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.Read More
I plan on updating my blog more frequently in the upcoming year. I thought it might be useful, to anyone who stops in and reads, to know what I do and how I do it. My intention is to offer a sketch of how I come into each game I run, and then a reflection about how the game actually plays out—a sort of “Before/After” snapshot. I thought my reflections might be useful, or at least distracting, for some of you who know me. This here will be the longest entry that I will make. (I promise!) But I feel like I need to provide some context before I move forward.
So I am a GM, first and foremost. I aspire to other things—mostly to do with game design—but at the moment, GMing is mostly where it’s at. By almost any standard, I GM in high volume, which is to say I average two games a week, but sometimes end up doing up to five games, and these games run the gamut from storytelling games like, say, Dialect, (which, I know, is GMless, but come on…) to traditional RPGs like everyone’s favorite (haha sort of) Mörk Borg. I have run Bluebeard’s Bride, Hypertellurians, Dread, Better Angels, the Everything of Cthulhu, and, of course, The World’s Most Cough Cough Speak Not Its Name…
I have run a lot personal games at my house, in which the players and I have gone all over the place, doing all sorts of things, and that overall experience has been amazing. I’ve also run a lot of public/gig-type games and learned to appreciate the shotgun wedding nature of a good, random one-shot. I like to think that the time I’ve put in has granted me a certain amount of patience and, maybe, insight—not so much because I’m the brightest bulb in the box. More to the point, if you practice as much as I have—eventually something useful takes hold.
I also like to think that all of this GMing hasn’t dulled my passion for the whole experience—even if, at times, it’s led me to become a little more pragmatic. TTRPGs are awesome, to my way of thinking. They can be a frontier of consciousness, where you are whatever you want to be and/or catch glimpses of who or what you could be. They are also a habit that can lead to aberrant and antisocial behavior—oh yeah, and they’re a bankable, if somewhat picayune, industry.
I’m a cog in this wheel, but who cares? I’m looking forward to the games I currently have lined up for 2023. If nothing else, my friends and I enjoy them, so I thought it might be worth telling you about them, from the GM’s perspective. So next time around, I’ll describe my upcoming mini-campaign of the super-hero game Masks, which will kick off the year for my public group. I’m really looking forward to it. I am mostly a guileless person, and I’ll tell you upfront that I’m amped about this game, because it is about being young and figuring things out. It seems like a great place to start a new year. I’ll let you know what my setup is sometime soon. Then, if you’re still reading, I’ll tell you how things go, somewhere down the line.
Meanwhile, Happy New Year!
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1934: In Axum, Eritrea, the Investigators were standing outside the home in which the body of archaeologist BARTOLO ACUÑA had been discovered. Acuña was hanging from the ceiling by his wrists, and his host lay murdered nearby. A crowd had gathered, and members of the local constabulary were questioning the Investigators about their presence there and about the fact that Chantelle Perreault had visited the house on the previous day. Dorothy Howard pointed out to the officers that trucks had just left town, presumably bearing archaeologist HUSAIN SOLIMAN and his companions.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1934: The Investigators made their way back to the home of their own host, DESTA EJIGU. They noticed that the residents of Axum were eying them suspiciously and decided to make arrangements to leave town, as the constables had suggested. Their guide ABAI found them a place on a truck that was leaving town soon. Luke Davis sent a telegram to customs officer CARLO SALVATORE, in which he implicated Soliman and his companions in the murders in Axum. Chantelle sent a telegram to her estranged husband, ALEXANDRE, updating him of her movements and experiences.
The truck carried the group back to the port city of Massaua. During the trip, Abai talked with James “Tick Tock” Cohan. He offered James a job with his employers and expressed concern over the intentions of James’ companions. James declined the offer, which might have taken him to England, and he and Abai wished each other well.
Arriving in Massaua, the Investigators parted with Abai. They noticed a general tension between the Italian military authorities and the indigenous people that had not been there before. The Investigators conferred briefly with Salvatore, who told them that Soliman and his companions were being detained for questioning at the airport, thanks to Luke’s telegram. Salvatore also pointed them to a new guide, OGBAI.
Ogbai is older, more taciturn and commanding, but seems knowledgeable and competent. He speaks English, Italian, and Arabic and knows the area around Dallol, Ethiopia. The Investigators have decided to travel there in search of the remains of the 1924-1926 dig led by Acuña and missing archaeologist/cultist GEORGE AYERS.
According to Ogbai’s suggestions, the Investigators caught a boat from Massaua to the smaller mining town of Mersa Fatma. Here they approached the manager of the Compagnia Mineraria Coloniale, RENZO SEGNI. The company is largely shut down, so Segni agreed to let them use a small locomotive to travel through the harsh Danakil Desert to Iron Point, near the small village of Kolluli. Dorothy and Chantelle joined him for dinner at his home, where he insinuated interest in some sort of engagement involving them and his three wives.
Luke conferred with Segni’s capable assistant, SINUHE DJAU, who warned of bandits and of a group of Afar who have put aside a more traditional nomadic lifestyle. They have inhabited a small villager closer to the Dallol dig site, surrounded by what they call the Agony on the Wind.
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 20, 1934: In Axum, Eritrea, Chantelle went to interview BARTOLO ACUÑA for a second time. It was early morning. As she approached the house at which Acuña was staying, Chantelle glanced through a window and saw an old man looking back at her in fear. He was Acuña’s host, whom Chantelle had glimpsed before. He signaled her with his eyes that something was wrong inside the house.
Chantelle stopped to listen. She heard the sounds of angry men speaking English. Only a few words reached her—something about hanging something. Chantelle could not get a good view without exposing herself, but she guessed that there was a small group of people present. She made a hasty exit.
Still acting as tour guide, ABAI led Dorothy and James to Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion, (Tsion Maryam). The attached Chapel of the Tablet is rumored to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Virtually no one is allowed access to the Ark, but James’ heartfelt plea allowed him to briefly visit the chapel. (Dorothy’s offer of a sizable donation was declined.) The priest accompanied him, and he found the Ark under armed guard. He witnessed a strange shimmering effect in the air of the chapel.
Chantelle returned to the house at which the group was lodging. Luke had woken just recently to find that the false journal he’d had planted has been stolen. Dorothy told him what she’d witnessed at the house where Acuña was staying. Luke spoke briefly with their host DESTA EJIGU in her garden.
The group shared another meal with Abai, who remained nervous. At night, James made his way to the tents by the Northern Field of stelae. He stole into the large screen tent and found a small typewriter and desk set up near a dinning table. He stole some documents, including an image of a cartouche and a letter from HUSAIN SOLIMAN to SAVITREE SIRIKHAN. James noted that there were other men stationed about, including someone sleeping in the back of the large tent and at least one other man in a small tent. He approached the entrance of an ancient tomb and overheard men talking about leaving Axum.
After James returned to the house, the group compared notes. They heard cries up the street. A crowd was gathering around the house where Acuña had been staying. The archaeologist and his host had been beaten to death. Acuña’s body was left hanging from the ceiling of the house. As local law enforcement agents approached the Investigators, Dorothy saw a few trucks driving away into the night, presumably carrying away Soliman and his companions.