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Tabletop Game / Masks: A New Generation

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Masks: A New Generation, also known simply as Masks, is a Powered by the Apocalypse game by Magpie Games, funded through Kickstarter. The game takes place in a bustling metropolis known as Halcyon City, which has been an epicenter of superpowered activity for three generations so far. There was the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age...

...but now, a new generation of heroes is on the rise.

Masks casts its players as a team of teenage to young adult superheroes, in the vein of Teen Titans or Young Justice. The game's Splats (called "Playbooks") suggest your hero's origin and the main issue they struggle with in their superhero career—for instance, you might be an alien from outer space learning to fit into human society, or somebody coming to grips with the way their newly acquired superpowers have changed their body, or the protégé of an established superhero trying to live up to your mentor's expectations.

However, the game's central mechanic—and its biggest departure from the design of other Apocalypse games—is the way it handles stats. Rather than having the set, largely static stats found in other games, Masks uses a system of five "Labels" (Danger, Freak, Savior, Superior, and Mundane) that give you bonuses on dice rolls but also reflect how your character views themself—and since all characters are young adults trying to find their way in the world, these Labels shift up and down constantly. A character can shift their own Labels by coming to a new understanding of themselves, but it's also possible to have your Labels shifted for you if another character has Influence over you.

In short, take your standard Superhero RPG, add a healthy dash of Coming of Age Story, and you have Masks.

Available for purchase and download off of Magpie Games' site here.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The game includes rules for teammates sharing triumphant moments, opening up about their insecurities, and comforting and supporting each other, meaning that by design play tends to alternate between furious action setpieces and more laid-back character interaction.
  • Adults Are Useless: The GM chapter encourages you to make adult NPCs just as flawed as the player characters, and to avoid Parent ex Machina.
  • Alternate Universe: Par for the course with superhero stories, the Masks expansions offer alternative playsets to the base game that can be played as different settings or added to the mainstream storyline. These include:
    • Iron Red Soldiers: A Bad Future where an alien invasion has overrun the planet, enforcing martial law in hopes of preventing a predicted disaster on their homeworld that the superpowered humans will bring.
    • The Spiderweb: An Alternate Timeline created by a Well-Intentioned Extremist that erased superpowered beings from history, at the cost of turning Halcyon City into a Wretched Hive overseen by crime-lords.
    • Phoenix Academy: A High School setting in the vein of My Hero Academia, which places the teenage supers in the titular school where they have to balance their responsibilities as heroes-in-training with all the social pressures of the education system.
    • The Apocalypse Sonata: A sci-fi Road Trip Plot that takes the team on a dimension-hopping quest to prevent intergalactic conqueror Ominus from assembling the last remaining pieces of the music that created the universe and using it for his own sinister purposes.
    • The Suits: The Conspiracy in full effect, with mysterious beings having infiltrated human society and the heroes unsure of where to turn; even allies in the form of A.E.G.I.S. cannot be trusted.
    • Agents of A.E.G.I.S.: The team is a task force, training to be the best and brightest of A.E.G.I.S. in a mission-based, threat-managing campaign.
  • Badass Normal: One of the options for powers in several playbooks is simple martial arts expertise.
  • The Chessmaster: Characters with a high Superior label tend to be good at analyzing situations and manipulating people to do what they want.
  • City of Adventure: Halcyon City is so used to superpowered shenanigans that insurance companies offer policies for them.
  • Coming of Age Story: So much so that advanced abilities are referred to as "Adult Moves".
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: ...or do they? This is a possible question for characters of the Transformed class to struggle with.
  • Destructive Savior: A number of playbooks contain moves that cause significant collateral damage if the user isn't careful (and sometimes even then).
  • Expy: Descriptions of the playbooks in the core rules offer examples of existing characters that match the presented profiles. The list of potential abilities for each one also makes it very easy to recreate said existing characters.
    • A.E.G.I.S. is one for S.H.I.E.L.D.
    • Ominus of The Apocalypse Sonata is one for Darkseid or Thanos, with the Sonata standing in for the Anti-Life Equation or Infinity Stones.
  • Future Me Scares Me: The bonus playbook "The Innocent" is a character who time-traveled to the present day from the past, only to find that their future self is in some way... off from who they want to be.
  • The Heart: Characters with a high Mundane label may not be the best fighters or have the flashiest powers, but they're hard to fool and excellent at helping their teammates through hard times.
  • Hot-Blooded: The Bull playbook embodies the archetype of the hotheaded, reckless superhero who charges into a fight without thinking. To a lesser extent, any character with a high Danger label may act like this.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: As a young superhero, player characters are generally just coming into their powers, and unless they roll really well tend to not quite get what they're going for. As a character advances, they can learn to wield their powers more reliably.
  • Legacy Character: The central idea of the Legacy playbook is that you're a third-generation Legacy Character who constantly has to deal with what your predecessors think of your actions.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Every playbook has a "Moment of Truth" that they can unlock through advancements. Using it basically allows the player to "seize the narrative" and accomplish whatever they're doing with style and confidence... but there are always consequences.
  • Secret Identity: Most heroes have one, of course, but the Janus playbook in particular centers on the struggle between one's superhero identity and civilian identity.
  • Slave to PR: The bonus playbook "The Star" is a celebrity superhero who can leverage their fame to their advantage but also needs to put effort into pleasing their audience.
  • Super Team: Also known as the player characters.
  • Superhero Prevalence Stages: Way into the late stage; superheroes have been around for decades and there are dozens active in Halcyon City alone. The government has even formed an official organization, AEGIS, to deal with superpowered matters.
  • Superpower Lottery: To be expected in a world full of super-powered people.
    • The Beacon is explicitly one of the losers - their powers are extremely minor, if they have any at all. The rulebook even describes them as "low powers, low angst." This is to underscore their assigned role as the Plucky Comic Relief.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, the Nova is the powerball winner, capable of bending the fundamental forces of existence. Unfortunately, they tend to cause a lot of collateral damage.
  • Team Spirit: Represented in-game by the Team Pool, a reserve of points players can spend to help each other accomplish whatever feats they're attempting.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Several factors can reduce the size of the team pool, such as if there's no clear team leader or the team leader is mistrusted, or members of the team have conflicting goals in a given scenario.
  • The Unmasking: The core of the Janus's Moment of Truth.
    Mask off. Costume on. And you're going to save the damn day.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: A possible origin for the Transformed.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: One of the choices for how you react to damage is to lash out verbally at a teammate (provoking them to foolhardy action or inflicting a negative condition on them). This can be a very valid option when one of your teammates' powers goes wrong and ends up hurting the team.
    • This trope is, by name, an ability the Reformed has. It works the same way, too; the Reformed calls out a hero for doing something dangerous or unjust. Whether or not the hero listens is up to a dice roll.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: The Beacon playbook lives and breathes this trope.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The focus of the Doomed playbook.