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Author Topic: First campaign: Resisting Master, etc.  (Read 13506 times)
Doug M.
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« on: November 17, 2004, 05:47:54 AM »

I'm about to run MLwM for the first time, and I have a couple of questions.

First:  I'm not clear on the point of resisting Master before your Love is high enough to trigger an endgame.  I understand how resisting /works/... Love minus weariness vs. Fear plus Self-Loathing, check... but I'm having trouble seeing the /point/.  

If I understand correctly, when Master gives you a job to do, you have three possible outcomes:

1)  Don't resist.  Go do your assigned task.
2)  Resist and fail.  Go do your assigned task.
3)  Resist and succeed.  Role-play either defying Master or persuading him to take a different course.  Get another task.  Go to 1.

So, in game terms, your resistance attempts do nothing until and unless your Love is high enough to trigger an endgame.

Now, there are plenty of role-playing opportunities here, and that's fine.  But I'm about to run MLwM with a bunch of guys who cut their RPGing teeth on endless games of Diablo.  Up to now, the most avant-garde thing we've done has been the upgrade from D&D 3.0 to 3.5 a few months back.  So, while it's possible they might surprise me, I expect a certain amount of gamism.

"I'll resist!  I'll kick his ass.  What do I roll?"

"One d4.  He rolls six of them."

"Crap... uh, okay.  What do I get if I win?"

"You do a different job instead of this one."

"Um..."

What I'm going to do, I think, is try to spice this up with some in-game rewards and penalties.  By this I mean, if you resist and fail, the Master will humiliate your character and/or make the job even nastier and more repellent.  Other hand, if you succeed, your character will get a stroke of some sort from some NPC.

These will be meaningless in game-mechanical terms -- the humiliation won't add Weariness, the stroke is not opening an Overture -- but they may (I hope) encourage the players to consider resistance in non-gamist terms.

Am I on the right track, here?  

Second question: I have the impression that the game will follow a simple pattern of task assignment -- roll for success/failure -- make an Overture -- return to Master for next assigment.  Okay, you can make the Overture before or after the task, and then there are Revealed Horrors and maybe a Capture, but otherwise it's fairly rigid.  Right?

Well, big question here: are you limited to one Overture per assignment?

ISTM yes, but I want to confirm.  Because if yes, then your rise in Love will probably be accompanied by equal rises in Weariness and SL; but if not, then you can (maybe) pick up a lot of Love without acquiring so much bad stuff.  Which would make a difference in game play.

Third question: what happens when you're Captured?  In game terms, nothing, but how do you play it?  Weariness rises over Reason, you're arrested or whatever; then in your next scene... what, you escape and get back on the wheel?  Or do you lose a turn describing it, like with Revealed Horror?  I'm not quite clear on this.

Finally:  Any suggestions for a first-time campaign with everyone new to the game?  Low Fear, medium to high Reason, okay.  Anything else?  Tips on building mood?  Drawing players in?  Making it clear (by Show, not Tell)  how this is different from good old D&D?  

What has worked for you-all?

Thanks much in advance,


Doug M.
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GB Steve
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2004, 07:51:24 AM »

I don't think there's anything wrong with a gamist approach per se. I've run the game with such players. They do their utmost to accumulate love.

You were correct in your analysis of what happens when the Master gives an order. If PCs do what the Master bids (you might call this a stroke), I'll usually have him be more lenient with them, unless he takes a dislike to them for some other reason, such as other PCs telling tales.

I don't go for a fixed structure as such in the game but it usually ends up being some kind of variation on the Order -> Attempt to Follow Order -> Attempt to Gain Love -> Back to the Master sequence.

The main issue with the gamist approach is that such players don't come back to see the Master but chase their Connections around. There isn't a limit as such in the game but there are several things you can do about this:
- have them understand that the Master knows what they are doing. He has spies everywhere so have one turn up (the gentle hint)
- have the Master send another PC to humiliate/beat/fetch them (the no so gentle)
- have the Master send another PC to capture/kill their connections (the nasty touch)

The Master is a horrible piece of work, so don't hold back!
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Trevis Martin
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Posts: 499


« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2004, 10:15:46 AM »

Actually rolling to resist doesn't mean convincing the master of anything.  Frequently, when my group played, it just meant that the minion went off by itself to do something else (frequently a connection scene.)  Our minions frequently were given instructions which they rolled to resist and thus simply did not follow, though they seemed to accept the masters command.  Of course they payed a price later.


