This article originally appeared in Pyramid #14
The Brainmaker is an adventure seed for a modern or high-tech setting. It works best if the Brainmaker's Tech Level (12) is much higher than the campaign's.
by Anthony Salter
The Brainmaker is a four-inch-square mesh of fine wire. It links the right and left halves of the brain and provides direct access to the subconscious. This boosts any character's IQ by five points, and immediately grants the advantages Eidetic Memory, Lightning Calculator, Absolute Direction and Absolute Timing. Metabolic functions that are normally involuntary, like breathing and heart rate, become controllable. This device must be applied directly to the scalp the top of the user's head must be shaved.
Any character that uses the Brainmaker especially a mage or psionicist will become exceptionally powerful. But the power has a high price. Using the device is addictive. Anyone who uses it for a day or more, then removes it, will want to use it again very badly (treat as an Addiction). The device also prevents dreaming, and as dreams are necessary for a person to stay sane, the character will slowly go crazy. The first signs may just be Quirks, but they will quickly escalate to Delusions and then Paranoia. The insanity will center around the device. Eventually, the character will believe that everyone is attempting to steal the Brainmaker. When it is removed, the GM should roll 3d, add the number of consecutive days the device was worn, and consult the Fright Check table except that a total over 40 results in the death of the character.
The Brainmaker's origin is a mystery. It was first discovered on the body of a deceased cult leader after his death under mysterious circumstances. Government scientists found it was made of non-terrestrial compounds. One possibility is that it is part of a Sprocket (see Pyramid #10), possibly the part that somehow makes sure a Sprocket takes the form of something useful to the person triggering it. But if that's true, where is the Sprocket? And if the Sprocket has been destroyed, why didn't the Brainmaker dissolve with it?
If you're campaign has no room for Sprockets, the Brainmaker origin could be visiting aliens, time travelers, super-secret government research, or just about anything.
Adventure SeedsA clever GM can use this as an opportunity to introduce a truly nasty villain into a campaign, one who is fully aware of the Brainmaker's capabilities and limitations, and only uses the device for a few days at a time. Or perhaps the PCs' Patron is using the device and descending into madness; rescuing the patron would make for a difficult adventure, as he will not believe that the PCs are trying to help him.
Or the PCs could be hired by a government or corporation to steal, guard or destroy the Brainmaker. Or the PCs could be the ones who discoverer it, only to have their new toy snatched away by an uncaring military.
And don't forget the Illuminati. A covert world war could break out over the item, with several Illuminati sending agents to retrieve the item, while trying to prevent their own agents from using it.
Or the extraterrestrials could come back for it, since it could reveal too much about the truth behind the seemingly benevolent Sprockets . . .
In any event, this item is much too powerful for the PCs to keep. They should be made aware of its dangers soon after they encounter it, and the GM should ensure that it is destroyed or lost after the adventure (or campaign) is over.
Article publication date: August 1, 1995
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