This Monday, I ran the first session of a mini-campaign of Masks. A bit of an introduction is necessary, since this game will run for seven total sessions, and I expect I’ll refer back to it, from time to time, as the campaign unfolds. So…

I ran this game through the Chicago Alternative RPG Meetup, which means, among other things, that it was open to any member of our group who signed up for the game in advance. (We capped attendance at 5 players, not counting the GM.) That said, we have a lot of regulars, many of whom joined up. For upcoming games, the group is “locked,” meaning that we won’t be adding new players for the remaining six sessions. This week, the game happened at Matilda, a very cool local bar and restaurant that has kind enough to give us a space to play since 2019.

The neon ASS sign in the BabyAtlas space where we game most weeks

So that was the setup. Next, I should probably say a word or two about Masks. In the interest of getting to an account of what Monday was like, and of what I hope will happen going forward, I’m going to keep my description succinct. In Masks, the players take the part of young superheroes, generally 16-20 years old. By default, you all live in Halcyon City, a metropolis that has been living with superheroes and villains since the 1940s, along with the various peculiar occult, futuristic, and just plain bizarre things that go along with a tradition of super heroism/ villainy. You are finding your way as emerging adults, looking to distinguish yourself, to find yourself, or maybe just to escape the expectations of adults and/or cosmic destiny.

The game sets players up with options for their own very cool superhero, but the emphasis is always on the themes and issues each character will face. The fact that your character can blast sheets of flame from their fingertips, say, is obviously important, but Masks places equal emphasis on how your character struggles with the expectations of others and with their own sense of who they are and would like to be. There are all sorts of mechanics in place to bring emotional weight to the character’s personal stories. If you like comic books, (which seems like a fairly safe bet,) the precedents will be obvious here, from Young Avengers on one side of the street to Teen Titans on the other—and various other points all around.

Masks is Powered by the Apocalypse, which means the story comes first. If you’re familiar, I’d say that this hack is relatively complicated. It doesn’t have as many moves as World Wide Wrestling, but it surpasses Brindlewood Bay by a long shot. That said, it’s a solid hack, and I’m really enthusiastic to be running it. A lot of thought has been put into how to interlock moves. My impression is that the rules will not get in the way, but will instead prompt and facilitate. It has its own unique spin on PbtA concepts, which guides everything right into the subject matter and mood the game is trying to create. I think that’s the best you can hope for in a story-driven system.

That said, games can go all over the place, so we’ll see if the system, the players, and….uhhhhh…the GM can all come together for a good game. Masks also some important rules for acting as a superhero team. I’m the spirit of these will inform our game play! More to come soon…

I’m trying something different to give players story hooks and develop the setting…check it out here.

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