MASKS #11 - WHEN SABLESTAR STRIKES! [Recap]

RECAP! (via Mike) Recap of  Issue 10 . Two-page spread -- Concord facing down Sablestar. Oh-crap look. "Oh man, today's been crazy, and lunch period isn't even over yet." Called to Dr Dawes, the Principal. Almost got him to talk about the Concordance. And Leo made a new friend, weird, nice, really smart, speaks Mandarin. Being a secret hero is rough! Jason and Harry have it easy. Even the Concordance seems scared of Sablestar. I don't think I can do this on my own! [Clear "Angry" -- Danger -1, Mundane +1] INTO THE ACTION! Concord -- Villain in the background, hero is flying back toward the viewer, backward, grimacing, being blasted toward the viewer. Falling out an accretion disk down toward the city. His face is striken with a look of panic. Link+Otto rocketing upward. Concord wants to regroup with Link. But because he's afraid, he can't fly. Link snags him ... "And I'm here to catch you." ... [Comfort/Support] Adam gives him that knowing nod ( that the shippers will latch onto ) and zooms into flight. (Ghost Girl is hearing this.) They abruptly rocket straight into the sky because gravity flips. Which is affecting some cars and people on the ground, too -- a 30m column. Link heads down to try to grapple some of them. GG -- Was at Ghostheart's place, then the coffee shop, but she detects where they are, and flies there. Sees people flying, falling, cars ... concentrates on the shadows of Link's armor to communicate with him. "Go faster!' GG reaches out to a dark corner of Harry's mind. Charlotte is obsessed with tourist maps, so she can tell Harry where to go. (Jason ... enforced bed rest and planning on a road trip to Pennsylvania.) Harry is in class. Social Dance (because he can't do regular PE). It's another super -- a flyer "She's light on her feet." "A10." She's ... aggressive. He begs off -- "Cover for me." "You owe me." Concord is heading toward Sablestar. She pulls a starlight sword, ripping space-time toward him (and, if it misses, will demolish a bunch of businesses / residences. Concord throws up a big defensive shield to defend the city. The shield splits -- absorbs the blow, but the shield spins to either side, the energies spinning around each other. "Why are you doing this? You look just like me! Shouldn't you be trying to help people?" She stares ... then laughs with cosmic mockery and disdain. "If I wondered how a Concord agent had gotten out here and hadn't completely brought the planet under its heel, I now understand you don't understand anything. Youare utterly out of your depth, Little Boy. I am Void Collective, and we are nothing alike. You are utterly outclassed, you and your ... locals. This is sad, I almost want to tell the rest of the Concordance what you are doing to them. It's so sad. Just step out of the way, let me be about my business, and stop embarrassing yourself." Link -- will try to counterbalance the folk falling down and the folk falling up, juggling with cables, sort of a Tilt-a-Whirl. GG tries to phase folk out of the car and flying them down. Jason -- newschopper covering this stuff. Concord. "You're *wrong*. These powers were meant to HELP people. And these are my FRIENDS. And helping people is what I'm going to do." Energy building up behind him. And he LETS LOOSE. And ... oh dear. The power just sparkles and fades away. "You just don't understand how any of this works, do you?" She flips the gravity again. And opens up another accretion disk, and floats into this with a little tah-tah wave. Jason is flying in at high speed on one of the flying disks (though video back at the compound shows him still in the room) He's been "reading the files" -- Dad encountered them rarely -- the Void Shadow Collective. Sablestar has encountered the cosmic heroes on occasion. Never shown this power level before. Gamma radiation will stop her! Is there a way to restrain / stop her? Would need a gravitic disruption -- disrupt the portal in some way. Link throws a car to do such a disruption. (Sends her off somewhere else.) But ... the three people closest to her take a hit, too ... GG, Link, Concord. EMP! Impacts Link's suit, and GG's energy fields, and Concord's energy. GG passes out. Link's suit fails, falls toward the ground. Adam is daunted -- Insecure and Hopeless. Harry was just pulling up, thinking of doing the tornado thing. Jason saw the explosion -- "Yes!" ... and then Link goes limp, and the eight people who were hanging to the cables start to fall. And the cars. And GG goes corporeal and starts to all, too. Harry does the air cushion thing. Jason sprays nanobots out to create