Overcoming a Destroyed Mind

Scenario: an Hermetic magus has had his mind effectively destroyed by a Perdo Mentem spell that left him a "mindless husk" (a la Base 25).

Obviously, he will have no recollection of how to use any of his Abilities (including speaking or even understanding any languages) or Arts, and spell-casting is right out. But just how helpless is he?

Is he, effectively, a toddler? Incapable of feeding himself, but still, for example, able to walk if he's led? Or is he a bedridden invalid?

And how would it be possible to reverse or overcome the "damage" done by this spell? A series of Creo Mentem spells to increase his Int from, say, -5? Or would his new Int be even lower?

I'd say that the affected person has involuntary autonomic facilities only. They have no mind left to affect, and would be immune to other Mentum effects. No walking, nothing. They'd grunt in response to pain, little else.

A CrMe effect would work though, which would create a new mind to suit the form of the body. This would not restore the old mind, but create a new mind which matches the nature of the person. That created mind should be suited to the original, so probably has the same Int score, but should lack all knowledge and experiences. Communication and some aspects of Perception and Presence should also be affected. I think you could argue that they would learn in a similar way to a newborn, developing quickly over 3-5 years.

I see it being similar to creating a new arm for somebody who has had their old one totally removed by a Perdo Corpus effect. The new arm would not have scars, or other signs of age, but would be styled and suitable to the target's body and nature.

(crosspost, some similar thoughts)

I hate it when that happens...

I think motor skills are still there*, but zero volition. So, yes, he could be led, as any complete "idiot" could be. However, he would not, for example, understand his environment to any degree whatsoever, not even to be able to defend himself or understand "cause and effect" to move away from something that was hurting him.

(* Upon reflection, there is no real reason why I'm saying that except that I guess I like the image better - more a zombie than a true vegetable, altho' either could be approp to the phrase "mindless husk".)

[i](I'm reminded of something I once witnessed - midsummer, VERY hot day. A barefoot toddler is following his mother on the street - asphalt is hot. Then the kid steps onto a (hotter) iron manhole cover, and his eyes get big, and he just starts to wail - and stops, still standing on the manhole cover.

Like that, only maybe even less.)[/i]

Urgh. Tough. But should not be impossible. If Hermetic magic can grow a new arm, it should be able to "grow a new mind" (imo - just for game balance if nothing else).

It would be CrMe, but nothing straight off the core Guidelines - you're "healing/regrowing" the entire mind, not just replacing/augmenting the intelligence.

And you could break it down into multiple facets - "heal emotions", "heal memories", "heal intelligence" - something like that - or just rule it takes one huge spell, all in one fell swoop.

If you just did a canon "+1 Int, to no more than +0", that would not, I'd rule, restore any of the other aspects - no memory, no abilities, no magic. However, extrapolating backwards*, I'd consider ruling that a Base 5 effect* could return -5 "minimum human intelligence", so at least he could start functioning and re-learning some of the basics, until some more thorough solution can be found.

(* Base 30 = +0 max, Base 15 = -3, Base 5 = -5.)

The important question is whether the SG should be kind to the victim (read: player) and rule that the memories are recoverable, or no. The latter may make more "sense" given modern understanding of human anatomy and brain function, but this is magic, so anything is possible (or should be?).

Interesting that CH is suggesting (if I am reading this correctly) that Int is not restored to the person's previous score. If an arm is restored it comes back as the other arm, which is appropriate to the person; be that -3 Str or +3. Perhaps a short term slight effect, but it would be "normal" quickly. If the Str and Stam can be restored magically, then why not the Int?

Shouldn't the mind be the same - that it should be restored with the same capacity and promise, just lacking the actual knowledge?

Aye, that's how I see it, too.

I don't think Hermetic magic can regrow an arm, or a hand, or anything else. Or, at least, I couldn't find a guideline for it when I looked a couple of months ago. I found where you can reattach it, but not regrow it.

Wait...how did I not see "25 Restore a Lost Limb"? facepalm

I don't much cotton to Art & Academe, which has the whole breakdown-of-the-human-mind thing and makes too many things waaay more complicated than I think it should be for a game. As far as the mind goes, I tend to go with it being all one cohesive whole, for the most part.

And then he could learn, effectively, a new identity from there, since he won't be the same Michael that he was before. Just someone with the same body and name. Hmmm...

For what it's worth, [color=black][spoiler]this is all background stuff for an NPC who is a major NPC's brother, and a plot-hook to start getting the saga involved in The Return of One of The Order's Greatest Enemies. So, it probably won't be used against PCs...at least, not arbitrarily.[/spoiler]

There was discussion on the board previously about this. Essentially, precisely what "mindless husk" means is saga dependent (and might be different from spell to spell). There is a continuum of possibilities from "merely" severally retarded to coma to brain-death (quickly followed by actual death as functions like breathing cease).

