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Author Topic: horror or not?  (Read 4451 times)
Paul Czege
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« on: October 05, 2005, 08:15:07 PM »

I try not to let questions about My Life with Master go unanswered. But RPG.net no longer has a working search engine. So now I look for threads where it might get mentioned. Like this one about horror games:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=221110

And so in the months of no search engine I'm seeing this pattern where My Life with Master is fairly infrequently mentioned in conversations about horror games. Sorcerer gets mentioned more often. Unknown Armies gets mentioned more often. Chill and Little Fears and Call of Cthulhu and Delta Green get mentioned a lot. Ken Hite gets mentioned a lot.

And heck, maybe My Life with Master just isn't everyone's cup of tea. I don't think I've got a problem with that.

But an alternate thought I can't shake is that something about My Life with Master has people not considering it a horror RPG.

Somebody clue me in. Do people commonly not think it's a horror RPG?

Or does my creative pride have me inventing weird theories instead of just acknowledging that my game doesn't contend for every horror gamer's heart?

Paul
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Judd
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2005, 08:21:51 PM »

MLwM might not be considered a horror game by traditional RPG players because it doesn't rely on something outside of the players or even within their characters to scare them.  What is scary is what the players do in the course of the game.  It is a radical difference.

Read through all of those (largely bullshit) treatises on how to scare your party and MLwM doesn't rely on any of them.

I'd think that is why it isn't thought of in the same thread as UA or CoC.

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Victor Gijsbers
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2005, 12:41:29 AM »

If My Life with Master is not gothic horror, then what is?

On the other hand, there are no tentacled monsters, evil demons, slowly eroding characters, sudden surprises, constant threats of player death, and so on. Even Little Fears has monsters. Even Sorcerer has demons, and characters that may slowly sink away into madness and monstrosity. So, perhaps, perhaps, My Life with Master simply hasn't got enough of the horror tropes. But then again, it has crumbling castles, evil masters and a frightened and terrorised village.

So I think the explanation is different. People equate horror with fear. A game is a horror game if it allows you to either experience fear, or defuse fear. 'Horrifying' and 'fearsome' are even near synonyms. But My Life with Master is not about fear, it is about hate and loathing. The players never really fear the Master - you know he is going to die, you know he cannot kill your character - but they get to hate and loath and detest him. That is what makes his final destruction satisfying and cathartic. But it is not, perhaps, what horror 'feels like'.
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Keith Senkowski
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2005, 07:46:41 AM »

Paul,

Most folks equate horror with some sort of in game, psychological based, hit point mechanic.  Be it sanity or humanity or whatever.  MLwM instead gives you different tools that I think better accomplishes what those other games set out to do.  It builds a situation which lets you get creeped out instead of just subtracting another D6 of San.  Much more effective in my mind.  It is Hammer Horror to CoC's 80s horror. 

Personally I think MLwM is a great horror game.  I mean, I've watched Michael Miller run a game and he has creeped me out and I wasn't even playing.  When I have played it there is always unease at the table cause you never know what kinda horrific situation is going to pop up next.  It isn't fear of getting whacked or losing my mind.  It is fear of what terrible thing am I as a player going to be involved in next because the Master wills it.

But I feel your pain Paul.  Everytime Dark Ages Cthulhu and DA: Insert WW Creater is mentioned when talking dark/historical fantasy I cringe in annoyance.

Keith
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Everything about the game, from the mechanics, to the artwork, to the layout just screams creepy, creepy, creepy at me. I love it.
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Arturo G.
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2005, 05:37:15 PM »


Long time ago I read an article about the two different kind of horror in stories: Red horror and White horror.
Red horror is based on the appearance of horrific mosters and ugly things that make the characters be scared. There is typically a direct confrontation with the horrific moster or thing, where the odds are not on the main characters to create tension. It is direct and clear, and the characters typically win the confrontation at the end or fly away. It is not casual that movies with this approach are the only ones typically clasified as horror. I can see it in the dvd-store selves.

White horror instead is based on the description or discover of facts that suggest a horrific meaning. They  produce and increasing and unconfortable fear-feeling on the characters until the horror is revealed (or even not revealed at all). It is a more psycological approach, creating a constantly unresolved tension until the end; a tension increment by the many unknown facts about the nature of the horror, which. People always dive deep on their minds and find their worst and unexpected nightmares when facing the unknown. Thus, it has a much longer impact.

No mosters, no scary props, no direct confrontation with the evil, means no horror for many people. I guess that it is easier for people to diggest the scary feeling that dissapears a couple of hours (at most) after finishing the movie, or talking for a while with a friend about trivial daily things. No implication, no moral conflicts, nothing to think about after a while.

I have the feeling that MLwM has a more white-horror aproach; as many wonderful gothic horror stories. But I think that you should taste it to really discover it and recognize where the real horror is (inside of us).
But this is only a guess, I have not yet played.

