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Tabletop Game / My Life with Master

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My Life With Master is a role-playing game of "villainy, self-loathing, and unrequited love" where players take on the roles of The Igors serving under a Mad Scientist or some other kind of evil Master, the latter played by the Game Master but collectively created by the group. The goal of the game is for one of the minions to gather enough courage and to defy the Master in an attempt to kill them, thus freeing the world from their tyranny.

Created by Paul Czege of Half Meme Press, MLWM is one of the standout 2000-2010 indie RPGs, alongside Sorcerer (2001), Dogs in the Vineyard, and Apocalypse World, due to its value as marriage counseling for codependent polycules.

The game provides examples of following tropes:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Not in every game, but game ends generally tend toward this. Depending on the final stats of the game world and the individual characters, the PCs might flee the town, be killed, be Driven to Suicide (possibly of a Taking You with Me nature), be accepted by the townsfolk, or even develop into a new Master.
  • Blessed with Suck and Cursed with Awesome: All henchmen have "More Than Human" and "Less Than Human" qualities which give them awesome powers at the expense of being, well, human.
  • Evil Overlord/Mad Scientist: Many Masters.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: For the Masters, anyway. Endgame starts when someone successfully resists an order from the Master.
  • From Bad to Worse: If a character acquires too much Self-Loathing through doing the Master's work, things get worse for the community through a "Horror Revealed," and if it gets too bad ...well, the Torches and Pitchforks start coming out.
  • GMPC: The Master is always one of these, although s/he is created jointly by the players.
  • Gothic Horror: The entire game is predicated upon this genre, with the master and their henchmen representing the darkest recesses of Romanticism.
  • The Igor: This game places you in this role for an evil master.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: There's one Innocent NPC per game whose presence helps the PCs keep their humanity.
  • Love Redeems: The main game mechanic. The only chance the PCs have to win is to form bonds (even if they are one-sided) with the townsfolk that give them strength to defy the Master.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The premise of the game is to make The Igor and The Renfield the stars of their stories.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Usually what gets the henchmen to rebel against the Master.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: A vampire Master may be in it for the feeding or the breeding.
  • The Power of Love: The whole point of the game is for henchmen to redeem themselves by connecting with the townsfolk.
  • The Renfield: Many characters.
  • Role-Playing Endgame: The game has one of the best-known Campaign Endgame rules, which says that as soon as any one of the playable minions successfully defies the Master's orders, they must attack and kill the Master, ending the campaign. Since it usually takes a bit of time, other players have time to get in on the action or simply to hash up their stats, which determine their character's ultimate fates in the epilogue, which occurs as soon as the Master perishes.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: This dichotomy is explicitly hard-coded into the game system. The master represents the dark side of Romanticism, while the townsfolk represent Enlightenment, and their respective influences on the environment are denoted with the Fear and Reason stats. The minions are caught smack in the middle, and thus have individual stats to represent both, namely Self-Loathing and Love, which stack with the corresponding "global" stats for the purpose of defying the Master's orders.
  • Überwald: The default assumption of the setting.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: All henchmen have a condition which impedes the use of their "More Than Human" quality, which can possibly be this. Inverted for "Less Than Human", which can be ignored if the requirement is fulfilled. It isn't unusual to have the same condition for both.