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Author Topic: Sanity system  (Read 3201 times)
caio_maximino
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Posts: 10


« on: November 30, 2004, 06:16:46 PM »

Well, it's been a long time since I've been thinking, with a few friends, on designing a psychopatology RPG system. It's a difficult task, though. First of all, there's the problem of etiology - ie, the genesis of mental illnesses. Then, there's the problem of translating those into game terms. I think the ones which would have more impact in the game would be, of course, those disorders that could be acquired through Exploration. I need help on this!
Caio
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Caio
TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2004, 06:31:16 PM »

Are you anticipating that insanity will be something the players will want their characters to avoid, or to embrace?
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SlurpeeMoney
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Posts: 69


« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2004, 09:26:26 PM »

If nothing else, a whole book on role-playing game applications of mental disorders would be a godsend for anyone playing a Malkavian in Vampire or a Crazy in RIFTS.

Having dealt with mental illness personally, I can say that the dramatic potential for insanity is quite high, but not usually enough to carry on a whole game. For simulationists, or even character-driven narrativists, a game resultant entirely on the psychological factors inherent in their characters could be interesting as an occasional break from regular gaming.

More fun would be a Classic Fantasy role-playing game, in the vein of The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, and then injecting a great big dose of the psychotic...

More important than "insanity" (I despise that word for obvious reasons) being embraced or avoided, one should consider sympathies. Are the characters sympathetic with their mental illness? Unaware? Struggling? How are they reacting to their illnesses, and the causes of those illnesses? How is the rest of the world going to react?

I saw a sign on the Calgary C-train once. On it, a topless man was very gently holding a naked baby in his arms. At the top of the sign was written "This man suffers from schizophrenia." At the bottom: "What is really sick, is the way your opinion of him just changed." How would you deal with that in the game world? How would you deal with the stigma associated with mental illness?

Kris
"I could use a catelogue of mental illnesses for Vampire and RIFTS, anyway."
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sophist
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Posts: 9


« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2004, 08:27:15 AM »

in real life, insane people are those with imbalanced brain chemistry (or somatic illness like syphilis), or those who cannot cope with what happened to them in an accepted way. Often there no such way, say with child abuse or torture. Sometimes not coping happens because people have no way of unterstanding what is happening to them.
 
the prime example for the last clause is Call of Cthulhu, where vague description filled up with loaded words set you up to expierence things in a ceratin way. In many ways it is not the creatures that drive you insane, it's the way your dogma sets you up for it (a sort of self-fullfilling prophecy). It is not that non euclidean thinking makes one insane, it's believing that only euclidean space is sane because your parents told you so. In a similar vein, not believing in god was considered insane in the middle ages,  and being gay was considered a mental illness until recently (and some still do so).
 
Thus in many ways, the trigger for insanity is it's most imporant factor. But don't be fooled into thinking that deviant behaviour is insane or unfamiliar experinces as such will cause insanity. The trigger need be traumatic and then still, the shock is caused only by mistaking narrow minded conservative thinking for truth. Exploration should NOT cause insanity. When it does, it is only because some dumb sucker has no resources to deal with the unfamiliar.
IF you seriously want such triggers, you have to include spurious presuppositions into your system like the Lovecraftian "only puritanic white conservatism is the natural way for humans".(you might also call this the bush doctrine >-) )
Another example of this is Unkown Armies. While one could consider most of the stimuli (what I called triggers here) are crass enough and I would agree with using them, the unnatural meter is yet one more example of I mean here. The very idea that experienceing things that run counter to your accepted dogma makes you insane is faulty. It's neophobia.
so explopration will make you insane only if you get some illness or brain damage from it, or if the character goes through the serious abuse alluded at above.
 
So in the end, psychpathology begins where a character cannot be function normally. What could be the point of playing such a character?
 
BTW, Malkavian insanity and Crazy behaviour is basically is a plushy, toned down version of real insanity. A more simlationist version needs to be much more disruptive. Schizophrenia does not only mean hearing voices, it means forcing the player to act on them (otherwise it's just a complicated form of tinitus).
You might accuse me of hindering a more drama-based game. IMO plushy insanity is no more dramatic or narrative than slaying orcs because they are "evil".
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sirogit
Member

Posts: 503


« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2004, 09:44:52 AM »

Quote
BTW, Malkavian insanity and Crazy behaviour is basically is a plushy, toned down version of real insanity.


That's the presentation of those books, yeah.

Quote

A more simlationist version needs to be much more disruptive.


You're way off the mark there. It'd be true that "In reality, insanity is more disruptive to a person than it is in mainstream roleplaying games." but that doesn't mean that the only satisfying Sim of insanity is in a true to life presentation.

Quote

Schizophrenia does not only mean hearing voices, it means forcing the player to act on them (otherwise it's just a complicated form of tinitus).


