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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 60 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [My Life with Master] Beating the Love out of a Minion  (Read 3365 times)
Darcy Burgess
Member

Posts: 478


« on: October 29, 2008, 06:29:56 AM »

So, we kicked off our new MLwM game on Monday night.  We've got a nifty Master.  He's an enormous lump of a man, with sausages for fingers and a penchant for consuming livers.  He's essentially the kid who tries too hard, and the cool kids are this cult who've figured out the secrets of immortality.  He wants in too, but he's too stupid to sort it out.  He's concocted this half-baked notion that since the liver purifies the blood, consuming more and more livers will make him immortal.  He's very different from the typical mad scientist.  His science is driven by ineptitude, not genius.

Here's the thorny issue.

Master is displeased that Marko (played by Steve), the illusion-slinging minion, has failed in a task, and is now trying to hide out in town.  Hercule (played by Sooch), the Half-Belgian abomination, is tasked with "...thrash[ing] him within an inch of his life, and bring him back to me."  Off Hercule trots.  Lumbers, maybe...

My choice to use Hercule (who's More than Human is "insanely strong except when around alcohol" thanks to his Bio-Mechanical-Liver-Enhanced musculature) was driven by two factors.  He's the brute minion, this sort of task is right up his alley.  Second, he was the minion who was handy at the time.

There was a weird synergy of More than and Less than.  As mentioned, Hercule is immensely powerful.  Marko is the opposite.  He's very weak (can't recall his except right now.)  By the rules, both excepts would have to come into play simultaneously for Hercule to roll any dice in service to the Master's command.  At least, the excepts would both have to be in play if Hercule was going to roll dice over beating the tar out of Marco.

This feels like a pretty big stretch.  We solved the problem another way, but it was completely by leveraging the "...and bring him back to me." part of the command.  I'll make a point of noting that that was an afterthought on my part when the Master uttered it.  It could just as easily have not been part of the command.

The neat part was how Sooch stepped up to the plate.  When Hercule gets the drop on Marko, I frame him into the shadows watching the anemic minion sitting in the town square closing out his overture to Otto, the innkeeper's son.  In stead of waiting for Otto to leave, he lets me know that he'd like to use this scene as an overture to Otto (we'd both been assuming that it was going to be Violence against Marko).  Otto and Marko had been having a discussion about why Marko doesn't need to serve the Master and that redemption is possible.  Hercule interrupts and (I really liked this part) used his thrashing of Marko as his overture to Otto, predicated on the notion that what "...[Marko] has done to you townsfolk is irredemable.  He must be punished.  Like this!"

This tidily put the beating behind us (notice that Hercule rolled for Love, not to thrash Marco).  Which meant that as a group, we needed to find another roll for Hercule to make in service to the Master's command.  This was relatively simple, as Marko attempted an escape from Hercule's clutches.

The interaction of More Thans... and Less Thans... can, however, inspire a definite moment of panic in the participants when they realize that maybe, just maybe, they won't be able to find a roll to make.  For instance, if I hadn't included the "...and return him to me." codicil in the Master's command (again, by accident), man...we would have been stymied.

Cheers,
Darcy
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2008, 11:42:12 AM »

That's a pretty interesting interaction in that when I play MLwM, the MtHs and LtHs are worked towards instead of away from. I know that there are different methods in this regard, but for me it's worked consistently well to allow automatic success or failure in checks based on these, spiced with some player control over whether the feature comes into play or not. This way the player gets some input into whether his character succeeds or fails for the Master. This could get tricky during the endgame, but the understanding has generally been that MTHs or LtHs won't be use at that point - might be that we just don't want to deal with the potential problems involved in one-shotting the Master automatically, or something.

Regardless, that way of playing seems to work well in practice, too. Perhaps I'll try that at some point.
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Christoph Boeckle
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Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2008, 02:25:13 PM »

Hi Darcy

The way I've played the game, a roll may both be considered in service to the master's command and for an Overture. Or, put in more general terms, a mission doesn't have to be resolved with a Villainy or Violence roll or a roll at all as I will try to argue in a minute. Most of the time, this means the command was somewhat sloppy, but we've had commands to steal stuff become a clumsy-yet-touching offer for a fair swap (i.e. Overture). That's where Paul's Fair Warning at the beginning of the book makes sense to me.

Now, the important part, remember that it's the "obligation to act on a command [that] is lifted after a single die roll performed in service to it" (p. 27, emphasis mine). But a fulfilled command is a fulfilled command and thus there is nothing to be waived. The minion collaborates with the master, he's a monster, fine, point made, let's move on. Example: "Kill that man" -> minion kills man through MtH. It would be absurd to have the minion continue to kill the man long after he's dead.

So, as I read the rules, you shouldn't have been stymied in any way. I read it differently to Ron and Paul in Self-Loathing and More than Human, so this is my very personal point of view and actual play seems to support their view plenty. Like, who am I to counter the author? In my example above, this could be the perfect moment for the master to say "But you killed the wrong man!" (of course, he'd be lying, but that's another point).

As Eero says, you can consider the roll automatically succeeded or as not having happened at all, there are different takes on this. I think the distinction doesn't matter for a minion who follow through successfully with the command, but for one trying to elude it, it is relevant. I could choose a Less than Human such as "Cannot muster the courage to impose his will on others, except on those he loves" and automatically fail a lot of missions. If I consider that the roll didn't happen, then I have to have my minion try another way. I like that. If I consider that the roll happened and automatically failed I do not. I think that's cheesy, but again, that's my personal take, but this time I agree with Paul and Ron.


