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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] Sorcerer's In Suburia : Prep  (Read 3342 times)
The Dragon Master
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« on: September 19, 2010, 08:06:19 AM »

As usual I put off prep till the last weekend figuring it'd be fine as is. Until I ran across a reminder that I hadn't yet really nailed down the flavor of sorcery that is. 'Doh! Disclaimer here: Due to the nature of Humanity in this game, sorcery can be fairly dark to modern sensibilities, and honestly is feeling a bit more dark than I'm generally comfortable with. Squeemish folks, you've been warned.

The first thing I did was expand my definition of Humanity. It centers around a sort of 1950's vision of the suburban family. The one you grew up with on show's like Leave it to Beaver. Dad goes to work every morning, and is home for dinner every night. Mom is cooking dinner by 4, and cleaning scrapes and the house during the day. The kids go to school and do their homework before going out to play. I stretched it a bit to include the safety, trust, and security (including financial) of the family unit. I'm thinking the unit, rather than the actual family as it would give high humanity types more of a... pod people feel. I thought about a second Humanity definition, but this'll be my first real campaign, and I'll have enough to worry about without adding another twist to the game (though I'll probably run this again in the future and will do so then if it feels appropriate).

I figured the easiest way to define what Sorcery looks like was to think about the summoning rituals. I like the idea that the rituals cause Humanity loss rolls because you have to do things that would cause these rolls even without their involvement in the ritual, and that the flavor of these would be tied up in the nature of the Demon. So the battered wife summons her Demon by meeting it at the old no-tell motel, for instance.

Demon types are limited to Passers, Inconspicuous, Possessors, and maybe Parasites.

To begin with I was envisioning a sort of uneducated latin/greek/arabic pidgin being used, while the Sorcerer partakes in somewhat ritualized actions that would put the family unit at risk. Such as the father going to work on Saturday, promising he'd make it to the baseball game, and making a "business" call when he is at the last minute he can leave and still make it on time. If all goes well, the Demon answers the call and as such is Summoned (the Demon I had in mind for this ritual is actually just a voice on the phone line). The issue I'm running into is that the more I try to envision these rituals, the more the pidgin, and the ritual figures, and really most of the sorcerous trappings, begin to feel unnecessary. It almost feels like I could drop them entirely, and just... I don't really know. Have the acts themselves be the entirety of the ritual.

I guess my main question is: What effect would it have on play if I dropped the Sorcerous trappings entirely, and let the actions lay bare in the fiction? Really I do like the way the trappings make it feel more like the actions are being deliberately taken, but do I gain something by letting them stand alone?
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2010, 09:41:33 AM »

I had to stop reading halfway through the post.

Do you believe this version of Humanity? Do you personally buy into it to any extent? Do you see standing up for it, against adversity, as something you could or would do?

Because it reads like a total pod-person abstraction, something you cooked up bloodlessly. As written, anyway, I don't believe you.

Best, Ron
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Vortigern
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2010, 10:14:32 AM »

I'm thinking the unit, rather than the actual family as it would give high humanity types more of a... pod people feel. I thought about a second Humanity definition, but ( snip )

I had to stop reading halfway through the post.

Do you believe this version of Humanity? Do you personally buy into it to any extent? Do you see standing up for it, against adversity, as something you could or would do?

Because it reads like a total pod-person abstraction, something you cooked up bloodlessly. As written, anyway, I don't believe you.

Best, Ron

Ironic?

Anyway.  Can this work?

I am confused a bit by this because it seems to set up a situation where having a higher humanity score is perceived as a flaw unto becoming a 'pod-person' kind of thing, exactly put.  Whereas I thought the entire idea of Humanity is that it represented the core of "good" or "normal" in the game, and that the deviations from there come from lacking it.

