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Starting a Sorcerer game.

Hi,

I'm starting a Sorcerer game as a GM and a few questions comes and difficulties comes from the practice. As adviced by Ron, I'm posting my thoughts here.

I was walking with my old best brief who just came back from a 10 month kind of personal initiatic travel in Canada then South America (we're from Belgium). She was talking about her difficulty to find any inspiration and to lots of personal stuffs being shaken by her travel. I don't really remember how, but I talked about RPGs and specially Apocalypse World and Sorcerer's type of RPG, those one without a preplanned story and that are deeply character-driven. For some reasons, I only mentioned Sorcerer even if I had AW in mind, because I felt it was this game she could be interested in. It is. It is so much that she gathered two of other good friends, who have never played a RPG before (except one, with me, and she liked it), who are interested in "esoteric" stuff, in the sense of questioning their inner self through spirituality (I think they call this stance psychomagic?), interested in creative inputs and collaborative "storytelling", and also into group animations and discussions,  relationships in general, and dysfunctional relationships and how to deal with it in specific in a creative discussions groupes. They are all women in the thirties and very excited about this game, most of them with a degree in communication or psychology (I'm social worker and sociologist myself). Knowing all these circumstances, I bought the Sorcerer Supplements to read Sex and Sorcery, and it's a very great supplement, really. I also skimmed through Sorcerer's Soul and put him in my reading list, but not on the top of the priorities.

Not sure if everything is useful here but anyway, I'm writing you because I'm struggling with the Demon creation (and some others stuffs). We opened two games: the first as a solo with my friend, the second will be the group party. I wanted to try a solo game of Sorcerer because I feel it can be great, with a strong degree of intimacy and trust, if the right boundaries are set in the beginning. I'm really looking for some advices to understand how to create the demon without just checking every ability and discussing about how the demon has it or not with the player. I've tried it, a bit as improvising (yeah really, I don't master fully the whole rules, which I think is not possible for the first parties. Desire is like: I want to play this, let's go, oh I struggled with this, let's read the book again, etc.), and I can really see clearly that it was not the intended process. I tried to go with back and forth questions (I think I'm not doing so bad when it's about asking and thinking about leading questions to "explore" the character, it was the main feature I thought about during my 2 years of MCing Apocalypse World). Still, I'm struggling. When asking "what does your demon do", it was blurry, and I couldn't see how I could clarify the discussion to lead to something that fit with the rules.

Also, the steps of the first session is still blurry to me when I read the book. We need to collaborate about two statements, but I have to think about humanity first, and sorcery, then we have to discuss together about the colour? I mean, the logical structure of the book is very clear and I can see that most of my problems come from the fact that I didn't totally integrated chapter 4, 5, and 6 (I only read the book once, with full focus. These will be for the next week-end). Then we make the Demon, and then the Kicker, but the Kicker seems to come up more easily while we discuss about the character. Also, it was kind of difficult to understand the distinction between the successful Sorcerer and the Sorcerer with a kicker, altough it is discussed clearly in the annotations about this section. Still, I struggled. I hesitated to fill in the diagram as the demon was not designed. I choose not to but I'm still not sure about that.

I was chilling with my friend so we discussed about the "two elements", and we made something out of it. We started from scratch, because we were there, without any prep except my notes of the 3 first chapters of the book, and our motivation to start right here and now. We came up with "Lisbonn! But kind of fictional, with little and colourfoul streets in a kind of maze and on the border of a desert" for the environnment, and "organic stuff, link to you personnal past" when giving coulour the Demons. It was kind of difficult to find this colour: when discussiong "How does the Demon express themselves, like, their form", it was very blurry for my friend. She came up with the description of her demon ... Which I refreined (like, it's not this step), and I think I should have not. Oh, also humanity was defined as Empathy, beneficial actions towards others.

Her character is an ex-popular author who achieved the top of its carrier (with the help of its demon) and then drop everything to leave in a new life where he has anything he wants and is able to give anything he wants around the social world he created (mostly some of his fan). We paused the creation and the kicker has not yet been defined. It was difficult to thinik about the kicker. First, she said she was an author who lost his wife ten years ago and moved in Lisbon because of that. I asked "think about the character as a sucessful sorcerer" (once her character as a non sorcerer were a bit clearer). So she came up with the idea that her character has achieved its full popularity and now he's just living with everything he wants in his little world. I tried to have her express a deep desire/motivation, like "now you have full power" but nothing else came up (and I don't want to force people in a short delay, specially when it's a solo, because some people need time or inputs to express something).

So my main question here is: how do do you design the Demon? The annoted Sorcerer talks about "leading an interview", which is exactly how I do a character creation for any game (since apocalypse world), but what kind of interview?

I would add some other questions like: how do you structure the steps of creation? I feel the book is very well organized for the logical understanding of the game, not for the chronological preparation of the first session.

My main feeling is the fear to throw new roleplayers into too much system (such as list of abilities, rolls, etc), it's mainly a pedalogical consideration.

Thank you for the help!

