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Author Topic: fantastic scenes from actual play  (Read 4958 times)
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: September 17, 2002, 10:22:02 AM »

Hey,

This thread is my effort to expose some of the tone and feel of gameplay produced by the My Life with Master mechanics, by describing great scenes from actual playtesting. There aren't really any examples of play in the playtest rules document, so I'm also hoping this thread might be an acceptable surrogate, somehow indirectly teaching a little about how to GM the game. Others are invited to jump in and post about scenes as well. So, here goes:

Last night was the second session of our current playtest. The Master and his cannibalism are described http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3119">here. Tom is playing a hunchbacked minion named Hiram, who has a connection to Catharine Dowkins: he enjoys listening to her singing while she draws water at the well. It was revealed by my scene framing, in the very first scene of the first session of the game that Gideon, the playwright minion, had written a challenging role for the Master, that of a "sympathetic rapist who can sing." And in the first session, the minions abducted a wanted rapist, a singing rapist named Jack Hervey, from the Constable and his honest men, just as they were about to hang him for his crimes.

The sequence I mean to describe here begins with the Master giving Hiram a very distinctive knife stolen from Lucian Sterling, the son of the Constable, Masheck Sterling, and instructions to wait by the well at dawn, kill a woman who comes to draw water, and leave the knife behind. "Masheck Sterling will be distracted from his efforts to investigate the whereabouts of his rapist by our implicating his son in a grisly crime." Not surprisingly, Tom had Hiram resist. He suggested an alternative to the Master's plan, offering that it would be better to kill someone close to the son, and got the Desperation die for that. And he won the roll.

And then he called for a scene with his Connection, Catharine Dowkins. So I framed Hiram hiding in the bushes behind the home where Lucian Sterling's fiance Claudia lives, and hearing the singing of Catherine as she passes by on her way to the well. Tom has Hiram leave the knife behind and pursue Catherine. After a bit of group brainstorming, he decides Hiram's overture will be to give Catherine a skinned rabbit. We roll. He fails, so she recoils and he gets the Self-Loathing as well as the Love. I go to roleplay her reaction, and Danielle says, "Don't make her a vegetarian." I ask why. "There wasn't any such thing in 1805." So Catharine responds, "Meat, on a Friday?" and looks horrified. He is clearly no Christian. Hiram thrusts the rabbit into her hands and says, "Make it on Saturday." And bolts from the scene.

Next scene for Hiram, before I even frame anything, Tom launches into a painful roleplay of Hiram stabbing Claudia Repton, muttering, "gave her a rabbit..." and "stupid, stupid, stupid" as stabs her again and again.

And, geez, if the players and I didn't laugh. I'm not quite sure why. It was such a painful scene. The Josh/Mike/Danielle playtest at GenCon surprised me by being hilarious as well. I have to think there's something about seeing shared genre expectations satisfied that makes people smile and laugh.

No complaints though. I think it's fantastic. I'm enjoying the hell out of running it. I may just need to warn people in the game text about the laughter effect. Did you get this effect with your group Kirt?

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
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2002, 12:59:43 PM »

Quote from: Paul Czege
And, geez, if the players and I didn't laugh. I'm not quite sure why. It was such a painful scene. The Josh/Mike/Danielle playtest at GenCon surprised me by being hilarious as well. I have to think there's something about seeing shared genre expectations satisfied that makes people smile and laugh.
I'm not surprised. Play apes the conventions, and pushes players to portray despicable acts. It's that sort of "whoring" for the scene that's funny. Like when Josh's rat faced boy tries to get a kiss from his sweetie while holding the corpse of a newborn that he's just dug up. That's just pathetic.

As I'm fond of quoting, Mel Brooks once said, "Tragedy is I cut my finger, Comedy is you fall through a manhole into a sewer and die." Only negative things are funny. Funny in this context because the player feels forced to take on the role. Poor player.

Mike
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2002, 09:56:42 AM »

Play...pushes players to portray despicable acts.

It's been a few weeks since you said it Mike, but after last Monday's fourth session of our playtest, I just gotta restart this thread to say, you are so totally not kidding.

A little background: In an earlier session, I'd framed Matt's character Gideon into a scene with the Master, Attor Fusae, in the conservatory of the home of an outsider, Lord Barlow. His daughter Phoebe Barlow, 15, was playing the pianoforte as her friend Molly Irish, also 15, and chaperone Dame Claire Augusta, 63, looked on. "Isn't she beautiful, Gideon?" said the Master. "I have promised her and Miss Molly the box seats at our first performance of your brilliant play. Does that make you happy?...You must do something for me. The ladies will wish to see me after the performance. You must make sure they find their way to my dressing room...and that their unfortunate chaperone is otherwise detained separately." It was a command that Gideon wouldn't act on until last Monday, two game sessions later.

The intervening session featured the stage performance of the play, in which the Master, having consumed the wrong subject, delivered a grotesque and incoherent performance that culminated with him professing his love, sotto voce, to Danielle's character Ambrose, and commanding Ambrose to "take my love inside you," right there on stage. Of course, most of the audience had already departed. Ambrose's attempt to resist, "I will always be second to your love of the stage," was unsuccessful.

