[Sorcerer] Bibliophage, Session 8: Aristeia

So, Friday the 30th was the last session of the Bibliophage Sorcerer campaign. There was gunplay. There were demons. Candelabras were swung in anger. Some people even used naughty words. Details below.

I’m going to go through this one pretty quickly since some of it can be summed up in that fashion, then talk a little bit about what worked and what didn’t and what I’d do differently the next time.
Before we got started, I made a point of mentioning that pretty much anybody worthy of the name ‘sorcerer’ was probably one kind of bastard or another, and things might get a little heated during the big finale, and that we should all remember to keep the Bastard Character separate from the Player. 🙂
Anyway, when we last left our h — um… protagonists, Sean O’Neil (Shannon’s father) had just stepped out from behind a pillar in the great chamber that was somehow connected to or part of the entity known as the Bibliophage. This ended up being a bit of a shock to Shannon since, you know, Sean’s her dad and he’s supposed to be kind of dead-for-four-years. She hit him.
As the session started (later than we’d planned, unfortunately, but that didn’t turn out to be a huge problem), I informed Shannon’s player that we could handle the punch one of two ways: either it could be a color thing — she pops him one, doesn’t have to roll, and the hit has no game-mechanics effect but a nice dramatic one for ‘free’ — or she could actually roll for it and face the possible downsides of blowing the roll and the possible upsides of popping Sean in the mouth.
She opted to roll and wonder of wonders the Librarian actually tagged Daddy. This ended up kind of sucking for Sean later, because he had a lasting penalty during the rest of the ‘negotiations’. Ahh well.
Anyway, Sean stayed reasonbly calm in the face of his fractious offspring and invited everyone into the center of the chamber to sit down, lay aside arms, and talk over the situation.
Hmm. Long story short: everyone was pretty on-edge. Val and Ken entered the center area of the chamber and each took one of the mismatched chairs that were arranged off to the side and near the vast (virtual? metaphorical?) bookshelves that surrounded the central area. Sean sat down. Candace Lynn Voight sat down. Yvonne was pretty nervous and stayed standing. Shannon was pissed off and not only stayed standing but really didn’t even come fully into the central area — kind of lurking in the shadows of the entrance and sometimes moving back off into the pillars.
The central area was, by way of quick discription, basically a large circular area bounded by walls of bookshelves. Within this was a large magic circle (which Shannon determined was both a Contain (keep demon in) and a Ward (keep demons out). Within the circle was a moat-like body of vicous, undulating fluid (black demon blood?) that surrounded a large open book resting on a pedestal — said book appeared to be… umm… writing itself.
So, once the people that were willing to sit were doing so, Sean gave his spiel.

“If we release this thing, it will destroy all the sorcerers in the world, other than us. Not only will is collect thier knowledge here, in this place, but it removes all others like us in the world. We will be free to do as we like without censure from our peers, choose who we like as our heirs, and direct the path of sorcerers for generations to come — things will eventually get back to the way they are today, but by then we’ll be dead, so who cares? No, you weren’t originally going to be part of the plan, but your ability to even get to this place proves you’re worth inclusion.”

