Masks Season One
Rather than present a length Actual Play report of all ten of the adventures we faced in my Masks campaign, I thought I’d present you with a rundown of some of the stories we played through, the stats of some of the villains and hopefully some inspiration for your own games.
Lee played Apollo, The Newborn. He was an experimental liquid metal weapon who gained sentience and thanks to a kind-hearted scientist, Dr Petrov, was able to escape. He knows about heroism mainly from television and looks like an old school black and white gangster when fighting. He’s a sweet boy and had a lot of heartbreak in the game.
Vinnie played Greg Graves, aka Stalker, The Transformed. He was a maths nerd whose school was attacked by aliens. Most of the kids were turned into bladed, mindless monsters, but Greg was able to keep his mind. He’s looked after by AEGIS (the SHIELD equivalent) and has real difficulty fitting into humankind.
Ash played Edgar Edwards, aka Extraordinarious! (including the exclamation mark), The Nova. He was a terrible aspiring wizard who went into a magic shop and learnt how to turn his stage magic into real magic.
I had a rough idea for some lunar villains who would fight the group, but then the players created a backstory for their team which was so much better. They fought a guy called Plutonium Joe at a science fair they were all attending. He was a sign of more things going on. Specifically, THE PERIODIC TABLE OF EVIL! That was the point where I threw my notes away and said ‘yes, this is what we’re doing now’. It was perfect.
Halcyon City is a place extremely used to superheroes, cosmic incursions, time travellers and alternate realities breaking into this one. Heroes fly past in the sky, looking like a flock of birds and reacted to just about as much. The group didn’t have a team name and were of the level where they might appear in the online supplement to the Halcyon City Herald, but not anywhere easily found by anyone.
The first mission had a school trip to the warehouse district which was in peril. The team’s base was on one of the many statues of superheroes which line the coast by Halcyon City. This statue was missing its top half and the identity of the hero was long-forgotten. The group saw what looked like an explosion at a factory and went to help out. The factory dealt with weird liquid metal experiments and had a school trip going on; the first of many times Stalker would question what the heck schools in Halcyon City were doing arranging such dangerous trips.
An angry young kid had his hands shoved in molten metal by bullies, but he discovered he could actually control the metal. His hands could change shape, turning into anything… as long as it was sharp. This was the villain of the episode, called Edgelord.
The group managed to rescue people, find out that the mad scientist who made Apollo was sneaking around Halcyon, and even guilt-tripped Edgelord into giving up. As the ‘hit points’ are narrative emotional conditions, it perfectly sets up these scenarios. The group took Edgelord to a Vietnamese restaurant to celebrate their victory.
Vs The Helium Horror!
The team saw that a self-proclaimed supervillain called The Helium Horror threatening to make some kind of villainous gesture in the Halcyon City Wildlife Reserve. In my version of Halcyon, the wildlife reserve had a time travel disaster which turned it into a Savage Land style dinosaur-filled jungle. There was a school outing there which the group saved from Helium Horror quite easily, but they saw a bunch of people messing about with weird technology. They fought the goons, including Apollo stretching out to make a bulletproof shield covering everyone. They ran through a portal and found a town… filled with bears?
Vs Oil Geezer and the Bear Dimension!
The group chased their enemies through into some kind of alternate Earth where only bears existed. They found a strange observation facility and bear-capture robots which they fought. Eventually they went into the bear town they’d initially seen and marvelled at how it was all built specifically bear-sized. The bears inside weren’t as thrilled, being normal bears who had been taken to this dimension. The group found out that this was a strange other dimension which was discovered by a mad scientist who felt he could teach bears to be like people. He used the seemingly limitless amount of bears in this dimension to set up shop, making a town and trying to educate them using robots. The bears were having none of it.
The goons they fought in the previous episode were pillaging the dimension at the behest of Oil Geezer, a Golden Age supervillain who once stole all of the oil from the moon. They fought his assassin, Bear Arms, who was able to infiltrate the bears in town until he found where the oil was. Bear Arms was a large man in a bear suit whose arms were bears and those bears were armed with guns. While Oil Geezer got away, Bear Arms was captured and handed over to AEGIS.
Vs The Haunted Gun!