In other words, to me, if you are interested in pursuing a 'pod-people' kind of theme, wouldn't a better option be to say that Humanity = Individuality, and thus -low- humanity people are more pod-people-ish?  Or am I missing the point of where you are trying to go with this?
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Vortigern
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2010, 06:25:29 PM »

Add my voice to Vortigern's. I'm kind of confused as well and he put it better than I did.

Best, Ron
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Paiku
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2010, 06:41:59 PM »

I think Sorcerer in general can be played either way.
(a) normal society is Humane; sorcery (and Humanity loss) mean doing socially abhorrent things; or
(b) normal society is inHumane, or societal norms have nothing to do with the game's definition of Humanity; sorcery (and Humannity loss) run counter to the PCs' personal values.

Hmm, this seemed like a simple idea until I tried to write it out.  Anyway, the 1950s utopia would be an example of (a).  Marr'd, I think, would be an example of (b).  In Dictionary of Mu, Humanity = hope, but Marr'd is a pretty desperate and hopeless place; sorcerers who hold onto their Humanity tend to do things that give people hope, i.o.w. act like heroes, but the acts of Sorcery themselves destroy hope (at least symbolically).  It's a paradox but, well, Sorcery is crazy-making.

I think the "perfect Norman Rockwell home" thing is an interesting thought experiment, and could make an interesting game depending on the players.  But would it be a visceral experience?

As for the OP's original question of what would be lost if sorcerous acts were simply these inHumane acts done purposefully: well I just have one question.  Sorcerers aren't the only people in this utopian neighbourhood who are breaking the rules.  What happens when the bored housewife bangs the plumber; does a demon get his wings?  As you implied, I think intent has to be important.  But is having intent enough, or should the would-be sorcerer have to show it somehow, ie. through ritual: pidgin mumblings or the like?

-John
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2010, 09:58:27 AM »

The first thing I did was expand my definition of Humanity. It centers around a sort of 1950's vision of the suburban family. The one you grew up with on show's like Leave it to Beaver. Dad goes to work every morning, and is home for dinner every night. Mom is cooking dinner by 4, and cleaning scrapes and the house during the day. The kids go to school and do their homework before going out to play. I stretched it a bit to include the safety, trust, and security (including financial) of the family unit. I'm thinking the unit, rather than the actual family as it would give high humanity types more of a... pod people feel. I thought about a second Humanity definition, but this'll be my first real campaign, and I'll have enough to worry about without adding another twist to the game (though I'll probably run this again in the future and will do so then if it feels appropriate).

The bolded part is the bit that is important to the definition of humanity for me. Whether the kids go outside to play or do their homework is of minimal significance to gain/loss rolls, but whether they are supporting the trust placed in them is. Whether the husband is home at 5pm sharp every day or not is of minimal significance, but whether he is where he said he'd be is. Whether the wife is at home at 4pm making dinner is of minimal significance, but whether she has abandoned her family to fend for themselves with no prior notice is.

I figured the easiest way to define what Sorcery looks like was to think about the summoning rituals. I like the idea that the rituals cause Humanity loss rolls because you have to do things that would cause these rolls even without their involvement in the ritual, and that the flavor of these would be tied up in the nature of the Demon. So the battered wife summons her Demon by meeting it at the old no-tell motel, for instance.

Demon types are limited to Passers, Inconspicuous, Possessors, and maybe Parasites.

To begin with I was envisioning a sort of uneducated latin/greek/arabic pidgin being used, while the Sorcerer partakes in somewhat ritualized actions that would put the family unit at risk. Such as the father going to work on Saturday, promising he'd make it to the baseball game, and making a "business" call when he is at the last minute he can leave and still make it on time. If all goes well, the Demon answers the call and as such is Summoned (the Demon I had in mind for this ritual is actually just a voice on the phone line). The issue I'm running into is that the more I try to envision these rituals, the more the pidgin, and the ritual figures, and really most of the sorcerous trappings, begin to feel unnecessary. It almost feels like I could drop them entirely, and just... I don't really know. Have the acts themselves be the entirety of the ritual.

