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"My Life With Master" demo at GenCon

Started by Tim C Koppang, July 28, 2003, 08:38:24 PM

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Tim C Koppang

I only personally demoed one game at the Forge booth at GenCon, and it was the very hush hush release: My Life With Master.*  Kudos to Paul for flagging me down as I wandered in front of the indie booth a second time.  As I haven't finished reading through the rules, I won't comment on the actual book quite yet.

The demo was great.  It was myself and three others, including Paul as the GM.  I have to say, even with pre-generated characters we all seemed to latch on to the henchman concept fairly well.  I was playing as the sort of hotel manager to my boss' evil island of devilish experiments.  Master was a whack job who had himself convinced that he needed to raise enough money to free his mother from wherever she was being held (I don't remember).  And he was attempting to accomplish this feat by selling snake extracts as exotic medicines to his "customers" (more like prisoners).

The great thing about his demo though was the opening scenes.  Paul cut to each of the players in turn and told us what sort of horrible thing the Master was ordering us to do.  From there we had to decide whether or not to resist the Master's request or just go ahead with the deed.  Some of us resisted; some of us did not.  Master told me to go burn down the ferry.  I said "sure."  Ok, so my character wasn't the most moral of henchman.  What can I say?

My only complaint was that that demo left me wanting more.  Each player got about two scenes to himself, which was a perfect demo length and enough to get the general idea across.  By the time the forty minutes was up, we had managed to kill one patient, nearly burn down part of Master's base (I dropped the torch on the way to burn down the ferry), and feed poisonous snake skulls to albino children.  Any game that can induce that much mayhem in such a short amount of time is just plain fun.

I will say one thing in particular about the mechanics before signing off.  I find it very interesting that Paul set up two opposing forces for each character, represented mechanically by stats.  On one hand you have the Master's influence over a character and on the other you have the townspeople.  So the Master is usually in opposition to the opinion of the townspeople.  I assume that the Master is the evil force most of the time and the villagers are supposed to be the voice of morality.  This is just wild in my opinion.  We all know how "reasonable" the villagers are in Frankenstein for instance.  They're just a big unruly mob.  I love this twist though.  As a henchman you have two influences to look up to and neither of them is perfect in any way.  Hehe.

Anyway, it was a blast.

*On the other hand I did manage to get some of my gaming buddies to try out TRoS.


From my blog entry on MLWM:

"Essentially the game is about abusive relationships -- it's a great big fantasy projection about abusive relationships, and it's about the abused one overcoming the power of the abuser, and destroying them and their power to cause fear.  And this only becomes possible when one establishes footholds in a "reality" outside the abusive family circle -- relationships with healthy people -- despite the fact that those relationships are a threat to the abuser, who does his or her best to terminate them."

From the point of view of this interpretation of MLWM (not that I'm saying it's "correct" but it sure seems compelling to me), the Master/Townsfolk relationship makes a lot of sense.

Tim C Koppang

The Master/Townsfolk relationship makes a ton of sense.  I have nothing but praise for its inclusion.  And yet I still can't help but look closer at what the townsfolk represent.  You wrote, "this only becomes possible when one establishes footholds in a "reality" outside the abusive family circle -- relationships with healthy people."  Meaning that in order to overcome the abuser, you have to have some sort of outside perspective.  The townsfolk provide that perspective.  They are supposed to be the healthy outsiders.  But at the same time, and this is where I get a big grin on my face, I as the player know just what a bunch of whack jobs the townsfolk can be... think violent mobs and reactionaries.  It's like the characters can't escape from all the loons running around in the game world.  Maybe my view on the townsfolk is outside the scope of the game, but still I think it's great that the influence opposing the Master is characterized in some way--aka by the townsfolk.  It's just a great bit of detail.

Ron Edwards

Hi everyone,

My first post back from GenCon! Lots more coming today.

Tim, I'm thinking that there are townsfolk and there are townsfolk. The first ones are pervaded by and, in a messed-up way, completely connected with the Master via the medium of Fear. Their actions, even though they are reactive to and hostile to the Master, are still "Master-type" actions. These are the pitchfork-wielders and the hysterical mobs.

The second ones are the people who would live happy, simple, and fulfilled lives if only all that Fear wasn't around. That's "Reason" in the game, which as a term might lend itself to a slight error in association. I always like to point out that we're talking about 1805, in thematic terms, not 1905. In the earlier-century terms (Romanticism), Human, Reason, Innocence, and Nature are all considered to be one single thing, and it's a good thing. These are the people who can see a Minion as a human being.

The core issue is that the Master's claim to "Reason," in terms of science or what-have-you, is badly flawed - as Paul has pointed out to me, the Master is an artist, who, as Paul puts it, "guts it out" to make creative or analytical decisions. The Master never uses the scientific method or practices critical thinking.

With this in mind, the Reason of the townsfolk is best understood as the sweetness, humility, and willingness to understand that would be the typical human condition if the Master's overwhelming hubris and willingness to harm were not present.

Perhaps a little cloying, but that's J.-J. Rousseau for you ...