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A couple weeks ago, I joked that I should try to identify the main tropes that show up in our current Masks game.
Unfortunately, some part of my brain didn’t know I was joking. So.
- Adaptive Armor – Jason’s Nanobots
- Alternate Company Equivalent – The HHL as this world’s Justice League (hopefully the JL and not The Authority)
- Alternate Continuity – The Sepiaverse
- Animal Superheroes – Possibly? No one really knows what’s up with The Animal.
- Animal-Themed Superbeing – Hyena and Jaguar spring to mind.
- Badass Normal – Agent Waters, for sheer preparedness. Various Ponies are also pretty useful in their own ways.
- Beware the Superman – Not quite true – our world is more Earn Your Happy Ending, but this might still come up in some situations.
- Brought Down to Normal – A bit, in that everyone in the Bodyswap is, to one degree or another, dealing with not having their powers right now.
- Brought Down to Badass – Mostly though, the swap has worked out to you being a different kind of awesome.
- Building Swing – I mean, if Link hasn’t done this he really should.
- Bus Full of Innocents – Or cars full. Or schools. Whatever.
- Can’t Stay Normal – Seen in the HHL.
- The Cape – I mean… obviously?
- Cape Busters – AEGIS
- Captain Ersatz
- Notably in the HHL, though there’s a lot of recombining and remixing going on.
- Hecate is Grey Witch from Dreadnought (note: haven’t read the 2nd book, so don’t assume too much here)
- Vigil was supposed to be a Batman analog, but now they’re much cooler.
- Sigrun the Valkyrie is sort of a Wonder Woman/Donna Troy/Thor thing, I guess.
- Golem started out as sort of The Thing, but has a bit of Doomed Tony Stark in there now.
- Nautilus is kind of Drunk Tony Stark, plus Namor the Asshole of Atlantis, plus Captain Nemo.
- Hyena is sort of The Question, plus Vixen.
- Captain Ethnic – Ugh. Did I do that with Tatanka? I hope not. He’s not a stereotype, I hope, so…
- Captain Geographic – Iron Cross (Villain), Dread Queen (Villain).
- Captain Patriotic – We kind of notably don’t have a lot of star-spangled heroes active in Halcyon right now.
- Chest Insignia – Only Concord right now, I think, which is a darn shame.
- Chrome Champion – Maybe Pneuma is a bit of this when she’s in ‘fight form’? I’m not sure.
- Civvie Spandex – Jason, although that might count as Not Wearing Tights at all.
- Clingy Costume – Probably Jason? Also probably Ghost Girl, if you squint.
- Code Name – Of course, though not in all cases.
- Comes Great Responsibility
- The Commissioner Gordon – Agent Waters
- Corporate-Sponsored Superhero – Rook has these.
- Cover-Blowing Superpower – Concord, at the very least.
- The Cowl – Hyena and others.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check – totally.
- Dating Catwoman – Not yet. For now we’re stuck with Foe Romance Subtext.
- Fastest Thing Alive
- Future Spandex
- The Good Captain
- Heart Is an Awesome Power
- Henshin Hero – Concord
- Hero with Bad Publicity – Not yet, though we keep trying. 🙂
- Heroic Fatigue
- Heroic Host – Concord
- How Do I Shot Web? – Well… during the body swap, anyway.
- Idiosyncrazy – Ghostheart. Maybe Iconoclast.
- Imagination-Based Superpower – Concord
- Instant Costume Change – Concord
- Lamarck Was Right
- Legacy Character
- Magnetic Plot Device
- The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life – Poor Harry
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling
- Psychic Radar – Concord and Ghost Girl
- Psychosomatic Superpower Outage – Concord
- Recruit the Muggles – Ponies, sometimes
- Rogues Gallery – the Gales
- Rogues-Gallery Transplant – also the Gales
- Secret Identity
- Secret Identity Apathy – Generally true of Concord’s enemies, if not his family and friends.
- Secret Identity Identity
- Secret Keeper
- Star-Spangled Spandex – Concord
- Stock Superhero Day Jobs
- Super Fic – You better believe it.
- Super Hero Paradox
- Superman Stays out of Gotham – Or super adults don’t bother with modern age super-drama, usually.
- Superman Substitute – Transcendent, except not really since we tweaked their background, but they started that way.
- Superpowered Date – Some day. Some day…
- Super-Power Meltdown – Iconoclast totally had this happen.
- Super Registration Act – Kind of? AEGIS is watching…
- Super Team
- Swiss-Army Superpower – Jason(ish) and Concord
- Thememobile – Hoverdisk!
- Triple Shifter – Jason
- The Unmasking – Inevitably
- Villain Team-Up – Inevitably
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?
