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Power Born of Madness

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"The Joker's a special case. Some of us feel he may be beyond treatment. In fact, we're not even sure if he can be properly defined as insane... It's quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception. More suited to urban life in the twenty-first century."

The strength of a madman is proverbial, and with good reason. Madness allows people to brush aside the instinctive and conscientious inhibitions that stop the rest of us using our full potential, and perform feats of great strength. Unfortunately, this is also very likely to throw the person right into the prison or the cemetery. Obviously, the same principle will work for supernatural powers. The mad can break through all those barriers meant to keep humans safe, and access their true potential, which would be nice if they weren't stark raving bonkers.

Particularly common forms of this include:

When used for humour, these characters simply live a few notches lower on the realism scale than the world around them.

One form of Deadly Upgrade and sometimes Charles Atlas Superpower. Compare With Great Power Comes Great Insanity (the sister trope), where the power came first, the madness later. Contrast Enlightenment Superpowers, where it's a sanity/morality uplifting epiphany that grants power, and Sanity Has Advantages, where a person's madness is their Fatal Flaw. See also Success Through Insanity.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Espers in A Certain Magical Index gain their powers based on their own warped inner view of the world being so powerful that it actually affects the world around them. When you look at the level fives, it becomes only too clear what this means for a person: At least three of them have committed murder, one is a paranoid mind control user, one's identity is unknown because they never appear anywhere and the last one is convinced that he's a superhero. Only Mikoto Misaka is actually well balanced and normal, making her the poster girl for the level fives by default despite her own personality flaws.
  • Unlike other homicidal maniacs in Black Lagoon, Roberta becomes far more powerful and dangerous when she goes off the deep end, with complicated strategies and maneuvers that lunatics like Hansel and Gretel distinctly lacked.
  • Death Note implies, but never outright confirms, that the only people capable of using a Death Note successfully are ones with spiritual strength and emotional conviction. And someone like Light is definitely strong, but not totally normal. The clue that separates him from Misa, Mikami, Takada, and Higuchi is that they seem to slide closer to With Great Power Comes Great Insanity, being that it's Light that had roped the rest of them into his evil plans, and there's not a great deal of evidence to support the fact that, without his influence, the rest of them would've used it to the extent he did, or would've made themselves out to be gods far above the rest of humanity.note 
  • In Fate/stay night, Berserker class Servants have a Mad Enhancement ability that increases all of their stats by one rank at the cost of their sanity while in use.
  • In Naruto, the inherent power of the Uchiha clan (Sharingan) may be activated only in the event of suffering ultimate stress and loss so strong that they break the Uchiha somewhere deep. It can upgrade into the Mangekyo Sharingan, but only after even greater trauma. Clan lore held that the only way to unlock the Mangekyo was to murder your closest friend, though it's shown that other equally traumatic events can also work. Every Uchiha with the Mangekyo, even ones who didn't cause the trauma themselves, has been insane, broken, or both. This is because the Uchiha clan were living under the ideal known as the "curse of hatred": as the Uchiha are very devoted to love and friendship, losing the object of their affections turns said love into hatred, and the ensuing despair triggers the manifestation of an unique chakra in their brains which impacts their optic nerves and awakens this power.
    • The exception is Sarada from Boruto. Since she was born after the curse of hatred was purged and instead she embraced the Will of Fire, she got her initial Sharingan from being incredibly happy at the prospect of seeing her father, and her Mangekyo from the fear of losing him rather than losing him outright.
  • The Incubators of Puella Magi Madoka Magica consider humanity's magical potential this, as it's fueled by emotion (which the Incubators believe is a mental disorder). The plot is driven by the Incubators' attempts to farm and use this power without revealing it to the humans.
  • In Ranma ½, Ranma taps into this whenever he uses Nekoken/Cat Fu, which he can only use when his phobia of cats peaks and he becomes convinced that he himself is a cat.
  • Rebuild World: Coworkers gossiping about Pamela being able to control an entire army of Remote Body androids suggest it's only because of how unhinged she is that she's capable of it.
  • In Shadow Skill, this caused the Start of Darkness of Fallen Hero Kain Phalanx.
  • Kaori Sakiyama (you must say her full name, it's a rule) in Air Master. Little training, yet is a formidable martial artist against anyone except the main character simply due to her insane rage against her lot in life. She has even unlocked special attacks simply because she's that ticked off.
  • In Soul Eater, Madness is everywhere.
    • The madness of the Demon God Asura not only warped reality around him slightly, but actually was infectious, forcing those near him to see threatening hallucinations and more importantly, if left to run rampant, the madness would blanket the world, driving everyone insane.
    • The black blood is an even better example, since Crona and Maka gain a great deal of power from being insane under its influence.
    • Later on in the manga, (the anime didn't get that far) madness is a full-blown phlebotinum. It is researched and used for attacks, creating "clowns" from it for additional power boost or protection, etc. The main researcher is Medusa, the creator of above-mentioned black blood. She herself is notably sane and chastised by rival factions for creating "fake clowns". Noah's fraction, notably Justin, are more about using natural White Clowns.
    • Later on, Black*Star and Kid both utilize madness as well, having earned the favor of the Eldritch Abomination from the Book of Eibon. They were both already somewhat crazy anyway, so it's a fairly logical step to just go the whole way. Speaking of the Book of Eibon, said Eldritch Abomination, the Black Mass, actually represents Madness born of Power.
    • All characters make use of the phlebotinum, but Kid is a slightly different instance, seeing as -if one believes the Salvage arc- he's either a Clone or a Soul Jar of a Great Old One (The Grim Reaper himself), Eldritch Abominations who in this universe are (supposedly) incarnations of madness - Madness of Law in his case, foreshadowed by his Obsessively Organized personality. Also demonstrated that these beings are susceptible to one another, as Kid reacts badly to both Asura (fear) and the Great Old One (power) inside the book.
      • In the end, though, madness is revealed to be a Superpowered Evil Side, that incarnations of concepts like him can use to vastly increase their power and become virtually indestructible, at the small cost of destroying minds of everyone else by just existing. While Asura, drives people mad with fear, Kid after assuming his father's mantle would have turned them into his mindless puppets of his law, had he succumbed to temptation of using madness as well.
    • Stein also makes use of the madness to gain advantage in battle, in his case the madness was always there (increasing since around half of the story), it was just being repressed; in the Battle of the Moon, he releases all his madness in the beginning and then regains control later in the battle.
  • Maniwa in Paranoia Agent becomes utterly convinced he's in touch with another plane of existence. He hears voices, sees things that aren't there, and acts like a superhero. The plot even starts calling him "Radar Man," and that lunatic may or may not be our last best hope at figuring out what the Hell's really going on.

