[Sorcerer] Curtain on the carnival bizarre

Started by Christoph Boeckle, December 05, 2009, 12:57:31 AM

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Christoph Boeckle


Last saturday we played the last session of the Carnival Bizarre. It was the second instalment after this report.


In two sessions, the player characters essentially got together, captured and tortured the clown. To make sure that he wouldn't turn against them, they inserted a parasite demon into his stomach, with the order to start nibbling its host whenever it was necessary to protect the master. The whole ritual to summon and implement the demon was so disturbing that I shall not describe it here (but it was a cool three-sorcerer ritual)
This was happening in the context of nomads camping outside of the city, asking that they be paid for their services contracted in the past. Something about providing the city with all its needs. The Scarlet Jester (the mysterious master mind behind the people subtly controlling the city) was in deep shit, because of course, he didn't have the money and what's more, his organization was basically dismantled. He revealed himself to the player characters: a child sorcerer (tell-tale: he has the look of an old man in his eyes), always pulling a little wagon around for his teddy bear. He proposed a peaceful deal with the player characters. Together, they could have dealt with the situation. He only seemed to be accompanied by an adult.
Arthur essentially thought that this was bullshit and that the Jester was in no situation to negotiate. Locke tried to grab the child, and suddenly a spectral form appeared with blades for arms (yer twisted invisible friend) and hit him with the flat on the head (quite hard actually). The child and the adult set to leave the scene.
Arthur and his demon Alyssa tried to run after the humans, while Goete called back his linked possessor demon who was fooling around in the opera hall outside of which the discussion was taking place (a lucky turn of events). The intermediate result was that Arthur almost spilled his guts on the streets, Alyssa got hurled to the ground by the adult, but the fat opera-goer grabbed the child. As the bladed demon and the adult ran to free the child, the Goete's demon hops into the Scarlet Jester, just before an unholy blade perforates the kidnappers belly.
The protagonists let the trio leave (the possessor demon was cloaked and managed to fool the adult and the demon into thinking the child is just under shock).
The next day, they found out the defeated Scarlet Jester's hiding, and devised a stratagem to get a letter to the still possessed child (which of course was a command for the demon). The Jester's deadly demon was sent on an errand to check out what the nomads were doing. Alyssa "travels" (she is good at finding doors that lead to the appropriate places) with her friends and they stabbed the child to death.

As an epilogue, the players decide that the nomads are welcomed into the city as the only form of payment. However, to sustain the needs of the city, a mandatory period of work is imposed for all inhabitants every month. The party is over... real life takes over.


Indeed, with the Scarlet Jester dead and cold and the other elements of the organization basically neutralised (the clown committed suicide, I decided the torture had been too great on him), all kickers could be considered resolved. Arthur finally understood how the city could operate for so long a time (exploitation!) and decided to put an end to it, integrating the nomads (clearly Arabic in appearance, when all the city was populated with western European people) and imposing community work. Goete could leave without fear of being murdered or having his property burned down again, he decides to sail out to sea. Locke had taken advantage of the situation to become a major player in the city's food distribution system and as such had resolved his kicker as well.

I am left with a feeling of not having played out the game's potential to the maximum, or rather to have been to monopolizing in the way the setting was created. Everything gravitated around the mysterious Scarlet Jester and his hidden organization. The best thing to do was to destroy him. End of the story.

Clearly, Thomas (Arthur's player) was not quite into the kind of experience I wanted to offer through Sorcerer. During the debriefing he said that knowing me as he did (extremely well for a lot of things, but we haven't played a lot of RPGs in the recent past), he was expecting a cool mystery to be revealed as he played his character in the most optimal way. J?r?me didn't feel too concerned with actively defending his character (and he was right, I only tried to assassinate Goete once and basically tied his security to dismantling the hidden organization, a thing the others were after as well). Julien pushed a bit harder for his goals, as they were somewhat orthogonal to the main plot. He summoned a demon for that very purpose, which again was a quite gruesome but interesting ritual.
I could have pushed much harder on the grey points of the characters, but socially I felt it wasn't appropriate. Thomas had made it clear that he'd rather like the game to end sooner than later and we were having difficulty finding regular chances to play. I think I learned a good deal about how to communicate more clearly with him and the others about my desires in role-playing, and I hope such a situation will not arise again.
In the end, all the characters had clearly compromised their Humanity (in technical and ethical terms), but prevailed nonetheless. Cold blooded child murder! But was the Jester really a child?

