Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 47 – #grounded4lyfe, part 2

Jordan got a doggo.

Concord returns from the future, and talks to his family. Radiance shows up at the house and is invited in to visit.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 47 – #grounded4lyfe, part 1

Jordan got a doggo.

Concord returns from the future, and talks to his family. Radiance shows up at the house and is invited in to visit.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 46 – Don’t Crush the Chips!

Members of the Menagerie, and some of their older analogues, exchange personal moments, confessions, and triumphs.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Looking Back at a Remarkably RPG-heavy Week

I’ve been lucky enough to have a regular gaming group for Some Time Now (thanks, #Roll20 !) – I don’t have the hard numbers, but I think we’re averaging ~48-50 game sessions a year in the main Monday night group.

The weekend just past was a bit of a jackpot.

On Friday night, I ran Session 0 chargen for a game of Apocalypse World, using the Baker’s new “Burned Over” playbooks, for a ‘fey revenge’ apocalypse that sees humanity clinging to survival in the ruins of rust-filled cities where the fey can’t easily reach. The notable bit with this game is it’s with three people I haven’t gotten to play RPGs with in ~five years. (That this group also includes my wife speaks volumes about how rough co-scheduling can be, sometimes.) Kate, Kim, and Amanda are playing a Vigilant, Brain-picker, and Medic, respectively, leaving me to come up with a real bastard of a settlement leader and (maybe) set up some patriarchy-smashing revenge fantasy. I have some more meandering thoughts on how excited I am to be playing with this group of strong women, but I’m still unpacking that. More to come.

Saturday night was the fifth actual play-session of the #Masks game with my daughter and her two friends from school – the only game being played face-to-face. This game fills me with joy, because the girls are so utterly into the game and, while they certainly have some level of self-awareness about the tropes involved, are totally invested and have exactly ZERO CHILL when it comes to the events of the sessions. We’re all learning a lot, and there are some real growth opportunities, though not always smiles and glitter (my daughter, for example, paused play for few minutes to talk about how her frustration with trying to play a fun-loving, joke-y character when her instincts is to “get super tense and judgmental of people when they don’t do what I expect, which… blame my mother, pretty much.”

Sil is judging you. Or jealous you've got a date.

On Saturday, the girls showed up to play WEARING THEIR CHARACTERS’ NON-COSTUME CLOTHING. They cosplayed as their guys, people. My cup runneth over.

And, of course, there’s my regular Monday Roll20 group, who (while still continuing to write fiction and comics NON-STOP about their Masks characters), are now four sessions into a game of the forged-in-the-dark game Scum and Villainy. The crew of the Fast Buck are trying to lay low while they figure out what to do with the insanely valuable/powerful Ur Artifact they’ve accidentally acquired, while the players (and GM) slowly feel our way through a new game system. A good system, to be sure, but ‘fiddly’ feeling to us, after well over a year of playing a game with which we’d become very very comfortable. (Kaylee, who listens in on the Monday group while doing homework, opines: “each session feels like about… half a comic issue.” And she’s not wrong – we’re going pretty slow right now, probably due to me trying to get the rules ‘right’, and asking lots of background questions.)

SO: for the first time probably since before my oldest daughter was born, that’s THREE gaming sessions in a week, all with a completely different group of players (save me). Really fantastic.

#actualplay #rpg #fitd #masks #pbta

Actual Play: MasksEG, Session 5 – Snaking My Way Downtown

The team is in Belize. Ember melts Belize. Palacine snakes one of her palace guards out of a crater. Silhouette bleeds to protect the team. Repeatedly. Also she’s really bad at comfort & support.

Apocalypse World, Ironwall – Session 00

Kim, Kate, Amanda, and I get together to build an Apocalypse

We’re using the new Burned Over playbooks that Vincent’s releasing for “PG13 Apocalypse World.

(I don’t care about the rating, I DO care that the moves and playbooks feel more elegant and match much better what I’m looking for out of our relationship with the Maelstrom.)

All the other players are new to pbta-games. I’m new to AW itself.

Three women, playing three women, and no one picked the Lawgiver/Hardholder, so Imma put a real asshole in charge of the settlement and see if we can’t get a little Patriarchy Smashing Revenge Fantasy going…

I’m excited.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 45 – Doctor Infinity is a Purple

The Sepia Squad’s final showdown with Dr. Infinity.

