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This is a selection of psionic powers available for player characters inmy Reliquary Space setting. They replace the psionic rules in Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes, with inspiration from GURPS Basic Set, 3rd Edition.

Reliquary Space index

Each psionic skill costs 3 Skill Points. They have no IQ minimum, but higher IQ gives you a higher chance to gain mastery over your skills—otherwise, they are latent. To check for mastery, make a Level 2 Saving Roll for each skill, combining your IQ with your level in the chosen skill.

Latent skill: GM uses the skill erratically as though it were controlled by an distracted and unreliable, but otherwise benevolent NPC. Such powers may manifest in stressful situations (with a Saving Roll) or otherwise, at the GM’s whim. If you spend significant downtime training under a master of a given discipline, you may check for mastery again at the end of your training regime, taking a +1 bonus for each fortnight of unbroken, focused practice in a single skill.

Psionic skills are divided into disciplines: Telepathy, Psychokinesis, Psi Static, and Chorochronometry. Any of the psionic skills within the same discipline may be taken as Specializations stemming from any other skill in the same discipline, provided the esper meets all other requirements.

The range of all psionic skills can be extended by use of clairvoyance or senses gained via mind-reading.

Psionic Skills at a Glance


Psi Sense
Mental Blow
Mind Shield
Mind Control


TK Shield
Energy Medicine

Psi Static

Psi Static



Telepathy – 3 pts.

Reach out to other minds within the range of your daylight vision.

Battle of Wills.

Many telepathic skills call for a Battle of Wills, pitting the telepath’s power against their target’s grit and mental integrity.

This struggle is resolved like that of fighters in hand-to-hand combat: Both sides roll dice, add their Will, and compare the totals. The side with the higher total wins. (Groups may combine their totals on each side before comparing totals.)

If you’re a telepath, your Will rating is equal to half your current Intelligence score. Everyone else figures their Will the way fighters figure Missile Adds, based on the character’s current Charisma or Intelligence, whichever is higher: For each point the attribute exceeds 12, they get +1 Will. For each point the attribute falls short of 9, they get -1 Will.

Roll dice equal to your Telepathy skill level, and add your Will. The target gets dice equal to their Mind Shield skill level, if any. A telepath may choose to counterattack instead, rolling dice equal to half their Telepathy skill. Either way, they add their Will to their roll.

Compare these totals: The higher side wins, and the difference between the rolls becomes either hold or damage.

If you win, you gain hold over the target. Otherwise, you suffer non-lethal damage to your Strength score. If your hold is no less than the target’s Will, the target is unaware of your telepathic intrusion.

Send your thoughts to a single recipient. If the target isn’t a telepath, you may use Mind-reading to receive their response.
If the target is unaware or unwilling, resolve a Battle of Wills to enter their mind. If you succeed, you get a number of “search queries” equal to your Telepathy skill level before the connection closes. Ask about their thoughts, sensory information, or memories. After each query, they may burn Strength equal to your hold to expel you from their mind.

While you see through another entity’s senses, you may include their visual range within the range of any psionic powers you use.

Telepathy allows you to use the following skills untrained—Mental Blow, Mind Shield, Sleep, Illusions, and Mind Control—but doing so costs you Strength equal to the Telepathy skill level they require, in addition to any Strength usually required to use the skill.

Psi Sense – 3 pts.

You can feel the presence of other espers. If you actively sniff for espers within your range, make an Intelligence Saving Roll plus your skill vs. the other esper’s Luck score. If they are actively using a psionic power other than Psi Static, add their skill to your roll!

When you sniff while multiple espers are in range, roll vs. the esper with the lowest Luck score.

Mental Blow – 3 pts. (Requires: Telepathy)

Spend 1d6 Strength. Everyone within range must make a CON Saving Roll (modified by their Mind Shield) against your skill level or be stunned for a number of rounds equal to the amount they missed by. They can attempt a Charisma Saving Roll each round after the shout to snap out of it before then.
Direct mental attack.
After you win a Battle of Wills, your hold becomes lethal Strength damage against your target, plus a bonus equal to your Mental Blow skill.

Mind Shield (Requires: Telepathy)

Passive resistance against telepathic intrusion. Your Mind Shield gives you dice equal to your skill level in a Battle of Wills.

Sleep (Requires: Telepathy 3+)

After you win a Battle of Wills, the target falls into a sleep lasting up to your Sleep skill in hours unless awakened.

