How to roleplay someone desperately holding onto, and succeeding at the moment, sanity?

I have a question/problem. I plan on playing a character from Spiral, where keeping a level head and not letting unwanted mental effects get the better of you is the difference between life and death at the hands of your friends because they object to you nibbling on their insides. He’ll probably avail himself to the mind protecting abilities the great and good of the empire can provide and has a few tricks up his sleeve himself (anointing, Cambion, ect.). My problem is, how do I roleplay someone to whom your Unfetered Anarchy, Dreamscape of the Endless Hunt, Maddening Eternal curses and other RP mental shenanigans are literally a Tuesday occurrence that happens on the way to get a sandwich?

I dont want to be boring or worse, seemingly cheating by ignoring RP effects, but I’m not certain as to how to pull this off. Any ideas?

So a couple of hints as a fellow spiral resident:

  • The effects of the plateau are not all encompassing, they’re not an active destruction now but rather the mental equivalent of background radiation. It’s not actively been sending people mad for a while now just sending mind wracking nightmares*
  • You are Urizeni, as such poise and self control are important parts of your cultural make up. As such its entirely fine to be controlling these thoughts and impulses the majority of the time and only letting out these things in times of exceeding stress.
  • focus on the coping methods that your character developed during the bad times, have a meditation phrase or motion, something that says both internally and externally ‘I am in command of myself and my emotions’. I stole from another player the drawing down motion, i.e. grasp an imaginary thread at the level of your head, drawn the the hand downward along your centre line to your belly button breathing as you do.
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So firstly from a rules POV Roleplaying Immunity to the RP effect of Unfettered Anarchy is just cheating. Also the Cambion Lineage, doesn’t impact on any of those specific RP factors.

More generally, it strikes me as trying the Empire equivalent of ‘my character is from an area with lots of Dragons so I should gain a bonus to resisting fire.’ You are used to enduring one specific set of RP effects trivialising that and turning it into a carte-blanche resist curses strikes me as boring and tenuous at best. Also on an OOC framework one of those curses is half a players mana production, the other is 2 seasons of a mana site, and a coven slot. It’s something a player has invested in inflicting on your character. (Trivialising and ignoring these effects is something people will judge you for.)

But also I think you are looking at this the wrong way, you everyday life is made difficult due to the Plateau but both of those examples are ones that would make living in Spiral far Worse.

Dreamscape of the Endless Hunt stops you getting restful sleep, it takes away normal tools you have to deal with problems. Also Fear is a negative emotion, Dreamscape makes being alone a frightening experience, which the Black Plateau amplifies. That sounds horrific especially when combined with Urizen being lowly populated and culturally introverted, and that the Black Plateau makes feeling safe around people difficult.

An anointing does mechanically let you power through that horrific combination of RP effects (although I think you need to be medicating with Vinum to stop the dreams),but you would be doing that be constantly drawing on and embracing that roleplaying effect. At which point the question becomes roleplaying someone who is experiencing chosen anointing at it’s fullest for most of their life. That rp effect is the mental crutch that allows you to function (That’s if the Druj haven’t pushed the Black Plateau back into needing more than an anointing to cope, at which point constant terror if you are alone, and you can’t feel safe around people due to the Black Plateau.)

As for Unfettered Anarchy that sound completely horrific in Spiral, because the Black Plateau is going to shift the balance of which emotions are constantly turned up to 11.
It also probably destroys all those little Urizenii coping methods, because you react to trying calm down with an outburst of emotion which is probably going to be negative due to the Plateau. There was one time when literally the only counter to the Black Plateau’s curse, had this RP effect, which Unfettered Anarchy sticks into a lovely loop of:
Experience Negative Emotion, try to resist using Crystal Clarity of the Rational Soul, this fails due to triggering Unfettered Anarchy which causes a strong outburst of the original negative emotion.

