Posts Tagged ‘Actual Play’

PLAY SORCERER 80: V. The Game Master and Players Gather for Character Creation (15)

December 21, 2013

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15. Story, Not Simulation

The Scores and mechanics are not meant to model “reality” in any significant way. What we get from the Scores is this: A way of adjudicating and resolving conflict between the Characters and what forces (usually characters) that stand between them and what they want.

A Score represents all things that might be represented by that score. There is no specific list of skill as to how one handles a gun, for example. A Character wanting to gun someone down will use his Stamina Score.

How the Character uses the gun is up to the Player, in how the Player describes the Character using the weapon. This is how the abstract Score becomes specific—through specific moments of play.

This will, of course (or should be), influenced by the Descriptor applied to the Score. A woman with military experience is going to handle a gun differently than a man’s whose physical abilities depends on uppers.

Depending on how you Describe the actions of a Character, the Game Master might give you Bonus Dice. In this way, the Character is rewarded for the descriptive power of the Player. It is possible, for example, for a clumsy drug addict, who has never held a gun let alone fired one, to have his Player describe with a comic phrasing how the addict fumbles with the gun an enemy rushes him in such an engaging way that the Game Master gives him Bonus Dice for the manner of the narrative. On the other hand, cool description of how a trained sniper sets up her shot from a rooftop—terse and tense and full of little details—can gain Bonus Dice as well.

The point here is not to discuss competence vs. incompetence (those are just the examples), but to make it clear that the Scores a part of the larger process of playing Sorcerer—which is making story.

THE BROTHERHOOD 1: Actual Play and Sorcerer & Story

November 24, 2013

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.

Jesse Burneko talks about Sorcerer on a Podcast

November 17, 2013

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Here’s a link to a terrific podcast called Actual People, Actual Play.

And here’s a link to a specific podcast about playing Sorcerer. Jesse Burneko GM’d a game of Sorcerer for two friends, and then they have a post-game discussion about the game. Jesse talks about his experiences with the game and how it’s played, and the two other players (Morgan and Will) ask questions or give illustrations of what Jesse is talking about from the game they just played.

Well worth a listen to.

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Seven – The Second Session & Beyond)

November 5, 2013

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[Some of this was recapped two posts back…]

The Shaman challenges Golgrek to knock it off with his talk of attacking the Fortress. Golgrek got all in his face with “Are we orcs or what?” The Shaman claims the voice of “Our God” as his authority. Golgrek wants to know who serves who? The Shaman pulls and axe and they go at it. Golgrek doesn’t want to fight the Shaman, but it’s clear the Shaman is actually attacking Golgrek to take the Clan Chieftain position — which is to the death.

Golgrek is going to toss his axe at the Shaman’s feet and try to find peace. But Golgrek’s eldest son, You Are Me, out of love for his father, rushes the Shaman to try to save his dad. Golgrek is now drawn into the fight as he tries to save his son.

Meanwhile, Giaus rushes across the clan’s camp during the fight as all the orcs get caught up in the spectacle of their clan-strife, grabs his sword off the alter of Our God, where it has been placed, and rushes into the fight to protect a terrible blow from the Shaman striking You Are Me.

You Are Me doesn’t relent his attack on the Shaman. The Shaman is going to order the clan to attack Golgrek. Golgrek goes first, ramming his thick fingers right down the Shaman’s mouth, choking him and breaking his jaw. He lifts the shaman by the strange grip he has on him, carrying him to the stone that is Our God and batters the Shaman against the stone till he’s a bloody pulp.

The clan is shocked. Their Chieftain has slain their Shaman. These things happen, but there is no one to speak to Our God anymore.

Moreover, Golgrek is furious You Are Me stepped into a ritual battle, committing taboo. He strips You Are Me of his name, giving it to his second son, and banishes his first son from the clan until he can come back with a name he finds on his own.

Golgrek, grateful to Giaus, release Lucia, sending a group of orcs to escort them back to the Fortress. Giaus says he wants to stay. He is curious about Our God. Hoping to get closer to Giaus and learn more about the Gods his people are fighting, Giaus helps Golgrek bind Our God after sending the Goddess of Death along after Lucia to help guard her on the way back to the fortress.

Golgrek batters his forearms and hands against the stone that is Our God fiercely, tearing skin and bleeding. As Our God’s Desire is Dominance, the sacrifice of Ruhu’s bloody corpse, and the way it was delivered, adds a lot of dice to the roll! He binds the God. Everyone in the clan relaxes.

But Golgrek is troubled. He retreats to a cave and contemplates what it means to now be bound to Our God, as Our God tells him not to attack the Fortress.