    Comic Books 
  • This is a common theme in the Batman mythos.
    • The Joker is sometimes portrayed as being able to see through the Fourth Wall because of his insanity.
      • In one issue of his own series from the 1970s, the Joker was able to simultaneously fight off both Black Canary and Green Arrow using a "strength born of madness".
      • In more than one comic, the Joker's madness is presented as a type of superpower; in an Elseworlds comic where every meta was depowered, he was rendered sane.
      • In a Batman/Judge Dredd crossover, Judge Death tried to possess Joker's body but ended going straight through his head and falling out through the other ear.
      • It's also implied in Batman: Arkham Asylum that the Joker's insanity was the only reason why he retained his mind after injecting himself with Titan.
      • Harley Quinn has a degree of it too. For example, there's a villain named Johnny Sorrow who appears to be invisible but wearing a suit and a mask. In fact, he was torn apart and put back together by a horrifying Eldritch Abomination called the King of Tears, and now You Cannot Grasp the True Form. When he's masked, you see nothing. When he's not, looking at him will outright kill you. Even very powerful characters you'd expect to be immune to such things have suffered fates like petrification, blindness, or insanity. Captain Atom, made of energy, seemed to get vaporized but was actually teleported far away, his powers kicking in in a way they don't normally work because of the need to be as far from that thing as possible, now. What happened when Johnny Sorrow unmasked before Harley?
        Harley: [grins] Cute face. [kicks him]
    • Batman himself is often shown to possess a form of Power Born of Madness — his obsession with justice is so great that mental powers meant to play on any other trait simply slide off.
    • In the early Batman stories, whenever the culprit was an old man, you could count on the following fight to include a caption with 'the strength of a madman' in it explaining why Batman wasn't able to take him down with a finger snap.
  • Deadpool is an interesting example of both With Great Power Comes Great Insanity and this. His lunacy is due to having been imbued with superhuman regeneration while suffering from terminal cancer (or just made him more insane depending on the stories), which means that his brain is constantly rotting away and regenerating back. However, this same insanity grants him several perks that increase his power even further.
  • In From Hell, Dr. William Gull aka. Jack the Ripper is shown as having hallucinations typical of serial killers (the annotations even make this explicit), and his notion that he's on some kind of a significant occult quest is loony too. But it seems to work: his hallucinations sometimes show him visions of the future he couldn't possibly imagine without getting information across time, and he is also observed manifesting in different times and places.
  • The Incredible Hulk:
    • This is what the Hulk runs on, and heavily implied to be the reason that Banner not only survived the detonation of the gamma bomb, but why the Hulk is so much more powerful than most, if not all of the gamma mutates that have come before or since. His already fractured psyche created a monster based on the trauma he received as a child, and the personae emerged from different stages of his life that Banner denied himself the person he wanted to be (Savage the angry child, Joe Fixit the late adolescent, etc.). Adding to this, his long-suppressed rage gives the Hulk the ability to get stronger when he gets madder. His anger is shown to be so powerful that not only does it cause Unstoppable Rage but also gives him immunity to mind control and other telepathic attacks, often showing him simply shrugging it off. Also explains his more varied abilities, like being able to see ghosts, as Banner always feared his long-dead abusive father would come back to torment him again.
    • Gamma radiation based powers seem to work like this in general. Gamma radiation brings out everything people suppress (assuming it doesn't just kill them like real radiation poisoning). Depending on what they are suppressing, the resulting transformations can be...unpleasant.
  • Dr. Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, does crazy things when he's not on his meds. Specifically, he has bipolar disorder. During his creative highs he's capable of building a superpowerful and destructive robot made of plutonium. During his soul-crushing depressive lows he feels horrible enough to seriously consider activating it.
  • The Punisher: The deadly threat that Frank Castle represents is often credited to his psychotic pain threshold and utter lack of inhibition towards hurting people.
  • The Question: Vic Sage's abilities post-Steve Ditko consisted of having an odd mask and paranoia — lots and lots of paranoia. Originally, he was just a good detective, fighter and skilled at criminal psychology.
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Max's mind is so screwed up he's immune to all forms of mind control and hypnosis, has various psychic powers (which mostly served as Deus ex Machina or one-time gags until The Devil's Playhouse) and awareness of the fourth wall. Granted, this awareness is shaky, but so is his awareness of his own world.
  • Peter Milligan's Shade, the Changing Man is the prime example of the Reality Warper ("forge what you need on the smithy of your soul"). He began merely poetic, and therefore only insane to his native culture, so he was able to survive being flung through the Area of Madness relatively insane. With time on Earth, he got much madder. Loma, from Shade, the Changing Girl, follows suit.
  • Whirl from The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye does this on purpose: specifically, he's (mostly) rational but deliberately acts insane (or deliberately makes himself insane, nobody can really tell) in combat. His behavior makes him feared by Decepticons and Autobots alike.
  • Rorschach from Watchmen, Captain Ersatz to The Question, is similarly able to do things like fighting off cops with some hairspray and a match because he is crazy, crazy, badass, and crazy.
  • Welcome to Hoxford has Ray Delgado, who succeeds in dangerous situations because he's just that disconnected from reality. Who else would come up with the idea of biting off a werewolf's tongue as it's snarling at you? He even finishes the series by challenging the Alpha to a Duel to the Death and wins, effectively becoming the packleader without actually being a werewolf.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Apparently this is the reason "Howling Mad" Murdock from The A-Team is recruited in the first place. The movie version of him can make various airborne vehicles perform in ways that defy all laws of physics and decency.
    • Murdock appears to be able to fake any foreign accent required (but often just for fun) and speaks Swahili at a customs desk, despite showing no previous knowledge of foreign languages to his teammates or to the audience.
      • He also appears to be immune to electroshock therapy, even enjoying it while the frustrated doctors keep cranking up the voltage to no avail. It takes nothing less than a bullet to the head to make him feel sane for a while.
  • The original Friday the 13th has Pamela Voorhees, an insane but mundane-looking middle-aged woman who manages to not only hurl a dead body so it crashes through a window, but also arrow a grown man in his eyes, stomach, and dick powerful enough that he ends up being pinned to a door several feet above ground. This is in contrast to her more well-known son, Jason, who is also insane but is a hulking man mountain, therefore logical enough to do such feats.
  • Gallian in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is one of the last magi. He figures out how to be independent from servitude (a magus must serve a king) by naming himself king of the mindless Krugg. He then forges them into a fearless horde that he uses to try to conquer the kingdom of Ehb. He also gains more power by sleeping with Muriella, the daughter of Merick, the king's magus. When confronted by Merick, they converse while dueling with magical swords suspended in mid-air. Merick finally realizes that Gallian has truly gone insane with power. Gallian doesn't deny and shows him exactly what madness can do, even though Merick is the older and more experienced magus.
    Gallian: You have no idea... how powerful madness can be.
  • In the movie version of Silent Hill, Alessa's powers are born of overwhelming hatred and despair, which ultimately adds up to madness. Plus, have you SEEN the Abandoned Hospital slash Black Bug Room she calls home!?
  • Insanity seems to be the primary source of physical strength for the antagonists of the Scream series. In the second installment, even a middle-aged woman with no sign of physical training is able to overpower and kill young men who should be in their prime.

