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.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 36, part 1 – 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 35, part 3 – The Wrathful Rampage of Rossum!

The Menagerie assaults the Two Rivers Nuclear Plant, where the Rossum clone is holed up. Charade angers (but startles) Rosa Rook by analyzing the situation and locating the plant. Inside, Mercury saves the lives of some tied up guards, at some cost to himself (as some booby traps go off). Charade and Mercury go deeper into the plant to locate Rossum, while Concord and Link work in their own ways to whittle down the robot count and protect the plant, respectively. Link arrives on scene. Together with Charade and Mercury, they make a team effort to extract Rossum 2. Outside, Concord destroys the oncoming robots.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks EG – Session 00 AP Recording

In which our players create their heroes.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a great recording – we were in a very active coffee/game shop throughout, and I basically only recorded it so I’d have something to refer back to later, but if you’re interested, here it is.

Masks EG, Session 00

Pretty much since the beginning of this school year, Kaylee has been assembling a short list classmate/friends who have some RPG experience, or interest in same. However, nothing was really happening with that until the last month or two, when she and I hit on the idea of doing a game of Masks.

Right away, this presented some interesting challenges.

As someone who typically finds myself in the GM chair, I found my hands tied when it came to orgainizing the game – I only had contact information for one player (my daughter), and in any case I wasn’t about to start texting random thirteen year olds I’d never met, setting up get-togethers at local coffee shops – that’s a hell of a good way to get angry parental phone calls (and with good reason).

(One of my regular players in the Monday night game said I should just explain to parents that it involves Dungeons and Masks, and everything would be fine. Hmm…)

So it fell to Kaylee to gauge interest, get commitment, explain the game at some basic levels, and organize the first session.

In all these things, she was a STAR. The only help I threw in was, late in the process, sending over a link to a set of basic slides with high-level intros to the playbooks, and I honestly didn’t know if that would even be of use.

When things started to shape up, we ended up with four interested players, all aged ~13, in eigth grade:

  1. My daughter Kaylee, who has quite a lot of experience with different games, from Fate Accelerated to Risus to DnD5e to multiple flavors of PBTA, including Masks (though she’s listened in on far more sessions of Masks than she’s played.) Her superhero genre exposure is by far the deepest of the group.
  2. JC1, who has played in a couple DnD games with her Dad, brother, and a couple friends of the family. She and her family are quite familiar with MCU and DCU movies, but beyond that there isn’t much superhero genre knowledge.
  3. JC2, who has (with her brother) convinced her (non-gaming) dad to run DnD modules for them. (Go supportive dad!) Like JC1, she’s seen most of the MCU movies, and that’s about all the superhero stuff she knows.
  4. G1, who has no gaming experience, but thought it sounded pretty cool. No idea about genre exposure at this point.

Of the kids, only JC2 voiced much character preference ahead of time, but they voiced it loud and clear: Fire powers, driven by emotion. (Kaylee predicted a Nova playbook, or possibly The Star.)

Kaylee was, until about a week before, holding back on any character concepts – taking what I think of as a kind of ‘veteran player’ stance of “I’ll wait until everyone else decides what they’re doing.”

I pointed out that while that might work with a group of players with more genre and/or gaming experience, THIS group might benefit from demonstration – more specifically, I told her I was hoping to start off character generation with her, so her friends could see what was coming.

I also pointed out that picking a character who was a little more experienced as a superhero might be a good idea, because she could then bring her knowledge of the game and setting into play.

This proved to be all the constraint she needed to take off like a rocket, and she filled the next few days with discussions of background and history.

All I had to do was prepare to run a game for table of 13 year old girls, so… new experiences all around!

The Big Day

Kaylee was basically vibrating with anticipation by the time Sunday rolled around, and to be honest I was looking forward to it as well, but before we headed out to our local game/coffee shop rendezvous, I cautioned her that the Rules of Gaming Schedules would prevail, and she should be prepared for people to be late or, come to that, simply not show up. I didn’t want to kill her excitement, but better ahead of time than in the middle of the game. I’m a stoic; sue me.

