Sorcerer Archipel Session 2

Hi, I finally had the discipline to get out of my paralyzing swamp to continue this game, thanks to Sean and Robotwist. Here is what I prepped, what I threw out, what happened, and some questions. I also have specific rules questions, and wondering thought about “how to deal with complex diagrams”, which could be rephrase into “are my diagrams too complex”?.

Interesting discussions could be brought about two-players RPG games, specifically with Sorcerer & Sword and why it presents itself to be particularly fit for this, and maybe how “real” relationship affects the game, and vice et versa. We are writing something to come about this.

The players: Me and Laura, we met last year, were roleplaying online together with a two player neonoir online rpg game, we played for two years before we met, then began a romantic and successful relationship. This actually happened last years, in the middle of the Sorcerer Marseille game (we didn’t plan anything when I invited Laura to play this game, but we met during the period we played it, so Sorcerer has this special thing to us).  We are living together since September.

The paralyzing prep for this specific game: as I commented in this previous post, I’ve read Darkness Weaves, borrowed the relationship map from it, realized I was doing wrong, and was stuck 1 year thinking about this Kicker siren : I was trying to explain perfectly the kicker to myself.

The last discussion pushed me to unpause my sorcerer games. It’s been 1 year since our last game!  I threw it all my plans. I realized my Demon design was weird and the diagrams too. So instead of trying to explain “what happened” and “what the player should discover”, I focused on “How do I bring all the elements from the center of the diagram in a scene”. I also stopped trying to do innovative and cool fantasy stuff, to embrace my own clichés, such as a classic demon dracolich, and allowing me to come with better stuff later.

Previous session and discussions :

We played 1h-1h30. Here’s what happened:

  • Azur, Laura’s character and a pirate queen, take his demon ship to check what is going on with this island emerging from the water, just ahead of her own island. Some setting-building occurs: the island is a part of the old capital of Azur’s species empire (she is “inhuman”, a kind of blurry melnibonean empire for now).
  • What’s emerging from the water is a 40 foot statue of the last emperor, which is the top of the highest building of the capital, still under the water right now.
  • A fortress-ship appears from behind the next island, rushing to Azur’s City. These ships are from the community Azur has destroyed previously (defined in her Price).
  • Azur’s rival Dragon attacks Azur’s ship and people. We defined during creation that the survivors of Azur’s immerged empire would be rare and kind of “highlander” competition of power, and that Andrinople, one of her rivals, would have a dragon. There is a tough battle (with bad rolls for Azur!), the Dragon wants meat, Azur exploit this by offering her enemies guts and retreat.
  • Azur commands Gloir, her ship, to bring her next to the emerging statue. She jumps on it and climb it, arising with it,at the level of the next island’s cliffs, where Andrinople is performing a ritual.
  • There she understands that Andrinople is summoning something. And this thing is answering: it’s the statue, with the tenebrous voice of the emperor.

Next game next week!

A few questions arouse from play :

1) Combat rules :

Multiple descriptors. A character may well have more than one of the following descriptions: Savage-raised, Martial training, Arcane regimen, as well as an appropriate Past, e.g. Bandit, Knight, Mercenary, etc. Such a character may often roll one of the scores first, to generate bonuses to modify the second, “real” roll against the opponent. The two rolls are considered a single action. (Sorcerer & Sword, p.70)

What is the opposing roll of this first roll? For instance, Azur has “Past: Pirate Queen of the Azur Sea”, and “Stamina: Trained soldier”. Is the first roll Past vs Stamina? Or Past vs the adversary’s opposing roll ? Are those adversary rolls rolled a second time for the second roll, or do we use the same?

2) Demon Power rules : what’s the limited distance the demon can give its power to its sorcerer? For instance, can Azur benefits from Gloir’s powers if she’s not on it ? Can she benefit from her other demon’s powers, Rowina, who is stuck on the island miles away?

3) Complex Diagram : I think I finally realized the role of the diagram. Not to provide the story, but provide elements that will be in a scene, the "story behind" their connexion coming from play, maybe, not from interpretation of the diagram during prep. 

There's a lot of elements that went in the center of this diagram! I could bring everything. How do you deal with that? here's the diagram :

But also, why is Sorcerer & Sword good for two player RPG game, as it is written in its text? What are your experience of games "not specificaly played for 2 players" (S/Lay W/me, etc.), … but played with 2 players ?

It’s good to play!


7 responses to “Sorcerer Archipel Session 2”

  1. About the prep

    Here's what I've done for the prep, after reading again the previous discussions, comment, rulebook.

