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Posts Tagged ‘Ron Edwards’

The tale of the D.C. Beltway Sniper – a man and a teenage boy terrorize D.C. with a sniper rifle over several weeks – is a Sorcerer tale.  A teenage boy in Alabama was going through hell, and none of the adults in his life would give him the help he needed.  In his desperation, he created a demon in the form of his childhood hero: a revered uncle who had just died in Afghanistan.    A demon with a Desire to protect the boy, and a Need to kill.  The demon hunted down and shot the boy’s tormentor, but it didn’t end there.  As more bullies and less-favourite teachers turned up dead, the boy realized that he had endangered his whole town.  He tried to unsummon the demon, but it proved too strong.  That’s when it kidnapped him, stole a car, and took the killing spree on the road.

The boy struggled between his fear of discovery and his fear of the murderous fiend in the shape of his uncle.  He nudged the roadtrip towards the nation’s capital, hoping to be captured there.  Once, he mastered himself long enough to telephone for help.  It was a few more days before the authorities caught up with the pair.  They couldn’t have subdued the demon without the boy’s help.

What really happened between their arrest in 2002 and the demon’s “execution” in 2009, we’ll never know.

– – –

The setting-and-character generation session is still a week away, so this is how I exercise my creative energy (and exorcise my obsession).

I’ve just finished re-reading the Annotated Sorcerer, the re-issue of the Sorcerer rulebook complete with the author’s extensive observations and comments on 15+ years of play (his and ours) and discussion on The Forge forums.  It’s a great resource.  I still wish Ron Edwards had updated or rewritten the rulebook, because finding the definitive version of a rule requires perusing both the original text and the nearby notations.  But the annotations taken together comprise a master class in running/playing Sorcerer, and in Forge-style play.  Valuable, fascinating reading.

Since our game’s scenario will be based on the characters’ kickers, this (re-reading the rulebooks, and finding sorcerous tales in pop culture and current events) is the only “prep” that I can do.

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This is my pitch for a new game of Sorcerer that I’m putting together.  It will be unique in a couple of ways.  First, the pitch, which was aimed at players who are totally unfamiliar with the Sorcerer RPG:

“Know this: all the traditions, cultures, rituals, and bodies of knowledge surrounding what we call magic or the occult are wrong. It is hogwash, flimflam, swindlery, and lies. But even so, here and now in the modern world, there are perhaps several dozen sorcerers in existence. They do summon demons and bind them to their will. They do have an inkling, although no surety, about the unnatural laws.

You are one of them.”  –Ron Edwards, Sorcerer (rulebook)

Sorcerer is a game that explores “what do you WANT, and how far are you willing to go to get it?” As you can imagine, summoning and bargaining with demons can be… hazardous.  There is no secret school of magic, no accepted body of sorcerous knowledge. Besides your fellow PCs, you maybe know one other sorcerer. You’re pretty much on your own in dealing with these crafty, extra-planar fuckers. You have no magic, no powers of your own, except the ability to summon, bind and banish demons. But demons can give you almost any power imaginable – for a price. Want to be invulnerable to weapons? Want to be able to fly? Want a slavering beast that’ll tear apart your enemies? No problem, as long as you can pay their price. Need more? Demons will give you all the power you want. They are the ultimate loan-sharks.

Why Sorcerer kicks ass:

  • Combat is flexible, cinematic and fast. A fight usually resolves within 5-10 minutes, and with serious consequences.
  • Players have lots of creative input. By the choices you make for your PC during character creation, YOU basically tell ME what you want to see and do in the game. And then I go and create a situation based on your characters.
  • Your creative control continues throughout the game. The GM does not plan an adventure from beginning to end; he runs the world and provides opposition, but YOU take the story wherever you want to.
  • A demon can be almost anything: a red, pointy-tailed devil, a kid’s imaginary friend, a parasite that lives in your gut, an intelligent magic item, a rogue AI, etc..
  • The system is fairly simple, I can teach it as we go. No homework will be assigned. 😉

What do you think? Want to see if you can use the ultimate users, and come out on top?

