Madcap Berserkers

— Broken Talon, captain of the Madcaps. On a good day
  Something between a mercenary company and a religious cult, the Madcap Berserkers are a roving band of warriors who are infamous for their fury and the carnage they bring to the battlefield. Some say that just a single berserker is a match for more then a dozen warriors, and then there are those who have faced them.    

Shroom of Doom

    The Madcaps Berserkers are fanatical zealots who go into battle in a mind-altering haze brought on by a myriad of mushrooms and fungi that turn them into juggernauts of destruction. They feel no pain, know no fear and preform feats of strength many times what a regular person could muster. The Madcaps sell their service to anyone and seem to seek conflict for its own sake. Some whisper that the true goal of the Madcaps is a dark and blasphemous one, but just as many doubt the Madcaps have any plan beyond their next charge and the next swing of sawtoothed blades.    


    The Madcaps fill their ranks with the desperate and the crazed. Initiation is a brutal affair and joining the war-band is for life. Every new recruit branded with their mark and infected with virulent fungi, cultivated and pruned by the Madcap's chaplains. A mix of potent hallucinogenic mushrooms feature prominently in the Madcaps initiation and training, with a near-constant narcotic haze shrouding their indoctrination.  
No one is quite sure what the Berserkers do with their pay and none have been to keen to ask the quiet theurg that puppeteer the berserkers. But when the Madcaps have filled their packs with plunder and payment, they venture off on pilgrimage to a place unknown.


  Madcaps use a variety of heavy weapons and heavy armor, but their most important equipment are the mushrooms they ingest or allow to grow in their flesh. Veterans of the Madcaps are barely human, with carefully ministered infections twisting them into monstrosities. Some are even capable of emitting clouds of dangerous spores, while others are so far removed from human vulnerabilities that they fight through dismemberment that would cripple others.  


  There are only really three ranks in the Madcap warband: the warlord, the warrior and the Shroomomancers who tend to the fungal-infections and crop of battle-drug mushrooms.   For a band of drug-fueled maniacs, the Madcaps are remarkably untroubled by internal strife. Suspiciously so, in fact... So much so that some wonder what else those fungal infections are groomed for.  
While it is rare, some Madcaps do leave the cult. Most die quickly without the necessarily tools or knowledge to keep their fungal infections in check, but some make it. These warriors belong to a rare, battle-hardened breed who have tasted madness like few others.   Meetings between these renegades and the Madcap cultists always result in bloody, vicious battle with no quarters given or asked.


  The Madcaps have one tactic: attack. Madcaps are not soldiers and do not fight in formation. The war-band often breaks up into individual battles after their first charge smashes through the enemy lines as each warrior rampages around until exhausted, slain or victorious. Skilled tacticians use this against them to minimize the damage or envelop the Madcaps, but with their heavy armor and mushroom-induced stupor, Madcaps are legendarily difficult to put down.   For the most part, the Madcaps seek to overwhelm their opposition with sheer brutality.    

Battle of Liar's Road   What began as a minor dispute about banditry and trade between Alazeta and Mhajari escalated to a state of open war after Mhajari's council grew unusually incensed after Slaver's Gate fawning praise without action became a mocking joke on among other city-states. Alazeta praised and promised, but did nothing about any of the issued raised until it was becoming a matter of honor and prestige. When Mhajari mounted its punitive expedition, the Madcap Berserkers were promptly hired and sent towards the front.   Their most decisive contribution came in a stretch of tunnels since called Liar's Road when the Berserkers stumbled upon a major foraging party from Alazeta. The Berserkers ordered an immediate charge and and butchered many of the surprised warriors before they could organize a defense. The initial carnage turned into a pitched battle as Alazetan forces raced to rescue their own and the supplies they had gathering, with Mhajari committing in equal parts to exploit this sudden breach.   The Berserkers are infamous for having been active throughout the week-long battle without rest. After that, Alazeta would never regain any offensive monument and were eventually forced to pay a heavy tribute for peace.


  The trio of Shroomomancers who tend to the Madcaps fill a role similar to that of a priest or chaplain, and gardener. Not only do they harvest and distill the mushrooms that give the Madcaps their ferocity, but also prune the infections of the warriors and guide its growth. Some mushrooms are even harvested from the warriors themselves, sprouting from their skin and flesh in small buds.   Read more about Shroomomancers    
Introduction to Thaumaturgy
Generic article | Dec 2, 2020

Power, but at what cost?


