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First time running Sorcerer, looking for Feedback

There's a guideline I used for a sorceror one-sheet that's been pretty helpful, and if I'm going down the list it suggests I get feedback; and I'd like to get feedback from the noosphere before bringing it back to my group, so uh, here's some stuff about this game, I guess.

The premise for the game is that it's been over 100 years since the god of music was killed by humanity at the gates of heaven. As a consequence of the murder, humans lost the ability to produce and understand any kind of sound. The players will be the first generation of humans to be able to hear and speak audibly, which is the thing that marks them as Sorcerers. 

Humanity in this game is Free Will, Choice, and the ability to Self-Determine. Sacrificing that will, destroying the ability to choose, leaving things up to 'fate' erode humanity. 

Lore is a sorcerer's understanding of demons, their history, and their abilities as learned from demons in the world and from other sorcerers. Lore is NOT a singular truth, as the primary sources of Lore (demons) are biased. However, someone with High Lore might be able to piece together something true from their combined knowledge and experience. I did come up with one new descriptor for Lore, and considered making more, but my inspiration for that particular category of items isn't that great, so that will probably be a conversation I have at the table. 

Lore Descriptors: Listener (Lore 2): You listen closely to the words of the demons and other sorcerors. You understand that there’s a story being told, and either choose to take it at face value, or are unable to sift through the nuance. 

I've had some trouble defining what demons are in a way that doesn't dispel the mystery around them, but I do have SOMETHING. 

Demons are threads of a larger, unknown tapestry that is not of the world of man. Many sorcerers call demons by another name, a ‘Voice’.

To bind a demon, you must name it. If it already has a name, you must add new names or titles to it, but how your name for it interacts with already existing names will affect the strength of your binding. Summoning a demon requires knowing that demon’s name OR ritually answering a question, ‘When I am unheard, how do I become heard? How do I find a new voice?” As for punishing, demons are creatures of habit. Breaking their routines, forcing them to choose, or forcing interactions with something anathema to them is all punishing.

This is all I have for now; I want to take it to the table in it's incomplete form - largely because I am having trouble getting anything else on paper. But I think a full/complete one-sheet might be more energizing than the discussions on how to 'fill it out'. 

I'd appreciate any feedback you might have. Thank you!

Actual Play


Ron Edwards's picture

Hello! We need small steps right now, pausing for each one.

The first: are you following instructions or advice from some source besides the books? I am not confident about any other sources; people like to be experts about Sorcerer based on very little or very limited forms of play. Your focus on one-sheets seems a little close and specific, for something that is not even a textual rule.

My own position about beginning a game is better expressed in the annotations of the rules, published in 2013. Do you have these? (Meaning, this book) They describe a starting process which is much simpler than what you're describing and perhaps getting trapped by.

Furthermore, and related, I do not recommend beginning play with any of the three supplements. They are definitely advanced and presume some real-play experience with the core rules.

I've read your post carefully, and there are many other things to discuss or ask about. However, as I said before, please let's stay with small steps and work out everything I've asked about here, in this comment, before going to any of those.


Your focus on one-sheets seems a little close and specific, for something that is not even a textual rule. 

The one-sheet was suggested by a close friend and the GM of the only Sorcerer game I participated in. He's a trusted source on my part, but that's why I came here. Since he'll be part of the group otherwise, I thought it might be a good idea to get feedback from a less invested source.

I do have the book, and with annotations! I do not own the supplements though - I'm not sure what of the above is influenced by the supplements. The core of what I want to present in this game is the setting in which the sorcerors are the first generation of people with a voice. It was suggested to me maybe that Sorcerer was not a good to explore that setting, but I insisted I could male it work in an exciting and fun way, so here we are. 

So, looking at your suggestions in the annotations, I guess I'll start my opening statements below. 

1. Silent dark age dystopian fantasy.

2. Form follows function. 

Ron Edwards's picture

The information helps a lot, and I’m relieved you’re working with the right materials.

I think your ideas about Lore and demons are all good. They are “Voices,” names are important, Lore is all about being heard, overcoming not being heard ... it’s a nice concept. I really like the premise. The whole context of the soundless, voiceless century preceding play is gutsy and ambitious, but I agree with you that Sorcerer can handle this with no problem.

At the moment, there is no way to tell how (1) Humanity as free will, self-determination will interact with (2) demons as “Voice.” At first glance it seems as if they would not conflict ... but then again, that’s what a sorcerer would say, right? Since predicting these things is never a good idea, I suggest going with your ideas and seeing what happens. Just remember that Lore, by definition, threatens Humanity. That will affect how you play those demons and what they say ...

A couple of your points are redundant or perhaps an indicator that you’re putting some necessary things together.

  • The description of Lore (“sorcerer’s understanding of demons ...” and afterward) is essentially the same as the rules text, which isn’t bad of course, merely redundant. The same applies to your point that it’s not a singular truth – it never is in this game, and cannot be.
  • The Listener descriptor is merely a re-statement of Adept, and I strongly recommend not altering the descriptors in general. This point arises out of the long history of play before the game was published – everyone wants to customize or alter the descriptors and it never goes well.

The reason I mentioned the supplements is that you’ve listed Sorcerer & Sword as the game. So maybe we’re miscommunicating somehow. Can you explain?

John St. Gaptooth's picture

I just want to confess it was I who pointed Ranuth to the one-sheet as a way to sketch out what the scenario is about. I linked to this forum post by Judd, which I took as “state of the art” when I was first learning Sorcerer. I forgot about the updated advice on this front from the Annotations.

