Prep for first-time Hellblazer-ish Sorcerer

Started by Joel P. Shempert, June 26, 2008, 07:44:57 AM

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Joel P. Shempert

OK, I'm getting ready to run my first game of Sorcerer this weekend. It'll be at a large group gathering for the Portland Indie Gamers crowd, with the intention to schedule a continued game after the event. I already know who one or two players will be, but not  who else might join.

So I'm trying to go into it with a solid but flexible prep under my belt. A good modus operandi that can flow with player input as we build our game premise and Demon/Humanity definitions, and come out the other end with a firm idea of how to hit the ground running with a quality, genuine Sorceror experience.

I want to do a vaguely Hellblazer-ish game. It doesn't have to be British, necessarily; Depression-Era New York or Chicago would do nicely too. But something along the lines of gutter-dwellers striving to better their lot appeals to me, has the necessary grit and story traction to make a modern sorcery game work. And I'm definitely keen to do the "Modern Sorcery" take before I fiddle around with Nightmare Mars or Hyborian Wizards or sentient AI fighter-jets.

So I'm looking at examining two things: one, what sorts of principles should I particularly hold in the GMspace of my brain, to take a first session with a partly unknown group and spin it into an awesome springboard for the players? And two, what principles would govern a Helblazer Sorceror game in particular?

For the first, I can say I'm pretty clear on the Kickers and Bangs stuff. And playing the Demons to the hilt, particularly Desire and Need. Is there any other text in the book that I should particularly scrutinize/internalize (I've been reviewing the book all week, and will continue to do so)? Any other pointers in particular on "planning without planning"? I've read the whole series of Art Deco Melodrama threads, so working up some sort of relationship map, to be altered for specific game concept, springs to mind as useful.

And for the second. . .I've been thinking about Hellblazer stories vis a vis Sorcerer and while the themes are all there, they're not a perfect match for Sorcery as the game handles it. Take Garth Ennis' Dangerous Habits, mentioned in the Sorcerer book. John Constantine does Sorcery throughout the book, but it's never really to Summon and Bind a Demon as a long-term companion or anything. It's always an act of the moment, for a short-term interaction, though with long-term consequences. Sure, he summons the Lords of Hell, but he doesn't Bind them, he just extracts what he needs from them and goes on his way. He's a cosmic huckster, dodging from one crisis to the next, scheming his way one step beyond the jaws of death and damnation.

So sure, Constantine's got to deal with the price of power, but he does it by staying 'one step ahead," not by binding the power for keeps and trying to control it. The "bound-demon-intow" type Sorcerors are always the bit players around him, like that poor schmuck with the "hunger" demon in the Original Sins trade, and they tend to come to bad and swift ends, being mere thematic footnotes or conflict fodder for John himself. John's really the thing in these stories, obviously, and john's issues are very real, but don't quite look like Sorcery as per Sorcerer. If anything, he's the "Obnoxious Exorcist" character mentioned as a possible antagonist in the "Sorcerous Technicality" section.

So I guess my questions on that score are: 1) Is there some element of "messing with demons while trying to stay clean" in Hellblazer that I'm missing, specifically applicable to playing Sorceror? and 2) failing that (or side by side with that), how would the basic landscape of Hellblazer need to be altered to make for good Sorcerer play?

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


The thing you're really looking for here is Pacting, which is introduced in Sorcerer & Sword, and lets Sorcerers make deals, rather than engage in the long-term relationships that Binding involves.
-My real name is Jules

"Now that we know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine how many angels are dancing, at a given time, on the head of a given pin?"
"What if angels from another pin engaged them in melee combat?"


As suggested by the previous poster I suggest checking out the Pact ritual in Sorcerer & Sword.  However, even without that I suggest considering these things.

1) A Sorcerer who sticks to Contain, Punish and Banish can be a very interesting character indeed.  I wish more players would consider this.
2) Remember that any Sorcerer can try to order any Demon to take action via a straight up Will vs. Will roll.
3) Remember that Contact, Summon and Bind are still three separate rituals and the process can stop at any point.  Just consider the consequences of doing so.

Example 1:

A Sorcerer needs some information.  So he Contacts a demon, orders the demon to tell him what he wants to know and then simply lets the Contact laps.

