Archive for the ‘Sorcerer’ Category

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A Kicker in the teeth

2 September, 2013

I’m still re-reading the annotated Sorcerer book, and it makes me go “Ah!” and “Oh!” here and there. I read the PDF when I got my hands on it, but it’s much easier and satisfying to read the paper version. This time I’m only reading the annotations on the right-hand pages, without reading the original text.

The Kicker

The Kicker in Sorcerer is a player-authored “fictional crux point” of a player character in the game. That’s the description in the annotations, not the original text, which was a bit more opague. To help Sorcerer players/GMs to understand what this actually means, Ron has a nice three-level dissection of a Sorcerer player character:

  • A person
  • A person who is a sorcerer (ie. who actively summoned a demon)
  • A sorcerer who faces a Kicker

In the context of the game, these three are entirely separate. The classic thing to do as a Sorcerer player (I’ve done it) is to come up with a Kicker that can then be approached by the “person who is a sorcerer”-part of the character. Which means merely continuing the character backstory from character generation.

Ron’s game is much more clever than that, and his notes about Kickers made me realise that. See, a fresh Sorcerer player character has made do with the damned demon he/she has summoned (on purpose!) recently or long ago. The Kicker is a punch to the character’s  life as a Sorcerer, and that’s why it’s interesting. So, paraphrasing Ron, a Kicker is not merely more of the same. It’s a new situation, and it’s unavoidable. Bang. In your face.

Spiking the Kicker

A Kicker can and may be spiked by the GM. I think this is a lesson learnt from many years of Sorcerer practice, and Ron is making it clear in his annotations that’s it’s better to spike a weak Kicker than to ask the player to rewrite it.

The example in the annotations is great. The Kicker is “just released from prison”. Which works perfectly fine, fx. for a Sorcerer who has managed his/her prison life being a Sorcerer.

The spike comes when this character discovers the books in his new workplace are cooked. How will he/she react?

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Just play the NPCs

31 August, 2013

My my, it’s been a while, quite a while, since I posted on this blog. I apologise, and will try not to let it happen again, but a lot of stuff has been happening in my life. Mainly, I have moved country, quit my day job, and I am now working as a full-time freelancer in a.o.  translation, copywriting, corporate communications and content marketing. Do get in touch if you need those services.

NPC Court by Reebok

I’m reading the Annotated Sorcerer book by Ron Edwards, and it’s great, just great. There are a few things that really surprised me, or should I say: made me understand the game better. I might come back to some of them in later posts, but for now I’ll delve on what Ron writes about NPCs in the section about Bangs (pp. 78-78ii), because it’s important. And it’s one of my pet peeves, so hold on to your horses.

Ron’s very straightforward advice sounds: “Just play the NPCs,” but for some reason the average gamer brain doesn’t compute that. At all. And what the game brain doesn’t compute, it misinterprets.

The funny thing is that’s it’s very simple, and I think Ron makes it very clear in the Sorcerer annotations. Basically, you play an NPC as you would any character – don’t adjust the character’s actions to accommodate “the story” or whatever.

PLAY. THE NPC. AS A CHARACTER. What does he/she want? Forget the fuck about “the story” (if you have a prepared story/’scenario’ in mind, you’re REALLY fucked), and just focus on the NPC. I have no idea why that would be hard to comprehend.

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Sorcerer: tuned and custom painted

4 January, 2013

The year 2013 has started quite well, since Ron Edwards has finally launched his Kickstarter funding for the annotated version of his seminal Sorcerer game. The book itself, which is a compilation of the core book plus the three highly excellent supplements, is ready, and the funding is for the cover art by an artist called Thomas Denmark, which I didn’t know until now.

I have written quite a bit about Sorcerer on this blog, and it remains my favorite game. It’s a so-called “emergent story” game, meaning that the plot is not prepped beforehand, but evolves from and is driven by the actions of the players, and in a very clever way, I have to add. This is hardly shocking these days, but 10 years ago, or even five years ago? Holy shit, did it freak people out. It was wonderful (and scary) watching some people struggling with the concept of not having a GM decide events, happenings and decisions in the game, whether beforehand or during the game. I have played with more than one group of people where not a single one of the players were able to get this apparently mind boggling concept, mainly, I have to admit, due to their rather prejudiced views on what roleplaying is or should be.

If you are interested in what’s actually going on when we roleplay, and how game design is able to support it, there’s no way that you can ignore Sorcerer. And subsequently the list of games since that have borrowed ideas, mechanics, concepts etc. from Sorcerer is as long as my arm.

That being said, Sorcerer is a fairly traditional game with a GM, who controls scene setting, NPCs etc., and players each controlling a player character. On the face of it. Unleash it, and whoa!

Come on, take the red pill.

This rabbit hole goes deep.

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Seven Games

26 December, 2012

There’s a #7RPGs thing going on Google+, and I posted this regarding the seven RPGs I’ve played the most since back in the 80s. I’ve added bits and pieces, plus a comment on games not mentioned.

1. Call of Cthulhu (4th Ed)
Also the RPG I’ve played the most of all, in terms of sessions and hours played. I grew tired of its repetitive nature some time in the early 90s.

2. Via Prudentia
Danish rolemaster/GURPS inspired modern roleplaying game with crunch on top. As with most things back in the day, we mostly hand-waved the rules and GM fiated the shit out of it.

A scene from Jyllands Mørke Hjerte (The Dark Heart of Jutland), illustrated by Palle Schmidt, one of Fusion’s authors. The scenario was included in the source book Som Landet Ligget (The Lay of the Land).

