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[MLWM] My Easter With Master

Started by Larry L., April 01, 2005, 09:11:16 PM

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Larry L.

I had originally joked that we would be playing "Kill Puppies For Satan" on Easter Sunday. While no one was seriously interested in KPFS, the idea of some kind of Easter-themed blasphemy stuck, and permeated our My Life With Master session.

Default 18th century eastern Europe setting. We spend an hour or so hashing out a concept for the Master. A literal Easter bunny was deemed too silly. We eventually ended up with a rabbit-obsessed failure of a zoologist who performed strange rabbit breeding and modifications in the secret warrens beneath his manse, whilst also carrying out a subtle eugenics program amongst the townsfolk under the guise of an "Easter lottery." He dreams to someday show the university zoological society how wrong they were to deem a lunatic.

Aaron's scene-by-scene run notes, touched up by me:

Fear: 4
Reason: 5

Dr. Otto Lapin
Two wiry tufts of hair sticking up off of his head.
Spectacles. Buck Teeth.

Reuben Hasenpfeffer
Research assistant from way back
Small and furtive.
Large buck teeth.
SL: 1 W: 2
MTH: Can change into a bunny, except on holy ground or in the presence of priests.
LTH: Has paws for hands, except under moonlight.
Connection: Lola (midwife for master's experiments)

Average size; lank, longish hair; plain face with soulful blue eyes.
Burly shoulders and horribly malformed hands often clutched in front of him.
SL: 2  W: 1
MTH: Can burrow quickly through rock & dirt, except when it's raining.
LTH: Hands are completely useless for normal tasks, except when playing the violin.
Connection: Blind old lady who listens to Victrola.

Vuk Stanovic
Hunchbacked and incredibly ugly.
SL: 2  W: 1
MTH: Can hide at any time, except when young ladies are present.
LTH: Is extremely rude/obnoxious, except when gardening.
Connection: Grette (2nd Cousin)

Occasional town liason.
Sold to the estate thirty years previous.
Completely nondescript.
SL: 3  W: 0
MTH: His orders are obeyed, except in a crowd.
LTH: Animals are terrified of him, except bunnies.
Connection: Hilda (Mayor's kennel hand)

Baumwollen (Cotton)
Errand girl.
Long legs and shortish arms.
SL: 1  W: 2
MTH: Can run as fast as the wind, except in the presence of gardeners & gardening tools.
LTH: Can eat only carrots fresh from the ground, except when fed by hand.
Connection: Bauer Brun

The Master sends out Baumwollen to prepare for the arrival of members of the Zoological Society for dinner. She resists and fails miserably. Earnest goes out to find a chef, (no roll made -- the scene already had one) while everyone else cleans up.

Baumwollen uses the opportunity to visit Farmer Braun, who sells fresh produce. No one's around. She starts collecting produce and has almost finished when FB's son appears from the woodshed and threatens her with a pitchfork. She desperately appeals to her (fake) pangs of hunger and fails. He ain't buying it and sends her away.

Earnest, meanwhile, goes to the local roadside tavern. He brings the chef two dead rabbits from the Master's stores. He walks through into the kitchen and flops the hares down on the work surface. His overture is successful; the chef is impressed with the size and beauty of the creatures. He informs the chef he'll be coming back with him to cook for the Master's guests.

Reuben goes to the local priest to round up some learned company for dinner. He timidly approaches Father Milan in the sanctuary and tries to convince him come to dinner that evening; the priest is somewhat repelled, not least because Dr. Otto is not much of a churchgoer. Reuben gives up on convincing him and instead tries to leave a good impression. The Father becomes interested in R's "gloves".  Reuben's overture, with the Intimacy die, just barely succeeds, leaving a disturbed but compassionate priest, commisserating with Reuben on his deformity.

Hugo sneaks off down his secret burrow to visit Tatiyana the stonemason's daughter. When he pops out of the ground she is hanging laundry in the backyard. Hiding behind a large stone he plays a haunting melody on his violin. His overture is successful and he gains a point of love.

Vuk discovers nothing is prepared for the M's Easter Egg Hunt (his responsibility). He tattles to the M and convinces him that it's really Hugo and Earnest's fault by beating them in a villany roll. The M is now very upset at H and E.

Meanwhile, Baumwollen, having failed to get food from the field, tries to convince the local baker through an overture to give her food on credit. She appeals to their sense of pity (once again) in the face of her apparently endless hunger and disturbing inability to grasp a pastry. She succeeds in convincing him to hand-feed her carrot cake.

Earnest returns to the banuquet hall with the chef but a finds a furious M who promptly demands that he go and gather groceries.  Earnest promptly obeys, leaving a bewildered chef Svenn to converse with the M.

Hugo returns and goes to find the M. He finds him in the empty kitchen with chef Svenn. The M commands Hugo to lock the chef up in the basement and storms out. Hugo attempts to obey, grabbing a poker from the hearth, but the chef is handy with a cleaver and cuts him up a bit when he fails his roll.

