Masks Campaign Material – Super-YouTubers

We've had two play sessions of our Masks campaign so far.

The game opened with an excruciating interview between the team and morning show host Tasha Starr (of The Morning Starr), in which she asks them about the team, themselves, and the fight against Hannibal Lectric that brought them all together.

Things got complicated when Iconoclast (and, later, a superthug named Troll) interrupted the interview.

The storm of social media surrounding the interview is still going (as is the fight itself), but that hasn't stopped one fan from posting her thoughts.

In the wake of the interrupted interview between our team and morning show host Tasha Starr, super-tweeter "My Little Power Ranger" (@heroesaremagic) hops on YouTube to share her thoughts on what went down – was it fake? A publicity stunt?

Or was it something else?

https://youtu.be/fbjkH1eQBEI

Masks, Session 1, Not Exactly Actual Play

For our first real session of Masks, I decided to start off the game[^1] with a super-awkward morning-news-show-style interview with most of the team and the interviewer, Tasha Starr.

It was deliciously horrible. When Iconoclast finally blasted in the streetside window and shouted "this interview is over!" the Bull's immediate reaction – over a live mic – was "Thank Christ."

Then there were supers fisticuffs and the rescuing of civilians and idiot morning show hosts.

One of my wonderful players (+Bill Garrett) put together a series of livetweets commemorating the interview, and I just had to share, because they're great.

The last one in the series is by me, foreshadowing events coming up in session 2 (and the still-ongoing fight just outside the studio).

[^1]: The actual start of the game was the love letters I wrote for all the characters, captured here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DoyceTesterman/posts/7Vba3bjiu39 https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DoyceTesterman/posts/7onPVFuExmH https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DoyceTesterman/posts/dry21LYnx7P https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DoyceTesterman/posts/dQDWqFRsUVJ

      

In Album 8/18/17

Masks, Session 0

The video recording for this session went wonky, so here's the audio for our Masks session 0.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5y9JJSSCg1pZnNWNDZGS2NQNUk/view?usp=sharing

I'm SUPER excited to see these kids in action.

Link, the power-armored super-genius with a very complicated family life (Bull)
Concord, the way-too-young host of the Powers of Valor (Nova playbook)
Jason Quill, one-time child science adventurer, now 'protected' by a cloud of nanobots that seem to be… absorbing his psyche (Doomed)
Ghost Girl, the ghost of a civil-war-era girl, brought back to the wondrous world of the future (Outsider)
Harry Gale, a.k.a. Mercury – the youngest member of The World's Fastest Family (Legacy)

It's going to be a good time.

2017-08-08 – Masks 0 – w music.mp3 – Google Drive
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Masks AP Resource

The whelmed podcast (located at the nigh-perfect url http://crashingthemode.com/) is basically "Buffering the Vampire Slayer," but for Young Justice. I've just started in on the beginning of the show, and it's great; if you like podcasts where pop culture love and gaming overlap and/or intersect, I recommend it.

But here's an additional BONUS: the podcast crew recently recorded a session of Masks, GM'd by Brendan Conway (the game's author), in which they play characters from the show in a scenario set in the five years between seasons 1 and 2 of YJ. The people playing these characters are note. perfect. in their protrayals (Kid Flash and Superboy are particular stand-outs), and Brendan does a fantastic job of introducing, integrating, and best-of-all explaining the rules as they go.

If you're looking for an AP recording that works as a primer/introduction to the Masks rules, and want the added bonus of seeing the game presented via characters with which you're probably already very familiar, I can't recommend these recordings enough.

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/6/21/masks-ap-relations-episode-01

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/6/28/masks-ap-relations-episode-02

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/7/5/masks-ap-relations-episode-03

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/7/13/masks-ap-relations-episode-04

Update: There are also pre- and post-game talks with Brendan, which are pretty illuminating.

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/6/15/discussion-brendan-conway-masks-ap-pre-interview

http://crashingthemode.com/podcast/2017/7/19/discussion-brendan-conway-masks-ap-post-interview

Podcast

The Art(ist) of the Game

I’m very lucky to have +Michael Williams in my regular Tuesday night (hangouts-based) gaming group. (we’re currently playing Dungeon World and Lady Blackbird, after wrapping up a 30-session pbta-hacked Star Wars campaign.)

I’m lucky to have him because he’s a great player. I didn’t even KNOW he could draw until he started turning out these wonderful character portraits.

