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Sorcerer and Sword Debriefing: Adventuring in the World of Hybreasil

A group of us has been carrying on a Sorcerer and Sword game for 5 months.  This has taken our characters through two sets of kickers, and at the conclusion, we decided to sit down for a conversation to reflect on the game and our experiences. 

Rod was the GM, with Greg and me playing a courtly knight and a celtic shaman respectively. Rod provided a brief document outlining his world of Hybreasil. Here’s a piece from his description which will give you a bit of the flavor:

“The dominant culture of the big southern island, Gigondas, is courtly, French-influenced and Catholic, with some crypto-pagan eccentricities (one imagines medallions of St. John the Baptist with antlers growing from his head, or similar things) . The farther north from there you go, the more Celtic and tribal it gets, and the more the religion seems like paganism with a little Catholic spice, instead of the other way around. There are also tribes of fully pagan holdouts living in the fierce interiors of the northern islands, representing the “savage-raised” option for hero descriptors.”

Our conversation ranges freely over a number of topics including:

  • How the description of setting feeds into the creation of characters and kickers.
  • How the game yields a different experience when played by a more seasoned Sorcerer group.
  • The key ingredient of player commitment to the experience at the table.
  • The decision to bring the Sorcerer characters into geographic proximity.
  • The possibility of large chronological jumps between kickers. Specifically we entertain the possibility of another set of kickers which would bring our characters to an end, and then afterward leaping back in time to play the characters with their “destiny” already established.
  • Some of the ways in which Sorcerer rewards “devious” manipulation of rules (such as intentionally punishing one’s demon to increase the odds for other rituals or actions).
  • The difference between player knowledge and character knowledge, which spins into a discussion of metagaming and the decision of when the GM withholds or reveals key facts and how this decision impacts the play experience.
  • The importance of framing scenes and playing characters with strong motives and intentions. 
  • Playing demons who have the upper hand as a result of the Binding roll. 

While we have temporarily agreed to set the game aside, you’ll see that we are all enthusiastic. In a few months, we may be returning to Hybreasil for more adventures. 
 

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

Ron Edwards's picture

I may get around to both eventually, but as I strategize what to do in this moment, let me know which is better for me to focus on:

  • Using the diagrams, which I think is still in the learning curve.
  • The "not-playing" effect described by Greg, which I do not think is thespian or "play my character" at all.

Or neither, or nothing, in case you think it's better for me to stay out of others' processing for these games. That's OK too, just let me know.

robowist's picture

In our game, we often were coming back to the diagrams, so I'd love to see more ideas concerning their use.

Some specific questions we had:

There can be a tendency for things to pile up in the middle of the diagram, which makes for a muddling effect. So some added guidance for how to make sure that the full field of the diagram is used would be helpful. I also then wonder about the role of those items that are explicitly not in the center vortex.

How do you deal with the diagram over a sequence of sessions? Here again, if I return to the diagrams, I have a tendency to pull more items (characters, locations, objects, etc.) into the center as play proceeds.

And I'm wondering how dynamic the diagrams should be over the course of a kicker arch. I think we tend to see the diagrams most importantly as an aid to setting up the initial situations. Thoughts about how the diagrams inform play in later sessions would be useful.

Rod_A's picture

I keep trying to figure out what my response to this is, and I guess for me it's "still processing, will check back later". When I first discussed struggling with the diagrams with the group, Greg gave me numerous links to posts and videos where you dealt with the topic at some length, and at least in principle and verbally, I don't know how much more clear "what you're supposed to do" could be made. Yet something about getting on and staying on the horse is a struggle. If we do wind up playing again, I may suggest that we do a video about our diagram prepping and post it here for some -- guidance, mentorship, however it seems best to think of it.

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm editing a video about this and writing the accompanying text right now.

Greg's picture

'm really interested into this "not-playing" effect. I encounter the same problem with the same players to another game, and I'm not sure I would have seen it without playing sorcerer first and/or realized I found myself in the same situation. I'll post more details about how it reproduces with a different effect (in summary, boring scenes) very soon under this comment.

