Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Petalmind

The Petalmind is a palm-sized sphere apparently made of living petals. While soft and pliable, it is nearly indestructible; crushed it will slowly regain its form. It emits a beautiful smell that differs for each individual. If touched, all sentient creatures in range will share a communal mind. Secrets, abilities, even senses are shared. Petalminds will not hurt one another. Petalminds eat together. Petalminds sleep together. Petalminds decide together.


After the Golden Guide I was trying to come up with an artifact that would offer interesting gaming situations and seem equally alien but in a good way. My layman's conception of evil is basically selfishness to the extreme. So, an extreme state of good might be the complete dissolution of self.

I don't know if this would work in play. But I thought this might be extremely annoying and horrible for evil parties to suddenly know who stole what from whom, who was planning to murder everyone, who wasn't who they said they were, etc.

I also thought it might offer some interesting play options if the whole party shares each other's senses, or if every person could cast the magic-users spells (but still limited to the number of spells the MU could cast), or if every one had to unanimously agree before actions are taken.

Or, what if when the Petalmind is touched orcs, ilithid, or even cultists are within range? What might the party do with their knowledge and abilities?

But then, a party of Petalminds might be the most un-fun game ever. I would definately have clues of how to be rid of the Petalmind near it and allow players to do that relatively quickly/easily so they get the weird experience without getting too frustrated.

Let me know what you think. I found the picture above on Tumblr but tracked it back to here.


  1. Please allow me to opine that the extreme state of good you posit as potentially the opposite of extreme selfishness as evil, that is, dissolution of self, might instead be total acceptance of one's interconnectedness with everything else, rather than annihilation. Of course, that's a very large discussion in and of itself.

    As far as the the collective/hivemind goes - a fun concept to play with - I think the way it's typically used in fiction or film is that any protagonists that are affected are more or less removed from play and become antagonists. They are the Borg, the zombies, the ones affected by the Body Snatchers, the communists!, the ones who breathed in the spores (the old Star Trek episode), the ones who are addicted to The Stuff…

    As such, traditionally they aren’t playable per se, or rather the one who will act and portray them will be the DM. This might take the fun out of introducing a magic item that conveys the ability to become one with everyone or everything. Still, there might be something plot evolving that could be done here, or perhaps hinted at somehow. The descriptive “petal”-mind itself lends a certain Buddhist-like notion to the object, a la the lotus flower and its poetic/metaphorical implications.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment! Yeah, I know I focused on the fearful/painful aspect of losing the self, which both says a lot about me at the same time as it points out a point of philosophical tension people in general might have with the idea.

    I have some saints in my game that I try to point to tension with too. One is an extreme case of mortification of the flesh, the other is an extreme case of hedonistic celebration of the flesh. They are both simplifications but I like that they cause tension between those sects and are potential entry points for evil in my world's organized hierarchical religion.

    So, I like the idea that this relic might have several sects competing over it, misunderstanding it, simplifying and warping its implications.

    That being said, when I was thinking about the petalmind, I didn't want it to be like the Borg. I didn't want it to be a necessarily bad experience, and be advantageous unless the players want to hold on to the self (I probably would). I imagine a group could even take to it and continue play as a little petalmind. That would be fascinating.

    Anyway, that's why I was trying to think of mechanical advantages players might get by being in the petalmind-- sharing senses, sharing memorized spells-- maybe as long as one is alive none can die (they would have to find other bodies to inhabit if they wanted to separate from the petalmind later though).

    I also wasn't very clear, but I didn't intend for the petalmind to grow, adding new minds like the Borg, but that only those creatures in the initial range would become One.

    So, yeah, if anyone tries to introduce this in a campaign my suggestion is not to make the Petalmind an evil thing that causes a horrible death of self, but a good thing that might feel alien to players and thus be shunned by them-- and to expect that and give players some ways out of the petalmind.

    Thanks again.