A Troupe Master, also known as the "Leaders of the Dance," and the "Avatars of the Laughing God" and athair in the Aeldari Lexicon, are the officers of the Harlequins, with each troupe led by a Troupe Master. Amidst the mayhem of battle, the masque's elite leader choreographs the carnage. Each Troupe Master directs their Players with the skill of an impresario and the strategic genius of a seasoned general.
It is he that decides where the Troupe goes next, what dances are performed, and what messages they deliver. If the Shadowseers are the heart and soul of a Troupe, the Troupe Master is its mind and cunning.
When performing, a Troupe Master invariably plays the story's hero or major protagonist. In the Dance Without End, the Troupe Master takes the role of the Laughing God himself, striving against She Who Thirsts and thwarting the newly birthed god's unceasing hunger.
Troupe Masters are choreographers of war, directing their comrades' reactions to the changing fates of battle, and ensuring the Harlequins' performance in the theatre of war is as perfect as it can be. By consent of their peers, the Troupe Masters become focal points for the successes and failures of entire Troupes of Harlequins. In many conflicts, the most talented will even be entrusted with directing the performance of their entire masque.
Troupe Masters are closer to the lead Players of a cast than formal commanders; they are elevated by the will of their brothers and sisters, playing their role until it is time for another to take their place. Troupe Masters act as exemplars for all their Troupe's key characteristics, embodying everything it means to be Light, Dark or Twilight writ large.
Thus Troupe Masters of the Light will hurl themselves into battle like the headstrong heroes of ancient myth, adopting such aggressive, protagonist roles as the Duke of the Hidden Realm, or the Eldanari Prince. Troupe Masters of the Dark, by comparison, are sinister and vindictive, always seeking some way in which to flamboyantly finish off the foe. Troupe Masters of the Twilight, meanwhile, see cycles of transition in everything, often seeming obsessive or insane in their attention to nuance and detail until the precise moment their true genius reveals itself.
In performance, the Troupe Master dances the part of the Laughing God. In combat, a Troupe Master is usually armed with two close combat weapons (one of which is often a Shuriken Pistol), and equipped with a visual disruption Holo-field and Conversion Field emitter. They may also be armed with Vortex Grenades, which they deliver on-target by running forwards alone while the rest of the troupe supplies covering fire. In addition, some Troupe Masters may have psychic abilities.
The Troupe Masters of some Harlequin troupes carry a number of lightweight batons, which unfold into a flag bearing the symbol of their masque. This is commonly left as a "calling card" after the destruction of enemy units and installations.
Troupe Master Markings
A Harlequin Troupe Master's battlefield garb is often more extravagant than that of the Troupe's other warriors, clearly marking him out as a leader in the maelstrom of combat. Whereas Players wear elegantly cut jackets or ritually folded tunics clasped about the waist, Troupe Masters often sport high-collared greatcoats which billow and whirl dramatically with each bone-crunching kick or graceful flick of the blade.
Many Troupe Masters display their Troupe rune upon the coat's lapel or hem -- others prefer to use this space to better display the kaleidoscopic patterns of their masque, adhering instead to the Players' practice of bearing their Troupe rune upon the shoulder, thigh or knee. The masque rune is usually marked upon a sash, though this is by no means consistently so.
Troupe Master Mask
Troupe Masters wear grotesque masks that mock the sinister, ugly face of war. Their ever-shifting features flicker between nightmarish horror and leering, sardonic humour at the mortal plight of their foes.
- Holo-Suit - The Holo-Suit, or dathedi -- meaning "between colours" -- is responsible for this transformation. The device incorporates a programmable holo-field that breaks down the wearer's profile into a fractal lightstorm as they move; the faster they travel, the more pronounced the effect. So it is that a charging Harlequin appears as nothing more than an indistinct, prismatic storm that is nigh-on impossible to hit, allowing them to simply avoid blows that would otherwise lay them low.
- Shuriken Pistol - Shuriken Pistols are light, compact sidearms much favoured by Harlequins. The slender, graceful lines of these weapons mislead many foes, who discover their lethal stopping power only as a flurry of razor-edged shuriken rip through their flesh. The reliability and featherweight construction of the Shuriken Pistol means that most Harlequins bear them into battle, the Players' acrobatic combat style perfectly complemented by the firearm they wield.
- Close Combat Weapon (Any Aeldari type)
- Plasma Grenades
- Flip Belt - These devices enhance the Harlequins' agility to incredible levels by making use of the Aeldari's signature anti-gravitic technology.
- Harlequin's Embrace - This weapon shreds its victims with a web of monofilament wires.
- Harlequin's Kiss - The iconic weapon of the Harlequins, once plunged into the victim's body, this weapon reduces their innards to meat slurry in moments.
- Harlequin's Caress - This device sheathes the wearer's hand in a deadly power field.
- Power Sword - Harlequin power swords are always named after famed weapons from Eldar myth. Many bear titles taken from the blades forged by Vaul to appease Khaine and secure the release of his prisoners, Kurnous and Isha. Also popular are the various blades of the House of Eldanesh, one of Khaine's many godly weapons, or the many stolen swords of the Laughing God himself.
- Haywire Grenades
- Enigma of the Black Library - These artefacts are items of incredible rarity, ancient treasures that are carefully maintained and stored within the Black Library.
- Black Crusade: The Tome of Excess (RPG), pg. 113
- Codex: Eldar (6th Edition), pp. 46-47
- Codex: Harlequins (7th Edition) (Digital Edition), pp. 12, 37, 40-41, 85-88, 137, 159, 172-173
- Harlequins Painting Guide - Warriors of the Laughing God, pp. 3, 11-12, 30, 36, 40, 44-47, 50, 57, 106-111, 165
- Warhammer 40,000: Compendium (2nd Edition), pg. 185
- White Dwarf Issue #53 (31 Jan 2015), "Harlequin Troupe," pp. 4, 10