As you may have guessed from my previous articles, I enjoy podcasts. RPG actual play podcasts in particular. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional stream. But podcasts have just such a relaxing quality to them that I can’t understate. The fact you just whip out your phone, pop in some headphones and throw one on. It’s fun to have these stories pour into your ears.
And, as you may have also noticed, I enjoy Masks: A New Generation. It’s easily my favorite RPG and in my opinion, does the best job of emulating superheroes of any tabletop RPG on the subject. It’s just good teen superheroes that are a mask (See what I did there) for the angst and drama of teenage life.
So it should come as now surprise that Masks actual plays are one of my favorite things in the world. I was waiting on bated breath for season 3 of Young Justice for so long, and discovering there’s a whole catalogue of stories that deliver the hits of that show so regularly was more than welcome.
And when James Malloy of Protean City Comics and Stop. Hack. And Roll! Podcasts set up a cross podcast tournament based around voting polls for Masks podcasts, I was ecstatic. I was writing fanfics, interacting with the community and making memes (God, did I make so many memes) left, right and center on Twitter. It’s an amazing time to see a community come together to just have fun.
And I thought:
“Hey! I write articles on awesome subjects. And this is an awesome subject. Why don’t I write an article on this?”
And surprise, surprise, I did! So sit back. Relax, Open up a favorite drink. And maybe you’ll find a podcast here to listen to.
Below is a list of the podcasts taking part in this event:
- Paradigm Pod
- Moon Harbor Heroes
- Protean City Comics
- Critical Bits
- Unlabelled AP
- Roll Out
- Roll To Breathe
- Apex City
- Corpses & Curios
- Nerds On A Roll
Consisting of 64 contestants – mainly comprised of PCs but with some NPCs sprinkled in – the characters are broken up into four brackets before being broken up further into one-on-one contests.
Each round has a different test for the voting process to take place on, as opposed to a straight up fight. This test can be anything from saving civilians to who would be more likely to take down a villain more efficiently.
The bouts are then voted on by the adoring audience and readers (also known as Twitter) with the majority vote going on to the next round.
I was actually able to get questions answered from some of the podcasts involved. Let’s move onto that, shall we?
How Would You Describe Your Podcast?
Nerds On A Roll: “Nerds on a Roll is a podcast focused on bringing meaningful stories to the tabletop through different game systems.
Unlabelled AP: “An actual play podcast with a focus on in-depth characters, interpersonal relationships, and the struggles of being young and weird.”
Moon Harbor Heroes: “Moon Harbor Heroes is one of the grittier Masks APs, dealing with possession, body horror, and oppressive tyrannical governments. We have two primary lines: Faces and Cataclysm Crew (much like Marvel’s X-Men and The Avengers); sometimes these crossover, but they traditionally keep their own arcs. GMed by three queer people, MHH features characters of a variety of backgrounds, ability levels, queerness, etc.”
LGBT&D: “LGBT&D is an all-LGBT cast actual play podcast that currently features Masks: A New Generation. We are committed to telling diverse stories from various perspectives through a variety of tabletop roleplaying games.”
Corpses & Curios: “We are an Actual Play podcast whose main story is horror-themed. To balance things out, we feature OnShots and holiday installments of some of our favorite systems. Our Masks holiday characters are our most listened to stuff, outside of the main show.”
Paradigm Pod: “Paradigm Academy is the story of five misfit teen heroes who, by intervention of fate, find themselves enrolled in the most prestigious hero academy on the west coast, Paradigm Academy.”
Critical Bits: “We are a slapstick, body horror comedy actual play podcast with queer characters and themes that lean into dark comedy, trauma, and the power of friendship in a world of fascists and late stage capitalism.”
Do You Think March Maskness could lead to future events?
Nerds On A Roll: “This event absolutely will lead to future events. We look forward to next March Maskness and whatever anyone else comes up with in-between.”
Unlabelled AP: “Oh, absolutely. At the very least there are plans to do this again next year. But also the Masks podcasts are interacting with each other a lot more now, so I think we’ll see even more collaborations and crossovers”
Moon Harbor Heroes: “As far as other podcast styles doing this same thing in the future, I don’t know, but I hope so. I think actual plays are a fun intersection of fictional characters and real people, because roleplayers often play a version of themselves in some way, and therefore get invested.”
LGBT&D: “Oh, definitely! I’d be surprised if it didn’t, to be honest. There’s already been spinoffs and sub-competitions and all sorts of other interactions that make me think that there’s going to be a lot more coming.”
Corpses & Curios: “I think it may lead to another such event. Even more so, I think it leads to a lot of great exposure to other Masks Podcasts and to draw people interested in the game itself. I know I’ve wanted to find out more about many of the characters involved.”
Paradigm Pod: “Oh absolutely. It’s been amazing how quickly and smoothly everyone just kind of meshed together. I know that I’ve made some great new friends that I plan to do more crossover stuff with in the future.”
Critical Bits: “I think people are already looking forward to March Masksness 2021. There were a few APs that weren’t in this one that I know will want to be in it next year, but also I’m sure more Masks APs will pop up in the next year, some solely because of this event.”
Why Did Your Podcast Join The Event?
