Masks: Phoenix Academy – Session 15 – Regroup, Fail, Repeat

Intro Video!

It’s Kaylee’s birthday, and the end of the first week of REAL LIFE high school for our players, so between birthday cake, rehashing school, decompression, and half the team needing an early bedtime for marching band practice the next morning…

… and introducing some totally amazing character art I got commissioned for the girls (art by charcooll on Instagram) …

It was a pretty short session. Thank goodness we’ve had the good play-by-post action going on.

It’s gym class, and S.U.R.G.E. has everyone fighting annoying opponents in 1v1s. It doesn’t go well, but hey: everyone gets potential?

Also: Palacine thinks everything going wrong is her fault.

Hogwarts RPG

Spent the afternoon playing Hogwarts with the kids. Elici Davies (fifth year Hufflepuff), Emma Quinn (1st year Gryffindor), and Will Finnegan (third year Ravenclaw) are ‘siblings’ fostered by the same magic-friendly muggle family.

I asked them for something weird that happens on the train ride (while will studied “A New History of Hogwarts” and ate chocolate frogs and Elici made corrections in her Potions book), and Emma/Zoe told us about the turtle drawing on the cabin wallpaper that animated and started turtling around!

In seconds, dozens of animals were rising up out of the wallpaper all through the train car, causing chaos. Elici went and got the prefects, Emma gathered up animals, and Will took some guesses about what might have caused it; his best guess – a much BIGGER version of a transmutation/animation spell that had rippled out and affected the train.

We have… a mystery!

Masks, Phoenix Academy play-by-posts, Sessions 14.1, 14.2, and 14.3

We’ve had a looooooong stretch where we’ve been unable to play Masks with my daughter’s group. To deal with the withdrawal, I ran solo play-by-post things with each player, both to move some plotlines and, at their request, get some time with their boyfriends. It went really well! (Some players take to PbP better than others, and I’ve never been great at keeping such things up in the long term, but for this, it was pretty awesome.)

Anyway, for the sake of completeness, here’s are links to the three “between” arcs that happened.

Session 15 tonight! I am excited.

Scum and Villainy, Session 13/16, Under the Sea

The crew gets memish.

Scum and Villainy, Session 12/16, Breaking Bad

The crew storms a Wrecker’s stronghold, while the Wreckers watch.

Scum and Villainy, Session 11/16, Lend Me Your Ears

The crew brings much-needed parts to the Wreckers’… wreck.

Working on a Thoughtful Representation of Drug Addiction for Masks

Hello! Things have been a little quiet on the Masks RPG front lately, because the end of summer is bananas for all my players. We haven’t been able to play face to face, but each player is getting a little Play-By-Post action in (which I’ll figure out how to share), and in the meantime I’m also working on some mechanical stuff to deal with some action that came out of our “Silver Masque” homecoming session.

Inspired by a ‘homecoming’ article in the Masks Fan Favorite fanzine, I added a plotline where alien agents of Vanquish (a looming threat in our Outsider’s backstory) were introducing a super-drug called Invictus into the city’s black market.

As a point of reference, here’s the original “when you first consume Invictus” move from The Fan Favorite fanzine.

When you consume Invictus, roll +Freak.

On a hit, describe the first thing you realize you can do with the powers from the drug.

On a 7-9, the GM will lay out how the power has an unexpected complication or danger.
On a miss, the drug doesn’t (seem to) take, but you’re wracked by an uncomfortable sensation. Mark an appropriate condition. [Doyce adds: Give Invictus influence over you.]

(I also add Invictus influence as a possible 7-9 consequence, but only if the “unexpected complication or danger” side effect is ignored by the players and allowed to run its course. Not to be too cold-blooded about it, but from a manufacturer’s point of view, a drug isn’t any use if it isn’t addictive.)

Anyway, a couple of the NPCs and one PC were exposed to the drug. One of the NPCs (a powerless ‘beacon’ character who’s dating the Outsider) got powers that seemed to ‘stick’, permanently.

A couple sessions later, the players discovered that it wasn’t that the powers had become permanent; Colin was still using the drug.

So. That’s now a big plot for the team – getting Colin away from the drug, and tracking down the supplier/source.

Since the PCs are working to get Colin out from under Invictus’s influence, I worked up a more in-depth look at long-term use of the drug.

(Some of this isn’t relevant, since Colin is an NPC, but I’m messing around with the move, just so I have some idea of what’s going on.)

