Ten Favorite Game Mechanics #8 – Demon Creation from Sorcerer


Hey all, LiveJournal’s advertising is starting to get very intrusive. That coupled with the exodus of several friends has me thinking about moving my blog. Just a heads-up. Further updates as events warrant.

And now, on with the show!

#8 – Demon Creation from Sorcerer

“Is your game balanced?” is a question you hear a lot. The question can mean a lot of things, but a decade ago it was often a nice way of saying, “Does your game give the players enough power to feel cool, without letting them screw up the GM’s story?” Sorcerer throws that all out the window.

You want a demon that can help you in a fight? Fine. You want one that can help you impress the ladies? Not a problem. You want one that can teleport you halfway around the world and walk through walls and spy on anyone you’ve ever met? No sweat. You want one demon to do all of that and more? Now we’re cookin’ with gas!

By simply saying that there is no upper limit to the number of special abilities a demon can have–and therefore no upper limit on its Power score–Sorcerer murders the sacrosanct notion of “game balance” and uses its corpse to perform game design magic. The player is faced with the same dilemma their character faces: They can write a demon that can do anything they want. The game won’t cripple their creation with nickel-and-dime disadvantages. The game won’t hold them back because they are just a starting character. The game won’t safely corrall them away from affecting the GM’s story.

The only thing standing between you and power are the consequences that power brings with it. And your fear of those consequences.

How does Sorcerer pull this off so elegantly? Three main parts: 1) The aforementioned “no upper limit” coupled with the fact that the demon’s Power is at minimum one higher than its number of special abilities. Simply, elegantly, this means that more powerful demons are MORE POWERFUL DEMONS! And the interplay of Power with the other scores during the sorcerous rituals means “more powerful” = “more likely to have the upper hand.” Consequences are hard-wired into the system.

2) Giving all the supernatural power to an independent entity outside the PC–an entity that has its own needs and desires–forces the player to interact with the GM every time he wants something done. The demon’s Need must be fed, and the GM is encouraged to demand it frequently. The things that the demons wants and demands are not pretty, and the player must deal with the impact this thing he has summoned makes upon the world. Consequences are hard-wired into the situation.

3) Changing the job of the GM from “telling the story” to “throwing Bangs” allows the events of the game to traverse where ever they need to in order to showcase the consequences of player action. Add to this the ability that the GM has to rewrite parts of a demon during a failed Contacting role, and you have a recipe for twists and surprises along the path to answering that central question: “How far will you go to get what you want?”

Up next: There may be no “I” in team, but there are strikers!

One Response to “Ten Favorite Game Mechanics #8 – Demon Creation from Sorcerer”

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