In fact, for narration purposes, we often treated the roll to not necesarilly mean that the minion refused the command as given but simply resolved not to do the command, or found it easy to disobey the command later.

best,

Trevis.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2004, 11:41:05 AM »

Hello,

Doug, I suggest that in the situation you're describing, the GM's goal is to come up with commands by the Master that the player is genuinely disgusted by or disapproves of.

In that case, the issue is not whether the Minion can resist "a command," or "commands in general," but is more highly specific and personal: whether the Minion can resist this command.

Best,
Ron
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Doug M.
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2004, 11:39:45 PM »

Ron:

Quote
the issue is not whether the Minion can resist "a command," or "commands in general," but is more highly specific and personal: whether the Minion can resist this command.


I understand that.  I'm just trying to grasp why anyone would bother resisting the Master before endgame is possible.  There's no game-mechanical point to it, so it must be a roleplaying thing.  The rules don't specify, so I'm inferring.

Trevis:

Good points.  Resisting could also mean "choosing not to do" -- check.  

"Rewarding" the character with an Overture opportunity would also make sense to my players (you beat the Master, so you won, so you should get something... like I said, a lot of hours of Diablo there).  Whether I want to encourage this sort of thinking is another question.


Steve:

PCs chasing their Connections around is a real concern.  Having the Master mess with them does indeed seem like the best way to deal with it.

Let's see how it plays out.


Doug M.
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Marhault
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« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2004, 06:57:46 AM »

Hey,. Doug.  A couple of thoughts for you:

You're right about it being a 'roleplaying thing.'  Most of MLWM tends in that direction, despite having what might be looked at as a winner at the end.  This doesn't mean, however, that there can't be a direct mechanical influence from the Master's command.

- The Minion can be commanded to kill one of his own Connections.  Any Minion with a chance of resisting will do so, especially if he is looking at the game from a Gamist perspective.
- The Minion can be commanded to kill one of the other players' Connections.  This might stop the 'front-runner' from initiating Endgame, as he may lose Love.  If your players are working collaboratively our of game to kill the Master, the player may want to resist.
- The Minion can be commanded to kill an innocent.  This would drive the game further to the dark, by increasing the Master's overall power in the Town.
- The Minion can be commanded to do Violence at which he is likely to fail.  If he fails in his Violence attempt, he gains Weariness, which is major bad.  

The idea of rewarding a player for resisting the Master is a good one, but I think it is implicit in the rules.  If the Minion resists, he doesn't have to spend his time obeying the Master, and can therefore spend his scenes on Overtures (remember that each player calls for a scene every time around the table), instead of carrying out the Master's wishes.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2004, 08:45:06 AM »

With respect, Doug, I think you've missed my point by a clean mile. However, I think I'll let Paul or whoever else take over from here.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2004, 09:32:52 AM »

Hey Doug,

I'm just trying to grasp why anyone would bother resisting the Master before endgame is possible.

There are two perspectives on this, I think, and both are worth understanding. I don't believe I could describe the first any better than Marhault does in his post: "Understand how to make the Master's commands mechanically significant." The second, which Ron pointed out: "Understand how the social, collaborative dynamics of the game work to deliver intense personal player interest in the characters and what they do and how things turn out for them." Socially, the act of collaborative Master creation gets everyone on the same page, creates a shared investment in the Master as the primary antagonist. Players will want their characters to suffer from the actions of the antagonist, and from their own weakness, because it's protagonizing. Your job as the GM, as Ron suggests, is to feed that fire. Speak to the player, not the character, via the actions of the Master. Problematize what you know is important to the player about their character. They will have given you the ammunition to do so in the nature of the Master they created.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Doug M.
Member

Posts: 4


« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2004, 03:12:32 AM »

Marhault:  That was very helpful.  Thank you.  Ordering a PC to kill his own Connections is something I would do only very sparingly, but the rest of it makes perfect sense.

