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Author Topic: [Madness Descends] Investigation and Insanity Rules  (Read 2360 times)
ChrisJaxn
Member

Posts: 18


« on: February 09, 2006, 02:58:45 PM »

So, referencing this game idea: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18660.0

I've decided to ignore (here) the character and scenario creation mechanics, because explaining the graphs will take a much finer hand, more than it needs conceptual help and validation.

So, I'm going to present the Investigation and Insanity mechanics (as they tie in together very well), and ask a few more questions.

Investigation Scenes

1) The investigating player decides what trait he or she is using to determine the information.

EG: Brian decides to use Friends With The Professor (5) to determine what sort of terror is plaguing his college at night.

2) A card is drawn for the resolution. Add the number of the character's trait, and subtract the degree (the number of edges/lines on the node in question), to the value of the card. If this number is 0 or higher, the character gains the information for that node in the scenario graph. If the number is less than 0, the character still gains the information, but turns the trait they used to an insanity trait.

EG: Brian draws the 2 of Hearts, giving him a number of 2. He then adds his trait rating of 5, and subtracts the node's degree of 6 to net him a result of 1. The GM tells him that the professor didn't know very much, but that he has seen a scaly, man-shaped beast roaming the campus at night.

EG: Jenna draws a 10 of Spades, giving her a base number of -10. She then adds her trait of 6 and subtracts the node's degree of 4 to give her a -8. She turns a trait into an insanity trait, and then runs back to the rest of the group, revealing that the creature is actually a writhing mass of bubbles and tentacles that only comes out at night.

3) The character narrates the outcome of the scene in greater detail if they did not gain an insanity trait. If they did gain an insanity trait, the GM gets to narrate.

4) Repeat the process (if desired) with a different character, and a different scenario node that is connected (directly, via a graph edge).

Card Meanings
By Suit
Hearts/Diamonds: any number is positive. Face cards are still negative.
Clubs/Spades: any card produces a base negative number.

By number
2-10: the number on the card, positive or negative as appropriate.

J: -1, with a minor appearance of some weird element associated with the suit

Q: -2, with an appearance of an appropriate weird element

K: -5, with a significant appearance of a weird element, including possibly even the monster itself.

A: 0. The character always gains an insanity trait, and gains an extra one if they do not "succeed" in their resolution. This resolution should include a very major incursion of the weird into the scene, including the possible appearance of beings so powerful they might as well be deities, though none should worship them.

Joker: The character automatically succeeds in this attempt. The narration is marked with a direct message from one or more weird elements, possibly including the creature itself, other creatures, or even the deity-like beings. No insanity traits are gained.


Weird Elements
Spades: Void: weird things associated with this suit are distant, unknowable, and empty. They may be destructive, or purely cause despair.
Clubs: Time: weird things associated with this suit seem to linger, either physically or on the mind. Time slows down, so that the weirdness of the image can be captured and remembered forever. Premature aging is also a possibility.
Hearts: Life: weird things associated with this suit grow, blossoming onto the scene. Cancerous and disturbing, this is life gone out of control, overgrowing it's bounds and affecting the world in powerful ways.
Diamonds: Fire: this suit is associated with purity. When weird things happen here, the world seems too sterile, too pristine. Almost as if everything is exactly as it is supposed to be, and even thinking about taking action is a powerful crime. When these sorts of weird things happen, they tend to be like one of the others, but the onlooker cannot help but watch, too apprehensive to do anything about it.

Insanity Traits
1) The first time a character gains an insanity trait, whatever trait they used to attempt the resolution becomes an insanity trait. These traits should be marked on the character sheet, and their name should be changed.

EG: Brian loses "Friends With The Professor" and replaces it with the insanity trait "School Related Night Terrors".

2) Any time after this, if the character gains an insanity trait, the GM selects a single insanity trait already present. Every trait connected to this trait then becomes an insanity trait itself, and should be altered in the same way.

Recovering from Insanity

Whenever a monster is defeated, a character may select a single insanity trait and restore it to it's previous, normal trait.


Questions so far:


1) What do you think of the card mechanic? I like the different factors myself, but it could become complex, and annoying to track.

2) I like how insanity spreads across the character, but it does mean that characters who have many insanity traits, or some particularly bad insanity traits (high connections), will go insane very, very quickly. It should represent the subversion of powerful facets of the character's life into the insanity, but I don't know if it's good to cause insanity so quickly.

However, characters with insanity traits aren't unplayable, just that they are prone to relatively insane narration and lack most productive skills.

So, is the insanity mechanic okay? Or perhaps too quick? Any opinions would be appreciated.

3) I may restrict who gets to investigate which scenes, so that all characters must be out and checking things out. Can anybody think of a good way to do this without just making a rule: No character may investigate for the n+1st time until every other character has investigated at least n times?

Thanks. More should exist soon.

