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Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution’

I foresee the possibility of armies clashing in our Elric campaign, so I did a little reading on The Forge as to how to handle that.  Here are the relevant threads: How would you do mass combat? Armies in Conflict .  And here’s what I gleaned:

Overview

Remember that Sorcerer is not a Simulationist system, and your goal in “playing out” mass combat should not be to simulate the battle.  The conflict between individuals and their demons (and Demons) should remain the focal point of any clash of armies.

The most dramatic way to play this out is for the principal characters to meet on the field and decide the outcome of the battle between themselves (a-la The Illiad). (more…)

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I’m preparing the setting for a campaign based on the excellent Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock, a set of books that I just can’t recommend highly enough.  And although the Elric novels were a big inspiration for the Sorcerer RPG, we’re not sure that Sorcerer is the right system for my Elric game…

This is a highly charged project.  I love the source literature, and my expectations for the game are sky-high.  The potential for a mismatch and disappointment at the table is definitely there.  So I’m taking a close look at my expectations before this goes much further.

Mike, Pete, Ry and I spoke about this at length, and my thanks to them for sharing their perspectives.  Any great ideas in here are theirs, any stupidity is mine.

I Want Sharks With Frickin’ Lasers On Their Heads

I have to admit that I have some pretty specific things that I want to happen in this game.  Here’s the big one.  A PC finds himself facing an overwhelming enemy; defeat is clearly in the cards.  He somehow buys himself a few minutes, casts his mind out into the multiverse and contacts just the right supernatural ally.  If his foe is a swarm of giant insects, he summons the Beast Lord of the Iguanas, which appears and eats them all.   If his foe is the Elohoin, a race of flesh-eating warrior women from an alien plane, he summons their sworn enemies the Grashnaks from across the void, who take up the fight with relish.

Basically, I want to see on-the-spot sorcery that turns the tide of battle.  And let’s leave aside the mechanical difficulties of this in the Sorcerer mechanics as written, cuz I have some ideas.  But for now, some quality-of-play concerns:

If I set up situations that only have one possible solution, then this won’t be Story Now.  It’ll be more like one of those old text adventures: if you have the key, and the old boot, and the crow bar and the gas mask, then you can get through the laboratory safely; otherwise, you’re screwed.  I’ll be hogging all the story-telling responsibilities and the players will just be following along.  A related concern: If I set up the situation, and the players find some other solution, how disappointed am I going to be?  So I have to:

  • create rich environments for set-piece conflicts, so the PCs have lots of things to interact with, lots of resources from which to build solutions.
    “PCs need sets the way Errol Flynn needs sets.”
  • accept that the outcome of the situation is not in my hands.  The players decide the characters’ actions, the dice decide their success or failure.

And remember: NO RAILROADING.  This goes for on-the-spot sorcery as well as summoning Lords of Chaos, visiting Ameeron or anything else from the books.  Okay no problem, I can do that.

Action-Packed

The Elric stories are fast-paced and action-packed, whereas Sorcerer is focused on developing story based around theme and  “Humanity.”  Maybe I should pick a more Step-On-Up system like Apocalypse World or even some sort of d20 hack.  But I don’t want to lose the Story Now… do I?

As far as I’m concerned, the best elements of Sorcerer are Kickers and Bangs, and these parts seem pretty portable.  Can a Step-On-Up system be played with elements of Story Now?  Sure it can.  But… if players know they’re going into a Step On Up game, an Us-vs.-Them cage match where the “Them” is the GM and all his creations, then they’re going to be trying to load their character backstories and kickers with all kinds of advantages for the fights ahead.  They won’t be thinking about creating cool Story.  That’s not the way I want this to go down.

Can Sorcerer do fast-paced and action-packed?  Sure it can.  The game’s conflict-resolution (as opposed to task-resolution) system ensures that combat situations evolve rapidly and in interesting ways.  Headlocks, chair-throwing, flying tackles and swinging from the chandeliers!  But… we’re gonna want to make some tweaks.

Next Up: The Tweaks

 

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The excellent game Sorcerer has been central to my gaming experience and tinkerings lately.  A few loosely-related notes:

A Sorcerer Tweak?

We love Sorcerer.  When it landed in the late ’90s, it was revolutionary.  Compared to D&D, it was Completely Different.  It was the first (?) RPG that really put the focus on “Story Now!,” the phenomenon of story creation as a real-time group activity (in contrast, the D&D paradigm is “Story Before”: the GM creates the story alone, and then brings it to the table and runs the players through it).  But…

Sorcerer is now the oldest game in the Story Now! category.  Since Sorcerer landed, there have been 10+ more years of great indie games that have built on what Sorcerer started.  Perhaps Sorcerer could benefit from an upgrade, a renovation, an incorporation of some of the refinements that have emerged from the forge (ahem) of indie games in recent years.

Things We Love About Sorcerer:

  • Humanity – what do you need so badly that you’ll risk your soul to get it?  This score is the heart of the game.
  • Kickers & Bangs – the players initiate the story, the GM puts pressure on things, the story continues to come from the players.
  • Relationship maps – delicious complexity in NPCs without pre-planned “encounters”.
  • Demons – dangerous allies that are NOT your friends.  The rope by which the desperate protagonist hangs himself.

Aspects Of Sorcerer That Could Stand Some Refining:

  • Conflict Resolution (“Combat”) – we still spend a lot of time going “how many dice do i get?”. – there’s a lot to track: next-action damage, lasting damage, victories carried over, damage penalties, etc.  This needs to be simplified.
    • maybe just one kind of damage instead of “next action” and “lasting”.  Reduce the damage table to something simpler.
  • The Statistics of The Dice-Pool Mechanic – do they suit the kind of game we want to play?
    • a big dice-count advantage rarely translates into a large number of victories.

We (my gaming group) want to give Sorcerer a serious think-over.  Can we make the game even better while preserving the best aspects of the original?  No, let me re-phrase: can we make the game more suitable for the kind of experience that we want at the table?

-J

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