We had yet another "the Madness spell is broken" discussion at game the other day. Not that anyone cast it, but a foe did, recently. It came up out of play, though, so it derailed nothing except my oh-so-random order of putting away my minis.
Long and short of it is that my players feel it is too cheap, too hard to resist, and potentially abusive. I think it's fine as-is.
Personally, I don't feel it is a problem spell.
So I'm milking a cheap post out of explaining why. This isn't meant to bash on my player's concerns, but to explain why I think they're not valid concerns in the context of the game we're playing.
- "It's too cheap." 6 points for totally incapacitating? Yeah, that's cheap. But look at the other totally incapacitating spells. While many are in the 8-10 energy range (Flesh to Stone at 10, Entombment at 10, Agonize at 8), others are less so (Total Paralysis at 5, Sleep at 4, Panic at 4). So 6 cost for extreme, 2 or 4 for the rarely-used weaker versions, are not out of line.
Madness also doesn't work on low-IQ beings. It doesn't work on large swaths of monsters (Immune to Mind Control is pretty common for supernatural threats). IQ 6+ and sapience and free will is not a broad combo in a fantasy world. It basically works really well on normal, PC-race types. You can crank this up to slam people with it, but it really only works on people. So not only the cost not out of line for a "save or be useless" spell, but it's appropriate given the target restrictions.
- "In the right campaign, this could be really abusive." Yeah, maybe. But I don't see how it is abusive in DF, nevermind in this monster-heavy DF game where Mind Control spells are so target-limited. I don't fix current campaigns to solve future problems that may arise. If I someday run another straight-up fantasy game that's not about killing stuff and looting and use GURPS Magic, I may change this spell. Take a look at spells like Teleport and Create Door - fine and interesting in my last game but potentially fun-killing in DF. What spells can be allowed, and the effects they have, are always campaign dependent. Here, I don't see the fun-killing effect of driving mundane foes crazy temporarily.
- "Nothing else has a Will-2 resistance." Except for Permanent Madness, this is true. I suppose I could change it to resisted by Will to make it "consistent" (in other words, easier to resist) with other resisted spells. Since I don't think it's a big problem, and I like having a spell that isn't trivial to resist (honestly, most resisted spells end up being trivial to resist in DF), and the only harm is that the spell is temporarily incapacitating (not lethal, not permanent, doesn't require very specialized counters - heck, unlike most you can wait until the guy can't afford to maintain it or 1 minute after he dies), I'm not swayed. Besides, a number of spells are easier to resist - that is, you roll with an innate bonus - which implies that unmodified resistance is the standard, not the way all resistance works.
(A corollary comes up with "But they fixed Levitation, and it had a penalty to resist" - and that's true. GURPS pre-4e Levitation was a ridiculously effective attack spell, resisted at a penalty, worked on anything animate, and was cheap, too. And I had to play 10 years with it being the be-all and end-all of ends for non-spellcasting foes. But just because a previously available broken spell came with a resistance penalty doesn't really imply that all spells with resistance penalties should be fixed.)
So, overall, I feel like the spell is pretty effective in DF, but the combination of limited targets and appropriate cost means it's not actually abusive. I'd be fine with PCs taking the spell and abusing the living heck out of it. It's still base cost 6 to use on one SM+0 or smaller mundane foe. It's potentially useful against sapiant free-willed foes who lack a pile of Magic Resistance and Will, but most useful against weaker-willed mundane foes.
One question about Extreme Madness came up - if you get Flashbacks, does this mean you roll vs. a 6 or less to see if you suffer from them, and if so, how often do you roll in combat? I feel the last paragraph of the spell makes it clear - you automatically fail all Self-Control rolls. While the 6- on Flashbacks isn't technically a Self-Control roll, the only way it's on par with Catatonia is if the Flashbacks happen automatically. Otherwise, it's a 50/50 shot of Daze you can't snap out of vs. roll vs a 6 or less once, or each turn, or something, to suffer an effect with a duration longer than the spell. That's complicated and odd, and means you have very lopsided effects. So, it just fires up Flashbacks and you suffer away, right away. Same for the weaker versions, but those flashbacks are not incapacitating . . . and you can't choose what madness to inflict anyway.
So this is one spell I haven't fixed, despite calls to fix it. And why. Am I wrong? Am I missing something that makes it totally unfair or abusive? Tell me in the comments.