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I am preparing for an upcoming Shadowrun campaign that will start at the beginning of the Shadowrun meta plot (around 2053 or so). I plan on having my players heavily involved in uncovering the existance of Bug Spirits (UB, Chicago, etc.). I was thinking that Bugs should be scarry. I know if I saw a 6 foot tall cockroach I would probably have a heart attack! So I was tossing around the idea of adding a Cthulhu-esque sanity check to my game. I was wondering if anyone else had tried this? What mechanics did you use? Did it add anything to the game or slow it down? Any feedback/experiences are appreciated!

Gods, I didn't play Cthuhlu simply because of that sanity... When your world is already nothing but "scary as hell" little rocks your boat anymore...

Just give the bugs fear powers. ^_^

EDIT - I'm not bashing your thought, just sugesting the way I'd have it in a game I played.
Queen Euphoria has permanently scared my players...they still recount the horrors of bugs.
QUOTE (Espiritu)
...When your world is already nothing but "scary as hell" little rocks your boat anymore...

I totally agree....that is why I am soliciting feedback and ideas. But I still think that even though you may be use to the idea of Trolls, Dragons and Magic....Giant ass-kickin bugs are still freaky! You could even apply this to other Shadowrun elements like Toxic Shaman. I think even the baddest, cold blooded Street Samurai would flinch at some of this stuff! Just my Opinion! smile.gif
Hi there...

There is a nice article with the title "Horror in Shadowrun" on the german shadowrun homepage. Single problem: It's in german.



(Man kann nicht alles haben...)
I think you've got a good idea. I wouldn't make it as vicious as CoC, especially since we're dealing with hardened professionals who probably all saw a dead body before they turned 12. I'd say decrease the number of sanity points, but give you the ability to regain it naturally over the course of hours. Similarly, all mental flaws should either cure themselves, or be roleplaying only flaws (unless they want to take this chance to get free karma for taking on a new flaw). Of course, reward extra karma for roleplaying out this fear, and be sure not to make the bugs too hard. People are going to be less likely to run and hide, if they feel that's realistic, if they know OOC that the bugs will hunt them down and kill them that way.
Well, you could certainly add such a thing. Perhaps after each run, as part of wrapup, make your players make a Will Test with a target number of 2, with appropriate modifiers for those who took a serious wound or were possessed or something, similar (you could raise the base TN if you want more horror or lower it if you want less...a TN of 1 or even 0 is still ok if you plan to add some penalties). If they do not get at least one success, they take gain an appropriate mental flaw.

Or you could make them more frequent (perhaps after each run and after any particularly horrific encounter). Appropriate mental flaws would be bug phobias, fear of the dark, paranoid, compulsions, combat monster, etc. They could start off as mild and increase as more "horror" checks are failed. If your group are good RPers, it could be fun...especially if you go a little easy on letting them buy at least some of those flaws off at some point in the future (otherwise, you could end up making some of these characters completely unplayable).

I had a Shadowrun/Cthulhu crossover event that I ran at conventions a number of times. I just lifted the SAN rules pretty much straight from Cthulhu, and they worked pretty well. Yeah, it meant adding in "funky dice" but nobody really had a problem with it. OTOH, this was intended as a one shot campaign, I don't think I'd try and do this for a long term game.

However, I'm not sure that'd work as well with bugs. The whole point of SAN in Cthulhu isn't just that you're uncovering horrific things. It's also that you're uncovering "Things Man Was Not Meant To Know." Yeah, bugs are scary, and so are Toxic Shammies. But, IMO, neither one is in the same class as a close visit with one of the Great Old Ones.

Another thought that comes to mind would be to try using Essence as a sanity stat. Then, assign a fear rating to various creatures encountered. That'd have the duel effect of making Spellcasters more adept at facing the supernatural and incorporating cyberpsychosis.
I wouldn't agree that. IMO It's the ones suffering from cyber-psychosis who would be less likely to be frightened/unerved by bugs. They're already insane enough to think they're better than/above and can whoop more ass than any metahuman, the deranged mind might look at a Bug and think 'here's my chance to prove to the other chumps what a bad-ass I am' or 'I'm superior to any metahuman, thus I'm superior to some overgrown lower life form like this fragging bug.'
QUOTE (nezumi)
...I wouldn't make it as vicious as CoC, especially since we're dealing with hardened professionals who probably all saw a dead body before they turned 12...

I totally agree, like The_Dunner said above, it's not like we're confronting "Things Man Was Not Meant To Know"! Like you suggest, I was thinking of encorporating the Mental/Phobia Flaws into the Sanity rules. For example lets say you encounted ***SPOILER WARNING*** the half-Insect/half-Human baby from Missing Blood , ***END SPOILER WARNING*** you would need to make a Will Test against a TN of say 4 or so. If you fail you receive a temporary Phobia or Mental Flaw (i.e. Nightmares) that would go away over time or by righting the wrong you witnessed or through roleplaying.

