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TOPIC: Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers?

Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3986

  • Aghori
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One of my play­ers wants to open Occultism as a skill. His PC is not a sor­cerer, on the con­trary, his pick for magic was F — doomed. The book says it’s impos­si­ble, but the player’s argu­men­ta­tion is not bad: His PC wants to learn as much about sor­cery as he can. He wants to know the enemy and learn how to destroy it.

If you treat occultism as a knowl­edge skill — that’s the way it is described — I see no rea­son to not let him learn it (from a book per­haps). Any thoughts?
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3988

  • Michael
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Aghori wrote:
Any thoughts?

Just our rea­sons why Occultism is absolutely lim­ited to sor­cer­ers:

One rea­son has to do with niche pro­tec­tion. We intended sor­cery to be the sole prove­nance of sor­cer­ous char­ac­ters, with all that this means. And it means not only prac­tis­ing sor­cery, but also know­ing hard, true facts about sor­cery.

The sec­ond rea­son is that sor­cery in Blade is pre­sented as decid­edly non-​scientific. (In this respect our sor­cery is actu­ally much closer to how it was per­ceived most of the time in most of Earth’s cul­tures, as opposed to how it is often por­trayed in role-​playing.) Sor­cery is not so much some­thing you study, like quan­tum physics at a uni­ver­sity, but some­thing you prac­tice, like zen bud­dhism, or sufism, or dao­ism. It’s much closer to a mys­ti­cal prac­tice, fre­quently with some degree of reli­gious under­pin­nings, than to an aca­d­e­mic sci­ence. It is not some­thing you know, but some­thing you live. Thus it is obvi­ously only peo­ple who actu­ally prac­tise it who can have any hope of under­stand­ing it.

That said it doesn’t break the sys­tem if other char­ac­ters are allowed access to it, even though I am of course not in favour of it, for afore­men­tioned rea­sons. As allow­ing access to it is not ben­e­fi­cial enough to demand an Asset I would sug­gest allow­ing it only for char­ac­ters whose back­ground strongly sug­gests it, but allow­ing it to them with­out the need for any fur­ther pre­req­ui­site. For exam­ple, if the PC were a sor­cer­ously cre­ated golem, a kind of Frankenstein’s mon­ster, it would make a lot of sense to say that, as sor­cery is his very lifeblood, he may acquire Occultism, even if unable to work any sor­cery.

Under no cir­cum­stances would I sug­gest all­wo­ing it to E or F Sor­cery Pri­or­ity char­ac­ters, though. Vul­ner­a­bil­ity to sor­cery is a cor­ner­stone of their very con­cept, and this has to be viewed like the con­cept of a char­ac­ter in fic­tion. A real per­son with a cer­tain vul­ner­a­bil­ity may well do what he can to lessen this vul­ner­a­bil­ity. A lit­er­ary char­ac­ter for whom such a vul­ner­a­bil­ity is a con­cep­tual pil­lar may likely do the same, but as the very weak­ness is cen­tral to his con­cept all his attempts to lessen his vul­ner­a­bil­ity are bound to be fruit­less and mere colour — were they fruit­ful this would under­mine his very con­cept. In other words, allow­ing an E or F Sor­cery char­ac­ter to coun­ter­bal­ance this Pri­or­ity pick by becom­ing an expert in Occultism inval­i­dates the Pri­or­ity pick.
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
Last Edit: 1 year 2 months ago by Michael.
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3990

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Thank you Michael for yet another inspir­ing answer. It remem­bered me to do more about his F pri­or­ity pick. So far he got away too easy, killing the one demon which haunted him.

I will talk to the player again. Maybe he realises that the skill doesn’t fit well with his PC which has no only F in sor­cery but also a PA “do any­thing to destroy Magic”.
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3992

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Aghori wrote:
It remem­bered me to do more about his F pri­or­ity pick. So far he got away too easy, killing the one demon which haunted him.

