SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Five – A Discussion About a Kicker)

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When I was writing about this game a couple of years ago, Per Fischer had some questions about the Kicker Colin made for Golgrek.

This is the discussion that ensued. Notice a few things about it:

Jesse and I talk about the kibitzing that occurred about the Kicker. (Sorcerer is a social activity!) Notice, too, how the Kicker was tweaked to offer more tension for the player! Notice, finally, that nothing was imposed on Colin. He liked complicating the Kicker.

Here is the Kicker Per asked about:

Golgrek the Troll Reaver’s Kicker was that he had a vision he should lead his clan to attack and re-claim the fortress lost years ago. The Kicker part is his Clan Shaman, Ruhu, says they should all avoid the Fortress and his vision is a trick.

Here is the discussion:

Could you perhaps say a word or two about this – when I read it I thought it was kind of a weak Kicker, or perhaps I don’t quite get why it works (and I assume it DID work in play). I’m asking because if I had been the GM, I would probably have asked the player if it could be sharpened a bit.

Per

Here was my reply:

Per.

The original Kicker was: “I have a vision we should attack the fort.”

I said, “That’s not quite strong enough. He can have the vision, but there need to be something involving another person somehow.”

And Colin said, “What if the Shaman, Ruhu, doesn’t believe in the vision. Says it s trick.”

So, the focus is off the Fortress now, and on the relationship between Golgrek, the clan Chieftain, and Ruhu, the clan shaman. It was strong enough for me because I knew there was tension a’ brewing, and I had no idea how things would work out.

On the other hand, it still circled the fortress, where Giaus was based, so it seemed to be building some sort of localized focus of play, which is good for aSorcerer & Sword game.

In straight up Sorcerer I usually go for something more emotionally grabby and more on the line in terms of a relationship. But this is Robert E. Howard/Tanith Lee/Clark Ashton Smith terriorty. So having enough to have people fighting over things, in my thinking, was enough. In these stories the emotional weight grows as the story continues and characters invest in each other. We’ll see if it happens!

Also, I knew (knowing how I think) that this would open up all this narrative possibilities I had peer into: Why was the Shaman down on the idea of attacking the Fortress? What prompted the vision? Was there a threat that Golgrek could not see and what was it? Was the Shaman being told by his demon not to attack the Fortress? And if so, why? 

So, all that would grist for the mill for my prep/brainstorming as I had to figure out and justify the Kicker. So, it was good for me at least, because the answers I found helped build all the world/demon stuff I posted above, as well as other stuff I haven’t posted yet.

I can tell you that the other night, during play, the Shaman challenged Golgrek to knock it off with his talk of attacking the Fortress. Golgrek got all in his face with “Are we orcs or what?” The Shaman claims the voice of “Our God” as his authority. Golgrek wants to know who serves who? The Shaman pulls and axe and they go at it. Golgrek doesn’t want to fight the Shaman, but it’s clear the Shaman is actually attacking Golgrek to take the Clan Chieftain position — which is to the death.

Golgrek is going to toss his axe at the Shaman’s feet and try to find peace. But Golgrek’s eldest son, You Are Me, out of love for his father, rushes the Shaman to try to save his dad. Golgrek is now drawn into the fight as he tries to save his son. 

Meanwhile, Giaus rushes across the clan’s camp during the fight as all the orcs get caught up in the spectacle of their clan-strife, grabs his sword off the alter of Our God, where it has been placed, and rushes into the fight to protect a terrible blow from the Shaman striking You Are Me. 

You Are Me doesn’t relent his attack on the Shaman. The Shaman is going to order the clan to attack Golgrek. Golgrek goes first, ramming his thick fingers right down the Shaman’s mouth, choking him and breaking his jaw. He lifts the shaman by the strange grip he has on him, carrying him to the stone that is Our God and batters the Shaman against the stone till he’s a bloody pulp. 

And more things happen after that.

And that was from the Kicker. And the repercussions are only just starting. And Golgrek is still haunted by the call he received by the whatever he heard from the Fortress. So I’d say the Kicker is paying off… 

But does that sound good to you? And what were your original thoughts about the Kicker? I’d really love to know — now you have the context of how play has proceeded.

Per replied:

Thanks also for your thorough answer, Chris, very awesome indeed.

The short answer is: yes, it sounds good to me. I guess my initial gut reaction to the Kicker was that is was somehow passive, merely by being a vision. I think you’ve described brilliantly how you first strengthened the Kicked and then how it worked in play. I really like how you (and your players) managed to “localize focus of play”, that’s really good advice for S&S.

I answered:

I think this about that…

That’s a good concern. And in some games it might even be more of a concern. But the thing about Player Authored Kickers is that the Player is saying, “I want a game about this.” It’s the Player’s declaration about what he what to invest in and drive toward in one way or another. As long as I don’t block it to the point of taking it off the table (as opposed to providing obstacles, which is a whole different thing since the Character is still pushing toward it), then I have ever reason to believe that even a vision is loaded with energy and drive.

Moreover, I’m blessed to be playing with Colin and Jesse who are well versed in Sorcerer. We’ve had lots of conversations about the game, and god knows Colin has listened to me talk about many aspects of the game, including the power and value of Kickers in terms of being Player Authored. So he knows it’s on him to create a compelling cool Kicker that he really fucking cares about or intrigues him in some way… since he knows I’m counting on him to give me something I know he really can’t wait to make a story about. And, of course, he did!

Jesse and Colin are energetic, creative players who just keep generating ideas and material. They’re open about what they’re interested in, and a lot of my job is just listening to what they want and feeding them obstacles and opportunities about what they want.

And then Jesse added:

An amusing point on this is that Colin is SO pro-active as a player that one of the reasons we “spiked” even the vision-only version of the Kicker was because his character’s total commitment to following the vision and taking the Fortress represented the status quo. I remember suggesting the idea that his Kicker be about something that blind-sides that commitment.

Jesse

And then I wrote:

Yes.

It went like this: 

Colin: “Golgrek has a vision that he should attack the fortress.”

Me: “I, um, well…. We need something… that makes it…. um.”

My face is all confusion and concern. Jesse sees it…

Jesse: “Something that blind-sides your commitment to attacking the fortress…”

Me: “Yeah, like someone, like the shaman not wanting you to do that…”

Colin: “Oh, right! Ruhu says it’s a trick. That my vision is false and we shouldn’t do that.”

***

I post that because I think it shows the level of collaborative trust at the table. It was a bunch of “Yes, And…” that led to what I needed as a GM and that still offered Colin what he needed and wanted as a Player.

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