Monsters - Massminds
Not every community was destroyed by ego and interpersonal conflict during the Change. A few pulled together and worked at a common purpose in order to survive. Some communities pulled a little too close together, and worked a little too hard to create a consensus or a common purpose, and now, they're stuck that way.
These groups are known variously as consensus zombies, network golems, hiveminds, Borg Yuppies, and Cyberlemmings, but they themselves prefer to be called massminds. Massminds are composed of a large number of people whose minds have melded into a single consciousness. Each individual identity still exists to a certain extent, but it is the amalgamated identity that makes all conscious decisions and communications. Because the organizational structure of a massmind strongly resembles some aspects of a computer network, some terms from that field have become standard when referring to a massmind.
A massmind is most commonly composed of 1,024 individuals. No massmind has been found to exist with fewer than 256 members, while the largest known numbers 4,096. Massminds tend to "subnet" (reproduce) at 1,024 members, splitting into four groups of 256 each. Massminds will occasionally combine, if two small groups are threatened with destruction by falling under the 256-member threshold.
Massminds divide tasks by sorting out which individuals had the greatest talent for a task and assigning them to a group composed of others with skill at the given task. These groups are referred to as octets, and they usually number either eight or 16 individuals, depending on the task. Members of an octet are the most common massmind encounter.
When performing a task, the members of an octet typically have the experience of a few experts in a given field directing the actions of the rest. This is a tremendous advantage in combat, since the wisdom and skill of the best fighters is coupled with the athletic prowess of the best bodies available to give the massmind a minimum of +10 melee or firearm skills. The number improves by +1 for every full block of 256 individuals in the massmind, and is further modified by the physical abilities of the individual bodies.
Massminds do not aim and fire all of their guns at the same time, at the same target. They do coordinate their attacks and will concentrate fire when appropriate, but generally they concentrate on neutralizing the threat as a whole rather than focusing on one or two individuals at a time.
Massminds are generally quiet and solitary. They do not care for the "unlinked"; rampantly individual thoughts are painful to their ordered minds. They do not reproduce sexually, and rebuff such proposals from the unlinked firmly. They will care for infants and children, but will not assimilate them until they reach adulthood. Because the thought of children are usually very chaotic and disruptive, massminds will actively seek to give such children to the unlinked whenever possible.
Massminds do not "recruit", but people traveling in the area of one are warned to watch out for any sudden changes in behavior in themselves or their companions. "Assimilation" or "formatting" often begins with an overwhelming sense of peace and welcome. People who refer to "coming home", or "finally feeling like someone understands" are in the middle stages of assimilation and should be subjected to vigorous debate, physical confrontation, or heavy narcotics and immediate removal from the area in order to prevent their absorption.
When a massmind falls below 256 members, it must assimilate enough people to get back to that number within 24-48 hours or it will "crash". Crashing is not good for the individuals who comprise the massmind, since their unique identity has been subsumed by the whole. What remains is nearly a tabula rasa, driven by need and utterly unaware of its previous life. These creatures are known as "punts" (a reference to being involuntarily disconnected from a network). In most cases, punts are not salvageable except by another massmind, which can re-assimilate the punt and restore normal function to it.
A punt can be retrained and reeducated, but the original individual is lost. Most people have little time or interest in taking care of an adult that has the mind, needs, and temperament of an infant and who will need parenting for well over a decade. Magics which transfer personalities between bodies function normally with punts. Likewise, a disembodied personality can take up residence in a punt with minimal difficulty.
Massminds have the same ecological impact as any large group of people on an area.
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