- With Great Power Comes Great Opposition
- With Great Power Comes Great Perks
[This is a repost of a post I wrote about two years, which has inexplicably disappeared from the site.]
I need to talk about something pretty shitty, but it requires a little background information, first.
Many of you probably already know this background info, but some of you don’t, so I’m filling it in for them; everyone else, please bear with.
I doubt it will surprise anyone to know I’m a long time Star Wars fan boy.
Am I the biggest Star Wars fan boy who’s ever lived? No, most certainly not.
In fact (and this bit will shock the less-super-nerdy out there), there are groups of folks out in the world who, after examining the extent of my exposure to Star Wars “stuff”, would decide quite seriously that I’m not a real Star Wars fan at all, or at least not a serious one.
The funny thing is, it’s hard to even explain this without getting at least somewhat nerdy, but I’m going to try. (In my head, as I write this, I’m talking to my sister, which is how I approach more posts than anyone would imagine.)
Now, a lot of people – most people – who say they like Star Wars mean they like the movies, because that is literally the only Star Wars thing they know about. I’m going to call these folks “mainstream fans.”
Obviously (because as a species, we really can’t leave this kind of shit alone) there is a lot more Star Wars stuff out there – more stuff than you’d readily believe. Games, of course. Comics – fucking walls of comics – and enough novels to fill a library.
Collectively, all the stuff that isn’t the movies has been (until recently) referred to as the Star Wars “Extended Universe” or “EU”. The quality of the stuff varies, and by “varies” I mean some of it is pretty good, and some of it is pants-on-head fucking idiocy that makes Jar Jar Binks look as cool as Chewbacca, by comparison.
How does stuff like that get the official stamp of approval? Pretty simple: George Lucas really likes making money, and people are willing to pay him a whole shit ton of money to play in his backyard, so he lets them write novels with Force-nullifying space-sloths (yes, seriously) and puts the Official Rubber Stamp on it, because (a) he got money and (b) he knew if he ever came out with a movie that contradicted stuff people had written, his version would invalidate all the drek he’d authorized in the past, so who cares?
In general, I don’t follow the EU stuff, and (with the exception of the first Star Wars roleplaying game that anyone licensed) don’t know much about it.
The quick summary: there is miles and miles of EU stuff, set anywhere from 30 thousand years before to several hundred years after the movies ‘mainstream fans’ know; the whole thing is an virtually unchartable hot mess…
And there are fans out there who know every single inch of it. Or most of it. Certainly more of it than I do. I’ll call them super-fans.
Now: I have no beef with those super-fans. None.
Okay so far? Good.
Now: Enter Disney.
A few years ago, Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars intellectual property and announced they were going to start doing stuff with it, and that George Lucas wouldn’t have very much if anything to do with it. (Which, after the prequels, was kind of a relief to hear.)
And Disney took a long look at the Extended Universe stuff and, after some thought, said “Yeah that’s… nice and all… but… yeah. None of that shit is official anymore.”
Basically, they boiled down “Official Star Wars” to the movies, the Clone Wars animated series that ran a few years ago, and whatever stuff they make from here on out (like the totally amazing and fun Star Wars Rebels show, a couple new novels, and of course the new movies coming out).
All that EU stuff? It’s not the “Extended Universe” anymore; it’s “Star Wars Legends” which, honestly, I think is a great name – it implies these are stories about the Star Wars universe (which they are, of course) but just that: stories. Unverifiable. Unverified. Unofficial. Enjoy them if you want – please, by all means – but know them for what they are.
Most – and I do mean most – super-fans were fine with this: they get to keep the stuff they’re into, and they get the biggest pop-culture engine in the world cranking out new Star Wars stuff until the heat-death of the universe finally invalidates Disney’s copyrights.
Some of the super-fans are not happy, and have decided to be unapologetically shitty human beings about the whole thing. I will call this small, vocal-like-a-screaming-howler-monkey subset of super-fans the “spoiler fans,” and here’s why:
These people have decided that it’s not enough that they have this stuff they like. Because Disney has said it’s not official stuff anymore, that somehow makes it impossible to love that stuff as much as they once did – their love is somehow capped by its lack of an official stamp, and this cannot be allowed to stand.
What do they want? This is pretty funny, actually: they don’t just want Disney to go back and say “okay, that stuff is still at least as official as it was when George Lucas was taking your money and planning on invalidating anything he felt like, whenever he felt like it” – they (apparently) want Disney to keep making EU stuff, in addition to the stuff Disney is already making.
“Well, that’s nice,” you might say, “maybe they want a pony, too?”
And yeah, it’s kind of funny, until you realize the internet has allowed shitty people to be shitty on a far greater scale.
