Masks of Magic: Flawed and Dangerous (Part Two)

We’ve already presented you with three “perfect” masks and five flawed; here then are five more flawed masks created by the Lady Eva to undermine her father-in-law’s rule.

Spirits & Subtlety

Keep in mind that Lady Eva wanted these masks to have the opportunity to truly muck up the warlord’s empire. If the spirits immediately clamored in their wearer’s heads, demanding ridiculous things, this would never have happened; everyone would have immediately known that something was terribly amiss, and they would never have worn one of these masks twice. How, then, did Lady Eva avoid this undesirable outcome?

She would have used a little subtlety. Perhaps the smartest way to do this would have been to make the spirits in the masks start out inactive, asleep. The more someone wears one of the masks, the more they awaken the spirit inside. Hopefully by the time they realize something truly weird is afoot, either they’re so addicted to the masks’s helpful properties that they don’t want to stop using them, or the damage has already been done. Consider that whenever the mask goes for a while without a wearer, the spirit inside slips back into slumber. Thus, when someone first wears one of these masks, they’re unlikely to notice just how dangerous it is unless they happen to get the Danger effect first try. You could even decide that neither the Danger nor the Overdrive effect can occur until the spirit wakens fully.

Also, as mentioned in one of the other articles in this series, people might find communion with the spirits of the masks to be euphoric and addictive. (If the masks are worn by player characters (PCs), however, this requires some good roleplayers to make any difference.)

Pillar of Death

Death’s Head

Appearance: Eva constructed the Death’s Head from smooth white ceramics that mimic the face of a human skull. Clear glass fills in the eye-holes, and the mask lacks any other adornment–no jewels, feathers, or precious metals of any kind.

Personality: The Death’s Head acts and thinks in a slow, sonorous manner. It reaches conclusions slowly, and rarely changes its mind once it has made a decision. The Death’s Head believes that it is an aspect of Death itself, broken off, shaped into a whole, and placed within this mask. As such, it has an unshakable faith in its own importance in the grand scheme of things. The Death’s Head believes that its wearer has the responsibility to attend to the dying, deciding who will live and who will die. If the wearer shirks this duty, the Death’s Head will grow angry, although as in all things it takes time for the mask to work itself into such a state.

Background: Eva created the Death’s Head for an accomplished surgeon who saw the most important people in the warlord’s realm as his clients. He believed in saving as many lives as possible with a fervor bordering on the religious, and he strongly believed in his own ability to save almost any life. She hoped that the spirit’s understanding of the necessity and inevitability of death would undermine the surgeon’s confidence, eroding his ability to save the lives of the warlord’s greatest warriors and advisors.

Death’s Head’s overblown sense of self-importance dictates that it will be found, if at all possible, in the hands of someone of temporal or supernatural importance, preferably someone with the power of life and death over the people around him.

Normal Effect: The Death’s Head mask allows its wearer to instantly triage the wounded without the need for examination, determining which deaths are inevitable, which people are gravely wounded and need immediate attention, and which can wait. (In battlefield circumstances this can save valuable time.)

Danger Effect: The wearer misdiagnoses specific aspects of injuries, performing or recommending inappropriate surgeries or treatments. Or, he becomes uncertain of his own judgment and ability, causing him to make mistakes and hesitate at crucial moments.

Overdrive Effect: The wearer has a greater chance to bring the dying back from the brink of death. His ability to diagnose increases, as does his hand-eye coordination and general ability to work quickly and confidently in difficult circumstances.

Path-Finder

Appearance: In order to create Path-Finder, Eva coated a base of stiff hide with dark blue enamel. On top of that she painted a maze design with gold paint; lines, corridors, and dead ends surround empty eye-holes and a narrow mouth.

Personality: Path-Finder is an enigmatic spirit, fond of riddles, metaphors, and mysteries. Perhaps too fond of such things, in fact. What helps to keep this spirit from driving its wearers completely insane is the fact that it isn’t very good at riddles, metaphors, and mysteries. Its riddles tend to be transparent or ridiculous. Its metaphors are mixed, overblown, or just plain silly. It has absolutely no skill at solving mysteries, and gets easily frustrated by this.

Background: Eva created this mask for a foppish minor noble with a fondness for mazes and riddles. She once overheard Lane and his father discussing the man’s worth as a spy and assassin, and she hoped the mask would lead him directly to his death. Path-Finder prefers to reside with someone who has a passion for riddles and games.

Normal Effect: The wearer cannot get lost, even in the most confusing maze of passages. He always knows exactly where he’s been and how to return to any place that he has visited before.

Danger Effect: The wearer finds all the wrong things and takes all the wrong passages, heading straight into danger. He becomes hopelessly turned around and lost while believing that he is headed in the right direction.