Greg's picture

PS : I'm interested into this, but feel free to take your time, I'm posting it so we can get it back later. I'm also very interested into the diagram understanding!

badspeler's picture

Was curious if you could expand on your long-term play. You mention that changing aspects of the character was more impactful than just increasing one of your attributes by one die. What was the process of coming up with new kickers like? How much of the diagrams were rewritten?

robowist's picture

When a character resolves a kicker and finishes a storyline (which typically involves a number of gaming sessions) they get to roll their Humanity against Stamina, Will, Lore, and Cover (or Past if playing Sorcer and Sword) to try to increase one of those scores--and only one--by a single increment. In the scheme of things, that's a very modest advance, and I honestly don't think I'd be upset if I blew all my rolls and was left with those scores at the same level. 

But here's what the book also says: "If the character’s Kicker is resolved, and if sufficient drama has occurred to illustrate the character’s true colors to all concerned, the player should rewrite the character. This would almost certainly involve losing the old Price and choosing a new one, and might even include rewriting some or all of the score descriptions. The only thing that must remain unchanged is Humanity."

That kind of rewriting is going to have far more impact on the next storyline than, say, moving your Will from a 3 to a 4. It's not that the score boost is inconsequential, but for me, the changing of a descriptor is going to have much more influence in how I'm approaching the character at the table. 

For example, in our Sorcerer and Sword game, my character (Siosadh) began with the score description of "Apprentice" for his Lore, but at the end of the first storyline, he ended up binding a powerful serpent demon. The demon (U'Nadredd) had a secure upper hand in the binding roll (3 in the demon's favor), and our GM was quite good in describing the otherwordly terror of the whole event. 

So for the next kicker, I saw my Lore increase from 2 to 3, and I changed the descriptor "Apprentice" to "Changeling" with the idea that Siosaidh (who was literally swallowed by his serpent demon in the binding ritual) was entering a new mental state poised somewhere betweeh the human and spirit realms.

The diagrams were largely rewritten for the next stage of play. For mine, I imagined what the repercussions of the new demon would mean for my sorcerer. The fact that this powerful demon had a need to eat humans--and that my sorcerer lived with a close-knit celtic tribe--made the future problematic to say the least. So, for my kicker, I thought that I would make some type of bargain with my demon. Here's what I came up with :

Siosaidh has managed to make a risky bargain with U'Nadredd: The demon will desist from preying on members of the Sifriff (his tribe) provided that Siosaidh goes to Laugharne (a distant island) to complete some unfinished business. U'Nadredd is deliberately vague about what exactly will be involved. When asked, the demon offers crypto-prophetic utterances like, "Strip the fur and rend the bone-lappings: This is the course to the bejewelled heart."

I made Rod (the GM) a list of items--characters, objects, locations, etc.--for different sections of the new diagram. Some of those elements were novel (i.e. not on the diagram for my first kicker), but there were some that were carryovers. Plus there were some items that weren't necessarily on the first diagram but which were introduced in play while I was working at resolving the initial kicker.

 

Greg's picture

Hi badspeler, I can help by sharing the two versions of Guillaume's character sheet.

Guillaume de Landegarde, first kicker : 

Kicker: Last night, his father Henry de Landegarde, dead for years, destroyed the crypt he was buried in, got out in armor, with his splendid shield showing St Damwen and expressed his shame about Guillaume, and now he’s taken the castle throne and is gathering the soldiers, some of them having served for him, to do whoever knows what.
Guillaume has inherited the Château de Landegarde, a citadel built on a rock to guard the Haunted Pass, a strategic passage out of a forest between two little chains of mountain. A famous battle was won by one of his ancestors, Godefroy de Landegarde, who built the citadel, two hundred years ago, against a fearful opponent, a mix of celtic tribes and Gigondas rival. The records are in fact blurry of this battle. Guillaume have lost three wives and a few children, buried in the family crypt inside the castle walls, and lives in the castle with 200 hundred soldiers, his family, and servants, and a village down the hill.

