Bones of Babylon
Corruption and Insanity
Almost all characters in the Hyborian Age are capable of being corrupted if they face sufficiently severe challenges to their integrity. Indeed, many begin with no integrity whatsoever and seem to seek out self-corruption. Even those with stringent codes of honor may fall from their principled stance, usually without any hope of regaining it.
This is because the worldview portrayed in the Conan stories is essentially bleak. There are no cosmic forces for ‘Good.’ Even the supposedly good gods, such as Mitra, may be no more than creations of the priesthood. The only good is that which can be found in a few human beings of high moral standing, though even they are far scarcer than the self-serving or actively evil humans who make up the majority of ordinary people and great heroes and villains alike.
On the other hand, ‘Evil’ exists in a very real and concrete manner. Dark forces are always afoot. The foul sorcerous knowledge of evil priests and the vile demons they conjure up are far more powerful than any magics or defensive prayers to which their supposedly ‘Good’ counterparts might have access. Many folk who might otherwise be moral take the first steps on the road to damnation when they realize that even if they behave virtuously, there is no paradise in the next life, no guarantee of salvation; they might as well take what they can here and now.
Corruption is a more serious problem for magicians and other scholars than for most characters. Scholars’ dark research typically causes them to make more Defy Corruption rolls than most adventurers; moreover, they may invite Corruption to fuel their magic. Even those who successfully avoid being corrupted have a tendency to grow madder and madder as they gain more and more unnatural knowledge.
Should a character have a code of honor and severely and flagrantly break its tenets (as determined by the GM), they automatically earn 1 Corruption and lose access to the code of honor’s benefits.
Any time a character comes into contact with an evil place; or a demon, evil god or an unusually powerful and corrupt sorcerer, except in the context of actively attacking it or fleeing from it in terror.
Certain magical artifacts, grimoires, and sorcerous practices can also force one to Defy Corruption; see note.
Warlocks automatically start play with 5 Corruption.
This is essentially a Defy Danger check, but cannot be modified by physical abilities. A character that has a code of honor gets a +2 to Defy Corruption.
A character’s current Corruption is applied as a penalty to all Defy Corruption rolls. Once you start on the steady slope towards Corruption, it becomes more and more difficult to stop.
A character who successfully Defies Corruption usually need not make another roll against the corrupting presence of the same causal agent on the same day. However, if the character has close, willing or peaceful contact with the causal agent, the Games Master may call for another Defy Corruption every hour.
Each time he fails a Corruption saving throw, a character gains one point of Corruption.
A character’s current Corruption is applied as a penalty to all Parlay checks (unless the character is threatening harm) when dealing with another character who can be considered to have a Code of Honor.
A character’s current Corruption is applied as a bonus to all Parlay checks with those who could be considered to have Corruption, like evil cultists or black magicians, or when dealing with a demon, evil god or similar powerful entity of evil.
A character’s Corruption score cannot go above 13—at which point the character becomes a monster. Furthermore, Corruption has additional effects: see the Physical Signs of Corruption table and the Corruption Effects table.
|1–2||Troubled: You may have occasional nightmares in which they commit atrocious acts, or may begin to develop a drinking problem or a taste for some lotus-derived drug. Often this is not so much a direct effect of the corruption as a means of attempting to control it or avoid thinking about it. Roll for Insanity.|
|3–4||Disturbed: You begin to question the value of acting correctly or ethically and feel pessimistic about the future. You are likely to toy with the idea that it would be better to worship demons or evil gods than the established religions, feeling that at least evil is honest in its selfishness. Keeping to a Code of Honor becomes very difficult at this point.|
|5–6||Detached: You no longer care about others’ feelings or comfort, seeing them as no more than tools to be used in your personal pursuit of pleasure, power, knowledge or whatever else it is that motivates you. The thought of a Code of Honor, if you ever had one, is quite ridiculous to you. Lose Code of Honor and roll for another Insanity.|
|7–9||Corrupt: You actively seek out demonic creatures in the hope of making a pact with one, if you have not already done so. If you are not a warlock already your next level you must take the “Pact,” Starting Move of the warlock class, if possible. If you—the player—are unwilling to roleplay this kind of change, the Games Master will take over the character as a Non-Player Character.