The pitch worked, the players are IN, and I can’t wait to get started.  Why this game will be unique (for me):

  • The players are traditional D&D players who are willing to try something new.  They tend to play very dramatically and collaboratively, but are unused to rules sets that support that kind of play directly.
  • I’ve run Sorcerer in Melniboné and in 1941 Casablanca, I’ve played Sorcerer in Mu, but I’ve never played or run it straight-up, by the book, in the here-and-now, as this game will be.
  • I’ve always used the relationship-map method of scenario creation.  This time, I’m just going to go with the advice in the core book.  I think this will bring maximal focus on the PCs’ kickers.

I look forward to introducing these players to Forge-style play.  They’re pretty pro-active players already, so I don’t think it’ll be much of a culture shock.  And I look forward to going in with an open mind, hearing their character concepts, awesoming-up their kickers, and then taking a week to come up with a scenario based entirely on that.

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2014 is turning out to be a really, really good year for new games.  Not only is Vincent Baker actively and publicly developing the next Apocalypse World game, and so far it looks brilliant; but Ron Edwards (of Sorcerer fame) is developing and publishing a new RPG!  The latter, called Circle of Hands, Kickstartered in March and is due to be published by the end of the year.  From now until the end of the summer, Ron is running an open playtest of the working draft.  What a great opportunity, not just to get a sneak preview of a favourite designer’s latest game, but also to participate in game development with him!  I grabbed the playtest document and assembled a few friends to play it with me.

Circle of Hands is a gritty story-now RPG set in a fictional iron-age land that culturally and technologically resembles Northen Europe around 1000CE.  Not castles but walled towns.  Not kings but chieftains.  Not swords but spears.  There are no non-human races, but there are some fantastic monsters.  The combat mechanics aim to be fast, simple and brutal while bringing a measure of realism never before seen in a fantasy RPG.  And there is magic, oh is there magic.  Gone is the false choice of muscles or brains; if you want to wield magic, you’d better be strong enough.  There are no skinny bookish spellcasters in this harsh land.  Wizards mutter spells through gritted teeth, between spear thrust and shield bash.

Mitch, Peter and Christian stepped up to try out the game with me (David also volunteered, but due to interference by Real Life never actually made it to a session).  They really threw themselves into the true spirit of playtesting.  Although I offered to teach them the rules at the table, they all read the playtest doc ahead of the first session.  They gamely tried the different character options, and worked to test all the mechanics in play.  And best of all, they gave good post-game discussion and feedback.  All of our comments were enthusiastically received by Ron on the Adept Press forum, and lead to some very interesting conversations.  Our names will be in the published game.  We played three sessions in total, and it was a great experience.

What’s the game like?  As promised, fast and brutal.  A scenario is meant to be started and finished in one night, which we usually achieved without having to rush.  The game has an interesting scenario-generation mechanic for the GM, which doesn’t take long at all and results in some very charged situations.  It’s a story-now game, so the GM isn’t meant to plan out what happens.  He creates the initial conditions (location, problem, some NPCs), and then plays to find out what happens.  Game play includes a mandatory social roll for every PC/major-NPC interaction, which strongly influences how things proceed.  This is great, because it makes it impossible for the GM to plan what will happen in a scenario, and leads to some very interesting unexpected situations.

Besides the above, the game stands out for two reasons: the combat mechanics and the magic rules.

Combat mechanics

Whenever you attack OR are attacked, you enter a “clash” with your opponent.  You each roll attack and defense at once, and either one of you can injure the other.  You also get to decide how far you bias your action towards attack or defense.  And then there’s the Advantage die; one and only one character in each clash gets an extra die based on the immediate tactical situation.  There are no rounds, and what we would traditionally call the initiative order is very dynamic.  Whenever you attack or fight back, you go to the end of the initiative order.  If you get attacked a lot, you might never get to initiate any actions, but you could still be doing a lot of damage.  Any time, you can spend a point of Brawn to skip to the front of the line.  But don’t be a spendthrift: Brawn is also your damage modifier, your hit points AND your spell points!  In practice, all this meant for some very exciting combat scenes full of rapid reversals of fortune.  The mechanics are just complex enough to demand quick and strategic thinking.