Overdrive Effect: The wearer can find any item or person he desires. He has but to think of his target and he will know what direction to move in. As long as he concentrates on his target he will continue to go in the right direction.

Muse in Color

Appearance: Eva created a metal frame for this mask, then inlaid the frame’s holes with small pieces of stained glass. The overall effect is of a face made of twisted metal and patches of bright color.

Personality: Muse in Color acts with excitement and energy, constantly coming up with and jumping on new ideas. Because of this however, it tends not to follow up on anything or see anything through to its conclusion. It can be difficult to complete projects with this spirit urging its wearer on to new acts and ideas.

Background: Eva crafted Muse in Color for one of the warlord’s greatest tacticians, whose job it was to come up with ideas and strategies to further the warlord’s reach in the world. She hoped that the influx of ideas and energy would keep him from thinking carefully enough about each one, possibly pushing him to suggest unwise courses of action.

Muse in Color prefers to share the company of someone in a position to make decisions and carry them out. A general, strategist, religious leader, or (depending on your game’s genre) even the CEO of a company would make a good candidate.

Normal Effect: Muse in Color acts as a source of inspiration, helping its wearer to come up with more and better ideas when brainstorming a problem.

Danger Effect: The ideas inspired in this state tend to be flawed and fractured. Or, the ideas come so fast and in such great number that the wearer finds it impossible to follow any one. He cannot concentrate on anything, his mind jumping from topic to topic; he has too much restless energy and cannot sit still.

Overdrive Effect: Difficult matters seem as clear as glass. The wearer finds it easy to come up with ideas to solve the worst problems, or he finds himself able to see with great clarity the flaws in his enemies’ plans.

Pillar of Wind

Appearance: Eva constructed Pillar of Wind out of the soft skin of the rare white gazelle, shipped in at great expense from a far country. Tiny faceted diamonds adorn the mask from the inner corner of each elegantly slanted eye-hole down past the nose, ending at the corners of the narrow mouth. Moonstones outline the outer edge of the forehead where it covers some of the wearer’s hair.

Personality: Pillar of Wind shifts attitudes as easily as a breeze shifts from one direction to another. It exudes a calm lack of caring one moment; the next it laughs and chatters like a child. A little later it seems warm and passionate; then it becomes cold and harsh. These seem to be its major modes of operation, and anything at all can cause it to switch from one to another.

Background: The warlord commissioned this mask for his long-time consort and the mother of his children as a gift. Eva knew that Adrie’s calm and steady support served as the backbone of the warlord’s drive and energy, and she sought to undermine that support. Even though Eva knew the warlord spent little time at his home with his consort, she made the effects of this mask particularly subtle, so as not to arouse suspicions too quickly.

Despite Eva’s choice of partner for this mask, Pillar of Wind prefers to partner with someone who has emotional or mental problems, or at least the potential for such problems. It likes to play with and exacerbate the cracks in personality.

Normal Effect: This mask provokes a feeling of mild euphoria in the wearer, calming her and causing her to feel as if all is right with the world. This gives her a steady sort of energy and clears her thoughts. These effects are subtle enough that the wearer probably won’t consciously associate them with the mask, or realize that they are magical in effect.

Danger Effect: Pillar of Wind makes its wearer moody and irritable. She interprets people’s behavior and actions in the worst possible way. If things go badly she may become violent.

Overdrive Effect: The wearer becomes more charming and convincing than ever. She always has the right thing to say, and people flock to her charismatic personality.

Pillar of Heaven

Appearance: Eva dyed a piece of common leather red for this mask, then painted it with stylized yellow-and-orange flames. The eye-holes themselves seem to be part of the flames, worked into the design, and the mask covers only the upper half of the face.

Personality: Pillar of Heaven lusts for battle, violence, and death. It has a tendency to slip into berserker rages, not caring who or what dies. Even in its rare calm and analytical moments it looks for ways to increase the death rate.

Background: The warlord worships a god of war and victory, and Eva made this mask for his foremost priest and counselor. She hoped it would blur the line between friend and enemy for the priest, causing him to pass on “edicts from the god” that would bring ruin to the warlord’s subjects and allies. Pillar of Heaven can be found at the head of an army, or wherever it can provoke great violence.

Normal Effect: The wearer sees and understands opportunities for victory and heroism.

Danger Effect: The Pillar of Heaven drives its wearer to take advantage of every opportunity for victory or heroism that he sees–and he’ll see them in all the wrong places.

Overdrive Effect: The mask aids its wearer in all aspects of war and battle strategy. Or, it causes his sword or other hand-to-hand weapon (during battle) to burn with magical fire, dealing extra damage to enemies and possibly setting them on fire.

Posted in Gaming

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