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Independent Game Forums => Half Meme Press => Topic started by: Spiral Jacobs on October 19, 2005, 03:58:54 AM



Title: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Spiral Jacobs on October 19, 2005, 03:58:54 AM
I ordered My Life With Master and might be running it this weekend.  I haven't been the ST at a game in a very long time, so I'm in need of some advice and confidence-building.  Do you have any tips on smoother play?  Should I have ANY ideas about how the Master should be, what his plans are, or should I be a blank slate, allowing the players to create the whole thing at the table, and then ad lib?  It feels scary to ad hoc a game like that, but if that's how it's done, I'll try it.  I feel like I should be armed with SOME idea anyway.

Thanks for any advice.

Spiral


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Robert Bohl on October 19, 2005, 06:05:37 AM
Hey,

I've never run MLWM, but I did play it in a Con scenario (which, in my experience, is the most legitimate place to pre-make PCs and NPCs and "plot"), and we created everything there at the table.  Making up the Master was one of the funnest parts.

What I'd do if I were going to run it is have a handful of ideas of things that you find evocative for Master traits, but throw them in as suggestions with equal weight to all the other players.  You might want to even email your players beforehand and give a brief description of MLWM, and ask them to begin brainstorming on their own for Master traits they'd like to see.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on October 19, 2005, 06:09:47 AM
Check out Michael Miller's Manifesto on Mastery: http://www.chimera.info/daedalus/articles/spring2005/mlwm-manifesto.html

Here I explain about my prep for a con game of MLwM: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=15555.0


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Michael S. Miller on October 19, 2005, 06:15:59 AM
Hi, Spiral. Welcome to the Forge!

I've condensed much of my Mastering advice into: A Manifesto on Mastery (http://www.chimera.info/daedalus/articles/spring2005/mlwm-manifesto.html). So give that a read and feel free to ask any questions.

Also, check out the advice in Running a con game of MLWM or DitV or what? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14856.0) It's focused primarily on convention play, but should suit any time-limited scenario.



Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Arturo G. on October 19, 2005, 08:29:04 AM

Hi Spiral, Welcome!!
What is your real name?

I've tried my first session of MLwM yesterday, I will surely post something about it in Actual Play soon.
Don't worry, it is easy and smooth to drive. I used the advice on "A Manifesto on Mastery" with a high degree of success.

If you have not done it yet, you can also check the thread  Topic: collecting data: Fear, Reason, etc. and length of game (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=10125.0) to have an idea about the relation between Fear and Reason values and the expected time of play.

Good luck, and enjoy it,
Arturo


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 19, 2005, 09:51:37 AM
Read this answer carefully: you shouldn't have any ideas going to the table, you should be a blank slate, yes. More or less. But then at the table you should be a full participant in the process. But you want to participate in such a way as to create a master that you feel you can play well, one that will, following Mike Miller's advice, get you to really crush the players.

So, no, don't decide at all on anything up front, do so as part of the process of designing the master. What this should produce is master that you love to play, and the players love to hate. Once you have that, you're ready to go.

Without the master, any other planning is pointless, really.

Mike


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Spiral Jacobs on October 19, 2005, 02:51:30 PM
OK, I've read the Master's Manifesto and other related threads.  I'm really excited to play this.  I plan to have 3 Minions and maybe play 2-3 4 hour sessions, including chargen and Mastergen.  Any pertinent advice to steering the game towards this length of game play?

I also wonder what I can do to play the Master more effectively.  I simply am not capable of towering over or physically intimidating my players.  It's not my style, and frankly, it'd be vaguely ridiculous, since I'm a 5' tall woman and my 3 PCs are 6 foot+ tall men.  I'd rather use vocal style and verbal battery to make my point (and I think I'll be good at it, frighteningly enough).  Any tips for doing that in such a way that it won't veer into the comic but also won't be taken too much to heart by the PCs?

