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Author Topic: [MLwM] First play, with some awkwardness  (Read 15377 times)
Joel P. Shempert
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Posts: 484


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« on: December 29, 2009, 11:26:48 PM »

So I played a one-off game of My Life With Master the other night. It wasn't as fulfilling as a full game (as one might expect), but it did give me a stronger idea of how it plays and how to run it. I had a couple of questions though, to refine my understanding of some spots that were rough for us:

  • The integration of More Than/Less Than Human abilities into play was difficult. I understand that they are meant as, basically, narrative constraint, as opposed to providing any benefit in rolling dice. But in practice it was hard to figure out just what effect they have. Do they simply cut off options? As in the book's example of the limp, it means the character simply isn't going to be described as doing certain things, such as chasing someone down. In our game we had a More Than human of "can take any physical abuse, except when she gives up." But she can still lose a Violence roll and gain Weariness, of course. Just what affect does physical abuse have or not have on her? Is there a knack to writing "than Human"s that produces specimens that won't cause confusion? Or is there something about them that I'm just not getting?
  • We also ran into confusion over opposed actions that aren't covered by the types of available rolls. For instance, Beatrice is rushing to warn her father the Mayor that the Master's thug Samuel is following him to spy on his meeting with the pieman (all but the pieman are player Minions). Samuel's spying is neatly handled by a Villainy roll, but what of Beatrice? She's not committing Violence or Villainy, nor is she making an Overture. She doesn't seem mechanically empowered to influence the situation at all. She can run around doing and saying whatever, but Samuel's going to make that Villainy roll and succeed or not, irresepective of any interference she provides.
  • There was also a weird thing going on with minion intent. The players were all plotting against the Master from the get-go, and pretty actively..meeting with resistance leaders to foment insurrection, plotting an assault on the manor, and so forth. Command rolls played an odd role; Samuel kept walking a tightrope between coldly following the Master's will and (also coldly) colluding with the rebels. When he (as mentioned above) was commanded to spy out the resistance, he did so, to the letter--and when he'd learned their plans, announced himself and offered to help. So I played hardball--the next morning the Master Commanded him to tell what he knew, and won. So Samuel fingered the pieman, and the master Commanded him to go interrogate him to find the ringleaders. He did so, breaking both the Pieman's shins..then splinted him up and told him to go tell the others to strike immediately and he'd leave the door unbarred to them. It was a little weird and jarring, and left me wondering, is this player just missing the point of the Master/Minion relationship, or am I just worrying needlessly about a perfectly fine play option? I wish I'd had the chance to play further and see how that tension between compliance/defiance played out.

I'm curious what you think about these issues, Paul. I was moved by even the short, abortive experience I had, and I'm looking forward to playing a full game. I hope I can carry lessons learned here forward into future play.

Peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
jburneko
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Posts: 1429


« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2009, 12:56:59 AM »

I'm not Paul but I've run My Life with Master A LOT.  So I'll contribute my thoughts and Paul can correct me if I confuse the issue or say something out of place.

1) "can take any physical abuse, except when she gives up." is a weak More Than Human because the "except" clause is wholly controlled by the player.  The unless and except clause should be extremely specific external conditions.  Why?  Because that is a clear and directed avenue of Master abuse.  This is one of my all time favorite More Than Humans: "Can prepare any dish, unless it's green."  The minion in question was the Master's personal chef.  Guess what the master wanted.... like all the time.... salads.  I ordered cabbage and arrugula and romaine lettuce.  I mean if it was leafy and green by god that's what he wanted for dinner.  The poor minion ended up going to her connections house and tricking the staff into making the salad for her.... which of course the Master found out about and got very, very angry because he wanted a HER to make him a salad, not the inferior staff over at that OTHER manner.

2) I'm very harsh about this.  If it doesn't involve an act of villainy or an act of violence or fall explicitly under the minion's More Than Human the action fails.  Period.  No roll.  So poor Beatrice can run as fast as she can but she just isn't going to make it in time.... unless she steals her friend the stable boy's horse... which would be an act of villainy.  Villainy and Violence are how minions get things done.  Everything else... fails.  Automatically.

3) By the rules the minion's must commit at least ONE Villainy/Violence die roll to the Master's order (even More Than Human won't get you out of this).  Combine this with the fact that the GM has 100% total scene framing authority and the right to introduce the Master at any time then you just use that hammer squirrelly players.  I gernally allow a scene or two of casual interaction and one Overture and then I literally stop and say, "Okay, you're out of scenes.  Either commit violence or villainy in the service of the Master's last order or confront the Master and resist.  Choose."  Then irregardless what happens I immediately have the Master show up and issue another order.  Also remember the minion's can't hide anything from the Master.  Just use that to have the Master hound and hound and hound and hound and hound and hound the minion and those he's conspiring with. 