Catherine de Flamehaut also teached him to summon Elise and the few things he knows about sorcery. Elisea showed him what she calls an enchanted pool of crystal-clear salted water, where he surprised a celtic girl that he meets sometimes there, alone, to know about her tribes.

Descriptors :

Stamina (Trained soldier) 4: Guillaume is Knight, commander of the rear guard of the Duke Aymeric de Flamehaut, he practices hunting, tournament.
Will (Lover, Vow) 5 : The typical French courtly love story, he desires profoundly Catherine de Flamehaut, and they play this refusal/seducing game that should never lead to a charnel relationship. He vowed that he would do anything to please and protect her.
Lore (Apprentice) 1: Catherine is his mentor, and he learned everything from her.
Past (Comte de Landegarde): 5, the name of the region he is living in. Regional warfare, commanding man, knowing heraldry, arrange marriages and claim territories, all those things.
Price (Unlucky in love): -1 in interaction to protect his cared ones from threats (his wife, Catherine, any women he takes interest in). Guillaume is quite guilty from the loss of his previous wife, but also his mother who died when he was very young. He prays every week in the family crypt and ask advices to his mother, Aliénor.

Diagram Elements :

Past: Château de Landegarde, Chivalrous tournaments, Blanche (his fourth wife), the haunted pass.
Lore: Élise, Catherine de Flamehaut, an enchanted pool of salted water in the forest, a celtic girl/priestess.
Price: His previous wives’s tombs in the family crypt (Bérengère, Jeanne, Isabelle), terrible scars in the back from previous wars and tournaments.
Kicker: Henry de Landegarde, The Family Shield.
king.

 

Guillaume, Second kicker : 

Kicker :

The king has called an army to take back a sacred relic in a mystic grotto known to be the tomb of a martyr and extend the realm’s boundaries. After a harsh and almost-blind battle in a mysterious and very dense fog against blurred silhouettes, I realize that we just slaughtered one another, and that I just killed the king.

Descriptors :

Stamina (Trained soldier, just healthy) 4: Guillaume is Knight, commander of the rear guard of the Duke Aymeric de Flamehaut, he practices hunting, tournaments.
Will (Wrathful, Leader of men) 5. Guillaume can't pardon Unaddred or Catherine herself for the loss.
Lore (Adept) 3. Guillaume is now himself versed into the forbidden arts of magics.
Past (Comte de Landegarde, King of Girondas) 5. 
Price (Bad reputation). -1 in interaction with the nobility, because he changed his family emblem.
 

Elements :

Past: The “ost” (army) camp, Duke Aymeric de Flamehaut, The King, Jacques (Guillaume’s second in command). 
Lore: Elise, Scarvish, Catherine’s scarf, a belt of hair from the Abbey.
Price: Catherine de Flamehaut, Dead wives, the scattered family’s shield, the new Emblem.
Kicker: the fog, the relic, the grotto, a mass of dead and injured levies, the king’s corpse. 

The point is having a gritty scenery of a lost and misunderstood battle, a feeling of despair with a touch of mysticism.
The belt has been given by one of the leaders of the Abbey after what happened with his father.
 

badspeler's picture

Just wanted to say I appreciate your detailed responses.

Ron Edwards's picture

Here it is! I drew on a game from a few years ago for the sheets and concepts, which you can read about in Praying is too slow if you’re interested.  

Here are some follow-up points.

I forgot to mention that the order of making these connections within a single diagram doesn’t matter. I could have started Keenan’s diagram by considering the congregation and the sign first, rather than last, and the diagram would have ended up looking exactly the same.

While making a diagram, often I realize that some NPC or detail about a location or thing is not only viable, but irresistible, so it becomes an added item. I didn’t do that here very much to avoid muddying the points I was making, but I am certain that for a real game, one of the coven members would have acquired a name and some characterization in my mind, and thus received a diagram position.

