Every creative endeavor has a ‘how’ and a ‘why’. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, your project will have something you’re trying to do or say, and then a method by which you do or say it. A couple weeks ago, I meditated on the prevalence and necessity of advancement in RPGs, coming to the conclusion that advancement as a story concept in games is a truism, a trope, and not necessarily a requirement. That article provided me with a ‘why’; today we’re going to talk about one potential ‘how’.
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.
A small but fierce combatant, able to slip past enemy defenses and outside of their counterattacks with equal ease. A leader of beings both digital and organic, with ships and fast attack craft and crew all following her lead. A staunch defender, who can patch up whatever wounds make it past his efforts. Consult your star charts and prepare to go beyond the galactic frontier to complete your objectives, with a ready-to-play fleet of Artificial Intelligences and starships for Transit: The Spaceship RPG!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.
Out in one of the suburban zones of the Halcyon City metropolis Gilbert Phillps was shrugging on his trenchcoat and looking over his shoulder at the sleeping figure in his bed. When the doors had blown in at the Halcyon City High School #5 Semi-Formal Dance, the first thing he’d done had been to grab his friend and date Emma and spirit her away to safety. Once they’d gotten there, though . . . well, it had been an exciting night, long-hidden emotions had been revealed, and teenagers are teenagers. Now, though, Gil had to find out what had happened to the rest of his team. Leaving a note for the sleeping Emma, CryptoHertz opened his room’s window, deployed the flight pack that was the latest of his cybernetic upgrades, and flew off into the night (or rather, morning) sky. Continue reading Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 7
Well, it was quite an eventful ENnie season this year! Our site had the honor to be nominated, even if we didn’t win (there is still a continual “what?” on loop that we even got considered). The hard work and dedication of the judges is wonderful, serving not only to excite us when we rediscover something that had been previously reviewed, but also offering us the opportunity of new things to explore. It was partially through ENnie nominations that Bargain Bin Gaming began, and this year I had planned to do another set of quick summaries of each of the items in the category of Best Free Product.
And then I started by taking a look at Ironsworn and I found myself unable to do it justice with a simple summary.