    What I know :

    • I gave Andrinople a strong motivation (still from Darkness Weaves): he wants to wipe out the actual emperor of the Lords's Alliance, because of he personal vengeance. I made him a Lich who need to change its body.
    • I gave high stats to its demons and 

    What came during the session :

    • The idea that what's emerging from the sea is, firstly, the statue of the ancient emperor (in my previous unused prepped I had an idea about the island being a monster, but during play here I realised it wouldn't be following the description in the kicker).
    • The attack of the ships, that I put in the scene  because the "destroyed community" in the Price section of Azur's diagram had been attracted in the center. I made up that this community was one of these ship-fortress. So now I can say that Andrinople hired them to protect its ritual and attack the Lords Alliance ships.
    • I forgot to mention it, but Andrinople's dragon had the a human face and arms (with long claws and a missing eye), and rotting flesh. Azur saw her own face when she saw the dragon (I think it's more color, but worth to mention).
    • The dragon attacking Azur's crew was improved. Its need is "meat", and its desire "final rest". I played the attack by following the dragon's need, while Andrinople was busy. He wasn't attacking Azur specifically, simply following its need.

    I couldn't introduce the lords' alliance in the diagram. In the previous session/scene, Azur, had convinced them to go back from where they come from, so I didn't see how to bring them again, and I wanted to play, even with the feeling of not being prepared enough, instead of waiting to have this feeling!

    • I think the prep looks good.

      I think the prep looks good. I am learning a lot myself reading your thoughts and appreciate you sharing. Looking forward to hearing about the play!

    • More informations about rules

      More informations about rules.

      I followed Ron's advice to design strong NPC, so that the "default situation" is they win. They are strong. To win, the player will have to accumulate power. As I understand this, there is three way of doing it in a solo game. 

      1. a smart chain of actions, accumulating bonus to bonus from roll to rolls.

      2. invoking more and more powerful demons. Abusing sorcery. Huge potential for drama! 

      3. Getting help from other strong NPC.

      Andrinople: Stamina (arcanic regime, weird practices), Willpower 7 (Aristocratic, Wrathful), Lore 6 (inhumain, mad), Past 6 (High commander of the Sorcerer Cast, Mercenary Leader).

      Its demon, Freya: Travel, Transport, Sp. Damage (claws/fangs), Armor (Self), Confuse (terrifying scream), Psychic force (terrifying scream), Fast. Stamina 7, Willpower 8, Lore 7, Power 8.

      More information about the color, after sharing readings and bibliography, as said in the post about the previous session. We decided this fram, after Laura has made her character. You can see it is a bit more developped than the fuzzy paragraph following our discussion about the shared bibliography here. Most of the details has been given by Laura and reworked by me, or the other side, so it's a collective product.

      • the world is is immerged in the water, with islands and two suns. The climate is tropical. There is a little red sun, with sometimes huge tempests, burning rains, sometimes the water is boiling, so the climate is totally fucked up in rain/boil/rain/boil, geysers can appear create random dangerous zones for the ships.
      • There is an enormous moon, who can eclipse the two suns "and when it happens, it's a total shit", the sea freezes, etc. It's very rare, but it happens.
      • The ancient "inhumain" civilization (where Azur comes) is totally immerged in the water. Sometimes you can see whole cities under a very transparent waters. Islands are full of jungles and ruins of forgotten buildings. Strange creatures protects them, they are the degenerated beings of the old population of these ruins, they are typically humanoïds, who give the impression to be cursed by a vengeful god. There's not continent, just small islands.
      • There's two broadly two type of communities for the moment. The Land Lords are the aristocraty, land is a precious resource, mostly because you can find fresh water in the jungle, if you're lucky. The jungles are harsh because of its population, so the cities are built on stilts, with defenses mostly dealing with threats coming from the jungle. They are protected by Demon Lords, who are bound by Sorcerer, and that can control a zone of the jungle. These Demon Lords are generally connected to the ruins, or part of them. These Land cities has an aristocraty, with kings, nobility, sophisticated culture. There's a mix between nobility in Kane and Elric, but also the Empire in Jaroswki's "Gagner la guerre" (, "To the victory to the spoils", coming in english. So Nobility needs sorcerer, and they find them to bind demons to the land. They also have wyverns living in the ruins.  
      • The other type of community is the fortress-ship. It's a huge naval fortress, generally lots of ships built together to create a big one, a floating city. They are more like pirates, leaving from raids, trade, fishing and they have an elected Chief, that has no civilian power, only a military power. They don't edict laws. Civilian disputes are dealt between aknowledged Clan Leaders. They are seen as the "barbarians" by the Land Lords.
      • Fights are tipically violent ambushs, with distractions, deceiption, weapons are navals (harpoons, net, hooks, sabers, serrated words, etc). Drugs are natural plants collected in the jungle, generaly psychotrops, or smoke, or they can be manufactured from the venom of deep sea creatures.
      • There are Demon Beasts in the water, generally huges and very unique. 
      • Names are classic european names, with some changing letters : Sabastin, Erac, Franson. It happened that in game, demons have nordic names and nobility irish names, just because I picked those list randomly when I needed names in the hurry.





