The Hidden Truth

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Mindscapes

Starfinder Adventure Path #23: Hive of Minds (Attack of the Swarm! 5 of 6) p.40

Creations of psychic mastery that surpass the conventional, mindscapes are mentally formed landscapes that exist on the Astral Plane for only as long as their creator maintains them. They are brought into existence for a variety of reasons, from the subconscious mental activity of powerful minds to the actions of two or more beings locked in psychic combat. The ongoing creation of mindscapes seeds the Astral Plane with an almost endless number of these temporary domains.
A mindscape can be of any imaginable shape or size—its only limits are those of its creator’s imagination. Some mindscapes take on the form of entire worlds, spawned by the intellects of creatures so cosmically unknowable that their waking thoughts create planets that live and die in an instant. More common are the mindscapes that exist as re‑creations of treasured locations in their creators’ minds. A psychic might find refuge in an imitation of an ancient city or a vision of their family farmstead.
Mindscapes exist in two distinct types: binary and immersive. Binary mindscapes serve as conduits between two minds engaged in a psychic duel. They are by far the most temporary of such constructs, existing only as long as the duel that created them lasts. Immersive mindscapes, in contrast, are created when a powerful mind wills them into existence using specialized psychic magic, unique spells, rituals, or even a traumatic event occurring to someone with psychic potential.
Creatures can enter a mindscape in a few different ways. Most enter a mindscape through the assistance of powerful rituals, spells, or magic or hybrid items. In most such cases, a creature travels to the mindscape as a being of pure thought, albeit one foreign to the mindscape creatures (page 56) that already populate the area. Beings entering a mindscape can take no actions with their physical bodies and lose their Dexterity bonus to AC, but they can still attempt saving throws and are not considered helpless, as the unconscious parts of their mind still provide some resistance to their destruction. Due to the mental investment of being in an immersive mindscape, creatures within such realms have no information about their real‑world bodies and can’t tell if they take damage or suffer other negative effects. Conversely, minds engaged in a binary mindscape maintain a connection with their actual bodies and can tell if they take damage or experience other negative effects.
A creature that mentally enters a mindscape does so in the form of a mental avatar. A creature’s mental avatar has the same physical statistics in the mindscape that the creature does in the real world (KAC, EAC, Hit Points, ability scores, and so on). Armor, items, and weapons all function inside the mindscape, though they do not consume charges or uses of their real‑world counterparts. Spells and limited‑use abilities likewise function, but their uses are expended both in the mindscape and in the real world.
Rarely, beings can enter a mindscape as physical entities. Such events occur when a creature is bodily transported to the Astral Plane at the exact location of the mindscape. It’s almost impossible for a creature to achieve such a feat without the assistance of powerful magic or using artifacts intended specifically for such acts of transportation. A creature who finds itself physically within a mindscape is always at risk, as even a normally harmless mindscape can deal very real damage to creatures who transport their real bodies into it. Otherwise, mindscapes deal damage to a connected body based solely on the mindscape’s associated traits (page 42).
Throughout the galaxy, species and even deities interact with mindscapes in different ways. Telepathic species like lashuntas and shirrens have a long historical association with mindscapes. To lashuntas, mindscapes have been a form of entertainment and escapism since the species’ earliest days on Castrovel. Shirrens view mindscapes with a mix of apprehension and excitement; the individual choice to create or enter a mindscape is enthralling, while the potential for being at the mercy of another’s mind is a sobering reminder that such false existences can come with a price.
Followers of Damoritosh gifted with psychic potential often conjure forth binary mindscape battlefields in which to engage in psychic duels, or create immersive mindscape battlefields to replay past battles and wars to see if they can change the outcome. Some disciples of Eloritu maintain ongoing mindscapes that act as vast repositories of knowledge, with the creators’ bodies kept under exceptional security. Such mindscapes allow those who know about them to tap into these mental reservoirs without need of maintaining physical data repositories, though some question the ethics of using the minds of powerful immobilized psychics as data storage. Followers of Ibra and Weydan notably venture into mindscapes in search of either answers to cosmic mysteries (in the case of Ibrans) or simply to see what exists in the minds of others (in the case of Weydanites).

Binary Mindscapes

Binary mindscapes exist to serve as backdrops for psychic combats between two beings. Such environments appear as ghostly images that lack definition, as they manifest from residual psychic energies of both combatants. Common examples of binary mindscapes include a grassy field on a rainy day or a flat stone surface surrounded by fog. These mindscapes often lack technological trappings or modern architectural styles, as the mental energies used to craft them often pull from the mind’s most primeval stored memories. The most powerful instinctive metaphysicists (page 44) can force creatures to enter a binary mindscape to engage in a psychic duel.

Immersive Mindscapes

Far less common than binary mindscapes, immersive mindscapes are powerful mental constructs where a person could live an entire lifetime without ever realizing where they truly are. When created, these mindscapes appear to be as real as the mind that perceives them, and only faults in the creator’s imagination create imperfections within. The greatest danger of such mindscapes is the potential to become permanently lost within them while one’s physical body wastes away in the real world.
Most immersive mindscapes serve a purpose for the real‑world psychic who created them. Some act as personal retreats for psychics who can’t bear living on the Material Plane. Other immersive mindscapes act as available repositories of knowledge or meeting spaces for those who know how to access them.