Illusions (Requires: Telepathy 6+)

Create an illusion in the target’s mind. After you win a Battle of Wills, you imbue the target’s perceptions with the illusion you describe, using as many major details as your skill. The illusion persists for your skill in Turns (minimum 1 round), or until they leave your presence.

The target may burn Strength equal to your hold to shake off the illusion if they examine it or interact with it substantially—such as when it would damage them or vice versa, or when it would be disrupted by their actions.

Subtle details that conform to their expectations may pass unnoticed, while blatant psychedelic visions or phantasmagoria might provoke ongoing resistance.

Mind Control (Requires: Telepathy 9+)

Hypnotize someone and make them follow your verbal or telepathic orders. After you win a Battle of Wills, the target falls into a trance. They will take no action apart from following your commands, and you may operate them like a puppet if you do nothing but concentrate. Your grip over them lasts your skill in Turns (minimum 1 round), unless you command them to wake, you lose consciousness, or leave their presence. They remember everything.

If any command would violate their animal survival instincts or ruling passion, the target may burn Strength equal to your hold to throw off your influence.

You may instead give them a post-hypnotic suggestion. After you win a Battle of Wills, describe a trigger and an action you want them to take. The target will come out of the trance and behave normally until they encounter the trigger you described. At that time, they will automatically obey your suggestion, unless it would violate their animal survival instincts or ruling passion. In that case, they may burn Strength equal to your hold to fight off the impulse.

Player characters targeted may choose their actions, earning Adventure Points equal to your Mind Control skill any time they fulfill the telepath’s commands contrary to their own character’s interests.


Telekinesis (TK) – 3 pts.

Move items with your mind!
Move up to 10TK times the Strength you spend in pounds, at a Speed rating equal to your Telekinesis skill times the Strength you spend. You can move smaller weights at greater speeds by multiplying Speed by the factor you divide the weight by.
When you launch an item at a target, treat it as a missile attack with a Dexterity equal to your Basic Basic TK skill times the Strength you spend. On a hit, treat your Basic TK skill as a Monster Rating to determine damage.
Range: As Telepathy, or any unseen item you have seen within a radius of your IQ in yards.

TK Shield (Requires: Telekinesis, Precognition)

Deflect a physical or telekinetic attack.
When you are hit by an attack while conscious, and subtract your TK Shield level from each damage die. You may spend Strength to absorb additional damage, 1-for-1.
Pocket atmosphere.
If you are ejected out of an pressurized environment, submerged underwater, or otherwise sent from a breathable space to a place where you can’t breath, you can make a Charisma Saving Roll plus your TK Shield skill to take enough oxygen with you as if you were in a space suit. If you make it, the bubble holds for TK Shield skill level in combat rounds.

Energy Medicine – 3 pts. (Requires: Telekinesis)

Healing ministration.
Touch someone who is injured to heal their wounds. Make a Charisma Saving Roll plus your Healing skill level: If you make it, the target recovers lost CON up to your Energy Medicine skill level. On a miss, you lose 1d6 Strength. If you roll less than 5, the target also suffers 1d6 damage!
Directed Energy Attack.
Use your psi to squeeze a target’s blood vessels or similar. You must see or touch the target and make a missile attack with a Dexterity equal to the target’s CON. On a hit, roll a number of dice equal to your Energy Medicine skill for damage.

Psi Static – 3 pts.

Psi static disrupts espers from using their powers, within the radius of your daylight vision.

When you activate your power globally, anyone within range must make a Charisma Saving Roll against your Psi Static skill level before using any psi powers except for Psi Static.
Focused Disruption.
When you target a specific person you can see, they must make a Saving Roll as above. If they make it, they may use their power—but it costs them additional Strength equal to their skill level.


Clairvoyance/clairaudience – 3 pts.

You can perceive the folds of spacetime and the forms that occupy the space around you in your minds eye, and reach for the sights, sounds, and other sensory impressions in other locations you have previously visited. Make an Saving Roll IQ Saving Roll plus your skill level:

  • Level 0 if view is within your visual range, but obscured in some way.
  • Level 1 if the destination is on the same celestial object as you, out of sight.
  • Level 2 if the destination is is on a different celestial body in the same system.
  • Level 4 if the destination is in a different system in the same sector.
  • Level 8 if the destination is in a different sector in the same quadrant.
  • Level 16 if the destination anywhere in the galaxy outside your current quadrant.

