During our DnD game at the weekend something reminded me of a power/ability/side effect that I couldn't place at all.

The power (could have been a side effect of something else) was that when the character touched an object, they could see/feel/understand the entire history of that object, to the extent that if it was not controlled they could go mad as they'd see the repeated history.

A good example of the madness would be a table: they touch it, they see the tree that the wood was carved from, then the seed that tree was, then the tree that seed fell from, et cetera.

Any ideas?

  • Where did you see this story? A film, book? – Chenmunka Feb 10 '15 at 13:20
  • Pretty sure it was a book. I thought it might be something in the Wheel of Time series as a side effect of one of the Aes Sedai powers, but not certain that's it... – shearn89 Feb 10 '15 at 13:36
  • I don't recall the madness aspect, but that ability (or something similar) was possessed by the King Gromden in Crewel Lye, as I recall, if that helps. – K-H-W Feb 10 '15 at 14:03
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    This is, in general, often titled Psychometry. – FuzzyBoots Feb 10 '15 at 15:13
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    It also features in the second OVA of a japanese anime called Tokyo Babylon. The person actually wears gloves day to day a la babylon 5 and psicorp – user41689 Feb 10 '15 at 16:58

This sounds like the effect that liquid Skill magic has in Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy, specifically this description:

"What does it feel like?" I asked the Fool.

He glanced down at his bandaged fingers. "Not pain. Very sensitive. I can feel the weave of the threads in the bandages." His eyes started to get distant. He smiled. "I can see the man who wove it, and I know the woman who spun it. The sheep on the hillside, rain falling on their thick wool, and the grass they ate... wool is from grass, Fitz. A shirt woven from grass. No, there is more. The soil, black and rich and..."

"Stop it!" Kettle said harshly. And she turned to me angrily. "And you stop asking him, Fitz. Unless you want him to follow it too far and be lost forever." She gave the Fool a sharp poke. "Eat your food."

Assassin's Quest, page 640-641

The effect of the Skill on unschooled users is that they get lost in the depth and richness of the experience, ending up as drooling husks - not really madness, per se, but along the same lines.

The Fool also has minor-to-major parts in the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy, including becoming a highly skilled woodcarver because of his ability to "feel" the wood. (I have not read it yet, but I suspect he's also in the in-progress "Fitz and the Fool Trilogy")

  • That's it! Love that series! It was that warning from Kettle that made me think of the "going mad" aspect. Good work! – shearn89 Feb 10 '15 at 14:45

You may be thinking of the 1984 movie The Brother From Another Planet . Early in the movie, after crashing near Ellis Island he's shown "hearing" the voices of people who went through Ellis Island when he touches the benches and walls.

Fun factoid - Ellis Island, located in New York City, used to be the main intake point for people immigrating to the U.S. Nearly a third of the U.S. population can be traced back to Ellis Island.

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