I am just wanting to add a little element of Horror to the game in the right places. The example above is what got me thinking about this in the first place.
I would think describing them well would be more effective than any sanity check. There is no point scaring the characters if the players cant feal a little bit.

Its not the mechanic that is important so much as the atmosphere. Be very detailed in your descriptions of the unspeakable evils that the players face. Limit their knowledge so that they're not completely sure what's going on. The players should never know details that the characters don't know. This is even more true with horror games. Only the unknown is scary.
Also, if you have a very good player who doesn't mind sacrificing a character to become an NPC at some later point in the campaign, you might consider allowing one of the PCs to become a Good Merge. Not only would it be unnerving to the other players, when they learn that their trusted teammate has really been a bug spirit for some time and it could also result in a very creepy recurring villain for the rest of the campaign.

There is a very good site about horror RPing that I'd like to link to, but I can't remember the address.
An old copy of an RPG mag had a scenario for a Chadowrun / Cthulhu crossover and they introduced the idea of a Sanity Condition Monitor.

I never read it mysefl but I can imagine teh rules could be something like:
You could assign horrors a Sanity Damage code - a small scare could be 4L while meeting Cthulhu himself could be 18D. Resists with Willpower.

Sanity "Damage" imposes TN and Init penalties just like Stun and Physical.

Sanity Damage heals with rest and experiencing "normality", maybe even therapy.

A deadly Sanity Damage could result in a phobia or something.
I really like the idea of a Sanity Monitor Digital Mage. I'd love to get my hands on that Magazine. I'll run with that idea for a while and see where it takes me!

All your feedback has been very helpful and given me a lot of options to think about and work on. Thanks all!!!
That sounds cool, may even surgest that to my gm. Not be as harsh as to make it the same as damage to all tests but make it likely to lead to flash backs, phobias and irrational behaviour. Do you get bonuses though for smegging a nest? We didnt even have to use our fuel air explosive nyahnyah.gif
Horrors in Shadowrun though would be interesting. Converting them from a system like Earthdawn would be hard as SR is quite realistic (in an arbitory way) and ED is very elaborate, being magic is everything. Shooty characters should blow it to bits with enough ordance, and it probably would be lost fighting drones. Mages should fall over dead if they cast a spell any where near it. The one problem is all horrors have extremely good powers and are experienced spell casters, I would recomend making up these effects on the fly...
don't get caught up in dice rolls and checks, real horror comes from the GM's style, not being told "ok Bob you failed the roll so you're having a panic attack."

The best way to generate fear is to let the players imagination do the work, may them wonder what's going on. Once they know "oh look it's a flesh form ant spirit" they'll start having thought how to kill, it, but if it's a shambling shape moving off through the trees or noise down in the basement they can't quite see, it will work far better.
I'd resist sanity through Charisma.

Partially because you can justify it as already disassociated characters being more vulnerable to going over the edge - treating empathy as an aspect of Cha,

but mostly for game balance reasons - I think having a positive mechanic associated with it would do poor old Cha a world of good.
Just a paranthesis - I didn't read through the thread properly:
The SLA Industries supplement "Contract Directory" has pretty interesting terror/mental pressure rule system IRC.
QUOTE (the_dunner)
I had a Shadowrun/Cthulhu crossover event that I ran at conventions a number of times. I just lifted the SAN rules pretty much straight from Cthulhu, and they worked pretty well.

If you are the guy that lives in Victoria and ran a game in Vancouver, the rules basiclly turned my char into a npc. On the up side, the block was over (I agree, great game), and I was due to GM a game.

Come over and run another sometime.

IMHO Horrors run into the grounds of Things Man Was Not Ment to Know, and some of the bigger ones are halfway to great old ones.

While I agree that a 6 foot tall cockroach would make me crap a Miata, in terms of the SR world, I don't know that it'd be scarier than anything else. There's already toxics, blood spirits and critters that know no end of weirdness. Not to mention how scary people can be on their own, without the benefit of special effects.

In CoC, players accept (and sometimes enjoy) the harsh SAN system because going crazy is half the battle in CoC. Going crazy is a major part of the source material, if the system didn't account for it, it would be a glaring oversight. Shadowrun doesn't have that same tradition. SR pc's tend to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and they tend to have spotty bubblegum buying habits. What I mean to say is, a player is looking for something different from a game where he is playing an ork with a assault rifle vs a game where he is a middle-aged professor of English Literature (not that the latter would be a poor concept for SR by any means).