a cushion beneath -- though Harry's efforts means that he doesn't need to over-extend. Dust settles. But ... GG is a perfectly regular girl ... then goes back ghostly after a minute. Link's suit reboots. People are standing up, still holding onto cables. And the populace starts to clap. Remarkably little damage. Adam stares at the spot Sablestar vanished. The applause is not affecting him. He face is grim. The moment of truth just wasn't there ... THE I-OWE LIST! That would be Jason and Harry. Flashback to Ghost Girl ADVANCES Concord: Grew closer to the team --> Link [+Potential, advance] Danger +, Savior - Link: Grew closer to the team --> Adam  GG: Closer to team --> Link [condition: ] Harry: Closer to team --> Jason Jason: Closer to Team --> Harry [+Potential, advance!] [Savior+ Superior-] --> also +1 DOOM ALSO ... The robot at school. "Leo, it's Pneuma ... something went wrong ..." Something happened, and no idea what, and it triggered a restore from backup to an immediate robot body.
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Mike
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A wonderful session as always, though I might be biased due to the nice arc Concord's had in these last three sessions.  Worried About His Powers Controlling Him > Learns to Cope and Deal with His Powers > Trusts His Team Enough to Cut Lose > Learns His Powers Don't Work that Way.  If it was a television show, everyone at home would have been excited to finally see what the Concordance can actually do with Adam fully behind it... only to have the record scratch when Sablestar wasn't' effected in the slightest.
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Doyce T.
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Sheet Author
"only to have the record scratch..." Yes. Exactly. I love how good a failure can be in this game. Same thing happened in the Star Wars game as well, sometimes, with the jedi, but ... yeah. Really sings in Masks.
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Mike
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Doyce T. said: I love how good a failure can be in this game. Don't disagree, but I think you need to be a little harder with the gut punches when those happen too.  I think my only criticism about the game is that the hard moves in response to our failures have seem pretty rather mild at times.  It seems like a common trend with PbtA games where a lot of GMs are unwilling hit hard when appropriate.
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Doyce T.
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Sheet Author
Good point, and something I've been thinking about myself. Thank YOU for pointing out your big 6- that I almost forgot to have consequences for. There's a hidden pit trap for me in conflicts, where I sort of get in the mindset of "consequences didn't happen, then I forget to do ANYTHING", and that's no good. I'm at least partly happy with the Sablestar fight because it wasn't an unmitigated bad-guy trouncing as the previous conflicts have been.
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Mike
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Doyce T. said: Good point, and something I've been thinking about myself. Thank YOU for pointing out your big 6- that I almost forgot to have consequences for. Trust me, fallout is my favorite part of this game so I wouldn't miss it for everything.  For a bit I figured you were doing that suspense-building GM trick of "pulling away from the action a moment of tense to draw it out" and then when we returned nothing had come from it, so I was primed and something was coming from it.  It wasn't the "Link+, you look to Concord and Sablestar and see her blast Adam with a massive torrent of energy.  In the next panel you see Adam falling out of the smoldering clouds of the explosion... that's right Adam*, not Concord**.  But you're still tied up civilians, literally with your grapple lines, floating in mid-air***.  What do you do?****" I was hoping for, but at least we got somewhere. *The GM move for the Legacy: Take away their mask. **The GM move for the Bull: Endanger their love. ***The GM move "Put innocents in danger" or "Activate the downsides of their abilities and relationships," depending on how you go with it. ****This is totally armchair/backseat GMing, but I think three lightly hard moves strung together make a nice response to a big failure.  Also has the benefits of hindsight and time so it's in no way a fair comparison to actual events. +Man, I need to stop using Link and Concord for my examples here.  The fangirl will get riled up again.
