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Sanity Changes in Colonial Gothic Revised

January 15, 2009

Been under the weather the past few days, and busy with the day job for the past few weeks, but I have been working through the third draft of Colonial Gothic Revised. Playtest has gone very well, and I am happy with how the game is shaping up.

How much is changing? Not much. By that, the game is still the same at its’ core. What has changed is that the rule have moved to the form they resemble in Thousand Suns. In Thousand Suns, James and I tweaked the rules, and that version of the rules runs smoother and is more refined. BTW, for those who have not played the game, or read it, you can download Thousand Suns Basics here. That being said, I have refined it some more so that it fits with the vision of Colonial Gothic.

One change I have made, and one that I am happy with is the approach taken with Sanity. Sanity, as it stands in the game now, feels like a add on. It does not impact the game, and really does nothing but add a cumbersome effect. When working on Revised, I really wanted to tweak Sanity and make it something that not only added to the horror, but reflected the horror Heroes face.

First let’s look at Sanity. This is from the current version of CG Revised:


Every time your Hero fails a Fear Test, or uses Magic (see Chapter 6 for more on this) he will lose one point of Sanity. For every 10 points of Sanity your Hero loses, they must make an unmodified Resolution Test to see if they gain your choice of Disorder. When your Hero is reduced to 0 Sanity, their Sanity permanently is reduced by 1 Point. Once your Hero is reduced to 0 Sanity they have been driven into madness and is out of the game.

The most logical way to choose your Hero’s Disorder, would be to acquire a Disorder that is the direct result of your Hero failing their Fear Test. For example say your Hero was stuck in a tiny cabin when he confronted a Devil. This traumatic experience was enough to force your Hero to make a Fear Test, which he failed. Not only is your Hero penalized for a number of rounds, they also lost another Sanity Point, which forces your Hero to make a Resolution Test. After failing your Resolution Test, you scan through the various Disorders and choose Claustrophobia, to represent your Hero’s trauma.

In order to keep the game flowing, Resolution Tests for Disorders should be made after, not during, combat. Once combat is resolved, then your Hero will begin to feel the affects of their violent, unearthly experiences.

As you can see, this is the first change, Sanity, for the most part, stays the same. The only difference is that once your Sanity is reduced to 0, your Hero is not out of the game. Instead, their Sanity is reduced by 1 point. Why is this? What I want to do with Colonial Gothic is allow for Heroes Sanity to slowly erode. Why? Let’s look at the next section of the Sanity rules.

Using Sanity

Sanity ebbs and flows through the game, and with it a Hero is able to do things normal people would not dare to do. Certain magical spells cost the caster a little bit of their sanity. Over time, they might not realize that working such magics has this effect, but eventually they cast one two many spells, which sap their Sanity. Some Heroes might choose to use their Sanity to enter into a state of rage (history calls such people Berserkers) that allows them to press on past their point of endurance. This state has a lasting effect on a person, and eventually they will enter into this state of rage one to many times, and be unable to leave it.

Heroes, in their fight against the Agents of the Occult & Supernatural, always put their Sanity on the line.

Ok, so you see the tact I am taking. By being a Hero — or a Villain — by taking up this vocation, you risk your Sanity while fighting forces beyond the perspectives of all. For Colonial Gothic Revised, it is now a clock ticking down the eventual demise of your Hero’s Sanity. By facing situations that are dangerous to your Sanity, your Hero is faced with a delima: Do I risk my Sanity, to do the impossible?

So how do you regain your Sanity? Again, from Colonial Gothic Revised:

Regaining Sanity and Losing Disorders

Sanity cannot be boosted above its starting value, found in Chapter 2. However, lost Sanity can be regained at a rate equal to your Reason per new day. If your Hero has a bad encounter with a Witch one morning, for example, she will not be able to regain any Sanity until the next day after her battle. If your Hero loses all their Sanity they will be unable to act until the next day when they regain some of their Sanity, however, their Sanity total is permanently reduced by 1 point. Each time they go to 0 Sanity, their total is reduced by 1.

What happens when your Hero reaches 0 Sanity? They gain a Disorder, that they cannot heal from, and your Hero suffer its’ effects for the rest of the time that they are alive.

Pretty straight forward.

Now, the big change with Sanity is how it comes into play with Magic. Here is an example of this from Chapter 6 of Colonial Gothic Revised:

Sanity Cost in Magic

As mentioned previously Arcane Spells are taxing to the caster’s sanity and all Arcane Spells have a Sanity Cost associated with them. When casting the spell, regardless if the Test succeeds or fails, the Spell’s Sanity coast must be deducted from the caster’s total.

Ok, a few things here that need explaining — and I will expand upon them in another email. First, the big change with Magic in Colonial Gothic Revised is that I am doing away with the terminology of Rituals. It does not fit, and the use of it, really caused me some issues in that by using the word Ritual, it limited me in something I wanted to do. Thus Rituals are now Spells, and there are two types of Spells: Common and Arcane.

Common Spells are spells that are easy to discover and learn, and their effect does not have any lasting effect. Arcane Spells are spells that are ancient, extremely powerful, and their effect lasts. Common Spells can be purchased at the start of Hero Creation, while Arcane Spells are only learned after discovering them in play. More importantly, since Arcane Spells are so powerful, their casting leaves a mark of the caster, and it slowly reduces their Sanity every time they are cast.

So there you go, the changes to Sanity. There are still details I need to work out, and refinements I need to do. However, you can see where my thinking lies, and the work I have done.

Let me say this, before I end this, I am loving this game. I know, sounds cheesy, but is true.

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