I'm going to be starting a new campaign soon (I always have two on the go, and alternate to prevent player and GM burnout...I run one until the end of a story arc, then switch to the other and do a back and forth like that) and I'm going to flirt with madness. LOL. The player is going to have to make a completely batshit crazy character. How am I going to accomplish this you ask? By having them make a character for a vastly different part of my setting, from a vastly different culture, etc. How the world is explained to them will seem straight forward, but little do they know that they are somewhere else doing something else...and those aren't orcs. Or something like that. I hate orcs, so that was just an example. For another example: PC is sneaking through the woods tracking kobolds that took her baby, while orcs chase her because she took their pies. I describe this in it's entirety as though it's really happening, while in fact the PC is actually chasing street urchins that stole her dirty catlady shawl that she keeps a moldy turnip wrapped up in, and the city watch is chasing her for stealing pie in the market place.

Why would I do all this you may wonder? Well, after a couple sessions I let the other shoe drop, the plot twist unfolds, and the PC is now faced with the dilemna of trying to decipher what is real, what is not, and who she really is. In a group it wouldn't work, but luckily my only player is also my fiance, nd I've grown quite fond of solo campaigns. Trust factor is another one that would stop this from working, but she trusts me implicitly and knows I wouldn't do anything lame, or worse, disrespectful to her character.

Anyone else ever play around with madness in their campaigns? I don't mean Call of Cthulu style madness, or even the old WFRP style madness...I'm talking reeeaalll too-far-gone-madness here. Any horror stories or advice for me?

For what it's worth, she's already made the character...a barbarian much like Grace Jones character in Conan, but pale and dreadlocked.

Anyone else ever play around with madness in their campaigns?

I've not done anything so focused on the player(s) but I have played with perceptions and made "mad" NPC (paladins are the best for this).

It sounds like you have experience and understanding with new approaches so you are way ahead of me. The battle with unfamiliarity was the biggest challenge I faced. When players didn't know what to make of the ideas they often blanked and other social dynamics took over breaking focus on playing the game.

So, all that said I'm eager to hear how it turns out for you.

While we ate supper last night, we rehashed the idea. As it stands now, she's going to play a character that was put away in an insane asylum. At age 10 she killed her 6 year old brother at the behest of the voice in her head (which is in fact a devil...he came to her at age 5 and made the deal that if she would do one favor for him when he asked in the future, he would be her best friend "for ever and ever") The favor was killing her little brother when he reached age 6...being the only friend she had ever had, she did it without question. She had always been an odd girl (the devil possesed her in the womb, but didn't make itself known to her until she was 5), and truly only had the one friend, which everyone thought was know how kids make things up.

The town priest where she was raised couldn't seem to excorcise her, and so it was determined that she was not possesed, but rather was just mad. After three years in the church cellar, she was shipped to the asylum many miles away and generally forgotten about by her town. After 10 years of all the awful things that go on in asylums in medieval settings (especially to women) she has decided to just get out or die trying. The devil that posseses her has been in her mind the whole time (he made a deal with her after all...she held up her end, and he is more than happy to hold up his; being her best friend "for ever and ever"), and has taught her a few things about tapping ones true potential (the PC is a 1st level Warlock, a class from Complete Arcane). The last thing he taught her was a word so foul it can shatter objects. She intends to use this to try and escape the asylum and exact her vengenance on a world that she has grown to hate through years of torment and abuse.

Kinda dark, innit? But, that's how we like our campaigns sometimes. Luckily my player is mature enough to handle the evil and macabre darkness of the theme. She's quite looking forward to it as she hasn't played an evil PC in a few years (4, I think). I'll be leaning heavily on the Book of Vile Darkness, and the Legions of Hell book by Green Ronin. It dovetails nicely with my setting as I use the Book of The Righteous by the same folks as my pantheon in my world.

Blah blah...I'm excited to get this one off the ground, so I got a bit long winded there.

While I've never played with demented characters, I did participate in a one-shot that had myself and a second player (there were two of us) playing a couple of characters "stuck" inside a third person's mind, trying to figure out why we were there and how. In the process of the adventure (modern setting, house system) we (the three characters) struggled to control the single body to do as we wished, with a forth, dark and threatening character apppearing from time to time and doing horrible things with "our" body.

Very interesting stuff, with the added realization near the end that the four "personalities" (i.e. characters; which were written especially to fit both their roles and us players) represented the id, ego, superego and subconcious.

I played the superego...and ended up "winning", i.e. taking sole control of the body by the end of the session.

That's cool...