Cheers,
Arturo
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droog
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Posts: 263


« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2005, 02:10:36 AM »

I posted to that thread, recommending the farm. I guess I didn't think of MLWM because I haven't yet read it, let alone played it. But from what I've read, I would agree with Victor. While the farm has Arturo's 'white horror' at it's heart (and note that I'm the only person so far to mention it), MLWM appears to have something else. Would you regard The Hunchback of Notre Dame as horror, Paul?
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AKA Jeff Zahari
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2005, 07:06:04 AM »

Paul, why does it matter if your game is horror, tragedy, melodrama, or something completely different?

Quote from: My Life with Master, p. 5
Will you laugh?…If you like that sort of thing.

My impression is that your game will help me and my friends create a lot of sad, hard, horrific, beautiful, melodramatic, tragic and outright disgusting tales. And dangerous; it seems impossible play without revealing a little bit about yourself. In short: Your game seems amazing to me. I have only heard good things about it. I keep it with me wherever I go. I will play it for the first time next week, and I can hardly wait.

Or has anybody said "Sorcerer, Unknown Armies , Chill, Little Fears, and Call of Cthulhu are great horror games, but My Life with Master really sucks; no horror going on there"? I didn't think so.

We all love you and your terrible little game. Stop complaining.
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droog
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2005, 08:22:29 AM »

Okay, that's it. MLWM is next on my purchase list.

I'll say this: MLWM has garnered expressions of interest whenever I've so much as mentioned it, not only to my roleplaying friends, but also to several non-roleplayers. And Nicotine Girls is the only game my wife will consider playing.
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AKA Jeff Zahari
Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2005, 06:26:48 PM »

Do people commonly not think it's a horror RPG?

While I can't really address what "people" think, I can add my own perspective to the matter. I'll certainly agree with everyone's previous responses that MLwM is certainly horrific in the sense of the word "horror" brought up in Mainstream: A revision. Profoundly disturbing, rife with black humor, engendering a sense of dread. This is certainly horrific.

But, you specifically asked about MLwM as a "horror RPG." Just as Ron, in Fantasy Heartbreakers that "D&D fantasy" is not "fantasy," I think that "horror RPG" is not "horror."

My feelings for MLwM are well-known. It is, hands-down, my favorite RPG that I didn't write. But I still think of myself as a guy who doesn't like horror RPGs. Because, in my mind, the paradigm of a horror RPG is the GM coming up with some twisted, gross, disturbing, or otherwise "scary" idea, and then giving the players plenty of opportunities to be repelled, disgusted, disturbed, or otherwise "afraid" of it. All those games you mentioned--UA, CoC, Chill, etc.--are written under the same illustionist assumptions. While Sorcerer doesn't fit the mold, you and I have been reading threads by Sorcerer newbies long enough to know that it's very often misunderstood to be the same. No amount of misreading and denial will ever allow anyone to think that MLwM is CoC without Cthulu.

I guess all I'm saying is, "No, Paul, MLwM isn't a 'horror RPG' and thank God for that!"
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2005, 09:58:16 AM »

Yah, but that's a problem, Mike. That is, unfortunately, games get talked about in categories. If MLWM isn't associated with any category, it'll fail to be mentioned a lot. Right now it probably falls into a new emerging category of game, "The Forge Game" which is a problematic category for anyone who's never played one.

Mike
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Michael S. Miller
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« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2005, 06:21:30 AM »

You make a good point, Mike. But what can be done? In Paul's specific case, should fans of the game start cruising RPG.net horror threads to do some name-dropping?

In the more general case, if "the Forge game" is a problematic category, how do we resist that category?
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2005, 07:25:20 AM »

You make a good point, Mike. But what can be done? In Paul's specific case, should fans of the game start cruising RPG.net horror threads to do some name-dropping?

Hmm...the thread wasn't a plan on my part to marshal the troops in this way. So I'd discourage it. I guess I'm mostly just venting frustration with the lack of a search engine on RPG.net.

In the more general case, if "the Forge game" is a problematic category, how do we resist that category?

I wouldn't mind if someone with insight started a compare/contrast conversation in Publishing about capturing mindshare/marketshare for categorizable vs. less-categorizable games.

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
joewolz
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« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2005, 08:19:45 AM »

Actually Paul, you can search RPG.net using Google advanced search.

Go to Google, click "advanced search"

Next to the "Domain" option, set the drop box to "only" (as in "ONLY" return sites from this domain: )

Type forum.rpg.net (or any other permutation) and search for what you want.

Didn't mean to thread crap.  I think MLwM is one of the scariest games I've ever read.  I'd like to play it, but honestly, I'm kinda scared to.
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Bret Gillan
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« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2005, 12:30:03 PM »

Paul,

I had no idea that MLWM was a horror game because I thought the title was amusing. I thought it was dark comedy more than horror, honestly. Maybe that throws other people off?
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2005, 12:42:03 PM »

It's both, Bret. You'll laugh, and then be horrified given what it is you find yourself laughing at.

Mike
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