Ken was enough of a businessman and Val enough of a schmoozer that they were both able to look and sound completely interested in this offer. Shannon wasn’t anything of the kind, but she wasn’t really in line of site of Sean. (In fact, at this point, she walked back into the pillared shadows of the outer chamber and grabbed a big brass candlestand, not quite sure who or what it would be used on, but pretty sure it was going to get used on someone.)
The details of the ritual for releasing the Bibliophage were pretty simple — the only real downside was that the first sorcerer (and it had to be a sorcerer) to step into the circle and begin the rite would be consumed by the Bibliophage — it was, in fact, the role CLV and Sean O’Neil had groomed “the regrettable” Mr. Jerry Rubinek for — technically a Sorcerer, but too ignorant and greedy to know better.
Sean suggested they use Yvonne for the ‘starting position’ instead.
(Note: if we seemed to get to this point very quickly, that’s the retelling — I’m skipping about an hours worth of conversation with O’Neil and between the players in OOC regarding the details of the situation.)
Right about here, most of the player’s wanted to try to find out where everyone else really was, emotionally, in regards to this deal. Obviously, no one sitting down was going to be outright dismissive of the offer (after a few Lore checks, it became obvious that Sean had quite a few different telltales — lots of demonic influence there), but folks wanted to know who was on whose side.
Since Humanity was defined as Empathy for this game, I decided on Humanity rolls to give people a sense of what was going on behind the facades presented to the group. BEFORE this, however, I had all the players openly discuss where their characters fell on this subject. Then, if Player A got a good Humanity roll on Player B, they could interpret the information that Player B had just shared regarding their character.
Now, for various personal reasons, no one was actually interested in Sean’s deal (some thought it was just plain evil, some just didn’t want to go into cahoots with the guy). After the Humanity rolls, this is what the character’s knew:

  • Val knew that neither Shannon or Ken was on Sean’s side.
  • Ken thought Shannon was against Sean, but Val seemed pretty much in favor the plan…
  • Shannon thought Ken was against the plan, but was pretty damn sure Val was a sellout.

What this meant was that Val thought the odds were basically 4 on 2, while the other two thought of it was an even 3-3 split.

GM: “It amuses me that you’d rather kill your Dad right now, rather than let loose something that’s just going to kill a bunch of bastard sorcerers you’ve never met.”
Jackie: “I don’t know that any of those sorcerers are really bad people, but I’m pretty damn sure my dad is.”

Val and Ken both voiced doubts about using Yvonne (who was pretty much standing there in shock) — she’d been fairly useful to this point and at any rate she wasn’t ignorant of the situation like Rubinek would have been, so the knowledge that she was just a sacrificial lamb might queer the whole deal — they opined that with a few weeks of work, they could find a likely candidate, teach them the rudiments necessary, and be back on track. After some consideration, Sean allowed that this was a good plan.

“It’s true,” he said, “the only way a sacrifice knowledgable of the ritual would work would be if they feared what might happen to them in life more than what would happen in death.”

At this, Val and Ken both noticed the barest fearful flicker in Candace Lynn Voight’s eyes. Both men suddenly realized that Candace was someone Sean held that kind of fear/control over.

“You go and find our sacrifice. I will bide my time here.”
Ken shook his head. “Actually, I think I see your point of view, Sean, and I think you’re original plan is probably best.” He drew his pistol, having never let Doji out of his other hand, and leveled it at Yvonne (and, by “coincidence”, Val was sitting directly in Ken’s line of fire as well.) “Sorry, Yvonne, it’s just business.”

At this point, hell basically broke loose.

  • Val yelped at having a gun pointing his way and made as though to duck out of his chair. What he was actually doing was reaching down for the shotgun that had been laying on the side of the chair so he could blast Sean before he ‘did anything’.
  • Ken saw Val going for the gun and opted to let him make the first move and make his allegiances clear. He therefore jumped behind his own chair, hunkered down, and attempted to summon his Father.
  • Ken’s demon Doji decided to hit Sean with a psychic blast.
  • Yvonne yelped and ran for cover.
  • Shannon, seeing Ken making a move, charged at Candace swinging the bronze candle holder — she couldn’t quite handle going after Dad when it came right down to it.
  • Bister decided to do a Special Attack, non-lethal on CLV (he basically pours himself into the target’s lungs).
  • CLV tried to Confuse Val using her medallion.
  • Val’s demon Glaistig went for a confuse on CLV.
  • Val’s demon Shade got Big.
  • Sean attempted to Cloak and simply dodge, thus giving him a huge advantage in following rounds.

