Monday, November 27, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Masks - Character Creation Analysis

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Masks is the third Powered by the Apocalypse game to show up in these examinations. It is a recent game that cuts closer to the original model of PbtA similar to Monster of the Week. However there are a few differences in place. As to the genre Masks is focused on, it is meant to reproduce the sort of stories seen in Young Justice, Avengers Academy, or Teen Titans. These are mostly serious stories that often deal with heavy subject matter spiced here and there with regular bits of comedy to lighten the drama. The characters are mostly young superheroes ranging from mid-teens up to early twenties. A lot of the mechanics of the game are meant to deal with that search for identity that dominates the transition period between child and adult.

As with Monster of the Week, the first thing you're going to want to do is to choose your playbook as each will have slightly different instructions on how to build your character. Also similar to Monster of the Week, each playbook is designed to tell a particular sort of story. As such, when you are choosing a playbook you should concentrate more on the nature of the story you want to tell about your character than on their actual powers. Each playbook has a set of moves that present certain options to highlight the nature of that story. The playbooks that have already been released are as follows, the underlined ones are from the recent Halycon supplement:
  • The Beacon - You are a low-powered or unpowered person who is eager to be a hero.
  • The Bull - You were created to be a fighting machine and deal with broiling emotions.
  • The Delinquent - You are a rebel who regularly bucks the rules.
  • The Doomed - You face an approaching doom tied to your own powers.
  • The Innocent - You are a younger, more naïve version of a more veteran hero or villain drawn from the past.
  • The Janus - You are tangled up in the demands of satisfying both your public and secret identities.
  • The Joined - You define yourself on your relationship with another character.
  • The Legacy - You have inherited a mantle of great power.
  • The Nova - You have more power than most and constantly struggle to control it.
  • The Outsider - You are alien in someway, unfamiliar with the culture of Earth.
  • The Protégé - You have been mentored by a great hero.
  • The Redeemed - You used to be villain but you've learned better.
  • The Star - You have taken up superheroics as a way of becoming famous.
  • The Transformed - You were physically transformed into something monstrous that people fear.
As you can see there are some subtle overlaps in the story, I will go into some of those after choosing a specific playbook to focus on.  In our case, we have a basic concept, that of the gorgon archer, but we don't have a particular storyline that we want to focus on yet. For our matter I'm going to slightly narrow the choice down to the following list: The Delinquent, The Doomed, The Innocent, The Legacy, The Nova, The Outsider, The Redeemed, and The Transformed.

I'm further going to narrow down the list from here because the powers of a gorgon have not been the primary story focus of the characters we've produced in other settings. This removes The Doomed, and The Nova from consideration. I'm also going to remove The Delinquent because we have not had a tremendous focus on bucking society's rules in the other versions of this character. Likewise, we have not been envisioning characters that had in the past committed legitimate crimes, so The Redeemed is off the table. The characters we've been envisioning lack a support structure for their nature, so The Legacy is off the table. This leaves The Innocent, The Outsider, and The Transformed for consideration. The Innocent is similar in ways to The Exile we used in Monster of the Week, but I think I'll remove it from the table for this case. The Outsider is tempting but is being removed for similar reasons to why I removed the Legacy. This brings me down to The Transformed and a focus on struggling with society's lack of acceptance of things that don't fit the norm.

To further examine the differences between playbook I'm going to dig into the Transformed here a bit more thoroughly. The Bull and The Transformed were both tampered with and changed by outside forces, however, in The Bull's case it was deliberate experimentation while The Transformed might be an accident. The Bull also likely still looks human while the Transformed does not. The story of the Bull is that of controlling their internal rage versus the Transformed dealing with society's rejection. Likewise, The Transformed and The Outsider might both appear very inhuman, but The Outsider is a strange and exotic visitor while the Transformed is one of their own made into something "other". The Outsider's story is that of the immigrant finding acceptance with foreigners while The Transformed is that of a person looking for acceptance among their own people. The Legacy and The Transformed might both deal with unasked for power, but The Legacy is both supported and burdened with role-models on how to deal with that power while the Transformed is alone. This can go on as most of the playbooks overlap with each other at least a little bit.

Once you have chosen your playbook you can continue with the rest of character creation. At this point you would start following the instructions of your particular playbook. Some have specific things you need to do which are you unique to them. The Transformed, however, is one of the playbooks that follows the default procedure. The first thing you do is choose your Look followed by your Abilities.

