Secret Identity Rules!
This is a pretty extensive update. As with all our updates, everything is subject to change until approved by Zorro Productions & West End Games (hence why it's all in text format!)
The Secret Identity rules were written by the exceptional Jack Norris, and we're happy to preview them below!
Alternate and secret identities play a very important role in Zorro. Due to the paranoia of the oppressive ruling classes, there is a constant effort to identify and persecute those who stand up to oppression and fight corruption. On the other hand, it is exceedingly difficult to function properly to protect the people and stay ahead of your enemies without a way to move among them.
This is where secret identities come in. All PCs in Zorro are presumed to have some sort of secret identity. This may be a foppish version of one’s normal identity, like Zorro’s portrayal of Don Diego in most versions of his story. Or a secret life, such as a tavernkeeper who leads a local resistance group. It may even be a duplicitous version of another identity, such as a double agent nominally working for the Alcade but in face working against him. The exact method and form this secret identity takes is up to the character’s player, but the mechanics involving this remain the same.
Each secret identity is given a special resource that can be drawn from when acting in their “true” self. This takes the form of secrets, information, covertly gained support, or simply ample time to prepare and recuperate that the double life provides. These resources are recharged by acting in your “secret ID”, gathering information, allaying fears you’re secretly a rebel or dissident, or otherwise acting as a part of the status quo.
Defining Secret Identity
A character’s secret identity should include a brief description of the character’s identities and what they are known for. This helps determine when a character is acting according to their heroic or secret identities during play.
Example: Luisa Molina Lopez is a physician who fights corruption and aids the oppressed as the masked hero, Dama Noche (Lady Night). Luisa’s secret identity is a talented and compassionate healer who is nevertheless physically timid, unwilling to fight, and unwilling to challenge the status quo. Luisa’s player notes that Dama Noche is “heroic, active, and willing to fight” while her Dr. Lopez identity is “timid, compassionate but complacent.”
Using a Secret Identity
Characters seeming to be part of or supporting of corrupt leaders and other enemies of the people often gain information and advantages their heroic personas can exploit and use. In addition, witnesses the oppression or abuse of others and being forced to play along until the time is right increases a hero’s passion and drive when the time comes to strike. This group of advantages is represented by a pool of Hero Points tied to the character’s secret identity they may use in play.
A secret identity begins with 1 Hero Point which can be spent in any way that can be justified as somehow related to the character’s secret identity and the benefits it provides. These points are gone once used, but they can be restored by reinforcing your secret identity through roleplaying.
Reinforcing Your Identity
Reinforcing a secret identity gives the hero resolve and also keeps their enemies off their trail. By acting according to one’s secret identity, they provide new opportunities, gain useful information, and throw opponents off their game.
Each time a character acts in a scene to reinforce their secret identity, they gain 1 Hero Point for their identity. Up to 3 Hero Points may be banked in this fashion at one time. To gain a Hero Point in this fashion, the character must take a prominent and active role in convincing others they are how their secret identity presents them.
Example: Acting as the timid but kind Dr. Lopez, Luisa comes across some soldiers abusing a shopkeeper and his wife who cannot pay a new tax levied by the authorities. She asks the solder’s sergeant to take mercy on the poor couple, but does not interfere as her pleas are ignore and the shopkeeper is beaten and his shop wrecked. As the soldier laugh and mock the man, Luisa tends the shopkeeper’s wounds, but stays out of the soldiers’ way and does not question their behavior. The GM gives Luisa 1 Hero Point for her performance—something she can use when Dama Noche vists the soldiers that night…
Often a character must act against their true nature, even to the point of praising or supporting their true enemies or acting unmoved by injustice. This may result in poor reactions toward their secret identity by other virtuous characters—this is the price paid for protecting one’s identity. However, while reinforcing one’s identity is not meant to be easy, but it should be entertaining. GMs should avoid placing players in situations they won’t enjoy playing the fop, conspirator, apathetic observer, or corrupt accomplice.
Pushing an identity too far increased risk of discovery and persecution, represented in Zorro but a trait known as Suspicion. Suspicion is acquired through heroic but revealing actions while in a secret identity. Characters with low Suspicion are seen as safe and content members of society who can be trusted to support the abuse and corruption their heroic selves oppose.
Outwardly heroic actions that undermine the authorities, benefit the people over the ruling class, and actively fight corruption all raise Suspicion. Examples Include:
· Berating a soldier or other authority figure abusing a peon
· Directly intervening to stop an abuse of power
· Vocally criticizing those in power at society functions.
Note that increasing Suspicion requires new actions. A character who raises suspicion by feeding the poor may be repeatedly criticized if they continue to do so, but it is accepted as a soft spot or quirk and won’t necessarily raise Suspicion further. It may even be praised in subtly condescending ways, though it surely alerts those in power the character is an unreliable co-conspirator in a future scheme to steal food from the peons.
Example: Luisa sees corrupt cabellero about to shoot a young boy who attacked him with a stick for killing the boy’s father. Seeing the youth about to die, she strikes the don with her umbrella, fouling his shot. She then sternly tells the boy to flee before attempting to return to her guise as timid, kind Dr. Lopez. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. She gains a point of Suspicion as the don and all witnessing her actions note how unusually bold and heroic her actions were.