When you’re addicted to Invictus, either physically, psychologically, or both, Invictus has Influence over you.

  • It can use its Influence to shift your labels by making you believe you know how the world works.
  • It can and will use its Influence to Provoke you to rash action.
  • The roll to reject Influence against Invictus is always -Conditions.
  • Per the original Invictus rules, you may have super powers while Invictus has influence over you.
  • To retain those powers, Invictus must be given influence over you at the end of every session, instead of giving influence to someone on your team. If you do so, keep your powers. If Invictus already had influence over you when you do this, Invictus shifts your labels (always Freak up, Mundane down, even and especially if this would give you a condition for shifting something that can’t shift).
  • You never keep your powers if Invictus does not have Influence over you. The rumor that you can is a lie told by Invictus dealers – the powers never ‘stick’. Ever.

You can choose to remove Invictus’s Influence as the result of successfully rejecting its influence, but that influence can (and probably will) come back as the result certain 6- rolls (or even a 7-9, if you ignore the impending threat). The only (mechanical) way to permanently remove the threat of Invictus Influence is using a “permanently remove someone’s influence” playbook advance – assuming that advance is also reflected within the fiction.

Somebody can help you remove Invictus’s influence (again, not permanently – only you can do that), if you are currently free of Conditions. The roll will probably be either +Freak or +Mundane, depending on the fiction, rolling against Unleash Your Powers results. If they successfully help you remove Invictus’s influence, they mark potential, and you gain Influence with them.

  • You can always give Invictus influence over you for a +2 on any roll, including a roll you have just made. If Invictus already has influence over you, it will shift your labels instead (1 up, 1 down), and then give you a condition.
  • You can give Invictus influence to use any other playbook’s move you don’t have, “just this once.” Take a condition.

Certain special moves (Alien tech, Moment of Truth for appropriate powers or if used personally) can also permanently cure Invictus addiction in a target, if curing the addiction was the specific point of using the move.


There were also two other parts of the move that I removed for now:

  • If someone Comforts and Supports you while Invictus has influence over you, on a 6-, Invictus may now have influence over them. (You can roll to Defend them from this.)
  • If someone get s 6- while using their powers/influence to remove Invictus’s influence, the consequences might extend Invictus’s influence to them.)

I tabled these two parts of the move for now, because they’re deprotagonizing and maybe problematic. I think we’ll talk about this and if the Invictus plot gets “big”, we can talk about the drug mutating and these two threats evolving into the move. I’m not doing it if everyone isn’t on board with that threat.


And that’s where we are right now. Palacine is about to dive into the challenge of getting Colin clear of Invictus.

Scum and Villainy, Session 10/16, Mine, Mine, MINE!

Getting the salvage is a lot easier than getting away with it.

Scum and Villainy, Session 9/16, Ghost Ship

The Wreckers’ have a salvage job for the crew, if they can get their first…

Scum and Villainy, Session 8/16, Down Times, Fast Times

The crew relaxes after a crazy job.

Scum and Villainy, Session 7/16, Escape the Station

The crew gets away from the StarSmith’s darkspace station, and are not eaten by a giant Way creature. Bonus!

Scum and Villainy, Session 06/16, You Spin Me Right Round

We finally get the first real mission after the opening campaign kicker… a little heist in dark space.

Scum and Villainy, Session 05/16, A Dinner Among the Stars

Going twice-a-week on the Scum and Villainy actual play podcasts to get through a game that, ultimately, was not a good match for the group in general and me in particular.

The crew finishes up downtime and decompresses at Alor’s bar.

Scum and Villainy, Session 04/16, Bugs Mister Rico

We delve into our first Downtime, and the ship picks up some hitchhikers.

More on the Adventures of the Smartwoods

The kids and I played the aforementioned Bikes and Books game a couple times over the weekend and Monday night, getting the Smartwood kids ever closer to figuring out how and why the Assistant Principle is trying to change the town’s history to make an entirely different list of people the heroes of Fayville’s illustrious past.

Mar, the eldest, took particular umbrage at the last history-changing ritual, which seems to have replaced recognition of the towns many great women with “Men of Industry”, during the middle of a town parade. She even thought she’d managed to stop the man from affecting his diabolical plan, but although she immobilized him with some magic of her own, the magic still went off, albeit with lessened effect.