And to be honest, the most enjoyable thing wasn't the final product (that's a very close second); it was the long post in our Dungeon World Roll20 forum in which Mike shared each iteration of the work he was doing, and went deep into the design theory behind each character. Fascinating stuff.

Here’s the finished picture of my Dungeon World…
Here’s the finished picture of my Dungeon World group, currently deep within the bowels of Frostdeath Mountain… I’m excited to see what sort of trouble these kids get into. Their last session ended…

Terribly Dated Game Commentary

After having the core D&D fifth edition books on my shelf for well over a year almost three years, I finally had good cause to read them. (I'm a bit past the point where I can find the time to read RPGs just for the heck of it.)

I'm both surprised and delighted to discover how little of the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide are actually rules for play: the (300 page) PHB's rules section is about 25 pages (with 175 for character creation, and 100 for magic-related stuff), and the DMG's section is roughly 30 pages, with the other 90% almost entirely devoted to world-building guidelines, advice, or examples of once kind or another (with optional rules from older editions of the game scattered throughout, allowing you to easily customize/homerule the system to whatever flavor of DnD you like best. Potion miscibility tables!)

It's weird to say 600 total pages of rulebooks represent a lean, simple system, but it really does. Good game.

Ready for Prime Time

Last night, we started a new Dungeon World game with the regular Tuesday night group. As I shared yesterday, I've been pretty excited about the game, as have the players, and it went about as well as I'd hoped.

But that's not what I'm posting about.

Normally, +Kaylee Testerman isn't around on Tuesday nights, but she was last night, and in lieu of doing some Overwatch matches with her (which is what normally happens if she's around and has no homework), I asked if she wanted to join the game.

She did.

Now, Kaylee's played quite a few RPGs with me, her cousins, and even with Sean, but she's never joined in on a 'regular' play group, and after I asked and she said she was in, I had a few niggling worries because… come on: she's eleven. She didn't even know two of the guys in the group. What if she ending up being the "super annoying kid of the GM?"

I may be (probably am) biased, but really I needn't have worried. She was focused, polite, thoughtful, inventive, and just all around a positive contributing member of the game – I was particularly impressed with her answer to the question I asked each player: "This land is beautiful/desolate, because…" (here: https://youtu.be/ML-LUfjNgas?t=1h10m26s), but all of her play showed so much thought, I worried people would think I'd coached her.

(She told me after that game that during the owlbear fight, she'd been googling "how to take down big monsters in fantasy games" so she'd have a good action to take when it was her turn.)

Nerd-gamer-me was proud as could be.

Dungeon World Character Creation Thread

We’re starting up a mini-campaign of Dungeon World, with most of the conversation taking place in a single private Google+ conversation thread.

But it was too good, so I’m saving most of it here for posterity. Sorry the formatting is so terrible. Blame G+.


Okay, I think the plan I’m going to go with is running a Dungeon World thing, followed by a Masks thing. (I’m especially jazzed about Masks since I just got a new packet of playbooks from the Kickstarter yesterday, but patience…)

SO, here’s the particulars.

The Roll20 page is [link redacted] – you can jump in there and open a character sheet and put in stats and moves as you like, if you’re super motivated. (Mike, your Artificer is in there already.)

Dungeon World is baaaasically a PBTA take on classic DnD, so the standard DnD classes are there: Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, et cetera, and you can dig into alternate playbooks if you want to go the Basic DnD route of “Dwarf is a character class” or whatever. The System Resource document has all the basic classes, but seriously if you have some kind of fantasy trope you want to play, ask, because it probably exists out there somewhere.

Once I know what people are playing, I will hit you with personality and background questions.

The tone of the game will be fantasy closer to White Dwarf and Heavy Metal magazine covers than The Hobbit. Magic is powerful, weird, and dangerous.

We’ll be using Flags instead of Bonds, so ignore Bonds in the rules.

That’s about everything I can think of right now.


Mike Yay! Glad to finally be back to Dungeon World and interested in how Flags play out. Might I also suggest this document.


Doyce Oh I like those! Good stuff!

Basically, unless you’re a bard or some other highly social character (some priests might qualify), pick or design two flags for people to hit. If you’re super-social, three.


Mike BTW Doyce, are we still going to be doing the thing with the timeloop where my artificer remembers what happened that you’d mentioned in the previous thread, or are we doing something else? Will probably help me determine my Flags.