Sundays at Enchanted Grounds are busy, but I was able to reserve a table for the morning, and we got set up before JC1 showed up. We already knew JC2 was going to be a late, due to a sibling birthday, so we loaded up on caffeine and got rolling.

Kaylee had already settled on her playbook, and it turned out JC1 had as well, thanks to the slides I had put together. (I was pleasantly surprised and glad making the thing hadn’t been a waste of time.)

So, with playbooks in hand, the two started working on their sheets.

Kaylee went with…

THE PROTÉGÉ.

HERO NAME: Silhouette
REAL NAME: Casey Quinn (Casey is actually K.C., for Kendall Charity, which she hates)

Look
* Caucasian, female, lean body, casual clothes
* Very simple costume consisting of combat boots, black cargo pants with some ballistic cloth lining, a sort of long-sleeved black compression mock turtleneck(same lining), and a tight, featureless black cowl.

Abilities
You are someone’s protégé. Your powers somewhat mimic theirs, but each of you is in some way unique.

  • SHARED ABILITY: Detective skills
  • YOUR OWN ABILITY: Impossible fighting skills (hyper senses)
  • YOUR MENTOR’S ABILITY: telepathy/telekinesis

Mentor
Sil’s mentor is Vigil, who’s somewhere between Oracle and The Question for one of the city’s premiere adult superhero teams.

She does not do sidekicks.

Vigil EMBODIES Superior logic, and DENIES Mundane concerns.

Backstory
Casey wasn’t born blind. Her mother died shortly after she was born, due to complications with the birth itself. Her father tried, but being a single parent was overwhelming; at some point in her early childhood, there was a bad car accident. Maybe he dozed off, maybe he was drinking. Casey tries not to think about it.

The accident blinded her, and that added complication to their lives proved too much for Casey’s dad, who abandoned her to child services and a series of orphanages and foster homes.

Things were… not good, but somehow Casey’s positive (albeit sarcastic), bounce-back attitude kept her going.

Then her hypersenses started developing. THAT was fun.

In a way, she was lucky – if she’d had to deal with vision on TOP of all the other sensory overload, she’d have probably gone crazy. As it was… she had a rough couple months.

(Casey could find a silver lining around a tornado.)

She’d never really been very good at people coddling her for her blindness, but now that she could somewhat function with her other heightened senses (the flipside being she had to be careful not to be overwhelmed by too much input), she decided to get away from the foster system. Since she had superpowers… she figured she’d head for Halcyon City.

It didn’t take long for her to get into some trouble.

  • How did you first meet your mentor?
    • Casey interrupted two street-level drug dealers beating up a third kid – a kid she knew from the local homeless shelter. Casey managed to beat the two thugs (they underestmated the wise-cracking blind girl, luckily), but never noticed the woman watching from the rooftops over the alley.

      Vigil kept an eye on Casey for the next few weeks, until Casey noticed her (hypersenses, you know), at which point, Vigil vanished for a few weeks.

      When she returned, it was with a stack of critiques of everything from Quinn’s tactics and decision making, to her (non-existent) hand to hand technique.

      Making the arrrangement official took longer, but eventually they wore each other down.
  • When and why did you choose to train with them?
    • Well, she’s a genius. She’s a great teacher. She… also gave me a place to sleep, which is awesome. And she got me into Phoenix Academy as a freshmen, which is fantastic. And I get to be a superhero.

      And I’m not alone.
  • Why did they agree to train you?
    • Because I’m awesome? SHE says it’s because I had tiny bit of potential and I was going to get myself killed without some training, but whatever – it’s because I’m awesome.
  • Who else, outside of the team, knows about your training?
    • My best friend, Maria Manuel – the biggest superhero trivia nerd who has ever lived.
  • Why do you care about the team?
    • Because they never coddle me or think I need to be specially protected becuase I can’t see.

Finally, Kaylee picked out her ProtĂ©gĂ© moves, with an eye toward that ‘veteran’/leadership role she hoped to play.

  • Been reading the files: When you first encounter an important superpowered phenomenon (your call), roll + Superior. On a hit, tell the team one important detail you’ve learned from your studies. The GM will tell you what, if anything, seems different from what you remember.
  • Captain: When you enter battle as a team, add an extra Team to the pool and carry +1 forward if you are the leader.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings: When you Assess the Situation before entering into a fight, you may ask one additional question, even on a miss.

