‘From the Tabletop’ is a series I’ve started as a testament to my capabilities as a writer, to help demonstrate my ability to create interesting characters with varying personalities and (if applicable) the development of that character over the time I’ve spent playing them. Originally the intention was to write my second “From the Tabletop” entry on a Mutants and Masterminds character, however, that campaign never took off and thusly there’s nothing to really write about at this point in time. In the future I might write about her concept, rather than the character herself.
The second character I’d like to showcase in this series is my dimension-hopping heroine: Ra-Anno, for the Masks: A New Generation system. Unlike my previous From the Tabletop entry, this character is from a narrative & character-driven system called Masks: A New Generation (published by Magpie Games) which is based on the Powered By The Apocalypse (PBTA) system.
Creating a backstory through Mechanics
Masks has a very typical character creation process for a game based on the PBTA system, you choose what’s called a Playbook (which is essentially your characters class) and answer the questions provided for that Playbook to determine the basics of your characters backstory. I usually don’t like to leave things bare-bones/at the basics so naturally I took these questions and wrote a backstory around them, so lets go through this process together. We’ll go through the Nomad playbook questions and explain how I used these to create the character Ra-Anno.
Question One: Look (Appearance)
Every Masks: A New Generation playbook starts with the question of the character’s looks and these questions can range from the character’s sex & ethnicity/race to clothing and accessories. I wanted to do something different with Ra-Anno from my usual characters and decided she would be an Asian (Korean, specifically) woman.
Next up is Ra-Anno’s bodytype and because I’m absolutely fascinated with the concepts of transhumanism & body modification, I went with the modified body option. I then had to choose the character’s clothing and accessory/bonus appearael, this was a rather simple decision to make as well: Unassuming Clothing and a Strange Greatcoat.
Question Two: Abilities
Each Masks playbook allows players to either create or choose their abilities. I decided to stick with the Nomad‘s abilities as two particular abilities interested me: Modular Blaster & Rift Generator in order to give Ra-Anno a small but practically limitless arsenal.
Question Three: Playbook Moves
Playbook Moves are essentially the skills your character can use to interact with the gameworld in ways that differentiate them from other Playbooks, for example the Nomad Playbook is capable of making an attack roll (Directly Engage a Threat, as the rulebook calls it) and using a different stat to the normal one if a certain condition is met, whereas other Playbooks may have different conditions or be unable to use this move. I decided to take Littlest Space Bandit (the move I just explained) and Watched C-Beams Glitter.
Question Four: Backstory
This question is where we tie all the rogue elements together and interweave them with the answers to the background questions, which are (for the Nomad Playbook, specifically) as followed:
– “Who took you from Earth when you were younger?”
When I was creating Ra-Anno, I knew I wanted to go with an origin story similar to that of Starlord from Marvel’s cinematic adaptation of Guardian’s of the Galaxy with Ra-Anno being taken early in life. I didn’t want her to have this connection to Earth, however, so I decided that she was taken as a baby from the marternity ward of a hospital in South Korean city of Gongju-Si.
This answers the ‘where’ but not the ‘who’, which is where I strayed from the implications of the Nomad‘s playbook, instead of them being a lonesome traveller who companion-hops like some sort of superhero Dr.Who knockoff, I flavoured them out to be similar to another playbook: The Outsider, which has a fish-out-of-water Starfire-style design. This Outsider-esque backstory came in the form of a dimension hopping orginazation that calls itself The Guild (they’re bandits, not authors.) and Ra-Anno was brought back by accident during a heist on her Earth of origin. I then took an approach that Ra-Anno was adopted by a pair of Ra inspired aliens, with owl heads instead of a hawk. The owl-headed aliens are the source of Ra-Anno’s desire to modify her body. I called Ra-Anno’s parents Ra-Anax and Ra-Ko-Apurl, with the intentions of setting up a culture where the surname and maiden name is combined for the female of the pairing, the child taking the father’s surname, which is Ra.
– “What farscapes did you explore?”
This question I didn’t focus too much on as I felt like with the Watch C-Beams Glitter move, I’d have some room to improvise and adapt things to build a growing/living multiverse for Ra-Anno to have previously explored.
– “Who was your favourite traveling companion?”
Given that Ra-Anno was taken in by dimension hopping extraterrestrials, I figured it would make sense if Ra-Anno’s favourite traveling companion was another human who comes from a Cyberpunk 2020-esque universe. I called this NPC Valamerts.
– “What brought you back to star (for now)?”
Given that I’ve built Ra-Anno flavoured as somewhat of an Outsider I decided to further improve upon this direction, building The Guild up to be an organized crime group of Heisters, stealing valuable materials for The Guild‘s vault and ‘confiscating’ food for The Guild‘s kitchen, hiding between realities in the empty void of the multiverse. I didn’t want The Guild being the only multiverse pillaging group, however and worked Ra-Anno’s return to her Earth of origin as part of an attack from The Guild‘s rival gangs, forcing members to retreat from their headquarters.
– “Why do you care about the team?”
During the attack on The Guild, Ra-Anno was forced to abandon her home and return to the Earth she originally came from, during this escape she damaged her Rift Generator (the thing that allows her to jump between dimensions) and found herself stuck in her dimension of origin. Ra-Anno doesn’t necessarily ‘care’ for the team as much as she ‘needs’ them to keep herself hidden while attempting to fix her Rift Generator so she can return to find the missing members of The Guild.
The rest of the character creation process is mostly involved with player-player interaction and discussion, so I wont be going into detail on that as it’s a different experience on a per-group basis. If you’re interested in reading the completed Ra-Anno charactersheet, you can find it here.
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