Nerds On A Roll: “Our podcast joined when James reached out to us because we thought it sounded like a ton of fun and a good way to get to know the other masks podcasts.”
Unlabelled AP: “We thought it would be a fun little thing to do throughout the month. I don’t think any of us expected it to be this expansive.”
Moon Harbor Heroes: “I was going to join simply because of James Malloy and Protean City (and by extension the rest of their amazing team), but I also got to see that some of my favorite Masks APs were committed: Nerds on a Roll, Paradigm Academy, Apex City specifically. It felt like a really thrilling opportunity to get to interact with so many people whom I deeply respected and had intense fondness for.”
LGBT&D: “We wanted to showcase our new characters. Our show launched a reboot right as March Masksness was starting, so it was convenient timing to both show them off and connect with other great podcasts.”
Corpses & Curios: “We joined, mostly, to reach out and make new friends. We were invited via word of mouth, thanks to the player behind Gloria (Our Christmas Elf Soldier).”
Paradigm Pod: “We’re a much smaller podcast than most of the others involved in this event. I had always wanted the opportunity to work with other podcasters but wasn’t sure how to go about it. So when James asked us to be involved and said it was all about boosting each other up, I jumped at the chance.”
Critical Bits: “James, from PCC, reached out to me about the idea and I loved it! I am a big fan of collabing with other creators and this was a good way to get all of our different fans to learn about the other great Masks AP out there. And, it has given me a chance to meet other creatives in my field which I love doing.”
What do you believe is the best thing to come out of the event?
Nerds On A Roll: “The best thing to come out of this is definitely all the collaboration. We have had audio pieces, art pieces, fan fiction, and more from everyone involved and it’s been delightful to see the community interact.”
Unlabelled AP: “The tighter sense of community with the other podcasts has been really cool. Also there’s a lot of amazing fanfiction out there now and it’s wonderful”
Moon Harbor Heroes: “The community, without a doubt. Before James Malloy started this, we had pockets of interaction, a few likes and retweets, but this took it to a whole new level. My co-GM and the other person who runs this account turned off notifications for it, because I don’t think we go more than fifteen minutes at any point without hearing from someone.”
LGBT&D: “The sense of community, for sure. Before this, we had friends in the Masks community, for sure, but this has really opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes to the sheer amount and variety of Masks podcasts out there. Everyone has been so kind and supportive of each other, uplifting other podcasts even as we playfully trash talk each other. It’s been awesome to see all of the creativity and outpouring of support from this great community.”
Corpses & Curios: “The best thing to come out of this … is yet to come. A bunch of the GMs are working on something FANTASTIC you’re going to have to wait and see to find out.”
Paradigm Pod: “It’s hard to pick only one “best” thing to come from this event. So much good has come out of it. New friendships, amazing new content, fan art and fan fics, a marked increase in listeners. It’s all been so overwhelming and amazing.”
Critical Bits: “I think, for me, the best thing to come out of this is having a catalyst for a big Masks AP crossover event that I’ve been wanting to produce and organize. I had spoken with Brandon, from PCC, about how to make up some stuff to get each Masks AP able to be part of a big podcast crossover. After we started the tournament it clicked that this was it! We now have us, Apex City, Paradigm Academy, Protean City Comic, Corpses & Curious, Moon Harbor Heroes, and a few members of LGBT&D doing the cross over. It’ll be one episode per podcast involved with the GM for each podcast running one session. It’ll all take place after the tournament is done.”
This event was the brainchild of the amazing James Malloy. So, I think it was only fair to get a bit input from him:
What Inspired You To Come Up With This Collaboration?
JM: “I was looking for a potential crossover between Masks AP podcasts that wasn’t just a podcast episode. Crossover episodes come with a lot of logistical and scheduling nightmares. I wanted something that would be simple. Something that I could largely organize by myself. It needed to be something with a low effort cost so that I could get as many podcasts involved as I could.”
“Specifically I wanted something that would get people talking about the characters in that “Who would win in a fight, Batman or the Hulk” kind of way. That’s the kind of conversation that gets people excited and encourages people to dive into other material.”
“MarchMasksness checked all the boxes. It was a simple twitter poll based bracket that didn’t require any work from anyone on the other podcast other than giving me an OK to use their characters.”
Have You Seen Anything Like This Before In The Podcast Community?
“I haven’t. This honestly grew larger than I ever expected. I thought I might see a couple dozen votes, mostly from the people on the podcasts voting for their own characters. Instead we’ve seen a month of fan fiction, character art, and meta-podcasts related to this event. It’s been incredible. Way beyond what I had hoped for.”
Are There Plans For Future Events?
“By the end of the first day I had already taken a page of notes for how to improve the experience for next year. I think I can safely say that I’m going to be organizing a March Masksness competition every year. The Protean City production team did briefly have a conversation about an Olympics event…”
March Masksness is, at its core, an example of the strength of collaboration with one another. These podcasts and groups of people were only united by the same RPG system. And they used that connection to make something truly immersive and spectacular.
And I for one cannot wait for others to follow suit.
Thank you to James Malloy, Critical Bits, Moon Harbor Heroes, Nerds On A Roll, Paradigm Pod, Unlabelled AP, Corpses & Curios and LGBT&D for their invaluable input on this piece.