Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Prologue

Halcyon City has seen many generations of superheroes over its long history. The Golden Age got it all started, the Silver Age rose to new heights of power, and the Bronze Age saw heroes turn introspective (and a little cynical). Now a New Generation is rising to take their place in the city’s history, and everyone is watching them to see what they’ll become. Before we can start following their current story, however, we need to know who they are, how they came together, and what sort of troubles might be on the way.

Our Heroes Are . . .

Spitfire, The Bull, a.k.a. Sally O’Brien.

Sally is a case study in why adolescent girls should avoid ‘bring your daughter to work’ day, as her father brought her to his job at High Impact BioMedical, one of the premier biomedical companies in Halcyon City. She doesn’t precisely remember what happened, but she does remember being experimented on and given super strength and toughness, and being deployed as a living weapon. Now she’s free, insofar as she has to hide behind her new identity as Spitifre. She considers CryptoHertz to be her rival, and has a staggering crush on Calamitas.

Calamitas, The Nova, a.k.a. DeGauss Powers.

DeGauss grew up in South Africa, far from Halcyon City but not beyond the reach of its influence. Tainted water near a High Impact BioMedical power plant facility granted him powers that were as equally hard to control as they were destructive, so his parents sent him off to Halcyon as an exchange student. He currently lives with retired Bronze Age hero Collateral Damage Man, and is one of the students at Halcyon High School #5. He can be most often found hanging out with The Hemophiliac, and still feels guilty about accidentally hurting Spitfire.

Showtime, The Delinquent, a.k.a. Morgan Teller.

The child of a now-imprisoned supervillain, Morgan inherited the same magical powers as their father, specifically those of illusions and emotional control. Their control isn’t the best, however, one of the consequences of which is their constant switching between male and female. One of the (often truant) students at Halcyon High School #5, Morgan causes about as much trouble there as they do while adventuring as Showtime. Morgan is often trying to impress Spitfire, and got in a less than legal bit of trouble with the Red Dragon III.

Red Dragon III, The Legacy, a.k.a. Terry Yammamoto

Terry has been raised from birth to inherit the mantle of the Red Dragon and has recently become the third of that line of superheroes. Between sheer willpower and a series of wacky gadgets the original Red Dragon, Terry’s grandfather, defeated a giant monster outside of Tokyo. Terry’s father moved the family to Halcyon City when he became the second Red Dragon, and while retired he remains a constant if distant (and quite judgmental) figure in Terry’s superheroic career. Terry has a younger brother who will become the next Red Dragon if Terry fails, and a butler who is his only companion at home. Terry once got caught shaming his legacy with Showtime, and shared a secret of his legacy with The Hemophiliac.

The Hemophiliac, The Transformed, a.k.a. ‘John Doe’

The Hemophiliac knows very little about his life before he became what is, essentially, a shape-shifting blood monster. He knows that he was terminally ill. He knows that an experimental treatment was proposed by one Dr. Slaughter. He knows that he is no longer terminally ill. That’s about it: he’s forgotten everything else, including his name, and most if not all records on who he was had vanished by the time he woke up transformed. Even Dr. Slaughter, who stays in touch, doesn’t seem to know much about what went wrong or who The Hemophiliac was. As he ‘pushes the bounds of human comfort’ a little (his words), The Hemophiliac is the most reclusive of the bunch, spending most of his time at Arasaka Base. He was once offered comfort by Calamitas, and CryptoHertz knew who he was in his past life (but has not yet made the connection).

Sabot, The Protégé, a.k.a. Sabot Arasaka.

Another hero from Japan, Sabot is the young protégé of one Saburo Araska, one of the Silver Age ‘Corporate CEO-type’ superheroes, and is also his adopted son and heir. A survivor of a certain group of ‘Kaiju bait’, Sabot has not had an easy life, but has settled in well to a career of fighting villains using technology and gadgets. Saburo sent him to Halcyon City to ‘season’ him, and provided the funds for Arasaka Base, along with transportation and a few aces in the hole for Sabot to use if needed. Sabot actually teamed up with Spitfire before the team formed, until he figured out she wasn’t in control of herself, and has picked up the habit of keeping an eye on The Hemophiliac.

CryptoHertz, The Beacon, a.k.a Gilbert Phillips

Gilbert is, by his own admission, a complete and utter nerd who certainly had no ability to engage in superheroics. Luckily(?) for him, an apparent shipping mistake landed some experimental cybernetics on his doorstep instead of the computer parts he’d ordered. There was very little hesitation on Gil’s part, and he is now skilled with a blade and reaching the acrobatic limits of the human body. While a student at Halcyon High School #5 he has been quite vocal about being CryptoHertz, but only a few believe that he’s talking about something other than a tabletop game character. Gil thinks that Showtime is awesome, often to his own detriment, and as a fellow ‘cyberpunk’  Gil believes he has to prove himself to Sabot.

How They Came Together

Spitfire: We defeated a dangerous enemy. Who or what was it?

When Sabot figured out that something was wrong with Spitfire’s situation and helped CryptoHertz to rally a team to investigate, the team came across a clone of Spitifre. Dubbed ‘Spitfire 1.1’ by the team, the clone did not survive the encounter, although her death was not intentional. It raised all sorts of questions, and is among the reasons Spitfire remains in hiding.

Calamitas: We destroyed our surroundings in the fight. Where was it? What did we destroy?