I'm also a bit ashamed to say that I still don't master the rules of the game (I kept having to search the relevant scores for demon abilities and rituals). It's much more fiddly than some games I've played recently (Zombie Cinema, S/lay w/Me, some French indies) and I think I'm becoming lazy. I want to try some one-shots of Sorcerer again, perhaps of the Sword & type, or why not the Sex &. I'll have to prepare rules reminders for myself and the players. As a first shot, I'm pleased overall, but as Ron pointed out in a previous AP, this was an ambitious series, probably too much so given the context.


Ron Edwards

Hi Christoph,

I appreciate you taking these threads all the way through to the conclusion. At the most simple level, I think you ran into a slight contradiction between character-centric and setting-centric play. I think that this contradiction arose not from anything you did, but from the people you played with. I wasn't there, so this is merely a guess, but it seems to me that Thomas isn't interested in playing Sorcerer of any kind, and so you found yourself effectively maintaining his interest in the game as one of your tasks. That led to the interesting situation in which, when Julien played his character toward that character's interests, the effect was to go orthogonally to "the plot," instead of becoming plot in and of itself. This is not intended as a criticism of Thomas but simply identifying (or trying to identify) a significant dynamic among the people.

My suggestion, if you're interested, is to be reasonably certain that others are playing Sorcerer with you because they are even more intent upon the game than you are. I can only describe this as taking the phrase "Play my character" in a very different light from the traditional RPG meaning ... perhaps we might be able to arrive at a good phrasing for this here in this thread.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle

Hi Ron

I think your last paragraph sums up the conclusion I have come to very nicely, though I'm not sure I'm getting what you're hinting at. More than half of my gaming experience (in terms of volume) is directly influenced by the Forge, especially you, sir! I started playing sometime in the beginning of 1999, first AP post here in the beginning of 2005. So the term "traditional", used between us two probably needs to be discussed.

I'd also be very interested in any development of the features of character- and setting-centric play. It's a thing I've read about, but could use some help in sorting out the different ideas, using this series of AP posts if that seems appropriate.

Ron Edwards

Hi Christoph,

I should apologize for being overly obscure. I began typing what I thought with be a pithy and clear point, and realized it would have to become a more complex and considered paragraph in order to make sense, and I didn't have time. Also, I'm glad you pointed to the Shadow of Yesterday thread, which serves as a decent starting point.

Before I go on, though, I will indicate that by "traditional" I'm referring to what I'm sure you mainly encountered before your Forge history, in other words, the less-than-half, earlier phase of your role-playing experience. Also, my text that you reacted to concerned your friend Thomas (or guessing about him), not you. In the context of that previous phase of play experience, I will continue to guess that your friend Thomas' assumption:

QuoteClearly, Thomas (Arthur's player) was not quite into the kind of experience I wanted to offer through Sorcerer. During the debriefing he said that knowing me as he did (extremely well for a lot of things, but we haven't played a lot of RPGs in the recent past), he was expecting a cool mystery to be revealed as he played his character in the most optimal way.

... would have been a reasonable expectation regarding play. That viewpoint toward "play my character" is what I was referencing with the problematic term "traditional." I'll try to summarize it as follows, based on my own experiences.

- Play optimally concerning character survival. The game system is perfectly capable of killing your character, and at least some GMs are invested in making this happen or in not doing anything to prevent it.

- Play optimally concerning your own ego. The GM is very invested in making his story happen, and if your character needs to be overly gullible or stupid for the story to work (often the case), then the GM will take him over and make him that way, making you look stupid and basically stripping you, personally, of social and creative power at the table. Such a GM is not a player-killer like the ones I mentioned in #1, but in some ways, he's worse!

