... now with 35% more arrogance!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Handling Hallucinations

Thanks, all, for the comments about how you handle hallucinations in a game. What I was worried about was that either most GMs avoided hallucination effects, on the grounds that they're a form of "splitting the party", or that GMs treated hallucination as one case where the player knowledge vs. character knowledge distinction wasn't important.

My personal inclination is to let a player know that their character is hallucinating, if not all PCs are affected, but to strictly enforce the effects of hallucination afterwards, should the player choose to try to function anyways. I'm assuming that these aren't what's called "veridical hallucinations" -- false perceptions indistinguishable from reality -- but are more like hypnagogic or psychedelic hallucinations, where you know you are hallucinating, but that doesn't mean you can function normally.

The way I figure it, hallucination effects will cause the following problems:
  • Always surprised;
  • Can't read magical or mundane texts;
  • There's a random noise behind every door, and secret doors are everywhere;
  • When trying to draw a weapon or other item, you only succeed in taking out the correct item on a 5+ on 1d6;
  • Unlike Confusion, you can choose whether to attack or not, but the target will be random if you do attack.
That's pretty basic, but the real "problem" is inspiration for what the victim perceives instead of reality. The idea I had yesterday (inspired by Nethack) was: use the last letter of the name of whatever the victim discovers as the first letter of the replacement word. "You see a cat holding a book standing in front of a large rock." Based on that description, what would you do?


  1. call for help. I know I'm hallucinating: I need some eyes on what's actually happening around me. Maybe someone else can tell me what's real. Maybe.

  2. Hallucinogenic drugs (psychedelics are others) don't generally cause hallucinations (unreal sensory perceptions) but instead illusions (misperceptions of sensory stimuli).

    "Realistic" hallucinations--like those typically seen with delirium or toxic exposures--are often tactile (formication--the feeling of bugs crawling on the skin) or visual (typically these are "unpleasant" animals like insects or reptiles crawling around). Auditory hallucinations are generally the province of psychiatric illness.

    Illusions are typically things like visual trails, color changes to lights, or the peception that stationary things are moving that things are moving (carpet or stones in the round--typically rhythymically; walls "breath"), or distortion in size or distance.

    I would think either of these "realistic" types of sensory disturbances ought to be relatively easy to relate to players.