  • In Dracula, Renfield tries to exploit this. "It is said that madmen have incredible strength. I am mad, or was, and I resolved to use all of my mad strength to attack him." Sure enough, he’s able to grapple with Dracula, who was previously said to have the strength of twenty men, and doesn’t let go until Dracula turns his Hypnotic Eyes on him.
  • In the Bookworm series, certain types of magical energies can only be summoned to the mortal plane-and used- by the insane. Coupled with the fact that dark magic drives people insane, and normal magic is no match for dark magic(especially necromancy), the only thing keeping the muggles from utter enslavement by immortal evil and insane sorcerers is pure luck.
  • In the Star Trek novel, Q-Squared, Trelane is more powerful than his fellow Q because of this.
  • The Q Continuum: The Q-like entity 0 has gone insane after being locked out of the can for millennia, and thus has no limits on what he can do. Q specifically invokes this trope by saying, "0's insanity gives him an insane amount of power."
  • Big Fido, the Canine Supremacist in Men at Arms. He's a small poodle, but his madness gives him the power to rip a man to shreds, and cow all the other dogs through sheer force of personality.
    • Agness Nitt's split personality allows her to resist mind control. When one personality is dominated, the other takes over.
    • Carcer and Jonathon(?) Teatime as well, both psychotic, but it took Vimes and Susan respectively to bring them down.
      • Carcer was, as it were, worse, because he wasn't psychotic. He'd passed through insanity and circled around to sanity from behind. The thing that made him dangerous was that he had realized that all of society's rules that keep it ticking over nicely only apply to you if you let them. And he didn't want to let them.
      • Vimes fits this himself on those occasions he lets 'the beast' off its leash.
    • Thief of Time: Excessive sanity as a form of insanity. Jeremy Clockson is completely sane and has a paper that confirms it (not a lot of people have those). At first Igor has to admit that after working for Mad Doctor Scoop, Crazed Baron Haha, Screaming Doctor Berserk, Dribbling Doctor Vibes, and Nipsie the Impaler "when it came to getting weird things done, sane beat mad hands down" but it eventually becomes clear Clockson's so sane he's gone around the bend and come out the other side. "Stark, staring sane" has to lead somewhere bad... like nearly ENDING TIME ITSELF.
      • From that same book we get Myria Le Jean, slightly crazy by anyone's standards by the end, but I don't think even Susan can match her body-count in human-auditors.
  • In Timewyrm: Exodus, the Timewyrm tries to possess Adolf Hitler and is instead trapped in his mind by his madness. Yes, there's a group of aliens trying to take advantage of this. Yes, things go exactly as planned in the end.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Strange takes a Psycho Serum that lets him see one of The Fair Folk so he can learn more magic from it.
  • In the Mistborn trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson, allomancers come into their powers after Snapping (something like a breakdown after a horrific event) - the most notable being Kelsier, who came into his powers after spending an unidentified amount of time working in a really nasty mine, followed by watching his wife being beaten to death before his eyes.
  • Shiro from the The Adventures of Samurai Cat illustrated novels, an 8kg kitten, is able to use a GAU-8 Avenger tank killer gatling gun due to "the strength of madness".
  • From the Nightside, there is the one known as Madman, who was driven mad by perceiving the truth underlying reality? He's a dangerously powerful Reality Warper whose hallucinations manifest around him. Most notable is that he's accompanied by his own personal soundtrack. The other one is Jessica Sorrow the Unbeliever, who thinks that everything is just her hallucination and everyone is just another voice in her head. She tears heavy doors like paper, and anyone she finds a nuisance disappear.
  • In This Alien Shore by C.S. Friedman, "Outpilot's Syndrome" is paranoia dialed up, and those suffering from it require massive amounts of medication to do more than lie around whimpering. However, Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, so scary that they're merely Properly Paranoid when in it, so they're the only people who can pilot spaceships through it without getting eaten by Eldritch Abominations.
  • In On Stranger Tides, hero Jack Shandy suffers a blow to the head just before confronting an evil sorcerer, who attempts to trap him in illusions. The illusions keep breaking down as a result of Jack's disorientation, causing the villain to exclaim: "What's wrong with your mind? It's like a stripped screw!"
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Molly Carpenter by Ghost Story, who displays how completely terrifying a master of illusion can be and how fast a newbie can advance if motivated strongly enough. Insanely strongly.
    • In the same story, when told that only truly insane or insanely determined ghosts can make themselves solid, Harry runs over his past exploits (Zombie T-Rex springs to mind) and concludes that he must be one or the other. Which one isn't clear — but it works.
  • In David Brin's Uplift series there is a species of client-alien called the Episiarchs, which have been genetically engineered to be so insane that they have the ability to alter reality by refusing to accept it.
  • In the Randall Garrett short story "In Case of Fire" Earth's ambassador to Saarkkad, who goes out of way to make use of the psychologically messed-up workers who get sent to him on a regular basis, finds himself needing to send someone to negotiate an armistice between Earth and the Karna race—notorious for their silver tongues and Loophole Abuse-ing. He sends a man with a severe mental block against making decisions and a paranoiac. The former can't move until he sees a clear decision which can be proven not to be rigged, and the latter points out all the potential traps and loopholes he sees (whether they're there or not). Together, they present what seems to be an implacable wall that soon has the Karna reeling. As for the Ambassador himself, who do you send as Ambassador to Saarkkad, a planet whose upper echelons' prestige is based entirely upon their aloofness and isolation? Whose most respected people are those never seen? An agoraphobic xenophobe, of course.
  • Tedrin, the villain of Eden Green, swings rapidly back and forth between reason and pinprick-eyed insanity. Whenever his human mind checks out and lets the needle symbiote take over, he becomes a nigh-unstoppable killing machine.
  • In Nine Goblins, wizardry is simply a mental disorder that has symptoms including, perhaps, blowing up other people with one's mind. It seems that if one is sufficiently detached from reality, they create a reality of their own and are able to impose this on others, usually with unpleasant effects. As such, they're mostly useful in battle, but fielded with great caution, as nobody can be sure they'll only attack the enemy.
  • Moby-Dick: "If such a furious trope may stand, his special lunacy stormed his general sanity, and carried it, and turned all its concentred cannon upon its own mad mark; so that far from having lost his strength, Ahab, to that one end, did now possess a thousand fold more potency than ever he had sanely brought to bear upon any one reasonable object."—Chapter 33.
  • The Scholomance: Using a bit of Chemically-Induced Insanity, Yancy leads a group through a district of a Pocket Dimension that had been cut loose into the Void decades before. Magic runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe and the Void is especially malleable, so they're able to skate by on the shared hallucination that the place still exists.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The New Who version of the Master.
    • As well, Dalek Caan, who managed emergency temporal shift into the Time War, which was supposed to be impenetrable. The process drove him mad, but in the process, he saw everything.
    • "Vincent and the Doctor": In a rather more mild case, it's hinted that Vincent van Gogh's mental illness is linked to his ability to see the otherwise invisible Krafayis.
  • The reason the Reavers from Firefly are so dangerous is more because of them being insanely furious all the freaking time more than anything else.
  • All the protagonists in Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger have this, and it's commonly referred to as "delusion power". The more insane they get, the more capable they become in combat. Increased delusion power comes at a price...
  • Helen Magnus in Sanctuary engineers a Batman Gambit to catch a bad guy that involves pretending to kill a friend and putting a critter in her brain that will make her seem insane to throw off the psychic powers of those meant to determine if she committed the murder since one of them was aforementioned bad guy.