Failure means the vision is confused and blurry, or you see an alternate location of interest, chosen by the GM; and your Clairvoyance is disabled for 1d6 hours.

A blind clairvoyant can see unobstructed surfaces to a range of their IQ in yards without a Saving Roll, but a roll is required to see through exterior layers, such as inside envelopes or containers.

Autotesseract – 3 pts. (Requires: Clairvoyance 3+)

Fold space to teleport yourself and no more than 5 pounds of worn gear to any place you can see (including through Telepathic or Clairvoyant vision). Make an IQ Saving Roll plus your Teleport skill, with the Saving Roll level determined by the range, per Clairvoyance.

Failure means you teleport to an alternate destination of interest, chosen by the GM; and your skill is disabled for 1d6 hours. Failure to roll at least a 5 on the the dice means you also splinched, and suffer damage equal to the amount you missed the Saving Roll by.

Exotesseract – 3 pts. (Requires: Autotesseract)

Same as Autotesseract, but you can teleport persons and objects you touch, weighing up to 10 to the power of your Exotesseract skill, times the Strength you spend, in pounds. Alternatively, you can teleport remotely viewed persons and objects to your current location.

Psychometry – 3 pts.

You can pick up the echoes of significant past events that radiate from certain objects and locations. Items associated closely with a person may convey details about that person’s current location and condition. Such impressions typically come in the form of vague flashes of imagery and information.

Make an IQ Saving Roll plus your skill. For each level of success, you may ask the GM one question about the vibrations of this object or place; including what happened here, and what happened to any significant people who interacted with the subject.

Failure means your skill is disabled for 1d6 hours. Repeated attempts cost 1d6 Strength.

Precognition – 3 pts.

You can pick up the shadows of what may happen. Make an IQ Saving Roll plus your skill. For each level of success, you may ask the GM a question about the current direction of fate—in general, or concerning specific people, places, and things. The GM will answer honestly to the best of their ability.

Failure means your skill is disabled for 1d6 hours. Repeated attempts cost 1d6 Strength.

If you are caught by surprise, make a Luck Saving Roll plus your skill vs. the danger’s level in Precognition. On a success, you had a feeling just in time and you get to act first.

Go back to Reliquary Space index.


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This is a quick overview of character creation for my Reliquary Space setting, using the rules of Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes as a basis. Setting-specific house rules are highlighted.

Reliquary Space index

Rolling Attributes

Roll 3d6 seven times, and assign the totals you get to the seven attributes: Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Luck, Speed, and Strength. Arrange them as you see fit. If any of the rolls show triples—the same number on all three dice—roll two additional dice and add them to your original roll. This should give you seven attribute scores ranging from 4 (pitiful) to 30 (superlative).

If your average score is below 12, consider playing a recommissioned Boomer (see below).

Example A – Paolo Atreidus: CHA 7, CON 22, DEX 11, IQ 5, LCK 12, SPD 12, STR 10

Example B – Bella Jesurit: CHA 5, CON 4, DEX 15, IQ 17, LCK 14, SPD 12, STR 9

Combat Adds

Hand-to-Hand Combat Adds. Exceptional Dexterity, Luck, and Strength improve your hand-to-hand combat ability: If any of these scores are higher than 12, you get 1 Hand-to-Hand Combat Add per point over 12. Low Dexterity, Luck, and Strength diminish your hand-to-hand combat skill: Subtract 1 point from your Hand-to-Hand Combat Adds for each point below 9. This should give you a number ranging from -15 to +54—but skewing toward zero.

Example A: Paulo’s DEX, LCK, and STR are all in the average range—offering neither bonuses nor penalties to Hand-to-Hand Combat Adds.

Example B: Bella has exceptional DEX and LCK, giving her +5 Hand-to-Hand Combat Adds. 3 points come from her high DEX (15 – 12 = 3), and 2 come from her high LCK (14 – 12 = 2).

Missile Weapon Combat Adds are derived from exceptional Luck only: +1 for each point of Luck beyond 12, or -1 for each point of Luck below 9.

Example A: Paulo’s LCK of 12 gives him zero Missile Weapon Combat Adds.

Example B: Bella’s LCK of 14 gives her +2 Missile Weapon Combat Adds.


You have a number of Skill Points equal to your IQ, which you can spend on Skills that round out your character’s abilities. Skills also shape your background, contacts, and starting gear. Most skills cost 1 Skill Point, but a few cost 2 or 3. The Skill Point cost is listed in parentheses with each skill.

