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Author Topic: an infinity of eight: Master Type/Aspect combinations  (Read 2379 times)
Paul Czege
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« on: August 21, 2002, 10:25:50 AM »

So, you know that part of creating a Master is deciding on Type and Aspect, and that the Types are Feeder, Breeder, Collector, and Teacher, and the Aspects are Brain and Beast. But what the hell does it all mean? It's a good question.

Ultimately, what I think I need is a good, strong example from literature or film of each of the eight Type/Aspect combinations, but it has proven difficult for me to come up with pure, archetypal examples. The more I think about a specific character, the more it becomes apparent that he crosses Types and/or Aspects. And I don't have a problem with a play group creating a Master who blurs the boundaries. The Master we created on Monday was intended to be a Collector, but upon reflection seems quite Feeder-like. And the source films and literature are full of impure examples. So I'm actually not interested in play groups feeling pressure to create pure examples. The purpose of the Types and Aspects isn't to constrain the Master creation process, but to serve as a fertile substrate for it, facilitating communication and decisionmaking by the play group, and guiding the GM in understanding the Master's personality. But it seems that pure examples would better facilitate player and GM comprehension of the Types and Aspects than a rambly discussion of impure examples in an attempt to create some epiphany of understanding. So, what I'm hoping to provoke here, via a discussion of impure examples, are your thoughts on characters I've failed to consider that perhaps better exemplify the eight Type and Aspect combinations. And perhaps my impure examples will emerge from the discussion as more purely representative than I'm currently thinking.

The Aspects

Aspect is about whether the Master is immersed in the world of thoughts and words or the world of sensation, and how that colors the Master's understanding of what motivates others. A Brain Aspected Master is influenced by conversation, and acts to influence others via language. His pleasures and manner are perhaps veneered with gentility, and more importantly, his personality is colored by a rationalization that there's some objective good embedded in his monstrous endeavors. A Beast Aspected Master is influenced more by physical and primal interactions, by sexual interactions, curious gustatory pleasures, and sadistic and masochistic exchanges. He will act to influence others in physical, more primal ways, perhaps through inflicting pain.

The Feeder

And here we have...Dracula...perhaps the most prominent poster-boy imaginable for a cross-Type, cross-Aspect Master. Is he Brain, or Beast? Depends on the movie. Is he Feeder, or Breeder? He's certainly engaged in an endeavor of making horrific "children," which is pretty much the definition of Breeder. I'm thinking Bela Lugosi's interpretation is pretty much Feeder-Brain. You can almost imagine him swabbing Mina's neck with alcohol before he bites her. For a Feeder-Beast, you need to go with someone like Antonio Banderas' interpretation of Armand, from Interview with the Vampire, sensual, if you've seen that movie. Perhaps there's a better example. The Feeder Type is pretty much about personal sustenance, at the expense of the Townspeople. A Feeder's Need might, like that of a vampire, be for nourishment to sustain physical vitality, or it might be a monstrous addiction, perhaps borne out of vanity, like the Countess Elizabeth Bathory's obsession with the topical application of blood to counteract aging. She's a Feeder-Beast, a fantastic example of such. It's too bad she's so obscure. The Master in our current playtest uses cannibalism as a way of consuming the experiences of the deceased, to enhance the greatness of his own acting ability. It's interesting that determining the Wants of a relatively pure Feeder Type like Countess Bathory, or the Master in our current playtest, is quite easy, and discerning the Wants of a cross-Type, cross-Aspect Master like Dracula is fairly difficult. He's a Feeder who wants to Breed? Other good or better examples of Feeder-Brain and Feeder-Beast?

The Breeder

Aloysius Dees, the sample Master in the rules, is a Breeder. He's a maker of life, in the form of homonculi constructed from the bones of children. Dr. Victor Frankenstein is also a Breeder. And both of them are Brain Aspected. Dr. Moreau is also certainly a Breeder, but his Aspect is a hard one to determine. As played by Charles Laughton in The Island of Lost Souls, he has the gentility and rationalization of objective or scientific good that you get with a Brain type Master, but his method is primal and brutal and personal. And his Wants are the same as those of Dees and Frankenstein, for the respect of his peers, which I wouldn't expect if he were a true Beast. Other good or better examples of Breeder-Brain and Breeder-Beast?

