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Author Topic: Dang #3 (Le Mon Mouri)  (Read 3451 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: March 24, 2003, 02:36:25 PM »

Hello,

This is a followup on the threads [Le Mon Mouri & kill puppies] Dang! and Two [censored] at once!. I decided to post more discussions of our current games of Le Mon Mouri and kill puppies for satan separately, because, really, even though we're playing them in the same group on the same day, the two games are really different. About different stuff, with different sorts of conflicts, with different sorts of GNS goals, and more. Hence, different threads.

Anyway, this one's for Le Mon Mouri. I'm playing the character Sebastienne, a very fanciful debutante type with lots of Gros Mal Ange, although I shift the attributes around a lot for various things. I'd been pretty pushy as a player in run #2, so this time I decided to relax a little and get more into plain dialogue and responsive play. Also, the neat thing for me was that my character had been literally dominated to her knees in the previous run, and I was looking forward to playing this complete role-reversal as she sought to put herself at the service of the abominable Sans-Souf who'd done so.

Some random thoughts about the system and play ...

1. We don't lose Aspe through Travay as much as we'd expected. We roll enough successes, usually to meet or exceed our Aspe values, and I think Julie's been following the Travay difficulty guidelines very reasonably. I'm starting to think that the difficulty of a Travay should have 9 be the minimum.

2. We figured out that bringing a Sans-Souf's Grangou to zero doesn't kill him or her, which (a) makes sense but (b) is kind of jarring considering how vicious Grangou conflict is. Clearly, the way to do away with a Sans-Souf is to reduce Gros Mal Ange to 0, which is a lot harder but also more interesting.

3. It takes a while to find one's character's thematic feet in the game. I've finally discovered, or brought into existence, a dichotomy between Sebastienne's idealistic, romantic efforts - which wholly fancifully created an engagement with another Sans-Souf, but she'll fight to the death to protect it - and her extraordinary response to harsh dominance. It's the whole "if I feel these dark urges, am I worthy of love?" issue - very Victorian, which I like. I've found myself writing her diary entries after each run, which have this creepy-crawly, Edward Gorey sort of feel.

The other players are struggling with the same general issue, of finding some element of artistry, self-image, and activity to call their own. I'm thinking that just as many games take two or three sessions to establish the logistic elements of play (who's the bad guy, where is he, how can we find him), Le Mon Mouri requires the same to establish the thematic, identity-based elements. In many ways, it's a lot like Zero in that character creation prior to playing actions and events is almost empty - you only get the character by throwing him or her into conflict in the first place.

Jesse mentioned in a previous thread that he couldn't really see how thematic closure could occur in Le Mon Mouri, and as far as early play is concerned, I think he's right - but I also think that once this process of defining the character's personal "artifice identities" gets going, then the real conflicts begin, and that those can achieve closure of a potentially uniquely powerful sort. I'm basing this view both on my entirely positive experiences with running Zero and on my sense of "creative itching" regarding playing Sebastienne.

Le Mon Mouri really is a uniquely beautiful system, barring some of the difficulties we discussed on the previous threads. I think it's one solid re-write away from being one of the most disturbing and fascinating games around.

Best,
Ron
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sdemory
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2003, 04:03:35 PM »

Ron,
    Glad to know that the game's working as well as it is for you. The rewrite process continues, as I agree that some elements of the game still clunk slightly.
    The issue of finding one's thematic feet is one problem I decided early on to abandon. The down side (a certain degree of dedication to the game to see it move with any authority) was outweighed by the benefit (the potential sense of discovery as one learns one's character.) I think it's a relatively fair trade, all considered.
    One of the things I'm most proud of surrounding Le Mon Mouri is the nature of combat. The fact that ripping and tearing one's foe to pieces is less effective than putting his/her soul in a jar or breaking his/her heart through elaborate emotional torment makes me grin.

