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Author Topic: [MLWM] The minions of Otto von Kubir  (Read 5424 times)
TonyLB
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« on: April 17, 2005, 10:58:59 AM »

I got a chance to run a four-hour session of My Life With Master last night.  It was a blast to be the Master... but I know that I only scratched the surface of what can be done with the system.  Part of that was due to actual mechanics confusion, and part of it was because at the start of the game I didn't intuit the patterns that early choices would impose on the end of the game.

So now I want to run it again, of course, with those insights.  Except that for at least a little while... no.  I need to recover.

First off, a general thought:  MLWM is an exhausting game.  The Master is responsible for keeping the lid tightly on the pressure cooker, and constantly ramping up the heat.  Every time I tried to relax I could immediately see how the players took that welcome opportunity to take a breath themselves.  I suppose it's a natural outcome of the relation between Master and Minions... he cannot drive them without driving himself.  Only, of course, there's so many more of them!


We had some truly great More and Less than Humans.  Folks were offering these terrific ideas and then saying "Oh... but that wouldn't really ever actually come up."  I had to push people to stick with their original ideas.

For instance, Larry (played by Shawn de Arment) had the Less Than Human:  "Hideously Ugly, except to the innocent."  Larry was escorting Timmy the Tinkers Son (a connection and innocent), but ran afoul of Big Dumb Hans.  Well, he assaulted Hans and lost... so it's not quite as innocent as "ran afoul".  

But anyway, with his weariness maxed out he ended up captured, and I had to scene-frame him an escape.  So, naturally, I had Timmy assault Hans by surprise, and beat him nearly to death in Larry's defense.  And then I delivered the payload of the Less Than Human:  "Timmy comes to untie you.  'Oh, poor Larry,' he says, 'Look how badly Hans beat you... you look hideously ugly.'"

If you can't tell, I really like the way that the Exceptions on More and Less than human can be used to indicate things indirectly.  We also had Eric, playing the Minion with No Name, who had "Can Escape any trap, except when he has to leave someone he cares about behind."  That was a terrific one where I got to use the exception to protagonize Eric to make a choice:  He'd been working alongside Sydney's minion (Karrol) and then things went to Endgame, and straight to hell.  Eric wanted his character to get away from the rampaging mobs and collapsing castle.  So I just casually asked "So, does your More Than Human apply?" and Eric suddenly got really thoughtful.  "Yessss...." he said after several long moments of thought.  I'll leave it to Sydney to describe how he, personally, felt about that... but there was definitely a nice "Oooh, that's nasty" vibe around the table.

I did get hung up on the same issue with Fred though.  He had Less than Human of "Cannot operate machinery unless it is animal-powered."  One of his Connections (Constable Clause) had been surgically reconstructed into a much more bestial form (Constable Claws... blame Fred for that one, he thought of it).  So I had Claws get into the machine and harness, to power it, then said "So, can JoJo operate the machine?"  Fred sort of blinked several times and said "Uh... I don't know."  Then he thought about it for a good long time, and said "I still don't know."  Eventually he rolled a die to decide.  In retrospect I probably should have just hit him with my own decision, like I did with Shawn/Larry.

That brings up an issue that I had some real trouble getting my brain around:  Are you supposed to actively deprotagonize the minions, until such time as the dice give them a chance to start forcing their own choices?  I tried to put in choices between their own suffering and the suffering of others, and stuff like that, but I think that in retrospect that was a bad hold-over from other Nar game-play.

On a mechanical issue:  What happens in a scene that could have consequences (like, say, Violence) if it ties?  It seems... odd... to have a minion be able to make their requisite Violence roll in service of the master, but get neither Self-Loathing nor Weariness.  I wonder whether I interpreted that correctly.

