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Author Topic: [MLwM] At Seven Bells - Setup  (Read 2788 times)

Posts: 284

« on: December 06, 2003, 04:07:15 AM »

So tonight all the ingredients for the My Life With Master game discussed in this thread have come together - the game book arrived last week, the core players were mostly all in one place and conscious, and we sat down to do Master and Minion creation.  Due to a late start in the evening, we weren't going to be able to do more than creation and a rules overview.

Overall, things went about as I'd expected; a little resistance as the ideas were slow to come, at first, and then a shift into discussion when things started to click.  I was mostly happy with the level of evenness of the discussion, though I think one player (Myrna Dean) is going to need a little bit of support to properly enjoy the game - I noticed her making little "I'm really creeped out" hand motions by the time we hit minion creation, and helped a little by encouraging a little more black humour than creepiness in her minion pair.

The minion pairs idea, and motif, was picked up with some enthusiasm; I had six players participating (another two and a possible occasional were unable to make it or had zonked out before we began), and of them, four actively chose to play half of a duo, and the others were not at all averse to the idea but simply ended up coming up with solo concepts.

What we ended up was this:

The Master(s) - Seven Gentlemen
In keeping with the idea of pairing up minions, I suggested that either the Master should be alone but searching for a twin/companion/equal, or that the Master could in fact also be multiple, preferably in such a way that he/they were largely indistinguishable.  This sparked something in a couple of my players, who suggested something straight out of a Buffy episode, one (apparently) memorable episode in which seven strange gentlemen show up in a town, silence everyone's voices so they cannot scream, and collect seven hearts.

Those who had seen it liked the idea of a direct play on this; those who hadn't (including me) thought it was a neat core idea and that we might as well steal it.

So, the Master is actually seven Masters.  The Minions cannot tell them apart, though in time I expect they'll learn to distinguish somewhat (one of the reasons I like the multiplex Master is that it permits interMaster conflict, making up for lost ground elsewhere).  These Masters may have names but they're not known to the minions; only one of them will generally be interacting with any minion or group of minions at a time.  I'm deliberately encouraging inconsistency in the use of plural or singular to refer to the Master.  I want the lines to blur.

The Master is a tall, soft-spoken, and genteel man - Brain/Collector for sure.  Apparently (we're watching the episode in question before the first session as a group) they float, which I'm good with, but otherwise our version appears perfectly normal.  I'm anticipating a lot of false sincerity and unnerving smiles.

The Masters' Needs are for alchemical/ritual components, not all of them physical.  Specifically, they have an alchemical lab somewhere upstairs, inside which the "glassware" is all in fact organic - envision hearts pumping liquids through veins and kidneys to distill a compound, stands made of bone, that sort of thing.  And in this lab they work with not only fluids and compounds, but also less material things, such as the sound of someone's voice.  They're all directly taken from Townspeople.  A total of seven hearts is necessary to make the apparatus work properly and fulfill the Masters' Wants, and not just any seven hearts - the minions are going to be inspecting and/or searching to find victims matching very specific characteristics, to get this done.  We're also intending to do the "take everyone's voice away" (well, all the Townspeople) early in play, as part of the same alchemy/ritual operation - the inspiring episode is apparently all about continuing to communicate, and I think we could do worse than to play with that concept some more.

Because the players were all in consensus, the Want and Outsider are a bit unusual and off-type; the Masters are in their own turn servants of a powerful demon Uber-Master, working to call Him back into the world.  I intend to play up the insecurity and need for approval by having the "stolen voices" give voice to the Uber-Master (which in this case serves as the Outsider(s)) so that it can interact with Master and minions.  The demon's Wants and Needs are outside the scope of the story; the last Seven Gentlemen seem to have failed badly, and this lot Want to make good that mistake and get back on His good (?) side.

For the Demesne, we've chosen a decrepit cathedral, located amid slums and low-class housing in what is technically a small part of a large city.  This "town" is sealed off by a river and other natural borders from the remainder of the city, and I stressed how important this division is to us and how we would distinguish heavily on the thematic level between "town" and the "outside city."  One player had a strong vision of this as exactly Victorian, and the others agreed, so (since all Victorian English settings, regardless of the fine detail or realism breaches, must go here) we're playing in Victorian London.

