PLAY SORCERER 20: Take Your Time

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When it comes to imagining things and communicating them to everyone gathered at the table while playing Sorcerer, I want to offer one form of discipline I learned over the years that I apply to myself whenever playing Sorcerer: I let myself take my time and let other people take their time.

If I’m the Game Master and I say to a Player, “Your wife storms into the kitchen, holding your Character’s ritual blades that you hide in that box in the basement. ‘What are these?!’ she shouts at you, holding them before her,” I don’t say, “Quick! What do you say!”

I’m going to give the Player a moment to decide what to say. We’re not running a clock while we’re playing. There’s not rush. I’m not trying to simulate the immediacy of the moment between the Character and his wife with how the Player and I interact. I’m not trying to elicit panic from the Player.

Remember, as Game Master I have no expectations of how the Player is going to have his character react. As Game Master I provide opportunities to the Player to find a new moments of revelation about his character, new choices, new actions, new words to speak. What the Player choose to do only launches into the next moment none of us could predict, and then another choices from another character, and then another after that, and so on…

The Player might have the Character panic in response the confrontation with the wife, might have the Character remain cool, headed and lie, might order his Demon to confuse the wife or knock her unconscious and then try to convince her that her finding the blades was all in her imagination and she never even confronted him.

The point is, the Player might come up with any cool thing and I can’t possibly know what it might be or is going to be. The most important job the Game Master has to provoke opportunities to reveal the Character through crisis, choice, word and deed.

And it is the same thing when I’m a Player. If my Character is confronted with a zinger of a moment (or even a rather mundane moment), I’ll often say, “Hang on a moment.” Because I want a moment to think through what I want to say.

In these cases, it’s pretty easy to realize what’s going on. The Player looks confused for a moment, his or her thinking going inward. In these moments, again, if I’m the Player I say, “Hey, I need a moment.” As the Game Master, if a Player needs a moment I happily turn to another Player to see what he or she wants to do. I move on and give the Player caught in uncertainty the time to sort out and brainstorm creative options and how to best to move forward. The same takes place if I’m the Game Master and I get stuck for a moment. I say, “Hang on…” and think things through, deciding what would be the most honest and interesting thing to happen at the table.

There’s no loss in this, no disappointment if there’s silence at the table for a few moments. It’s part of how we play Sorcerer. We take moments for players to sort out because in Sorcerer part of what we’re doing is making a story. And sometimes take a moment to decide what to do next is a vital part of making.

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