The Game: Masks: A New Generation
The Publisher: Magpie Games
Degree of Familiarity: None with this game specifically; I've read it. A decent amount with the underlying system.
Books Required: Just the one, though the playbooks aren't in the book, so you gotta download or print them from the site. I mention this because they took some flak for that, and I admit it is kinda annoying to not have them to hand when you're reading the book.
Anyway! Masks is about being a superhero, but also about being a teenager. Characters in the game are taking over for the last generation of heroes, but those older heroes are still very much part of this. Honestly, Masks takes supers RPGs in a new direction, and it's a pretty darned perfect expression of the genre through PbtA.
So, first off, we choose a playbook. Hmm. I like most of them, actually. I'm not crazy about the Legacy or the Beacon, so not those. I really like the Doomed, the Delinquent, and the Janus. Hrm. I do Doomed things all the time and I don't have a specific concept. I'm gonna go with the Janus. 'Scuse me while I print this out.
OK, so. The Janus' whole thing is the secret identity; it's the Spider-Man kind of character where the split in focus between hero and "real life" is what comes back on you. Interestingly, that's something I don't see a lot of in supers RPGs, unless you really try to make time for it (shows up in With Great Power... pretty well, f'rex).
So, my character is a young man in Halcyon City who's taking a year off between high school and college (so he's about 19). His real name is Roger Royce (because I'm a firm believer in superheroes having alliterative names). On the streets, he's called...hmm. Well, looking over the abilities I can choose from, I have an idea.
I'm gonna take substance mimicry and energy absorption (in addition to my freebies of echanced physical prowess). Roger can absorb energy thrown at him, and he can take on the physical properties of whatever substances he touches. In his "Roger Royce" form, he's a boringly dressed young man just trying to make his way in the city. He keeps his costume in his duffel bag, though - black cargo pants, black boots, black hoodie that covers his face. He can become whatever he needs to just by touching it, and the last time someone asked his superhero handle, that's what he responded: "Whatever."
Now, Labels. I can put +1 wherever I want, and it would behoove me to think ahead (one of my playbook moves involves a Label). I think I'll put my +1 into Freak. I'm getting a vibe of some...not self-loathing, exactly, off of Whatever, but the sense that he's not entirely comfortable with these abilities and what they might mean.
I don't have any conditions, so I zip directly into backstory questions.
- When did you first put on the mask? Why? Roger isn't sure how he gained his powers. After he graduated from high school, he noticed that his hands would take on the colors of whatever he touched...then the texture...then the properties. He put on the mask (the hood, really) during a Fourth of July block party. Some idiot fired a Roman candle right into the back of a van loaded with fireworks, and the thing exploded. Roger pulled on the hoodie to protect himself, took on the properties of the burning van (fire doesn't burn, after all) and helped guide people to safety. He did it because he knew these people - they were the folks from his block. He wasn't going to let them get hurt.
- Why do you keep a secret identity? Roger was all set to reveal his powers and his identity, but then the news showed up and people were talking about the "freak" that was there walking through fire. Probably he started it, he was burning. Roger kinda decided fuck it after that.
- Who, outside of the team, knows about your dual identity? Tina Durst, little sister of John Durst, Roger's best friend. John went into the Navy after graduation and Tina feels a little lost without him. She was following Roger around one day and saw him change.
- Who things the worst of your masked identity? Officer Pete Marple. He lives on the block, but he lost his husband to a superhero dustup last year and he's not a fan of people wearing costumes. Plus, Whatever looks like a hoodlum. Marple is sure Whatever set the fire (maybe by accident) and then tried to get out of it by "helping" people. Marple is getting fast-tracked to promotion, too.
- Why do you care about the team? Roger knows he's in over his head. His powers are impressive but they aren't going to save him from someone who really wants him dead, and his life is precarious. He needs the support, and he needs to be able to trust someone other than Tina.
So, next thing would be to introduce Whatever to the team and answer a couple of team-based questions, but I ain't got a team, so. Moves!
I get The Mask, which means I choose a Label that I can switch with Mundane (which starts high) once per session. I think it's in keeping to make it Freak, but I'm gonna say Savior. Whatever wouldn't admit it, but he wants to protect people.
And then I get two more moves out of the five available. I'll take Game Face (I can totally see Whatever flipping up his hood and charging into the fray) and I'll Save You! (I can reveal my identity to automatically defend someone).
And finally, I have to take three obligations for my secret identity. I'll take dishwasher (Roger got a job in a high-end restaurant as a dishwasher; it pays OK and it's easy work); household chores (he still lives with his parents and they don't mind as long as he does "some work around the house," which is basically all of the work around the house; best friend (that'd be Tina - she knows his ID but she gets into trouble, and Roger would never forgive himself if something happened to her).
And that's it!