Doctor Infinity’s starfish-robot questions Charade about Charlotte Palmer by sending itself through her timeline. Charade deflects attention onto Hecate and the HHL. Mercury rescues her from the object’s subsequent attack. While Link escapes with an older Jason Quill, Concord faces off against an older Sablestar, and manages to gain the upper hand. He siphons away her special sword, sending her fleeing. Ghost Girl and Jaycee extract the older Charlotte from Pandemonium. Together with an assembled army of ghosts, they wield forces that draw Infinity’s attention, but close the wound.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 44 – No One Beats up Jason Like Jason, part 2

Charlotte faces the I of the Storm.

Charade is disarming traps around the Wound site. She confronts Doctor Infinity, whose tech is involved in the traps and who intends to send her back to her home time. Charade manages to spring some of the traps on the android. Ghost Girl, Mercury, and Jaysee confront Pandemonium. Charlotte conjures a talisman – a comb with an image of her mother – to attempt to gain control. Mercury attempts to save JC, but the pair have to go back to rescue Charlotte as well, and the storm strikes, leaving JC to parry it. Concord and Link quickly double-team Facet and Sablestar, leaving Jason Quill behind. Leo tears through Jason’s nano-armor, stunning and mentally dominating him with a backup of his teenage mind stored in the Heart Factory.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 44 – No One Beats up Jason Like Jason, part 1

Charlotte faces the I of the Storm.

Charade is disarming traps around the Wound site. She confronts Doctor Infinity, whose tech is involved in the traps and who intends to send her back to her home time. Charade manages to spring some of the traps on the android. Ghost Girl, Mercury, and Jaysee confront Pandemonium. Charlotte conjures a talisman – a comb with an image of her mother – to attempt to gain control. Mercury attempts to save JC, but the pair have to go back to rescue Charlotte as well, and the storm strikes, leaving JC to parry it. Concord and Link quickly double-team Facet and Sablestar, leaving Jason Quill behind. Leo tears through Jason’s nano-armor, stunning and mentally dominating him with a backup of his teenage mind stored in the Heart Factory.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 43 – Our Enemies Revealed, part 2

A shade more difficult than we expected.

Ghost Girl, Charade, Mercury, and Jaycee enter the future Sepiaverse. Charlotte confronts her future self, revealed to be Pandemonium. Concord and Link launch to confront Jason Quill, along with a future Facet and Sablestar.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks EG, Actual Play – Session 4 – Skip Day

Everyone deals with some aftermath from Alias’s attack on the P.E. class. Some handle it better than others.

Ember talks with her brother, gets frustrated, takes an unauthorized skip-day with her chem-lab partner, who has… real chemistry.

Silhouette and her mentor are not getting on. With anyone, or each other.

Palacine is making friends with AEGIS, who thinks she’s just swell, and has a request for her…

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 43 – Our Enemies Revealed, part 1

A shade more difficult than we expected.

Ghost Girl, Charade, Mercury, and Jaycee enter the future Sepiaverse. Charlotte confronts her future self, revealed to be Pandemonium. Concord and Link launch to confront Jason Quill, along with a future Facet and Sablestar.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 42 – I’m Just Wild About Harrys, part 2

Things get a bit two Harry.

Mercury frees his future self, “FTM” (Future Timeline Mercury) from a confinement trap at the Gale estate. FTM returns to the Bot’s home base. The team discuss a plan for closing the rift between worlds, centered on Ghost Girl and Jaycee. Aside from them, Mercury and Charade will go to the Sepiaverse, leaving Link and Concord on this side to confront the future Jason Quill. Charade builds a machine to effect the transference.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 42 – I’m Just Wild About Harrys, part 1

Things get a bit two Harry.

Mercury frees his future self, “FTM” (Future Timeline Mercury) from a confinement trap at the Gale estate. FTM returns to the Bot’s home base. The team discuss a plan for closing the rift between worlds, centered on Ghost Girl and Jaycee. Aside from them, Mercury and Charade will go to the Sepiaverse, leaving Link and Concord on this side to confront the future Jason Quill. Charade builds a machine to effect the transference.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 41 – We’re in the Future, Let’s Split the Party!

This session is missing player-audio throughout. You can still pretty much figure out what’s going on. In summary…

Ghost Girl and Concord make contact with Jaycee, now a Grail Knight. Charade assembles a dossier on future events: Rook and Jason Quill are in alliance, They are using a rift, centered on a Rook factory, to manipulate probability in their favor, Sablestar is active. The team discusses their options and next steps. Consensus is that the factory should be destroyed, the rift closed, and Jason confronted. Link confronts the Bot and persuades him to make contact with Pneuma again. Mercury returns to his family home and encounters a figure in stasis, guarded by sentries.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks EG, Session 3 – Why I Hate Gym Class (or: The Secret of Jack-toast)

The team deals with the most horrible of school challenges – a Tuesday morning after a bad Monday.

