HEROES ALWAYS RETURN
I’d hoped to sink my teeth into Mask: The New Generation more than I managed to. I’d been thinking about and planning my Masks spin on Peter Clines Ex-Heroes series and Paradigm Concept’s Rotted Capes rpg for a few weeks now. Here’s how I set that up:
It has been less than a year since the Outbreak, since something caused the dead to rise. Heroes fought against the tide, only to succumb themselves. Pockets of humanity remain, isolated and under threat. You play young heroes, trying to protect your community of survivors. But even though you possess great powers, you’re still kids. Older wounded heroes, adult leaders, and non-powered survivors regard you as untrained, irresponsible, and even dangerous.
In this setting frame, you deal with Masks’ issues of identity and self-image. But you also have a consistent deadly threat and restricted location. For this game, you’ll select from a limited set of playbooks. We’ll have a couple of environmental moves dealing with Resource Raids, Building, and the Community. You’ll get to pick projects to work on to build up the camp and give it a fighting chance against the zombie horde and even deadlier z-supers.
I planned to do character creation and building in the first half of session one and then play. We did that, but I think the game was cursed. For the first session I had a player drop just before we started. Luckily I roped Sherri in. Then we had technical problems that ate up a half-hour. Still we had a good time and set great things up. But for the second session, I missed a waitlisted player until just before the session start. I got him in and up to speed, but I felt like a dolt. To compound that, one player lost internet just before the game so they had to bag out and another player forgot the session. So we did the session with two players from S1 and a new player.
I dug it, but it went well due to good players more than my skills as a GM. I’ll need to try this setting again. We really didn’t get a chance to engage the new moves and concepts I developed. We interacted with the zombie threat and the world, but only a little. Below you can see the setting material, changes, and new mechanics I created.
Please choose from the following playbooks.
Please note Alien, Hidden Civilization, and Extra-Dimensional origins are off-the-table. Those change up the premise, so I’d like to keep those out.
This set up is shamelessly stolen from the Ex-Heroes series of novels (in turn based on someone’s supers campaign). We’ll be defining the setting a little in play, but the following facts in the fiction are established.
1. Six months ago, a zombie outbreak began in a major metropolitan area. At first, it seemed a simple supervillain plan. But soon that exploded and quickly spread to other areas. Heroes went to fight against this menace…and died.
2. And then came back to life, turned into Z-Supers. While normal zombies are mindless, Z-Supers are not. They’re cunning, retain many of their abilities, and can speak. But they’re also driven by their hungers and seemingly impossible to negotiate with. The one advantage you have is that they’re jealously territorial and will often fight each other for dominance.
3. As cities fell and the plague spread across the globe, researchers struggled to find an answer. While they could not find a cure, they discovered the source. A superhero known as the Undying had been struck down in a fight with Plague Master. The Undying’s powers, overwhelmed by the disease killing him, metamorphosed him into a new creature, the first Z-Super. The change affected the infection and created a super-powered virus.
4. No cure has been found. No resistance has been discovered. And now with most scientific facilities overrun, it seems hopeless. For purposes of these sessions, a cure is off the table, something to hope for, but not yet possible.
5. You are young heroes in Halcyon City. Heavily populated by supers, much of it has been devastated in battles between Z-Supers. But that mutual destruction has given you some breathing room.
6. You have taken over the Halcyon City Entertainment Center and Sports Complex. It combines an indoor arena, stadium, and mall. Barriers have been built around the facility and it is fairly secure. You currently have a population of 1,451 persons.
7. Everyone knows superbeings caused this plague. Despite acts of heroism, there’s an undercurrent of fear.
8. The compound’s run by a council of normal people, plus one non-powered superhero who revealed their identity. There are a handful of active Adult Heroes. They support the council and undertake large-scale, “important,” missions. They don’t have time to deal with younger heroes. They’re a risk. So they tell you to do minor tasks and stay in the compound. But more often they’re dealing with their own work and can’t monitor you.
9. We’ll define names, especially if we connect those to your backgrounds (mentors, role-models, family members, etc). I imagine there might also be a few seriously injured or depowered supers in the compound. As well, the line between hero and villain has been blurred. Any super might be one or the other. I’m including The Reformed playbook in case anyone wants to play a villain.
10. I will have some slightly changed relationship questions for each playbook and an entirely new set of “How you came together” questions. I’ll also have a few tweaks for some of the roles (Janus, Legacy, etc). I’ll post those before the game. You’ll get to choose some project(s) you’re working on and I’ll throw some incidents at you in play.
11. If you get bitten, there is an Infected move.
When you look for stuff in the rubble, Roll +Superior. On a hit you find something valuable. On a 10+ pick 2; on a 7-9 pick 1:
- Resources for a project. Add a segment when you return.
- Gifts. Gain +1 to Comfort and Support or Fit In
- Important goods to use as leverage
- Something significant to your past life. Clear a condition or add one to the team pool.