We set Fear at five, because the sevenfold image was resonating powerfully with us all, and Reason at three, for a superstitious and ignorant lower-class populace of our slums.  (Reason in the outside city is presumed to be six or more, as a reference point only as it'll never see use.)

The Minions

"What I've seen / could make the sainted lose their faith, /
And what I've done myself / could make me turn and walk away /
From who I was / and had intended to become in this / life of mine / oh, yeah /
I've seen the lies of the lover, / and the scars of the leaver, /
And it's that fear and desperation / turns the faithless to believer, /
And though I lied and lied and lied, / I'd not intended to deceive her / again..."
- Wyrd Sisters, "Back Into Your Arms"

Doktor Karol, The Vivisectionist (Mike Roy)
Self-Loathing 1, Weariness 2, Love 0
More Than: Can perform any surgery, transplant, or medical operation, unless it would leave the subject free of "improvements" of his own.
Less Than: Cannot touch skin without drawing blood, unless it is scarred.

The Doktor is a solemn Polish man, quite serious, in dark coat and dark gloves, with scalpel blades emerging from every fingertip.  He extracts the items the Masters require, from the victims brought back.  The survivors, grimly altered and grotesque, are 'stored' by the Wight siblings or roam the catacombs (can you say Horror Revealed fodder?).

Connections include the apothecary's beautiful daughter, and a grizzled and scarred old soldier missing (at least) one leg; Mike's still working on names.

Ariakus, The Vulture (Gorra Jax)
Self-Loathing 3, Weariness 0, Love 0
More Than: Can watch all the slums from the steeple and swoop swiftly down to any spot seen, except that if the church bell rings (while perching or swooping) he falls.
Less Than: His reptilian skin horrifies townspeople, except when disguised under an enveloping hood (his lower face is his only human-skinned feature).

Ariakus is a 'creation' of the Doktor's, an attempt at some kind of dragon or something.  His skin is scaled and repulsive, and two leathery wings lie against his back.  His only human feature is his face from cheekbones down, which means that under a hood, he can pass for a human wearing a mask.  He preserves some faith in God and is very disgusted at what he has become.  I foresee conflict with Herr Doktor.

Connections include Brother Elias Kay, the solitary monk whose task is to keep the ruined cathedral and who hasn't figured out what's going on, and the blacksmith's apprentice, Charles Black, who has seen his true face once without fleeing.

Liberty Wight and Hope Wight, the Gaoler and the Gravedigger (Raven Brown and Jim West, resp.)
Self-Loathing 3, Weariness 0, Love 0
[Liberty] More Than: People are unable to escape his keeping, except if there is light.
[Liberty] Less Than: He is an albino and his spectral appearance terrifies, except by moonlight.
[Hope] More Than: Can find anything that is underground, except when accompanied by anyone else (Liberty not included).
[Hope] Less Than: Cannot speak to anyone unless he is unseen (presumably a turning-inward of his sibling's flaw; Liberty again not included).

Liberty and Hope are albino twins, corpse-pale and thin.  One is in theory male, and one female, but the players have decided not to decide yet which is which; they're pretty much androgynous to the eye.  Liberty is the gaoler (that's jailer to you Americans) for the Master's prizes as yet living, while Hope is responsible for putting the dead or should-be-dead results away where they won't bother anyone.

Connections (for the pairs I asked for three) include John Baker, a baker, whose early morning hours leave him a more apt target to approach than most; Mary, a homeless street urchin; and Master Snod, the undertaker of the region.  I'm not sure what sort of relationship they're thinking of with the latter, but I think it'll be interesting.

Mister Smith and Mister Smythe, the Sniffer and the Snatcher (James Brown and Myrna Dean)
Self-Loathing 2, Weariness 1, Love 0
[Smith] More Than:  Preternaturally socially adept, except when on his own business.
[Smith] Less Than:  Weak as a kitten, except in a just cause.
[Smythe] More Than:  Can sneak up on anyone, except if they are talking to someone ("Um... who's that behind you?").
[Smythe] Less Than:  Cannot understand someone's emotions or body language, unless he's grasping them.

