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Author Topic: [MLwM] My Life with Contessa Lenora  (Read 3232 times)
Iskander
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Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


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« on: January 16, 2006, 05:37:06 PM »

Background
The game took place at Recess - a roughly quarterly micro-con run by nerdNYC, this time held in a large room at the Gay and Lesbian Center, 13th St., New York. It can be a bit of a madhouse, since it is a family-friendly event, with quite a lot of kids (all having a LOT of fun), there are four or five RPGs running concurrently and a bunch of board games as well. One of the RPGs was Luke Crane, running Inheritance, so you can imagine that the noise levels got quite high. Nevertheless, the four of us separated ourselves slightly into a corner and got cracking with Master and Minions. I'll just highlight some of the things that came up that interested me, since I'm writing up a full log of the game at my website.

Participants
  • Alexander - Master/GM. My first playing GMing MLwM, after avid consumption of various AP threads and the invaluable Manifesto on Mastery, I wanted to run MLwM at least once before using it to conclude a season of the GGG, where I'm running a series I called Czege and Bake. I was the only player present who had read the game.
  • Jason - Matthias. I have played quite a bit with Jason, including AFMBE, D&D3.5, DitV and Unknown Armies, and countless board games. He was an enabler for my return to gaming, and we found nerdNYC and the GGG at about the same time.
  • Terry - Snowdrop. Terry has played mostly CoC, and I've played it with her a couple of times, enjoying Oscar Rios' expert Keeping. Although she knew the premise, the system was completely new, and in quite a different style to what she was used to, I believe. She took to it like a duck to water. Jason and Terry may have gamed together before, I don't know.
  • Ping - Thomas. I had never met Ping before Saturday (when the game was played), and I have no idea what his gaming history is. He knew Terry, but neither Jason nor I.

Interesting Bits (or things I need help with)
Master creation and Minion creation went pretty quickly; all done in less than 45 minutes, which left me optimistic that we would be done in the four hours allotted (we only just made it - I forgot to throw an Innocent into the mix). The players had seized on the idea of Lenora being a collector type, specifying that her love of her own beauty would extend to art, and the artists who make great art, to the point of exclusivity. We also discussed her needing body parts to sustain her centuries-old beauty, and two of the Minions' origins involved the Countess' gruesome experiments. Since none of their connections involved any artists, I decided to stick with the body parts theme, and that worked just fine. Art wasn't mentioned again, so I think that was the right call.

More than / Less than tied: Snowdrop's MtH was "captivatingly persuasive, until she speaks", and her LtH was "terrifying voice, unless speaking in rhyme". It took me a while to get the hang of when she could use which, and with what effects, but in the end it worked out nicely, and made for a nice moment of closure in her endgame.

Taking a leaf from My Life with Monday, I had drawn up a sheet of "My Log of Mastery"<the manifesto). I did not realise how effective it had been at representing the Master until near endgame, when Terry had Snowdrop try to resist the Contessa's command, and narrated her scrabbling at the scarf to try to tear it from Lenora's neck. Until then, it hadn't been mentioned in play at all. I found that moment particularly gratifying.

Some commands are better than others I: Lenora's very first command to Matthias was to collect one of Thomas' connections, Mirabel. This worked fine, although not as well as ordering Snowdrop to fetch "a baby". The less specific the command, the more freedom I had to link it to connections in a subsequent scene. I had thought that Thomas would be spurred by the capture of Mirabel, and ended up giving him a lame series of commands. Ping nevertheless found villainous and violent means to achieve them.

Some commands are better than others II: when Minions returned, they had always done something wrong, and the Contessa commanded them to deal with the error. This often meant a composite command, e.g. "Put the male baby in the potato cellar, and then fetch me its twin sister." When Terry made Snowdrop attempt to resist that command, she failed, was she bound to carry out both to one roll, or only the first part? At the time I couldn't think of a way to frame the cellar scene to be resistable, and made that just happen, and skipped to the next child theft step. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that was wrong. Putting a squalling baby in the cellar is villainy... but failing to be villainous there would mean what? That she did something nice (which Terry wanted to do), and suffered the consequences?

Commands in lockstep: the Minions seemed to follow the same sequence of scenes, so we would have three Violence/Villainy scenes, three Overtures, three V/V. Any suggestions on breaking this up?