Giaus, meanwhile, heads off into the wilds of the Great Forests, hoping to find the source of where Our God came from…

***

So, that’s how play began.

We played another four or five sessions, with Giaus and Golgrek eventually working together to save Golgrek’s son and stop an old god within a cave under the Imperial fortress.

I posted all that as a example of the collaborative nature of setting up Sorcerer and as a reassurance that by feeding the interests of the players, you actually get something very cool!

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Six – The First Session)

November 5, 2013

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Recap
Colin is playing Golgrek Troll Reaver, Chief of an Orc clan. His Kicker was that he had a vision he should lead his clan to attack and re-claim the fortress lost years ago. The Kicker part is his Clan Shaman, Ruhu, says they should all avoid the Fortress and his vision is a trick.

Jesse is playing Gaius Ambrosius, High Priest of the Goddess of Death. His Kicker is that his apprentice was kidnapped by Ruhu.

The First Session
In the first session, Golgrek led his son (“You Are Me”) close to the fortress felt a presence of some sort reaching out to him. When he listened he went backward in his perceptions through the history of his race: First the present day clan and tribe he lived with, then the battles with the Empire, then the time before he was born, and then all the orcs who had lived and died before him, feeling their pain in death and joys in triumph, then back before they won their freedom, living under the lash of their Golgondran makers, then just a few of them, then just two, and then the first orc and then… nothing… back to the point before the Golgondran made the orcs and Golgrek’s kind existed at all.

Meanwhile, Gaius, upon hearing what happened to his apprentice, went rushing out to rescue her. He grabbed a sword off the apprentice’s brother, who was wounded in the attack, planning on hunting down an orc and killing him and imbuing the sword with death magic to head off and rescue the apprentice on his own.

The closest Orc he spotted was Golgrek, and he rushed to chase Golgrek down. Golgrek fled through the shadows of the forest. But Gaius asked the Goddes of Death to part the shadows and reveal his enemy. She did. Gauis rushed to run down Golgrek down with his horse. Golgrek was knocked to the ground (and already worn from his exertions trying to contact the thing in the Fortress), and then grabbed Gaius’ horse and drove it down to the ground. Gaius swing his sword fiercely. Golgrek grabbed a rock and used it to block the blow — then took the rock and smashed it against Gauis’ head. He knocked the priest out and ended up capturing him. He rejoined his son and other orcs and return to the clan camp with his prize.

There he discovered the apprentice already a prisoner. Golgrek announced his vision and Ruhu dismissed it, saying that their god (“Our God” — a crude stone rock they took from the Gongondran three genrations ago) said they should not go to the fortress. Ruhu said he captured the apprentice to find out how to destroy the Imperials without going to the fortress. This is how “Our God” wants them to proceed.

Giaus tried to use his death touch on Ruhu, Ruhu (also rich in Lore) saw it coming, jumped back — getting an acidic burn on his skin in the shape of a handprint… but still alive. Golgrek jumped to the apprentice, holding his axe’s blade against her throat to stop Giaus from using any more of his sorcery…

And that’s where we left it.

The whole thing very much as the feel of a Howard story where he alternates back and forth between protagonists, shifting point of view as they separate and come into conflict.

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Five – A Discussion About a Kicker)

November 4, 2013

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When I was writing about this game a couple of years ago, Per Fischer had some questions about the Kicker Colin made for Golgrek.

This is the discussion that ensued. Notice a few things about it:

Jesse and I talk about the kibitzing that occurred about the Kicker. (Sorcerer is a social activity!) Notice, too, how the Kicker was tweaked to offer more tension for the player! Notice, finally, that nothing was imposed on Colin. He liked complicating the Kicker.

Here is the Kicker Per asked about:

Golgrek the Troll Reaver’s Kicker was that he had a vision he should lead his clan to attack and re-claim the fortress lost years ago. The Kicker part is his Clan Shaman, Ruhu, says they should all avoid the Fortress and his vision is a trick.

Here is the discussion:

Could you perhaps say a word or two about this – when I read it I thought it was kind of a weak Kicker, or perhaps I don’t quite get why it works (and I assume it DID work in play). I’m asking because if I had been the GM, I would probably have asked the player if it could be sharpened a bit.

Per

Here was my reply:

Per.

The original Kicker was: “I have a vision we should attack the fort.”

I said, “That’s not quite strong enough. He can have the vision, but there need to be something involving another person somehow.”

And Colin said, “What if the Shaman, Ruhu, doesn’t believe in the vision. Says it s trick.”

So, the focus is off the Fortress now, and on the relationship between Golgrek, the clan Chieftain, and Ruhu, the clan shaman. It was strong enough for me because I knew there was tension a’ brewing, and I had no idea how things would work out.