DoyceWhat do you think? I was thinking something like you suddenly find yourself riding a horse on the way to Frostberry at the base of the mountain, with these people you know, but also with that other set of very vivid (but fading?) “memories”… it would tie into your experiments in the cabin pretty well.

Or you could play someone else and your other guy can be a backup character following someone’s gruesome death. 🙂


Doyce Actually, Mike, I was looking over my notes from that other session, and guess what? During the lead-in questions, we found out that group was actually the SECOND group you were heading to the mountain with – the first group was wiped out before you ever got to the mountain.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BE TRYING TO REACH THE PEAK? 🙂

(~Ash tries to play it cool as he relives a hellish groundhog day scenario for the 113th time…~)


Mike I’d forgotten all about that. Man, Ash really shouldn’t have played with that clock… every single time.

I kind of like the idea of Ash just flashing back to town, with a brand new group of adventurers ready to head up to the Mountain. “Gods below, why is it always a new group of people? Why do the memories always end when we get to the door? Why is it always the same day but everything is different? Maybe things will turn out differently this time…”


Doyce

I love this, so much. 🙂

Also of use: the dungeonworldsrd.com site has a section just on Character Creation – nice, since the actual character class pages don’t cover things like “what stat numbers you get.”


Dave I’ve been re-reading the Flags article Doyce originally linked to at http://walkingmind.evilhat.com – From Bonds to Flags.

(Saying this aloud to be sure I get the idea): a Flag is a Significant Personality Trait, with how others can tap it to demonstrate it (both trait and tap being something that makes the game interesting) and so earn them an XP.


Doyce

I would say the label of a flag is usually expressed as a personality trait, although the actual flag itself is the action that somebody takes to point at that personality trait

To go down a little bit further, it’s not just a personality trait that your character has, it’s an aspect of your character that you think will be FUN to see called out fairly regularly in play. People are going to be getting Xp rewards for hitting this thing, so they’re going to want to hit it. if you don’t want to see it… actually I’m going to say that if you don’t think you’ll enjoy seeing it repeatedly, pick something else.


Dave

(As a side note, and not to discourage anyone, but bearing in mind that this is meant to be a short campaign, it may not be necessary to boil the ocean to create our characters. Though I’ll confess I have several paragraphs of backstory already written …)


Doyce

He’s going to feel so silly when he dies in the first room.


Bill No worries, I can run an immediate sequel campaign using Wraith: the Oblivion.


Dave Is there a mechanical reason to put the Flags in the Roll20 Bio page, vs. putting them in on the main character sheet as if they were Bonds?

(We’ll probably want to gather all of those into a convenient document, since we need to know each other’s Flags more than our own.)


Doyce The bio page is the only page that other people can see, other than the people who can actually edit the character sheet. So you can see the part of the sheet with all the stats and numbers and moves, but somebody else looking at your sheet can only see that bio page. So if I wanted to see what flags to hit on your character, I can click on your character sheet and see those flags on the front page, but I won’t be able to see them if they’re inside your character sheet, and even if I could see them in the character sheet they’re a lot harder to find in there. 🙂

Basically I would put them in both places, but I’m weird like that.

Put another way: The bio page is basically for everything you want other people to see and know about your character


Dave Poifect, thanks.


Bill Did anyone else figure out what they are playing?


Doyce

Dave’s got a bard, Mike is doing his Artificer, Kay is I think gravitating toward a Ranger or Fighter. I don’t know about Margie yet, and my personal experience with her character choices, while extensive, isn’t deep enough to let me guess.

I do know that she’s usually as willing as you are to fill a needed gap, so you need not wait.

Right now, the ‘gaps’ are primarily thief- and fighter- or cleric-shaped, I think?

That said, it’s three sort of hybrid classes so far, so more dual-mode stuff (an unclassed ‘elf’ or ‘dwarf’ or something, for example) also works.

Knowledge/lore stuff can be covered by both the Artificer and Bard, but don’t let that rule out a Cleric or proper spell-caster.

I mean, really, I’d say go for whatever type of play most appeals to you – if you guys don’t end up with a bend-bars/lift gates or lockpick person, you’ll have to work the problems another way. 🙂


Dave I shall sing to the iron bars and they shall part to let me pass!

Or … most likely not.


Doyce My favorite part about the alternate Bard playbook is that it’s specifically designed to remove the ‘singing with a lute in the middle of a fight’ stuff. 🙂


Bill Okay, stock Thief is statted in Roll20.


Dave I will noodge the kinfolk.