Also, in Endgame, players concluded that they all needed to make Overtures of love, while the castle was collapsing, so that they would be able to help Karrol destroy the Master.  This did quite a number on the epilogue conditions:  Everybody integrated with society, largely because of all the last-minute love they'd gathered.  Was I running that by the rules?
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2005, 12:02:18 PM »

Yeah, the ending was shockingly happy. Here my 10-year-old compulsive liar is swordfighting with the Master, as various fellow minions struggle to elude the mob and help me; even collaborating we're getting clobbered; and then, bam, Tony rolls low, and I'm sitting there staring at the dice going, "I did it? I did it? I did it..." and feeling as if a truck stopped being parked on my chest. Which is mechanics simulating the feel of minionage pretty well, I think.

Likewise, I found myself thinking the Master was bad-but-tolerable at first, because, yeah, he's horrible to us, but we can take it; but then, the minute he started threatening the townsfolk I had Love for ... BAM. YoubastardImustdestroyyounow. Which again is the mechanics (Master can't actually have any bad effect on the minions directly, only by destroying Connections) cuing the current emotional response.

Even Fred's self-imposed 50-50 die roll as to whether his connection  Klaus was still human -- and he really wrestled with that -- was a cool moment, as he gave up and basically put the issue in the hands of. And then the die came up not only "human," but with the highest possible value for human.

So rollplay/roleplay, mechanics/story -- bah. When the game works right, they're all one.
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2005, 11:10:27 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB

That brings up an issue that I had some real trouble getting my brain around:  Are you supposed to actively deprotagonize the minions, until such time as the dice give them a chance to start forcing their own choices?  I tried to put in choices between their own suffering and the suffering of others, and stuff like that, but I think that in retrospect that was a bad hold-over from other Nar game-play.


Well, you're (via the Master) supposed to give them grief. But keep in mind that the players have already decided upon what their sources of grief will be, through their Greater Than Human/Less Than Human, and their Connections. I don't know that it qualifies as deprotagonization if the player has indirectly chosen his weaknesses.

Quote
On a mechanical issue: What happens in a scene that could have consequences (like, say, Violence) if it ties? It seems... odd... to have a minion be able to make their requisite Violence roll in service of the master, but get neither Self-Loathing nor Weariness. I wonder whether I interpreted that correctly.


I don't know if I'm parsing that correctly. Ties introduce an interruption to the resolution. I guess I interpreted that to mean the consequences are also delayed until the next roll. It's pure conflict resolution; mangle the actual events until they line up with the dice.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2005, 07:04:22 AM »

Hiya,

In playing this particular game, it's worth considering that victimizing the Minions via the Master's commands and general depiction is actually protagonizing them as characters via the system in action over time. You are playing adversity. Adversity is necessary for protagonism. The distinctive feature of My Life with Master is that this adversity never bleeds out into real-life person-on-person abuse.

Best,
Ron
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TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2005, 07:07:21 AM »

Yes, but... how do you have protagonists without choices?

I'm not worried about being mean.  Being mean is easy.  I'm worried about telling the players what they have to do, and how bad they feel about it.

It leaves them a choice of possible coping mechanisms ("I loathe myself because I am unworthy," "I don't loathe myself!  Not at all!  It's everyone else I hate!", etc.), but is that enough?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2005, 07:14:59 AM »

Hi Tony,

It seems to me that every scene in My Life with Master constitutes a choice - not necessarily full authority over what happens, but certainly a choice in terms of how to respond to stresss. So I don't know what you mean by "no choice."

I also am not sure what you mean by "how bad they feel." Are you talking about the players or the characters? It seems very clear to me that no one tells any player how they feel during the course of this game, because that's entirely up to them. It also seems clear to me that an increase in (for example) Self-Loathing means that the character may feel any number of things, but that the quantitative increase means "add a degree of self-loathing in with whatever else you feel," as a (fruitful) creative constraint.

Um ... I guess I'm getting a whiff of unnecessary fear. This game's proved itself many, many times - what, actually, are you concretely concerned about? In other words, what specific and actual problem did you and your group run into?

If there isn't any, then you may simply be scaring yourself with imagined problems that "would" happen.

