Avatar the Last Airbender via Sorcerer

March 16, 2010

I’ve been in an Avatar the Last Airbender mood lately – and I think I’d run it using Sorcerer. Why? Basically the kids are caught in a lot of Humanity-testing kind of situations, and Sorcerer does a good job of emulating the Bender powers and with the martial arts rules in Sex & Sorcery, the fighting as well.


Humanity is dual defined as in Sorcerer’s Soul:
1. Empathy & Connection with others
2. Self acceptance of one’s feelings

Consider Iroh as being pretty good on both accounts, Zuko on neither, Aang being strong in the first and struggling with the second, and Azula being strong in the second and simply not giving a damn about the first.

Special Humanity Rules

Any character can sacrifice a point of Humanity to prevent another character from going into Humanity 0. (Iroh does this a lot. Katara does this a bit.)

Damage Rules

Avatar being a kids show, means normally deadly things like fire, swords, or arrows rarely make contact and actually cause harm. All damage is automatically assumed non-lethal unless specially noted (such as lightning). If you incapacitate someone, you can choose to inflict lasting damage.

Any attacks against helpless or incapacitated living beings incurs a humanity check.

Any scene in which you choose to attempt to inflict lethal damage incurs a Humanity check.


As mentioned, Bending isn’t Sorcery. All trained Benders have “Martial Arts” descriptor under Stamina. Use Benders’ Will for their Power.

All Trained Benders start with:
– Special Damage (non-lethal, element)
– Ranged
– Warp

Learning additional powers (techniques) requires time, and rolling Lore vs. 5 dice for each power. If you have a teacher, they can roll their Lore vs. 1 to give you Bonus Dice to your roll. If you fail, you have to wait until your Lore or Will rises before you can try to learn this again.

Available powers:
– Hold
– Armor
– Lethal Damage (lightning! see special damage rules above, though…)
– Protection (Iroh’s Lightning redirection)
– Transport
– Travel
– Vitality (healing)
– Command (Blood Bending, only in Full Moon, Humanity check)
– Boost Stamina (moving faster, lifting stuff, etc.)
– Cover (moving earth-trains, sandbending sand-skiffs, etc.)
– Perception (earth sense, ala Toph)

Special bonuses

Element is abundant +1
Moon/Sun is visible (water/fire bending accordingly) +1
Special event (Full moon, Solstice) +2
Eclipse? – cannot bend
Rare event (comet) +3


Martial arts (a must for all benders, but many others use it as well)
Good Living (“Have a cup of tea! Let’s play music”)
Hard Living (“Nothing but hard work and discipline. I don’t need luck.”)
Big (“The Boulder takes offense at that comment.”)
Just Healthy (Sokka)
Soldier (“They used to call you the Dragon of the West…”)
Arcane Regimen (“More banana garlic juice please”)

Zest for life (Aang, Tylee, Iroh, King Bumi)
Responsible (Katara)
Aristocrat (“You were never even a player.”, Azula)
Angry (Zuko)
Manipulator (Jet, Azula)
Leader (Jet)
Goofy Appeal (Sokka)

Naive (Mostly everyone, 1-2 Lore)
Scholar (the scholar who found the Library…)
Cracked (King Bumi)
Secret Society (“The White Lotus Gambit?”)
Encounters with the Mystical (Learning Firebending from Dragons)
Studying from Nature (“I learned earthbending from badgermoles”)
Learning the Hard Way (“Fire. So easily threatens to go out of control.”)
Inhuman (Wan Shi Tong)

Lore, Sorcery, Demons

Sorcery includes the Spirit World, but also the wider ability of mucking around with the metaphysics of the world itself:

– Iroh’s mixing Water & Firebending to make the lightning defense
– Admiral Zhao’s attempt to kill the Water Spirit
– Pacts with Hei Bai, Wan Shi Tong, Ko the Face Stealer

Basically, most of the world lives with only Lore 1-2, with a lot of hard work towards learning new Bending techniques. Going beyond that requires very lateral thinking and even dealing with the dangers of the spirit world or seeking out lost societies.

Aang, Sorcerer

Classic Sorcerer-style Bindings are rare- people wisely fear the power of things beyond their ken. But here’s the most obvious example:

The Avatar State
Need- extreme danger or emotional trauma to the host, or to those the host cares about.
Desire- Divine Retribution (Mayhem)
Stamina 9
Will 10
Lore 9
Power 10
Abilities: Special Damage (non-lethal, all 4 elements), ranged, Travel, Warp, Hold, Boost Stamina

The Avatar State typically uses all of it’s powers until it’s burnt out, forcing the host to be in danger before being able to activate it again…

The individual incarnations that Aang deals with, like Roku, also are considered Bound demons by the rules. Their needs are usually not as dire- “Be in the Spirit World, or the Fire Temple during the Solstice” but still are a bit of a hassle to meet.

Nearly all of them have big Power levels, which is why Aang has such a hard time commanding them (he’s got penalties on the Binding rolls, and also why he only can get cryptic and partial answers most of the time).

Later in the series, Guru Pathik leads Aang on a series of Humanity gaining meditations to finally undertake a ritual to basically trade Humanity for Lore and attempt to re-Bind the Avatar Spirit. Aang bails out on it and the Avatar Spirit rebels… refusing to offer it’s powers.

You could easily say that thematically, in Sorcerer terms, Avatar is about a 12 year old boy who is the world’s biggest sorcerer…

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