  • Doctor Steel. "Being insane allows me to be who I want to be. There are no longer any rules. I am crazy, and I will become World Emperor. Even if it's simply because I'm convinced I'm World Emperor." "You can get away with pretty much anything if you're bonkers."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The only real way to describe Boogeyman's quirks, such as his ability to evade and bypass all security measures and the difficulty in getting him to sell anything up to and including shards of glass buried in his skin.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: "In the darkness, a blind man is the best guide; in an age of madness, look to the madman to lead the way."
    • To be precise, psykers have incredible powers, but as a general rule are batshit insane, to the point that burning witch-erm, psykers, at the stake is in fact a perfectly reasonable and wise precaution. In places where laws of physics go to hell (such as a planet engulfed in a warp storm) sufficiently mad people can become spontaneous reality warpers. And each and every psyker across the galaxy is at constant threat of CREATING one of these places. Every second of the day. Along with breaking the barriers that hold of the entirely omnicidal Powers-that-Be in the package. Along with a horde of daemons. Forget reasonable, it's only because the Imperium is so stringent about shepherding psykers up into the Black Ships that the Imperium's 'only' teetering on the brink of utter annihilation from every named force in the universe. Darker and Edgier indeed.
    • The various tabletop RPGs have several mechanics to track your progress: aside from experience, there's also "insanity" and "corruption". In most of the games these are bad things to build up... with some exceptions:
      • Black Crusade: Gaining more corruption gives you more Gifts of the Gods, but there's no insanity track any more. The assumption is that you start the game at the maximum of 100 points of Insanity, and it's only by being that off the wall that you even consider tapping into the kinds of power granted by the Chaos Gods.
      • Dark Heresy: Battle Sisters gain insanity in all instances where they would otherwise gain corruption. They also have several combat talents that require certain minimum levels of insanity to purchase, and get more powerful the greater her insanity score becomes. For a Battle Sister, damage to her psyche manifests as increasingly, insanely faithful zeal.
  • Unknown Armies: All mages works on this principle. Ritual magic can be done by the sane, for rather wide definitions of sane. The faster and more powerful adept magic, however, can only be powered or cast by individuals who are crazily obsessed with money, books, historic places, alcohol, or danger to the point of that obsession overwriting local reality. A typical bibliomancer, for example, would be so obsessed over books that he or she would cajole or even kill for a given text, and take an assault on the Library as a personal assault. Mechanically, becoming an adept after character creation usually requires five failed Stress checks in a single column and the resulting madness. GMs are instructed to punish adepts who don't let their character's insanity shine through with drops in power or odd spontaneous magical effects.
  • Old World of Darkness:
    • The Marauders from Mage: The Ascension. A mage who goes Marauder effectively develops a form of magically-enhanced incurable insanity, their sense of reality now permanently askew. As a consequence, they are extremely resistant to the effects of Paradox, which can sometimes slide off them and affect any other mages in the area. If they get crazy enough, they're eventually shunted off into their own pocket dimension in the Umbra.
    • The Malkavians in Vampire: The Masquerade are driven insane the second they are turned - assuming they're not already - and this very insanity powers their unique ability to cause delusions and hallucinations in others, as well as see 'patterns' in reality that their saner fellows cannot. In the computer game, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Malkavians also get different dialogue options, many of which hint at or warn about future events... albeit in such a confusing manner that you need to finish the game through a sane character first to get all the references. Malkavians are also able to ignore the existence of certain objects rendering them useless against that character, e.g. the machete that did not repeatedly hack into their necks. In games where most of the PCs are Malkavians, it's more a case of the NPCs hallucinating the object...
      • It's worth noting that the Malkavians' signature discipline of Dementation can only be used by someone with a derangement. Curing or losing your derangement means Dementation can no longer be accessed, which doesn't affect Malkavians themselves, who are cursed to always have a derangement no matter what. It does affect members of other clans who manage to learn Dementation.
    • The werewolves of Werewolf: The Apocalypse are angry. Angry enough for some to cannibalize their own species or molest allies to death if they don't keep a lid on it. Angry enough to fuel regeneration or shapeshifting through rage alone.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • Mage: The Awakening: The Mad, mages whose souls have broken (frequently by bottoming the Karma Meter out), letting the magic within spill out into the world around them. They're resistant to Paradox, hidden from sympathetic magic, and have frightening skill at magic. Unlike the Marauders, they can become normal mages again, but unless they're cured by an archmage, their sanity will always be on fragile ground.
    • Changeling: The Lost has "Beautiful Madness" as a theme of the game.
      • The ongoing challenge of a Changeling's life is to strike a balance between the stolid, dependable order of the mundane world and the wonderful, awful power of the Wyrd. More powerful Changelings are almost guaranteed to be at least a bit crazy - but they can also force the world to play along with their ideas of how it should work. Even the weaker ones can, for example, weave moonlight and daydreams into an invisibility cloak, because it doesn't occur to them that you shouldn't be able to thread a needle with either of those things.
      • The Eldritch Order of the Lost Pantheon in the Lords of Summer sourcebook). Every one of them is very powerful, somewhat insane, and believes to their bones that they are the embodiment of an archetype that determines how they make sense of the world. It works: their madness makes them more perceptive and longer-lived, and they gain power from mortal worship.
