Ruthless Diastema Podcast 01: Masks and Monkeydome

Written by Pete Figtree on . Posted in Classy Gaming, The Home Slice, The Podcast, The Possibilities, Uncategorized

In this episode, I talk about using Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game and Monkeydome in the classroom.


You are listening to the Ruthless Diastema Games Podcast, the younger, fraternal twin of the Ruthless Diastema Games Blog. Both ventures explore the nexus of gaming and learning. I am Mr. Figtree, but the students aren’t around, so you can just call me Pete.

This is episode 01. This first real episode of the podcast offers one of the regular segments described in episode 00, but that segment features two great ideas/products for your classroom use.

CLASSY GAMING: Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game AND Monkeydome.

Music breaks are royalty-free pieces by Kevin Macleod @  These selections are from the “Danse Macabre” selections. 


In the Classy Gaming segments, I want to talk about games I have tried in class and others that I want to try. I want to ask questions about the possibilities of gaming as a tool for teaching and learning in the public school setting.

Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game

  • Gnome Stew, GMing Blog(gers): great blog with advice often applicable to the classroom
  • Started publishing quality playing aid books: Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots and Masks as Engine Publishing
  • Comforting, relaxing, easy-to-use resources: the leg work is done for you
  • Description from the Engine Publishing site: “This massive tome contains 1,000 system-neutral NPCs, and includes all the information you need to vividly portray each and every one of them. Divided into three genres (fantasy, sci-fi, and modern) but easily adaptable to any genre, Masks NPCs are broken down into roles: villains, neutrals, and allies.”
  • The concept of metaphorical masks immediately makes me thinks of drama
  • Each character entry: appearance, roleplaying, personality, motivation, background, and traits
  • Examples of characters: pages 3 and 4 of Fantasy/Villains Section (Kale and Colin) Template as a way of showing understanding of a literary or dramatic character: Gatsby or Juliet or…(pg. 8) Polarizing characters as another way of showing insight into a literary character: traits and antonyms/other template opposites (background and motivation)
  • Traits and parts of speech
  • Reskinning literature characters as genre study (pg. 8): name and race/pistol vs. ray gun
  • Invisible keywords as a post-reading assignment: authors used 83 personality keywords to create all characters
  • Even advice on portraying characters: good for drama class
Purchase Masks here, here, or here.
Get a free 17 page preview pdf here.
  • Award-winning FREE roleplaying game in pdf: “a game of grim, post-apocalyptic slapstick” –Epidiah Ravachol

From the introduction of the game:

Chumba was yanked from the cab by a ravager’s harpoon,
leaving the camper to careen out of control across the
salt fl ats. More ravagers clawed at the camper’s shell
like roaches feeding on a bloated carcass. Several
had already begun to squeeze through the shattered
Plexiglas windows. Salamander ransacked the
kitchenette for a weapon to fend them off. And there
they were, hanging from hooks just above the range: the
cleaver or the frying pan?
  • 1. Thunderbones (2d6 of diff. colors) = grim and zany die 2. Gameblaster = probably teacher 3. Setting (default or other) 4. Survivor Characters (one per group or in small groups) 5. Roll the bones for Scene 1
  • Thunderbones and Starting Tone of Scene 1/Hand over the dice/Players adds to fiction according to dice roll: Zany or Grim
  • Players may pass the dice to each other and keep scene going or pass dice to the GB to end scene/GB decides how to end it
  • Ties=Survivor is unable to react (paralyzed) = pass the dice to another player and overall tone changes
  • No Tie = Check for a lesson/Highest die less than 4 = learn a lesson
  • Teach an implied lesson in the fiction  =  actions too zany, too grim
  • Player composes THE lesson implied in a SINGLE-SENTENCE on a piece of paper and puts it on the table
  • GB rolls for scene two: tie = opposite tone of last scene
  • Game goes on this way, rules give advice for starting and ending the game and other details…
  • Including rules about lessons and ending the game and lessons and reincorporation and proving your character learned his or her lesson
  • I used it in anticipation for a writing assignment in which students were going to have to write in a tone/mood assigned by me.
  • The Independent Insurgency Podcast hosted by Robert Bohl did a great interview about the game. Check it out, but PLEASE NOTE that it is an EXPLICIT podcast. You won’t want to fire it up in class. :)
  • Nice flow chart in the rules = great for projection
  • Remember to review materials for appropriateness before handing them out to kids. I summarized the rules on a Powerpoint presentation.
I highly recommend either of these products for your classroom, and I am sure I have but scratched the surfaces of their possibilities. So remember, teachers are learners. I want to learn from you as well. Please feel free to share your tips, tools, and techniques with me at You can also email me at ruthlessdiastema at gmail dot com.

Please invite all of your teacher friends to subscribe to the show. Until next time, I am Pete Figtree, and I am learning a lot by teaching with games.


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Pete Figtree

Pete Figtree

I am a father, a teacher, and a gamer. I believe that games can give us some keen insights into our lives, and I know that they can encourage and foster friendships and community. Ruthless Diastema: Loading the Dice for a Meaningful Life
Pete Figtree

Comments (3)

  • Pete


    The kids and I loved it.


  • Martin Ralya


    Thank you for looking at Masks from such a unique perspective, Pete — this is awesome!


    • Pete


      I am really excited to use it during the upcoming school year. I plan to have students use the character template in MASKS to show an understanding of characters they have encountered in literature. The template is small enough to function like a character sketch yet big enough to display serious insight. I love it. It will be interesting to see what quotations they choose to capture the soul of characters like Bilbo Baggins and Guy Montag.


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