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I've looked through this website for answers but most of the questions pertaining to the spell are for 5e, like this one, where the spell has gone through many generations of changes. It doesn't really help that the 2e version of the spell itself doesn't really provide much about mechanical or roleplay effects on characters either. It merely states this:

The feeblemind causes the subject's intellect to degenerate to that of a moronic child. The subject remains in this state until a heal or wish spell is used to cancel the effects. Magic-using beings are very vulnerable to this spell;

Whereas the 5e version is completely different:

You blast the mind of a creature that you can see within range, attempting to shatter its intellect and personality. The target takes 4d6 psychic damage and must make an Intelligence saving throw.

On a failed save, the creature's Intelligence and Charisma scores become 1. The creature can't cast Spells, activate Magic Items, understand language, or communicate in any intelligible way. The creature can, however, identify its friends, follow them, and even protect them.

At the end of every 30 days, the creature can repeat its saving throw against this spell. If it succeeds on its saving throw, the spell ends.

The first major change, aside from including proper mechanical effects, seems to be that the 5e version attacks intellect and personality whereas the 2e version attacks only intellect. The next is that 5e's feeblemind does psychic damage whereas 2e's doesn't. 5e's is also more lenient, giving monthly opportunities to save again and adding a third spell that can remove the effect, compared to 2e where the effect is simply permanent and only heal or wish can remove it.

Looking at the spell in other editions, it consistently reduces Intelligence and Wisdom to 1 as the mechanical effect. This is similar to the mechanical effects of the 5e version of the spell which reduces Intelligence and Charisma to 1, with Wisdom being substituted for Charisma in the rule as Intelligence and Wisdom are the two spellcasting stats in 2e.

However, we're finding some difficulty in translating the mechanical to roleplay and looking at 5e-based answers doesn't help much. The stats function differently enough that 2e needs its own answer. For example, language is tied to Intelligence in 2e whereas this seems to be saying that language has nothing to do with Intelligence in 5e. In the 2e Player's Handbook Intelligence is described as

Intelligence (Int) represents a character's memory, reasoning, and learning ability, including areas outside those measured by the written word. Intelligence dictates the number of languages a character can learn. Intelligence is the prime requisite of wizards, who must have keen minds to understand and memorize magical spells.

and says

This ability gives only a general indication of a character's mental acuity. A semi-intelligent character (Int 3 or 4) can speak (with difficulty) and is apt to react instinctively and impulsively. He is not hopeless as a player character (PC), but playing such a character correctly is not easy.

which helps give an idea of how a character with low Intelligence behaves but only really provides a vague notion of how a feebleminded character might compare. An Intelligence of 1 means a character cannot speak any languages but "can communicate with grunts and gestures" according to the ability scores table. The same table also tells us that a feebleminded wizard (Int 1) can cast no spells per day.

The section on Wisdom describes the stat as follows:

Wisdom (Wis) describes a composite of the character's enlightenment, judgment, guile, willpower, common sense, and intuition. It can affect the character's resistance to magical attack. It is the prime requisite of priests;

and the table dictates that a Wisdom of 1 results in an 80% chance of spell failure, but the entire section doesn't provide examples of behavior for low or high scores.

So, we know that casting and anything but the most basic communication are essentially impossible, making a caster pretty much useless in combat. That would be all well and good except there's a lot more to a campaign than combat. In fact, those campaigns which I run or participate in are mostly roleplaying with a little combat here or there. So, what would a feebleminded character in 2e be like outside of combat? I don't really know what constitutes a "moronic child" as the spell's description states, though the use of "moronic" seems to imply they would be even less capable than your typical young child. Could they even take care of themselves or would they need assistance with basic survival needs like feeding themselves? Some might jump to "they would default to behaving on instinct like an animal" but human beings don't typically fall back on instincts in the same way animals do in situations where intelligence is lacking or impaired so I doubt that would be very accurate.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this question about how to handle the mechanical impacts of Feeblemind in 2e, or is it asking how to roleplay as a "moronic child"? I'm not really clear on what the 5e explanations have to do with this question, could you clarify? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cooper
    Jul 14 '21 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cooper The question is about how one would roleplay a feebleminded character, how such a character would behave based upon the mechanical effects, an intelligence and wisdom of 1, and description of the spell and how to translate the mechanical effects of feeblemind into the narrative of the story. I thought I was pretty clear about that and I don't know how to clarify it in the question any better. \$\endgroup\$
    – Demon
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cooper The 5e explanations are to illustrate the differences between the 2e feeblemind and the 5e feeblemind to explain why answers to similar 5e-based questions don't really answer this 2e-based question. If I didn't include that explanation I worry my question would have been labeled a "duplicate" and closed when it isn't and shouldn't be. I've had too much bad experience on other stackexchange communities with my questions just getting mislabeled and closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Demon
    Jul 18 '21 at 7:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Demon what do you mean by "translate the mechanical effects into the narrative of the story"? Can you give an example of a mechanic which you do know how to do that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erics
    Aug 1 '21 at 6:25
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I've got decades of DM time, and the obvious intent of feeblemind is to effectively disable the target and make them completely helpless. As a plot device in your storyline, it is meant to frustrate your player and challenge the group to find the solution... but never to dis-engage the player so they no longer want to play the game. So it is 100% up to you the DM to be devious by introducing your feeblemind event/trap, yet also give hope and a way for the party to reverse the effects. True to 2e/3e fashion, it leaves much to the discretion, imagination, creativity and arguably intelligence (lol) of the DM and player.