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Doyce T.
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Sheet Author
By all means, call this sort of thing out - I'll admit that I'm probably playing it softer because I don't want to overstep and ruin folks' fun. It's not that kind of a game, though - need to keep remembering that.
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Mike
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Doyce T. said: By all means, call this sort of thing out Don't get me tempted.  I'm in my "I have MC'd a game in three weeks" mode and I'm having to remind myself stuff like "This isn't your game, dude.  Stop writing moves for villains."  Although it wouldn't be too hard.  It'd be a quickly modified Unleash Your Powers to represent the disorientation of Sablestar flipping gravity... As you can see, I have issues here. ;)
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I had a lot of fun, partially because I got to get my Spider-man on. And I'm not talking about the grappling lines. Spider-Man: Homecoming was like a complete 180 from the previous Spidey movies in a few areas. One was this amazing trick to make Peter Parker look like a newbie: it took him entirely out of his element. Previous films have Spidey swinging gracefully from skyscraper to skyscraper in the New York City skyline, deftly flying above traffic. Homecoming puts him in the one-story burbs. It gives him challenges (energy weapons, massive vehicles collapsing, sane and clear-thinking villains) that his powers are just not equipped to deal with. He pulls through, lifts himself up, powers on through with determination. The movie took everything external away from him, and then showed that what was left was a hero. Leo's thing is to hit people really hard. He's plowed through previous villains like a berserker. He had a literal demon from hell running away from him. And that was badass. But it's also badass to be told "hey, go do crowd control" when that's absolutely not his thing. When Jarvis and Tony are talking after Air Force One, you get some tension very quickly: "how many can I carry?" "Four" "How many are there?" "Fifteen". You know he's gonna have to do something cool. I think the gravity thing was pretty cool - I'll post an illustrated explanation in a moment. This villain was good, because it wasn't just somebody jumping out at us and saying "put up your dukes". Everyone in the scene had something to occupy them, some stakes that could and did escalate, something to lose. Everyone was at a disadvantage. The Bull's playbook includes moves like "plow through insurmountable barriers", which I took. It follows that there's insurmountable barriers to be plowed through. Making obstacles like that emerge organically from the situation is going to elevate any villain to badass status.
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https://photos.app.goo.gl/J0j3q4OTx0C3MQgc2 Basically, Link wanted to counter-balance (Otto + one car) against the other two cars, using Otto's cables to hold all three together. Gravity will naturally pull the "outside" cars downward back into the column, so he'd use Otto's rocket punch-equipped arms to provide an outward thrust. He doesn't need to overcome a full 1 G, and can otherwise use rockets to hold himself stable in that arrangement. I imagine that'd require all of Otto's concentration, so I pictured Leo detaching, and using his cables to form a bridge between the top car, the middle cars, and the ground as needed, ferrying civilians to safety. The civilians, meanwhile, would be hanging onto the cars and cabling and each other. We don't need to be crazily spinning around in this arrangement, although it would be very shaky, and could collapse at any moment if Sablestar had shut it off.
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Mike
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Bill G. said: I had a lot of fun... +1 for Bill on the whole post.  Jeez, I think I know some stuff and then Bill pulls out some big picture observations and genre comparisons and then I'm thinking to myself "You still have quite a way to go, Self."
