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.

The Wheel Turns and Burns

Every once in a while I get all misty-eyed and I-love-you-man about the folks I game with.  This is such a time.

Look posted this up on the BW forum:

Five years ago today we released Burning Wheel Revised.
In five years we’ve sold over 7000 copies of BWR alone.
We’ve traveled the US and Europe promoting the game.
We’ve introduced thousands of gamers to the Burning games.
We’ve played incredibly games (that just keep getting better).
We’ve made amazing friends who will be with us for many years to come.

Thanks all for making this dream come true.
We hope to see you all at 10/10/10 so we can celebrate!

-Luke and BWHQ

And it got me thinking back on the past five years or so of gaming, looking back on AP threads.

Here is my first BW thread, I believe, 3 BW Games in 5 Days, in which I struggle with the rules, fuck up pre-game preparation, still manage to have a decent time here and there but I’m banging my head against the system. Some of my friends liked what they saw in the system and some hated the damned thing.

So, why and how did I continue playing the game and wrestling with it?

It is because, in Ithaca, I am blessed. I don’t have one group in this town. I am lucky to have a network of players and people interested in gaming, up for something new, game to try something. There are a few dozen games in this town whom I consider friends, people I’d be eager and happy to share a beverage with.

If I was gaming group monogamous, I’d never be able to play the game again as soon as one or two people hated it. I get to play games that I dig with people who are willing and eager to try them because when it comes to gaming groups, I lean polyamorous.

I don’t play PTA with Jim or Aaron because they tend to like more mechanics to sink their teeth into. I play Shock: with Pete and Janaki because we love making up worlds together and see how they turn out when we bang on them with anthropological hammers. The BW character sheets make Janaki dizzy but make Aaron sing with glee. And I full realize that I can do this because I have spent the last 10+ years gaming in this medium-smallish college town and rather than sinking one night a week into creating the perfect group of uber-gamers, I have flitted around, weaving webs and making networks of buddies.

Some I don’t game with at all, because their games don’t interest me and mine don’t interest them but we have fun IMing or having the occasional lunch to talk shop and geek out. Some are up for long campaigns, some aren’t. Some are down with the occasional one-shot once the kids are asleep, some want to game on Friday night have rocking a porch party. Some were strangers who PMed me on a forum (and some of those became great friends and others faded), some got dragged into a game I was playing with through a stagnant university gaming club and others have been friends we met under the mantle of Kryos over a decade ago.

My gaming privilege makes me wince when people post on forums how “their group would never play X game that they lust after.”

So, thank you, my friends who despite their busy lives, careers and families spend time playing games with me.

Thank you to my friends who played

the pirates,


revolutionary fast food workers rebelling against The Man,

the R&D exec and the Rogue Scientist,

the interstellar corporate agents,

the Patrol-men and Patrol-women,

the barber’s son from the Sangre,

the knight and the bastard,

the uncommon orcs,

the princess and the bodyguard,

the freebooter turned mercenary captain turned champion of humanity, the Herald of the Dawn, the Spider of the Book and the Chosen of Hell’s Honorable Brother,

the Horselord Prince, the Sheriff of Baal, the God-killers

the Elven Sword-singer and his loyal princeling apprentice,

the nobles and the jihadim,

the teen  samurai hostages to the sleeping emperor who dressed as ninja and went dancing at night,

the kids with magic out on the corner,

the Dragonborn Cleric, the Human Fighter, the Drow Ranger and the Elven Paladin,

the wolf pack traversing the World Tree in search of a new alpha,

the Barons whose lands surrounded the Hub of all Revenge,

the doomed samurai ascending a cold mountain for bloody reasons,

the cast and crew of Hare and Hound,

the Man in the Mountain,

the concubine and the dead god’s bride,

the Centurions,

Sharn’s Finest,

the cast and crew of Episode LV,

the Grey Legionnaires,

and many more.

Thank you, my friends for joining me in trying odd games, playtesting others and all in all making up cool shit.

State of the Table

MoBu City: This remains catch-as-catch-can with me and Pete.

The Gray Legion: Storn is excited to run Jaws of the Six Serpents and we are running a Black Company riff, particularly the Erickson comment on the books, saying that they are “Vietnam War fiction on peyote.” That is the vibe this game is going for. I am excited to play, excited by the concept and I’m intrigued by the system.

Danger Patrol: We have one more game of Danger Patrol left and then the Friday night group is at loose ends. We aren’t sure what we will be doing. I am half-tempted to run Dresden Files or see if J.C. will run it. I am also tempted to forgo the long and difficult group dialog and just say, “I am going to bring a damned game and we’ll play it and have fun. Enough with this democratic discussion crap!”

We were going to be playing Jaws but Storn moved that game to the Tuesday slot, so we could take a break from both Bee Dubya and 13 Cities.

Sorcerer 2289: This Thursday will be the last game of our Sorcerer campaign with Christine and Bret. With Bret leaving town, I am wondering if I could wrassle up another player for a Thursday night game of something. I’ll talk about it with Christine post-Sorcerer.

And that’s my gaming table, right now. How about you? What are you playing?

Pollen Returns on Friday

I can feel it in the air.  Spring is here.

Reading: Digging a bit into Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson and it remains good fun.

Planning: I have some school-related paperwork to catch up on in order to graduate in a timely manner.  Should have that sent out so I can get it finished up early next week.

Tonight, some Danger Patrol…

Wearing: Dickie’s jeans and a comfy shirt.

Writing: Some threads on the God-burning: Dragon of Gaham and Sorcerer 2289 AP.

And you?

Friday: a quiet midnight at the library

Working the late shift this week and its a quiet evening.

Reading:  I can’t decide what to read.  Next to my bed is the Black Company Omnibus and I’m picking at the series’  second book.  In my bag are The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.

The Manual of Detection is charming but I think coming off of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is making it just seem plain odd.

Warbreaker is nifty.  I think Storn would love it, as its magic is based on colors and breath.  Also, to Storn’s wheelhouse are the protagonists, a plucky princess in a decadent city ruled by a god-king and also in the city is a sorcerer/swordsman right out of S&S with a sardonic and malevolent sentient sword.

We’ll see which book wins my heart and mind over the weekend.

Planning: UFC 112 on Saturday night and some Sorcerer 2289 on Sunday evening.

Wearing: New green Dickie’s jeans and a blue t-shirt.

Writing: Nothing I can talk about.

Adults in Transition, Sorcerers with Xeno-tech Demons

From the Forge AP thread:

Bret, Christine and I are all buddies who don’t game together.  Realizing this was silly, we got together to game.  We agreed that we wanted a finite game, 3 session and then we are done and if we want to continue, we can evaluate at that point.  We are all kind of in these odd places in our lives, getting ready to move, and go to new jobs or graduate school or whatever and we all wanted to get a good game or two in before real life swept us all hither and yon.

Bret and I had a strange disjointed couple of minutes and it was interesting that he said that it was something we had gone through before, but I will leave room for him to post about it.  It boiled down to me taking his kicker in a direction that he had no anticipated.  He thought it was going to be more of a mystery that his character would have to solve and rather than that, I kind of made it something his Demon was doing through its power to Spawn.  There was some kicker-vertigo to deal with, there.

I really liked how Bret’s character dealt with the dead getting up and walking, which was to flat-out freak out.

I almost want a table to check off for when Demon’s Needs are denied and when they are fed.  There was a nice moment when Christine’s R&D exec shooed her demonic martian ravens away from her boss’ computer that I really liked.

It was a solid first game, rolled some dice, and fed some Demonic Needs, denied some Demonic Needs.

We are in second and third gears and next week I hope we start revving up to 4th.