Most skills require a certain Intelligence threshold to master. In order to take the skill, your IQ must have a score equal to or exceeding the IQ minimum listed. Some skills have other requirements, which may include other skills, minimum thresholds in other attributes, or both.

Click for full size
At a Glance Skills List (MSPE 2019 Combined Edition, p128)

At a Glance Skills List, p128 of MSPE 2019 Combined Edition by Michael Stackpole. © 1983 and 2019 by Flying Buffalo Inc.

You can spend additional Skill Points to increase your level in many skills. Each additional level costs double the Skill Points required for the previous level.

Skill Level ½pt. Skill Cost 1pt. Skill Cost 2pt. Skill Cost 3 pt. Skill Cost
1 ½ 1 2 3
2 +1 +2 +4 +6
3 +2 +4 +8 +12
4 +3 +6 +12 +18
5 +4 +8 +16 +24

Example A: Paulo’s low IQ gives him 5 Skill Points, which must all come from the “IQ 4” or “Open” lists—he currently lacks the necessary intellect for higher pursuits. He takes Knife Fighting (1 pt.), Pugilism (1 pt.), and Hereditary Title (3 pts.)—a Duke. He wants to increase his level in Knife Fighting to 2, but that would cost an additional 2 Skill Points, which he does not currently have.

Example B: Bella’s IQ gives her 17 Skill Points to spend, which may be chose from all available skills. She takes Martial Arts (1 pt.), Basic Telepathy (3 pts.) at level 2 (+6 more pts.), Mental Blow (3 pts.), Mind Shield (3 pts.), and Environmental Survival: Desert (1 pt.). To advance her Basic Telepathy an additional level and unlock Sleep would cost another 12 Skill Points, but all her points are spent.

Knighthood – 1 pt.

The character must make a level 3 Charisma Saving Roll to receive the title. Until then, they are a squire—a knight in training apprenticed to another knight. You may attempt the Saving Roll once before play if you invest the skill point when creating your character. If you fail, you may attempt it again when you have downtime to present yourself before your lord after an adventure. Add 1 point to your Saving Roll for each major knightly deed you have accomplished that brings renown to your lord.

Once you earn the title, you may be addressed as “Sir”, “Dame”, or an appropriate honorific of your culture. You also add 2 to your Charisma, permanently. Knights are expected to fulfill duties to their liege lord .

Lordship – 2 pts. (Requires Knighthood)

The character must make a level 6 Saving Roll on the average of Charisma and Intelligence to receive this title. You may attempt the Saving Roll once before play if you invest the skill points when creating your character. If you fail, you may attempt it again when you have downtime to present yourself before your sovereign after an adventure. Add 1 point to your Saving Roll for each major lordly deed you have accomplished that brings renown to your sovereign.

Once you earn the title, you may be addressed as “Lord”, “Lady”, or an appropriate honorific of your culture. You also gain the power to nominate subjects of the realm for Knighthood. Lords are expected to fulfill duties to their sovereign when called.


I have tinkered with the MSPE psionics rules to integrate material from GURPS Basic Set, 3rd edition as appropriate to the setting, and my tinkerings are covered in detail here.

Each psionic skill costs 3 skill points and may be latent or mastered. To check for mastery, make a Level 2 Saving Roll for each skill, combining your IQ with your level in the chosen skill.

Latent skill: The GM uses the skill erratically as though it were controlled by an distracted and unreliable, but otherwise benevolent NPC. Such powers may manifest in stressful situations (with a Saving Roll) or otherwise, at the GM’s whim. If you spend significant downtime training under a master of a given discipline, you may check for mastery again at the end of your training regime, taking a +1 bonus for each fortnight of unbroken, focused practice in a single skill.

Example B: Bella must attempt Saving Rolls for mastery of Basic Telepathy 2, Mental Blow, and Mind Shield. Her first roll gives her a 5 + 2. Adding her IQ and Basic Telepathy skill, the result is 26, which passes the Saving Roll. Her roll for Mental Blow comes up 1 + 3—an automatic failure. Her Mental Blow is yet untrained and manifests erratically. Her Saving Roll for Mind Shield produces a 6 + 3—the result is 27, meaning her Mind Shield is fully under her power.

Decide Personal Details

Your character’s Age, Sex, Gender, Nation, Height, and Weight are all up to you, within reasonable human limits.

