"I know the truth." "Nope, I lied." "I know. I found out the real story." "Sorry, that's a lie, too. Keep digging."
Quote Originally Posted by {REDACTED}
Fluff
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Genriyon is your typical elven aristocratic gentleman in the great elven empire of Fyrinn. No one knew him growing up, and details of his early life are a little bit vague (but very believable), but there can be little doubt that he has led a typical priveleged life in some obscure corner of the empire.

By day, he dallies with painting, sculpting, and the ladies. In the evening, he is a consistent attendent at the various parties and functions of high society. He is moderately involved in politics, merchandise, and gossip. He is no mighty warrior or mage, though he has demonstrated in various works of theater that he does know how to handle the rare elven courtblade proficiently.

If there is an area in which he excels or occasionally attracts notice, it is in the aforementioned theater: though he shows no signs of formal bardic training, his performances leave warriors weeping and pampered pets without appetite. There is nothing really surprising about this; every dilettante finds his accidental talent somewhere, as the saying goes in Fyrinn court.

One night, Genriyon breaks from his usual routine and invites the Chancellor to a private interview at his mansion the next day. When the Chancellor shows up, after exchanging pleasantries and goblets of fine wine, Genriyon gets down to business.

“I am not Genriyon,” he says.

The Chancellor is still waiting for the punch line, but he dutifully records this first line on his parchment.

“I never have been. Probably everything you think you know about me is a lie. I am an imposter to the core. All these years, I have upheld this role just to make a mockery of your despicable elven manners and customs and superiority. Just to prove it could be done … by anyone.”

“Then … who are you?” the confused Chancellor inquires.

“Here is a diary that should make that clear … after you manage to pick the lock,” Genriyon says, handing the other a tome. “Now, I reveal my secrets only because you will never see me again anyway after I have passed on, so I must be going. Goodbye.”

“You mean, you are expecting to die soon, and this is a deathbed revelation of secrets?”

“Die soon? Ah, yes. Let's go with that theory.”

And with that, Genriyon vanishes. The baffled Chancellor retrieves his gem of seeing and attempts to locate the other, but to no avail.

Genriyon is never heard from again … at least, by that name and guise. But the diary, when cracked and unveiled, has the following tale to tell.
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This story covers Levels 12-18.

Gan the changeling was the most expensive assassin in Nureth, the crime-riddled metropolis that feeds nearby Fyrinn's economy on the sweat and blood of its lower classes. Assassins, and jobs for them, were both a-plenty; but few assassins had the resume that Gan had, and therefore could charge the expenses she demanded.

Gan hadn't grown up as a ruffian in the streets like most of the thieves' guild recruits, nor grown up an aristocrat like most of the guild bosses. Being a changeling, she had been brought up by a cruel cleric of a dark god in another city. He intended to use her racial talents to make her his personal agent of death. But one night, his abusive style of leadership had been too much for young Gan, and she managed to leave his jugular wide open as she escaped and stowed away to Nureth.

Gan alone had managed to infiltrate the guild of Kukuar, the paranoid mob boss, and win his trust over the course of four years. She attempted to poison him on numerous occasions, but never with the intention of actually succeeding; each time his usual paranoid routines succeeded in catching the poison attempt (and another cupbearer was hauled off to the mortuary), Gan merely reveled in the poison making him more paranoid. Occasionally she would frame a rival for these deeds, but normally she just let the mystery lie.

Twice, Kukuar had sent her to serve his rivals as a double agent. Normally a double agent position under Kukuar meant death within the week. Both times, Gan avoided this fate by winning her new master's trust in less than a day, then delivering their heads to Kukuar within four days. He could hardly punish her (by execution) for doing such a spectacular job.

But in the end, Kukuar slipped, and Gan slipped—slipped a knife into his momentarily unprotected back, that is.

Being an assassin inevitably breeds enemies. Gan once was set upon by a bounty hunter who was famous for rooting out and finishing off shapeshifters. His shifter's sorrow sword didn't seem to bother her too much, though, and she left him in a shallow watery grave.

This prompted an investigation by Nureth's most clever detective. One night he managed to turn a true seeing gaze on Gan, and found that she was not a changeling at all, but …
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This story covers Levels 9-11.

Waris was a half-orc maiden, ugly as sin. But she always hid her face beneath a mask. She said the masks were a representation of her hope that others could look past her physical appearance and appreciate her for who she was. She had a number of masks she would wear during her tavern work, but the most common were a delicate angelic face, and a happy, stately face of fine copper.

She drifted from tavern to tavern, always applying for jobs as a bouncer, but always getting hired as a barmaid instead. She wasn't particularly famous, unless you happened to follow the winners of “Nureth's ugliest barmaid” contests.

Ugly as she was, though, everyone seemed to like her. When a drunk groped her (which was often), it was generally about twelve seconds before a champion volunteered to defend Waris' honor, and another barroom brawl was born.

Which generally led, eventually, to Waris getting fired, and heading off to another tavern to apply as a bouncer.

