How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

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How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by tiamat » Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:19 am

So this is a question that has vexed me for some time, and I haven't really seen it adequately answered anywhere, so I'm hoping folks here can shed some light on it. There are numerous instances in the published scenarios of cultists who have 0 SAN and yet are able to function in society normally with seemingly no functional disabilities. This makes sense, because if every cultist lived like they were on Hoarders and gibbered in the corner while sitting on a stack of old pizza boxes, it would be fairly easy to find them. Investigators, on the other hand, see one Deep One, have a bad SAN roll, and develop night terrors and phobias and cannot function without a continuous Zoloft drip.

I have the 7th ed backer proof but I don't see this particular issue mentioned, and I don't recall it being explicitly addressed anywhere else.

What are people's thoughts on this issue?

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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Wordcraftian » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:07 am

Insanity takes many forms. High functioning sociopaths are rather mad, but you'll rarely sense their illness in a casual setting. An individual obsessed with bringing about the apocalypse would likely seem perfectly normal if encountered at the supermarket. Insane, mentally ill, or SAN 0 does not imply blithering idiot. In fact the most insane people I've read about have possessed above average intelligence ; think Hannibal Lector, Dr. Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes... These characters are not likely to score above a 15 on the SAN scale.


Also there's a difference between a cultist who may be plagued by a mental disease or indoctrination and a PC who is losing their mind due to sanity flaying horror.
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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Keeper Jon » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:29 pm

I agree with Wordcraftian, truly insane people live in their own mental world that only makes sense to them, and they have crafted a way for them to function in the "wrong" world that the rest of us live in. For example, I imagine the way that Ariel Castro, (the kidnapper that held three women captive for ten years in his home), acted on a daily basis could be how a cultist may be perceived. The neighbors of such a guy would later report to the police and press that "he was such a nice guy" or "he was so normal." The cultists of the world have some kind of method that they've developed for themselves, or learned through the act of being in the cult, that allows them to have a veneer or normalcy.

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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Eibon » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:11 pm

Cthulhu Live: Shades of Gray had a nice mechanic for this. They had a thing called "Facade". When a character reached 0 SAN they would get 100 Facade Points which they would loose as if they were SAN points, but if they were in situations where their facade was tested then they would roll and if they rolled over their Facade Points they would have an insane "episode". So the more Facade points you've got, the better you can function in the world, while the raving and drooling cultists don't have many Facade points left.

Obviously in CoC rather than Cthulhu Live most 0 SAN characters will be under the control of the Keeper, so it's probably not worth doing the paperwork, but it does provide a nice model of how insane characters can function and I have used it for Cultists when "loosing SAN" from sell casting where the NPC has become increasingly frustrated and irrational. Obviously after a long rest similar to regaining SAN points the Cultist can repair their facade of normality.

As someone who works in computers, I have to say, choosing an appropriate career can help hide insanity... ;)

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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Dr. Gerard » Mon Sep 01, 2014 5:57 pm

Eibon wrote:Cthulhu Live: Shades of Gray had a nice mechanic for this. They had a thing called "Facade". When a character reached 0 SAN they would get 100 Facade Points which they would loose as if they were SAN points, but if they were in situations where their facade was tested then they would roll and if they rolled over their Facade Points they would have an insane "episode". So the more Facade points you've got, the better you can function in the world, while the raving and drooling cultists don't have many Facade points left.

Obviously in CoC rather than Cthulhu Live most 0 SAN characters will be under the control of the Keeper, so it's probably not worth doing the paperwork, but it does provide a nice model of how insane characters can function and I have used it for Cultists when "loosing SAN" from sell casting where the NPC has become increasingly frustrated and irrational. Obviously after a long rest similar to regaining SAN points the Cultist can repair their facade of normality.

