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Chthonian Redux

Started by Zak Arntson, May 26, 2002, 01:46:44 AM

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Jared A. Sorensen

Quote from: Zak Arntson
Find a bag of fingers? That's a Violence check against Sanity, Diff 4+ (0/1T/1P).
Shot at by a thug? That's a Reflexes check against Safety, Diff 3+ (0/2T/2P).

It looks like you have the answer already: just make "Sanity" another kind of Safety check. Because what is "Insanity" but just another thing that compromises your Safety?

In "booga booga" gaming, Sanity just acts as a secondary kind of hit points...which for me isn't terribly exciting or useful.
jared a. sorensen /

Ron Edwards

Hi Zak,

You wrote,
"Question: Are you implying that borrowing/being inspired by a madness meter-like mechanic would be bad?"

Nope. Nothing of the sort. Inspiration is good, just wanted to be sure that it was recognized, if it applied.

Also, UA has some very definite game goals, I think, and so if you're being inspired by it, then it's worth thinking about what goals are being brought into the picture.


Matt Machell

Don't know whether it would be of interest, but I was considering a descriptor based insanity mechanic of late.

For each level of sanity, you choose a description of something that your character defines as making him sane. As your character looses sanity, you cross them off the list (players choice). If it's crossed off you can't do it. So your list might contain "relate to other people", "question own actions", "believe humanity is important in the universe" etc. Makes a sanity mechanic more personally relevant and gives a cue to how to roleplay as sanity deteriorates.

Sort of meshes with some of the ideas here, which is why I mention it.


Zak Arntson

I know about the two different hitpoints. My Players enjoy the Sanity-separate mechanic. I also want to keep a distance between physical health and mental health. You can be safe and insane. Or sane and unsafe. For now I'm keeping Sanity and Safety separate.

Agreed about UA's design goals and watching my own. That's why I veered away from meters for each aspect of psychological breakdown. I need to stick to the "What do you do?" concept. The Stamina/Reflexes/Fight/Shoot are good Safety Skills.

Any suggestions on good Sanity Skills? Unnatural, Violence and Anger seem okay, but I'm sure there's some missing. Especially if I roll Anger into Violence. I'll try and hit psychological websites/texts sometime soon.

I like that idea, and I can see the similarities. Alternately, you could list a bunch of insanities. You gain them as the game progresses. For Chthonian Redux, it would be too much bookkeeping if layered on top of the Skills/Scores, but it's a cool design technique (files it away in my brain, hoping to remember that Matt thought of it first :)

Zak Arntson

Okay, current incarnation of the game. Critiques & Comments highly welcome!

1) Character Concept
To get a feel for your Character answer the following questions, as if they happened in your Character's past:
How did your character
- handle coming home and getting attacked by an insane roommate?
- find out a snowflake-shaped organism was attached the roommate?
- learn that the organism escaped from a nearby research lab?
- gain access to the lab at night? With a gun?
- deal with the security guards? What about the fist-sized fractal-crabs?
- get into the highly restricted lower-level?
- defeat the horse-sized wasp-lobster and its human zombie slaves?

Lastly, give your Character a defining phrase. Two or three words. Like "paranoid hacker" or "overbearing police officer".

2) Skills
Everyone has the same Skills. You get 18 points to distribute (min 1, max 5). 2 and 3 are human average. You also assign a Descriptor to each Skill, which is "how do you do this thing." Answer the question following the Skill. This answer is your Descriptor. A Descriptor is how your Character _generally_ does things, and you are not required to use your Descriptor every time.

Aware - How are you made aware of your environment? (I act on hunches, really good hearing, etc.)
Stamina - How do you handle physical stress and harm? (I grin and bear it, leaping from danger, etc.)
Research - How do you research facts? (use the Internet, I use my social contacts)
Persuade - How do you get people to do things for you? (I flirt with them, I'm a convincing liar)
Shoot - How do you handle a gun? (I cover my eyes and fearfully shoot, I take steady aim without regrets)
Fight - How do you fight? (With a flurry of precise blows, with something big like a pipe)

3) Safety and Sanity
These both start at 10. Each point should be given a box (you will write letters in these boxes during play). Safety is a measure of physical danger (0 = death), Sanity is a measure of mental danger (0 = irrecoverable insanity). Your current Safety score, for example, is how many empty boxes you have.