On the other hand, it still circled the fortress, where Giaus was based, so it seemed to be building some sort of localized focus of play, which is good for aSorcerer & Sword game.

In straight up Sorcerer I usually go for something more emotionally grabby and more on the line in terms of a relationship. But this is Robert E. Howard/Tanith Lee/Clark Ashton Smith terriorty. So having enough to have people fighting over things, in my thinking, was enough. In these stories the emotional weight grows as the story continues and characters invest in each other. We’ll see if it happens!

Also, I knew (knowing how I think) that this would open up all this narrative possibilities I had peer into: Why was the Shaman down on the idea of attacking the Fortress? What prompted the vision? Was there a threat that Golgrek could not see and what was it? Was the Shaman being told by his demon not to attack the Fortress? And if so, why? 

So, all that would grist for the mill for my prep/brainstorming as I had to figure out and justify the Kicker. So, it was good for me at least, because the answers I found helped build all the world/demon stuff I posted above, as well as other stuff I haven’t posted yet.

I can tell you that the other night, during play, the Shaman challenged Golgrek to knock it off with his talk of attacking the Fortress. Golgrek got all in his face with “Are we orcs or what?” The Shaman claims the voice of “Our God” as his authority. Golgrek wants to know who serves who? The Shaman pulls and axe and they go at it. Golgrek doesn’t want to fight the Shaman, but it’s clear the Shaman is actually attacking Golgrek to take the Clan Chieftain position — which is to the death.

Golgrek is going to toss his axe at the Shaman’s feet and try to find peace. But Golgrek’s eldest son, You Are Me, out of love for his father, rushes the Shaman to try to save his dad. Golgrek is now drawn into the fight as he tries to save his son. 

Meanwhile, Giaus rushes across the clan’s camp during the fight as all the orcs get caught up in the spectacle of their clan-strife, grabs his sword off the alter of Our God, where it has been placed, and rushes into the fight to protect a terrible blow from the Shaman striking You Are Me. 

You Are Me doesn’t relent his attack on the Shaman. The Shaman is going to order the clan to attack Golgrek. Golgrek goes first, ramming his thick fingers right down the Shaman’s mouth, choking him and breaking his jaw. He lifts the shaman by the strange grip he has on him, carrying him to the stone that is Our God and batters the Shaman against the stone till he’s a bloody pulp. 

And more things happen after that.

And that was from the Kicker. And the repercussions are only just starting. And Golgrek is still haunted by the call he received by the whatever he heard from the Fortress. So I’d say the Kicker is paying off… 

But does that sound good to you? And what were your original thoughts about the Kicker? I’d really love to know — now you have the context of how play has proceeded.

Per replied:

Thanks also for your thorough answer, Chris, very awesome indeed.

The short answer is: yes, it sounds good to me. I guess my initial gut reaction to the Kicker was that is was somehow passive, merely by being a vision. I think you’ve described brilliantly how you first strengthened the Kicked and then how it worked in play. I really like how you (and your players) managed to “localize focus of play”, that’s really good advice for S&S.

I answered:

I think this about that…

That’s a good concern. And in some games it might even be more of a concern. But the thing about Player Authored Kickers is that the Player is saying, “I want a game about this.” It’s the Player’s declaration about what he what to invest in and drive toward in one way or another. As long as I don’t block it to the point of taking it off the table (as opposed to providing obstacles, which is a whole different thing since the Character is still pushing toward it), then I have ever reason to believe that even a vision is loaded with energy and drive.

Moreover, I’m blessed to be playing with Colin and Jesse who are well versed in Sorcerer. We’ve had lots of conversations about the game, and god knows Colin has listened to me talk about many aspects of the game, including the power and value of Kickers in terms of being Player Authored. So he knows it’s on him to create a compelling cool Kicker that he really fucking cares about or intrigues him in some way… since he knows I’m counting on him to give me something I know he really can’t wait to make a story about. And, of course, he did!

Jesse and Colin are energetic, creative players who just keep generating ideas and material. They’re open about what they’re interested in, and a lot of my job is just listening to what they want and feeding them obstacles and opportunities about what they want.

And then Jesse added:

An amusing point on this is that Colin is SO pro-active as a player that one of the reasons we “spiked” even the vision-only version of the Kicker was because his character’s total commitment to following the vision and taking the Fortress represented the status quo. I remember suggesting the idea that his Kicker be about something that blind-sides that commitment.

Jesse

And then I wrote:

Yes.

It went like this: 

Colin: “Golgrek has a vision that he should attack the fortress.”

