Archive for October, 2008

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[Sorcerer Blood Simple] Abattoir Blues 2

21 October, 2008

Whoa, we met tonight for the second session of our Sorcerer game, and man did a lot happen. I should say that we played in a pub in Edinburgh, and that’s a first for me. It worked surprisingly well – we had a nice booth all the way back at the pub, the music wasn’t loud, and there were generally very few other people in that part of the pub anyway.

The first “real” session of play is a tough task for the GM. (I consider prep and character generation as part of play as well, I talking about when we actually start playing out the Kickers) Everything is ready to go and this session is really about getting the whole thing rolling. I think we managed to do that splendidly for Pooka’s and Malcolm’s characters, but it was harder going with Myles’s screenwriter, whose main motivation, according to Myles himself when Malc asked him directly, was self preservation. I might not have pushed hard enough on this one, and maybe I didn’t realise how easily Myles could slide off on his Kicker. That said, Myles was trying to play a more quiet and toned down Kicker compared to the other ones. It was a deliberate choice to have a calmer story line, but I don’t think we managed quite to kick it into motion.

I had 14 prepared Bangs and I used five of them in play. It’s obvious to me that storylines where the player is actively pursuing stuff, Bangs evolve by themselves. All in all we kept dice rolling to only significant situations, and we had a short but hectic conflict with four participants as the final scene for the evening.

So many things happended, I might already have forgotten some of them, so help me out guys if I missed important stuff. Let’s begin with Myles’s character Brent Brown, blacklisted screenwriter. His Kicker was coming home and finding an untitled anonymous screenplay on his desk, with a note asking him to put his name on it. The script is a pretty accurate a badly disguised re-telling of the period at Paramount Pictures while Brent worked there, including when he hired somebody to kill the starlite Deborah. Brent gets to work and rewrites most of the script, changes direct references, gives it an upbeat ending and sends it off to another production company and burns the original copy. Brent later got Johnny “The Eyes” to find out who sent the script and only managed to find out it was sent from someone at Paramount. Brent was also visited by to FBI agents investigating Deborah’s “disappearance”, one of which were agent Woodrow, who I got from Malcolm’s character sheet. Mr Johnson, head of Paramount, visited Brent in person and asked for the screenplay or at least find out who sent it.
I don’t think much more happened to Brent to be honest. The Bangs I used where
* FBI agents (from Chicago field office, maybe one of them is Clayton Woodrow) show Brant a photo of Deborah, the girl he had killed.
*Mr Johnson IN PERSON visits, clearly shaken, asking for the screenplay.

Walter Root, Malcolm’s character, started his day with finding six male, naked and gutted bodies hanging from meat hooks in the Schelling Bros Abattoir. And then Joshua Schelling, the boss himself, arrived. This was actually proposed by Malcolm, which was a very nice touch, and we had a great great scene where these two characters struggled with each other and themselves what to do, changing their minds again and again. In the middle of it all a photographer from Chicago Tribune arrives at takes a flash photo of the scene and was allowed to leave the scene in his car. Walter sort of convinces Schelling to get rid of the bodies while he himself takes of to meat with his scumbag, the mysterious Conductor, to arrange for the Chicago Tribune photographer to “disappear”. Malcolm failed his Humanity roll for that. Returning to the abattoir he learns that Schelling has instead drunk enough bourbon to pass out on his desk. The bodies are still hanging from the hooks and the first workings are arriving shortly. Here Walter decides to shred the six bodies in the big meat grinder and Malcolm earn another Humanity roll, which he makes this time. (We later learn that Schelling actually tried contacting a dirty cop – Luntz – apparebtly to take care of it all. This was a magnificent complication.)
Walter ends his fantastic day getting beat up by two Italian mobsters after a union meeting at a bar. This was the final conflict scene where Pooka’s cop was also involved because he was after the two mobsters. I used the following Bangs for Walter:
* Wayne, photographer from Chicago Tribune has been tipped off to come to the abattoir.
* Workers union rep asks for access to abattoir outside opening hours.

