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Author Topic: When Endgame is Tardy  (Read 6183 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: March 01, 2004, 09:09:06 AM »

Hey folks,

So I was running "My Life with Master" for a group of 12-14yo boys last night at a local Con.  Quite an experience, let me tell you.  Everything was going really well.  They were bickering amongst themselves, botching each other's attempts to gain love [SIDENOTE: There was a great scene where one character dragged a body through the dining room, where another character was having dinner with the village alchemist, a Connection], and generally "getting it."  Character creation was a breeze and they got the hang of requesting scenes pretty quick.

The problem was that the Endgame was late in arriving.  The narrative kept building to a level of higher and higher tension.  A town mob had formed to chase after one minion (an amorphous blob creature), the Master was ordering minions to kill their Connections, the players were obviously itching for a huge climax, and everything seemed in place for the Endgame to begin.

However, since play had resulted in the deaths of several Connections, no character had enough Love to trigger the Endgame.  We were close, mind you, but not quite there.  So the result was that play dragged on for another 20 minutes (partially destroying some of the tension and making everyone feel tired in a "we have to go through this again" sort of way), during which things really couldn't escalate anymore, until one player got enough Love to resist the Master and start the Endgame.

Has anyone else encountered problems like this?  My personal GMing senses were telling me to just ignore the rules and start Endgame anyway, but I refrained from doing that, because I wanted to see how everything would play out.  In hindsight, I feel like I should have gone with my senses.  

After playing through it, I worry about play of MLwM being so focused on its Formulae.  The Formulae drive narrative, but there's not any real room for the narrative to drive Formulae.  It seems to me that the game discourages having "The Horror Revealed" simply occur when "it feels right," or when a particular character's actions or emotional state seems to encourage horrific things happening in the outside world to compliment it.  Similarly with the Endgame or Capture of minions.

Then again, I'm wondering if this has something to do with ingrained GMing tendencies that I'm not sure what to do with.  The problem was basically this: I felt that certain mechanically triggered events (Endgame, Horror Revealed) should have happened when the mechanics said otherwise, and I didn't feel the game gave me a way to really "tweak" things, beyond awarding Intimacy/Desparation/Sincerity dice, which didn't really fit with how the players were approaching things (and didn't help me suddenly provide them with more Love).

In any case, that was just my initial response to things.  The boys still enjoyed the game a bunch and wanted to know where they could get a copy.  I was just less-than-satisfied with the way things turned out.  I'll post a more thorough set of reactions to all my OberCon games in Actual Play later.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2004, 10:21:13 AM »

My first reaction is that you indeed are looking at the central feature that really sets the game apart - the actual, important decisions of the players are in all games set inside the situation, but the GM is usually free to follow his own framework. Not so in MLwM, which forces all players to deal with the same hand - it's the system that decides on the narrative turns.

Now, part of the problem, if there really is one, could be that you played with children who clearly didn't grok the rules. Admittedly most adult players wouldn't, but I feel that the game would give it's best results if it was actively 'gamed', in the sense that the players would understand the implications of the rules. Such a player would then keep note of how close the endgame overall is, and would pace his narrative to accomodate. No sense in wasting your gunpowder too early, after all. These players clearly played with instinct, and therefore just happened to play a different tune than the engine.

It should be noted that a game like MLwM (I should know; I wrote one of those) does two things to control the narrative: it suggests what kind or type of thing would happen next (the horror revealed, the bonus dice, etc.) and it prohibits certain things from happening (killing the master, escaping from master, etc.) unless conditions are met. These are important functions, as this is what the system does: it limits and molds the story to a certain form. The suggesting part of the system is not any better than the prohibiting part, they are both important.

This, by the way, doesn't mean that what you saw isn't a valid concern. Has anybody asked about this before? What happens if the players work to reduce the love of other players, and that prohibits the endgame from happening?
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Lxndr
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2004, 10:42:25 AM »

I have to ask:

One of the suggestions (I think this is in the book, but I might have read it on the boards) for one-session/convention games of MLwM is giving each character some points of Love to start with (rather than, or perhaps in addition to, fiddling with fear and reason), in order to encourage a quicker path to endgame.  Did you do this?  How much did you give?
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2004, 10:51:06 AM »

Fear 3, Reason 3, Love 2 (one for each starting Connection).
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2004, 01:05:08 PM »

Normally you wouldn't have any Love for the starting connections so you played a very "late" game in the regard that it was almost over when you started. But this seems to be the problem:

Quote
the Master was ordering minions to kill their Connections, the players were obviously itching for a huge climax, and everything seemed in place for the Endgame to begin.
The Master was you, no? So why were you still ordering the death of connections if it was time to end things? There's no imperative for you to have the Master do this.

