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Crescendo

This phase of our "Sorcerer Musik" game definitely needs its own body of comment. The first batch showed us finding our feet with the on-line venue; the second one showed our re-orientation toward that venue and a little reflection on play so far; and this one is ... well, it's when Sorcerer delivers. None of the Kickers are the same as the more-or-less basic problem they initially presented, having done their job of "today is not like any other day" now that those problems have evolved into something a lot more consequential for the characters.

I call special attention to everyone's responsiveness around the "table." It's constant; everyone is listening and you can see any given person imagine what's going on. You can see when someone disengages slightly and when they invest again. You can see two players not-quite say come on as the third cautiously gets into action, and then get just as viscerally into that action, even though their characters aren't there. You can see all of us share our humor at different points. I specially notice how expressions and occasional pantomiming play a big role for this group, creating an environment of communication which is much more mutual and more rich than an audio would convey.

I'm interested in how people perceive my presentation of violence during play, which I strive to do a little differently from familiar mass media, especially for Sorcerer.

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Sorcerer

Comments

PedroPereira's picture

I'm interested in how people perceive my presentation of violence during play, which I strive to do a little differently from familiar mass media, especially for Sorcerer.

I like it. It's more realistic, obviously, although that by itself is neither better or worse. But it feel, in terms of imagery, more, hum, sickening? It certainly packs a bigger punch in your gut when you see it with your mind's eye. And given Sorcerer's aspirations, it feels quite adequate, because it reinforces the "this isn't an imaginary world. Demon's don't exist. This is Here and Now, our own world" vibe the game is going for. It's fitting.

Ron Edwards's picture

I appreciate that. One of Sorcerer's features is that ethical infractions are not defined by a textual list, but are instead subject to one person's reactions during play. This isn't intended to be a privilege for the GM but rather an enforced exposure of him or her - a demand, in fact, that he or she self-examine and live up to any such content. One cannot fall back on "well, in this setting, X is right and Y is wrong," nor on genre expectations. And the decisions are so consequential for the players so that this exposure will be relevant to them.

For a brief while, in the early 1990s, it seemed as if a number of disconnected works in various media were experimenting with a more up-front, questioning approach to violence. Whether that was true at all, or whether it became merely a platform for a new vocabulary of equally-dumb depiction, I don't know. I know that I thought the depictions I'm thinking of were more honest - in terms of pain and resulting empathy, not realism for its own sake - and thought of it as a good thing. A lot of the textual approach to violence in the game was influenced by that perception of mine, and I know that I always play it that way.

Circle of Hands presents an interesting contrast, as the original design it's built from, Gray Magick, dates exactly to the same time as Sorcerer's primary design phase, but its moral sensibility is derived from a different, angry, and disoriented perspective, more about real-life and less focused on how current and past media make/made stories. It also takes that somewhat clinical, wince-factor element of violence very far down the road, drawing literally upon multiple instances of being hurt myself for the rules.

PedroPereira's picture

One cannot fall back on "well, in this setting, X is right and Y is wrong," nor on genre expectations. And the decisions are so consequential for the players so that this exposure will be relevant to them.

 

I remember some discussion on this on The Forge archives. The way I think about this, is that ethical infractions in Sorcerer (and associated Humanity-checks) are about the ethics of the players, not the morality of whatever cultures the PCs come from or represent. So, if we were playing Sorcerer in some Bronze Age mediterranean setting, or if a PC was a visiting Venusian with a completely different sociobiological evolutionary history leading to a radically different set of morals,  Humanity-checks would still be made according to the players' sense of Right & Wrong. Am I correct?

 

I know that I thought the depictions I'm thinking of were more honest - in terms of pain and resulting empathy, not realism for its own sake - and thought of it as a good thing. 

 

Yes. That's what I feel too. They are more honest, truer, uglier depictions. They take out the heroic, glamorous side of violence and show its true, undignifying, sickening face. That makes its depiction in the game all the more impactful. It may also make the players think twice, even if not quite conscious of it perhaps, about comiting violence, because suddenly violence doesn't look that dehumanised anymore.

