THE BROTHERHOOD 1: Actual Play and Sorcerer & Story

A while back I posted about a Sorcerer game I played with my friends called “The Brotherhood.” I just dug up a post I made about the game back in 2009 I wanted to share here about how play went down:

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We had our fifth session of the Sorcerer game I’m running tonight.  The first sessions was character creation.  We’ve played four times.

First, here’s the breakdown of the setting that I sent out to possible Players:

The Brotherood

You’re all Prisoners in state penitentiary located in the middle of nowhere somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Your character might have been guilty. He might have been innocent. But he ended up in The System.

Your character knew no sorcery before getting into prison. But there are a few teachers there — people who know how to get by by summoning the unnatural powers within the walls of the old prison.

Demons are tattoos, shivs, razor blades, cocaine, cigarettes, money, shadows, pin-ups, fantasies of the world outside and all things prison.

The Lore of Sorcery are acts of domination and submission between men.

Humanity is standing up for your own moral code.

It’s important to remember that the word “demon” in this game doesn’t mean “things from hell.” Think more of the girl from “The Ring” — where something has gone WRONG with the fabric of reality. We’re building our own specific and self-contained story, with it’s own specific mythology and world.

The PCs are:

1) VISILI (player: Colin): a Lifer in the prison who’s demon is a cell block; he doesn’t want to leave because he’s very comfortable where he is. He was part of a russian mob, and while he has ties to his family and is loyal to them, he’s pretty much cut off from the world in the safety of his cell block.  (He’s been up for parole several times and has always managed to screw it up on purpose.)

His Kicker was this his nephew arrived at the penitentiary and is making a move to take control of his cell block.

2) DAVID KING (player: Eric): a man who committed a crime and bound a demon to confront the  cult leader who rules a nationwide organization from inside the prison. (The cult killed the man’s daughter.) His demons are snakes down his forearm, and a second demon that is the tattoo of a third eye on his forehead that let’s him “astrally” project when he mediates on the cot of his cell and learn more about what’s happening many places.

His Kicker was that he found out his daughter was still alive.  (His sister-in-law brought his daughter to jail to visit him.  David’s wife went mad from the “death” of their daughter and is in an asylum.)

During play he used Third Eye to go visit his sister-in-law’s house and discovers a cult member living there — as well as the corpse of his sister-in-law and two “doll like” versions of his sister-in-law and his daughter.

3) ROMAN STUBBS (player: Vasco): a corrupt cop sent to jail for killing a fellow police officer who summoned and bound a demon to survive a place where cops are the biggest targets short of child molesters. HIs demon are tattoos that cover his body (he looks just like a criminal now!) that let him to internal damage to people and let him withstand a lot of damage… All while looking like all he did was maybe give you a friendly slap on the shoulder. The tattoos shift and change, showing a collage of all people he beat the hell out of.

His Kicker was someone in his crew ratted him out and set him up to be killed.

Eric is a fellow writer and buddy.  We met two years ago writing for an internet project and became fast friends.  He LOVES games — and we spend a lot of time killing terrorists on the XBOX.

I met both Colin and Vasco at the local cons.  We’ve played together in several games.  (Vasco was in a Sorcerer & Sword game I ran at a local con — again, there’s an AP around here somewhere.)

There were a handful of people I wanted in the game, but I had decided to max the number to three players.  These were the first three who said yes as I went down the list.

We play at Eric’s place.  We all bring food and drinks.  One of the things I like best is the social atmosphere.  Sometimes we don’t get going for an hour or two.  We talk about video games, or P&P RPGs, or movies, or The Shield or The Wire or BSG.  Sometimes we order in pizza.  Sometimes we don’t.  If we wrap early we might play a boardgame (Z-man’s PANDEMIC rocks, by the way) or some Call of Duty shoot ’em up.  It’s all very fun.

So, here’s the incident wanted to bring up.  Last night David backs Roman up when Roman goes to confront Stubbs, one of the men Roman thought he murdered — but who, in fact, is still very much alive, comfortably ensconced in another cell block and is one of the players making a move to take control of the pentintiary.

Stubbs had offered Roman a settlement — kill David and all wrongs would be forgiven.  Roman chose not to do this, told David Stubbs was gunning for him, and after almost getting slaughtered by three members of Stubb’s Sorcerous crew, go to confront Stubbs.

Stubbs and Roman go at it with some Will rolls, trying to shake the other up.  But then David steps out of the shadows and Stubbs is thrown.  I don’t want to go into detail here about what Stubbs does and doesn’t know and what his agendas are, but I’ll say what was said.

David assumes that Stubbs is working with Carver.  Stubbs laughs, says he’s not.  He surprised when he realizes David thinks his daughter is dead.  Now, David’s Kicker is that his daughter was alive.  But then he checked it out and it looked like that was a trick, and his daughter was really dead.  But Stubbs was adament that David’s daughter was alive.

So David CHARGES Stubbs and grabs him and shakes him — and Eric’s doing this great job of just being  man on the breaking point for so many reasons —

And they make Will rolls, with David trying to make sure Stubbs is going to tell him the truth.  And David wins the roll.  And Stubbs says, “Okay, but I need you to step back.”

And David shakes him again and shouts, “Why!”

And Stubbs says, “Because I don’t wnat to be next to you when you hear the truth.”

These are the things Stubbs revealed:

  • David’s daughter, Melodie, is alive.
  • David’s wife, Lisa, is a decendent of Louis Landsfield, the man who built Landsfield Peniteniary in the 19th century.  (and is, they all discovered last night, apparently a liche-sorcerer living in the prison).  Carver wanted to get a child of Landsfield’s blood to dominate the child in ritual in the prison for his own ends.
  • Not only that — but Carver wanted the child to be of his own blood as well, to make the ritual especially potent… so he seduced David’s wife years ago.  Melodie is not David’s child!
  • Someone used sorcery to make a “fake” Melody and hid the real one.  Carver killed the fake girl when he found out she was a fake.  The real Melodie out there somewhere…

Eric and I were discussing the game via email, and I wrote to Eric:

You really turned on the mojo on that one.  It was great.  It’s like, that’s what sorcerer is about.  Ultimately there’s nothing as scary, even the demons, as the passions of people activated.

And that, in turn, reminded me of an interview I just read with Shawn Ryan [The Shield].

The Interviewer asked, “What did you learn while working on Angel with Joss Wheadon?”

And Ryan replied:

The main thing I learned from him is to approach stories from a character point of view, as opposed to a plot point of view. Forget about the plot in the beginning, because if you know what emotional journey you want to take your character on, the rest will follow. We break our crime stories [on The Shield] not in terms of who did this and what’s the clue; it’s what do we want our cops to go through on this particular story. Once we know that, the plot will come later.

And that’s what I’m finding works in Sorcerer — and is easy as pie in Sorcerer if you focus on the Kickers, the Bangs, the Relationship Map and the Humanity.  A much as possible I’m just trying to go from one emotionally strong choice/beat to the next, letting the “plot” grow out of the choices engengered by the emotionally strong Bangs and scene framing.

So far, the game is a blast.

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