“James,” no one asks, “where have you been?
Why don’t you blog anymore?”
I have been on an RPG bender, snorting powdered rule books, line after line of Gygaxian prose, until I’ve ruined my nasal cavities, and sticking irrational-sided dice into various orifices. I’ve turned myself into New York Red Box’s very own Wandering Monster, showing up randomly at sessions and giggling at things nobody else thinks is funny, encouraging TPK’s through bad advice. Then leaving early to snort more rule books. Soon I’m gonna end up like my man Ska-Tay, mainlining retroclones and telling myself it’s no big deal since it’s just micro-lites.
While trying to put together another one-shot for Marvel Super Heroes, I ended up thinking about the Hulk.
In the very earliest issues of The Incredible Hulk, which lasted for all of 6 issues in 1962, the Hulk is a rampaging atomic monster hell-bent on conquering the Earth, destroying the human race, and raping Betty Ross. Not necessarily in that order.
The only thing holding him in check (just barely) is teenage delinquent and high school drop-out Rick Jones. These early Hulk comics are really the story of an incredibly quick-witted and resourceful boy trying desperately to save the world from a monster he feels responsible for creating.
It’s a Sorcerer story, at least in its better moments.
This write-up isn’t meant to replicate Hulk comics precisely, but rather to play on the desperation, Cold War paranoia, atomic monster fiction of the time. Rick and the Hulk are just one data point in there.
Sorcerer, for those who don’t know…
Is an RPG where you play Faust. You’re a mostly-ordinary dude, except that through sorcery you’ve bound a demon into your service. If you’re a PC, you probably had a really good reason for doing so, but the game is about finding out how well that works out for you. Your goal isn’t just to advance your own interests, but to somehow preserve a shred of your Humanity, which is sort of like your spiritual health. It’s one of my favorite games and one that I wish I could play more often.
Sorcerer, as a rules text, is all about formal abstractions: “demon” doesn’t have to mean a critter from Hell, all that matters is that, however you define the term in your setting, the rules for demons apply. (D&D analogy: maybe in your world, Fighting-Man is more of a samurai dude or a Wild West gunslinger, instead of a medieval European knight, but in all cases the rules for Fighting-Men would apply.)
Customizing Sorcerer for the setting
Humanity is loyalty, friendship, human decency type stuff. You can roll Humanity vs. Will to compel someone to cleave to you. Rick does this a lot to persuade the rampaging Hulk to cool it.
Demons are monstrous creatures and unearthly technologies brought forth by the atomic age. Unprecedented outlanders, these oddities either do not respect or simply fail to understand the reciprocal bonds that make us human. The monster’s Power score represents the scope or intensity of its loathing.
Sorcery is super science, the relentless pursuit of atomic energies and Space Age revelations that mankind was never meant to know. Pursuit of knowledge in the abstract, with no regard how it will impact the rest of humanity, marks someone as beyond petty concepts like “loyalty” or “friendship.”
Lore is basically comic-book super science, doing stuff like contacting aliens on other planets, developing biological weapons that turn into blob-monsters, building robots, implanting wasp DNA into teenage girls, and so on. This isn’t just science, but 1950′s “mad” science, things that just cannot possibly work.