The F Sor­cery Pri­or­ity is the sin­gle most defin­ing choice of all Pri­or­i­ties a player can make. I wrote about it some­where, but I just can’t rouse myself to search for it right now. But just think about what the word means: “Doomed”. Not “In Grave Dan­ger”, not “Likely To Meet A Vio­lent End Soon”, but actu­ally “Doomed”. Can I spell it out any more clearly? Do I even need to?

A Doomed char­ac­ter is not fac­ing grave peril, a Doomed char­ac­ter is (nigh) cer­tain to go down. That’s an incred­i­bly pow­er­ful nar­ra­tive device. What you are deal­ing with here is the saga of a larger-​than-​life hero or anti­hero going to his end, big-​time, guns blaz­ing and every­thing. That’s some­thing to embrace and cel­e­brate in-​game, not to try to avoid at any cost. It’s a chance to tell a mem­o­rable epic, like rag­narok, where the Norse gods are not in grave dan­ger of dying, but cer­tain to die, des­tined to it – doomed to it. What could be more pow­er­ful? What Pri­or­ity pick be more defin­ing?

Here’s what you should do (and I’m not jok­ing but dead seri­ous):

Flip a coin. If it comes up heads, you have to kill the char­ac­ter within the next five ses­sions. Not endager him, not chal­lenge him, but kill him, no mat­ter what he does to avoid the Grim Reaper. If the coin comes up tails, you play nor­mally the next five ses­sions, and then flip the coin again. And so on, until the character’s Doom finally runs his course.

You think your player is going to com­plain? Remind him that he cre­ated a Doomed char­ac­ter and have him reread the entry on p35 and expalin to him that the “Doomed” choice is not about the lit­er­ary trope of over­com­ing insur­mount­able odds — that’s stan­dard adven­ture fare. The “Doomed” pick is specif­i­cally about cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter who will be destroyed by insur­mount­able odds, and the lit­er­ary trope of telling how he will still not be bro­ken in spirit but go down glo­ri­ously.


(Me per­son­ally, I just love Doomed. Once a player and ref­eree real­ize the power inher­ent in this Pri­or­ity pick, espe­cially with the Karma mechanic, where dying just means that your next char­ac­ter is going to be more pow­er­ful, it is incred­i­bly lib­er­at­ing. You can play a char­ac­ter who is spit­ting in the eye of the Devil – or equiv­a­lent – even as the Devil is finally squash­ing him.

You don’t nor­mally have this kind of free­dom, as you will usu­ally try to avoid being squashed by the Devil. The Doomed char­ac­ter will also try to avoid it, but as the player knows that he ulti­mately can’t avoid it, he can have his char­ac­ter act much more ballsy when it comes to the final con­fronta­tion. Instead of try­ing to squirm out from under the Devil’s cloven hoof, you can cock­ily and ballsily give him the lip and show him the fin­ger while he crushes you. He may crush you, but in spit­ting in his eye while he does I’d say you score at least a moral vic­tory – and cre­ate a truly mem­o­rable scene you will likely cher­ish for­ever.

The Devil may – will, actu­ally – take me in the end, but he will find me defi­ant. He may drag me to Hell, but he can­not defeat me.)
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3993

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Hm. Lots to think about. As we were new to Blade nei­ther I nor the player realised how grave this deci­sion has to be. Now I have to come up with an idea for a heroic death. Maybe it helps that his char­ac­ter destroyed the altar of a demon god the last ses­sion (Naveh, if you are still famil­iar with the Hârn set­ting). And there’s still the arch­mage that destroyed his home­land and wants to bring him — the son of the emperor — down. Maybe he has to sac­ri­fice him­self to kill the mage. I will think of a way to bring him on that cli­matic road. And I have some time, I really threw a coin — and he is save for another five ses­sions. ;) Thank you again.
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3994

  • Michael
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Aghori wrote:
Naveh, if you are still famil­iar with the Hârn setting.