Department: 
Actual Play
Games: 
Sorcerer

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

This is a great topic considering both the Sorcerer Musik game here in Actual Play and the Apocalypse seminar that's getting posted tomorrow. I've taken the liberty of adding a picture from Sex & Sorcery to your post; let me know if that's OK.

You're quite right to identify the Sorcerer text as being written to present the game rather than to lead a person through playing it. That's something I didn't understand until about 2005, and you can see a serious switch in my game texts at about that point, and especially in 2009 with the publication of S/Lay w/Me and the revision of Trollbabe.

To get right to it: the key is to consider that the character has experienced a successful interaction with the demon until the point of the Kicker. The demon has indeed aided him or her to achieve something, to be who they want to be, to solve some problem. So the big question for the "interview" is ... how? What does the demon do, exactly, which makes the character's current life possible, and in fact, functional? (granted, it can often be a pretty sideways-version of "functional")

You wrote,

an author who lost his wife ten years ago and moved in Lisbon because of that. I asked "think about the character as a sucessful sorcerer" (once her character as a non sorcerer were a bit clearer). So she came up with the idea that her character has achieved its full popularity and now he's just living with everything he wants in his little world. I tried to have her express a deep desire/motivation, like "now you have full power" but nothing else came up

I see your point exactly. You needed to ask the right question at that moment and didn't have it . But if you can, get the conversation back to that exact moment, and then ask, how did the demon make that possible, when otherwise it was not?

It's related to the point that the player must accept that the character could not have done that thing, or be living in this way, without the demon, and that the "deal" was and is successful. The character is a sorcerer, not someone who happens to have a demon around and might or might not care about using it. That applies even if they've only had the demon for the past five minutes.

Think of the character being, for lack of a better word, cozy with the demon, and to build the character as if that were always going to be the case ... because the Kicker is about to come along and make that not be the case at all.

arakn_e's picture

Thank you for your answer! It's really OK for the Sex & Sorcerer picture. I think I get it and I'm gonna try something next time. Sex & Sorcerer is really one of the greatest think I ever read. As a social worker, and a roleplayer, the consideration of dealing with dysfunctional relationship between the players and how to deal with it at the table was incredibly releaving. I have rarely seen a RPG table where relationship between players who were friends was not kind of .. weird. And no other RPG has adressed this issue seriously. 

Still, could you provide some advice to deal with the chronological structure? For instance, I realized that Apocalypse World was very difficult to handle the first time, because lots of the information are everywhere... But then I realized that the book was totally structured to help with the steps of the session: even if you can't really deal with all the principles without reading the book entirely, once you have, you can strictly read the chapters one by one loudly, with one or two minor exception. My RPG path-dependancy kind of made me thing that Sorcerer would be the same way, but it doesn't (I'm not saying it should, I think Sorcerer really need the logical structure it uses, and the annotations really really helps). 

Still, how do you structure the step of creations? One of the main issue for me is that ... By the rules, I need the demon's Power score to make the binding roll (at least that's how I understood it). But I need time to think about Demon design, surely between session, so I'm kind stuck. Also I need the demon to be outlined to explore the Kicker, but the kicker seems to arrive sooner (and it's part, I think, of the "natural" creation process, where the player thinks about a life, but also about its problems, and generaly links naturally problems with the apparition of a transformation in its life.. which naturally associates with something I, as the GM, force into the discussion: the binding of a demon). I'm still thinking about this. I'm gming a campaign of Cthulhu Dark which is going veryyy well, and it's link to my MCing of apocalypse world 2nd ed. (mainly asking leading questions, playing "human characters" with the PC-NPC-PC triangle, and really by starting to "play everyday-life of the characters.. but as an every-day life that affects the PC's life".. which is really about the Kicker, except it arises from played scrached instead of a "out of character" preplay discussion) and my first reading of sorcerer.. (chapter 1-3) But also the way I did not overformalized character creation. Ok I'm really brainstorming here so sorry for the lack of structure.

Santiago Verón's picture

Ron, I'd really like to see an AP (or at least a video) of you doing this. It's precisely what's missing from your Sorcerer Musik AP posts. We see them when characters have already been created.

Ron Edwards's picture

So ... let's try a possible chronology that may work best in your case.

  • The two statements
  • Most of character design, but specifically, the Cover, Lore, and Price
  • As part of choosing a Lore descriptor, ask, "How does your demon help you live the life you want?"

Then when you get to the demon step, you can ask very easy questions about the rules categories, without using rules-jargon: Type, Desire, various abilities, Need. The important thing is not to treat these as lists. They are absolutely the opposite of Apocalypse-style "demon moves." Just ask, what does the demon do when someone does something to threaten your chosen path in life? What does that look like? What happens if someone tries to shoot you, can the demon help, and if so, how? What does that look like?

The answers can be brief, and in fact, should be. It is absolutely counter-productive to try to build a demon with a player, by picking this and that from the list. Use visual and imaginative dialogue instead - the rules are robust enough to handle anything they say, with the exception of things which are flatly not allowed in the first place (unbreakable "puppet" mind-control, e.g.).

