Masks Recap: Improvised Time Travel

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Masks is a wonderful game, capturing the essence and joy of running a drama filled, teenage superhero game. A staple of super hero stories is time travel, which is also one of the most complicated stories you can tackle.

In my Monday Masks game, we’ve had a time travel thread going for the last few weeks. Friction, the Janus kinetic controller, has been replaced by her future self, although none of her teammates know. This week, we finally follow the story of the present-day friction exploring the future.

When we switched future and present Friction, her player came up with a few facts about the future on her own.

1.      The death of her younger brother, Jack, was the perceived turning point in the timeline for when it became a bleak future.

2.      The Calvary, the international group of superheroes, split up into individual cells. Some are good, some are bad.

3.      Firefly, the Outsider alien princess, was usurped by a sibling and is in hiding on Earth.

4.      Jishaku, the Reformed electromagnetic controller, is in control of a Calvary cell, and it is unknown whether she is good or bad.

5.      Friction is the leader of a vigilante group, fighting against both the good and bad.

6.      Finally, the bleakest fact: Nexus, the Transformed nanite lifeform, has been cut into pieces to be incorporated into other people. Integrating Nexus body parts grants incredible power, so organizations hunt down body parts and steal them from each other.

Overall, the future Halcyon city has a very Sin City feel, but with a higher level of technology.

 A little bit of this, a little bit of Batman Beyond.

A little bit of this, a little bit of Batman Beyond.

The facts we have are very invocative, but leave a lot open. For our session, we decided to dive into this further, and did it completely improvised.

The players of Firefly, Jishaku, and Nexus were allowed complete freedom to decide facts and features of the future, and push the story as they liked. My job was to introduce Friction to the future, and set her on the path to meeting her teammates.

I introduced a few features to the future: Hoverbikes, futuristic police blimps, unregistered metahumans, and the Manhunters.

 Probably not these Manhunters. Probably.

Probably not these Manhunters. Probably.

Friction met with her vigilante group, and went to meet Jason Bellamy, the best friend of Nexus.

Nexus’ player was controlling Jason, as Nexus was unable to be played, being in many pieces and all. Jason fleshed out some information on what happened to Nexus, and put them on the path to meeting Jishaku.

The player of Jishaku fleshed out the role of the Calvary cells. They have a warlord feeling to them; they’re officially a part of the government, but can do whatever they want. The group decides to try and find a way to send a message back in time, and change the future. They go to look for Firefly and reunite the group.

The player of Firefly decided that after being usurped by a sibling, she made herself completely undetectable. She cut her psychic powers off, hid all of her alien tech, and tried living as a completely normal, boring person.

 A fate worse than death, being boring- (teenagers everywhere)

A fate worse than death, being boring- (teenagers everywhere)

The group restored Firefly’s memories, and went about finding a way to either send a message back, or even better, send Friction back to her normal time. Eventually, they sent Friction back to her timeline, where she can save her friends from their current predicament.

Throughout the whole story, Friction acted as a beacon of hope in a dark, bleak future. The players of the other characters did an amazing job at portraying a dark future, and because they were the ones deciding facts about it, they added things that were personal that I would have missed. Friction found a group of people who had grown apart, and brought them back together again. She brought the future the one thing it needed most- hope.

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Time travel stories are complicated, confusing, and full of paradoxes. For a tabletop game, you don’t need to worry about keeping an internal consistency the entire time. You’re creating the game as you go, so you can always add things later. Go crazy. Let your players come up with facts and features about the future. It’s their characters, so it’s a great opportunity to preview what their plans are for their character, or delve into the mindset of them.

Have you ever run a time traveling adventure or story? Let me know how it went!