Madness
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The Cataclysm Handbook
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Respectfully Handling Sanity Mechanics

Thematically, the system of sanity damage harkens back to an era of asylums, lobotomies, forced sterilizations, and countless other abuses of the mentally ill. During the era of Lovecraft, demonization of mental illness was routine, and players may be driven to roleplay sanity damage by parroting many of the insensitive stereotypes displayed in tales from that era. In the interest of promoting a more inclusive gaming space and curbing the further spread of such harmful preconceptions about mental illness, a few guidelines for effectively and respectfully roleplaying sanity damage are outlined below.

1. Lost sanity should not be represented by the character suddenly developing eye twitches, shaking fits, or other physical tics commonly used as shorthand for mental illness. Traits such as spontaneous maniacal laughter or complete loss of social skills play upon stereotypes in a similar manner and should be avoided. These elements add little roleplaying value and dehumanize those with real-life mental illnesses.

2. In this vein, attempts to replicate real-life mental illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder in roleplay should be made with extreme caution. At the very least, the GM and party should unanimously consent to such attempts before they are made.

3. Every casting tradition tied to the Unsettling Casting drawback involves some sort of revelation, either through a connection to some powerful and inhuman entity or through the discovery of some secret that throws your preconceived notions of reality out the window. The character’s behavior changes not because their brain has somehow become rewired, but because they now know something that changes how they view the world. For example, use of extradimensional magics could allow the character to perceive figments of being from other planes or timelines, these observations manifesting mechanically as the hallucination or night terrors lesser madness. Similarly, a character’s continual exposure to telepathic language could lead to difficulty switching back to normal speech, this alienation manifesting as the cognitive block greater madness. Maybe a character who routinely uses conjurations begins to associate certain creatures or objects with extradimensional horrors, these associations taking the form of the mania or phobia lesser madnesses. Overall, a character with sanity damage should remain the same person that they were before they took sanity damage, albeit one who’s discovery causes them to view the world in a different way.

4. Magic systems that genuinely erode the mental capabilities of their wielders are not unheard of in fiction. However, escalating damage of this type should not be displayed as an ever-growing list of stereotypes. Rather, every point of sanity damage should reflect the loss of something important to the character’s worldview, such as a memory or principle. As damage accrues, perhaps the character should be more willing to break with their routines and values, or perhaps the bonds they have forged with others fade away with their memories.

5. Similar to humanity or corruption tracks in various other RPGs, sanity damage may be used to track a character’s disconnect from conventional morality rather than measuring mental health. A character with a great deal of sanity damage could be no less intelligent, rational, and articulate than someone with none, but the two character’s would likely have very different perspectives on the value of life or the means justified by their ends. Sanity damage could be used to measure the corrupting influence of power on a character, madness manifesting as a result of cognitive dissonance or the mental strain of their inhuman actions.

6. “Sanity damage” is not an appropriate name for the system, seeing as the paradigm of sanity and insanity is a fundamentally flawed perception of mental illness. Terms such as “stress damage”, “comprehension damage”, “humanity damage”, or “rationale damage” may be more appropriate for describing what the characters are going through. Similarly, “madnesses” could be renamed “severances” or “burnouts” and could be given names that disconnect them from stigmatized real- life medical conditions (changing “Schizophrenia” to “Lost Between Realities”, for example). The original rules terminology is used in this book for clarity, but alterations are heavily advised in praxis.


Madnesses

Casting Blockage [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
When you gain this madness, you gain a casting drawback with all of your casting traditions selected by the GM which is worth no more than a single drawback. You do not gain bonus spell points or any other boons as a result of possessing this drawback.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
Your spellcasting is less natural to you, requiring some sort of additional feature in order to function.

Cravings [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
You gain a moderate addiction to one type of food or drug that you have consumed in the last week, using the DC of this madness as the addiction DC.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
You develop a psychological dependence on a certain type of consumable.