Do not use or explain the rules during the dialogue, e.g., "Good! That's a Confuse, which works like this ..." and going into all sorts of talk about dice. Make notes to yourself for later, that's all. Remember that many things they say are best understood as two or three demon abilities working together.

It is also important not to run to the rules to make the demon immediately yourself. You can do that later. Right now, the player has all he or she needs to write a great Kicker - given this lovely portrait of the successful sorcerer and the demon, what happens to upset it?

The place most people miss in doing this is all the way back at the beginning: what does sorcerery, and the demons, look and feel like? When that's in place, without explanations but with aesthetic buy-in, the player has no problem picking the perfect demon/Lore to go with his or her Cover and Price, or vice versa. And from there the Kicker is easy too. If the Kicker isn't easy, it's guaranteed that the process missed a step along the way, usually all the way back at the two statements.

One of my most frustrating experiences with the game occurred when we chose "Rust Belt America" as the setting and "Spiders and eyes" for the demons, and two players made incredible characters ... and the third promptly forgot all of that and came up with a very standard, disconnected character with medieval/Solomonic sorcery. He simply would not enter into the shared aesthetic prompt and predictably, more-or-less forced me to make up the Kicker for him, and played his character in an isolated, ignore-the-Kicker way. It made playing in the way you see at this site (Sorcerer Musik) impossible.

arakn_e's picture

This is a great answer. I totally agree with Santiago, it would be great to have access to actual play - even some where mistakes are made. I love how Vincent Baker gives exemples of somethings he did badly to show how he corrects it in AW. Let me check if I can make something meaningful for the next discussion: I think I need to unterstand the process in its practical consideration. Let me try, with some thoughts.

1. I read the book fully understand the concepts, make notes.

2. We discuss with some friends about playing a game. We don't play anything, we just talk what the game permits and its theme: playing a non supernatural person of the real world, that have access to great power to fulfill its desire, and we play her dysfunctional relationship with the source of this power, a demon. The game is about collaborative and creative storytelling but more in an "impro" stance than a storytelling stance (in the epistemological social sciences jargon I would call : constructing the story vs discovering the story, but I don't talk jargon with my players). 

Then it gets blurry. Let me try:

3. I, as the GM, think about the game before the first session. I think about the meaning of humanity, of sorcery, of demons. Eventually, I produce a one-sheet.

This is already to much constraining for me. I think this discussion about humanity, sorcery, demons is interesting for the group. The one sheet fixes everything, and I come with my own definition of humanity. Is this necessary?

4.  The group gathers at the first session. I, as the GM, explain what we will do during this session, talk about the thematics again to be sure that everybody has the same mindset, talk a bit about character-driven approach of the story, set expectations (you play your character, don't bother where it goes, but we follow a determined "kicker" that this session will help us to design).

I like to be very empathic during this process. I realized people have trouble to have imagination, and it can depend on lots of factors: playing the evening during the week with a huge day of work, being tired, having anxiete but wanting to change mind, etc. It's just not possible in my practice of the hobby to find a perfectly functional group with all the conditions. We're people who roleplay when we can with the buddy we like because they like the same thing: emotional engagement. We're not so much of this kind, with difficult disponibilities. So when somebody lacks imagination, I just say "don't worry, let's jump to something else", and sometimes it can be the next session. I'll write about that later because it's kind of another discussion.

5. We set, as a groupe, the two statements : environment and demons.

Here I found it difficult for my player to come up with something about the demons. But maybe it's part of the natural process of including new players to the hobby or playing a new game. Not sure. Anyway, she came up with "she's a woman with.." and I was like "wait wait, we're trying to get an idea of a common colour (the term is perfect in english, but I couldn't find a perfect synonym in french, and it didn't help) for the demons", and it was like this three or four times. I felt like I was shutting down ideas. I'm sure I did. Finally, I read the exemple from the book and we came to "Link from the past" and "Organic" (which departed from the Cronenberg exemple).

Also, there is a section with questions to considers for the GM and the players p. 15 of the Annoted Sorcerer. When do you consider this in the process? Alone? In the group? After the scores? Before? Even if I understand clearly the question, I'm not sure how to use it to follow a natural creative path collectively.

6. We then discuss about the characters. I, as the GM, introduce this phase by saying something like "Now we're gonna talk about your characters." For new players like my group, I use Apocalypse World introduction, something like "Your role is to play your character like they were real people, with emotion, behaviour towards their environment and relationships. My role is to describe every other characters, for instance the demons, and everything happening around you. We can provides inputs for everyone in the table, but only you have the last word on what your character feels, think and do, and I have the last word on everything else. The dices will help us to create interesting conflicts and outcomes. This is not a board game and the dices are not about winning or losing. They are about creating dramatif outcomes that makes your character's life tragic or wonderful. Expect tragedy." Then, I ask "what kind of person do you want to play ?", "what does he do for a living ?" and I try to improvise some questions. Sometimes I'm good, sometimes I'm not. In this case, I was not at my best. We explore together the Stamina, the Lore, the Cover and the Will. I talk about humanity and what it means (This one is again strucking me: can't we discuss about it all together?). I talk about the scores and what they mean, and the score descriptors. I say "chose a descriptor from these lists" and let the players chose their score in Stamina, Lore and Will. I explain briefly how Sorcery is done, not going into the rules precisely but just "You're a sorcerer because you can interact with demons. Describe me how and let's try to fit in the framework of our two elements. There is six rituals that you all can do, whatever your Sorcerer mastery. You can Contact, Summon, Bind, Contain, Punish et Banish demons. Contact is just finding a demon and communicate with him. Summon is helping him to get into this world in some kind of material form. Contain is about emprisoning the demon in some kind of physical space. Punish is about .. Well punishing the Demon, in terms of dominating him and weakening him, generally with a specific goal, like weakening a strong demon to banish him easier. Banish expel this demon from this word. Sometimes Demon can be banished without a ritual. All this process of Sorcery is made willingly: you cannot do it without knowing it. You mean it, in the sense of  using it as a mean".

