I heard that there was an interest in Actual Play reports and discussion here, but no one to lead the way, so I’ll contribute one. It’s a really unique and unusual design, and our game is worth documenting. Here we go:
My Life with Master: the Treadwell Mine
Tonight, we wrapped a pretty long-playing game/campaign of My Life with Master.
It was an unusual setting for this game (to the point where I wondered if we’d get in trouble with it!): a sprawling sort of mini-epic set in Gold Rush-era Yukon, freezing, rushing river, gold mine, Native magic, and alchemy.
It was beautiful and tragic.
If you’re a sensitive soul, I’d advice you not to read too much further: there was some gruesome business in between the moments of beauty and heart.
Our characters were:
-> A brute of an enforcer and a former bounty hunter (though with a heart of gold under it all), a giant, terrifying man named Bush Lavender, working for the Master because he was fleeing from some debt collectors, and the Master promised to pay his debts.
Early in the story, Bush, carried away by his inhuman rage, maimed a young boy named Toko (more on him later), inadvertently giving the Master the key to his alchemy shortly before the end… you see, it turned out that the tears of a parent afraid for his child’s life were the missing ingredient for true alchemy. The Master figured out the secret just before the mine and his reign came to an end, when Toko came to him, looking for his father. The Master got a brief moment of glee - his plans coming together at last! - before everything came crashing down.
Bush had one eye mangled by Darren (see below), and ended up sawing off his own hand to spare the woman he loved (as well as the man she loved). Though he helped bring down the Master with his incredible gun-skills, he couldn’t save himself. He ended his life by stabbing himself in his remaining eye with a shard of a mirror (his character was based around a motif of rage and gaze : he couldn’t lock eyes with someone without being filled with rage). A powerful ending! He escaped those debt collectors after all, but only by locking eyes with himself.
-> A sad, tortured young man, who had been left with a strange power by the Master’s experiments, by the name of Galilee. He could smell gold, but only if it was honest gold (once the gold was stolen or otherwise tainted, he could no longer smell it). He was the Master’s gold-sniffer, a sort of a melancholy hybrid of Gollum and Edward Scissorhands.
In a memorable scene towards the end of the game, he survived a beating by taking off his shirt and showing the myriad scars covering his pale body to the mob of Townspeople out for his blood.
He managed, just barely, to make the final shot to destroy the Master, in the end, blowing off half of his jaw (he was aiming for the head, but the gun wobbled so much in his unsteady, frightened hands).
Galilee rescued Dante: Dante was the Master’s nephew, hiding in the Town under a pseudonym in hopes of “living the life of freedom”. He made a weird and destructive drug called ‘slidgesynthe’ from the mine’s toxic tailings; then he got Dwight, the foreman, first hooked on them and, eventually, killed (strangled by Bush while handcuffed to a dinner table). Dante ended up as a horrific burn victim when Bush set the old tenements aflame.
Dante and Galilee left the Town to make a life together, but couldn’t recover from their trauma. Galilee was eventually driven mad by the smell of gold and spent the rest of his life in an asylum.
-> Darren, the mine’s foreman, survived a horrific accident due to the Master’s graces. The Master rebuilt his damaged parts to turn him into a sort of an alchemical clockwork cyborg. Strong, twisted, and conflicted, Darren spent much of his time trying to coach Dwight (his replacement) and looking out for Iris, a young girl whose family life wasn’t all peachy (Iris’s dad, Steve Fitzpatrick, was an abusive asshole who regularly beat her sickly mother).
Darren ended up helping to save the life of a young Haida (Native American) boy named Toko, by turning half his face into beautiful gold and platinum (a mystic alchemical ritual Darren performed with his father, Blackheart, rescued him, turning Blackheart’s tears into true precious metals).
When the Haida were thrown out of the Town, Blackheart snuck into the mine with a pack of dynamite, as well as a severed deer’s head (to curse the remains of the mine forever, in case the dynamite didn’t do the trick). Darren stopped him, nearly severing Blackheart’s hand, and delivered him to the Master.
The Master sabotaged Darren’s clockwork mechanism, removing some of it to weaken Darren and to build a bomb into Blackheart’s body. From now on their fates would be intertwined: if Darren wasn’t around to rewind the bomb every four hours, Blackheart would explode.
Darren was the one to turn the tide and the first to rebel against the master, eventually, even though he was disabled by a pain-device the Master had cooked up to control him, biting through the Master’s Achilles tendon with his metal jaw.
In the end, Darren and Blackheart survived the explosion of the mine only by combining their bodies and clockwork, surviving as two souls inhabiting a single body. This was an especially satisfying image, since it was foreshadowed by Toko’s “vision quest” earlier in the game, where, torn between his human nature and his new half-metal identity, he saw Darren and Blackheart as a single, combined “father figure”.
In the end, Darren/Blackheart - Toko’s true father - lived out the rest of his days in Treadwell, watching Iris and Toko kindle a childhood romance as they played in the rubble of the Treadwell Mine.
Haida healing turned out to hold the secret to curing Iris’s mother’s sickness, where the colonists could not.
I was the Master. It was out first time playing My Life with Master. We occasionally struggled a little with the mechanics, but we managed something quite special in the end. (There was some great gunplay, as well as a weird subplot about a replacement metal head as a “gift” for Darren from the Master. Bush had some great moments, like turning his back on Blackheart after handing him his pistol - a great overture! - and I’ve omitted so much from this little capsule summary.)