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Another Fear and Insanity Thread


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I’m constantly going back and forth about Fear and insanity. I’ve toyed around with a few systems and they all left me cold. They were either too invasive during game play or they sat in the background and were not used. Today I looked at an old character sheet and felt the itch to try it again.

Fear
This should be something both detrimental AND beneficial to the character. In addition, the player should have some choice in the matter in how Fear is affecting the character.

At any point a player may declare that their character is in a state of Fear. When in a state of Fear, the player can choose what the character focuses on. The player has three choices, Fight, Flight or Freeze. Fight gives you a +20% bonus to any Combat moves you take. Flight gives you a +20% bonus to any movement skills you have. Freeze gives you a +20% bonus to any thinking or communication skill.

When can Fear be applied? In general, Fear can be invoked when a character is either in direct threat of harm or is observing something that would cause them an intense feeling of shock or disgust.

Every time a character is in the state of Fear a Fear Check must be made. A Fear Check is determined using Power x5%. If a character succeeds on their Fear check the state of Fear works as above. If they character fails their Fear Check they develop an Affliction.

Afflictions
Madness is something that is present in Ravenloft. There are plenty of story ideas that can be tied into it. Madness is also a staple of gothic horror. So how do we use it in a fun way? It should be important. It should be something that will affect gameplay for the character. It should be something that the player has some buy in.

Afflictions only occur if the character has entered the state of Fear and has failed their Fear Check. When the fail the Fear Check, two things happen.

  1. The character can attempt to take an action. The player may choose whether this action is a critical success or a critical failure. Either the horror of the situation has imbued the character with a sudden burst of energy or clarity and they are ready to react or the character is so shaken that failure is inevitable. Again, this is the player’s choice.
  2. The character develops an Affliction. This is a mental or personality quirk that is now part of the character. It can be removed through Hypnotism or by committing one’s self to an asylum.

I haven’t fleshed out the Afflictions yet. Not sure if I’m committing to this setup enough to flesh them out. I kinda like it because it's heavily biased towards players making the decision to engage with it. Are they going to gamble for a short term benefit? It's not something I'm forcing as a GM.

Thoughts?

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At any point a player may declare that their character is in a state of Fear. When in a state of Fear, the player can choose what the character focuses on. The player has three choices, Fight, Flight or Freeze. Fight gives you a +20% bonus to any Combat moves you take. Flight gives you a +20% bonus to any movement skills you have. Freeze gives you a +20% bonus to any thinking or communication skill.

I have a hombrew game with the exact same three choices, although a character's reaction to fear is chosen once as a character trait and if it tries to act in any other way it gets a penalty (-20% in this case)

 

 

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Unknown Armies is a different beast. It's more like a sliding scale of 5-way mental conditions which affect skills and personality in neat ways. For instance, experiencing violence hardens you to it, making you more competent in a fight, but less empathetic, all reflected mechanically. You can also check out the Tenacity system from Luther Arkwright for a clean way to do it, using a Willpower roll to prevent gaining mental Conditions. The game Abandon All Hope (not d100 but a pretty cool indie game) uses a 3-pole sanity system , applying Despair and Guilt to determine effects from Insanity.

Edited by hix
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Yeah, Fight, Flight, Freeze is a common description of the effects of fear in general and several systems use it. His describes UA's rather involved system really well and even UA uses those three for the basic fear response.

What I'm trying to change is the way it's invoked. Instead of me describing some nasty beastie and then saying 'roll for Fear' I want the PCs to be the ones to decide that the Fear effect is taking place. The PCs decide if the extra oomph they get from Fear is worth risking the possibility of an Affliction.

Since Ravenloft is a setting about heroes against the dark powers and I hate telling the PCs how their characters feel, I want Fear to be someone beneficial. I want it to be something they are invested in roleplaying and using. I'm not opposed to them racking up several Afflictions and becoming a walking bundle of psychological disorders. I hear Dr. Dominiari has made some wonderful advances with the clinically insane.

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On 2/13/2021 at 3:34 PM, Chaot said:

...

What I'm trying to change is the way it's invoked. Instead of me describing some nasty beastie and then saying 'roll for Fear' I want the PCs to be the ones to decide that the Fear effect is taking place. The PCs decide if the extra oomph they get from Fear is worth risking the possibility of an Affliction.

...

It seems headed a bit of Fateward here (the EvilHat game engine), and I might lean in further on this... 


In Fate, you have "Aspects" (let's grab "Arachnophobia" here).  In facing a giant spider, you might invoke your Arachnophobia to fight better, or to flee faster.  (I'm not sure I see a shocky / "Frozen" condition as conducive to good communication, though... maybe perception?)

Fate adds a "Fate Point" metacurrency.  You can gain points by activating an Aspect in a negative-to-your-PC way (fleeing in panic may get you lost, FrEx), but spend them to build up advantages.

Thing is -- the GM can invoke your Aspects against your character, too!  The GM offers you a FP, saying "seems to me an Arachnophobe would flee in panic here, and get lost in those tunnels..."  The player can agree, and take the FP; or disagree, and spend one of their FP's to avoid it.  In-game, they've exerted their will and not given in to panic.

It gives the player that choice, but also gives the GM something like the "roll for Fear" lever to pull; it's just not a FORCING lever (unless the player has run out of FP's... (but hey, they just need to flee in terror, and then they've got a FP to help them survive being alone in spider-infested tunnels...)).


 

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On 2/13/2021 at 12:29 PM, el_octogono said:

I have a hombrew game with the exact same three choices, although a character's reaction to fear is chosen once as a character trait and if it tries to act in any other way it gets a penalty (-20% in this case)

This makes me think about adding a mechanic where your character MOSTLY reacts one may, but MAY react any way.
 

Set up a 10-point scale 1/23/4-10 and place Fight/Flee/Freeze onto it in any order you want.  When triggered, roll a d10 to see how you react THIS TIME; mostly, you have one kind of reaction, but sometimes it's different...

Civilians almost always Freeze or Flee, faced with extreme violence; military training almost always goes to Fight.  Almost everyone Freezes the first time they meet something utterly unexpected.  (etc)


Changing the scale (1-2/3-5/6-10), maybe eliminating an option (never Freezes, etc) and even adding a "Choose your F'ing Reaction" could be a part of the Experience system...

Edited by g33k
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