[Sorcerer] I don't get Necromancy

Started by Frank Tarcikowski, January 23, 2010, 12:56:58 PM

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Frank Tarcikowski

Hi there, can someone help me out on the necromancy rules in Sorcerer & Sword? I don't get them. I've read the examples, and in them I don't see where the Token is. I mean, what is it? A physical object? A mark of some sort? Where do the dice go, how and when do I use them? Do I use them only on one very specific act? Or what do I do to re-use them?

And the lich option: What do I roll? Why would I use bonus dice to create a powerful Token? Seems to me I'd rather have a very weak Token, so I do well on the Stamina and Will rolls. After I'm a lich, do I ever get to use the dice stored in the Token? If so, how? If not, what's the point?

I just don't get it.

- Frank
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Ron Edwards

Hi Frank,

My apologies for not replying in detail yet. I need a little time; things just jumped up a bit in terms of obligations.

But I will provide a detailed example, which is probably the best way to answer.

Best, Ron

Frank Tarcikowski

Hi Ron, no problem, it's not an urgent question. Thanks for your efforts!

Maybe I'm just having a language issue with the word "Token" here. Anyway, an example sounds like the right way to go.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English

Ron Edwards

Hi Frank,

A sorcerer kills a person in some specific circumstances. He shrinks the victim's head, keeping it in a jar perhaps or maybe wearing it sometimes. The victim had Humanity 4. The newly-created Token has a rating of 4.

Over the course of the next few months, the sorcerer does the following things, and each time, he waves the head around or does something else that's gruesomely oriented toward the head, like talking to the victim as if he or she were still alive.

1. Contacts a demon. The sorcerer gets a 4-dice bonus to his Lore. This example applies for any ritual. Note that this bonus applies to snap-shot rituals, making them far more likely to succeed.

2. Kills a person. This is a straight-up combat situation, and the sorcerer gets a 4-dice bonus to his Stamina during the fight for the primary roll in each round, as long as the stated action is a lethally-intended attack.

3. Stays unkillable, or mostly so. In another combat situation, the sorcerer has "spoken" to the head and encased his soul (whatever that is) in there. The effect is to provide a 4-dice bonus to every defensive roll during the fight.

4. Does something else that entails a dice roll ... let's say, tries to market a book he's written. As long as he uses the Token in a higly ritualized fashion evocative of the original killing, he can get a 4-dice addition to Will toward this end. Note, however, that in this case, the Token is reduced to 1 during the attempt and hence isn't as useful for anything else that might come up. (This matches the Boost rule.)

Please note that the 4-dice bonus is never used up. There are no limits on how often it might be used, as long as the requirements are met. The sorcerer has his shrunken head, and it's a 4-dice "go bunny" for actions within the parameters.

To explain the parameters (basically repeating the rules now): Bonus dice for rituals, attempts to kill, defenses against being killed, rituals, bonuses to demon's Power, "Boost" some other action - these are all allowed, indefinitely and freely, as long as the Token is used directly, as listed in the middle of page 59. Waving it over your head is a good baseline concept.

All right, after a year or so, the sorcerer kills someone else in similar circumstances. He brandishes his shrunken head while doing so, probably getting a 4-dice bonus along the way for a roll, but that's not required. It is necessary, however, that he's openly trying to increase the Token's power. The new victim had a Humanity of 6. The player rolls six dice vs. 4 (the Token's current score). Here, I'll do it for real right now:

Victim's Humanity: 9, 10, 9, 3, 2, 5 (wins with three victories)
Token: 1, 3, 5, 5

So the Token gets three more dice added to its score, for a total of 7. If the Humanity had lost, then the Token would remain at 4.

The point here is that as one's Token becomes bigger, one needs to find victims to kill who have higher and higher Humanity, in order to have a decent chance at increasing the Token's power at all. (And no, the Token's current power cannot give a bonus to the victim's Humanity in that particular roll.)

Let me know if this makes sense. All the examples in the book are more advanced and freaky applications of the basics given above.

