Dreams in a Witch House
Sanity, Insanity, and Faith
Pillars of faith
Characters begin the game with four pillars of faith. A pillar of faith is a fundamental belief about the world that gives the characters life meaning. This is usually expressed in a few words or a short statement such as: “Logic and Science can be used to improve the human condition.” Each pillar of faith has an associated “coping mechanism.” This is an action or behavior that reaffirms the characters beliefs and brings meaning to a dark and meaningless world. For example if a pillar of faith is: “Community is the foundation of a just society,” Then a coping mechanism could be engaging in volunteer work.
The character chooses the four pillars in order. The first pillar is called the “superficial” pillar and represents a belief that is not fundamental to the characters underlying personality. Pillars 2 – 3 are intermediate: beliefs that are increasingly important to the characters. The final pillar is something core to their view of the world, which if disturbed could shake the foundation of their sanity.
Examples of pillars and coping mechanisms
- 1st pillar (superficial): “If I spend time dressing well, people will find me attractive.” Coping Mechanism — Shopping.
- 1st pillar (superficial): “Spending time playing video games will always make my afternoon more fun.” Coping Mechanism — video games.
- 2nd pillar (intermediate): “No matter what happens, going out with friends to a bar will help me forget my troubles.” Coping Mechanism — going out for drink.
- 3rd pillar (intermediate): “Religion is the Foundation for Moral guidance” coping mechanism — going to church.
- 4th pillar (core): “It is more than a biological impulse, my mother really loves me.” coping mechanism — talking to mom.
- 4th pillar (core): “Jesus christ is lord and savior” coping mechanism — prayer.
- 4th pillar (core): “In spite of everything I have done, I am still a decent human” coping mechanism — donate to charity.
Each pillar has 15 points of sanity associated with it. So, next to the fifth pillar write 60 – 46, as well as your current sanity level (starts at 60). For the second pillar note: 45 – 31, and so on. The core pillar holds your final 15 points of sanity.
Upon encountering horrific events, or gaining forbidden you may be asked to make a sanity check. In most mundane cases, such as witnessing violence or watching the wrong internet fetish pornography video. Sometimes this is a contested roll based on the “horror” skill or characteristic of your opponent. This is the case when a Shoggoth jumps out at you from behind a tree, or your friend tells you a scary ghost story.
In the uncontested case, you will be deducted a set amount of sanity.
In the contested case your opponent rolls sanity damage.
In most cases your sanity check is unmodified, though if you are facing something you have been “hardened” to, you add your hardened skill to your sanity check.
Pillars and Coping
If you pillar for a 15 point set of sanity has not been shattered you may engaging in your coping mechanism to regain sanity. Each time you “cope” you regain a point of sanity. You may “cope” once a chapter per coping mechanism until you have restored all of the sanity points for that pillar. If your pillar is shattered you may only regain the sanity points associated with that pillar through narcotics or regular psychotherapy.
When you loose the first five points of sanity associated with a pillar you risk having the pillar of faith shatter. Roll an attribute check that is determined appropriate based on the confrontation to your sanity. This will usually be mind or soul. The modifier is (stat) – (sanity loss)/2.
Ex: Professor Bubba has a Soul stat of 15. He has already lost 7 sanity points in his first pillar, so any loss of sanity comes with the risk of shattering that pillar. While strolling through the old graveyard at night he comes across a ghoul feasting on the bones of the dead. He fails his sanity check and losses 8 pts of sanity. He has now lost all 15 points in his first pillar: he must roll to see if it shatters. The GM decides that being filled with mindless fear is a soul stat roll. Which gives him +2 to his roll. Since he just lost 8 sanity he is at a -4 to his roll (8/2). His total modifier is +2 -4 = -2. He needs to roll a 14 or higher on 2D6 1D10, otherwise that pillar shatters.Most things can only shatter one pillar at a time. There are some exceptions such as outer gods and great old ones. Sometimes certain skills may help you prevent a pillar from shattering.
Ex: Lloyd Geibtig’s denial skill works like “dodge” for sanity loss due to the unnatural or mythos, and shattered pillars. He automatically adds it as a positive modifier.
If you fail the pillar shatters and you may no longer gain back sanity from that coping mechanism. Further, you can no longer use any coping mechanism to raise your sanity until you fall below the level of the next pillar down.
HardenedSometimes after exposure to an event, creature, or circumstance the GM will give you a rank of hardened. There are seven different areas in which you can have ranks of hardened:
Violence: grotesque displays of physical violence.
Unnatural: a blatant violation of what you believe is real.
Mythos: A direct confrontation with a Mythos horror
Helplessness: Comes from loosing a sense of control.
Isolation: You rely on other human beings for feedback, without this your sense of self corrodes.
Self: your sense of guilt and self loathing. Are you the person you thought you were?
You can have up to 5 ranks in hardened. Ranks in hardened have two benefits. Each rank directly modifies your sanity roll in that area. If you have a rank greater than the level of the sanity check you automatically succeed unless it is a mythos check.
Going temporarily insane and developing a neurosis.
If a pillar of faith shatters you go temporarily insane. Roll 3d10, that’s how many minutes your out of it for. You may become moderately functional if treated with psychotherapy by a PC or NPC. Otherwise all you will do is run from danger, drool on yourself, and babble like the madman you are.
If a pillar shatters the coping mechanism associated with that pillar flips, it becomes a neurosis. Whenever under a great deal of stress or confronted with something that reminds you of how your pillar shattered your neurosis will manifest. You must make either a mind or soul check (as appropriate), to resist indulging in it.
Regaining Sanity / Repairing Pillars
Note: Cthulhu Mythos Skill permanently caps your sanity. None of these methods work to restore sanity if they bring you above the maximum allowed by your mythos score.
During the chapter you can cope to regain sanity (once per coping mechanism). At the end of each week of downtime you immediately regain a point of sanity if you engaged in a coping mechanism that week. You may not restore points lost to a shattered pillar in this way
2) Psychotherapy and anti-psychotics
If at the end of a week of downtime you attend a psychotherapy session and your psychoanalyst makes a successful roll you regain a point of sanity. You may not restore points lost to a shattered pillar in this way.
Anti-psychotics give you permanent points of sanity. As long as you remain on the anti-psychotics those points of sanity remain (but vanish as soon as you go off the drugs). You may regain points lost to a shattered pillar in this way and if the anti-psychotics bring you above the boarder of that pillar you do not suffer from the associated neurosis. The pillar is still considered “shattered” in the sense that you are down a coping mechanism. While there are many type of anti-psychotics for rule purposes we divide them into light, medium, and heavy. Note that these do not stack with each other:
Light: +2 Sanity as long as you remain on them.
Medium: +4 sanity, -1 Soul.
Heavy: +8 sanity, -3 Soul.
The week going on heavy or medium anti-psychotics the character takes appropriate physical and mental penalties due to being sick.