The Masquerade occurs when Bland Rationalisation becomes front line policy - it's more than a case of being in denial, it's a deliberate attempt to keep humanity in general from knowing the truth about…
- Aliens - especially if it's the Government doing the covering up. This branches out into all kinds of conspiracy theories sooner or later.
- Vampires are another favourite, although they traditionally do their own covering up. White Wolf Publishing got a whole RPG out of this.
- The Fair Folk may also masquerade for various reasons - although they may be playing dress-up or getting all "gorillas in the mist" with humanity. Or it may be more like the Saw films … depending on whether we're talking seelie or unseelie fey.
…and there are frequently others.
The reasons for masquerading vary - from survival, personal advantage or a desire to maintain calm (or control, depending on point of view) - but the masquerade is generally enforced with great rigour. The truth is buried as deeply as possible and anyone letting it out killed, disappeared, criminalised or marginalised as a lunatic.
The name of the trope implies someone - or something - walking amongst mankind in disguise, thus taking it above the scope of a common conspiracy, and as noted above it is generally an active, determined process.
Bland Rationalisation - the freeware version of the Masquerade, born of a desire not to see rather than not to be seen.
Wainscot Fantasy - where a more or less successful Masquerade allows the supernatural to exist just below the surface.
Game and Story Use
- This should not be an incidental detail of the setting - it is either important or it should not exist.
- Unless, of course, you want a setting in which the masquerade leaks like a sieve: the word is out, but the powers that be are in denial and are lashing out at anyone who accepts the inevitable.
- If there is a masquerade, breaching it should have real, in-world consequences - in a world where vampires masquerade (for example) a PC should not be able to reveal his vampirism in front of witnesses without serious repercussions.
- Trying to maintain - or break - a Masquerade could be a basis for an entire campaign, as could establishing one or dealing with the fallout from a broken one.