Mindscape Traits

Much like other planes of existence, mindscapes have specific traits that dictate their appearance and behavior, though their traits can vary based on their creator’s whim. These traits supersede the Astral Plane’s normal traits. As most mindscapes come from the minds of those on the Material Plane, they most often imitate the traits of that plane, but this is by no means a rule. For example, some mindscapes exist to support specific alignments, with creatures whose alignment matches the mindscape’s dominant alignment axis or axes gaining additional bonuses to saves or spellcasting. In others, the laws of physics are mutated. These elements can fluctuate within a given mindscape, with gravity changing in controlled or randomized ways or based on location within the mindscape. Similarly, some visionary mindscape creators even manage to control the flow of relative time within their domain. Accelerated time allows one to live lifetimes in the mindscape while only hours or days pass in the real world, while delayed time may mean spending only a few hours in a mindscape results in a mental avatar’s real body dying of starvation in the real world.
Every mindscape is the construct of a living mind and changes according to the will of that mind. Though a mindscape’s creator holds the greatest degree of control over it, other creatures within the mindscape who recognize that they’re within a mindscape can alter it to suit their whims, effectively imposing their will onto the mindscape. Often times, these adjustments come in the form of psychic duels or certain spells or abilities that alter terrain. A mindscape also reacts to beings inside it who don’t exist as part of the creator’s desire, be they friendly visitors or hostile intruders.

Transparency

The transparency of a mindscape describes whether other creatures know that they’ve entered a mindscape.
Overt: Overt mindscapes actively let entrants know they’re entering into a mindscape. This can occur when an individual invites someone to enter their mindscape through use of an item, ritual, or spell. Other times, a mindscape might be considered overt because it’s the result of an identified psychic attack or the start of a psychic duel accepted by both sides. Knowing that one is inside a mindscape can help a creature escape or better understand the mindscape’s traits, and some spells and items may even require that a creature know they’re within a mindscape in order to function. Binary mindscapes are always overt.
Veiled: A veiled mindscape is a sinister creation intended to obfuscate its true nature from those who enter it. A being usually enters such a mindscape in a manner that doesn’t make it apparent they are leaving their body. The creature may not realize the doorway they’re stepping through is actually a magical portal or the newly learned spell they’re casting is actually a trap. The canniest and most powerful psychic spellcasters can disguise their spells this way, forcibly shunting targets into their mindscapes without the targets realizing what has happened. Veiled mindscapes can be insidiously dangerous, as a creature unknowingly trapped within could suddenly drop dead within the mindscape without any warning as their real‑world body perishes from physical trauma or even lack of food or water.

Shape and Size

Upon its creation, each mindscape has a shape and size based on the whims of its creator.
Finite: A finite mindscape has clearly discernible boundaries and limits within its space on the Astral Plane. Such mindscapes may have misty borders that lead off into pure nothingness or insurmountable barriers. These mindscapes can be as small as one can imagine, though generally they vary from the size of a single homestead to the size of an entire world. All binary mindscapes are finite.
Infinite: As the name suggests, an infinite mindscape goes on forever. Though the notion of an endless mindscape may be difficult for some to grasp, the dimensions of these mindscapes exist thanks to a strong connection with the mindscape’s creator. Creators of infinite mindscapes subconsciously generate more content through mental procedural generation, similar to the software that many vidgame creators employ in level design.
Self‑Contained Shape: The most unnerving of mindscapes, a self‑contained mindscape essentially folds back on itself. This could be a foggy exterior that always reorients a traveler inward, or the entrance to a corporate office that, once exited from, unerringly causes the departing beings to find themselves walking right back in. Such mindscapes often manifest when the creator wishes to emphasize a specific location they have in mind, either due to an emotional connection or as punishment to themselves or visitors.

Feedback

Though purely mental in nature, a mindscape can cause physiological effects through mental feedback. In some cases, these mindscapes are more or less harmless, but in other cases, the mindscape can be as deadly as the real world.
Harmful: Injuries and conditions inflicted upon those visiting a harmful mindscape are real. The psychic feedback convinces the real‑world body that any damage incurred is real, and the body reacts accordingly. In rare cases, a mindscape’s creator is so powerful they can relay even afflictions and diseases to the host body. Binary mindscapes are always harmful, though they don’t convey afflictions or diseases unless otherwise noted.
Harmless: A harmless mindscape’s occupant feels the sensations of their environment and other mindscape occupants, and their real‑world body may be affected in minor ways (such as a mild headache or persistent feeling of euphoria), but any injuries and conditions they experience aren’t real. Such damage causes no physical harm or effect to the host’s real‑world body. A creature that dies in a harmless mindscape wakes up in their real body without taking any damage or ill effects from the mindscape.