Example 2:

A Sorcerer wants a one time favor from a demon.  So he Contacts and Summons the demon and the orders the demon to perform some action.  After the action is complete the Sorcerer Banishes the demon or (he he) simply leaves him unbound to "starve" to death.  That's almost MORE fucking ballsy than Binding the demon.

Note: Given the rules the order has to be pretty short, immediate and well within the "next action" rules for rolling over victories.  Otherwise Binding and/or Pacting would be required.


Joel P. Shempert

Thanks, Jules and Jesse! unfortunately, I won't have access to S&S before the game Saturday, but I do wanna check it out, and have a friend I can probably borrow it from. Good tip!

And Jesse, your post is awesome; it really pulls together the elements I was looking at and resolves them into a picture that reconciles with both Hellblazer and Sorcerer. I'm getting a handle on how to use these concepts in actual play, which is the important thing. Thanks!

I'm not trying to "duplicate" Hellblazer, like, "OK, who's gonna be our Constantine?" or anything, but I am trying to scrutinize Hellblazer for insight into making an awesome Sorcerer game, particularly along the axis of Ron's phrase, "messing around with Demons while trying to stay clean." A principle is emerging here (and across other recent threads in the Adept press forum) that should be enormously useful--it's all about the Consequences. There are any number of interesting consequences possible from a wide array of player choices. . .including the choice not to Bind but to simply Summon, bargain and Banish, staying one jump ahead of the Devil. Cool.

Quote from: jburneko on June 26, 2008, 08:00:36 PM
1) A Sorcerer who sticks to Contain, Punish and Banish can be a very interesting character indeed.  I wish more players would consider this.

Man. . .the first thing that leapt to mind when I read that was, "yeah! I'll play that on Saturday!" I've been playing too many GMless games. . .:P

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Joel P. Shempert

A procedural question while I'm at it. . .

There's a big deal about the secrecy of a Demon's true ability and most especially the bonus from its Binding. How exactly is that secrecy handled in play. Say the GM receives a general (pretty weak) Demon concept from a player, then decides that the actual Demon will be more powerful and hiding that nature. Does the GM physically hide the ritual rolls so the player can't tell how high the Demon's Power or Will or whatever really is? And does the GM hide the Demon's further rolls after Binding, to hide whatever bonus or penalty the Binding strength might confer? While other games may do this sort of thing, it doesn't strike me as working well for Sorcerer. . .but I can;t see any other way for the GM to truly play coy with the players about their Demons' nature.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


Whoa there!  As far as I know, the player gets basically full say over all of their starting Demon's stuff so long as the basic guidelines are followed (the more abilities, the more Lore; the more Lore/Stamina the more Will/Power; Need and Desire must be appropriate).  If the player decides that his character thinks the demon is less potent than it really is, that's cool, but it's their decision.  Demons summoned later have a mechanic for the GM altering them from the players' expectations.

As far as I know, rolls are never hidden.  Characters, PC or NPC, don't have to use their full stats if they want to lay low.  I think there are a few exceptions, like a Demon's Power in a Summoning, where full force is required. 

Hmm, having checked the book, you're right!  Under Binding in a few places it talks about keeping the results secret.  Huh.  Never really done that, myself.  My take would be to make the Binding roll only in secret, and then (if the Demon has the bonus) have the Demon limit itself until it really needs it.  If the Demon has the penalty, it could either pretend not to care (which is why it tends to oppose its master with so few dice, to the minimum of 1), or outright toady and wail.
-My real name is Jules

"Now that we know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine how many angels are dancing, at a given time, on the head of a given pin?"
"What if angels from another pin engaged them in melee combat?"

Ron Edwards

The thread's diverted a bit into a side issue, which I hope this thread will help: [Sorcerer] rule question: changing binding strength

Joel, I've been reviewing your initial post carefully for a couple of days and am drafting up a response.

That's not intended to shut down other responses, though, so carry on.

Best, Ron

Ron Edwards

Hi Joel,

I'm sorry, man. I was totally steamrolled by other stuff and could not get back to you in time.

I'd like to know how it went, no matter how well or how badly, and do some post-mortem.

Best, Ron

Joel P. Shempert

Well, we got through the whole prep phase, complete with humanity definition, characters, demons and kickers. We plan on playing our first 'actual play" session this Wednesday.

