Reading the Annotated Sorcerer

edited August 2013 in Story Games
So, I just got this in the post this week and I'm reading along. Here are some random thoughts
* Super-glad that I backed, reading it makes me want to play despite not being a Forge/Ron super-fan
* I found the double-printing of some left-hand pages (to make space for multiple pages of annotations) annoying at first, now I see the utility
* I'm really impressed with the quality of the annotations, they add a lot to the game text, to the point at which I'm unsure I could have played without them (I've never read sorcerer before being relatively new to SG)
* I think I'd have preferred Ron to have revised the rules where he sees fit rather than keeping the old text in some places with annotations that suggest alternative/better ways of doing it. If they're better (and they seem to be), shouldn't they just be the rules?
* I'd really prefer a decent margin on the bottom of the page so that my thumb holding the book doesn't obscure the text (only an issue with the left hand pages). Several indie games seem to do this - perhaps as a style statement? IMO it decreases the usability of the book, for me at least.

Anyone else having fun with this?



  • I'm reading through and enjoying it. Annotations are lots of fun, good in juicing up enthusiasm and offering a clear steer. Pretty much all your points I feel the same about (the margins didn't bother me so much).
  • I'm really enjoying reading the annotations as well, and they do make a lot of stuff clearer. I've read the old book many, many times, and I felt several "huh!" moments when reading, both under system and characters. One thing I found particularly helpful was the three levels of a Sorcerer character (p 34), who are entirely separate:
    A person
    A person who is a sorcerer (ie. gets by via sorcerous methods)
    A sorcerer who faces a Kicker (ie. upsets the above)

    It's classic player behaviour (I'm sure I've done it myself as well) to make the Kicker be something that the sorcerer can get around by doing his/her "normal" sorcerous stuff.
  • edited August 2013
    The annotations are awesome, and near-essential to play the game as intended (just the little one on "you should not define the etymology of demons; it can come up in play as part of the game, but not outside of it" was worth the price of admission for me). Finally, a version of Sorcerer that one can understand and play successfully almost straight out of the book, without having to go to the Forge and being told by others that "you played it by the rules; and yet, you're playing it wrong". All the insights and notes to have a successful game are in here.


    The layout is catastrophic. With about a month more time and elbow grease, a competent layout and organizational scheme, this could have been The Edition of Sorcerer to get a new generation of gamers on the same boat; but the layout is so cluttered and ugly that it's not a book I will recommend to anyone other than "people already familiar with Sorcerer", to whom I will highly recommend it. The layout is a stop sign, a 20-foot concrete wall, to new readers. Heck, the "recommended games" list is unchanged from 10+ years ago.

    What a lost opportunity.

    And yet, for the person already familiar with Sorcerer, this is an incredible resource.

  • To me, it reads like a great set of notes that could be used to make a much better version of Sorcerer. I don't know if it's a lost opportunity: maybe Ron will do just that someday. I do agree with Andy, though, that this isn't a tool for new players, and that is sad, as I think Sorcerer is a great game that is not clear enough to ensure that a solid group can pick it up and have a good game.
  • Didn't Ron say somewhere (in the text? outside?) that Sorcerer was finished and that he'd never release a 2nd Edition that gamers felt obligated to buy, a la D&D editions?

    Twenty some years later, the game still stands on its own, I think. Still, we've all learned a lot about game design since then and I agree that a complete edit and rewrite of the text would greatly help readers grok the rules, and Ron could file off some of the rough edges and fix a couple problems people have uncovered in decades of additional playtesting.

    Also, some of the discussions in the expansion books clarify the original rules, particularly regarding the stats. I'd love to see that all rolled together.
  • I can understand why Ron wanted to annotate the original rather than create a new edition; it's not as if he has a team of assistants to reformat it for him. It was a realistic task given the resources he was prepared to put into it.

    Personally, as someone coming to it cold, I found the original book to be great and inspiring (if only I had time to play all the games I wanted to) while the supplements were a disappointment. This was especially in the case of Sex & Sorcery which appears to have acquired almost mythic status amongst storygamers (according to the ludographies at the back of books), despite it having a deeply problematic binary view of gender.
  • Hi everyone,

    Thanks for the readings and the kind comments!

    The layout you're seeing is the original, which was set for 10.5" tall, the exact proportions of a standard comic book. That's why the top and bottom margins are so squeezed in this 9" tall book; they each lose 0.75", which is a lot and includes the original page numbers. I was sad to lose that with this release, and would have kept it if I could afford it, but it's a custom size and would have increased copy cost way too much.

    I did give much thought to 'porting certain points from the supplements into the core, but in every case, I think they really are advanced work. Relationship maps in particular should not be attempted until you're good at the basics, and in retrospect, releasing The Sorcerer's Soul as soon as I did after the core turned out to backfire. My goal here was to illuminate the core book especially for things that seemed to me to get missed, which I ultimately realized meant not re-arranging the original texts.

