All posts by Maria Fanning

March Masksness: When Podcasts Come Together

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.

Continue reading March Masksness: When Podcasts Come Together

We Are Venom: Using Symbiotes (And Horror) in Masks

Spiderman in the Marvel Comics has had a lot of memorable foes. From the more comical such as Shocker and Rhino. To the deathly serious in Green Goblin and Kingpin. Peter Parker and his many fellow Spider-Folks have no shortage of villains who left a mark on the minds of fans. But for me, it was always one villain that was memorized in this ol’ skull the most. Or rather, as I soon came to discover, a group. More like a plague when you think about it.

The Symbiotes. These alien menaces would bind to the most heroic of crusaders, granting them a boon of immense power. At the cost of what made them so heroic. They would prey upon the impulses that, in moderation, make us human. Anger. Hate. Jealousy. Pain. Only, they weren’t content with those impulses remaining moderate. They would take the knob and wind it all the way up to the max. These symbiotes would turn heroes into villains.

And as a kid, that both fascinated and scared the ever living hell out of me. These beings were like the zombie virus storylines on adrenaline. They don’t just turn you into a monster. They do it slowly. They whittle away at who you are, amplifying the parts you’d rather forget and minimizing the aspects you hold dear, bit by bit. They turn your love to obsession. They turn your courage to fanaticism. They turn you into…..well, NOT-you.

And when I think of the idea of horror stories in Marvel, I can’t get closer than the idea of a well done symbiote story. Barring Immortal Hulk, cos that’s friggin’ amazing.

So, let’s discuss how to do a symbiote story in Masks. Let’s discuss horror in Masks: A New Generation.

Continue reading We Are Venom: Using Symbiotes (And Horror) in Masks

Playing Through Actual Play: The Makeup of Actual Plays

Us RPG fans are a creative bunch. We kind of have to be for this hobby. It’s the lifeblood of it, isn’t it? You gotta think of what your character says when their best friend reveals a deep dark secret to you. You need to come up with a quick witted comeback to an insult from the mercenaries in the tavern who are just begging to have their teeth kicked in. You embody a character. And that requires creativity.

And the thing about creativity? It’s entertaining. We’ve all shared a deep laugh when someone at the our game table makes a joke that just fits so well for that scene. We wait on baited breath when our players finally confront that baron who’s been making their lives hell. We see these stories being played out in front of us. And even when we are not directly participating, it’s fun. It’s engaging. It’s a story.

And what’s to stop us from letting those on the outside of the table engage with these stories too?

Continue reading Playing Through Actual Play: The Makeup of Actual Plays

Back To School: Why You Should Listen To Unlabelled

There’s an amazing thing with seeing yourself in the works you enjoy. It’s beyond just making you feel seen. It shows the strength within you. That you can do it too. That there’s people blazing a path, waiting for you to join. That you belong. That you’re not alone. Now, before I get really into waxing-Shonen anime, I think it’s important to delve into today’s article. Yes, it’s another Masks: A New Generation topic. Yes, it’s an actual play podcast. And yes, you’re gonna freaking love listening to it.

Where Critical Bits is phenomenal at matching the bizarre and wacky with serious and satire, this podcast excels at the grounded feeling of so many things. Growing up in a new school. Being a trans girl. Having friends who you can depend on. And being a superhero student.

Wait, the last one’s only true if you go to U.A. Or in the case of these three girls, Phoenix Academy.

This is Unlabelled. And it is in my opinion, the brightest rising actual play right now.

Continue reading Back To School: Why You Should Listen To Unlabelled

You Got To Get These Bits: Why You Should Listen To Critical Bits

“Welcome to Heavendale, a City of Clouds.”

We’re about to get REAL weird. And you’re gonna enjoy every moment of it.

In a world suffocating with podcasts attempting to become the next Critical Role/High Rollers/Adventure Zone, it becomes so unique for an RPG actual play that is so unapologetically its own thing. That doesn’t desire to replicate Matthew Mercer’s NPC acting skills, but can make you feel as immersed in the world through sheer personality. A podcast that can make you revolted in the best way, but also tug on your heartstrings like a lute player, oftentimes in the same sentence. A podcast that is about the characters, not the situations they often encounter. Although those situations are pretty good too. A podcast that involves superheroes, body horror, and corndogs all in equal measure.

This is Critical Bits. And it is my favorite RPG podcast in the world.

Continue reading You Got To Get These Bits: Why You Should Listen To Critical Bits

Masks: A New Generation and the Possibilities of Trans Narratives

If you read my last article (come on, check it out, I’m pretty proud) you know that Powered By The Apocalypse has a queer fandom. What’s more, you likely know that when it comes to RPGs, none appeal to me more than Masks: A New Generation. It utilizes a picture perfect narrative system while weaving it together with the trials and tribulations of being a fledgling superhero who also happens to struggle with the whole teenager thing. I frigging’ love it!  It’s my favorite RPG system.

Hey, you don’t gotta take my word for it. This site has quite a few cool articles on the system I’d seriously recommend giving a read. Now, what I’m here for today is to tackle the systems of Masks in-depth from a perspective inspired by the Masks actual play podcast, Unlabelled. Unlabelled is a Masks podcast set in the Phoenix Academy playset (think Sky-High or My Hero Academia). While I had been dying for a podcast of that playset for months, what truly drew my attention hook, line, and sinker was the fact that the entire cast, both in and out of the game, was comprised of trans women. I love to see myself in my favorite hobby, and I adore to see myself in my favorite game.

During the character creation segment of the podcast, one of the players jokingly referred to the Transformed playbook as the “TRANS-formed”. A lot of trans folx have already noticed this with the archetype, and I briefly touched upon it in my last article, but the Transformed hits on many of the same beats of the trans experience.

Being changed and coming to terms with that.

Discrimination for standing out cos you’re not the same as everyone else.

People not understanding how you feel.

But that got me thinking. If the Transformed, an archetype based on youthful experience, could be so easily a metaphor for a trans narrative, why not all the playbooks? And I thought about it. And I thought. And I thought.

And this article is what came of it. So sit back, grab a drink and let’s dive into: Masks: A Trans Generation.

Continue reading Masks: A New Generation and the Possibilities of Trans Narratives

Powered By The Apocalypse: How A Rule-System Nurtured A Queer Fanbase

My first openly trans character-after having come out as a trans woman myself-was a Bull in a Masks: A New Generation one-shot. She was a lone wolf archetype style character. It was even her hero name (original, I know).

My second trans character was also in a Masks game, but now a  campaign. Her name was Apollo and she was a Legacy: the first trans woman to bear the mantle in a long line of women. While Lone Wolf’s identity was simply a part of her flavour, Apollya’s trans womanhood was intrinsic to who she was and what her story was about. The good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. And it was what I wanted.

Masks was the first game I felt like I could be the type of character I wanted to see in the superhero media. No, in all media. And I soon learned I wasn’t alone. There was a whole ruleset with a welcoming community, of an easy to learn system with gatekeeping kept to a minimum. It’s Powered By the Apocalypse. And it is my favourite system. And in my opinion, the gayest.

Continue reading Powered By The Apocalypse: How A Rule-System Nurtured A Queer Fanbase