Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month May 2020 – The Fourth Generation

As you’ve probably started to figure out, we’ve had our eye on you for a while now kid. Your abilities make you one of a kind, but you need training, focus. That’s where A.E.G.I.S. can help. That’s what we do, you see. We take “talented” young people like yourself, and mold them into the next generation of superheroes. You’ll be part of what we call our The Fourth Generation – May’s Campaign of the Month! So what do you say? You in? Good. Then it’s time to meet cczernia GM of this high flying campaign!


Hail, cczernia! For new visitors to Halcyon City and the comic-inspired, super-powered universe beyond it, give us an overview of The Fourth Generation campaign and the rules system that you use.

The Fourth Generation campaign uses Masks: The New Generation. Masks is a game about teenage superheroes trying to make a name for themselves in a city with a long history of superheroes. It is a combination of saving the city from super villains mixed with teenage drama.


Masks uses Powered by the Apocalypse which is a collection of “moves” that are rules for what is most likely to happen in the setting of the game.

What do you like best about the rule system or a particular homebrew mechanic that you use?

The thing I like the most about PbtA  as a GM is I do not have to roll or stat out NPCs. All the rolling is put in the players hands and I mostly react to the choices they make. It allows me to focus on the narrative elements of the story.


Masks specifically has a rule that characters cannot die but they can get removed from the scene. The rule manages to capture the feel of the comic setting and also lets players take risks with their character that they might not normally take.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your players, and your lives outside of game?

cczerniaI’m in my mid 40s and have been running games for over 25 years. For 10 years I ran a local D&D for teens program at a library. I am currently the organizer for the San Diego Meetup Association and enjoy running games at conventions.


When not partaking in my favorite hobby I do web development and enjoy touring the breweries of Southern California.


I’ve had around 13 great players in the group. Throughout the campaign many have had to move (four of them moved Portland at different times) and we have filled the seats with new players. It has been a great mix of men/woman, young/old, gay/straight.

How did you get into gaming? How did your gaming group find each other?

I originally played D&D when I was 15 and did not care for dungeon crawling aspect of it. It was more of an excuse to hangout with friends and eat Doritos. I later moved to the DC area and my friend there twisted my arm into playing Top Secret SI. It was just the two of us and I loved it.


The group came together when I posted a Meetup for a oneshot of Masks. I wanted to play Masks and also support a new brewery that was attached to a game store. I only had three people RSVP and had to call some friends to fill the extra seats. At the end of the game I asked if they wanted to keep going and they did. We had four or five Meetups events with a mix of people. By the time I had seven players I took it off Meetup.


The Fourth Generation is a huge, multi-story, multi-year game. Where do draw inspiration for so many adventures?

I normally run 5-8 session campaigns with a beginning, middle and end and then switch to something new. I had planned the same thing for this game with an arc about The Exemplars (based off the Justice League) splintering over how they treat super villains.


However the players enthusiasm took over as they started doing art and writing side stories. By the time I finished my original arc I had enough PC driven material for a year.


After a year we took a break and I ran a short game of The Watch. That has become our routine with a long run of Masks followed by a short break of another game.

Your cast of characters is absolutely massive, and the campaign itself is actually a series of campaigns that includes everything from cosmic travel to dimensional/time jumps. How do you manage it all?

The Masks Obsidian Portal page is now more about the world; our own MasksUniverse. Each year when we start up we choose a new theme. First campaign was standard Masks with teens trying to make a name for themselves. Second was a government sponsored superhero program. Third was intergalactic travel. This year will be superhero high.


Each year everyone makes new characters but they can remake their old characters if they want. If they do not make and old character then that character becomes an NPC.


We have campaign tags like C1, C2, C3 that allow us to filter if we only need to see specific campaigns. This allows the page to grow but still be useful during play.


Did The Fourth Generation have any particular challenges for you as a GM? If so, what solutions did you find most effective?

Three to five players is my comfort level and I had seven. I wanted to give the players a proper amount of spotlight time and to do this well with seven player games would not work.


My solution was to have three sessions a month. Two during the week and one during the weekend. The weekly games would have five players and three players would play in both sessions. The weekend game would have all the players.


The next month the three players would change. It created an interesting dynamic with the players excited to RP with other players who were not in their previous session.

The campaign is greatly enhanced by all of the creative writing within – especially the player contributions. Do you have any tips for encouraging that kind of player participation or are you simply blessed with talented friends?

Unfortunately, I do not. This was all my players and completely unexpected. The only advice I have is to encourage it when it happens. I would mine the stories for ideas and in one case it kicked off a side story.


What are your player’s favorite parts of The Fourth Generation, so far?

Some favorite moments from my players are: playing a villain disguised as a PC, punching the generator and destroying the base that created the PC, playing alternate versions of their characters and Canadian super hero side story.

What part are you most proud of? Or, what was the most enjoyable moment for you as the GM?

The player enthusiasm and watching them get involved. I had done other Obsidian Portal pages and had to update most of it myself. In this case the players did a lot of the work making the game possible. That I had a part in this makes me proud to be their GM.


In addition during the last campaign I asked my players for suggestions on weird intergalactic places would be cool to visit. I got a lot of suggestions but one was “Mental institution. Heroes and villains are all patients, and being treated for their delusions for super-heroism/villainy.”


I thought this was a great idea but wasn’t sure how to pull it off. However, I knew the player who suggested it did. He agreed to run a few games. So, one of my most enjoyable moments as a GM was getting to be a player.


One of the highlights of The Fourth Generation is the artwork! Where did all your wonderful art come from and how do you use images to help tell the stories?

This was the biggest surprise. Half the group were artists and almost immediately started doing sketches. It blew my mind. In addition to filling out character images they would do comicbook panels of events that happened, side events that happen off game or fan art of their characters in different realities. Like the stories I could mine this for ideas.

Can you give us any hints about the future of the campaign without giving too much away? Or, do you have other, upcoming projects?

We are currently on a break as the game did not translate well to online. However, we did start Campaign 4, which is high school for just super powered teens.

Finally, Obsidian Portal readers would love if you and your players would share any tips, tricks, or sage advice that would help us all achieve a long-lived and outstanding game like The Fourth Generation.

Things I focus on this game are: let the players lead the story, take breaks when you need them, don’t be afraid to reset the campaign.

And with that, you’ve done it! The city, maybe even the world, has been saved! Halycon City owes you a debt of gratitude that can never fully be repaid. With luck, the next would-be supervillain will think twice before before picking up a ray gun and spouting monologue. Time will tell. In the meantime, keep those nominations coming! The next campaign we feature may be one you recommend! Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next month!

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