Mike Bill, you say “stock thief” but the image makes me think of a very specific thief who wants my HP or my GP. 😉


Bill I’m not picky.


Doyce“Cowardly: Put us in situations I can justly complain about.”

Well, there’s everyone XP fountain for the game.

PERFECT. 🙂


MikeHey, Ash and Basler can complain about everything together! 😀

Actually just noticed that they both have the same flag, just named slightly different; I found mine under the Lawful header, but I figured I’d rename it for something more character appropriate.


Doyce Hmm. Yeah, that duplicate flag might be troublesome. Something to ponder. Hmm…


MikeOh I don’t know Doyce, that just means that Ash and Basler will want different things to complain about. Can’t speak for Bill, but from the Cowardly tag it sounds like he wants Basler to complain about being put into dangerous situations that he doesn’t want that he can complain about. “Hey Basler, this hallway looks suspicious. Mind taking a look?” “Oh, I don’t know…”

I see Ash’s more of seeing other people in danger and after helping them, complaining about being put upon to help. (just making some assumptions here…) Eduard: “Oh no, I’m being beset on all sides! Someone help me!” Ash: disgusted noise “I swear, if I wasn’t around to pull your butts out of the fire.”

Sure it’s a slight distinction, but I can see it being quiet different in play. Sort of an internal vs. external dynamic, if that makes sense.


DoyceI am 100% on board if you guys are. 🙂


DoyceKay has given you all a marvelous gift for this campaign.


Bill “Go fight that demon! This talisman will protect you.”

By the time that PC dies, the rest of us will have leveled up enough to beat it.


Doyce Actual conversation I had with kay on Roll20 tonight:

“Seriously, can I trust the thief?”

GM looks at your ‘Gullible’ flag.

“Absolutely.”


Bill


Doyce

This whole thread is a national treasure.


MikeJust checked out all the characters on the Roll20 page and I must say I’m very excited for tonight’s game.


Dave Yeah, thank goodness this is just a one-off adventure, otherwise folk might have put real effort into devising interesting characters …


Doyce

If you guys don’t end up destroying the world, I will keep them around for additional Adventures.


And here they are:

Ash Ulric, Artificer
ash

Basler
basler

Eduard Zitherhands, Bard
Eduard

Tiana, the rough mercenary turned paladin
tiana

Torwin the Courageous (among other things)
Torwin

Star Wars: Rebel Ops Update

I don't make a habit of posting links to the AP videos for our ongoing online Star Wars game, mostly because they're just a LOT of them (21 sessions recorded, with two additional missing sessions where we had technical difficulties).

23 sessions in about 46 weeks isn't too bad, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm sharing this one just because I'm happy with the way Roll20 is now working as our all-in-one voice, video, and virtual table solution, and happy with the OBS recording software and how the whole thing looks. It's not perfect, but it's pretty decent.

Plus it was just a fun session – lots of things going sideways in various ways, which is always a hoot – and set up some stuff I'm really looking forward to.

Visually, not a lot happening on the screen (I didn't use any maps or really drop in too many pictures this time), but I always like having the recording.

Pondering FAE Tweaks for Star Wars: Rebel Ops

A few days ago, I publicly mulled over how the game is going. That post attracted quite a bit of conversation, much of it extremely helpful in terms of focusing down on the stuff I didn’t think was working that I think is worth trying to address, going forward.

On the whole, I’m pretty happy with Fate mechanics, the characters, the setting, the potential story, and so forth.

What I’m not thrilled with are Approaches.

Now, on paper, I love Approaches – I just genuinely like the idea of actions sorted out terms of whether they’re Flashy, Sneaky, Clever, or whatever.

In practice, there are two problems I’ve encountered.

  1. A character’s action very rarely maps to a single approach, and almost never maps cleanly. You tend to get a lot of conversations like this:

    “Hmm, do you think the action you’re taking is Quick or Clever? I mean it’s Clever, but you’re doing it Quickly…”
    “Actually, I’m trying to surprise them with this, so I was hoping for Sneaky…”

    And so on. It ends up putting the Meta game-system stuff right in my face with a frequency I find annoying, and I have a high tolerance for that kind of thing.