Her mentor is also supposed to provide some resources to her and the team, but she decided to wait on that until she knew what was most needed. (I’m guessing a hidden base is on the list.)

Also, she drew up her character, which is awesome.


JC1 patiently let me run her through all the playbooks, and then selected…

The Outsider

… which is what she’d wanted in the first place.

HERO NAME: Palacene (both heroic and her ‘home’ name)
REAL NAME: Peggy J (She doesn’t really get how names work, yet)

Look

  • female human body (at least most of the time), metallic eyes, mismatched clothing (earth fashions are HARD), and a practical costume (which might just be her, shapeshifting something that looks like her idea of a costume)

Abilities
She can fly, and she’s pretty tough, also:

  • radical shapeshifting
  • telepathy and mind blasts

Both the shapeshifting and telepathy are native abilities of her people.

Backstory

  • Where do you come from?
    • Lucidia – a colorful planet with 3 suns and many moons. It’s got a LOT of ocean, and is heavily affected by varying gravitational forces, so the inhabitants of the world have learned to be very… adaptable and fluid.
  • Why did you come to Earth?
    • She fled or was sent away from her homeworld when it was invaded by Vanquish (a sort of intergalactic warlord, in the vein of Ronan from Gaurdians of the Galaxy). Her homeworld is peaceful, so resistance has been very slow.
  • Why do you want to stay here (for now at least)?
    • It’s safer here. More peaceful.
  • Why do your people want you to come home?
    • I’m the princess, and the resistance needs a leader.
  • Why do you care about the team?
    • My family tree is EXTENSIVE, so I really miss having a close support network.

Kaylee and JC1 were both mostly done with their characters by the time JC2 showed up (family obligations). So… dad was a LITTLE bit right about that.

Also, G1 totally didn’t show, so… right again. (I’m not smart, I’ve just been scarred by years of gaming.)

Anyway, JC2 is here! Also, she has a really strong idea for her character, and immediately grabs…

THE NOVA

HERO NAME: Ember
REAL NAME: Lucy Ray

Look
* woman, caucasian, blonde/reddish hair, blue eyes, casual clothing, and a colorful costume (black, with flames print around the wrist and ankles. Tall boots.)

Backstory

  • When did you first use your powers?
    • Only a few months ago.
  • Who was the first person you accidentally hurt with your powers?
    • A bully from her old school was messing with a kid from her old school at the park, and when she stood up to him, he really got in her face and said some horrible things. She got… very mad. He just got out of the hospital a few days ago, and the bandages on his arm and leg still haven’t come off. (GM notes she isn’t showing any remorse about this.)
  • Who, outside the team, helps you control your powers?
    • An old woman named Agatha, who saw what happened at the park.
  • Why do you continue to use your powers?
    • If she doesn’t use them, they build up to the point where literally ANY kind of strong emotions can release them. Using them is safer. Kind of.
  • Why do you care about the team?
    • They trust her. Right now, it doesn’t seem like anyone trusts her.

You all go to Phoenix Academy…

The players were all interested in an intensely school-focused game, so we’re using the “Phoenix Academy” playset from the Masks: Unbound sourcebook. Initially, this meant the next step in chargen was sketching out the faculty of the school and asking the players some questions.

I let them know about Hellbinder, the headmaster/demon parolee in charge of the school, as well as several other ‘stock’ members of the staff, and then went around the table asking questions:

  • Ember, which teacher will just NOT cut you a break?
    • Sergeant S.U.R.G.E. – the gym teacher currently working off some prison time by teaching at the school. He senses Lucy can’t control her powers, and has decided he’s going to fix that problem with thousands of push-ups.
  • Palacene, which teacher do you secretly have a crush on?
    • Mr. “Brick” (B. Rick) – the only totally mundane teacher in the school. (Math)
    • (This whole conversation led to a hilarious discussion of an alien experiencing blushing for the first time.)
  • Silhouette, which faculty member do you suspect is actually a supervillain?
    • Hellbinder, the headmaster. She just doesn’t trust him – he just killed too many people. No way.
  • Ember, which teacher’s do you think are secretly hooking up?
    • The janitor, whom everyone thinks is great, and Princess Arizella, the swashbuckling English teacher.
  • Palacene, which teacher do you think should retire?
    • Selma Schwatz, the perpetually ancient school administrator know-it-all.
  • Silhouette, who do you think would make a better headmaster?
    • Princess Arizella – not because she’s got much experience, just because it would be AWESOME.