I struggled a bit to say what I meant regarding the blog followers + sign for Bev, so for clarity, it means that the sign and the blog followers are not required to be in physical proximity. They’re next to each other on the diagram because one or more blog followers know about the sign, but they’re not in the center so the opening moments of the session do not assign the blog followers to be standing at the sign.

For Charlene, I represented the GM as asking the player “where are you,” but also specifying the time, early morning. This is because I’m conceiving this as a single game with these three characters as generated here, and I’ve already mentally placed the location specified in Keenan’s diagram in the early morning. Having no “when” to go by for Charlene, or for Bev for that matter, I’m treating the three locations’ cold open at the start of the session as occurring simultaneously, using the only one that has seemed obvious to me.

If there were no such time-intution available to me for any of the locations specified by the diagrams, then I’d ask “when” for every character without a when, as well as “where” for those characters without a where. It’s OK to play separate scenes out-of-time sync in Sorcerer (and in almost any game, in fact). However, just so we don’t get weird in this conversation, if you have a “when” for even one character, it’s simplest to say the others are all simultaneous, especially for the first session.

(first of a two-part reply)

Ron Edwards's picture

This presentation really fought to be born through the course of a difficult week and especially the day I’d reserved for it (but got steamrolled), so what you’re seeing is a very tired person. In the second half, you can see me start to stumble over words, and my final points aren’t made as sharply as the earlier ones. So here are a few conclusive or connecting points regarding using the diagrams and preparing a session after the first.

Regarding NPCs who are not in the center, and especially if they are really out at the edge somewhere, you are not prohibited from having them do things. However, they are doing them physically away from the opening situation.

If their actions can’t possibly impact whatever is happening in the center-determined opening situation, then they happen “over there” – make one-stop-and-over rolls if needed. For example, the Cruel Enemy kidnaps the Innocent Child – well, roll a score for each and see whether the Innocent Child is now running around freely (where it may make most sense to be, and whatever it makes most sense to be doing), with the Cruel Enemy frustrated; or the Cruel Enemy now has the Child in durance vile or whatever it had in mind.

If such NPCs’ actions are directed toward or into one or more player-characters’ situation(s), possibly because they are intent on doing something roll-worthy to a player-character (just to pick an obvious example), then they have to “get into” the situation via a roll, either to be there at all or in terms of timing, as I mentioned. However, to illustrate via a softer example, let’s say that an NPC just really wants to say something to a player-character. In one of the Sorcerer games I played not long ago, the character’s grandmother really wanted to talk to him, but she was not at the center. Well, it’s not like an attack or something, nor was the information important in terms of timing relative to the situation at the center, and as the fiction was set in the modern world, all that means is that in the middle of the center-determined situation, he got a call from his grandma. The point is that because she wasn’t at the center of the diagram, when “the lights come up,” as it were, she is not there with him and whoever/whatever else is.

As sessions proceed, really do the diagrams de novo. Don’t start with the one you just used and see “if things move from there.” Stay with physical proximity or subsets as the gold standard, with formal social equivalents insofar as they approximate that kind of solid connection as you see it.

Doing the diagram entirely over, from the non-ordered lists, often revises the simple associations among items. Just because Buddy is in Buddy’s place as a default concept at the opening of session 1, doesn’t mean Buddy is trapped there during play. If we never saw him in session 1, then sure, still think of them as “together” for the new diagram why not, but if Buddy went to the liquor store or moved to Denver, then they’re not associated due to proximity any more.

New diagrams almost always entail including new things, too. It may come from almost anywhere during play, but the most common source is exactly the pragmatic inspiration of giving the liquor store guy a name because he was surprisingly fun to play, or having an interaction at City Hall when Keenan uncharacteristically goes there to make a fuss, so we now have a location (an office) to go with the councilman. Conceivably, every location we see in play probably should get onto the new diagram, and no small number of NPCs and details that “came alive.”