Ron Edwards's picture

You're right, although your phrasing "players" in plural is overly democratic for Sorcerer. The GM is really the moral sounding-board and need not consult or agree with anyone else regarding Humanity rolls of either kind ... which may sound bad, in the sense of "moral authority," but as intended, is more like a self-examination and self-exposure, especially if it's not over-analyzed and is based very much as an audience member judges and likes/dislikes what a given character has just done.

Love D's picture

Yes, from when John fell down in a heap on the floor of the club in the first session, to Michael’s decisive rapid pistol shots in the bar, the harm felt suitably disconcerting and real. 

 Loved this session, through and through. Loved the tender talk when John woke up in the ambulance, and when the following lore roll sort of bridged the knowledge gap between sorcerer and non-sorcerer colleague. A shame it didn’t generate humanity! But, what was the scientific paper about, in the first place? Is it part of your kicker, Pedro?  Seems like Michael have asserted control like a true crime boss, and Maxine is, yeah, really using and testing the limits of her powers. After having read only part of the Sorcerer book right now, I hadn’t realized how much raw power, in terms of dice, the Demons could give the players (and also roll-over dice). Stop work and dance! I’m all for it. 

PedroPereira's picture

Hi!

A shame it didn’t generate humanity!

That was certainly Zak's fault (*runs for cover*).

The paper was just something Ron came up with either during the scene or during prep. It wasn't established in the fiction before that moment nor in the kicker itself. But it made sense and I ran with it. And yes, it was such a tender scene. Loved it! For me it's important that Ron understands that Alain isn't trying to screw or antagonise John at all. He just wants his friends back, really, now that they are back in the city. Lovely moment. Let's see what comes out of that.

Ron Edwards's picture

Yes, group hug! While keeping in mind that Lore is by definition a Humanity-threatening sphere of activity ...and that John just gained Lore 1 because that's how many victories Pedro rolled for that score.

Over here in GM-land, where my mandate includes playing the demons, John's awe at the "beauty" and his appreciation of the demonic/cosmic music isn't grounds for sniffling celebration of tender humanity after all.

PedroPereira's picture

..and that John just gained Lore 1

Oh boy...

 

That whole scene was great. John asking for Alain to explain to him the paper: awesome. The idea of using Lore as well as Cover to explain it: brilliant. And then imagining John absorbing Alain's explanation while looking at the ceiling of the ambulance and finally utter "That's...beautiful". That was simply genious. And the moment in which Alain puts his hand on John's shoulder and says that all that was thanks to John's mentoring was nice. Of course, Zac somehow must have made me loose the associated Humanity-gain roll, as usual.

 

Then there was the city all dancing to Maxine's music. That was great and weird, all at the same time. Straight from Twilight Zone. I wonder how people will react in general and how the News will eventually racionalise it.

 

And I really enjoyed the whole mafiosi moment from Michael's scene. Brutal, but oh so fitting. I want to see more.

Love D's picture

The paper was just something Ron came up with either during the scene or during prep.

 

Oh, okay! You ran beautifully with that! And yeah, that bit with the mentoring really drove it home for me. I must say that in these sessions, Alain has shown that he really cares about these people. Of course, it’s only natural, and a little sinister, that he now tries to fix his relationships with lore.

 

(Haha yes, it’s surely without question that Zac has something to do with those rolls!)

 

Now that I think about it, Alain’s scenes, with Kelly and now John, also has an accidental theme: they always seem to happen in speeding cars. 

John just gained Lore 1

 Ah! There was humanity in the scene, but it definitely got a dark tint in the lore roll. You sort of hinted at some dark consequences at the end there. 

Onioncakes's picture

I feel like Alain has emerged as the most heart-felt character so far. A lot of his scenes really are quite touching and human. And Ron and Pedro, I love the GM/player interaction that you two have developed. It feels very natural and is a pleasure to watch!