If your question is "what would a feebleminded character in 2e be like outside of combat?" I would say that they would need the assistance of their party to survive at all, otherwise consider the character as dead/lost. Strictly speaking, think 2-yr-old. Or maybe 3.

I would say the most important vector of how the affected character would behave outside of combat is how the player understands what the word "feeblemind" means, so you also get to set the stage and guide them on how you expect their feebleminded character to be played. The end goal is game balance and keeping your group engaged in your story as a DM :) so you have plenty of artistic license in 2e/3e.

Or if you want to be more realistic/playable (though playing a screaming 2-yr-old is fun) you could consider the origins of the phrase "feeblemind" most likely coined to describe things we know of as Advanced Alzheimers or Senile Dementia, or full-blown Schizophrenia, and if you've ever worked with or lived with someone who has these conditions you will know exactly how this spell affects adults ;) Definitely more playable as some who have these conditions are still able to speak, BUT the language skills are effectively lost because communication breaks down with "sane" individuals. And those who have these conditions are ultimately unable to take care of or fend for themselves.

I've lived with a family member for 50 years who is a paranoid schizophrenic and can say with absolute certainty that they could be called "feebleminded" because their reality is no longer the same as ours. I've also taken care of Alzheimer's patients at many stages of this disease and again, "feebleminded" easily can describe their mental states and behaviors. Any of these conditions effectively disables a person mentally, which is the goal of this spell.

One could say that the best example of a FUN and playable character hit by feeblemind is Ho'dor from GoT. He did whatever he was told, only knew one word, and had rudimentary survival skills but needed help in many ways. He was helpful to the group and could "tag along" but wasn't versatile in combat. We would want our beloved player's character hit by a feeblemind to have some hope of salvation, yet still be able to play and I think Ho'dor bridges that gap nicely. Alzehiemer's and Schizophrenia are very difficult to "play" ;)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to our stack! Answers here are different than forums and should be backed up. It sounds like youve got some great years of experience, but please add some more support to your answers and you'll enjoy the positive rep and feedback more. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Aug 23 '21 at 21:47
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The question as clarified in comments is:

how one would roleplay a feebleminded character, how such a character would behave based upon the mechanical effects, an intelligence and wisdom of 1, and description of the spell and how to translate the mechanical effects of feeblemind into the narrative of the story.

I would, and have, argued that character would not be playable at all.

If we go in the direction you are heading, setting a mechanical effect, this is even easier to justify. Because in 2e, normally, any character rolled up will have ability scores between 3 and 18. See 2e PHB, page 13 "Rolling Ability Scores"

The six ability scores are determined randomly by rolling six-sided dice to obtain a score from 3 to 18.

It also states that, during the creation process, when modifying ability scores you have to stay in the valid range. See 2e PHB, page 20 "Minimum and Maximum Ability Scores"

All nonhuman PC races (also called "demihuman" races) have minimum and maximum requirements for their ability scores. If you want to have a demihuman character, the character's ability scores must be within the allowable range.

This would strongly suggest that RAW, no PC can be created with any ability scores less than 3. That could be used as grounds to remove a character from play if one or more scores fall below 3.

A PC hit by Feeblemind, under 2e, is not given a numeric value for intelligence, just as your quote showed. Looking at other editions, as you have done, it is fair to say a value of 1 could be imposed. The closest thing I can find in 2e is from the Player's Option: Spells & Magic, which states:

feebleminded, unable to participate in normal society or survive without constant care.

It should also be noted that, regardless of what the spell says, there are more ways to cure Feeblemind than just Heal or Wish. For example, the Elixir of Health.

As a DM of 2e games, I have ruled the Feeblemind spell takes the PC out of play. Effectively, they become an NPC until cured. In those cases, the subject would wander around and the other party members would have to care for them.

In my games, it never went on very long because PC's strong enough to encounter something that could Feeblemind one of them also had access to a cure or could find it without too much trouble. Like the elixir. I only bring this up as a ref for how others have handled the situation in the past. In that same vein, I have seen other DM's allow the player to control the feebleminded PC.

With that said, because this is very much open for interpretation, you can do it just about any way you want to do it. What is fun for your group? Do that.

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