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Madness Powerup

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, June 19, 2021

So you have this badass character, who is usually a gentle soul, or affable, or kind and easygoing. They fight efficiently and are formidable as they are.

Until they meet someone who is their better.

He/she can meet all their attacks, break through their defenses, wears them down to the point of breaking…

…and then something happens, and it seems like our badass character shifts. Posture, gait, expression, everything changes like a switch has been thrown. Even their opponent blinks, startled- or they grin in ecstasy, because they managed what they were going for:

They got the madness to kick in.

This madness is always a huge powerup for the badass character. If they were badass before, they are godlike now. Their speed, their accuracy, their sheer efficiency just is beyond the charts, even for their already quite advanced/proficient level.

But there is a catch: they are mad.

The madness may not be necessarily going complete bonkers and suffering a psychotic break that makes them unaware of who they are fighting a why though that could be on the menu. It may be a complete drop of inhibitions, and an emergence of a lot more violent, merciless, unyielding side of themselves which they customarily abhor or try to keep suppressed.

When the badass with the madness powerup gets in that state, they are virtually unstoppable but they are also quite vulnerable. Not necessarily because someone can beat them (though this tends to eventually happen, especially against a character that has similar madness powerup traits) but because when they come down from that state they have to deal with the fallout.

Usually, the only one able to snap them from that headspace is a close friend or a love interest. It could also be their parents or any context or situation that will resonate strongly with their gentler, usually dominant self.

Often, this type of badass' hero's journey is to manage to master that madness and temper it or make it disappear while assimilating the level of skill and powerup it normally comes with.

This storyline can be very compelling if used right. The madness powerup has to be rare in emerging, so that the audience feels it is a significan event that will have powerful consequences. If it becomes rather frequent, it will only work as a deus ex machina for when the situation gets tough and the audience won't be interested as much, or feel the stakes aren't important.

The reason the madness exists in the first place is also usually entwined with the character's origin story, and usually involves some kind of trauma or past self that haunts the character to this day. Overcoming/ coming to terms with that usually makes the madness go away and the character's skill to unify into one rather than stay splintered in two: overpowered and mad (which usually means that the character associates that level of skill with their bad self, so only manifests it when that bad self emerges) or highly skilled and sane (but holding themselves back from actualizing their true potential).

To overcome the madness is a tough journey and it usually comes with wandering, amassing experiences and offering help in various places though that is not necessary. There could be other episodic-type occurences that work in the same manner.

Whatever the reason for the madness is, and why it is associated with the powerup, it can be a great way to create suspense and make for exremely entertaining action scenes.

Have you ever had a character with a madness powerup?

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bravo1102 at 1:21AM, June 20, 2021

There are actual records of this among combat veterans. They go into a zone of intense awareness, focus and instinct and accounts have them doing near superheroic acts of bravery. Audie Murphy and Joe Basilone are excellent examples. Then there's a simple seeing red when angry and you usually end up hurting yourself a lot because there is no focus just red.

hushicho at 8:49PM, June 19, 2021

This is, as usedbooks stated, like the "berserker rage" so often associated with vikings and the ancient celts. In the case of something like Rurouni Kenshin and similar, it can be almost like a trance for the participants. Their focus is so narrow that everything else escapes them for that moment, and it takes something familiar and strong to snap them out of it. It's not always meeting their better necessarily, but someone who has to challenge them enough that they really have to try, usually with characters who go day to day without much in the way of that challenge.

usedbooks at 3:04PM, June 19, 2021

This is also "berserk" power. You get it as a barbarian in D&D. :)

usedbooks at 3:49AM, June 19, 2021

I knew someone irl who had these weird breaks when he just lost it. You could see it building in his posture, then he'd shake a bit and then his usual calm rational self would just crack. It was like an adult tantrum he couldn't control. He eventually was medicated, which "fixed" it, and later he learned to predict the onset and extract himself from the triggers. Anyway, he inspired a couple of my characters who have what I call "rage." Mike's is basically never seen because he's terrified of himself since he accidentally killed someone, do he manages himself very carefully. Fudo has issues. He doesn't get a "power up," but a trained ex-assassin in a rage isn't a pretty sight.

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