I'm also really thrilled that Maxine got a chance to force her youthful perspective on Los Angeles. Hopefully Hollywood, hospitals, and the menagerie of air ports in the LA basin won't mind. We're going to pay for this, I know.

I want to jump back a bit and talk about violence. As I've gotten older, I've found myself increasing in sensitivity towards the rougher side of life. Maybe "sensitivitiy" captures too many meanings though — I'm at least taking things more seriously than when I was younger. The "clinical" descriptions in last session certainly felt sobering. I'm very used to roleplay being a pretty jovial activity, so the dark directing made me feel it in my chest more than I'm used to. Don't ask me what I expected with a game like this!

The GM is really the moral sounding-board... which may sound bad, in the sense of "moral authority," but as intended is more like a self-examination and self-exposure

I don't think I totally realized this until you articulated it this way, Ron. Do you mean that it exposes the GM's understanding of morality, since it's your moral understanding that shapes the rolls, and therefore the world we're experiencing? It makes me wonder — this aspect of Sorcerer must make every player's personal moral philosophy an almost inescapable topic of discussion, or at least a point that's thought about. Have you encountered situations in the past with Sorcerer where considerably different moral perspectives soured the game?

I specially notice how expressions and occasional pantomiming play a big role for this group, creating an environment of communication which is much more mutual and more rich than an audio would convey.

It's funny you should say this, Ron. I'm kind of sad not to see your mug on the screen with ours and Pedro's in the videos! I feel like we, the players, get the benefit of seeing all of your facial expressions and reactions, but the audience doesn't.

Ron Edwards's picture

Do you mean that it exposes the GM's understanding of morality, since it's your moral understanding that shapes the rolls, and therefore the world we're experiencing?

I do.

This shaping won't work if it's filtered and over-sanitized. Sorcerer seeks the state of creativity in which one cannot stand to contribute (say, perform,do, whatever you call it) anything but the most personally-authentic possible. The GM does well never to think about Humanity and simply to embrace doing it. The moral or ethical framework that emerges, or is revealed, is not expected to be the same, and perhaps could not possibly be the same, as whatever the GM would have stated as a personal ethos in conversation or as an "about me" essay.

I've run into people saying they don't like another person, especially tagged as "the GM" with the perceived power imbalance of the term, to judge their characters. Leaving aside that they have, themselves, engaged in an activity for which doing so is intrinsic, my take on that is that the GM is judging, but given the specifics of the game's design, on the basis of empathy - "Wow, I could have done that, so what would that make me."

The process is fortunately prevented from being circular, as the diagram method accounts for a lot of the framing/scene-loading function of the GM, so he or she is not judging situations entirely of his or her own invention.

Instead of open or analytical discussion, I find that play tends to stay with the people in the long term as a fictional experience, providing the same sort of touchpoint that certain media/entertainment works have, the ones that aren't just another movie or just another comic or the next novel in the series.

The general problem regarding Humanity isn't what you described, so much as a wrong turn from the very beginning: seeing Humanity as an entirely fictional setting feature and therefore "well, slavery is OK in this setting, so it doesn't affect Humanity," and stuff like that. The supplement The Sorcerer's Soul spends a lot of time on how diverse Humanity can be, even providing rules for dealing with criss-crossing, contradictory forms in the same game, but it struggles against this perception.

Ron Edwards's picture

I have serious business, social, and ideological reasons for my face or any GM's or other organizing/whatever player to be the same size as everyone else's in the videos. The problem is that I can't make it work! I tried switching to Appear.in, which is great in use, but the resulting recording is not functional, or not predictably so. And every instruction or advice I find for manipulating that feature of Skype flat-out doesn't work for me.

(Anyone reading this, do not provide helpful advice about Skype use or alternate communications programs. It does not work, I'm not a bonehead "user," please let me work it out by myself.)

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