      • The True Fae. Without exception, they have no understanding of objective reality, and define their existence by narrative. While this necessarily includes an Achilles' Heel, it can also make them otherwise invulnerable as long as they stick to their story. Regular Changelings can access some of this power by raising their own Wyrd high enough, going completely insane, and metamorphosing into True Fae themselves.
    • In Genius: The Transgression, Geniuses wouldn't exist if their mind wasn't influenced by a mental breakdown fueled by discovery. This often leaves them quite mad. Consequentially, their Wonders, while not quite as blatantly as the Mages' magic (for example, the sourcebook says that simply putting Mania into a wooden bird won't make it fly just because it's "enchanted"), can bend or break several important laws of physics. And they are quite explicitly not science as they're non-repeatable phenomena, which leads to...
    • Leviathan: The Tempest: Ahabs are essentially people who are obsessed with vengeance against some specific Leviathan, and by virtue of that obsession and the Leviathan's own self-hatred can draw on the Leviathan they hunt for supernatural powers. It's specifically noted that one of the three ways the hunt can end is for the Ahab to recover from their madness (with or without external psychological help), which causes them to instantly lose their powers.
  • In the world of Exalted, when The Fair Folk use up all their Virtue Channels for one of their Virtues, they enter bedlam, a state of absolute madness. Some Fair Folk charms are made specifically to benefit from this state when it happens. There are also a number of Charms for the various types of Exalt that use the madness of the Great Curse to their advantage. For example, Stubborn Boar Defence allows a Solar in Limit Break to ignore unnatural mental influence. Also, not fighting Limit Break (which usually translates directly "flow with the crazy") yields in-game advantages, such as a maxed Willpower pool.
  • Failing a Madness save in a Ravenloft game is usually bad news, but a couple of possible outcomes do provide fringe benefits, e.g. a bonus to Fear saves because you don't think the threat is for real. While nearly all darklords have at least some control over their domains' environment, the batshit-insane Easan the Mad cranks this influence up, such that the landscape of Vechor shifts with his mood swings and he can physically alter anyone who lives there just by thinking about them. Another insane villain, Davion, causes drastic changes to the village where he lives, every time he swaps between his four personalities.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the 3rd Edition, a cleric with access to the Madness Domain (offered by Tharizdun and a couple of other evil deities) gains a Insanity Score equal to half his class level. This lets them add this score to his Wisdom Score whenever Wisdom applies to spellcasting. However, it has a disadvantage: for anything else that involves Wisdom he subtracts the Insanity Score from his Wisdom Score. It also gives the cleric the ability to "act with the clarity of true madness", meaning he gains the above benefit to any roll involving Wisdom, but only once per day (and he must decide to use this effect before making the roll; if it fails anyway, it still counts as used).
    • The Tainted Scholar prestige class gains more spells and greater spell potency, as well as some other benefits, based on how insane they are. It is considered one of the more powerful prestige classes in the game.
    • A homebrewed class called the Hollower is a fighter driven insane by Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and turned into a shadow-mage Magic Knight. They have a functionally limitless pool of Dark Energy available to them, but each time they use a power, they have to take a Charisma check or gain a permanent insanity, which ranges from mild depression to being so convinced they're the main character from a book that they actually get Plot Armor, to spontaneously gaining a multiclass level. They can also spread their specific brand of giggling insanity to others by striking them with their "null blades," become Gravity Masters, and summon a Tulpa formed from their insane fears and given form by the same eldritch darkness that forms their nullblades
  • People known as "The Lost" from the obscure RPG In Dark Alleys have such a bad direction sense that it defies time and space. By wandering randomly through streets and corridors they can, in about 15 minutes, get anywhere. The other side of town? They could go there. Another continent? yes. Your baby brother's subconscious? Yes, and they'd probably enjoy it, since most of them are either complete Cloud Cuckoo Landers or constantly high/drunk. The same stupidity/clumsiness/insanity also allows them to pull anything out of a bag or pocket. Some people can just casually accept the fact that there could be, say, a hand grenade in their wallet they don't remember ever having put in there.
  • Don't Rest Your Head, a system where you become more powerful the longer you haven't slept. Indeed, your insomnia grants you "madness powers" which can be used to warp the world around you as you see fit. One of the examples in the sourcebook is the madness power of preparedness, where, if you activate it to a certain degree, you can have "conveniently" happened to have picked up the combination to a vault you are just now getting to. And then there's probability.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • This is the case for decks built around the keyword abilities Hellbent, Madness (yeah) and, to a lesser extent, Dredge. Sanity is represented by the cards left in your hand and in your library; an empty hand is unstable, an empty library is when a planeswalker is going to completely lose their mind. Madness allows you to sacrifice short-term sanity to play the card you're discarding cheaply; Hellbent denotes cards that gain an advantage when your hand is empty; and Dredge allows you to affect your long-term sanity to recur things from your graveyard.
    • The most extreme case is Laboratory Maniac. Normally, an empty library would cause you to lose the game (having lost your mind completely). If a Laboratory Maniac is on the field, an empty library makes you win the game instead.
    • The general idea behind the Cabal's dementia magic. Some willingly give in to the madness to attain greater power; only the true masters can maintain their sanity.
  • In KULT, this is a way to see through the illusion that is our reality. If you proceed long enough, you may become the immortal superbeing every human really is, but you risk to be swallowed by the Achlys.