Minor physical signs of their corruption will now be visible on at least part of your body. These signs get progressively worse each time you gain another point of Corruption, until at 10 points you are no longer able to hide your physical corruption. See the Physical Signs of Corruption table.
|10+||Diabolic: At this point, if you have not already made a pact with some demonic entity, you will instead be permanently and completely possessed by one, your own soul shooting off to hell or perhaps reaching a warped arrangement with your body’s new owner. Your personal corruption is now so complete that you begin to directly corrupt anyone who makes peaceful contact with you, just as though you were an evil god or demon yourself. In any event, more major physical signs of your corruption will now be visible to most who observe you. Roll for Psychosis.|
Physical Signs of Corruption
|Die Roll||Corruption 7–9||Corruption 10+|
|1||Arms become a little longer than usual and you stoop slightly.||Your apelike gait means you automatically succeed all rolls to climb or outrun someone, so long as your hands are free.|
|2||Your skin becomes pasty and pale, giving you an unhealthy, anemic look.||Your skin glows faintly, giving you a shadowy illumination as bright as a torch but making it hard to hide (take -1 when applicable).|
|3||Odd, fluid-filled cysts form on your temples.||You grow horns, gaining a natural gore attack, but find it a little harder to think clearly, -1 to Intelligence-based skills.|
|4||Your fingernails turn purplish-black and swell up, as though they had been hit with a hammer.||You grow claws, but its harder to hold on to things or write (take -1 when applicable).|
|5||Your teeth become elongated and sharply tapering.||You grow great fangs, gaining a natural bite attack, but it is harder to speak clearly (-1 when applicable).|
|6||You put on a little excess weight.||Your body becomes bloated and swollen. You gain +1d6 hit points but take –1 to all Dexterity-based moves.|
|7||You become extremely thin.||You are little more than a skin-covered skeleton. You take a +1 bonus to Dexterity-based moves (except attacks), but do one die lower damage.|
|8||Your head is now bald, and it seems to be covered in bruises and pulsing lumps.||Your skull cracks open at the rear, your brain so swollen it pushes open the bone. Your throbbing head is almost twice the size of other humans. You take a +2 bonus to Intelligence-based moves but lose 1d6 hit points permanently.|
|9||Fish-like or serpentine scales appear on your belly.||Your entire body is covered with small flesh-colored scales, giving you +1 Armor. Most NPCs will presume you are a monster.|
|10||Your eyes are constantly swollen and bloodshot.||Your eyes acquire a red glow. You can see in the dark out to 30 feet, or gain an innate bonus of +30 feet to your existing darkvision if applicable. If subjected to any light brighter than a torch while using doing so you are blinded until you Make Camp.|
Heroes of the Hyborian Age not only put their bodies and souls at risk when they decide to take up sword or sorcery, but their very minds!
The following is a guide to some traumatic situations requiring a roll on the insanity tables.
- Long period of physical and/or mental torture:
- Drug- or magically-induced hallucinations that were particularly terrifying, hideous, or realistic: roll once on the Phobia Table. If extremely traumatic, lengthy or reoccurring hallucinations, roll on the Random Insanity Table. A real-life encounter with the subject of the traumatic hallucination is likely to cause more trauma; 1-70% chance of developing another insanity — roll on the Random Insanity or Phobia Table (whichever seems most appropriate).
- Witnessing or experiencing a shockingly grotesque atrocity. Roll once on Phobia Table.
- Terribly frightening or unusually terrible brush with death. Roll on Random Insanity table.
- Reduced to 0 hp, and succeeding a Last Breath roll, or magically resurrected. This is as close to death as one can get, and miraculously returning to the living to tell the tale. Roll once on the Random Insanity Table and the Phobia Table.
- Severe physical disability.
- Mental Possession.
- 1-60% likelihood of developing a phobia toward the type of creature or the specific person/character who had possessed the character.
- Acquiring 1st or 5th Corruption point. Roll once on the Random Insanity Table.
- Acquiring 10th Corruption point. Roll for Psychosis.
- Establishing mental contact with alien entity or sanity-blasted mind. Roll once on the Random Insanity Table.
- Suddenly, unexpectedly confronted by sanity-blasting entity. Roll once on the Phobia Table.
