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Maddening May – Part 1

The maddening nature of the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh is a thing of legend and myth, but quite real—the subterranean swamp is literally writhing with delusion and insanity. Many claim to know how it devolved into this dangerous state, but many of the rumors cancel one another out. Some say it was the warren of aquatic aberrations before the Great Schism, others blame the spirit of a deranged lich, and still more believe that an ancient, fell, and hysterical dragon roams the cavern.

witchAll agree on one thing—witches are involved.
How exactly, and for what purpose, none can say for sure. The presence of a coven of some kind is undeniable if any of the gossip is true, but few travel below and are well enough in the mind to be understood when they return (if they are ever seen again). Many speak only in rhyme if they do so at all, and even then, it is almost always nonsense.

Nothing emboldens a man like the promise of gold though, and the discovery of the karz slugs—and the unique, valuable properties their treated remains possess—have led to some concerted research into the area. A scholar and anthropologist, Geðveikur Krankzinnig took a great interest in the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh. Traveling across the countryside he sought out the hunters turned mad by the subterranean swamp, studying each in turn to better understand the hysteria that gripped them.aaw-website kanziglignszAfter decades of dedicated research, Geðveikur compiled his masterpiece: Dar’Spelun Objasniti. In it he expounds on the nature of the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh’s most unique properties. A number of theories are explored, but ultimately the scholar decided that the most likely source of the oddity—the original source—stemmed from one of the calamities in the Underworld. Psychic energies run rampant from the anomaly, and drew forth from the aether a creature that is kinship to madness. Lairing in the subterranean swamp, it attracted creatures and spirits likened to it to the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh, completely warping it into a place of insanity. Even items of similar ilk eventually find their way there.

The last chapter of the book explains the vast number of preparations Geðveikur undertook before traveling to the Underworld bogs in search of it, explaining the effectiveness at the ability of each to deter various forms madness and insanity. He disappeared for a decade after the obscure book published, and was assumed dead before appearing in Mohkba, dashing through the streets turning all of the horses blue while evading authorities with his magics. Eventually he was brought in by the Sanctioned Arcane Practicioners of Mohkba, who are still trying to make sense of the old man’s ramblings.

aaw-website - witch hunter - storn cookWord among the hunters does speak of the witches however, and some trackers of the occult have begun to target the Dar’Spelun Slugmarsh in search of a coven. They believe their offenders to be a sort of drow unlike any other, but it is difficult to get reliable information about the Underworld swamp. Some of the tales seem too far fetched to be true—there’s talk of roving pits, disappearing and reappearing forts, and all manner of beasts driven hysterical by the land itself!
True or not, travelers best be wary of the mind-peeling AaWBlog for all of Maddening May!

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The Rhyming Madness of King Jerrod

It’s been seven months since the last time King Jerrod called upon you, and much has happened since. This time the invitation was gilded in gold, brought by royal couriers of a higher status than before. Lettered in flowing script that languidly drew the eye were the following words: “The need for your services is dire and your renown has grown; I shall pay you thrice the last reward should you come to my aid.”

21-warwick-east-gate-1041x1560The couriers brought horses and wine aplenty for the journey to King Jerrod’s court, but remained tight-lipped on what ailed the monarch so. Their solemn mood seems to be a contagion of sorts, as everyone in the great hall was equally grave upon your arrival, a thing normally accompanied by some fanfare.

Silence dominated the court instead, until after shooing away his advisers, the king finally spoke. “The time is nigh for you and yours, to seek the Shroudstone’s dirty shores. An ailment forces me to speak this way, and should you cure it for you I’ve a king’s pay!”

The last words rapidly escape his lips in a fitful gasp as he searches for air, as if they had a force of their own. A brief murmur explodes around the chamber as King Jerrod coughs and hoots, slapping away an attendant and righting his posture.

Looking into his sallow face, you see distress behind the ruler’s normally calm gaze. His eyes flit to and fro, searching the room for things that, as far as you can tell, simply are not there. Prince Kurrin casts a stern gaze toward you, beckoning toward one of the doorways leading out of the great hall before disappearing into the hallway.