Magic rules

All PCs use magic.  Wizard PCs have access to all of the spells; yes, all of them, right from the start.  Non-wizards select just a few spells for their repertoires.  There are two types of magic: White and Black.  As you might expect, White is all about healing and purity, and Black is demons and necromancy.  But don’t make the mistake of calling them Good and Evil; they’re both terrible.  White magic run amok will purify your village right out of existence, erasing it as surely as a horde of undead will.  All NPC wizards are devoted to one source of magic or the other, and the war between White and Black magic is the scourge of the setting world.  The PCs are unique in that they alone have sworn to use both kinds of magic in balance.  Spellcasting expends your Brawn attribute (as mentioned above), and using too much magic of one colour has permanent consequences.

Circle of Hands has a few other unique spins on the way we role-play.  I won’t try to get into them all now.  Overall, we really enjoyed the game, and as GM I was forced to practice some new techniques.  We and other playtesters did manage to find a couple of leaks in the rules.  Ron is currently re-writing and reformulating several parts of the game.  I look forward to playing it again soon; and to eventually receiving the finished product.

-J

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As the GM, what you need in your hands for the next session is a list of Bangs and a pile of “Assets” (NPCs, monsters, demons, locations and items).  Here’s how you get there.

1. Review Player-Characters’ actions in the previous session.  What do you think they’ll do next?

  • List any new Assets you will need to support what the players (probably) want to do.
    Just list them for now.
  • Think up some more Bangs that you can use to add pressure to their current situations and plans.
    • List any new Assets that you’ll need to support those Bangs.

2. Think about each important NPC in turn (including PCs’ demons). (more…)

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First session was way fun!  I posted a synopsis here in the AP* section of The Forge (*Actual Play), along with some analysis.  Go have a look, and see why we’re all so looking forward to Session 2!

-Johnny 0.

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One week left til game time.   Here is the third and final player-character for our impending game of Sorcerer.  Setting: Casablanca 1940. This is pretty much all Ry’s own work.  He also gave me a long list of Serge’s family members, colleagues and acquaintances, as well as an idea for a first in-game scene involving… well, you’ll see!  Thanks Ry!

Serge Denis Molière

Serge is a great big fire marshall, captain of one of the larger fire halls in the city. He has a well-deserved reputation for being a tireless hero and hard worker, putting the safety of children before any other concern.

Several months ago, Serge was trapped in a partially-collapsed building, and despite his prodigious strength was unable to save two young children that he had been leading to safety. Near death from smoke inhalation, Serge spotted a rat running impossibly across a pane of glass and escaping through a tiny hole in the wall. The rat was a part of the demon Tachyorychtes, and the thoughts would eat at Serge’s mind for the following few months, when he struck a bargain with a German doctor by the name of von Braun.

The rat/demon has abilities that help Serge to rescue people from burning buildings: it confers the ability to “see” structural strength, material stresses and weak points. Its Need is to see beautiful things destroyed (in fire or otherwise).

Demon: Tachyorychtes, the Rat.

Wife: Anna Molière (née Godechaux)

Kicker

Serge is Catholic. His wife Anna has converted to Catholicism and attends church with him and takes communion.

A few weeks after binding the rat Tachyorychtes (‘Tack’), Serge was asked by his Jewish in-laws to help them fix something at their bookshop, and to bring his tools. Naturally, Serge agreed, like any good son-in-law, although he puzzled at their insistence that he come alone on a particular Saturday afternoon.

When Serge arrived he found most of the Godechaux men were gathered. Serge was asked to help make sure that nothing was damaged as the family set to clearing out “an old unused back room in the basement.”

Despite the lies, the intent of the enterprise was clear: to open up a new wall in the basement of the Godechaux bookstore. Expanding Jewish businesses was already banned in Casablanca by French decree, and while Serge found the law disturbing he was angry at his father-in-law for drawing him into something illegal.

Nevertheless, Serge carefully inspected the structural integrity of the house, and determined that opening up the new wall was probably safe. Always cautious when working with civilians, he sent the various Godechaux kin out of the house so he could get to work.