During this dynamic discussion and when it comes to Lore, I ask about how this life is the life they wanted, and how the demon helps to live it?  How does he helps, like with what kind of powers. Here, I really see the power of the abilities list and their interconnexion. But still, it's a restricted list and the point is to maintain a conversation that feels creative, with very little discussion and surely not picking abilities from the list. We do the binding roll (but for that, we need the demons). 

Four elements come to my mind here.

a) Here, I struggled, because the player had trouble to think about a life "as she wanted", she wanted conflict, consiquences of sorcery, etc. I've read the annotations so I was prepared. But still, it was feeling like a struggle against a natural process of creation. Maybe it's good, sometimes it is. I'm  not sure for the moment, so I write about it here.

b) Also I think some kind of structure would be helpful here. It would be great to see an Actual Play of this process, eve not perfect, but something we can discuss and comment. I'm like, very eager for practical details and thoughts. What do you start with? The Cover? The Lore? It seems to be a detail, but I don't think it is. It's really about what is the better way to put the players on a creative path. For instance, I think a list of questions people uses when GMing this part, would be useful not compuslory, just to check guidelines and exchange of practices. Also, I think it's easier for to start with the cover. What do you do for a living? Could you describe your home? Could you describe the location where you work? I realize that the difficulty for me is that I am very successful to not talk about that, but to play it. "Let's play one day in our character's life. You're awakening this monday morning, it's Eastern day. Where are you, describe me, and tell me what you're planning today." I have this list of names and I pick from it, like "you're going into your family ? A big one, or you're just two or three? Here pick some names for your sisters. So you're going to your mother? Your father is still there, or they are divorce, and if so, which one do you priorize?" (I love priorization of this type, it set the personnality). I realized this technique is really great for people who need inspiration: the "play a day of the everylife". Often, there is a "kicker" that arises directly from play. The great advantage for me is that.. we play during the first session, so new players has a nice taste. Again, I'll come back to this point later, but it's important for me to explain this because it can highlight why I maybe felt constrained during character creation, and maybe it didn't help.

c) So let's imagine I didn't play this day in an everyday life, but just the cover. I know it's tricky to say this because of the natural process of a conversation. Still, I do, and let's say where it leads. I don't know what to do with my remark here but I really feel there's something to dig. The point is: could we set everything of the stuffs not just by talking, but by playing? Even in a blurry way, with flashbacks, etc. The burden here is that it will start kickers. Anyway.

d) The abilities have to be discussed in a natural way. Yes, but there is still a list. So maybe something helpful would be, again, a full list of example of questions. Sorcerer GM, don't hesitate to take notes of them, to gather them in a file, and maybe post them? Also, the binding roll has to be done, but generally I'm not sure about this demon. Shouldn't I reserve the binding roll for the second session? In the creation I talk about with my friend here, we had to stop here. I wasn't able to think about the demon creation process. The binding roll could not be done because we need its Power, and for that, we need the whole demon.

7. We discuss about the kicker and we set a kicker for each characters. We celebrate our characters, their kickers, the story. We should have full diagrams. The first meeting ends. 

I think here, for the kicker, playing the everydaylife can be good. Damn I repeating myself. But it lead to so much good stuff in my experiences. I really need to prepare a post. The difficulty I faced here, is again, that the player wanted conflits, consequences, not just "I have the life I want, because I have great power, and it gonna kick now". 

8. I, as the GM, think about it alone. My prep is to double check de diagrams, think twice about the associations, think about possible interlinks (not compulsory but the point is trying to respect the feeling of the whole discussion), and finalize the sheets of the demon. 

9. The group gather for the second time. It is really the first session of play. We start with the kicker. We play.

Does this feel ok? I write at as I see it, with a lot of questions left opened as you can see. It is really exciting!

 

 

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm not sure how this conversation is going to proceed. The first thing to say concerns preparation and my presentatiosn here.

You have already stated that you'd like to see me include all the preparation as well as the sessions. So would I. As the Sorcerer Musik game began, I did not yet have the ability to record, and started doing so as soon as I could. You'll notice that the first session is audio-only, due to my lack of expertise, for instance. None of the current games have their earliest steps recorded, not because I didn't want to, but because I couldn't.

