The day of the Dupes (3) : playing vs planning

Here is the Sorcerer game Day of the Dupes first session. In a previous session after creation, we played the bind as flashbacks. I planed this game a few months ago so I had to remember things about their characters, but they really decided everytghing. First, I discussed about the expectations of the game. I explained that I prepped too much and I should not give the impression that there’s an adventure to follow, or a complex backstory to unveil, but that we are just playing our characters and following the direct consequences of their actions. There will be weird things happenings, cliffhangers, but only because the NPC that appears in the game will have their story, not because the GM is trying to send messages about the adventure. The main issue arising from this actual play is scene framing, in which I struggle while understanding why during the game, and how I used the r-map as a source of interesting informations.


Here it is, a Louis XIII France ‘ actual play in French!

Math & me did not have a cam for this session but we will see if we can do something for the next.

What happened in the fiction:

Hélène tries to harm Charles by ambushing him two days before the full moon outside of his parisian mansion, so she expects him to be harmed when she duels her. It does not work, as Charles never shows up. It is, I think, the result of bad first scene framing from my part: I will discuss it below.

Charles. Finally, I used a kind-of skin demon in this scene. I ask to Math the conditions of the murders of the Marquise. He explains that she hates him and wanted him to go, because he is a low born. I jump into the scene and the Marquise “psychic force” him to leave the manor and this family. What happens is that Charles is attacked by the demon who is possessing the Marquise, while surprised by the countess. I made him a possessor, kind of improvising, a very brutal Power 10 Demon. Charles hits him very hard with his Demon, which is now called “Eclat” (and not Rage). The Skin demon … hops into the countess, who passes out, and the Marquise is just a skin on the floor. There’s a bit of discussion from Math about how the kicker was about “him getting out of rage because of its demon”, and I answer that there is no reason for its demon to just becoming more wrathful than before, if Charles provides him his need, except if there external reasons unknown to Charles. So Charles is there, blood on the wall and the clothes, with a passed out countess and a Marquise skin. Math asks me if he could have a loyal servant, who could be there, to help him (Math is gming Blades in the dark with us once per week, and this “flashback/planning” idea may come from here). I decide to go for it with a Cover vs 3 roll, which he wins, so be it. We invite this loyal servant, “ascend” him by providing him a name (Bartholomeo), but the guy sees Charles full of blood with a Marquise skin in his hand? Charles misses his Will rolls to command Bartholomeo to help him, so Barth is going to scream. Charles commands him (with a successful Will roll) to leave before he kills him and never comes back. So now, I am wondering if this demon possessor is tied to the Countess family, what are those ties, maybe an old family sorcerer? Etc. For the moment, I’m not answering those questions.

Abelart uses his Demons power to perceive the Comtesse’s past to discover the relationship between the Countess and its father, the Marquis, during their first encounter. The evening, he eats with he family and Charles, and instead of showing off some etiquette, he speaks with the domestics and ignores the Hosts, which lead him to lose 1 honor after a failed test. I forgot here to remind the player that his demon helps him with etiquette!

What happened between us:

I struggle to frame the first scenes, specifically for Laura. I allow her to frame it, but she sets something without diagram elements, which is understandable as it is not her job! A brief discussion after the game showed some miscommunicating together. If I have framed the scenes by injecting all the elements, it would have more potential for weaving with Charles and Abelart’s simultaneous scenes in a simultaneous location I should have given the mission during the fencing spectacle and say the conditions were reunited, simply the conditions are not Helene’s conditions, but Madame de Launoy’s.

As a result, Laura did not play as much. The discussion went like this: I ask a scene with Madame de Launoy’s condition “killing in duel in public, full moon, with this rapier” everything coming from Laura, I ask the details of the scene, but Laura gives elements describing events before the scene, I re-ask the details, Laura repeats, so I choose to get back at the moment of the kicker: Madame de Launoy giving the question, and here we are, two days before the full moon. Communication is sometimes difficult!

After play discussions was something like this. Laura: “Helene would never try to kill the guy in duel in a spectacle, she’s smarter than this, and it was not smart” That’s what we should have played, during the scene, Helene not killing Charles in duel because she’s smarter than this, and playing Madame de Launoy’s reaction to that, instead of having it as a statement for another scene framing. That is on me for not framing the scene, I think, or for not having the creativity to bring the elements in another configuration. Maybe another scene framing was possible, but I do not see these solutions for the moment.