I think it should be possible to overcome somehow via CrMe. Rather than building up INT from a low base, I think that I would use a CrMe effect based (by analogy) on the CrCo 30 (Heal an Incapacitating Wound) guideline (or one of the other CrCo guidelines). Whether this restores the memories, etc, or only the intellect returns is again a saga dependent thing. I think that I would be happy for the memories to return if the caster of the CrMe effect had some way of knowing what the original memories were: say an Arcane Connection to the original mind.

Alternatively, potentially, the ghost of the destroyed mind could be located and re-united (via ReMe?) with its body.

Or use the MuMe effect Inmost Companion to extract the dead mind; which should get you a dead bird. Which you can raise via CrAn, and then pop back into the body.

There are of course, non-Hermetic possibilities for restoring the mind. Divine intervention following prayer, for example.

Considering that this is one of the ways that the Sundering might have happened, I'd say this is an important question...

A Richard Love noted, there's no consensus on this.

Note that "Inmost Companion", that turns a person mind into a bird, specifically says that "if the bird is killed, the target also dies, as his mind has been killed". Our troupe thus assumes that destroying the mind is equivalent to destroying the body; the person as such dies and his soul goes to whatever afterlife awaits it. Thus, while we certainly allow CrMe to heal a mind that's been damaged but is still alive, we do not allow it to reconstitute a mind that's been destroyed (except possibly for some really high level, not-fully-working solution like The Shadow of Life Renewed).

I disagree with Richard Love when he suggests that you could turn the mind into a bird, and raise that with CrAn, and reversing the original transformation obtain a healed mind; because if that were the case, you could turn a dead human into a bird, raise the bird with CrAn, and reversing the transformation obtain a healed human.

IMHO, someone who has had their mind destroyed completely (which is what the OP seem to say), is simply gone. Irreversably.

This is no different than if that character had been killed.

If that were the case, then I believe the rules would have said as much, that the penultimate PeMe guideline would have used the word "kill" or "dead", as the PeCo 30 does - but it doesn't. (And see below.)

Your premise is that the mind is "dead" - and at first glance that may seem a reasonable interpretation. But I submit that it is not.

The PeMe 25 guideine does not say the mind has been "destroyed" or "killed" - nothing of the sort.* So - what is the result of "a mindless husk"?

First let's ask - "Can the mind "die" and yet the body live?" By Inmost Companion, no - if the bird dies then "the mind has been killed" (p 149-150), and if the mind is killed then the person dies - done. So, by that definition, "leaving a person a mindless husk" is not killing the mind, because the person is not dead. That PeMe effect must be something less than brain death.

Let us then ask "To what extent Body/Mind are connected in such cases, when one "ceases" and other other does not?" Even in Mythic Europe we know that it's [i]possible/i that the body can appear to "die" and the mind can live - drowning, lightning strikes, heart attack - all these cause the body to stop functioning, but the mind lingers, and in rare cases if the body is revived so is the person, as a whole, (more or less) hale and hearty.

So could this situation be seen the same? The mind has been metaphorically crushed, all activity ceased - but it is not "dead", it is not "gone" - there is still "something" of the whole person there, even if there is no measurable "Mentem" side. So, just as with the drowning or lightning strike victim, all that is required is a (magical) "jump start" of some sort to return the person to full(?) capacity.

Now, how you define "full capacity" is a separate question. The Guidelines are clear that "memories do not naturally return" - but does that imply that they could certainly unnaturally return, given the proper CrMe effect?! Ysmv. But the foundation is there, and easily so, if that's how you want to play it.

(* Footnote: RL's suggestion is actually quite clever. In humans, there is a Corpus/Mentem split - in animals, none such exists. The mind is pretty clearly not "dead" (see above), but something less than dead. So the bird is fully healed w/ Animal via something less than a "resurrection", but something that automagically covers both mental and physical. Then, when returned to the human body that "healing" translates into the Mentem aspect - done. Not a slam dunk, perhaps - ysmv - but I have to admire it. Well done!)

What would the problem be with that?

You can raise (after a fashion) a dead human with CrCo (CrCo guideline level 70). Doesn't really seem too problematic to allow a variation (which may or may not be better) based on a CrAn level 75 guideline.

Well, the guideline says "Leave a person a mindless husk". That, to me, is fairly clear that the person's mind is gone (or they wouldn't be "mindless"), and since this is PeMe, it leads me to interpret it as the mind having been destroyed.

It would be up to each saga to decide whether that can be "healed" or not. To me, it could not, barring perhaps a story. To each his own.

