Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 2

“Welcome to the Halcyon City MegaMall. We are currently experiencing a metahuman event. Please evacuate. Welcome to Halcyon City MegaMall . . .” The standard prerecorded warning announcement echoed through the wide corridors and plazas of the MegaMall, abandoned packages here and there on the floor. The only person in sight was a single extremely bored-looking security guard sitting at an information kiosk, idly flipping through a magazine, apparently heedless of the warning announcement. Aside from the lack of shoppers and scattered goods there was no sign of what sort of event might be going on – until the glass storefront of a shop exploded outwards as CryptoHertz and Spitfire were sent flying backwards through it.

The pair of young heroes only bounced once or twice each before acting to stop themselves, CryptoHertz jamming his blade into the floor and using it as a brake while Spitfire simply dug in her heels, sending shattered tiles scattering. As they stood up the one who had sent them flying stepped through the shattered storefront, a young woman about their age in a torn-up juvie jumpsuit with long chains dangling from the manacles on her wrists. Convict laughed and dared the pair to try again, and they were more than willing to take a shot. CryptoHertz reached into his trenchcoat and flung ‘USB Shurikens’, his latest jury-rigged gadget. Sparks of electricity flew as Convict swept them out of the air with a chain, the end slamming into CryptoHertz and sending him bouncing along the floor to slam against the information kiosk. As the young Beacon groaned, the security guard looked over the counter and sighed, but CryptoHertz had created an opening for Spitfire who darted in for an devastating punch.

The heroes from Arasaka Base weren’t only facing down Convict, however; they had come to the MegaMall, a few weeks after their confrontation with the Vespamancer and the incident with Sally and Morgan, because an entire team of teenage supervillains had made an appearance. The fight had begun ‘off-panel’ before the start of the session, and everyone had a Condition marked while the two teams fought one another and scattered. In another wing of the MegaMall a young women in a cloak and pointed hat and a young man who was more machine than flesh dashed towards an exit; the Highway Conjurer and Cybernetic Punch had decided that escape was now their priority. They didn’t get far, however, before Calamitas came down on the Conjurer in a blaze of energy. The Nova had much better control over his powers this time out, and the magic user went down in a heap with Calamitas’ boot in her back. Cybernetic Punch didn’t take well to that, however, and slugged Calamitas so hard even the Nova felt it.

Meanwhile, just across the wing, one of the MegaMall’s pet stores was in the process of being trashed. The monstrous Sea Tarantula, one-third human one-third arachnid one-third squid, had been cornered there. As she realized this a young hero, dressed in a doctor’s coat and looking at least a few years younger than the rest of the Arasaka Base team, stepped forward and declared that it was “Time to Make an Impact™!”

White Coat V, the Legacy, a.k.a. Brayden Salk III

The White Coat legacy has been a fixture in Halcyon City since the Gold Generation, the official hero of High Impact BioMedical, and young Brayden stands poised to continue the service of the White Coat. Orphaned at a young age during a HyperPolio outbreak, Brayden was taken in by HIBM and pretty much raised to become the next White Coat, possessed of prodigy-level intelligence. The journey hasn’t been easy, though. The retired White Coat III keeps a careful eye on his successor (we don’t talk about White Coat IV), and the legacy’s long-time nemesis of Plague Hack (the creator of the original HyperPolio strain, believed to be a villainous legacy) is still out there somewhere. Before joining the team Brayden was brought to a party by Morgan (of course), causing a bit of a scandal in the tabloids, and he has since shared a secret of his legacy with The Hemophiliac.

White Coat charged forward, Defibrillator Gloves outstretched, but he had underestimated how agile the Sea Tarantula was. Before he knew what had happened he was sent upside down and crashing through a fish tank. The Hemophiliac was up next, but he took a different tack: a conversation with his fellow human-turned-‘monster’. The Sea Tarantula was more taken by surprise, at first, but admitted that she was only with the other supervillains because of a lack of other options because of her nature. The Hemophiliac was actually able to convince her to stand down and give up the life of crime she didn’t want anyways, and was even willing to let her go and give his contact information for if she needed help later.

Back near the kiosk Spitfire and Convict had been laying into one another; Spitfire had shattered Convict’s chains and gotten a few good hits in, but had put a dent in at least one wall after taking a boot to the stomach. Still, Spitfire’s next swing sent Convict flying, and when she got up the young supervillain kept moving away and towards the exit. CryptoHertz immediately began to pursue, using his cybernetically-enhanced acrobatic abilities to gain the second level of the MegaMall and follow above and behind her.

