Empathic Shock is the temporary loss of guild abilities that Empaths suffer when they perform violent acts.
Every sentient creature in Elanthia is born with innate empathy for the life forces of other living things. But for most, this sense is dulled and suppressed by a lifetime of the tiny (or not so tiny) harmful actions that are usually necessary for survival. Empaths, in contrast, strengthen and focus this natural sense into a highly refined sense, but to do so they must entirely avoid violence.
When a non-Empath does harm, the suppression of natural empathy means they experience no ill effects. When an Empath attempts harm, it clashes violently with their finely-honed sensitivity to the life forces around them and causes shock.
Contrary to popular belief, shock is not a punishment for breaching a moral code of pacifism. Rather, it is an automatic physiological reaction. Borrowing a player's analogy, Salvur made the following comparison:
If you dwelt in a cave for a year and a day, and then wandered out into the noonday sun, the bright light would hurt your eyes, and you would be temporarily blinded. This is much like Empathic shock, which is pain followed by a temporary insensitivity that is caused by over-stimulation of one's empathic senses.
There is no inherent moral component to shock, although many Empaths view shock as a highly personal issue and will only discuss it with their closest friends and family.
SimuCon 2003 Empath Guild Seminar: Why can an Empath not hunt, or not swing a sword without getting shock even if they don't actually hit anything? (Note: this is partially obsolete, as you must actually cause injury to experience empathic shock; intent is irrelevant.)
When people are born today, over many generations, people have been developing the skill that will be empathy. As that power/ability developed, the suppression of it also developed. Everyone is capable of becoming an Empath. Those who make the choice to be combat oriented learn to suppress empathy. Empathy and the suppression of empathy are reflexive mental actions. When someone joins the Empath guild, suppression is not developed much if at all, but the empathy instinct is primed. The skill for suppression is suppressed and empathy is enhanced when a person joins the guild. Empathic shock is something done to the self when the suppression is suddenly activated to the empathy part of the brain. It is the natural suppression reflex which has been suppressed kicking in and kicking hard.
Causes of Shock
Empathic shock is primarily caused by directly harming living beings. Examples of actions that cause shock:
- injuring another creature or adventurer with weapons or damaging magic (as opposed to an unsuccessful attempt)
- healing a Necromancer with sufficient Divine Outrage
The only surefire way to avoid empathic shock is to never attempt a shock-causing action.
Shock will not happen when an Empath causes indirect harm, for example by hiring an assassin or firing a mangonel at a boat. Generally speaking, shock-causing actions require the Empath to be the primary, direct, and deliberate causative agent of harm. In the case of mangonels, the Empath is absolved since the direct target is an inanimate object (the boat) and not a living being. Finding a way to directly harm other characters without receiving shock is warnable as mechanics abuse, and shock may be applied retroactively by a GM.
Shock wears off with time as long as you are not "perma-shocked" or completely insensitive, but its duration can be considerable. Generally speaking, the more harm that was caused, the longer the length of shock. Merely punching or kicking someone will incur only perhaps an hour or two of shock, but it might take many days of being logged in for your empathy to recover from murder. Once you reach "perma-shock" or complete insensitivity, the quest must be performed to jump-start the recovery process. The details of the quest are an in-game secret, so try discreetly asking other Empaths.
Empaths can use a cassava root to determine their shock levels by TOUCHing it.
Shock Message 0 Your [item]'s life force is brimming with unblemished vigor! 1 Your [item]'s life force remains unblemished save for a single, tiny deadened speck. 2 Your [item]'s life force remains largely robust, though several small deadened areas have formed. 3 Your [item]'s life force is still mostly strong, though it shows more than the occasional deadened area. 4 Your [item]'s life force displays interwoven strands connecting each of the deadened areas within. 5 Your [item]'s life force is pulsing between vigor and numbness. 6 Your [item]'s life force is waning, the strands connecting its deadened areas growing more numerous. 7 Your [item]'s life force is significantly weakened, with large portions of it numbed and deadened completely. 8 Your [item]'s life force is imperceptible. 9 You thumb your [item].
Consequences of Shock
The first consequence of getting shock is a short stun. Empaths who have significantly deadened their Empathic sensitivity will have significantly shorter stuns than more sensitive Empaths. That is, the more shocked you are, the shorter your shock stun will be. Shock is granular, and as you accrue more shock, you will gradually weaken many of your abilities, and your effective skill with empathy may be penalized. For example, a partially shocked Empath will cast self-healing spells with less efficiency, and will not be able to perceive life as far as an unshocked Empath of equal skill. When you reach complete insensitivity ("perma-shock"), many of your abilities will not work at all or will only function at reduced power.
- The amount of shock an empath has will automatically drain as long as the Empath is both online and not currently permashocked/completely insensitive. If the Empath is completely insensitive the shock quest must be performed to start the recovery process. The quest can also be performed before being completely insensitive to reduce recovery time.
The following abilities and spells will not work for the Empath who is completely insensitive ("perma-shocked"):
Additionally, you will appear to be a non-Empath to Empaths who perceive health.
For playability reasons, the following "bread-and-butter" healing spells will still work but at reduced power/efficiency:
These spells continue to work at full power while completely insensitive:
Lastly, this spell cannot be learned or cast without a minimum amount of shock:
At 10th circle, other Empaths can TAKE a portion of the shock to reduce the amount of time you are affected by it, but by doing so, they will become shocked themselves. Each time an Empath shares shock from a guildmate, he/she takes approximately half of the remaining shock, leaving half behind. Sharing shock from a guildmate does not cause stunning.
The most efficient way to reduce shock is by organizing a Shock Circle. Since shock is reduced by half each time it is shared, you can benefit from this geometric reduction by setting up several tiers of Empaths to repeatedly take the shock in a hierarchical tree-like progression. A properly organized circle can quickly reduce shock since it will be worked off by many Empaths simultaneously. Shock circles are not easy to set up, since ideally you need five or more Empaths who are all willing to sacrifice their skills for several anlaen in order to help.
Empathic shock scars the Empath who first experienced it. Although the scar is permanent and perceptible (to other Empaths who touch you), there is no lingering mechanical effect once the shock wears off. You cannot get a scar by sharing shock from another Empath.
Empaths also have the ability now to complete a lengthy quest to help reduce the time it takes to manage shock. A trip to the Adder's Coil in Forfedhdar will start the shocked Empath on the road to restoring their empathic senses.
The following link contains spoilers about the quest:
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