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My Life With Master at GenCon

Started by ejh, July 28, 2003, 04:35:01 PM

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In this blog entry I discuss the pickup game of My Life With Master I played with a few friends, the evening after I bought it and demoed it.

In some ways it was an extremely wussy game, because wanting a shorter game, and reading p. 17, I placed Reason at 4 and Fear at only 3.  This meant that nobody ever failed a roll to make an overture to a connection, which was kind of too bad (IMHO).  I don't think I'd want to run a game with such a high Reason to Fear ratio unless I came into it specifically intending it to be pretty low-key, which I didn't here.

But that barely marred the game; it just made things seem too easy to the players sometime.  they still had a great time.  Early on in the game we decided to move the setting from Eastern Europe to England, and then further north to Scotland, at which point someone said "Let's make it on Loch Ness!"  of course, when all was said and done, the Master, the Mad Fishmonger, ended up chased to the pier by the angry Drifter and a horde of townsfolk, where the Fish-Boy rode the Loch Ness Monster (summoned up by the Aged Fisherman) to the pier, like Paul Atreides on a sandworm, and had it bite the Master in two.

Because of the high Love ratings engendered by the high Reason to Fear ratio every minion had a happy ending.

One thing that really worked well for me was the very scripted orchestration of scenes: "You get a GM scene, then you, then you, then you get an overture scene, then you, then you, then you get a GM scene, then you, then you..."

I wasn't terribly creative as a GM; I basically just kept having the Master order them to do nasty things -- when possible, to each other's Connections. Looked at in retrospect, it might seem a bit repetitive, but it didn't at the time; it was enough to keep everybody involved, intense, and a bit angry.

I really liked it, and I"m gonna see if I can get more people to try it.  Thanks Paul!


I was there -- I second Ed's note that it was a heck of a lot of fun.  As players we were less frustrated with the Reason/Fear scores as he was, naturally.  Clearly, the way to go for a shorter game would have been to keep the scores lowish but at the very least have Fear equal to Reason, and to have us start with a couple of Love points each.  As the rules suggest.  

I picked up a copy the next morning and read through it last night.  The rules are a quick, good, and enjoyable read.  A couple things jumped out:

1. There was a moment when Phil's character, the vagrant, accosted my character, the old fisherman, and the blind woman he was overturing at that moment.  (The Master had ordered Phil's guy to kill the woman, of course).  My guy used his "speak with animals of the ocean" ability to call up crabs and lobsters to impede the attacker.

I kind of thought I should get a bonus in the ensuing conflict, but Ed ruled that calling-forth-the-crabs was simply my method of resisting, garnered me no particular bonus.  (I got lucky and won anyway.)

In retrospect, and after reading the rules, it seems like 1) 'speak with animals of the ocean' is a wee bit too broad, maybe, for a "More Than Human" trait.  The 'exception' here is that it's not all animals, but that doensn't really fit the spirit of exceptions in the other examples.  If I was GMing the same situation now I'd insist upon "speak with animals of the ocean" as the ability along with an additional exception -- not of types of animals, but of circumstances when the ability didn't work at all.  It also seems like 2) because I was invoking my More Than Human ability, success should have been -automatic-, as the rules suggest.  (Don't have my copy with me, so I can't cite page # just now.)

2. Ed jumped from character to character with scenes, and alternated between his choice (usually the Master giving one of us a command) and player choice.  This varies from the rules, which are vaguer.  They say that the players can request a scene in order to make an overture, but there's no guidelines (unless I missed them) for how often this can happen.  Also, Ed let us frame our own overture scenes, whereas the rules say that a player can ask for a scene but not frame it -- the only place where players are explicitly given that power is in the endgame.

I think I prefer the notion of the GM framing the overture scenes, though of course she can be as open as she desires to player suggestions.  The game stats are part of what made gettin' Love so easy for us, but our ability to frame the scenes exactly as we wanted (for me, in ways that didn't mess with my Less than Human trait) also played a role.

Ed's way of alternating player-requested and GM-foisted scenes worked pretty well, though it made it unclear how to work in-between scenes, like roleplaying the aftermath of a failed villainy.  The rules, of course, provide no guidelines for alternating scenes, and only mention that on each player's turn they're entitled to ask for an overture scene.  It'd be nice to have few more guidelines about how often to let players have overture scenes in the rules.

Ooo, Ed, another thing you did wrong -- er, I mean, differently from the printed rules. :)  Only one of the three emotional dice is supposed to be used in any given role, so it's possible for the players to try to trump intimacy with desperation and desperation with sincerity.  Since the players always get the opportunity for that final trump, doing it this way gives them a significant advantage compared to the free-for-all way we were doing it, but in a game with difficult Fear and Reason scores, I can see how that advantage would be necessary.

All in all, it was rousing good fun.  I don't know if my local bevy of gamers are innovative (read: twisted) enough to play along with me on this one, but I'm definitely going to give it a try.


Nate -- thanks for enumerating my mistakes in public. :)

I didn't get a chance to read all the way through the rules before playing; I believe I only got through page 48 or so, and I haven't had a chance to *re-read* the rules since then either, so I'll take your word for all the deviations till I get to read up.

More interesting than the things I missed are the "fake" rules I somehow inferred into existence based on a hasty reading though!  Wild.

By the way, you *were* automatically successful in talking to the crabs.  That doesn't mean that anything you attempt to accomplish by means of talking to crabs is automatically successful though!  (That's a rules inference on *your* part, buddy.)

Quote from: Master Czege
It is automatically successful, and impressive, outside of the except/unless condition.

I don't think I ever had your attempts to communicate with sea creatures fail, there was only ever a question about further goals you tried to accomplish *by means of* that communication, and I sure don't see anything in the rules about *that* being automatically successful.

Not to mention that I let you get away with extending "communicate" into "summon and call on for aid on very short notice"!  If I were you, disfigured-fisher-boy, I'd count my blessings! ;)

Paul Czege

Hey guys...two quick comments:

1. I was totally blown away by my conversation with Nate, as he was buying the game, when he said that you all had played the previous evening! Ed, you get my official "Madman of GenCon 2003 Award" for that.

2. And you have no idea how gratified I am to see how cleanly you've worked through your "speak with animals of the ocean" issue on this thread. More than Humans are entirely social contract objects. I almost jumped on here yesterday to explain how I would have handled the issue, but now I'm glad I resisted. Interpreting the scope of a More/Less becomes problematic when folks can't get beyond task specifics. In my experience, the problem goes away with the realization that More/Less thans define the character at the social contract level, establishing thematic significance and implying nuances of conflict, rather than circumscribing effectiveness. The trick is that someone who didn't participate in your Master/character creation session is going to have trouble consulting on how a specific More/Less than should be interpreted, because the interpretation depends on how the character was established to game participants via social process. At best, an outsider could only suggest how he may have understood the More/Less to be defining of the character had he been there.

Anyway, it's so totally great to see you guys demonstrate understanding the More/Less thans the same way I do. I was sure people would, but I can't say I wasn't a little bit worried.

Thanks so much...

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


Well, hopefully I'll have another "Actual Play" post tomorrow night; I've got four guys at work who are willing to give a lunch hour to this thing tomorrow. :)

Wish me luck!