Sean
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2003, 12:24:25 PM »

Hi Sean,

I think that the delay or "ramp up" quality in Le Mon Mouri conflict is a great thing. I agree with you that the benefit of a player-generated, slow "who am I" conflict is worth it, in this case. As I say, Zero showed me that this can work wonders a long time ago. The extreme circumstances as well as your exceptional ability to convey atmosphere in the game text make it more likely to happen, rather than less.

Best,
Ron
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2003, 11:39:38 AM »

Hi there,

I decided to tack Dang #4: Le Mon Mouri here, continuing this thread, because it's still on the Actual Play front page.

Here's where Julie starting ramping up her GMing. Remember, this is her first GM-time ever, and it's with one of the most deliberately-vague settings ever made ... that is, it's a game-specific setting, but what's "going on" with it or with the characters exists mainly at the poetic level, not at the literal one.

The main thing is soap opera and murder, both of which are flying freely about the game situation. There's a kind of neat gumshoe effect going on that reminds me of Lew Archer (the Ross MacDonald character) who in many ways is barely human himself until he can bring himself to care about someone involved in some instance of injustice.

I'd also requested lots of damage. Both Julie and the vagaries of some rolls supplied it in profusion. Travays knocked all three characters' Aspe totals down considerably. This was nice because so far, we'd been lucky with Travay rolls, getting so many successes that our Aspe hadn't been touched. That's changed.

I also discovered another Line for myself. Y'all should know, a lot of my games (although not all of them by a long shot) concern the gray areas between emotionally-damaging sexual contact, consensual but dysfunctional sex, and rape. Victim-as-power, powerlessness-as-abuse stuff. I am interested in seeing how right, wrong, and judgments which are forced to be snap-judgments all twist around one another.

This time, I went far enough that I didn't like it. My character, Sebastienne, sought to poison one of her own memories, because she is currently being used as a kind of memory-battery for persons unknown. The memory on the sheet is a "red-paned lantern," which she'd acquired a couple of sessions ago. I proposed a Gros-Mal-Ange Travay which would, for someone employing the memory, force them to gain Feb rather than aid them to regain Fre.

That meant associating the (real) memory of the lantern with a (constructed) memory of my character's own death ... which in Travay terms, means re-enacting a death scene for the character, culminating in smashing the lantern. And it struck me that only the very worst possible death would do. Sebastienne is very big on "rule or be ruled," as an NPC explained to her in the previous session, so this whole Travay is based on the idea that she can visit the most horrible grief upon herself if it establishes power over others.

Medea: "My grief is gain if you cannot mock it."

So we set up a scenario involving the red lantern, a carefully-filled hope chest, and a family gathering (supplied by a set of stuffed-clothes dummies, as Sebastienne has no specific family memories). The Travay then required one of the other player-characters to crash in, sweeping all the dinner-stuff to the floor, then to rape Sebastienne on the table and cut her into pieces with his saber, squirting pig's blood all over the place, and ultimately stuffing all the pieces into the hope chest.

Bear in mind that Le Mon Mouri characters are already dead, and that acknowledging this is central to employing Gros-Mal-Ange. (IE, we open the hope chest a few days later and Sebastienne is physically fine.) Also bear in mind that the memory is an artifice, fully constructed as an offensive weapon rather than a "true event" in the history as a character.

Nonetheless, this is perhaps the most grotesque example of masochistic excess I've ever delivered in role-playing. Sebastienne is messed up, and I definitely felt repulsion, not only internally, but emanating from other folks in the group. Personally and generally, I find the concept of "masochistic power" pretty disgusting ... the goal, I think, is to see whether a protagonist can emerge from a character who's proven herself expert at it. And you know, at the moment, I'm not sure.