Paul:  you mentioned "The second, which Ron pointed out... Understand how the social, collaborative dynamics of the game work to deliver intense personal player interest in the characters and what they do and how things turn out for them."  Ron may indeed have pointed that out, but not on this thread.  (Perhaps this is why he thinks I missed his point?)

Anyhow, whoever said it, I see that it ought to work that way.  But please recall what I said in my first post: this is a group of relatively naive, highly gamist players.  

-- You know Knights of the Dinner Table?  On a good day, I'm gaming with two Bobs, two Daves, one Brian and no Sarahs.  (On a bad day, it's four Newt Foragers and a Bitter Stevil.)  

So I was worried that they'd miss the 'hate the Master, roleplay it' part and get locked into a 'win by killing the Master' mindset.  This in turn could lead to "why would I bother to do X, if it doesn't help me 'win'".

As it turned out, not.  Though there were other issues.  

We played half a game, about 2.5 hours including Master and character creation.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that they "got" the Master-Minion relationship right away.  Sometimes they tried to resist, sometimes not -- but they hated the Master enough that, as soon as it was mathematically possible to start endgame, they began to try.  

Without success, of course.  It's pretty clear that, tactically speaking, you want some "surplus" love beyond the necessary minimum before you attack the Master.  And my players recognized that.  But they went for it anyway.  I was privately delighted to see my gamist players abandoning tactically "good" play to attempt defiance that was almost sure to fail -- even when this would result in bad things happening to their characters.  (In this case, a brutal beating from Master, followed by a command to do something particularly despicable -- burn down the church, with another player's Connection locked inside.)  So, pleasant surprise there.

On the other hand, gamism did creep in.  Frex, once they figured out that Love was what they needed, they started chasing Overtures perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.  

Paul, in another thread -- been doing my homework -- you commented that this would tend to self-correct.  Because [I'm paraphrasing] the game is about keeping the audience engaged, and the other players would get bored.  I'm not seeing this yet.  Instead, what's happening is... well, maybe an example will illustrate.

Master orders Minion #1 to destroy his old Collection -- now he wants stuff that's new!  and better!

Player #1 shrugs and goes to do it.  Next scene, I then tell him that the Collection includes, among other things, a puppy.

Player #1:  Oh, I don't want to kill the puppy.  Hmm... can I resist the Master now?

Me:  Well, last scene you said you weren't resisting...

Player #1:  Yeah, but that was then.   Before I knew about the puppy.  I mean, sick.  Come on.

Me:  Hm... okay.  You can try.  Succeed and you can let the puppy go.  

Player #1:  Okay.  Darn, I only roll one die.  Oh, well...

Player #2:  Wait!  Stop!  Why don't you make an Overture to the puppy?

Player #1:  Why?  My resistance sucks.  I'll just have to kill it next turn, and then I'll lose the Love point.

Player #3:  Yeah, and if he fails his Overture, he'll get stuck with a point of Self-Loathing, too.

Player #2:  But he'll get a point of Love from the Overture.  That'll help with his Resist, right?

Player #1:  Well, I'll get to roll two dice instead of one.  Still pretty sucky...

Player #2:  What about bonus dice?  [to DM]  Can he get bonus dice?

Me:  Well, you know how to get the bonus dice...

Player #2:  Okay, so, feed the puppy or something.  Pet it.  That'll give you the deefour.  

Player #3:  But then he'll have to kill it, next scene.

Player #2:  Well, then he can be desperate or something.  Right?  That's a deesix.  That gives him a pretty good Resist.

Player #1:  Okay, that's good.  I'll be desperate not to kill it, because we're like friends now.  Good plan.  Thanks, man.

Player #2:  Hey, no problem.  Get your Love up, and we'll kick Master's ass.

This is audience attention and participation, all right, but I'm not sure it's exactly what you had in mind...

