They’ve found themselves Dead in the Water and having to deal with Friends Like These. They’ve known there’s Trouble Brewing and tracked down the Mask of the Pirate Queen. They’re trying to find balance in the Force and working their way through the Chronicles of the Gatekeeper. Ever looked at a published adventure for Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying and wondered what kind of stories they could tell? Well this crew decided to find out for you, and no matter what cantina you drop into or freighter captain you talk with there’s a decent chance you’ll hear Why You Should Listen to Heroes of the Hydian Way.
It’s no secret I enjoy Masks: A New Generation. In particular, I enjoy the podcasts that have spanned outwards from the system. From the schooltime days of Unlabelled to the messy and oftentimes heavy narratives of Young Vanguard to the absurdist but potent style of Critical Bits. Masks has spawned a universe of podcasts that interconnect into different facets of the superhero genre.
But we’re not here today to talk about universes. We are here to talk about multiverses. The Big Two comic companies have ingrained the idea of parallel universes and spiderwebs of different realities into comic book canon. The idea that there isn’t just one Batman, but a whole cacophony of them. That in one universe Spiderman is your friendly neighborhood superhero. But in another he has become a flesh-eating zombie. It’s the concept of a multiverse that has allowed writers to explore radically different stories for their characters without throwing a gigantic wrench into canon.
And while podcasts such as Protean City have touched upon the multiverse premise (And believe me, the Why You Should Listen To Protean City is coming) none of them have made it THE premise for the storyline taking place.
That is, until May 27th, 2020. When a group of different teen heroes, some from the local reality, some from ones far off in nature and domain, met in a graveyard and begun journeying together to ask the question:
What if someone told you there isn’t just one world. That your world isn’t the only one…
I’ve recommended a few Masks: A New Generation actual plays at this point. From the amazing school days of Unlabelled. To the always entertaining and oft-times bizarre Critical Bits. And these stories, for all their hilarity, are no strangers to dark moments. However, today we are going to be talking about an actual play that began as something quite light only to transition to a very real dark side. And did it oh-so-well.
Today, we are going to be talking about Rollout Podcast. In particular, we are going to be talking about their longest running and, in my opinion, the most beautifully painful series: The Young Vanguard.
Now, it should be no surprise to anyone here that I enjoy podcasts. I cut my teeth on My Brother My Brother And Me for my early beginning. Have listened to the occasional intersection of that interest and my love for pro wrestling in podcasts such as Wrestlesplania. And may even be starting my own. But that’s an article for another time. What this article is about is the amazing phenomenon that has exploded in the RPG community. The thing that nearly all of us have at least one of us listening to. A fun endeavor that both enriches us and inspires others to listen.
What I’m talking about is actual play podcasts. You may have already read some of my earlier podcast reviews or other articles about podcasting and RPGs. But this is going to be a bit of a roundup of them. A brief list of a select few all put together to maybe put the thought “Hey, this would be a fun listen” into your head.
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.
“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.