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[Sorcerer] Swords of Theringia

Here a game of Sorcerer I am playing with Rod Anderson and Jon Hastings. I'm GMing and following the instructions in the Sorcerer and Sword supplement to create a Howardesque fantasy setting. Attached are PDFs of the setting document I used to launch the game, along with the PDFs of their chracters, including context wheels. I'll talk more about the game later in the comments and also post links to our subsequent sessions as we complete them. 

Actual Play


We play the first session for Yalu and Hamze. We're still getting a handle on handling the scope of conflcit resolution -- ie how much and what does a roll resolve. I ran several extended conflicts: one social, where Yalu competed with a rival troubador, and one physical where Hamze struggled to escape a pack of rats in the dark tunnels beneath the city of Shadrazar. We have a discussion about use of conflict resolution starting at 1h33m.

Rod_A's picture

After Alan turned off the camera, we talked a little more and I formulated my thoughts a little more eloquently -- however, I've since forgotten what I said (sorry, Alan!). But on watching the video again, I think I expressed myself adequately after all. I'm very excited for the game, it's feeling full of fun and anticipation, and not fraught at all.

Ron Edwards's picture

Which I suppose is of no special importance, but truly, knowing all of you and your long-term interaction with this game, this is a treat and, as it turns out, a major stress-reliever, a source of life-enjoyment, for me at this time.

I'll try to say something relevant sooner or later, I suppose.

I'm very happy to be playing Sorcerer & Sword again.

During the first session of play, I had one of those moments that happens  regularly when playing Sorcerer and not so regularly with other games (although our recent James Bond 007 had a lot of moments like this for me): where I'll start a scene with a very clear conception of my character's motivations and goals, and then we get into a conflict, dice are rolled, and, all of a sudden, my take on my character's motivations has changed. In this case, I had the idea that Hamze wouldn't want to confront Buzur without doing some careful recon first: but the sequence of rolls starting with the failure to find an approrpiate cat's paw, which then led to a successful roll (with 3 successes) to impress/intimidate the enforcer made me realize that Hamze was in no mood to tiptoe around while Buzur sat on his throne.

Had the dice not fallen that way, I wouldn't have gone for the direct approach; as they did fall that way, I couldn't see any way forward (based on how I was conceiving Hamze's character) except the direct approach. I don't think I can explain the alchemy that happens in a moment like this: my conception, bouncing off the results of the dice, bouncing the details of the opposition as played by Alan, bouncing off another roll of the dice... with those extra sucesses in the second roll very much mattering to me in terms of how I should play things: partly because they opened up the possibility of being able to use them as roll-over dice in a subsequent conflict, but also because they seemed to represent (to me) Hamze's theme music starting to play.

And so my character ended up surprising me.

I remember this same kind of happening the first time I played Sorcerer & Sword, but, not expecting it and not having ever played anything like it, I was upset! The game seemed to have turned on me; the character not who I wanted them to be. I felt the game master was unfairly putting me in a spot and not letting me "play my character." I'm not sure exactly how I made the mental shift from thinking about it like that to seeing it in these terms: it happened over the course of that first series of Sorcerer & Sword games, and was solidly in place by the time we played it again.

I'm looking forward to the further suprises Hamze has in store for me. (Also looking forward to seeing if I'll end up causing trouble for Yalu, too!)

Hamze proceeds openly through the streets and tunnels towards the Beggar's Hall, where the usurper Buzur awaits. En route he encounter's Ashara's handmaid, who informs him that she has slipped out of her father's house to seek him. Then they encounter Ashara's brothers, who accuse Hamze of stealing their sister. Hamze intimidates them and they back off. Later, in the main "highway" tunnel to the Beggar's Hall, Hamze faces off with four of Buzur's thugs. Calling on the power of Gissu, his demonic cloak, his stamina is enormously amplified. In one single round, he devastates and demoralizes his opponents.

Meanwhile, Yalu seeks the location of the Hall of the Yellow king. He starts in the Emir's library and finds a book purported to have the information (unbenknownst to him, he has beaten his rival, Atis of Athur, to the book.) Alas, wading through the book consumes time, until the young Emir himself shows up and demands the book. As Yalu leaves, perhaps to return another day, the Emir appears to be agitatedly seeking something in the book. In the courtyard, Yalu spots Atis lurking and slips past him.