Ember’s mom hates all supers, Palacine is being asked to explain human behavior, and Silhouette may have just told Jack Monday she’s copying his breakfast preferences.

Oh, and Alias tries to kill them during gym class or something. Whatever.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session Session 40 – Days of Future CRAP, part 2

The team learns that the mysterious “Bot” is a future Leo Snow. This Leo lost Pneuma to Rosa Rook and was depowered by a future Jason Quill, who now allies with Rook. Other members of the Menagerie, such as Concord and Mercury, are now unaccounted for. Our Mercury goes to find his future self. Ghost Girl discovers that Rook has turned the “wound energy” from Sepiaverse portals into an ubiquitous energy source.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 40 – Days of Future CRAP, part 1

The team learns that the mysterious “Bot” is a future Leo Snow. This Leo lost Pneuma to Rosa Rook and was depowered by a future Jason Quill, who now allies with Rook. Other members of the Menagerie, such as Concord and Mercury, are now unaccounted for. Our Mercury goes to find his future self. Ghost Girl discovers that Rook has turned the “wound energy” from Sepiaverse portals into an ubiquitous energy source.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 39 – Halycyon Beyond, part 2

A few days pass after the hospital attack. The team persuades AEGIS to release Vector. The Menagerie (including Aria, Otto, and the Phoenix) escorts Vector through a time gate to the future, to interview The Bot.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 39 – Halycyon Beyond, part 1

A few days pass after the hospital attack. The team persuades AEGIS to release Vector. The Menagerie (including Aria, Otto, and the Phoenix) escorts Vector through a time gate to the future, to interview The Bot.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks EG, Session 2 – The Non-Frolick

The team deals with teacher-pressure, social pressure, and a team-building exercise that goes sideways.

Everyone – especially Sil – had a rough time this session (except for Ember’s dice which were… hot), but they soldiered through, we had a good talk frustrating stuff, doubled down on the good stuff, and got a really nice reveal at the end that had everyone feeling a LOT better about everything, and SUPER excited about next session.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 38 – In the House of Flying Accusations, part 2

The three Universal Concordance agents open a hole in the hospital wall. Concord leads the charge. Ghost Girl and Mercury protect the hospital and its inhabitants, while Charade and Link counter-attack. The agents beg off, and trade recrimination with the Menagerie. Charade has been injured and will get treatment.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 38 – In the House of Flying Accusations, part 1

The three Universal Concordance agents open a hole in the hospital wall. Concord leads the charge. Ghost Girl and Mercury protect the hospital and its inhabitants, while Charade and Link counter-attack. The agents beg off, and trade recrimination with the Menagerie. Charade has been injured and will get treatment.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 37 – In the Mind of Madness, part 2

Concord escorts Link and Mercury into the mind of Silver Streak to help him recover. Things go badly, during which time Concord calls Ghost Girl, who brings Charade along with her. The team reaches Streak and returns him safely to consciousness. Agents of the Universal Concordance appear at the hospital as they re-emerge.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Girl Underground meets the TARDIS?

There’s a game in development called Girl Underground, which focuses on a central Girl (in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Mirrormask, Spirited Away, etc) having an adventure in a weird secret world, with her companions.

Only The Girl has stats. No one plays the girl. Everyone plays wondrous companions. You roll with The Girl’s stats.

There’s a write up of a playtest AP over here.

I can’t help but think there’s marvelous Doctor Who reskin potential for this.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 37 – In the Mind of Madness, part 1

Concord escorts Link and Mercury into the mind of Silver Streak to help him recover. Things go badly, during which time Concord calls Ghost Girl, who brings Charade along with her. The team reaches Streak and returns him safely to consciousness. Agents of the Universal Concordance appear at the hospital as they re-emerge.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks EG, Actual Play, Session 01 – Comicbook Clickbait

Our first session with Kaylee and her friends as Silhouette, Ember, and Palacine. The team fights Voltaic, recovers in the Phoenix Academy infirmary, and finds their new base.

