My Life With Master
Author: Paul Czege (Half Meme Press)
Reviewed by: Heather Barnhorst, 2004-10-05
Imagine a world where fear pervades everything you do and the "Master" has the right and the ability to command you, his minion, to perform his every wish. No, I'm not talking about a job with corporate America but of My Life with Master published by Half Meme Press. MLWM takes as its setting an unspecified European country circa 1805 and just won the Diana Jones Award for 2004 and a host of Indie RPG awards.
Gameplay: It is nearly impossible to describe the entirety of the innovative play contained in this slim volume. For you rules wonks out there, it is a D4 system that uses combinations of aspects to determine number of D4s to roll for resolution of conflict. Intense collaboration is used before the game to determine the characteristics of the Master against which everyone will be playing but once the game begins, each character is playing his own story. There is a built in self-limiting factor so that an end game is triggered and one player will win in his struggle against the Master.
Presentation: Czege writes with wit and doesn't fear to let his understanding of game theory shine through. Colin Theriot's illustrations evoke exactly the right mood for the setting and are enjoyable as stand-alone art. There is plenty of white space in this rulebook which gives the entire undertaking a clean, open feel. The only drawback for a retailer? MLWM is saddle-stitched. If you display your RPGs spine-out, MLWM disappears from view.
Salability: How do you talk about a book that hasn't hit the radar for the vast majority of your customers but which has won kudos from Greg Costikyan, Ken Hite and the semi-nameless cabal that is the Diana Jones Committee (comprised of the best and brightest in the game industry)? Any award that an independent RPG can win, MLWM has. The bad news, boys and girls? This gem isn't available through distribution.
Overall: If MLWM isn't available through distribution and it was released a year ago, there would seem to be no reason to talk about it with you except the most important one of all; MLWM reminds me of why I chose to be a game retailer. The creative process truly is important within our industry and retailers can make a difference with a game that should reach our customers. MLWM is just such a game. This game isn't for everyone. The more discerning of your RPG enthusiasts will appreciate this game for the brilliant work it is and they will love you for the opportunity to pick up MLWM. As retailers, we can use our collective buying power to spread the word and to reward an RPG for excellence. That's why I mention MLWM to you a year after its release.
MLWM is available direct from the publisher (www.halfmeme.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). Half Meme does offer retailer terms.
Heather Barnhorst is a retailer and the founder and owner of Retail Dynamics Advising, Inc., as well as the founder of the Product Guidance Council (PGC), a free service aimed at enabling publishers to improve saleability of their products. Look for Atlas Games to publish her Power Moms and Gamer Girls: A Game Retailer's Guide to Female Shoppers sometime in 2005. She invites inquiries about her services, questions, and friendly greetings: email@example.com.
(c) 2004 Heather Barnhorst. An abridged version of this review appeared in the September, 2004 issue of the GameBuyer Retailer's Buying Guide.