If "play my character" is construed from these parameters, it results in the following tactics (I've stated them a little bit extremely):

a. Come up with as colorful a concept as possible, preferably somewhat irrational, so that you can carry out the following safety-measures from "in character" and blame the character for "making" you role-play in this way.

b. Safety-measure - treat all GM characters as hostile, treacherous, and of no emotional importance whatsoever.

c. Safety-measure - avoid rolling the dice or otherwise engaging in the resolution mechanics as much as possible.

d. Safety-measure - create as much minor strife or minor friendship for your character with the other player-characters as you can, because such interactions carry no risk, take up time, and

I don't know how much of what I'm talking about actually directly concerns Thomas or you or anyone else you've played with, but at this point, I want to stress that I'm not claiming to diagnose or characterize any of you or them. I'm talking about that particular mode of playing one's character and how it is not the same as doing either of the following.

1. Beginning with a fairly sketchy but perhaps interesting portrait of someone, in full knowledge that the setting, i.e. its local manifestation in that precise spot, will spark a dynamic set of reactions for both the character and for everyone else, and the development of the character will proceed spectacularly in the context of those reactions. In other words, the whole setting is very big, but we're interested mainly in this one spot, and beginning with a clear idea of how this one spot is full of explosive tensions. This is what I was trying to talk about in the Shadow of Yesterday thread, and it also applies well to The Riddle of Steel, and a couple of others I just forgot because my mom came into the room and bugged me. (She's visiting.) Both of those games are very strong on motivational mechanics, but a role-player should be aware of how easily the content of those mechanics may radically change in those games.

2. Beginning with a fairly rich and unstable moment in someone's life, usually rife with intense relationships, with only enough setting information to support that portrait, in full knowledge that the setting will be filled in as play proceeds, particularly in terms of specific back-story but also if necessary expanding the scope of attention outwards for more stories. In other words, here, it's the character who's full of explosive tensions and the immediate setting, as well as the overall setting, has to keep up with that. This is what Sorcerer is built to do, and the techniques in Sorcerer & Sword show how it may be applied to adventure fantasy.

The nuances in The Sorcerer's Soul and in Dogs in the Vineyard give rise to a certain tension between #1 and #2; I suggest that both games are more like #2 but draw on setting (or back-story) to as much a degree as #2 permits.

OK, now take someone who's well-trained in those defensive character-play tactics that I outlined above, which are effectively the only way to stay sane in the not-especially-functional end of the Illusionist swimming pool. Put them into a game that is either #1 or #2, and tell them, "This is totally about playing your character!" ... and then watch them not like it. They won't even know what they're looking at. The wide-open behavioral opportunities will seem like traps. The situations will seem like railroading. The reward system will be too-numbersy, which they fear. The NPCs will look like more railroading.

I'm not saying Thomas exactly matches the most extreme forms I've observed of this disconnected reaction to Sorcerer and other games. But perhaps there's some element of this issue at work. Let me know what you think.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle

Hi Ron

Your reply is making me think in all sorts of directions at once! I need to take some time to analyse our five sessions, try to recall some salient points about the older campaigns and process your insightful post. Your distinction between the patterns you describe in the abstract and Thomas's (or  mine for that matter) actual way of playing is well-taken.

I'll get back to this thread as soon as possible.

Christoph Boeckle


The player analysis looks sound. I can indeed find elements of it distributed amongst all of us (in the rest of this post, this will show at some points). I will however not dwell on the people, but rather try and look into play itself and try to understand how my prep and Sorcerer's rules shaped what came about.

Since there was a relationship map underlying all my prep, and since the setting was quite grabby (how can this place exist? how can the people lead such lives? who is behind it all?), I think this mini-campaign was vulnerable to the tension between character and setting centric play.

Let's have a look at the Kickers, which put a character into an immediate crisis and decision point. This is a character centric play supporting technique. I'm also noting the Goals each character strives for in parenthesis.

Arthur: Altar, the master of a "hidden hierarchy" of this city, invites him to a private meeting. (Goal: Doesn't believe in the apparent anarchy of this town and is convinced that there are power-structures at work, intent on understanding them.)