- Prolonged contact with sanity-blasting entity. Roll once on the Random Insanity Table.
|01-10||Psychosis: Roll on the table that follows.|
|11-20||Neurosis: Roll on the table that follows.|
|21-25||Compulsive Liar: Constantly tells lies and tall tales.|
|26-30||Kleptomaniac: A compulsion to steal.|
|31-40||Obsession: Roll on the table that follows.|
|41-60||Phobia: Roll on the table that follows.|
|61-70||Fear of Animals: See Neurosis.|
|71-75||Recluse: The character prefers to be alone. They are quiet and unobtrusive.|
|76-80||Hypochondria: The character is constantly concerned about sickness, disease and poisoning.|
|81-90||Affective Disorder: Roll on the table that follows.|
|91-00||Neurosis: Roll on the table that follows.|
|01-19||Frightened by loud noises to the point of cowering and wetting self.|
|20-35||Disgusted by anything sticky and will go to any length to avoid touching it.|
|36-54||Obsessed with cleanliness and must clean up any area they’re at for more than a few minutes.|
|55-75||Outraged by acts of violence, to the point of becoming violent themselves; 72% chance of going berserk and attacking the perpetrator of the violent act without regard for self.|
|76-86||Hates music and musicians; and will try to destroy or stop the source of those terrible noises.|
|87-93||Sadistic; derives pleasure from inflicting/observing pain/violence on helpless or innocent individuals.|
|94-00||Intimidated by spoken language; cannot speak meaningful sentences (must use sign language or written communication); has difficulty understanding long sentences.|
Neurosis is any of a variety of illnesses that affect the mind or emotions without an obvious physical/organic reason, and involves depression, phobia/fear, compulsion, anxiety, hysteria and other abnormal patterns of behavior.
|01-10||Fear of Animals: More than a simple phobia, this character has been so traumatized that they avoid all animals, will push away the cutest pet, run away when confronted even by tiny animals, and will kill them whenever they feel cornered by them. Insects, fish, sea-life and people are not included in this irrational fear.|
|11-20||Fear of the Dark: Spent too much time locked in closets, to the point that the character becomes a gibbering zombie when locked or placed in dark, confined areas. Will collapse (unconscious) after a few minutes and will remain catatonic until removed from the darkness or a light is lit. Has trouble sleeping at night.|
|21-30||Cannot tell the Truth: Compulsive liar. Most lies are harmless, but they can be annoying and can get the character and their fellow adventurers into trouble.|
|31-40||Personal Cleanliness: Compulsive need to be clean. In fact, the character will wash their hands and face 2D4 times in a row before they “think” they are clean, as well as wash clothes whenever they can, and bathe frequently. They hate being dirty or engaging in something that will make them dirty and try to avoid it (changes into clean clothes whenever they can and apologizes for being dirty).|
|41-50||Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Acute anxiety and paranoia about aliens, conspiracies, other races, and creatures of inhuman/uncommon appearance. “They could be anybody!! Even … you!?!” The character is nervous, a bit jumpy and suspicious of all beings who are either a different race than themselves or not human.|
|51-60||Fear of Heights: The character is terrified of they heights to the point of being frozen when above the second story; character is fine as long as they can’t see how high up they may be.|
|61-70||Thinks They’re Being Followed: Another compulsion motivated by an unfounded fear that one is being followed. The character finds themselves frequently stopping to look and see whether or not they’re being followed. This includes checking behind themselves, looking around, constant sideways glances, checking to see doors are locked (checking the same doors several times each) and similar compulsive, paranoid behavior. Note, the character is not paranoid in the sense that they think people are out to get them or conspiring against them (the character is likely to have numerous trusted friends), it’s just that they have this constant feeling or anxiety that they may be followed or are being observed.|
|71-80||Fear of Success: The character will sabotage themselves at critical moments, or high pressure moments (battle, danger, watched by others, etc.). When a lot is on the line, treat a crucial roll of 10+ as 6-.|
|81-90||Psycho-Reliance (luck fixation): In this age of magic and the supernatural, the character becomes convinced that their “good fortune” is because of a particular item, a “lucky charm.” The character touches, taps, or kisses the charm for good luck before entering battle or tackling any difficult situation. If the character loses the item they suffer -2 ongoing until it is recovered or a replacement is found. If the character is a practitioner of magic, they may believe their powers come from their “lucky charm” or that an ordinary object (rusty old knife, ring, medallion, or even a pebble, etc.) gives their their powers. Without it, they are powerless and cannot cast magic, at least until they recover it or can find a new enchanted item to empower themselves.|
|91-00||Hysterical Blindness: When under pressure (battle, an important opportunity, watched by others, etc.), the character loses their sight until the pressure is removed; 1-89% likelihood of happening — roll for each situation. -9 to strike, parry and dodge while blind; no initiative and skill performance is half.|
A psychosis is any severe mental disorder in which the person partially or completely withdraws from reality — delusional. Their behavior is often anti-social and violent.