Sure I remem­ber Naveh. And all of Hârn, very fondly so.

Aghori wrote:
Maybe he has to sac­ri­fice him­self to kill the mage.

Yes! That’s the — or at least one – way to go!

Doomed can come in many shapes and guises, I was just talk­ing about hav­ing the Devil out to drag you scream­ing down to Hell as this seemed appro­pri­ate for your case. And as the PC had already scored some vic­to­ries I was not talk­ing about avoid­ing the doom – I felt he has already have had enough suc­cess – but only about dying, for sure.

When you have the Devil, or Naveh, as it were, out to get you, you don’t play for killing Naveh, that’s just a pre­pos­ter­ous idea. The Devil™ sim­ply is not killed, and when your Doom is of that kind you strive to avoid the Devil and run from the Devil and some­how appease the Devil or hide from him per­ma­nently, but that’s as good as it gets. And the Devil may well destroy you before you man­age any of those goals – but when he does, you can go down glo­ri­ously, defi­antly. I’d say that the chance for being undone by this kind of Doom should be no less than 50%, the ref­eree should really not just make it hard for the PC to evade the Devil, but hard to an unfair, over­whelm­ing degree.

Another kind of Doom, and related to that and your idea, may be sac­ri­fic­ing your­self to achieve some­thing. Like any kind of Doom, this needs to be dis­cussed at char­gen between player and ref­eree. You can reach an under­stand­ing that the char­ac­ter has a decent chance to achieve some nor­mally impos­si­ble task – say, killing, for­ever and for good, Sauron –, but that he will not sur­vive it. Then you play with this ulti­mate goal in mind, guid­ing the plot com­mu­nally to this oppor­tu­nity to sac­ri­fice your­self to slay Sauron.

One player of mine had a some­what lame Doom, but as it sprang from a cool back­story I’ll share it nev­er­the­less: He was inspired by Elric of Mel­ni­boné, and like Elric, his char­ac­ter had played a (the, actu­ally) key part in com­pletely oblit­er­at­ing his native nation and cul­ture and peo­ple. About 1% of his peo­ple had sur­vived and those ten thou­sand or so sur­vivors were now scat­tered in a dias­pora all over the world, and howl­ing for the PC’s blood. Cool back­ground, but lame Doom, but an exam­ple for a Doom that is sur­viv­able, even though with dif­fi­culty.

Another basi­cally lame Doom is the mor­tal sick­ness. It becomes truly lame when the PC is rac­ing against time to find a cure for it, even though this would still qual­ify as a Doom, if the ref­eree plays it really mer­ci­lessly. Bet­ter is the ver­sion where the PC races to accom­plish some other task before he dies, and I have had a very suc­cess­ful game like that, that revolved not around escap­ing death, but about using the remain­ing time well. The way I run some­thing like this is like that: After the third and every sub­se­quent ses­sion I openly roll d12, inform­ing the player what it is for. If it comes up 12, the PC will die the next ses­sion.

The coolest Doom I came about ever was when one player really wanted to play a truly vile bas­tard, the rightly infa­mous cap­tain of an infa­mous mer­ce­nary com­pany, a bas­tard stand­ing out even among other bas­tards. As play­ing a vile fleck of phlegm might be fun for a time but isn’t in the long run the player made the most of it by “Doom­ing” the char­ac­ter. He wanted a Doom where the PC would be killed by a sur­vivor of an atroc­ity he had com­mit­ted, and stip­u­lated that the killer either had to be a crip­ple, a per­son in his dotage, or a child or young teenager – in other words some­body who is no match for the PC. And so the big bad bas­tard whose name was used by moth­ers of dis­obe­di­ent chil­dren all over the world as the bogey­men was undone by a thir­teen year old girl, and we all thought that it was no more than he deserved – and that, too, was an appli­ca­tion of “Doomed”.
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3995

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I might steal one or two of your sto­ries in the future. ;) The prob­lem with my sac­ri­fice idea is, the game is under­way for some time and we haven’t dis­cussed such an end at char­ac­ter cre­ation. But maybe I find a way to con­vince the player that a cool end can be a good way to become a n immor­tal hero — at least in the sagas.
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3996

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Aghori wrote:
IThe prob­lem with my sac­ri­fice idea is, the game is under­way for some time and we haven’t dis­cussed such an end at char­ac­ter creation.

