Inspired by Aaron de Orive’s 2020 First Ten RPGs, a brief account of the roleplaying games I have played most recently, beginning with the most recent and working backwards. Number Six: Brendan Conway et al’s Masks, published by Magpie Games.
Masks is another superhero game, of which I’ve played many. This is one of many, many games in the Powered by the Apocalypse lineage, which has its roots in Meguey Baker and Vincent Baker’s 2010 Apocalypse World1. Player characters in Masks are teen superheroes. Very unusually for roleplaying games, there are no hit points as such. Instead, there’s emotional trauma, which turns out to be just as effective at sidelining characters.
I’ve only played Masks once2 so take this with a grain of salt. The emotional trauma in lieu of hit points threw me a bit. Characters have to be one of a limited number of templates. These can be personalized to a degree but there is not a general design system. It seems to me that there are reasonable characters the game cannot accommodate because there is no way to generate them. As well, once characters mature enough, they graduate from the game and are no longer playable. Having recently encountered a number of games with defined exit points for characters, I’ve discovered I don’t care for that.
Still, I can see people enjoying this if they like roleplaying emotionally vulnerable teens with powers beyond human ken.
1: Which I have not played.
2: Yet another variation of Kid Apocalypse, whose concept is extraordinary power levels combined with lousy control. Thus, the Uxbridge Incident, which he doesn’t like to talk about. The other character was a succubus whose entire goal was to provoke Kid Apocalypse into doing something horrific, for the lols.