[Sorcerer] Deeper Underground

Started by Jaakko Koivula, August 18, 2011, 11:28:05 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Jaakko Koivula

So, got a group formed, sat together for an evening, ironed out the setting, the characters and demons. First play is in couple of weeks. I had a hand-out, but unluckily it's just in finnish. I'll get around translating it at some point and put it up for show too.

Showcase time!

Setting: Humanity living under the ground, surface world has been contaminated for centuries. Year is somewhere around 2400AD. Technology in the tunnels is effectively pretty much on the same level as what we have now. No materials or high-precision tools to build iPads and stuff like that, but on the other hand, the basic machinery, food industry, water-air recycling systems and such are highly advanced.

Stalker-twist: When humanity first dug down, they built lavish high-tech vaults (like Fallout). A bit later they realized that the climate changes, radiation, etc. was so severe, that the vaults were actually built too near to the surface. Humans had to dig down, fast. Number of people dwindled and they were forced to leave all the more energy and maintenance intensive and delicate stuff up there. All that high-tech stuff is still there, but only criminals and criminally insane ventury there, because of the radiation and who-knows-what.

Banishment to the upper levels is usually used as a severe form of punishment. Occasionally you are allowed to come back, if you find and bring back something truly useful for the community.

Humanity: Sense of community
Life underground isn't horrible at all, but it is tough. There is no slack for anyone. Everyone is needed. Humans have learned to look after each other. Humanity is thinking about the common good, putting the needs of the many above your own needs. Example of humanity loss roll: Blatant seflishness, stealing from the common stockpile, seriously challenging the community's values.

Demons and sorcery: The tunnels are maintained by a non-centralized computer network. The network takes care of recycling, air, lighting, etc. Demons live in, or are created from that network. Summoning a demon places a huge stress on the network, slowing it and causing light-outs, equipment malfunctions and sometimes even concrete cave-ins all around the ritual area.

Demons can be anything once they are summoned, but when they are initially contacted, they look like blood red code/symbols/faces on the network screens. The style how sorcerer summons demons is very varied. There is no precise technique: one sorcerer codes it out, one punches the monitor and drags the demon out of the network.


Graham: Is a library clerk by day, self-appointed enforcer of community by night. He's an utter wimp, but insanely driven (stamina 1, will 6!). He was banished earlier to the upper levels, where he found his calling and his demon, Segfault. Segfault hides in his shadow and can also cloak him in shadows. And breath fire. Segfault Desire is sensual gratification and Need is to punish wrongdoers (people who have done something and lost humanity because of it). Kicker: Graham has heard there's a sorcerer (bastard!) in the town that he doesn't know. Played by Kaj.

Stamina: 1 - wimp
Will: 6 - high self-esteem, belief system
Lore: 3 - enforcing will
Price: Arrogant (-1 perception)

Willie: A farm-boyo. Young guy, who wants to become a scientist, even though his family and everyone in his town are mushroom farmers. Willie's demon is an inconspicious demon called <a>. It shows up as moving text on any object it clings to. It's Desire are people's personal problems and Need is to eat dreams (Eating dreams means sleeper doesn't really get rested at all. A healthy person doesn't yet get minuses from one random night of dreamless sleep, but otherwise frail or exhausted people get -1 for the whole next day) Kicker: Willie's beloved got banished into the upper levels, for some reason. Played by Uine.

Stamina: 4 - hardy farm-life
Will: 4 - Will to learn & study
Lore: 2 - Intuition
Price: Moral hangover over leaving farm-life (-1 to academic, cultured, etc stuff)

Kevin: Is a researcher of ancient history. At some point he's stumbled upon ancient knowledge of demons and learned to summon them. His demon, Oracle, is a parasite, that Needs to drink blood, Desires knowledge and can boost Kevin's will and make him big. Kicker: Kevin has heard for certain that some ancient cache of knowledge concerning demons has been found in the forbidden upper levels. Played by Tassu.

Stamina: 3 - clean living
Will: 5 - belief system, high self-esteem
Lore: 2 - forgotten knowledge
Price: Living in the past (-1 to any first roll in scene)

Alex: Is a trail-blazer, escorting caravans between different settlements in the tunnels. He was banished with Graham years back and at some point ended up summoning a demon when he could nothing else to save his life. His demon called import util.cerberus.*; is a shadow dog, with big teeth, armor and ability to affect shadows in the area. It's Desire is mayhem and Need is to eat bones. Kicker: A young woman has disappeared from the caravan he was escorting and as an old criminal, he is suspected. Played by Santeri.