Best,
Ron

P.S. Regarding the exhaustion you spoke of ... I suggest that you may be experiencing the equivalent problem of a man required all his life to walk on his hands, who now is permitted to walk on his feet. For one thing, his legs aren't used to it and tire easily. For another, his hands keep trying to help out unnecessarily, and hence burn more energy as well.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2005, 07:22:12 AM »

We didn't have any actual problems.  We had a blast.  At worst we had some patches where I sat there and said "Man, I feel like I could be doing so much more if I understood what I was doing better."

I agree with the hand-walking metaphor.  My problem is not that I don't like walking, it's that I want to run, and I see the theoretical potential for it but don't know how to actually get there.

So I'm trying to figure out how to make the self-loathing into a fruitful creative constraint.  I'm trying to figure out how to help players invest even more in the horror of having to do these things, the horror of being in this situation and the unquenchable nobility of being human despite it.

I agree that my tone came across exactly the wrong way though.  Entirely my fault.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2005, 02:44:39 PM »

I always found a good game of MLwM to be refreshing rather than exhausting.

The game itself is exceedingly simple as only one of three things happens in the main part of the game (Villany, Violence, or Horror). You could almost play it as a board game with no narration the mechanics are so smooth. In fact, not 'almost', you could just play it so.

But then you have the narration as well, and this is a triumph too because the players (and GM) do most of the work at the start in the set-up. As has been mentioned many times elsewhere, the "less thans" and "more thans", the connections and innocents are targets with great circular decals saying "hurt me!"

The other big thing I like is what Sydney says. It's all smiles until someone gets hurt and then bam! All the players turn from gleeful sadists into hurt little creatures who want to teach the Master a lesson. And what's more they love it. I've never played a game where the pay-off has been so immediate and so frequent.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2005, 10:14:42 AM »

For the record, this game is the source of these quotes.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2005, 11:27:25 AM »

Hey Larry,

Well, you're (via the Master) supposed to give them grief.

Michael S. Miller has probably run more games of My Life with Master than anyone I know, myself included (particularly if you rule out the quickie demos I run at the Forge GenCon booth). And he has distilled his expertise on this very topic into an article he's submitted to the next issue of Daedalus.

I've seen the manuscript. It totally rocks.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2005, 02:16:17 PM »

When will this article be out? I've committed myself to running at least one game of MLwM at a small RPG-convention in Belgium at the end of May, and some advice couldn't hurt.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2005, 07:55:13 AM »

Hey Victor,

Matt Snyder http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=155364&highlight=daedalus#155364">has written:

"It's looking like we won't publish until around April 15. The cost will likely be something around $5, but that remains undecided. (So, you've been warned!)"

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Adam Dray
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« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2005, 10:11:27 AM »

Quote from: Tony
First off, a general thought:  MLWM is an exhausting game.  The Master is responsible for keeping the lid tightly on the pressure cooker, and constantly ramping up the heat.  Every time I tried to relax I could immediately see how the players took that welcome opportunity to take a breath themselves.  I suppose it's a natural outcome of the relation between Master and Minions... he cannot drive them without driving himself.  Only, of course, there's so many more of them!


Pacing is always a concern in any RPG. Since you ran an entire story, from inception to End Game, in four hours, I can only imagine that it was taxing for everyone involved. My own one-shot completed in about 6 hours and it was tiring.

Remember, though, that in a one-shot MLwM game, you have to turn the pressure way up if you want to reach the End Game (and that sounds like your actual play). If you planned to play out the story over a series of sessions, you could take more time and even allow the players free "development" scenes for Connections. These tend to be quieter and less stressful than Violence and Villainy scenes.

I convinced my wife to run "My Life with Mr. President," a political adaptation of My Life with Master. We figure we'll play 5-6 times to finish out the story, and we set Reason=3, Fear=5, Love=0 at start. The pace is much calmer than my grim "Dr. Forrester" one-shot. I'll post a game report this weekend if I can find the time to type up my copious player notes.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
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