After that, we went on to the standard –

When the team first came together…

This went pretty quickly. I first asked who the team had been fighting at the time. Kaylee remembered fighting Rampage in some other Masks one-shot, and thought they made a good one-and-done background enemy.

I asked Ember what part of the city had been destroyed during the fight, and found out it had been the downtown arts and theatre district.

Palacene let us know that the girls initially didn’t trust each other, but when Ember stepped out of the crowd and blasted Rampage off of Palacene at just the right moment, the trust started growing.

Finally, Silhouette explained that they stayed in touch afterwards through her efforts to keep communicating with supers her age, and the fact they were all going to Phoenix Academy. They’re not part of an official school club, just an unofficial clique – no school support, but also no school club rules.


After that, they mapped out relationships between each other (with three players, it went fast), and determining Influence (everyone has Influence over everyone else at this point, which is interesting).


We didn’t have much time at this point, so I framed them into a scene waiting for the ferry to take them to the Phoenix Academy island for their first day of sophomore year (2nd year there for Silhouette – 1st for Palacene and Ember).

There was a bit of chit chat, until Silhouette noticed an ozone scent in the air and tingling static along her skin. She took stock (assess the situaiton), realized they were about to be attacked and, based on the environmental clues, guessed it was Voltaic – an AI who had gone rogue and decided the best way to keep humanity safe was kill all metahumans… what better target than a quay full of teen supers?

She’d read the files on Voltaic, though, and quickly let the team know they needed to get the thing into the water, before it could hurt anyone. Go go go!

Time to “Face a Powerful Enemy” – the girls decided Silhouette was the leader, Team points were generated, and we’ll start off next with a fight on the marina, surrounded by Halcyon City’s youngest supers.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 35, part 2 – The Wrathful Rampage of Rossum!

The Menagerie assaults the Two Rivers Nuclear Plant, where the Rossum clone is holed up. Charade angers (but startles) Rosa Rook by analyzing the situation and locating the plant. Inside, Mercury saves the lives of some tied up guards, at some cost to himself (as some booby traps go off). Charade and Mercury go deeper into the plant to locate Rossum, while Concord and Link work in their own ways to whittle down the robot count and protect the plant, respectively. Link arrives on scene. Together with Charade and Mercury, they make a team effort to extract Rossum 2. Outside, Concord destroys the oncoming robots.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 35, part 1 – The Wrathful Rampage of Rossum!

The Menagerie assaults the Two Rivers Nuclear Plant, where the Rossum clone is holed up. Charade angers (but startles) Rosa Rook by analyzing the situation and locating the plant. Inside, Mercury saves the lives of some tied up guards, at some cost to himself (as some booby traps go off). Charade and Mercury go deeper into the plant to locate Rossum, while Concord and Link work in their own ways to whittle down the robot count and protect the plant, respectively. Link arrives on scene. Together with Charade and Mercury, they make a team effort to extract Rossum 2. Outside, Concord destroys the oncoming robots.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 3 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 2 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 34, part 1 – Daddy Issues

Mercury and Concord attempt to heal Silver Streak’s mind, and discover a severe guilt complex, possibly amplified by exposure to a Keynome. The attempt is thwarted by the presence of three hostile Concordance agents within the psychic space. Back at Has Beans, Lucius recommends that Ghost Girl recruit Armiger for future cleansing efforts. She witnesses Rossum robots launching from stores nearby. Link and Ted Waters escape the black site, plowing through AEGIS agents along the way. Seeing an army of robots flying toward the site, they go back in to extract Rossum from his cell before the robots can rescue him. Charade suits up with new equipment, including a repurposed Vyortovian hover-cycle. She is ordered to deal with Link, who at this time is presumed to be working with Rosa Rook and Rossum. Link orders everyone to Rook HQ. Once done, he reveals the real Rossum to Rook. Rook, realizing Rossum’s racket, reluctantly but reasonably reverses. However, the clone/imitation Rossum she has somehow takes control of the bots remotely.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 3 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

It was cute…

As I already mentioned, my kids and I are playing a game based on The Hollow (Netflix) using a hacked version of World of Dungeons: Turbo.

