Friday, September 16, 2011

Wisdom as Sanity

Let's say you're looking to use a Sanity-type mechanic in your game. In the 3E Unearthed Arcana book, a variant for Sanity was presented -- and I'm pretty sure it's just the same thing as used in WOTC's d20 Call of Cthulhu game by Monte Cook. The basis of which was: you get a Sanity score of Wisdom ×5, and at certain times you make Sanity check of d% lesser than or equal to this number, or else you lose a certain number of Sanity points.

So I've always wondered why they didn't just cut out the middleman and use Wisdom directly as your Sanity score? Your checks can just be the standard d20 + Wisdom ≥ 20 (in the Target 20 mechanic), or else d20 ≤ Wisdom (if you prefer a roll-low mechanic, presumably from missing too many Sanity saves yourself in the past), or maybe alternatively a Save vs. Spells with the standard "mental attack" modifier from your current Wisdom score. And then on failure you lose 1 point of Wisdom (or possibly more: look at the 3E rule and divide everything by 5).

So much simpler and cleaner. Everyone knows what Wisdom is, it wraps into the standard ability scores and save mechanics, and you don't have an unnecessary proliferation of new statistics and numbers to track. Or have I gone crazy?

20 comments:

  1. It is from d20 CoC. I suspect the reason it was done that way (WIS X 5) was to A) mimic the original CoC more closely and B) provide greater granularity.

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  2. I hate saves altogether. I prefer a 4e style attack against a will defense. Many would bristle at this though, as will defense is the higher of either your intelligence or wisdom bonus. On the other had if I did carry on with an attack vs. will, I would have will defense lowered versus similar insanity attacks from then on in a permanent manner.Other negative effects would be described in the attack's effect text, again 4e style.

    That's my convoluted system in a nutshell.

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  3. In Beacon I don't have a separate wisdom stat since it's a Microlite variant. So instead of using MIND for 'sanity' I use Charisma. You can be very clever AND batshit insane. The lower your Charisma the easier you are swayed by outside influences or loose your sanity- a poor shlub with charisma 4 would be pretty easily dominated by outside wills and suggestions - they have very little personality to start with. Someone with a high CHA has a strong personality and can withstand shock and domination much better. I think this could apply even if you do have a WIS stat in your game.

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  4. The 2e PO: Spells & Magic book had a sanity mechanic for the "Alienist & Summoner" alternate magic system. It wasn't much to write home about.

    I like the idea of using a saving throw + the WIS modifiers for sanity. That way character level is a prime factor.

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  5. Maybe I'm confused here, but wasn't it to allow wisdom and sanity to have separately tracked values?

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  6. I think you are right on here. I have been using Saving Throws to handle sanity and fear in my game, with diminishing Wisdom as a gauge to measure the slippery slope into madness, so as a character's Wisdom is lowered it becomes harder and harder to make a successful save.

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  7. It's so that when you lose sanity, everything else that is tied to Wisdom isn't also affected. Otherwise, your Will saves would plummet, and Clerics would very quickly lose the ability to use their spells.

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  8. I would argue that the Wisdom loss is the only effective way to handle the onset of madness. Otherwise, why even introduce insanity into the game? Handling it this way shows a direct effect on the character, and also immediately instills an uneasiness in the player. Using "sanity points" leaves it up to the player to interpret how madness has affected their character, and it is up to them to roleplay this out. Which I think is perfectly fine, but not many players will play this out in an effective way. If at all. Wisdom loss just helps nudge them in the right direction for roleplaying characters that are on their way to the loony bin.

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  9. I first saw the wisdom as sanity in Fantasy Flight Games' Traps and Treachery I and II. There was an altar that had an insanity mist trap that did Wisdom damage. Been running with that ever sense. I developed a system for using it as such.

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  10. @Steph/ven - I heartily believe that stat loss affecting skills in a negative fashion is too much work for too little payoff. In my games, I use a lot of stat damage but I don't require recalculation as rerecording your character every round takes too much time.

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  11. Good thoughts, all -- amazing how many alternatives there are to this. I'm definitely coming down with Shane and Steamtunnel, though... having a system without lots of tributary side-effect stats helps keep it efficient.

    And if a key problem is how Clerics interact with it, then I'm personally pre-approved by not having any Clerics. :-) So I might still have insane Wizard cult-leaders, etc. On this one, I see that YMMV.

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  12. alternatively a Save vs. Spells with the standard "mental attack" modifier from your current Wisdom score

    I like this. It's like the Mummy fear (save vs spells) crossed with the Shadow's ability drain (wisdom instead of strength). Could be a gaze attack. If you shut your eyes tightly you won't get a good look at the horror.

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  13. Great idea! Indeed, it's very similar to one that I've been advocating for over two years now. :D

    http://akraticwizardry.blogspot.com/2009/07/sanity.html

    (Also in 'Knockspell' #3.)

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  14. As others have noted, avoiding the knock-on effects from stat loss is an important factor here. (This also includes mechanics for healing Wis damage.)

    But by multiplying the Wisdom score you create more opportunities for sanity-rending effects before driving the character into irrevocable insanity.

    Having a unique mechanic also creates the sense that this is something significant. This obviously makes the most sense for CoC where sanity loss is the focus of the game: The separate mechanic creates that focus.

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  15. I much prefer CHA as SAN, basically for the reasons Todd mentioned.

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  16. Didn't d20 CoC use 100 as the starting Sanity?
    Whereas this system starts in the 50 to 60 range on average?
    So my guess is part of it is a copy/paste error, they brought one part of the mechanic over, but didn't think through the rest.
    Plus %dice need something to do.

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  17. I don't have CoC d20 itself, but I see this from a discussion at RPGNet - "And you're not confusing Max SAN with Starting SAN, are you?... Remember that 5*POW is Starting SAN, Max SAN is 99."

    http://forum.rpg.net/archive/index.php/t-6105.html

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  18. This is of particular interest to me, so I've weighed in: http://mythopoeicrambling.blogspot.com/2011/09/wisdom-as-sanity-addition-for-old.html

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  19. Theodric: Great! Thanks for the link to your blog!

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  20. Personally, for a highly sanity-rending campaign for D&D, which doesn't use it to begin with, I'd give the characters a starting sanity score of 21 minus their intelligence. IQ correlates with openness to new experience, which correlates to losing your mind out of the opening.

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