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Who's a good dog

I'd provide the two character-sheet diagrams I examined while preparing for play, but they are both the same: about 80% of the items on each one was now slammed into the center, including new ones that had been acquired from each other's sheet.

In other words, both sorcerers (Ahmet and Ingmar), their demons (Solomon and Odd John), the crucial designs of the tattoos and runes from the ruins, the murder victims (Mehmet and Julia)

So yeah. Obviously, it was sorcerous otherworld time, straight out of Sorcerer & Sword. They are in the ruins, or rather, the essentialized and spiritual space that the original structure had defined, their demon-pets are suborned or returned or awakened into the expectations of that time, the murder victims are the focus or instigation of this whole phenomenon in the first place and therefore are the divine sacrifices (in the sense of the Corn King becoming a god), and the obvious focus of the entire situation is Mehmet's wife, Selma, marked for imminent death which the two demons are all too happy to supply.

Bang and play - time for them to show me, and themselves, "us," what we came for.

Both players mentioned getting creeped out here and there, and I totally was too. Specifically for me anyway, it was Julia's and Mehmet's painted skulls, which I modified slightly by adding the cow horns (both that sort of human skull preservation and cow horns were big deals in the earliest Çatalhöyük remains, but I combined them more closely).

I'd like to follow up with my thoughts on pets, owners, masters, power, rather brutal realities, and how they related to or were expressed by this game. I found it very easy, frighteningly so, to play the demons and - somewhat abstractly - the actual purpose and presence of the ancient "way." Look for a comment about it when I can find a way to articulate it without providing evidence for some future court case to lock me up.

You will notice that I ended the Nordic Noir "solve the murder" case(s) quite summarily, in contrast to their personal importance to the characters and also in contrast to the ordinary procedure of that particular subgenre. We're going to talk about why I did that, not as justification, but experientially anyway, and whether it was "good play" or a cautionary moment for others to consider.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Sorcerer

Comments

PedroPereira's picture

You will notice that I ended the Nordic Noir "solve the murder" case(s) quite summarily, in contrast to their personal importance to the characters and also in contrast to the ordinary procedure of that particular subgenre. We're going to talk about why I did that, not as justification, but experientially anyway, and whether it was "good play" or a cautionary moment for others to consider.
 
Yeah, I was surprised when you said that we figured out that Johan (Joe) was the murderer. I wanted to discuss that in the "debrief" when we finished the game but the talk was good and the question got lost. My perception of what happened is that as far as the Kickers themselves were concerned, they had been resolved, and maybe that prompted a natural ending at that point, since the focus of the game is, well, resolving them. We knew what was going on regarding the sorcerous aspects of the game, that was satisfyingly concluded, and all that was left was really just some police procedural gameplay. I guess one could say that further investigation and discovering the killer did fit the context of the Kickers and their full resolution, and that a further session could be justified instead of the somewhat blunt wrap-up. But I can aldo see why it would perhaps feel "off", some kind of prolonged denouement to the game that would amount to little more than wrapping up loose ends and perhaps would fall flat. Dunno, I'm curious about your take on this. Regardless, it was a great session. I wonder what else was in that Otherworld if we had investigated further, althiugh it was clear where the whole thing was headed.
 
I found it very easy, frighteningly so, to play the demons and - somewhat abstractly - the actual purpose and presence of the ancient "way."
 
That was very well played indeed. Loved the physical change of the demons in the Otherworld, and how you roleplayed them. In my mind, I was hearing their now powerful booming voices and seeing their burning eyes and gaping maws. Great imagery.
 
 
Finally, for some reason, in this game I didn't have a clear touchstone/reference/image in my head for the look/feel of sorcery. On one hand, I was thinking more along symbolic elements based on owner-pet relationships that would then be translated into sorcery imagery, but nothing I was thinking of felt good "on screen". I never had a clear idea how I Bound Odd John either, for that matter, especially since Jngmar was a Naive sorcerer and I wanted the Binding to reflect that. It made me try to think about something that felt good conceptually but "raw", unplaned, not learned, not part of some codified sorcery system. Unfortunately, I never manage that. The other option I was initially thinking about was something I mentioned in passing during our pre-game emails, basically some sort of urban sorcery making use of city layouts, symbolic spaces, buildings, etc, along the lines of From Hell (the book, not the movie). As it was, none of those ideas ever really coalesced in my mind and remained inchoate. So I felt a bit stumped when prompted by Ron to describe how I would aid Ahmet, and I decided to just follow the imagery and elements Aybars introduced (which I had not heard clearly, to boot), which at least felt right because my character was just helping his anyway. Aybars went in a more traditional direction for sorcery imagery, which really fit the game (as well as his character concept) because of its Ancient World / Ancient Cities vibe, but it didn't quite fit right for my swedish character and his backstory. Loved the use of the mundane objects (credit cards, family photos, etc) during the Contact ritual, by the way. You guys were inspired in this session.
 
 
Ron Edwards's picture

I went into the session with a strong personal sense that the sorcery/pets and ancient cities were the focus, and the murder mystery, crime story was a means to that end. This may illustrate my own limitations, as a “true master” would have created or managed a perfect mash-up of those two (already challenging) components with Nordic Noir.

But I started thinking about Nordic Noir and realized I preferred to subvert it rather than to play it out in full. The current profile of TV shows has reached the point of parody already, so merely according with its features seemed less and less important to me the more I thought about it.