And this here is the issue I'm trying to resolve. The sorcerous trappings feel like, well, trappings. They feel tacked on rather than as an organic, integral part of the rituals. They feel like they're an afterthought rather than a part of the ritual itself, and I'm not sure how to correct that.

I think Sorcerer in general can be played either way.
(a) normal society is Humane; sorcery (and Humanity loss) mean doing socially abhorrent things; or
(b) normal society is inHumane, or societal norms have nothing to do with the game's definition of Humanity; sorcery (and Humannity loss) run counter to the PCs' personal values.


Hmm, this seemed like a simple idea until I tried to write it out.  Anyway, the 1950s utopia would be an example of (a).  Marr'd, I think, would be an example of (b).  In Dictionary of Mu, Humanity = hope, but Marr'd is a pretty desperate and hopeless place; sorcerers who hold onto their Humanity tend to do things that give people hope, i.o.w. act like heroes, but the acts of Sorcery themselves destroy hope (at least symbolically).  It's a paradox but, well, Sorcery is crazy-making.

I think this is the part where Humanity was getting tripped up. I kept thinking of it in terms of a triad. Society could be humane, inhumane, or...this other thing. Still not really dealing with the initial issue, but worth commenting on none-the-less.

I think the "perfect Norman Rockwell home" thing is an interesting thought experiment, and could make an interesting game depending on the players.  But would it be a visceral experience?

As for the OP's original question of what would be lost if sorcerous acts were simply these inHumane acts done purposefully: well I just have one question.  Sorcerers aren't the only people in this utopian neighbourhood who are breaking the rules.  What happens when the bored housewife bangs the plumber; does a demon get his wings?  As you implied, I think intent has to be important.  But is having intent enough, or should the would-be sorcerer have to show it somehow, ie. through ritual: pidgin mumblings or the like?

-John

And here we're back to the initial issue. The ritual mumblings and so forth, feels tacked on rather than feeling like a cohesive part of the whole. And I'm having trouble seeing how to combine the two sides of it. The inhumane acts, and the sorcerous trappings.

...

And sorry about not replying yesterday. I wasn't able to get to a computer for any appreciable length of time until I got to work this morning.
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Roger
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2010, 01:04:58 PM »

My perception on your main problem is this:  right now you've got the volume on Sorcerer's Humanity checks turned way way down, at maybe a 1, and it's a lot easier if you turn it way way up to 11.

(I'm specifically not addressing some hypothetical elite Sorcerer ninja players who can run all sorts of subtle things, so don't bother me about that.)

So we've got Dad and he said he'd make it to his son's baseball game and he doesn't.  That's a really low-key low-impact sort of example of a Humanity check in any game.  It's got that bloodlessness about it; if I were a player in that game, I don't really feel anything in my gut about making this sort of choice.  It's pretty safe all around.

Let's turn up the volume.  Dad takes Mom down to his bondage dungeon in the basement and does horrible things to her.  And he makes the kids watch.

Can you feel the difference there?  Like someone's kinda punched you in the gut and now you're worried about what the other players think of you and you really hope your parents never find a record of the Actual Play?  That's the sort of increase in volume I'm talking about.  (Personally I'd still only call that about a 4 or 5 on the volume dial, but everyone's different.)

If you fight your way past the nausea and revulsion, I think you'll find that your questions about ritualistic trappings just lose their relevance.  But I might be wrong -- if that isn't as helpful as I've imagined it to be, I'll try again.  I've gone in a certain direction for illustrative purposes, but there's lots of other directions.



Cheers,
Roger
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Paiku
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« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2010, 01:20:05 PM »

Dan parted the curtain and peeked out onto the parking lot of the motel.  Just as they'd done it the last four times, he'd arrived first and gotten the room.  Marsha would be along any minute now and... well, they'd have an hour and a half before either of them would be missed by work or families.  This time it would be different in one important respect.  Dan nervously fingered the scrap in his pocket, that piece of fabric on which he'd copied the symbol from that weird book.  The sigil of... he couldn't recall the name of the demon, but the symbol would be enough.  The scrap he had torn from his own child's pyjamas, to represent the betrayal inherent in what he was about to do.