Yalu reasons that the beggar underworld must have some knowledge of the hidden ways under the city, so he hatches a plan to seek help. He disguises himself as a lowly street-musician and goes to the lower quarter. There he improvises on the theme of the Lost Instrument of the Old Ones he seeks. In fact, he finds himself caught in a vision, seeing the Hall of the Yellow King and eerie stringed twanging coming from within a sarcophagus. He's drawns closer, but then repelled. He awakes with a headache and a missing purse. 

But he has drawn the attention of Old Tarsh, the knowledge keeper of the beggar's kingdom. Old Tarsh makes a deal with him: Tarsh will lead Yalu to the Hall, if Yalu will aid Tarsh in acquiring a special arcane fungus from a chamber near to it. 

The session ends there. Much of what I recorded here was mediated by dice rolls: for example, deciding whether Atis got to the book before Yalu. And Yalu's song was rolled as a contact ritual (which failed). Also of note: Hamze's use of Boost Stamina gave him a 7 dice advantage in one -- count em! -- one round of combat and result in taking out four  thugs of 4 stamina -- one with an attack and three others with two total victories on defence and one less victory on defense. Seven dice boost, plus carryover from each previous roll had Jon rolling about 15 dice! 'Course, now Gissu is going to start jonesing for some need.

Ron Edwards's picture

Hi Alan! One of the topics I've been working out lately is the interplay between those things which do include dice (or anything like them) and those things that don't - especially when "things" mean a strong or sudden narrowing of options, or increase in danger, or probably both.

For people who've taken the courses, I hope it's been clear that this isn't an either-or pair of separate options. Instead, I consider "dice-y" procedures (again, very broadly conceived) as subroutines of authorities, i.e., talking. As a casual example, the result of a wandering monster role informs or constrains your job of saying whether a monster attacks right now, particularly, a monster which is unmarked on the map. Basically, you have that job all the time in this game, and the roll, and the associated table, are instruments for doing it.

This concept can be misunderstood in many different ways so I hope no one takes a flying leap into the weeds at this point. The courses seem to have done pretty well in keeping things clear, but out here in the wild, well, we'll see.

Anyway, for Sorcerer & Sword specifically, the fictional concept of coincidence is a critical feature. I'm talking about the most literal sense, meaning, this thing happens right here and at the same time as that other thing. Or, related, that given a couple or more things, one of them happens first (and the others do not).

I maintain that this game (and many others) relies on you, the GM, providing a lot of "this happens now" content, based on what you think. The dice operate as an enjoyable subroutine for this job, which you must actually do and own. The dice can't do it alone; they aren't an automation.

What is your experience of these things in play? I totally recognize and celebrate using the dice as you've described, as a serious functional component of immediate situational framing But I think it's useful to identify, to own, and to celebrate the larger, contextual, non-dice decision-making and perspectives that call for the dice to come into it. Does that make any sense? What are your thoughts, for this game and especially for this session?

Hi Ron, Now that you mention the role of coincidence in sword and sorcery stories, I realize that I've been working on how to determine what components show up in a scene. As a foundation, I've been focusing on identifying NPC agendas and having them act on them offstage -- that approach was really reinforced by improved understanding of "The Now" from Champions Now play and text. 

I find I come to decision points as GM where I'm thinking: "okay, should I just bring in that NPC doing something and declare how well they have positioned themselves, or is there a conflict that I'd like to determine with dice?"

An example of GM fiat: I knew that Ashara, Hamze's lover, wanted to slip out of her father's mansion and go looking for the deposed king of beggars. I just decided she did that without a problem, but that her handmaid would go out looking for her when the maid discovered her mistress gone. Likewise, Ashara's brothers would go looking for their sister. When Jon declared that Hamze was just boldly marching through the streets on his way to confront Buzur, I decided to just have the handmaid encounter him, and then the brothers. I did use a dice roll to determine how much warning Hamze got about being spotted by the brothers. 

An example of dice mediation: Yalu spoke openly about his quest to find the Instrument of the Old Ones in front of his rival Atis -- and the lord of the house publically offered Yalu direction to a book in the Emir's library. So when Yalu went to the Emir's palace, I had him roll a conflict with Atis to determine who got there first. 

But later, when Yalu's naive and unconscious Contact ritual with the Instrument failed, I just gave him Old Tarsh, who would know how to find the Hall of the Yellow King.

Am I getting at what you are asking about?

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