When Scientists Go Mad

Last week, in our horror series, we talked about using knowledge of the monster as a tool to enhance the horror. Today, we're gonna talk about the second common plot in horror cinema, which is the Overreacher Plot.
While the Discovery Plot criticized the shortsighted nature of science, this plot criticizes the scientist's ambition and need to achieve higher ranks of knowledge. It revolves around the scientist, who tries to complete an experiment, and then has to deal with the dire consequences of his failures. It can be seen in movies such as Frankenstein, X-the Max with the X-Ray eyes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and so on...
As with the Discovery plot, there are 4 stages to this type of story:

  1. The preparations for the experiment, which include a discussion of the reasons for making this experiment, as well as of its philosophical implications: Jekyll discusses how sure he is of the fact that there is good and bad in every one of us; Dr. Xavier discusses how improved eyesight can help save human lives... There is criticism against the experiment, but the Dr. won't listen to it, and will continue alone, assure of his rightness. 
  2. The experiment succeeded, but only partially, and the scientist wants to further work on it with the goal of fixing all the problems. Xavier, feeling that there are still some problems with the drops, returns to them and try different ingredients...
  3. But the experiment destroys human lives/ bestows damage to the surroundings/ endangers the scientist relatives or even the scientist himself/herself. Frankenstein's monster runs wild, and threatens Frankenstein himself; Hyde kills ordinary people who passed the street at the "wrong" time... At this stage, the scientist understands what great evil he unleashed (or goes completely mad). Frankenstein tries to negotiate with the monster he created; Jekyll tries to stay away from the drops; Xavier goes insane and runs away from society...
  4. In the last scene, there is the confrontation with the monster. The peasants kill Frank's monster; Hyde is killed by a policeman shot...

Applying it to an RPG game:

Unlike the Discovery plot, this one is a bit harder to apply to RPGs, but it is adaptable nonetheless. We'll take as inspiration another Lovecraft's story, in this case the story From Beyond.

  1. The characters are research assistants to Doctor Geldof. Geldof is trying to understand how to see the universe as it really is, by inventing a machine that will see through the mist that lies everywhere. The game begins with him describing to the characters how close he is to achieve that, and how angry he is because of the other scientists who almost "murdered" his experiment. The characters help him with the final preparations, but are yet to object.
  2. Geldof conducts the experiment, but is not satisfied as he can now see the mist, but not through it. He begins to be obsessive about the experiment, much to the characters' fear.
  3. Unknowingly, a kind of a worm enters his mind, and it starts to control him, making him kill people to feed the worm. The characters begin to notice it, and try to stop it before it's too late. Geldof himself goes insane.
  4. At the end of the session, the characters confront Geldof, now controlled completely by the worm, and kill him.

Some changes can be made, of course, but the main plot-skeleton should be kept.

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