  2. You define your character with Aspects, but you stat them out – in terms of hard numbers – with Approaches. This has the effect of giving your character two sets of important ‘stats’ that don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another, and mechanically it leads to a weird disconnect. Now, anyone who plays Fate at all will tell you that Aspects are the core of the system – it’s the thing that, if you take it out, makes it no longer Fate, in my opinion – buuuuuuuut in FAE, Approaches get numeric ratings, and it’s those numbers that affect every single die roll first, before any Aspects get involved, and since they directly address about how you like to do things, rather than simply what you can do (like skills), they tend to affect the broad interpretation of the character much more.

What are you Yammering About, Man?

So it’s like this: You have your core concept, expressed as Aspects, and then you have these Approaches, who’s ratings also say something about your character, and because of their non-granularity, they tend to say those things with very sweeping generalizations, often (in my personal experience) pulling the character away from their core concept in either small or large ways.

2016-04-09 08-40-56 PM

I’ll give a short example, using Dave’s character from our game, with Aspects tweaked slightly for the purposes of this example:

Aral Tholemain
Patriotic Noble of Naboo
Revolutionary with a Bounty on my Head
The Empire took my family from me.
An officer and sometimes bloodthirsty gentleman
E’lir would be my daughter’s age…

I could give you a couple paragraphs of backstory, but really, I think these five Aspects capture the gist of what’s going on, and I think it’s fair to say this is a pretty grim character, right?

Here are his Approaches:

Careful: 1
Clever: 1
Flashy: 3
Forceful: 2
Quick: 0
Sneaky: 2

You know what I see when I look at those approaches?

A swashbuckler, maybe. Perhaps a con man. If you told me “noble”, I’d nod and say “oh yeah, I can totally see that,” but what I wouldn’t see is the kind of noble Aral is.

Look at those Aspects up above? Is there anything there that says “Flashy?” I guess it depends on how you look at someone who’s a dedicated firebrand, but… well.

Yes, you can make it work.

But there’s the thing – Flashy is Aral’s big Approach, so of course Dave’s going to want to do things flashily when he can, especially when things Really Matter.

… so this Bloodthirsty Gentleman who’s lost his family is doing big attention-grabbing attacks while loudly shouting “You Dastard!”, striking a memorable pose, et cetera.

Is that the guy we see in the Aspects? I’m hardly sure, but I don’t think so.


And yes, I know you can just have a different Approach be the top one, but for a significant subset of actions important to the character, a high Flashy makes the most sense – it just gets weird when applied in other activities.

“Well, if it doesn’t make sense, then don’t be Flashy and deal with a lower rating.”

Nice idea, and it happens some of the time, but when your pulse is hammering and your blood is high, you go for the most thematically appropriate narration that’s going to give you a shitty stat to roll. Gamers will game; playing to your strengths is part of that, and is hardly the problem I’m talking about, or even a problem in the first place. Moving on…


Where were we?

Right: so I’m leaning toward dumping Approaches entirely and rating the Aspects instead – at least as a trial run, to see how it feels in play.

Doing that, Aral might look like this:

Patriotic Noble of Naboo [+3]
Revolutionary with a Bounty on my Head [+1]
The Empire took my family from me [+2]
An officer and sometimes bloodthirsty gentleman [+2]
E’lir would be my daughter’s age… [+1]

So the Aspects continue to function as Aspects, but also function as… almost miniature character classes, or gestalt skill/experience “sets,” where you pick the one most applicable to the action taken (or the lowest rated one that applies, if there are many, because I’m mean), and add that value to the roll.

Yes, you’d probably have one aspect you ‘always’ roll when shooting someone, but… okay. How is that different than a character with a “Shoot” skill? Aral’s experiences as an officer and bloodthirsty gentlemen is where he learned to shoot. Makes sense. Done.

And hey, if you throw a fate point down and activate that same Aspect for a bonus on the roll you just made with that Aspect? Then this action is SUPER important and relevant to that facet of the character, which I choose to see as a big feature, not a bug.

But the main thing – as my daughter pointed out while we were talking about this today – is that everything you’re doing, related to that roll, is only pulling you in toward that core character concept; there’s no weird double influence of “I’m being bloodthirsty, but FLASHILY.” (Which sounds a little psychotic, anyway. 🙂

I don’t mean to pick on Dave at all; I think this is relevant to several characters – probably all of them, to different degrees – it’s just that he’s the easiest example of what I’m thinking, and I got thinking about it when he mentioned Aral as he exists now is different than how he envisioned him. Some variance is obviously going to happen – it always does – but given the ability we have to define characters with Aspects, it really shouldn’t go that far afield.

Anyway, thoughts?