Each playbook contains a list of abilities but these are more in the nature of suggestions than limitations. The core rules warn that the suggested abilities have proven to work thematically well with the playbook's focus. Abilities represent your character's powers, what makes them able to operate as a superhero. These do not have specific mechanics and mostly serve to inform you, the GM, and the other players as to what your character might be able to accomplish. For example, a character with "Superhuman Strength" as an ability could be reliably expected to lift and throw a car but not to read minds. Transformed gain two Abilities and none of the suggestions really fit our archer in idea so we're going to choose our own.

Following the Look and Abilities, you note your Labels. These represent your character's self-image and they shift around heavily, sometimes several times in a single session. There are five labels: Danger, Freak, Savior, Superior, and Mundane; and they are ranked from -2 to +3. Each playbook starts with the Labels in a set position and allows you to increase any one of them by 1. Danger involves seeing yourself as strong, dangerous, and threatening; able to take down other dangerous foes and possibly being a danger to other people around you. Freak is the label that means you see yourself as strange, unique, and powerful; possibly special or maybe unnatural. Savior means you see yourself as a defender or guardian of others, somebody to rely on and look up to. Those with a high Superior believe themselves to be smart, crafty, skilled, and quick; when you think you're smarter than everybody else. Mundane is the label for seeing yourself as just like anybody else, a normal, empathetic human being.

Next you choose the Backstory, which is a list of five questions that define how you came to this point in your life. Each of the five questions is focused on the central story of the playbook. In the case of the Transformed, these represent what they were before they were changed, the cause of the change, and why you have decided to become a hero. Following Backstory come the crew Relationships and Influence. Each playbook has at least two statements with a blank designed to hold the name of one of your teammates. You will also receive instructions on who to give Influence, which is a game resource which can be used to help, hinder, or manipulate those you have Influence over. By default you either have Influence over someone or you don't, you can't take Influence 2 over someone. Finishing off the backstory section, you will answer a particular question about what happened the first time your team came together. Every playbook has a different question to answer about this first battle your team had together which helps weave a story about the team's history to this point.

This finally brings you to the selection of moves and other special rules specific to your playbook. The Transformed has no specific rules and simply chooses three Transformed moves. Most of the other playbooks have some special mechanic such as the Beacon who selects Drives, which are various superhero goals the Beacon wants to achieve like "pull off a ridiculous stunt". The Bull chooses a Love and a Rival to be the focus of their emotions. The Doomed has to detail the nature of their doom and sanctuary. The Legacy describes NPCs connected to their Legacy, and so on.

Gorgon Archer - The Transformed

Mariah the Gorgon
Look: Woman, Mediterranean, Strange eyes, Scaled flesh, serpent hair.
Abilities: Archery, Petrifying Gaze

Danger +1
Freak +3
Savior +0
Superior +0
Mundane -1

What were you before? A normal young woman, just graduated high school.
When did you change? What caused it? Emotional trauma and danger awakened my gorgon heritage.
Who, outside of the team, is helping you understand your new body? A woman named Circe who she thinks might be the mythical Circe herself.
Why don't you just try to hide yourself away? I found friends I cling to.
Why do you care about the team? They accept me for who I am.

When our team first came together...
We drew attention from plenty during the fight. One important person in particular now hates and fears us. Who is it? A multi-billionaire businessman considers us a danger to the city.

(Doomed question) We paid a high price for our victory, what was it? Ellen died and Grimm had to tie himself to Cauldron's power source to bring her back. Well she sort of came back, that's how she got her powers.

(Janus question) We saved the life of someone important, either to the city or to us. Who was it? Why are they important? The mayor's secretary who is apparently secretly in charge of a metahuman training program.

Grimm (Tom Wenschel) The Doomed comforted you when you were at your lowest.
Eilonwy (Ellen Kinsey) The Janus knew you before you changed.

You try not to care what other people think, even if you can't shut everyone out. Give Influence to one teammate. - The Janus

Be the Monster: When you frighten, intimidate, or cow others with your monstrous form, roll +Freak. On a hit, they are thrown off and make themselves vulnerable to you or they flee. On a 10+ choose one. On a 7-9 Choose two:
  • You frighten others you had not intended to scare.
  • You hurt someone or break something you shouldn't have.
  • You feel like more of a monster afterward, mark a condition of the GM's choice. 
Not human enough: When you directly engage a threat in a terrifying fashion, mark a condition to choose an additional option, even on a miss.

I am not my body: When you take a powerful physical blow you may roll as if you had two fewer conditions marked. If you do, on a 10+ you must choose to lose control of yourself in a terrible way.

Character Advancement
Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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