Joining a Cult

  Impressionable youth, lost souls and the truly desperate form the bulk of fresh recruits for the Madcap. No matter what brings them to take that first step with the grim berserkers, they always have one things in common: they do not know what they are getting into.   With the way that information spreads in the caverns, the exact nature of the Madcaps are unknown to most and never truly understood by any. To an awed spectator, the vision of an armored berserker taking on ten foes and winning, or surviving blows that would bring any other man to their knees is a sight they will seldom forget.   By the time their flesh are to be rooted with fungi, it is too late.  
The Madcap, for their part, do not discriminate. Women and men form an more or less equal part of the cult. To the berserkers, it is not about who you are but about what you can become.

War in the Deep

  With all the difficulties of waging war in the sunless depths, the use of mercenaries is seen as a practical way of reducing the strain of raising ones own troops. Almost every city-state in Araea uses mercenaries to some extend, with some even going so far as to completely replace any levy they might have had to raise with ever-more mercenaries.   Even for a force as strange as the Madcaps, they are rarely short of work.   Read more about war in Araea⁣⁣    
by Guild Wars 2
Despite the best efforts of their Shroomomancers, some Madcaps succumb entirely to their infections and warp into... Things. These are kept around in the war-band, treated as a mix between a mascot and sacred icon.   In times of war, these creatures are dragged out of their warrens and unleashed onto the battlefield.    
by Maxim Verehin

The Mycopolis

  Where do they go when their contracts end? Where is it to that they lead slaves and wagons packed with loot? To what entity is it that they direct their chants and worships?   All these questions lead back to the Mycopolis, a tower of fungi and madness.  
Building / Landmark | Feb 23, 2019


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17 Aug, 2018 17:28

I am both intrigued and terrified. Well done.

Please check out my article for the Tavern Challenge! The Black Haired Dog!
17 Aug, 2018 18:44

Thanks! :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
16 Jul, 2019 18:54

Same my friend. Same.

17 Aug, 2018 18:00

Love the mushroom aspects, well done. Also, only the most eloquent of quotes shall do, excellent.

I'd love to see your own opinions on my main world, Xardia, and it's Free D&D 5e Module!
17 Aug, 2018 18:45

Haha, thanks. :D   Yeah, going to expand on that later and really dig into the shroom-cult aspect of these guys. And yeah.. Subtle, they ain't. :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
14 Nov, 2018 12:55

A great article that makes it obvious that these mercenaries are nothing more than mad, mad maniacs. I feel like you have taken the shroom aspect from some existing history or story (I've read it beforehand of people being immune to pain with a drug). I'm curious though, are there any infamous battles these madcaps have been part off?

15 Nov, 2018 12:57

Added an example at the end :+1:

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
14 Nov, 2018 22:33

Those guys seem like quite a hassle for the enemies. I like how they are constructed though. The uses and vitality of the Shrooms to them is well fleshed out.   Is there any cure to the fungus infection?

11 Feb, 2019 17:04

There is, yep. Both to slow it and cure it.

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
R3negade X
R3negade X
15 Nov, 2018 00:31

I like how you use pictures in conjunction with your paragraphs to illustrate your point; it really ties it all together! I love the concept as well, and the presentation hits just the right balance of explaining what they are and leaving some mystery! My only question is, why would anyone in their right mind want to join these people?

15 Nov, 2018 07:47

I added a sidepanel talking about it :+1:

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Sage Dejers
Dejers Garth
15 Nov, 2018 08:51

Now this is a Military Formation! With unique flavor and solid design, this article gives a great understanding of what these freaks of nature are. I like the way you've written it out and will definitely look back on it when I work on more of my own formations!   I'd like to know who hires these freaks? Have they been used to turn the tides of any major battles or been outwitted in a specific instance. A vignette or quote from an outside perspective "In-World" would be really cool to see and would help wring a bit more out of them imo!   Great Article, thanks for sharing!

15 Nov, 2018 12:44

And thank you for reading it!   I added a sidepanel about who might hire them, why and some more information about mercenaries in war inside the context of the setting (though the link leads to a placeholder right now)   I added a vignette-ish thing at the end; I'd love to hear what you think and if that was what you had in mind, or if it was something else.   Thanks! :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Sage Dejers
Dejers Garth
15 Nov, 2018 21:09

Oh, that's perfect! Gives a good example of them being used to great effect and why their use is so prevalent. That's a perfect bit of addition! It's a good read, thanks!