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Offline Chaosmark

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Mechanics: Fear
« on: December 18, 2012, 01:09:06 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2012, 01:12:08 AM by Chaosmark »
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

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Offline Dozus

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2012, 07:47:58 AM »
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.
etc.

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


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Offline valadaar

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2012, 10:49:17 AM »
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.
   
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Offline Chaosmark

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2012, 12:43:43 PM »
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.
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

By the power of Bayes!

Acolyte Lithil Darkheart – Level 1 Necromancer
STR: 1 | END: 2 | CON: 3 | DEX: 3 | CHA: 3 | INT: 3

Current guild quest: --

Offline Dozus

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 01:18:53 PM »
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.

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Offline valadaar

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2012, 02:29:55 PM »
I like cards, though not as an entire RPG game, as an accessory.  I also like polyhedra.

A deck of cards could provide a smoother gradient:

Each character has their own deck of cards representing their sanity. GM keeps these under lock and key :P 

Ace of Spaces = Roll on the fear table (or a draw from the Fear deck! :)

Non-Ace of space cards are discarded as they are drawn.   They only return to normal once the scene/adventure/campaign is over.
Ace of spades is returned to deck.

Perks:  Added non-spade cards representing better adjustments, rewards for success, therapy :)

Curse: Added spades

Next Level:

Single deck, custom cards:

40 Card deck.
     34 'Neutral' Cards.  0 impact or cosmetic only (no game effects)
     2 Bravery Cards.  Minor boost when drawn.
     1 Heroism Card. Major boost
     2 Shaken Cards. Minor penalty when drawn.  The card could have a list containing a set of effects to roll on.
     1 Oh @!#$ card.  Major penalty when drawn. Rollable list of serious consequences printed on card.

Of course, only Shaken and OF cards are returned to the deck.

Grim games could include no positive cards.










   
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Offline Chaosmark

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2012, 04:35:30 PM »
And this is why I post things here. I never would've come up with some of these ideas.

Suzod: That's an excellent list. I had thought about the beneficial physiological effects of being overcome by fear, but neglected to mention it in my original post. I wasn't thinking there were too many good things that happen; your sensitivity changes (light, sound, touch, etc.), you react faster, and you're stronger, but those are pretty much it from my understanding.

Val: That custom deck idea is brilliant. I'm sorely tempted to build one now; it's not like getting custom decks printed is all that expensive either.

My one concern is that 40 is probably a bit too large, even if you're drawing two or three cards at a time for really scary events. Assuming a 4-hour game, you'd have to be drawing off cards once every 6 minutes to burn through the entire deck (shorter games would need to draw faster than that). Obviously you don't want to go through the whole thing, but since most of the cards are going to have little-to-no effect, you do want to go through a significant portion of the deck in a session, otherwise the chances of them grabbing one of the reaction cards is rather low.

My calculations are showing that dropping it to 30 or even 20 cards makes it much more likely that they'll get some effect. Of course, you could keep a single, slightly larger deck that gets used for the entire party. Any one person is less likely to draw a reaction, but the deck gets burned faster, so the chances of a freak-out over the course of an evening rise significantly.

The really interesting thing you can do with the custom decks, though, is let their perks and flaws add new cards to it. So if they took the flaw, "Paranoid", they might add a few special "Shaken" cards and a specific "Oh @!#$" card to their deck, keyed specifically to the effects of their paranoia. Similarly, the "White Knight" perk would add some "Bravery" and a "Heroism" card to the deck. That definitely makes things more personal, which burrows right to the heart of fear.
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

By the power of Bayes!

Acolyte Lithil Darkheart – Level 1 Necromancer
STR: 1 | END: 2 | CON: 3 | DEX: 3 | CHA: 3 | INT: 3

Current guild quest: --

Offline Gossamer

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Re: Mechanics: Fear
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2013, 12:47:46 PM »
In D&D 4e The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond, they added a despair deck. I'll just give an example of one of the cards:
Hopeless
You take a -2 penalty to saving throws until you overcome this despair effect.
Key Skill: Insight. If you are trained in Insight, you gain a +2 bonus to the roll to overcome this despair effect.
Boon: After you overcome this despair effect, you gain a +2 bonus to saving throws until the end of your next extended rest.

You're handed out these cards either after something dramatic happened, or after a milestone or two (several encounters).
And then you make a saving throw after each extended rest.

So this ties into the mechanics of the game rather than the roleplaying aspect, but obviously both are encouraged.
I know this isn't really of the horror genre but meh, my two cents worth.

On a related note, I hate how they handle the Fear keyword in 4e. It's just a lousy -2 penalty to attack rolls. I was thinking about something similar to Xcom's panic system, so maybe roll on a table and the character has to move its speed away from the cause of the fear, or fire/slash blindly at the threat or simply miss a turn to huddle in a corner.
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