3. Fusion
Danish near future private detective game – set in 2012. Rules-wise it’s a complete mess based on a D6 version of another rules mess: Storyteller. I still love it, despite its flaws, and I’ve been meaning to create functional rules for it more than once. One of the best looking games EVER.

4. Sorcerer
My desert island game of choice. The most intense game of all, and hence not everyone’s cup of tea. Infinitely adaptable to your own needs. Probably the game I’ve had the most bad sessions in, partly due to my own limitations, partly due to the players’ unwillingness to engage.

5. Dogs in the Vineyard
A masterpiece of focused game design, built on some of the ideas in Sorcerer, but written as a very usable manual. I’ve never had a bad session of Dogs.

6. Fiasco
Freeform, delightful, fun and super quick to set up and play. Often slides over the gonzo cliff, but if you can keep it on a leash, it’s very very good.

7. Primetime Adventures
This is the game you want to play with your writer friends (if they are not prepared to buy into Sorcerer, that is!. It delivers. In spades. And in other suits as well. A very easy game tool to get away from your standard geeky RPG trappings. We played pensioners at a care home in one of my favorite and most touching campaigns ever.

I haven’t mentioned two other games we played quite a lot in the early days: StarWars D6 and the original Shadowrun.

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Life after The Forge

2 June, 2012

If you are a story gamer and have been sleeping under a rock or something for a number of years, this may come as a surprise: the old HQ for indie RPGs The Forge closed down yesterday, 1 June 2012. Although it was always the plan to close it down after it had served its purpose, it still feels weird to me.

When I moved to the UK ten years ago, I was pretty disillusioned by roleplaying. I was so fed up with prepared and pre-written stories and scenarios that were the norm back then, and I simply couldn’t understand why gaming was so unsatisfactory and no-fun for me. I gave away or threw out most of my roleplaying games books, and thought that I had maybe just grown out of it. Bear in mind that I discovered roleplaying games in 1986, when I was 23 years old, so it was never a teenage thing for me.

Things changed, and I remember it like this: after a while I began trawling the internet for alternative games. I eventually came across a game called Dust Devils, which I bought as a PDF and read, I think with my jaw dangling in amazement. This was different, alright, to everything I had encountered so far, but I also couldn’t understand it. At that time I was deeply convinced that a roleplaying game is run by a game master, who has pre-planned “a story” in which the players get to act to a greater or lesser extent.

Via Dust Devils I arrived at The Forge some time in 2004, and started reading the articles there. Ron Edward’s System Does Matter simply blew my mind, and I quickly ordered his game Sorcerer, which is still my favorite game today. Now I understood why my gaming was unhappy gaming – I was looking for something else (without a clue what that was or how to communicate it) than the people I was playing with, and this clash made our gaming sessions wildly dysfunctional and painful.

I thank The Forge and all the marvellous people and discussions there for saving my gaming life.

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Nerdinburgh II

5 October, 2011

Nerdinburgh is the most private of conventions. To be able to attend you have to be invited. By me. The first time I organised it was a couple of years ago, in my house, and while it was totally awesome, the venue wasn’t ideal.

This is not Photoshopped. This is real!

Now, this time around we have gone all the way. And I do mean all the way. With the help of Joe and Debbie, we are collectively renting the Old Observatory House, on Calton Hill right in the centre of Edinburgh. The observatory, now long obsolete due to light pollution, is still there, right next to it. But be envious, be very envious. This is the awesomest of roleplaying locations you’ll ever see. The only bummer is the number of people it actually accommodates – sleeps 8, plays perhaps 16.

We have people travelling in from Sweden, China, and indeed Milton Keynes. You will cry yourself to sleep tonight just because you are not part of it, so apologies for that right away.

What’s happening at Nerdinburgh II? Well, for starters we have a Mechaton extravaganza on Sunday, and there have been announced Sorcerer games, Apocalypse World, actual copies of Matt Machell’s new game The Agency straight from the printer, playtests of Sunshine, Crossroads and Vincent Baker’s new game Murderous Ghosts. It’s crazy.

One of the playing rooms. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe it.

Nerdinburgh is also very special because the participants not only pay to attend, they prepare gourmet food to bring along. You think I’m kidding, probably, but no, it’s actually true. One participant wrote in an email yesterday: “I’m currently cooking some duck legs. If someone local could swing by a chinese supermarket and pick up a pack of frozen pancakes for duck, and some hoi sin sauce, that would be great. Cucumber and spring onions, too. Thank’ee kindly.”

If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.

Oh, we’ll be tweeting and podcasting from the event, hopefully. Stay tuned.

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Play to find out

18 April, 2011

I’m re-reading Apocalypse World, among other things, to prepare for this week’s game, where I’m MC’ing a local face-to-face game. It’s a marvellous book, up there with another favorite of mine, the Sorcerer book, or books, rather. You may like or dislike the book’s genre-appropriate language like “barf forth Apocalyptica” or “go aggro”, I was not annoyed the least by it, but the play advice in here is pure gold.

Commit yourself

One of the basics for playing Apocalypse World is the phrase “Play to find out”, which shouldn’t surprise anyone with a Story Now preference. Apocalypse World is a game design firmly rooted in Ron Edward’s old essay Narrativism: Story Now, which by itself completely changed my own gaming habits. I went back and re-read the essay as well. It’s dated, yes, mostly because we have more language and knowledge acquired through discussion and actual play than nearly 10 years ago.

Vincent writes: “Play to find out: there’s a certain discipline you need in order to MC Apocalypse World. You have to commit yourself to the game’s fiction’s own internal logic and causality, driven by the players’ characters. You have to open yourself to caring what happens, but when it comes time to say what happens, you have to set what you hope for aside.”

Couldn’t be much clearer, could it now?