Everyone’s having a good time, and is totally into it, but none so much as my five-year-old Zoe, who requests the game pretty much every evening. Needless to say, time constraints and the varying moods of her siblings mean we can’t always play when she wants to.

So, instead of bedtime stories tonight, I decided to start up a little game just for me and her. And of course that began by asking her lots of questions.

(She’s a girl with a pet flying lizard (butterfly-colored bat wings).)

And what situation did she come up with?

“I’m being chased along a beach by four demon knights riding demon horses, after I tried to steal something pretty that was hanging in the window of their castle.”

“Was it something important or magical?”

“No. It was just cute. And I wanted it.”

#thatsMyGirl

The Hollow, by way of World of Dungeon: Turbo

I’m running a game for my kids, inspired by The Hollow series on Netflix, and for said game I’m basically using a loosey-goosey version of World of Dungeons: Turbo.

However, the setup for the game doesn’t closely match the original World of Dungeons: Turbo premise, so I’ve already spent a fair amount of time scribbling in different abilities and such.

As a result, I figured it would be worth my time to build a character sheet I could tweak as the game went on. So I did that, and I wanted to share it not because anyone would want to run a similar game, but because I figured someone might want a sheet they could customize for their own WoDu variations.

PLEASE NOTE: I am verifiably shit at design of any kind, so this thing is pretty hacktackular, but whatever. It works.

The PDF basically looks like I intended.

The word .docx will likely shatter if you look at it sideways, but g’head and do with it what you will.

If you make a better version that’s still editable/changeable, please do let me know.

Ravenloft, via World of Dungeons, with Kaylee (video compilation)

Kaylee and I have been playing through the classic Ravenloft (I6) module, solo, using World of Dungeons. For quite awhile, we did it with Discord chat, but that led to a lot of me saying “Dude, seriously, post what you’re going to do,” and her say “I’m sorry – it’s just really easy to forget.”

So the lion’s share of recent progress has been since we switched to playing mostly on Roll20, maybe once every couple weeks.

Yes, I am playing on Discord voice chat, using Roll20 for the play space, with my daughter, while she and I sit in different but adjacent rooms in the same house, because that is somehow easier. That’s my life.

Anyway, I wanted to share the three short sessions we’ve managed to get done so far. It’s an entertainingly non-linear progression through the castle.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 2 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 33, part 1 – A Team Divided

A few days pass, and assorted school shenanigans take place. Mercury talks to Tempest and convinces her to allow Concord to examine the comatose Silver Streak. Concord has a plan. Ghost Girl teams up with Lucius to try closing the hole in Oakland Cemetery. She is partially successful. Mercury manages to secure a date with A10.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 3 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 2 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Actual Play snippet: Dungeon World one-shot, Gauntlet Con

I’ve been GMing the same Masks game for over a year. Before that, there was a PBTA-based Star Wars game that ran for over thirty sessions.

This isn’t to establish bona fides – I just want to point out I really like running PBTA stuff – as a game system, the mechanics suit me better than anything else I’ve ever run – and I will happily laugh in the face of anyone who says it can’t handle long-term games.

WITH THAT SAID, I do appreciate a good, tight, one-shot or short-arc game, and I’ve been intrigued to see more of that kind of play using PBTA, because I know a lot of people run their games that way, and I rarely/barely have.

Also, I just don’t get to play as a PLAYER very often (I think the last time was a couple years ago), so that would be nice.

All of those desires came together last night, when I was able to jump into a Dungeon World one-shot at Gauntlet Con, which runs yearly, online, thanks to the Gauntlet community.

