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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 153 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [My Life with Master] Black ooze and babies  (Read 3533 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: September 18, 2003, 06:09:20 AM »

Hello,

We started up our prep for My Life with Master last Sunday. Julie insisted, and it'll be a nice rest from Tunnels & Trolls for a while.

I'd thought about how I wanted to participate. I decided that my usual role as GM for this group carries with it a certain undesirable clout in our so-called group-decision discussions. So my plan was to provide one important detail and thereafter try to work with others' suggestions rather than lay down my own. My detail was, "Black ooze." Whatever else we did, it was gonna have some black ooze in there. Oh, and I also strongly favored the position of staying with the default setting of approximately 1805 central Europe, movie-style.

So here's what we came up with: Adrian Auenbrugg, a decayed-gentry sort of fellow with a mansion estate on the edge of town. He wants a recognized heir, and it's to be an heir untainted with the Female, a True Son of his very own and no other's. The Outsiders are anyone who has authority over the recognition of heirs: far-flung family members, peers in the gentry, people who stand to gain from the absence of any such heir, visiting government dignitaries, etc. His Needs, though, concern these children that he's attempting to produce (and indeed producing); he needs them to be brought up "properly" and relies on the town and its well-off families, and the labor of the less-well-off, to get this done. He's a Brain + Breeder, big-time.

So if you get all squicky imagining this guy ladling weird infants out of the black ooze of the bog, well, there you go. That's Adrian. If you get even squickier imagining all these eventually-defective children being brought up in nice houses all over town, by families that detest and fear them, then, there you go again. That's the town as pervaded by Fear 5. We set Reason to 3, as the point is that Adrian pretty much has the town under his thumb, but it has a lot of culture and resources to be tapped if necessary (i.e. it's not all pig-stys and gypsies).

Our characters? Tod came up with a groundskeeper who protects the black bog (with the ooze, you know), and Maura made up a midwife-type. I don't recall their details very well so perhaps they'll post about it. They decided on Latin names, and I carried through with that for mine. My character is Augustin, a terrifying schoolmaster sort with Self-Loathing 0 and Weariness 3 (I picked these scores arbitrarily, being interested in what might or might not happen).

More than Human: can terrify anyone except if the target is in the grip of passion
Less than Human: cannot endure violence in any way unless it is ritualized

So my character is basically a power-freak intellectual sort, which fits with the score values I chose, as he currently sees nothing wrong with his actions or nature. If threatened with a shaking fist, he'll fold instantly; he can't inflict pain or fear in anger or in a passionate way at all. But in a formal context, he's a holy terror. I can see him habitually giving demerits to people who irritate him ...

The idea for play, although it will certainly depend on Julie's choices as GM, is that he visits Adrian's children (shiver) as a tutor, teaching them elocution and geometry and whatnot.

His starting Connections are his brisk and cheerful landlady (Augustin does not live on Adrian's estate), and the mad poet who constantly reads and scribbles at the tavern.

One of the most fun things about this discussion was the occasional consensus-cry of encouragement and embellishment that arose. The main one concerned Adrian's ideological position ("a True Son, of Man!"). I also noticed that our Hero Wars game (2000-2002) seems to have sunk deeply into our collective psyche, with its emphasis on Wrongful Reproduction and the disturbingly understandable passions that bring it about.

Best,
Ron
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jrs
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2003, 07:43:17 AM »

Don't know where I'll be going with the game yet.  In preparation, I will be watching some silent movies this weekend:  The Unknown (1927), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912), and The Fall of the House of Usher (1928).  If you're in Chicago, here they are http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/siskelfilmcenter/screams.html#unknown

Julie
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2003, 08:49:08 AM »

Hey Ron,

Yeah...that's icky.

(Augustin does not live on Adrian's estate)

Now this brings up something interesting that I think I learned from designing My Life with Master. I was not initially interested in being at all specific about a setting for the game, because I think the underlying theme is pretty timeless, and because so much of my vision for the game was tied to notions about collaborative setup. But you pushed me on the setting issue. So I went with vaguely European, 1805.

And the lesson learned is that gamers are going to adapt and springboard from whatever you do, to a lesser or greater extent, regardless. Nothing is sacred. It is too ingrained in the culture. So the idea of keeping the game "open" for customization, to avoid amputating its potential by somehow narrowing its appeal, is a strategic notion that I'm thinking isn't borne out by how gamers actually think about games. Consider someone hypothetically posting a thread to an online forum, describing their idea for a genre-bending game about time-travelling android characters who solve crimes in ancient Gomorrah and asking for system suggestions. Would boldly "open" and setting-impartial systems like Theatrix, Story Engine, The Window, or FUDGE get better play in the subsequent discussion than setting-focused systems like Fvlminata, Trollbabe, or Continuum?

So my vague setting seems to have had lots of ancillary positives for My Life with Master, and no negatives. A big one is that it gave focus to my art direction, which I think has had a significant impact on people's enthusiasm for the game. And I think it also delivers a nice baseline that has allowed a given game group's adaptations to be more purposeful.

Am I wrong?

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
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2003, 08:54:15 AM »

Hi Paul,

I don't understand your post at all, I'm afraid.

I don't see how Augustin living in town violates the setting-expectations for the game; as far as I'm concerned, we're playing in your exact setting as listed in the rules. Where a given Minion lives in the milieu seems very open to me, as long as he's wholly under the Master's thumb, which Augustin is.

In Frankenstein, for instance, the Monster spends all of his time separated from Victor; they only meet very briefly and rarely. And my expectations for our game aren't anything like that - I imagine Augustin to take his orders from Adrian and to make his reports to him very frequently, perhaps daily.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2003, 09:26:39 AM »

Hey Ron,

If you don't perceive it as a step away from the game's baseline setting characteristics, why did you feel compelled to mention it parenthetically in your post?

I think the game establishes at the minions are members of the Master's "household" and that the household within the setting is located external to the town. What I was trying to say with my "nice baseline" comment above is that I think having the lightly pencilled characteristics of setting throughout the book is a positive thing for how a play group will handle adaptations. If the game text didn't imply a co-located household, would every play group experience a natural compulsion to make sure the Master was uber-present within the various residences of the minions?

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
Ron Edwards
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Member
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Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2003, 10:30:14 AM »

Hi Paul,

We're having a disconnect here, I think. As far as I'm concerned, Augustin is a member of the Master's "household."

My inclusion of the detail does indicate my understanding that most games will have the Minions living in the same house as the Master, and yes, I was making the distinction that I wanted Augustin to be living in a boarding-house somewhere in town. But considering the extremely pervasive influence we decided Adrian has over the town, and considering my own notion that Augustin is at Adrian's constant beck and call (and must report to him regularly), I don't think I'm violating any basic tenet as laid down by your text.

And if Julie disagrees with me about that, I'm perfectly happy for her to disallow it, or for her to play Adrian as ordering my character to move in, in the first scene of play.

Quote
I think having the lightly pencilled characteristics of setting throughout the book is a positive thing for how a play group will handle adaptations.


I agree entirely with this point. I don't think what I've proposed is an "adaptation" in the first place, but that might be a mileage thing. And no one ever really believes they're "changing the game" when they do it ...

Best,
Ron
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