We didn't end up with a Hellblazer vibe exactly (I may have been the only person at the table who's actually read any), but we've got a pretty cool modern sorcery thing worked up set in here in Portland with some very real-feeling protagonists and issues. I'll post about it when I've got the time. In the meantime I'd be interested in anything you've got to say that still seems relevant.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Joel P. Shempert

Hi, Ron!

So here's the lowdown on our planning and character creation session. I used Hellblazer as a starting point, but we diverged from that pretty quickly, when folks came to a quick consensus that they didn't want to use a Catholic framework for Hell and Demons. I said the element of Hellblazer I most wanted to retain was that of people in 'low" circumstances struggling to get ahead or get by. And I think we've retained that well.

I'm referring to the setting as Cascadiapunk. We ended up setting the game in the Portland area (our real-life city), and we've got a pretty good cross-section of Portland "types" that should be pretty easy to bring to life. Our Humanity definition is Empathy; Demons are amorphous and undefined, and Sorcerous Lore can be approached from any number of disciplines, from Native American Spiritism to Expanded Consciousness theory.

the PCs:

Jake: Mike Sugarbaker*, out of work and down on his luck (Naif)
Demon: his backyard which he's scared will eat him, but answers questions when he talks to it
Kicker: His housemates are already kicked out, and his rent is due.

Seth: Nobody, crazed street kid and Expanded Consciousness fanatic (Solitary Adept)
Demon: Twitch, the parasite that's granting him speed and awareness and rewiring his brain
Kicker: none written

Willem: Robin Last, native issues activist stealing and interring museum corpses (Coven)
Demon: Ravengod, a parasite granting totemic powers
Kicker: Curator voice mail: "I know what you do. . ." (possibly changed to a stolen corpse disappearing in transit)

Jana: V Magnolius, punk chick black market food broker, furious about the establishment raping natural resources (Naif)
Demon: Quiñones, a set of amorphous keys that open or close anything
Kicker: Bizarre highway accident with truckload of live chickens led to her finding Quiñones

*no relation

My thread discussion prep with the other characters is here.

I'm pretty happy with our setup overall. My major concerns are:

1) Vague or awkward character motivations. Seth managed to escape last time without writing a kicker, and based on the rest of chargen I'm just not sure what Nobody the street kid is up to at all. There was some talk about him approaching the other Sorcerers with some ominous designs (being the only high Lore character). Or perhaps just wanting to transcend to a higher state of being. All rather hazy stuff that doesn't really plug well into simple human concerns. Similarly, I'm a bit unclear on just what a "Black Market Food Broker" actually does. But at least V has strong motives along environmental concerns.

2) A lot of the players didn't do a proper back page, instead writing character traits or descriptive passages in the sections. I've told everyone they need to get some actual relationships on there; at present we've got a mostly disconnected-looking group.

3) I'm a bit daunted at the task of creating my own web of NPCs. I thought the players detailing important NPCs would give me a good framework, but they haven't done much of that yet so I'm left to my own devices. Not sure if I should rip an R-Map from somewhere (a la Art-deco Melodrama) or wait to see what the players turn in.

4) Similarly daunted about playing Demons. We've got 2 parasites and an Object, plus an Inconspicuous which communicates in some vague fashion. How do I play the Demons as characters when they don't communicate? How do I make a Parasite an autonomous entity at all, save witholding powers based on desire/need? It doesn't seem like Demons \, so far, have much presence in the story.

5) Nervous about Kickers. Not only do I have one missing (which should be a non-issue once Seth writes it), but the Kicker Jana wrote looks terribly vague and lifeless. At first I thought "cool, what a wonderfully surreal incident," but no I'm left feeling like it doesn't really lead anywhere.

6) I'm also wondering a bit at a couple players' attitude toward Sorcery, like Jake designing a Demon that practically controls him, and Willem remarking that he doesn't want Robin to have any Demon except the starting Parasite. What bothers me is the implication that Sorcery is somehow out of the characters' hands--in Jake's case, because the Naif Sorcerer is helpless before this thing that just popped into his life, and in Willem's case because he balks at Robin actually knowing Sorcery, whether he chooses to use it or not. He acts like Robin was simply taught to summon the Ravengod, did that, and that's it, no more. I've addressed this in the linked thread, so we'll see how the players respond.

