Games I want to run #5 – My Life with Master

My Life with Master: a must-play as far as I’m concerned.

My Life With Master (MLWM) is a horror game about being the minion of an evil genius in a bleak, isolated European village in the 1800’s. You serve Master by (for example) going for bodies, kidnapping beautiful young ladies and quite possibly being killed by the mob in the final act as they head for your master?s home with torches flaming. Gothic atmosphere oozes: Czege?s is a hell of a good writer and he understands the genre: it’s hard to distinguish the attributes of the characters, Master, and locale from an academic-quality examination of gothic tropes.
A game begins with players and GM designing their Master, who has two stats that aren?t really measures of abilities. Fear determines the Master?s grip on the setting, Reason determines how much the folk of the setting are able to escape the Master in their hearts and minds. Masters are further defined with other non-numeric but story-critical attributes.
Players then create their Minions, who have three stats: Self-Loathing and Weariness are bad-but-often-useful things, both of which make it harder to resist the Master’s demands — it’s a bleak world for a Minion. The one ray of hope in a minion?s life is Love. Love measures the relationship between the Minion and Connections with specific townsfolk. The stat begins at zero and increases through roleplayed scenes expressing affection toward the Connections. The more Love you get the more chance you?ll have of disobeying your Master and breaking free. Failed attempts get you the Love, but also increase Self-Loathing.
Minions also have a virtue and a flaw; the things which makes them More than Human and Less than Human. These qualities don’t affect dice rolls — they make them irrelevant; a mute Minion can never make a roll to talk — an inhumanly strong one will always win a fight. However, each quality has an exception; the mute minion may be able to sing beautifully — the inhumanly strong beast be weak in sunlight.
The mechanics of the game are scene-based; a player describes what he wants to do in a given situation (resist his Master?s orders, perform an act against the townsfolk or a fellow Minion, make an overture of love) and a dice contest is rolled, using your various attributes and those affecting the Setting (Fear, Reason). The die result (success or failure in achieving your goal) is then narrated or roleplayed — both success and failure will change your stats.
Note: unless your Love rises, you will the Master’s tool; the game actually finishes when a Master?s command is resisted by someone who has high enough Love.
Why do I want to play it? Well, I like the genre and have great admiration for the game itself. Maybe you have no love for or knowledge of gothic horror but really, MLwM works anywhere there are Masters and Minions: hell, Office Space would work as a setting for this game.
Personally, if I were going to try out on ‘standard’ rpg players (which might be brilliant or a fiasco), I like the idea of running the classic AD&D Ravenloft module with the PCs as Strad’s minions.