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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.

Tips

  • 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.

-J

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(10th chapter in a “book” of thoughts and learnings from a GM who is studying Ron Edwards’ game of Sorcerer in preparation for his first game)

We had our Sorcerer planning session on Tuesday, and it went great.  In the coming days I’ll be sharing our One-Sheet and excellent characters, backstories and kickers.  For today, here is the last of the posts that I wrote while re-reading the rulebooks and trolling The Forge to develop a GM’s level understanding of the game.

-Johnny 0.

Damage Dice

The whole combat, damage and penalties thing was a bit confusing for me at first. Ron explains it forwards. I’d prefer it explained backwards…:

Damage, like everything else, is counted in “dice.” If you have 2 damage, then you suffer a 2-dice penalty to all scores (Stamina, Will and Lore) for as long as the damage persists.

How long does damage persist? There are two types of damage: “next-action” and “lasting.”. When you take a hit in combat, you’ll usually take a bit of both types (according to the Damage Table on pg.107).

  • “Next-action” damage applies as a penalty to your next action, after which it goes away. Think of it as you being momentarily disoriented after being injured in the fight.
  • “Lasting” damage persists until you get a chance to rest, after which it is halved. The remaining half of your lasting damage sticks around for a few days or weeks, to be determined by the GM and commensurate with the type of injuries you’ve received.

How much damage does an attack do? Take the number of victories of the attack and look it up on the Damage Table (pg.107). For example, attacking with fists does X next-action damage and 1 lasting damage, where X is the number of victories rolled.

How will we track two types of damage? See the paperclip method and the two-zones method, described on pg.109. To my players: given our small table, I recommend the former.

How many hit points do I have? Look at your Stamina score. While your total damage (next-action + lasting) exceeds your Stamina, “pain incapacitates movement or action,” but you still have options. If total damage exceeds 2x Stamina, you are “stunned into helplessness.” Notice there’s no explicit point at which death occurs. That’s a post for another day.

I hope that gives you a conceptual grasp of Sorcerer’s damage system. It’s not the whole story, but it should set you up to get more out of the rulebook’s Chapter 6. Go read it now.

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(9th chapter in a book of thoughts and learnings from a GM who is studying Ron Edwards’ game of Sorcerer in preparation for his first game)

The simple genius of the Sorcerer mechanics is that points are dice, and all points are transferable.  A victory point this round is a bonus die next round, a point of damage is one less die to roll with, and a bonus for you can instead be a penalty for me.

1 Score Point = 1 die = 1 victory = 1 bonus = 1 penalty

This is not a hard concept to grasp, but its flexibility and vast reach are not immediately apparent.  Here’s a great example of applying the currency-nature of the dice to adjudicate situations that aren’t explicitly covered by the rulebook:

“Bob wants to shoot Carl. Carl wants to pull Alice in front of him to use her as a shield. [Alice rolls total defence.]

“Let’s say Carl comes up first and Alice fails to defend so she gets dragged in front of Carl. The obvious application here is to take the victory dice from Carl’s action against Alice and roll them over to his defense roll against Bob’s shot. Let’s assume that Carl’s defense roll is successful against Bob’s shot. But here’s a perfectly obvious question with maybe a not so obvious solution: Does Alice get shot instead? Do we have anything at out disposal that could answer this question for us so that we don’t have to rely on fiat?

“Yes, we do. We have the victories from Carl’s defense roll against Bob’s shot of which Alice’s role as human shield was a part of. We can take those victories and immediately apply them as mid-round attack on Alice. Notice that how Alice narrates her defense against getting shot herself could have a rather significant impact on the situation. If Alice says something like, “I throw myself to the ground dragging Carl with me if I have to” and she succeeds in defending against the bullet it might very well be the case that Carl is now prone on the ground, a situational transformation that wasn’t even part of the apparent possible outcomes at the top of the situation.

“Some of you might be asking where in the rule book this miraculous application of mechanics is listed: A secondary mid-round attack? Where is THAT listed? It isn’t. It isn’t because this isn’t a separate rule. Nor is it something I just made up. It’s an example of the application of currency. And that is the artistry of playing Sorcerer: learning to use the currency to resolve ambiguities in the situation without falling back on fiat. That is what takes practice.”

– Jesse Burneko, Mar 6 2008,

http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=5955

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(7th chapter in a book of thoughts and learnings from a GM who is studying Ron Edwards’ game of Sorcerer in preparation for his first game)

Dice are only rolled in this game when an action is opposed by another character or by challenging circumstances.  But the dice do not dictate the outcome. The dice determine who has narrative power.

Any single die roll gives us two pieces of information: the direction the narrative is going, and the degree to which that direction matters. In some sense Sorcerer die rolls are story vectors, giving us a direction and a magnitude.
-Jesse Burneko again

This is an important point. If you win a Will vs. Will roll against an NPC, for example, does that mean the NPC will obey you as if hypnotized?  No.  There are no jedi here.  But it does mean that the NPC, if they don’t give in entirely, has to at least give ground and change tactics. And your victories carry forward as bonus dice into your next roll.

Each round of rolling significantly transforms the narrative situation.

(Loser narrates? Is this an implicit assumption in Sorcerer?)

For a much better description of the above example, here is an excellent couple of posts that I put high on the recommended reading list:

[Practice: Sorcerer] Social Conflict

[Practice: Sorcerer] Conflict & Inanimate Objects

(you could skip the follow-up discussions, which get off track a bit)

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