The Collector

The absolute best example I've heard of a Collector-Brain came from Scott Knipe last Monday during our Master creation. He suggested P.T. Barnum. The distinction between Brain and Beast Aspects for Collector Type Masters is at the level of why they collect what they collect. Barnum seemingly collected freaks out of twisted cerebral motives simply to have and be known for having the best collection. Typically, a Beast Aspected Collector is working toward some kind of monstrous self-reinvention. The best example I can come up with is Buffalo Bill, from Silence of the Lambs, and like the Master we created on Monday, he's almost a cross-Type with Feeder. The only thing that pushes them over into the Collector category in my mind, and only barely, is that they have very specific requirements for what they Need. The extent to which Countess Bathory is indiscriminate in who she gets blood from is the extent to which she falls more into the Feeder Type. Other good or better examples of Collector-Brain and Collector-Beast?

The Teacher

Of the four Types, this is the one that came to me last, and that was the hardest to name. The first three came fairly easily, but left me with thoughts of Masters that didn't seem to fit within them. And so it was obvious I needed a fourth Type. The name that made the most sense to me was "Parent," but it didn't fit with my "-er/-or" naming scheme, and so I wrestled with it for quite some time before "Teacher" forced itself upon me in a fit of inspiration. The best example of a Teacher-Brain is Miss Havisham, from Great Expectations. The Teacher is about evangelizing their own monstrous and dysfunctional view of the world, or instructing others to develop an appreciation for the flawed and horrific things they take pleasure in. The best example of a Teacher-Beast is perhaps Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. The one I struggle to categorize is Geoffrey Rush's Marquis de Sade in Quills. He's a Teacher all right, but is he Brain or Beast. I sure wish some of my best examples, like Miss Havisham, and the Countess Bathory, weren't likely to be so obsure to a general audience. Any other good or better examples of Teacher-Brain and Teacher-Beast?

Paul
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2002, 10:57:51 AM »

Note:  Paul and I cross-posted new threads about almost the exact same thing.  Here's my post in its entirety, which doesn't do much to answer Paul's questions, but presents some of my own thoughts.


This thread is posted in the hopes of picking various people's minds, trying to find examples of the various Types and Aspects of Masters in either film or literature. Additionally, it may serve to further define the two Aspects - Brain and Beast - which we struggled with a bit during character creation (although I think Paul's current definitions are pretty darned good).

For the record, here's how I feel about things (and these definitions should definitely be discussed):

A Brain does what he does "just because". There may be some pseudo-explanation for his efforts - "in the name of science", or whatever - but he's really just doing it to see if it can be done.

A Beast is more impassioned, primal, and ultimately seeks to change or benefit himself in some way. Self-indulgent, I think, is the term I'm looking for.

I've noticed, too, that Types become a bit confused when trying to apply them to the Beast. Our guy started out as a Collector - a Collector of memories - but in trying to figure out why those memories were important to him and what ultimate "change" they would bring to him, he ended up being something like a Feeder. Likewise, I think Dracula is a Beast, but is he a Feeder or a Breeder? Feeder seems obvious, but his passions are more engaged by his desire to Breed.*

Anyway, let's see what combinations we can come up with for Paul. I imagine there may be some debate here...

Frankenstein...this one is obvious.

Elisabeth Bathory...Beast, Feeder or Collector? This is the woman who bathed in the blood of virgins in an attempt to preserve her youth. That's pretty vampiric, so I'm going to say Feeder.

Dr. Moreau...He's a Breeder, but is he Brain or Beast? I thought Beast initially, but given my (possibly erroneus) definitions above, I think I want to say Brain.

Marquis de Sade...I'm going to say Beast Teacher. I could be wrong, but we need some Teachers in here.

P.T. Barnum...definitely a Collector, but Beast or Brain?

That's a good start I think...

- Scott

* Note that this whole "What Type is my Master?" thing may be moot once you get past character creation. IMO, the Types serve to get players thinking and talking, and in that function, so long as a cool Master is created, knowing whether he's a Feeder or Breeder is neither here nor there. It's his Wants and Needs that are important.
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2002, 11:00:04 AM »

Two more questions:

I realize that some of the listed examples, like Miss Havisham, have minions in their stories, and some, like Buffalo Bill, do not. I don't think it's difficult for the reader to envision what a Buffalo Bill Minion might be like, but perhaps you disagree?

And just to test the rigor of the Types and Aspects, is there a kind of master that you think is not accounted for somewhere in the scheme?