Magic

As a force that breaks all preconceptions, a mindscape can cause magic to operate in wildly different ways within its confines. Mindscape creators can attempt to place rules on the effects of magic within their mindscape, but even those often break apart if the willpower of the creator falters.
Normal: Magic, including spells and spell‑like abilities, function normally within such mindscapes. These mindscapes operate similarly to what one would expect to find on the Material Plane, though their creator may still apply minor caveats that occupants have to discover on their own. Spellcasters who leave a normal magic mindscape find that any spells they’ve expended in the mindscape have also been expended in the real world.
Dead: The creators of these mindscapes deaden the use of magic within. Creatures within a dead‑magic mindscape can attempt to use their magical abilities to cast spells and use spell‑like abilities, but every creature counts as having spell resistance (usually equal to 11 + the level or CR of the mindscape’s creator). Spells that don’t allow spell resistance have a 50% chance to fail when cast, though the spell is expended regardless of success. Magic items simply don’t work, nor do serums or any other magical equipment; fusion seals don’t apply their bonuses. Hybrid items have a 50% chance of working if they’re activated, while hybrid items that do not require activation to function are too erratic to function properly. Spellcasters who leave a dead magic mindscape don’t lose any spells they cast while within the mindscape.
Altered Magic: Some mindscapes include unique traits relating to magic that greatly affect magic used within. These mindscapes may enhance, impede, limit, or even randomize all magic or certain schools of magic cast within.

Notable Mindscapes

Though most mindscapes are temporary endeavors, fashioned and then disappearing at the whims of their creators, some mindscapes exist in a more permanent state. The following are examples of well‑known mindscapes that have survived the test of time and can be visited by any creature that finds a suitable means of entry.
The Endless Forest: Sometimes, an entire species can subconsciously create a mindscape without ever realizing it. The Endless Forest, an infinite immersive mindscape with no formal title beyond its descriptor, is one such place. Many believe it was forged by the combined subconscious, primeval yearning of every uplifted bear (Starfinder Alien Archive 2 16) in existence. Though few uplifted bears ever fully enter the mindscape, those who manage to enter do so by daydreaming, which manifests a new bear who temporarily wanders the woods in a lifestyle that forgoes all the needs and stress of modern‑day living. While it remains something of a safe space for the wandering psyches of uplifted bears across the galaxy, others who find themselves within quickly realize that a forest filled with bears may not be the best place to trespass.
Hive Akarax: Created by a powerful formian queen during her species’ ongoing conflict with the lashuntas, the mindscape of Hive Akarax is a finite mindscape that takes the form of a continent‑sized formian hive. Due to the hive’s inability to grow on the Material Plane, the queen instead chose to expand her territory through a mindscape, intentionally creating offspring with the psychic potential to join her within her mental construct. While this unimpeded and idyllic—for a formian, at least—life means the real‑world formians of Hive Akarax don’t occupy much territory, it also means that the hive is more reliant on outside assistance to acquire food and resources. The hive queen’s adjutants occasionally wake from their mental sojourns within the mindscape to retrieve donated items or supplies.
Hospice of the Unfettered Mind: First created by lashunta and shirren followers of Weydan, this self‑contained immersive mindscape takes the form of a bucolic farmstead on an open plain. Various buildings stand across the mindscape’s terrain, though a wall of light fog keeps everything contained within a fixed area, looping wanderers around should they try to leave the confines of the farmstead. Weydanite psychic healers pass down knowledge of this mindscape to one another, each supporting it with a fraction of their own mental energies. These healers then travel the cosmos in search of creatures dying of untreatable illnesses, offering those without any options access to this mindscape, where they can live out their remaining days in psychic freedom instead of imprisoned within a failing physical body. Many medical professionals protest the nature of such actions, however, claiming it’s a prison of the mind no different than a prison of the body.
The Spire of Transcendence: This permanent immersive mindscape can be accessed through a myriad of magical gateways throughout the galaxy. Each such gate is marked by the holy symbol of Yaraesa, though little else provides information regarding their creation or full function. Creatures walking through one of these gates find their minds transported into a self‑contained mindscape that appears as a skyscraper standing on a rocky cliffside with a view over a churning sea. Training rooms and libraries in a multitude of architectural styles fill each floor of the tower, and floating nuclei of energy buzz throughout the edifice on predetermined paths.

Using Mindscapes

Mindscapes provide an interesting means of changing up the pace of an ongoing campaign or adding an utterly outlandish locale to a game. Whether the PCs use an experimental technological procedure to enter the mind of a patient to extract important information or step through a mystical archway that provides access to an expansive immersive mindscape, these locations can be some of the most memorable locations that PCs get the chance to explore in the course of a campaign.
Mindscapes shine when they combine the expected and unexpected in different configurations. Since a mindscape is left to the imagination of its creator, imperfections both large and small can showcase exactly how variable a mindscape can be. A creature with a natural fear of flying animals may project a mindscape where every flying creature is some horrific terror, while a creature with no understanding of corporate culture who manifests an office might fill it with workers who repeat the same four lines of dialogue in any interaction. Mindscapes often create a sense of unease as a result of these departures from reality, but the more time the PCs have to interact with a mindscape, the more they come to understand what causes it to act the way it does.

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