-Chris Jackson
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StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2006, 04:06:32 PM »

i'll try to tackle the questions, but i really just wanted to nitpick: Your "fire" suite seems to me that it would be much better described as the "Crystal" suite - i associate fire more with cleansing & change, than perfection & stasis. I'd also encourage you to let the diamond narration be a little more freeform - less emphasis on the "just watching" aspect could lead to some potentially interesting exploratory moments, as well as the dream-like "there, but not there" moments. (Although those dream-moments can be great - Have you seen that Threshold TV series?)

1) The card mechanic does seem a bit messy, with the positive vs negative, but it is only one card, and two traits at once, so that shouldn't be so bad.

One caveat, however: As i read you, the mechanic makes having traits that are highly connected (lots of edges) much more likely to cause you to fail - so they're bad. However, being all interconnected *also* makes Insanity spread through your web faster.
So, it seems that a player has no incentive to get traits which are interconnected. Which is kind of the same flaw that the original CoC had as well - "So, Parents?" "Dead, cremated, and spread across the midwest praire." "Loved ones?" "My shotgun." and etc. That is, if i'm reading the meaning of interconnected traits correctly.

2) I really like the idea of insanity spreading through a character's personality. You might want to make it so that not every connected trait becomes tainted, however. Oh, and you should make it work so that insanity *always* has to spread from the first tainted trait on a character. I would even go so far as saying that the characters should all *start* with one trait in the web tainted - the weak spot that shatters, the character flaw that leads them down the path to madness!

Also, how do you determine which traits are "sane" and which are "insane"? What if i were to choose one of my "sane" starting traits as "I kill puppies for satan"?

3) I'll give you the advice that was given to me (yesterday) - choose a set order for the players to take their individual scenes in. 1, 2, 3, 4.
If two investigators cooperate i suppose they would just go at once, no?
What will the other players be doing when it isn't their go? Are they still with it, but as supporting cast? (Like Sherlock stepping to the background when Watson is using his medical skills to examine a victim or treat a patient.)

Seems to be a pretty cool idea. I've always been a fan of Lovecraft, but i've never had the opportunity to play the actual Chaosium game. I think your "trait webs" will work out better than their "skill lists", from what i've seen, however.
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
ChrisJaxn
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2006, 07:55:53 PM »

One caveat, however: As i read you, the mechanic makes having traits that are highly connected (lots of edges) much more likely to cause you to fail - so they're bad. However, being all interconnected *also* makes Insanity spread through your web faster.
So, it seems that a player has no incentive to get traits which are interconnected. Which is kind of the same flaw that the original CoC had as well - "So, Parents?" "Dead, cremated, and spread across the midwest praire." "Loved ones?" "My shotgun." and etc. That is, if i'm reading the meaning of interconnected traits correctly.[\quote]

Oh, sorry if this was less than clear.

The positive rating is the connection level of the trait the character is using, so more connected traits help you to succeed.
The negative number is the connection of the scene you're investigating in the scenario graph (detailed a bit more fully in the other thread).

2) I really like the idea of insanity spreading through a character's personality. You might want to make it so that not every connected trait becomes tainted, however. Oh, and you should make it work so that insanity *always* has to spread from the first tainted trait on a character. I would even go so far as saying that the characters should all *start* with one trait in the web tainted - the weak spot that shatters, the character flaw that leads them down the path to madness!

Also, how do you determine which traits are "sane" and which are "insane"? What if i were to choose one of my "sane" starting traits as "I kill puppies for satan"?

So, the basis for which traits are insane and which traits are sane are whether or not they've been changed after play has started, by the insanity mechanics. So, if your character started with "I kill puppies for satan" as a trait, that would be a normal trait.

Granted, in my thoughts on the rules, insanity traits can still be used to resolve scenes, you just have to be more creative about narrating how they get used.

Also, I don't plan on reshuffling the deck until a creature is defeated, so characters should start to get insanity traits fairly quickly, as the average creature should require a good number of investigation scenes before it becomes manageable (ideally, these rules aren't fleshed out fully yet).

The thing I like, though, about every connected trait becoming insane is that it forces characters to make choices about which traits to use, in terms of which traits will cause the most harm if they happen to go insane.

Granted, lower traits make them more likely to go insane, so... I think it should lead to interesting situations. I don't know if it's the best idea, though.

Hmm.


i'll try to tackle the questions, but i really just wanted to nitpick: Your "fire" suite seems to me that it would be much better described as the "Crystal" suite - i associate fire more with cleansing & change, than perfection & stasis. I'd also encourage you to let the diamond narration be a little more freeform - less emphasis on the "just watching" aspect could lead to some potentially interesting exploratory moments, as well as the dream-like "there, but not there" moments. (Although those dream-moments can be great - Have you seen that Threshold TV series?)

The fire thing is just personal preference for what to call it. Fire does sort of have that trance-causing property. Think, say, the original Survivor, where the contestants called the fire their television, because they just sat and watched it. It also has the cleansing sort of purity. It can't every be dirty, because it just burns impurity away.