Things on other player-characters’ diagrams are a subset of that concept, which I mentioned a little too quickly in the recording. I should have said “presuming that characters’ paths have crossed,” for which see Crosses in Sex & Sorcery at the very least. It’s also helpful to restrict this sharing (say, of things on player-character A’s diagram) to either those which are associated with things on player-character via the same standards of associating things on a diagram at all (especially proximity), or those which now harbor motivated intentions toward the player-character or toward things on their diagram. Note as well that the sector that something “comes from” on player-character A’s diagram doesn’t dictate where it lands on player-character B’s.

Now I’m officially wiped out, so let’s see how this goes.

(concludes the two-part reply)

Sean_RDP's picture

I have a question about Bev or perhaps an observation.

The guitar and the beater. I was thinking in terms of physical closeness, the guitar might have to live in the beater because its too easy to steal in the Hostel? And Bev might bring the guitar along to protest the kicker. So I had the idea that they would converge on the center. But in my headI keep thinking "the beater and guitar are not that important."

Does that even matter how "important" they are or is their relationship to one another what matters most? Assuming of course one did I like I did and envisioned the beater and guitar having that physical closeness. 

I am going to be making a Sorcerer character today because it has been a minute and want to walk through the process again. 

Sean_RDP's picture

Ah I should have waited for the next video, because that answers my question.

Rod_A's picture

This is a great piece of teaching, and does indeed make things more clear. I'll look forward to implementing it sometime soon.

Ron Edwards's picture

Hi Sean, you said that a later video answered your question, but I don’t think it did.

The guitar and the beater. I was thinking in terms of physical closeness, the guitar might have to live in the beater because its too easy to steal in the Hostel? And Bev might bring the guitar along to protest the kicker. So I had the idea that they would converge on the center. But in my headI keep thinking "the beater and guitar are not that important."

Does that even matter how "important" they are or is their relationship to one another what matters most?

I see two questions which should be addressed separately and very directly.

First, the physical association between the guitar and the beater. In a real game, the player makes the lists and in fact, should make the diagram (this is not possible for first-time players). So the GM does not infer associations. The player would decide whether the guitar lives in the beater or doesn’t, period ... and if it does, wham, we know that the two terms slam right into the center.

Taken in isolation, that means we know Bev is in the car with the guitar at the outset of play. This raises two subordinate points.

What if two locations arrive at the center? For example, if the hostel and blog are there as shown and used in the video? No problem: both associations are now true in terms of location, and ask the player where the character is, meaning, which one.

In this case, the laptop is at the hostel (presuming we keep that somewhat-soft idea) and the guitar is in the car, but the player says where Bev is ... and is often capable of reconciling the two by having Bev in transition from car to hostel room, holding both the laptop and the guitar. Remember, this is about the opening shot, not about “the scene” – to get to “the scene,” just keep playing. Bev can go wherever she wants and put the things she’s carrying wherever she wants.

Second, this business of “importance” needs to be killed dead in the water. That is motorboating, as I casually coined while recording: saying a given thing in the diagram has some kind of motility or in this case, special attraction for some other item, due to intended plot events.

I think I see why that happens: when you think that something has to be central in the diagram to be active in play, which is not correct. The player and GM have very separate Authorities in Sorcerer and are notably effective/consequential in exercising them, compared to most other games. If your sphere of activity includes a given thing and what it does, then that applies at all times during play.

Finally, as a footnote to both of these topics, our entire discussion of diagramming is marred by thinking of it as a GM operation when the player really should be the main contributor. As conceived, the GM receives the diagram and may remind the player of this or that thing if necessary. I have not yet managed to encourage a play-culture of Sorcerer to do this, and until recently, I’d given up.

Sean_RDP's picture

re: Importance

Agreed. In fact the very next video answered that question. It clicked a bit better after seeing the next character.

re Player doing the work

It has been a minute since I have played as opposed to read through Sorcerer. The other day as I was going through creation process (realizing it works best with a group) and it occurred to me that this is the player's work and I took on the task with that in mind. Taking the GM hat off made the process more interesting for me and worked much better. 