  • Specifically, the stories tend to present meticulous, Swiss-watch genius killers who guess impossibly correctly what everyone else will do, and always manage to jump the right way to escape or to throw misdirection.
  • The murders are notable for their grotesque, stagey qualities which have to be deciphered and figured out, which if you think about it makes no sense at all except that it’s entertaining TV.
  • Similarly, and here I’m thinking of the less good examples (Marcella) rather than the really good ones (Y Gwyll [Hinterland], Fångade [Trapped]), the protagonists are absurdly dysfunctional to the point that, since they are supposed to be “genius detectives,” all the other people in the story except the murderer have to become idiots, especially the other police.

The material in Ingmar’s Kicker, especially, led me to think that either this killer was exactly as advertised and thus would require every component of the genre, including those I found less compelling; or someone who had watched too much TV and was trying to play that part. I preferred the idea that the killings had inadvertently tapped into a much deeper, older, and more significant reality, opening a door which the killer – fancy “Architect” name and all – never dreamed of.

This perspective of mine goes back to my mild dislike of the complicated, semi-historical conspiracies to be discovered piece by piece, location by location, encounter by encounter, session by session, by the players who are so impressed by the GM’s amazing brilliance. It’s considered the height of games like Call of Cthulhu multi-step campaigns, Unknown Armies, and Nephilim, inspired by the later fiction of Tim Powers, and I find it tedious from any angle, whether player or GM. Or at least I find it lacking in emotional weight.

It worked for me, at least at the time of prep and play, to think that if the sorcery managed to get to the point of understanding more about the ancient ruins, then the modern-day crimes would be quite trivial, even pathetic in comparison. So the Swedish murderer is a not-very-brilliant psycho, and the Turkish killer is a developmentally-delayed guy with hooligan friends.

Now, that’s not to say that I played this well. I was distracted by the sorcery and could well have considered that playing out the police work, and thus having the players discover and experience the relative triviality of the crimes would be better suited to the content. I did have a good idea of each killer and his particular point of view and circumstances that led to the events, and a certain amount of session time could well have revealed those.

It would also be better, probably, for thinking of the crimes as human tragedies and not just using the victims as a means to get to the fun of figuring out the murderer’s plot, a cynical feature of murder mysteries since their inception. I did avoid that problem but my solution was more of a quick hand-wave rather than developing the humanity itself. I would like to have seen Julia and Mehmet as people – in retrospect, playing actual flashback scenes would have been an excellent technique, and allowed more characterization of Johan too.

So, I think my “why” is at least defensible, but my GMing wasn’t up to it.

Dear Ron hello; this is Aybars speaking. 

I believe your Gm'ing was so good that at the height of the session (during which you have proposed me Palpatine-like powers) I, as a player, was really into the choice that what my character could make. I completely agree to the true identity of the killers; one being a sociopath and the other being an addict hooligan - although during the first session I was looking of a wanna be Sorcerer murderer. Maybe another session would be just sufficient to see two detectives/Sorcerers working together to catch the true culprits, but I would like to say even at this stage I am ok with how things went on. 

I was really excited to play Sorcerer, and truly learned a lot on how to Gm'ing Sorcerer in detail. I tried my best to play my character as I had envisioned him. I hope I didn't gave you or Pedro headache with my Turkish accent and other Turkish details :) 

I would really like to continue this game or begin any other of your games if time and availability permits. 

 

 

PedroPereira's picture

Hi,

So, I think my “why” is at least defensible, but my GMing wasn’t up to it.

Your "why" is totally defensible. The idea that the killer itself was perfectly mundane was actually something that crossed my mind when creating the Kicker, but it wasn't my place to suggest so during Kicker creation, so it's funny to see that on a high level there was some convergence in the way we were thinking about it. I find your thinking regarding the murderer and the murders to be totally appropriate. I didn't go into this expecting actual Nordic Noir "genre playing" at all. Top marks for you there.

Regarding the ending in general, I think that your GMing was perfectly up to it. As I mentioned above, I don't think the "issue" (for lack of a better word) was that you didn't meet the expectations of the "genre". It's just that it felt blunt at the moment you make the reveal (and it's kind of comic to watch the video and see my face and Aybars' like "Huh?!? Did I miss something?"). In fact, I don't think it was a problem at all, but it's just a natural expectation on the part of the players, Call of Cthulhu or no Call of Cthulhu, that the murder-related reveals be delivered somewhat more smoothly, but not necessarily in detail or with some kind of atempt at actual police procedural simulation.  And I have a feeling that prolonging the game to allow for a more smooth resolution would probably have felt flat after the actually interesting had been resolved in this session. So, in practice, it may have solved one "problem" by introducing another. Dunno if I'm being clear here.

Regardless, that was a very good session and miles better than most of what I've experienced as a roleplayer. So, if your GMing wasn't up to it, I shudder to think what it looks like when you are.

I tried my best to play my character as I had envisioned him. I hope I didn't gave you or Pedro headache with my Turkish accent and other Turkish details :) 

No, it was perfectly fine. It's not like my accent is any better!

I would really like to continue this game or begin any other of your games if time and availability permits. 

Hum, I personaly feel that Ingmar and the situation have spent themselves in a satisfying way. After that BUM with the whole situation in the last session, I don't see a "second Season" for Ingmar & Ahmet making much sense to me after how good (albeit short) this game was. Same thing with the Sorcerer Musik game. But that's just me. Some games I feel like episodic content works great (quite usually the case for many Sorcerer & Sword games, for example), others I feel should end with no continuity so as to not ruin their past greatness. This one felt to me as one of the latter. Does that make sense to you?

Anyway, thank you boh for this great experience. It was a pleasure playing with you both.

 

Ron Edwards's picture

I lean toward "end it now before we ruin it" but I've also been proven wrong before. Players have sometimes insisted that we continue after we finish a pretty good, even great novella-length story, and when I concede, we transcend so far that the first part looks like a planned introduction in retrospect.

In this case, I do find myself tempted by the thought of setting the next arc in Stockholm.

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