Glamour Failure
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Basic Information

This classic Trope refers to things that are not quite human and how they do a not quite perfect job of hiding that fact. Some form of magic, disguise, or illusion hides their true form, cloaking them from the masses. Often the veil can be pierced under the right circumstances, or by the right people. There may be clues to his true nature, if you look hard enough and take notes.

Common manifestations of Glamour Failure

  • Sensory Manifestations
    • No Reflection
      • Doesn't show up on film
        • Doesn't show up on video or audio recordings
      • True form reflects (or shows up on film, etc)
    • No Shadow
      • Shadow moves independently, threatens menacingly, etc
      • Shadow cast by true body
    • Animals know him and fear him
      • Children, madmen, and/or psychics, too
      • Animals attack him.
      • Animals sit entranced, and are his puppets.
    • Clearly inhuman in person, but afterwords, you just can't remember it.
    • Cold. So very cold.
      • A cold wind blows in his presence.
    • A particular smell, one that's not likely to be aftershave or perfume.
  • Physical Manifestations
  • Weakness Manifestations
    • Sensitive to Light
      • Burned by Sunlight
    • Aversion to holy items and places
      • Burned by holy items
      • Cannot enter hallowed ground
    • Cannot cross running water
      • Except by bridge
    • Aversion to certain plants, spices, metals, or elements
      • Burned by said plant, spice, metal, or element
    • Craves something peculiar or horrific
      • Can't eat normal food, sustained by something peculiar or horrific
  • Miscellaneous
    • Plants wither at his touch.
    • Speaks a dead language or uses bizarre and/or ancient idioms.
    • Incapable of saying (or not saying) certain things, especially words regarded as "holy".
    • Unable to lie (said to be a characteristic of aristocratic fae)1.
    • Unusual Berserk Button2
    • Distinctive compulsive behaviour.
    • Adverse to some everyday sound (Church Bells is a common one, but cock-crow or a barking dog can often be effective as well - particularly if the glamour wearer is actually a transformed cat…)


Most of the above list came from the TV Tropes Wiki
Melusine, she of the Black Legend of Anjou - or the supernatural brides of similar legends - were prone to extreme cases of this.
Recall Kossh from Babylon 5 - the Vorlon hid themselves behind several layers of deception: first a spurious encounter suit and second the telepathic illusion of an angel. Noting of course, that the illusion relied on them having pre-seeded the image into their subject species: unseeded species, or those who had been subjects of the Shadows, didn't see it. The actual shape of a Vorlon, as seen in Kossh Ulkesh's final battle, was somewhat different.

Game and Story Use

  • A lot of these show up on Vampires. (See Our Vampires Are Different). Others came from traditional depictions of Sidhe, Lycanthropes, or those suffering from Demonic Possession.
    • The list can be used for brainstorming characterization elements of the Big Bad Evil Guy of your campaign, so you can foreshadow his evil.
  • Some of these could also work when a PC disbelieves an illusion - just like in the fairy tales when the hero notices that the woman trying to seduce him has some inhuman feature that marks her out as a demon, fairy or witch. Or a troll for the Scandinavians amongst us.
  • For those who enjoy congruent reality, a lack of reflection or shadow could be the result of the creature having no physical body and being nothing but an illusion - thus it will not show up on CCTV or film either, and may not be visible to everyone present. This may not be a good thing.
    • Alternatively, if the creature is a projected image and the projector has to concentrate to send it, perhaps the reflection of the image - and any other means of viewing that the sender wasn't prepared for - will show what is really there: nothing, or an image of what the sender really looks like.
  • Be aware that not all creatures experiencing glamour failure will necessarily be evil - the insects that they attract may be butterflies or the peculiar smell that of flowers; instead of plant life dying at this touch, flowers may spring up in his footsteps; instead of a cold spot where he stands, harsh weather may be somehow less fierce. Bonus points if mistaken for the gardener is in effect.
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