Artificial Beauty Mark
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Basic Information

A beauty mark is a descriptive term for a mole, discoloration, or birthmark (or even a tumor), especially one on the face. In some cases the term is bordering on euphemism, though many do find the slight asymmetric marking on the face (or elsewhere on exposed skin) be genuinely quite flattering.

An artificial beauty mark is a temporary cosmetic simulation of such a mark for the express purpose of improving one's appearance and or fashionability. There are have been several times in history and culture where gluing small bits of fabric to one's face was a way to make yourself look beautiful/cool. Often this accompanied eras where some disease was causing blemishes of the face, and it became a way to obscure, hide or even imitate the scars left by diseases such as syphilis or smallpox.

Usually round and black, and often made of leather, silk, or velvet, these were known as splenia in Ancient Rome, as mouches in 16th and 17th Century France, and as chiqueador in the Spain and her colonies in the 18th Century. They even had a very brief revival in the late 1940s. In modern times, these have seen something of a resurgence in the altered form of piercings of the lip, cheek, or eyebrow.

The highwater mark of the cloth artificial beauty mark was during the reign of Louis XIV of France, around the same time that white face make-up and powdered wigs were all the rage. During that era, beauty patches were not only the cultural zeitgeist, but they had their own code and meaning. Where you wore the patch on your face was supposed to make a subtle statement about your personality. Its location could indicate to the viewer that you were playful, passionate, flirtatious, conservative and dignified, currently in a relationship, or looking to hook up. The shape of the patch often had meaning as well, and in this era they branched out from being "usually round" into beings hearts, stars, crescent moons, and other shapes you might find in a box of lucky charms. More exotic and detailed shapes were sometimes seen as well, with at least one illustration surviving from the era of a wealthy noblewoman with a patch in the elaborate form of a coach and team of horses riding across her forehead.


Game and Story Use

  • A secret society or web of spies could use artificial beauty marks to communicate their own code in secret that would be instantly recognizable to fellow agents at a glance. This could range from simply an identifier along the lines of a secret handshake, but it could also convey more elaborate messages, or even serve as a form of brush pass.
    • "If she's wearing a heart on her left cheek, abort, but if she has a star there, go ahead with the assassination. And if there's a diamond on her forehead, that means they're on to us and you should quietly flee the court at your first opportunity."
  • Also nicely illustrates the gap in economic prosperity between the various social classes in times of political unrest. In the months leading up to a revolution, the poor are starving in the streets while the nobles are frittering away their gold on daily facial embellishments that they cast aside rather than reuse.
    • The rag and bone man may be a source for yesterday's discarded beauty marks, allowing the PCs to get their hands on disguise material without paying exorbitantly for it.
  • Mechanically, could provide a bonus to charisma, appearance or other social attribute when worn.
    • A set of magic beauty marks could be interesting. Perhaps it's akin to another "ring" slot, in a system where you can only have X number of active magical effects of various types.
    • An obvious substrate for a charm that allows the user to disguise themselves.
  • Yet another way to make the past seem more foreign and exotic in a time travel or history campaign. A small subplot (or at least an amusing scene) could revolve around the culture clash when the PCs encounter such affectations for the first time.
    • Different PCs may adapt to it better or worse than others. The Veteran Chrononaut comes prepared with beauty patches and a knowledge of where to place them. The Fish Out Of Temporal Water either refuses to put the silly things on, or places them such that it sends embarrassingly contradictory information about his availability and marital status.
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