In other words, as my recordings of play continue and new games begin, you'll see preparation in full. I am trying not to be over-sensitive ... please, can you stop repeating how much I have missed or failed to do this. As we said back when I was young, "I'm dancing as fast as I can."

I am certain that nothing I can say here can substitute for seeing this process in action, so when it does get recorded, you'll see it then.

The second thing concerns your outline and I hope you will understand that I am being very blunt in order to jar you out of a certain mind-set. I don't think your outline sounds very great; it seems to me as if it devolves into over-elaborate explanations and unnecessary predictions about play. I think a much leaner process is better.

1. The initial conversation should barely be a discussion at all - simply, "we play characters who have bound a demon to get what they want. There is no 'demon magic' written into the setting. It's as if the characters have broken the rules of their own role-playing game in order to do this; they wanted whatever they wanted that badly. You're playing someone who is literally that able and willing to do it." And, "The only story emerges from what we do and what happens. There is no safety net to make sure that it will even become a story, or to ensure the safety or moral primacy of your characters."

2. Never mind the one-sheet. In this case, write anything like that only if you feel like it, and do it later, after playing a couple of sessions.

3. Ask for the two statements. Don't hold a big discussion over these either. Say, "what's the briefest and most basic setting you'd like to do this in?" (Use my suburbia for an example. I recommend staying close to very familiar modern life for your first game; the game is built above all to support that approach.) For each statement, use the first thing that any person besides yourself says. Don't discuss, debrief, problematize, analyze, or elaborate upon the two statements.

Your trouble with the second statement is the source of all your uncertainty and the later difficulties, just as I described in the last comment. You should not have assessed any of the input, much less rejected it, or permitted them to say it as if it were up to you to decide. You should simply have embraced the first even halfway-viable term or word, and run with it. At most, if they stumble and try to divert the conversation back to you, you should ask for one descriptive word (adjective) that seemed fun, and waited until someone said it - the first thing would be fine, whatever it is.

"Beautiful." "Wicked." "Pink." "Divine." "Bloody." "False." "High-tech." Any of those, or anything else. I think a phrase is better than a single word, but if you have to, this is sufficient.

I realize this is bizarre and completely different from the list-driven approach in the Apocalypse games.

4. Move into character creation. I have to say, your description of your conversation at this point sounds painful and discursive to me. Again, stick to basic directives: "From these lists, choose descriptors for Stamina, Will, and Lore; for Cover, make up any phrase which describes the person's job or social identity in ordinary terms." That's it. None of that discussion of what these game mechanics will or won't be or what they have to do with dice. All of that can be learned through doing, later.

If anyone seems a little uncertain, say that these are not character classes with complex rules-consequences, and that they should choose exactly what seems most exciting. The game is built to support whatever they choose, not to punish some hidden bad choice.

Don't explain, negotiate, or approve! Let them pick stuff and go with it.

5. From there, work on the demons and diagrams based on your understanding. To avoid a problem I ran into with Sorcerer Musik, show each player the diagram to explain how it was made, and this will help put you on the same page for any details that may have diverged or been misunderstood.

Well, I've done the best I can. I'm trying hard to keep this conversation from going around and around between "well you should have showed that" and "I'll just explain it more thoroughly and carefully," neither of which is going to be constructive.

arakn_e's picture

Hi Ron,

Sorry I think I've miscommunicated some stuffs. The game is incredible, and there's so much stuffs you've done that are helpful, including this site and your engagement into this conversation. The choice to make annotations in the rulebook is really incredible: so helpful to understand the logic of building a game, but also to understand the logic of this specific kind of rpg. 

I think now, I have to get into the next game and see how it helped and you're pointing some posture I have to work on. Thank you for that. I think everything is about fear to do "bad", which mean to overcontrol the situation, 

I regret that I input no-constructive stuff. I think I'm trying to overexplain things and being bad at structuring new questions. I don't think you missed or failed stuff, I was trying to open the discussion with something like "how do everyone deal with that step in the community?", more than "it lack this and that", and to understand the gap with how I view the game and how you practice it, not because I think you failed anything. So sorry about that! Also you make me realize that my "I'll explain later" are related to other matters and should not have mentioned. It's really the excitation and shivering of starting this game, badly expressed. 

In summary: to me this discussion is really helpful, and I'm really sorry if I've been, unwillingly, mean. For the rest, I think we reach a boundary where I need to play with this discussion in mind, and see how it is going. It's great to read that content will produced! 

 

Ron Edwards's picture

For my part, I am really fascinated with what you do with the game, appreciate that you were brave enough to post, and hope that even my bluntness can be constructive. I'd love to see the game.

arakn_e's picture

Hi Ron and everyone else,

It took some time but we finally met for the game. I took most of your advices, and tried not approve or explain anything, but just go with it. The result is incredible but so dense that we couldn't finish the creation in 3 hours with 3 players, and it is part of my fault. You were right, clarifying the two statements without inducing too much expectations made it easier.

 I'm sorry again for the previous friction so I'll try to avoid this and focus on the game. It would be glad if I can take some advices for the rest of the creation of demons.

