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Mechanics: Fear

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One of the more useful things that has been done for horror gaming is the introduction of sanity mechanics, whereby your players can slowly lose their sanity if they aren't sufficiently careful. Of course, as they do lose more and more of their sanity, you start presenting the world slightly differently, bait-and-switching them with descriptions that never happened, and in-general making life more difficult as they descend into the pits of madness (literally and figuratively).

I've noted that a number of GMs that do horror games have complained about their players not playing their PCs as if they were really in a horrific, terrifying situation. So my mind started turning, and I remembered the idea of sanity mechanics, and thought, "There's gotta be a good way to package this up into a neat bundle of 'fear mechanics', whereby a GM can mess with the PCs as they get more and more terrified."

My first course of action was to brainstorm, and this is what I came up with:

* It must be simple. A GM already has a bunch of tasks on their plate. Adding a horribly complicated set of new rules to that is stupid, and most GMs just won't bother. Ideally, you could just have a card for each PC listing how much calm they have left and what their thresholds are, then you'd mark it as they start to lose their cool.
* Based on willpower. Not everyone is equally affected by fear. Those with exceptional strength of will are less likely to be overcome with terror. Likewise, those with a lower intellect are less likely to be afraid, simply because they don't understand the things that make others terrified.
* In-line with the core concept of simple, it should be slot-based. A PC has a certain number of slots that represent their calm. As scary things happen, those slots are marked off, and the PC starts to become jumpy. At particular thresholds, the PC might get negative bonuses to certain checks (it's hard to sneak around when you're whimpering in utter terror).
* When a PC loses their last slot, they snap. This could mean curling up in the corner, or running away screaming.
With all this in mind, I'm not entirely sure where to go next. At minimum, this needs a list of involuntary effects that occur at various thresholds.

Feel free to chime in with any thoughts you might have.

You could add a table of fear effects, if appropriate.

Roll 1d20. Character is effected for X rounds, or whatever time the GM rules.

1 - You give a bloodcurdling scream, stopping barely to breathe.
2 - You weep uncontrollably.
3 - You turn and run.
4 - You swing your weapon wildly.
5 - You wet yourself.

Depending on the will/intellect/fear check, you could make major and minor tables of fear effects.

Perhaps you create a set of custom dice, where the 1 (on all dice) is replaced by a skull.

As you get more nervous, the GM hands you the next smaller die.

Roll a skull to freak out.

Your initial sanity determines your starting die size.

Suzod: I think a single table would be good, with the major and minor effects interspersed throughout. Two tables would probably start making things too complicated, and a single table with both sets of effects would add some nice suspense to it. You never quite know what effect you're going to get, whether it will be major or minor.

Val: That is an absolutely awesome idea. It allows for a nice sense of randomness, but also lets the players have a hand in deciding their fate. They can't complain anywhere near as much when they freak out because THEY rolled poorly.

The average GM would have to just use a normal dice progression, but someone lucky enough to have a 3D printer could totally make said custom dice all on their lonesome and look extra spiffy.

It occurred to me while researching this that fear has good results as well - increased vision, for example, and an adrenaline boost.

--- Quote ---Fear effects
Roll 1d20. The resulting effect lasts for 1d6 rounds.

1 - You give a bloodcurdling scream, stopping barely to breathe.
2 - You weep uncontrollably.
3 - You turn and run.
4 - You swing your weapon wildly.
5 - You wet yourself.
6 - You freeze in place.
7 - You faint.
8 - You go into cardiac arrest.
9 - You hide desperately behind the rest of the party.
10 - You shake/shiver.
11 - Your adrenaline increases, making you faster.
12 - You hyperventilate.
13 - You sweat from every pore, heavily.
14 - You vomit.
15 - You attack suddenly and powerfully at the closest enemy.
16 - Your pupils dilate, increasing your light intake (better vision in dark places, worse vision in bright places)
17 - Your lungs relax, increasing your endurance slightly
18 - You instinctively duck, dropping whatever you're holding.
19 - You suddenly acclimate to the fear, becoming temporarily immune to it.
20 - Nothing happens.
--- End quote ---


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