Earnest, after stealing all of the M's silverware, meets Hilda, the Mayor's maid, and successfully attempts an overture with the gift of silver candlesticks. He then orders her to give him her groceries and is scared away by the frantic barking of a passing dog.

Vuk, gardening, is unexpectedly commanded by the M to set the table for dinner.  He attempts to resist but fails. Going to find the silver, it's all gone (!)  He decides to go and steal some from the mayor.

Baumwollen decides that she better come back with some groceries.  Finding a henhouse, she tries to wring their necks and take them and their eggs. Her attempt at violence is foiled (due to a tie) when the farm matron appears.

Father Milan decides to walk Reuben back to the Manse and finds a melee in progress involving Hugo and chef Svenn. He can't even turn into a rabbit and escape due to the presence of the priest. He also ignores Hugo's request for aid. Hugo, with the secondary aid of the desperation die, brains the chef and the priest runs off in terror. (Hey, what about Hugo's Less Than Human regarding his hands? Whoops! --Larry)

Vuk, having no problems with hiding and sneaking, gets into the mayor's house with no problem. However, as he's leaving, his cousin Greta, who works for the mayor, surprises him. He attempts to get past her by convincing her that he's getting it cleaned. She overcomes his villany due to the sincerity die, talks him into putting down the bag and makes him a cup of tea.

Reuben decides to convince the mayor to come to town instead. He tries to make a connection with Hilda in order to get closer to the mayor. He plays for pity with his paws, gets a desperation die, and barely succeeds. She leads him into the sitting room where Vuk and Greta are having tea.

Earnest comes in with the groceries only to find the chef strangely absent.  Dr. Otto appears and commands Earnest to make dinner. Hugo returns from locking up the chef, only to be commanded by the Dr. to grab the meat grinder and use the chef for stew meat. He attempts to resist and fails miserably. He's off to make Swedish meatballs.

Vuk, mindful of his natural inclination to be insulting unless gardening, futzes with the houseplants while talking to Greta. However, Hilda walks in with Reuben and tells him to leave the plants alone. Reuben and Vuk together attempt to dissuade her.

Earnest finds Hugo attempting to set up the meat grinder. Earnest attempts villainy against Hugo to get the chef upstairs and fails. Hugo reacts with violence but also fails, leaving them wrestling on the ground.

Kotten, found out by the farm matron, reacts violently when found out and strangles her. She finishes with the chickens and heads back to the Manse.

Vuk, his mind at ease since he's able to garden while speaking, gains an intimacy die while appealing to cousin Greta's similarity to their grandfather to try and help him with the siverware. He succeeds and gains love.

Reuben, taken to the mayor, appeals to his vanity and successfully convinces him to come to dinner.

Earnest convinces Hugo (uncontested) that they can use other meat, the chef can help them use the meat grinder, and the M will never know the difference. Hugo runs off to gather some of the M's rabbits. Earnest wakes up the chef and convinces him that he slipped and banged his head (the rest is all false memory), gaining another point of love from the chef.

All show up with meat, chickens and a willing chef... and no silverware...

Vuk convinces Greta that he'll be horribly punished if he doesn't return with some kind of silverware. She relents and he leaves with the secondhand tarnished dinnerware.

The M sends R to find the silverware (which is of course gone). M is VERY unhappy. He commands Earnest to beat Vuk senseless when he returns. E resists, appealing to logic (silly rabbit) and fails, enduring a diatribe on his own idiocy.

Vuk appears with a sack of crappy silverware and is promptly set upon by Earnest with the help of Hugo. Reuben tries to help Vuk, but they fail and are left beaten on the floor. (Reuben's guest the mayor runs fleeing.) Baumwollen watches bemusedly.  Just then the guests arrive for dinner...


I played Hugo (and took notes; a Handspring with an IR keyboard is turning out to be a useful gaming commodity--- I used it during our last session of Shadows in the Fog, too...)

This game, which I've been wanting to play since I read it at a friend's house, is a blast.  The Master and character creation rolled smoothly and swiftly (with, I think, only one of us having played it before.)  A bit of that I attribute to those of us in indieMN having played together enough at this point so things are flowing pretty smoothly, but most of it I credit to MLwM's simple, concise and elegant mechanics.

I really liked the aggressive scene-framing, abetted by the strongly-suggested one-die-roll-per-scene rule.  We stumbled on it a bit at first (old habits of over-explaining), but Larry did a good job of moving us along.  By the end if felt really natural.  With five characters, it helped give everyone spotlight time to do with as they will.

The Connection idea worked well, too.  I'm finding that I really like playing games where my character is free to pursue an agenda without disrupting the game for anyone else .  This is so foreign from the majority of my gaming experience (mostly informed by railroading GMs (including myself)).  It's one of the main reasons I've enjoyed playing Shadows in the Fog, as well.

We ended the session at a climactic moment, and I'm excited to get back finish it up!

Christopher Weeks

I kind of thought the game was a little stiff.  I think we were fumbling with mechanics enough that we didn't get into a smooth role-playing/story-telling mode.  I haven't really put my finger on it, but I know it's related to my comment at the end of the game that we weren't using the bonus dice enough.

