Masks of Power and Position

Had a strange thought the other day while I was watching parts of Thor: The Dark World and Gods of Egypt… masks seem to be underused items in roleplaying games. If you think about it, we see them in a ton of movies and TV. The Scream and V for Vendetta masks can still be recognized today, but even the Stormtroopers from Star Wars used masks to great effect. We didn’t need to know who they were under the mask to make them instantly recognizable.

AnonimousmaskSo here’s something I want to play with in my next campaign.

I want a villain who never reveals their true identity in public. Perhaps it’s to hide the effects of a disease or an injury or maybe it’s just a stylistic affectation, but the bad guy is going to remain anonymous except for a mask and a title. And several other major NPCs may take the same approach.

Or maybe I’ll go with something along the lines of the Incarnations of Immortality series from Piers Anthony. Each position of power (such as Death) was a role played by someone who was given the position or took it forcefully. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the party was given such roles in a kingdom, serving positions of power for the kingdom.

Imagine if such characters were just normal people thrust into those roles.

  • A farmer goes from the fields to suddenly inhabiting the role of Warrior.
  • A lowly altar girl is thrust into the role of Priest or Confessor.
  • A madman is taken from the streets and made into the Fool.
  • A beginning scholar is given the mantle of Mage.

Each mask would give the wearer certain abilities and would “level up” as the characters gained control of those abilities. In addition, they could take the mask off to become anonymous members of society once again.

drama_masksIt would be a heck of a way to kick off a campaign. Congratulations, you were kidnapped while you slept and wake up in a gorgeously appointed room in the royal palace wearing a mask. You can take it off and look at it, but you somehow feel a bit less powerful or connected to the world when it’s not firmly on your face.

Each mask might:

  • Grant an ability score increase
  • Grant a saving throw increase
  • Grant a natural armor class bump
  • Grant special knowledge of particular actions you might be able to take (level-based)

And some of those abilities might stick around (the knowledge perhaps) but the ability and AC bonuses would only apply while wearing it…

Yes, I might have to play with this idea a bit more!

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Masks of Power and Position”

  1. It doesn’t just have to be an adversary that is hiding behind the mask. It could be an ally or even one of the PCs themselves when not with the group.

    1. MoebiusAdventures

      @forged – That’s also a good call. Could even be a neutral party simply playing all sides of a particular situation. 🙂

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