Example A: Paulo (he/him) is the 15-year-old scion of House Atreidus, a minor noble family in the galaxy’s Outer Rim that rules over the planet and nation of Cowabung. His dark Ducal robes conceal a portly frame of 5′10″ (and still growing), at 200#.

Example B: Bella (she/her) is a 33-year-old votary of the Interstellar Vestal Order. She is 5′4″ and 135#.


You may begin play with the tools of your trade, including any and all equipment implied by your skills. If in doubt, ask the GM. Rare or exceptional equipment may require a Saving Roll on LCK to acquire, and you may have to settle for second-hand or jury-rigged gear in questionable condition.

Unlockable: Boomer (cybernetic organism)

If the average of all seven attributes is less than 12, you may choose to play a recommissioned Boomer instead of a human. Boomers are cyborgs designed to appear human, that have been discontinued and outlawed in the galaxy. To convert your character to a Boomer, make a Level 1 Saving Roll for each attribute; this represents the various stress tests that Boomers must pass in manufacturing. If the Saving Roll fails, your engineers detected and patched a manufacturing flaw: Add the highest number showing on the dice for your Saving Roll to that attribute. Then, pick your chassis:

  • C-Class: Choose one of the following attributes and double it: CON, DEX, SPD, or STR. Choose another and multiply it by 1.5. Combat skills cost you half the usual number of Skill Points/Adventure Points, and all other skills cost double. C-Class Boomers typically have alloy endoskeletons capable of mounting new weapons systems.
  • I-Class: Choose one of the following attributes and double it: CHA or IQ. Multiply the other by 1.5. Social and performance skills cost you half the usual number of Skill Points/Adventure Points, and all other skills cost double.
  • M-Class: Triple your IQ. Theory, information, and calculation skills cost you half the usual number of Skill Points/Adventure Points, and all other skills cost double.

Boomers lack organic minds required to practice psionic disciplines. As you gain Adventure Points, it costs half the number of AP to advance the attribute that you doubled or tripled when picking your Boomer model.

If a Boomer suffers damage equal to half their CON or greater, they are disfigured in a way that makes their inhuman status obvious. If a Boomer suffers damage equal to triple their CON, their fusion cell is breached, causing a devastating explosion that deals a damage potential of 12d6. Anyone within a radius equal to the Boomers IQ in yards must make a Luck Saving Roll vs. the damage potential or suffer damage equal to the amount they missed by. In this case, the Boomer’s frame is melted and their internal data crystal is destroyed.

If a Boomer is damaged beyond repair without having their fusion cell breached, their internal data crystal can be recovered and transferred to another Boomer frame, including their CHA, IQ, LCK, and all their skills and memories.

Example C – Otis VIII Centennial

Original rolls: CHA 6, CON 12, DEX 17, INT 6, LCK 8, SPD 11, STR 13

After stress tests: CHA 11, CON 12, DEX 17, INT 12, LCK 14, SPD 11, STR 19

Otis will be an excellent C-Class Boomer. They double their CON to 24 and multiply their STR by 1.5, making it 29.

That gives Otis +24 Hand-to-Hand Combat Adds (5 from Dexterity, 2 from Luck, and 17 from Strength); and +2 Missile Weapon Combat Adds.

Otis gets 12 Skill Points, which might as well go mostly to combat-related skills, since their cost is halved. Let’s start with Martial Arts—6½ pts. are enough to propel them to a skill level of 4. That leaves enough points for Archery (½ pt.), Knife Fighting (½ pt.), Fencing (½ pt.), Plasma Pistol (½ pt.), Plasma Rifle (½ pt.), Combat Shooting (½ pt.), Underwater Combat (½ pt.), and Speeder Bike (2 pts. doubled).

Otis was decommissioned over a century ago and their previous internal data crystal was partially corrupted, leaving them with no memory of their previous commission. They now appear to be a 37-year-old human male bodybuilder, with scars and hints of grey in their stubble. They are 5′11½″, weighting 368#.

Go back to Reliquary Space index.


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Psychic Space Opera in the Wreckage of a Dead Alien Galaxy

By fits and starts, humans finally developed hyperlight travel and took to the stars. But everywhere they went, they found only vast emptiness. They established colonies on other worlds. Then they found the remains: Primordial ruins left by impossibly ancient alien civilizations, scars in the crust of planets like our own. Hulking derelict space vessels floating silently, their life support systems disabled in ancient eons, their crews reduced to films of lifeless carbon residue.