Goete: Personal library burned to the ground. (Goal: Build up support to lead an expedition into the outside.)

H.P. Locke: Death of father and uncle by food intoxication. (Goal: Take control over the mysterious food sector in this town.)

My first step in preparation after character creation was to weave Kicker and Goal together. So, basically I decided that somebody was really intent on keeping the people in the city. This is why Goete's library had been burned: it was a warning. I decided that Locke's relatives were very advanced in similar preparations as Goete, but had not heeded the warning and paid it with their life.
Arthur inspired me to create the relationship map the way it came to be. Without this notion of a secret hierarchy, the setting would have been very different. I of course linked Goete and the Locke's oppressors to this organisation.

At this point, it looks to me that Locke was perfectly adequate for character centric play. As it turned out, a good deal of the first sessions involved Locke going about and trying to understand his mother's relationship to the friend of his father and uncle, who had not died. The only humanity gain roll was in relation to this arc, when Locke finally accepted that his mother might see another man.
Goete wasn't quite as clear from the get go. His first actions involved securing himself a good position from which he could organise his expedition (involving a new job, new friends, some manipulation and surviving a murder attempt). While his goal was grounded in the form of the city, play on this character's side was rather character centric too, since it was understood from the beginning that it was all about how Goete would manage to win enough support.
Arthur only sought knowledge in his goal. Maybe I should have asked for something more concrete, but at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable. As I've said, because of his Kicker and goal, Arthur led me to flesh out portions of the setting I might have left mysterious with other player characters. This led me into a logic of setting based conundrums, ending in the return of the nomads who basically were the slaves allowing the city to lead its extravagant lifestyle. On this side of play, the questions where much more about how Arthur would position himself in the setting's crises, rather than him bringing in questions of his own.

Now, Demons. I underplayed those bastards. I now realize that they are a great tool for bringing focus on the character. For example, I tried to play out some weird romantic misunderstandings involving Arthur's demon Alyssa, who looked remarkably similar to the girlfriend of the guy who introduced Arthur into the mysterious organization. I also played out her Desire for sensual gratification, which Thomas wasn't really interested in when it lead to awkward situations (like the time she fucked a guy because she took offence from Arthur's rebuttal). This ultimately lead to more setting-centric situations for Arthur. Interestingly, Arthur was never in a situation where he might have garnered himself a humanity gain roll. He did rely heavily on Alyssas extraordinary information gathering skills (but I only recall one time when it led to decision making on Arthur's part: the murder of the Scarlet Jester, although that was not a very difficult decision to make).

The other two principle demons were more closely tied to their masters' relationships with other characters and concrete action. The demonic lock's desire for mischief lead to a crucial situation where Locke's mother got paralysed trying to get into her romantic interest's manor, which Locke was spying out (after this, the son and the mother had that very beneficial discussion).
The other demon, a hopping possessor, was very important in how Goete managed to manipulate a rival of his and surviving the poisoning. Jérôme had chosen to play a bastard, so he didn't get himself any humanity gain rolls, but some loss indeed (he used his rival as if he were a puppet at some point, very cruel, very good).

I'm thinking that if I had been better at playing demons (I felt it was quite a chore in the beginning, with the setting and the weaving of the different character stories to handle), I could "paradoxically" have brought the characters into situations that were more likely to question their humanity (in both ways), thus also more character-centric play. I'm seeing some blown occasions of smart scene framing involving the demons (basically Bangs).

Finally, the player who questioned the point of play most was Thomas. I can now understand this beyond his personal preferences in terms of character vs. setting centric play. Besides some fundamental social contract discussion, I'm not quite sure how could I have handled Arthur in a more coherent way. I was halfway back in my illusionist throne, trying to "please everyone" by bringing things which were most interesting to the player which in turn probably made play more questionable to Thomas still because of the disconnect of what Sorcerer is about and what I was offering. I should have realized that I needed to work on the issue of character centric play with Thomas, with the possibility of Thomas opting out of the campaign because he didn't buy into character centric play. It's clear that for future RPG proposals we will be much more aware of this.