    Video Games 
  • City of Heroes plays this straight at moments, and subverts it as well. Rularuu's Lanaru aspect broke free of and became powerful enough to frighten Rularuu himself thanks to Lanaru's remarkable insanity. On the other hand, the Clockwork King is undeniably and completely insane, a Mad Scientist, but one of his particular delusions — that he can create working robots out of random junkprevents him from realizing his true abilities in our universe.
    • He's actually a godlike psychic, animating every Clockwork in the city like a puppet through the power of his fractured subconscious. Detailed examination of Clockwork reveals that they're just collections of parts that couldn't possibly work, and they don't... they function because the Clockwork King believes they should. One of the alternate universes you visit in the late game is a world where the King DID understand his true power. He and his Clockwork are the only ones left alive.
  • In the Geneforge series, serviles aren't able to do magic until the proper Geneforge and canisters are developed. Before then, though, a few serviles would develop the ability to cast spells anyway, by forming small cults where they could meditate and engage in self-harm until they went insane.
  • The Suffering has some fun with this. The main character has suffered blackouts his whole life, and in-game develops the ability to trigger those blackouts and turn into a hideous monster. There's a reason this ability is called "Insanity," though—he doesn't actually change, he just goes into an Unstoppable Rage and tears foes apart, hallucinating that it's not really him.
  • Elden Ring: This is the shtick of the Frenzied Flame, which can grant power and knowledge beyond other sources, but at the cost of madness and driving others to hatred. Mechanically speaking, Frenzied Flame incantations inflict the Madness status effect on both the target and the user. From a storyline perspective, those who cross the Despair Event Horizon occasionally gain the power to call upon the Frenzied Flame and use its incantations, and the Flame's main spokesman Shabriri is bugnuts and gloats about chaos taking the world, but also knows a very important fact about the endgame that few others do, and is probably going to be the first to tell you about it. He's not lying, either. Using the Giant's Flame to burn the Erdtree requires Melina to sacrifice herself, while becoming the Lord of Chaos and using the Frenzied Flame for the same purpose will spare her.
  • From the Oblivion, Shivering Isles expansion, and less directly in previous releases, there is Sheogorath, Daedric Prince of Madness. In this case the power isn't born of his madness, but is in fact the primordial essence of madness. He was actually originally Jyggalag, the Prince of Order. His current state is a punishment for being a jerk to the other Daedric Princes. At the end of the expansion, the Player Character takes over as Sheogorath, and he goes on his way in his original form.
    Sheogorath: Now get out of here before I change my mind... or my mind changes me.
  • One of the possible character backgrounds in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura is that the player character is an escaped asylum lunatic. Because he/she is deranged, most people have a lowered initial reaction to the player's appearance, but said character also possesses ten per cent total damage reduction.
  • Touhou Project has a few:
    • Parsee Mizuhashi, the bridge-haunting Green-Eyed Monster of Subterranean Animism, is explicitly stated in-game to have powers fueled by her jealous rage. There's a reason it's called the "Bridge People No Longer Cross".
    • Clownpiece takes this trope even more literal, since she's a Lampad who carries a torch that drives everyone even just near it completely insane. This insanity coupled with her own purification by her boss' friend Junko made her absurdly powerful and difficult to deal with even by Touhou's Nintendo Hard standards.
  • In Alpha Protocol, Steven Heck (don't call him "Steve") is one of the world's most talented secret agents. He's also insane. Although never stated outright, there are some suggestions that Steven doesn't even work for the CIA like he claims, but is just some crazy guy who decided to become the world's greatest operative on a whim, and now is.
  • Portal has Doug Rattman, a programmer at Aperture Science with paranoid schizophrenia who was the only employee that saw GLaDOS as a serious threat to everyone. His schizophrenia manifested in the Companion Cube talking to him and giving him sound advice as he traversed the Aperture Science testing chambers. When he actually takes his meds, he becomes less capable, even getting clipped by the turrets.
  • In the No More Heroes series, Travis Touchdown is quite out of his mind with the occasional forth wall breaking. It's in the second game that it becomes a power, using his sexual complexes and anger to fuel him in battle and enter super forms, including turning into a tiger. Being sexually attracted to moe designed characters and having a recently killed friend does some weird things to a man.
  • In American McGee's Alice it is strongly implied that the reason Alice is able to survive and fight is because she's crazy, despite the fact that her goal is to become sane. Basically, it kept her from being completely consumed by madness, which the horrors of Wonderland would have quickly done to a lucid person.
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI has the Maniacs and the Demented, demons created to act as servants to the Demon Overlord of madness. Their thoughts are so alien to other beings that they are completely immune to mind-affecting spells, and fighting one can be a disconcerting experience, since they howl as though they're in pain whenever they attack someone, and laugh maniacally in response to being attacked.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, this can happen to your enemies: when Orc Nemesis are shamed, they tend to be leveled down, but in some cases shaming can actually boost their levels all the way up to 50 or 60 even if they were previously demoted to level 1. This usually results in them gaining several combat bonuses and rage triggers that makes them even harder to fight.
  • The Flagellant in Darkest Dungeon is different from the other religious classes. He doesn't worship the Light as much as he worships self-inflicted pain. While the classes who worship the Light can call upon it to heal wounds and strike enemies with it, the Flagellant's fanatical devotion to pain lets him flagellate his enemies from afar, transfer the burden of others towards himself, heal himself back from the brink, whip the wounds and diseases out of himself, and only gets stronger as he's brought closer to death and madness.
  • In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, after receiving two consecutive talkings to, Raiden finally embraces the inner bloodlust that he had been trying to suppress and reclaims his old moniker of Jack the Ripper. This gives him the powerup required to, literally, cut through Monsoon and his posturing.
    Raiden: Doktor! Turn off my pain inhibitors!

