Research has shown that false memories can be implanted with surprising ease. The "Lost in the Mall" experiment involves implanting the subject with the false memory of being lost in the mall as a child. Subjects not only took on the false memory, but spontaneously created their own new details to support the implant. When told that one of their memories was false, they were unable to identify which was implanted, and which was real.

The Lost In The Mall Machine has refined this process with terrifying efficiency. New models are now capable of implanting false memories into the mind of anyone within a city block. This technique has opened up new vistas of propoganda and product placement.

Remember the night you proposed to your fiance? How you both shared a delicious can of Coke together? Remember, after your son was born, how you ordered takeout through Uber Eats? The Machine is programmed to tie its false memories into moments of great emotional significance. When used effectively, this technique means the subject begins to take on the lie as a core component of their personal identity. Their personality slowly grows around the false memory, like flesh growing and closing over a splinter. If someone tells them the memory is false, they react with anger, disbelief, defensiveness. They will defend their own brainwashing at all costs.

Photographer: TheAvalancheGang

Implanting false memories

As always, if you're going to use this, make sure this is the kind of thing your players are comfortable with. Let them know that your campaign will involve elements of psychological horror, false perception, and distorted memories, and don't use this if they aren't ok with that. This monster will work best if your players are capable of playing along in-character, even if they understand they're wrong out-of-character.

To implant a false memory, work with the PC's to determine critical questions about their backstory. Introduce NPC's and say, "This is an old friend from your home town. How did you two meet?" Work with them to create memories of their past, just like you would in a normal campaign. Then, decide which of those memories are false. 

Look at each characters backstory through crosshairs. That hometown the party has never visited - maybe when they travel there, they discover no such place exists. Maybe their parents have actually been paid actors the entire time, supported by false memories. Friends, NPC's, any element of their backstory could be a false memories from the Lost in the Mall Machine. 

Here are some potential options for how a enemy faction could use the machine against the PC's:
  1. A friendly NPC from someone's backstory is actually a spy, using false memories to infiltrate the group.
  2. Your hometown does not exist. If you go there, you find nothing but empty concrete. An organisation is using false memories to conceal the real place, which is their base of operations. 
  3. A PC actually used to work for the enemy organisation, and their memories have been overwritten in order to avoid the exposure of trade secrets and confidential information. 
  4. A precious item from your past is actually a tracking device.
  5. When trying to get somewhere (to track down the enemy organisation or the Lost in the Mall Machine) the machine sends you false memories of which path you came down and which corridors you've walked, making you lost and confused.
  6. You are given memories that confuse your goals or weaken your resolve, making you sympathetic to the enemy. 
  7. A friendly NPC has been mislead and confused by false memories and is taking a disastrous course of action.
  8. A basic fact you took for granted is false. That isn't water you've been drinking. 
  9. A terrible crime you commited has been obscured and replaced with a happy memory. You paid them to do this, long ago. You don't remember running over your best friend while drunk that night. 
  10. You are sent memories of something good (an old hideout, a stash of gear, a buried treasure) which are used to lure you into a trap.

In a coporate basement, deep in an abandoned parking lot, in a place concealed by false memories, the PC's may be able to track down and confront the Machine.


[Stats: As Vampire]

Artist: Gina Skwoz

The machine's true form is hard to discern. Refracted, clustered half-images of people from your memories surround it. The center is impossible to see. Black oil constantly spurts from this fractured image and covers the surrounding area. 


[Lair Effect] [Nostalgia Gunk]: The machine oozes black nostalgia gunk. Draw it in random splodges all over your battle map, and add a trail of it wherever the machine moves. It can be cleared with water.

Touching the gunk sends you into a nostalgia haze. You see everything through rose tinted glasses, as if in a memory of days gone by. While in the gunk, your speed is halved, you have disadvantage on all saves, and you must keep moving each round to avoid being dragged under. If you are dragged down, you end up in the Memory Hole (see below).