At the end of a Scene, you may have a number of T and P marks in either score. You make both a Safety and Sanity Check at Diff 4; each success lets your erase one T. For example, if I have Sanity (T P P T T O O O O O), I have 5 empty boxes. I roll 5 dice and get 2 successes. My Sanity now looks like (T P P O O O O O O O). For every T you remove, you remove a (T)Insanity (see below for more details)

At the end of a Scenario/Adventure, you remove ALL T marks. Make both a Safety and Sanity at Diff 4, each success removing a P. For good roleplaying and reaching story goals, the GM may reward you with free removal of a number of P marks. For every P you remove, you remove a (P)Insanity (see below for more details).

Optional Rule: Character Improvement. Before the Scenario begins, mark down how many P marks you have in Safety. At the end of the Scenario (AFTER you've rolled to get rid of P's), subtract your current P marks from your beginning count. You get a point to distribute among your Skills for each P earned during this Scenario.

4) Resolution
If there is a chance for something interesting to happen, the GM may ask you (or you can initiate) a Check. Roll your Skill in dice. Add a die if you use your Descriptor. The GM gives you a Difficulty (4 or above). For every die equal to or above that difficulty, you get a success.

One note: For really tough things, the Difficulty may be ABOVE 6. This is represented by 6Ex, where E stands for 'Eat' and x is a number. This Difficulty 'Eats' x dice that show up 6; they don't count towards successes. Example: If thorough study of some digital video is a 6E2 Sanity check, and you roll 4 successes (four 6's), the Difficulty 'eats' two of these. You now rolled 2 successes.

The number of successes you roll create the outcome. This is a Fortune in the Middle system, so an intended outcome is stated before the roll, followed by what actually happens after the roll. Every outcome must be a) advance towards the end of the scene, or b) introduce complications to the scene, or c) both. Also note that combat is not necessarily a one roll = one blow affair. Your roll determines the outcome of the combat.

If something is really difficult, like the climactic big bad-ass monster, you can give it Points. Every Success made removes a Point. at Zero Points, things are overcome. Most things have no Points, and failure or success immediately lead to something else. Even with the Points, there are NO WHIFFS! Knocking down a Point from a 3 Point problem should further things along (whether it's expositional dialogue, awful consequences or just plain excitement).

zero - No, and - Failure with consequences
one - Yes, but - Marginal success with consequences or marginal failure with benefits (GM's choice).
two or more - Yes, and - Complete success.

Optional author-stance rule?: Each success after the second allows the Player to introduce a single fact into the GM's outcome?

A potentially damaging situation is given a Difficulty rating (just as above) and how many successes equate to how much damage. Diff 5 (Sanity: 0/1T/1P) means Difficulty 5, two+ successes = 0 damage, one success = 1T damage to Sanity, zero successes = 1P damage to Sanity).

If you are making a Sanity Check, you get a bonus die for each Insanity (T) or (P) that you incorporate in your actions. This represents your Insanities acting as a shield against terror.

losing sanity
Anytime you lose Sanity due to Sanity damage, you get a (T)XXX or a (P)XXX, where XXX is some specific Insanity ("fear of the sea" or "murderously hates horses"). At the end of the scene/scenario, for every T you remove from the sheet, you remove a (T)Insanity. For every P you remove, you remove a (P)Insanity.

A Scenario consists of the following stages:

1) Shocking Hook - One to three scenes which start with a wet splat and get the Players invested into the situation (note I said Players. You want to interest the Players more than the Characters).