Any thoughts that pop up from that description? Any tips or cautions beyond what I've identified? Anything you'd like me to clarify? I'll confess I'm a little scared of the first session 'cause I want it to go just right. My confidence in running fun games has grown as I try a wide range of games with a diverse sample of people, but now I'm reverting to the old nervous "gotta-make-it-awesome-this-time" GM routine. Maybe I'm intimidated by the particular game? Maybe its surface resemblance to Over the Edge brings to mind my early awkward days of GMing that? Whatever it is, I'm trying to shake the butterflies out.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Ron Edwards

I'll begin with the serious stuff. Seeking Teh Awesome is your personal ticket straight to hell, and not in a fun or ironic way. Don't make Sorcerer your holy grail - this is about enjoying your creative muscles, not some kind of manhood circumcision ritual for role-playing.

I suggest looking at the difference between your old thread about Over the Edge and how frustrating it was, and the more recent one that was so much fun. You explained why absolutely perfectly. I don't think it's surprising that my recommendation is to do Sorcerer the way you did the second reported play of Over the Edge.

Here's a different point about the same issue: I strongly suggest taking all discussion off the public boards, right now. You may not realize how much audience pressure you are putting upon yourselves, you especially. The players are fine - there's as much cachet in hating Sorcerer as in enjoying it, maybe more in fact. But you have literally put yourself up in front of God and everybody as the responsible performing artist and manager - and as such, have kicked yourself into a performance mode that is predicated on the act being mind-boggling, spectacular, never-before-ladies-and-gen'lemen.

That's a whole lot of No Fun even if it works! Get out of that spotlight right now. I think you might ask yourself, is there some reason you, personally, want to play Sorcerer in terms of this particular game, itself? If so, then make that your guiding light instead.

Now for the more specific and pertinent Sorcerer stuff.

Here's a general principle about the characters as I've seen them written here. Kickers do not make a character into a sorcerer; the character is a sorcerer who has experienced a Kicker

The "naive" Lore descriptor does not override this principle. All the rituals, in this case Binding, are always, always voluntary and proactive. One does not "find oneself" Bound to a demon. (The example character Armand is a bit misleading, mainly because I wrote his description with his point of view in mind.)

The backyard guy is great. But you need to stop and see why this guy Bound the demon. That removes the whole "just fell into it" issue right there. What has he asked it, so far? At least, for what, and about what, in general? There's not a thing wrong with his Kicker! I recommend starting just a hair before it, though - frame him right into standing in his yard, asking it something, whatever he wants. Then the mail comes, and ... what he does next is up to him and totally not your problem. Have fun playing the utterly intransigent city bureaucracy. I suggest giving it five or six dice.

The crazy adept is interesting and perfectly sound as a familiar character concept. But that missing Kicker is a full stop for you. It literally means there is no guide what this guy might actually want to do, and it might mean he'll go where you say and have him "fight" who you want him to fight, et cetera. This guy looks like he's pulling his stock Malkavian out of his back pocket. Let's hope the Kicker is decent. If that's happened since your last post, and it's all ready to go, then you're good!

Oh yeah - remember, an adept is not fucking around. You don't get to be an adept by accident. He must already have accomplished stuff and established stuff as a sorcerer - what is it?

The museum body-snatcher ... now there's an interesting idea. You can solve the God thing by playing lots of God stuff, i.e., bringing it in as a big part of the character's life rather than something that showed up once and happened to him once. Come up with some names and the general life-style for the people in the coven. This is your chance to make stuff as cool as Sir Arthur Compton and that weird chick with the baboons!

And uh, hey - maybe they've tried this ritual tons of times, and this time, it worked - remember, he's the sorcerer, not necessarily them, and I recommend that he's the only sorcerer in the bunch. I suggest thinking of the coven as having just thrust its hand deep into the ant nest and smiling broadly and confidently.

For this character, spike that Kicker! It's easy as pie: the person who called is not opposed to the body-snatching, but wants very badly to get in on it. He or she also has stuff to offer in return - maybe lots of funding for the coven, or maybe support for a political action committee to represent them. But he gets to do what he wants with the bodies ...

See, mysterious phone calls are a lame trope - I don't know when they started, but they have to be made non-mysterious really fast or they suck. I think it works better in movies because the audience is always shown the other guy on the line, even if it's bit by bit.

