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Go Mad From The Revelation / Tabletop Games

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People going mad from the revelation in tabletop games.


  • Arkham Horror has this as one of the major functions of the game. Anytime a character loses all of their sanity (or during rare specific situations), that character is "driven insane" and is moved to Arkham Asylum or Lost In Time And Space (depending on the situation), where they regain their sanity, but lose half of their possessions, which basically feels like losing both of your arms given how precious these things are. Situations that can easily make a player lose their mind: Failing a horror check so that their character cannot even comprehend their opponent, casting a spell but being unable to handle the strain, reading a tome and losing more sanity than a player has, or encountering an event anywhere in the game that results in a player losing sanity and driving them mad.
    A teller you've never seen before insists she just saw you come in and make a deposit the day before. She proves it by showing your signature. Gain $5, but lose 1 sanity.
    • The Dunwich Horror expansion introduces "Injury" and "Madness" cards. Now, instead of losing half of your belongings, you can take a madness card when driven insane. The effect is hardly much better as cards can make you lose sanity without another player around, force you to spend extra clue tokens for skill checks, repeatedly take sanity damage against monsters for the rest of the game, reduce your maximum clue tokens, or just outright lower your maximum sanity. You can also have multiple madness cards, making surviving the game incredibly difficult. Even worse, if you are driven insane a second time or more, and draw a madness card that matches one you already have, you are devoured, forcing you to pick out a new investigator and start your inventory over with their base inventory.
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    • A character drawing an Innsmouth Card or specific characters failing their personal quests can have their nightmares come full force back to them so they realize that they were never nightmares, they were memories of their life, as they're actually Deep Ones who lost their memories in human form. This results in that investigator card being treated as devoured (discard it an all belongings, that player draws a new card), and where the player token on the board was, a person places a Deep One monster.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The Ravenloft campaign setting had tons of things that could drive a character insane, or at least prompt a Madness Check. Like direct mind-to-mind contact with a fiend. More common are Horror Checks (which cause lasting mental trauma, but usually not insanity) and Fear Checks (which simply cause the victim to panic.)
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    • The Lords of Madness supplement indicates that the safest thing to do with the spellbook of an aboleth or the power stone of a mind flayer is to bury it, because trying to actually use the damn thing would do horrible things to the contents of your skull.
    • The Arcanis world-setting, along with the Living Arcanis campaign, featured Larissa. She started as the goddess of Fate, Prophecy, and all that jazz but one day she looked too far into the future and, well, went mad from the revelation. Now she's the goddess of sensuality, lust, and ladies (and men) of the evening. Apparently she's convinced that the fate she saw will come to pass and that she needs to get in as much pleasure now before it all goes kablooey.
    • Module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. No mortal being can behold the true nature of Lolth's Web (an eye-torturing, blazing tangle of twisted, rope-like strands) and remain sane. If someone under the effect of a true seeing, true sight or detect illusion spell looks at the Web for more than 1 minute, they will go raving mad.
  • Pathfinder: A mage named Nethys got a look at the fundamental secrets of reality, and the experience 1) ascended him to godhood and 2) snapped his mind clean in half. He's now the god of magic — all magic, regardless of scale or purpose, and blesses every kind of magical research, from "creating a new spell to feed a nation in a famine" to "hey, I bet if I combine these concepts I can rain horrible death from the sky".
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    • Something like this also happened to the god Zon-Kuthon. Once a god of art and beauty named Dou-Bral, he felt jealous of his twin sister Shelyn being Always Someone Better, and left to explore the cosmos for inspiration. He encountered something that warped his mind, and returned as Zon-Kuthon, the twisted god of pain and darkness.
  • The Black Spiral Dancers from Werewolf: The Apocalypse get their name because every last one of them walked the Black Spiral Labyrinth, an equally metaphorical and literal path that brought them face-to-face with the Wyrm (the cosmic embodiment of suffering and hatred). The Black Spiral Labyrinth is a nightmarish spiritual realm within the mind of the Wyrm, with nine circles that test and torment visitors. The experience breaks the minds of all but the most strong-willed like a twig. Many Black Spiral Dancers take their deed name after whatever pathetic growls or mewling noises come out of their mouth upon "revelation."
    • Similarly, the Weaver, originally a cosmic embodiment of order and purpose, went insane and became an all-consuming force for stasis. In one version of the story, the Weaver tried to define the Wyld (a cosmic embodiment of primal chaos) and got the biggest "DOES NOT COMPUTE" in history. In another version, the Weaver experienced an existential crisis after the Wyld kept changing its creations and the Wyrm kept destroying them, driving it insane.
