PLAY SORCERER 40: A Kicker Demands and Action or Decision

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So, the Kicker is the first “impulse” of play. It’s the moment when the tale gets going for the Character. It’s a moment that demands an action or decision on the part of the Character, and from this moment, all else will follow. It doesn’t mean a huge dramatic moment (thought the moment might be). It doesn’t demand an immediate violence (though violence might be the first response). All this means is that a Kicker demands that, in one way, a Character is going to have to make a choice of some kind, in one way or another.

This requirement allows quite a broad range of types of Kickers. Possible examples are:

“My Character’s long-lost son returns home.”

“My Character sees his wife, who he thought was dead, getting on a bus while on a business trip.”

“My Character receives a ransom note from kidnappers claiming to have my husband.”

“War has broken out on the border of the kingdom.”

“My Character is offered a job that will free her from slavery and give her full status as a Citizen of the Empire.”

“The police knock on my Character’s door. They have a warrant, they want to search the place.”

“My Character is fired from his job.”

“My Character is pregnant.”

“My boyfriend proposes.”

“A second girl turns up dead.”

Notice that in all of these, the Kicker’s effectiveness only makes sense in the context of everything else that matters to the Character (and thus the Player, since the Player makes up what matters to the Character.) What is on that Character sheet? What characters, places and things are listed on the Character Grid on the Character Sheet? If the Player honestly put down things that he or she is curious about, and then draws the Kicker from those items or context in some way, you’ll get a great Kicker—and you’ll get a great start to Sorcerer play.

I say this because if all the above is true, no matter what happens once that Kicker hits the story, you’ll have something you’re invested in. Not the resolution of the Kicker, which no one at the table can possibly know anything about, but the circumstances and pieces of the Kicker, which you yourself have chosen. How the Kicker plays out on its way to a resolution is yours to be intrigued with and teased out step by step between the interactions of you and your fellow players.

So:

The Game Master says something (“There is a knock at your front door”), and you respond (“I answer the door,”) and before you know it, his words are leading toward the Kicker you wrote down on your Character sheet (“The police are there. One of them holds a warrant. ‘Excuse me sir,’ one of them says. ‘We have a warrant to search your home.’”)

And the Kicker has kicked.

Now, what happens?

This is one of the most fascinating things about Sorcerer that I’ve observed. No one knows.

Time and time again people create these Kickers. Kickers that by definition need a response or decision of some kind. And then, once in play, as if it’s the first time they’ve encountered the Kicker, suddenly discover what their Character would do in that moment.

And so it will be for you. Don’t anticipate what your Character will do once the Kicker arrives. Just know that the situation alone is enough to entice you.

Let’s assume that the police have arrived to search your Character’s home. Significantly, and this is why it’s a Kicker, there’s something in your Character’s home he or she does not want the police to find.

When the police show up at the Character’s door with that warrant, you could:

  • Attempt to kill them
  • Invite them inside and try to hide any incriminating evidence while they search
  • Refuse to let them in
  • Order your Demon to distract them in some way so they leave
  • Invite them in and show them the ritual tools of murder your Character has been using out of a desire to relieve himself or herself of guilt
  • Flee
  • Invite them in and hope they don’t find the incriminating evidence
  • And so on…

All options are open to you. And you should do whichever one you truly believe your Character would just do, right then and there. Not the action that you think will make the “best story.” Not the action that you think will get you to that scene you want to get to later. Not the action you think you’re “supposed” to do. No, the only thing you’re supposed to respond as you think your Character would respond and speak words to the table what you think you’re Character is doing.

And Game Masters, I’ve been through this already, but it holds true again, and it’s going to hold true for the rest of Sorcerer play, from session to session: you are not expecting, in any way, one reaction or response or choice on the part of the Character over another. Don’t even put in your head ideas about what might happen or try to be ready for one reaction on the part of the Character over another. You simply can’t know what the Player will choose to do.

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