Sanity

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Asyme
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Sanity

Postby Asyme » Fri Sep 28, 2012 5:57 pm

Has anyone tried using a sanity system that isn't quite as harsh or deadly as the Cthulhu variant?

I was looking for some variant of willpower checks that reflects the more horrorish/dark magic aspect of my current campaign without ensuring players quickly end up as lunatics... ;)
Tias
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Re: Sanity

Postby Tias » Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:13 am

In the spirit of "more with less", I'd recommend something simple. Not that mental illness is not complex or should be treated as such, a lot of rules can fudge things up.

I'm working on some rules for it in my Legend world, and the model I'm going with is probably something like:

If a character experiences something generally considered strongly traumatizing (is raped, forced to kill loved ones, or subjected to long periods of demeaning or torturous behaviour), I'd call for POW or Persistance checks, adjusted for severity. Failing would inflict psychic illness of a character and severity appropriate to the circumstances.

If you own Call of Cthulhu, I recommend reading the Sanity section not for the SAN system but the well-written pieces on real-world mental illness and the sliding-scale system of sanity damage (for instance, meeting someone you know is dead is not as mind-destroying as seeing an ultimate cosmic horror like Cthulhu, but it still damages).
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Re: Sanity

Postby Matt_H » Sun Sep 30, 2012 6:28 pm

Does sanity even have a place in heroic fantasy?
Unless you have some encounter in mind that specifically targets the mind.

Think of your favourite fantasy or mythological character and think how far he or she would have got in a straight jacket.

I don't agree with it in the least. Cthulhu is specifically meant to be horror and reflects this with its sanity rules, fantasy genres see the horrors as obstacles to hack, hew and burn.
The average amount of gore, disemboweling and beheading in most fantasy sessions would render a Cthulhu party 80% insane and out of action and that's before you even get to the inhuman foes, magic, demons etc.
Last edited by Matt_H on Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Lemnoc » Sun Sep 30, 2012 7:33 pm

Matt_H wrote:Does sanity even have a place in heroic fantasy?...
I think there is a wisdom and truth to this.

Lovecraft's work was all about the impacts of That Which Cannot Be Rationally Understood versus the rational modern mind. In pre-rational, mythological settings—filled with magic and dragons—there is a built-in buffer: Things Man Is Not Meant To Know is of the realm of the gods. In some ways, your average medieval knight is better equipped to tackle the Mythos than your 20th Century antiquarian.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Tias » Sun Sep 30, 2012 8:48 pm

Legend can be used to pretty much anything you want to, I don't see the problem with including sanity and mental health as a theme. A lot of the epic litterature high fantasy draws on the theme, and a hero or antagonist gone mad or in the process of cracking, can make for a powerful story.
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Re: Sanity

Postby strega » Sun Sep 30, 2012 9:06 pm

There are Sanity rules in one of the MRQI books, maybe Necromantic Arts.
Yep, NA is the book:
"There are two distinct sets of rules in this chapter. The Fear
rules cover sudden shocks and supernatural terror, which might
make the characters break in combat and run away. The Madness
rules describe a character’s slow descent into madness through
encounters with sanity-blasting horror. In a game in which just
the Fear rules are used, characters will seem more vulnerable and
human but over the long term, a character will not be greatly
damaged by his adventures. In a game where just the Madness
rules are used, a character’s mind may slowly be damaged and
even a hero who seems healthy and physically undamaged may
become a raving madman."

You roll your Persistence score against the enemies Fear score and consult a chart for effects of a failure.

Insanity is measured on a scale of 0 to INTx2. Temporary Insanity on half INT, Permanently insane at INT and gibbering lunatic at INTx2. Encountering a zombie or ghost for the first time is is 1D4 Insanity if you fail your Persistance roll for example.

Roll Persistence with Pass/Fail result. Fail gains Insanity.
My Getting started with Legend file including a suggested starting adventure.

My Romano-British Game setting.
Asyme
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Re: Sanity

Postby Asyme » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:38 am

Matt_H wrote:Does sanity even have a place in heroic fantasy?
Unless you have some encounter in mind that specifically targets the mind.

Think of your favourite fantasy or mythological character and think how far he or she would have got in a straight jacket.

I don't agree with it in the least. Cthulhu is specifically meant to be horror and reflects this with its sanity rules, fantasy genres see the horrors as obstacles to hack, hew and burn.
The average amount of gore, disemboweling and beheading in most fantasy sessions would render a Cthulhu party 80% insane and out of action and that's before you even get to the inhuman foes, magic, demons etc.
Sure - warhammer has made decades worth of material out of combining the two... As I say - eventual mental ruin bad - but fear and terror when, say, a demon appears tells the players they're in for a particular type of experience; one mood or themed based.