I took Judd’s advice when preparing for my last Sorcerer & Sword game. I found it especially useful to list my inspiriations and influences, review them, and keep them focal during the rest. We even started our character creation session by watching several trailers for movies I listed.

That didn’t perfectly get everyone on the same page, but it helped. It put definite, concrete, and specific imagery and emotional content in front of us, which I continued to circle in my prep and drive in my play of the NPCs and demons.

If I could give myself advice in hindsight, it would be to focus more on that definite, concrete, and specific imagery and emotional content, and less on the more abstract parts of the one-sheet prep.

I don’t want to get in the way here, though, so I’ll cut myself short there for now.

 Just remember that Lore, by definition, threatens Humanity.

I did not have this mind when defining humanity, but I think trying to go backwards and reconceptualize it at this point is going to be a bigger headache than just taking your advice and seeing how it plays out. 

A couple of your points are redundant or perhaps an indicator that you’re putting some necessary things together.

It's difficult for me to sit and read even an entire chapter of the book in a single sitting(especially with annotations), so those concepts was presented without having fully internalizing the published definitions. I think it's good that my ideas fell in line what was already published though.

The reason I mentioned the supplements is that you’ve listed Sorcerer & Sword as the game. So maybe we’re miscommunicating somehow. Can you explain?

I listed sorcerer and sword solely because the setting that gave birth to the idea is a fantastical world. My original thought was to run a game of this in Dungeons and Dragons, but I saw more interesting storytelling potential in Sorcerer.  As originally envisioned, the world which is played in has a variety of fantasy races, D&D esque magic, gods, etc. The beautiful thing about Sorcerer though, is that absolutely NONE of that is relevant unless I want it to be or if it is related to someone's Kicker. 

Another thought came to mind as I was writing this. 

In regards to the Demon's Telltale. As of writing this, the demon's telltale is provided by the setting and is the same for all sorcerers. A sorcerer can both speak and be heard. What are your thoughts about this? I don't immediately see how it detracts from from anything in from a storytelling perspective. Where it comes to player creativity and agency, I've thought about emphasising that how they sound to others is an important distinction. 

Re: Gaptooth [That didn’t perfectly get everyone on the same page, but it helped.]

What helped me most for our game was the definition for humanity. We talked alot about the setting and how I could fit the character I had in mind into it, yes. But every action that Tulasa took in that game was a step toward resolving his kicker, or a consequence of one of his descriptors. I think I can safely say I had an easier time with sorcerer than most, if not everyone else, at the table, because there was an abundance of information that I simply was not concerned with, despite playing a character whose story was centered around knowledge. 

The complexity of the setting we were in and the shared history of the characters in relation to that setting I think was something of a detraction from that particular game. This isn't to say I didn't have a good time; but I do think I had a better time because many of the expectations that some of our players had bogged us down a bit. Because Tulasa had never lived in that world before, there was a purity to my exploration of it through his eyes. I get the feeling that building around these core opening concepts helps maintain that sort of purity. It keeps things tight and concise, and any further exploration of the world doesn't feel like a necessity, but a character choice.

The biggest evidence of this is how we ended. It feels like you lost track of our Kickers at some point because you were caught up in the events of how they unfolded. I remember the point that Tulasa's kicker was resolved, and it seemed to come as a surprise to you. Shortly after, you came to the realization that EVERYONE'S kicker had been resolved, and that was it. It was a refreshing, natural end for us despite so much being unresolved. It seemed as if for you, though, there was so much more you had in mind that caused you to get lost. 

The simplicity of JUST the opening statements and Kickers resolves all that for the most part. There will always be people who want to know as MUCH about the world as possible so an informed decision can be made for building a character (which is the downside of using a fantasy world), but that's a conversation to be had at the table, I think.

John St. Gaptooth's picture

I’m nodding along as I read this, with savor. I never lost track of the Kickers though. My surprise was realizing how most of the Kickers resolved all at once for everyone!

Ron Edwards's picture

Your biggest job during play is playing the demons. That means, since they are characters, they will respond to things and want to do or say things. This concept is very different from managing a whole scene like a director or a writer, which is something you really shouldn't be doing at all in this game.

So how does one play a demon? It's very easy as they only care about a few things.

Their Need is their addiction. They don't "want" it so much as desperately crave it, and any enjoyment of it is at least half relief. They cannot fulfill it by themselves; the sorcerer must be involved in making it available. To the demon, that's what the sorcerer is for, and why they'll do anything for their binder ... unless the Need seems far away or less likely to get.

Their Desire is their hobby. They like it, they seek it, they want to be around it, doing it, watching it, discussing it, whatever. If Need is not on the line and if they're not being told to do something, they'll indulge their Desire if they can. The sorcerer isn't necessary, although they might be included due to proximity.

Demons want to exist. To exist, they must be Bound, and they must receive their Need. For Parasites and Possessors, they must also have hosts. Note that being Banished does not threaten any of these, either because it doesn't change or because it's not relevant in that state. Similarly, a dead sorcerer does not change the status of being Bound, although there's a time-limit due to requiring someone else to fill the Need.

That's it. All intensity but no actual relatable emotion. All personality but no empathy whatsoever. Not the player's friend and not the GM's plot device. They interpret anything and everything in the above terms, and they care about nothing else ... and they take action accordingly.

All this conceptualizing you're doing swiftly turns into blithering, and should very quickly, for you, be switched to enthusiasm and savagery for playing these demons. With no standard GM regard for the welfare of the player-characters or the importance of some "scenario," at all.

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