rick jones, sorcerer (pt 3)

Avengers 57 by John Buscema

Using Sorcerer to run Atomic Horror type stuff, which I only know from comic books:

building a sorcerer scenario: the relationship map

In Dungeons & Dragons, players typically navigate a dungeon, designed more-or-less as a flowchart.

Zork I as flowchart

Sorcerer is one of many role-playing games that doesn’t work well in that format.  Instead of constructing a flowchart that depicts physical space, you build a house of cards, the “relationship map” showing lines of tension between NPC’s.  Here’s an example I found for some version of Vampire:

somebody's Vampire game as "house of cards"

Players, in the process of pursuing their own interests, will knock into the house of cards, and hijinks ensue.  All of this is addressed at great length in Sorcerer’s Soul, one of the supplements to the game.  But I’ll work out an example over the course of a couple posts.

N.B., obviously some of the really famous D&D modules use both techniques.  I’m thinking of something like B4: The Lost City or B2: Keep on the Borderlands, where the dungeon-dwellers have their own factions, alliances, and vendettas which the players’ arrival will inevitably throw into disarray.

step 1: draw lines of sex and death

All this day-dreaming about alternate Marvel Comics rosters makes me think about the House of Pym, and how it influenced the formation of the Avengers.  So my source fiction is gonna be Avengers comic books from, like, 1963 through 1973, with a focus on Hank Pym and the people linked to him.  Scripted by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, illustrated by Jack Kirby, Don Heck, and John and Sal Buscema.

At this stage, you plow through the source material again, keeping an eye out for relations between characters, particularly primal stuff like sex and killing.  Then you draw a little map: click to embiggen.

by some miracle I am not a virgin

genealogy of the Vision, 1967 through like 1973

Christ, that’s a lot of people!  Let’s pluck out the main characters:

The Pyms:

  • Goliath is a mad scientist with a massive inferiority complex.
  • Wasp, his wife, a generation younger.  Fabulously rich, spoiled nymphomaniac.  “Supportive” in a belittling way.
  • Ultron is Goliath’s creation: an indestructible, brilliant, genocidal robot with an Oedipus complex.

The Williams:

  • Wonder Man: a businessman who embezzled from his own company.  He gets blackmailed by the Enemy into becoming a double-agent.  He dies, heroically, as a triple-agent.
  • Grim Reaper is Wonder Man’s brother.  He’s not wrapped too tight.
  • Vision is Wonder Man’s brain downloaded into the body of a ghost-like robot.

The mutants:

  • Scarlet Witch is a ex-terrorist mutant who falls in love with the Vision.
  • Quicksilver is an ex-terrorist mutant who is rabidly possessive of his sister, the Scarlet Witch.
  • Magneto is a terrorist mutant who emotionally dominated Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.  Later revealed to be their father.

The sub-plot:

  • Goliath II (a/k/a Hawkeye) is Goliath’s jackass friend.  Naturally the original Goliath supplies him with an addictive steroid in the interests of national security.  He is sweet on the Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch.
  • Black Widow is an alluring Soviet spy who’s got Goliath II wrapped around her pinky finger.  Her ultimate loyalties are extremely murky.

step 2: identify moral crimes

Doesn’t have to be illegal, just morally disturbing to the reader.

  • Goliath, at Ultron’s urging, tries to scoop out the Wasp’s brain and plant it into a robotic body.  Because he loves her.
  • Ultron (Goliath’s darker side) scoops out Wonder Man’s brain and places it into a robotic body.
  • Goliath and the Wasp are locked into an extremely toxic marriage filled with physical (and emotional) abuse and a constant struggle for dominance, mainly fueled by Goliath’s raging insecurity, which the Wasp exploits when it suits her.
  • Magneto emotionally abused his children into joining his holy vendetta against the human race.  When the kids have second thoughts about it, he arranges to shoot the Scarlet Witch so that Quicksilver goes berserk and rejoins Magneto’s team.  Their betrayal costs the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver their only human friends.
  • Goliath II is wild for the Black Widow, but she exploits him in service of the Reds.
  • The Grim Reaper goes crazy when Wonder Man dies, and swears revenge against a whole bunch of innocent people.  (Oddly, he’s kind of okay with the idea that someone scooped out his brother’s brain and put it in a robot.)  (The Grim Reaper is a pretty lame character.)

“but i only care about dungeons and (inexplicably rare) dragons”

I’ll get back to D&D soon.  I want to finish this up.  Later this week we’ll conclude scenario creation for Sorcerer.

9 Responses to “rick jones, sorcerer (pt 3)”

  1. May 31, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    I’m wondering if playing this with Sorcerer’s ruleset will scratch your superhero itch. Maybe mix it up with a hydrocortisone cream.

  2. May 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Scott, you need to finish school and give me a differential diagnosis. I am really sick with this stuff.

  3. June 1, 2011 at 12:13 am

    Not sure if this was what you meant above about the modules, but you can combine both. In my current dungeon, I assigned relationships based on where they are. For example the only real contact between Patrol Group 1, and the Special Patrol Group dealing with bugbears is between their commanders. Otherwise, they’re in different sections, so they don’t meet. It’s kind of hard to do that without a map.

  4. June 1, 2011 at 12:27 am

    C’nor, yeah, that’s part of it: but it would especially work out if there was a fractured loyalty within the command structure, and the folks on a particular side of the fracture might have different reporting lines.

  5. June 1, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane. It has been forever since I thought about Vision and his back story. Makes me want to grab all those old Avengers out of storage and read them again!

  6. June 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Wymarc, be careful! Roy Thomas wrote a whole bunch of those issues, and his style is . . . even more of an acquired taste than Stan Lee’s.

  7. June 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    As a not-really-a-comics-reader, I strongly suspect that what I got out of reading these issues would be much less juicy than what you are able to perceive. Keep it coming!

  8. June 1, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    James infuses his readings with more love and meaning than I’ve ever been able to fathom, but when I look at the art, it’s like he’s elevating the writing to meet it halfway.

    In fact, I wonder if James would consider re-writing or re-dialoguing an issue?

  9. 9 Jay
    June 2, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Very cool! This story arc is one of my favorites in comics (let alone Avengers). Vision is my favorite Marvel character and it’s exciting to see a campaign built around that time frame. I’ve not had any exposure to Sorcerer, the idea of character tension being the focus is really interesting. Though, Jim Shooter will tell you that Hank Pym was never meant to be a an abusive husband. ;)


    /grain of salt, all that

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Past Adventures of the Mule

May 2011

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