For an example of my general play style my first ever game with my present groups was a pathfinder attempt. The party were terrified (and I mean terrified) by what the module had described as a small nest of half hit dice monsters - little demonic gremlin types. By refusing to describe them, having em lurk in the shadows and littering the floor with headless corpses of carrion the little critters suddenly became terrifying. In legend I'd definitely have at least called for some kind of willpower check if they'd fallen into a nest of them.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Matt_H » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:59 am

Asyme wrote:Sure - warhammer has made decades worth of material out of combining the two... As I say - eventual mental ruin bad - but fear and terror when, say, a demon appears tells the players they're in for a particular type of experience; one mood or themed based.

For an example of my general play style my first ever game with my present groups was a pathfinder attempt. The party were terrified (and I mean terrified) by what the module had described as a small nest of half hit dice monsters - little demonic gremlin types. By refusing to describe them, having em lurk in the shadows and littering the floor with headless corpses of carrion the little critters suddenly became terrifying. In legend I'd definitely have at least called for some kind of willpower check if they'd fallen into a nest of them.
Fear and terror are good, either induced my GM skills, roleplay or dice and I agree whole heartedly with this technique on an encounter by encounter level, its the long term attrition and accumulation of insanity in fantasy genres that doesn't sit well with me.

As you yourself describe in in your Pathfinder example, no system rules are required to create fear and doubt in the players minds. If you really must, a persistence roll would suffice in Legend, for creatures with fear effects, either damaging the characters ability to act via skill penalties or making them run like scared rabbits for a brief period.

A good method is to take characters out of their comfort zone, so they may not rely of their normally infallible skills, favourite weapons and armour or spells or even their usual tactics. In a game such as Legend where one good hit can be the end to you, taking away these things and then adding unorthodox adversaries that are in their home environment should make any player fear for their character. Fear is good for players, and overcoming it and surviving is even better.


*/all this arguing against sanity rules when one of my all time favourite games is Cthulhu :P /*
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Re: Sanity

Postby DamonJynx » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:43 am

An interesting topic. The Sanity rules quoted above from Necromantic Arts are an extrapolation from those presented in the MRQ1 Elric rules I believe - which I suppose is neither here nor there. But sanity does have a place in heroic fiction and as a consequence, fantasy roleplaying games. Many of the sorcerers (and others) in the Elric series of stories end up stark, raving mad. Depending on how you structure your game and how your adventurers begin their careers, having sanity rules makes perfect sense. As an example, I'm defending my village from bandits. Their leader a vile sorcerer, raises their fallen so they can continue to fight. That is going to scare the excrement out of me and will, if such things continue to happen (fighting demons or other horrors) have a cumulative, negative impact on my uneducated brain. At least IMHO anyways. But as always, YLMV.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Loz » Mon Oct 01, 2012 2:46 pm

Does sanity even have a place in heroic fantasy?
Sure it does. The Eternal Champion and Conan sagas have more than their fair share of the insane, deranged and psychotically unstable.

Even in Lord of the Rings, Denethor is barking mad, driven to this stage by disappointment, the weight of responsibility and the proximity of a strengthening Mordor. Gollum is bonkers because the ring has made him that way. Even Bilbo and Frodo display a descent into madness under the ring's burden.

For a more recent example, how about 'A Song of Ice and Fire'? Plenty of mad kings, sociopaths and psychologically scarred individuals.
Think of your favourite fantasy or mythological character and think how far he or she would have got in a straight jacket.
And many favourite fantasy characters are favourites because of such psychological afflictions!

Elric is considered mad by his own people. Corum is driven to madness by the torture of the Mabden and destruction of his people. In 'Song of Ice and Fire' Tyrion becomes psychologically scarred by the treatment of his family that he is driven to extreme acts (I won't say what in case of spoiling things for those who haven't read the full saga yet).

Madness does not indicate an inability to function. It may indicate impaired judgement and/or limited social capabilities, but it does not necessarily follow that every character suffering from some form of insanity or impairment is a howling, raging maniac.
I don't agree with it in the least. Cthulhu is specifically meant to be horror and reflects this with its sanity rules, fantasy genres see the horrors as obstacles to hack, hew and burn.
Cthulhu is a very specific kind of horror. At its core its about the unfolding realisation that humanity is surrounded and outclassed by beings of incredibly alien magnitude, and that, ultimately, humanity is alone and hopeless against these beings.

