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 skill, but to do so they must entirely avoid violence.
When a non-Empath does harm, their 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. It is a psycho-physical reaction, like a reflex. There is no direct moral component to it, 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?
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 and Consequences of Shock
Empathic shock is caused by a variety of actions which intend to harm life. These include but are not limited to: attacking a creature or other adventurer, casting directly harmful magic, and fishing (since it involves piercing the fish with a hook), attempting to heal a forsaken necromancer. Specific actions either always cause shock or they always don't--the only way to avoid it 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, nor will it generally occur if an Empath was not intending to harm anything. Generally speaking, shock-causing actions require the Empath to be the primary, direct and deliberate causative agent of the attempted 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 players, yet not receive shock is warnable as mechanics abuse and shock may be applied retroactively by a GM.
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 pristine 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. For example, a partially shocked empath will cast healing spells on themselves with less efficiency, and will not be able to perceive life as far as an unshocked empath of equal skill. When you reach "permashock" or go completely numb from empathic shock you will no longer be able to take wounds, manipulate creatures, cast many Empath spells, shift, perceive health or link. Guildleaders will still teach you spells and tell you what you need to advance, and will allow you to circle.
Shock wears off with time as long as you are not "permashocked" or numb, but its duration can be considerable. Generally speaking, the more violent the offense, 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 in game to work off the shock from causing death. Once you reach "permashock" or the numb stage, a quest must be performed to be able to start recovering from shock normally. The details of the quest are a secret or game spoiler, so try discreetly asking other Empaths.
Shock leaves a permanent scar on the empath who first received it, which is evident to another empath upon touch. You cannot get a scar by sharing shock from another Empath.
- The creatures that spawn from the Ranger spell Awaken Forest are NOT constructs. Attacking them as an Empath WILL result in Empathic 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 sacrifice their skills for several anlaen in order to help.