"Who are you? What do you want?"

So this isn’t exactly a GM planning/plotting thread.

When I look over the game, I see:

  • Two characters out of their ‘home’ time.
  • Two characters with connections to magictech (not the same two, but there’s a Venn overlap at Kiln.
  • Two people especially ‘into’ supers (Sync’s a fanboy/supers-nerd, and Mette is researching/calibrating)
  • Someone watching all of them, at the behest of AEGIS.

So pretty much any elements that go into a scene that touch on (looking at the easy ones) Magictech or Famous supers should, at minimum, snag the attention of at least three PCs (two who care, and one who’s involved out of soldierly instinct).

Now, granted, in the school related stuff in the first sessions doesn’t directly touch on any of that except Big Supers, but the school stuff is it’s own elemental hook, I guess, thanks to the homeroom network/net.


I’m trying to get these elements into play as much as I can, because I’m not driving for any particular pre-planned plot, and seeing what happens. So far, it’s not… much?

As a non-finger-pointing example, I was kind of surprised Kiln had to be provoked to mess with the found 'tech - I’m personally expecting these character to be a lot more grabby when they see something that interests them.

Again, not pointing fingers. It’s kind of a universal thing - maybe the energy on Wednesdays is low? I dunno.

Maybe I just need to say “guys, I don’t have a plan you’re going to mess up - literally ever - get comfortable and get grabby.”

So: I literally never have a plan you’re going to mess up - please let’s get comfortable and get grabby, because I’d much rather be reacting to what you’re doing.

Maybe that’ll work, or maybe this is the start of a big long thread. Who can say.

With all that said, I do have some stuff on the way as a result of actions taken last session, so yay.

I’m wrestling with this sort of question in the game I’m currently designing. The things I’ve concluded are:

  • Sometimes people want to tell a story, and sometimes people want to be told a story
  • It takes active negotiation to tell who is which at the table
  • Spotlight requires active management

So based on this, I’m going to make some assumptions. People can tell me if those assumptions are true or false.

I get the feeling that Doyce thinks that talking is “filling the air and prompting people to jump in with their own plot”. I similarly feel like everyone else thinks that Doyce talking is “Doyce is talking so we have to listen to it all now before anything else happens”.

If this is the case, I’d suggest to Doyce that instead of filling the air, just sketch a quick scene (“you’re in a museum, but there’s this fantastic reconstruction of an ancient temple. It looks like the sort of thing your people once built. Maybe it’s still functional, for its original purpose.”), then explicitly prompt for action (“you could show the teacher up by re-activating it, if so, or maybe check on it later. What do you do?”).

As was commented in Fellowship, it’s easy for a GM to make this too specific, or railroad a player to do the scene the way they envision. I think the thing we want to negotiate in such scenes is, “what interest do you the player, or your PC, have in this part of the scene?” and then respond to that.

I’d also ask @fragolakat (for example), was the temple an actual interesting thing to you, or Kiln? If not, what sorts of things would you find more interesting to encounter as the Relic?

How does all this sound?


I will agree with this. I am predisposed towards not interrupting people, particularly on voice chat where it means no one will hear anything said and I don’t have the benefit of seeing body language telling me “yes, you can jump in whenever you want.”

With that being said, I will say that there a lot of benefits for personally checking in with people both long term and short term. Long term check-ins would be like “hey, what do you want to accomplish with your character in this game?” and “hey, I think [this] would be fun for your character, would you also think this is fun?” Short term check-in would be something like “Hey, how are you feeling tonight? Are you okay with doing some heavy engagement tonight or would you like to be more passive?”

I try to make sure I am clear on that second one just because when I haven’t I felt it disrupted the game, but I can also see other folks not being instantly aware of being in that until it’s too late so being reminded to think about it can help cut out some of the delay there.


I think what @garrett says makes much sense.

I confess that I am from an Old School of FRPG, where the GM framed things to a fare-thee-well, and the players rolled the dice at critical moments. I will not assert that is a good thing or as best thing or an optimally enjoyable thing, but it’s what I imprinted on in Bright College Days and have never completely gotten over.

(One of my favorite campaigns I ran had me giving characters, with built-in secrets and synergies and conflicts, to the players. In retrospect, that was not a good thing for me to have done. But I still loved that campaign.)