  2. Previous answers

    Some reviewing of the previous Sorcerer games led me to find myselves answers, even in some comments about our own Sorcerer Marseille Game! I feel a bit awkward about that now ahah, sorry Ron! For the records:

    1) combat rules : 

    3) Diagrams : 

    I just realized the diagram's function. I thought I got it, but I only used it to frame the starting scene. It's not at all about that. All the discussion about the ruinous process of trying to define "before play" really resonates, I've been through this as a GM at least 2 or 3 times in my attempts.

    About 2) and Demon powers' reach, I realize me and Laura and different expectations about this: she expects that the sole binding of a demon allows him to give powers, where I was assuming that the Demon should be at perception reach. I think I'm gonna rule that if the Demon can perceive the caster, it works (with an appropriate Perception)

    • I appreciate all your efforts

      I appreciate all your efforts and reflections in working through these issues.

      I've been staying out of the discussions because it's clearly time for me to let other voices and intersecting viewpoints play their parts, and my own part would be either minimally productive or even counter-productive. I am paying attention though.

    • Thank you! Sure, I think I

      Thank you! Sure, I think I think it's better like this too! You already provided a lot.

      I was over complicating the thing. Maybe because my "entry game" for conscient and explicit emergent plot type of play was Apocalypse World 2E, it's easier to say to myself that I have to "gm as I gm Apocalypse World".  Which means this, and it is my main lesson: better do not prep that too much prep/explanation. Here's how I GM AW : I don't prep anything, play the character's lives, spike the tensions that are only brought by the character's action themselves, do "triangulization" of the NPC (crossing, weaving), see what NPC arise from play, how they are affect by the actions/rolls of the characters, what locations are provided by the players to describe their character's environment. Between the sessions, give some meat to these sketches, go play again, follow the characters's trails of action, etc. 

      Sure I realized that when I thought 30 minutes between the sessions of Apocalypse World, just to give define what were the motivations of the NPC that emerge in the previous sessions, and connect them to others emergent elements of previous situations, I felt more relaxed to GM and the whole experience felt more coherent, emotionnaly charged.  

      As Sean wrote: the answers will be found by playing, not by making sense of it during prep. I failed to see the diagram as questions to be asked, rather than solutions to be unveiled.

      The Day of the Dupe games is set for tomorrow, and I'm excited!

      Ron, outside of this discussion about prep and this session,, maybe could you share a bit about why you think Sorcerer & Sword makes sense is better written for one protagonists "even more than in the modern day setting, a squad or party of sorcerers is nonsensical" (p.82 in Sorcerer & Swords) ?

  3. Your side question

    Ron, outside of this discussion about prep and this session,, maybe could you share a bit about why you think Sorcerer & Sword makes sense is better written for one protagonists "even more than in the modern day setting, a squad or party of sorcerers is nonsensical" (p.82 in Sorcerer & Swords) ?

    I don't have much to share. I can say the same thing over again, with the underlying reasoning broken out into steps, in case it isn't clear as written:

    1. In a modern day setting, there's no creative or logistic reason to base play on the concept of an allied team or squad.
    2. Therefore adopting the traditional "party" of role-playing isn't necessary for modern-day Sorcerer, especially as an unconsidered default.
    3. When shifting to a fantasy setting, that same "party" concept may be easy to assume as the default, due to role-playing traditions and associations with the word "fantasy."
    4. However, since sword-and-sorcery of this kind doesn't have much in common with "fantasy" as associated with role-playing, beware of that easy assumption.
    5. Sword and sorcery adventure fiction favors very few protagonists or even just one, and in my opinion, is so oriented toward that context, that you have even more reason to avoid that default assumption than for a game set in the modern day.

    That's all I can do here unless you ask a more specific question.

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