    Visual Novels 
  • In Code:Realize, the Hidden Strength program is described as an attempt to unlock the full potential of the human body and enhance a person's physical abilities to superhuman levels. It accomplishes this by subjecting the subject to physical and emotional torture until their sanity breaks, making the power that Hidden Strength grants an example of this trope.
  • Danganronpa: One of the hand-waves given for how a teenage girl managed to cause the apocalypse is that Junko's desire for despair is so absolute and unfettered that it almost qualifies as a superpower.
  • The whole basis for how the power of Die Ewigkeit works in Dies Irae is a fundamental rejection of the worlds common sense and ironclad conviction in your own beliefs far beyond any common fanaticism. This utter madness allows characters basically create new rules for the way the universe functions, forcing it to conform to their beliefs, locally at first but if they grow powerful enough they can force it on all of reality. The purer the belief, the greater the effect. Additionally it also creates a feedback loop, making the users personalities more in line with their cravings, which of course further entrenches their beliefs further empowering them, ad nauseam. Basically, it is what would be if the idea of the Tautological Templar was a super power.

    Web Comics 
  • In Drowtales, Kiel'ndia Vel'Vlozress, though not as murderously insane as some of her clan members, is decidedly whacky. She's also the comic's only Fourth-Wall Observer, often addressing the audience directly. (To the rest of the cast, it only makes her look crazier: she is, after all, talking into thin air.) In a remarkable inversion of The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You, she even learns to summon her fans as Living Shadow minions.
  • 8-Bit Theater has very many characters that work like this. Let us categorize them:
    • Mad Genius: Red Mage, a Munchkin who believes that the universe runs on Tabletop RPG rules. Considering the fact that he has survived certain death TWICE by not writing down the damage he took it is very well possible that this is true. As far as RM goes, at least... And skeletons are wholly vestigial, anyway. Everyone knows that... However, whenever RM is trying to come up with a plan, as usual completely detached from logic, realism and the fundamental physical laws of the universe, this backfires, because reality doesn't work that way! ... Except when it's funnier if it does.
      • At least once, Red Mage tries to invoke this deliberately. Logical plans are flawed, he tells Black Mage, because of their very reliance on logic. A failure at any given step causes the whole plan to fall apart. By formulating a plan that is completely detached from logic, he has actually insulated it against such failure; since no one step actually relates to any of the others, screwing up won't have any effect on the overall plan.
    • Mad Oracle: Sarda is an interesting case of this, since, due to the Timey-Wimey Ball, you may or may not say that he may or may not have gotten his powers before he turned into an Ax-Crazy, Sociopathic Jerkass.
      • He also doubles over as something of a Mad God, since he is older than the entire universe itself, borderline omniscient, and is, as mentioned above, an Ax-Crazy, Sociopathic Jerkass... Earth used to have 36 hour days, but Sarda keeps them at 24 hours just to make everyone hurry.
    • Reality Warper: Though they probably are more stupid than crazy, both Black Belt and Fighter shows signs of this category. E.g., Black Belt has, due to his No Sense of Direction, on numerous occasions altered the space-time continuum in ways that shouldn't be possible. And when their deathtrap of a submarine was filling with water, Fighter was able to return it to normal by pulling out the plug and letting the water drain out.
      Thief: I hate it when he makes things that don't make sense make sense.
  • Achewood features this in the Great Outdoor Fight. Those with Blood of Champions are known for entering fugues which destroy their minds afterward. Ray succumbs to this at first, but gradually channels it into a productive "berserker" state, which according to Roast Beef is the difference between "a lunatic [and] a pissed man with goals[.]"
  • Girl Genius does this with Mad Science: Sparks have manic phases where they're deeply intuitive, focused, driven, and scientifically brilliant, although they might forget to eat for days... or, you know, to not be evil.
    Carson von Mekkhan: In my experience, a strong Heterodyne will take about two hours to truly warp laws of nature
    • There's also a subtle inversion in the fact that while all Sparks go crazy at times, it's actually the ones who can stay in control while "in the madness place" who are the most dangerous people in the setting, because they can direct and channel their insanity. Baron Wulfenbach, his son Gil, and Agatha, are the best examples.
    • When in their zone, they're also shown to pull off physical feats of determination. Even the Jaegermonsters know better than to approach a Spark when they're in their 'Madness Place'.
  • In Mortifer, the less connections a demon has between his mind and reality, the more of their power they can access (this only applies when they're on earth, though).
  • It isn't the main source of his power, but Xykon in The Order of the Stick definitely seems to be more powerful thanks to being completely mad. Inscribing a symbol of insanity onto a bouncy ball and throwing it into a room full of people isn't the sort of tactic a sane sorcerer would come up with.
  • Guilded Age has the Order of the Countless Limbs, an apocalyptic cult that worships Eldritch Abomination Old Gods dedicated to bringing about The End of the World as We Know It. They embrace Ax-Crazy as a virtue and delight in putting the "chaotic" in Always Chaotic Evil. Their higher level clergy can magically infect people with "the Madness", locking them into an Unstoppable Rage where they lose the ability to distinguish between friend or foe.

    Web Original 
  • Monster Clown and maddest of the mad scientists Rhyme in Star Harbor Nights is able to produce feats even other mad scientists can't duplicate (like making helium burn like hydrogen) because she follows "an alternate ordering of the universe"
  • In Worm, power is born more from psychological trauma than from madness. In order for a potential parahuman to unlock his/her latent powers, he/she must experience a "trigger" event that causes extreme stress and pushes the person to the breaking point. This may explain why there are more villains than heroes in the Wormverse, and the heroes tend to carry around a lot of psychological baggage. What's more, the efficiency of a cape's powers are directly linked to how close their mindset is to when they first triggered. This means that a cape will be notably more powerful when being retraumatized than when healthy and well-adjusted. Some capes can have second trigger events, which can make their current powers grow stronger or change, or even give them new ones. Unfortunately, this requires far more intense trauma than a normal trigger event and there are also several obvious problems with psychologically breaking an already damaged superhuman. Most people would agree that the power boost granted by a second trigger is not worth it.