Mister Smith is a tiny man, nigh a child, in a frock coat significantly too long for him.  Mister Smythe is a giant of a man with long, thin arms, in a frock coat much too small for him (it ends at the elbow, for example) - a coat which is in fact exactly the same size as Mister Smith's.  They are the Masters' seekers in town, and will (in theory) have primary responsibility for locating and abducting the people whose hearts will meet the specified requirements.  Much discussion of "spiralling self-loathing" ensues.  Smith seems to be curiously honorable - James says that he would be a private eye in another life.  Smythe I'm not sure of; I think Myrna needs to solidify her grasp on him.

Connections include Mr. Sullivan, bartender of Sullivan's Place, and their 'confessor of the pint;' Constable O'Reilly, the bobby whose beat includes the relevant area and whose respect Smith would do a great deal for; and Mrs. Potts, keeper of a boarding-house (I'm not sure if they're planning to live there or not, but I'm open to it in this setup).

I've got two more players yet to add and perhaps a third, hopefully before next Friday so that I don't have to pause for character creation before launching the game proper.  Not much else to say at this juncture, save to reiterate how pleased the players seem to be with the idea of playing two characters who fulfill a single character's place in the script and are never seen apart.  For compactness and thematics, I'm hoping to get one more pair-minion out of the two full-time players; I think that would be ideal.

Comprehension of the rules and concepts is excellent overall, though there was an (unavoidable?) sticking-time at the beginning where nobody really had any thoughts on Masters, and then again before any real Minion concepts came out.  I had to suggest some probable minions such a master would need, and start watching for the body language which said that players were interested in one.  Partly a consequence of trying to think up not just one but two linked characters, I suspect.

I did notice, and comment on, a strong bias toward social Less Thans... players in my group seemed to find it easy to envision their monstrosities themselves as crippling enough.  There were more of them than the above before we discussed it; as it is, I'm still not entirely happy with Ariakus' and Liberty's (esp. as being too similar to one another), but I'm willing to run with it.  Anybody else run into this issue?

- Eric
Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2341

« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2003, 10:28:01 AM »

Hey Eric,

At this point all I can say is that I think you've handled the whole thing perfectly. You're in uncharted territory with the game, but it's not via fiat. You've built a whole group investment in the endeavor. Consider how readily the social foundation you've formed is going to aid resolving issues. The Master is the product of collaborative work. The minions are creepy and interesting. It doesn't matter, for instance, that you haven't determined whether the Masters will all die in one Endgame scene, or whether they'll die one by one over the course of play with Endgame being the death of the final one, because you're completely positioned to resolve as a group any such issues that will arise. Honestly, I can't imagine a better position you could be in.

I'm very much looking forward to reading about your actual play.


p.s. Have you seen Dead Ringers?

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

Posts: 284

« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2003, 12:41:39 PM »

Thank you - that's high praise.

Just to follow up, it looks like only one of my remaining three prospective players is actually going to manifest, and she put together a minion last night so that we can begin play tonight without pausing for it.

"Algernon," Real Name TBD, The Spy (Stef Maxwell)
Self-Loathing 0, Weariness 3, Love 0
More Than: No one ever suspects that he is anything other than a harmless idiot, except over a meal (as he neither eats nor drinks).
Less Than: Cannot resist a command from anyone (including the Masters or anyone else), except if he can find a loophole or literal interpretation which permits it.

Algernon is a "mole" for the Masters, working from within the town populace unseen.  He is verrry clever, yes he is Master, but he pretends to be nothing more than a brawny, slightly retarded, harmless laborer from the coal heaps.  He spies on the townsfolk and uses his position to direct events.  "They're coming!  Quick, this way, down that small dark alley over there!"

Connections:  A co-worker from the slag mounds, who truly is an idiot, the kind of fundamentally gentle, kind idiot who it would take a sociopath to harm... and the blacksmith's daughter, who is both beautiful and smart, whose admiration Algernon would give a lot for.  He plans to court her by anonymous letters showing his cleverness, at least at first.  Names TBD.

And looks like that's the lot.  Not bad; had I known my group would be this size, I might not have brought up pair-minions, but I think they'll be a valuable addition to the game anyway.

- Eric

PS: No, I haven't... (Reads review).  Hmm.  Maybe.  It's actually closer to another project I have on the go - an attempt to character-swap in a LARP with a friend who looks much like me.  Interesting - thanks.
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