Suspicion is also raised by clues. When in need of a Hero Point, the character may acquire one by revealing a clue as to their true self. The character must explain what clue has been revealed and how and raise their Suspicion by 1.
Example: During an adventure Luisa is in need of a Hero Point. She decides to drop a clue that timid Dr. Lopez and the heroic Dama Noche are one in the same. She takes a Hero Point and a point of Suspicion, explaining that in her most recent encounter with the authorities, Dama Noche dropped a bottle of medicine which Dr. Lopez is known to prescribe for various ailments. The GM notes this, figuring the good doctor may soon receive a visit from the authorities to ask about the bottle and where the masked outlaw could have acquired it.
Each time Suspicion is gaining, roll a d6. If the number rolled is equal to or less than the current Suspicion, the character is Exposed. And Exposed character is not immediately unmasked or uncovered, but they are will be soon.
Example: After she drops the bottle of medicine, Luisa has 3 Suspicion. She tests this, rolling a d6. She rolls a 2 and is now considered Exposed.
Secret identities are great resources, at least until they are Exposed. If a character’s double life is revealed they will find themselves hunted and hounded by the authorities, driven out of society, and otherwise endangered. They lose access to their Secret Identity and its benefits and are seen as a suspected outlaw or enemy of the state. They may be locked up, questioned, or otherwise persecuted unless they flee or go into hiding.
Example: After being Exposed, Luisa as Dr. Lopez is questioned and placed under house arrest as an investigation is underway. Unless she finds a way out of this, she will be found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment or even death for her activities as the heroic outlaw, Doma Noche.
However, all is not lost. When this occurs there are two options:
Being Exposed doesn’t always mean a character’s enemies have figured out everything about them; it simply means they are in danger of being charged with sedition, treason, or other crimes relating to resisting corrupt rule or undermining villainous authority. A masked hero might be arrested because he is believed to be an accomplice to his heroic identity. A double agent might be targeted for being too compassionate or sentimental to be of further use. GMs and players are encouraged to bend and expand the concept of being Exposed to create new and interesting roleplaying scenarios.
If a character is done with their secret identity, they may simply do away with it. This likely results on them being persecuted or targeted by some enemy of their heroic self, but this method has its advantages. For one, the people now know the character’s secret and actively admire them openly. This raises their Reputation (see Reputation).
Example: Arrested and awaiting trial and execution, Luisa escapes captivity, mocking her foes by declaring “Dr. Luisa Molina Lopez may be driven from the lands of Alta California, but you have not seen the last of Doma Noche!” She then goes underground, operating as Doma Noche full time from her secret headquarters in the wilderness.
However, once a character truly goes public that’s it. No more secret identities unless extreme care and methods are taken to build a new one later. This could be the product of an entire campaign arc, as a character may have to fake their own death, go underground, or otherwise fade from notice only to return later with a new secret identity.
Clear Your Name
A character may try to defuse or refute the evidence that exposes them. This involves an adventure or subplot to produce counter-evidence and convince those in power it is the truth. If this is successful, your Suspicion is reset to 0. The GM sets the terms of what needs to be done to “clear your name”, but it usually involves some ploy or deception that “proves” the character cannot be the masked hero, secret operative, or dissident sympathizer they are believed to be. Some examples include:
· Appearing in the same place at the same time as your other self.
· Appearing in another place at the same time as your other self with the right witnesses.
· Acting or seeming to act against your true self’s nature—this must be a drastic departure to be convincing.
· Producing evidence from a superior authority that clears your name.
Clearing one’s name should always be a tense and active affair, worth of its own scenes, adventures, and plots.
Example: Not wishing to abandon her identity as Dr. Lopez, Luisa works with her friends and allies to have another PC masquerading as Doma Noche to free Luisa and spirit her away. The PCs then engage in an adventure involving both Luisa and other characters posing as Doma Noche to “prove” that Luisa is not only not the masked hero, but that the hero was stealing Dr. Lopez’s supplies without her knowledge. Luisa is admonished for being more careful with her medicines, but her Suspicion drops back to 0 and she is free once more.
A character may also reduce Suspicion before they are Exposed. Each adventure a character completes without raising any Suspicion, roll a Wild Die. If a 6 is rolled, lower Suspicion by 1 and roll again. If another 6 is rolled, reduce Suspicion by an additional 1. Continue this process until no further 6s are rolled.
Example: Over time Luisa gains more Suspicion as Dr. Lopez’s actions and behavior are tied to the mysterious Doma Noche. When she reaches 3 Suspicion once more, Luisa operates very carefully for the next adventure, raising so Suspicion. At the end of this adventure Luisa’s player rolls a wild die and gets a 6. This reduces her Suspicion by 1, from 3 to 2. She then rolls again and gets a 3, resulting in no further reduction in Suspicion. Luisa decides to keep laying low next adventure, hoping to get her Suspicion back down before pushing her luck again.
A character worried about a high Suspicion level may also act to clear their name before being exposed. By setting up a scenario that would clear their name, they may reset their suspicion to 0.