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.