Horror begat horror: at least in the early game, the Minions pursued the Master's goals beyond the necessary, i.e. they all took two attempts at Violence or Villainy to get complete their first command, when they could have given up at just one. I am certain I pointed this out later in the game, and quite confident I did so at the beginning, but it struck me as interesting nevertheless.

The Horror was Revealed once: Matthias was in Alice's house with his connection: her uncle, the butcher Lucas. Jason had Matthias look Lucas in the eye, apologise to him, snatch up the child in her bedding and carry her out through the shattering window into the woods, and causing the Horror. Lucas was left with Alice's blood on his hands from shaking hands with Matthias, and silently walked out of the house back to his shop. Glassy-eyed, he ignored the shopboy's chatter about his dead brother-in-law, took down a haunch of venison and started hacking away at it, not stopping at his own knuckles. He got as far as his wrist before he was restrained. The moment was startlingly powerful. It kept Jason up that night.

Intimacy / Desperation / Sincerity: these were great. I had a sheet with spots for the dice, and their uses, and the players winced when the countess used the dice. Not once did the players object to anything I did, not to any decision I made about the bonuses. I think it helped that I was pretty generous, but they managed to be pretty fucking sincere at several crucial moments. What a great mechanic.

Endgame was a mess: all the Minions were in almost the same place, and I found myself completely at a loss to think of an appropriately stressful scene for Ping/Thomas. Since we were very short of time, we skipped it, and hurried on to the demise of the Countess. I think I should have had a cheat sheet for this, too. I avoided looking anything up in the rules if I could help it, to the detriment of the rushed ending. Next time will be better, I hope.

Finally, I am looking forward to sitting on the other side of this abominable relationship (which I pretty much do at work, anyway), next weekend. I expect that experience will greatly inform further sessions of the game, and probably clear up some things.

Endgame

Matthias - destroyed himself, carrying the Countess over the edge of an internal balcony in the castle, with Thomas.
Thomas - destroyed himself, helping Matthias kill the Countess.
Snowdrop - integrated. Surrounded by the mob she returned baby Rupert to his father, and was adopted by her connection's family. She discovered that her voice was now normal when she asked the mob not to harm the baby.
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Michael S. Miller
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Posts: 846


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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2006, 04:05:38 AM »

Very cool writeup, Alexander.

Since none of their connections involved any artists, I decided to stick with the body parts theme, and that worked just fine. Art wasn't mentioned again, so I think that was the right call.

I've found this kind of thing often happens in Master Creation. Everyone's brainstorming for a good idea, one of them catches people's imaginations. As they start to talk about it and group consensus grows, an idea they like MORE emerges from it, and the original is forgotten entirely. The best thing is to roll with it, just like you did.
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Iskander
Member

Posts: 226

Alexander Newman


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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2006, 09:13:37 AM »

One further thing I forgot...

Lines and veils: inevitably, perhaps, there came a point when the barely pubescent Mirabel was shackled to the 'bed' in the Contessa's 'Spare Room'. At that point, I urgently had to pause for a discussion of how far we wanted to take the game, given that my nasty mind had provided unspeakably genital things to command Snowdrop to do to Mirabel. I dearly wish I had thought to have the conversation at the beginning of the session, because it felt jarring to do so partway through. However, I am very glad I did at all, because the brief discussion told me clearly that Terry would most likely not have been comfortable with the sexual direction my unpleasant mind wanted to go, and I was able to rein it in before overstepping the mark.

So, note to self: have a discussion of lines and veils as part of introducing MLwM (and every game?).
Logged

Winning gives birth to hostility.
Losing, one lies down in pain.
The calmed lie down with ease,
having set winning & losing aside.

- Samyutta Nikaya III, 14
Arturo G.
Member

Posts: 333


« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2006, 04:40:12 AM »


Quote
So, note to self: have a discussion of lines and veils as part of introducing MLwM (and every game?).

Some groups of well-known people have already established implicit Lines and Veils for some genres or types of games. It may part of the unspoken social contract.
I would say it is always convenient to discuss it from time to time, especially when facing new games. And it is almost unavoidable with games like MLwM.

Cheers,
Arturo
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