Serge used Tack’s conferred materials sight to discern where the weak spot was, and realized one area was particularly vulnerable to being struck. What Serge didn’t realize was that he was aiming straight at the entrance to a prison that had been Containing a powerful demon.

An inky blackness leapt from the hole, and the room grew dark. Serge fell to the ground, disoriented, and tried to get his bearings, looking for the light of the door upstairs. When he looked to that light, he saw something cross his field of vision – something like a large pile of rope suddenly uncoiling as if the other end was tied to a cannonball. When Serge tried to stand, he felt something heavy on his back, and when he tried to look he briefly saw something – again, like a rope but with hooks protruding from it, which faintly glowed red, like embers. Serge then blacked out.

The next thing Serge heard was his brother-in-law, Denis, calling to ask if he was alright. Serge picked himself up and saw that a corridor, several feet long, had yawned behind the spot he struck. The stone walls appeared to be the foundations – or even the first floor – of a much older construction. After this discovery, completing the tunnel to the adjacent building was trivial, and Serge went home scraped and exhausted but also disgusted with himself. Serge resolved to speak to the Doctor von Braun first thing in the morning.

*   *   *

Ry originally gave me a much more explosive kicker, but later decided that we should save the good part for in-game.  Can’t wait 🙂 -Johnny 0.

GM’s Post Script: Animated-Object Demons

The rope demon poses an interesting question: how do you spec an animated-object demon in game terms?  I first browsed the demon abilities for one that would allow a demon to animate an object.  The rulebook explicitly states that the ability Warp can not confer animation, and an Object demon with the Travel ability just relocates when nobody’s looking, the way your car keys seem to do.  Then I found an answer on The Forge:

“I’d go with Inconspicuous [Type,] with the specific limitations about abilities of Passers (i.e. no conferring to others). You, um, do remember that in The Sorcerer’s Soul, I’m pretty clear that the demon Types are customizable and blend-able, right?” -Ron Edwards, Dec.10 2002

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Eight days til game time.  Here is the second of three player-characters.  Mike wrote us a real first-chapter for this one!  The section in block-quotes is all Mike’s work; so is the emblem.  Thanks Mike!

Jacques Galliard

This French veteran from The Great War has been many things in life, most recently a resistance fighter in Paris.   His resistance group was attacked and decimated, but Jacques managed to capture the German agent responsible, a man with strange powers and an even stranger book. The man was an agent of a secret Nazi working group, the NGF (Nazi Geheimnis Forschungsgruppe, or Nazi Occult Research team), which explained the unusual emblem on his jacket. The book was full of incomprehensible diagrams and nonsensical instructions for dealing with impossible things. For two weeks Jacques hid in the catacombs of Paris and interrogated the German, who finally gave up the secrets of sorcery. He admitted to being the only member of the team to have any success with the formulae in the book.

NGF Emblem

NGF Emblem

Jacques called up an enormously powerful combat demon, the sight of which horrified the German sorcerer more than any threats that Jacques had uttered in the preceding two weeks. Jacques bound the demon to himself while the NGF agent cried in terror. At that moment, the rest of the Nazi occult research team found them. It was a massacre, thanks to the demon, and Jacques escaped with the book. He fled to Casablanca where he hopes to figure out this book, this demon and what he’s done. Meanwhile he wants to keep the NGF off his trail, keep his demon under control, and continue the resistance.

As a result of the binding ritual, Jacques bears a wound in his upper left arm that will not heal and bleeds continuously (his telltale). In Casablanca he saw a doctor, von Braun, and they recognized each other as sorcerers. Von Braun, being a learned man, was able to make better sense of the contents of the book.

Demon: Skar

Inconspicuous demon born for combat.  Doesn’t confer any abilities.  Has Armor, Big, Fast, Vitality, Shadow and Special Damage: bladed limbs.  Usually he hides in the master’s shadow, but when he attacks he becomes visible as a four-limbed horror with blades instead of feet.  S8/W9/L6/P9.