Despite their loneliness amid the stars, humans forged a sprawling and fractious galactic empire. Novel arts and sciences sprang into being, while disconnected colonies lapsed into varieties of barbarism. Fleets of star ships enforced factional interests in crucial trade corridors, and the houses of baroque imperial power played long strategic games of intrigue for dominance.

Scattered across the galaxy, a generation of espers was born. The noble houses seek these gifted ones to train them and use them as weapons against each other.

You are the crew of a small vessel: a mercenary, a spy, an esper, a titled noble, a scientist, a robot, a rogue, or some other pawn in a bleak and byzantine space opera. But even a pawn may become a queen when it reaches the other side.


  • Dune as if drawn by Mœbius
  • Alien and H.R. Giger art
  • Caprica
  • Blade Runner
  • Bubblegum Crisis
  • Lovecraft
  • Akira
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Weird Tales

System: Mercenaries Spies & Private Eyes, 2019 Combined Edition; with supplemental psionics rules adapted from GURPS Basic Set, 3rd edition.

MSPE is a fast and flexible game in the Tunnels & Trolls family. But unlike T&T, there are no classes and character competence is based on the skills you choose to advance.


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This is about Sorcerer: An Intense Roleplaying Game by Ron Edwards.

I love Sorcerer. I’ve had several abortive attempts to run it over the course of 15 years or so, but we just had a thrilling run with it that wrapped up after 15 intense sessions. I always say my favorite game is [whatever I happen to be running right now]—and I love a lot of very different RPGs across the spectrum. But Sorcerer might be the one, if I had to choose a favorite.

Often someone telling you about a role-playing game they like will try to convince you that it’s the game to replace all others. Sorcerer is not that game. It is very intense—too intense for some people.

You don’t want to spring it on anyone: Some people want their role-playing to have the GM weave a story while they engage in a series of antics. Or to give them a heroic persona within the guard rails of a game that ensures that you get to be a hero.

Sorcerer offers none of that. It is masterfully character-driven, and player-driven. Sorcerer is the game to play a driven character whose conflicts you care about—a real person who will suffer if they don’t get what they want. And maybe they don’t deserve it. But you want to play to find out.

A lot of stuff that makes Sorcerer great can be found piecemeal in the play culture surrounding other games. It helped inspire a lineage of role-playing games that notably includes Apocalypse World and its offspring—from Dungeon World to the new Avatar Legends RPG. Those close to the taproot all have some Sorcerer DNA, if you look closely enough.

If Sorcerer does stuff you like, you can also use a lot of its tech in other games. In fact, when I first read Sorcerer and Trollbabe and Sorcerer & Sword, I thought, “Wow! This is how every RPG should be played.” (I don’t believe that anymore.)

It might be like giving your character a Kicker, a backstory, or even a name in MÖRK BORG, before you fall dead the first time a skeleton looks at you. Not every technique that makes one game sing will be worth transposing to various other games.

The thing is, what makes Sorcerer work isn’t just a bunch of disparate techniques, but the alchemy that happens when those ingredients are combined through play.

Some of what I love about Sorcerer is in the ingredients that work really well together. They work really well together because of their composition. They have a through line that holds them together and makes something more than the cumulative sum of their operations. Here are some of the bloody teeth glistening on the sinew string:

Every score on your sheet is also a powerful descriptor of your character’s personality, history, skills, style, gear, and contacts.

As a consequence, every element on your character sheet implies a cast of NPCs and other connections with the world. Many of these will be made explicit in the course of character creation—most especially when you compose your diagram.

Each player authors a Kicker that will be an explicit focus of the scenario. The Kicker is defined as an event or revelation that throws the character’s whole life out of balance and thrusts them into motion, without an obvious and indisputable path that they “should” choose. In other words, it’s not a “hook” that tells the player what the GM wants them to do, nor a prompt they could otherwise ignore.

Each character starts with a diagram on the back of your character sheet, listing the names of people, places, and things that matter to them, juxtaposed in a way that creates tension for the character.

This diagram tells the GM exactly where the first scene of your first session must be framed, and may determine the first scene of many sessions thereafter. This keeps play focused on what really matters to you as a player and what matters to your character.