2) Discovery/Research - Depending on how you want to have this play out, this can be Character-initiated (going to libraries, investigating old houses, etc), or forced (you're stuck on the ship, and you HAVE to go from room to room).

Confrontation & Weirdness - Intersperese weird/horrific scenes and fights with people. Monsters are good, too. This is survival-horror, after all. No sense in throwing security guards at the Players for the first 2 hours of gaming.

Mini-bosses - Between large plot-points or physical areas, have a fairly tough monster. It can also serve as exposition, with dialogue for example.

3) Final Confrontation - This should be some big-boss fight. Go balls-out with craziness. Give the boss a ton of Points, forcing a lot of successes, much use of Descriptors and Insanities. And let the Players know it's the final fight, so they don't have to save any resources.

Zak Arntson

Okay, after my Actual Play of Chthonian (played my own game! gasp!), I've got some rules updates.

Character Sheet (caution, in-progress, subject to change, "Chiller" font required AND it uses bizarre CSS & Tables):

Character Creation
The defining phrase from step 1) above is now an additional Skill: Role. You still have 18 points to divide among them.

Always write down your Descriptors before dividing any points. Descriptors can be negative; even if they are negative, you can still use the Descriptor for an extra die.

Each Skill receives a little box beside it. During a Scene, if you use your Descriptor with the Skill, you check off the box and get an extra die. You can only do this once per Scene for each Skill. So you could use your Fight and Shoot Descriptors during the same Scene. At the end of the Scene, erase the checks, you can use all your Descriptors again in the next Scene.

Safety & Sanity
There are no numbers attached to your Safety and Sanity. You start out with ten boxes in each. Mark off Temporaries starting with the right-most. And mark off Permanents starting with the left-most. You can never roll more than 5 dice for a Safety/Sanity roll. For example, if I have two T and three P's, my char sheet should look like:

Safety: P P P O O O O O O T
This means I have a 6 in Safety (Safety: 3P/1T). If I roll my Safety, I use five dice (there is a five-die maximum for rolling Safety/Sanity).

Sanity: P P P P O O O T T T
This means I have a 3 in Sanity (Sanity: 4P/3T). If I roll my Sanity, I only use 3 dice.

Burning Safety: You can burn Safety to get extra dice to roll. Maximum for any roll is three dice. You burn BEFORE rolling the dice. 1T of Safety = 1 die. 1P of Safety = 3 dice. So, you can choose to burn between 1T and 3T, or simply bite the bullet and burn 1P.

Recovering Safety & Sanity: Just like the previous rules, at the end of the Scene, you roll Diff 4, each success knocks off a T. At the end of the Scenario you remove all Ts and roll a Diff 4, each success knocks off a P.

Zero Safety: You don't automatically die, but you are completely able to die. Remember this, and the GM won't be pulling punches.

Zero Sanity: You are irrevocably insane. Roleplay your disorders above all else. You also suffer 1P Safety damage every time you make a roll (whether the Player or GM initiated the roll).

Hmm ... I want to really bring this into the game more than I experienced during play. My thoughts are this:
- Make sure you have (1T/2T/1P) type Sanity checks. Even 2+ Successes should weaken resolve.
- Remember to apply Sanity checks, but during the breather after the first bit of action (if it's a monster attack). PCs should get a quick reflexive action before going crazy.
- A PC doesn't gain a Disorder from 1T. Anything higher, though, and you do. You can only gain a single Disorder from a single roll (i.e., if you get 2T Safety damage, you only get one Temporary Disorder)

If you use a Disorder in describing an action, you get a bonus die. You can do this as many times as you want during a Scene, unlike Skills.

- Removing Disorders: You may remove a Temporary Disorder for every Sanity T removed. You may remove a Permanent Disorder for every Sanity P removed.

0 Success = Failure with consequences
1 Success = Success with complications
2+ Successes = Success with benefits

You are encouraged discuss the outcome with the group, if needed. Player input (especially the Player who made the Resolution) can go a long way towards helping you decide on consequences, complications and benefits.