[Sorcerer] "Soul" of Mu?

edited May 2008 in Story Games
I'm gearing up for our second Dictionary of Mu game by reading the Sorcerer supplements. Chapter 1 of Sorcerer's Soul sets out a thematic inference central to Sorcerer:

Humanity implies Demons implies Lore implies Rituals implies Humanity (never said in exactly this way, but see pages 14/15 of Soul)

All of these things are connected. So, as set out in Sorcerer's Soul, if Humanity is your sanity, then Demons are associated with madness, Lore is the ability to understand madness, and the rituals are all about foisting your private madness onto the real world - which, in turn, makes it a lot harder to keep yourself together.

What does Dictionary of Mu look like when extrapolated out this way?
* By the book, Humanity is the character's hope for the future
* By the book, Demons are the spirits of dead or dying things

But what about:
* The nature of a Demon's Power? (i.e., does it measure how long something has been dead? how much it will degrade your hopes? both? if both, what's the connection?)

* How Humanity is used in resolution? (What's a Humanity vs. X roll all about, where X can be any number of different things?) (Mu does some of this with its Friendship and Love rules.) Sorcerer's Soul has some funky little Calvinball-style rules involving Humanity's ties to rituals in Ron's Black Wheel game, too, which I think is boss.

* What's this say about Lore? It certainly looks like Lore is, well, literally knowledge of ancient lore, either from blood-heritage or a rigorous training period. But how are these Lores differentiated vis-a-vis Humanity and Power? I mean, if your dude is the last descendant of a marginalized culture, bringing that culture back to life ought to raise your hope for the future, right?

* How do the rituals come into things? Specifically, how do Hope and Death figure into the specific nature of the six different rituals? To me, these last two bullet points could imply nifty charts like the one seen on page 119 of Sorcerer, where each of the major traditions is fleshed out a bit, and we see major differences in their approaches to the demonic.

Anyway, I have some ideas about this, but I wanted to hear others' thoughts too. The last time we played, we didn't really get into all this stuff, and the game certainly works on that level, but I'd like to come at it with a little more thematic oooomph this time around.


  • edited May 2008
    I'm bringing it up because for the last week or so, I'd misremembered what Humanity and Demons are. I'd thought Humanity was inspiring other people with hope, and Demons were things that, though once real, had faded from historical memory and become an obscure myth. For example, the apocryphal parts of the Bible. Or Thera. Or that crazy steam engine the Hellenes created. Or King Arthur, maybe, if he were more obscure.

    And so that's kind of cool, right, because under that conception, here's Dictionary of Mu making a thematic statement that all of this heritage, and these old things, and these building blocks of cultural identity-- once they become so ossified and delapidated that they no longer serve a social function, they become demons holding us back, leading to bloodshed, violence, and misery. See, for example, the 700 years of fighting in the Balkans over a history which, to outsiders, looks tragically absurd.

    This would be a nifty interpretation, because it suggests that Lore is literally lore: knowing weird shit about ancient mythology and fringe science: all that Erich Van Daniken Chariots of the Gods stuff and so on. And it also suggests that the practice of sorcery is very much like anthropology/archaeology/dungeon-delving, or maybe (for a more science-fictiony feel) reverse-engineering Ancient Tech, or cloning a dinosaur for your theme park. To me, this suggests all kinds of pulp science stuff, where Binding might be trying to read a software user's manual written in a dead language to control your Hesperian Battle Barge, or whatever. Contacting might be scrolling through screen after screen on an eons-old mainframe, looking for an obscure footnote in a technical paper that nobody ever bothered to follow up on, or noticing that the root of a verb in a song your granny taught you is the same as this other root verb here....

    I mean, that might be me reading too much into the sucker, and I'm not sure I'd agree with the alleged thematic statement, but it's a plausible connection using that definition of "demon."

    But that's not how demons are defined, as I was surprised to discover this morning when re-reading the book. Strictly speaking, demons are the spirits of the dead or the dying, which is a lot broader than the mythological stuff I'd been kicking around in the paragraphs above. Theoretically, King Arthur may be a demon, but so are Gary Gygax and the concept of privacy. I'm wondering what to make of the text itself, particularly since this stuff is meant to threaten Humanity on some level.
  • Posted By: James_NostackI mean, if your dude is the last descendant of a marginalized culture, bringing that culture back to life ought toraiseyour hope for the future, right?
    Ah, interesting.