Greg's picture

I could find time to watch anything but the first video. I hope I'll find time to watch the other ones this week-end. Spontaneous reactions:

I think I see why that happens: when you think that something has to be central in the diagram to be active in play, which is not correct. 

and

Finally, as a footnote to both of these topics, our entire discussion of diagramming is marred by thinking of it as a GM operation when the player really should be the main contributor. 

This is so true. For the moment, everything written here exactly explains why some of my sorcerer games worked, and why the other didn't. 

I realize that in the Day of the Dupes Sorcerer Louis XIII session that finally went very functionnaly, I was using the diagram more as you explain (without really knowing it), and in the others, I fell more into those traps you describe. I could understand why it was working in one game and not in the other and I had multifactorial variables - but not expecting the diagram as one of them!

The fact that I only play with new players to the game doesn't help, because I can see there is a group learning curve. I still need to reflect on that but it only gives me more desire to play more Sorcerer ! But I really feel I need to gm some trollbabe before. It's the advice you gave me and I really understand why now.

Thank you for all those inputs.

Greg's picture

Ok. So I've watched the video. This is really helpful. I think I "thought" I got it but it made it clearer. Here is why.

Understanding that the players decide where are things is helpfully (ie : Charlene's diagram). In fact, this solve my scene framing problem in the first Sorcerer Louis XIII game. It wasn't clear in this game that the diagram is a creative constraint. In this session, we had a little power struggle between Laura and me about how the first scene was framed. For reminder, Laura's diagram had this in the center: Her mentor, the mission to kill Charles (given by her mentor), a rapier (given by her mentor to kill Charles), and a full moon (a condition given by her mention for when to kill Charles), and "Fencing spectacles" (attracted by the rapier). So, the Mentor (a lore element) attracts three elements from the kicker through an association made by the player (Laura), and one element from the cover (the fencing spectacle) is attracted by an element form the kicker who is already in the center (the rapier). I think I did it well. So I started to frame the scene as a full moon during a fencing spectacle in Charles' Manor, but Laura wanted to play how she prepared herself to do this mission a week before. I chose Charles's Manor so I play the scenes simultaneously - and we struggled, with me finally changing the framing to a scene where the Mentor gives the Mission during a Fencing Spectacle, giving the Rapier and asking to do it during a Full Moon. In fact, if I understand well, I should have made clear to Laura that she's framing the scene with all those centered elements in some way.

In my game of Xar, I also arrived to some point that I had too much elements in a diagram - like grapes of them. The Ascended Guard and its Ascended Captain under the Ascended Queen. So I was sure it was more a matter of having lots of elements as mentioned in the 4th video. But I redrawed the diagrams right now and I'm not so sure about it. I stopped this game because I'm not sure it fits this group for the moment, mainly because of the "playing not playing" phenomen that I will adress in a later post more in detail (I have more to say). 

Those are the things that are really ticking for me :

As sessions proceed, really do the diagrams de novo. Don’t start with the one you just used and see “if things move from there.” Stay with physical proximity or subsets as the gold standard, with formal social equivalents insofar as they approximate that kind of solid connection as you see it.

I totally fell into that trap. I was even looking for online tools to do it better. The diagram, put aside after the opening scene, can serve as a notebook for the next session with the player writing new elements that appeared during the game, so he can write the diagram de novo for the next game.

New diagrams almost always entail including new things, too. It may come from almost anywhere during play, but the most common source is exactly the pragmatic inspiration of giving the liquor store guy a name because he was surprisingly fun to play, or having an interaction at City Hall when Keenan uncharacteristically goes there to make a fuss, so we now have a location (an office) to go with the councilman. Conceivably, every location we see in play probably should get onto the new diagram, and no small number of NPCs and details that “came alive.”

I was wondering how much you could do. Now I realize: nothing at all. I, as a GM, did every time after the session. It strikes me it would be better that the player do it, once everybody knows clearly how the diagram works - so it would be best to be a conversation in the beginning of session. The players just come with their made diagrams and the GM asks questions to check if he understand what it looks like as an opening scene.