So last Monday: The session began with Matt's effort to satisfy the Master's command to make sure Miss Phoebe and Miss Molly find their way to his chambers. He tossed local actor Uriah VanSickle from the box where he'd spent most of the performance chatting the girls up, to the floor of the theatre, an act which resulted in the man's death. Motive? It was largely the presence of VanSickle in the box that had disoriented the Master to the point of ruining the performance of Gideon's play. Gideon botched an attempt to knife Dame Claire, snapping his blade against the boning of her corset, and took a ferocious and bloody bite to the nose from the old woman as a response, and had to suffer the consequence of her yelling for the young girls to flee for their lives. But he succeeded ultimately in murdering Dame Claire and Miss Phoebe.

Next scene I framed Ambrose out sitting on the porch of the theatre, and negotiated with Danielle what he might be doing there. She settled on the idea that he was engaged in nursing a bottle of gin in response to his recent molestation. I described Miss Molly bursting from the theatre, disheveled, and throwing herself at Ambrose's feet. She begged for help. Danielle decided that Ambrose was unmoved. But as Gideon, covered in blood, emerged to take Molly into custody, Danielle described how Ambrose stopped him for a second so he could take the girl's shoes, because "he likes them." Sheer Authorial power on Danielle's part, and I think it pretty much creeped the shit out of everyone in the room.

That wasn't it though. Danielle had Ambrose find her way to the Master's chambers after Gideon had turned Molly over to him. Ambrose interrupted the Master's second grotesque molestation of the evening to accuse him of two-timing, and avenged himself by crushing the girl Molly's head with a bust of Christopher Marlowe snatched from the Master's mantle.

Yecchh!

So I'm becoming convinced that my girlfriend is one of the creepiest people I know. And I remain unconvinced by her retort that it's my fault for having designed the game. Still, I wonder if I might not need to write game text that cautions players against extended play, which seems to produce an escalating level of discomfiting grotesquerie and scenes of quite vicious human violation. A group that achieves even half the level of excess Danielle is capable of could still find themselves quite discommoded.

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
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2002, 10:02:29 AM »

Heh! Wonderful.

Paul, I am so looking forward to seeing hard copies (no pun intended) of Violence Future, Le Mon Mouri, and My Life with Master sitting on my shelf next to one another. Personally, contra your implication that such play is to be avoided, I revel in it and in seeing it emerge among the group. With any luck, the text of Sex & Sorcery will demonstrate how wonderful this can be, and how it can easily be kept from descending into dysfunctional play.

Best,
Ron
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2002, 10:42:02 AM »

Hey Ron,

Personally, contra your implication that such play is to be avoided, I revel in it and in seeing it emerge among the group.

Yeah, I completely agree. I was just teasing Danielle a bit for being so good at it.

The interesting thing to me is that there was absolutely no game reward or mechanical reason for either of Ambrose's two particularly vile deeds, stealing the shoes and killing Molly. In a game where every die roll can deliver a consequence to the player that puts the character further from a happy ending, Danielle had Ambrose, who's carrying less accumulation of Love than any of the other characters, take violent action against Molly...accepting a point of Self-Loathing she could have avoided, simply because she wanted it in the story that Ambrose had done so to avenge himself on the Master.

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
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2002, 10:51:36 AM »

Hi Paul,

If I'm not mistaken, the widely-held notion that people "want" happy endings in stories is totally mistaken. They want endings, yes, but all those endings have to do is imply a Theme (answer), or what Egri calls his Premise in terms of a finalized statement.

One character-notion I had for My Life with Master emerged from a conversation with Mike at GenCon - just have the minion always obey, and accumulate horrible amounts of Weariness, and (through his horrid obedience) make all the other minions' lives so much harder - and his fate at the end is simply to sit wearily among the ruins, a testament to the dulled/damned horror of not standing up for oneself.

It's about the least happy ending imaginable (hell, the fates of King Kong and the monster at the end of The Bride of Frankenstein are quite uplifting by comparison), but I think in combination with the other players being rebellious and love-seeking, it would be absolutely enthralling to play.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2002, 01:51:20 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
One character-notion I had for My Life with Master emerged from a conversation with Mike at GenCon - just have the minion always obey, and accumulate horrible amounts of Weariness, and (through his horrid obedience) make all the other minions' lives so much harder - and his fate at the end is simply to sit wearily among the ruins, a testament to the dulled/damned horror of not standing up for oneself.

I'm trying to do that one better in Josh's game. My character sees himself (erroneously) as a partner to the master. Such that he will not only obey, but be proactive in his nastiness. An even more vile counterpart to the "protagonist" PCs. He's doubly bad, because he not does bad things, but he does them from a self-deluded view of a dysfunctional relationship.

Yet another character I'll relish seeing die. Hey, I think that MLWM is one of the first optionally "loser" games!

:-)

Mike
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Paul's Girl
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2002, 09:23:12 AM »

So I'm becoming convinced that my girlfriend is one of the creepiest people I know. And I remain unconvinced by her retort that it's my fault for having designed the game... A group that achieves even half the level of excess Danielle is capable of could still find themselves quite discommoded.

Go ahead, call me creepy, you are just jealous that I came up with the shoes thing.

Anyway, when we created this particular Master with all of his characteristics, there was bound to be some rather horrific scenes. When there is a young girl that needs to carry around something dead at all times (just for example) there is bound to be creepy things going on. When we played at Gen Con, the Master was much different and so were our (as minions) actions. We needed dead children in that case, but here we are catching people, cooking and feeding them to our Master. It seems that the type of horror story that the game creates is partially established in Master and character creation.
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Wicked 12 sider

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