You're equating something in real life with how you would simulate it in a game as if the two are the same thing. Someone could just as realisticly design a system wherein the players control their character's impulsions.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2004, 09:50:30 AM »

Yep.  Insanity as player tool, rather than (heh) straitjacket.
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caio_maximino
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Posts: 10


« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2004, 06:26:53 PM »

Ok, a few things:
1) I am intending to design a system of psychopatology that would be rather "universal". Thus, I was thinking on making it run on FUDGE or some other (maybe others) universal system. As a supplement, or something. I thought about FUDGE because it is easily trnaslated into other systems.
2) Yup, player tool. Anyway, I don't think schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders should be the focus - I'm intending on writing a very long section exposing that schizophrenia is very much non-understood by the public in general (culture industry's fault) and that it is very impending of normal functioning, in general (specially if it is ego-distonic, and thus the individual doesn't see himself as with a problem, and does not take medications... even with medications, things are not that easy... but I'm ranting). I would much more focus on disorders whose etiology is Exploration-based, such as the hysterical ones; which leads me to point 3
3) I will NOT design the whole DSM-IV-R diagnostics. I was thinking more like designing the symptoms, and them providing a few example "packages" of symptoms (which is much more DSM-oriented) -again, dissociative disorders, mood disorders and maybe a few personality disorders -, and a link to on-line editions of DSM and CID-10.
4) Disorder design will NOT be the whole of it. I also need to design  game mechanics to simulate the ontogenetics of it. And that's probably the most important part. I was thinking, maybe as a side job, to design something about psychopharmacology and psychoterapies. And also very long rants about proper use of the material, mature content, bla bla bla.
I guess that's it. But I need much more feedback =)
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Caio
Kirk Mitchell
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Posts: 268


« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2004, 01:13:52 AM »

This is a bit of a touchy subject for a lot of people I guess, but if handled tastefully could be quite effective (my best friend is schizophrenic). You would REALLY need to be very clear about the disorders, how they work in real life and should be presented. As you seem to have a fairly good grasp on this though, I'm not concerned.

What I am wondering is how you would use this in play. Would the play be driven by the disorders? How would disorders factor into how the game is played?

I bit more explanation into how you are going to get this to work would be nice is what I am trying to say.

Luck,
Kirk
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caio_maximino
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Posts: 10


« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2004, 06:24:11 PM »

Ok, just to clear things up, this is not a system whose central point is psychopatology. It is supposed to be a supplement to whatever system I think it would be useful in.
I am thinking on doing some research on simulations of mental disorders in role-playing games. I think I will start with the major ones (just for a little fun; you know, trying to make another point on why some of them really suck =)). If anyone developed something in that way in their systems (I think most sanity systems of horror role-playing systems apply here), I would be glad to discuss this. I think that's a good way to start planning what my creation should have and shouldn't have.
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Caio
clehrich
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« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2004, 02:48:56 AM »

Quote from: caio_maximino
1) I am intending to design a system of psychopatology that would be rather "universal". Thus, I was thinking on making it run on FUDGE or some other (maybe others) universal system. As a supplement, or something. I thought about FUDGE because it is easily trnaslated into other systems.
I'm not sure this is possible, given your laudable desire to deal with psychopathology respectfully and seriously.

I am not a psychologist, but as far as I understand it, the preliminary physiological disorder (in the case of schizophrenia, for example) manifests through extremely complex frameworks constructed of the cultural and personal surroundings of the patient.  This then causes secondary psychological (rather than neurological or whatever) trauma that equally reproduces and reinforces the initial disorder and can in some disorders actually aggravate or alter the physiological situation itself.  Thus a "cure" for schizophrenia, that is a treatment successful in getting the patient to operate functionally within his environment, requires not only psychopharmacological (or in theory surgical, though my understanding is this has not yet been successful) intervention but also extensive psychiatric counseling.  It's necessary to deal with both layers of the disorder.

The problem with a universal system for this is that I think it would be fantastically difficult to construct this secondary cultural layer in universal terms.

For example, it seems certain that a great many of the young women who became "possessed" in 17th-C. New England (e.g. Salem, but elsewhere as well), if not perhaps all of them, experienced extreme trauma.  At least one died of starvation and dehydration, because her throat and tongue were rigid; she was "choaked by the Devill" and unable to swallow food or more than a tiny sip of water for days on end.  At the same time, there is as yet no reliable explanation of a kind of mass psychopathology on a physiological basis, such that we cannot say, for example, that these young women were schizophrenic or the like.  So what we have is a severe psychological disorder that manifests in a culturally-specific fashion.  Because the culture in question interpreted such symptoms in terms of demonic possession, the young women manifested symptoms of possession, if you see what I mean by the circularity.  Had they lived in another culture, their symptoms would not have manifested in the same way.  They might, for example, have experienced modern clinical depression which, though a crippling disorder, rarely if ever causes muscular rigor, tetanus-like spasms, and a physical inability to swallow; while there is no question that depression is a desperately serious disorder, on a practical level it allows greater time and flexibility in treatment than did "possession" because, at the very least, depression does not generally kill its victims provided they are prevented from acting on suicidal impulses.  In possession, by contrast, continuous forcible treatment was necessary in order to suppress the spasming; in at least one case, it appears (the data is a little fragmentary) that the muscular rigor was so severe as to break a young woman's joints, probably meaning a severe and permanent dislocation of the femur.

All of which is to say I'm not sure how you're going to handle that perhaps most important part of psychopathology, the subjective experience and external manifestation of the disorder, in a universal mode.
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Chris Lehrich
caio_maximino
Member

Posts: 10


« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2004, 02:08:57 PM »

Quote from: clehrich

I'm not sure how you're going to handle that perhaps most important part of psychopathology, the subjective experience and external manifestation of the disorder, in a universal mode.

Well, that's a bit of a problem. Lots of text explaining that the disorder can happen in different ways, according to culture?
Anyway, the way it manifests doesn't change the "system" underlying it. But I agree that to ignore (or not to handle it properly) the different manifestations of a given disorder would ruin the whole purpose of this job, i.e., it would kill any possibility of sim or narrativist exploration (and, since most disorders are drawbacks, anyway, it would kill gamist exploration as well... or not).
Caio
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Caio
caio_maximino
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Posts: 10


« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2004, 01:14:47 PM »

Happy new year, you crazy fucks
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Caio
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