Brainwashed And Crazy
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Basic Information

Brainwashed And Crazy is a mind manipulation trope. It refers to a type of brainwashing where the victim becomes violent towards others as a result.

Given the amount of psychological damage usually required to brainwash someone, some psychiatric damage is only to be expected - however, as usual with mental disorders, violence towards others is not exactly typical. Disorders are liable to result when or if a brainwashed individual is returned to the environment which generated their previous personality and to which their new one is liable to be at least incongruent or downright maladaptive, at which point their brain's attempts at reconciling these factors are liable to throw up some problems. Also, resurgent memories of their previous life may conflict with their new implanted values, possibly causing them to re-live the trauma involved in brainwashing.

See Also

Madness Tropes

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TV Tropes Wiki entry

Game and Story Use

  • Even seemingly ordinary people might become violent if there is such a trigger - so unless the PCs are immune to their attacks, they will not be safe unless they keep away from other people.
    • Maybe the result of one of the CIAs much mythologised MK- projects from the 1950s-1970s. MKULTRA would be a good bet.
  • A useful subversion: the subject is a crazy person brainwashed into sanity and some event (a stage hypnotist, stroboscopic light, a sedative drug etc.) breaks their conditioning and sets them on a rampage.
    • Could be an X-Files style reveal for a government programme, possibly one to save money by 'rehabilitating' dangerous mental patients … or a cover up of some project that drove people violently insane. Again, something like MKULTRA would be a good bet.
  • If you're feeling cruel, make the crazy person someone the PCs need alive - not only can they not make the problem go away by shooting it (as PCs seem to like to do), but they need to stop other people - like the police - shooting the subject.
    • Or have a previous contact of theirs sent crazy as an example of what The Conspiracy does to its enemies.
    • A programme for "retiring" dangerous agents (or those driven insane by supernatural horrors) could involve brainwashing and re-programming them to remember only a tedious accounting job. When the conditioning fails, they suddenly snap back into a very disorientated assassin, wizard or similar loose cannon. Probably with a few issues to discuss with a former handler who may or may not still be alive. Imagine, for example, a less stable version of Paul Moses from Red.
  • This could also be an unintended consequence of a mass manipulation program - a significant minority of individuals react to the conditioning by becoming irrational and violent (much, for example, as in the paradoxical response to the Pax agent in Serenity - although that was a neurochemical response rather than a directly psychiatric one).
  • It could also happen as a result of a botched attempt at magical or psychic control.
  • Where there is a sanity mechanic in the rules, bear in mind that a brainwashed character has effectively already been stripped of their sanity once and is probably at a very low baseline level … this will typically give a mechanistic reason for them picking up new disorders relatively quickly.
  • In general, the closer the new personality is to the old one, the less dissonance will occur and the less strain will occur on the subject … but there is likely little point in brainwashing someone to a position they were close to holding anyway.
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