Best,
Ron
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2003, 12:34:38 PM »

Fuckin' A, dude.  This sounds so unlike my cup of tea that I'm in awe.  I'm off to learn more about Le Mon Mouri...
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sdemory
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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2003, 04:49:46 PM »

Ron and company,
    Yee-ha. I love you guys so much it's physically painful.
    Just out of curiosity, Ron, how do you think your Ne changed due to your character's actions? Did the power dynamics shift at all? Is the bond between Sebastienne and her assailant something that either of you plan to expand? Do you think Sebastienne will end up trying to replicate her violation and murder as a convenient source of Fre?
    On the out-of-game front, do you still feel comfortable playing Sebastienne? I've had people tell me that they do things in-game that make them split from actor stance into an oddly adversarial place. Interesting, interesting stuff.
    Wowie zowie. I always get a bit giddy when people do exciting things with the game. Made my day.


(Edited to transform my goofy gush into something more constructive.)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2003, 07:04:23 AM »

Hi Sean,

My Ne? What's my Ne? Is that as in, je ne sai quoi? ('cause there's a lot of that in Le Mon Mouri ...)

I try not to decide too much about a character between sessions, restricting myself to sort of a re-Kickerize point at most. So I can't answer specifically with "I'm going to ..." or "I'm planning ..."

Generally, though, I'm interested in whether Sebastienne will become a ruthless power-broker mover & shaker in her new "life," or whether she'll spiral downwards toward sex-toy and victim status forever (which doesn't appeal to me much, thanks), or whether she'll plain implode via the system itself - probably when her Ti-Bon-Ange gets waxed in some kind of confrontation. Is there a possible positive outcome that can be generated or salvaged from this trio of essentially depressing outcomes? That becomes the question, and it's definitely an in-play, ensemble question, not something I can plan for or even resolve upon between sessions.

By the way, I had a moment of realization last night: the narrative model for Le Mon Mouri is provided by the comics/short-novels of Edward Gorey, specifically The Doubtful Guest and The Curious Sofa: a Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary. It seems to me that in reading such a book, the reader is forced to fill in gaps in a unique way, producing something that is indeed a story with a conflict and resolution, but not experiencing it in the same way as a traditional novel or comic at all. In playing Le Mon Mouri, I think the relationship between Player A and everyone else at the table is the same as the relationship between Gorey and his fascinated, repulsed, and sometimes-baffled readers.

Best,
Ron
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jrs
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« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2003, 07:25:48 AM »

The important question for me is what will be the relationship between Sebastienne and her memories, and in particular, how the corrupted memory effects her Fre.  She performed a devastating Travay and whether it is more detrimental to herself or to her assailant is yet to be determined.  

And, Sean, I second Ron, what is Ne?  

I like the Gorey analogy.  The moodiness that I associate with his work has definitely been in my mind when prepping for this game.  I believe I did describe the physical appearance of one ill-fated Respire as Goreyesque.

Julie
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sdemory
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« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2003, 09:03:19 AM »

"Ne" is Krio for a knot. It's what I've always thought that the social organization of San-Souf falls into, rather than the more constructive "party."
    The Gorey similarity's not one I was shooting for, but it's hard to ignore and even harder to argue.
    Sebastienne's Travay's definitely going to create some drama for a while. Good, good stuff.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2003, 11:49:21 AM »

Hi Sean,

Ah! Yes, the Ne of our game is still evolving a bit. We started play by having the characters more-or-less fabricate relationships among themselves: Bartholemew is Sebastienne's "guardian" and Avarice is her "maid." However, as I say, this is purely one of those Sans-Souf constructions which could easily puff apart given alternate fancies or conflicting needs arising later.

Right now, I'm very interested in whether and how a true Ne will form. Bartholemew and Avarice seem to be doing so regarding the murder of a Respire singer named Jasmine, and their relationships to the men who were close to her. However, Sebastienne's story is more isolated, although both of them help her with her Travays and still play the roles of guardian and servant.

How the Ne forms or fails to form will, I think, make or break the game as a whole. However, it patently cannot simply be an agreement based on mutual gain or even on a shared threat, as such things are always temporary in Le Mon Mouri. It will have to carry artistic power in that weird Gorey sense, unique to these characters and to our group itself.