See, they’re trying to hold Star Wars hostage to get Disney to do what they want.
How? They have vowed that they will spoil each and every spoil-able moment in the new movie as loudly and as broadly as possible (which, today, is pretty loud and pretty broad), if Disney doesn’t cave.
You’ve probably seen those image memes on Facebook or whatever, asking people not to spoil the movie. I have, and thought “yeah, it would suck to be spoiled ahead of time.”
Because that can happen by accident. Well-meaning, happy, enthusiastic fans can get on the internet and broadcast out to their friends, joyfully exclaiming about all the stuff they loved about the movie, and accidentally spoil something for someone who hasn’t seen it yet, because how have you not seen it yet?!?
This isn’t that. This is not an accidental thing. This is not your friend loving the movie so much he spills something.
This is a guy standing outside the movie theater before The Empire Strikes Back, waiting for the line to form, and then telling every single person in line “Darth Vader is Luke’s dad.”
Except the guy has a megaphone the whole world can hear, if they aren’t careful, and he shouts the message at unexpected times.
I’m telling you about this, because it already happened to me, and I don’t want it to happen to you.
I leaned about this little movement of spoiler-fans via a friend’s post on Google+.
The very first comment to that post was one of these guys, and all he posted was a spoiler, and I am pretty sure he spoiled probably the biggest plot twist in the movie for me.
Now, obviously, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so how do I know?
Let me put it this way: if that guy who came up to you in line at Empire Strikes Back had said, perfectly straight-faced “Darth Vader is Luke’s dad,” would you have believed him?
Maybe you think about it a bit, and it syncs up with everything you know about the movies thus far, and it syncs up with what you’ve seen in the trailers, and it just seems like a very Star Wars-y plot twist.
Maybe you don’t believe it, completely and totally, but you believe it enough that you will sit down in the theater and, basically, spend the whole movie waiting for that moment to come. Or not.
Even if it doesn’t, you will not have enjoyed the movie as much as you might have, because you were distracted. And if it does happen just as that guy said? Well.
That’s the kind of thing this guy posted. One line. Ten words, and there goes my 100% unmitigated enjoyment of the new movie.
Now, shut up: this isn’t about me. Yes, you’re very sorry about this happening. Yes. I love you. Thank you, now shut up for a sec.
These fuckers are out there. They are doing this on purpose. They’re enjoyment of their pile of stuff has been somehow – idiotically – damaged; Disney made their Masters-level knowledge of a made-up universe less important than it already was, so they have decided to shit on every other person who wants to enjoy the new movie, because (apparently) “Fuck anyone who is enjoying themselves, if I am not.”
I don’t care about me. I’ve watched Empire Strikes Back probably thirty times, if not more, and I know – know I will enjoy it when I watch it again, because I’ll be watching it with my kids, and the shine hasn’t come off for them.
Because of that, I know I will enjoy this new movie when I watch it, because I will be watching it with my kids and even if I don’t feel the same sense of surprise and wonder as I might have, they will, and I will still get to feel that, through them.
And I know they will get to feel that, because I’m going to protect them from these… infantile man-children and their shit-spattering temper-tantrum.
Now: why did I write all this? Because I want to try to protect you, too.
When you see spoiler warnings, heed them. Stop thinking of spoilers as “that one little thing my super-happy friend let out after he saw the movie” and start thinking “halitosis-reeking stranger who wants to dip his filthy index finger in my morning coffee.”
From here until you see the movies, absolutely avoid comment sections on any Star Wars-related post on any kind of social media.
Just… for a few days, expect people you don’t know to be kind of shitty for no good reason.
I realize that’s kind of a downer message, but seriously: I want you to enjoy the movie.
And also, yeah: I want those petty fuckers to lose, because fuck them.
(Comments on this post are disabled, for obvious reasons.)
Right now, Masks. Probably two different games, ultimately, given I'll be running it for the kids as well as the online game. (It's getting easier and easier to pull this off as they get a bit older.)
I'm sure a touch of No Thank You, Evil, maybe with Kaylee running the game.
I'll be playing more 5e DnD Adventurer's League, because playing is nice. Also running that for the kids, since I picked up some miniatures and everything.
And past that, I have no idea. There will be more than that, I think, but I'm really not sure what. Maybe some Palace Job -esque Blades in the Dark? Maybe some Urban Shadows? I really have no idea.
But if the real question is focused on what has most of my anticipation, and not 'what are your predictions', then it's definitely Masks right now; that game is firing on cylinders I didn't even know we had.
Mash-ups don't get me very far these days.
See, I play with my kids a lot, and they don't know the baseline genres well enough to appreciate mash-ups of those genres.
