Setting Contest: Masks

2006 Nov 19

The sages teach that a being, at its core, is nothing but the three Pools: Vigor, Instinct, and Reason. Everything else is ephemeral, the stuff of Samsara, the stuff of the folkways.

Whether this is true or not, one thing is certain: substance and identity are created through masks. Masks create a fiction that gives order to the inherant meaninglessness of the unformed world.

A mask is a false identity formed around a Key. A fancier or more complex mask may contain more than one Key or have a few Abilities and Secrets associated with it, which become available to the wearer.

Most fictional characters are not significant enough to have developed a unique mask of their own. Instead, they are the result of an assortment of different masks which create a unique combination of features or at least an interesting one.

Over time, a group of masks, if worn regularly in the same combinations, can fuse together to form a more complex mask. Likewise, masks can also be broken up into less complex, subsidiary masks, but any shard that does not contain a core Key is not true mask, cannot be worn, and will soon dissolve into nothingness.

Aside from combining with other masks to create a shared identity, a mask can also subsume or obscure the mask beneath it. Most of the time, a masker will remove one or more masks to reveal yet more masks underneath. Some characters are covered in so many masks that they themselves might not even remember who they are underneath it all.

As a trickster, a shinchanger, or a storyteller, each member of an indebted masker troupe begins play with a countless number of masks. The masks a trickster wears on his or her body are like an enormous suit of armor, heavy, cumbersome, and obscuring any identifiable features. Additional masks must be carried on one’s back in a huge Santa Claus sack. These countless masks are the debt the trickster owes to the folkways, the weight that holds them in the cycle, unable to find release.

In order to repay their debt to the folkways and escape the endless wheel, a trickster must let go of all their masks and leave them behind. Once they have done this, they Transcend to another realm. You let go of a mask by fulfilling certain conditions required by the Key at the mask’s core. These conditions are called the Buyoff. Masks that are bought off are not simply removed and placed in your sack (as usual), they are reabsorbed into the folkways and can never be used again.

To better facilitate communication amongst themselves, each tricker carries one or more totemic masks which represent their preferred identities, often ones they have worn countless times over the centuries. For example, the masker we know as Scheherazade may take on many other identities in many other stories, but she always returns to being Scheherazade, her totem mask, because it holds special meaning for her. When conversing with her fellow maskers, Scheherazade is the mask she wears.

Of course, when the time comes to leave the cycle behind, a trickster’s totemic masks are often the final and most difficult masks to release into the folkways.

In order to fulfill a mask’s Buyoff condition, one has to enter the folkways and make use of the mask in a story. This is the purgatory that the tricksters are confined to: they must work together to tell stories with the masks that they have, fulfilling the Buyoff conditions so that one mask after another can be released into the folkways, gradually earning their freedom.

One Response to “Setting Contest: Masks”

  1. Annie Says:

    yes, I’m behind in my blog reading. Holy moly, this is exciting to me.

    I’m looking forward to its moving forward.

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