Here’s the game introduction:

A structure of softly-glowing stone appeared suddenly upon the sands outside of a small oasis city during a moonless night. From the freshwater springs, it appears to float hazily above the desert like a mirage. While at first people talked about its mysterious arrival and appearance, now they only whisper rumors and hushed secrets out of fear of those dwelling within. Others, bolder, have made pilgrimage to camp beneath the temple, believing it to contain a divine being they call Shil-Muar. What secrets and riches await you within its luminous walls?

The GM also noted he was aiming for “a heavy sword-and-sorcery style; expect bloody gore, weird and potentially unsettling magic, and quite possibly scantily-clad people and creatures of all genders.”

So, I mean… yah gotta do a barbarian, right?

That was where I started, but (after checking in with the group) I drifted things a bit, making my barbarian (Clovis Bonebreaker) a dwarf from kingdom several continents away. His barbaric drives were all about amassing fame, glory, and wealth, which looks SUPER shallow at the outset, but for which I felt had cool reasons.

Why did he seem weird and barbaric? Extensive facial and body tattoos, fastidiously clean (washed up every morning, commented on peoples unpleasant odor, et cetera). Well-spoken, polite, and generally “polished.” The fighter in the group was convinced I’d soon see the foolishness of my own behavior.

Dude… my WIS is a -1 – I’m never going to see the foolishness of my behavior. It’s what got me into this mess in the first… never mind.

One-shot Dungeon World players have developed a very solid method for running VERY LOW prep sessions and getting a super-focused game. Our GM followed that general ideal very well, and continued asking the players questions about their background and world as we went on.

The key bits I need to mention about the game setup, to get to the part I’m most happy about, are these:

  • The divine being Shil-Muar was basically a mix of djinn and quetzalcoatl. A powerful trickster flying snake… thing. Mirages and illusions dominated the themes of the temple.
  • The treasure we were all ostensibly after was the enormous ruby that bound Shil-Muar to this world.
  • Shil-Muar’s immediate servants were mostly snake-like yuan-ti types and “harpy-dactyls” that made getting into the temple pretty perilous. Also mad human cultists, but that’s typical.

The relevant bits of character background I need to mention are:

  • Dwarven society is a RIGID caste system.
  • The tattooing is based on one’s caste and various subsets of role within that caste, and might begin as soon as the age of one. Clovis was covered over most visible areas.
  • Ancestor worship is the one and ONLY deal when it comes to dwarven religion. It confers no supernatural powers.
  • If you leave the homeland, you cannot come back unless you “bear with you fame and wealth commensurate to your position.” To come back empty-handed is to inflict that debt (in the broad sense, both spiritual and monetary) on the homeland, and is never allowed. “Blessed are they whose return is remunerative… etc etc.”
  • The higher your place in society, the greater the debt you must bear if you return.

Anyway.

The evening was a series of misadventures (we all nearly leveled just from the XP we each earned from failed rolls; it was ugly, but glorious).

By the time we staggered into the holiest of holies within the floating temple, our fighter was missing an arm, and we were all well done-in.

NONE of us liked our chances trying to beat up a flying snake deity and taking his stuff.

We had ten minutes left in the game, so the GM gave us time for each of us to lay out our play.

The druid basically went belly up in front of the snake god and shifted into a miniature copy of the god – offering abject servitude, just don’t kill him. He was accepted, but locked in the snake form forever.

The fighter demanded reward for breaching and defeating the temple defenses, and demanded just rewards for what we’d done. He rolled snake-eyes (appropriate!) on this demand, and we jumped right to him rolling Last Breath and negotiating his new role as semi-reincarnated, cringing servant of the deity.

I went a different route.

“Shil-Muar, I have crossed continents to find you. I call on you to cast aside this unworthy, once-yearly worship from sand-scrabbling peasants, and join me. I will take you to a land of wealth – fabulous wealth – power, and prestige; a land where the only opponents you face in the spiritual realm are the powerless, empty bones of the long-dead. You can reign in the temples of my people, unopposed, and to do so you need only ally yourself to me, the crown prince of Tuor Kalvek, as I break my homeland apart and reforge it.”

And I rolled.

Fucking.