Also, mythos-feel wise, I think fire is a better fit than crystal. I seem to recall at least a few cavernous entities of baleful fire in Lovecraft somewhere or another.
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ChrisJaxn
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2006, 07:57:18 PM »

Inverting that slash was not so great an idea. Should have previewed before I posted.

The first quote is supposed to end where it says [\quote]. Hopefully this isn't too confusing.
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StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2006, 09:14:41 PM »

Ah - so now the negative connection modifier makes sense!
Positive for the character, negative for the situation. Negative for the dark cards, positive for the light cards. Negative for the court cards, zero for the ace.

Once you have a trait inverted into insanity, does the next situation (monster) that character goes into allow that trait to be inverted again by more insanity?
Or are investigators not expected to be played for more than one investigation? (Not that they last long anyway, traditionally!)

Is there any way for characters to improve/change other than going insane (or regaining some small measure of clarity when the monster is overcome)?

Ok, i think i see the tactical choices that need be made - your "stronger" traits are less likely to fail you in general, but when they do they hurt you *badly*. "Weaker" traits can be sacrificed more readily - they don't make up such an important part of who you are. I really like it; It seems to fit the whole insanity idea.

K, one more question: How exactly do you determine just what a trait corrupted by insanity turns into? It isn't really inverted, right? Only related somehow to the original trait. (The basic idea is turning strengths into weaknesses, right?)

And then when you gain another insanity trait, you *also* expand every existing insanity trait to corrupt all of its neighbors? Or do you expand instead of turning another lone trait?

On the meaning of Diamonds - I guess i'm too hung up on the typical use of the fire suit (Staves) in the Tarot. ;)
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2006, 09:17:35 PM »

Oh, and what happens when your character goes mostly/completely insane?
Do they get shipped off to Arkham, commit suicide, get eaten by the monsters, become a cultist, or otherwise get put out of the game?
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
ChrisJaxn
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2006, 10:25:34 PM »

Once you have a trait inverted into insanity, does the next situation (monster) that character goes into allow that trait to be inverted again by more insanity?
Or are investigators not expected to be played for more than one investigation? (Not that they last long anyway, traditionally!)


Is there any way for characters to improve/change other than going insane (or regaining some small measure of clarity when the monster is overcome)?

There's going to be an improvement mechanic which, I think, will allow characters to add a trait, two connections (ideally at least one to the new trait), and restore one trait from insanity, when a creature is overcome.

Quote
K, one more question: How exactly do you determine just what a trait corrupted by insanity turns into? It isn't really inverted, right? Only related somehow to the original trait. (The basic idea is turning strengths into weaknesses, right?)

So far, all I've got is that it should turn into something negative related to the original trait, and the situation that inspired the insanity.

Quote
And then when you gain another insanity trait, you *also* expand every existing insanity trait to corrupt all of its neighbors? Or do you expand instead of turning another lone trait?

Hmm, perhaps this was less clear than I would have liked. When a character gains another insanity trait (after the first) the GM picks a single insanity trait, and converts all the ones that trait is connected to.

Oh, and what happens when your character goes mostly/completely insane?
Do they get shipped off to Arkham, commit suicide, get eaten by the monsters, become a cultist, or otherwise get put out of the game?

So, my current thoughts run towards allowing a player to make a new character after a creature is dealt with, if they feel the old one has gotten too insane. Though perhaps I may have to say that this only can happen if the character has more than 3/4 of his/her traits converted into insanity traits, in order to ensure that players appreciate the slide into madness.
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StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2006, 10:22:10 AM »

Retiring Characters:

This is quite an important part of the game, actually, at least to judge from the Chaosium rpg!

I agree, there should definately be some sort of hard & fixed determination of when a character must leave play.

Setting a threshold on the insanity creep is probably the simplest and clearest (and sensible) way to handle it, but i would really like to have some way for a character to have more than one possible fate. (The general three seem to be either "retired", "commited", or "killed".)

All i can think of is having multiple thresholds for a character leaving play at the end of a situation, with whether they leave or not, and how that occurs, determined by a draw of the cards.

You could also make some provision for a "final scene" for every character that leaves play.
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
StefanDirkLahr
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Posts: 79


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« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2006, 10:32:55 AM »

I think i see how the insanity works now: You initially turn a trait you failed a challenge with (i assume all challenges are non-mundane?), and then expand the insanity to the traits around that one, and so on until the character is completely insane.

Interesting. So stable/flexible personalities are apt to be long snaky lines, while fragile personalities are tight clusters, but clusters are initially stronger than lines.

This might be off topic, but how do you determine which traits connect to each other?  Do all traits have to be connected?

The advancement mechanic sounds workable - Does the new trait & connections have to be related to the events of the resolved situation?
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Stefan Dirk Lahr, dreaming the impossible dream
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