|01-15||Fascination with death in all its forms. The character examines, experiments, and studies ways one can die and kill, as well as implements of death, how the human (and nonhuman) body reacts/responds to the threat of death/fear reactions, tolerance to pain, survival responses, and even the philosophical concepts of death, the soul, life after death and so on. Others may find them to be disturbingly callous and ghoulish.|
|16-20||Paranoid: A general suspicion that everybody is out to get you, so the character tends to trust no one, is a bit secretive, is careful about what they say in front of whom, and keeps to themselves.|
|21-30||Manic depressive: Alternate severe depression one week (nobody loves him, they’re a loser, incompetent, and is going to die if they aren’t careful, followed with a manic episode the next week (everything is great, they’re the best there is, life is grand!)|
|31-40||They’re out to get me (paranoid schizophrenic): Voices tell the character that most everybody, human and nonhuman, men and gods, hate and/or fear them. Thus, they believe “they” are out to get them (torture, kill, imprison, hurt, cheat, discredit them, etc.). As a result, they have trouble sleeping (because they’re vulnerable to “them”), are constantly jumpy/nervous and suspicious of others, sometimes even long-time friends. The character blames all of their misfortune on others and sees conspiracies everywhere. Tends to be a loner and distrusts everybody except their closest comrades.|
|41-45||Superman syndrome: The character thinks they’re stronger, faster, smarter, better-looking and better than anybody else. They tends to respect only brute strength, power, ruthlessness and strong beings. As a result, the character accepts foolish challenges, takes dangerous risks and often underestimates their opponents or the chance of failure/ defeat. On the plus side, the character is usually helpful and positive.|
|46-50||God syndrome: The character believes they are “god,” the voices in their they ad tell them so. As “god,” the character believes they are above the law, judgement, and comprehension of all creatures. Consequently, they ignore the laws of any place they visit. The character isn’t necessarily mean about it, nor blatant or deliberate about breaking the law, they just doesn’t think about them and refuse to pay the consequences when accused of breaking them. The least offensive characters are cocky, arrogant, bossy, condescending and trivialize everything that does not directly involve them (they are the center of their universe). The most extreme believe they are truly a superhuman “god” and act accordingly, so some are reasonably benevolent “gods” while others are cruel, vengeful or malicious.|
|51-60||Hysterical aggressive reaction: The character reacts in anger and violence to a particular thing or occurrence. This “trigger” is usually a response to accusations and criticism about their appearance, courage, honor and virtue, such as being called a coward, sissy, wimp, cheater, ugly, stupid, crazy, etc. However, the reaction may also be a response to the actions of others that reminds the character of something that was traumatic in their own life (may tie to other insanities). This can include things like a child being beaten, acts of torture or cruelty, seeing someone attacked by an animal, a particular threatening monster, and so on. In most cases, the character flies off the handle, ranting and raving like a lunatic, shoving, threatening or challenging their accuser or the perpetrator of the “trigger” action.
The slightest act of antagonism, aggression or intolerance toward them, like pushing them away, a smart remark, ignoring them, etc. will send the character into a fury and attack the person or thing that set them off.
|61-70||Hysterical aggressive reaction to fear/phobia: In this case, the “trigger” is something the character has a phobia about, except instead of cringing in fear, they lashe out to destroy the object of their fear. This is usually a tangible thing like spiders, snakes, a particular monster, etc. For example, a powerhouse knight with a phobia about spiders sees an itty-bitty spider dangling from the shelf behind the bar in a saloon. He’s likely to shout something like, “Oh my god! Look out! Get out of my way,” leap over the bar and chop at the spider with their weapon, shouting, “Did I get it? Did I get it? God, I hate spiders.” Of course, in the process they may have caused a panic (after all, what has frightened this brawny knight to such a degree?) or caused damage by their extreme actions. If the phobia is something like a fear of the dark, they will fight anybody (to the death) who tries to put them someplace dark or who tries to take away their light, and they’ll do just about anything to get out of it.