The Lich rules are a subset of the Token rules. It's easy - the victim is yourself. You can make a new Token this way, using your own Humanity as the starting score. Or you could add to an existing Token, and a failed Humanity/Token roll in doing so doesn't ruin the whole plan, it only means that the Token retains its current score.*

Note that it's probably best to start one's lich-Token small, however, basing it on one's own death only, from a small-Humanity starting point. That way your Stamina has less chance to be reduced, and your Will has a chance of making this whole project work in the first place.** It also means that your demonic Power will be higher (Will + absolute value Price - Humanity). The option to lichify yourself by increasing an existing Token is available for those times when it is thematically irresistible, although it's admittedly riskier.

And yes, once you're a lich, you also happen to have this Token now, with all the wonderful bonus opportunities described above available to you ... and now you can always "kill up" its score by finding more victims.

Ohhhh, I love these rules. It's been too long since I've played them!

Best, Ron

* The rules mention that the resulting Token's value might even be higher than the Humanity (or the added victories if any), based on rolling a previous roll's success into it, but this is not a special rule, merely a reminder that the rollover bonus rules are available.

** This is the make-or-break roll for becoming a lich. You can see, I think, that high Will and low Humanity optimize one's chances.

Frank Tarcikowski

Thanks Ron! That's a lot clearer now. Usually before actually killing himself in order to become immortal, one would expect a sorcerer to have done some other terrible things and be rather low on Humanity, so that should work out nicely!

- Frank

P.S.: I'm getting an itch to read Undertown again.
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English


I haven't played with a Token yet, but... okay, I haven't played Sorcerer yet (first game starts next week), BUT: why doesn't the presence of a Token unbalance the game?  A character with a Token has a great big bonus on almost every roll.  Demons don't unbalance the game because the have Needs and Desires - and because every PC has one (at least...).  Do you have to make a Humanity roll every time you use your Token?  How is this balanced?



Quote from: Paiku on January 28, 2010, 09:04:56 PMHow is this balanced?

1) it's not about "balance", it's about story and theme; consider: demons do not have Needs and Desires because their use must be "balanced". That is exactly the wrong way to think about it.

2) note the bonus is gained "...as long as he uses the Token in a highly ritualized fashion evocative of the original killing..." and in situations where life/death are on-the-line (someone's, not necessarily the sorcerer's), for sorcerous and demonic stuff, and similar actions.

But if you don't "get" #1, trying to apply #2 is pointless and can even be harmful to good play, IMO.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

The Dragon Master

One thing to keep in mind about Sorcerer is that it isn't about "game balance". Don't think of the session as being about resolving a scenario, or playing through an adventure. Think of it as being about learning about the PCs and what they will do to get what they want.

GM: will you risk your soul to get what you want?
PC: Yes, and I'll do it by (insert sorcerous ritual here)
GM: Will you (insert humanity risking behavior here)?
PC: Why yes I will.
GM: Well how about (insert HRB here)?
PC: Well, no I won't do that.
GM: Well what about (insert HRB here)?
PC: Actually, that I'll do.

is the normal flow of the game. When you add in tokens though you are adding an extra step to the conversation though.

GM: Will you kill this person in this ritualized fashion?
PC: Yes I will.
GM: Will you turn a momento mori of them into a focus of your power?
PC: Absolutely.
GM: Will you kill this other person in the same way?
PC: Why not.
GM: Will you risk people discovering what you've done to all those people for power in order to get just a little more?
PC: Sure?

And a necromantic token takes that a step further.

GM: Will you sacrifice your sorcerous abilities in order to become immortal?
PC: ...

Now I've been in games where I had a chance to get an "uber item" for my character by having them take a morally questionable route. I've chosen to take that route. And I've had times where it didn't matter to me, and times where I became afraid of the character and how far they would go to get what they want. A good GM will take you down the latter path. The one that casts your character in a different light than you though of him in before. And that is the style of play Sorcerer is meant for.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony


Thanks Dragon Master, a light just came on for me.  I was thinking about GMing Sorcerer as "adventure planning."  So as not to divert this discussion about Necromancy, I've posted my response here.  Thanks again,