Alter Ego
rating: +1+x

That quintessential requirement to be a caped crusader: the secret identity.

Basic Information

Ever notice how the hero has to lead a normal life in addition all his world saving/crime stopping/demon catching/monster killing and protecting his country? In addition, he has to keep absolutely certain that no one, even his enemies and loved ones, ESPECIALLY his loved ones, have no idea that he is leading two lives. Which, in some cases, is "slightly incongruent" as the difference between the two personae can be paper thin…1

Also notice, that the villain never has to keep a secret identity? They can just live their whole lives as an evil overlord/criminal mastermind/monster/creature of darkness. If the villain decides they want an alter ego, they are ALWAYS a close friend and/or relative of the hero. Always. In these cases, the villain usually, but not always, knows both identities of the hero, and tries to keep the fact of this knowledge a secret from the hero, so as to make better use of it later. Arguably there's some mileage in making this because the hero is trying to cling to a human identity - to embrace their post human nature runs the risk of them losing touch with their humanity and developing the sort of sense of superiority that will cause them to slide into indifference and then evil.

Even better, consider a Jekyll and Hyde arrangement in which the character in question is unaware of his alter ego, perhaps due to multiple personalities or some kind of psychotic break or fugue state. This probably works better for villains (and is a classic trope in werewolf legends) but could function for a strange sort of hero as well. Potentially the heroic personality has deliberately fenced itself off from the mundane one to avoid risking the masquerade. This, obviously, will have its pros and cons.

On the professional side of things - that is, generally in the intelligence community, the "alter ego" is known as a cover identity or a legend.

Game and Story Use

  • Hero type characters have to spend effort to maintain their alter egos.
    • They may have to keep a job, or go to school, or both.
      • Their job/classes may suffer do their hero activities.
      • Their job/classes may interfere with their hero activities.
    • Villains have more time to be villains than heroes do to be heroes.
      • This allows them to do more stuff, and set up better plans.
          • They disassociate themselves from society due to their overwhelming villain duties.
            • This can lead them to believe that people don't like them, thus giving them an excuse to do villain-type stuff, that keeps them away from people more, thus convincing them that people don't like them …
    • Villains have more time to build lairs than do heroes.
      • A villains lairs tend to be bigger, more expansive, more heavily defended, harder to get to.
      • Villains tend to have castles or islands or both, heroes tend to have caves or garages or closets inside their homes.
      • Villains may have more than one lair, while the hero typically only has one, in the house of their alter ego.
  • A villain finds out the hero's alter ego.
  • Hero's Girlfriend/brother/Uncle Ben/classmate/student/boss is an alter ego for their nemesis.
    • and knows the hero's alter ego
    • and the hero knows theirs.
      • And has a sidekick/contact keep tabs on them.
      • and they get into a sort of weird reverse-kayfabe where they are keeping up a deliberate and very forced masquerade in their non-costumed lives. Especially in the sort of teen drama where they are in classes together when not dressed in spandex (unless their school has a very liberal dress code).
  • The sidekick finds out the Heros/Villains secret identity.
    • And sets up ANOTHER secret identity, with this one extorting the hero/villain based on this knowledge.
  • Hero gets a picture of them in costume mailed to their alter egos home.
  • The villain doesn't recognize the hero's alter ego
    • and takes the alter ego hostage to try forcing the hero to intervene
    • and provides an opportunity for the hero to learn about his plan
  • The hero's alter ego is in danger of being exposed
    • which by some bizarre logic would mean that he has to marry the love interest
    • which forces him to run around hassling someone who would inadvertently leak it
    • (Hey, Superman used to get a lot of mileage out of these plots!)
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