    • The Wyrm itself was originally a general elegant destroyer to keep pattern from overwhelming order and provide fresh unordered energy for the Wyld, before the Weaver tied it up. The central Wyrm went mad from the impossibility of essentially imprisoning a fireball with string, and what few pieces escaped went crazy from realizing what had happened to the world without them.
    • Over in the New World of Darkness, the Bale Hounds of Werewolf: The Forsaken are said to have completely gone off their collective nut on finding the site of Father Wolf's murder.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is the schtick of the insane seers of Clan Malkavian, and is also a popular trait amongst the utterly inhuman Tzimisce.
  • Fan game Genius: The Transgression has the Genius condition being somewhat contagious- exposure to mad science can turn an ordinary human into a Beholden, or even cause a Breakthrough to becoming a full fledged Genius. This isn't generally encouraged as there's enough fighting over resources as it is.
  • Mage: The Ascension. One could say that Awakening to the realization that all reality is controlled by the belief of people, that your beliefs can change it more than others, and that humanity has become an apathetic race unwilling to realize the wonderment of the world is simply the start of a long, torturous road to death or complete insanity. Some Mages make the (subconscious) decision to reject any reality but their own, wrapping themselves in a bubble of delusion, and unable to see anything outside it, eventually being ejected from the fabric of the world itself. Some Mages become brainwashed into reinforcing the frozen reality as it is (i.e. science) forming a contradiction in themselves against their dynamic nature. Then there's the Nephandi, the depths of depravity who would sell humanity out to Demons just for power. Since, by being a mage, you change reality with your beliefs just by existing, you're constantly violating general reality, you're always a little off even if you can avoid those three disastrous paths above.
  • Hunter: The Reckoning
    • You are a normal guy who realizes that humanity is just the playthings of vampires, werewolves, fairies, zombies, etc, and always has been since the dawn of time. The voices in your head telling you this is the truth doesn't exactly help.
    • And then there are the two groups who hear the voices far more clearly than anyone else. One goes insane to stop the voices from destroying their minds outright. The other experiences all the rage and hatred behind the voices, and starts coming up with genocidal plans against the supernatural without concern for anyone who gets in the way.
  • Magic: The Gathering has some examples in the flavor text of some cards:
    • The Unspeakable, from the Kamigawa block vignettes.
    • Glimpse the Unthinkable, whose flavor text provides a good quote on the Quotes page.
    • Obsessive Search, from the set called Torment... and has the keyword ability Madnessnote ...
    • The Rise of Eldrazi set is understandably full of characters going batshit insane upon seeing the eponymous creatures.
    • See Beyond does this partially, by allowing you to draw cards, but then forcing you to shuffle a card into your library (from a flavor standpoint, shuffling the card away means you didn't forget the spell, it's just lost somewhere inside your mind, and you might remember it later). The flavor text even points this out.
      Ancient lore locked in a mind driven mad is just as safe as when it was locked deep underground.
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • This game can (appropriately enough) be basically considered the Trope Codifier at least as far as role-playing games are concerned. Practically everything even mildly disturbing to a character's worldview has a chance of nibbling away at his or her sanity score, and full exposure to the horrors of the Mythos can cause him or her to snap (temporarily or permanently) rather quickly; thus, part of the challenge of playing is puzzling out a solution to the problems and pitfalls posed by the scenario without learning too much in the bargain. One edition of the rulebook even joked about it: "The only game where the big prize for finishing an adventure is a moldy old book which, when read, causes your face to melt off."
    • CthulhuTech, on the other hand, plays with this. Reading arcane texts, for example, can slowly drive you over the brink, as you'd expect exposure to the Necronomicon would. So does exposure to god-like aliens or their avatars or anything else that every natural law is struggling against. Realizing that the Doahanoids you vaporized with a charge cannon weren't isn't good for your grip on reality, either. However, since the Japanese Media Tropes the game adds to the Mythos call for a certain level of idealism, society at large is entirely aware of these effects, and There Are Therapists to reduce or eliminate the dementia characters gain.
    • The Call of Cthulhu adventure "City Beneath the Sands" actually turns this trope against the Eldritch Abomination. If the heroes fail to prevent the bad guys from linking their sleeping god-alien's mind with the collective subconscious of human dreamers everywhere, it's the god that goes mad, overwhelmed by contact with millions of human psyches (which are just as disturbing to it as vice versa). Sleepers worldwide just mainline nightmares for a night.