The game gives you all the tools you need to manipulate things, IMO. Maybe not with absolute precision, but with near enough precision that I can't see things dragging on way overmuch. Basically, when you think it's time for the endgame to appear, just don't have the Master order any more deaths. Oh, sure, have him order the connections brought to the castle. Or other threatening things that will build tension. Just make sure he says, "And make sure they're still alive when they get here," in the most menacing tone available.

Shouldn't be a problem. If you hadn't had the Master kill some of the connections, would you have reached endgame when you feel you ought to have? I don't think this was a problem with the kids not getting the strategy, but maybe the GM.

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2004, 01:26:51 PM »

Well, part of it definitely was our collective unfamiliarity with the system.  I had never run it before, so my pacing was a bit off, but I don't think that was the only thing.  No Connections died after say, the first half of the game.  But the deaths of Connections in the first half meant that, by the time we were all itching for Endgame, most characters still needed a point or two of Love to properly end things.

I suppose, in retrospect, that this could have been handled differently.  If a minion only needed one more point of Love, instead of having them request a scene with a Connection back in town, I could have encouraged them to have a "moment" with a captive (someone about to be sacrificed to the Master's evil plans) and then stood up to prevent the new Connection's demise.
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Bob McNamee
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2004, 02:44:08 PM »

How many players were there?

Were they still making overtures to gain Love and requesting those sorts of scenes etc as the game went on?
Or did it seem only to be for getting to endgame?
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Bob McNamee
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2004, 03:02:52 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
I suppose, in retrospect, that this could have been handled differently.  If a minion only needed one more point of Love, instead of having them request a scene with a Connection back in town, I could have encouraged them to have a "moment" with a captive (someone about to be sacrificed to the Master's evil plans) and then stood up to prevent the new Connection's demise.
I'm missing something. Why would it take any longer in play time to get to the connnection back in town. Framing would be, "OK, so I'm back in town and talking to Esmerelda." How does that take any longer than a local character?

Mike
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2004, 09:37:46 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Quote from: Jonathan Walton
I suppose, in retrospect, that this could have been handled differently.  If a minion only needed one more point of Love, instead of having them request a scene with a Connection back in town, I could have encouraged them to have a "moment" with a captive (someone about to be sacrificed to the Master's evil plans) and then stood up to prevent the new Connection's demise.
I'm missing something. Why would it take any longer in play time to get to the connnection back in town. Framing would be, "OK, so I'm back in town and talking to Esmerelda." How does that take any longer than a local character?

Mike


I think Jonathan's talking about a scene where the player would get the point of Love and right then be able to defy the Master because the Master's right there.

My own problem with tardy endgame was when Minions had enough Love, tried to resist the Master, but failed the roll. In those cases, a delightfully tragic scene of the minion's will collapsing before the Master resulted. A bit bitter at first (I so wanted to fudge the die rolls, but I didn't), but then quite tasty in retrospect.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2004, 10:33:46 AM »

Quote from: Michael S. Miller
I think Jonathan's talking about a scene where the player would get the point of Love and right then be able to defy the Master because the Master's right there.
That still takes another scene to attack the Master. So that would be a narration of the return trip from the place of the connection. One never fails to get love. So at most we're talking a turn or two of play. If the players and GM feel that it's endgame time, I find that this play takes very little time.

Player: "I go to Esmerelda in town and confess that I think that the Master need's to be destroyed."

GM: "Roll with the bonus die for Sincerity."

Player:"No Self-Loathing!"

GM: "Esmerelda looks at you in the eye and says, 'Go get him, tiger.'" And you go on your way.

Then next scene, it the climax. There's nothing in the book that says that a scene has to take more than a few seconds to complete. Near the end of the game, this sort of desperate pace seems totally appropriate to me.

Mike
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2004, 02:51:55 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
There's nothing in the book that says that a scene has to take more than a few seconds to complete.


Yeah, but it does say that you should try to give every player a scene before returning to the first player.  That's where the tiredness factor came in.  Player A needed 1 more point of Love, but then I gave scenes to players B, C, & D before player A could start the Endgame.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2004, 03:22:09 PM »

True. I'm not saying you should skip. But I know as a player close to an endgame, I'm waiting for my turn to come around on the edge of my seat. With all this working together, all the games I've played have seemed to come to endgame at just the right time.

Then again I've only been in four games, so...

Mike
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