My group of 3 players, described in my first post (3 new female players), gathered. I knew all the girls, but I just one of them two or three times in very reassuring environment. So I went like this:

“We're playing a game without pre-written plot or settings. The main theme is about people who have desire and supernatural powerful means to achieve it. The characters interacts with demons to fulfill achieve their desire. My role is to facilitate collective creativity, play the demons and the other characters of your life. It could create a coherent story, it could not. The point is to just play the characters as we want to play it, and see where it goes. We also can draw lines, things you don't even want to hear mentioned in a game, and veils, things we allow to hear but we don't want to get into. If you want, we can use X cards that you just put on the table when you want a veil.”

Someone (the one I know less) mentioned that she doesn’t like "gore just for the sake of it, with lots of details during 10 minutes long", and that the idea of the X card was kind of reassuring. Thus I went with your proposition. To help me with this stage I printed a table with the following questions from Sorcerer & Souls: Humanity is …; at 0 in humanity you become …. ; Demons are …. ; Demons do …. ; Sorcery looks like ….

“Where do we play?” I took the suburbia as an example, it triggered directly "Desperate housewives, with demons!”, it clicked for everybody and led to  “An American luxurious suburbs with beautiful gardens and everything seems uniform, but not a gated community”.

“So what are demons?” after a few discussions, it lead to “The expression of our dark sides, but also dead people who lived in the neighborhood, some entity with stories there.”

Then I asked questions to fill some cells of the table (this really helped):

  • Humanity is: endorsing the social norms of the American dream, like being the good wife (seriously, I would never thought about that).
  • At 0 in humanity, you become: a demon, you die and become dead entity haunting the neighbor.
  • Demons are : expressions of traumas of the Sorceresses and dead people that lived here
  • Demons do: acts that lead people to become the worst of them, or to uncover the stories of their own stories.

Then I forgot about the list and the character sheet. I went for my usual back-and-forth questions about the characters, something that really worked here to know about the Cover, but also took too much time. Not a big deal as everybody is really happy with the session and eager to play the next one.

I asked stuffs about the family, “what do you do for a living”, “where are you parents”, “tell me about your husband” and I improvised questions from there. Like:

 “I'm a Lawyer.

- What kind of Lawyer?

- A penalist.

- Do you defend the victims, or the abusers?

- Mm The abusers, mostly

- And what was your worst case? Etc.”

That's what took time. It's a think I really wanted to do (not sure you'll agree, but I couldn't get away without it, and it lead to really interesting stuff. My ultimate goal was to create an atmosphere where the girls would not refrain their creativity.

In summary, we had these characters :

  • Amy Narikova: a 43 year old polish-born, penalist, married to another woman, Priscilla, with whom she has two children. Her most weird case is about father accused of killing his children, she found proofs of his guiltiness but the proofs disappeared at the last minutes. She also refused to defend a friend to lead this case, a friend who is now in prison, something she regrets. She does sport and mostly Box-Thai, she's a really competitive woman in everything she does and she won some state championship. She dreams about becoming a worldwide champion but she doesn't have the time. She can't imagine killing somebody.
  • Malika Leblanc: a 39 years old local-born, big boss of an advertisement agency she created. She works with two associates, one, Marc, is in love with her and try to seduce her. She's attracted but values marriage value before everything else. The other associate is the hypercreative one. She's married with Joshua Nollen, an ex-car saler who is now taking care of home. She herself secretly plotted for her husband to lose its job so he can do this. They have a children, Lonie, 11 years old. When she was 9, her sister drowned in their garden swimming pool, a bit of her fault because they were playing a death game. She feels guilty and since when, her father is never enough satisfied with her. He treats her like a male who is never good enough in life. Her mother is the overwhelming kind, and she has a 37 years old brother. When she was 15, her father surprised her with a girl (Priscilla, Amy's wive). She dreams sometimes about getting away and start a new life somewhere else, but in the same time, the worst thing for her would be a takeover on her society or that her husband cheat on her. She regrets that she never left with her first love, because she was to focused on building the company.
  • Iliana Sostaskovitch: a 43 years old housewive. She come from a Labor family in Poland and came to live the American dream. She has 3 ex-husbands and is now married to Rodolph, a businesswoman. They have two children: Alexandre 13 years old and Viviana 17 years old. She supervise the house and organize social activity, like art exposition at her home or somewhere else, the social “eye of the cyclone” kind. Her life is focused on getting higher and higher in the scale of the social hierarchy through marriage. She destroyed the live of her actual husband (Angela), by proclaiming lies and rumors. When she was kid, she saw her mother being molested to near-death by her drunk father. She still regret to have abandoned her mother, and she fear to finish alone without a home.

Then when we had to question Sorcery, I remembered about the characteristics, so I showed the list and ask that they choose an adjective from that. I asked that they skip the Price because time was running out and I felt it was more important to know about the demon, to design them.