This form of horror is perfectly at home in the fantasy genre. Howard, Ashton Smith, Leiber, Moorcock and others all draw upon it for their fantasies. Witness Elric's despair in 'The Dead God's Book' when he realises that the struggle between Law and Chaos is both never-ending and treats the world as its pawn, uncaring and unconcerned for its fate. Ashton Smith frequently references the Cthulhu mythos and sends his fantasy protagonists barmy as they are exposed to its horrors. He uses similar tools where magic is concerned too, particularly the hideously corrupting power of sorcery.
The average amount of gore, disemboweling and beheading in most fantasy sessions would render a Cthulhu party 80% insane and out of action and that's before you even get to the inhuman foes, magic, demons etc.
Depends on what events an individual may have experienced leading to becoming inured to such experiences. A WWI veteran serving at The Somme will have witnessed wholesale carnage and trauma on a scale that may leave him utterly inured to similar atrocities in everyday life. Same goes for fantasy settings too. A villager who has spent his life without witnessing the horror of battle will be affected by carnage whereas someone brought up with it day-in, day-out will be (relatively) inured.

However, events (like demons, magic etc) that have no fundamental and rational reference point will have an impact irrespective of the setting.

Sanity mechanics do have a place because they:

a) Help those who don't feel comfortable portraying someone suffering from insanity through pure roleplaying.

b) Provide a handy measure for scaling insanity.

c) Help apply the use of insanity consistently across the players - just as all other game mechanics tend to do.

I do agree that roleplaying insanity is the best way of portraying it, but that can sometimes be difficult and unrealistic. Sanity mechanics provide a handy short-hand and abstraction that can help overcome some of the inherent problems of acting it out in a realistic fashion.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Mixster » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:38 pm

Matt_H wrote:Does sanity even have a place in heroic fantasy?
This is an interesting question, and I'd dare to answer it:

Yes, in a limited form it does.
Insanity, like any other disease can lead to some interesting roleplaying options. However, insanity is much harder to roleplay and make rules about than being infected with a somatic disease would be.
IMO, diseases, both somatic and mental, should be much rarer in a heroic fantasy than in the real world, it would suck if everybody and their dog died of Tetanus, a few weeks after they got a scratch in a fight. As would a character going mad simply because he was following the storyline.
So, don't impact insanity and contagious diseases on players just for playing the game.

If on the other hand a player wishes to play an insane character, I'd say let him go for it, as long as he doesn't hug the spotlight, and all that jazz.
Loz wrote:In 'Song of Ice and Fire' Tyrion becomes psychologically scarred by the treatment of his family that he is driven to extreme acts (I won't say what in case of spoiling things for those who haven't read the full saga yet).
I've read those books too, and I have to say that I don't think Tyrion ever does a single act of madness. Yeah, he does a few acts in rage of being laughed at, but he is never truly mad. (His sister is though).
The average amount of gore, disemboweling and beheading in most fantasy sessions would render a Cthulhu party 80% insane and out of action and that's before you even get to the inhuman foes, magic, demons etc.
Depends on what events an individual may have experienced leading to becoming inured to such experiences. A WWI veteran serving at The Somme will have witnessed wholesale carnage and trauma on a scale that may leave him utterly inured to similar atrocities in everyday life. Same goes for fantasy settings too. A villager who has spent his life without witnessing the horror of battle will be affected by carnage whereas someone brought up with it day-in, day-out will be (relatively) inured.

However, events (like demons, magic etc) that have no fundamental and rational reference point will have an impact irrespective of the setting.
I think the first paragraph contradicts the second here. People from different cultures have different views on what is rational. And thus, in a culture that believes in demons and spirits, they'll more easily be able to rationalize what is happening.
As such, if a medieval templar saw a gate to hell open, he'd probably skip back, and get a great bit scared, but his core beliefs probably wouldn't be shaken that much. If I looked out my window and saw the gate to hell open, I'd doubt my own sanity pretty darn much.
Sanity mechanics do have a place because they:
a) Help those who don't feel comfortable portraying someone suffering from insanity through pure roleplaying.
b) Provide a handy measure for scaling insanity.
c) Help apply the use of insanity consistently across the players - just as all other game mechanics tend to do.
I do agree that roleplaying insanity is the best way of portraying it, but that can sometimes be difficult and unrealistic. Sanity mechanics provide a handy short-hand and abstraction that can help overcome some of the inherent problems of acting it out in a realistic fashion.
I somewhat agree here, the mechanics can do those things. On the other hand, they also force strict definitions of mental illnesses on characters. Definitions that are far from a good picture of a real world mental illness, and can as such, ruin some good roleplaying from players who are not going to get shoe-horned into some game designers (or GM) idea of insanity.

