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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 39 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Sorcerer] One Sheet: The Russian Winter  (Read 2429 times)
James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« on: September 03, 2011, 05:45:32 PM »

In a few days I'll be meeting with some friends to play Sorcerer.  My goals are (1) to confirm everyone's got the necessary agenda, (2) seed the discussion of setting with a few ideas and firm things up based on brainstorming, (3) make characters, (4) work out scheduling.

Here is one of the possible settings.

THE RUSSIAN WINTER
Inspirations:  The works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, with a little bit of Leo Tolstoy and Nikolai Gogol.  Nineteenth Century Russia, mostly focusing on the minor gentry and those who come into contact with them: professionals, government bureaucrats, servants, dissipated artists, sexual gold-diggers, and so on.  Long, bitter winters; suffering peasants; self-involved bureaucrats; maddened intellectuals. (Ironically I was never able to finish The Possessed a/k/a Demons.)

Humanity: Connection with Russians, specifically compassion for their suffering.
* Gain Humanity by: helping people in a non-condescending way
* Lose Humanity by: hurting people, or acting in a condescending way
* Humanity 0 means: incurable depression, mania, manic-depression; or suicide if hitting 0 due to demonic pressure

Demons: Foreigners and foreign ideas, exploiting the weaknesses in the Russian soul.  Seductive and cosmopolitan.  Almost all demons are Passers and Possessors, an occasional Object.  Powers usually are subtle, and if anything is really obvious it's usually Cloaked or there's a Daze so that observers don't catch on.  Typically demons have nasty Desires but unobtrusive Needs.   

Sorcery: Westernizing (and very likely corrupting) Russian society.  Rituals often take weeks.

Lore: Familiarity with life outside Russia.  The Grand Tourist, Intellectual Faddist, Visionary, and so on.

StaminaWillLore
Army LifeTroublemakerGrand Tour
DebauchedInnocentIntellectual Faddist
CallousedBelieverVisionary
Sound of BodyHaughtyImmigrant
SicklyAshamedNaif

Sample covers:
* Aristocrat
* Writer
* Monk
* Invalid or Madman (Price = sickness @ -2)
* Office Clerk
* Cavalry Officer
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2011, 08:16:57 PM »

Hi James,

There's tons of things I like about it, speaking as a long-time re-reader of Notes From Underground and The Brothers Karamazov.

But I will say this only because it's really been weighing on me for the last year: the flexibility of Sorcerer, regarding settings, is appearing to me more and more as a bug rather than a feature.

Or maybe it's a feature as a major advanced technique. Or maybe there's some other subtle way that a specialized setting can be a good thing from the outset, which I can't figure out how to articulate. After all, the freaky SF/underground thing that Jaakko's doing seems to be working out perfectly all right.

For me, though, Sorcerer is doing best lately as "here and now" play. The here-and-now might be tweaked or exaggerated or given some kind of textual emphasis (New York City! with exclamation point, or "success in the suburbs," both potentially surreal in the degree of cultural emphasis).But it's closeness to the setting which matters.

So, for you, the best thing approaching advice I can safely give is to seek that closeness to the material. You may have done it with this; it looks heartfelt in some ways. Or you might not - it borders on too academic, too focused on Dostoevsky's nativism and less on his bleeding heart and brilliant observation, both of which yielded unflinching criticism of his beloved Russia.

If you can find that closeness, to the extent that what you briefly present is less about analyzing and more about revealing what you love about the material, perhaps embarassingly so, then I'd be there as a player.

Best, Ron
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Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2011, 08:37:34 PM »

As an avid Dostojevski fan, I love this to bits!

You propably know, that European/foreign culture was hugely respected at that time in Russia, among the cultural elite. On the other hand it was also thought of being decadent by some. Only the peasants still held on to proper russian values and customs. They respected the orthodox church etc. whereas the elite dabbled in existentialism and atheism etc. Dostojevski himself wrote pretty harshly/humorously about just these issues and that development. Your game would be an interesting take on all that, which could created all sorts of interesting questions in play.

This also made me think about The Idiot a lot. For example, humanity 0 at the end, but why? Or too much humanity and ascent into a completely normal-world dysfunctional sinless child-like state?

P.S. posting on my cell, at 0730, after overseeing nearly 8 hours of anime-karaoke in TraCon. Don't really know if I'm making any sense at all to anyone else anymore, sorry :)
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Roger
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Posts: 228


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« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2011, 08:44:44 PM »

But I will say this only because it's really been weighing on me for the last year: the flexibility of Sorcerer, regarding settings, is appearing to me more and more as a bug rather than a feature.

