As I said before: sculpting a human range is anything but easy.
At least for me, of course.
Despite the dwarf range, that I could (and I will...) expand with new characters in daily basis, I struggled a lot to give birth to this new range. Don't misunderstand me, I'm totally happy about how it came out, and I think we managed to create interesting characters, but damn: humans are hard to imagine for me!
The Bluecoat and Redcoat regiments have been funny to create, but even if I tried to give to each character a precise "uniqueness", I felt like the range was missing of something, in general. I mean: a margherita pizza is quite good, but only when you add mushrooms and ham you really figure out the meaning of cosmic completeness.
For the same reason, I thought that to complete the circle of the human range, I had to create something different: with this in mind, the M.A.S.K organization was born!
Let's start from the very first step: the name. As many of you, I was a little boy during early 90s and, as many of you, I watched a lot of animated series. Principally Japanese ones, because Italian television broadcast A LOT of anime, but also American series, like, well... you will find out soon.
When I imagined for the first time a secret organization of the Second Government, I thought it would be interesting (and almost obvious, let's be honest...) to give these agents a kind of "symbol" shaped with the classic Venetian carnival masks.
I wanted to create a sort of code name, for this organization, that worked on many levels and suggested a wide variety of shades:
1) the name should have a kind of bureaucratic vibe. Second Government inspires order, organization, discipline. I wanted a name that immediately gave that kind of cold state structure.
2) the name should explain, briefly, the area that this organization operates in. That is all that "grey areas" that need to be managed in an unconventional and strictly reserved way. Think about cutting down subversive organizations, investigating the occult and magic in general and dealing with those dirty jobs that any nation is called to face, especially those that fund their creed on absolute moral principles!
3) the name should form an acronym with the word "mask", that is the symbol of its agents and immediately suggests its "secret" nature.
After an enormous and shameful amount of time spent to figure out an english acronym that suits all my idea (you may guess how difficult it was for me, considering my English gaps..), I found something that could work: Ministry Against the Secret Knowledge.
I was incredibly proud of me, but when I talked about it with Valerio, the sculptor, he warned me that M.A.S.K was an animated series broadcast at the end of 80s, 2 years before my birth.
After a short research about it I figured out that, apart from the name, my M.A.S.K had nothing to do with those M.A.S.K, so I decided to maintain that acronym, painful childbirth of my last neurons: after all, who would ever remember a 35 years old animated series!?
Apparently, a lot of people.
WELL, KIND OF.
So: I had a name and a general idea of the various characters I wanted to create, but I was just at the base of a steep mountain!
I confess that, at least 'till now, I was a bit worried about these guys, cause I knew they were not an "immediate" concept, you know, like a barbarian or a wizard or a classic warrior.
Damn how much hipster I became.
My idea, however, was simple: to try to put as much Tarantino as I could, inside a Second Government character. In fact, I wanted to give them an ambiguous vibe: they are the good guys, or at least it's what the government tells you.
But you know that there is something weird, behind those mask.
I thought: they deal with the badassest enemies of their nation, so they have to be at least equally badass.
I then had only one, single imagine in mind: the iconic scene from Quentin Tarantino's The Reservoir Dogs.
I tried to put in my agents of M.A.S.K as much pulp as I was able to, and I'm quite happy about the result: their elegant suits, their fancy masks, their arrogant and sinister look, all of them screams exactly the ideas I had in mind! I think they fit nicely with the other characters of the Second Government range, but they have also their own style and uniqueness. I really can't wait to see how you will paint these characters!
THE FLUFF (yes, you'll have to...).
I'm still looking for the best way to start anticipating you the fluff behind this fantasy range, without boring you. It's not easy at all!
Instead of writing one of my Abe Simpson's style excursus, this time I want to tempt you with a more social media way to present a content: a list. I see that people love lists, let's try!
10 secrets about the M.A.S.K that you shouldn't know and definitely you don't want to know for your safety.
1) There are only 78 agents of M.A.S.K. The most important of them, called Major Arcana, are 21 special agents that play the role of officers.
2) As the smartest among you have already guessed, the structure of this Ministry is based on Tarot cards. Tarot decks have 78 cards, in fact, and the most important cards are called Major Arcana.
3) Every agent of M.A.S.K, during his (or her) activity, is defined by a code name. The Major Arcana generally are called with their tarot name: Major Arcana #19, for example, is also known as "The Sun", cause he represents the 19th tarot.
4) The leader of the organization is #0, also known as "The Fool". Only the High Secretary knows his (or her!) identity. Inside the M.A.S.K, nobody even knows his/her costume, so that literally any individual could be #0, for what they know.
Maybe we have already sculpted him. Or her.
5) During their missions, agents of M.A.S.K are considered above the law. This extraordinary exoneration is unique in its genre in the whole Second Government constitution!
6) To reveal the identity of an agent of M.A.S.K is a capital crime. Obviously, that means that also agents that reveal their own identity carries the death penalty.
7) Agents of M.A.S.K are recruited by the Major Arcana themselves. Technically, anyone could become an agent of M.A.S.K: highborn, poor, man, woman, old, young etc. It is said that an individual that is considered worth to enter the organization, finds a tarot card on his/her pillow. It is said also that to reject the recruitment is like offering the neck to the executioner.
8) Even if agents of M.A.S.K work like a kind of sinister secret services of the Second Government, their first duty is to find new sources of raw magic and eradicate the scourge of Necromancy.
9) For this reasons they often follow the Grimorians during their journeys as bodyguards. Or just to be sure to properly clean the path, after their passage...
10) Despite their disgusting nature, the creepy creatures known as Flonzi are incredibly useful to this Ministry: they have, in fact, an incredible affinity with magic and likewise to truffle pigs, they are able to locate any kind of hidden magic sources.
•BONUS TRACK: a Major Arcana doesn't choice his/her code name, but it is inherited from the predecessor that recruited him/her. Think about these names not only as a code: indeed, they represent specific philosophies of action, handed down from agent to agent. When a Major Arcana wears his mask, he's not himself anymore: he becomes the most recent performer of an ancient role.
This small group of M.A.S.K is ready to play its cards during the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, and I hope they'll draw a good hand. Actually, I think that I've only started to "scratch" the top of an iceberg, with them: as you may have sense, reading the fluff, there are a lot of interesting M.A.S.K characters that could be designed (think about all the various Major Arcana), but at least for the moment I have to be content.
I'm sorry for not having sculpted a female agent, indeed I planned to sculpt one, at the beginning.
However, in my plans I want to create 3 main bundles for my KS campaign, each of them representing a particular aspect of the Second Government:
-The Bluecoat Bundle: it should incarnate the Second Government desire to broaden the horizons of humanity.
-The Redcoat Bundle: it should represent the Second Government will to conquer the future, no matter how.
-The Arcane Bundle: it should embody the Second Government thirst for knowledge.
In these terms, I felt that making a bundle with 5 M.A.S.K and only 1 Grimorian didn't give properly the right feel I wanted to show you, so I decided to sculpt another Grimorian (a female one) to better balance this group.
So, here we are at the end of our first journey into the deep secrets of this organization: what do you think about them?