Stamina: 4 - survivalist
Will: 3 - high self-esteem
Lore: 3 - some sort of macgyverism
Price: Stubborn (-1 to most social interactions)

That's about it. Suggestions and comments about anything are more than welcome!

Ron Edwards

Cool. It strikes me as a Sorcerer & Sword game more than core Sorcerer, so check out the rules for scenario creation and the emergent setting creation in that book, if you have it.

If you're interested in advice, I suggest asking what do you do?, a lot, for the players of these characters. They have just a little touch of passivity, shoved around by events, in my reading anyway. So before I'd be comfortable as GM by throwing things at them, I'd like to know what they do and how they do it, as driven by the players.

Best, Ron

Jaakko Koivula


Unfortunately don't have Sorcerer & Sword yet. I'm planning on grabbing all the supplements the moment I get any money, but for now I'll have to make do with the core book.

I got sort the same impression you got from some of the characters. Thinking I'll use the first session mostly to get to know the characters, more than on any "let's go on an adventure!" -stuff. I have quite a lot of info, NPCs and weaving possibilities from the diagrams actually, now I just need to know what the characters themselves want to do.

I translated the hand-out about the setting. It's pretty quick work and didn't really bother polishing the expression in english that much, but I guess it'll have do. I think the hand-out was a good starting point and set the mood nicely for the starting session, where we actually ironed out the setting properly and made the decisions on what to include and what to leave out. Excellent tool, especially for me as I think mainly through writing. Will have to make a habit out of making these.


First play tomorrow evening, pretty excited to see how it goes!

Jaakko Koivula

Whoa, first game down! Damn, I'm just impressed. I had a bunch of NPCs and their motives, but practically nothing else. I also had planned up some weaves between the PCs and NPCs, but that's it. Really different sort of prep than usually. Didn't need to think up any plots or storylines or anything. Quite frightening, actually. I didn't know at all what would happen when the game started.

I did this speech how the player characters are the important guys in Sorcerer. In traditional RPGs, the GM plays all the deciding characters like kings and archmages or Sauron. But in Sorcerer the player characters aren't just participants in some story, they are the whole point of the story. For example, Crime and Punishment isn't about a murder and the search of a murderer, but about Raskolnikov. Same thing here. It isn't about tunnels or demons, it's about you. So what do you want?

Players started exploring the setting and finding stuff about their kickers and met bunch of NPCs. It was just magical, how at first there was nothing, and then suddenly those guys were connected and this family had something to do with these guys and that thing didn't go like anything I expected, and it all still made perfect sense. Example:

I had a sheriff, who was investigating the disappearance of the teenage girl in Alex's kicker. He was a old likeable guy, with family roots somewhere in the USA. Wore a cowboy hat and spoke in as low and rumbling voice as I could manage. Basically, him.

This guy mentions Alex's criminal past to him and asks about the teenager: "You know how they are, she's just propably lost in the tunnels. I just had to ask you, if you perhaps had told her some wild stories about them adventures or something and she'd run off to have some, heh heh."  ...and then Alex totally TERRORIZES the crap out of him. Alex's demon picks up on a subtle hint from Alex and basically blankets the whole tunnel in darkness. Underground pretty much everyone has fear of the dark, as light is so essential and there's no ambient lighting. Where there's civilization, there's electric lighting. Where there's no lighting, there's no civilization. Alex keeps pressuring the sheriff about the dangers of wandering around in the tunnels, while the darkness is creeping up on them from everywhere. Alex leaves the sheriff basically sobbing near a campfire and import util.cerberus.*; grins a big toothy grin to him, before disappearing into shadows.

And it was totally unexpected, but seeing how Alex is total bastard and his demon is a criminally intelligent sociopath and has a desire to cause mayhem, fear and chaos, it's was just.. proper.

Also, I was pretty much blindsided by an extra NPC, that Graham's player scripted in: Mr. Heart, a stage-magician/sorcerer. I had prepared a "wrong" NPC for this role and instead had to shake Mr. Heart out from the hat. He ended up being a smooth talking pimp/sorcery-pusher. In his magic show he exhibits unnaturally keen skills of perception. After his show, he leaves and Graham is tailing him. Suddenly, he spots the lonely farm-boy Willie, lost in a big city. He naturally sees the demonic telltales a mile away (with the huge perception bonuses) and pounces on the poor youngster. Out of all the player characters, Willie has the strongest urge to get something done: his fiancee has been banished and he needs to get her back, right now. So naturally Mr. Heart, the suave predator, bumps into him, realizes what's up and starts sweet-talking Willie into using more sorcery. "Anything can be yours, if you just WANT it enough. I can help you..."

And even though Mr. Heart was just invented, there could be nothing more natural than him finding the sweet, innocent and desperate young boy, WHILE Graham the self-righteous vigilante is watching them both from the shadows.