The animal activist woman presents the biggest problem, because it's the classic "gee I got some powerz" origin story common in 1990s role-playing - one of the ways to play that Sorcerer was specifically written against. That's not a Binding, so that's not a sorcerer, and therefore it's not surprising that the keys are not immediately recognizable as a demon. Although there's a lot about this character to like - in fact, thematically she's really interesting - it's more like an Unknown Armies player-character than a Sorcerer one.

As for the back sides of character sheets, your post alarms me. It may be that you're getting the wrong idea that the players are all supposed to be storymapping together, setting up relationships among one another and basically pre-loading the plot by aiming at one another in some way. And you're also kind of stuck on the ideas that they're supposed to "come together" and "decide what to do" and things like that.

You don't have to bring Sorcerer player-characters together in a directed way. At most, you might have them cross paths or encounter the evidence of the others' scenes. We can talk more about this later, because without certain things I'm about to discuss, there's no point.

You're right about how the backs of the sheets must include NPCs, but you should quit with the stuff about establishing cross-character relationships - this isn't HeroQuest, this is Sorcerer, and one-word, one-name labels on those sheets is all you need.

Playing the demons - yes, this is your main issue for prep, actually. Since you only have two-and-a-half Kickers for four characters, and since the demons do not have Desires and Needs, there's really nothing to work with as the GM. You're being forced to fall back on your old habits of "getting the group together" and trying to come up with some kind of threat or weird thing they must investigate or fight. Call of Cthulhu meets Shadowrun meets White Wolf - not an auspicious combination.

So what you need are the one-and-a-half missing Kickers and the demons' Desires and Needs.

And yeah, the players threw you some doozies, as Passers and humanoid Inconspicuous are the easiest, and that's what they steered clear of. My point, though, is that playing Objects and Parasites and vague/weird Inconspicuous demons is not hard. You merely must remember that "vague and amorphous" might be the demons' look & feel, but it's not the guide to what they want and how they act.

You need some Desires and Needs, and you need to know what that means - and you need to know the circumstances of Binding for each and every one of the demons. Once you have that, everything else snaps into place, including the backs of the sheets. I will help you with prep for actually playing the demons once that's established.

Ummm ... do you need to clarify the difference between Desire and Need?

About those circumstances of Binding, by the way, there should be NO STORIES!! A simple brief answer, not necessarily even a full sentence, is what's called for.

Best, Ron


Hey Joel, I saw your post several days ago, but wanted to see what Ron would say.  I'm real interested in hearing how this goes, as I've been hankering to do a modern-day Sorcerer game along these same lines for, like, ages.

I find this a helpful checklist for the conceptual part of Sorcerer character generation:
* How did this character discover the Lore?
* Why did this character summon and bind the demon?  (This isn't asking how, though that could be part of the answer.)
* How has sorcery made this character's life worse?
* How would a fellow sorcerer recognize this character as a peer?

For kickers (and for bangs, too, come to think of it), this is kinda helpful for me:
1.  What's the status quo been like? 
2.  How has the status quo been up-ended?  (For good or ill.)
3.  Why can't the character relax about this?

Figuring out why the character summoned the demon is crucial for a couple reasons.  First, it addresses a major theme of Sorcerer - you've got a character doing something wayyyyy wrong, presumably for an understandable and perhaps very noble or sympathetic reason.  Bam, instant anti-hero!  Second, it's a often strong influence on the character's status quo.  Third, if you absolutely cannot think of a way to up-end the status quo, the super-easy factory default solution is to say, "Heck, the sorcerer and the demon had a bargain: now, it looks like one side isn't performing as expected." 

Joel P. Shempert

Hi, Ron!

Thanks for the meaty response. You've hit a lot of nails on the head. first being, of course;

Quote from: Ron Edwards on July 08, 2008, 09:02:55 PM
I'll begin with the serious stuff. Seeking Teh Awesome is your personal ticket straight to hell, and not in a fun or ironic way. Don't make Sorcerer your holy grail - this is about enjoying your creative muscles, not some kind of manhood circumcision ritual for role-playing.


Here's a different point about the same issue: I strongly suggest taking all discussion off the public boards, right now. You may not realize how much audience pressure you are putting upon yourselves, you especially. The players are fine - there's as much cachet in hating Sorcerer as in enjoying it, maybe more in fact. But you have literally put yourself up in front of God and everybody as the responsible performing artist and manager - and as such, have kicked yourself into a performance mode that is predicated on the act being mind-boggling, spectacular, never-before-ladies-and-gen'lemen.