You have to GM My Life with Master like you ARE the Master.  I've often made the joke that My Life with Master is actually a GM-less game the GM just plays a PC with different function from the rest of the players.

Hope this was helpful.

Jesse
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2009, 07:04:14 AM »

About (2):.

If the her father is a Minion, Beatrice is helping his roll with her actions. So it's not technically true that her actions don't influence Samuel's villainy roll. (if the roll succeed, Samuel spy on her father before she can alert him). Use the minion helping rule.

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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1429


« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2009, 11:03:56 AM »

What Moreno said also makes sense to me.  I didn't notice that Beatrice's action is assisting another minion's Villainy action and I forgot about the helping rules.

Jesse
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Joel P. Shempert
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« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2009, 11:05:22 AM »

Moreno:

Oh my God I also completely forgot about providing Aid! That would have solved that whole issue! I can't believe I left it out. I take it back, Paul, the gap was in my head, not your rules!

Jesse:

That helps a lot. I can see what you mean about the More Than/Less Than. I think I was passing over Master Abuse of those because the Master already has such a crippling advantage. But I can totally see how the Than Humans feed into that, and it helps me figure out what they're FOR.

About automatically failing--that sounds more like an interpretation than the actual rules as I read them..but a GOOD interpretation, for sure. It fits with the harshness of the Minion's lot, and I think emphasizing that would have helped the players get a sense of, "oh, we don't get to rebel against the master just like that, his hold on us is STRONG" which was missing from the game we played. It also shows me another great use for More Than Human.

About committing to at least one roll for a Command, I'm right there with you and that's what was happening. It was just in between those rolls that he was attempting to directly negate the effect of what he had just committed for the Master. Which is a problem I think will be mitigated by clearer communication about characters' actions--not what actions are ALLOWED, but what EFFECT they're likely to have. The scene framing issue was thornier for me. I thought I remembered that the GM was the God-King Framer of Scenes, but then in play I thought, "wait, then how would a Minion ever get a Connection Scene in?" and I couldn't find anything in the book (on the fly, anyway) to guide me. But yes, I can see that a certain relentlessness with the Master can work wonders. I was proud of myself for the inspiration to Command the guy to follow up on his spying. :)

You have to GM My Life with Master like you ARE the Master.

You know, it's funny (well, not funny ha-ha)...Even in this abortive little play-through, I was emotionally affected: through a weird twist of fate (none of it was my contribution, and I'm confident that it wasn't anybody's...passive-aggressive commentary on me or anything) we ended up with a master whose abusive aspects were uncannily close to my own darkest personality traits. In a sense all I had to do was play myself at my most emotionally violent. And thus it was supremely uncomfortable--but fittingly so--to play out scenes of emotional abuse. MLwM works its magic even in snapshot form!

Peace,
-Joel
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
jburneko
Member

Posts: 1429


« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2009, 11:40:27 AM »

You know, it's funny (well, not funny ha-ha)...Even in this abortive little play-through, I was emotionally affected: through a weird twist of fate (none of it was my contribution, and I'm confident that it wasn't anybody's...passive-aggressive commentary on me or anything) we ended up with a master whose abusive aspects were uncannily close to my own darkest personality traits. In a sense all I had to do was play myself at my most emotionally violent. And thus it was supremely uncomfortable--but fittingly so--to play out scenes of emotional abuse. MLwM works its magic even in snapshot form!

You are not alone.  It's the GM's job to love the Master who is defined as unlovable.  Getting there is a long dark trip into our own souls.  I've loved all of my Masters; male or female; beast or brain, breeder, feeder, collector or teacher, it doesn't matter.  It's all in us some where if we're brave enough to go look for it.

I like GMing My Life with Master because the experience is so self-indulgent.

Jesse
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2009, 05:56:26 PM »

I've had to play Masters who pushed my own buttons, too. This game can go there, if you let it. Or you can avoid it and handwave past the scary parts and play a sanitized version of the game. I prefer going there, even when it makes me and the other players squirm in our seats.

I've said it before, but the fact that the Master MUST DIE in the final scene makes it okay (or at least a lot easier) to be as evil as you can as a GM. Play the Master to the hilt and make the minions (and yourself) hate him so much that they just snap and kill him. You'll feel very good when he dies. He deserved it.
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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
Joel P. Shempert
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Posts: 484


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« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2009, 12:46:17 AM »

I've had to play Masters who pushed my own buttons, too. This game can go there, if you let it. Or you can avoid it and handwave past the scary parts and play a sanitized version of the game. I prefer going there, even when it makes me and the other players squirm in our seats.

I heartily agree.
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Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.
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