Posts Tagged ‘dice pool’

So now there’s a new “red box set,” a simplified version of the current edition of the D&D game.  Somehow, I don’t see this one sparking the same revolution that the original 1983 Basic D&D box set did.  Needless to say (?), my gaming blog is named for the original, but the contrast between story gaming and tactical wargaming is even starker when the current product is considered.

Managing Big Conflicts in Sorcerer

With every PC and NPC sorcerer having at least one demon, combat scenes in Sorcerer tend to involve a lot of characters, and all the demons are role-played as separate characters.  Our first few conflicts felt quite unmanageable, and a lot got overlooked.  Now at the end of our second full Sorcerer game (about 12 sessions total), we finally feel like we’ve had a major conflict that went smoothly.  Here’s how we did it.


  • Cards numbered 1 thru 15. Red on one side, blue on the other. After initiative order is determined, give everyone a numbered card showing their initiative rank – red side up.  Now everyone takes their turn in order.  As characters act OR roll full defence, turn their card over. This helps to track initiative order as well as who has given up their action to defend themselves.
  • Build dice pools from different coloured dice, for:
    • stats
    • ad hoc bonuses
    • carried-over victories
  • Immediately after winning an opposed action, put dice for carryover-able victories on the chr sheet, so next round you will remember you have them.
  • For tracking damage of NPCs and Demons without chr sheets, we used post-it notes: Stamina, Next-action dmg and Lasting dmg.
  • Don’t get hypnotized into attack-attack-attack, not everything is a fight to the death.  Each new round, consider the motivations of each chr.   Some of them are just trying to escape, rescue a hostage, destroy or capture an item, restrain someone, etc. etc.   Some of them aren’t invested and would rather break and run.

We also realized that we were doing a couple things wrong, but I don’t think I need to go into that here.  If you too are having trouble figuring out how to apply Sorcerer’s mechanics in all situations, you’re not alone.  The rulebook is not organized for quick reference, and some points have been redacted or changed since publication.  In my next post, I’ll go over some realizations and talk about some house rules that we’ll be implementing for our next game.


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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?


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