Yeah, God, you're right. I've gotten way carried away in trying to "make sure everything goes just right and the discussion's become this great big ol' feedback loop of increasing nervous energy. Thanks for the advice; I'd say halting the online discussion is exactly the thing.

I think part of the hoopla on my part stems from my gleaning (rightly or wrongly) from the Sorcerer text and from online discussions that the game requires a singular rigor at least in terms of ruthlessly culling bad habits) to run. So I got a little paranoid. this is me, taking deep breaths, getting ahold of myself, and coming back out of the bathroom with a smile on my face.

What I want out of Sorcerer: 1) an engaging game of supernatural shit overlaid on real people living in a real world, centered on conflicts and struggles with essentially human resonance, and 2) to experience the fluid dynamic of the Currency system in action.

Now down to cases:

First off: Shit! I forgot to detail Desire and Need in my summaries. Sorry about that. All the Demons do in fact have them, and I understand the difference, i think. Here they are, and I'll throw in power and Binding Strength as well:

The Yard (Sugarbaker)
Power 5
Binding +1 (Demon's favor)
Desire: Fear
Need: Fresh meat

Twitch (Nobody)
Power 6
Binding -1
Desire: Sudden violence
Need: Drugs

Ravengod (Robin)
Power 4
Binding +2
Desire: Mischief
Need: Consume animal young

Quiñones (V Magnolius)
Power 5
Binding -1
Desire: Theft
Need: To open a new lock

There (whew!).

I agree that the guy with the killer yard is great. Easily the most workable and ready to roll of the bunch. And your suggestions for fleshing out are all fruitful avenues. My main concern with him is that Jake keeps steering toward a near total lack of human contact in his life. Maybe I'm overthinking; I trust Jake's roleplaying chops to not to stall out with the ol' "I do nothing" or "I don't care about nobody/nothing" routines. But the red flag's there, in the back of my head, regardless.

About Nobody, the 'Malkavian"--this one has a whole bunch of little red flags for me. For starters, he's veering out of the "human and relateable" territory I declared above (and at the table). At first "tweaker street kid with some crazy ideas" seemed like a perfectly natural and engaging Portland trope. But he's focusing increasingly on stuff like "obsessed with understanding the nature of demons, sorcery, the soul and the afterlife." Even after i warned him that the "true nature" of Demons is unknowable in the game, he's just like, "cool! Then he'll be continually frustrated and desperate as he seeks answers and doesn't get them!" Which. . .I dunno, I can see the case for just letting him do his thing (Sorcerer is about letting him do his thing). But to me it's a dead end question. Like, we already know the answer: "Does he figure out the Demons? NO." So why play that out? Strikes me that such inquiries are forbidden answers because those questions aren't interesting, specifically for Sorcerer. But in this case "the quest for answers" is about the only thing driving the character. (This also means he's setting up Nobody as the "explain Sorcery to everyone else" character, which is fine I guess but I don't want to get bogged down in "this game is about how Sorcery works" at the expense of "this game is about the people and their desperate struggles.)

I'm also seeing a lot of "pre-play" tendencies in this player. Every fresh round of discussion provokes a new flurry of "oh, and maybe this happened to him and this and this and this. . .!" or "I seem him acting like this or that in such and such situation, maybe doing X or Y in the process." (Another reason to back off from the forum discussion!) I think I'm gonna have to just look him in the eye next session and say flat-out: "don't play before play. Save those ideas for situations as they actually happen, in game." Seems like Seth needs a splash of cold water just like I did with the hand-wringing self-pressure building.

And yeah, the kicker. After you read the thread he posted and reminded me of the one idea he did throw out in the prep session, but didn't commit to: "suddenly appearing [his Demon has Travel] in the midst of a massacre, demons slaughtering humans all around him." All, once again, related to this whole "what's really going on" kinda theme. But Seth's not really satisfied with the Kicker, and is mulling over altering or replacing it.

Note: Seth created this character by the methodology (his preferred) of waiting to see what the others create, then making something contrasting to cover all the conceptual bases. Hence, everyone turned out low Lore PCs, so he made Nobody a powerful adept.

