Deep in the gnarled old forest, amid the glowing toadstools and the creeping slime molds, thrive wonderfully garish and cacophonous little things.
They are lithe and delicate little creatures, hardly a meter tall and two stones heavy. Each has fine, chitinous limbs peeking out of the ubiquitous, voluminous robes that give their kind an almost rotund and childlike appearance from afar. Their three-clawed hands are oddly shaped and jointed, but equally good for playing flutes as they are for scrabbling up the tree trunks into which they bore their hive-like homes. Their footless, sticklike legs seem like they should hardly keep them upright, yet they move with much grace.
The mischievous among them are known to play tricks on passersby, but most content themselves with their families, music, games, and gardens of bioluminescent mushrooms. They breed and raise many species of symbiotic of insects, favorite among them being giant glowing crickets whom they keep as beloved companions and pets.
When trouble finds them they are most likely to try and diffuse the situation. Failing that, they will misdirect the threat and run away into the forest deeps. But when their hollows are threatened they prove themselves capable with traps, slings, and bolas. Their familiarity with the bugs and critters of the deep woods affords them an impressive armamentarium of weapons, alchemical substances, and even armor made from bits of exoskeleton.
They are known by the outside world as the Masked Ones, for the diverse and colorful masks they all wear- at least, we think those are masks. No one has ever seen one without their mask. It is unclear if they are wood, or porcelain, or something else. Rumors persist that their young hatch with masks already affixed to them- a point at which the distinction between "mask" and "face" becomes moot.
They are no less remarkable, though.
Each Masked One has seemingly unlimited control over their mask, able to change its color, shape, and design on a whim to complement or conceal their moods and actions. Some accentuate the change with a dramatic wave and flourish, while others merely change in the blink of an eye without affectation. Despite their fondness for performing arts, theater does not exist among the Masked Ones per se. Acting, with all its subtleties and theatrics, is just a natural extension of being for them.
One's mask and the way they present it is thus an essential part of their self-expression and identity- so much so that if one's mask is damaged beyond repair, they may face discrimination and exclusion from the crueler elements of their communities.
These sh'khar or "broken" Masked Ones lose the ability to alter their masks without intense conscious effort, greatly reducing their ability to emote meaningfully among other Masked Ones. Some are even treated like they are less than the people they used to be. Of course the person behind that cracked visage is as full and feeling as ever, making the scorn and pity they receive all the more tragic.
Some sh'khar try to compensate for this, increasing the bombast of their voices, gestures, and performances. Others go to great lengths to repair their masks, tracking down rare and expensive resins and the legendary mask-menders who can use them. Still others don't seek to modify themselves at all- they live as best they can, to hell with what others say or think of them.
But a minority most commonly encountered by outsiders will eventually leave the forest entirely, to face the world of the maskless Naked Folk beyond- a place where having only one, more-or-less static face is the norm.
|Sh'khar Masked One by Monsieur|
Playing Masked Ones in a Few Different Systems, Because Why Not?
| Race: Masked One | Reroll: CHA | Bonus: Can change your face at will | Weakness: Cannot change your face or emote at all if your mask has taken any damage |
- A Musical Instrument of your choice.
- Jar of Insect Resin.
- Deep & Raggedy Robes (Light Armour).
- Pet Glow-Cricket.
You can completely change the shape and appearance (but not the overall size) of your mask-face at will, potentially enhancing the delivery of performances or allowing you to masquerade as a different Masked One in the eyes of outsiders.
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2, and your Dexterity score increases by 1.
Age. Masked Ones age relatively quickly after they hatch. They reach adulthood around age 8, and rarely live longer than 40 years.
Alignment. Masked Ones are mostly neutral. Their fairly isolated society places a strong emphasis on kith and clutch, but also individual expression and whimsy.
Size. Masked Ones average just under 3 feet tall and average about 30 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Darkvision. Accustomed to deep forest hollows and the light of bioluminescent fungus, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Masked. You can change the appearance and shape of your mask at will, as well as the way you emote. You gain proficiency in the Deception skill. You also have advantage on Deception checks to disguise yourself as a different Masked One around non-Masked Ones.
Artistically Inclined. You gain proficiency in one of the following: the Performance skill, artisan's tools of your choice, or a musical instrument of your choice.
Sticky Pads. Your extremities have smooth, adhesive pads that you can use to scale sheer surfaces. You have a climbing speed of 10 feet. You also have advantage on checks to resist being disarmed.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Masked One. The spoken Masked One language includes many pops, hand gestures, and mask expressions.