a plot. But it can't do that if you try to inflict a plot of your own.

Best, Ron


Hey Ron,
these last posts of you are pure gold.  They make me realise why some games of Sorcerer rocked and some did not.

I asked a follow-up question in this thread http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=29177.0