Ron, you're usually very good at answering the following question: am I running around in circles trying to frantically untie the knots in my head or is there actually one knot less?


Christophe, what bangs did you throw out during play? How did the players react?
James R.

Ron Edwards

Hi Christophe,

I think you're at one knot less. I'll respond not so much in terms of your game, although I do recommend going to the previous threads and seeing if my advice makes more sense, but in terms of basic principles. Let me know if I'm making any sense.

I just wrote a reply in [Sorcerer] How do you play it? which I think may be equally useful for this thread. To summarize, I am claiming that every nuance of the practical decisions of GMing Sorcerer arises from something very simple: what the players have their characters do, and what you have your characters do. Period.

There are two levels to consider. The broader, or what might be called "interstitial" level, is not really dramatic depiction in the moment so much as direct statements of intended action. "I'm going to the police station and shooting that guy in his jail cell." "That was terrible. I'm kicking back in my apartment with a beer." Sometimes players make these statements as simple reactions to the conclusion of the previous scene, not even necessarily as intended and directed action-statements. I'm saying that the GM should confirm and honor them as such, specifically instead of undergoing any kind of "what should happen next" processing of his or her own. In a way, the GM should also be a little schizophrenic and consult his or her own sense of personally playing the NPCs, to arrive at equivalent statements of theirs when and if they seem urgent enough.

The result at this broader level is scene-framing: where the fictional attention goes next, who's there, and how much time has passed, as well as who might be arriving momentarily if applicable.

The tighter or more in-the-moment level is what happens in the scenes themselves, once under way. Inside the scenes, we all must communicate, saying what characters do, how they move, what they look like, and most importantly moving forwards as we do so (fast or slow, either is good). Conflicts arising, and specifically their resolution, occur within this matrix of communication. Certain responsive details are minor in scope but important in impact, including bonus dice but most especially Humanity rolls of both kinds.

When I look back over the points I've tried to outline here, I experience flashbacks to 1994-1996 in rather strong detail. This was a period when I realized that an extraordinary degree of bullshit had accumulated among me and everyone else I knew in the hobby (a considerable number of people) which literally negated the fundamental notion of "we play our characters." The nearly impenetrable mass of point-counting and so-called realism, the utterly primitive initiative-based or turn-based action sequences, the unbearable weight of Story Before, the recent fetish of thespianism, the recent claim that system didn't matter ... none of it was helping. All of it bogged down the simple and direct insight that if you have your guy do something, and I have my guy respond, then if we stay attentive and utilize various system features as our medium together, a result will appear that will literally be a new universe in which to play the next actions. By "new universe" I'm thinking about the dramatic landscape, audience attention, and creative enthusiasm associated with both making and experiencing a story in successive stages of its plot.

There's only one thing that really gets in the way of this, though, and even though all those other bullshit things I listed are problems, this one thing is a total deal-breaker. It kills role-playing dead. It is: when someone has no interest to say their guy does things with any integrity relative to the fictional content. I'll say that again and boldface the important part: when someone has no interest to say their guy does things with any integrity relative to the fictional content. A lot of pain and effort has gone into game design and play-practices to correct issues with the latter, unboldfaced bit. As far as I can tell, almost no one addressed issues concerning the boldfaced bit until the Threefold discussions of the mid-late 1990s. (One of the most important early exceptions was found in the Strike Force supplement for Champions, based on the authors' original games.)

So basically, I wrote Sorcerer strictly and only for people who didn't have this issue. I wrote it for people who would make characters that would simply be so present, so utterly in motion, so arrogant, and already so enmeshed in conflict that they simply could not sit still. To be clear, if I were to boldface one word in that previous sentence, it would be "people." There would be no stopping those characters is because the players would, themselves, be unstoppable.

