Taint of Madness

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Front Cover

Publisher: Chaosium

Product Code: 2354

Publishing Year: 1995

Pages: 122

Cover Price: $18.95

Author(s): Michael Tice, Shannon Appel, Eric Rowe

Artist(s): Eric Vogt (cover), Dave Carson, Earl Geier, Drashi Khendup

Setting(s): 1890s, 1920s, 1990s

Format(s): Softcover and scanned/OCR PDF

ISBN: 1-56882-042-9


The fundamental worry of every Call of Cthulhu investigator is the state of his or her sanity. Will the next encounter with a Mythos monster topple you over the edge? Can your allies carry your babbling private eye to reputable care? Taint of Madness covers such topics, expounding upon the Sanity rules given in the Call of Cthulhu rulesbook. It covers asylums, mental health care in the 1920s, 1890s, and in the modern-day, presents new insanities, and an insane assortment of other details.

  • Lunacy (a short history of sane peoples' reactions to the insane, therapies),
  • Sanity, Insanity and Roleplaying the Investigator (expansion of the Call of Cthulhu rules for Sanity),
  • The Psychiatric Interview (how to run the interview, worksheets with Arkham Asylum letterhead),
  • Insanity, Society, and the Law,
  • Asylums (general description of asylums in different eras, plus extensive tables of facilities with stats organised by U.S. State, and a longer description of numerous U.S., Canadian, European, African and Asian facilities),
  • Bethlehem, an 1890s Asylum (aka London's infamous "Bedlam" Asylum)
    • Description
    • Scenario Ideas
    • Scenario: Turnabout
  • Arkham Sanitarium, a 1920s Asylum
  • Bellevue, a 1990s Asylum (located in New York City)
  • Scenario Handouts (Certificate of Insanity, eight Mythos-monster-shaped Rorschach inkblots),
  • Appendix 1 (Alternate asylum ratings, rules for recovery from indefinite insanity),
  • Glossary,
  • Annotated Bibliography,
  • Index.

Scenarios: Turnabout, The Curse of Anubis, To Wake, Perchance To Dream

(Optional) New Rules

The Sanity rules presented in this book offer a few additions to the normal rule-set provided in the Call of Cthulhu game. The following additions are made (all labelled as optional):

  • Insanity POW
  • Statistics for Asylums (cure rate/survival rate)
  • Expansion of Maximum SAN
  • Not-in-one's-right-mind Rule

Front Cover Text

with an Asylum scenario for each era

Insanity and Dread within Asylum Walls


Back Cover Text

Insanity and Dread...

"Now they have blown up Exham Priory, taken my [cat] away from me, and shut me into this barred room at Hanwell with fearful whispers about my heredity and experiences. ... They are trying, too, to suppress most of the facts concerning the priory. When I speak of poor Norrys they accuse me of a hideous thing, but they must know I did not do it. They must know it was the rats; the slithering, scurrying rats whose scampering will never let me sleep; the daemon rats that race behind the padding in this room and beckon me down to greater horrors...." &endash; H.P. Lovecraft

Taint of Madness

A Sourcebook of Sanity, Insanity, Therapies, Asylums and Laws & Procedures Relating to Such Topics

Only small events are needed to shake shared beliefs &endash; a suspect friendship, for instance, or a machinating government, or a doctor's threatening manner, or inexplicable evidence of a dreadfulness older than the stars. When we perceive this change in ourselves, we soon learn whether we are disturbingly normal, or completely insane...

TAINT OF MADNESS is a long sourcebook discussing the recognizable form of insantiy, the historical treatment of the insane, how the mad or the incompetant are handled, and what the legal complications of being classified insane may portend. Plenty of game-related information and suggestions are made. The Cthulhu sanity rules are modified. There are three fully-developed asylums (Bethlehem for the 1890s, Arkham Sanitarium for the 1920s, and Bellevue for the 1990s), as well as a short scenario for each. Background information includes notes for conducting psychiatric interviws, sample commitment and release papers, a glossary of psychiatric terms corrected for the era, extensive information concerning historical asylums in the US and across the globe, an annotated bibliography, and plenty of illustrations. Indexed.

Comments / Trivia

This book is unusual in that it one of the few sourcebooks Chaosium has published for Call of Cthulhu that is truly theme-based. Most sourcebooks have concentrated on locations; those that haven't have been general rules for Cthulhu Mythos books/monsters.

The Arkham Sanitarium information that appears in this volume is mostly drawn from earlier Chaosium Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks, most notably Arkham Unveiled

The Bellevue Asylum is based on a real-world hospital, also called the Bellevue.

The scenarios in this book aim to highlight the different ways asylums can be used as settings in a Call of Cthulhu game: in one adventure (Turnabout), players get to take on the role of patients, another (The Curse of Anubis) puts them into the role of asylum workers, while the final scenario (To Wake, Perchance To Dream) integrates normal investigators into an asylum setting.

The book includes some nice mythos Rorschach inkblots. It also has a useful section describing mental disorders which a sane investigator may wrongly be diagnosed with (due to the unique mind-set associated with the investigator life).

In an online review, author Shannon Appel said of this book that "The adventures cover some of the themes that interest me most from the Mythos: the Dreamlands, ghouls, and dead chickens. No, really."


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