This is a wild and uninformed guess:  the risk one runs with "ooh, that's some Settting" is that the purpose of play easily becomes Exploration of Setting, or its closely-related cousin, Exploration of Colour.

That being said, I think Sorcerer is as clear as it can be about the sorts of Exploration it's designed to support.


And to James:  I'm not sure if I could resist the temptation to move this to North Korea, Modern Day.  Maybe that's just me.



Cheers,
Roger
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2011, 05:47:34 AM »

Thanks for the input, everybody!

The flexibility of Sorcerer, regarding settings, is appearing to me more and more as a bug rather than a feature. . . .

For me, though, Sorcerer is doing best lately as "here and now" play. The here-and-now might be tweaked or exaggerated or given some kind of textual emphasis (New York City! with exclamation point, or "success in the suburbs," both potentially surreal in the degree of cultural emphasis).But it's closeness to the setting which matters.

This message came through loud and clear in the 2011 GenCon AP thread, so no worries.  One of the other offerings on the "menu" is gong to be a modern day, here-and-now-no-foolin' type of thing.  I'll start a thread.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
it borders on too academic, too focused on Dostoevsky's nativism and less on his bleeding heart and brilliant observation, both of which yielded unflinching criticism of his beloved Russia.

Thanks for reminding me about that strain in Dostoyevsky's work.  It's been at least ten years since I've read that stuff, and you're right, there's that aspect to it, something involving the capacity for suffering (especially vicariously), idealism, and mingled love-and-shame for his countrymen.  I'll try to blast through the first half of Notes from the Underground again and re-work my Humanity definition.  (The very first time I realized that Sorcerer's reward mechanism was pretty much: 50% of the time good things go unrewarded and 50% of the time bad things go unpunished, I immediately thought of Notes.)

Quote from: Roger
This is a wild and uninformed guess:  the risk one runs with "ooh, that's some Settting" is that the purpose of play easily becomes Exploration of Setting, or its closely-related cousin, Exploration of Colour.

That certainly sounds right to me!  Very well said, at least from a player's point of view.  I would think, though, that if you're designing your setting according to the principles in Sorcerer's Soul then everything is in service to the issue, and maybe it works out?

[quote author =Roger]I'm not sure if I could resist the temptation to move this to North Korea, Modern Day.  Maybe that's just me.[/quote]

You're on your own, Dear Leader.
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Jaakko Koivula
Member

Posts: 61

Postmodern man-thing


« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2011, 10:00:59 AM »

Yey, slept a bit and have a proper keyboard now.

I really love the sort of dualism and respect in all of Dostojevski's work. Even when people are being treated horribly, they are horrible themselves or if they just are poor or rich, everyone is still somehow absolutely human. Even the most heinous bastards are still precious, no matter how low they seem to sink. I don't think that anyone ever completely loses their humanity in any Dostojevski's work. Even the clinically insane characters are still occasionally capable of love and mercy and the writer never forgets this either. All characters are always treated as inherently valuable human beings and with the respect that demands. That's a pretty tall order for the players and the GM as authors, if nothing else :>

If you were planning on re-working your humanity, how about...

Humanity as respect.
Humanity is the capacity to believe that there is something good and absolutely worthy in everyone of us. Even when people say or do nasty and horrible things or the world heaps iniquities on you, you still respect yourself and everyone else as a human being. Examples:
*Gain humanity: believing in someone, going out of your way to help people just because. "Even murderer's can atone, give him another chance!"
*Lose humanity: refusing to help someone because of their evil deeds, treating people like objects. "He is a murderer, sure we can sacrifice him for the greater good."
*Humanity 0 would be total nihilism. Anything and everything goes, everything is permitted: suicide, murder or genocide.

Horrible GM could call for humanity rolls on every "Oh, If I only could erase myself from this world, so you would never have had to feel the sorrows my wickedness has caused you over these endless years, my dove. Nothing can absolve me from these sins." -styled speeches that go with the genre.

"A-ha, let's see if you really meant it!" ;)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2011, 06:28:03 AM »

Quote
The very first time I realized that Sorcerer's reward mechanism was pretty much: 50% of the time good things go unrewarded and 50% of the time bad things go unpunished, I immediately thought of Notes.

That qualifies for the Top Five most rewarding feedback I've ever received concerning my work in role-playing. Maybe even first place.

Thanks James!
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