Marsha, in dark sunglasses, was striding briskly across the parking lot in red high heels.  Dan pulled open the door in time for her to quickly slip through, and a moment later she was in his arms, her lips searching eagerly for his.  Not at all like his wife's cold, perfunctory kisses.  His body trembled with anticipation and... fear?  A bolt of pure thrill like he hadn't felt in years ran through him.  Was it just the thought of otherworldly forces watching what he and Marsha were about to do?  Or was the symbol itself, still clutched in his sweaty fingers, having some effect already?  He wondered if this demon was already watching.  He kissed her again, and tried to focus his thoughts on his family, and hers, and how he was betraying them both.


Something like that?
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Paiku
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« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2010, 01:29:44 PM »


The ritual mumblings and so forth, feels tacked on rather than feeling like a cohesive part of the whole. And I'm having trouble seeing how to combine the two sides of it. The inhumane acts, and the sorcerous trappings.


FYI, my previous post was in response to this quote, not to Roger's post. 
-John
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2010, 03:24:12 PM »

Paiku: So you mean to think of the trappings as... a mental focus for the ritual? As being a symbol even for the sorcerer using them? I think that might just work.

Roger: Several of the rituals I'd been thinking of would fall closer to what you're listing as the 4 -5 notch, but which for me are a bit higher up than that (as opposed to the guy missing his kids game). Part of my concern with turning the dial up that far is that I can only go so far before I'm no longer comfortable with the fiction being produced. The other part comes from that this game is being run in a public environment where I have only known some of the other participants for a few weeks, a couple of them were just faces in the background till they joined our 3:16 game last week, and we may have more people who I've never met joining us this week (only about 3 or 4 will be in my game, we're running a different game along side it for the spillover, but still), and all that has me hesitant to cross too many lines.

Still, I think you're right. If I don't turn the heat up higher, then I'm not going to really be playing Sorcerer with them, just showing off a really cool die mechanic, and that isn't fair to me (who's been waiting for this campaign for 4 years), to them (who've been promised a more intense experience), or to the system. Just have to remember Ron's quote. This isn't a training manual, this is a bottle of tequila (which I'm actually tempted to pick up and bring to drive the point home as a visual aid this evening).
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Paiku
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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2010, 05:18:59 PM »

Paiku: So you mean to think of the trappings as... a mental focus for the ritual? As being a symbol even for the sorcerer using them?

Indeed!

...this evening).

Good luck, let us know how it goes!
-John
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2010, 06:58:49 PM »

Paiku: I want to thank you for your example ritual. I used a modification of it, along with a couple of my own, to give them a feel of the flavor of sorcery.

The players really seemed to be digging on the setting (well, one not so much, but she's new to gaming in general and was having trouble with the whole "protagonist in motion" thing, but we worked it out). It's being run for a group that meets out of a comic shop. There are 6 of us altogether (well 7, but I don't expect him to be back for this campaign). We were supposed to be splitting into two groups. One playing Sorcerer, and the other playing Shab Al-Hiri Roach, but with two of our members out, and not enough people to split up and have two playable groups, everyone ended up making Sorcerer characters. Yes, I'm aware that will likely cause problems, but I think I can manage it for now, and I'm still expecting that when we have the whole group reassembled several of the members will split off for another game.

I'm going to be reading over the character sheets the next couple nights, and I'll post up a separate thread for it.
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
Paiku
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2010, 05:43:15 PM »

Yer welcome, glad you found it helpful.  I look forward to reading more about the game.
Cheers,
-John
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The Dragon Master
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2010, 03:31:50 PM »

I've thrown up the AP for the first session, and have posted it here.
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"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony
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