Sorcerer Conflict Mechanics Overview

Sorcerer is an RPG with a "universal mechanic." In other words, it's got one system that you pretty much use for everything your character might try to do. (This is in contrast to Dungeons & Dragons, which has one system for fighting, another system for talking, a third system for picking locks, and a fourth system for casting spells, for example. Different strokes for different folks!)

For a game with a single way of doing things, Sorcerer sometimes confuses the hell out of people, though. James think that's partially because Ron Edwards cannot explain shit to save his life, but maybe James cannot do any better. Let's see:

The key thing to remember about Sorcerer is that if someone's trying to mess you up, you can try to defend yourself. But how well you can defend yourself depends on your guy's speed and initiative order. Dudes who are slow to react, are going to have problems defending themselves. Let's just hold that thought in mind for a second, and go through the explanation.

1. Everybody involved in the conflict - a fight, a huge argument, a car chase, whatever - declares what they wanna do this turn. This is pretty free-form. If you say, "I wanna argue with Bob about the vote-count," and Bob says, "I wanna pull out a gun and shoot you in the face," you might revise your initial argument: "Screw arguing with Bob, I'm gonna wrestle that gun away from him and get him in a headlock." That's totally legit. Everybody gets to revise their intentions until they're satisfied.

2. Everybody gathers up the appropriate number of dice for their pool, and rolls 'em. Exactly how many dice you roll depends on your stat, favorable circumstances, whether you're injured, and so on. Anyway: roll!

3. Once everybody rolls, whoever rolled best, gets to go first. Then whoever rolled next best. And then third-best. And so on down the line. Let's say you rolled best, so you're first. (This is sort of like rolling initiative in D&D.)

4. Your declared action was to get Bob in a headlock. So you're gonna do that. You don't need to roll again: your roll last step wasn't just "initiative" but also your performance.

5. Bob hasn't acted yet, so he's gotta make a choice:

  • Bob can still try to shoot you in the face on his turn, but he's gonna be defending against your headlock with only one die. We might imagine this as Bob being so crazy that even as you lunge for him and grab hold of him, he's still trying to plug you.
  • Bob can abort his action, meaning, he's giving up his turn and abandoning the idea of shooting you, in order to defend with his full number of dice. We might imagine this as Bob being really paranoid and lurching back, yanking the gun back and away so it's out of your reach as he tries to keep himself free.

6. (Now, if Bob abandons his action, he's gonna defend against you with his full dice and maybe he fends you off or maybe he doesn't, but when it gets around to his turn, he's given up on shooting you so hey, that's nice. We go to the next round, where depending on how well Bob defended maybe he starts out in a headlock, but either way you don't have a JHP round in your skull.)

6b. But if Bob really wants to shoot you, headlock be damned, he rolls one die to defend himself against your initiative/performance roll. Since you were acting first, it probably means you got a killer result which Bob can't easily beat. Let's assume that Bob fails to defend himself against your grappling. By grappling Bob, you are fucking up his ability to shoot you, and we work out how well you do this.

7. When it gets to Bob's turn, he tries to shoot you. In doing so, Bob keeps his initiative/performance roll from a couple steps ago: that was his attack roll. Meanwhile, because you acted before Bob, you automatically can defend yourself at full dice. The whole abandon-your-action-or-suck-it-up choice only applies if you haven't acted yet. Furthermore, you get a bonus to your defense based on how well you grappled Bob.

So it's like this: if you've acted in the round already, you defend with full dice. If you haven't acted in the round yet, you have to decide between defending yourself properly, or half-assing your defense in order to persist with your original goal.

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