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This is the Sorcerer Character Sheet design I use when running Sorcerer. Sometimes I switch out the fonts for different settings. It contains a design element that I think is invaluable for Sorcerer play.
You’ll note that in the Sorcerer book the character sheet is divided into two pages — commonly referred to as The Front of the Character Sheet and The Back of the Character Sheet.
The problem is that I’ve seen posts time and time again on the internet about how both GMs and Players stopped looking at the back of the character sheet once play began. “We forgot about it,” is a statement (in one form or another) I’ve read time and again as I’ve scoured the Internet for points where people trip up on the game.
Why is it a problem? Because “The Back of the Character Sheet” should be a huge proportion of active play.
The rules don’t particularly emphasis this in the Sorcerer book. On page 34 you’ll find this:
“The diagram on the back of the character sheet may be used to list all the people, places, demons, and things associated with the character. Such items associated with Cover, for instance, are listed in the Cover section. The real use of the diagram, however, lies in placing the written items near to one another insofar as they are related in story terms. For instance, a sorcerous mentor would certainly be listed in Lore, but it might also be placed up against the boundary with the Kicker section, in which right across from it, written ‘first mission with deliberate murder.’”
On the other hand, on page 46 you’ll find these words, perhaps the most important in the book:
“Sorcery and demonics are just fantasy; real pain and triumph reside in the real human heart. Stories are about people, and there should be lots of people in the game-world with names, problems, and interlocking lives, many of which present problems for the players.”
Many of the “people” those sentences refer to will be created by the Players during character creation and they will be marked down inside that box on the back of the character sheet. It is from this box that both the GM and the Players can refer to when looking for inspiration for both game prep outside of play and inspiration for scene material during play.
But, of course, people forget about the box. They don’t use the box. So everyone at the table often loses track of all the terrific non-player characters and details the Players created during play.
Why do they forget about the box? Because the box is on the back of the character sheet.
So, I’ve taken the box and moved it to the front of the Character Sheet. I want everything that matters in front of the Players when they play. And everything in that box matters a lot. It’s certainly as valuable as the scores for Stamina and Will, and just as valuable as the Demons and the Character’s Price.
The details a Player notes down in that box under Kicker, Cover, Price and Lore are a list of all the people, places and objects the Player has decided really matter to the character. If those aren’t listed — and if the GM and the Players don’t tap them — then all that is left is a lot of jurryrigging by the GM to keep things moving and a lot of plot and mystery about some Abstraction the GM is using to keep the Players engaged.
But the truth is, the GM doesn’t have to do much to keep the Players engaged if all the great fictional details that they created around their are character listed right there on the sheet in front of everyone for easy reference. If a Player writes down “Wife, Jenny” under the Kicker, then the GM knows to keep arcing the PC’s Kicker moments in a variety of ways through the game. If a Player writes down “Killed Son” under Lore, no matter what that means and in what context, it means that the Player wants touch on the loss of the son, what the son means in relations to the sorcerous power he’s gained, and will most likely be sparked to creativity if the GM offers him opportunities of atonement, chances to perhaps raise the son from the dead, and so on.
The point isn’t to know exactly how to use the character and details on the sheet at the start of play, but to use them as points of reference as play continues.
By arcing back to the details on the sheet, the GM keeps the narrative details from spinning out of control and across the solar system. The details become the “anchor points” for play. The GM can loop back to them, juggle them, create new permutations of how the Player interacts with them via his character.
Note that this one of the telltales that this game is not like other games written before 1999. In most games there are lots of stats and numbers and if the player wants, he can list some NPCs somewhere on the back. And, often, players new to Sorcerer use it exactly that way. But in Sorcerer the elements are somewhat reversed. There are very few numerical values. The focus of the game is going to be in part those details written in that chart — which now, on this Character Sheet, is dead center on the page.
Finally, Ron suggests that items that are associated on the sheet be written near each other. Notice what this does: It turns the chart into a kind of bullseye. The more an item is associated with items from other categories, the closer those items will move to the center of the chart.
Don’t obsess on this, of course. There will be plenty of character and demons and objects and so on the GM creates that will also intrigue the Players. But the GM should never forget that what the Player has written down on that chart is what the Player has already fallen for and is interested in. And the more weight it has within the fiction of Sorcerer, the closer it will be to the center – which makes it all the more juicy to play with.
All this matters, of course, because when we’re meeting to make stories, we do it on a weekly or so basis. We need tools to remind us what our focus is. A character sheet in a game like Sorcerer is like the notes a novelist or screenwriter has on hand, checking them on occasion so he stays on track with what the project is about. And, in Sorcerer, all those relationships a Player Character has to other people — that’s what the game is really about.