Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nantucket Madness

In 1902, the Seer of Nantucket, Johnathan Kristofferson, went insane after attempting to communicate with the intelligence inside an ordinary a quail egg.  (Communicating with the unborn is extremely dangerous, since their souls exist in both this world and the previous.)  Over the next six weeks, he kept a meticulous journal that detailed his particular insanity.  These journals have yielded the best working knowledge we know of Nantucket Madness.

Nantucket Madness is also known as liar's madness, since it thrives on untruths.

0 Lies.  Near a wizard suffering from Nantucket Madness, there is a continual urge to avoid telling the entire truth.  Indeed, telling the truth may even invite infection.  The safest course is to say nothing that is entirely true.  Even a small lies are blankets against the cold.  In the terminal stages of the disease, the wizard becomes convinced that everything they see or experience is false.  Everyone is an impostor, every sentence is a lie, and nothing is what it seems.

GM Notes: Basically, if you notice a player has said a few things without telling any lies, you are allowed to ask him to make a save vs. Nantucket Madness.  Or if they already have it, save to avoid exacerbating the insanity.  Give them some kind of cue--make sure they know the rules of the game before you tell them that they've lost it.

1 Infection. The other way to become infected is to take something seriously.  Within the range of this madness, it is dangerous to take anything seriously.

GM Notes: Basically, whenever you notice that a player is doing/saying stuff that is logical given the current situation, you can call for them to save vs. contracting/increasing Nantucket Madness.  The PC who is carrying a goose under one arm is safe from this chance, but woe to the PC who is using words like "tactically", "in order to", and "logically".  They're fucked.  

2 Tails.  Infection brings tails.  Not just fox tails and peacock tails (although those happen, too) but also things like telegraph cables, ropes, and tree branches.  Almost anything can grow out of your ass.

3 Falsities.  A cardboard sword can cut a table in half if it is wielded with enough sincerity.  Waving your arms and babbling nonsense can result in real spells if performed with enough enthusiasm.  Fake things are real here.

GM Notes: I'd involve some sort of charisma check, bluff check, or whatever here in order to see how well the fake thing works.  Sillier things are more difficult to pull off.  Alternatively, just let them use their Charisma score in place of Strength or Dexterity when figuring out well they are pretending that an umbrella is actually a machine gun.  If you think this gives a huge advantage to characters with high Charisma. . . well, yeah, that's sort of the point.

4 Loci.  Things seem to grow faces and speak to you.  This is merely muttering for such things that are nearby, such as a couch, a potted plant, or a dog's asshole.  But things that are farther away/bigger (such as building facades, horizon lines, and the sun) these interruptions take the form of full-blown conversation, usually ridicule or nonsense.  These inanimate objects are powered by subconscious magic of the wizard's brain, and as a result, they are fully able to "fight back".  If taunted, the sun might burn the offending parties in a pillar of fire, or a dog's asshole might fill the room with a poisonous gas.

GM Notes: Think more like Alice in Wonderland than complete psychosis.  Since they are like programs hosted on the PC's brains, the loci don't know anything the PC's don't know.

5 Manifestations.  Subconscious thoughts become reality.  These manifestations are nearly always inimical, and never helpful.  Those who are wandering within a wizard's zone of madness must learn to guard their thoughts.  Wayward thoughts usually manifest themselves as hateful versions of the original thoughts.  These manifestations are also lies, and can only be damaged with fake spells and fake weapons.

GM Notes: Like in Crichton's Sphere.  Just pay attention to whatever your 
players are talking about, and sprinkle it into the game.  Someone mentions taco bell?  There's a bell on the table in the next room.  Underneath it, a taco.  But I guess use purple prose so it isn't so obvious and banal.  If one of the players catches on and says, "This is just like in Ghostbusters where they tried not to imagine anything dangerous and that one guy imagined the giant Michelin Man monster thing, haha!", well, jokes on them, because the next room has a bunch of spectral ghostbusters with ghost traps ready to ensnare the party.  Hopefully they'll learn to guard their words before someone says "dragon" or "balor" or "Chernobyl".

6 Dimensional Expression.  Paintings sometimes step off the wall.

7 Dimensional Impression.  The wizard eventually turns 2-dimensional and runs along flat surfaces.  Although they can't fly, they're really good at getting through locked doors.

8 False Deaths.  Injuries sometimes cause people to believe that they're dead.  For example, a person might believe that an opponent's attack actually severed their head--and experience their head falling onto the ground, only to find themselves standing upright a few seconds later with a nasty gash along their head (but no other injury).  Onlookers see the same thing.

9 False Corpses.  False deaths leave behind false corpses.

Final thoughts: This is pretty meta.  It might not be fun to play.  (the DM just inserts monsters from our OOC conversations now?)  It might be unplayable.  It might require a lot of attention from the DM (noticing when players are forgetting to lie, or when they're talking about movies they saw last weekend.)

Basically, it's just a bunch of new rules arranged around a theme.  You can introduce them gradually as they climb the wizard's tower, or just use the ones you like the most.  I'd probably throw out #8 and #9.  They seem the most persnickety.

