Sorcerer – Poker Demons

Sorcerers are all playing in a Texas Hold’em style poker game where all of the cards are demons. Face-cards are demons that can pass as human. Number cards are objects.

Cards in the river are out in the world fucking shit up. Sorcerers can only make Pacts with cards that have relationships to their own cards, no bindings.


Once the sorcerers are done with gathering their cards the time for summoning is over and they traditionally fight to the death. Sometimes they form a cabal and if they go too long, often another game will start somewhere.

Going to 0 Humanity means folding, losing all of one’s demons and usually everything good in one’s life – so that is what is at stake, being bet on, though it is never spoken aloud.

When it is your turn to draw a card you do a binding, done through ritualized acts of crime that make sense for the card you are attempting to summon.

Media Inspirations: True Detective Season 1, Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Thomas Ligotti short stories, Margaret Killjoy’s Daniel Caine books (The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion and The Barrow Will Send What it May), Rounders, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Casino, Go

EDIT: Thinking more about this on the G+ post on the Sorcerer RPG community:

I want to use cards as a way to give demons color and structure and relationships with one another – a kind of family/clan/rivals thing and thinking about crime and the seediest sides of gambling as inspiration

Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. “Two of diamonds.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Watching a Demon Take Shape

When Rich said he wanted our Sorcerer game to be set in NYC I knew I wanted demons to be buildings.

One of the buildings ended up being One Vanderbilt and since the game’s first chapter ended I continue to walk by and see the building taking shape. One Vanderbilt, right next to Grand Central station, is where Rich’s character ritually murdered a rival and it is where his character was shot and left for dead. I can’t help but see this building as demonic.


I like how gaming can change the way I see the world around me.


Sorcerer, Comic Strip AP, Sessions 1-3

The Comic Strip AP site.


Here are the first 3 episodes, all in one place. As a listener, I dig the short, punchy format with a few dice rolls and reveals an episode. As a player, playing 15 minutes at a clip is an odd, cool thing that I’m still processing. My hope is that the Comic Strip AP format will allow us to look at techniques and the episodic format will allow us to locate them easily.

What are you playing?

This used to be a thing back in the day. The hope is that it will allow folks to think about what is happening at their table, what they would like to happen in the future and inspire conversations.

Past 3 games played, Best 3 games ever played, 3 games you want to play:

Played: Stars Without Number, Burning Wheel, Sorcerer

Best: Burning Wheel, Apocalypse World, PTA

Want: The Warren, D&D, Dogs in the Vineyard

If you have any questions, please ask.

Feel free to post your own answers in the comments or links to wherever you choose to answer if you’d like.

Science Ficton Sorcerer at Dreamation 2016

Science Fiction Sorcerer

Demons are bits of alien technology left in the colonized solar system. When I watched The Expanse, it looked really familiar in lots of ways and it inspired me to dust off this old thing and take it for a spin.

When a player hits 0 humanity, the aliens return.

We learn what the aliens were by the demons created and summoned at the table. We learn about them from the xeno-tech they left behind and that is all made by the players, more or less. So, we made demons together and all demons had the same Desire and Need. I’m not sure how I felt about keeping the Desire and Need the same.

I wish there had been one table that decided to have Creation of Art be the Desire. That would have been interesting. I am considering making pre-packaged aliens to choose from with demons that have a look to them based on which alien species is on the table.

The 3 Sci-fi Sorcerer games were taking about 3 hours with 20 minutes for building demons, writing kickers and rolling that first binding.

The characters were a Professor of Xeno-Tech, a homeless war veteran, the President of the Mars Republic and a starship captain. These character sheets, with the back of the sheet on the front were game-changers and are the only sheets I will ever use from now on.

Thank you to everyone who played! You were all wonderful.

Kickers (can’t quite remember all of them)

  • Professor/Black Marketeer is called into a meeting with the local organized crime lieutenants, asking him to kill the current godfather and take over.
  • Starship captain finds out that he was stranded on Europa on purpose and he knows who did it.
  • Starship captain discovers that someone from his crew has been transmitting military intel to some filthy mud-sucker from earth.
  • The President of the Mars Republic is woken up to deal with food riots.
  • The Starship captain’s ship is locked down on an orbital satellite because the Satellite Warden knows something is wrong about his ship’s logs.
  • The professor receives a call that her uncle and mentor is dead.
  • Homeless/vet is approached by his handler to come back to the government program that paired him with his demon.
  • Homeless/vet finds his buddy dead in his shelter bunk.
  • The President of the Mars Republic is blackmailed by the Senate Majority Leader about his use of Xeno-Tech.

Writing kickers at the table made me nervous but once I started weaving them together with one player seeing consequences of another’s kicker in their scenes the players leaned into one another and started to meet and interact in interesting ways. Some didn’t and some did.

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There was an important moment in a Sci-fi Sorcerer game that I need to write down:

The Professor of Xeno-Archeology/Black Marketeer was meeting with the local crime boss, thinking that he would kill him. As he walked in the crime boss was reading the newsfeed, commenting on a bit of news from an earlier scene from the other character at the table, the President of the Mars Republic. After a little back and forth, the player turned to me and said, “I don’t want to kill this guy. I like this guy.”

This was the turnaround moment of the game, where players starting linking their characters together through play and talking to one another like humans do. It also prompted me to remind players of the third game that though they are Sorcerers they do not have to be sociopath demon-feeders who ask everyone they meet to put-the-lotion-in-the-basket. Turns out, that third session was the most successful.

