Sorcerer and Sword ... Conan?

Started by weaselheart, March 15, 2010, 08:32:23 PM

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Aw, shucks. You're right. I was just having a little fun, but really the issue is that the players create characters and kickers to go with them. The GM's job is to take those kickers and build bangs around those kickers that demand in-game responses that drive the game forward. The game springs from the kickers that the players authored.

If you just take all the characters, put them down a hole and throw them up against a big ol' critter without regard for what stories the characters were designed to tell, it's not likely to be very satisfying.

Bringing it back to Conan, you can make Conan without a demon and the game will be about a big strong dude with an axe that kills sorcerers. You can make Conan with an inner demon that's driving him and express the "powers" as his feats of heroism. Then the story will be about a big strong dude with an axe that is driven by his inner demons to kill sorcerers. Either way works, what's important is what character does the player want to play, what's kicker did they author, and how has the game been shaped to address that kicker.
James R.


Just a quick question from something earlier on in the thread. How is 'Destiny' a source of dice? I just had a quick re-read of &Sword, and I couldn't see any indication of that.

Find out more about Left Coast (a game about writers, inspired by the life of Philip K. Dick) on Twitter: @leftcoastrpg

Ron Edwards

Hi Steve,

It's on page 69, under "Ego assertion." Looking at it now, I can see how I was posting in shorthand - my practical take on those rules is that a character with Destiny has a particularly good profile for utilizing the ego-assertion bonus.

Best, Ron



Find out more about Left Coast (a game about writers, inspired by the life of Philip K. Dick) on Twitter: @leftcoastrpg


Thank you very much to everyone who contributed to this thread and helped me understand the game better. I've spent the past week rereading Sorcerer and a number of threads on this board, and I think I have an answer to my question. As well as the posts here, the following threads were really helpful (put here in case they help anyone else):
... which taught me how important it is that the players author their character's story, through the kicker, by making the play character-relevant:
... which explained what we're trying to simulate in narrativist roleplaying - fictional representation of stories, not physics.
... which cleared up a lot of misconceptions I had about play balance. In particular the line:
QuoteNarrativist character creation in some games requires a fair amount of back-story, just as some Simulationist play does, but in the former, it's about establishing a chassis for conflict, metagame, and reward, and in the latter, it's about Coloring the character and providing oppportunities for GM-created hooks.
... which resonated for me in terms of how I'd been imagining Sorcerer play wrongly, and how I'd been playing games like Call of Cthulhu, Traveller and D&D up to now.
... which really made me think about how combat is represented in fiction, particularly:
QuoteWhite Wolf's Vampire: The Masquerade is a game about the brooding affairs of immortal vampires and their clan disputes. It's moody. It's horror. It's about personality and character. For some bizarro reason, there's space in the rules devoted to distinguishing between the damage done by shotguns and that of Uzis.

Perhaps the thread that made me think most is this one:
... with Bill Cook's story of the lore 2 demon making such a story-level difference. I compared this to the answers above and I think I understand now.

Here's my current thinking:

I think there's two types of power in roleplaying. One might be described as power over physics. It's the Arnie power, or the Hulk power - the ability to break, crush and do things. It's what predominantly fills Stephen Segal films, and although its a major reason why I read and roleplay genre rather than mainstream fiction, it pales in comparison to what I might call story power. This is the force that means "even the smallest can make a difference" in Lord of the Rings. It's the power to be a meaningful protagonist, and is why games like primetime adventures don't need player balance - because they are happy simulating Heroes stories where the power levels are all over the place, or even stories where one character is a child in a world of adults. The point is to produce theme and meaning, not break boards meaninglessly.

So I think I have an answer to my question, and it's one that came mostly from the simulationist article by Ron. I believe now that

a) You can play Sorcerer and Sword and produce meaningful stories true to the material even where one character is, potentially, at a numerical disadvantage. However,
b) You can only do so for those players who want to produce this type of story. If someone approaches the material expecting it to be a simulation like GURPS, they'll possibly be disappointed.

Of course, if I'm still not understanding anything, please let me know. I can honestly say that the last week has brought about a revelation in my understanding of how story relates to roleplaying.

All this has made me think about one broader question of story vs roleplaying, too, which I'll put in another thread as it's really a whole new topic.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

You've got the right idea. For further clarification, one of my views on role-playing is that there is no point to playing with people who do not share your own creative priorities, for this game, at this time, and with you personally. Those priorities are what I call Creative Agenda, and this agenda is the one thing that holds together everything else about play. I suggest that mere neutral compatibility among persons was not sufficient - genuine and reliable fun in play required active compatibility and ongoing person-to-person reinforcement.

When I first introduced this viewpoint in an essay in 1999, the response was overwhelming horrified - I had shot one of the most sacred cows of hobbyist role-playing, that social concerns were supposed to be irrelevant, that anyone could play with anyone, and that the first priority to bring to the table was that you had to get along with everyone and anyone, no matter what.

I remember playtesting early versions of Sorcerer; people would often say, "This is excellent, but you'd have to be playing with really good players." My response was, "Why would I play with anyone else?" Now, in that anecdote, "good" was a code-word, because it meant "plays for the same reason." But that clarification aside, my viewpoint has remained unchanged. My response to your (b) point is: That's correct. Being attentive to what you want and to what everyone else wants is a crucial behavioral requirement for enjoying any group, leisure activity, and role-playing is no different. And by "being attentive," I don't mean endless downgrading of everyone's expectations via compromise - I mean attentive in the sense of assertiveness, mutual support, and willingness to say no, either to one's own inclusion or someone else's.

Best, Ron


I have run a short Conan campaign using Sorcerer and Sword, and it worked perfectly well, especially if you consider that in this setting Pacts should be the main way of interaction with a demon. I had one sorcerer player (i.e. his character had Lore greater than 1; 3 IIRC) and he used Pact only twice in the campaign; most of the time he used Lore to perform mesmerism tricks and similar. The other players played a Nomad and a Thief, respectively, and they had higher scores in Will and Stamina w.r.t. the "true" sorcerer (which was, besides, an "inhuman" spawn of Dagoth Hill), and these higher scores made the difference most of the time.