A New Generation (or The Concept)
I had no idea what to expect when Magpie Games decided to sponsor a Masks: A New Generation miniseries on Twitch with the Theatre of the Mind Players. I'd only been the company's community and marketing manager for a couple of months when the project began and (to be honest) I've always been a little leery of actual plays for tabletop roleplaying games.
How can I expect to enjoy watching a group of strangers sit around a table talking, even for a game I love? Don't get me wrong, I cam to Magpie Games with more than just marketing experience—I've been rolling dice for over 15 years. Regaling other friends with epic scenes was one thing, but never did I assume that anyone beyond the players themselves would get any real entertainment value out of watching actual play.
My opinions started change as I read the proposal for Future Shock. Rob contributed some great writing to a Masks sourcebook (Masks: Unbound—Phoenix Academy), so I knew I could trust him to bring Halcyon City to life, and I quickly caught myself wishing I could be one of the players as I reviewed the series notes—A vigilante hero retired to become Mayor? That major tech conglomerate does what?? Not in MY city!!
I was also impressed by the absolute professionalism of everyone involved in Future Shock. This was an official extension of Masks after all, and needed to maintain consistency within the universe. I watched them refine the pitch while I helped negotiate promotional details, and I knew the stream was going to be awesome!
I'd seen the character art and read the general concepts (Figment in particular sparked my fancy- Don't tell Helix!) but I knew I needed to know more in order to promote this fantastic show to Masks fans... I decided to ask the players for deeper insight into their characters' motivations in the form of mini-interviews, inquiring about why they chose a certain playbook or what they hope their character would bring to the story. Every answer reinforced my conviction that this stream was going to be good. (If you want to read them, check our Facebook and Twitter feeds from January through March 2019!)
The Actual Play (or Shocked by Greatness)
The intro for Future Shock impressed me right away. It features the awesome art we worked on together, with the most perfect cinematic music adding both drama and intensity. After a somewhat cheesy, yet classic comic panel welcoming viewers to Halcyon City, I—and everyone else who tuned in for the first episode—finally got to "meet" our streamers, Danielle, Tawnie, Ethan, Jordan, and Tony. The players' highly amusing pantomimes while Rob gave some PbtA and Masks background, along with the creation of a couple inappropriate hashtags, were enough to sell me on the stream even before the opening fight scene!
Here's a few of my absolute favorite parts of Future Shock as it progressed over the following episodes:
- Little Sparrow giving herself a new alias every episode ('No, I'm Tomahawk now.') and the many puns that ensued.
- Figment's cape, dubbed Cape, developing a sassy personality of its own
- The many relationships of Helix the Bull, "nearly impenetrable, but on the inside a melty marshmallow of disaster."
- Arete's representation of a goofy teen in complete contrast with her dramatic legacy.
- Horizon's hilarious espionage scene, teleporting into a press conference unveiling the terrible tool created by the villain under the pretense of making Halcyon City safer than ever.
There are far too many great moments to list them all, so you can check out some highlights of the team's many heroic shenanigans here on Twitch.
Our heroes in Future Shock experienced many trials with varying levels of success and failure. They went on dates and held awkward conversations with parents; they fought villains and suffered terrible blows. Throughout the game, the team generated an unexpected application for spreadsheets and experienced a wide variety of conflict. Ultimately, following some jaw-dropping sacrifices by certain members (no spoilers!), the team freed the minds of adult superheroes once controlled by the evil tech giant.
As Rob once put it behind the scenes, "You know, a typical Wednesday night."
Through these dramatic events—interspersed with just the right amount of humor—I rode the emotional roller coaster right along with characters, sometimes throwing my head back with laughter, at other times sitting quietly, wide-eyed and stunned. I might have shouted enthusiastically at the screen when A.E.G.I.S. showed up, or sat quietly in distress after a Powerful Blow. Rob's excellent storytelling and the players' skillful engagement truly felt like they were bringing me, the view, right along on the ride.
My Conclusion (or The Future?)
I couldn't recommend more that you watch this actual play. I loved every moment of working with the Theatre of the Mind Players, and I adore the content they created. I am so looking forward to season 2!
If you haven't been following this Masks miniseries, please go check out the episodes on YouTube, follow Theatre of the Mind Players on Facebook and Twitter, and let them know if you too would like to see what happens next! After all, Future Shock isn't just your average stream... it's super!