In SORCERER the characters are wielders of arcane knowledge gained by associating with demons, and the game revolves about how they cope with this. In SCHISM the focus is again the characters and their struggle against their own natures, but here their natures are warped by the development of psychic powers. Inner demons, rather than those that they have summoned…
The author states that the film director David Cronenberg - who was responsible amongst others for “Scanners” – inspired him. It's a film that, if you’ve seen it, certainly explores the difficulties of having strange powers in an otherwise normal world. Interestingly, with this being a setting based on mood and feeling as much as hard facts, there is considerable reference to source and inspirational material in several media: movies, books and music – even down to suggestions of good tracks to play while the game is in progress.
Characters are created using a modified version of the SORCERER rules. (Note that although this setting is quite different, you will need a copy of SORCERER to play.) Each begins as a member of a ‘Cabal’ or group of similar people. They may be friends or enemies, out for good of all, or even of the world, or poised to strike back at the ‘mundanes’ who have wronged and ill-treated them. For the game is all about exploration. Exploration of self and of relationships between self and the rest of humanity.
There is an interesting outlook on how it all will end. As a character uses his ‘powers’ his Humanity diminishes… and when it reaches 0 it is time to die. But will that death make a difference? Rather than the conventional approach of an RPG, when losing your character is in some measure a failure, and perhaps a sadness, here it is a culmination of all that has gone before. When a character’s Humanity reaches 0 he gets one more session of play, during which, somehow, he will meet his end. But he gets to choose how, and if he chooses well his Humanity is restored, his death – and life – have had meaning, even though he now is no more.
Once these core concepts have been introduced, detailed descriptions of a wide range of psychic powers and the way in which they are handled via the game mechanics are presented. Irrespective of whether or not you wish to use the underlying concepts, these could add fascinating range and depth to any treatment of psychic powers, particularly in a contemporary or future setting and this work is probably worth getting for these alone. Broadly speaking, powers are classified as Telekinesis (the ‘Scanners,’ capable of awesome powers of the mind), Psychokinsis (manipulation of self or other objects), and Clairvoyance (the ability to see events in past or future or far away).
No psionic character in the game is on his own; each is associated with a Cabal. This organisation may be one of a wide variety of things – spy agency, commercial or research group, hospital or sanctuary, group of criminals or hippie commune. Many suggestions are given for developing your own Cabals. The characters may all be associated – willingly or unwillingly – with the same Cabal, or the group may have another reason for associating.
The Cabals provide the basis for many plot ideas, and there are others supplied as well. However, the point is made that the primary focus of the game is the characters themselves rather than their adventures – true, there will be missions for them to undertake or threats for them to overcome, but the true plotline looks at their personal development and experiences.
Overall, a fascinating and well put together offering, part of a growing trend of low cost yet high quality material which is not only advertised and sold over the Internet, but distributed by that medium too. The setting itself is well thought out, and much of the material could usefully be incorporated into other games to ‘improve’ their handling of psychic abilities.
Return to Schism page.