I like your angle on Robin's coven. Hand in an ant nest, indeed. . .:) As or the Kicker, he's since replaced it with a body he stole disappearing in transit, then started talking about combining the two incidents. Maybe I'll keep the missing body, then back him off from detailing the phone call, letting that be my playground, similar to how yo describe (Oh, and he's now made the caller a museum staffer he slept with for info on the corpse!)

The Animal Activist is ringing bells for precisely the reason you describe. (I've never played with Jana before and I believe she's extremely new to roleplaying; not sure where such a habit comes from, if indeed it IS a habit.) Concentrating on a proper Binding seems sound-any tips on how to focus that?

Now, regarding the back sheets, I think you've got me all wrong. I haven't been pushing for relationships connecting the PCs at all. Sorry if I gave that impression. I'm just pushing for relationships, period. People in the PCs lives (the key component missing in my Over the Edge experience).* Several of the players have in fact pushed for the PCs "grouping up" despite my insistence that it's not necessary. I just had to back Seth down from having Nobody involved with both Willem AND Jake's characters.

So there you go. I await further insight.

*I detailed my concern in a reply to Jake: "My issue is that without him having people in his life that he cares about (however estranged or whatever), play is going to tend to go like this: "Hey there, Player! Look over here! Care about this! [dangles NPC] Oh, that fell flat? OK, how bout this over here! [dangles "even cooler" NPC] Oh, another dud? OK, well check out this over HERE. . ."
Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Joel P. Shempert

Great checklist of questions, James. Thanks!

In particular these two:
Quote from: James_Nostack on July 09, 2008, 02:28:49 AM
* How did this character discover the Lore?
* Why did this character summon and bind the demon?  (This isn't asking how, though that could be part of the answer.)

provoke a further question from me (for either you or Ron, or both!): What would those look like for a naif Sorcerer?
Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.


Hey There!

Regarding Seth/Nobody.  Yeah, it sounds like there's a lot of ingrained gamer habits there.  However, may I suggest that backing Seth down from being involved with two other PCs was a mistake?  You're right in that Sorcerer has no requirements that the PCs must "group up" but it also has no such requirement that they *don't* group up.  It's indifferent.  I ran a Sorcerer game where all the PCs were family members living in the same house and it was awesome.  The human connection you're looking for with Nobody might very well be with the other PCs.

Additionally you might just bring reality down hard on Nobody.  These don't necessarily have to be personal connections.  If his kicker stays what you've described have the cops pick him up as a suspect.  Introduce the ordinary relationships and family members and all their problems of the people dead at the scene.  Maybe some think he's a killer and want to know why, maybe some think he's innocent and want to help him out, none of them believe his "demon" explanation.  If he then turns from these points of human contact in the pursuit of "higher understanding" hit him Humanity Checks.

This is risky because one of two things will happen.  Either he'll see what's happening as his humanity drops and turn that into a functional creative engine OR he'll get mad because he's being "punished" for playing his character.  If the later happens Sorcerer might just not be the game for Seth.

As for the "naif" question it's important to remember there's a difference between deliberate and "with full understanding."  I just watched the first episode of an anime called Rozen Maiden and the whole opening sequence is text book Sorcerer.  So there's this kid who's addicted to mail ordering.  In particular he orders "magic stuff",  Voodoo Dolls, Shamen Totems, etc.  When they turn out to be junk he mails them back for a refund.

One of the items is a questionnaire he's supposed to fill out and put in his desk drawer where it will be picked up by an inter-dimensional being (Contact).  He does this and when he turns around there's a box on the floor and questionnaire has disappeared from the drawer.  In the box is an doll and a wind up key.  He winds the doll up (Summoning).  She comes to life and shortly there after a clown doll shows up.  The girl doll tells the boy that she can save him from death but only if he swears (Need).  In a panic he does so.  She has him kiss her ring (Binding) and a similar ring appears on his own figure.  She defeats the clown doll and then explains that the boy is now her servant (Desire).

At first blush this appears to be the White Wolf, "hidden reality" situation but it isn't.  The kid does not accidentally or unwillingly stumble into "the truth."  It all starts with is deliberate seeking via the mail ordering.  He was already in pursuit of something and BAM here it is even if he doesn't understand what he's gotten himself into.

Make sense?