This game reminds me of DitV in the sense that the very idea of it makes me vastly uncomfortable at the same time it intrigues the hell out of me.  I think it's the power trip that I worry about... maybe it'll be too much fun?  Maybe the players will take the abuse personally?  I guess the scenario has to be clearly hammered out ahead of time, and the whole catharsis concept discussed.

Thoughts?  Advice?  Comments from actual game play?

Thanks!

Spiral aka Paula


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Spiral Jacobs on October 19, 2005, 03:01:08 PM
Another question occurs to me:  how important is Minion background?  I haven't really seen it mentioned in any of the game creation or play threads I've read, though it has always been a key part of chargen in other games I've played.  Can that bit be glossed over? 

Spiral


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on October 20, 2005, 01:06:39 AM
Hi Paula,

I also wonder what I can do to play the Master more effectively.  I simply am not capable of towering over or physically intimidating my players.  It's not my style, and frankly, it'd be vaguely ridiculous, since I'm a 5' tall woman and my 3 PCs are 6 foot+ tall men.  I'd rather use vocal style and verbal battery to make my point (and I think I'll be good at it, frighteningly enough).  Any tips for doing that in such a way that it won't veer into the comic but also won't be taken too much to heart by the PCs?

I think it is easiest if you, the GM, resemble the Master. Make sure that the Master is female, and maybe has the Brain aspect, and you'll be able to present her convincingly. Use all the dirty psychological tricks you can think of when dealing with the minions - using them obviously enough for the players to notice, of course. I like to have the Master take a different stance towards each of the minions; to one his is intolerant and quick to anger; to one, he is condescending and sneers a lot; to one, he acts as if he really loves the minion but doesn't understand why the minion constantly disappoints him. These are just examples, choose the psychological pressure that best fits the minions.

"What? You failed again?! You sorry little piece of shit, tell me, why, why do I spend my time trying to beat some sense in you? Why don't I just send you away to die alone and hungry in the woods?! Tell me, or I'll beat it out of you!"

"Of course you failed. I really didn't expect anything else, my dear. I wouldn't worry too much about how your incompetence ruins my plans and therefore the one chance of happiness for all the world - it may make your little head hurt, and its not your fault that mother Nature made you so stupid and so weak."

"You failed? Really, it hurts me more than you can imagine that you have once again betrayed my trust. I love you, I want you to succeed in life, I do everything I can to help you - but it is becoming hard for me to believe that you try to help me, with all these failures. I can't bear to think about the possibility that you want to betray me, but really, how can I still neglect that option?"


Quote
how important is Minion background?  I haven't really seen it mentioned in any of the game creation or play threads I've read, though it has always been a key part of chargen in other games I've played.  Can that bit be glossed over?

Not important. I generally ask people how they came to be with the Master; one or two sentences are enough, and if they have no idea, that is fine too. Sometimes the Connections also provide a bit of background ("my sister"). But that is all.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Michael S. Miller on October 20, 2005, 06:11:38 AM
I also wonder what I can do to play the Master more effectively.  I simply am not capable of towering over or physically intimidating my players.  It's not my style, and frankly, it'd be vaguely ridiculous, since I'm a 5' tall woman and my 3 PCs are 6 foot+ tall men.  I'd rather use vocal style and verbal battery to make my point (and I think I'll be good at it, frighteningly enough).  Any tips for doing that in such a way that it won't veer into the comic but also won't be taken too much to heart by the PCs?

Hi, Paula.

For one, listen to Victor. He knows of what he speaks.

Two, use every mean, self-esteem destroying thing you've ever heard, just as Victor suggests.

Three, remember that the Master Knows All. You don't need a plausible explanation for why she knows all, just that she does. The minions can keep no secrets from the Master. Sometimes she'll let them think that she's fooled, and when they're secure that their Connection is safely hidden away, have the Master order them to bring them to her!

