Play Sorcerer 19: Our Listening

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When we play Sorcerer we listen—a lot.

We listen when someone playing another character in a scene our character is in is describing how his or her character is doing something. We listen when our character is not in a scene and we the scene unfolds without our participation. The Game Master listens during Character creation, so he can ask follow up questions and help the Players create more juicy material. We listen when the Game Master describes some point about how Lore is being used in the story.

But listening isn’t just about the words we’re hearing.

We listen when someone tenses up as we’re heading into a possibly disturbing moment of fiction. We listen when everyone at the table is nodding in pleasure or agreement at something someone is saying. We listen when someone pauses, looking down at their character sheet, uncertain what to say.

We listen because everyone at the table, in one way or another, is engaged in creative acts of imagination. That means they are opening themselves up to being judged. It means they are taking a risk. It means they don’t know what will happen next once they’re done speaking. We listen because that’s what someone who behaves that way deserves.

We also listen because they are telling and making story. A person making up, moment-by-moment, what his or her Character is doing in a compelling situation is speaking compelling things. We’ll want to know what happened because that’s exactly why we watch a television show or read a story in a book—we want to know what is going to happen next.

We also listen, even if we’re not participating directly in a scene, because things that happen in one scene might be grist for the mill for our own imagination.

You might learn something about one of one of the Game Master’s characters that unlocks ideas or mysteries that your Character has been pursuing.

You might hear how one of the Player Characters is up to something that you want to join in on.

You might hear a Player describe how his or her Character is using Lore in a way you hadn’t thought of and be inspired to try something new with your own play.

You might discover a new character introduced by the Game Master you didn’t even know existed yet—exactly the kind of guy your Character has been looking for and move your Character toward meeting him when you hear about him.

We listen because we’re there for the other Players as they are there for us as we build one big story out of several smaller stories. Sorcerer is not a game of “turns,” and we don’t wait around for our scene to talk in Character.

Think of Sorcerer like a long form, serialized drama from television: Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Deadwood, Rome and others. There are many characters, each following their own agenda. But each of these tales winds around the other tales. And, ultimately, these storylines (either at the end of each season or the end of the whole run of the show) wrap up together as all the main characters gather as antagonists or allies to finish up the storylines together.

Finally, we listen because that’s what we’re there to do. When we’re gathered with people, and someone is talking, we listen. We listen so we know if someone is having a good time, if someone is frustrated, to hear what they’re offering to the table, to hear what they care about, to hear the point where they get confused about what their character will do next and we realize, “Oh, this is what matters to this person.”

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