Monday, March 21, 2016

Route 66

The cold I worked so hard to rid myself of back in February has returned, causing me to once more do the thing I detest above all other things - slow down. It's definitely the same cold to. I'd recognize it's foul stench anywhere. Like a comic book supervillain it has become my nemesis, rearing it's head periodically to threaten the sanctity of our fair city. OK, well, the sanctity of my vein attempts to get a good night's sleep and blog regularly.

While I continue to fight the good fight against this uncommon cold (Hmmm. Good supervillain name), I want to try and catch up on posting. I have half a dozen post drafts waiting to be finished, and I'm really excited to get them out there before month's end.

So let's get started...

One of my three regular gaming groups* is Dan's Group, so called because we always meet at the apartment of my friend Dan.

Of all the group's I games with, Dan's Group has been the toughest to 'sell' on the idea of a long term game. The main reasons for this are:

A) the group's make up initially fluctuated a lot
B) Interest, and availability for a one-shot is easy to come by. Commitment not so much.
C) Some members of the group actively didn't care for long term campaigns.

Luckily for me, someone who really likes this group, and really wants to run long term games these days, a few things changed.

The group doesn't fluctuate so much anymore. Meeting regularly on the more than occasional Friday night, it's generally the same 5-6 guys who show up.

As for commitment, barring family responsibilities, the periodic plans-you-can't-get-out-of, and the like, you can pretty guarantee these 5-6 people are going to be there.

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the desire to run/play a longer term, continuing campaign was made possible by a few prior attempts that were positive. My running a couple of successful Star Trek RPG mini-campaigns with them surely helped. My friend Alex's current Harry Potter/Wizarding World campaign is going very well, and the group definitely wants to come back for more after each session (myself included! I love my character. Me!).

It was a not-quite-successful, but full of potential Supers mini-campaign using Marvel Heroic that got the ball rolling for the possibility of a Supers game with a bit more staying power.

Two weeks ago I ran the first session of a Japanese doujinshi (fan-made), small-press table-top RPG that a friend of mine picked up the last time he was in Japan. The game in question is called Masuku No Jikan, or literally translated, 'Time of the Masks'. I decided to call our campaign (for now) 'The Masked Age'.

The Masked Age is a largely rules-light RPG in the genre of Western-style Superheroes. You don't play Japanese Anime/Manga style characters, but rather the mask, cape, and bright emblem bearing heroes from the good old U.S. of A (and other Western nations with Superhero comic books)!

As such the game has an interesting view of the tropes of Western comics, and makes a point to bring them to the forefront. For example, characters are built by creating a template out of Origin (What Genre of Superhero You Are - Kind of), Drive (Why Does Your Hero Do What They Do), and finally Power Source (Which is Really Power-Set).

So for example:

Batman is a Self-Made Crusader Exemplar.

Superman is an Alien Paragon Epitome.

Spiderman is a Science Crusader Totem.

Captain America is an Experiment Patriot Adept.

The descriptions of these components are both pretty clear, and cast a wide net; you could easily find the proper descriptors to build any known hero, but there are also a number of different ways to translate certain characters. This is a great system for quick and dirty Superhero construction, since you can say, "I want powers like Wolverine, but I have this idea that he's been empowered by the trickster Coyote god. The Coyote god has it in for a bunch of evil spirits currently wrecking havoc in the world in Human form. He's the Coyote god's agent on the mortal plane basically."

Ok. Supernatural Origin (Coyote god). His drive is Obliged (He has a patron, the Coyote god, who tells him what to do), and he kinda has to listen). His powers are best done with Totem (Pick an animal - have powers based on said animal - fits Wolverine with his Claws, Feral Senses, Healing, etc. pretty perfectly).

The Drive component is really cool because the characters have Tensions, two of which come from your Drive, and three that you pick. By dealing with your Tensions, you gain Resolve, which can be used to perform feats above, and beyond your regular superhuman abilities. Think of Resolve Feats as Power Stunt in old school Marvel Super Heroes, or Plot Point maneuvers in Marvel Heroic. In some cases they are actually better, but a tad more costly.