I'm glad you brought it up, Sean.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2003, 01:11:13 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

How the Ne forms or fails to form will, I think, make or break the game as a whole. However, it patently cannot simply be an agreement based on mutual gain or even on a shared threat, as such things are always temporary in Le Mon Mouri. It will have to carry artistic power in that weird Gorey sense, unique to these characters and to our group itself.


Is this somehting that needs a mechanic to draw together?

Mike
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sdemory
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« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2003, 06:00:46 PM »

I really don't think that the Ne's something that can be defined through a mechanic per se. Rather, it's something that will come about as the characters become more entangled in each other's lives.

In a very real way, San-Souf "life" centers around seeking out victims of one sort or another or being victimized in one way or another. It's very easy, from what I've seen and been told, for character groups to fall into very unhealthy parasitic relationships. That's as it should be, most likely.
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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2003, 07:17:57 PM »

You know after recently rereading Violence Future, and reading this thread...it might be interesting to come up with some rules for Ne based on the relationship diagram of VF.
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Comte
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« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2003, 07:51:39 PM »

Hullo.

Enough small talk about the Ne.  For Ron's group specificly.  I think that if you are concered about being left out of the Ne because some of the other players are off doing thier own things that you aren't paticularly interested in, then you should launch a couple of traveys against them.  In the last game session you did something that can only be described as an increadbly cool use of power.  So on to the next target.  Your act was in self defense (I think) now it is time to try to bend others to your will.  Your freinds would make an excelent start.  After all you already know who they are and thier weaknesses.  So after they launch a few traveys against you in retaliation, your relations will be so throughly embroiled with one another that you will be a perfectly tight knit ne.  After all Ne was defined as a goup you socialize with.  Who is to say we don't betray the ones we know.  More often than not social orginzations are defined by thier internal politics that anything else.

In case this isn't the way you live your life and you would like some literature to serve as example, I would suggest the comic Gloom Cookie, published by Slave Labor Graphics.  It depicts a delightful range of back stabbing and betrayal localized in one group.  It shows how these people live with sort of petty conflict and sometimes thrive through it.  It is actualy the way I envisioned a San Souf group operating.  Note I don't recomend you buy the comic just read it.  Unless you enjoy the melo-dramatic overly soap operaish additude of the charecters.  Still it makes for an excelent example as to how a social group can be centered around betrayal.

Once this web is set up the GM needs to have a sufficient foundation ready to support this web of trechery.  It also helps that if just the right moment an outside force that is large enough to threaten all of you comes in and messes with your plans.  But yes nothing will bring a group together like a little back stabbing. And no group as a greater fury drive or determination than when some sort of outside force comes in and interupts your back stabbing activies.  

On a diffrent Ne note.  I would like to say that this is a concept that would do better without mechanics.  However, I think that the word Ne needs to be used more in the text of the book.  When you asked aob ut it I was perplexed as well and had to go dig out my copy in order to see what it meant.  A few examples of Nes some sort of refrence saying this is what sort of group the players will fall into whatever.  I dunno if I'm dense but I did not pick up on this untill it was brought up.

Back to small talk.

I think that this weeks post is paticularly wonderful.  It shows a prospective player just how far they can go in setting up thier tarvay.  It jointly sets up a limit as to how far players can go, and it encourages them to test out new limits.  The two examples in the book are excelent, but this one will also serve as a sparkling example of what you "could do" not nessiarly should.  Although it is my fervent hope that someone would be this creative in a tarvey when I eventualy get a play group together for it.  Every time I read one of these the need grows greater.   Looking fowards to next week.
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What one ought to say is: I am not whereever I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am where I do not think to think."
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2003, 10:39:46 AM »

Dang! Run #5: Le Mon Mouri

Two Sundays ago was the first Le Mon Mouri session we'd played without running kill puppies for satan on the same day. It involved quite a bit of sleuthing on the part of the characters Avarice and Bartholemew regarding the murder of a Respire torch singer. I'd decided to "knot" my character into that activity a bit more and so at least managed to bring her up to speed regarding most of the interesting NPCs.