    Web Videos 
  • Channel Awesome:
    • Most of the reviewers believe this applies to Dr. Insano in Kickassia. First the Nostalgia Critic attempts to get Spoony to let him out, followed by those rebelling against him. Only Linkara sees that this is a dumb idea, but the others are convinced that you need a madman to stop another madman. Sure enough, Insano gets his ass kicked, although he comes closer to defeating the critic than any other individual rebel.
    • Even outside of Kickassia, Dr. Insano seems to be able to invent things that shouldn't work just because he thinks they should, and justifies it with SCIENCE (such as the ability to shoot lightning out of his hands somehow).

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time ambiguously plays this trope with Betty's MMS theory about wizards: She realized that, in different amounts, every wizard has levels of Madness, Magic and Sadness. She could never figure out whether all Magic would lead to Sadness and Madness (inverting the trope) or being Mad and Sad would give you powers (thus, playing this trope straight). Notably, after stealing Magic Man’s powers, she immediately goes crazy, while her victim is surprised to realize he’s a well-adjusted person now.
  • The Transformers: Animated villain Blitzwing seems to be able to use two elemental weapons and two vehicle modes due to his Split Personality. However, it's not completely clear if one causes the other.
    • Word of God says that the experimentation that turned him into a triple changer made him nutty, not the power itself. Knowing the usual Decepticon "research process", it's hardly surprising.
    • Though it's worth noting that while his "German Pilot" personality can only use the plane form and ice weapons and the "Schwarzenegger" personality can only use fire and the tank form, the "Nutty" persona can use all his abilities at will.
      • The personalities are named Icy, Hothead, and Random. As stated above, Random has access to all of Blitzwing's forms and abilities, but it's balanced by Random's tendencies to sing nursery rhymes or go off on tangents about servo salad.
      • Less balanced out when you take the whole iron filings and servo salad quote. Transformers use machine versions of phrases a human might say, especially when it comes to parts of the body. You should probably replace "iron filings" with "skin shavings" and "servo" with "hand and arm". To put it simply, that is pretty screwed up.
    Blitzwing: Ooh, but I LIKE iron filings! Especially sprinkled on top of servo salad!
  • In The Transformers this is partly why Galvatron was so much more feared than Megatron. Megs might have been an evil Galactic Conqueror, but Galvatron was a complete lunatic who had none of Megatron's self-restraint.
  • A lot of the stuff Freakazoid! pulls off (on a disturbingly regular basis) suggest that his comic psychosis is actually the source of his power, not the other way around.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Nightmare Moon seemed to be this — at least Princess Luna seemed much weaker once she'd regained her sanity. However, when she returns in the second season, we find out that she is in fact so powerful as herself that she can be destructive without meaning it if she doesn't work to keep a lid on her godlike powers. She seems more powerful than her sister because she is less restrained, and of course being evil is the logical extension of this.
    • Pinkie Pie is this to a T. She's so preoccupied with hopping around, singing random songs out of nowhere, and throwing parties, that she never seems to realize she's breaking the laws of time and space as she does it, and on numerous occasions completely freaking out her friends as she does it.
      Rainbow Dash: [after watching Pinkie Pie slow her descent mid-air to avoid a splash] How did you do that?
      Pinkie Pie: Just trying to show a little consideration for my sleepy friend.
  • The Mask: The Mask as in the film gains his powers and abilities by being genuinely insane and also the same thing with Eve, Masked Peggy Brandt, Masked Milo, Masked Chet, Masked Pretorius and Masked Dr Neuman and in one episode a government guy wears the mask in the future but doesn't become insane that causes him to have no powers or abilities at all which shows that you need to have a creative mind to become insane as it is proven by The Mask who manages to defeat the government guy just by being insane and having a creative mind as well.

    Real Life 
  • Viking berserkers demonstrated this trope. They would fly into violent psychotic rages that would essentially remove the brain's natural limiters on their muscles, increasing their raw strength several times over, granting them what resembled superhuman strength (remember that these were men who ordinarily could row a longship for hours or days, and then still put on chain armor and pick up a shield and war-axe and fight, and were just flat-out bigger than a lot of European peoples) and grant them an immunity to pain (the adrenaline and anger would block it out), making them resemble super-human engines of destruction. There is some debate over whether or not these rages were induced by hallucinogens or just a natural tendency of the people to get really really pissed. Or both.
    • These rages have also been said to make them immune to "blade and fire", which holds up at least somewhat: while both of those things hurt a lot and can kill you, in most cases (barring decapitations and other instant kills) it's really the pain that puts you down in the short term—and as stated above, pain is sort of a secondary concern for someone in a berserking rage—so blunt weapons are more effective, as the injuries caused by them tend to actually break the machinery of the body rather than just hurt a lot.
    • The legendarily bad-tempered Egil Skalla-Grimsson was an example of a Norse warrior who really did fly into a rage over nothing. He has recently been determined to have had Paget's disease. This disorder causes the bones to become very thick and strong, but also causes circulation problems, deafness, blindness, and various minor deformities. Quite significantly, it also causes chronic pain that prevents the victim from sleeping properly, ensuring a chronic bad temper.
  • Quite a bit of real world evidence actually supports a correlation between extreme intelligence/creativity and mental illness.
  • Ask any Mental Hospital staff member and they can tell you about at least one combative patient who took six people to properly restrained. Sometimes 4 times their own weight. Some mental illnesses in the more severe states, can cause the sufferer to ignore their own body's limiter on strength. This can cause 90 pounds when soaking wet girls to throw a 200 pound orderly across the room. Granted this is no substitute for proper technique, but being angry or desperate enough to ignore your own muscles going "No, don't do that, it'll damage you" can lead to shocking feats of strength (and likely injure you as well).

Alternative Title(s): Madness As A Power