[Sorcerer] Traveller: Holy War

Started by Christopher Kubasik, January 27, 2009, 09:53:49 PM

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Quote from: Callan S. on January 29, 2009, 11:16:30 PM
Hi Anya,

I think that may be a missplaced emphasis? In terms of the slavery example, it's not about getting there on a demon ship, it's about whether you would unleash a demon in order to free the slaves? Unleash a demon, of all things? Or put up with continued slavery? It seems the focus isn't on whether Antares risks himself, and instead on how he risks the universe by letting demons into it in order to meet his ends. That's a very different focus - risking yourself is relatively neat and tidy at a moral level (apart from grieving loved ones, one could say). But unleashing a demon into the world? Not so neat, not so tidy.

Just having a ship which happens to be a demon and really only comes into things by transporting you to the next moral issue, rather than being the moral issue - as I understand it, that's not the right emphasis.

If you have to do stuff, like take morally reprehensible jobs, to keep your Demon's needs taken care of (fuel, life support, maintenance, etc.), doesn't that put you into Humanity-challenging things, if Humanity has been defined as, basically, *not* being morally reprehensible?

Just because Demons are "challenging the sorcerer's humanity" doesn't mean that they have to be supernatural or evil, is my point.

If you have a billion credits, or don't fly around in your ship, then sure, paying for jump fuel and life support and berthing costs aren't an issue.

But if you have a mortgage on your ship, and you need the ship to operate and to take jobs to pay off that mortgage and operating costs, then the "demon" -- the ship -- is challenging you by providing a constant stress, a need, on the character that the character has to "feed".  And providing that feeding doesn't have to be Souls for Arioch.  It can just as easily be "here, here's enough money for this month's mortgage and operating costs.  Now, steal this baby's medicine for me."  If you say no, yay, you're still human, but your ship starts to break down...

I'm kind of sleepy, and am not at my most articulate right now, so it's possible I'm not making my point coherently or I may be missing yours (or Chris').

I think I make sense, though.
Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.


Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Ron Edwards

Let me remind you all of something.

This thread is about Christopher's game.

Dana, you seem very committed to what Traveller will and will not do, or will or will not be, for you. That's great, and the reminder of the older thread is a fine addition, but if I'm not mistaken, some emotions are entering into your posts, and a focus on what you very deeply feel to be Traveller Sorcerer for you, that isn't what this thread's about.

I'm not sure if people are following the link Christopher posted to his prep thread, but no one can have suffered the agonies of the damned more than he did in trying to figure out exactly what he wanted from the combination of ideas. At the risk of speaking for Christopher, trying to critique that or provide comparisons for him to consider now is not what the thread's about either.

My take on this thread is that it's about what's happening in play, fictionally, and some elements of prepping and reflecting that go into that. Let's stay with that topic.

Callan, I sure like that clip.

Best, Ron


Sorry if I've drifted the thread too far from it's original point -- Christopher's game.

I wasn't trying to invalidate Christopher's game structure at all, or to demand that my view of the way Traveller and Sorcerer go together is The One True Way.

Quite the opposite.

To me, it felt a bit like Christopher was saying that this was the best way that he saw the two going together, and I was trying to explain how I thought that different ways of defining things could be equally powerful.  It felt to me like he was saying "there is no way to make a Sorcerer Traveller game be both Sorcerer and Traveller at the same time," and I was arguing against it.

Which is really neither here nor there, since he has made a very specific set of choices for his game that are different from the ideas I'm proposing -- choices which are his to make and which I'm sure are resulting in a good play experience for him and his players.

So, Ron, Christopher, everybody, I'm sorry if I seemed to be getting heated.  I'm really not!  And I'm sorry that I've drifted the focus away from Christopher's specific game and into Traveller theoretical-land, which has been known to swallow whole civilizations...

Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Christopher Kubasik


First, Ron, thanks for the post.  You said pretty much what I was going to say, but said it before I had a chance to log back on.

Second, Anya... I actually have more to say about what you're saying... but I'll be saving it for a thread on the Adapt Press forum.

Third, this thread has sort of spun out of control, so I'll be continuing AP stuff about the game in another thread.
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Callan,

First, thanks for the link to the clip.

Second, in the thread I linked to, the context wasn't about the warrior stuff.  The context was this: the elements that make us shudder are personal to each person -- or, more significantly, to a group of Sorcerer players.

So, when you write, " It's only a threat if you want human diversity not for any particular purpose but just for the sake of having it," my first response is, "Okay, so the idea of Friendship seems not to resonate with you much as a core definition of what it means to be Human."