As for physicality, I suggest standing while running the game. It gives you energy, plus you can still have your minions look up at you if they're seated.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Spiral Jacobs on October 20, 2005, 06:19:40 AM
Mike, I don't know how to tell you this, but when I'm standing and they're sitting, we're the same height.  Not going to work.  I think I'll steer towards playing more of a Dr. Finkelstein (from Nightmare Before Christmas) type Master than a Count Dracula/Darkness from Legend type Master.  That way the abuse can be mostly verbal and psychological rather than physical intimidation.

Is it really necessary to play a female Master?  I think I could play an effete male Master just as well, and I hate to limit the player's ideas for what their Master is like based on gender.  I often play male characters to good effect in tabletop games, so I'm used to it.  Some amount of distance between the real me and Master is healthy, I think, and I'll have to "get into character" to play him/her anyway.

Maybe I'll post an account of how this goes in Actual Play, though I'm sure I'll be back with questions for y'all after I meet with the players tomorrow night to brainstorm ideas.

Spiral


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Robert Bohl on October 20, 2005, 06:21:54 AM
Paula:

Ring the table with an outline of milk crates.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Michael S. Miller on October 20, 2005, 06:24:47 AM
Mike, I don't know how to tell you this, but when I'm standing and they're sitting, we're the same height.  Not going to work.  I think I'll steer towards playing more of a Dr. Finkelstein (from Nightmare Before Christmas) type Master than a Count Dracula/Darkness from Legend type Master.  That way the abuse can be mostly verbal and psychological rather than physical intimidation.

Oh, yeah! That's perfect! Put one chair aside especially for the Master. Only sit in it when you play the Master. After just a few scenes, just switching chairs will make th players tense up.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Mike Holmes on October 20, 2005, 10:16:14 AM
Like Rob said. Or put the players on the floor. Crosslegged. And then that chair that Mike talks about. Stand on it. If you must play at a table, at some point get up on the table (be careful of the cieling fan) and walk over to the player whose minion the master is lecturing, stand at the edge of the table, and proceed to berate looking straight down at the player.

You can be taller than them if you want to.

Mike


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Arturo G. on October 20, 2005, 05:16:54 PM

Well, the trick of talking from above is nice, but I think you can also live without it.
I talk from my experience in other games, but my group learnt how to hate the nasty sneaky NPCs that seemed to appear always at their backs or between them by surprise. I was doing it physically some times.

I can imagine you can play with this. If you have enough room around the table, you can abandon your chair and begin to walk silently around them when the master is coming. This will force them to either, not to look at you, or painfully turn their collars around. Anyway, it should create an uncomfortable feeling, which is the purpose.

Arturo


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Robert Bohl on October 20, 2005, 06:15:04 PM
Definitely the psychology of moving from where they're expecting you is useful.

Also, keep the house cooler than normal :).


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Marc Majcher on October 20, 2005, 09:30:42 PM
Hi Paula,

I also wonder what I can do to play the Master more effectively.  I simply am not capable of towering over or physically intimidating my players.  It's not my style, and frankly, it'd be vaguely ridiculous, since I'm a 5' tall woman and my 3 PCs are 6 foot+ tall men.  I'd rather use vocal style and verbal battery to make my point (and I think I'll be good at it, frighteningly enough).  Any tips for doing that in such a way that it won't veer into the comic but also won't be taken too much to heart by the PCs?

A remarkably simple and effective way to play up the authority and intimidation factor for the Master is to use a handful of "high status" physical cues.  Most of these work quite well, regardless of your size or gender, and if you slide into and out of them without making a big deal out of it, you may be surprised at the marked reactions from your players.

  • Be more relaxed and more still than the players, unless challenged. Keep your head motionless when you speak to the players.
  • Hold eye contact for several seconds - never look away and then glance back quickly. Try to blink as little as possible. Practice not blinking beforehand.
  • Pause for a moment or two before reacting to a question or action, or fill the pause with a long, thoughtful sound. (This also gives you the opportunity to take a full lungful of air before talking.)
  • Use complete sentences when speaking.  Make a point of using your servant's name at the end of each sentence/command.
  • Take up lots of space. Sit back comfortably, and spread yourself out.  If moving around when interacting with the players, invade their space. Touch them as if they were your property; touch their heads, faces, or hair (if appropriate).
  • Maintain good posture.  "Model" your shoulders.  If standing, be sure that your toes point outward.
  • Move slowly and fluidly. Keep your arms by your sides. Never touch your face, or fiddle with things (pens, dice, etc).
  • If challenged, crush them without mercy.

