This is a record of our first session of Sorcerer & Sword.
Ghanna and Chaser are two characters we played in another campaign that took place nine or ten years in the future. In that game we learned offhand that they met once before, when they both got entangled hunting necromancers in the wild forest region. That hint of an interesting adventure provided the kernel for the whole situation.
Ghanna comes from a conflicted family. Her grandfather was a priest of the Magisterium who turned his own wife over to the Inquisition as a necromancer. Ghanna learned sorcery from her father who was part of a desert cabal. But when she saw him sacrifice a sickly child, she reported him to an Inquisitor visiting a nearby city. Her mother threw her out, and she went to her grandfather, Fr. Bain. Desperate for a sense of belonging and to prove her loyalty to the true faith, she agreed to be his child soldier and spy by infiltrating a ring of necromancers in the Kl’au.
Malcolm Chaser is an Inquisitor and witch hunter whose wife was murdered by witches. He recently got a letter from an operation in the Kl’au, informing him that his own mentor Adacius went missing while rooting out the heresy there. He was asked to round up some cutthroats—the Hounds—and come there to search for the missing Inquisitor.
Krenzi Lupitz is a veteran of the endlessly transforming conflict between the Magisterium and Adûn. During his military service, he was captured by the enemy and ruthlessly tortured. When he gained his freedom, he fled to the borderlands to live as a hermit, and never again be caught in the wars of men. He recently learned that his last surviving kin were murdered, provoking him to leave his hovel and find the perpetrators.
Tulasa is a member of an ancient order tasked with guarding the Magisterium’s knowledge. Before she was slain by the Eater of Knowledge, Tulasa’s mother surrendered her demon to him—a vast library of all notable history, past and future, hidden in an apparent “pocket universe” accessible only by a key in the form of a sword. Tulasa got a report that a priestess who served with his mother was taken as a captive into the Kl’au, and of course he knows it’s a trap laid for him by the Eater of Knowledge.
Duke Ahwe is a 500+ year old half-human and therefore undying. The event that severed his soul in two was so traumatic he can’t remember it, but he is aware that his other half is out there somewhere. He has been involved in organized crime, founding a mercenary crew, and hunting artifacts for his antique business. Recently rumors came to him that someone looking like him has been working miracles in the borderlands, before disappearing into the Kl’au.
Binding the Demons
After doing some show-and-tell with the diagrams (see them here), we went around to resolve how each player bound their demon, so that we could make their Binding rolls and Humanity checks.
I wanted to make all sorcery in this setting Humanity-relevant, and I told them to bind a demon, the ritual must involve renouncing and destroying (at least symbolically) some part of your identity, something unique and precious that makes you who you are. Examples include your home, your community, an honorific, a precious belonging, or even a bodily feature. This got everyone describing really vivid binding rituals that were awesome to behold—and much richer than I expected from a first session of Sorcerer with players new to the game. Some of the scene setting included what would be Contacts and Summons in actual play, but we didn’t make separate rolls for those and I didn’t press the distinction.
It made me wonder, though, if you typically have such vivid scene setting and action for the binding of their starting demons. Since Binding is the one ritual where the sorcerer’s active score depends on the circumstances, it seems to be required.
- Ghanna’s renunciation was of her father, over the bonfire where his corpse smoldered, as she took up his bow and called on the spirit of the sickly child he killed to inhabit it. As a result, her bow Pinaka has the personality of a toddler, and she has to swaddle it at night.
- Chaser described slaying the witches who killed his wife Lily, as her body lay cold and his fellow witch-hunters lay dying from their wounds around him. Desperate to keep his wife, he threw his holy symbol in the fire and took up the heretical amulet the witches were using in whatever ritual they killed his wife for. To conceal his heresy, he killed the wounded survivors of his own team. The twisted memories of his wife possess him now, with the need to reënact memories of their courtship and married life.
- Krenzi described a scene in the dungeon where he was tortured. Covered in his own blood, he marked the walls with it while calling upon his demon—known only as the Invader—to give him power to survive and overcome. After the game the player and I realized we both forgot to describe what he renounced of his identity! His demon, the Invader, is an invisible creature of shadow and secrets who needs Krenzi to smoke an acrid and foul-spelling plant.
- Tulasa’s renunciation involved going to his father’s grave with a pick-axe to wipe out his father’s name and reduce the markers to pebble-sized rubble. Now Tulasa is the master of his mother’s demon, the Infinite Stacks, who needs Tulasa to provide them with a steady supply of obscure lore—especially demon lore.
- Duke Ahwe’s love was a soldier of the Inquisition named Maiven. When her mentor Adacius learned that she was learning sorcery (from Duke), he had her killed. Duke took her sword and destroyed the memento of a former lover from his long life, in order to appease his slain lover’s spirit in the sword. Now Maiven needs Duke to sing love songs to her.
After that, we had just enough time to frame one scene for each character, based on the content of their diagrams.
Ghanna meets Fr. Bain at a caravanserai on the borderlands between Adûn and Skaalfalia. Ghanna’s mother Afsun tracks her there and confronts her father for radicalizing Ghanna. Afsun throws a poppet at Ghanna and tells her about her mother’s death. Ghanna sides with Bain, and Afsun departs.
Malcolm Chaser is crossing the borderlands between Skaalsalia and the Elquatarus Mountains with his Hounds, when he meets a Skaalruter border patrol led by Namuu. Namuu urges Chaser to leave Skalsalia without taking any Skaalruters with him. When Chaser asks if Namuu knows of any other Magisterium officials in the region, Namuu tells him there is one that the Skaalruters call “Altin Qarga”: “Gold Crow”.
Chaser travels through the Fraustgap, where he finds Elder Kristus waiting for him. Kristus leads him to the trailhead that descends into the Kl’au and tells him that Adacius has returned—but he is mustering mercenaries for war.
Krenzi Lupitz climbs up to Hichtepunt on the Deenskewâl—the ridge separating the Kl’au from Deenryk. Among the standing stones, he finds the cremains of Jon, Matilda, and Timmy Lupitz, mingled with the ashes of a stranger. Krenzi gathers some of the ashes and finds a weird golden scutum. The Invader urges him to collect some Skunkblum before they descend.
Tulasa and his armed escort is intercepted by Namuu’s patrol while crossing the Skaalsalia borderlands and he orders his men to show their armaments. Namuu greets them aggressively, but he lets Tulasa pass after Tulasa informs him that they ride to conquer a mutual foe who will devour the bones of Namuu’s ancestors. Namuu allows Tulasa’s party to pass.
Tulasa’s escort picks up Chaser’s trail while traveling through the Fraustgap, which leads them to the trailhead.
Duke Ahwe meets with the Baachus mercenary crew at a caravanserai on the borderlands between Adûn and Skaalfalia. They ask him why he gathered them out here—what is the job and what is the score? Duke notices Fr. Bain pay the innkeeper in gold for his tea and follows him outside.
Duke and Siliona witness the exchange between Bain, Ghanna, and Afsun by the well before going back to the innkeeper to ask about their Magisterium patron. The innkeeper directs Duke to Bain. After greeting Bain and exchanging introductions, Bain hires Duke and his crew to escort Ghanna to the Kl’au to infiltrate and overthrow whatever necromancers Adacius has tracked there. Duke agrees.