Also, the players expected the first scene to be defined by its kicker, but not to have elements “naturally associated” by how the diagram works, because even if they gave those elements, they did not pictured it in their idea of the kicker.

Same thing for Abélart, I should have set the scene simultaneously with Charles scenes, for better drama and PC interactions. In Abelart scene, we play the first encounter between Abelart and the Countess, to the player’s request. He used his demon power to know the past of the Countess, and instead of taking elements from the diagram, or to improvise something on the fly, I took something from my previous swamp prep: the relationship with the Marquis. I understand now that the diagram is the first thing to check when inputs are needed.

So bad framing lead to problems around the mid-game. I do not know what do to do with Hélène, who is waiting for tomorrow, while Charles is dragging the Marquise and its countess. With what I think would have been this best scene framing (everybody at the same location at the same time and brought together by the kickers’s natural crossings), it would have been easier conditions to gm.   Here, with the Kickers crossed (Helene having to kill Charles, Charles killing the Marquise, and Abelart discovering the Countess), but different timelines, we were naturally put in some thoughts about “how to cross all these things”. During a few seconds, we can see Laura and Mathieu trying to frame some encounters between Helene and Charles, in a natural author stance that I did not explained, but struggling to get to a satisfying scene in cohesion for anyone (why would Charles takes some risk of getting outside in this already risky situations)? Thanks to those readings about intuitive continuity, I could see it very fast, and I think made the right move here.

Instead of trying to “solve” this in the game by unsatisfying weaving (by myself or by the players), which would have been intuitive continuity to try to “get the framing right”, I reassure everybody that we don’t have to do this, and I just let the scenes play, following characters and closed the game. It is not perfect, there is some negotiations, hesitations, finally we follow the actions through each scene, close the session, so we can do some “openings” in the beginning of the next sessions.

I felt tied by the first scenes framing: Laura wanted to attack Charles, and she waited the right moment, but the scenes were not at the same pace and Charles had stuffs to do before the moment Laura was waiting for. This a result of badly framing Laura’s scene, and I think, trying to let her define the scene and deal with. The fact that the ending Charles’s scene leads to the ending of the session is an indicator of the previous bad choices. I think it was bad choices, because it led me to ignore a player (Laura) more than the others.

Something else is worth noticing: how I used the prep. In a previous Sorcerer game, I used a dense relationship map and was constantly refering to it to “create bangs”, at least I thought so. It was painful to GM, not natural at all. I was thinking about the r-map as a whole and complex machine that I had to engineer, like “Player A does action X, with Y results, and it affects the t-map in F, G, H, I, J nodes and I create the next scene by showing it in some way”. The players had the sensation to be in this machinery, and nobody was really emotionaly connected to the game. The way I used the r-map here is really different. I only used it when I need it, not as a compulsory framework. Bruno tells me “I use my demon on the Countess, I want to know her secrets”, and his demon can do that, so he does it. But I have nothing interesting to say right now. Oh, I have this r-map I’ve done in the prep I threw out, but it’s still better than improvising dumb stuff. Ok, “You hear the whispers of Ophelia talking about the Countess’s relationship with the Marquis, and how it is not her real father”. It was a different, non painful use. 

Some thoughts :

Three things attracts my attention in this session that could bring discussions.

  • The importance of scene framing, and more importantly the first scene including the kicker. I think any discussion about this theme would be great here.
  • RPG as an art: we learn to do RPG by fails and retries. But it’s not great to talk about our own mistakes. There was something useful in the Apocalypse World rulebook, most of the examples were examples of “how to gm”, but also, “how to correct yourself when you made a mistake”. Sharing about our hesitations is not easy, but don’t hesitate to tell about your own “fails” and how you “improved” it (I put bracket because I’m not sure my way of doing was better, in fact, that’s just my choice at the moment).
  • I was happy to see the players feeling what I’ve felt with my first sorcerer game as a player, Marseille: not knowing what to do because actually signs are clear, but here, you just have this character facing its kicker. I realized that is easier to explain our character creation decisions than to actualy play it.
  • Finally, I tried to solve lots of things coming up from the character creation “before the game”. What Sorcerer teaches me is that it is better to solve them during play, because we are roleplayers, not roleplanners, so let’s play. I felt that if it is obvious, it is not easy, because roleplay is a social activity, while roleplan is solitary one. It was easier to struggle with my own prep than to show vulnerability in front of people. Hesitating with scene framing, wondering if you are doing it right, understanding the players’s expectation, wanting to please the people but to facilitate surprising and interesting things, and communicating about that.