Something is going on that the kids just don’t understand. Someone else was in the Assistant Principle’s house the night Ken snuck in and found the room behind the giant clock in the house’s cupola tower – someone with a limp and cane… neither of which the AP has.

They need answers, and the only way to get them is sneaking back into that house.

This time, together.

Scum and Villainy, Session 03, Rising Action

The crew escapes the confines of Warren’s gravity well… and the attentions of the 51st Legion.

Then, finally, Kei tells everyone what she thinks the Ur artifact from the case… MIGHT be.

Calling on the Hivemind

Anyone have good suggestions for phone / app friendly play by post platforms or tools?

The Masks game I play with my daughter and two of her friends hit a real high note with the most recent session, but it looks like we won’t be able to get back to the table until almost mid-August. Need something for asynchronous one-on-one play with a generation that associates “email” with “homework.”

Also, they’re going to be on the road a lot, so something that requires a PC for best experience is not recommended.

The Smartwood Children (a Lasers and Feelings hack for my kids)

This weekend has been chock-a-block with face to face gaming goodness with cool kids.

Friday was the 14th session of Masks: Phoenix Academy game with Kaylee and the Jamies and, I think, possibly one of the best sessions so far. (Which is good, because we’re not going to be able to play again until something like mid-August. :sadface: )

Sunday morning had a return to the The Hollow-inspired game for Sean and Zoe and Kaylee (Ryu and Grace and Angel). Things are starting to come apart, and Mr. Weirdo came to them to ask for help(?!?)

And Sunday evening, we tried something new: a Hilda-inspired weird-little-town, with Sean and Zoe and Kaylee playing siblings who are all part of the family who traditionally deal with ‘weird stuff’ in the world. Mom and Dad handle the BIG weird stuff out in the world, because “the town kind of takes care of itself” – without realizing that it’s actually their KIDS who take care of the town.

Back in the old country, their family were the Swartwoods. Grandpa changed his name when he came here, though, so say hello the Smartwoods: Mar (Marzipan), Ken (Kennelworth), and Zo (Zoology) Smartwood.

It’s basically a little bit Hilda (netflix), a little bit Courtney Crumrin, a little bit Goonies, set in the sort of town where this sort of thing happens and everyone sort of knows it, played with a Lasers and Feelings hack I made up called Bikes and Books.

The characters and game came together well and, after supper, we got ready for bed and played some more in lieu of bedtime stories. The Smartwood kids ran into a little trouble with the town deputies when Ken broke into the new Assistant Principle’s house to poke around, and they haven’t figured out why the town history seems to be … changing … but things are moving RIGHT along.

Good, good stuff.

Masks, Phoenix Academy, Session 14 – “Personally, I Vote for Monotone Screaming”

Intro Video!

brahmaThe team has a LOT of stuff going on. A LOT. So much happens, you guys.

It’s one of those sessions where the most common roll is Take a Powerful Blow.

Scum and Villainy, Session 02, Alley Oops

The crew heads back to the Fast Buck to get the hell off Warren.

Monster runs into an old friend with a shiny new gun.

Drifter has a cool little urbot.

Kei is, if nothing else, better at lying to soldiers than Han.

Scum and Villainy, Session 01, “Five Smugglers Walk Into a Bar…”

We get our Scum and Villainy game rolling… with a dead body.

Masks, Phoenix Academy, Session 13 – Fifty-five Minutes

The team plays super-powered musical chairs. Amazingly, no one dies.

Many chairs were harmed in the filming of this episode.

Scum and Villainy, Session 00, Actual play

We work out the crew and characters for our new Scum and Villainy game.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 63, Lo! There Shall Come an Ending!, part 2

Conclusion to the Menagerie RPG. Part 2.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 63, Lo! There Shall Come an Ending!, part 1

Conclusion to the Menagerie RPG. Part 1.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Phoenix Academy, Session 12 – Meet the Parents

The team members each have a sort-of date… to meet their boyfriends’ parents.

Oh, and it seem like Vanquish is sneaking secret soldiers onto the planet or something. Whatever.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 62 – They Who Would Destroy Us

Down and out in the Magic Kingdom.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Phoenix Academy, Session 11 – Whoop Whoop, Whoopity Whoop

The team gets ready for homecoming, deals with adults being adults, faces off against Ember’s mom and, FINALLY, make it to the dance.

Masks, Phoenix Academy, Session 10 – Midterms Meltdown

The team deals with midterm drama.