Here’s how it shook out:

  • Doji blasted Sean, who had to abort the cloak to defend and still didn’t make it. This hit slowed him down just enough for Val’s shotgun blast to hit (Glaistig confused CLV before CLV could confuse Val). Not a lot of lasting damage, but a whole hell of a lot of temporary.
  • No one hit CLV successfully… too many cooks spoil the sauce, I guess.
  • Ken had a prayer to his father all worked out (player had it all written out), and he wrapped up the summoning by biting clean through his lower lip to get the Family Blood flowing (which is Osato’s Need).

Next phase:

  • Val jumped up on the low table between him and Sean and let loose with two shots, trying to keep the guy down and out, because he deeply feared what would happen if he got a chance to move.
  • Ken’s father’s ghost arrived and took his Payment of Ken — said payment looked a bit too much like a Dementor’s Kiss and hit Ken with a Taint (temporary drop on Ken’s Humanity to 2).
  • Doji blasted Sean again.
  • CLV’s cat-demon popped out from under her chair and tried to use Hint on Shannon (I’ve shown that Demon’s with Hint often use it in combat situations — likening it to suddenly exposing the target’s mind to Things Beyond Creation).
  • Shannon, who’d been researching CLV’s demonic kitty, shouted in triumph and went straight for a snap-Banish on the cat (bonus dice from Lore rollover and lots of prepped “ingredients”). Yvonne tried a half-hearted assist on the Banish.
  • Shade, now Big, smashed CLV.
  • Bister smashed CLV.
  • Glaistig hit CLV with another Confuse.


  • Both Doji and Val hit Sean (who was Armored) again, keeping the temporary penalties about the same and moving up the lasting penalties to about 4 dice. Current penalties were still over 2x Stamina, so Sean couldn’t use Will to master himself.
  • Ken’s resentment of his father grew.
  • Shannon’s Banish failed, but the cat had to abort to resist it, so there was no Hint attempt by the cat.
  • Both Doji and Bister hit CLV and she went down (and had too many penalties at the moment to use Will to Master herself.)

Next phase:

  • Ken ordered his Father (basically pacted) to take care of Sean.
  • Doji and Ken both hit Sean again.
  • CLV’s cat, seeing which way the wind was blowing, ran pell-mell over to Yvonne and cried “Spare me and I will serve you willingly!” It then rolled to break his binding with Yvonne.
  • Shade pounded on CLV to keep her down.
  • Bister dove into CLV’s lungs (SA: N-L)
  • Shannon told the demon’s to finish CLV and grabbed the demonic amulet from CLV’s neck.


  • Osato hit Sean with Hint, and after that (rather convoluted) resolution, ended up with Sean going into convulsions and taking something like FOURTEEN lasting penalties from spine-cracking seizures.
  • Something very similar resulted from Bisters SA: NL attack on CLV — the words “lung foam” were used. Both CLV and Sean would have survived the fight if taken right to ICU, but they sure didn’t look like they would at the moment.
  • The demon cat broke the bond and hid behind Yvonne.
  • Shannon grabbed the amulet and tossed it into the moat of goo inside the magic circle.

The Ken and Vall picked up Sean. Shade and Bister picked up CLV. Both were dumped into the moat of blackblood inside the circle. Shannon carefully didn’t watch — her Dad died 4 years ago — that wasn’t him.
And that was pretty much it. Humanity checks all around at the end — Ken’s dropped, leaving him (with Taint in effect) at a one — he wasn’t feeling much connection with his fellow man after what he’d done in the last few days, but he’d feel a little better eventually.
After discussion, the group decided that since the place couldn’t be destroyed, and they didn’t want to use it (“yet”, some added parenthetically), it had to be guarded so that no one could use it on THEM. This worked out pretty well, since Shannon effectively controlled a major access point to the chamber.

