PLAY SORCERER 39: The Kicker Must be Emotionally and Viscerally “Grabby” to *You*

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The Kicker must be emotionally visceral to you, the Player creating it as well as your Character. You must find it interesting in the same way that you would find those moments interesting in a book or movie when you wonder what the character will do next.

If you find yourself, in any way, trying to come up with a Kicker that will keep you or your Character “safe” in any way, know that you’re already going down the wrong path and most like the play will grind to a halt around your Character’s story.

Here are some ways we try to be safe:

“Well, I’ll just test the waters. I’ll just see how, in a small way, we do this thing called Sorcerer. So, I’ll just say something like, ‘My socks have been vanishing'”

Or, “Well, here’s something I’ve seen in movies. Um… ‘My guy is on the run. From somebody.'”

Or, “Clearly, having a Demon is a bad thing, so my Kicker is, ‘I tell my Demon to get lost.'”

Now, I’m not saying certain Game Masters might be able to do something with those Kickers. Maybe they could work, maybe not. I would say in my experience, the Player is loading play against success.

I’m saying that I have found the more powerful way to find a Kicker, the way to find a Kicker that leads to successful, long play, is to invest fully in the situations and circumstances of all you’ve built during Character creation. You build your Kicker during your Character creation session. And during this session you’ve built all this information about who your Character is, what your Character values, what your Character values.

I wrote all that stuff, if I’m a Player building a Character, and it’s all stuff that I care about and found compelling and interesting in some way. So going back in to those very materials to find my Character’s Kicker is the strongest way to find something that will be a compelling, grabby Kicker for me.

If I wrote down “Helen” on the Character Grid on my Character sheet, the name of my Character’s wife, then it’s pretty clear I think that Character matters to me. And so it would behoove me to build a Kicker that involves her. And, if not her, then some other element or elements already on the Character sheet.

Whatever the specifics, the elements of your Kicker should be something you have specific, compelling interest in. Do you care about love? Marriage? When we’re allowed to kill or not kill? The responsibility of parents to their children? Of children to their parents? How best to serve God? Your nation? Your friends? This is the stuff that matters. And not as an academic exercise. Don’t reach for “The Lit 101 List of Themes” off the bookshelf. Don’t confuse yourself and say, “Well, that guy told me I should have some idea I care about for my Kicker.” No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying find something you care about. Which is very different than having an idea.

I can tell you this: if you announce an idea for a Kicker to your fellow players during the Character creation session and as you say it everyone sort of leans forward or nods or goes, “Oh, good one…” then that’s a good sign you found a good Kicker.

Because here’s the thing about emotionally and viscerally grabby Kickers… they aren’t just grabby to you. They are grabby to human beings. The reason stories work is that they tap into things that people in general are interested in.

But here’s a big secret that most people don’t know: The more you dig into yourself for your material, that is, the things you care about (not necessarily the details from your life you care about), the more your material will be of interest to other people. Because human beings, honestly, tend to be interested in the same things. They might be interested in different ways. They might take different positions on these matters. But that’s why we’re drawn to stories—we want to see what other people think about all these things.

Note that I haven’t said anything about being huge and melodramatic. As Ron has pointed out in the Annotated Sorcerer, “I get out of Prison,” is a terrific Kicker for a variety of reasons. It automatically changes the Character’s life. If it’s meaningful to the Player it will work. The Kicker works if it’s all built out of the other material about the Character in character creation and bouncing around in the names, places, and things on the Character Grid. In other words, what does prison mean to the Character? What did Prison mean to the Character’s Lore? His Price? How did he end up Prison? Who is waiting for him on the outside (wife? girlfriend? children? enemy? and so on?) What, in other words, makes getting out of prison a crucible of the sorcerous and the very human for this character?

Which is all another way of me saying, “Don’t over-think this, don’t turn it into an intellectual exercise.” Simply look at the material on your Character sheet, at all the story material you’ve listed on the Character Grid, and draw from it some compelling moment or image that would demand a decision or action on your Character’s part.

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