All in all, it's hard to say whether things in Waris' life were going the way she wanted them to.

She never talked about her past. And nobody really asked. Which was a rather successful cover for someone who didn't want anyone to find out that they had once been …
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This story covers Levels 5-8.

Captain Binklewink, Terror of the Seas!

The coast of Fyrinn trembled at the mention of this masked halfling! Trembled!

Unfortunately, all this melodrama wasn't a front to hide a pirate's secret, kind interior. The terror Binklewink might dress in a clownish mask and turn every combat into an overly showy series of quips, but that didn't change the fact that he left gore and mayhem in his wake. He and his crew lived fully by the motto, “We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!”

Why does he wear the mask? Well, pirates wear eye patches all the time anyway, right? It's probably the same sort of thing. Besides, if you start asking too much about it, he might switch to The Black Mask and slip into your quarters tonight. So just shut up and leave port while you still can, ok?

Captain Binklewink, rather large and burly for a halfling, made no secret of his goal (well, his other goal, besides getting filthy rich): revenge against the merchant lord Count Finik, a courtier of Fyrinn. Apparently the Count had once insulted Binklewink's favorite brand of rum. Or something like that.

Don't ask so many questions, ok? You don't want a visit from The Black Mask, do you?
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This story covers Levels 1-4.

Jereth's first memories were of the catacombs beneath the opera house. But he figured he had ended up there the same way as all of the other orphans: abandoned by his ragtag, lowlife human mother.

It was something of a tradition in Fyrinn, really. The elves had started using “providing the opera house with performers” as a euphamism for visiting the brothels in the human caravans as they passed through Fyrinn on their nomadic routes.

And like all the other members of this orphaned community, Jereth sang for his sustenance. He vaudeville'd for his vittles. Begging in the streets or pandering to the audience from the stage, it really made no difference.

Of course there were actual elves in the opera house, too. Like Zelin … beautiful Zelin. Once, Jereth had managed to land a lead part, with Zelin as the other lead in the production.

The Tale of the Silver Partridge. About a human woman and an elven lord who fell in love at a masquerade ball, where they couldn't tell each others' race. And though the gender roles were reversed, the bond of love was just as strong in Jereth's heart as it was in this classic opera piece.

Apparently not Zelin's heart, though. Her exquisite singing won her attention from the wealthy Count Finik, and a month after the production ended, Zelin was gone from the opera house for good.

Jereth was shattered. But he hadn't worked so hard to develop his dancing, his singing, his costumes, his fencing, his role-playing for nothing. One night, under cover of a mask stolen from the props room, he, too, left the opera house, in search of his fortune.


Crunch
(Do not read until you have read the fluff! It will spoil the ending!)
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Jereth
Chaotic Evil Half-Elf
Half-Elf Paragon 2 / Swashbuckler 3 / Human Paragon 3 / Assassin 2 / Master of Masks 10

Starting:
Str 14, Dex 14, Con 10, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 15
Final (including items):
Str 18, Dex 20, Con 14, Int 34, Wis 10, Cha 19

{table=head]Level | Class | Features | Feats
1 | Half-Elf Paragon | elven vision, divided ancestry | Human Heritage, Able Learner
2 | Swashbuckler || Weapon Finesse
3 | Human Paragon| adaptive learning | Versatile Performer
4 | Swashbuckler | grace +1 |
5 | Swashbuckler | insightful strike |
6 | Assassin | sneak attack +1d6, poison use, death attack; CL 1 | Power Attack
7 | Master of Masks | persona masks |
8 | Master of Masks | CL 2 |
9 | Master of Masks | mask specialist | Combat Panache
10 | Master of Masks | CL 3 |
11 | Master of Masks | many faces (2, move) |
12 | Master of Masks | hidden mask | Craven
13 | Master of Masks | CL 4 |
14 | Master of Masks | many faces (3, swift) |
15 | Master of Masks | CL 5 | Darkstalker
16 | Master of Masks | many faces (4, immediate) |
17 | Human Paragon | CL 6 | Imperious Command
18 | Human Paragon | ability boost; CL 7 | Martial Study (shadow stride)
19 | Half-Elf Paragon | persuasion; CL 8 |
20 | Assassin | uncanny dodge; CL 9 |
[/table]

Masks
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7. Assassin Mask, Jester Mask
8. Lord Mask
9. Angel Mask
10.
11. Gladiator Mask
12.
13. Faceless Mask
14.
15. Archmage Mask
16.