Friday, September 6, 2013

L'essanque's Madness

If you cut a wizard's skull open, all you'll find is a labyrinth of scar tissue and jellied arroyos.  The arm of a junkie is spotted with old infection scars and needle tracks.  The brain of a wizard is abused in the same way, and indeed--spellcasting is impossible without the death and instant regeneration of long tracts of neurons and glia.

Wizard brains are subject to strange alchemies: some sundry, and some surreal.  They are victims of strange infections and incomplete possessions, some of which go unnoticed for years before their symptoms spring to the surface.  Like syphilis, these diseases of the mind are the result of unprotected contact with alien intelligences.

But these things are beyond the scope of this essay.

We will turn our attention, then, to the subject of madness, as it pertains to the wizard.

Wizard insanities are completely unlike the the mundane paranoias and schizophrenias of their uncorrupted counterparts.  Eldritch insanities extend beyond the mind that contain them.  Sometimes they may even extend beyond the body.

L'essanque's Madness (pronounced less-SONK) is perhaps the best characterized of all the eldritch insanities, and with some of the most "ordinary" symptoms.

0. Delusions.  This madness is characterized by the belief that there are small creatures under one's skin that eat it, or at least cause diseases.  The wizard may believe that these creatures are the result of some some experimentation of their own, but more commonly, they believe that others carried the parasites with the intent to spread infection.  Beyond this delusion, which invariably spirals into unique complexities, the wizards always retain their rationality, mental resources, and will to survive.  Other truths are invented in order to maintain their central fiction--subcutaneous parasites.

1. Hands.  In the earliest stages of the disease, the only symptom may be hand tremors.  Soon, the hands will reflexively close on objects that are placed into them.  In terminal or protracted cases, the wizard may even be unable to let go of the held item.

2. Mouth.  A strange sensitivity arises in the lips.  Wizards may unconsciously touch items to their lips in order to ascertain their textures, but this is an unreliable diagnostic.  In time, the lips grow to be bright red and gelatinous.  It is not known if this transformation would involve if it were allowed to continue, or even it if would affect the rest of the body, because the affected wizards invariably eat their own lips at this stage.  If knives or razors are at hand, they will cut the skin off their face off, from chin to nose, while citing itching as a complaint, and eat it, as well.

3. Agoraphobia. This one is well documented in even traditional handbooks of psychology.  A wizard affected by La Folie de L'essanque will take this to extremes, however, and may even resort to crouching under tables, wedging themselves into crawlspaces, and in terminal cases, creeping through the narrow spaces between walls.

4. Lights.  After a wizard affected by L'essanque's Madness has eaten their own eyes (as they invariably do) they gain a strange ability to influence lights near them.  It was originally thought that they could see out of lights, but this has been proven false.  The current hypothesis is that they are able to determine the outlines of nearby shadows, even if the shadows are behind a wall or otherwise hidden from view.

5. The "Rats".  They do not exist.  They are merely a manifestation of the wizard's madness.  They take the shape of small, humped, scuttling things with a heads in variable states of decay.  They appears as the shadows of "rats", and they attack and devour the shadows of other living creatures.  They draw no blood, but they will take bites out of your shadow, destroying your ability to see light and appreciate beauty.  Blindness, depression, and death, in that order.  The only known method to restore one's shadow (which may now be missing noticeable chunks of flesh) is the eating of raw bird-flesh.

6. Teeth.  Not the wizard's teeth.  HIS teeth grow hard and calloused.  Like lacquered stones.  YOUR teeth, if you are near him, will fall out.  They will fall out at an alarming rate, proportional to the depth of his madness.  A new sufferer might cause one of your teeth to feel loose in its socket.  A wizard plunging the abysms of madness might cause your teeth to slide painlessly from their socket at truly horrific rates.

You must guard your teeth.  Lost teeth grow to become creatures.  The best way to prevent this is to submerge each tooth in formaldehyde and keep it on your person, but other, less drastic methods work as well.

7. L'essanque's Creatures.  They resemble children (or fetuses) with malformed limbs, each with clawed hands and toothless mouths (the original tooth resides in their left eye socket, where it presses against the eyeball visibly).  They sob uncontrollably and crawl feebly towards living creatures.  When they reach their prey, they creature a puncture wound with their stiletto-like thumbs and suckle at the stream of blood that emerges.  Though they might grow engorged, their hunger never slackens.

Under no circumstances should you kill one.  It will regrow itself among your entrails.

8. Death.  In many cases, no intervention is needed, as the disease is invariably fatal.  Most recommended treatments involve sealing the affected wizard in his house.  Death comes from autocannibalism, dehydration, or suffocation (if the wizard has stuffed himself/herself into one of the walls).  The time until death is variable, however, since wizards have strange ways to prolong their lives.  Sealed domiciles should only be entered with caution.

9. Contagion.  Most wizard madnesses are contagious, and L'essanque's is no exception.  Casting spells near an infected wizard is the most known way to contract the madness, but touching the corpse can cause infection as well.  As the dead wizard's teeth are the most infectious parts of the corpse, they are sometimes ground up and used to "poison" other wizards.  Luckily, non-spellcaster's only have to worry about contracting the mundane form of the madness (that is--the delusion that parasites are living beneath your skin).