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Mike said: Bill G. said: I had a lot of fun... +1 for Bill on the whole post.  Jeez, I think I know some stuff and then Bill pulls out some big picture observations and genre comparisons and then I'm thinking to myself "You still have quite a way to go, Self." Everything you already said was right on the money and was an excellent illustration of applying playbook hard moves. I was free to say what I did because you gave that middle layer foundation it needed. Thanks for that. :)
Doyce: By all means, call this sort of thing out - I'll admit that I'm probably playing it softer because I don't want to overstep and ruin folks' fun While I don't think anyone wants to play Masks: The Engloomening, I (and I think the others feel the same way) don't mind the hard hits, the difficult or even no-win decisions. The deep groans of pain on failure are almost as much fun as the peals of laughter on success. (Actually, we laugh in both cases.) The arc of a character should be toward eventual success and growth (unless that player intentionally wants to move in another direction), but it's fine (indeed, desirable) for there to be setbacks and problems along the way. The classics for this genre, in an animated sense, are Teen Titans [the non- Go! variety, of course] and Young Justice. Both had lighthearted humor and even the occasional goofiness. "Hello, Megan!" Nobody would call them soft , though -- there's character tension, there's character defeat, there's destroyed expectations and betrayals and trauma and fury and hurt all the freaking time ... right alongside triumph and love and laughter and camaraderie ad snark. Robin driven to madness thinking Slade is still after them. Beast Boy dealing with Terra's betrayal. Raven coping with her doomy-doom-doom heritage. Cyborg struggling with his mechanical limitationss. And for Starfire -- well, the episode "How Long Is Forever?" is  still  gut-wrenching.  "Ruining fun" is when negative consequences are seen as unfair, arbitrary, disproportionate, or destructive of something that was key to a player. "Harry comes home to find his whole family brutally dismembered, their internal organs draped like insane party favors about the house" is probably not good fun; Harry's family being seriously threatened, or even one of them being critically injured by an arch-villain, on the other hand, is fun, because it's good drama and motivation and potentially part of Harry's arc as a Legacy. Especially if there's then an opportunity for him to triumph ... and then deal with whether vengeance is going to be part of his character going forward or not. If Ghost Girl were to be suddenly, forcibly rendered permanently mortal, her playbook ripped from her and her extensive background rendered moot, that would be problematic. Ghost Girl being made inexplicably corporeal for a few moments is something quite different, intriguing, etc., even if it causes the character some trauma and even physical risk.  I've seeded a couple dozen different ways Jason can be utterly slammed to the floor and ground into the pavement by stuff about his family, his background, his doomy-doom, etc. I expect some of those things (or maybe something even worse!) to happen because overcoming it becomes the real challenge, not what funky shape I can use my nanobots as, and because I expect there will be an avenue or two to overcome it, possibly even with a little help from my friends. So consequences are okay. We'll let you know if you overstep. :-)
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All of this.
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Mike
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Same.  The only thing I could add to this is just add more examples, but they'll just echo what Dave stated so well already.
Mike said: Same.  The only thing I could add to this is just add more examples, but they'll just echo what Dave stated so well already. Well, you could post more "Dark Dungeons" panels, because that's always fun, but that was the best Evil DM one, so ... :-)
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There's one more, but only click on the link if you have a tolerance for dark humor. https://i.imgur.com/xmSz1d7.png
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Doyce T.
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Sheet Author
These are perfect.
HA!  I stand corrected.
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One more, then.
The Jack Chick vibe underlying all of this makes it particularly amusing. 
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Mike
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I am filled with amusement and horror.  Good job, Bill.
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Apropos of nothing, my science-studying roommate signed off on the crazy gravity thing I described. She said the only concern might be blood pressure loss, as people came through the 2 g's of interface and had some capillaries burst. But I assume paramedics will be on scene soon anyway.
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Mike
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That's actually really cool.  Fighting super villainy with science seems like a great way to spend an evening.
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Heroes face implacable challenges that can't be overwhelmed or ignored, but can be bypassed, outsmarted, or turned to the hero's advantage. We love seeing the hero win in such cases. For me, real science is such a challenge.
Consequences are good and a nice balance to the ridiculously good roll we seem to get.My only caveat would be that it's possible for things to hit a little too close to home. I know that if that comes up Doyce will happily exchange it for a different soul crushing defeat. On a side note - love the dark dungeon. It has a perfect Chick's track feel.
And gave us a chance to introduce Katherine to "Dark Dungeons". :-D