Bangs! I figured this out intuitively and recently got confirmation: The whole idea of MC moves and GM moves in the Apocalypse World family of games—especially as they manifest in Fronts and grim portents—is the progeny of Bangs in Sorcerer.

The difference between a GM move in Dungeon World and a proper Bang is that a Bang is supposed to surface the focal question of Sorcerer play, which is “How far will you go to get what you want?” A Bang is a GM move that applies pressure to your Humanity. Put another way, a GM move is like a Bang that brings the central conflicts of an Apocalypse World Engine game into focus, instead of challenging your Humanity.

The core loop of Sorcerer is the continuous flow between Bangs, your choices, your relationship with any demons, and your Humanity. This provides an intricately rich cauldron that constantly ratchets up tension like really good Dungeon World play, but in a way that produces much more personal intensity due to the diagram content being focal at all times.

The dice mechanics provide a really delightful idiom for developing and resolving the complex and dynamic chain of conflicts that arise! Sorcerer’s system for conflict resolution drives play toward hard choices and shifting priorities. And the hard choices matter, because they concern the people, places and things that matter most to you.

A Sorcerer scenario ends when the Kickers are resolved for all characters. This happens organically and without warning, and it is very satisfying. And resolving the Kickers eliminates the possible flounder of play around proliferating goals, agendas, and quests that fail to engage all the players.

Taken as a whole, this produces characters and situations that are in constant, desperate, and spirited motion. The players are never left guessing what they should do next, nor do they ever struggle with ambiguous motivation. The game brings a laser-like focus on the question, “What will you do to get what you want?” and doesn’t waste any attention or energy resolving anything else.

That is what I love about Sorcerer.

You can get Sorcerer here. The Sorcerer supplements are available here. These are not affiliate links, just enthuastic hypertext.

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  • Tulasa and Ghanna fight off Shiisa as the shade attempts to enter the Infinite Stacks.
  • The Invader takes Krenzi, Duke, and Socrates into the Stacks along with the demons Maiven and Amoria.
  • The sorcerers resolve to seek sanctuary in Adûnibad in order to recover from their injuries.


As he stands over Mentari’s unconscious body in the makeshift smithy, Duke gazes at the blade Amoria. Duke offers to make her his own, but Amoria begs him to spare her master.

Krenzi and Duke discuss the situation until the doorflap opens, and the Hound Socrates comes in, disguised as a Klav woman. He is pleased to see that Duke is free and begs for the help of Duke and Krenzi to escape the Hudbeklaaid war camp.

The Invader detects that, somewhere, Tulasa has opened the Infinite Stacks. He reveals this to Krenzi, who orders the demon to take them there.


Gazing into the eyes of Tulasa on the peak of Heksepunt, the shade of Shiisa slackens her grip on the Warden’s neck as she searches for his name. At last, she begs him to slay the Eater of Knowledge to recover the memories he sucked out of her, so that she will can rest in peace.

Ghanna and Tulasa are still skeptical of her request, suspecting that she is the same demon that took Ausmundt’s form. Tulasa cuts his hand and cautiously offers her some blood to sate her thirst.

Shiisa lunges to drink from the wound, and Tulasa immediately opens a door to the Infinite Stacks. In the chorus of voices Tulasa and Ghanna heard before, Shiisa calls upon the shades of the Deenryk to strike Tulasa down before he can escape while grabbing Tulasa’s arm.

Ghanna rushes into the open door, finding herself among the piled books. Dozens of spectral figures, ghostly skeletons clad in rags and tattered flesh, erupt from the standing megaliths surrounding them and rush into Tulasa’s body. He collapses into the open door of the Infinite Stacks.

Still Shiisa keeps her grip on Tulasa’s wounded arm. Ghanna fires two well-aimed shots at the demon. Tulasa musters all his strength to call upon the Curator, the scribes, and all the shades of former masters of the Infinite Stacks to keep this demon out.

They rush forth, forming from clouds of dust coating every surface of the ancient library. They slam the door on Shiisa’s arm until she loses her grip on Tulasa. They close the door.

Ghanna immediately throws the mantle of the Loving Caress over Tulasa, who is in critical condition after the spectres rushed into him. He slowly begins to stabilize.

Into Adûnibad

Out of a shadow, the Invader appears with Krenzi and Socrates before going back for Duke, Amoria, and Maiven.

The sorcerers share some of their experiences and decide to take refuge in Adûnibad in order to recover. Duke offers the use of an old base in the city.

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