Still, though, for my character, the session centered on that Travay I'd done the previous run. Not to bore you too much with the details - all that mattered was that, to kick the Travay into high gear, I needed to succeed at a Ti-Bon-Ange roll. This roll was prompted by a person interviewing my character; it provided a particular San-Souf with access to one of my character's memories for purposes of Fre recovery. The whole point of the Travay was to poison one of the memories such that it would provide Feb rather than Fre.

Anyway, I failed the Ti-Bon-Ange roll on three dice. Fuck! I begged Julie shamelessly to permit my character another try; she'd paid a terrible price in the previous session to do this (and I'd paid a high price as an author) - it had to happen. Julie was kind and let me try again ... and it failed too. And both times I'd gained a point of Gros-Mal-Ange Feb, meaning that I was up to four.

Well. I never quarrel with the word of God. Sebastienne had failed. She had failed to rule, and was herself ruled. All right then - that route to protagonism (the Medea route) was closed to me. It was now established that she was not that kind of heroine.

Now for a lesson: this is where Narrativism lives or dies. It's not about "knowing your story" in advance and seeing it played out that way - essentially being a mini-illusionist GM regarding one's own character. That's not it at all. It's about fielding the bounces of the ball according to a well-defined creative aesthetic (specifically, an Egri-style Premise). You know how a good Gamist player doesn't piss and cry when the dice don't behave? No - he or she fields the bounce and accepts the new parameters of the next crisis, re-strategizing. A good Narrativist player does the same, but instead of strategy-advantage, the priority is to find meaning anyway. The Premise must find a new shape.

That meaning didn't come to me right away, and that's all right too, especially in a game like Le Mon Mouri in which excessive and sometimes random reactions are perfectly appropriate. Maura's character, Avarice, was going on a Hunt and suggested I join her. Fine. We assaulted two Respire women, killed them graphically and viciously, and then I, in a fit of Gros-Mal-Ange frustration (speaking as a player, actually) turned them into zombie servants with stitched-together mouths ... we even stitched one's left wrist to the other's right wrist too. Oh, and one showed signs of becoming a Sans-Souf, but a six-die Gros-Mal-Ange blast from me fixed that. Right about this time, everyone at the table, Maura and I included, were about as grossed-out as we like to get. If I remember correctly, the ratio of appreciative phrases/chuckles to cries of loathing/nausea was about 1:1.

Mechanics-wise, the Hunt was a disaster; neither Avarice nor Sebastienne harvested any Grangou, and the Travay actually knocked us down even further. I finished the session at Gros-Mal-Ange 6 (and four Feb), Ti-Bon-Ange 1 (and two Feb), and Grangou 0.

And that's when it hit me: Sebastienne realizes that her memories are not memories - they are only reminders. That whatever she constructs of herself, the girl she was (whoever that was) is dead. Well then - good enough. I told the other players that all of her fripperies and pretenses were over, that she was happy to let her Ti-Bon-Ange get blasted into nothingness if she could be remembered. We conducted a Travay that would make her memories "live on" for the other characters if she died (or rather, if her Ti-Bon-Ange went to 0, which means she would dissipate). From this point on, Sebastienne became Death Walking - placing herself in the hands of her friends as a tool for something they cared about beyond themselves, specifically discovering the reasons for the death of the poor Respire woman who'd never hurt anyone.

We ran into some real problems with the system in this session and analyzed all the dice interactions of the game with circles and arrows in a big chart. There's a lot to talk about in that regard, but it's probably going to be a new thread during this week.

Write-up for #6, yesterday's session, coming up in a minute.

Best,
Ron
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