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.
Join the Cannibal Halflings for an Actual Play adventure in the world of Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy Roleplay! Two travelers walk the Grandile Road towards a festival, but they’ll have to contend with the rigors of the journey, mystical occurrences, and mischievous marauders along the way.
Learn along with the players about how to play this RPG by Atsuhiro Okada, often described as “Studio Ghibli’s Oregon Trail”. When the journey comes to a close, hear what everyone thought!
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.
Reading a game and playing a game are two different experiences, which both teach you different things about the game text, how the rules work, and indeed whether the game is something you enjoy. When it comes to traditionally-styled RPGs, the big hardcovers with lots of art and glossy pages, the reading experience is placed often on equal footing with the play experience. Sometimes the reading experience ends up being better. Eclipse Phase is not quite like that. While Eclipse Phase is a game that draws readers in with a great setting, evocative art, and a fair dose of in-line fiction, the mechanics definitely hold their own, though the game has benefited greatly from revision.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Well, I have a moment before things might be getting hectic, so I wanted to share some overall impressions and observations about the totality of PAX Unplugged so far. First, I want to say that overall I see a vast improvement in organization from last year. Lines are shorter, and there are more options and backups to keep people happy. The decision to keep one main entrance seems to be paying off dividends, in that people are processed a lot faster to get in the action. Do I miss being able to pop out exits for a bite at a local market without walking all the way back around? Maybe a little, but the overall wait time is shorter, and the end result means that I am hanging around the con and exploring more.
Welcome to another Review In-Depth! Here I explore and attempt to critique a game using not just a reading or even a mere one-shot, but rather a full short campaign of play. While reading may tell you about rules and ease of use, and a one-shot may demonstrate game balance and fun factor, it takes several sessions to really tease out how well a game accomplishes its stated goals. And because rules aren’t everything, I cast an equally critical eye to the content of the story the group ended up telling.
Today’s game tells a sadly real story about the gap that exists between enthusiasm and actually finding time to play something. Cannibal Halfling’s first breakout article was written in March of 2017, about four months after the site was founded, and it was about two Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) Cyberpunk games, The Veil and The Sprawl. This recent campaign was the first time I successfully ran The Veil, in fact the first time I successfully played it at all…it was over two years after I first read it.