So, one of the things I’ve had to deal with in my past GMing and more present PCing is how to deal with the authorial impulse. For me, that’s “I have a cool story, so let me share it with others to go along with me on the journey.” There are two aspects to that. First, is it a good story? Second, do people want to be brought along in a story?

It’s a really amorphous balance how a GM can be both authorial and let the players participate in that creativity, even if the GM is “first among equals” in that endeavor. I distinctly do not have an answer to that balance point. But I know that Doyce is a writer, and that desire to create a really cool world and story line is strong in him, and I completely understand that.

(And, as a player, I often want that channel to work within, because that was the model I grew up with. But that’s not necessarily what anyone else wants.)

I like that <<“what interest do you the player, or your PC, have in this part of the scene?”>> thing, and it’s appropriate to maybe prompt or ask the player “Hey, this might be a temple your character visited on vacation when you were younger.” But that should be a prompt or a question, not a push or provocation or assumption.

And part of that is that this is still early days with these characters, so both the GM and the player (and the other players) don’t yet fully know who each character is, which may be in part why Kiln didn’t leap at the ostensibly logical opportunity. I mean, I’d feel fully comfortable at judging an Alycia opportunity if it popped up, and either telling Doyce, “Ooooh, that’s brilliant,” or “No, that’s really not what she’d do.” I don’t yet have that confidence with Joe, and I suspect @fragolakat doesn’t have it with Kiln, so I suspect when Doyce says, “Hey, here’s a thing I think will resonate with your character,” there’s a certain amount of “Hmm, I’m not sure, but maybe that makes sense, especially if that’s part of the broader story Doyce is trying to tell.”

(The exception to that I know of is @Margie, who often has a very strong sense of her character long before I do, and is more prone to push back internally at suggestions that don’t align with that sense.)

So I don’t know the right answer here (and the hour is not helping). Offering opportunities to engage, vs. directions to engage might be of use. The difference between “the temple might be one of a style you are familiar with … is it? If so, what do you do?” vs "the temple is of a style you are familiar with, what do you do?’ Which is tough because, as a story-teller, the opportunities and connections that the GM sees are horribly seductive for all the right reasons (“It would be awesome if the temple was one that Kiln knew of old! That’s so cool!”).

(And, just to throw a variable into the equation, it can also just be a matter of a player’s engagement in a given evening, not some grand metagaming issue.)

And that is probably enough babbling. Long past time to sleep.


I mean, that sounds/feels clumsy, but I think it also cuts through some of the weeds.



"…especially if that’s part of the broader story Doyce is trying to tell.”

Monotone screaming sheep voice: “I literally have no plan you’re going to mess up.”

I feel like this is a meme.

What my players think I have plotted out.

What I actually have planned out.

Actually, 20 whole slices of cheese would be incredibly generous.



Even more accurate: When I do the quick scene sketches and then “WDYD”, and I’m met with long dead silence, I start talking again, because I figure whatever question I stopped with didn’t land.

Also it stresses me out.

All this. Honestly if people answered that long-term thing, I’d be thrilled. Right now I could confidently answer 1 in 5 on that (Mette). Actually, 4 of 5 I’d just “pass” - no idea at all. Thought I had better odds but I’ve proven myself wrong already.

I will endeavor to do the energy-level check thing (2nd question) more when we get started each week. That seems like a good practical thing.

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Long Term:

  • Address why Roddy so distant from his family.
  • Dive more into the “you’re not good enough” “yeah, well I’m going to do it anyway” stuff implied by the Beacon playbook. (Unless the dice continue to say that Roddy is awesome, in which case, you can only be amazing so many times before folks start saying “You know what, you might actually have this. Go off.”)
  • Interact with all the students. All the students. Short list of priority targets: Problem Child, Gothwitch, Hellblade, 2Kick, maybe Aliud.

Short Term:

  • Continue to fanboy over Powertronic until that is no longer an option. This one seems like it has a trajectory already, but maybe him manufactoring a situation where Roddy is in over his head to try and teach a lesson might be fun. Especially if Roddy manages to overcome it anyway (but it’d be cool no matter what, play to find out and what not).
  • Continue to be a unintentional thorn in Joe’s side until Dave decides either that he’s had enough of that interaction and it needs to change OR that it’s time for the big blow off.
  • Continue to be a little delinquent until someone decides they have a problem with that. Probably an authority figure, but maybe one of those students noted above might be cool too. It’s easy to blow off the adults. It’s a little more difficult when it’s one of your peers.

