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The Safety of a Shattered Mind

Something is wrong with the world. You can feel it. There have been signs. A darkness hides behind the thin, peeling veneer, slowly eating away at all things good and pure. You can fight it, but eventually you will succumb to its curse and it will consume you. But maybe there is another way. Maybe you can understand enough of it that it might only fracture your mind, instead out of shattering it outright. Then the fight may go on.

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

-Philip K. Dick

Rage of Demons and the D&D Adventurers League

As you likely know, season three for the D&D Adventurers League is titled Rage of Demons, and for this exciting new story, the demon lords of the Abyss have been unwillingly summoned into the Underdark of Toril. Each of the demon lords brings with it a unique form of contagious insanity that has been amplified by the faerzress, that strange radiation of the Underdark. Experiences that a hardened adventurer might once have shrugged off with nothing but a few nightmares have now started to wear on your psyche. As you travel further and further into the Underdark, you witness things that no one was meant to see and you are becoming the worse for wear. Personalities are starting to change as your grip on reality fractures. Insanity is your only refuge. Prepare to welcome it as a cherished friend.

Madness and You!

For season three D&D Expeditions and D&D Epic adventures, the D&D Adventurers League will be using special Madness rules, with information taken from Chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide further augmented by information from Out of the Abyss. If you are running these adventures and don’t own either of these books, worry not, the Administrators have been sure to include enough of the rules into the adventures for you to give your players the experience they undoubtedly deserve.

But what if you are playing season three adventures? Here are a few things you should know to enhance your experience.

Madness Saving Throws: At the best of times, the Underdark is a bizarre, alien, and inhospitable world, but the influence of the demon lords has transformed it into a domain of madness and chaos. Faerzress acts as a catalyst for this insanity, spreading the demon lords’ madness throughout the Underdark. Things your character might have been disturbed by before may now force you to make a saving throw. These saving throws will typically be Wisdom- or Charisma-based, but in some cases if the source of your horror is not readily apparent or understandable the adventure might call for you to use your Intelligence instead. The DC of the saving throw will vary based on the dreadfulness of the scene and how deep you have traveled into the Underdark. Realizing your new paramour is a succubus while having drinks in The Stop’s Plodding Plow Inn might only be DC 5, but conversing telepathically with an aboleth about the horrors of the demon lords that it has witnessed while crouching in the shadows of the Lowerdark might be DC 20, or worse.

Some examples of things that might require you to make a Madness saving throw include:

  • You encounter or witness something particularly alien or disturbing (such as a demon, aberration, or the mutilation of your ally’s corpse).
  • You stay in a faerzress-suffused area for a long time (eight or more consecutive hours).
  • You take psychic damage, particularly in an area suffused with faerzress.
  • You make direct contact with the mind of an alien creature.
  • You are targeted by a madness inducing spell, such as the Insanity option of a symbol
  • You magically transport through, or attempt to use a divination spell on a target in, an area infused with faerzress.
  • You read a tome the topic of which is completely alien to your mind.

Madness Levels: Madness is measured in levels. Level 1 results in a bout of short term madness that lasts for 1d10 minutes. Level 2 is a long-term madness that lasts for 1d10 x 10 hours. Level 3 is indefinite madness, and it is permanent until cured. If you should acquire an indefinite madness in the D&D Adventurers League, you record it in the notes section of your logsheet, and it stays with you from adventure to adventure until it is successfully removed.

Your madness level starts at 0. When you fail a madness saving throw, your madness level increases by 1, and you immediately suffers the level’s effect as determined by rolling on the Short-Term Madness or Long-Term Madness table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as appropriate to your new madness level. For season three D&D Expeditions and D&D Epic adventures, there is a unique table for Indefinite Madness included in the adventures, themed appropriately to the demon lord that plagues the Moonsea and the lands below it. For these adventurers, you use the included chart for Indefinite Madness instead. When a madness effect ends, your madness level doesn’t change. Any time your madness level increases, you suffer the effect of the new level.

As an example, Alan’s paladin fails a madness saving throw after finding a quasit hiding in his bed and suffers short-term madness for 3 minutes during which he runs screaming from the inn. His madness level rises from 0 to 1. Several hours later, he reads a despicable tome and fails another madness saving throw. His level is now 2 even though he has shaken off the fright of seeing the quasit. Alan’s paladin is slipping rapidly towards permanent insanity.

Just because you have reached level 3 doesn’t mean your character is safe from further insanity. If your Madness Level is 3 and you fail another madness saving throw, your madness level becomes 1, and you immediately gain a new, short-term insanity. You still keep your first indefinite madness, but begin working on your second! In this way, you can potentially accumulate multiple forms of madness.

Please note that you incorporate the madness into your own character and still role-play your own character. The DM does not take control of your character no matter how far you slip into insanity, though your DM might make suggestions on how you might deal with your insanity. Also, role-playing your insanity does not give you the right to ignore the Code of Conduct rules in Part 3 of the D&D Adventures League Player’s Guide.

Curing Madness: Once madness takes root, it is hard to eliminate. A calm emotions spell can suppress the effects of madness for the duration, in those that fail the saving throw against the spell. The effects of short- and long-term madness can be cured lesser restoration as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and, given the demonic source of the madness, remove curse and dispel evil are also effective as cures. While all of these cures end the effect, they do NOT reduce your madness level. A greater restoration spell or more powerful magic is needed to cure indefinite madness. In addition, greater restoration resets a creature’s madness level to 0. Some of the factions may also have ways of dealing with or preventing madness, as detailed in the Season three D&D Adventurers League Player’s Guide.

Additional information on madness and it effects may be found in specific D&D Adventurers League adventures throughout the Rage of Demons season.

Welcome to the Mad House.


Greg Marks
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Author: Greg Marks

Greg Marks is an evil mastermind directing his criminal army of precocious felines from the birthplace of gaming: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He and his cat minions have worked on products for multiple editions of Dungeons and Dragons including Complete Scoundrel, City of Stormreach and Dragon Magic.

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