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Berserk Button / Tabletop Games

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When a nice, normal character suddenly goes into a rage, you've hit his Berserk Button.

  • Of the various Clans in BattleTech, the Ghost Bears are frequently considered to be the most laid back and least aggressive. Unless you attack their capital, Alshain. Or use nuclear weapons. Or they have any reason whatsoever to even suspect that you might be associated with Clan Wolverine. Doing any of the above makes them angry. That's very, very bad.
    • While the Diamond Sharks would rather sell you weapons than shoot you with them, if you attack their mercantile interests or civilians you are in for a beating. When the Draconis Combine was trying to acquire advanced technology after most of their production centers were destroyed in the Jihad, they went to the Sharks. The local warlord gave them a continent to set up shop but a few of his senior officers took offense to this "Clan occupation" and killed a few hundred civilians. By the time the warlord managed to call his subordinates off, the Combine had lost two regiments.
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    • For most Clans they consider having non-warrior castes taking up arms as abhorrent; when it's discovered that Clan Blood Spirit, one of the smallest clans, was using armed militia to bolster their forces, the remaining clans call for the Blood Spirits' annihilation.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Demon prince Graz'zt is probably the least likely demon lord to rip you apart just for existing, even opening his layers of the abyss for trade. Mention that he actually fell in love with Iggwilv, that Malcanthet turned him down, or call his domain "The Little Hells," and he will feed you to the predatory plants in his gardens.
    • Do NOT talk about dragons around a behir.
    • In 4th Edition, suggesting that a half-orc was a Child by Rape in earshot of one is a quick way to get your teeth punched out.
    • To make lycanthropy less predictable, Ravenloft encourages Game Masters to link werebeasts' involuntary transformations (and subsequent Berserk Button rampages) to phenomena other than the full moon, such as the tides, exposure to a particular odor, food or substance, or stressful situations such as feeling hemmed in by a crowd.
    • In the Eberron campaign setting, the local Proud Warrior Race are the elves of Valenar. Calling a Valenar a vadis nia (which means "disgracer of the blood" in their tongue) or otherwise accusing them of disgracing their ancestors is an extremely effective way of getting yourself into a fight with a furious elf who thinks he's a Klingon.
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  • Earthdawn. Each ork has certain specific things (situations, topics of conversations, actions, etc.) that can trigger a terrible rage in them, which usually leads to violence. Some examples of this type of trigger (called a "gahad") are slavery, infidelity, family loyalty, competence at a profession, pastimes or favorite hobbies, possessions, who's really in authority, Horrors, politics and the Theran Empire.
  • Exalted: Even if an Exalt fills their Limit meter, it's not necessarily enough for them to go into a Limit Break. Rather, each Break comes with a trigger condition, such as "Annoyed at the childish nature of the world" or "Witness an act of suffering that you could easily stop." A good example of this trope in its pure form is the Red Rage of Compassion break, which typically involves a normally kind-hearted and compassionate Solar going into an Unstoppable Rage after seeing one too many innocents cut down.
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  • The "Consumer On the Brink" archetype from the Feng Shui supplement "Seed of the New Flesh" is not very powerful in terms of skills. But attack him or put him in close proximity to his irritant, which is a Berserk Button or something else that pisses him off to no end, and he gets 4 bonus points that he can distribute however he wishes between his Body and Reflexes stat, which can affect his combat AVs.
  • GURPS has multiple ways of simulating this in a character, the most common of which is simply called Berserk.
  • Old World of Darkness:
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: If you ever cross paths with a member of the Sabbat on the Path of Honourable Accord, don't ever, ever, ever, EVER accuse them of breaking their word. They will pursue you with the full fury of a raging vampire until you either apologize, die, or kill them.
      • Clan Brujah has this as their hat. Almost every Brujah vampire has something that throws them off in some way... or in some cases, almost everything pisses them off. Some are more easily pushed than others, but even the calmest elder of the clan has something that pisses them off — and you don't want to be anywhere in the general vicinity if that button gets pressed.
      • The existence of Clan Toreador is pretty much a Berserk Button for Clan Nosferatu.
    • The Progenitors are, as Technocrats go, rather laid-back, friendly, and focused on making the world a better place rather than controlling it... but they view the promotion of homeopathy, New Age remedies, and other forms of alternative medicine pseudo-science as literal war crimes, and it's the reason they're by far the most gung-ho of the Conventions about wiping out Reality Deviants.
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse the Nuwisha can magically learn just the right statement to set off someone's berzerk button.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • Hunter: The Vigil: Because they accidentally had a hand in the rise of the Third Reich, and are now trying to atone for it, the Loyalists of Thule loathe Nazis and anyone willing to follow their philosophy. Members who show neo-Nazi tendencies have a strong chance of finding themselves suddenly abandoned in a monster's lair while on a mission.
    • Beast: The Primordial: While this doesn't mean they will let themselves be taken down easily, Beasts, because of their strong sense of family, can to an extend understand and even sympathize with hunters who fight to defend their relatives and peers. Humans who hunt monsters down for fun and profit, on the other hand, they despise, and obliterate with no mercy. They are especially disgusted by the Ashwood Abbey and the Cheiron Group.