@ Scott Free: No worries about being long-winded. The details help.

@ zipdrive: I agree with Calamar, that's very cool. The dynamics would seem to fit a creative but patient group. How did the cooperation/competition work out?

So we played the first session in this campaign last night. Details aside, suffice to say that Fleur Raymer, the PC, managed to escape from the Sarvesh Institue For The Mad And Bewildered. It was not easy, but freeing other lunatics as you go can sometimes make these types of things easier. It's far easier for the staff of a grimy, degenerate asylum to capture one escaping "patient" than it is to catch several dozen.

A word of warning...defiling the grave of an ancient evil's long dead wife to procure the armor and weapon she was buried with may seem like a good idead in the short term...especially if you've been in a cellar for 3 years, then an asylum for 10, and you're only wearing one of those tattered smocks that leaves your but hanging out. Taking the circlet from the mummified corpses brow and donning it yourself may be something a woman that wants to attempt to look regal and beautiful after living in her own filth would do...but when that circlet allows the ancient evil in question to see through his dead beloved's eyes and track the whereabouts of her body you've pretty much screwed yourself in the long term. Add to the equation a crazed paladin that wants nothing more than to do everything at his disposal to slay every last member of his evil family and cleanse his bloodlines heritage...a paladin that knows what his great great aunt was wearing when she was buried, and also knows that his great great uncle is almost complete his preperations to raise said dead great great aunt...and things get even more compicated.

But, when you've not had the sun on your face since you were 10, and you're 20 now...that first sun rise looks all the more beautiful to even the meanest coldest eyes. It can make it all wort it.

Twisted and evil that couldn't be helped, I like it. I usually find player willingness to take on such disadvantages a little sparse so I'm envious.

Well, the disadvantages are minimal. The only thing it really affects overmuch is social interaction...and in that regard it's no more challenging to play insane than to play evil. This particular PC is both, so maybe it is a little harder than playing, say, a Blackgaurd.

I suppose completely lunatic crazy would be a challenge, but Fleur's psychosis is more along the lines of obsessive compulsive disorder and megalomania. The pit fiend in her head gives her some pretty off the wall suggestions...I've found after three sesisons now that the trick is to explain things from the characters point of view...we all try to do that as GMs, but with an insane PC it is all the more important. And another key learning I've taken from this so far...never admit that anything going on is crazy. It spoils the mood; crazy people don't know they are crazy after all.

I once GMed a great game where I tried to make the players think they were crazy. The adventurers go to sleep in a medieval fantasy world and then wake up in a modern aslyum where they are interned for living out a dangerous fantasy of knights and dragons. Turns out it was a demon who plunged them into an illusion. When the character admitted that the fantasy was actually just a hallucination and willingly took the drugs then the demon would be able to inflict damage on the character. It was a cool game and made my players ask "Wait, are we playing in the real world or the DnD world?" and other existential, post moderny questions.

-Mr. Rogers is pissed-

I love cross-genre gaming! There was an excellent article on that ahwile back I think. I once landed a Traveller character into Iron Heroes. We only played that one night, and it wouldn't have been as fun as more than a one-shot thing anyways, but hot damn that was a fun session! There was no madness though...hrm.

Well, I must be doing something right with this campaign...I'm running for the fourth night in a row tonight. I love living with my player because I'm still very much a 8 hours a day 5 days a week kinda gamer, despite my job with the same hours. LOL. I'll sleep when I'm dead.

I've found after three (sessions) now that the trick is to explain things from the characters point of view...we all try to do that as GMs, but with an insane PC it is all the more important.

Good points. I've found more reverence among players for madness than evil, which is most often played simply and selfishly, but no accompanying increase in willingness to play at madness.

Aozora: I'll tell the GM you said so.
And to your question:
Each "personality" had a Strength and Defense- kind scores (e.g. while the id had high strength but low defense/HP, the superego had low strength but lots of defense/HP). Since each part of the psyche had a personality attached to it, that personality had a list of modifiers regarding things he/she liked/hated/feared which affected the outcome (no die rolling).

@ zipdrive

That's a fascinating set up. Was there any teaming up and / or negotiating between players or was it kept to one on one on one?

I'm not sure I undersand your question correctly, but there was constant negotiation going on inside the head of the protagonist between the three personalities. Resolving arguments by the numbers happened when these did not work out.
Of course, a few times the subconcious just woke up and we'd "black out".

In addition, each time a personality lost an "argument" (read: failed a contest to take control of the body for a specific task), it also lost one "HP". The superego I played "won" because it outlasted the others.