Here what they choose:

  • Amy: (Cover) Penalist. (Stamina) Martial training. Box-Thaï champion. (Will) System of beliefs: logics of the law. (Lore) Coven. A writing workshop. [Here the Sorceresses started a discussion about being in the same "Writing workshop” organized by Iliana, and decided that Iliana was the first to find a Sorcery book with rituals written on it, and that they started to summon Demon together. I answered that they would still have to bind personally a demon, not to the group, they asked that we play this first ritual and the other and I said ok, for the next session]
  • Malika: (Cover) Big boss of an ads agency. (Stamina) Chemically heightened. She drinks but she takes lots of pills. (Will) High self-esteem. (Lore) Well, the writing workshop coven.
  • Iliana: (Cover) Ambitious Housewives and social center. (Stamina) Military training [I was kind of surprise, like “Military training?” “- Yes, I did military service when I was a Poland, because I was so chocked about this thing with ma mother”, “-ok!”] (Will) Manipulative. (Lore) The coven.

Then I went with the Demon the way you put it. In all sincerity, I was kind of skeptical but try to not show. I felt my skepticism was coming from my old way of thinking about rpg. They went into a sole direction and I felt that it could go in so much way. But I didn't mention it. I realized the point was about identifying the abilities of the Demon and that I should not care about what they want, because they can still bind other if they want to. So it was really instructive to me and your advice to "not explain, not approve, not induce” helped me here. Here how it goes:

“So, how do your demons help you to live the life you want?” I started with this then during the conversation, I asked about “how does it look?” I didn't want to say "it's not possible”, so I just said “ok, just brainstorm, I won't say that it's possible or not, I will see what I'll do with everything for the next session: so don't refrain yourselves, just tell us what you want.”. I'll finish with “If somebody try to shoot you or you're going to die, what does he do?”, then “what's it's need?”

  • Amy: He helps me to boost my physical capacities, to pass through walls, to be invisible. It's like a clock, which measure your pulse. When somebody try to shoot at me or to kill me: he enters the opponent's mind and stop him by influencing him or controlling him.
  • Malika: She spies for me, give me vital information, clues, whispers me the secrets of the others, both in my family and working life. When somebody try to kill or shoot me: he informs be a way ahead, or he whispers to the opponent something that leads him to do something else, to avoid me. It likes power and it needs submission of the other.
  • Iliana: He's in my body, and he helps me to seduce, to charm, and to be socially so brilliant. It's like a spirit in my body (=> a possessor and she's the host). It needs “sexual male energy” and drives me to take lovers, and he protects my body if somebody threats me, like taking me alive. If somebody threatens me, he seduces him or influences him to avoid me.

We had to finish there and we couldn't clarify the kicker, which is embarrassing, but well, that's how it goes.

So to conclude: it worked very well and I took the less space I could, just encouraging questions and answers, and details. I didn't want to talk about rules here so we didn't.

I would have two question at this stage:

1. The demons

How to design the “if somebody is going to shoot at me, I will know it before”, and ”My demon will “influence him the opponent to not do to that”. It's interesting that they choose this option all three and I'm not sure about the dynamics here. Anyway, I can't see an ability that “charms threatening people”, except the possessor  ”jumping into another bodies”. What do you think about it?

2. The Scores

It surely seem stupid but I don't know how to bring the score vales into it. Just "put the numbers” seems inappropriate. I forgot about it and I focused on the narrative details. Would you have something to suggest?

3. The Kickers

So we didn't talk about the kickers, but we have a lot of materials here. I'm sure it will go by itself but we want to play next time and not only do a creation session. I really like the "let's live a normal day in your life, so you wake up this morning, where are you? If it's in your room, could you describe it?” then follow the day without bangs or even kickers. I know it's very apocalypsy but still, I got the best results with this method even if they are played “as flashbacks” then we can talk about the kickers. Any advices about that too?

 

I realize I'm writing a lot and overthinking a lot … Sorry about that. We are taking very great time and I'm planning a Sorcerer & Sword solo next week, just read the novels suggested they are great! Thank you for your game, your advices, all of that.

 

Ron Edwards's picture

Wow! This is amazing and I'm very grateful you stayed with this conversation. I'll reply more completely - probably a short video - as soon as I can.

arakn_e's picture

It would have been disappointing to not give feedback! I forgot to mention : I asked to the possessor 's sorceress, "do your demon takes control of the opponent?" and she said "no, he never do that, he stays in my body", so I took it as jump not being an option, or that she doesn't know about that. Can I go in the "she doesn't know that" Ithour breaking any collective statement?

Thank you!

Ron Edwards's picture

Here's my reply! Sorcerer prep feedback - I hope it's useful.

arakn_e's picture

Wow incredible. This is crazy how fast you answer and how much dedication ant time you take in it. This is really cool and helpful. I love this conversation. I'm very grateful and it's very motivating to me. Thanks to understand my posts full of typo and bad english :)

Some feedback, here what I would have done without your answer (without overtalking it, juste for feedback), with some questions about what you didn't put:

  • Amy's demon: Boost (Stamina) – she explicitly talks about that, Travel, Cloak, Special damage - she says something like "it sucks dry the energy from the opponent", but I realize I forgot to mention that! Ahah. Why not boost stamina?
  • Malika's demon: Psychic force, Cloak, Hint, Hold and Boost (will) – I don't remember why.
  • Iliana's demon: Armor, Boost (will) – to improve her seduction power, Hold and Cover:Social Organizer – we were on the same track for this.