  • Ken had decided to remain in control of OsatoSoft North America and send his sister Hanae back to Japan to take control of the Home Office — teach her a little Sorcery as well, and she’d have Dad spinning in his grave in no time. (He made a roll to raise a stat and (eventually) found that his Will had increased — I believe that put it at a 6.)
  • Val, now without a mentor and with his possible apprentice likely to move back to Japan soon, opined it might be good to see the world and find out if there were other placed to access the chamber. (He made rolls to raise a stat and (eventually) found that his Stamina had raised. (To a four.) Between that and the chance to rewrite his descriptors (going for a more combat-oriented Cover), plus two very useful demonic servants, it was the opinion of the group that he’d be pretty damn effective in such a role.
  • Shannon would remain at the library, the first (or final, depending on point of view) line of defense around the Chamber of the Bibliophage. She rolled Humanity versus Lore and raised it to a 5 — pretty damn appropriate for a librarian and sorcerous guard of the Chamber, indeed.

And that’s the end. Will we play these guys again? Not soon — there’s a lot of stuff we’d like to play as well, and we’re already talking about what will go into this time slot — but play Sorcerer itself? DEFINITELY.

What worked:

  • The storyline, the characters, the style of play, and the players.

What didn’t:

  • Long pauses between play sessions — it takes awhile to get back into the swing of the mechanics if you haven’t played for awhile — the last fight took awhile to play through simply because we had to double check a lot of demonic abilities, rituals, and some weird things with Cover/Stat vs. Cover/Stat double-rolls.

What I learned:
Wow… so much regarding managing shorter campaigns of this type, and really focusing a game’s story — I do not exaggerate that this game will inform my GMing for years to come. Great stuff. Specific to Sorcerer, a few of the Big Points were:

  • Get a Relationship Map down first. If you want to do one-shots — prep some simple R-Maps to have ready.
  • Define Humanity, Lore, Demons, and Rituals clearly and give them lots of flavor — the better the definitions, the better the role-playing that surrounds play concerning such things.

There’s a lot more, but I’m going to let it simmer for awhile. Comments welcome.


  1. This campaign managed to finesse the “How Do You Get a Bunch of Folks Who’d Never Work Together Working Together?” bit down perfectly. Even in the final analysis, we weren’t working together, but for our own ends and purposes and motivations. That made it feel a lot more realistic (and edgy) than a lot of other serials.
    While I enjoyed (if that’s the right word) running Ken, I wasn’t fully satisfied with how Doji worked out, largely because I didn’t really do a good job of defining his powers up front. As a result, he turned out to be a Really Powerful Zap-Gun (for the purposes of this serial).
    Of course, Ken still has his dad’s amulet …

  2. I think the ‘design problem’ with Doji was that I tried the “just tell me what you want and I’ll figure it out in the system” approach — Ken was initially presented as being sort of willfully ignorant of what Doji did for him, which left all but the most obvious of Doji’s abilities working for Ken backstage and out of even the player’s sight.
    And that’s probably not the way to go — in this kind of game, after all, at least the *player* should be fully cognizant of every nasty thing your demon’s doing 🙂
    Final fight: on the one hand, folks tend to expect to be limping away bleeding from the ‘big bad’, and might feel like they lucked out if they come off undamaged.
    But… well, you guys brought the only guns, more than a 1:1 ratio of demons, and frankly outnumbered the enemy. That’s how those things go.
    Actually, from *my* point of view, the *real* Big Fight was back with the Moth Demons — I didn’t intend for the last confrontation to be the Big Battle — it was meant to be a more mental struggle, albeit punctuated with screams and gunfire 🙂
    On a third hand, there’s Ken’s gored lip, Ken’s Humanity of 1, and Shannon pointedly not watching her peers dump her dying father into a pool of demon blood, or Val watching his Demon do the same with his mentor.
    Undamaged? Well… whatever gets you through the night.
    It was a pretty ‘traditional’ game: vanilla setting, vanilla descriptors, et cetera. For all that I wouldn’t run it ‘generic’ like that again, what I was personally impressed by was that it still got down into the guts of the characters and stirred around with a sharp stick. That’s pretty darn cool.

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