I under­stand. And would in that way advise to not even bring up the idea, unless you judge the player to be the kind of guy who’s really going in for some­thing like that. If you bring it up and he refuses and you later kill him off, he might hold it against you as killing him arbi­trar­ily. Which you will of course have done, but only because he has specif­i­cally been ask­ing for it with his Sor­cery Pri­or­ity.

Once again, “Doomed” doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily equal auto­matic death, but it means that death dur­ing the first ten ses­sions is more likely than see­ing an eve­lenth. It is only with your player, who has had it too easy for too long, that I am push­ing for cer­tain, unavoid­able char­ac­ter death. So set up his death as spring­ing directly from “Doomed”, and make it good. Heck, have Naveh show up in per­son to kill him!

On an entirely dif­fer­ent note: When you were fresh to this forum and talked about set­ting your game on Hârn I advised you using the oppor­tu­nity to make your group blaze a trail all over Lythia in a way that would nor­mally go entirely agains the spirit of the immensely detailed set­ting and Hârn­mas­ter. May I ask if you did? Have you had them vis­it­ing some of the exotic places that are lit­tle more than names on the map?
Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-​colored sun
Of secret worlds incred­i­ble, and take
Their trail­ing skies for vest­ment when I soar.

Clark Ash­ton Smith, The Hashish Eater or The Apoc­a­lypse of Evil
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Occultism for Non-​Sorcerers? 1 year 2 months ago #3997

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Michael wrote:
On an entirely dif­fer­ent note: When you were fresh to this forum and talked about set­ting your game on Hârn I advised you using the oppor­tu­nity to make your group blaze a trail all over Lythia in a way that would nor­mally go entirely agains the spirit of the immensely detailed set­ting and Hârn­mas­ter. May I ask if you did? Have you had them vis­it­ing some of the exotic places that are lit­tle more than names on the map?

Well, yes and no. We started the game in Chelemby, which ist not on Harn, but an island in the gulf of Shorkyne. They had a com­mon PA which had to do with a spe­cific clan. We had some adven­tures there and at nearby Har­baal. The time we spend in the viking Land of Har­baal was longer than I’d expected. Because they had set a whole port on flames and fled across the coun­try to the moun­tains. They made a new mor­tal enemy, stopped the Inva­sion of their home­land and aquired some new PA — and while it was not exotic it was great fun.

Right now the com­mon PA has played its course and the team is going south. Last ses­sion we spent a lot of time dis­cussing where the group wants to go. There is no com­mon goal any­more and a lot of dif­fer­ent PAs lead­ing in dif­fer­ent direc­tions. They decided for Emel­rene which is a very old and leg­endary land full of mon­sters and dark magic. One of the play­ers hopes to find clues here about his past. He is the one who lost his mem­ory.

The “doomed” guy hopes to gather knowl­edge about the mage which enslaved his peo­ple. I think it is here that he learns about the only way to kill that mage: sac­ri­fice him­self. After Emel­rene more exotic lands will be on their way. The desert con­ti­nent of Hep­ekaria likely is next. Here the mage awaits the doomed PC.

As you see, we haven’t been too far around. I some­times wish to speed up the game. But my play­ers seem to enjoy the game as it is. It is way more heroic and exit­ing and quicker than our aver­age Harn game was. But, with four play­ers and 16 PAs you can some­times be sidetracked…
Last Edit: 1 year 2 months ago by Aghori.
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