Why the Masquerade?
Written by Malkav @ Twilight MUCK
Based on the questions, comments and suggestions
of the wizards, staff and players of Twilight MUCK

Twilight MUCK has one important standing rule: All characters with a supernatural nature or ability must actively keep their supernatural nature and abilities concealed from the general public. This rule is essential, not only to keep the setting and theme of the MUCK intact, but also because from any character's perspective, being discovered by the humans will make one the target of hunts, investigations, and inquisitions which will result in that character's demise, capture, dissection, or any one of a number of untimely and undesirable fates.

Let's start with a brief rundown on what we mean by keeping abilities and supernatural nature a secret.

There are three general categories (so far) of masquerading oneself. The first is to simply be invisible and unheard by those without a Second Sight, or sixth sense. The MUCK has special code to allow for this type of concealment. Ghosts, wraiths, certain faeries, and others may choose this type of concealment. Such a being can then "hang out" in a public location unseen, and also interact with those with the ability of "Second Sight". However, it's important to take into account that using abilities that will be noticed by the normals in the area (such as burning someone with ethereal fire, causing them to scream out in pain or attack back) would risk revealing oneself, as would people carrying on an animated conversation with something that isn't there.

The second way is to masquerade as a normal, everyday animal. Care should be taken that the animal chosen is one that wouldn't draw undue attention. For example, a sewer rat wouldn't be out of the ordinary in a big city, but a lion would bring the police with big guns and traps ready to capture the lion and put it in a zoo, or kill it to prevent the lion from hurting anybody. Good examples of appropriate animal choices would be animals which wouldn't seem out of the ordinary and not worry anyone who sees them, such as rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, chipmunks, housecats, dogs, birds, insects, that sort of thing. Borderline (but acceptable) choices would be animals which are slightly out of the ordinary, or which might worry people who saw them in a city, but which are not terribly unusual, such as raccoons, skunks, porcupines, garter snakes, weasels, et cetera. Bad choices would be ones which would typically elicit someone to call the authorities to capture the creature for one reason or another, such as wolves, foxes, deer, coyotes, or bears, to name some examples of animals that have occasionally found their way into a city in real life.

Regardless of the type of animal chosen, it's important to act the role when among the normals. Don't display human intelligence by responding to things animals wouldn't respond to in real life. For example, if a human tells a cat that there's a scrap of hamburger under a table, the cat responding by looking for it would risk revealing that it's more than just a cat. Likewise, it's important to not do anything that cannot be easily interpreted as normal for that animal, so as to avoid attracting attention.

The third, and by far the most common, way to masquerade is as a human, and certainly the one that requires the least explanation. Characters can talk, interact, discuss things, but not do anything that cannot be easily interpreted as being nothing out of the ordinary. This includes vampires discussing a blood hunt in the presence of humans, werewolves stepping into the Umbra where humans can see them, Immortals having a sword fight in Talbot Park, et cetera. So shut up when a mortal walks into the room, wait until there's nobody around to step into the Umbra, and have the decency of picking a dark alley before you start hacking each other's heads off.

The key is to not let anything occur, to onself or to another, that would not easily, that is to say, normally, interpreted to be nothing out of the ordinary. Telepathic communication would be unnoticed, and therefore be just fine; responding to a telepathic message vocally would draw attention, but someone would probably think the respondant to be a kook (undesirable, and probably ought to be avoided, but not against the rules), and two people responding to the same message would be very difficult to be written off as insanity, and would be against the rules.

Okay, that all having been said, why bother?

Two reasons: First, the MUCK is supposed to be set in a city not unlike New York or Boston, at least on the surface. All jokes about the nature of New Yorkers aside, these sorts of things just don't happen out in the open in the real world. Part of the whole nature of the MUCK is the concept that these things are hidden from the world, not openly part of it. Second, because of this MUCK concept, characters have an extremely strong self-interest in keeping themselves hidden, lest the easily spooked and very hostile human powers that be kill, capture, torture, examine, or otherwise harm one.

To go into detail on the second reason first, let's take a look at the more common types of paranormals on Twilight.

First, vampires. The Camarilla has its First Tradition, which is the Tradition of the Masquerade (the name of which I have generalized for the entire MUCK). It's there for a reason. The last time the Masquerade was broken in force was called the Inquisition, where hundreds of vampires were hunted down and killed by fearful humans. Most vampires have had this drilled into their heads. Oh, but what about the Sabbat? you ask. Well, yes, the Sabbat pay lip service to ignoring the Masquerade, but they, too, know of the Inquisition and what would happen if they attracted attention. However, the Sabbat have been known to threaten the Masquerade of prominent members of the Camarilla as part of their tactics; a corpse with fang marks being found on the front lawn of the Toreador elder's house would certainly mean trouble, and makes for an excellent plot, doesn't it?

Second, the fae. They have a tradition known as the Right of Ignorance. The Unseelie Court may not care for it, but they also know that if the humans become aware of who they are, then the Freeholds will be destroyed. Bad thing.

The werewolves suffer the same problem as the vampiresóbeing discovered results in being hunted down and killed. But what of the Black Spiral Dancers, the crazies who could care less? Well, like the Sabbat, they can't do much more than pay lip service to not caring, because if they are discovered they'll be hunted down and killed. Boom.

Then there's the Highlander immortals. They have several motivations to keep quiet. First, the general population knowing who chopped off that restaurant owner's head last week might result in some criminal attention nobody wants. Second, it's a certainty that the government or other powerful interests would be far more interested in finding out how to live forever than in worrying about such trivialities as an Immortal's right to be free from capture, experimentation, or being wantonly killed in the name of science.

More or less every being, living, dead or undead, should have a similar reason to fear being "Revealed."

The more general, role-playing reason for the Masquerade is simple: It'll wreck the entire theme of the MUCK, and hence the concepts of most of the characters in it, to break the Masquerade, to say nothing of damaging many possible role-playing scenarios.

True, in White Wolf games (which are not, incidentally, any more legitimate than any other gaming system, as far as the MUCK is concerned) the Masquerade gets broken now and then, but we just can't do that here. In a White Wolf game, a broken Masquerade can be fixed in a number of ways, but a common one is to simply kill or Embrace any witnesses. We can't do that on Twilight because most of the humans are characters with players, and it's just not good for the health of the MUCK to kill off people.

There are many role-playing scenarios that revolve around threats to the Masquerade, or accidental breaks in it. Yes, they do happen. For example, what happens when two Fae are discussing Arcadia and a human walks in, hearing one sentence of the conversation. How do the Fae explain it away? Does the human write it off or decide to investigate further? When a crazed hunter blows a hole in a vampire's stomach, and then the vampire fails to die from the wound, it would certainly give the one human witness pause. So what does the vampire do to explain it? How does the human react? And then there's the earlier mentioned scenario of a fang-marked corpse being planted on the front lawn of the Toreador elder. How does it get covered up? In any case, the important thing to keep in mind is that players are in control here; players need to take steps to preserve the game balance,even if that means doing something against the character concept, such as not frenzying or going Crinos in Talbot park when taunted or slapped.

This is the one and only hard and fast rule of character creation and role-playing on the MUCK. It is integral and essential to role-playing on Twilight, and all players are on their honor to play by this rule. It will be enforced by the wizards.

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Music: Masquerade from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

Copyright © 1999 Brian A. LaBounty (twilight@tigerden.com). All rights reserved.