Phew. Leon Luntz, played by Pooka, arrives at work and finds his partner killed, executed, in front of the police station. Luntz promptly leaves the scene and goes on a desperate hunt for information among his contacts and informants. It turns out that it’s been a while since he has done any real police work. Pooka made up some great NPCs on the fly, whom Luntz threatened and intmidated without much result. Luntz also has a brief encounter in a men’s room with James Sawyer, Internal Affairs, who offers him to spill the beans on his partner Bill to go free himself. Luntz’s answer is to slam Sawyer against the wall. Thereafter he calls his Scumbag Carl “Cutter” and asks him to “take care” of agent Sawyer, which I interpreted as “kill” and which earned Pooka a Humanity check – which he failed. All three player characters are now down to 3 Humanity.
Luntz eventually gets the message that Schelling was looking for him, too late of course. Last scene outside the bar where the union meeting is held, Luntz is shadowing the Italians (working for the “Torino Boys”) and leaps into action when the two gorillas start beating Walter Root up. I think we had a five round conflict where I had a chance to present the different aspect of that system to the players. Luntz takes a flesh wound himself when shot by one of the mobsters, but shoots one of them and manages to incapacitate the other. In the aftermath Walter manages to crawl away with one of the mobsters’ guns. The one that was fired at Luntz. The only bang I used for Luntz was:
* Offered by agent Sawyer to rat on Bill, and his own case will ‘disappear’.

I think I’ve recapped the bulk of the action. It was a pretty good session, the only thing I was dissatisfied with was not being able to kick Myles’s character into more problems and forcing harder decisions.

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Sorcerer Blood Simple: Abattoir Blues

14 October, 2008

I wake with the sparrows and I hurry off to work
The need for validation, babe, gone completely berserk
I wanted to be your Superman but I turned out such a jerk
I got the abattoir blues
I got the abattoir blues
I got the abattoir blues
Right down to my shoes
(Abattoir Blues, Nick Cave 2004)

We had our character generation session tonight, and I’m very hopeful. Not that I didn’t know, but I’ve got a killer group of players on my hand. In less than three hours we decided on setting and they came up with fantastic characters and ideas. I’m really looking forward to this. Malcolm owns the three first Sorcerer books, never played it but eager to try it out. Myles owns the book and played it once, unsuccessfully, in the past, and Pooka expressed a while ago that he wanted to give it a go as well.
We are playing Blood Simple, Judd Karlman’s adaption of Sorcerer. Malcolm suggested the 1950s, and someone, perhaps Pooka, said Chicago. And that was it. Here come the player characters.

Walther Root (created by Malcolm)
STA 2 (Whip-thin), WILL 4 (Too dumb to lie down), LORE 4, COVER 4 (Political radical), Price -1 (Reputation preceeds me), HUM 4. Telltale: parasitic twin.
Walther denied military service and is now working shitty jobs, unable to get anything decent. He’s currently working the worst shift at Shelling Bros Abattoir.
Walther’s Scumbag is The Conductor, a uniformed guy who takes people over to the wrong side of the tracks.
STA 5 WILL 6 LORE 4 POW 6. Desire: Everything running on time. Need: Names of those who disrupt the El. Abilities: Confuse, Shadow, Spec Dmg (like being hit by train), Travel. Telltale: Smell of ozone.
Kicker: Walther opens up abattoir at 4pm and finds eight naked, disembowelled corpses hanging from the overhead conveyor.

