PLAY SORCERER 3: The Players Don’t Know Where Their Characters Will End Up

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When we create a Character in Sorcerer, we create someone we care about.

First, there’s the person. Before the Character obtained Lore, he or she was just a person. A person like you and me. With hopes and ambitions and a heartbeat and passions. A desire for love or money or success or whatever. Make sure you respect this phase of brainstorming the Character. Don’t talk it on after the fact, after you’ve come up with your Demon and whatnot. Really think through, “Who is this person who does not have Lore? Who has not summoned up a Demon and bound it to him, feeding the Demons Needs?”

Because sooner or later this person is going to learn about Lore. He or she will do what is required to Contact, Summon and Bind a Demon. And the questions are: “Who was this person?” “How did she go about this?” “Why was she compelled to do it?”

We’re never going to play out this part of the game. It is part of the Character’s past. But it is vital to sort these items and facts and incidents out imaginatively, with color and detail and bits of story. Because they tell us so much about what mattered about the Character before he Bound a Demon. And only by knowing what matters to the Character independent of sorcery do we actually have a character.

So now we know what the circumstances were that compelled some person to dig into the rites and rituals of sorcery, the first Contact of a Demon, the first Summoning, and finally, the first Binding. Why? How? Binding scene and the roll will be played out, but all else is imagined.

Now we the person is a sorcerer—someone who has warped the very nature of reality to create something that does not in fact exist to get what he or she wants, to change the nature of reality.

This is the second phase of imaginatively creating a Character. Before play begins, the Character has been doing things. He or she has a relationship with a Demon. The Character Bound the Demon for a reason. How has that been going? Most likely it has been going well, since the Sorcerer still has the Demon and will have the Demon when play begins.

What is the Character’s life like now? What has he or she accomplished by having a Demon. How has his or her life changed? How is it better? How is it more complicated? How has it complicated his life with the people before a Demon arrived? How has it improved life with those people?

Think through these questions. These are the questions that will keep your Character real, grounded, and worth telling a tale about.

As always, touch on the things you care about. What kinds of relationships matter to you? What sorts of people matter to you? What ambitions, desires, agendas, and life matter to you? Where are the gaps between what you have and what you want? If you could change the world to make it give you the life you wanted, what would that be? Take the answers to those questions, fantasize, make a fictional character who touches on these notions.

So, that is the second phase of imagining a Character for Sorcerer. First there was a person, just a person, without a Demon. And now there is a person with a Demon. Using Lore to break the nature of reality and Bind a Demon is a big deal. The transition from one section of life to the next is vital and profound.

Life is going along for the Character in this second phase. He has a life, he has a Demon he has Bound and has a relationship with, he has the people and things he cares about…

And then, something happens.

What is that thing? It is hard to say. It’s the Kicker, of course, the thing that will now turn the course of the Character’s life in an unexpected way.

The study of Lore, breaking the universe, Binding a Demon, these were all things the Character chose to do and pursued. But the Kicker is the thing that comes at the Character, unbidden, surprising, demanding an answer. Or it is the next chapter of a life that has turned in unexpected way and the Character doesn’t know what to do next.

Whatever it is, this is the point in the Character’s life where we will begin play. Life has been one way, and now, in ways no one can determine or foresee, it will turn a new way.

You will establish this moment of turning:

“My son returns home.”

“I get out of jail.”

“My wife is missing.”

“Someone is blacking mailing me into killing someone.”

“The company I have built is threatened by a hostile takeover.”

“My daughter finds clues to criminal activity on my part.”

The examples are endless, but here is the problem with examples:

Unless the Kicker matters to you, built out of the things that matter you, it will be meaningless. You must care.

And then play begins.

What will happen?

You don’t know.

You certainly have impulses—creative and emotional. But you honestly can’t know where you are going. And the moment you say, “Okay, so this is the story of me killing the men who kidnapped my wife,” you’re hosed. Because, of course, you don’t even know if men kidnapped your wife. (Again, examples are tricky. Even if you wrote your Kicker as, “Men kidnap my wife,” for all you know the men who kidnapped your wife might be killed by someone else before all is said and done. Your wife might be dead before you get to her before all is said in done. In Sorcerer there honestly is no way to know how things will turn out before all is said and done.)

The best way to think of it is like this, using an analogy from conflict resolution from the game itself:

In Sorcerer, when you declare an action, you are not declaring what you have done. You do not say, “I take a bite out of his flesh with my sword.” Because we won’t know, until all the dice are rolled and all effects determined and all decisions about actions resolved, what actually happened.

What you can do, and must do, is describe the actions that lead the momentum of your Character’s thoughts and actions. You can say, “I slash my sword at his clavicle, bringing it down to drive him to the floor.” That’s your character in motion, toward a goal. In Sorcerer conflicts, that’s all you’ve got. You’ve got your desires, your ambitions, your action in motion. But will you connect with your target? Will you drive him to the floor? Only the dice will reveal.

Kickers, and the moments after Kickers enter play, are like that. They are propulsive. They throw the status quo of the Character off balance. They demand action. The Character certainly will do something. And that something will certainly be the first step toward resolving the Kicker. (The resolution of the Kicker being the overall unit of “story” for a Sorcerer game.)

But how will it turn out? Who knows? Like conflict resolution, the Character can only “get into gear” –taking motion toward some agenda, goal, ambition, desire. But only in play will we find out what happens.

To play otherwise, to say, “Here’s what I want to have happen in this story,” is to betray the qualities of the game. We play to find out what happens.

In some games we play to have the fun of the vicarious power-fantasy of success. “I want to be cool in these ways, I want to succeed in these ways.” That’s not what Sorcerer offers.

Sorcerer offers choices. Given shifting and changing circumstances that take place during the creation of beats of fiction, what kind of person does your Character reveal himself to be?

As in conflict resolution, your Character gets to choose, again and again, what he is moving toward, what is agenda is, what he wants to accomplish. But the circumstances will shift and change. The dice will send ambitions spinning. The Game Master’s characters will work to undermine your Character aggressively, or send hopes to the rocks merely by pursuing their own agendas, without a thought for your Character at all.

We’ll find out the story. But we’ll spring from the fictional content you created for your character: Who he was before the Kicker. Who he cares about. What matters most to him. What he values. These things might change (that’s the nature of story, that’s the nature of Sorcerer).

We play to find out what happens. We play to find out who your Character is by the time all is said and done.

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