The lab that Spitfire was being kept in, and that was the origin of Spitfire 1.1, was hidden underneath an orphanage funded by High Impact BioMedical. While civilian casualties were thankfully nonexistent, the entire facility was annihilated during the battle after something delicate got breached. No evidence was left behind for the team to investigate, and Spitfire 1.1 perished in the blast.

Showtime: We totally broke some major rules to win the fight. What rules did we break? Whose rules are they?

“Do not help create supervillain backstories.” An unwritten rule of superheroic life in Halcyon City, the team accidently broke it by annihilating the secret lab, potentially exposing theoretical future supervillains in it to whatever made Spitfire. While a rule held by most of the adult superheroes in the city, it’s drawn the particular eye of Bronze Age hero The Lawman, and with him the eyes of AEGIS.

Red Dragon III: All things considered, we did well and impressed an established hero. Who was it?

Saburo Arasaka was intending for the visit of his young protégé to Halcyon City to be a temporary one, but was impressed both with Sabot’s individual performance and with the formation of the young team of superheroes. This is what prompted him to fund Arasaka Base, both the Friendly Local Gaming Store on the surface and the superhero base beneath it, making Sabot’s ‘education’ in Halcyon City a more permanent affair.

The Hemophiliac: We drew attention and ire from plenty during the fight. One important person in particular now hates and fears us. Who is it?

While fear certainly isn’t part of the equation, the Golden Age heroine Gaia took note of the events at the orphanage/lab. While many heroes were irritated by the potential creation of new supervillains, Gaia was piqued by the potential environmental damage. The number of team members who use technology, or who gained their powers through reckless science, has done the team no favors in Gaia’s eyes.

Sabot: We stuck together after all was said and done. Why? How’d we keep in contact?

The pithy answer is ‘group therapy and shared angst’, but it’s true that most of the heroes did not choose the events that led them to the superpowered life, or at least had a hard road to get there. While lacking, for now, a formal team name ‘Team Daddy Issues’ has been mentioned once or twice. Everyone has chosen to be a hero now, however, and bonded together over a shared sense of being new to the lifestyle. Even those who don’t attend Halcyon High School #5 tend to hang out in the Arasaka Base game store, and Spitfire and The Hemophiliac technically live in the hero base.

CryptoHertz: We found signs that this incident was just the start of something bigger. What were the signs?

The sheer size of the laboratory, as well as the fact that nobody responsible for Spitfire or Spitfire 1.1’s creation was identified or caught, hinted at the fact that the team had missed a lot of the details. Since then, the team have caught on to a few attempts by agents of High Impact BioMedical to monitor them; while there’s no evidence that any of their civilian identities have been revealed, their superhero identities and careers are definitely of interest to the corporation . . .

Masks: A New Generation is the teenaged superhero Powered by the Apocalypse roleplaying game from Magpie Games, and is now the focus of this latest series in the Adventure Log! Like many PbtA games, character creation and a certain amount of world-building is a group activity that comes up front. Everything up above I’ve cleaned up and put together, but all of it was basically created by the players while they were answering questions on their playbooks, talking back and forth among themselves and with me the MC, and by answering the ‘how the team came together’ questions.

Right off the bat, we have player characters who know one another, many of whom have a web of different relationships and opinions on who else’s opinion matters. We’ve got some established facets of the setting, introducing a lot of elements that actually slide the genre of the game a little into the cyberpunk area of things, something I didn’t expect (but, considering I first met this bunch in a Cyberpunk 2020 game, maybe I should have). We’ve got some established foes, mysteries, mentors, family members, and the specter of what exactly is going on at High Impact BioMedical looming in the future.

The level of engagement during this stage of play is why 3+ players started to suggest before I’d even asked the last team-building question if we could play more than a one-shot of Masks. The rest soon followed, so here we are.

Masks and games like it have this sort of thing baked into the rules, but it’s possible to at least emulate it in any system. This falls under the umbrella of a ‘Session Zero’. Now, Session Zero is a term much bandied about these days, and it can mean slightly different things to different groups depending on their internal culture. But the core facet of this type of Session Zero is asking your players questions about their characters, the world, and the NPCs and groups that might inhabit it. These are basically leading questions: you want to find out things like who the player characters are, how they came to be superheroes/adventurers/etc., how they met and interact with one another, who they know in the world, what that world looks like.

They won’t give you everything, nor should you be expecting them to: you’re the GM, and most of the grunt work is still going to be yours. But their answers to whatever questions you ask are going to be great building blocks you can use. Don’t be afraid to just sit back and let them talk among themselves after you’ve asked some questions either, as they can help give one another ideas and feedback. Also, for your own sake, be taking notes the entire time! If I hadn’t written down basically all of this, well, we wouldn’t have this handy-dandy prologue!

Until next time, go play some games and have some fun! Next time we’ll see our young superheroes in their first fight against a mad scientist with an appreciation for anthophila, before things get awkward in the ways only teenagers can be as they engage in some High Impact Heroics!

Masks: A New Generation is published by Magpie Games. Any other products used or mentioned within the game remain the property of their respective creators, and player character names and concepts remain the intellectual property of their respective players. If you like what Cannibal Halfling Gaming is doing and want to help, please consider telling your friends about us and/or pledging your support on Patreon!


16 thoughts on “Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Prologue”

  1. One thing that can’t be adequately transmitted via writing is how much enthusiasm the group had for the game, even just in the Session Zero. I’ll be writing up another of our group’s PbtA endeavors next week, and watch this space for even more High Impact Heroism in the future!

    Liked by 3 people

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