I feel like you’re trying to tell us something here. :laughing:

And sometimes it’s that, and sometimes it’s people thinking it should be landing for another character and so not wanting to stomp on that because surely they are about to speak up, and sometimes it’s not being sure about their own character’s reaction as yet. And, yeah, that happens with me a lot.

And I can understand how that would stress you out, and that is certainly not the reaction any of us want.

Long Term: What do I want to accomplish?

  • Learning more about his origins. (Since I have a half-dozen ideas on that, I have not been helpful in collapsing them into a reality. I do really like the hook you came up with about those origins being tied up in the magictech behind Kiln, and possibly associated with Mette as well. I probably bobbled an opportunity to push that forward with my deja vu around temple.)
  • Getting him to accept who/what he has become, maybe even enjoy it. Plotting a trajectory toward that Moment of Truth.

Long Term: What would be fun?

  • More destructive stuff, of course, but destructive stuff with purpose. So purposeful opportunities to have an impact (literally and figuratively at the same time) and for Joe to have a win…
  • Leaning into those Love and Rival relationships (which can also shift over to others). Joey is a passionate guy; I need to let that out. Parallel to that, more stuff with the rest of the team, and maybe with others in the class.
  • So tying the two above together, something more team/clique-focused. The contexts of the whole home room, or some of us in a different class, or a field trip with other students, are all cool and useful and real, but I’m not feeling the team thing yet except for one lunch we had together.

Stray other plotty bits:

  • Rivalry drives conflict drives story. So … we have our little team; is there another team / club / clique on campus getting in our way, or who think we’re in their way? Something where their being more established and recognized makes them annoying – or means they get to do something we don’t
  • Possibly related to the above, or not, I keep flashing on those classic X-Men intramural sports things – a 5-on-5 volleyball game, or basketball, or baseball. At that Academy, that’s going to mean powers and moves to liven things up.

Regardless, I myself need to keep rereading the Bull playbook, because I’m not leaning into that stuff enough yet (right now I’m still playing a Transformed with a Bull overlay, which is not what I had wanted to do). And, as with the last time we did this, I need to actually look at what generates advances for the character and pursue those things. I’m trying to write a narrative here where I don’t know quite where I’m going or why (which, yes, is stressful), so I need to let the game help me with that.

Hope this helped (it helped me).

(James: Whoops that’s what happens when you hit tab in a post apparently)

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I wouldn’t confuse “having a plan” with “telling a story”. You’ve definitely spent time elaborating on details the players presented.

I don’t have anything planned long-term for Alex. However, they are a comedy machine in any scene involving other people, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, so I feel like that’s okay. Just keep giving Alex vague, stress-inducing missions.

I will make a specific suggestion that I hope lowers your stress. Masks is a game about relationships and we spent all this time doing a home-room chart, so use that. Stories about people will probably land better than stories about stuff.

For example, “hey Kiln there’s an ancient temple that was maybe built by your people, want to check it out?” can become “hey Kiln, this temple was built by your people. It doesn’t respond to you, but when Chris walks by, her demonic abilities seem to provoke a response from the temple. What do you do?”


Character charts and Oracles for (nearly?) everyone. I don’t necessarily want a game off of random encounter tables – but the framework they provide, and the elaboration within those things, has lots of potential.

“Joey, it’s a lazy Saturday afternoon, what are you doing?”
“I’m done with my math homework and nervous about the test on Monday. Hmm. Feeling a bit peckish. I’ll go down to the student co-op and get a shake. Chocolate, not banana, before anyone asks.”
“Okay, when you come in, you find (rolls D20) Evan holding court with a half-dozen other students, (rolls D6) regaling them with oddly disturbing tales of the Fae kingdom. What kind of things is he talking about, and how do you react to them.”
“He’s talking about the wars back home, brilliant heroes against the forces of shadow, the faceless goons of the Dark Mistress, bred by her to --”

And that’s when Joey realizes Evan sees him as an orc, a degenerate brute offshoot of the dominant race. Hilarity ensues.

And eventually, enough pieces fall together from those sorts of encounters to make a narrative through line that people consensually continue on their own.


My point was not “use random tables”, my point was “make the stories about people”. Just in case, I bolded that part of my post.

