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DMs get some new challenges with role-playing madness, a non-physical state change. Because it is a poorly-understood subject among even the brightest academics and medical students alike, the complexities of this condition require multiple levels of the condition.

Four categories of madness (which can be combined to created even weirder problems) are given, listed with respective symptoms, from mild to severe:

  • Hallucinating/Schizoid, seeing or hearing things, caring for personal appearance wrongly (socks don't match, shirt on backwards) and not caring for the outer world, complete neglect of self-care, engages self-harm. (note: senses dropped, malfunctioning heart to senses). DM technique: note-passing giving single-player data of their sensory "reality".
  • Brain Fog/Dementia, unable to reason, assess situations, care for body, body decays. (note: heart drop, malfunctioning body to mind connection). DM technique: describing how the PC responds, with child-like state of mind. You have to knock them down a little if they're using reason too much at the table. Once they get in the role-playing "groove" of someone with dementia, you can start describing things to them in the child-like way that can still understand basic
  • Psychotic/Narcissistic: doesn't think before acting, irrational, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts. (note: mind dropped, malfunctioning mind to body). DM technique: reject/ignore their suggestions if they were made with reason. Take the more primitive actions inherent in their motion, like striking another (often weaker) individual simply, without wisdom around it. "You attempt to strike the X, but it pushes you down."
  • Paranoid/Anxiety Disorder, fears that are not visible to the senses or anyone else, suicidal tendencies/acts. (note: body dropped, malfunctioning senses to the heart data). DM technique: you tell them stuff that is outside the rules. If a player corrects you, you look askance (or point) at the paranoid player, and respond "No, that is how we're doing it today."

XXXThe best way to do simulate madness, since it is an internal affair, is note-passing, deceiving the player, and perhaps other trickery. It generally affects one player or, if multiple players, they may get mad differently, so multiple styles might be needed. Note-passing allows you to be their little demi-urge in their mind, telling them what is what.XXX

Note: if your table gets to the fourth category of severity listed in each disorder, consider whether your game is assisting understanding of these ailments (and creating enjoyment), or whether it is too dark and suspend the game to talk about these important issues that affect people every day. Is there something wrong with them? Is the world wrong? Both/And is the answer, not either/or. You can contact me if you'd like further understanding on these issues.

If you have three of the four symptoms, you are generally certifiably "crazy" and others will (generally) avoid you. If it is only the lighter symptoms above, you simply wouldn't have any friends (in our society at least), but beyond this, you would probably be put in a hospital. The players will have to deal with this challenging moral dilemma: do they give compassion to their player (despite that they are no longer useful to the group, drag things down, etc.) or will they abandon them?

The way to incorporate these items in gameplay is to get the players themselves to make the mistakes rather than just tell them they made the mistake in role-play. For this, you must prey upon the player's inner-most predilections and confusions (without getting abusive, of course). And get the to make the mistakes, while the rest of the table tries to figure out what the heck is going wrong. Great fun for all.

DM suggestions (in the discussions below "X" means: whatever is their present obsession, whether conceived by you or the triggered by the player, "Y" is the conclusion sprung from X):

  • hallucination: Waiting for the right moment when it could conceivably happen (utilize player's fears or desires that you know), you send the effected player a private note: "You round the corner to see a giant centaur (X), gleaming white teeth and ready to attack (if also paranoid, add: "...before everyone else sees it.", if demented add: "Do you think we should attack it?" if in also demented, you ignore it, or mumble something under your breath.)." OR "In the room you see piles of gold, gleaming with gems and prized items." Player goes to take some of the gold. "You touch the gold, but there's no weight to it." Add: "You look around at your friends with bewilderment at your good luck! (Y)" If paranoid, you might add: "You have the suspicion that you only have a short while to collect it all." Other players tell him, "there's nothing there" or "What do you see? What are you doing?" "What gold? Are you mad?"
  • brain fog: INT goes down 1/2. "You take out your sword (X), but you start getting enraptured by the gleam of light on it, ignoring other movement and noises around you. (If also hallucinating: "You hear a noise of a bird of prey (some noise of something which could change the situation they're in. (Y)) " (basically infant-like fascination with things, can't track what people want or doing). If the INT takes you below 1, you cannot function and are completely ineffectual. You stare like an infant in a stupor.
  • psychosis: "You attack your party member (X) without provocation for some insignificant thing that they did wrong in the past (like didn't want to go to the castle when you did)." "The barkeep LOOKS wrong. The dimple on his nose reminds you of the worst kind of human being in the world (X). When he moves to clean up something at the bar, it proves you right -- he's (actually probably) related to that shitbag enemy of your family name. It's time to set things right. (Y)"
  • paranoia: DM: "The darkness of the rock (X) makes you feel uneasy. You start thinking that the rock doesn't like you. (Y)" Player acts confused. DM: "You're not confused about it. There's something definitely wrong with X. The more you delay, the more menacing it gets. Your own character/personhood is about to topple. What do you do?"

DM Notes:


  • Truth be told, because of the diseases in our society, most every person will exhibit some low-level symptom of one of the above. You might best consider not mentioning this if you observe it, if you're young. Most people adapt to the problem in various ways (drugs, ignoring the problem, sudden bouts of anger which are quickly waved away, hyper-control over their micro-world), but they are all, ultimately, ineffective.
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