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First time ST for My Life With Master: Advice?

Started by Spiral Jacobs, October 19, 2005, 07:58:54 AM

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Robert Bohl

Definitely the psychology of moving from where they're expecting you is useful.

Also, keep the house cooler than normal :).
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG

Marc Majcher

Hi Paula,

Quote from: Spiral Jacobs on October 19, 2005, 06:51:30 PM
I also wonder what I can do to play the Master more effectively.  I simply am not capable of towering over or physically intimidating my players.  It's not my style, and frankly, it'd be vaguely ridiculous, since I'm a 5' tall woman and my 3 PCs are 6 foot+ tall men.  I'd rather use vocal style and verbal battery to make my point (and I think I'll be good at it, frighteningly enough).  Any tips for doing that in such a way that it won't veer into the comic but also won't be taken too much to heart by the PCs?

A remarkably simple and effective way to play up the authority and intimidation factor for the Master is to use a handful of "high status" physical cues.  Most of these work quite well, regardless of your size or gender, and if you slide into and out of them without making a big deal out of it, you may be surprised at the marked reactions from your players.

  • Be more relaxed and more still than the players, unless challenged. Keep your head motionless when you speak to the players.
  • Hold eye contact for several seconds - never look away and then glance back quickly. Try to blink as little as possible. Practice not blinking beforehand.
  • Pause for a moment or two before reacting to a question or action, or fill the pause with a long, thoughtful sound. (This also gives you the opportunity to take a full lungful of air before talking.)
  • Use complete sentences when speaking.  Make a point of using your servant's name at the end of each sentence/command.
  • Take up lots of space. Sit back comfortably, and spread yourself out.  If moving around when interacting with the players, invade their space. Touch them as if they were your property; touch their heads, faces, or hair (if appropriate).
  • Maintain good posture.  "Model" your shoulders.  If standing, be sure that your toes point outward.
  • Move slowly and fluidly. Keep your arms by your sides. Never touch your face, or fiddle with things (pens, dice, etc).
  • If challenged, crush them without mercy.

If you don't mind "blowing your cover", you may also want to instruct your players to adopt some of the complementary low status affectations when addressing the Master - moving around nervously, taking up as little space as possible, not being able to hold eye contact, touching their face, talking as if short of breath, their sentences broken up by "um"s and "er"s. One advantage to explicitly introducing status play into the game in this manner is the delight that occurs when the inevitable status reversals happen during the endgame - the catharsis referred to in Michael Miller's manifesto should be that much greater when an effective physical element is incorporated.

Hope this helps - I look forward to reading how your session went in Actual Play!

Eero Tuovinen

I've run the game a lot, but interestingly enough I don't do the whole "talking from above" thing, or any other "tricks" (standing on a chair... huh). My Master-work is always completely done with voice, words and slight gestures. Read again what Marc said, those are all things I use (except for instructing players to complement; they'll do it naturally if they roleplay their characters, and otherwise there's no point), and I consider them very important to good Mastery. Actually, I'll add one: if you're going to fiddle with something like a pen, use it to hit things and tap the table, emphasizing your convinction as the Master. And when he uses the stick, hit the player with the pen.

Also, I would actually suggest that you not play a female or effeminate Master without reason. That's a "trick", and thus might backfire. Better to go for a thematically solid Master of whatever gender and play him/her with full seriousness; there's no danger of comedy as long as you take the Master seriously. I've played whiny, weak-willed Masters in drunken stupor talking like Donald Duck and hanging on the lapels of their minions, and the players have been terrified anyway, because we shared the imagined vision of this... creature... running the characters' lives.

So the intimidation doesn't ultimately come from the GM. If it did, playing MLwM would be just base thuggery, cheap thrills out of mistrust between players.

How to prepare for the game: here's what I do when I start a game of MLwM. It might be useful for you, too.
1) Get together with the players to create the Master.
2) Create minions for the Master.
3) Send the players out for pizza or something, to get 15 minutes for yourself.
4) Prepare missions for each character based on the following:
More/less mission: Whichever is the more evocative, use that as the basis. The Master wants the minion to do something that pertains to either one.
Connection mission: The Master sends the minion to deal with a connection in some manner. Doesn't have to be his connection, and it doesn't have to be capture or assassination, as long as it's interesting.
Task mission: Whatever it is that the minion is for, prepare a mission for that.
Sadistic mission: Figure out one or more missions that will be the most horrible possible thing to do to that minion. Could be a mission they do, or mission for some other minion (in which case group it with the missions from the next step)
5) Prepare the following general missions, which can be given to any minion:
Need mission: Whatever the Master needs, the minion will get. Prepare several, if applicable.
Outsiders mission: Whatever the Master's connection to the outsiders, prepare a mission to deal with that.
You won't probably make all of these for all minions, but regardless you will have more than enough missions.
6) When the players come back, start playing. Give out whatever missions seem most interesting, and play the Master and the town to the full extent of how they should act. Everything else comes together on it's own.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Robert Bohl

One thing:  A number of people warned against humor.  I wonder about that.  While the game I played was extremely disturbing, one of the funnest parts was the humor of it.

You probably want to avoid its just being nothing but hahahaha time, but it seems to me that laughter is a part of this game, even if it's semi-nervous laughter.  Catharsis can come from laughter, too.

Now, I don't think people here mean to suggest there should never be any humor at the table, but I didn't want the impression to be left that that was so.
Misspent Youth: Ocean's 11 + Avatar: The Last Airbender + Snow Crash
Oo! Let's Make a Game!: Joshua A.C. Newman and I make a transhumanist RPG