Masks is the best Supers game I have found to date. At the start of the year I set myself a GM challenge of running it across multiple different genres, with different groups to really learn how to master the genre and structure of the game.
Below are my reflections on the experiment and a grading on myself, not the players who were all stars! Some worked better than others and is a review of my own lil' experiment.
So far have run:
Masks: Cosmic (C+)
I went into this a little to undefined, and learnt from it - I wasn't sure at the beginning if I was running Guardians of the Galaxy or Legion of Superheroes. We lost a session due to a real life crisis and as a result my threads at the end were too convoluted.
Masks: Titans (A-)
This was a Teen Titans-like setting that put the team really in the shadow of the world's greatest team as their sidekicks in my fictional Union City. I did a lot of Session 0 work for this. It paid off as the players had effectively built my sandbox. The Maestro remains the favourite villain I have created for Masks.
Masks: Neighbourhood (A)
This was envisioned as a Marvel Knights-style run, it kept that mob violence in a tight neighbourhood but ended up feeling Friendly Neighbourhood by the end with lots of Daredevil twists and turns. Keeping the scale hyperlocal worked really well - establishing the NPC and the neighbourhood kept the drift that I have experienced elsewhere. It occurred in Tri-Town, a district in Union City. While Titans could really have occurred anywhere his was a story about Union City, corruption, betrayal and trust. I had done some light playbook hacks. We enjoyed this one so much there will be a Vol 2 - and that says a lot about the dense space giving more ties for stories.
Masks: Arcane (B+)
Time got the better of me here and a number of the playbook hacks I wanted to write I did not manage to finish. This adventure happens in Crescent City, a Southern Gothic city of supernatural shenanigans with a distinctly Vertigo feel. The players were amazing for this, but it took me about 3 sessions to figure out the story I wanted to tell and it was lead heavily by the players as we developed but the sandboxing of the genre really worked. It hit more adult tones and by the end I really did feel I had a team of adult superheroes.
Masks: Beyonders (C-)
I have to put a nod out to my OG (Off-Gauntlet) Masks crew. I made a lot of mistakes in this game getting used to Masks (all the playbooks) and it was early in my experience in running games online - my style had not adapted enough for the differences. This ran over 20+ sessions and it was great. I made callback to Halcyon City, the Beyonders and the crew regularly. It was running this game that really did lock in for me that despite how simple PbTA games can be to run - they are hard to 'master'. I am glad I took the time to do it with this game.
The most fun part of this is that in my mind I am building a Grant Morrison complexity world that overlaps. Crescent City, Union City, Halcyon City, New Hope City, The Floating Dragon Skeleton Citadel of Duat, the Empyreans. if you've played in it the continuity is there and you get the nod, if not it should never hold ya back.
I restricted playbooks for each setting to try and get genre appropriate setups and explore some of the playbooks. My observation on that - you will almost always get a Beacon or a Delinquent. You almost never get a Nova or a Protege.
You need to think carefully about what the playbook brings and how it fits in - for Neighbourhood I let in the Star which worked great but would have broken Arcane utterly.
I'm ready to a little break from Masks - but know I will be back. It is the standout best PbTA game for me as it provides a ready to go setting (Halcyon) that hits all the tropes, but gives a really flexible framework that can stretch pretty far and holds up very well. When I come back to it I think I have figured out how to do Days of Future Past and definitely figured out how to do a Batman '66 style setting.
That is not a break from Superheroes though - it is my favourite Genre to GM (followed by space opera/sci fi pulp, and Urban Supernatural). I'm going 90's in Sept with Teens with Attitude and adults in Oct with Galaxy in Peril and Power Beyond Doubt.
I even have a plan to hack Becky Annison's Bite Marks to do Gargoyles.