Having heard your answer, what you says totally makes sense I totally realize how another configuration work very well. Thank you it's really instructive, such as the cloak/hold/perception/confuse discussion. Your explanations of the powers and their articulations are really helpful here. I'm just wondering why Boost:will for Iliana (totally inelegant in second thought) and Boost: Stamina doesn't appear?

You didn't mention desires and needs. Needs were tricky to talk about and to define. I keep say "what does your demon need" and the answer was "power".

Thanks about the scores, it will really help!

Also, I didn't think about "liking to play the husband" and to give him this importance. It's good that you mention it like this. Of course this is great! And my pleasure is to play these NPC simply.

So again thank you for your patience, because now I'm really confident about how to start a Sorcerer game.

 

Here just overtalking for information.

About the “apocalipsy” thing, thank you to say this. In fact, I see Apocalypse World as “Sorcerer with more structure”. To be really frank, I wanted to play Sorcerer because I've read how much Apocalypse World took from it (the list of threat moves are just a more systematized way of providing premade prep bangs), then by reading it how understood how it was the game I always wanted to play when I played Vampire. I feel the structure of apocalypse too much ... structured and I like Sorcerer for being more “open” in its rules. Anyway, at first my interest was the "rpg fan" curiosity, like "let's go to the source".

The next game we will be playing. I was hoping to play this session, but time was too short. But be sure we are going for play!

I'm very pleased about what you say about the kickers. My feeling was that it was not the priority here because we had a lot of material. Here's the guidelines I use to create the characters. It's something I used with great success in my actual Cthulhu campaign, where I spent 10 sessions to just do something like Sorcerer describes, but without its rules (which is : follow the characters, just play the npc with their direct interest in the scene, don't bother about the outcome, sometime just manage a BANG). This a very open thing to be tweaked during the conversation.

Cover. What do you do for a leaving? With you are you working? How do you feel about X or Y?

Family. Where are your parents? How do you feel about your father? What do your mother thing about that? Are you married? Tell me about your husband. Are you happy? Do you have extra-marital lovers? Do you have brothers and sisters?  

Relatives. Who's your first kiss? Your first love? Are you still in contact? Have you experience the death of a relative? Tell me about it. Have you ever took drugs? With whom?

Moral boundaries. What's your biggest regret?  What's the worst thing you ever experienced? What's the worst thing you ever did to someone? What's the worst thing somebody ever did to you? What's the worst thing you could do to somebody? [I think I took this in one of the last corebook of the Chronicle of Darkness, I love them, because it fixes the moral boundaries of the characters, and by doing it, the player fixes the moral boundaries of the game for her. I take them as think the player want to transgress, but also as sign of what the player didn't want to talk about. Also, it specifies the moral boundaries in other terms than general Abrahamic morality. Look at Malika: she experienced the death of her sister, but the worst thing she ever experienced was to be surprised by her father while kissing another girl. It really set the psychology of the character differently that one could expect if we take her Sister's death as the worst experience]. It's also these questions that created a lot of background to draw the kickers.

I realized that by asking these questions and following bangs, whichever the system I use, I never need a campaign, everything goes by itself.

In my Cthulhu game, this creation lead to something like this, with "day-to-day scenes" and some direct bangs when I felt about it:

“Do you have a girlfriend?

- Not one, I have a lots of them, I don't really care about them

- So you have childrens everywhere?

- No no, I go with them to an illegal aborption thing

- Ok, let's play this scene, what's the name of the pregnant girlfriend you're going today? You're walking in the circus [aka the other character environnment], to meet the medium gipsy, who still have a strong accent from the Bronx, she's the angel maker.

- Hum, Stephanie?

- Ok Stephanie is crying when she sees the children running in the hallway

[…] etc.

- Do you stay with her?

- No, I'm going to the spectacle.

- Ok, when you come back, she's dead. The gipsy's face is white like snow. The silence is complete. 'Something  went wrong.. we … we know where we can burry her, if you want…', what do you do?"

This was the BANG. I just read Sorcerer. 

This was meant to be the Masks of Nyarlathotep. It became "Obsession: wh" and we followed the bangs like this during 13 sessions (using almost none of the written material of the famous campaign).  I don't know if it's relevant, but if it is, I would gratefully make an actual report with this game and explain how Sorcerer's tricks totally affected the written campaign. We're playing with Cthulhu Dark.

 

I'll give some feedbackof our Desperate Sorceresses, thank you!

 

 

Ron Edwards's picture

Unfortunately, I have to be a little quicker and less detailed with this reply.

1. Boost is a widely misunderstood ability and I recommended saving it for later demons. It is not merely the free and fun bonus that people think it is.

2. For Need, explicitly say that it is an addiction and should be thought of as phrased, needs from you, not merely a preference or an opinion.

3. That is some very nice work on Bangs and Kickers. It seems like you’re prepared for a great game.

Yes, please post about the Cthulhu Dark game! It is a great example of “did you play the campaign?” “Yes! Um … except that we didn’t.”

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