Dead Senses [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
–2 penalty on Strength-, Dexterity-, and Constitution-based checks as well as Fortitude and Reflex saves
Dormancy Effect None

Description
Your body does not respond properly to stimuli, your dulled senses rendering it clumsy and ineffectual. This numbness also comes with a boon, granting you a +4 bonus to saving throws against pain effects.

Defeatism [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever you fail an attack roll, saving throw (excluding saving throws made because of this effect), or skill check and whenever every single target of an effect you create succeeds at a saving throw, you must attempt a Will save. On a failure, you take a -1 penalty on all d20 rolls and saving throw DCs of your abilities for 2d6 rounds. This penalty stacks with itself.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
Failure sows doubt in your mind that only grows with further mistakes.

Halted Movements [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 18; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
All of your movement speeds are reduced by half and you cannot take 5-foot steps.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
You hesitate in your movements, taking every step with trying caution.

Instinctive Defiance [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 14; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever another creature gives you an order or command, attempt a Will save. On a failure, you become antagonized towards that creature.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
Your troubled experiences with authority give you an impulse to defy it regardless of consequences.

Isolation Terror [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 18; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever you become blinded or deafened (which may be the result from injury, magic, or from an environmental effect that suddenly renders an area dark or soundless), you must succeed at a Will save or become shaken for 1d6 rounds. The next round, you can choose to attempt another saving throw to end the effect, but if you fail, you become scared instead. A scared character can choose to attempt another saving throw to become shaken again, but if they fail, they become frightened for 1d6 rounds instead.
Dormancy Effect Whenever you become blinded or deafened, you must succeed at a Will save or become shaken for 1 round.

Description
The loss of your senses drives you into a panic as the deprivation of power draws out your deepest fears.

Mimicry [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever you perform a type of action which you have not witnessed another creature perform within the last round, you take a -4 penalty on any d20 rolls associated with that action.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
You struggle to guide your own actions, relying on the impressions of others to shape your performance.

Mutterings [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
You take a -4 penalty on Charisma-based skill checks. Creatures who succeed at a Sense Motive check against you by 5 or more can read your surface thoughts (as per the greater charm version of the Read Mind talent).
Dormancy Effect None

Description
You frequently talk to yourself nervously, whispering mantras or thoughts under your breath.

Overkill [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 or fewer hit points, you must attempt a Will save against this madness. On a failure, you must spend your next turn performing a coup de grace on the target or destroying their body as a full-round action (if you are capable of doing so).
Dormancy Effect None

Description
You are paranoid about death and take extreme measures to make sure foes do not get back up.

Performance Anxiety [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 14; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
Whenever you are in combat, you must attempt a Will save at the start of your turn. On a failure, there is a 25% chance that you cannot act this turn.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
In stressful situations, you tend to freeze up, incapable of doing much more than trying to defend yourself.

Perpetual Discomfort [Cata. HB]

Type lesser madness; Save Will DC 16; Onset 1d4 days

Effect
You are shaken so long as you are wearing any sort of armor or similarly heavy clothing. This ignores any immunity to the shaken condition you may possess.
Dormancy Effect None

Description
Heavy clothing feels confining and stressful for you, impairing your movements on a psychological level.


Greater Madnesses

Death Wish [Cata. HB]

Type greater madness; Save Will DC 24; Onset 2d6 days

Effect
The afflicted character cannot or does not want to avoid harm, taking a -10 penalty on AC and a -4 penalty on all saving throws.
Dormancy Effect Take a -4 penalty to AC

Description
You have forsaken any sense of self-preservation, simply allowing harm to converge upon you rather than taking any effort to keep yourself safe.

Halted Activity [Cata. HB]

Type greater madness; Save Will DC 22; Onset 2d6 days

Effect
The afflicted character rolls twice on all d20 rolls, taking the lower result.
Dormancy Effect Take a -1 penalty on all d20 rolls

Description
You constantly second-guess your actions, leading to frequent failures.


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