Not too long ago a friend of mine, L, had mentioned that a couple of people she knew were interested in playing a story-game using the hangout feature of Google+. While a bit weary of online gaming, I have been curious to see how the hangout holds up. In the past I have used Skype and Google Chat with limited success. With the exception of an audio malfunction which caused one of the players to sound rather robotic, the hangout feature seemed to work pretty well for our set-up session.

Regarding the Google+ Hangout

Something I didn’t like:

The system automatically switches focus to the person who is talking. This is a really neat feature, except for when it picks up feedback as “the person talking” and switches to the wrong person. I also thought it was odd that L and I (sharing a webcam) were speaking, our picture didn’t show on our side as the focal picture. It stayed focused on the last person to talk. This wasn’t a major annoyance, and perhaps is only spawned by my own narcissism, but if I have the stage in a hangout, I would like to know that I have the stage.

Something I did like:

I love that Hangout integrates multiple cameras into the same chat. Skype had attempted a similar feature, but with my former gaming group it was a pain to use and tended to crash once we added the third camera. The hangout feature handled all three cameras well (there were a few glitches here and there, most likely because the G+ is still in the process of getting itself up and running), but for the most part the video was streaming clearly and the audio (save for poor D’s robot voice, a fault most likely of his microphone) worked quite well.

Now, on to the gaming

My Life with Master is an independent RPG by Paul Czege, put out by Half Meme Press. The premise of the game is rather simple. You have a Master (the GM, essentially), the Minions (your PCs), and the Village. The Master has a Want and a Need- something which they desire from the Village, but must be given willingly, and something that they must have in order to survive. The Need is to be collected by the minions. Minions are both partially inhuman and partially human. There is to be a constant struggle between their inhuman side (that which is obliged to do the Master’s bidding) and their human side (that which still allows them to function within society).

Given our choices for the Master (a bestial version, a physical terror, verses an intellectual version, a mind-fucking sociopath), we were more interested in exploring a psychological aspect and as such chose to have a highly intellectual Master. In choosing the Master’s style, we flirted with a couple of ideas, drawing inspiration from the White Court vampires in Dresden Files, Rainbow the Clown from Powerpuff Girls, and the I, Zombie comic from Vertigo. We settled on the Feeder type of Master. His info is as follows:


Boris Von Schnae (Will be utilized by IW, group facilitator/GM)

Fear: 4

Reason: 3 (or 4)

Boris is an anthropology professor at the local university. He is an incredibly intelligent, yet detached individual. Subjected to emotional trauma as a child, he slowly killed the emotional portion of his humanity, leaving himself a stoic and rigid man. He watches society from afar and is intrigued by their irrationality and passion. Though he hates intense emotions and the damage they caused him in his previous life, he longs to be accepted by the community around him. To satiate his need for emotions, he has set up an office for “case studies”. While “on the couch”, the individual’s emotions are drained from their bodies and absorbed by Boris. In the process, he gains memories and attributed from his victims, increasingly become more unstable.

Minions

Side note: There is a divergence of ideas when it comes to the creation of minions (or, characters generally). Some people prefer to brainstorm about their characters beforehand, prepare themselves for the session, and settle into a mindset. This can be great, and in a traditional setting can greatly enhance the “method acting” portion of game play. In more independent story-game styles, it can occur that in creation, the character ideas change drastically, meaning that all of the work done beforehand was for naught. My personal style is very improv-centric and in-the-moment, meaning that I rarely come to a game with much more than the basic tools needed and my own imagination. We saw both styles last night and they seemed to mesh relatively well. L had written up a brief overview of a character that she was interested in before coming to the game an ended up using her ideas to create her minion. The rest of us came up with our ideas on the spot. Both worked out very well (and to be honest, I think we have a pretty solid group of characters to work with).

Minions in this game are pretty simplistic. They have two stats and two traits. The stats are “Self-Loathing” and “Weariness”. These help or hinder in the interactions with the Master and interactions with the townsfolk. The traits are “More Than Human” and “Less than Human”. These traits give a spot of flavor to the characters, outlining any inhuman abilities and flaws, with modifiers. Examples are given in the playbook, and you’ll understand more when you read ours below. Minions also have two connections each to the town. These connections can be unaware of the minion’s presence, or their admiration can be unrequited. Our characters are as follows:

PUCE (L’s character)

Self-Loathing: 1

Weariness: 3

More than Human: Telepathic, but only with women

Less than Human: Cannot directly interact with townsfolk, except in complete darkness

Connection 1: Puce’s teenage daughter still lives in the town. She believes both parents are deceased.

Connection 2: Puce is enamored with a woman in the town, whom unbeknownst to Puce had engaged in an affair with Puce’s husband.

The victim of a horrible car accident, Puce was once a normal woman with an idyllic life. Married with children, her life drastically changed when she was rescued from the crash. Mutilated and facing death, Puce was reconstructed using pieces of her now-deceased husband. Not quite female and not quite male, Puce has become an interest of Boris, as he seeks to learn how the male and female aspects of Puce’s makeup interact with each other.

Sergi (D’s character)

Self-Loathing: 3

Weariness: 0

More than Human: Incredibly strong, except when sober.

Less than Human: Insufferable to others, unless imbibing Absinthe.

Connection 1: Little boy in town.

Connection 2: Lutheran Priest.

I didn’t catch much more information about Sergi- I’ll update this shortly!

Akita (Ally’s character)

Self-Loathing: 2

Weariness: 1

More than Human: Undeniably manipulative, unless interacting with children.

Less than Human: Cannot understand common language unless it is written.

Connection 1: The beekeeper in town reminds her of her brother. She watches him from a distance.

Connection 2: Akita wants to be converted by the Lutheran priest, but he sees her a foreign mongrel.

Akita was an anthropological/sociological case study, treated quite poorly by those at the university. Boris took her under his wing, the only other individual for more hundreds of miles who is even aware of her language.

So far, it looks like we have a good jumping point for game play. I’m interested in seeing how some of these interactions work out. For my own character, I intend on using the “Chat” function in the hangout for note-passing and such as a result of Akita’s inability to speak German. We’re all looking forward to exploring the characters and the village (which I’m assuming we will flush out more through play).


Feel free to offer insight, input, critiques, and ask questions!

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