My favorite bits:
* Ember rising up above the crowd and denying their Influence, blasting Voltaic and revoking Influence from the whole Phoenix Academy student body.
* The choices everyone made when they took powerful blows.
* The nest of team moves and Comfort/Supports in the school infirmary.
* Kaylee’s face when she figured out what the key from her Mentor was probably for.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 36, part 3 – Mother and Child

Concord learns that there are additional Concordance agents active. He, Link, and Mercury get Tempest’s permission (with difficulty) and re-enter Silver Streak’s mind to bring him back. Ghost Girl seeks out Charade for more information on her inter-dimensional travel tech, hoping it will be helpful in closing the breaches to the Sepiaverse.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 36, part 2 – Mother and Child

Concord learns that there are additional Concordance agents active. He, Link, and Mercury get Tempest’s permission (with difficulty) and re-enter Silver Streak’s mind to bring him back. Ghost Girl seeks out Charade for more information on her inter-dimensional travel tech, hoping it will be helpful in closing the breaches to the Sepiaverse.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Thoughts After a Year+ of running Masks

Last night, our Monday-night gaming group wrapped up our Menagerie campaign of Masks, with the 63rd game session. (The podcast is time-shifted quite a bit – it won’t reach the end of the game until early June of 2019.)

It’s been a great run; one of my all-time favorite games, not least because we ended the thing properly, instead of simply fading out. We had pretty strong story arcs for most of the main characters (the game is, ultimately, reflective – you get out what you put in).

Most of THAT goodness can be laid squarely at the feet of the players, but I also want to recognize how much great stuff the Masks game system contributed – always pushing us toward challenging scenes and sincerely delivering the teen-super-hero drama it promises. A lot of the great stuff that came out of the game simply would not have happened without the system pushing us (me) toward tough choices and hard GM moves. I’ve said many times how much PBTA games remind me of running Amber DRPG back in the day, but the fact is, while Amber encouraged unconstrained creativity, it never pushed me out of my comfort zone – encouraged me to reach further and dig deeper, and do it all inside constraints – the way PBTA does. It’s exactly the kind of game system I need.

That’s not to say everything came off perfectly. When things go SO well, so much of the time, the moments when things don’t work or aren’t satisfying are glaring and… disappointing, for me and certainly for the involved players. Sometimes that meant a player that didn’t feel they had agency; sometimes it meant that I banged my head repeatedly on an impenetrable wall of player agency – there were more than a few times I mentally threw my hands in the air and just shifted my attention to areas I felt I’d get some input. (I don’t think this is a system issue, FWIW, unless it’s me failing to fully grok the system.)

HOWEVER, and I really mean this, those are MINOR nitpicks in the grand scheme – less than 0.3% of play – and in all cases came from a place of deep player investment in the setting and the characters. It’s HARD (and kind of dumb) for a GM to complain about THAT. 🙂

Still one of the best games I’ve played, if not THE best. It was never going to be everything to everyone, all the time, but it came pretty damn close.

A few numbers to go with my rambling.

  • 63 Masks sessions, over the course of barely more than 65 weeks, so… a bit more 16 months of play, which brings my total(s) with this group up to JUST over 100 game sessions in the last two and a half years. (30ish with Star Wars, using 3 different systems; 6 of Dungeon World, and then Masks.)
  • The sessions were each about two and half hours long, so if you want to convert that to, say, ‘classic’ 4-hour tabletop sessions, it’s ~40 sessions, which still puts it in the top three for total campaign hours run, for me.
    • Unlike the other two games in the top 3 total-hours-GMd, I would ABSOLUTELY run this game again, and in fact am currently starting up a face to face game for Kaylee and her friends.
  • We saw “paragon of the city” retiring for two of the original five characters (the Doomed (who came within 3 or four tics of their Doom before resolving it) and Bull), and two more were entirely ready (mechanically) to take that same route near the end of the game, and simply didn’t because we only had a few sessions left.
  • In my estimation, all the original five characters had pretty solid personal arcs. The ‘replacement’ characters for the retirees didn’t, quite, but that was mostly because I was focusing on the arcs for the non-retired. Those characters still certainly grew, albeit via a lot of PbP-style forum posting.

I love our group, but divorced from THAT, I’d say that five players is juuuuust about one too many (for me, at least) to give everyone a consistent share of the spotlight every session. I started using a kind of ‘buddy system’ near the end of the game, and that helped, but it came awfully late. Put that on the limitations of the GM, if you like, but I’m still not sure sure 3-4 players isn’t the sweet spot for the game. YMMV.

There’s a TON of other thoughts I have about running the game itself, but they’re the kinds of observations that can’t easily be listed out – it’s more about organic observations about particular playbooks or moves.

Use Take a Powerful Blow more; have adults shift labels more. There. Those are the easy ones.

What’s Next?

We’ll meet next week to narrow down choices, get things set up during the holidays, and kick off 2019 with a brand new game. Not sure what, but I’m looking forward to it.

Or I will be – right now I’m kind of going through “good book hangover,” and feeling a nice happy-sad.