Fudge Sanity

Three Different Approaches to Sanity Rules in Fudge
by Reimer Behrends,
by Michael Lucas, and
by Mike Harvey

This page last updated Feb. 24, 1996.

Approach #1 by Reimer Behrends

First of all, as these are Sanity rules, each character needs a Sanity attribute (but which may be based on another attribute, such as Will, just as Damage Capacity can be based on Health).

Second, a fairly large number of counters (chips from a Go game should do just fine) will be needed, or alternatively the GM will have to keep track of a few numbers manually (which may even be the better choice, if you find handling the counters distracting).

Counters will be collected in a number of pools; one Common Insanity Pool for the group as a whole and one Individual Insanity Pool per character.

Upon the characters encountering something supernatural, instead of having everybody roll a sanity check (as per the normal rules), place a number of counters either in the Common Insanity Pool or divide them up among the Individual Insanity Pools of the characters affected. The former option gives more freedom (see below), but you may choose the latter if, for instance, only individual characters are affected.

Then, demand statements from each player regarding his character's reaction. Depending upon the reaction, withdraw counters from the respective Insanity Pool according to the following classification.

  1. The character remains calm and unaffected. No counters are withdrawn.
  2. The character is shaken. He operates at a penalty (say, because the hand holding his weapon is shaking), but still acts rationally. One counter is withdrawn.
  3. The character is badly shaken. He is still acting voluntarily but lacks real control of what he is doing. Two counters are withdrawn.
  4. The character panics. Rational action is not possible, just gut reactions, such as firing a gun (empty or loaded) without trying to aim. If the character is fleeing, he will not realize where he is going. Three counters.
  5. The character's brain shuts down to avoid conscious realization of the unthinkable. The character may simply faint or go temporarily insane, or whatever. This is worth four counters.
If after that phase there remain more than a certain number of counters in either the Common Insanity Pool or any of the Individual Insanity Pools, then the GM gets to assign anything above that limit as she sees fit (and players are expected to roleplay accordingly).

Suitable limits for an average game might be thrice the number of players for the Common Insanity Pool (e.g. 12 for a four-player game) and five for the Individual Insanity Pools.

Lower these limits if you want a harsher game or raise them if you want the characters to have some more breathing room.

Note that the GM determines how long reactions according to (2) through (5) last. Usually at least for the time of the encounter or longer, and normally without interruption, but there may be exceptions (such as when studying Mythos books, where the reaction may manifest itself not all the time). You may want to allow the players to expend Fudge Points to calm down earlier.

The number of counters to be placed in the pool by the GM depends on the number of characters involved in the encounter (or spellcasting, or whatever) and how horrifying the situation is.

More precisely, judge the horror rating of the situation according to the classification above ((1) through (5)) and put an according number number of counters per player in the Common Insanity Pool (or divide the counters equally among corresponding Individual Insanity Pools). For example, a situation that would badly shake the average person (i.e. class (3)) above) and involves 3 characters would result in 2*3=6 counters being added to the Common Insanity Pool. If you want to be especially 'realistic', add one counter for each player with exceptionally low Sanity (Poor or below) and remove one for each player with exceptionally high Sanity (Great or better). If you have small threats (up to 1d2 or 1d3 sanity loss according to the normal rules), you may opt to use half a counter per character; round up or down as you see fit. In addition, exceptionally horrifying situations (such as meeting Great Cthulhu himself) might warrant more than the normal maximum of four counters per character.

As an additional feature, characters lose one level of Sanity for each ten counters withdrawn for them (again, raise or lower this limit as you see fit for an easier or harsher game, respectively). At the GM's discretion, she can add a suitable mental disorder as a Fault. If Sanity ever falls below Terrible, the character will go permanently insane. Sorry.

Regaining Sanity will have to be winged, though.

A final note: Please don't treat this as an exercise in resource allocation. It is meant to give a quick and dirty estimation, nothing more. Players should be thinking about roleplaying their characters with the above rules serving as feedback, not as a method for optimizing their reactions. NPC rections will have to be determined freely by the GM, anyway. As soon as you feel able to, drop the system entirely.

-Reimer Behrends

Approach #2 by Michael Lucas

The simplest method I've seen to handle Fudge sanity is to treat it in exactly the same manner as physical damage. Sanity becomes an Attribute, just like Damage Capacity.

Characters suffer from emotional/mental wounds as the result of attacks on Sanity. You can easily rename the various types of wounds (Scratches, etc.) to reflect the various mental states.

Actually, this system (IMHO) gives a slightly better impression of Sanity than Cthulhu's straight percentile scale. When a character suffers a Sanity wound, the player and GM can decide exactly what the appropriate problem is. For example, if a character encounters one of the Horrifying Fish-People of Nyarlothupchuck and suffers a "scratch", he might just develop a fear of seafood. A "hurt" result would give a more serious result. Used properly, it can give a more three-dimensional representation of the character's sanity. It's more work, but I found it worthwhile.

-Michael Lucas

Approach #3 by Mike Harvey

Here is something I posted many moons ago. I've never tested it, but it ought to work well in theory. The short version:

Treat sanity as "psychic wounding", using the mechanics for the combat resolution system. Instead of a "damage capacity" attribute, you could use a "sanity" attribute or something similar. Anything which might have a "mind blasting" effect on the character is given a "cosmic horror" rating (like an attribute).

Basically, sanity attacks work just like physical attacks. If the character comes face to face with Cthulhu, its an opposed action. Cthulhu might have a Cosmic Horror attribute of legendary, while our poor hero only has a mediocre sanity. In addition, the hero is surprised, giving Cthulhu a +2 to psychic damage, and he is waving his tentacles leeringly, giving an additional +1. The opposed action is rolled, and Cthulhu wins by 3. Adding 3 gives a total damage of 6.

Normally, this might equate to "very hurt"; however, since this is psychic damage, convert using the following table:

     NORMAL         PSYCHIC               EFFECTS
     scratched      frightened
     hurt           shocked               (-1 to all actions)
     very hurt      reeling in horror     (-2 to all actions)
     incapacitated  gibbering/catatonic   (no significant action possible)
     near death     fading
     dead           dead
If you are familiar with combat in Fudge, the above description should make perfect sense (I don't feel like an exhaustive explanation just now). Just treat sanity as a parallel wound system with "normal" wounds, and resolve attacks as opposed (or unopposed) actions. Special situations, magic spells, and the like can be treated as weapons/armor/modifiers.

Every GM has his own preferred variations on combat, and this is especially true in Fudge. Seasons to taste. It will probably work best if the mechanics are identical to the combat mechanics (ie less confusing).

A variations would allow "cosmic scale", similar to strength/mass scale. Thus, Great Cthulhu might be a Cosmic Horror (fair) scale +10, while professor Vorkenblatz has sanity (fair) scale +0, while Tsathoggua is a Cosmic Horror (good) scale +10.

-Mike Harvey