    Since you're bringing the culture back by literally resurrecting what is Dead and gone, rather than rebuilding it anew, you do not have Hope for the future. When you're dealing with Mu demons, you're wallowing in nostalgia rather than recreating the glory.

    And undoubtedly, the Dead Things you bring back will be... different... from the way they used to be. For one, they now have Needs and Desires, right?
  • Warning: comment below offers no help

    Why am I not playing in this game, dammit?
  • edited May 2008
    Posted By: Matt WilsonWhy am I not playing in this game, dammit?
    Cuz you're Jersey?
  • edited May 2008
    Posted By: lachekSince you're bringing the culture back by literally resurrecting what is Dead and gone, rather than rebuilding it anew, you do not have Hope for the future. When you're dealing with Mu demons, you're wallowing in nostalgia rather than recreating the glory.
    That's interesting: it places more of the focus on letting go of things and living in the present/future rather than dwelling in the past. And even old or mythological things can be non-demonic if they're vital and forward-looking. It also explains one of the text's examples of Humanity gain:
    Posted By: Oghma the ScribeHumanity Gain Test examples:
    Bringing back something glorious and once-dead so that there is one less demon.
    This example is a lot harder to square with the idea that all forgotten history is demonic, as I advanced in Post #2. But trying to figure out whether some invocation of the past is forward-looking or backward-looking seems pretty murky. How would you distinguish a truly demonic ritual from something more benign? (The mechanical difference is clear, but I'd like a fictional difference too.)
  • Perhaps the fictional difference resides in the judgement of the players?
  • Yeah, I suppose that could work; it's sort of how we played it last time.

    But I think for a Swords & Sorcery genre story, which is what Dictionary of Mu is all about, atmosphere, style, menace and wonder are all very important, and very important thematically. It's true that the mechanics impose a certain degree of nastiness upon all sorcerous actions, but I don't want sorcery to resemble non-sorcerous activities:

    "Welcome to the Mu's Bed Municipal Planning Council Job Application Form. We'd like to restore the City's Magnetic Levitation Transportation System, inactive since the reign of Devi Yasmina of the Third Imperium. If you are willing to offer yourself as a human sacrifice, please check box 1. If you would like to offer yourself as a virgin sacrifice, please check box 2. Legal disclaimer for virgin sacrifices: by checking box 2, you relieve the City of all liability for emotional distress attendant upon loss of virginity; you also acknowledge that you have no reasonable expectations of medical privacy regarding examinations to confirm your status as a virgin."

    If someone is simply trying to restore some old culture, or bring back an old idea, through non-sorcerous means, I want that to look one way (i.e., whatever's appropriate and rational), while the sorcerous side isn't just fucked up, but fucked-up in a way that's thematically significant.

    One thought:

    Okay, so Humanity is hope, and Demons are dead things. Maybe sorcery is perverted hope: hoping against hope, hoping for something delusional and impossible. (I'm thinking particularly of this horrible relationship I was in, where I kept thinking there was something to salvage, and it was obvious to everyone else that there wasn't.) Once something is dead, it's dead. It's not ever coming back, and you need to acknowledge that, let go, move on, and invest your hope and energy in things that can still benefit from your devotion. Maybe?

    Part of me really wants to fiddle around with Angels, too. (For people who don't have Sorcerer's Soul, Angels are, at least thematically, anti-demons and sources of Grace, which is sort of like Humanity.) So maybe here, Angels are spirits from the future, unborn things, things that have yet to be created - and Grace is a sense of purpose and mission?

    PS. I think it would be interesting to think about Humanity as a dual definition of desire and fear, for a Buddhist sort of game, but that's probably too far afield for right now.
  • edited May 2008
    Posted By: James_NostackThis example is a lot harder to square with the idea that all forgotten history is demonic
    At the risk of starting up the insanity about "demons do not exist" again...

    Is it not possible to assume that forgotten history is not demonic until the sorcerer makes it so? That is, the very act of summoning the forgotten history through sorcerous means creates the demon?

    So when the player reaches for the dice to make a Contacting roll, she has declared the existence of a demon. But if someone simply digs up some old stuff via non-sorcerous means, there is no demon. I'm sure this ties into "judgment of the players", which isn't bad - it allows the players to address what they find thematically suitable during play.
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