We'll finish next week, and I'll let you know how it all comes out.  Thanks again for the help and useful comments.

cheers,


Doug M.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2004, 07:39:59 AM »

Hey Doug,

This is audience attention and participation, all right, but I'm not sure it's exactly what you had in mind...

Because it's so metagame? Don't worry about it. They're just wrapping their minds around the mechanics. It's obvious they're totally engaged with the game. You should be thrilled!! My Life with Master doesn't aim to deliver an immersionist play experience. The players aren't doing anything wrong by talking mechanical stuff. (Even so, you might see that once folks internalize the mechanics they sometimes start talking in code: "He's a very sad looking puppy. Maybe he could use a hug?")

Think about how much fun you're having, and try not to worry so much. It's a pretty fault-tolerant game, if I do say so myself.

Paul

p.s. I'm looking forward to your write-up. I gotta believe Romanians have a pretty deep understanding of the genre :)
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2004, 08:36:22 AM »

Yep, talking mechanics isn't neccessarily gamist. That is, you'll note here that all of the talk is driven by the fact that the player doesn't want to kill the puppy - even if he doesn't make an overture, all the discussion is based on, as you point out, a tactically unsound maneuver. The consideration is getting what the players want to happen.

So the mechanical discussion in question is about as narrativism as it gets. It's all about looking at the ramifications of each possible action, and deciding what to from that. So what if he has to kill his own love? He's no worse off than when he started (if he fails to resist, he still has to do the violence, against a love or not). So there's no tactical considerations. He's balking at making an overture because he's not sure if he'll have to kill the puppy.

That's entirely narrativism. And entirely the sort of engagement that the game causes. Everyone at the table is discussing the potential story outcomes of different actions, and what themes will be created. It's going perfect.

Mike
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2004, 09:13:09 AM »

Quote
well, maybe an example will illustrate


That example is an illustration of GREAT play.  
Don't discourage this, this is fabulous stuff.

Don't be lulled by the myth of Role Play vs. Roll Play and assume that if players are busy discussing mechanics they aren't "Role playing" the scene.  This is a fantastic example of exactly why system matters in RPGs.

MLwM is all about getting those moments where these monstrous minions touch upon a little humanity, and whether that flower of humanity can sustain them and make them strong enough to escape from the bonds of a dysfunctional relationship.

That scene where the minion happily goes to do his master's bidding and then encounters the cute adorable puppy, shares a moment of touching humanity, and then can't bring himself to do the job and tries to resist is priceless.  Scenes like that are a pure joy and if talking d4s and d6s and working the odds helps your players get there...that's what the rules are for.

My advice is to go ahead after all of the dice have hit the table and the results are known and have everyone slip into character to play the scene out (retroactive based on the results) to solidify the event in everyone's imagination.
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DannyK
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2004, 11:05:38 AM »

The other thing is, after all that talk and calculation about the puppy?  The player is going to be hooked.  Whether he kills the little guy or spares it, that puppy has got his attention.  That can only help the game experience.
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Doug M.
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« Reply #13 on: November 21, 2004, 01:18:49 AM »

Thanks, everyone.  That's good to know.  We'll see next week how it plays out.

As a postscript: that scene had an unexpected ending.  He won his Overture roll and made friends with the puppy.  Next scene, he made his Defiance roll... and lost!  Groans around the table.  So he had to kill the puppy.  

The poor puppy only got to roll two dice against his six or so.  Didn't look too good.

Just for the hell of it, I had the puppy jump up and lick his face, and then granted it the Intimacy die.  (Awarding myself bonus dice takes some getting used to, BTW.)  

The puppy rolled... and won!  So I ruled that he smashed the cage and the puppy escaped.  Point of Weariness, but never mind...

Doug M.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2004, 10:26:36 AM »

Hey Doug,

Just for the hell of it, I had the puppy jump up and lick his face, and then granted it the Intimacy die.

Beautifully done. A great scene.

And regarding your earlier question about captures, check out my post http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?p=128414&highlight=#128414">here from a prior thread.

Paul
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My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans
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