Me: “I, um, well…. We need something… that makes it…. um.”

My face is all confusion and concern. Jesse sees it…

Jesse: “Something that blind-sides your commitment to attacking the fortress…”

Me: “Yeah, like someone, like the shaman not wanting you to do that…”

Colin: “Oh, right! Ruhu says it’s a trick. That my vision is false and we shouldn’t do that.”

***

I post that because I think it shows the level of collaborative trust at the table. It was a bunch of “Yes, And…” that led to what I needed as a GM and that still offered Colin what he needed and wanted as a Player.

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Four – Jesse’s Character)

November 3, 2013

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Here is the Character Jesse created for the game. (Language convention: I canalize the word “Character” for Player Characters, and use lower case “character” for any other character in the story.)

Jesse’s Character:

GIAUS ABROSIUS
High Priest of the Goddess of Death of the Dreaming Empire

TELLTALE: Black Eyes

STAMINA: 2
Natural Means

WILL: 4
Lover (The Goddess of Death)

LORE: 4
Adept

PAST: 4
High Priest of Maravia
Huntsman

PRICE: Culturally Arrogant
-1 to non-Imperial cultural interactions

CHARACTER GRID
Lore Quadrant
“The Sarcophagus” (A shrine to Maravia built with wheels that Giaus travels with)

Kicker Quadrant
Lucia (his acolyte and priestess in training); her name is written along the border of Lore quadrant
Ruhu (orc shaman of the Beaten Last Clan); written along the border of the Price quadrant

Price Quadrant
Ulfar (a troll slave)
Golgondran (the Pict-ish humans that worshiped the gods that made the orcs and used the orcs as warrior slaves)

Past Quadrant
The Road (the Imperial road being built through the Great Forests — he has been sent to the end of the road to help the construction continue)
Centurion Arenus (Commander of the Fortress where Giaus is stationed)
Fabius (Lucia’s brother, also stationed at the Fortress)

Starting Humanity of 4

KICKER: “My priestess Lucia has been kidnapped by the Orc shaman, Ruhu.”

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Three – Colin’s Character)

November 3, 2013
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Here is the Character Colin created for the game. (Language convention: I canalize the word “Character” for Player Characters, and use lower case “character” for any other character in the story.)

GOLGREK THE TROLL REAVER
Orc Chieftain of the Beaten Last Clan

TELLTALE: Scarred Hand (from beating fists and forearms in adulation to the large rock that is his clan’s god…)

STAMINA: 5*
Savage Raised

WILL: 4
Angry

LORE: 2
Inhuman (Orc)

COVER: 2
Orc Warlord Chieftain

PRICE: Inhuman
-1 to first interactions

*Stamina is raised one point through a Humanity trade, via Inhuman Lore

CHARACTER GRID

Lore Quadrant
“Our God” (Clan’s God)

Kicker Quadrant
Fortress (the Fortress the Imperials now control, once ruled by the Orcs, and before them the Golgondran)
The Imperial Road (the road the Imperials are building through the Great Forests)
Centurion Arenus (commander of the Fortress)

Price Quadrant
The Troll Reaver

Past Quadrant
“You Are Me” (First born son)

Spreading across both Past Quadrant and Price Quadrant are:
“Beaten Last” (Golgrek’s Clan)
“Deerp Root Tribe” (the tribe that the Beaten Last clan is a part of)

Right in the center of the Character Grid is:
Shaman Ruhu (orc shaman of the Beaten Last Clan)

Starting Humanity of 2
No Bound Demons at start

KICKER: “Ruhu says my vision to attack the Fortress is wrong.”

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part Two – Fleshing Out the Setting)

November 2, 2013

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As Colin and Jesse createdtheir characters, as is the way of Sorcerer & Sword, we fleshed out the background elements of the setting:

What’s the setting?
SAVAGE BORN: A pulp, weird fantasy setting (imagine A Weird Tales cover from back in the day)

The Dreaming Empire conquered the vast forests to the north with the help of the demonic gods — Death, Disease, Delirium, Despair and Destruction.

The conquered a race of pict-like humans summoned new gods to create a race of Orcs to battle the invaders. The picts were most conquered, and as they fell the Orcs rose up against them and battled both the picts and the Dreaming Empire for freedom. The Orcs have taken the gods of the creators and worship them as their own.

Two hundred years of war have passed and the Empire seems to be fading. The conquests of the Great Forests seem tenuous. Soldiers of the Dreaming Empire are torn between wanting to go home and wanting to do their duty and keep the dream of the Empire alive.