So my suggestion is that you shouldn't force players into playing insane characters, and the players should know what they are signing up for. Portraying someone with a bipolar disorder realistically is a hell of a job; but can be magnificent if done right. On the other hand, while playing a character with raging dendrophobia who fears twigs and only sleeps in rock houses might be fun, it gets silly fast, which will mean it should only be done if the setting can handle this amount of silliness.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Asyme » Mon Oct 01, 2012 10:38 pm

Good example which pops to mind in heroic fantasy - male mages in wheel of time. Hell - even after the taint on magic is cleansed the main hero remains several biscuits short of the full packet for novels afterward....
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Re: Sanity

Postby hanszurcher » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:53 pm

Asyme wrote:Has anyone tried using a sanity system that isn't quite as harsh or deadly as the Cthulhu variant?

I was looking for some variant of willpower checks that reflects the more horrorish/dark magic aspect of my current campaign without ensuring players quickly end up as lunatics... ;)
I haven't tried using a sanity system with Legend yet. But I usually add horror aspects to my games so I definitely plan to.

As Strega said earlier Legend does come with its own fear & madness rules featured in Necromantic Arts.

You could also use the Call of Cthulhu sanity system with a little inspiration from L'Appel de Cthulhu, using the players current Hero Point pool as a passive Sanity Armor much like aplomb. So a character with 5 Hero Points would subtract 5 points from any SAN damage received.
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Re: Sanity

Postby Loz » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:57 am

So, don't impact insanity and contagious diseases on players just for playing the game.
Absolutely. There should always be a reason and context.
If on the other hand a player wishes to play an insane character, I'd say let him go for it, as long as he doesn't hug the spotlight, and all that jazz.
Again, I agree - although it can be difficult to manage. I've been in, and run, Cthulhu games where a player has done, or attempted to do just that. Much depends on the GM's skill in managing scenery-chewers of course. But the reverse is also true for those who aren't comfortable with scenery-chewing. The mechanics form a handy reference point for reflecting the sanity loss.
I've read those books too, and I have to say that I don't think Tyrion ever does a single act of madness. Yeah, he does a few acts in rage of being laughed at, but he is never truly mad. (His sister is though).
In the later novels (the last one in particular) Tyrion's mental state is in clear turmoil following everything that's befallen him in the previous two books. No, its not raging madness by any stretch, but he's clearly been mentally affected by all the betrayals. In fact, he spends a good deal of the latest book distancing himself and coming to terms with it. This was a man who is used to control of his wits. When he loses that control, he loses his grip too.
People from different cultures have different views on what is rational. And thus, in a culture that believes in demons and spirits, they'll more easily be able to rationalize what is happening.
Very true. It depends entirely on the setting.
I somewhat agree here, the mechanics can do those things. On the other hand, they also force strict definitions of mental illnesses on characters. Definitions that are far from a good picture of a real world mental illness, and can as such, ruin some good roleplaying from players who are not going to get shoe-horned into some game designers (or GM) idea of insanity.
Unless you're a clinical psychologist this will always be a problem. But usually the descent into game madness is there to reflect exposure to a particular experience in a way that can be handled within game confines. The mechanics generally aren't there to create 'Lunatic: The Maddening, a roleplaying game realistic mental instability'. I also don't think that they force strict definitions either; Cthulhu is actually quite vague in its descriptions of phobias and insanities. As we've agreed though, good roleplaying can bring the affliction alive in ways that transcend the definitions, whether strict or vague.
So my suggestion is that you shouldn't force players into playing insane characters, and the players should know what they are signing up for. Portraying someone with a bipolar disorder realistically is a hell of a job; but can be magnificent if done right. On the other hand, while playing a character with raging dendrophobia who fears twigs and only sleeps in rock houses might be fun, it gets silly fast, which will mean it should only be done if the setting can handle this amount of silliness.
100%. One of the most tiresome players I had the misfortune to game with suffered from Pantophobia in a CoC game. It got old very quickly...
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Re: Sanity

Postby Mixster » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:34 pm

Did I just agree with someone over the internet!?

What is this world coming to.
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