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As someone who has tried to do something not to dissimilar my first piece of advice is to exaggerate, it is very easy for other players to overlook subtle roleplaying, so make the effect when they happen as bold. But obviously
you are coping and the RP effects of spiral aren’t actually acting on you when you are in Anvil.

Unless you’re a better actor/roleplayer than me, it is really difficult and tiring to play these sorts of affects upon your character over a whole weekend. Luckily you don’t need to as you are ‘hanging on’.

If it was me , I think I would try to decided on what for your character to triggers which were largest challenges to keeping your poise, and then look for them during your roleplay. When you find them you can act out in bold strokes and external struggle to keep your poises (and maybe fail to) .

Secondly I would look for a few ideas for coping mechanisms which have become second nature. For example, maybe every time you moved around in your spire; you said a litany to help guard your minds, so you now naturally find yourself doing as you enter and leave a tent. I’m sure you can come up with other ideas.

If you have a few of these hooks to base your roleplaying off it gives you something concrete to do in game express the challenges you character is facing.

From a rules point of view, hero points will allow you to ignore RP effects and so your character might have some heroic skills, extra hero points, etc. This might reflect your character learning how to suppress the mental influences when needed, poise in the face of some serious challenges.

If you have hero points, you may also have found that your superior poise allows you to pick yourself back off the floor after injuries which should have crippled your limbs (Relentless) or left you bleeding on the floor (Unstoppable) and there are even heroic skills (Stay With Me / Get It Together) where your example can extend to others, helping them get back up and even shrugging off some of their wounds.

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I like the idea of a coping mechanism that is always on… and which you can only leave behind briefly, for the duration of the mechanical buff to mental stability.

An example from another setting:
“The Aeronauts Windlass” by Jim Butcher. Features Ethermancers who go more and more mad. They compensate with various behavioural techniques, and without them, they are non-functional. An almost Urizeni example: (can’t remember her name, call her) Lindsie, could only speak to her light crystals. And they had to be hers, and they had to have been discarded by someone else. So she spent most of the book speaking only to her jar of almost-dark light crystals. When they were removed, she was catatonic until another character deliberately threw away their light crystal in front of her. It was only on a few occasions (spending hero points, standing in massive auras) that she was able to push through this and address people directly.

Possibly useless, possibly an idea?

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I would look at it almost like anxiety. With anxiety in a public place, you want to keep it in but your body is trying to force it out. Maybe have some twitches with your body, start breathing more rapidly. You could let out a scream and then try and tell yourself to stop it. Maybe you actively avoid people because you don’t want them to see you how you are. If you have a weapon, maybe you use the blade to try and focus your self by pressing it to your skin.

You could also look at Tourette’s, sometimes that is made worse in stressful situations. I met someone with Tourette’s and they could have a normal conversation with me but they couldn’t stop twitching throughout.

With unfettered anarchy, your RP could be all about your trying to hide it, maybe going overboard to show you are okay. For example, asking someone ‘why are they looking at your in that way, they shouldn’t because you are completely fine, nothing is wrong, go away’.

With curse involving fear, you could show a bit of anger with it. When people are scared they can sometimes throw it out as anger. Maybe throw in a whimper now and again but your main part could be shouting and pretending to be brave.

I don’t know about cambions but I know that briars are resistant to things that make the tired so they would be able to deal with certain curses a little bit better than other people.

I hope this helps.

I have given out an RP effect of ‘As long as your Poise is kept, all is fine: but losing it is both easier and worse’.

My old Urizeni PC had a hand-gesture and breathing exercise he used to re-centre his Poise, which might be helpful.

He once reacted to a situation that was supposed to be painful with a few seconds of stoic impassivity, before banging a hand startlingly on the table and letting out a single cry of pain and then returning to stillness.

Another way of doing it might be to smile overly widely and respond “NO EVERYTHING IS FINE WHY WHY DO YOU ASK” or similar. Possibly even in response to a relevant question! :slight_smile: