This is really cool, DJ. A while ago I started developing a setting for a pen and paper RPG ruleset of mine and there's just so many bases to cover that it can get daunting.
Have you played Planescape: Torment? The concept of pure neutrality makes me think of Dak'kon from that game.
I've played a very little bit of it-though I think I understand more about the Planescape setting from Spoony's Counter Monkey series than from the game (enough to know not to fool around with the Lady of Pain, at least).
Moving right along, there is a sort-of faction I've developed, though I've yet to really come up with an idea for what their overall goals should be (any suggestions are welcome).
The Kagefey (Shadow Elves) are a race who are naturally adept with the use of illusion magic to disguise their appearance. If running on the D&D system, I'd suggest using the Shapeshifter race from Ebberon as part of the basis for their rules, but the concept does require a tad bit more than a simple bluff check most of the time.
The concept of having it be illusions rather than actual shapeshifting both removes limitations and adds new ones. The exact limitations depend on which "pseudo-class" you fall into-the Kagefey have an organization known as the House of Shadows and two of these "classes" are officially part of it:Infiltrator
: Actually replaces individuals in key positions either to gather intel or manipulate a situation. This is achieved through careful study of the individual by the agent assigned to impersonate him/her over the course of several weeks. They learn that persons appearance and mannerisms as well as a considerable amount of info on their personal history. They then spend up to a whole other week focusing their mind on that information and firmly creating the illusion until they can sustain it for nearly an entire day without faltering. Once this is achieved, the original is either captured or killed and replaced with the infiltrator. The infiltrator must continuously focus on the illusion, though when dealing with people familiar with the individual's appearance they can relent somewhat and rely more on those persons' own mental images of the individual. Regardless, they usually need to "rest" for at least three hours or so each day before resuming the illusion.Impersonator
: This class often possesses something like a photographic memory and can disguise themselves as anyone who they've had a good look at. At the same time, like the infiltrators, they can also rely on "mental images" as well, though these can sometimes be less effective. Unlike infiltrators, their illusions can only be maintained for short periods and they are therefore more suited towards quick information-gathering. They often aide infiltrators in attaining the knowledge necessary to avoid scrutiny when asked certain questions.Pretender
: This third "class" is not officially part of the House of Shadows, though individuals in this category are on occasion hired to carry out certain tasks suited towards their particular talents. Pretenders rely less on specific illusions and more on invoking "mental images" based on general ideas. This can work in their favor in many situations but also against it just as easily.
A male pretender walks into a bar projecting the image of the "handsomest man alive" and takes a seat between two women. The first compliments him on his flowing blonde hair but the other becomes suspicious as he clearly appears to her to have short, black hair. As a pretender hones their skills, they may become capable of projecting more specific illusions-such as "handsome man with black hair" to help avoid such complications. They can also use mental images to impersonate particular individuals, sometimes without ever having seen them. As mentioned earlier, mental images are less effective in general but pretenders tend to be slightly more adept at invoking them.
To be more specific, a "mental image" is the memory someone has of a particular person's appearance. For instance, a pretender could project the illusion of "head guard" to get into an evidence locker. To some extent, it can work just as well if not better on people who haven't even seen what the Head Guard looks like. In essence, pretender is the ultimate con man.
Pretenders are looked down upon in general for being untrained and mostly consisting of rogues and other less desirable types. What they lack in ability however they make up for in versatility.
As for things to note about the Kagefey as a whole, there are a couple things worth mentioning. Firstly, most of them are able to see through (or at least detect) each other's illusions and have a chance to see through illusions in general. Secondly, not every member of the race is part of the House of Shadows or even a pretender. Those who display particular aptitude with illusion magic are usually recruited into the HoS at a very young age as honing such abilities requires vigorous training. It is rumored that sometimes individuals are recruited against one or both of their parents' wishes and some have fled to avoid such things occurring.
One Kagefey of note is named Arixen Arcina, whose mother fled with him in just such a situation. She ultimately died, however leaving him to be raised by a group of fairies. When he became older, he was forced to flea his new home by an assassin sent by the House of Shadows, Celeidin (whom unbeknownst initially to either of them, happens to be his half-sister). He ended up taking residence in a city along with his fairy companion Miki (whom fancies herself to be a bard despite being completely tone deaf). There, he used his illusion abilities to become a rogue "pretender", playing both sides of the law.
His philosophy is that "a man you can bribe is a man you can't trust", anyone can give a man money, but not everyone can provide the services he can. As such, certain guards will owe him favors which he might eventually cash in on and they also are generally more aware of his actual abilities than any of the criminals Arixen occasionally involves himself with.
Celedin eventually catches up with him, however, forcing him to leave his new home. Presently he's taken to freelance adventuring and doesn't stay in one place very long.
Originally I'd come up with the concept of this race as a fleshed-out version of the Dark Interlopers described in Twilight Princess' backstory as the ancestors of the Twili. The idea went far beyond what was described (for instance, they never explicitly stated that they were shapeshifters) but I have run into a bit of a hiccup with one detail-what are the House of Shadows after?
In my Hyrule Isle setting, they're pursuing the Triforce, like just about every other faction. In Torian, it seems like I'll need to develop some sort of McGuffin to explain the overall goal of their infiltration operations. One concept is that it may have something to do with an item that is capable of dealing "Mythic Damage", the only thing that can break through a God's initial defensive barrier. At first I thought they might be siding with Chaos, but it's hard to consider almost anyone siding with him given that his goal is the complete destruction of everything. It's not like he can reasonably offer "Side with me, and I'll spare you," since unless you're a complete idiot that would be incredibly hard to believe.
It also may be obvious to some that Arixen was originally designed as a character originating from my Hyrule Isle setting-hence the fairy companion. Originally he was going to have been raised by the Kokiri, but I couldn't come up with a way to translate that without it being an obvious copy so I just dropped the Kokiri altogether and had him raised by faries so I could keep Miki as a character.