Becoming the job
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Basic Information

This page addresses the narrative trope that some jobs grow on you to such a degree that - to some degree at least - they overtake your identity. Obviously this relates most to jobs with a high symbolic importance - monarchy is an obvious example, but then so is parenthood. This may run a lot deeper where the supernatural is involved - the spirit world is heavily governed by symbolism and taking a position loaded with symbolism therein is liable to see you bent into a shape that fits.

There can also be cultural aspects - consider, for example, an alpha-reproductive culture (perhaps based on that of canids). Whilst in a typical human culture, a high status male might have his pick of mates, in the hypothetical culture, the highest status male and female might be paired by default, regardless of their identity1.

On a less extreme level, any role that becomes your primary identity might do this - much to the chagrin of actors in popular and long running dramas.

The other face of this trope is that of creating a separate identity for work - this is most obviously seen in the case of traditional superhumans, but is a trick most people practise to some degree. This can prove very useful if your profession is something that would normally be taboo in your society (for example being an executioner) and some traditional societies also allow for a man to take a separate identity or "face" for warfare, putting aside his peacetime life in a ceremonial manner and becoming a separate warrior archetype, which he then takes off again when he has finished fighting2. Killing without performing the appropriate ceremonies may be considered murder3 - whilst conversely correct observance of the appropriate rituals might be considered a declaration of war and absolve the killer of guilt regardless of their motive. Taking the example of a "work face" to extremes is likely to lead to the wearing of ceremonial masks, although a uniform is prone to serve a similar purpose.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • This is a great excuse to add various restrictions to otherwise powerful roles that your PCs pick up - especially magically powerful ones - by adding various compulsions and restrictions that come with the job… the more they draw on their power, the more it shapes them.
  • PCs from appropriate cultures may be expected to participate in - or even lead - "warpath" ceremonies. Rules based benefits are optional, as are penalties for not taking part.
  • Note the bit about ceremonial masks - these may be a relevant part of doing some jobs. The executioner's mask is an obvious example.
  • Of course, any culture that practices a "warpath" is liable to display its hostile intentions quite clearly to anyone who understands their ceremonies … the fact that they are taking place alone should be a warning to likely enemies, whilst someone who can watch and interpret may be able to identify the intended target.
  • Having a "secret identity" would be massively genre appropriate in several kinds of campaign.
  • Consider, for example, the Nobles of the Sidhe courts in The Dresden Files - at least some of them: certainly the nights and ladies, at least one queen and maybe others started out human but the job grows on them and sooner or later, they change. Whoever you used to be, sooner or later you become just the Summer Lady or the Winter Knight or whatever…
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