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Planning to start a game of Masks - what pitfalls to watch out for?

ANT Pogo

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To expand on this: the actual superpowers really don't matter, like, at all. They're pretty much purely fluff, they can do whatever they need to do and work however they need to work to support the moves. It can be tricky to get your head around that as a player (it was for me), the idea that the nature of your superpowers is totally unimportant in a superhero game, but once you internalize it, it works like a dream, giving you infinite freedom to weave all kinds of awesome superhuman stunts into your fiction while the moves do the work that's really important, figuring out how all the action affects the characters as teenagers finding themselves.
This.

The powers and villain fights in Masks should never be the focus in and of themselves. They should always be used to help focus on how it all affects the characters.

For example, the hero team taking down the bank robbers who are using mysteriously-obtained supertech should be a scene about how the teen-Batman-expy breaking their bones and showing no mercy to punish evildoers conflicts with the teen-Captain America-expy wanting to stop the crime with a minimum of violence and to offer the criminals a second chance, and how that conflict affects the two heroes and the rest of team. Or it's about the teen-Iron Man-expy learning that the tech used by the robbers was provided by her mentor and how that affects her. Or it's about the teen-Wolverine-expy trying to overcome her impulses to handle everything herself and have to fight with her team. Or it's about the teen-Spidergirl-expy having to overcome her self-doubt about being the child of a famous hero and the disapproval of her accomplished parent if she screws up. Or it's about the teen-former-villain who has to overcome his teammates' distrust of him and get them to treat him as a valued (and valuable) member of the team. Or all of the above at once!

It should never be just another generic fight scene with no stakes or consequences. It should matter to the characters and especially their relationships with each other and the older, more established heroes.

The actual punching and energy-blasting should be just set-dressing and dramatic counterpointing to the above.
 

Daz Florp Lebam

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I have some warnings, but none of this should be taken as me trying to dissuade anyone from running, playing and enjoying Masks.

I had a very hard time running Masks - harder than anything I've ever run - but the players LOVED it.

LOVED!

I think my issues had to do with just where I was mentally/emotionally, switching gears from DMing D&D 5E, my own difficulty with multi-tasking, and that i was the only one at the table who knew the system.

However, I've had some time to think about all that and I would not say Masks runs itself at all. For the players it does - a GM I found myself constantly wrestling with what the Villains and NPCs were going to do next. There's a couple sheets of GM reference, and my eye was always darting around trying figure stuff out. A lot of that is probably just getting used to a new system, but the structure of Masks is so strict - in the interest of producing stories of a very particular type, and it does this beautifully - that I felt very constrained. I'm not sure that makes sense.

Even several sessions in, we had to figure out which one of the Moves reflected what the player whose turn it was wanted their character to do - almost every...single...time. I have no doubt that eventually, with experience, that would have dwindled considerably.

So, it's very important to stop and ask if the thing the player wants to do is worth rolling dice for at all.

If they want to knock a baddie through a building, they...just do it - unless the player/character is trying to achieve a particular effect by knocking them through a building. My players generally found this very unsatisfying. It's a very non-traditional approach to combat - particularly super-hero combat.

Another pointer: Villain Condition Moves. When the PCs succeed at one of their Moves, a possible result is the villain immediately making a Condition Move. The rules list half a dozen examples of what any given villain might do if Afraid, if Insecure, etc. When creating your villains, list two things from each of the Villain Condition Moves lists that this particular villain is most likely to do. This not only helps to define the villain, but speeds things up when you're scanning the list of Moves to decide what they do next.
 

Sangrolu

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Put me down as disagreeing with the notion that powers don't matter. While agreeing that they are primarily fluff. It's up to the GM (and players) what they can accomplish. This means if two characters try the same thing, one may have no chance while another achieves it automatically.

When there's a question, that's when you roll the dice/make a move.
 

CarpeGuitarrem

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Put me down as disagreeing with the notion that powers don't matter. While agreeing that they are primarily fluff. It's up to the GM (and players) what they can accomplish. This means if two characters try the same thing, one may have no chance while another achieves it automatically.

When there's a question, that's when you roll the dice/make a move.
Yep, definitely agreed here. Even the consequences of an Unleash Your Powers roll will vary depending on what those powers are, it's the point where "fluff" transitions into "the story". This is particularly evident with the Nova, where the GM is encouraged to portray the immense power that they wield, including collateral damage, especially on Misses.
 

Skywalker

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I agree with powers being important. They inform the fictional positioning quite a bit and often reflect a PC’s issues more generally.
 

ANT Pogo

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They matter, they just should be secondary to the emotional development and relationships of the characters. Establishing that Zap Boy can disrupt human nervous systems as well as electronic devices with his electricity powers is useful in a game of Masks, but what really matters is how Zap Boy reacts to the taunting urges of his superpowered vigilante uncle, who wants him to give in to his anger in a fight and use his powers to kill instead of just stun, driving him away from his teammates and the lessons of his heroic father and down his uncle's path to follow in his dark vigilante footsteps.
 
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