H'mmm. Let me give an example from my second major game of Champions in 1987-1989. This was before fandom and gamer-dom would inflict character-class thinking upon the superhero genre, back when a character's powers were a visual and dramatic feature of the character as a conflict-ridden person. My friend Matt made up a character who could move at super-speed, called Runaround, who was a blues-rock musician and mainly used his speed not so much to run, but to do other things very, very fast and effectively. Without going into it in too much detail, and also because we were not especially competent in addressing such things, the character might be thought of as "Fun vs. Rage" in With Great Power terms. What I'm trying to say, not very well yet, is that Matt was a very powerful personality who had made up a character that he, God damn it, really would like to see in a comic book, written by someone who was not a hack and drawn by someone who really liked drawing him. And since Runaround did not exist in a comic book, well, this gaming situation was what we had, and we were going to make the most of it.

I, as GM, had only two things to concern myself with Runaround: presenting situations from my back-story and NPC play which revved him into high gear, and then getting the hell out of the way. What I'm saying, maybe better this time, is that neither of us had any interest in the developing gamer/genre conventions of a "speedster" and his "role" in a super-team. Nor was Matt interested in settling back and seeing what my story was, nor was I interested in "telling" any kind of a story which did not rely in great part in rocking back on my heels based on whatever Runaround (and/or the other characters) did just now. Shit, too many negatives in that last clause: what I mean is, I was committed to contributing my part to a story which itself developed very greatly based on what the player-characters had just done or initiated doing. That's not to say I wasn't very deeply involved with my own back-story and stable of NPCs; of course I was, to an extent which would be embarassing to describe. But the process of play was very largely about what the characters, both player and NPC, had just done or were about to do.

I will stop before I begin having flashbacks to that period in my life. I hope that I'm clarifying that by "play my character," I mean that every person there is absolutely uninterested in emulating existing stories and tropes, and absolutely committed to generating a story which simply and basically is our best shot, today, at beating the shit out of existing stories. And we do that by playing these characters as honestly and intently as possible. Which, interestingly, actually means less melodramatic emoting, rather than more. It means more attention to the constraints of the medium (i.e. System), not less.

That's were I wrote Sorcerer from. I have said over and over, this is high alcoholic content, possibly hallucinogenic liquor. It is not for everyone. Anyone might drink it, but there are lots of reasons why it will be an embarrasing, nauseating, possibly meaningless experience for many of them. I never expected that very many people would even be interested (my original plan was to publish 500 copies and be done); I certainly never expected anyone who wasn't already "fully there" to be interested in getting there, and asking for help to do so.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle

Happy new year!

James, since Kickers and Demons and Bangs work hand in hand, I'm not sure I'd be adding much new material by describing my use of bangs.
Nevertheless, some of them may be inferred from my reports (especially the early ones). Some went better than others, and I tended to reduce them in the later stages of play: on the one hand, I just wanted things to resolve rather than throwing more shit at the fan; on the other hand, the discrepancies between our respective expectations as players threw me into a less character centric approach to GM-ing.
Another warning sign I let slip by was that we quickly stopped paying attention to the diagram at the back of the character sheet (although of course central elements were de facto in play). Everything distanced play from character centric. Or probably more honestly, if I can get myself to admit it, we drifted to participationist play (for the sake of taking the imagined events to a conclusion, rather than cutting them off abruptly.)

Ron, this is strong booze indeed. I got myself a hangover here... but as I sober up, I think I've learned a subtle lesson. Feel free to go on with your points if you refrained yourself, I'm finding this extremely interesting. I also went back over the previous threads and the link you just added. I'm just nodding in front of my computer.

For the while being, I don't quite understand how this stuff is related to Sorcerer in particular, rather than to Social Contract. Before and during the Carnival Bizarre, I thought this intensity was in large part a dial the group had to adjust, but, nah, this is definitely tequila, whether we like it or not, we tried to take the salt and lemon to take off the edge, but got drunk anyway.
Maybe I'm asking how one can know beforehand that a given game requires a desire to drink strong liquor rather than beer and how one can know if one is ready to absorb it.
Why is playing arrogant sorcerers ready to defy reality itself linked to beating the shit out of existing stories rather than patch-working our own interpretations (not celebrations!) out of them? Actually what's the difference? Does it depend on how cultivated the group is in a given family of stories?
Or does the "beating the shit out of stories" aspect come from something else entirely? Are we still discussing character vs setting centric (I'm thinking that there are liquors of both sorts)?