Thanks,

Paul
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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
Matt Gwinn
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2002, 11:36:02 AM »

What category would someone like Jim Jones fall under?  A master that seeks only to control others for his own gratification.  Or Charles Manson?

Under the current rules I would have to list them both as a beasts and possibly collectors because they collect followers, but I'm thinking a different aspect might be appropriate for cult oriented Masters.

,Matt G.
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2002, 12:09:06 PM »

You might be getting tired of hearing this from me, Paul, but Things to do in Denver when You're Dead.  Christopher Walken's character, the Man with the Plan, is a very nice breeder-brain.  He won't be as familiar to your readers as Dr. Frankenstein, but he's a funny funny take.

I wrote more, but it turned out to just be a bit of plot summary and a whole lot of gushing.

Anybody else seen it?  It's like My Life with Master: the movie.

-Vincent
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2002, 01:01:02 PM »

Henry Jarrod played by Vincent Price in the B Movie Waxworks (actually a remake of a movie from the thirties staring Fay Wray) is a classic beast collector. He kills people and uses them as the frameworks for his wax statues. He even has a minion named, get this, Igor (Charles Bronson, believe it or not).

Chencking further down the Price filmography (fertile), we find The Inventor from Edward Scisorshands, who is obviously a Teacher-Brain.

Did Dr. Phibes have sidekicks? I can't remember, but he otherwise fits the bill for a master. In the first film, he's a collector-beast (trying to get the doctors who killed his wife), and then in the sequel, he's a breeder-beast trying to bring his wife back from the dead.

Price plays a minion off sorts in "The Oblong Box" where his character escapes from impisonment to serve a Teacher-brain who needs bodies for his research.

There are a couple others like this, such as "Scream and Scream Again".

In City Under the Sea (AKA War Gods of the Deep), He is The Captain, and commands fishmen minions who collect up the characters for him so that they can save his doomed city for him. Collector-Brain.

Check out either version of House on Haunted Hill.

Anyhow, I'll leave it there. Obviously mostly obscure, but there are 100 more films in his filmography I have not even looked at. Price WAS the master, pretty much, and a lot of his work can be used for inspiration.


De Sade is a beast, no question. He knows it, and that's the key. Most Brains think that they are doing good work.

Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2002, 05:34:01 PM »

Hey Matt,

What category would someone like Jim Jones fall under? A master that seeks only to control others for his own gratification. Or Charles Manson?

That's a good question. My initial, considered response was going to be that the Jim Jones/David Koresh/Marshall Herff Applewhite style of cult master is a distinctly twentieth century phenomenon not at all established in the source literature and films, and so isn't genre appropriate for My Life with Master. And so I wasn't seeing a need to create an additional Type or Aspect to represent it.

Still, when I think further on it, I can envision a somewhat genre-appropriate manifestation of a cult leader, so perhaps it's worth considering what's up with these guys after all.

Aspects: David Koresh apparently got an awful lot of sex from his followers. That seems like Beast to me. Manson is surely Beast. Applewhite is harder to pin down. Didn't he castrate himself? Is that Beast? Or a desperate struggle to maintain Brain? The problem with these guys, unlike Countess Bathory or P.T. Barnum, is that they're still so close to our contemporary cultural psyche as to be difficult to paint with the broad brush required by the game. You find yourself splitting hairs when you try to categorize them. We understand them as subjects, rather than objects.

Types: Manson is a Feeder, for sure. Koresh, could be a Teacher. I guess I don't know enough about cult leaders. Are they more about sustaining their egos? Or about disseminating their view of the world? Again, the Master's complexity should emerge through play. These guys are a classification-defying gluttony of neuroses.

And here we come full circle. Maybe I'm thinking about this all wrong. I've got no problem with cross-Type, cross-Aspect Masters in film and literature, and for Masters to emerge from the group creation process that blur the boundaries a bit. The purpose of the Types and Aspects isn't to be a rigorous classification of Masters. The question we should be asking is whether the Types and Aspects do a good job of starting conversation for Masters that players will be interested in (with probably cult leaders are among them) and whether the Types and Aspects raise the right issues and concerns to inform subsequent player character creation, and management of the Master by the GM. Do you think the existing Aspects and Types succeed or fail to do that for cult leaders?

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
hardcoremoose
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2002, 08:06:32 PM »

Mike,

RE: Vincent Price.

Very cool list.  When we created our Master, I immediately made a plea for the Dr. Phibes image.  Price is the master of Masters.

- Scott
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