    • 7th Edition has an optional rule called "Mythos Hardening" that downplays this: If you ever manage to survive having more points in Mythos Lore than your current sanity, you'll only lose half as much sanity points from all sources from then on, even if you become more sane later.
  • Likewise used in Trail of Cthulhu. The scenario The Final Revelation ends with the main characters learning to their abject horror that the entire world was devoured by terrible alien gods before they had even set out to stop them; the few surviving humans including them and their loved ones are twisted monsters, and everything they perceive about the world is just an illusion their damaged minds tell themselves. They all immediately go insane as London dissolves away into a surreal, inescapable waking nightmare. Talk about a Downer Ending.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000
    • Many people who encounter the daemons of Chaos, especially the daemons of Tzeentch and Nurgle. (It's the smell, really...)
    • Archaon, the Everchosen of Chaos, is rumored to have once been a templar of Sigmar who read a forbidden manuscript and went batshit after learning the truth about the Gods including his own Sigmar. He is now the Big Bad among the warriors of Chaos and set to bring about the end of the world.
    • The past three editions of the Eldar codex have all contained the following quote:
    Inquisitor Czevak: Ask not the Eldar a question for they will give you three answers, all of which are true and terrifying to know.
    • And then, because Warhammer 40,000 takes everything Up to Eleven, we have Kairos Fateweaver. Kairos was a freaking daemon whose god, Tzeentch, threw him into the Well of Eternity, a pool of infinite knowledge. Kairos came back with full knowledge of the past, present, and future, as well as two heads which are both insane. At any time one of them lies and the other tells the truth. Let's be absolutely clear: the premier avatar of the Warhammer 40,000 universe's god of knowledge and fate went insane when it found out the truth about the universe, every other aspect of the god that's tried it did not survive, and the god himself is too scared to look. Crapsack universe doesn't begin to describe this place.
    • This happens to nearly all of Tzeentch's followers. Tzeentch grants his more loyal followers, like sorcerers, enhanced powers over the Warp and the ability to weave vast, Machiavellian schemes, but the new-found omniscience drives them to insanity.
  • Unknown Armies
    • The Madness Meters have many varieties of ways to show how a multitude of stressful experiences, among them anything dealing with the supernatural, can either harden you into a sociopath or drive you insane.

      The Unnatural Madness Meter is meant to represent the psychological strain of seeing something that doesn't conform to your worldview, not the inability to comprehend or accept what you've seen. One of the themes in the game is that magic and the supernatural may be weird and freaky, even to those that are clued in, but it is also part of the world and is not beyond understanding. Even Reality Warpers aren't an offense to that natural order of things, but the ones that dictate and sometimes change the natural order as needed. The Muggles also aren't as helpless as with most Masquerades and are in fact the ultimate source of magical power due to a symbolic variant of Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
  • Victoriana demonologists have a spell that can expose the recipient to all the beauty of Entropy in two seconds. The recipient invariably goes mad (at least temporarily).
  • Nobilis has a variant in Dementia Animus. If you are a mortal who succumbs to this as a result of witnessing miracles, you don't go mad; you go sane in such a way that you can see Mythic Reality, in which everything has a spirit and there's a guy holding up the sky. Of course, to everyone else who cannot see the spirit of your toaster, you appear totally bonkers and will usually come to a bad end. Fortunately, at least in third edition, you can receive succor, and forget what you have seen, by meeting Surolam, the dog-headed god of ordinary things.
  • This is what Insight and Madness stunt dice represent in the Lovecraft Lite Fiasco playset Unausspreclichen Klutzen. When you get the Madness die, you go mad. When you get the Insight die, you go mad...but, you know, in a happy way.
  • In The Othersa corruption story is played with the Dark Past cards labeled 1 through 7. 1 is the best, labeled "Clear Conscience", however it is the only one that doesn't harm the character. 2 is "Slightly Troubled", and your character is damaged due to something that is bothering their mind. 3 is "The Guilty One" and causes the apocalypse track to raise when revealed. 4 is "Former Hell Club" and the player remembers their past and takes either 3 wounds or 3 corruption. 5 is "Psychopathy Trigger" and the player goes nuts, damaging themselves and all nearby players for two wounds. 6 is "Suicide Pact" and kills the player at the end of the round. Finally, 7 is "the Tainted One" and your character is forcibly taken control of by The Sin. All of these cards are activated by using corruption or being too corrupted by the enemy.


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