I don't know if we were just lucky, but as a GM I am just blown away how effortless all this was. Didn't have to create elaborate plans and trick the players into following railroads. I just had bunch of NPCs who had couple of small links between each other, and the rest fell into place when the characters got moving. I'm stoked. Whoo!

Ron Edwards

Whoo yourself!

No luck is involved when the system is understood and used. But something else is involved - genuine creative drive and imaginative real-life dialogue. It sounds like you guys are well-equipped.

Best, Ron

Jaakko Koivula

We've got two more sessions played and I'm still excited. Finally after the third session I'm also getting my GMing up to gear. Demons are becoming more like active characters and other NPCs are starting to throw more wrenches into our sorcerers' plans.

We've been missing Alex's player from both of the sessions, but I'm planning on throwing a solo adventure for him, to get him to the same place in the timeline as the other characters. Alex himself was physically elsewhere, so his player being missing didn't actively cause problems for the rest of us. This play report is also a bit for him, so he can read what the other's have been up to.

Second session, highlights, etc.:

Mr. Heart has just spotted Graham and invites him cordially in. Mr. Heart is doing everything to make Willie summon up more demons. Willie decides that he can't rescue his fiancee without extra help, so he agrees. The three sorcerers gather around the computer screen and start cooking up a demon. Willie let's his instincts guide him and keep poking around the network, while Mr. Heart and Graham give hints and try to guide him. Everyone rolls crappily and no contact is made though. Willie goes deeper and deeper into a trance just following that unnatural current in the network... but suddenly something breaks the immersion and he realizes he's just been browsing wikipedia for two hours. Nothing magical about that, it happens to all of us at times.

At the same time everyone realizes, that all the lights have gone out. Only the computer screen still illuminates the room and after it realizes that there's no electricity anywhere anymore, also blinks out. Willie's demon <a> has radar sense, so Willie manages to guide everyone out of the building. Outside everything is also pitch black, many blocks around. After a while they get rescued from the darkness by a patrol, that's seeking people who got trapped in the blackout-area. Blackouts are understandably a really rare and utterly terrifying crisis in the tunnels, but luckily it was only an industrial area where this one happened. No greater panic and not that many people around.

Kevin has been trying to buy a book from Mallory, an immoral and aggressive library-worker. Some books were said to be destroyed by the head librarian Vincent, but Mallory still seems to have access to them. The deeper they go into negotiations, the more clearer it becomes that Mallory is a totally criminal and dangerous character. The price to deliver the book Kevin is searching is also hilariously high. Kevin desperately wants to get "upstairs" to research demons and ancient technology and now he's collecting data to plan for the most propably dangerous trip.

Next evening Willie decides to give the summoning another try. Mr. Heart downplays the risks involved and says they have the biggest chance of success, if they try summoning in a densely networked area, the Central Library for example. At the Library they recruit Graham to help them again. Graham grudgingly accepts to help them, to lessen the risk of something going completely wrong, like last time. This time they manage to contact the demon: a blood red entity, that favours abstract geometrical shapes and exhibits robotic-like personality: "Des-cribe de-si-red pa-rameters, de-fine ty-pe of help re-quired." etc. Willie also manages to summon and bind the demon (binding +3 to Willie!). The room goes completely black and a thud is heard. When the lights turn back, Willie has a new parasite demon < b > living in his hair, or instead of his hair, who knows.

Meanwhile, Kevin has been writing emails in his office. The network is totally ridicilously slow tonight for some reason. At one point, he hears running from outside the door: Vincent the head-librarian is running upstairs, looking totally incensed. He orders Kevin to follow and help him and starts going through the different studies. After a couple of doors he finds the three sorcerers huddling in one of them and orders everyone to get to his office right bloody now. At the office he realizes that Kevin is still tagging along and orders him to piss off. The session ends with Vincent glaring over the bunch of sorcerers and saying: "Three at the same time.. what kind of an idiot summons a demon in the middle of a goddamn city?"

Jaakko Koivula

Third session:

Vincent the head-librarian seems satisfied with just warning the sorcerers: nothing serious has happened yet, but if there's any more blackouts, unusually slow networks or anything, he knows who are responsible and will come after them. Graham's demon Segfault uses this as an opportunity to demand his need. He wants to see evildoers (people who have lost humanity) being punished. Willie lost a whopping 2 humanity while summing, bumping him down to 1. "Come on, if you just make that guy chew on that youngster a bit, that could tide me over for a while. I don't like this at all, but this would be a good and easy opportunity..." Graham tries to shift the blame more on Mr. Heart and Willie, but Vincent isn't really interested. Graham doesn't try to press it, but decides to handle the need in some other way.