Reflecting on Dreamation 2016

I dipped my toe back in the convention waters with Metatopia last year and knew I’d be going back to Dreamation this year. It was nice to be back.  I attend cons like a grown-up now. When I yawn after midnight, I go to sleep. I wake up and hit up the morning gaming slots. I eat every meal and come home tired but not exhausted. It only took me until 40 years old to begin to get this right.

Walking into the con and being surprised at faces I didn’t expect to see, putting names to G+ avatar pics and turning online acquaintances into friends is a wonderful process. Rooming with Rob and talking about our day’s gaming while we dealt with the hotel’s dry air but moisturizing our legs is one of those wonderful and awkward game con moments that I missed.

Game-wise, I have to figure out how I want to interact with game conventions because it isn’t clear to me. I love games and love gaming but I’m not sure 4 hour one-shots are where its at for me.

My favorite games are fun in cons but not as fun as they are after a dozen or more sessions. I don’t have any interest in Burning Wheel blood opera, with lots of Beliefs arming and pointing the characters at one another like that scene from Resevoir Dogs.


This weekend I ran Sorcerer in a science fiction setting that I wrote down years ago and never did much with. My problem with Sorcerer is that the first session is always good but the second session is always an order of magnitude better. I GMed 3 solid sessions of Sorcerer this weekend but left the table wishing I could play a second session.


Thanks to Rachel tipping me off via IM last week, I played in the Thousand Arrows Long Con/Kristacon, a 3 session game about Samurai invading Korea in the midst of an attack of the Dragon King’s sea monsters. The game had its moments and its problems. I’ll dissect and critique later. It feels wrong to start in with a scalpel while the organizers and GM’s are still recovering from sleep deprivation after their hard work. The game was on the morning slot of Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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For now, Brennan should be happy that he has a Powered by the Apocalypse Hack that is coming along well. James should be happy that his passionate work exposed me to a period of history I knew nothing about and has instilled in me a powerful passion for learning more about it. Brand should be happy that I could listen to him talk about any historical period for as long as he cares to talk about it. Krista should be happy that I am not sure I have ever disliked a PC/NPC as much as I disliked her General Gwon.

I am wondering if some kind of 3 session long-connish format is where my sweet spot might be. I’d enjoy running one table of 3 or 4 for 3 sessions over a weekend. However, it is a gamble for all of the players involved.

It would be neat to play a full season of Primetime Adventures

or a long-con of Shock: (maybe the building of a generation trip, the journey and then the arrival)

or even Burning Wheel (in which there is an uprising against the human dukes, dwarven princes and elven etharchs by the crafts-folk and peasants)

or Torchbearer (in which there are 9 dungeons are taken down by 3 tables of adventurers over 3 sessions, divvying up the adventurers based on the intel by the delving guild’s leadership).

It was that kind of con – a come home and write about game ideas kind of con. It was a smile thinking of friends kind of con. It was a write notes about game moments to write about later kind of con. It was a make new friends kind of con.

Which is to say it was the best kind of con.

“Death created time to grow the things that it would kill.”

I just got done watching True Detective and I liked it but I’d be really careful about how I recommended it to, if that makes any sense.

NOTE: Paula’s review and analysis are spot on!

Spoilers lurk below.

I’m thinking about how I’d game it. My first instinct is to grab Unknown Armies, make up some kind of Room of Renunciation that is a room full of inadmissible evidence that points to terrible occult crimes.

But then I look at this old Sorcerer idea. I think of Rust Cohl’s notebook and his trailer. His notebook would be his demon, wouldn’t it? The trailer is when the demon grows.

“This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, ‘Time is a flat circle.’ Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they’re gonna be in that room again and again and again forever.”

That is the quote I want to build the game on. Starting at the kicker and somehow circling back to it again. Maybe even playing the kicker through to its completion and then when it is resolved, picking up and starting over with tiny choices as different, letting the dice fall where they may and seeing what turns out different from the first cycle.

I dunno. Rustin Cohle’s got me thinking.

Have a good weekend.

Holding my breath on another Friday

Reading: Janaki suggested A Shadow in Summer, telling me about the way Poets in the book summon up Andats is right out of the Sorcerer RPG. She’s right; it is a keen concept. For the first time in a long while I’m reading a fantasy novel and I am hooked.

Planning: I can’t plan much until I get a phone call verifying some important info. This weekend should be about some apartment stuff, reading and laundry. Tonight, Chinese food that I can safely eat and great company. I am so tired of holding my breath and waiting.

Writing: Some diseases often caught by freebooter scum and other bits here and there.

And you?

“I use the tools the game hands me. Also, there’d better be some tools.”

From this SG thread.

Steve wrote:

What do people reckon is the best value for buck in terms of preparation for GMing a session?

At the moment Im thinking its working on a cast of NPCs and their motivations and goals.

But Im interested in hearing otherwise, or ‘yes and…

And I was all like…I dunno:

It really depends on the game. This has become an impossible question to answer without knowing what game you’re playing, what the game is trying to accomplish and the tools it provides.

And he was all like, what:

How do you mean?

And I was all like, does this work:

I use the tools the game hands me. If the game doesn’t hand me tools, I probably won’t be playing it long.

Burning Wheel hands me the players’ beliefs, instincts, relationships, reputations, affiliations and traits all crossed up with the campaign’s situation. Those are the things I’m day-dreaming about as I think about the game, as I burn up monsters or NPC’s.

Sorcerer hands me kickers, demons and everything on the back of the character sheet.

Apocalypse World hands me MC moves, threats/fronts and all of the little descriptors in the playbooks.

Houses of the Blooded has aspects, family, domain/seasonal complications.

So, when you ask what the best practice is for doing prep as a GM, I say that best practice for me is to choose one’s system wisely so that the tools the game puts on the table helps us all have a solid game.