My life with master and non-verbal communication

Started by Matteo "triex" Suppo, July 23, 2010, 06:30:21 PM

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Matteo "triex" Suppo

Hi, my name is Matteo and I'm a role-playing gamer.

Hiiiii Matteo

I'm Italian, and everyone knows that Italians are good in a few things: cooking, deceiving, and playing indie games.

Today I would like to share some thoughts about My Life with Master.

I played it with three girls. I knew one of them, and she said to me "Ehy, let's play this My Life with Master you keep blabbering on, i got two friends interested". I thought "Wow... I could be the master of three sexy ladies. I could brag about this on the internet!"

And here we are!

Long story short: we played and it was amazing. I feel like it's a game that never fails. But let's make some actual play, before someone kicks me out of this forum.

I'll assume you are familiar with the dynamics of My Life With Master. The setting was a nice little town in Central Europe, the master was Gretchen, a noble lady who wanted to marry another noble. Her Needs were to erase her opponents and keep her reputation clean. By murder if necessary.

The master gave an order to the character of one player (Sara). The order was to emasculate Adam, an NPC guilty of rape. Sara didn't wanted to. How did I played it?

I was standing, next to the girl. She was forced to look at me from below. I described the man chained to the wall, I said with the master's voice (my voice, only bitchier) that he needed a punishment. We were in a kitchen, so I grabbed a long knife and I slammed it into the table, in front of her. I watched her in the eyes, inch close to her face. I smiled and said "You know what to do, right?"

She was belittled and scared. So it worked. She said after the game that she really enjoyed it, and I'm proud of it!

Now... someone will call this "acting". I don't really agree. Gretchen didn't slam the knife on the table in the fiction. There was no table in the fiction. It was me who slammed it. The player at the table.

So what was it? Simply enough, it was communication. Non-verbal communication. I think it's very, very, very, very (gimme another very please) important.

The way we move and manipulate dice or other props tells something and if used knowingly will affect greatly the quality of the game.

I wonder if there are games that pays attention to the non-verbal communication. I don't know, like lighting the candle in Polaris, or burning a character sheet in Montsegur (it's my secret dream)

Well, I'm finished. Sorry for the english, we italians barely know our own language.

Ron Edwards

Hi Matteo, and welcome to the Forge! I'm glad to see you here.*

Here are three sources which seem to me to be direct forerunners of what you're talking about.

1. In 1995, John Tynes posted an essay called Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker! on his website, advice for GMing horror role-playing with one or more players who aren't taking it seriously.

2. Michael S. Miller provided a lot of advice about running My Life with Master over many threads at the Forge, between 2003 and 2005. He condensed his views in the Spring 2005 issue of Daedalus, published by Matt Wilson, which I don't think is available on-line at present. Someone provide the link if I'm wrong, please. He generally favored using very definite body language towards these ends, just as you're describing. See First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice? for an example, although unfortunately this post only provides a hint of Michael's experience at playing the game.

3. The more recent game Mist-Robed Gate, by Shreyas Sampat, features a knife used as a symbolic game mechanic very much as you describe. For instance, when you initiate specific conflict during play, you pick up the knife and stab the target character sheet.

Speaking for myself, I am not inclined toward these techniques. I am a relatively non-demonstrable GM and player except in terms of voice-acting, and even with that, I don't imitate literal voices so much as alter my cadence and "habits" of speech per character. I am also kind of sensitive about physical boundaries and would regard behavior such as John Tynes describes as grounds for self-defense. In my experience with My Life with Master, typically I handle Master creation in such a way as to give the non-GM players the bulk of the creative work, and then play the Master quite heinously and consistently with what they've provided to help them to become engaged deeply, which has been sufficient for fun. I haven't played Mist-Robed Gate yet so can't speak to its effectiveness or fun, although both Ralph Mazza and Seth Ben Ezra speak highly of it which amounts to a strong recommendation for me.

I'm not arguing against the body language techniques, and clearly there's precedent for it in reporting successful play. I'm posting to provide those precedents and also to state that using such techniques, and enjoying them, is a highly individual choice.

Best, Ron

* Disclosure: I was at InterNosCon in Ravenna, Italy, earlier this year, and met a lot of Italian role-players, including Matteo.

Moreno R.

Hi Ron!

Daedalus magazine it's off-line from the time of the closing of the Chimera Creative site, and it's a pity. There was a lot of really good material there.

The html versions of the issues should be reachable by way of the wayback machine at this address:*/
but today it's not working, I don't know why.

The article by Michael S. Miller A Manifesto on Mastery: The Why and How of Making Minions Miserable is still available online here,  and with Michael permission was translated in Italian here

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