The videos has been cut almost by scenes. You can see me struggling with scene framing mostly during the part 2 and part 4. Still, everybody is excited to play session 2!

Session 1 playlist

Summary :


Part 1 – playing Charles’s kicker to clarify it, with a bang

Part 2 – Struggling with Laura’s first scene framing, with some helps from Math whose character is involved in the kicker.

Part 3 – Playing Abélart’s kicker when it is not necessary, framing the scene because Bruno asks for it.

Part 4 – A bang, still struggling with Laura’s scene, Mathieu still trying to help it, trying to “go to the wanted scene” then abandoning this idea, and sadly, ignoring Laura’s screen time.

Part 5 – Struggling again with Bruno’s scene framing

Part 6 – Charles’s scene ending and end of the session.



4 responses to “The day of the Dupes (3) : playing vs planning”

  1. Rules question

    We played the 2nd session of Sorcerer Louis XIII yesterday and I'm struggling to understand the Contain Rules. Anybody could help me with that?

    The sorcerer must prepare the focus for the Containment, such as a pentagram, adding a bonus die for every successful Lore roll against his or her own Stamina, which represents the concentration necessary. The Containment isn’t tested until a demon challenges it, which then determines whether it was well made or not by a Basic Success roll. (p.89).

    In the reference sheet, Contain is a Sorcerer's Lore vs Demon's Power roll. Do I understand if we do this way:

    • Charles wants to contain the demon in its Temple, he chains the countess, and the chains are the focus.
    • During the ritual, Charles roll once his Lore vs Stamina. Success = bonus to the future "contain" roll.  Charles rolls 1 success. Is there only one roll or Charles could do a few more of these "concentration rolls"?
    • One week later, the demon wants to challenge the contain. Here we rll Charles [Lore + preparation bonus ] (here, it is Lore+1) vs Demon's Power.

    Do the Sorcerer knows that the contain is broken (which is to say, do the player rolls and see the results? Which I would say yes, as it is the basic philosophy of the game).

    Also, with the diagram, are the players expected to write themselves the elements we've seen during play on their diagram after each game – so the GM works with it after?

    If it the GM who does it, how does he choose if something goes into lore or in cover?

    • I apologize for the delay in

      I apologize for the delay in answering. It's been a tough few days for deciding about some posts and replies at Adept Play.

      You’ve described the procedure for Contain correctly:

      1. How many “concentration” rolls to add bonus dice are allowed? As many as you like as long as you keep succeeding; when you fail it, then you have to stop with the finalized number of dice.
      2. Does the sorcerer know the Contain is broken? You are going to hate this answer, but it depends entirely on the fictional nature of the Contain and whatever demonic metaphysics make most sense for this particular game. Since (again) this is perhaps not the right kind of answer for you personally, I suggest you default to “no” and leave it there.

      Regarding the diagram, maintaining it is the GM’s job, both for adding things and for adjusting their positions. It is very important not to allow people to use the diagram as “notes space,” as they will typically mess up the positioning, and they are working with incomplete knowledge of different things’ relations to one another.

      Regarding where a given component goes, then remember: if it has anything to do with a demon, sorcerous knowledge, the descriptor for Lore, or the Telltale, then it belongs in Lore. Many things may seem to overlap with Cover – if so, that only means that it is found along the line between Lore and Cover, but on the side of Lore.

    • No worries, thank you for

      No worries, thank you for taking the time!

      Does the sorcerer know the Contain is broken? You are going to hate this answer, but it depends entirely on the fictional nature of the Contain and whatever demonic metaphysics make most sense for this particular game. Since (again) this is perhaps not the right kind of answer for you personally, I suggest you default to “no” and leave it there.

      Strange expectation, in fact it seems to be the most logical answer according to how I understand the game, and I was expecting something like that. I really can feel how the "color" of the sorcery has a mechanical impact.

      Regarding where a given component goes, then remember: if it has anything to do with a demon, sorcerous knowledge, the descriptor for Lore, or the Telltale, then it belongs in Lore. Many things may seem to overlap with Cover – if so, that only means that it is found along the line between Lore and Cover, but on the side of Lore.

      In fact, the Lore is the most obvious part of the diagram. I have more trouble to determine is something is in the kicker, or in the cover. But the "line" solution will work!

      More sessions wrapped together to come in a few weeks.


    • My apologies for presuming!

      My apologies for presuming!

      As a general note, I've been avoiding direct comments about your game experience, because it looks to me as if "doing" is a better teacher than anything I can say.

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