(BTW, guys, while it is true that my main language is French and that as such one could expect my first name to have a final "e", I have an Alemannic background, where the "e" is dropped. Switzerland is a funny mix.)

Ron Edwards

Hi Christoph,

I want to focus on this part:

QuoteOr probably more honestly, if I can get myself to admit it, we drifted to participationist play (for the sake of taking the imagined events to a conclusion, rather than cutting them off abruptly.)

In many ways, when people do not "play my character" in the way that I tried to describe above, they end up holding the GM hostage as the de facto author, especially in terms of bringing matters not only to a close, but a satisfying, completed, and effective close. All by himself or herself. If the GM is the kind of person who would like to be a revered and popular author, they can develop a kind of complex which combines both egomania and martyrdom. I don't consider this combination to be a particularly strong foundation for Story Now play. (How it relates to Participationist technique, and whatever CA-based goals are involved with that, is another topic.)

However, I also think our hobby's texts have tended to foster exactly this effect – the players not "playing my character," and the GM shouldering the "story." It's a particular outcome of trying to resolve the Impossible Thing. Or if you want to look at it differently, it's one of the negative behaviors that the phrasing of the Impossible Thing is coding for.

I saw an interesting example of it recently. Quoting Jesse from his post in [MLwM] First play, with some awkwardness:

QuoteI've often made the joke that My Life with Master is actually a GM-less game the GM just plays a PC with different function from the rest of the players.

Isn't it interesting that (in his joke) Jesse considers a person, if not personally in charge of shepherding the story and ensuring that it closes in a particular way and time, not to be a GM? A person might be doing the scene-framing and playing multiple characters, but if he or she is not "running his story," then it's not "real" GMing, and that kind of play must be GM-less.

The second part of your post asks some very complicated questions in a kind of mixed-up way. I'll rearrange some of your text for clarity, not to answer point-by-point, but because I think you're bringing up distinct issues.

QuoteFor the while being, I don't quite understand how this stuff is related to Sorcerer in particular, rather than to Social Contract. ....
Why is playing arrogant sorcerers ready to defy reality itself linked to beating the shit out of existing stories rather than patch-working our own interpretations (not celebrations!) out of them? Actually what's the difference? Does it depend on how cultivated the group is in a given family of stories?

I think the ambitious Story Now implication is intrinsic to that specific content, if one looks at the content honestly. Sorcerers (demonologists, whatever you want to call them) are not just more magic users, and one of my immediate observations dating back to the 1970s (no lie!) is that when they are included in a game system, they either get diminished into "the scary/stupid type" or they expand into the forefront.

That's mainly why in Sorcerer, there is literally nothing else available in terms of metaphysical options.

QuoteOr does the "beating the shit out of stories" aspect come from something else entirely? Are we still discussing character vs setting centric (I'm thinking that there are liquors of both sorts)?

I think these issues are not related. I tried to illustrate that with my first post in the thread, emphasizing that "play my character" as I described it there could be done in either setting-first or character-first play. I think you're confounding a strong setting emphasis with GM-driven plot. Those aren't synonymous.

Hero Wars was very setting centric, and also as Narrativist as all get out - arguably distinctly more about inventing (and expressing) your own myths and morality than Sorcerer is!

QuoteMaybe I'm asking how one can know beforehand that a given game requires a desire to drink strong liquor rather than beer and how one can know if one is ready to absorb it.

That's a bit like asking whether one is ready for doing anything creative and challenging. Readiness is a blend of competence and willingness, as I see it, and whether I (for instance) am ready enough seems like a question that can be answered in only one way, by doing it. I think that one's concern for role-playing, and for other social/leisure activities, is more about judging whether the other people playing are willing.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle

Hi Ron

I thought a good deal about this thread and your replies. I think you've brought the topic as far as you could given my role-playing (and perhaps more general) maturity and as such I consider that this thread has come to its conclusion, with lots of good points for me to explore in future play. Thank your for your time!