The best part is how you deal with your Tensions. Using my favorite Superhero Green Lantern, you've a Cosmic Obliged Magician (Space Character, Patron in the Guardians of the Universe, single Power Source that has set parameters, and requirements but can otherwise do almost anything).

So GL has to deal with the Guardians, those short, big headed, blue skinned know-it-alls from the center of the universe. Each time Green Lantern heeds their call, and does a mission on behalf of them, he gains a Resolve Point. He also gains one, and possibly two (up to the GM) for arguing with them, and playing up the differences between the ultimate authority of the Guardians, and Hal 'Highball' Jordan, who has a real problem with authority.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one of the coolest parts of the Marvel Heroic RPG was also one of it's biggest letdowns.

Milestones in that game are experience point rewards for role-playing certain actions specific to a given character. If, for example, Captain America assembled, or disbanded a team of heroes while denoted them as 'The Avengers', he would get 10 XP.

Problem is (1) you can only do each one once, or perhaps a limited number of times a session (I forget), and (2) you can't really do much with XP in the system. That's right - they created a really cool way to gain XP, but didn't create any real rules for improving your character. In fact, a conscious decision was made to create a game where improving your character  is not really a concern at all. After all, comic book characters don't change much, right?

However there is further silliness going on here. Plot Points, not XP, are the true currency of the game. So why don't Milestones just give you more of those?

In The Masked Age, if Captain America, who represents 'The American Way', feels a government official is playing politics instead of doing the right thing for the American people, the hero gets a direct, immediately applicable reward for airing his philosophical grievances in the form of Resolve.

Whew. Sorry. A combination of a pet peeve from one game, and an idea I'm really fond of from another crossed paths. Glad I got that out of my system.


There is a ton more I can say about this game, and I will in upcoming posts, but the main thing I wanted to talk about is something I haven't even gotten to.

How the game went.

It went well. Really well. So well I have since run a second session, with due to be run this coming weekend! The first two are part of the opening story-arc for what we've decided will [definitely] become an ongoing campaign. With one member missing this week (one who is key to the current arc) we're going to do a side story under the premise that the adventure will take place in the one of the team members own titles, as opposed to the team book.

Heheh. I love stuff like that.

Stay tuned for more about the game rules, and the campaign (including the PCs, villains, and plots).

Coming up...hopefully soon...

Barking Alien

*I probably need to do a State of Gaming Address to update everyone on my current gaming status. Suffice to say, I've been playing in an online, Google Hangouts Supers RPG once a week, running, and/or playing with Dan's Group roughly once a week (week take turns GMing different campaigns), and I am still playing to run something once a month with The Barking Alien Gaming Group.

If I don't pass out first of course.



  1. @ BA:

    Thanks for the share. I'll have to check out Masked Age.

  2. @ BA:

    Ugh, just realized this is game out of Japan (somehow I managed to skip that paragraph). Any idea if there's an English translation floating around?

  3. As far as I know there is not an English translation of this game...yet.

    My friend is working on one for us (myself, me, and the group I am running it for), but obviously he couldn't do it professionally without an OK from the original creators.

    Thas been a mini-boom in interest regarding Western superheroes in Japan thanks to recent films, and television shows making their way over there. This is evidenced in the number of Japanese Anime/Manga series over the past five years or so featuring distinctly Japanese takes on America style supers (Tiger & Bunny, One Punch Man, Tokyo ESP, My Hero Academia).

    Now, Japanese table top RPGs are getting into the mix. Double Cross, a JTRPG that came out in English a year or three ago, has a supplement in Japan called Masked Heroes which focuses on Masked Rider, Sentai, and America style Supers. Another game, Trinity vs. Venus, is very much in the style of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series.

    As my buddy understands it (and explained it to me), The Masked Age was a game developed by a couple of guys in the Japanese RPG industry who are big fans of American comic books. They couldn't get anyone to publish it, so they published it themselves as a fanzine type book.

  4. I'm glad to hear you are running supers again.

    1. Heheh. Me too.

      I am especially happy to be running what it looks like will be a long term Silver Age game. I have to say it's hard to top that for this old school comic book fan.