Calamitas’s fight with Cybernetic Punch wasn’t going as well. He’d managed to detach one of Punch’s arms, fully intending to beat his opponent about the head with it, but had taken a beating himself instead. The rocket elbow had been a nasty surprise. White Coat, picking himself out of the pet store, tried to demand that Cybernetic Punch stop in the name of High Impact BioMedical, using his legacy’s authority. Nobody was more surprised than Cybernetic Punch when it worked, as the cyborg knelt down, glaring but passive. Calamitas used some of his remaining burn from charging up to construct an energy cage around Punch and the Conjurer, and the trio of heroes rushed to join their companions.

Convict burst through the front doors of the MegaMall just as CryptoHertz burst through a second-story window above her, coming down right on her back. Aching from her fight with Spitfire and with CryptoHertz’s blade to her neck, Convict surrendered. Spitfire walked out just as CryptoHertz was putting Convict’s arms in binders and what looked like news vans started pulling up. The two heroes nodded to each other – just as a laser beam shot down from the roof and struck CryptoHertz.

CryptoHertz’s attempt to weather the powerful blow was unsuccessful, and he lashed out at Spitfire, yelling at her to do her job already. Up above the final member of the villain team, Mr. Eyebeam, was charging up his ocular implant for another shot. Spitfire’s initial attempt to dig her fingers into the side of the MegaMall and climb up was met with a laser, and she tumbled down to crush the hood of a news van with her body. Behind Mr Eyebeam, however, a skylight exploded outwards; Calamitas had constructed a set of energy stairs up to the skylight, and White Coat and The Hemophiliac went on the attack. In the end, though, they proved best as a distraction for a raging Spitfire, who had scaled the MegaMall uninhibited and proceeded to pile drive Mr. Eyebeam through several floors.

As Eyebeam and Convict were tossed into Calamitas’s energy cage along with the Highway Conjurer and the still-glowering Cybernetic Punch, CryptoHertz found himself beset by the press and immediately regretted the fact that they had yet to pick a name for the team. Other than that he handled it relatively well, with some help from White Coat, before AEGIS rolled up to take the supervillains into custody and fend off the press. The Lawman nodded to the team approvingly, even while a construction company truck pulled up. Marshall McCloud, a.k.a. retired Bronze Generation hero Collateral Damage Man, was as grumpy about the relative lack of damage to the MegaMall as the Lawman was pleased. He had a construction company to run and employees to keep working, and he did both by dealing with the damages dealt to Halcyon City by the various metahuman shenanigans.

Even as he started chewing out Calamitas, who was living with the McCloud family as an exchange student, to try and convince him to swing a little more wildly in the future, Spitfire crossed her arms and glanced at White Coat, grudgingly admitting that the dork had actually proven a decent addition to the team so far . . .

A week before . . .

It had been a rough few weeks for the Arasaka Base heroes. They’d recovered, somewhat, from the debacle with Sally and Morgan, in no small part thanks to Sabot sparring with Sally to keep her mind off things. Still, they were plagued by personnel problems of both the morale and attendance variety. Gil’s relationship with Emma remained frosty at best, weighing on his mind as he considered what he may have lost before he even really had it. Morgan hadn’t been seen since, although rumors said that they were living on the streets and sharping back alley card games with their illusions to stay fed. Sally’s isolation from her family and any semblance of a normal life still troubled her, not really helped by her increasing crush on DeGauss. Terry had more or less left the team, meditating in his mansion on the way to best live up to the Red Dragon legacy (the player was not able to attend regularly and had to bow out of the game), and while it had been a friendly departure his absence was felt. Sabot was still on the team, but had gone back to Japan for a time; the ticker-tape hologram he used to translate his speech into English had malfunctioned a bit, and Saburo Arasaka had wanted to touch base with his Protege in any case.

So it was that the team was taking it relatively easy in Arasaka Base, scattered between the game store and secret base portions of the store, when the store’s phone rang and Sally answered before store proprietor Chase could get to it. “Hi, this is Karen from High Impact BioMedical Public Relations-” was as much as Sally heard before everyone in the store was treated to the experience of seeing her run screaming from the room, shortly thereafter followed by the distinctive thump of a zorb being launched from the secret base. DeGauss sighed and went to get into the zorb launcher himself to follow her, while Gil picked up the phone himself. Karen from HIBM PR re-introduced herself, politely asking to talk with CryptoHertz, double-checking that she had the right number. Gil, bemused, responded that she had, at which point Karen explained that she was calling on behalf of HIBM to let the team know that White Coat V would be joining the team to ‘enable better relations between our two groups, facilitate the safety of Halcyon City, and Make an Impact™ against supervillainy’. It was at that point that the 14 year old who had been grabbing boxes of Warhammer 40k Apothecaries from the aisles stepped out and introduced himself as Brayden Salk III, a.k.a. White Coat V.