If you don't mind "blowing your cover", you may also want to instruct your players to adopt some of the complementary low status affectations when addressing the Master - moving around nervously, taking up as little space as possible, not being able to hold eye contact, touching their face, talking as if short of breath, their sentences broken up by "um"s and "er"s. One advantage to explicitly introducing status play into the game in this manner is the delight that occurs when the inevitable status reversals happen during the endgame - the catharsis referred to in Michael Miller's manifesto should be that much greater when an effective physical element is incorporated.

Hope this helps - I look forward to reading how your session went in Actual Play!



Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on October 20, 2005, 10:27:08 PM
I've run the game a lot, but interestingly enough I don't do the whole "talking from above" thing, or any other "tricks" (standing on a chair... huh). My Master-work is always completely done with voice, words and slight gestures. Read again what Marc said, those are all things I use (except for instructing players to complement; they'll do it naturally if they roleplay their characters, and otherwise there's no point), and I consider them very important to good Mastery. Actually, I'll add one: if you're going to fiddle with something like a pen, use it to hit things and tap the table, emphasizing your convinction as the Master. And when he uses the stick, hit the player with the pen.

Also, I would actually suggest that you not play a female or effeminate Master without reason. That's a "trick", and thus might backfire. Better to go for a thematically solid Master of whatever gender and play him/her with full seriousness; there's no danger of comedy as long as you take the Master seriously. I've played whiny, weak-willed Masters in drunken stupor talking like Donald Duck and hanging on the lapels of their minions, and the players have been terrified anyway, because we shared the imagined vision of this... creature... running the characters' lives.

So the intimidation doesn't ultimately come from the GM. If it did, playing MLwM would be just base thuggery, cheap thrills out of mistrust between players.

How to prepare for the game: here's what I do when I start a game of MLwM. It might be useful for you, too.
1) Get together with the players to create the Master.
2) Create minions for the Master.
3) Send the players out for pizza or something, to get 15 minutes for yourself.
4) Prepare missions for each character based on the following:
More/less mission: Whichever is the more evocative, use that as the basis. The Master wants the minion to do something that pertains to either one.
Connection mission: The Master sends the minion to deal with a connection in some manner. Doesn't have to be his connection, and it doesn't have to be capture or assassination, as long as it's interesting.
Task mission: Whatever it is that the minion is for, prepare a mission for that.
Sadistic mission: Figure out one or more missions that will be the most horrible possible thing to do to that minion. Could be a mission they do, or mission for some other minion (in which case group it with the missions from the next step)
5) Prepare the following general missions, which can be given to any minion:
Need mission: Whatever the Master needs, the minion will get. Prepare several, if applicable.
Outsiders mission: Whatever the Master's connection to the outsiders, prepare a mission to deal with that.
You won't probably make all of these for all minions, but regardless you will have more than enough missions.
6) When the players come back, start playing. Give out whatever missions seem most interesting, and play the Master and the town to the full extent of how they should act. Everything else comes together on it's own.


Title: Re: First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?
Post by: Robert Bohl on October 20, 2005, 11:27:28 PM
One thing:  A number of people warned against humor.  I wonder about that.  While the game I played was extremely disturbing, one of the funnest parts was the humor of it.

You probably want to avoid its just being nothing but hahahaha time, but it seems to me that laughter is a part of this game, even if it's semi-nervous laughter.  Catharsis can come from laughter, too.

Now, I don't think people here mean to suggest there should never be any humor at the table, but I didn't want the impression to be left that that was so.