The team were out celebrating their recent victory by seeing a pop star Apollo was a fan of. I simply gave the group the name, “Neon Black” and asked them what music they played. It was decided that Neon was an ageing prog rock star who’d fared badly after some bad business decisions and several divorces. He’d had a resurgence when he started doing covers of modern popular songs on YouTube. The players also created the club which was made around a crater made by a superhero. It was a strange dance floor, but there was a very impressive stage at one side. The group stopped an assassin who seemed just as confused as the heroes. Suddenly, another assassin appeared, a phantom gun materialising in his hand. The group realised pretty quickly that the enemy was a ghost of a gun who could possess people and turn them into murderers. He’d been hired by one of Neon Black’s ex-wives to murder him. Extraordinarious! pulled off some incredible magic tricks to protect Neon Black and the group became temporary celebrities for helping him out.
Then we had to repilot as Ash moved away and two more players joined the group:
Mark played Steel, a Reformed. She was the sidekick to Modiphius, a supervillain to the Iron Lord, Halcyon City’s mightiest defender.
Wade played Tyr, a Legacy. He was the latest Tyr, whose dad (a former incarnation of Tyr) was a much better hero decades ago.
Vs The Helium Horror! Again!
With Extraordinarious! on the way out, I decided to have an episode to focus on him. The group were in the magic shop belonging to Mr Wu, Extraordinarious!’ mentor, when Torrid Typhoon attacked the city. This was a villain from the Masks deck of villainy, as I needed a throwaway enemy for them.
The group stopped the Torrid Typhoon with the help of Steel and Tyr. They didn’t notice that the magic shop which belonged to Extraordinarious!’ mentor was being stolen. It floated up towards a bunch of drones and hot air balloons, with a cackling Helium Horror. Of course, he started tweeting at the group with his catchphrase #totesgonnafloat. Yes, he’s terrible.
The players split up between heroes entering the magic shop to save Mr Wu and the heroes fighting Helium Horror. The magic shop had several defences which proved just as threatening as Helium Horror (okay, probably more threatening). Once Helium Horror was stopped and the magic shop landed back in Halcyon City, Mr Wu revealed that he was moving to Vegas and asked to join him. Being a stage magician who was an actual magician, Extraordinarious! couldn’t resist and remained in the shop as it teleported away. Helium Horror mentioned something before being turned over to AEGIS. He was just one of many, part of the Periodic Table of Evil!
Vs The Attacksidermist!
Check that name out, huh? One of my players got up to leave the game when I revealed that one.
Tyr and Steel joined the team and went to investigate the manor belonging to Iron Lord. Steel had been the sidekick to Iron Lord’s nemesis and best friends with Iron Lord’s sidekick, princess, before they knew each other’s secret identities. Princess explained that something bad was going down in Iron Lord’s manor and the group went to investigate. Iron Lord had been missing and no one knew where he’d gone.
Once inside, they were exposed to a really tacky tour of the heroing life of Iron Lord, including several statues and diaramas. They were attacked by strange robotic animals who tried to stop them from entering. When they reached the Ironcave (yeah, I did that, I have no shame), they saw a mad scientist riding a gigantic robot bird. He announced himself as the Attacksidermist and unleashed the Diamond Silverback (a gorilla with snake-arms) on the group. He was here to loot the manor while Iron Lord was gone.
There was a ton of collateral damage and the Attacksidermist was defeated, but not before the Iron Lord’s cave started to crash down. The group found a strange portal and fled through it, with nowhere else to go.
The group woke up in strange nightmare scenarios, which I delivered to the players as little written ‘love letters’ to their characters, setting up the situations they found themselves in. Apollo was back in his lab being experimented on. Tyr was in the god-pit, where all the defective Tyrs were sent, made to fight other Tyrs and eventually discarded after failing his father. Stalker was being dissected by AEGIS and Steel was being asked to join Modiphius’ forces by the psychedelic interrogator, Dr Sydney Stockholm. She broke the others free and they found out they were in limbo, in a place called Fort Fobia, It was a strange between-dimension place, mostly made of sand, called Mount Modiphius. There were sandstone soldiers preparing for an invasion and talk of Modiphius as the ruler of the land. The group started to break into the castle, only for it to come alive and attack the group. Tyr summoned a tornado to break it open, then the group battled Modiphius, who was merged with the castle. They found Iron Lord who’d been a captive in the dimension and the portal back to the real world.
