Masks is a great game, and one of the playbooks, the Beacon, has one of the best design features for a character that I have ever seen.
For those that don’t know, the Beacon is the normal person on the team. They don’t have superpowers. They might have gadgets and skills, but they’re just a normal person trying to do good in a team of super powered friends.
The Beacon has a feature called Drives. The Beacon has a list of tasks or goals to accomplish. Because Masks is a teenage superhero game, these include things like “get a new hero name”, “punch someone you probably shouldn’t”, and “pull off a ridiculous stunt”.
Each session, the Beacon chooses four drives to work on. If they accomplish it, they get to mark it off and get a reward. Once a drive has been marked off, it’s permanently done. If you mark off all four in a session, you pick four more.
The beauty of this feature is that drives give you things to strive for. They’re almost a kind of role playing prompt. Regardless of whatever mission or story you’re participating in, drives are the motivations for your character.
With drives, you are never caught at a time where you don’t know what to do. If there is nothing else happening in the game, you can push to complete one of your drives.
The limit of four drives at a time is a great decision. It gives focus to your drives and goals. Having a list of 20 drives that you could accomplish would be overwhelming and feel chaotic. Instead, the act of picking four means that you are aware of what you want to do, and can do it with a focused approach.
The last beauty of drives is specific to Masks. In the game, if you are able to complete all of the drives, you have a choice to make. You either pick a new playbook and use that going forward, retire from the superhero life, or become a paragon of the city.
This highlights what Drives are to a Beacon. They’re a measure of accomplishment. A Beacon is defined by having drives that they want to achieve. Once they’re all done, they have nothing else they need to do in the game. If they want to keep playing with their team, they have to pick a new playbook, because they’re no longer driven by their drives; they’re a different type of person. If they retire, it’s because they’ve accomplished everything they want to from the superhero lifestyle. If they want to keep going down the same path, then they become a paragon of the city, an NPC.
Drives are an amazing feature that should be included in as many games as possible. I love this mechanic, and will be looking for ways to implement it into other systems.
Have you played a Masks game? If so, what do you think about the Beacon’s drives? Let me know!