I was surprised in my first game of MLWM at how much they were used.  In this game I've been surprised at how little.  Emotional stake didn't seem real natural.

Also, and this may be tied to the above, I think we kind of fumbled master creation.  Dr. Lapin isn't terrifying.  He's just pathetic.  I can't actually envision circumstances by which such a person would be able to gather minions.


Hah, Chris, I guess you have a couple of points there.

It's true the atmosphere wasn't terrifying; it was probably more like a twisted English drawing-room comedy.  I still found this enjoyable, however.

It's true about the dice, too.  For my part, I guess I wasn't really clear, until towards the end, what exactly we were supposed to do with them.  I agree they'd push the "role-playing" more into the forefront, and in fact I've already found myself thinking about how Hugo might use the Intimacty die...  that's the largest die, right?

In retrospect, this game is, like its source material, all about atmosphere.  Playing on a sunny Easter Sunday probably doomed us to farce from the start...

Ron Edwards

Hi guys,

Seems like a no-brainer to me. If the whole group doesn't hate the Master with a passion, then there's no game.

If they do, then the dice do exactly what they're designed to do, and the role-playing is "pumped" by the dice just as it is in Sorcerer and Dogs in the Vineyard.

This hatred I'm talking about is a subtle thing, though. It doesn't match up 1:1 with the desire to play one's Minion in a rebellious fashion. In many cases, the players who run their Minions to submit and facilitate the Master, mostly, are actually reinforcing how evil he or she is, in order to set-up other players (as in volleyball) for the real spiking. And that's just one of dozens of possible approaches.

So don't mistake my point as talking about how everyone should be continually defying the Master. I'm talking about straightforward judgmental emotions at the real-person level - which then get translated into productive role-playing and system-usage (same things!) in multifarious ways.

To repeat: without that emotion, no game.


Shane Street

I think that the question of "what, exactly, do we do with a scene?" slowed us down a lot at the start.  That was definitely the biggest hurdle for me.  

As far the master goes, our opening missions did not set him up as a villian.  Combined with the sunny, Easter day, and with our floundering at the beginning, he was more of a vague presense than an ominout threat.  He really started to come into his own though when he ordered the killing of the chef.  As soon as we had love, Larry had things he could work with to make the master odious to us.

Larry L.

This was my first jab at running a game with aggressive scene framing. I liked the experience; it felt vaguely like a very "open-curtain" illusionism in terms of what sort of control I had over the game.

My biggest obstacle was the large number of players we had. I think this contributed to the feel of a comedic ensemble cast. It was tricky to come up with emotionally touching scenes when juggling so many needs. Fortunately the players did a good job of building conflicts into their characters.

If we play the remainder of this game, Dr. Otto will predictably become MUCH more unpleasant after dinner.

Shane Street

QuoteDr. Otto will predictably become MUCH more unpleasant after dinner

Especially after he finds out that we served rabbit!

Michael S. Miller

Quote from: Ron EdwardsIf the whole group doesn't hate the Master with a passion, then there's no game.

Shameless plug: There will be an article on this very point in the forthcoming spring issue of Daedelus written by yours truly. It discusses why this is necessary and how best to achieve it.
Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!

GB Steve

Quote from: Ron EdwardsTo repeat: without that emotion, no game.
I'm sure you need emotion but I don't know that, at the start of the game at least, that minions need to hate the Master. They could hate themselves, fear the master or just be used to doing what they're told to do, however evil. They might even enjoy the casual cruelty and want perhaps to be the Master.

Once connections come into the mix, that's the real opportunity for the characters to have reasons to hate the Master. And that's why you need to be aggressive when framing scenes because the characters need reasons to hate the Master at the end so that they can kill him.


Characters don't need to hate the Master.  Not even to kill them.  I look at the picture in the book of the piglet-minion strangling the Master, and I think "Oh God... she still loves and worships the Master, as she is killing her... that's got to hurt."

Players, however, must hate the Master with a passion like the fire of a thousand suns.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

GB Steve

Quote from: TonyLBPlayers, however, must hate the Master with a passion like the fire of a thousand suns.
I don't think I hate the Master, but I realise that the point of the game is to kill him. And I guess that's functionally the same.


Quote from: GB Steve
I'm sure you need emotion but I don't know that, at the start of the game at least, that minions need to hate the Master. They could hate themselves, fear the master or just be used to doing what they're told to do, however evil. They might even enjoy the casual cruelty and want perhaps to be the Master.

Once connections come into the mix, that's the real opportunity for the characters to have reasons to hate the Master. And that's why you need to be aggressive when framing scenes because the characters need reasons to hate the Master at the end so that they can kill him.

This seems to make the most sense to me.  The lack of any love at the beginning of the game seems to indicate that hate grows as the Master twists and destroys their love.  For instance, with my character Hugo, in the above example:  If the Master took a liking to Tatiyana, perhaps desiring to breed with her himself; or if he decided to kill the Old Blind Lady who listens to the Victrola for some reason, this would certainly make both Hugo (and me!) start hating him.  And I do love how your (character's) own weariness and self-loathing can retard that process...