Willie is having a hard time concentrating on Vincent's lecture, because his head is being yanked all over the place. <b > seems to be bit of an OCD-case and hugely interested in the news (Desire: order, Need: facts/trivia). It seems to communicate mainly by pulling Willie's head in the direction that it wants Willie to notice. Kind of like being pulled from the hair, but the hair itself is the one pulling. Willie and Mr. Heart retreat to Heart's storage hall, where they tried summoning for the first time. Willie practices using his demons and watches the news until the splitting headache goes away (his hair stops hurting). Mr. Heart seems to have lost most interest in Willie after he managed his summoning and mostly just scribbles in his little notebook.

Graham went home earlier and bumped into a large thug wrecking the place. It's Mallory's friend, who Graham also met earlier. "You should not mess with the boss. Make sure the money is together tomorrow." etc. Graham and the thug end up wrestling for a while, but neither manages to cause any serious damage. Thug ends up slightly having the upper hand, but gets also banged up enough, that he decides to leave. "Uh, you should not mess with us, get the money."

Kevin on the other hand is out looking for trouble. He finds a hotdog-kiosk and there's a fight going on: a big guys is trashing up a drunkard. Kevin makes Segfault scorch the thug's shoe a bit to break up the fight. The big guy does stand up and leaves the drunkard alone, but also proceeds to throw Kevin (the wimpiest wimp there is, stamina 1) on the ground, pretty much busting him completely up. Then he tries to kick in Kevin's ribs, but at this point Segfault decides to interrupt and napalms the thug completely.

Nice example how the combat system works here btw. Thug kicks Kevin in the ribs, Kevin defends, demon breathes fire. Demon has best roll, thug cancels action to defend (like any sane person would do, when a fireball suddenly flies from the darkness right at you), but doesn't manage to dodge. Thug is burned to crisp and canceled his action anyways, so it doesn't matter that Kevin rolled lowest of them all at the beginning of the turn.

Segfault seems to have his need satisfied by this and helps Kevin slip in to the night, leaving the kiosk-owner wondering that the hell just happened and the thug on the ground with second and third degree burns.

Later Graham, Kevin and Willie have lunch together. They plan for a trip to the upper tunnels together. Graham heard earlier from Vincent, that you actually need some sort of official permit from him to go to the upper tunnels. Permit, which he won't admit to anyone. Graham mentions that Kevin might be going anyways and Vincent says: "Hmm, well now I at least know he might try..." Vincent really doesn't seem to like sorcerers or sorcery or anyone researching the subject at all.

Mallory and her friend also make an appearance. Kevin is going again to meet them, but Graham is stalking the meeting place in advance. He overhears that Kevin is going to be taught a lesson once he has handed over the money. Graham warns Kevin, who decides that he doesn't want to go to the meeting after all and splits. Mallory and the thug notice him running away and decide to go trash his place again, just because. After some stuff Graham and Kevin are at Kevin's apartment with cops, going around the place and giving testimonials. Graham doesn't want to give the cops all the facts and that they know who did it, but the other cop realizes that he's not being told everything. He doesn't press the issue further, but silently marks Graham as being a suspicious character and asks if he can come later to give a more detailed statement about the perps at the precinct. He also mentions about the other odd incident around this neighborhood earlier: someone used a flamethrower or something at a regular hotdog-kiosk brawl and burned a guy really badly. They have some sketchy description of a suspect and he just happens to mention this, to make sure you people take care now, put the safety latch on etc.

We ended the session when every character went to bed after this long day.

I'm clearly getting there with GMing Sorcerer. The heat is rising! The NPCs are pushing their own agendas, getting dangerously suspicious of player characters and especially the demons are starting to get more needy and demanding more attention. Graham and Willie also had to feed their demons in the last session. Most of the needs are simply enough now (watch the news, get a bag of blood for the vampire demon, feed some passed out student's dreams to the demon), but will probably get way more interesting if they end up in the uninhabited upper tunnels, with no extra blood, dreams, news or evil-doers available, or if the police start paying more attention to them...

Jaakko Koivula

Quote from: Jaakko Koivula on September 30, 2011, 12:35:33 PM
Graham went home earlier and bumped into a large thug wrecking the place. It's Mallory's friend, who Graham also met earlier. "You should not mess with the boss. Make sure the money is together tomorrow." etc. Graham and the thug end up wrestling for a while, but neither manages to cause any serious damage. Thug ends up slightly having the upper hand, but gets also banged up enough, that he decides to leave. "Uh, you should not mess with us, get the money."

This was obviously Kevin, not Graham. Mixed up the names, sorry.