Concerning the scene you describe, I'm having a bit of a problem admitting this as an Overture roll in the first place: from the point of view of Otto, Hercule just beat the crap out of the friend (Marko) he was counselling minutes before and that is quite a villainous behaviour indeed; then again I lack context. How believable as a character was Otto, after that?

Actually, I might have done it this way: the beating up is a Violence conflict (automatic success, with or without virtual rolling), the "scene" (in mechanical terms) ends with a view of Marko laying and bleeding on the ground, then (new scene, mechanically) Hercule turns around to Otto and gives him his explanation as an Overture (and, as the GM, I'd play the Desperation or even Sincerity die on behalf of Otto just going crazy on the fact that his friend got bashed).

What are your thoughts on this?



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Regards,
Christoph
Darcy Burgess
Member

Posts: 478


« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2008, 05:54:03 PM »

Gents!
Thanks for your contributions.  I think that Master is a great game, and I don't think that folk talk enough about it.

Eero,
It's funny that you should talk about 'your way' of handling Mt's and Lt's.  That's how I always pictured it working.  However, it was during the (15 hour!) drive back from GenCon this year that I got to talking about this issue with my buddy Steve (I believe the conversation was punctuated by a near-death experience with a truck tire...)

Steve knows MLwM a hell of a lot better than I do, so I thought he was on crack when he told me that according to the rules, Mt's and Lt's didn't count as victories.  I was all, "well, it depends on how you interpret 'engaging the conflict resolution system', Steve."  He shook his head, sighed, and told me to look up the bit about one roll in service.

So, I got to thinking about that.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a powerful narrative constraint the Mt's and Lt's are.  Just like the townsfolk don't roll to walk down the street, Minions don't engage the dice when their Mt's and Lt's are in play.  It's their 'everyday' platform.  Which means their conflicts exist elsewhere.  This has huge repercussions in terms of fictional content.  It positions them to engage our imagination as something other than a monster.

In this specific case, it was a panic-inducing moment (although hindsight and rumination have shown me that we did not need to engage the "and bring him back to me" clause to escape its clutches.)  However, by obeying the narrative constraint, we ended up with some excellent, unexpected and (hopefully) story-driving material.

Christoph,
I'm exceptionally leery about interpreting the rules in an inconsistent manner, and that sounds like what you're proposing (please correct me if I'm wrong.)  So, let's look at your "kill that man" example.  Let's say the Minion has "kill with a gaze except when crying" as a MtH.  After that moment of panic (oh, crap!  I can't believe I gave Captain McKillicuddy the murder command!  Not again!) it's quickly solved with some scene framing.  (Keep in mind that the player is aware of the narrative constraints here, right?)  Set up the kill scene so that McKillicudy has some obstacle(s) to overcome on his way to the target.

And here's something that I can't believe I didn't use at the table the other night.  Frame the scenes in such a way that the players have choices to angle at Violence or Villainy.  That desire to avoid stat increase on failed Villainy rolls can generate some kick-ass content.

Back to McKillicuddy.  Maybe he has to trick the victim's elderly mother into letting him into the house (Villainy?  Maybe, depending on the context.  For sake of argument, let's say it is.)  And then the player's sitting there with a choice: trick the crone, or just do away with her?  Well, if he death-gazes her, he knows that there will need to be something else for him to do in service to the Master's command.  Maybe trickery is a good choice.

Which makes it even more interesting if he chooses to ice the kindly old granny.

Yeah?
D
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Christoph Boeckle
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Posts: 545

Yverdon, Switzerland


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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2008, 01:32:09 AM »

Hi Darcy

I think you're approaching it from a very good angle: there's lots to be said for scene framing such as you illustrate it and it makes everything much more interesting from where I sit.

I don't think I'm saying one should be inconsistent with the rules interpretation. Mine has been that a PC is under obligation to act according to a command until (a) a roll is done while carrying out the command (textual rule p.27) or (b) the command doesn't make any sense any more, because I don't want play to become silly. The latter is my interpretation, which I don't think is far-fetched if one uses the situation in play to judge that: it only comes into consideration if otherwise the fiction would become absurd, for example if the command is fulfilled (kill a man the minion just killed? depends on the master, granted) or the situation has changed in an incredible manner (the man is already dead when the minion arrives).
Especially, I'm trying to say that nowhere in the text is it written that "a minion has to roll at least once per command" (which clearly has been the assumption of many people in various threads), but "the obligation to act on a command ends with the first roll" (paraphrase), which allows the "absurdity" clause. I don't want the rules to force me into absurd situations in play and the way Paul writes it, he gives me more leeway.

However, framing scenes like you suggest will have people roll dice most of the time anyway for one reason or another. Put another way, if a minion doesn't roll... it's probably either a strong statement about the character's abnormality (then I say: "fine, McKillicuddy killed everyone with his stare, let's move on (and let's see what the master has to say about that)") or the weakness of the framing (then I say: "practice makes perfect! for the while being let's move on, the player shouldn't have to bear with that floppy framing more than is necessary")

I must say that this rule interpretation hardly ever comes into play, the practical implications of scene framing and fictional context of situations usually speak for themselves. Also, if we take into account that a command follows another, then anything not quite settled to the satisfaction of the master can be made into a new despicable situation for the minion. Perhaps the master finds it too easy to just kill people with a stare, so the new command is that the minion kill someone without the stare, just to make sure the minion really is up to serving the master in all situations.

Does that make sense?
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Regards,
Christoph
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