What’s the system?
Sorcerer (Sorcerer & Sword)

What’s going on?
The game turns out to be centered on a Fortress ruled by the Empire at the edge of the Empire’s influence in the Great Forest. It was originally ruled by the Golgondran (the Pictish-humans), then taken by the Orcs, and then taken in turn by Imperial troops stationed far from home. The soldiers are tasked with continuing to build a road through the great forests.

Who are the characters?

Colin is playing Golgrek Troll Reaver, Chief of an Orc clan. His Kicker was that he had a vision he should lead his clan to attack and re-claim the fortress lost years ago. The Kicker part is his Clan Shaman, Ruhu, says they should all avoid the Fortress and his vision is a trick.

Jesse is playing Gaius Ambrosius, High Priest of the Goddess of Death. His Kicker is that his apprentice was kidnapped by Ruhu.

Descriptors
The descriptors are straight out of Sorcerer & Sword. (Honestly, I don’t muck with the descriptors anymore. After looking them over a long time, I see that their job isn’t to establish setting as much to establish a variety of points-of-view of the characters. And between Sorcerer and S&Sword, there’s really enough to work with as is.)

Humanity
Humanity is Friendship and Loyalty… which honestly hasn’t come into play yet. Both Gaius and Golgrek are functioning very much in their roles in their respective society. But, S&Sword plays a lighter game with Humanity in general.

I’m planning on ramping that up soon with some Bangs… but I’m also expecting my wonderful plays to start laying the groundwork for that as well.

Demons
Demons are gods of the respective cultures:

The Golgondran had gods — primitive, cruel and crude pagan things. The Golgondran (in secret ways) also created new gods so they could make the Orcs. They used the Orcs march south, raiding and conquering.

A man to the south contacted the God of Delirium for aid. Delirium said he would help, but only if the man would establish religious orders for his god-kin. The man agreed, and with the help of Delirium and his kin, a great empire was born. For the last thousand years the man who bound Delirium has been in a torpor, mumbling strange words that priests and witch write down and study as commands. In this way, the Dreaming Emperor rules the Dreaming Empire.

The Empire marched north, beat the snot out of the Golgondran. The Orcs rebelled against the Golgrondran masters. They killed the Golgondran priests and their Orc shamen took the Golgondran gods as their own from them, serving them and using them against the Golgondran and the soldiers of the Dreaming Empire.

The Golgondran are still around, and have a few of their old gods as well.

SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part One – An Accidental Beginning)

November 1, 2013
Savage Born Map

Savage Born Map

A couple of years ago I played a six session game of Sorcerer & Sword with my friends Colin and Jesse. Here’s how it went down:

THE PITCH
Heading down to a local convention, I was hoping to get in some Sword & Sorcerer. I’d been reading Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master and some Clark Ashton Smith, which looped me back into some Conan stories I hadn’t read yet. So I was hungry.

However, I couldn’t figure out the setting or tone. And tone is really what you’re looking for to pitch to the players for Sorcerer & Sword. As the GM, you want to pitch the lightest setting you can to the Players, letting the focus of the social, creative act be set around the Players making their Characters

I wanted something like Howard’s Hyborea — and even toyed with the idea of just saying, “Fuck it… we’re playing in Hyborea. Conan is somewhere else.” But it didn’t want the onus of having someone else creating hanging over me.

Then I thought of using the setting for Earthdawn — a setting I clearly love, but I found the rules too much. But the weird fantasy is there with the Horrors. The Passions could be Demons using the Angel rules from Sorcerer’s Soul. But, again, I’d be dealing with big, detailed already-built setting. And so much of Sorcerer & Sword is in starting with the characters defining the situation and growing the setting form that.

Then, driving down to the convention I was struck with the notion of orcs — savage and bold. They seemed to tap into the energy of sword and sorcery if we took them completely out of high fantasy and made them not pawns in someone else’s story but the focus of the story. No Tolkien — they would be creatures, weird creatures, made creatures. Weird fantasy incarnate.

I saw them in an vast woods like primitive Germany. So then I immediately thought of something like the Roman Empire invading those woods. And then I thought of troll vikings to the north…. and then I stopped myself. Because I probably already had too much! The setting should be kept simple. So stopped thinking and drew a map shown above.

I was drawing it at the table while Colin was setting up his Apocalypse World game and we were waiting for other players. He was like, “Hey… what’s that?” And, well… he was all in after that.

Later, when many of the story gamers were hanging out I pitched the idea of playing a Sorcerer & Sword game some time during the convention to Jesse and he was in too.

But then, the next day I bumped into Colin and he explained that he and Jesse had decided that I was actually going to run a full on series of sessions for them. I said sure! We made an appointment to make characters during lunch on Sunday during the convention.