Sorcerer: The Book That Rewrites Itself While You Sleep

Started by jburneko, November 04, 2008, 02:03:53 PM

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So, up in Actual Play in a thread about texts Ron wrote this:

"(I should make a parody Sorcerer text of what the game would be like based on accounts of what people insist the book says, until I give them page references, and then they swear that the book literally changed its text since the last time they opened it.)"

This happens to me literally every time I play the game.  Going on almost eight years now.  Across dozens of play.  Every.  Single. Time.

I thought I'd share the latest incident.  So one of the players took 10 lasting penalties over her base 3 Stamina.  So, I talked about all the stuff about considering death and how it relates to the Kicker and all that... then right before the next session I went back to the text, "just be sure."


There's no less than FOUR things there I've never noticed before.  Three explicit and one major consequence.

1) It really truly does say the Will trick to keep going after penalties exceed your Stamina can only be used by Sorcerers.  I had it in my head that, that was something I just "knew" from around here.

2) It says you have to stop using the Will trick after taking double your Stamina.  I've always done this but more from gut feel than realizing it was in the text.

3) This is the important one: It says you half your penalties BEFORE consulting the chart on how "bad" you are.  For some reason I thought that you assess the state of the character and if they make it THEN you half the penalties for the next scene.  This means that the character wasn't in danger of dying at all because by the end of the scene she's only at 5 lasting penalties over her base Stamina which only the "really bad off" category.

4) And here's the inference: This totally makes the brutality of Sorcerer combat make WAY more sense to me than it ever has.  Taking large amounts of penalties is fairly easy especially when demons are involved.  However, you can't continue once you've taken double your Stamina.  But since you half the damage BEFORE assessing the state of the character that means you'd have to be carrying QUADRUPAL your Stamina at the end of the fight to be in danger of dying.  Something that's only likely to happen in a fairly severe (read important and possibly climatic) confrontation.


I hate this book.



Jesse, I actually prefer your version of #3.  When our group engages in combat scenes, the margin of victory on any given turn is usually 1-2 dice.  So when there's a 3-4 margin roll it's rare, and we tend to emphasize it a lot - usually with a lot of gruesome detail.  To then look at that chart and conclude: "Oh... so even though the guy stabbed you through the spleen, I guess you're okay" is always kind of jarring.  And if I'm spending 45 minutes of game time for a combat scene, I want it to have a lot more impact on the fiction than figuring out who gets a stubbed toe.

Ron Edwards

Hi James,

Go with the rules, not with Jesse's interpretation. That means that if you want combat to result in injuries and death, then characters must be played to work toward that goal actively.

Beating a man to death with an iron bar isn't a matter merely of making him stop moving for the moment, which the combat rules will do for you, no problem. It's a matter of hitting him again, as his attempts to escape or to plead with you to stop become weaker and weaker.

Or if you use a weapon, like a big gun or the demon ability Special Damage, that can indeed deliver the necessary margins for kill-shots. But you have to choose to use it in the first place.

I did not write rules to absolve the player of the responsibility for maiming and killing.

Best, Ron

Frank Tarcikowski

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



I'm confused then.  When do you half the penalties?  The text says when the fight is over things are never as bad as they look.  It says you half the penalties and then consult the chart.

I'm assuming that "when the fight is over" means when the threat leaves, not just "when you collapse."  Meaning, that yes, you have to be committed to killing someone to kill them.


Ron Edwards

Jesse - we are not disagreeing. You are correct that you use that table after halving the penalties; stay with that. Don't create a confusion based on semantics of "when the fight is over." In play, that is a pretty easy thing; it means that point in the stated fiction which corresponds to the fight being over. It means that no one is attacking anyone any more. There is no reason to add more complications by talking about "when the threat leaves."

Frank, see page 109, in the Recovery from Damage section.

There are two damage tables in the game. One of them, described in an earlier section, is used during combat, in which you look at the total penalties regardless of type, to see what the character feels like at that moment in combat. The other is the one Jesse is talking about, used after combat is over, which only utilizes lasting penalties after they are halved.

Frank, if you weren't halving this damage, now you know why some characters in an earlier game of yours seemed like they could cut through whole crowds of people so easily. I didn't catch onto that because the demon ability was Special Damage - lethal enough, yes, but without that halving rule, it'd be ridiculous.

Best, Ron


Peter Nordstrand

Aha! But did you really misread it or dit it rewrite itself when you weren't looking?
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
     —Grey's Law