I've quoted it just before, but anyway.

Finally, as a footnote to both of these topics, our entire discussion of diagramming is marred by thinking of it as a GM operation when the player really should be the main contributor. As conceived, the GM receives the diagram and may remind the player of this or that thing if necessary. I have not yet managed to encourage a play-culture of Sorcerer to do this, and until recently, I’d given up.

I still think Sorcerer is a difficult game, or at least, it is a difficult game for me, to teach and to practice. It seems that Sorcerer cannot work by itself with just a "good GM". It plays very well with players who really understand what the game facilitate and really want to do it. Everything makes sense, but it's very different from the play culture I've been socialized, and there are lots of those little coherent things. It is striking now that with those insights and every players on the same page, it should be incredibly stressless for the GM.

We made a pause to this game of Sorcerer & Sword in Hybreasil but we decided to come back to this game and those characters after a little pause, letting us the time to play some other things. I'm really excited to start again with those insights. 

We're continuing Sorcerer Archipel with Laura and will implement this in the next session, sunday. Laura will draw the diagram and associates elements herself and we'll see how it works! 

Greg's picture

Ron, I try to think about authorities in Sorcerer, and I realize I can't clearly identify how it works.

I'm pretty sure I'm doing some mistakes here, but I'll try. If I understand well, situational authority in the beginning of a session is held by the player under the creative constraint of which elements are in the center of the diagram. In fact, basically situational authority is generally in the player's hand, and shared with the gm. After the opening scene, when the player has a strong idea on what he wants to do, he just do it, which frames a sitaution with the GM's inputs what he thinks the NPC would do on basis of whatever is preparation or seems logical in the moment for those NPC from the backstory.

To take the Day of the Dupes example, let's take the scene of the duel between Charles and Helen that I quote here for easier reading.

I hard cut to the duel scene at midnight, after Charles’s player told me that he was totally serious about accepting the duel. We set that Charles is moving to his campaign manor outside Paris. The scene is in an abandoned manor, destroyed by the fire a few years earlier, and known to all duelists (duels being forbidden at that moment). 

What happened in terms of situational authorities, is that I proposed to Laura a location, "there is should be an abandoned manor that every duellists like you know about, a retired and abandoned thing as duels are currently forbidden", but it was just a proposition, that she validated. This is for colour.  I asked both players what was the situation on their part. "Charles, do you go like an honorable gentleman or do you prep some sneaky plan? Do you go alone?", I did the same for Laura. I framed the scene without any input on my part, just summarizing to provide a shared visual. In some way, like the setup in S/Lay W/Me, describing horizons and letting the players describe how they arrived or was already there, and in a "Fair and Clear" state applied to the scene framing (which was clearly the setup for a conflict).

Interestingly I looked at the diagrams at that moment and saw Charles' old valet in the center but he wasn't part of the scene. I was thinking "I should bring him in some way", that's why I made him appear when Charles was killed by Hélène. I understand know that it was a leggit move, but that had not causal relation with its position in the diagram - I shouldn't have care about this. It worked very well, but only because my belief that I had to bring it has put me in a "NPC, who are not protagonists, acts toward PC as protagonists" meaning, playing the NPC as needing the NPC for their own desires. This is striking how it is solving, for me, the way I did with Vampire the Masquerade - where NPC don't need PC at all and makes their plans without them, which leads to this metaplot no pc hears or has to hear about - except in purely social fanfic conversations between players outside the game.

Now that I think about it, how we (the players and me) treated the situational authority between this session and the previous session seems to explain why this one worked so well.

In my game of Xar, the "playing non playing" players never took this authority and I was trying to fill the gape, which led to filling and filling and filling and having pile of elements pushing for reactions that lead to frustration together.

 

Greg's picture

"playing the NPC as needing the NPC for their own desires." should be read "playing the NPC as needing the PC for their own desires."

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