Boxcars.

Clovis was the crown prince, you see, and had stormed out of the city after yet another argument with his father, only to realize that in order to return with fame and wealth commensurate to his position, he’d literally have to found a kingdom, and then bring the whole bloody thing back with him.

Or… you know… something similar.

I then got to narrate returning to the gates of my city, many months later, clad and cowled in rags, walking alongside an old mule and a creaking horse cart. Clovis is confronted by the guards, and yanks aside the tarpaulin covering Shil-Muar’s ruby. The serpent, wreathed in flames, spirals into the sky over our heads as Clovis strides up to and through the gates behind the fleeing guards.

So, so good.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 32, part 1 – Future. Tense.

It’s a Link and Concord session! Link talks with Waters about Rossum and Vyortovia. Adam talks with his folks. Link and Adam actually talk to each other (!?!), give romance advice to Otto (?!??!?), and question the future-speedster who tried to kill everybody.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 31, part 2 – A Moment of Silence

The Team (plus Alycia Chin) is gathered at the Quill Compound. Various talks happen, and someone from the future tries to kill everyone. So basically a normal Monday night.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.

Fire Goose

Created at the behest of Mark Hunt, for a silly little project on MeWe.

Fire Goose

Small beast, probably evil
Armor Class 16 Natural Armor
Hit Points 30 (5d10 + 5)
Speed 25 ft., fly 80 ft., swim 35 ft.
STR 12
DEX 14
CON 14
INT 5
WIS 9
CHA 3 (because geese)

Immune to Fear (as near as we can tell)

The Fire Goose is basically just a goose, from a fiery pocket dimension. We assume. No one wants to go to whatever beknighted hellhole spawned something as terrible as a goose (which is already terrible) but also on fire. We wouldn’t even know the damned things existed – and might then sleep slightly better – except some idiot in a robe summoned one and the sodding things keep pulling more of their feathered, furious kin over. Seriously, it’s terrible. We may be doomed. Did you learning nothing from the Vrock Debacle that leveled the city of Yll, Kevin ?!?

Not noticeably larger than a typical goose, a fire goose is often mistook as its local cousins, if you approach in bright sunlight (which makes the fiery crown nearly invisible). However, once you get close enough (why would you get closer?!? – even if you didn’t realize it’s on fire, it’s still a goose, and thus nothing but pure evil and spite), it will stretch out its wings and wreathe itself in flames; either as a power display or – and gods above and below help you if this turns out to be the case – a mating stance.

The fire goose is not afraid to attack an intruder, but is also MORE than willing to summon aid and kill anything not goose-shaped with the support of its hellish kin. It is not unusual to see two or three fire geese turn into a large flock of twenty in less than a minute.

Also, they’re apparently mating with local geese as well, now? And get viable progeny? Gods’ tears, Kevin, what did you do? This is the darkest timeline.

Squawking Lava Charge. If the fire goose moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a beak attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) fire damage. The target must also succeed on a Wisdom Save or become Frightened. This is not a supernatural effect: geese are just effing terrifying, man, and this one is on fire.

The Great Honk. When the Fire Goose feels threatened, wants to BE threatened, or – as near as we can tell – just bloody feels like it, it may attempt to summon more Fire Geese to its aid. The Fire Goose must attempt a CON save; on a success, its call was loud enough to be heard beyond the filmy veil between worlds, and another Fire Goose appears within 30 feet, already angry and ready to get stuck in.

Fearsome Hiss. At The start of the Fire Goose’s turn, it wreathes itself in flames and emits a hiss that affects all creatures in a 15-foot cone in front of the dire goose. Each creature in the area must succeed a Wisdom Saving or have disadvantage on its attack rolls until the end of its next turn.

Fire Beak. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d6 + 4) burning damage.

Wreathed in Fire Wing Attack. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one horrified target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 4) fire damage. CON save or become prone.

Masks, Menagerie Actual Play, Session 31, part 1 – A Moment of Silence

The Team (plus Alycia Chin) is gathered at the Quill Compound. Various talks happen, and someone from the future tries to kill everyone. So basically a normal Monday night.

Intro music by Mikhael Bureau.