Remember, this is an unreasoning response driven by terror, consequently, the character’s actions may not make sense. For example, the knight who is afraid of spiders will scream their battle cry and lunge into battle with a giant, monster spider even though it can be easily avoided (it may not have even seen him). Similarly, they may attack a spider-like being without the slightest provocation and kill without regret or reasoning (he can’t they help himself). Obviously, this can draw their fellow adventurers into some serious (and pointless) conflicts (and the reason why this phobia shouldn’t include intelligent beings that are too common, like practitioners of magic, other races, sexes, etc.)
|71-80||Mindless Aggression: Roll percentile dice again.
01-94: Semi-functional. When frustrated, angry, or upset, there is a 1-72% likelihood of going berserk and lashing out at anybody who gets in the way. The character pushes, beats and lashes out (stands and fights anybody who opposes them) until physically restrained, rendered unconscious or killed! It takes several minutes of restraint or unconsciousness before the character regains their composure.
95-00: Non-functional, homicidal maniac! Continually going berserk at the slightest provocation, as well as when frustrated, angry or upset. They fight to severely injure or kill those who upset or oppose them. The character must be confined constantly (or killed) — they have only one lucid day a week and will try to talk their way out of confinement on that day (seems completely normal and rational that entire day).
|81-85||Jekyll and Hyde: The character they hears a voice in their they head and feels powerful emotions contrary to their original alignment. There will be moments, especially when under stress, or when angry or drunk, that the voice speaks so loudly and convincingly, that the character will respond to it. The response is the opposite of the character’s normal, original personality and can be frightening, as if they were a completely different person! When they return to normal, the character may regret their actions and try to make restitution, but there is little they can do when their other personality takes over. This means if the character is a principled or scrupulous character, their opposite, Hyde, personality will be evil. As a result, in the they heat of combat, or under stress, the Hyde personality may surface and engage in acts of cruelty, intimidation, torture, belittle others, kill an unarmed foe out of anger or spite (or even sheer pleasure), and so on.|
|86-90||Become a psychiatrist. The character thinks they ‘s a psychiatrist, sees ordinary quirks, legitimate fears and concerns as serious psychoses, neuroses, phobias and obsessions. They’re all sick (even if only they has the perspicacity to recognize this)! The character will try to they help people by counseling them and offering their “expert” or “professional” services; tends to charge stiff fees. They is especially fascinated with people who they considers extremely insane (have real insanities), but they can’t they help himself, let alone anyone else.|
|91-00||Compulsive Phagomania: The character is obsessed with eating something taboo (babies), disgusting (feces), or dangerous (rusty nails).|
|04-06||Reptiles (may limit to a specific type)|
|11-13||Spiders (or insect of GM’s choice)|
|33-35||Magic Circles (may be limited by type)|
|43-45||Ghouls and Zombies|
|49-51||Flying (by any means)|
|59-62||Snakes and Snake-like Creatures|
|65-66||Spell Magic or Wizards|
|67-68||Clergy (may be limited to specific type or church)|
|69-70||Certain Race or ethnicity (pick one)|
|71-73||Blades, pointy objects|
|74-75||Dead Bodies/Corpses/Skeletons (including animated dead)|
|76-77||A particular monster (select a specific one)|
|78-80||Giants (may be limited to specific race/type)|
|86-90||Gods (may be limited to a specific god or pantheon)|
|91-93||Worms (including monstrous worms)|
|94-96||Bats and Bat-like Creatures|
|97-98||Slimes and Gooey Substances|
A phobia is an irrational fear which may result from a horrifying traumatic experience. The object of the phobia can be anything: bugs, snakes, the dark, heights… anything which may have been the focus or cause of the severe psychological trauma. While there are scientific names for specific phobias, it is far easier to simply identify the object of the fear.