Which is to say, they just don't get the joke, yet.
At the risk of repeating myself, I'm going to dive into this a bit more.
One of the… I'm going to say "dependencies for enjoyment" in many – I might even say "most" RPGs I've run (or run into) in the last few years is a deep knowledge of the associated genre — not just the genre for the setting, but the RPG genre of the game in question.
So… like this: once upon a time, all you really needed to know when starting to play D&D was "there's magic, no guns, and weird monsters." Same was true, basically, for Traveller or whatever. The premise was simple and straightforward.
Still true for 5e versions of those games, probably.
But there are a WHOLE BUNCH of games/settings out there now that lose a tremendous amount of signal when trying to reach a new player, because that player doesn't have the decades of previous gaming exposure that informs the game designer's decisions for a game.
Steampunk Planetary Romance isn't inherently cool or interesting as a concept if the person you're sharing it with isn't familiar with the "pure" components of that salad, you know? It's just weird sci-fi with wood ships and a lot of brass and goggles. Now, that might still work for the player, but it won't work for the intended/expected reasons.
Masters of Umdaar is… not especially compelling if you didn't grow up on the right cartoons, you know?
I run into this constantly when playing with my kids – stuff I find interesting/entertaining… until I realize that for all intents and purposes, my kids just don't get the joke.
So first, I'd need to run the original games everyone's ironically riffing off of, then we can get to the mashups. Otherwise, it's not a nuanced re-envisioning for them. It's just… weird and kind of confusing.
When I run a game that doesn't have that problem, it's almost always something only trying to be itself.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Aliens, but… I mean, it could be a hundred different shows.
This was, however, more true back when I was playing face to face.
These days, a lot of the 'quote banter' that used to suffuse our table talk has been replaced with posting relevant image memes in the Roll20 chat window. I love it, personally; nothing like having the nascent force user fighting the temptation of the dark side… and see a fellow player post a photoshopped Gollum clutching a jedi holocron to their chest. That's good stuff.
Flippant answers aside for once.
Attention. Respect. Engagement.
And a small group people with whom you could easily see sharing a 3 to 4 hour car trip, enjoyably.
Everything else is a bonus.
Now if I was going to go back to the original question and talk about essential TOOLS, I'd talk about Roll20 (which I use even during some offline game sessions), Dropbox, et cetera.
Players creating stuff or in similar ways demonstrating their interest and enthusiasm for the game. I love that stuff. It just makes my day.
Also feedback, good or bad.
But in either case, just engaging above and beyond "shows up on time every week," you know?
I've been blessed by this level of engagement both in the past and present. Player diaries and session journals (a specialty of's). Players collecting funny quotes from the game. Art or other visual artifacts based on the game, like 's fake live-tweets from our first session of Masks, or great character drawings for Dungeon World.
Heck, I love how my players are nigh-constantly posting relevant image memes in the Roll20 chat while we play, or using the drawing tool to put labels and relevant graffiti on the map. It's just great to see the players really engaged.
Switched up the question a bit, so I could answer "Probably PBTA stuff. Probably."
For me it's a VERY GOOD mix of the kind of game approach that favors the GMing style I developed primarily with Amber DRPG, but built on a system and mechanics that regularly inject unexpected elements into the game, which was one of the things lying at the heart of my problem(s) with Amber. (And, more recently, Fate.)
Easiest would be something super-simple like World of Dungeons or Risus or FAE.
And to be fair, I'm comfortable and enjoy running pretty much anything at the table. But something like DnD or DCC requires a degree of nuts and bolts prep that I either don't have bandwidth for [^1], or don't enjoy (CR-balanced DnD encounters, frex) – with those sorts of games, I''m going to run a module or something, so I don't have to do that prep, and in those cases I don't end up bringing as much of my own stuff to the game.
So. PbtA. That's my sweet spot when it comes to all aspects of GMing.
[^1]: The joke about not having enough bandwidth to do prep is, of course, that I did literally hours and hours of prep for only the first session of our Masks game. World maps. NPCs. Encounters… At least an hour just watching awkward celebrity interviews, to get ideas.
So I guess it's more "I don't have time for prep I don't really, really enjoy."
Dungeons and Dragons, easily. I've been flailing at it since I was ten. Full-steam ahead all through high school. Several games in college, though it was rarely the 'main' game. A four and half year game that bridged 3rd edition into 3.5, plus a pile of Living Campaign play at that same time, all of which kind of burned me out for awhile. A bit of 4e, and now online Adventurer's League with 5e, and some games with the kids.
At a guess, probably four or five hundred sessions of DnD, over the years. It may not be my all-time favorite game, but… I mean, numbers don't lie.