    • The Free Council in Mage: The Awakening are usually a bit more lenient with Left-Handed magic than the Pentacle, as long as it's directed against people like the Seers of the Throne. However, the Council is also very protective of Muggles. As a result, while a mage who regularly messes with the Lower Depths but turns those forces on the bad guys is likely to be tolerated (if not necessarily liked) among the Libertines, those whose Legacies rely upon harming the Sleepers are likely to find their lives significantly shortened when the local Assembly finds out.
    • In the fan-made Genius: The Transgression, there's the entirety of the Etherites, which represent the worst parts of the Victorian sort of science, especially the part about refusing to acknowledge their precious, beloved pet theory is flat-out wrong. They're pissed at reality itself for being different from it, and will try to vaporize you if you bring this factual wrongness up.
  • In Paranoia, avoid being a Communist. Friend Computer will allow mutants to register their powers, and may even be lenient on traitors. But if you are a Commie (or made to look like one), you WILL be terminated.
  • Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution: Two examples are in the game's fluff.
    • Don't accuse Tim of using his psychokinesis unethically or he'll throw a fit, almost to the point of overloading.
    • God help you if you tell Mama Bear that you've hurt her friends and may your insurance provider be merciful if you do.
  • In Shadowrun, the Great Dragon Lofwyr (CEO of Saeder-Krupp, one of the Big Ten AAA-ranked MegaCorps) has two known Berserk Buttons. First, being Locked Out of the Loop where his own company is concerned. Lofwyr personally monitors and manages every aspect of Saeder-Krupp from the bottom up, and woe be to anyone who attempts to undercut him. Second, don't tell him that he is a corrupt, self-serving corporate headmaster; otherwise he'll come after you personally and devour you whole.
  • In Unknown Armies, the Rage Passion that all characters have is that thing that really sends a character into pissed-off rage mode. As Passions are perhaps the deepest part of an Unknown Armies character and the character goes all spooky-intense when put into situations that trigger one of the Passions, the Rage Passion is very much a dramatic Berserk Button.
  • Warhammer: Dwarves take their beards VERY seriously. The War of Vengeance kicked off when a Dwarven emissary was shaved by the overly arrogant elven king for his own amusement, which was the final straw leading to the breakdown of already-strained relations between the Elves and Dwarves in general. By the way, it is also not recommended to refer to that particular war by its elven term, "the War of the Beard", within dwarven earshot.
    • The Lizardmen have as many of these as they do lizards, including (and not limited to): taking their gold tablets with messages from the old ones, looking at the Slaan mages funny (with or without murderous intent), disagreeing with said Slaan mages, and getting in their way.
    • Mechanically speaking, if Vlad von Carstein sees his wife Isabella killed on the battlefield, the result involves an ancient and powerful vampire lord flipping his lid on an epic scale and attempting to individually kill everyone in the other army.
    • Teclis is the greatest High Elf mage in existence, and maintains a light-hearted if somewhat caustic sense of humour about his crippled condition. His brother, Tyrion, is the greatest High Elf warrior in existence and... well, he doesn't, let's just put it that way. Probably not a good idea to poke fun at Teclis with Tyrion in earshot.
    • Do not even imply that you're offering Settra the Imperishable, ruler of the Tomb Kings, any position where he'd be serving anyone at all. In his words, "Settra does not serve! SETTRA RULES!", and so trying to offer him a subordinate position to anyone will make him your permanent enemy; he's told the Chaos Gods themselves he'd be coming to kill them for even thinking they could command him.
  • The Arco-Flagellants in Warhammer 40,000 are designed specifically to turn into berserk killing machines with the proper command. Don't examine them too closely, either. Bring up the Squats at any GW event, and you'll find that the Berserk Button works in real life, too.
    • Use the word "traitor" or "heretic" around the Sisters of Battle in reference to someone. Purging ensues.
    • Mentioning the horrible fanfic Squad Broken is a general berserk button for the fan base.
      • So anyway, what happened to the Squats? *duck and cover*
    • Eldar: In peace, they're gentle, logical, at-one-with nature, etc, with peaceful, quiet occupations. In war, they turn into furious killing machines, losing their identity to the overwhelming desire to annihilate the enemy. Oh, and if you steal or destroy Eldar soulstones, they'll hunt you down and destroy you and everyone and everything you've ever known and loved.
    • Suggesting harming civilians in front of the Salamanders is a bad idea, even if you're a chapter master.
    • Killing an Ethereal acts as a Berserk Button for the Tau, provided they pass a morale test. If they fail the morale test, they run away. If they pass, they go fucking nuts.
      • Also concerning the Tau, Gue'vasa auxiliaries are a Berserk Button for the Imperium. So much so, that Imperial units get a close combat bonus against them.
    • Black Templars: Shoot one their battle brothers, the entire squad comes charging at you. This has led to comparisons with Berserkers of Khorne (to who, technically, everything is a Berserk Button (but Slaaneshi followers even more so)).
    • Cowardice is Khorne's Berserk Button. Slaughter defenseless women and children too much? He'll think you're a spineless pussy and set his hounds on you. Psykers also piss him off, because he thinks killing things with your brain at a distance is cowardice, even compared to things like artillery, and definitely when compared to rushing in with a chainaxe and mangling shit yourself. As a result, he gives his followers ways to resist their powers and demands they leave none alive.


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