Most of the group sped out, all apart from Tyr, Apollo and Iron Lord. Tyr burnt the Influence he had on Apollo and Iron Lord to help them out, aat the cost of their emotions towards him. Iron Lord was torn out of his armour and thrown into the portal. Apollo was dragged along, but one of his hands was sliced off by the closing portal. The group ran and few out of the collapsing manor, regrouping apart from Apollo, who ran home in tears. Tyr found him later and they bonded over a couple of drinks, even though Apollo’s liquid metal hand hadn’t grown back yet.
Vs Frat Force!
The group had a brief call from Princess after some of Iron Lord’s tech had gone missing from a base in the Halcyon City Wildlife Park. They staked out the base and when a couple of thieves appeared, the group gave chase, heading to the north and through a dinosaur-proof fence to Halcyon University. Tyr revealed that he was technically a student at the university, although he didn’t really do much there.
The thieves were from a fraternity who’d been stealing technology to become superheroes. Frat Force were:
Chadlantic! The group’s leader with water-spewing wrist-cannons.
Exchange Student! A teleporter who could swap the places of any two people.
The Keg! A metal kid who could expand into a giant keg-looking form.
Truck! A large, mostly-silent guy who looked weirdly like Apollo.
Brad Attitude! An angry, Wolverine-looking kid.
The Frat Force fought the team, but actually turned out to have their hearts in the right place. Something was wrong at the university and Chadlantic’s girlfriend, Liliana Klein, was among one of several protestors who had gone missing from campus. Liliana was also a study buddy of Tyr’s, when he wasn’t neglecting his duties. They’d been trying to get the statues of Dean Enforcatron removed from the campus. He’d been an invading murder-robot who founded the university, so the campus kept statues of him up. Even worse, some of the statues started to move! They turned out to be not only active kill-robots, but they were hollow, used to capture and kidnap any students who spoke out against the university. The group fought them, pulling a giant statue of Dean Enforcatron down onto the Apollo and deep into the ground. The campus started to wake up…
Vs Dean Enforcatron 5
So Halcyon University… As it turns out, Dean Enforcatron never left it. Instead, he started to prepare the campus. With so many students protesting the statues (actually Enforcatron’s extra bodies), he had decided to launch the university into space, where the students would learn to respect him or be murdered. The group teamed up with Frat Force to stop the launch, including some ingenious disarming of the rockets on the underside of the university. They never quite managed to return the university to ground level, but they did stop Dean Enforcatron from his deadly launch. The team told off Chadlantic and Frat Force, taking all of their gadgets away. All apart from Truck, who ran into the Halcyon City Wildlife Park.
Vs A Retirement Parade!
Iron Lord decided to retire after his body was almost entirely broken from his torment in Limbo. He announced this to the city and they decided to throw him a parade to celebrate his achievements. He asked the group to look after the city while the parade went on. Princess was proud of herself, knowing that when he retired, she would take over as Halcyon’s premiere superhero. Despite their own accomplishments, our heroes still had yet to make headlines.
After everything which had happened in the series so far, this finale episode was the perfect point to tie it all together. The group split the city up between them in order to stop the many threats which were trying to attack the parade. This included The Attacksidermist who had a flock of evil bird drones in one of the nicer suburban districts. Apollo chased down Truck, who was on the run from the evil scientists who made them both. Steel thought she had to fight Edgelord, who was simply making his own vehicle. She ended up stealing it and running off when there were other enemies to stop. The group actually didn’t encounter Gallium Gal, the secret member of the Periodic Table who was lurking around, but that’s fine, they did a great job.
At the end of the parade, Haunted Gun reappeared, possessed Greg who started firing wildly. Tyr teleported in to defend everyone, took the gun and was teleported away in theory to his celestial realm. It was a bit Age of Ultron and I admit I’m still not 100% clear on what happened, but his player kind of wanted to retire Tyr at the time. We have some ideas about how he’ll return and what’ll happen to him.
By the end of it, the day was saved and the parade went off without a hitch. Right up until Iron Lord announced his successor… His nephew, Chadlantic!
This floored the group, right up until the next announcement over every television. A new team of superheroes were here to protect Halcyon City. The Periodic Table of Heroes?
One final shot of all of the heroes watching this, just about to swear, then cut to black.
That was season one of Masks. A lot of fun villains, a lot of great heroism and use of super-powers. There was slightly less order to the heroes lives as none of them really had any major ties to the real world. That’s something I’d like to resolve a bit when I start this up again. There were a lot of hooks which can be followed up on in the next season and the group have often used this as a benchmark of the PbtA games we’ve played. I know it’s my favourite superhero system, but I’m a sucker for young heroes getting into scrapes.