And yes, the PeMe guideline is slightly easier than PeCo 30 (to kill). But then, there are numerous ways to kill someone with magic in Ars. They don't all need to be equal. :smiling_imp:

You're intentionally ignoring the support I show below. If inmost companion specifies that if the mind dies then the body dies - why doesn't the PeMe just say as much? Why use "mindless husk" if what they mean is "dead"?

An interpretation is exactly that. But I don't agree that an ambiguous phrase would be used, that any such "interpretation" would be invited, if something unambiguous (i.e. "dead") was intended.

I have the general impression that most text like this has not been written by a rules lawyer. As such "mindless husk" to me means that mindLESS = Without a mind = dead by all accounts, except that the body continues to perform basic locomotive functions. A brainless zombie that will die if not forced to eat and drink. Unrecoverable. YMMV and all that but to me it is another way of saying that the character is gone forever.

No do I, nor do I remotely suggest such (so why are you suggesting it, shot of hyperbole?).

What I am suggesting is that if they meant something simple, they would have said something simple, not something complex and ambiguous. Exactly like was done under PeCo.

Interpreting that as "obviously dead" is fine I suppose, but I see that interpretation as rules lawyering and sophism, not the other way around. Why choose "another way of saying" when "just saying it" is the default? The guidelines are not the place for creative writing or euphemisms, and any author would know that.

I am suggesting this because brainless husk sounds exactly like that to me: a body without a mind because the mind is gone for good, forever. It is NOT ambiguous unless you want it to be. At least to me. As said YMMV but it sounds like a rules lawyer discussion to me: "It does not say exactly dead so it cannot be dead"...

It brings a interesting philosophical question: in the case of this mindless husk, what about the soul ?
If the soul is still trap in this body, and altough magic cannot affect soul, is it a link to the former personnality and through some hermetic breakthrough or Divine intervention restore the former mind ? I guess Divine intervention can do whatever the GM decide, so friends of the husk might go on a pilgrimage or a quest to seek help from an angel or a holy man.

If the body is killed, could the mage contact the spirit using Cannaite magic ?
If yes, then it means that somewhere, there is a "copy" of the mind and theoretically it should be possible to restore the mind or reunite it with the body.
If no, it means that there is a relatively simple way to whipe out from existence somebody. More efficiently than any physical destruction. As per Cannaite magic, a spirit cannot be contacted if it is alive or ascended to the Divine realm (or became a Faerie/magical creature). If Cannaite magic cannot contact the spirit, does it mean that the spell send the soul directly to Heaven - obviously not, that would be heresy. Then the spell turned the spirit into a entity from another Realm... weird for a PeMe spell, so unlikely.
Then based on this demonstration, it would mean that there is somewhere, a copy of the mind, hence the possibility to restore fully the person.

Also, what about sins ? Assuming that the mindless husk becomes again functional (new personnalities, new skills) after several spells as suggested by other sodale, this new personnality will start a new life. A new life with its share of sins and good actions. What if her previous personnality was exactly the opposite ? If he was sinful in the past, but is not aware of his past actions, he cannot seek redemption, and cannot even confess. Suddenly the spell prevent him from reaching the Realm of God through forgiveness... I believe, it might lead to some serious trouble with the Church or even the angelic chorus.

If his soul is judge based solely on his actions he did with his "second" life, then suddenly magus have a way to "reset to zero" the balance of sin. Not very likely to happen.

So if only based on that, I believe that despite Hermetic theory would say otherwise, magus should find possible to restore somebody memory from a mindless husk.
This could lead to many interesting developments:

  • A magus trying to restore the mind find against all predictions and theory that it is relatively easy through an adequate CrMe ritual. This leads him to believe that the PeMe spell was flawed. After investigation, the PeMe was found perfectly functionnal according to the magic theory.
    -Then the magus investigate how it could be possible, giving him possible insight in either Cannaite magic (if the Gm sees it as a link to Spirit and/or Soul) or Adamic language (possibly the language of the soul) or Theurgy - showing that there is a faint connection between magic and divine power.

Makes me wonder about another spirit coming in and taking up residence as well- a mindless husk could be very useful for a demon or any other spirit with a possession capability...

Parallels my thinking.


Also, think about stroke victims - are they "mindless husks"? They are to all appearances (except to InMe, but otherwise). There is clearly a state where there is, in fact, no noticeable brain activity but the body is still alive (and at least some element of "the mind" is still intact). For those who are under the impression that "mindless husk = dead", I have to wonder what PeMe would achieve that less final effect.

So many different axes of measurement.

(edit: formatting only)

I'd prefer to treat "left a mindless husk" as an Incapacitating Wound to the mental faculties, so after a season you could make a recovery roll to only be "heavily wounded" (maybe amnesiac or at a penalty to mental rolls), and then recovering to smaller and smaller penalties until you're OK again. Being hit with one of these still takes you out of the adventure and out of the saga for at least a season without healing rituals, but won't insta-slay your character.