Skills and Skill Tricks
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  1. Hide (4), Move Silently (4), Perform (act)(4), Bluff (4), Disguise (2), Intimidate (2), Listen (4), Diplomacy (4), Jump (4)
  2. Hide (5), Move Silently (5), Perform (act)(5), Bluff (5), Disguise (2), Intimidate (2), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1)
  3. Hide (5), Move Silently (5), Perform (act)(6), Bluff (6), Disguise (5), Intimidate (2), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1); assume quirk
  4. Hide (7), Move Silently (7), Perform (act)(7), Bluff (7), Disguise (5), Intimidate (3), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1); assume quirk
  5. Hide (8), Move Silently (8), Perform (act)(8), Bluff (8), Disguise (5), Intimidate (4), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1); assume quirk, second impression
  6. Hide (8), Move Silently (8), Perform (act)(9), Bluff (9), Disguise (8), Intimidate (6), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1); assume quirk, second impression
  7. Hide (8), Move Silently (8), Perform (act)(10), Bluff (10), Disguise (10), Intimidate (8), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1); assume quirk, second impression
  8. Hide (8), Move Silently (8), Perform (act)(11), Bluff (11), Disguise (11), Intimidate (11), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery
  9. Hide (9), Move Silently (9), Perform (act)(12), Bluff (12), Disguise (12), Intimidate (12), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery
  10. Hide (11), Move Silently (11), Perform (act)(13), Bluff (13), Disguise (13), Intimidate (13), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery
  11. Hide (11), Move Silently (11), Perform (act)(14), Bluff (14), Disguise (14), Intimidate (14), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (3), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery
  12. Hide (11), Move Silently (11), Perform (act)(15), Bluff (15), Disguise (15), Intimidate (15), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  13. Hide (13), Move Silently (13), Perform (act)(16), Bluff (16), Disguise (16), Intimidate (16), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  14. Hide (15), Move Silently (15), Perform (act)(17), Bluff (17), Disguise (17), Intimidate (17), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  15. Hide (17), Move Silently (17), Perform (act)(18), Bluff (18), Disguise (18), Intimidate (18), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (1), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  16. Hide (19), Move Silently (19), Perform (act)(19), Bluff (19), Disguise (19), Intimidate (19), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (2), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  17. Hide (20), Move Silently (20), Perform (act)(20), Bluff (20), Disguise (20), Intimidate (20), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (5), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  18. Hide (21), Move Silently (21), Perform (act)(21), Bluff (21), Disguise (21), Intimidate (21), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (8), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  19. Hide (22), Move Silently (22), Perform (act)(22), Bluff (22), Disguise (22), Intimidate (22), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (11), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting
  20. Hide (23), Move Silently (23), Perform (act)(23), Bluff (23), Disguise (23), Intimidate (23), Listen (4), Diplomacy (5), Jump (5), Climb (1), Tumble (1), UMD (14), Sleight of Hand (5), Concentration (1), Spellcraft (1); assume quirk, second impression, social recovery, conceal spellcasting


Spells
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  1. (6/day) Critical Strike, Ebon Eyes, Ghost Sound, Silent Portal
  2. (6/day) Absorb Weapon, Darkness, Swift Invisibility, Spider Climb
  3. (6/day) Amorphous Form, Magic Circle against Good, Spider Poison, Wraithstrike
  4. (5/day) Glibness, Modify Memory, Poison


Power Discussion

The focus of the build was to get as close as possible to full spellcasting, of a sort. Of course Assassin spellcasting isn't on the same tier as Wizard spellcasting by a long shot, but I still think 9/10 spellcasting is a pretty strong finish for a Master of Masks build.

Melee damage output is significant. An elven courtblade (via Gladiator mask) allows 2H-Power Attacking while still adding INT to damage via Insightful Strike; a rare combo. With 1d6 Sneak Attack, Craven, three iterative attacks, and (best of all) a Wraithstrike spell, you might be dealing respectable damage at high levels, even with a class as noncombatitive as Master of Masks. Of course this works best against an unsuspecting victim; the build's strongest fighting method is definitely to use its social skills to "be friends" until it sees an opportune moment to attack.

Once Wraithstrike spells have run out, it may be better to switch to the Assassin mask and use a non-exotic weapon. A Rapier can still Power Attack and benefit from Insightful Strike at the same time, though it can't double your Power Attack output.

The Angel, Archmage, Lord, and Jester masks might be somewhat weak, but don't forget them; they are useful contingency abilities to have on hand. Everyone likes easy Flight a few times per day, for example. And of course they're integral parts of the various personas that Jereth has adopted over the course of his career. (The fluff only lists the most persistent personas; of course he has adopted dozens more for short periods of time.) It was nice being able to pick Assassin spells without worrying about ones that are already covered by these Masks (Nondetection, Undetectable Alignment, Feather Fall, etc.)

And of course Jereth also has all the basic building blocks of a standard Fear build at high levels: an awesome Intimidate check, Imperious Command, Never Outnumbered, and he can buy Fearsome armor.

Oh yeah, and the whole build is a Half-Elf. Haven't seen too many of those; and I've never seen Half-Elf Paragon get used. (I thought it would be cool to use a race that, because of racial restrictions, couldn't be a Chameleon ... but I guess with the Human Heritage feat, I failed on that score. Oh well.) It's interesting to see how many good ways there are to try to use Charisma-based skills (and boost them all with items and Half-Elf Paragon). Also, Combat Panache is a nice, medium-power feat that I've never seen used before, thanks to its skill prerequisites. But it fits Jereth like a glove.