To determine a specific phobia, the player can roll on the random table or the GM and player can decide on a phobia which best applies to the experience. In the latter case, use common sense to determine the phobia. For example, if the character had a horrifying experience in a haunted house, walked through spider webs, descended into a dark cellar and encountered a walking skeleton, the phobia is likely to be one of the following: empty old houses, haunted houses, ghosts, the dark, spiders, skeletons, or animated dead. GM Note: Encounters with the supernatural and magic are often scary, horrifying, bizarre and deadly situations, but it is only the most horrifying and unexpected experiences that may create a phobia or other insanity. Remember, the player character will be prepared and hardened to sights, magic, concepts, and creatures that might bedazzle the mind of a normal person.
Characters who suffer from a phobia will become terrified when the object of their fear is encountered. If the character is surrounded by friends who can talk and soothe away their fears, the person may be able to contain themselves long enough to safely avoid it (40% chance). However, if the character is alone, already nervous, or feels threatened, they will be overcome by fear. This is phobic panic. Upon reaching the breaking point, the character’s mind will defend itself by responding in one of the following ways:
- 01-25 Pass out/fall unconscious.
- 26-80 Flee/run away at top speed! Panic-stricken, the character will ignore the outcries, pleas or needs of their companions. All the terrified person knows is that they must escape. The character will run and run until they are certain they’ve escaped the object of their fear, or until subdued or restrained. The person will fight only if there is no other way to escape, and then only until they can get away and run.
- 81-00 Paralyzed with fear, the character can only whimper, sob or scream as they face the horror. Physically, the character will stand completely rigid or huddled in a corner, immobilized with fear. They cannot run, fight, use skills or move in any way until the object of the fear is removed or destroyed, or they are dragged away from it.
Obsessions are either an intense, irrational love of something; or an intense loathing of it. The former is likely to motivate the obsessed person to obtain the object of their desire, while the latter is likely to cause the character to avoid or destroy it. The GM can decide which is most appropriate under the circumstances or roll once on the following table. An obsession may drive a character to incredible, even outrageous lengths to satisfy their irrational feelings.
Focus of the Obsession
- 01-50 Love/copulate with (select or roll for obsession)
- 51-00 Hate/harm (select or roll for obsession)
Random Obsession Table
|01-05||Opposite sex: The character will either love to be around the opposite sex or finds fault in everything they say or do and avoids them.|
|06-12||Secrecy: Either prizes their secrecy above all else, or abhors even the thought of keeping a secret.|
|13-20||Timeliness: Either a fanatic about being on time or always late.|
|21-27||Wealth: Either wants it or gives it away.|
|28-35||Magic: Either loves to acquire and use magic/magic items or loathes them, refuses to use magic, avoids working with magic users, and may hide or destroy magic items and knowledge whenever they can.|
|36-43||A specific individual: Hates or loves ’em (NPC or player character).|
|44-50||Specific object/item or animal — wants one or hates it.|
|51-55||Appearance: A fashion plate or a slob.|
|56-63||Danger: Either loves the thrill of danger, which usually means throwing caution to the wind (the more deadly the better), or despises danger and is overly cautious; a jumpy, worry wart.|
|64-69||Food: Covets and pays for only the finest foods and drink (complains about common or plain food; prefers not to eat it). Or eats any slop put down in front of him, the cheaper the better.|
|70-75||Alcohol: Either a they a heavy drinker with a keen taste for the finest liquor, or a fanatical teetotaler, anti-alcohol prude.|
|76-80||Picts (or some other hostile people other than one’s own): The character either hates them and wants them all destroyed (knows every vicious story and rumor about them), or believes that everyone must learn to live together in peace and/or prefers everything Pictish above all other cultures.|
|81-85||Gambling: Either loves it and bets on everything even when on a losing streak (a gambleacholic), or is an anti-gambler who never bets on anything and looks down upon those who do.|
|86-90||Solitude: Either loves peace and quiet, and being alone to the point of growing irrationally angry and frustrated if continually bothered or interrupted, especially during quiet times; or can’t stand the thought of being left alone even for short periods of time.|
|91-96||Crime: The character loves to be a they hero and is obsessed with stomping out crime and evil everywhere or think of themselves as a master con-man or criminal mastermind and engages in criminal activity and dodges the law whenever they can.|
|97-00||Power/leadership: Either craves power and wants to be a leader of men, or couldn’t care less and prefers to be a follower.|