PLAY SORCERER 12: Unity & Variety

Sorcerer_Cover

Here’s a thing about making a painting:

If you grab a hundred tubes of paint so that you’re certain you have variations of almost any color available and start painting away, you will produce a painting so confusing to the eye from its variety of colors that no one will be able to make out what the painting is supposed to be about.

Of course, if you go to the full, opposite end of the spectrum to avoid this problem and only grab one tube of paint, you create a whole new problem: The solid unity of your one color will render any form you want to create on the canvass moot as one brushstroke of paint blends into every other brushstroke as you’re only using one color.

Somewhere between too much Unity and too much Variety in a painting is the right mix. How does the painter achieve this?

A painter builds a limited palette.

A limited pallet is a selection of colors—two to eleven colors, though usually around seven colors.

By keeping the selection of colors limited, the painter builds Unity. By mixing whatever colors or shades or tonal values from this limited palette , the painter builds Variety.

The simplest limited palette is a tube of white paint and a tube of black paint.

Using just these two colors, the painter can mix a variety of grays, ranging from mostly dark to middle-grey to mostly light. With just two tubes of paint he can create a lovely black and white painting, creating the illusion of three-dimensional form. The painting will have Unity (made from only two colors!) and Variety (two colors making any shade of grey the artist wants!)

A more complicated palette involves more colors. An artist might have a palette of Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and Viridian, Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre. That’s it. That’s your limited palette. You’re a painter and you’re about to make a painting. Your painting will be unified because you are using these six, and only these eight, colors from eight tubes of paint.

Now, what if you want more variety? For example, Viridian is a shade of green—a deep bluish green. If I want a brighter, more vivid sunlit green am I out of options? No. You are not. What you’ll do is mix some of the Cadmium Yellow Light with the Viridian. And voila! You have something new—Variety—born the Unity of your palette.

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2 Responses to “PLAY SORCERER 12: Unity & Variety”

  1. Belinda Kelly Says:

    My problem with Sorcerer (at least when I looked at it a few years ago; haven’t checked it out for a while) was that the players make up all of these interesting characters with kickers and bangs and relationships – and the characters are all in silos from each other.

    What sort of mechanisms does the game have for forming a party of connected individuals that have a reason to interact with each other?

    Like with your Conan-esque example from earlier; while both characters are very interesting, what do they have in common with each other and why would they get involved in each other’s stuff? How did you set this up as a GM and how did you make it work effectively?

  2. playsorcerer Says:

    Hi, good questions. I don’t know if this answer is going to satisfy you, but here goes. (This is the quick answer. Future posts will address this.)

    1. The Characters aren’t in silos. Silos implies they’re cut off from one another, with concrete and deep earth between them. That isn’t the case. They are eau their own Characters, but they’re in the same geographical area (established before Character Creation begins) so they can easily get to each other if they way.

    2. Sorcerer has no concern with party. There is no reason for them to interact with each other, other than any reason created by the Players themselves.

    3. In practice this means the scenes rotate from one Player Character after another.

    3a. This is one reason that Sorcerer play is best with two to three Players plus a GM. Four Players and a GM max.

    3b. This works fine because… The journey of the Characters are actually interesting because of all the prep with the Kickers and relationships and stuff. it’s vital to understand that when a Player is not on he is watching and listening to the other Players. You might not believe me about this, but it’s true. I’ve seen it happen again and again.

    3c. This works fine because… the GM often (but not always) cuts away from the Player Character when the Player is confronted with some sort of choice or dilemma. The Players often need a moment to figure out what they want their character to do. It is NICE to get a break when we cut to another character because we suddenly NEED a break.

    3d. This works fine because… the GM is working with Demons from a look and feel (along with the game’s location) established before Character Creation. This also affects Lore. The Players are paying attention to each other and the fiction the other Players are creating because they are looking for clues about Lore and about how the Demons work. Remember, we’re all making this up on the fly — and we’re sharing it. We want to see what has been added in terms of details — because we’re going to be adding on those details when the scene focus comes around to us.

    3e. There works fine because… there is no reason to assume that the character’s don’t have connections between them. I mean this fully in the “Six Degrees of Separation” sense. The Players might not have written down these mutual connectors, or even be aware of them. But when the GM goes off to do her prep, there’s no reason to think as she’s brainstorming about the Characters and their NPC relationships that there won’t be elements that conned the PCs that the Players get to *discover.*

    3f. This works fine because… What is interesting to one sorcerer might well end up being interesting to another sorcerer. Remember, the Players are listening as audience to what the other Players are doing. This means that they might hear about a power item of muckety-muck. Or a sorcerer cult. Or a whatever. And the listening Player’s imagination might think, “Hey, I could use that!” Or, “I hate guys like that.” And then the Player will position himself fictionally on a course to meet up or track down that thing or those people.

    3g. Given 3e. and 3f. there’s every reason to assume that the Character might, indeed, meet up. it’s not required, it’s not a goal. But Players like to have their Characters show up where interesting things are happening. As Characters generate interesting things happening, the Players tend to move their Characters toward each other.

    4. There is precedent for this kind of storytelling. Look at a show like HEROES, or the novels of Stephen King or Michael Crichton. Or look at the structure of Gibson’s Neuromancer books. We cut from one scene or chapter focusing one character to another scene or chapter focusing on a different character. Often these character are not near each other, and often are not aware of each other. But as we read the stories we, on the outside, are aware of the larger picture that is growing. Sorcerer is often experienced just like that. And just like in those stories, the further into the game we progress, the more aware of each other the characters often become and the more entwined their stories become. I’m going to repeat myself here: you might not think this is true or will work. I’m telling you, it does.

    5. Remember that even when there is “a party” only one person can speak at a time. Sure, people can try to jump all over verbally to get the GM’s attention. But the truth is, only one person is going to be speaking/describing what their doing at a time. We take turns between players *even when there is a party.* Now, the unit of turn taking might be longer in the kind of play described above (but maybe not!) but let’s not kid ourselves: We do this all the time in party play.

    Finally, page 71 of SORCERER addresses concerns about “the party” (with additional comments now in the annotation).

    And if you haven’t read it yet, Chapter 7 of SORCERER & SWORD (“The Anatomy of Authored Role-Playing”) goes into this matter extensively. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet and you’re interested in SORCERER I can’t recommend it to you highly enough.

    A final repeat: I know that because of how we’ve played other games for years we assume that this sort of play isn’t possible or can’t work. But I assure you, it can.

    * * *
    To address the example of the Savage Born setting I played in… My Players did all the work. (Players tend to be intrigued with each other’s characters. At least my Players are!)

    Colin decided his character wanted to attack the fort where Jesse’s character had just arrived to serve as a priest. And Jesse’s Kicker was that his assistant was kidnapped. Well, the most likely culprits were the orc tribe that Colin’s character was a part of. So they pointed their Characters right at each other.

    Sometimes Players will do that. Sometimes they won’t. But it certainly isn’t required. Sometimes they’ll end up pointing their Characters at each other later in play — as described above out of their own curiosity and/or need.

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