Fateful Encounter: The Horror! The Horror!

My attention was recently draw to this thread over on the Fate Core G+ community. It raises some interesting points about modelling sanity loss and madness, but also explores much broader themes on how to hack the stress track system.

That’s my topic for today’s Fateful Encounter, several methods for handing a unique stress type using madness as an example. Draw the curtains and lock the doors, this is Lovecraft country.

First and foremost, Duncan Bain suggested a new skill, Mythos, that would work like Lore except it covers your knowledge of the unknowable. Several other people, including Fred Hicks, expanded upon it and I have drawn upon all of them to consolidate this skill. All the credit goes to them, I am merely an intellectual magpie.

The Mythos skill

The Mythos skill is about knowledge best left forgotten, the secrets that whisper at the edges of sanity. Mythos is similar in function to both the Lore and Will. This may seem to make the skill overpowered, however it only applies to the narrower area of the supernatural and sanity-devouring.

A Superb or greater Mythos grants you an additional mild consequence that can only be used for madness consequences.

Overcome: You can use Mythos to overcome any obstacle that requires applying fringe and forgotten knowledge to achieve a goal. For example, you might roll Mythos to recognise the icon of an alien god, or research a curse. If it is too esoteric or metaphysical for Lore, Mythos is the skill to use.

Advantage: Like Lore, Mythos can be used to create boosts and scene aspects based on the knowledge you uncover or already know.

Attack: Mythos isn’t used in conflicts.

Defense: Forewarned is forearmed; your knowledge of the unnatural has actually hardened your psyche against breaking from exposure. Use Mythos instead of Will to defend against mental attacks that involve the supernatural or eldritch.

Mythos Stunts:

  • Student of the Forgotten: Pick a field of study, such as cults or alien gods. You get a +2 to all Mythos rolls relating to that fiend of study.
  • Sorcerer: You can use Mythos to perform Sorcery.
  • Seen It All: You stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back, hardening your black heart against the horrors of the mortal world. You can use Mythos instead of Will to defend against mundane forms of fear and intimidation.


Five Methods for Madness

But now that we have introduced horror, and the Mythos skill, to the game what are we to do with it? Here are five methods for hacking mental stress.

1. Madness as Mental stress

The most basic and boring. Insanity caused by horror is simply mental stress, defended against with the Mythos skill instead of Will. Include only if supernatural horror is only a minor part of your game.

2. Madness as Stress Track

Players have an additional stress track, the Madness track. An average or fair Mythos adds an additional 1 box to the track, while good or greater adds 2 boxes.

3. Madness as Consequences

A more advanced hack. Instead of its own stress track, players have an additional set of consequences that can only be used to reduce madness stress.

This method emphasises the need for a good defence against the horror, as any stress that gets through will leave a mark upon your psyche.

4. Madness as Sanity Points

Modelled closely after the Call Of Cthulhu RPG, each player has a pool of Sanity Points. Let’s start with a Sanity Pool of 10, minus your ranks in the Mythos skill.

Madness stress would instead remove that many Sanity Points from the player’s Sanity Pool, however this can be reduced as normal via consequences. Running out of Sanity Points would be the same as having 0 or lower Refresh: You become an NPC.

The same methods that would slowly remove these consequences could be used to regain lost Sanity Points, but you can never have more than your Sanity Pool starting amount.

The size of the Sanity Pool could also be reduced by taking various madness powers (unnatural strength, accelerated healing, etc) similar to how powers reduce your Refresh in the Dresden Files RPG. In addition, Sanity Points could be spent to fuel Sorcery and other eldrich arts.

5. Madness as Madness Points

An inversion of the previous method, instead of losing Sanity Points you instead gain Madness Points. Having more Madness Points than your Madness Threshold is the same as having 0 or less Refresh.

The size of your Madness Threshold would be 10 minus your ranks in the Mythos skill. Madness powers reduces the Threshold farther, and Madness Points could be gained to fuel Sorcery and other eldrich arts.


Today’s Lesson: You are never safe.