September 15, 2008: It seems possible that anxiety about terrorist attacks could trigger an epidemic of a psychosomatic illness even without a real attack. Several cases are mentioned when numerous people, believing themselves to be victims of chemical or biological attacks, displayed minor symptoms which convinced them to seek out hospitals.
Game and Story Use
- This makes for a great red herring - either to distract the PCs from the real mysteries of the adventure, or for the villain to distract the PCs from his actual schemes.
- The PCs could likewise create a panic about a non-existent threat to cover up their own schemes.
- In a world where people believe in magic, villains may get similar result by making people think they've cursed them.
- This would also explain villains' flair for the dramatic.
- An evil "wizard" may turn out to be a fraud without any actual supernatural abilities at all!
- If there is real magic and it is subtle, it may be impossible for a layman to determine if the "curse" he's been hit with is real or not. Of course this creates just the kind of fear and uncertainty that is likely to result in psychosomatic effects.