[Memory Hole]: You fall asleep and your mind is trapped in a custom-tailored recursive dream of the past. Ask the PC that fell in first to describe one of their most important memories. Everyone caught in the memory hole will fall into that same memory. Here are some options to inspire you:
  1. Coming of age moment (eg, your Bah Mitzvah)
  2. Romantic moment (Your first kiss)
  3. Moment of grief (The death of a loved one)
  4. Moment of triumph (Getting that big promotion)
  5. Moment of friendship (Meeting an old friend for the first time)
  6. Moment of pain (Breaking your arm as a kid)
  7. Moment of fear (Trying to find your lost child)
  8. Moment of rage (Being humiliated at work)
  9. Moment of calm (Looking out over the city skyline late at night)
  10. Moment of joy (A wild party from when you were younger)
One person in each dream will be the Machine. They will take the form of someone you love or respect, or a background character. They will be slightly uncanny in a way you can only notice with close study. Maybe they have too many fingers, or too many teeth, or their arms aren't on right, or their legs terminate in the ground without feet, or they have a conjoined mass of feet at the end of their limbs. As the fight progresses the machine will get more sophisticated in its copies - you may only be able to tell which person it is by asking questions or noticing subtle mistakes in its speech.

If you attack the fake, you deal that damage to the machine, and everyone in the Memory Hole will be freed and wake up in the real world. The next time someone falls in, create a new memory. 

At the end of each round, everyone in the memory hole must make a will save or lose half of their maximum HP (rounded down). A long rest restores all max HP. 

[Reaction] [Mandela Effect] [3/Day]: Whenever the machine fails a saving throw, it can decide that was a false memory. Everyone witnessing it will still falsely believe that the saving throw failed (for example, if they case Sleep, they will all see the machine fall asleep). The illusion shatters quickly as soon as it is tested.


After each players turn, the Machine can move 10 feet and take one of the following actions. See my post on Boss action economy if you're not sure how this works.

  • [Mass Delusion]
    • [Charge up]: The machine powers up the blast below, and uses it as their next action. The PC's can see what's about to happen.
    • [Blast] [60ft cone]: Everyone caught in the blast must make a will save or take d6 psychic damage and fall into the Memory Hole.
  • [Spew Nostalgia Gunk]: The Machine coats a 30ft area in the arena with nostalgia gunk.
  • [Shadow Mind Interface] [Touch]: The target must succeed on a constitution save or take d6 psychic damage and become paralysed for 1 minute. If you're in the nostalgia gunk, this can cause you to fall into the Memory Hole, which ends the paralysis (but traps you in the memory hole). The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.
  • [Solastalgia] [Range 40ft]: The target is completely overwhelmed with knowledge of how bad things have gotten. The golden age is over. Your happiness is gone. The world rots. Memories are all you have left. Take 3d6 psychic damage (half on will save) and weep for all that has been lost.
  • [Confabulate] [Recharge 5-6]: The machine projects flickering hallucinatory memories around it. You see it the way your mother appeared to you as a child, or what your father looked like as he walked out the door for the last time. These images act as the Mirror Image spell. Defeating these may briefly reveal the form of the real machine before it restarts the confabulation engine.
  • [Social Contagion] [Desperation: Trigger when the machine hits 1/4th health]: An explosion of psychic energy blasts from the machine and everyone in 60ft must make a will save or take 2d6 damage and fall into a new memory hole. This unique memory hole is a twisted mash-up of every memory used in the fight so far. The people, places and items are mutant, smashed-together amalgams from different memories. The NPC's here are malevolent and attack the PC's as the machine attempts to escape [Number appearing: 3d6, stats as basic commoner, 1HP, d6 psychic damage on hit]. 

The Aftermath

The real form of the machine. Artist: Korintic

Once destroyed, the machine will unlock. Inside is an elderly person, shrunken and strung up with wires. They agreed to be strapped in a long time ago in exchange for a generous payment package. Their regrets fuel the machine. Deseperate, lonely and in debt, this is often the only option for some senior citizens to avoid homelessness and provide an inheritance for their children. Some, forgotten even by their families, prefer the company of memories in any case. 

If freed from the machine, they have immense difficulty adapting to the outside world. They have spent so long in other people's memories that they can barely tell who they are. They may think that they are the PC's, or other victims of memory implantation. Many will ask, desperately, to be put back in the machine. The present has nothing left for them anymore. 

Implanted memories do not disappear when the machine is destroyed.

Paranoia Agent, Satoshi Kon

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