With that said, good random tables ARE setting. :slight_smile:

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I didn’t mistake your point. There’s just an Old School aversion I have to random encounter tables, which is reasonable if every encounter is generic. (“Oh, look, another beggar”) but silly if it’s used as a framework to build those people stories.

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Very much agreed.

My assessment might be a bit off, but I imagine the aversion has more to do with uninspiring interpretation of results and boring/uninteresting play than the random tables.

GM: " You meet a beggar on the road. He introduces himself as Alton before he begins pleading with you for anything you can spare, teary eyes as he mournfully rambles about his lost home, his dead wife Agatha, and starving children. What do you do?"

[short RP occurs, party probably gives the beggar some money. Move on.]

GM: “A couple hours pass and <rolls, squints at results and ponders for a moment> you meet a different beggar on the road. This one is redheaded and says his name is Alton. As soon as he introduces himself, he mournfully rambles about his lost home, his dead wife Agatha, and starving children before extending his hands in a smooth, supplicate motion and asks for whatever you can spare.”


So back when I originally imprinted on RPGs (call it the AD&D, early GURPS era), the GMs I knew (self included) carefully handcrafted every encounter, key dialog, color text, etc., that the players would hit against, and then ran the game accordingly – as well as maintaining in advance the narrative arc of the campaign, all the big secrets that would be revealed along the way, etc. Players brought their characters to the table, and went through that narrative, hopefully not derailing it, hopefully not feeling railroaded, and, if you had a good DM, getting some character stuff to play against as you went on (the
pre-planned encounter with the city magistrate gets tweaked to make it Grimbleblade’s uncle who was behind his father’s death).

In that context, random encounter tables were a sign the DM didn’t have their ducks in a row, and generally, yes, were boringly played. (The only exception was the DM using a random monster encounter if the players stood in one place in the dungeon for too long arguing about what to do next. Even that was kind of lame.)

Now, there is a whole ton of wrong in the above for any sort of extended campaign (vs., say, a module being run at a con table). I know that, and it’s not what I rationally expect from any GM (or player) in the modern era, nor is it probably fundamentally even what I want. But my brain still silently keeps drifting back to that as baseline “normal” and, thus, I tend to want to be guided more than I should, tend to be more reluctant to assert narrative control if I worry it will upset the GM or the other players, and, probably most importantly, don’t run games myself any more.

Which is a long digression, I know, to talk about random tables. :zipper_mouth_face:

Actually, having each beggar give exactly the same details would be far more interesting. :thinking:


Hoo boy, there’s a lot. I know I’m a little late to the party but college is unforgiving. I get called up a lot as I was the initial example, so I’ll try to give my thoughts, though it may end up a little rambly.

I had not initially realized that this was my tech. Which in retrospect it makes perfect sense, being about as subtle as the old cartoons where the secret door is a whole different color.

Yes the temple and/or any other magitech is interesting. Like I said above, I was just slow on the uptake. Also more focused on the Fryth because it seemed to me that would be where the action in the scene would come from. Also he hits all of my buttons.

And you would be correct. Which is something I need to work on.

Yeah, I agree with this. I feel like really the only reason we are a team is because we’re the players and know that we are a team. There is nothing really tying us together otherwise it feels.

Long Term

  • Kiln searching for a way to get back to their own time, etc.
  • Kiln adapting to the modern world.
  • Basically playing around with the Relic playbook, which admittedly we need to do up a single version to follow instead of looking at the three different ones floating around.
    Short Term
  • Stuff about the present. What is different, what is the same, what has happened in the past centuries that can confuse Kiln. (What do you mean we landed a man on the moon? Gender reveal parties? Atomic what nows?)
  • Stuff about the past. People and things that Kiln knew. Again, some of the general Relic stuff.
  • Interacting more with other characters, both NPCs and PCs. Kiln has cooking class with Chris, but what else? That’s the best way for them to interact with the present. This can also get into modern social norms, like people thinking Kiln is into Chris (tbd) because of how they act vs whatever Kiln thinks.

My short term/long term aren’t the best but I obviously need to think more about who Kiln is as a character rather than just a copy of some video game character. So that’s on me. I’ll try to do so and update this list.


My dude this is the perfect thread for that.

This is where “people not things” comes from, yeah.

I’m also giving +1 to “let’s have more stuff that shows we’re a team”.


That reminds me of a story …

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