So, first question: Is this the case?  I ask because if it isn't, there's not much to be done about the matter in the context of a game of Sorcerer.  Do you see what I'm saying?

If you were in my group, and I knew this about you, I never would have set up a game where Friendship was the definition of Humanity.  (Never mind, for now, whether the Angels threaten in... just the Humanity definition itself is all we're talking about for now.)

Third, because of what's happened to this thread, I'm actually going to proceed more slowly.  Forget what I said about how I'd bring in Actual Play.  My other question for you is this:

Did you write your original post to discuss the issue in the context of a Sorcerer game?  Or to discuss the pros and cons of the ideas in-and-of-themselves outside of a Sorcerer game.

I ask because I can't tell, and it suddenly occurred to me this mattered.

In the context of a Sorcerer, clearly it's working because my Players and I are jazzed by the issues at hand.  (Eventually I will post Actual Play context, but in another thread.) 

But it's working because we all buy the premise of friendship.  And we all have a response to the choice.  So players are having their characters respond to the "greater cause" of bringing peace, even at the risk of losing their friendships; one Players character is moving quickly toward it, another is currently ambivalent, and third is, "Fuck this noise, the angels are weird, we're buddies who fight, what the hell are you guys doing?"  The choice is real among us.

But it might not be real for you. 

But there's nothing I can do about that.

So, if you posted your post in the context of Sorcerer (and, specifically, my game of Sorcerer), could you clarify your point in the context of the game?

But... if you posed because you simply didn't by the premise of the threat... well, there's not much I can do about that, is there?  I can't argue you into accepting that to be Human is to value specific other humans simply because they are that human, and to value them more than other human.  If you don't buy it, you don't buy it.  Further, it's not the purpose of this forum.  Right?

So, before I can say anything more, I need clarification: Did you post because philosophically the choices didn't ring true for you?  (At which point I can only say, "Okay.")  Or did you see a problem in the Actual Play of the game itself?

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Callan S.

I don't really see a distinction between it not philisophically ringing true and gameplay. I could have been playing a character in your game that had the same problem with it, and have it expressed in character - I don't see a distinction between me writing what I did or playing out a character in your game with the same doubts. There's a change of the medium involved, but otherwise it's the same thing? (though I'll grant nuances of roleplay might change my perception or such - but this is an arguement put to me through the means of roleplay, and arguements have been known to change perception, of course)

I'm sorry, I posted without much concern for where such discussion happens, whether in a direct post or only through character portrayal. I don't really see any difference, except that it can be done through (atleast) two different mediums.

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Callan,

This is somehow getting complicated, and I'm at a loss as to know why.

So, the thing is you simply don't buy the initial premise right?  And you posted to tell me you didn't, right?
"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Callan S.

I would say I was challenging your initial premise. I've kinda assumed, maybe wrong, your nar play is or could come to the point where it challenges the premise itself. There seem to be some indicators of that in how the players are responding in different ways to the angel factor, rather than one harmoginised group. If there was only one way of buying into your premise, they'd all have responded the same way. My buy in is to neither fully buy into it, nor fully discard it. So I thought challenging it was okay to do in the thread, fairly briefly. It just struck me as a series of interesting ramifications that change the very starting condition they are derived from.

Christopher Kubasik

Hi Callan,

I'm baffled, but it may well be my fault.  You began by saying, "I can't quite see the threat in that description of angels..." which is a negation, and now write, "My buy in is to neither fully buy into it, nor fully discard it."  I suspect I'm at fault for not seeing what you're after.  But at this point, because I need to turn my attention to other matters, I'm going to have to drop this.

To be absolutely clear, the point of the thread was to talk about the Actual Play of the game, not to engage in a discussion about thematic material except as it pertains to the game either working or no working.  As far as I can tell (and I make no claim to be right about this) you seem to be saying in your last post that you could see it all working fine for the game.  If you indeed wanted to have a conversation about the issues of the greater good vs. narrow friendship, independent of any concerns about my Sorcerer game, I understand the appeal of that, but that wasn't the purpose of posting.  (Again, I make no claim to understand if that was your goal.)

To respond to one specific point in your last post, of course the Players in a Sorcerer game can take any stand on Issues of Humanity and Lore they wish.  That's the point of the game.  I wasn't in any way suggesting Players couldn't.  I was responding, originally, to your first post, where you said you saw the interests of the Angels vs. the Humanity definition as being a non-starter.

