Most people think of and experience telepathy as a simple voice inside their head: a totally silent conversation to whom only those in the telepathic link are party. However telepathy is more than that, and as a touching of minds it can share anything that can be expressed by thoughts, relaying messages as complex as both minds are capable of appreciating—and sometimes more.
When both creatures are sane there is little concern for stray thoughts that cross over this mental link, but when one of the creatures is insane or deeply alien, stray thoughts can range from distracting to downright disabling in their oddity—and opening one’s mind too deeply to a connection with a mind gone mad is only inviting insanity to oneself.
When one creature in a telepathic link (such as alter thoughts, detect thoughts, or any form of telepathy) is insane, an aberration, or otherwise has an alien mind, the sane creature must make a Will save each round (DC 10 + ½ the insane creature’s HD plus the creature’s Charisma modifier). On a failure, the mental link is unstable and the insane creature’s mind bleeds through into the sane creature’s, leading to all sorts of unpredictable effects. Ten sample effects are included in the list below—GMs are encouraged to pick whichever most closely matches their insane telepath!
1) Long-Term Link
The telepathy effect becomes permanent. During this time, the insane creature can re-open the link to mentally contact the sane creature at any time both creatures are on the same plane, and the sane creature has no control over the contents or duration of these incursions (though, the sane creature gains a +5 circumstance bonus from any further direct contact from that specific insane creature). Further, the insane creature can read the sane creature’s thoughts at any time as detect thoughts (caster level equals hit dice). This effect ends if either creature dies.
2) Maddening Images
The images that bleed through the psychic link disturb the sane creature to its very core, shaking the very foundation of who they are more the longer they think about it. Each day the sane creature takes 1 Charisma drain.
3) Stolen Thoughts
The insane creature replaces a number of the sane creature’s memories with its own less comprehensible ones, doing 2d4 Intelligence damage but granting a +5 insight bonus to each Knowledge skill that the creature has ranks in. This bonus disappears once half of the Intelligence damage has been healed by any means.
4) Forgone Conclusions
The creature’s voice whispers in their head, distracting them from making rational decisions and offering inappropriate advice. Each day, the sane creature takes a variable (changing daily) -1d6 penalty to their Wisdom score.
The telepathic link is so strong that the sane creature sees after-images of the experience for 1d4 days afterwards. During any stressful situation, the sane creature must make a Will save (DC equal to the original save) or be confused for 1d6 rounds.
6) More Than You Asked For
The sane creature gets a deep, dark glimpse into the mind of the insane creature, and is offered almost free reign of their mind and memories. The sane creature can ask the insane creature any number of questions, which the insane creature must answer truthfully and completely, to the best of its ability. Asking and receiving an answer to a question takes a full round, though the sane creature is unaware that time is passing until the end of the process. During this time the sane creature is in a trance and considered helpless, while the insane creature is entirely unaware of this process (though it remains aware of a telepathic connection if it would normally be aware), and may act normally.
Something in the insane mind utterly terrifies or fascinates the sane creature. The GM chooses one thing closely related to the insane creature (such as brains, crowds, noise, etc.), and the sane creature immediately gains a mania or phobia (50% chance of either; see the “Sanity and Madness” section in Chapter 8 of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Gamemastery Guide) related to that substance.
The connection to the insane creature’s mind fascinates the sane creature in a way they cannot explain to others. They become utterly obsessed with the insane creature’s original insanity (or in the case of unusual creatures, obsessed with that creature type). Any time the sane creature encounters the subject of its new obsession, they must make a Will save (DC equal to the original save DC) or move towards it in the most direct means possible, even if such movement would put the sane creature in danger. Further, any time the sane creature goes a number of days equal to its hit dice without encountering the subject of its obsession, it is affected as though it had failed to fulfill a geas and begins taking penalties to its ability scores until the sane creature satisfies its new need.
9) Shared Mind
A fragment of the insane mind seeds itself into the sane creature and becomes a permanent aspect of that character’s mind, utterly impossible to remove without permanent damage to the sane creature. Aside from the new insane voice within the sane creature’s head, the insane creature can compel the sane creature once per week into any action it so chooses. This functions either as dominate monster with a duration of 1 hour, or as a geas with a duration of one week (caster level equal to hit dice). In addition, the sane creature is aware of this possession, but is stopped by the insane creature from communicating the affliction to any other creature.
10) Something Breaks
The sane creature’s mind simply cannot handle the connection to the insane creature, and goes immediately insane itself. The sane creature is inflicted with 1d4 random insanities (see the “Sanity and Madness” section in Chapter 8 of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Gamemastery Guide) and is staggered for 1 round.
The majority of these effects are permanent, and can only be removed by the same means that would remove insanity normally, such as wish, miracle, or other high level magic.
[Submitted by Michael McCarthy]
Disclaimer: Any point of view expressed in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not in any case represent, define or otherwise reflect the view of the AaWBlog, AdventureAWeek.com, or AAW Games, Inc. For more information on insanity in Pathfinder, see the “Sanity and Madness” section in Chapter 8 of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Gamemastery Guide.