As Brayden introduced himself to and got to know Gil and the Hemophiliac, and Chase descended upon the young man’s purchases with dollar signs in his eyes, Sally had landed out in one of the suburban sections of the Halcyon City megalopolis and was beating feet in no particular direction, panicked and desperate to get away from HIBM. DeGauss managed to catch up with her, however, and was able to comfort her into calming down. They were still discussing what to do when an AEGIS cruiser pulled up and the Lawman poked his head out the window, asking how they were doing.

As he got out of the cruiser and leaned against the hood the Lawman explained that he’d been monitoring Arasaka Base; he’d known the call from HIBM was coming and had expected some sort of reaction, and had been prepared to respond. Sally didn’t take that very well, particularly when the Lawman revealed that he’d been in touch with HIBM and had arranged for a corporate superhero from the company to join the Arasaka Base team. The tension shot up, and even escalated to thinly-veiled physical threats from both sides, with DeGauss in the middle trying to keep things calm. The Lawman deescalated first, apologizing for letting his emotions on the matter get the better of him. Still, he pointed out, if Sally caused trouble over this he could always reopen the incident report from the other night. Sally went as white as a sheet, stuttering that she thought she’d been forgiven for that, and the Lawman said that it had merely been ‘temporarily forgotten’. With that Sally reluctantly agreed to play nice with the new guy, but warned that any betrayal would be dealt with harshly; DeGauss backed her up on that, earning a smile. The Lawman nodded even as he offered them a ride back to the Base, making a point to say that the situation with High Impact BioMedical was more complicated than it looked . . .

Adding a new character/player to a game after it’s already started can be a little challenging, and there are a couple of ways to manage it, but it can have a pretty big payoff besides just having another player. Doing so in Masks is a little different, of course, since creating a character involves asking the player a lot of questions about themselves and about their character’s relationships with other characters. By necessity everyone is going to already know a bit about the character and they’ll have a place in the world, which made it easy to use the in medias res method to start the session and the flashback device to see how White Coat had actually joined the team.

The usual methods of introducing a character (provided there’s actually room at the table, mind) can usually also work mid-game for a new character, with the caveat that it needs to fit into the story at least a little. The old meet-in-a-tavern can work well enough for the average adventuring party, but it’s best if the player (particularly if they’re new to the game entirely, instead of replacing a character that’s perished or otherwise left the story) talks with the GM about how they’re going to fit in. As an alternate method, the GM could create a character for the new player to join with (Capax got his start that way, and I was actually handed a Lunar Exalt by Sabot’s player in one of the first games I played with HIH’s group). That immediately gives the new player a place in the world, but I’d make sure to leave them the option to make a character of their own later if they want to after they’ve gotten a handle on the game.

So, what’s the big payoff? Well, as I said, you get a new player and character to bounce story ideas, cool encounters, inter-party relationships, and assorted shenanigans off of. That’s great, and as I discussed in the Long-Running Campaign article adding some fresh blood can give such a game a much-appreciated boost. Personally, though, aside from that I’ve found that the johnny-come-lately characters almost seem to be the special sauce that can make a campaign, in a combination of bringing a fresh perspective and getting to build off of what’s been established.

Capax’s relationships with Alek, Verdeloth, and Peren and his own quirky kobold personality have created some of the most memorable moments of that campaign. My Lunar brought the entire Silver Pact into the Exalted game as a faction the circle was going to be interacting with. In a Fate Accelerated game Aaron ran full of ridiculous 80s characters, aliens, cyborgs, a highly irradiated New Jersey, and Jon Bon Jovi with chainsaws for hands, it was the time traveler who showed up three sessions in who was the one to tie it all together. When Caleb and Patience joined the crew of the Borrowed Time on Corellia during the Edge days it brought Nak’s battle partner and some actual class and social skill to the table.

As for High Impact Heroics? As we’ll see, the game would have been completely different without the introduction of the White Coat legacy, the dreaded Plague Hack, and their feud down through the generations of High Impact BioMedical, a megacorporation that went from somewhat generically ominous to complicated and full of shades of grey.

Next Issue: we get a glimpse of the home life of some of some of our heroes, ‘enjoy’ an awkward reunion, and see the on-panel debut of what might be the team’s deadliest adversary!

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!

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