So in the Sorcerer game I'm GMing, we've defined Humanity as Empathy. Our Sorcery is defined as attemptable from any discipline imaginable, from punk voodoo to Native American spiritism to Expanded Consciousness theory to sitting on your back porch and yelling at the universe to fix your dead-end life.
And I just read Sorcerer and Soul, whereupon my eyes got big at the section on how Sorcerous Ritual is tied directly to your Humanity definition, specifically by transgressing against it.
That's hot stuff. And it would seem vital to shaping our use of Ritual in the game.
So, I'm looking for some help: how would transgression against Empathy look for an eclectic range of Sorcerous disciplines like those above (which are, in fact exactly the approaches of the respective PCs)? I can see lack of Empathy as manifesting in two ways, mainly: isolation from others (physically or emotionally), or harming of others due to their needs and feelings not being fully real to you (sociopathy). So I could see, for instance, doing Sorcery entailing ignoring/sequestering yourself from people who need you, for the first one. Or employing sacrifice, for the second. But That doesn't give us a lot of narrative grist across the spectrum of ritual, and Sacrifice is tricky to work in to a more informal discipline. So, bottom line: what would Anti-Empathetic Ritual look like, through the whole chain of Contact, Summon, Bind? Or how could Empathy be narratively affirmed in the case of Banishing?
I recognize that a lot of the specifics will be circumstance-dependent: in what situation is the ritual occurring, and specifically what relationships are present to be threatened or damaged? But I'd like to have a baseline picture of what that could look like at all.
Hmmm... ok, got it.
Contact: switching your father's Alzheimer meds for hallucinogens and conversing with what emerges.
Summoning: Flaying him until he is the very image of Hagghk the Fleshless One, conveniently also counts as sacrifice.
Binding: "You hunger for skin, Hagghk? Start with what's on the floor. Serve me well and there'll be more."
Banishing: Offering your own flesh in place of another victim's.
OK, I guess where I'm coming from is, I can easily imagine a scenario like the one above, where you've got to callously torture and kill people, mass-murderer style, to do Sorcery. I'm looking for the more subtle slide into sociopathic detachment, where Ritual harms (or alienates) people just a little at first, but the inhuman behavior accelerates or just plain accumulates through time, thus whittling at Humanity. Sure, if you've got to sacrifice a puppy/baby/grandpa to summon demons, that's obviously contra-human behavior, but that's not the sort of act that fits with most of our PCs (for instance, the guy with the dead-end life who summoned up a Demonic backyard to show him how to fix it). In fact, in his case I can specifically see Ritual taking o a theme of isolation, rather than harm. But then I get stuck. Like, Contact: He shuts himself up in his room taking no visitors and not eating. Summoning: Uh, he shuts himself up some more? And so forth. I feel like I'm blind to the possible range of narrative depth. You get me?
Here's my call on both the rules and the solution to your question. It is: don't press or pre-define the link between Humanity and rituals. Stay instead with the look & feel you defined early in the play process. By which I don't mean the spiritism or whatever, but rather the "amorphous, non-human" demon look and whatever else went with that.
As long as you provide the context for the Humanity rolls of either kind during play, the players will provide the details of the rituals. I'm saying, let them do it. You all do your collective part by staying with the look & feel, you do the GM's part by acting as gavel for the Humanity rolls, and they'll do their part regarding the rituals. At the very most, you'll say, "What do you do?"
OK, cool. I can get behind that. I'll probably just mention in passing (the time's pretty ripe as they're just starting to get curious about Ritual in general) that Ritual should veer toward the Empathy-denying, an let things take their course.