- "I do delicate things with Madness Ore. It tingles across the flesh when it cuts." —Cutter
Madness Ore (often shortened to madness) is a flexible, dark black or brown metal marbled with glowing gold veins, which can be found in the Shivering Isles. Deposits occur naturally in ancient ruins left behind by previous Greymarches, where the spirits of ancient souls and the tattered minds of dead heroes become trapped in the ore. Madness ore smithing is an ancient art of the mortal inhabitants of the realm. The master smith of Crucible has the ability to make heavy madness weapons and armor. Before the master dies, he will hide matrices throughout the realm and train an apprentice to continue the tradition. Grummites are known to occupy places such as abandoned subterranean halls where Madness Ore is commonly found, due to their strange attraction towards the material; indeed, they are known to collect shards of the ore.
Madness matrices are hidden throughout the Isles to soak up the magical essence of the realm. Using a matrix will produce an enchanted piece of equipment. The quality and enchantment power varies greatly between pieces of madness equipment, and is divided into eight grades: impure, unpolished, lesser, a standard grade, fine, very fine, grand and perfect. Impure madness equipment is little better than crude iron, while perfect madness equipment rivals even Daedric or Dragon Bone items. Crafting madness armor requires madness ore to be treated callously, and runs the risk of turning the crafter mad. It must be hammered repeatedly and bent like sinew. At some stage in the crafting process, ebony is added. All this turns the initially soft and flexible metal into a hard one.
Like many things in the Shivering Isles, madness ore has a polar opposite: amber. Heavy madness equipment is associated with Dementia, while lightweight amber equipment is aligned with Mania. The madness ore smith of Crucible is bitter rivals with the amber smith of Bliss, both of whom vie to become the master smith of New Sheoth. Similarly, the two materials also align with the rivalry between the Mazken and the Aureal; madness ore may be used to summon or even bind a Mazken, while amber can be used for the same purpose with an Aureal. The two materials have been combined before, a notable example being Nerveshatter, a hammer made with both amber and madness ore.
Circa 4E 201, chunks of madness ore and amber began to appear all over Skyrim in seemingly impossible locations. This was caused by the breakdown of the barriers between the Shivering Isles and Tamriel in the sewers beneath Solitude, where a manic mage named Thoron had been experimenting on the Sword of Jyggalag. Thoron arranged to deliver these exotic materials to a master arcane blacksmith named Evethra, who managed to learn the secrets of crafting with both madness ore and amber, albeit losing her mind in the process. Both of these individuals were killed by the Last Dragonborn, who used Evethra's notes to learn how to craft with these materials.