Tuesday, May 4, 2010

PC Resources: Physical Drains on the Character

Another interesting session last evening which I will be recapping shortly.

Max, one of the players, brought up a good question one that I've been thinking about in the back of my mind for some time but I wasn't sure how to implement it. The question was about Character stress and psychological fatigue. Now I've liked that concept and Akrasia over at Akratic Wizardry had a nice little house rule on using a character's Wisdom score as a basis for sanity. It also applies to Magic Users casting spells of Black Magic that can lead them down the path to maddness.

I've liked this idea and haven't yet implemented it into our game but after yesterday's session I think I may work this in. Not only will there be a tax on character material resources during an adventure (a very important aspect of classic style of gaming) but also their physical well-being.

With hit points being the most obvious physical toll on a character, there is a mental toll that, I believe, needs to be implemented on the characters as well. When you think about adventuring, characters are exploring dark tunnels, deep underground, with potential death around every corner. Most likely, if your characters in my game, you come crawling out of the dungeon covered in blood and gore from the battles in the Underworld.

Now, most characters will have a natural desire for explorations and the dangers encountered. That's their nature and what separates them from just settling down as a merchant or laborer. But even the most brave of heart will be affected by just too much stress due to the horrors of treasure seeking. A type of Traumatic Stress that will take it's toll on our poor characters.

So lets take the last 3 gaming days of our characters. After killing the horrific demigod demon thing, The Eater of the Dead, they high-tailed it out of one town, traveling all through the night to another, do some business, carouse all night long and then dive back into the local dungeon. In this dungeon the explore these rat tunnels where they have to crawl through a stinking maze of cramped, twisting passages to eventually end up in a room filled with giant rats, their leader the were-rat and a statue of a blasphemous rat god! After defeating this hoard another comes and fills the room and the battle continues. After that they have to crawl back out of the same rat tunnels.

Now this all would be very fatiguing just in a general sense of exploration, but throw in the rat tunnels and the rest, I don't care how brave and sturdy you are, you're going to come out of this psychology fatigued and in need of some mental rest.

So Wisdom as a sense of sanity will be another resource that the characters will need to keep track of. Now, it will be the DM's discretion as to how this works, Dwarves and Halflings may not be as affected traveling through the above rat tunnels mentioned above but characters that prefer the outdoors, ie. Rangers or Druids may be more affected by crawling through these tunnels.

So here is Akrasia's rules that I will start to use:

A character’s Wisdom score is a measurement of his/her sanity. A character with a Wisdom score of 18 has a firm grasp of the nature of reality, considerable self-discipline, and remarkable strength of will. In contrast, a character with a Wisdom score of 3 is barely lucid, easily confuses reality with fantasy, and is on the border of lapsing into madness. Characters with Wisdom scores of 2 or lower are utterly insane, and must be treated as non-player characters. (If this Wisdom loss is temporary, as explained below, the character is under the control of the Game Master until he/she regains his/her sanity.)

If a character witnesses an unspeakable horror, the Game Master may require the player to make a saving throw (versus ‘spells,’ if using a system other than S&W). The saving throw should be modified by the severity of the horror in question. If the character fails his or her saving throw, he or she loses points of temporary Wisdom. The exact amount should be determined by rolling 1d6. If a ‘6’ is rolled, the character also permanently loses one point of Wisdom (i.e., one permanent point of Wisdom and five temporary points of Wisdom). Temporarily lost points of Wisdom may be regained at a rate of one point per day of complete rest. The spell ‘Restoration’ (which I treat as a 6th level spell of ‘white magic’ in my game) will restore instantly temporarily lost Wisdom points, but will not restore any permanently lost Wisdom points.

I'll have to give it a bit more thought on how to apply it to our trusty Magic-Users but for now, be warned O' my players! Adventuring will take it's toll on your sanity!


  1. So when I fail this I get berserk rage and +2 to strike the people that are loot crazy and kept me trapped for hours on end right? ;)

  2. I have to say I am not fond of losing permanent wisdom points.

    The rest I can deal with during the course of play but if Geedley loses a few points he will be certified insane.

  3. I think he's already pretty much insane.
    : )