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Sorcerer: My Cell Phone is Possessed

Here is a recording from Session 1 of my Sorcerer campaign (“Demons are Social Media Junkies”). The first hour was spent (not recorded) was spent cleaning up the character creation from Session Zero, and I talked through some rules, especially those pertaining to demon abilities and sorcerous rituals. We were able to nail down the Kicker for Chuck and we did those humanity check rolls for bindings.


To get the game moving, I immediately attacked with the Kickers, using the character diagrams to provide guidance. We had two hours, and that was perfect for us to work through some opening scenes for the two characters, and you’ll see me cross-hatching between the two characters and settings. We’re getting our legs under us when it comes to the mechanics and principles, but even with the occasional slips, there was some enthusiastic and focused play.


Notable Events and Rules Applications


Ability Combos:

One of the characters (Shawn McEwen) belongs to a cult named The Eighth Laurel which has been infiltrated by his master. (Note: The cult is not really magical, though it talks the talk). During the day, Shawn works in a theme park called Universal World, but when he is off, he writes a blog and helps manage the cult’s social media outreach. For reasons not entirely understood, the cult’s social media presence has been taking on, and a local news outlet wants to do an interview. Shawn is the chosen one.


Shawn’s possessor demon has a need to watch people being led to believe or to do things which any rational person would never do, and he is positively lit at the prospect of doing something devilish during the interview. The demon (Aaron) has Confuse and Taint as two of its abilities, and I used the scene as an opportunity for us to see how abilities can be combined. With players (and a GM) already familiar with the game, I wouldn’t be as active in working things through, but together we were able to work through ability combos. So he hit the interviewer with a Confuse (which was successful) and thus was able to slip the cult’s oath into the interview. He tried following this up with a Taint to get the interviewer to take the oath herself in front of the camera. He didn’t make that roll, but the oath thus far remains on the footage that the news outlet is broadcasting.


Containment One Demon While Satisfying Your Own:

The other character (Chuck) had a scene with his younger brother who turns up with some photos on a cell phone. The pictures show decapitated chickens around of the house of his parents, but the smart phone started acting weird, and the character’s cat (a passing demon) is acting alert. Chuck rolls to detect a demonic presence and succeeds. So he runs upstairs to his apartment in order to perform a containment ritual on the phone, which he deposits in a mason jar. Chuck’s brother follows upstairs, confused, and Chuck puts together a ritual which combines focibly cutting his brother’s thumb and logging into a strange website which emits a modem sound which launches into a chant. The cutting of the thumb was for mere show, and it was used partly to satisfy Chuck’s demon who has a need to witness acts of violence. The containment worked, with two additional victory die earned on the Lore vs. Stamina roll. (I may have been stingy in not allowing the player to roll an additional die: He asked whether the addition of the hokey blood ritual would work, but I was thinking about counting that as satisfying the demon’s need (which is one kind of bonus), and I wasn’t sure if I should also allow the act to give a bonus for the containment.


Rules clarifications


Humanity level: The rules talk about restoring or regaining Humanity, which suggests that the starting Humanity is a baseline. The issue of whether Humanity can ever go above its starting level. I’m not able to find a statement that excludes that possibility, but the wording of the rules leads me to believe that this would be a remarkable occurence (if not outright prohibited).


Bonuses in Sorcerous Rituals: You get roleplaying bonuses (and penalties) as discussed on p. 19 when you are trying a ritual such as Contact, Contain, etc. Also the rules are clear that you get the victory dice as bonuses when you tie Sorcerous Rituals together. For example, if you have two victories on a Contact, you get two bonus dice if you immediately move on to Summon that demon. Do those two bonuses also apply to the Humanity Check rolls for those actions? Are the Humanity Check roles always straight-up without bonuses, or can they be modified by roleplaying and victories on the Binding?

Actual Play


Ron Edwards's picture

Let's see if I can help!

My antennae may have twitched only due to an artifact of phrasing, but just in case anyone needs to know: playing Sorcerer always begins with the Kickers. Their phrasing and contents determine whether it’s just before, during, or just after, but it’s fixed, there’s no choice.

Beware weird trouble-making Needs. This is tied to the concept we’re discussing for the Sorcerer Marseille game, that one makes a functioning sorcerer, rather than a problematized disaster-prone drain-circling sorcerer, prior to writing the Kicker. I’ve typically emphasized to players that “boring” Needs like feeding them doggie treats or discussing TV shows are more than enough trouble and sources of in-play dramatic decisions; you don’t need demons to Need ritual murder in order to have a nicely dysfunctional relationship.

To unpack that a little, I think it’s a responsibility dodge: “my guy is serial killer, but hey, it’s not my fault, it’s my demon’s Need.” Whereas Sorcerer play works much better when you have to own the rough/disturbing actions your character may take, i.e., owning the decision to do them due to the exigencies of the moment.

Anyway, in this case, it’s just my antennae twitching again rather than an observation of a flaw or real risk in play. The scene you described was fun and great enough to allay any suspicions, but it’s worth remembering that a demon wants its Need all the time, and genuinely needs it almost daily and certainly weekly. A lot of the Needs that players suggest to me, especially those which demand interactions with other people with specific outcomes, would keep the sorcerer busy full-time and often require him or her to go full sociopath.

About the interview scene itself, I guess I’m not seeing the “Kick” itself in your account. But it’s hard to articulate sometimes and may take a session or two to come into clear view. The real content of the Sorcerer Marseille Kickers doesn’t do so until the fourth session, for instance. If it’s there, I’m sure further play will show it.

You’re pretty concerned with the bonus mechanics! No objection, and many of your worries are no big deal. There’s nothing wrong with assigning the bonus in Chuck’s situation, as fulfilling the Need isn’t itself a bonus so there’s no double-dipping. As a general point, think of the bonuses very simplistically, applying only to the next roll, if eligible, period.

Bonuses do not apply to Humanity-changing rolls (checks or gain rolls|). Those are isolated from play, “meta” play if you like. For that reason, I typically hold off on them until a chained sequence of rolls is completed. As a related point, role-playing bonuses never apply to these rolls either.

Regarding Humanity’s value, there’s no baseline. Humanity just goes where it goes, up or down from wherever it is, and the terms “restoring” and “regaining” refer only to the fact that Humanity may be lost. To repeat, the starting value is strictly arbitrary and is in no way a ceiling for recovery.

To clarify that a little, and in reference to the point just above, every Humanity check and every Humanity gain roll is 50-50. And just in case anyone needs reminding, no single roll is plus/minus; you roll to see if it goes up (gain roll) or you roll to see if it goes down (check), never one roll for both at once.

I am really looking forward to you bringing in the Mouse, in spirit if not name. Demonic indeed.

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