Image_Portfolio_Platinum_Edition_7_Storn_Cook_Page_6_Image_0001King Jerrod is being led away toward his bedchambers, and furtive glances between the nobles are all the response they seem to have for you, but the young prince gestures for you to join him in a drawing room nearby. The plush cushions and old tomes that line the shelves are both coated in dust, but Kurrin takes a seat anyway, running his hands through his lanky brown hair with a long, drawn out sigh.

“He’s been that way for weeks. The herbalists are at their wit’s end, as are all the healer’s we’ve called to his aid—some of them from as far away as Mohkba. None of their efforts have proven fruitful. Not a fortnight ago, he awoke screaming rhymes about the Shroudstone before the court alchemist drugged him back to rest. Since then my father’s hand has become too agitated to write, and every utterance is a painfully given rhyme. None can see his madness, but surely, the Shroudstone must be its cause! Search it out for whatever may lead to healing my father’s sickness, and I promise you a reward fit for a king!”

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5 Tips for Insanity in your D&D

Today’s article is a little different, mostly because we’re starting off with a (slightly conceited) story about an elf in a cyberpunk game I played: Eladriel.

Eladriel [Jason Walton]If we’re being accurate, Eladriel wasn’t even an elf—he was a human posing as an elf, and unaware of it. The concept behind this particular shadowrunner was fairly simple, but got enormously complicated. Working with my GM beforehand, we created this elaborate history where in the end, an extremely anti-elf big-wig turned Jeff Branson (my PC) to look like an elf, and filled his mind with false memories of a very, very medieval history of elves.

As you can imagine, playing Eladriel was initially a great time. He carried around a “mithral” sword, used archery, wore “true elven cloaks”, spoke “real elfish”, and was the source of a great deal of hilarity. The aspect of memory-jacking, however, eventually started to get a little out of hand. Really digging into the polarity of something as complex as genuinely split personalities may seem like a simple thing in a comic book or planned, told story, but playing it out was another matter entirely.Image_Portfolio_107_Fantasy Jason Walton 71

The more dire the circumstances got, the more trouble I had determining what he’d do—an “elf” in the most classical sense of the word, in the near-future fighting enhanced warriors, and with the instincts of a privileged socialite teenager. When the memory-jacking plot really got underway, poor Eladriel went right off of the rails and what was once an awesome character became an element of the game deprived of enjoyment.

 

What’s the point of Eladriel’s doubly-tragic tale?

1) Real PCs Really Develop
One of the mistakes I made with Eladriel was hinging so much on his fake history and glossing over his real history. Sure he had a few contacts, but I never thought about where he used to hang out and who might still recognize him outside of one or two individuals. The backstory of any character is important but if you’re roleplaying insanity of any kind, its value as a tool for story development multiplies. Not simply as a source (or potential way to overcome) a phobia or other mental malady, but also to provide greater depth to match the deeper engagement and player investment.

2) Genuine Motivations
Remember that backstory? What else would matter to your PC outside of their damaged psyche? Sure, fame and power and wealth are nice, but everybody knows Rosebud. This isn’t to suggest that your character should be single-mindedly nostalgic, only that you’re touching into greater depth with the addition of a condition that affects your roleplaying actions.

3) Comedy and Realism
Foolish, unlucky, intrepid, and countless other means lead characters to pratfalls, miscommunications, and comedic foibles. Don’t allow your character’s condition to be the source of humor, and be realistic.

Image_Portfolio_104_Fantasy Jason Walton 554) Goals. Have them.
If your PC is aware of their phobia or what have you, alleviating themselves of it might be the biggest thing on their plate. But if it isn’t totally debilitating (and if it is, you’re probably playing Paranoia) then surely they have other concerns and things they want to accomplish.

5) Insane /= Single-Minded
This touches on the earlier points, but is worth mentioning specifically. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making your character one-dimensional because of a type of insanity, and that should be warning enough not to do it. Remember that you’re playing a sentient thing that’s having genuine experiences, and that they’ll have genuine reactions. Sometimes their madness may be relevant, but not all the time!

 

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