In general, addressed not to Callan, but to anyone interested in Sorcerer:

As I referenced in the thread I linked to about shuddering, every group of players (the GM and the Players) will have to find thematic material that authentically intrigues them.  If this isn't done, if the group simply grabs "Betrayal" off the shelf of Lit 101 in the hopes it'll make the game fly, there will trouble. 

One of the biggest traps of Sorcerer is to assume it is too academic or abstract. I've observed, people just trying the game out for the first time make this assumption, or people who have never played it but tell others, "Well, it's all abstract and academic, isn't it... I like my games about the characters and emotions."

The truth is, if the players all pick definitions of Humanity, Demons and Lore that are compelling to them as people they will in turn create PCs that are compelling to them as people, and the game will spark with a great many emotions, lots of investment in the characters, passions and experiences.  There should be nothing arbitrary or mechanical about any of this.  It shouldn't be a debate, nor should Bangs fly at the Players with no concern for the continuity of the fiction or setting.

BUT -- this all only works if the players are genuinely concerned about the issues at hand.

In the case of my group, if someone said, "Yeah, you know... Friendship really doesn't turn me on as a definition of Humanity," I would have put the brakes on the project right then and there.  I'd have a conversation with the Player to see if he was defining Friendship in a way that made it a non-starter, or, if the Player really didn't value Friendship in a visceral way, I'd scrap it and come up with a new premise.  Because this stuff can't be faked. 

Now, interest doesn't mean you are fully committed to the definition of Humanity as being the the "right" or one way to be.  It means you are interested in it.  It means, on some level, it turns you on.  And, more importantly, there's a bit of a question there.  Humanity is all well and good -- but what happens if your daughter's life in threatened?  Sorcerer, like most dramatic narrative, is about sorting out the questions of choices without clear, easy choices.  They like discussions about a moral issue, but stories only offer context-specific answers.  "This character, in this situation, chose this choice in this crisis." 

Years ago, when I first bumped into Sorcerer and started sorting through it, I immediately thought of a passage from WIlliam James' essay, The Will to Believe:

QuoteLet us give the name of hypothesis to anything that may be proposed to our belief; and just as the electricians speak of live and dead wires, let us speak of any hypothesis as either live or dead A live hypothesis is one which appeals as a real possibility to him to whom it is proposed. If I ask you to believe in the Mahdi, the notion makes no electric connection with your nature,--it refuses to scintillate with any credibility at all. As an hypothesis it is completely dead. To an Arab, however (even if he be not one of the Madhi's followers), the hypothesis is among the mind's possibilities: it is alive. This shows that deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker. They are measured by his willingness to act. The maximum of liveness in hypothesis means willingness to act irrevocably. Practically, that means belief; but there is some believing tendency wherever there is willingness to act at all.

When Callan first posted I thought he was saying that the premise of the game (the Angels fighting for peace for all at the expense of any unique commitments to another) was a "dead hypothesis," as James puts it.  (Callan: I am not saying you said this, I'm saying that's what I thought you said.) 

So, my point -- which I still think is an important point -- is that "deadness and liveness in an hypothesis are not intrinsic properties, but relations to the individual thinker."  In a game of Sorcerer, the "individual thinker" is a player, and that the what turns on one group of players might, to an outside observer, be a "dead" issue.  But that's not a problem with the issue, since it is the individual thinkers who decide if the game is alive or not.

This is why grabbing generic issues off the Lit 101 shelf almost guarantees failure.  The test of a successful Nar game is not wether there's something thematic going on.  It's whether there something thematic going on that is alive to the players.  And, significantly, it's up to the specific players to know if it's a live issue or not, and not up for judgement by others on the outside.

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Callan S.

If you think of the hypothesis of friendship as being a cluster of hundreds of wires* rather than just one, the facts of various game play situations might make some of those wires turn off. And might make some others turn on. And from a regular discussion, some might turn off and some might turn on. That's why I say I don't discriminate between gameplay and regular discussion. That's why I posed the question I did in regular discussion. If I had played the game, I would have done it there. It actually makes me sad when you said you would have changed the humanity=friendship relationship, seemingly because I want to challenge it.

* My own prefered analogy is that intellect forms channels, and passion is a 'water' that can potentially run down those channels (and carve them deeper, even). It's also possible for waters to 'flood', rising over the banks and forming channels which, like a real flood, are just a product of the environmental circumstances.

But the wire analogy is so close to mine there appeared to be enough common ground to make a quick, final post on the matter. :)