On a 7-9 your efforts attract attention.
When you stay on watch, you may Defend someone scavenging. Follow the usual rules. If you get a hit, you may name someone who won’t be targeted by the zombies. If you fail, you must name an NPC who is hit.
When you try to make yourself part of the normal community, roll +Mundane. On a 10+ you manage to establish some rapport. Gain a friend, clear a condition, or take +1 forward for interactions. On a 7-9 you connect with some, but alienate others.
Describe a project you’re working on and identify an area: Hope, Security, Food, Tech, Infrastructure, Knowledge. Each of these begin at -2 for the Enclave. Choose what you’re rolling on.
On a 10+ you increase the clock for this area by three segments. On a 7-9 you add two, but create a complication. On a failure, you still mark one but you lower another clock.
When you Take a Powerful Blow from a zombie and roll 13+, you may choose to have your character infected. At the start of session, roll +Freak. On a 10+ you’re aware of your infection and can choose how to deal with it: running away, sharing the secret, etc. On a 7-9 you’re unaware of the infection. On a 6-, you remain unaware. Mark a condition which may not be cleared by normal means.
If you ever have all of your conditions marked for any reason, you become a zombie and the MC takes your character.
Note that I didn’t go through and make changes to any of the playbook moves. I’m sure you could, but at a glance most of them work. You can make any necessary changes on the fly. These changes also assume a short game, so I cut the number of some picks.
Change Backstory Q4 to “Why have you stayed in costume, despite your lack of powers?”
Change Relationships Q1 to “____________________ is knows how to survive, and you take every chance you get to hang out with them.”
Change Influence to “You are terrified and excited to be here. Give Influence over you to three of your teammates.”
For the Beacon’s Drives, I replaced three which didn’t fit with these: Find and rescue survivors; Earn respect of the compound’s leaders; Save someone from a zombie attack.
Change Backstory Q4 to “What scares you most about the zombie plague?’
Not a change, but Backstory Q2 should consider the new context of the compound and post Z-society. “Why do you still keep a secret identity?”
For Secret Identity, change relevant section to:
“Your mundane life comes with an obligations. Choose one or more…
Duties: Watch-person, custodian, cafeteria, farmer, student, health-care aide, messenger, mechanic
Home: Caring for injured family member, younger sibling, broken parent, black marketeer relative
Social: Significant other, best friend, close relative, mentor, ex-significant other.”
Change Backstory Q3 “How does the public perceive your legacy now?” and Q4 to “Did you want to take on this mantle?”
For Legacy, change the relevant section to:
“Your legacy is an important part of Halcyon City. How happened to your predecessor(s) in the outbreak?
Name the different members of your legacy (at least two):
____________________ is depowered/injured, but lives in the compound.
____________________ is among the handful of heroes still living here.
____________________ is the next possible member of your legacy.
____________________ has become a zombie...and is still at large.
____________________ is among the normal humans and opposed to supers.”
Change Backstory Q4 to “Why do the civilian authorities want to contain/control your powers?”
Change Backstory Q3 to “What is your mentor’s current state in the enclave (in command, hidden, injured, something else)?”
Change Relationship Q1 to “You and ____________________ teamed up a few times before the zombie outbreak.”
In Mentor’s Resources change relevant section to,
“Choose up to three resources that your mentor gave you and the team:
A hidden set of rooms, a supercomputer, communicators, surveillance equipment, a chem lab, a med lab, a weapon of last resort, security systems, simple robots, a food stash, a workshop, a cache of conventional weapons and parts, a secret escape route out of the enclave.”
Change Backstory Q4 to, “Who outside of the team still doesn’t trust you?”
For Past Villainy change relevant section to,
“You have ties a villain from your previous career who lives in the compound. Choose a specialty and a status for them. You begin with two obligations to them
You have ties to a villain from your previous career not in the compound. Name them. Are they missing, turned zombie, staying alive independently, or something else?”
Change Backstory Q4 to “What do the civilians fear most about you?”
THOUGHTS FOR THE FUTURE
- Need to have more questions and table time to develop the Compound. It’s such an important part of the setting, we need more world building of that. I should draft some established places and names with questions. For example, where do you live in the compound? (the last theater of the multiplex, the baseball field dugout, the gymnasium, food court, the furniture store, etc) Who do you trust/mistrust among the civilian authorities? (list of names). That would help flesh this out more.
- Might also help to have a sketchy or half-filled in map.
- Do I need additional individual playbook moves? For example, should there be a Bull move for rushing through a zombie horde? Or a Protégé move for impressing authorities?
- I winged the team formation questions—I need to develop them more. I want to take as a default assumption that they joined together during the crisis but before they got to the compound. Also should retool the Backstory questions even further to tie them into the setting.
- Given what they’ve gone through, should the PCs start with an additional advance or maybe even their Moment of Truth unlocked?