    To the post just over mine (semajmaharg) - I think you may have missed the crucial point in Sex & Sorcery that I am discussing literary gender, which is typically abstracted and objectified. And also that once having done so, re-blending and re-configuring - and therefore bringing it back to actual humanity - is a top priority. The primary inspirational text for the book, after all, is Hedwig & the Angry Inch. Please spot me the possibility of having a mind and a heart, and maybe knowing as much about the issues as other people. I do not think it's a crime to say "male" and "female" as long as they are not stopping points, and if you'd like, I'll point you to the Forge thread in which I stomped on gender essentialism with hobnailed and biologically-educated boots.
  • (I'd like to read that thread, Ron! Said a voice from the back row.)
  • edited August 2013
    I think the layout is not as catastrophic as Andy says - it certainly is comparable to my annotated Sherlock Holmes collection. I see what he means about it not being noob-friendly, but I am not sure anyone buying an annotated anything is going to expect anything different.
  • [Sex & Sorcery] Gay stuff

    The first post is about one thing; Vincent asks a question that expands into the essentialism thing a few posts down.
  • edited August 2013

    Edit: Read it now. Great post, Ron! Thanks.
  • Sounds like the kind of problem where you don't have enough people interested in the project, so you can't justify investing what it needed to appeal to a wider audience, so you don't have enough people interested in the project, so you can't justify...
  • Ricardo, that's nonsense.

    What's this about a wider audience? Reaching a wider audience has always been the glittering fantasy of RPG publishers, and it's ridiculous. They've rarely, if ever, historically managed to reach the audience they have in any way that yields functional play and any return on investment worthy of the name. Two illustrative examples: the successful one, Paizo and Pathfinder, for providing precisely what that exact known audience wanted without trying to appeal to anyone else; and the failed one, AD&D2, the most expensive and full-bore corporate example of investment in the hobby, which sought to bring the game to the mainstream market and became one of the worst and most disgusting failures of ROI in media, comparable to Ishtar.

    Sorcerer was written specifically and only for a precise sector of the hobby. That's one of the reasons it's been a steady seller for seventeen years, which is to say, doesn't have a problem. Andy's comment about wider audiences and newbies and new readers and all that is making up imaginary people in order to invent a problem. If I had listened to it then, and invested accordingly, those sales would be non-existent.

    Andy, regarding the layout, I acknowledge and accept that you don't like it, but it hurts a bit to see you on the attack. Don't you remember that Adept Press thread years ago, in which I worked out with others' help that this would be a strict re-release of the original album, with new liner notes? We talked about how a Sorcerer "updated and revised for today!" would be terrible, just like re-making Nico and the Velvet Underground and Nico "for the kids today!" would be. Your agreement led directly to my re-releasing the original just as I've done. I greatly appreciate your kind comments about the book, but it's backstabby to see you of all people who prompted me to do this turn around and criticize one of its necessary features.

    Also, about the list of games at the end, again, this is the original text, so that list is a historical artifact; the annotations even acknowledge that. I was planning to do a "where are they now" for some of the references, but that sort of thing can't help but hurt feelings, so I didn't.

    Best, Ron

  • edited August 2013
    Hey Ron: Yeah, I overstepped a bit there.

    The annotations short-circuit pretty much any confusion brought by the book: Historically, the common chain of events upon reading Sorcerer, experienced by dozens of friends over a period of several years was:

    (in the case of people who found and read the book, and not trained by someone skilled running it)
    1) Read it. Get inspired.
    2) Run it. Session fails.
    3) Go to the forums, post some questions.
    4) Someone (contracycle or other fan) informs you that you're playing the game all wrong, or if having fun, that you're having fun the wrong way.
    5) Get pissed off, walk away for a bit.
    6) Come back after a few weeks or months, because you can't put it down.
    7) Give it another shot. Mitigated success.
    8) Ask more questions on the forum. Get more feedback.
    9) Run one, maybe two more games of it (with maybe more forum posts in between). Fun had. Proper rules/methods/meaning followed. Things finally start to click after post-game forum discussions and AP reports.
    10) Regular, successful games of it follow.

    Again, it was almost that intersection of painful and humorous, as *dozens* of friends met over the years all went through this same experience, almost by the numbers.

    But this edition of Sorcerer, with annotations and play notes, completely collapses all of that: ALL OF IT. Just going through the notes, everything is clicking even years after I ran it. By these notes, any of us could have jumped from Step One to Step Nine/Ten above with no problem. As a text, it's a perfect edition of this game (I still wish Chris K had the time to finish his own notes to fill out advice even further, but honestly at this point the game as-is stands by itself).

    So on that front? Ecstatic. Satisfied. Could honestly not be happier.


    But at the same time, I've got that bug that wants to have a book where I can go to a friend and say, "Here, I don't have time to run this for you now, but have a copy of this game. Just read it. You'll get it. Let me know what you think."

    Or perhaps see the book on a shelf at the store, picked up by new hands without it being thrust into them, as someone new approaches the book. Yeah, I know I sound a little "Book of Mormon" on this here, but still, Sorcerer (specifically Sorcerer and Sword) was a 2x4 upside the head that introduced me to this whole new scene and kind of gaming I never imagined participating in.

    When I saw the new cover (which is badass, evocative of the old Shadowrun covers), I assumed that the next step, adjusted/corrected layout, was a given. A layout befitting the quality of the text; something that would catch the eye. A clean vision of the game to appeal to new gamers, people interested in new gaming experiences, for the Next Ten Years. A potential combination of RPG and recruitment platform (just as the original was; just a little more tuned up and modernized).

    ...My expectations were simply too high on that front, This just isn't That. But that's my own deal, that's on me and my own expectations and desires, and not the fault of you or others.

    As it stands, as a version of Sorcerer that finally makes sense from start to finish, that slices through all the confusion surrounding the new concepts (well, new years ago, but still hard to grok at times), it is an unmitigated success.

  • You got the love! (Andy and Ron swear male fealty, stagger in opposite directions, throw up ...)

    I think it'll still be a good 2x4 anyway.

    Regarding the cover, I think Thomas really threw it all out there to the winds when he decided to put that heroin gear right up front and center. I mean, holy shit. Then he goes full-frontal with the Sex & Sorcery orgy demons too.
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