So, the most important rule in Masks that I always forget about is this one: every adult you meet has Influence over you.
I was reminded of this because I played a session the other day where we were doing a 21 Jump Street-style undercover operation looking for an MGH-style super-drug in a large parochial high school. We had the usual student body shenanigans, with a nasty dodge-ball game and a bully hassling my character who was under orders not to make waves so had to just take it.
But we also of course had several interactions with the teachers, who ran the gamut from the droning social studies teacher to the toxic-jock gym teacher and a range in between. These were fun, but after the game I found myself wishing they had more bite, and realized that our GM (who is a great GM I love playing with, so this isn’t a particular failing of theirs) hadn’t really pushed us by having the teachers leverage their Influence on us. And thinking about it, I’m not great at this , either, and so I wanted to try and tease that out…
The issue as I see it that makes this challenging is that there’s two different default states for Influence in Masks:
Other PCs (and teen NPCs) only have Influence if you give it to them or a Move demands it.
NPC adults (all of them!) automatically have Influence unless you Refuse it or a Move removes it.
Juggling those default states is challenging, and I have found it’s much easier to play to the first than to the second.
So a couple of modest proposals:
GMs, make sure you have a sign or a note or whatever on your GM screen or on your monitor that reminds you that ALL ADULTS HAVE INFLUENCE over the PCs. I know that’ll help me remember that tool I have to always remind them they’re kids.
Players, instead of tracking which Adults have Influence over you, just write ‘ALL ADULTS’ on your sheet. Only bother to jot down Adults whose Influence you’ve currently rejected. That’ll remind you of the situation you’re always in, and maybe remind you to invite the GM to go ahead and use it, especially if you’re, say, a Delinquent looking to rebel against whatever they’ve got, or a Legacy who’s trying to find their own way.
It can be very tempting to turn a run of Masks inward to make it all about the PCs and their interpersonal soap opera drama. Don’t forget that one of the important things that makes Masks a game about teen heroes is the pressure and demands of the Adults around them. There’s a rich mine for drama there, don’t sell it short!