As someone who works in computers, I have to say, choosing an appropriate career can help hide insanity... ;)
I like this Facade business very much. Not sure I'd require it to be quantified, but it's a nice cue to think about how a character's insanity manifests on the outside.
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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by fallingtower » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:34 pm

This question triggered a memory...the Clive Barker movie, Lord of Illusions with the cultists in that flick.
After the leader buys it, the cultists went dormant...became normal...when Nix..the cult leader was stirring for resurrection, the cultists went back into crazy mode.
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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by SamS » Sat Sep 20, 2014 1:54 am

I've always thought of it as when you reach 0 sanity it's like walking through a doorway and you can see things differently. You're brain work just out of phase of everyone else and you see things that the sane person can't. But you can interact with the sane world.
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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Eibon » Mon Sep 22, 2014 10:44 am

SamS wrote:I've always thought of it as when you reach 0 sanity it's like walking through a doorway and you can see things differently. You're brain work just out of phase of everyone else and you see things that the sane person can't. But you can interact with the sane world.
Yes, this works, and facade was a mechanic that qualified it for a Live Action RPG. The people are seeing the world differently, but pretending that they are like everyone else.

However, alternative views of the world cannot always be hidden. I have a friend who has experienced mental illness. In one episode they became convinced that the streets of our city were strewn with dirty hypodermic syringes. When in this state they would carefully tip-toe around the streets, dodging non-existant syringes and would often become "stuck", unable to move in any direction. They'd then phone me up to come and rescue them. It was difficult to reason with them -- they were convinced that their world view was correct. They are now better, but it was an interesting insight into madness.

Cthulhu Cultists like those in the Louisiana swamp have a world view more abnormal than a few thousand strewn syringes. They would be visibly "Bat-Crap Insane". But someone like Herbert West is able to function as a respected member of society, and maybe only displays his madness when deep in his experimentations. West has a facade of normality which old Castro doesn't. One could also point to Norman Bates/Mother not being willing to kill a fly at the end of Psycho because "they'll say: why, she couldn't even harm a fly"... is an example of an insane facade (even if it's one that doesn't work for Norman).

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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Wordcraftian » Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:17 am

I'm not sure a Cthulhu Cultist would be so obviously "touched". It would demand a low level of sanity to commit one's life to the advent of Cthulhu, but that wouldn't necessarily imply a lack of conventional understanding for how the rest of the world works. We see this with overly zealous religious nuts who still maintain a working relationship with the rest of society. Sure, there are exceptions, but I don't think it would be outside the scope of possibility for a Cthulhu Cultist with a SAN less than 15 to be your mailman, or grocer... or senator.
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Re: How Do Bat-Crap Insane Cultists Hold Down a Day Job?

Post by Eibon » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:08 am

Wordcraftian wrote:I'm not sure a Cthulhu Cultist would be so obviously "touched". It would demand a low level of sanity to commit one's life to the advent of Cthulhu, but that wouldn't necessarily imply a lack of conventional understanding for how the rest of the world works. We see this with overly zealous religious nuts who still maintain a working relationship with the rest of society. Sure, there are exceptions, but I don't think it would be outside the scope of possibility for a Cthulhu Cultist with a SAN less than 15 to be your mailman, or grocer... or senator.
Yes, I agree with you, I was specifically referring to the Louisiana swamp Cultists, who are clearly acting outside of society. One could also point to the reaction of the sailors on the ships that see R'lyeh that close encounters with Cthulhu change one's perspective on the world. If "the liberated Old Ones would teach [you] new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy [yourself], and all the earth would flame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom" -- and this is what you are working toward, then keeping up the day job as an office clerk will one day not seem that important. However, yes, you could have a Cthulhu worshipping mailman (you just have to be careful when he goes postal...).

Context also matters. The Whateleys are not too odd in Dunwich, but would appear much odder if they moved to Boston. A lot of overtly mad characters are on the edge of society, either in rural, sparsely populated areas, or part of the Underclass, living as street people, or working in the black economy.

Patrick Bateman, from American Psycho, is clearly mad and delusional, but can function in society. Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is clearly mad and delusional, but can cannot function in society. Sanity is not the divider between these people.

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