Brent Brown (created by Myles)
STA 3 (Muscle under the fat), WILL 3 (Big shot Ivy Leaguer), LORE 4 (Defrocked scholar), COVER 3 (Blacklisted screenwriter), Price -1 (Club foot), HUM 3. Telltale: Seven left toes.
Brent had a career in movies in LA, but is now struggling to to get any writing work due to allegations of subversiveness and communism. He hired a scumbag to get a girl killed.
Brent’s Scumbag is Johnny ‘the eyes’, a killer. STA 3, WILL 4 LORE 2, POW 4. Desire: Anger, Need: blood. Abilities: Warp(?), Cloak. Telltale: piercing eyes.
Kicker: Brent arrives at his apartment and finds a huge screenplay on the table, with only the name and title blank, and a note asking him to sign it as his own and he will be back in business.
Myles only wrote two things on the back of his character sheet, so I have to ask for some more during the coming week. Plus, Myles’s handwriting is as bad as my own, and a degree in cryptography would have been handy to make it easier to read his scribblings 😉

Detective Leon Luntz (created by Pooka)
STA 3 (Rough drinker, rough life), WILL 4 (Mad dog), LORE 3 (Tarnished badge), COVER 4 (Police Detective), Price -1 (low class). HUM 4. Telltale: Dead glare.
Leon is a smalltime corrupt cop, taking some extra income by protecting the girls in Madame Linda’s Cat House. He is also under investigation by the IA.
Leon’s Scumbag is Carl “Cutter” Brantano. STA 4, WILL 5, LORE 4, POW 5. Desire: Power. Need: Immunity from prosecution. Abilities: Hint, Armor, Big, Cloak. Telltale: Heavily scarred.
Kicker: Leon’s partner Det. Bill Torrence is tied up and shot execution-style in front of the police department.
I have a loose R-Map ready based on Chandler’s short story Goldfish, which I am now going to have a look at and see how these characters may or may not be hooked on to it. There’s certainly a lot of potential here, and forward motion from the get go. Neither of the players included any detailed family connections or close relatives…interesting.
After the players left last night, and I sat down to contemplate, and search for some pictures of 1950s Chicago, I remembered the album Abattoir Blues by Nick Cave, and the title seemed a natural fit.

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Catching up on my footdangling

10 October, 2008

I’m very excited. I’m playing Sorcerer next week. The group has agreed, or at least not protested against, playing something Ellroy-ish. You can’t mention Ellroy without saying crime fiction, and also his worthy predecessors Chandler, Cain and Hammett. More on Chandler later, but I can reveal this post’s title comes from him

I mentioned Judd Karlman’s SF Sorcerer in the last post, and I have had another of Judd’s ideas lying on my hard drive for a couple of years, his non-supernatural crime setting for Sorcerer, which I actually suggested to the group a couple of weeks ago.

The setting is called Blood Simple, which apparently derives from Hammett, but I know it from Coen’s hommage to the genre, their first film of the same name.

The big difference between Chandler and (late) Ellroy is the historical landscape and the politics. I like both, and whatever the players prefer I think we can accommodate. In Chandler the crook may be a low-life criminal or a wealthy retired businessman. In Ellroy he’s the DA, the FBI Director or the world’s richest man. So, lets see where the players, and player characters take it.

I am using one of Chandler’s short stories as inspiration for a relationship map, a technique Sorcerer’s author introduced in the book The Sorcerer’s Soul. The map establishes a web of characters and a backstory up until actual play begins. The story was pubishes in 1936 and is called “Goldfish”.

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Sorcerer scifi

7 October, 2008

There has been some talk about a “Sorcerer in Space” supplement in the past, but nothing has come of it. Then, suddenly, the last two weeks, no less than two different scifi applications of Sorcerer came along.

Christopher Kubasik found after fiddling with different approaches, that Sorcerer & Sword, the pulp fantasy version of the game, fitted incredibly well to realise his dream of making the good old Traveller game playable the way he wanted. Even if you are not interested in Traveller, or Sorcerer for that matter, there’s loads of good stuff in here on how to make a game do what you want it to do:  Traveller using rules from Sorcerer & Sword.

On another channel, Judd from the Sons of Kryos podcast presented his Solar System’s Demons: Sorcerer Science Fiction, a scifi inspired by Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels, Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, of which I have only read Altered Carbon. Again, wonderful stuff about the wheelings and dealings of the incredible Sorcerer system.

I’m always ready to give Sorcerer another go, and inspired by these two applications of the system, I have ceased the day and asked my current gaming group to play Sorcerer, probably in some Ellroy-related hellish setting.