  • Desire is strife and warfare.
  • Need: Drink blood.  Usually of its dead victims, but it can sustain itself from Jacques blood via the wound that won’t close (1 lasting penalty when it does this)

This is one demon that could really get out of hand…

The Book

The book Jacques acquired from the German NGF officer is entitled “Ruf zu den Waffen”, which translates as “A Call to Arms”, and details the practice of summoning and binding powerful demons. Physically, the book is like new (aside from some blood spatter on the cover), and has the looks of being mass-produced, like a textbook. The cover is made of black leather, with embossed red lettering for the title. There is no attributed author. On the inside cover is an authenticity and registration stamp (which incorporates the NGF emblem), labelling this copy as number 57 of 200, and signed by one Friedrich Förster. The book isn’t particularly thick, maybe 1/2-3/4 of an inch, with about 150 pages of heavy-weight paper, much of which is filled with diagrams and large type. Suffice it to say, if this is a compilation of German expertise on demons, even they don’t know much.

Casablanca

Upon arrival in Casablanca, Jacques found himself a tiny apartment in the poor/rundown area of town, hoping to lay low and remain unnoticed. For money, he found himself a job at the docks. His weak arm prevented him from doing any physical labour, but he proved himself to be a competent clerical assistant. When he managed to contact the resistance in Casablanca, they immediately saw the usefulness of his position, and he put himself to work altering shipping manifests and such, so as to move contraband in and out of the city. The goods tend to remain in the shipyards, in their shipping containers, before they’re loaded on trains or other ships. Because the records have been altered, no one bothers to check, and some clever misdirection is used to avoid government inspections from finding certain crates.

Certain goods needed immediately by the Casablanca resistance (weapons, etc), are unloaded in the middle of the night and moved to a variety of basements and tool-sheds all over the city. Of course, some caches have been discovered by local authorities, with unfortunate results, but the resistance would rather lose a few weapons (and a few people) than keep all their eggs in one basket.

One such cache can be found at Le Château Rouillé, a small, well-maintained pub in a middle-class area of town. The basement serves as both storehouse and meeting room for the resistance. The bar is owned and operated by one Brigitte Laval, a matronly woman who sympathizes with the resistance, and thus turns a blind eye to their activities. She maintains that the men who meet in her basement are there to play poker.

The meetings usually involve just six men, including Jacques. His compatriots names were Emmanuel Dubois, Bertrand Boucher, Anton Bichette, Maurice Gauthier, and Pascal Jourdain.

Kicker

The day was much like every day that had past since Jacques had arrived in Casablanca. Wake, eat breakfast, shower, change bandages, work, eat lunch, falsify some records, work, eat dinner, read the book, sleep. It was Wednesday, though. On Wednesdays, he attended the meeting after dinner, before reading the book. This Wednesday was supposed to be much like every Wednesday that had past since Jacques had arrived in Casablanca.

He left his apartment wearing a leather jacket that was too light for the cool weather, this Wednesday evening. His left hand rested comfortably in his left jacket pocket, taking some of the weight of his arm from his shoulder. His right pocket contained a money clip, a tarnished apartment key, and a deck of cards. Tucked into his waistline was a stolen German Luger, with which he had killed four German soldiers. Also with him was his shadow, with which he had killed twenty-nine Germans and an innocent farmer who once showed him kindness.

He entered Le Château Rouillé with the usual lack of fanfare. Wednesdays were slow nights, and there were only a handful of patrons in the bar, each sitting alone, each lost in both their miseries and their drinks. Brigitte, wiping clean a table, nodded to him, and said “You’re late, Monsieur Galliard. I believe your friends have started without you.” Jacques returned the nod, and went down the stairs.

The door was closed. Light from beneath, but no sound, no movement. No sign that there were five men in the room, conspiring against the Germans and pretending to play poker. Immediately, Jacques withdrew his Luger, slowly opened the door. Beyond it, five men sat around a poker table, with room for one more. Each was slumped in his seat, not moving, not breathing. In front of each man was a pile of poker chips and a hard of playing cards. In front of the seat that would have been Jacques was a card of a different sort: red and emblazoned with the symbol of the NGF.

Dun-dun-daaah!! 🙂

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