But rather than just endlessly poo-poo your ideas, I would like to wrap up with a hopefully helpful suggestion. Making rules to make characters act scared is of limited usefulness, usually it just annoys the players. But if you scare the players, the characters are automatically scared. And its freaking the players out that's the fun part. As was pointed out by Edward, hyzmarca and Snow_Fox, you can get a lot more out of descriptions, setting and mood than you can out of telling the players to make a sanity check.
On a somewhat related topic, has anyone ever tried to incorporate the "humanity" system from Vampire:TM?

Especially in relation to characters with so little essence if they sneeze the last bit of humanity ends up decorating the footpath?
just to emphasize what others have said, a horror campaign hinges on the gm scaring the PLAYERS, NOT the CHARACTERS.
no mechanics are needed. indeed, they are counterproductive, NOTHING destroys the sense of horror more than the gm asking you to roll some dice.. use suspense a lot and dont overdo it. check the movies hmm alien was scary <one alien> aliens <lots of them> was a lot less so..

QUOTE (DarkShade)
just to emphasize what others have said, a horror campaign hinges on the gm scaring the PLAYERS, NOT the CHARACTERS.
no mechanics are needed. indeed, they are counterproductive, NOTHING destroys the sense of horror more than the gm asking you to roll some dice.. use suspense a lot and dont overdo it. check the movies hmm alien was scary <one alien> aliens <lots of them> was a lot less so..


True, but my players often lapse into "Let's Rock!" or "Game over man! Game over man!" with much zeal.
I love Aliens.
Rather than 'sanity loss', i would recomend giving out temporary flaws on a failed will save. temporary should wear off in a month, so as not to disrupt the campaign too much. Also, big C could give permanent flaws and so on. this adds to roleplaying a lot more than a 'your insane now' which will result in rampant stupidity instead.

You have to be carefull not to make anyones character unplayable. If someone does become unplayable for that session, you should have an npc ready for them to play.

also, a common concpet for a lot of PCs is the unfazeable professional. If their attitude is central to the chracter, be carefull how you mess with them (compulsion to check guns and locks on doors, instead of a phobia, ect)

Flaws that may be good as 'insanity' resulting from fear:
Incompitence, Combat monster, Combat paralysis, Compulsive, Flashbacks, Phobia, astral impressions.

I'll add my voice to the chorus saying that any kind of sanity rules would suck. I played in a Ravenloft campaign, with a very good GM, but the horror rules didn't add to it at all - they were just annoying. It was actually counterproductive. Even if it was a scary/dangerous situation, if I made the check it was like "Cool, I can actually do something this round!" If I could have just roleplayed the character, I probably would have played up his fear more.

Shadowrun, on the other hand, is not a horror game. Shadowrunners tend to be calm professionals who inspire fear more than they feel it themselves. Rules for fear will seem like the GM either railroading them, practically turning their characters into NPCs, or "ruining" their character (like Teulisch said, sometimes traits such as "fearless" or "stone-cold professional" are central to someone's character concept).

To induce a proper sense of fear in your players, here are some tactics:

1) The unknown. Have them meet characters or creatures who don't act rationally, or who seem to have abilities that can't be explained or emulated by the PCs. Describe things without saying what they are, so players are guessing. Instead of saying "You see a wendigo," say "You see a shaggy, crouched, bestial figure silhouetted against the moonlight, then it ducks forward out of the light. You hear it snarl rabidly as it lurches at you."

2) Urgency. Maybe the place they are in seems like it is about to fall apart. Maybe they are infected with something and have to get the antidote out of a horrible research installation or they will all die. Maybe they know that if they don't stop the villain, a major terrorist or politically destabilizing attack will take place. But make it so the party is in a hurry, without time to reflect or make plans.

4) Atmosphere. Play up all of the details that hit common phobias (enclosed places, poor visibility, disease, being trapped, etc.). Let the PCs relax at times, then hit them with a sudden attack.

Suspence, the unknown... that pretty much covers it. Scares the living daylights out of everyone.

I threw a simple book out in game. Book had a bad rep thru history blah blah blah. A few spirits took an interest in the players (yes, the book was magical in nature) and Viola. I had my players totally spooked and running for the hills. I game them rumor and supposition on what the book was supposed to do and their imaginations ran with it. One of the best moments in this campaign so far.

QUOTE (Teulisch)
I would recomend giving out temporary flaws on a failed will save.

Are you using D&D terminology? Is that even legal in an SR forum?

I am shocked and appalled people, shocked and appalled. For shame, Teulisch. For Shame.

Seriousily though, I just popped back in to vote again on the side of "Rulz Suck!" A GM can always tell a player his character is scared, and a good player will generally then have his character act scared, but this ignores two central points.

1. To the player, having his character act scared is no more involved than having his character go buy bread. If someone asks how the character is doing, this would be a bad response: "Oh, he's terrified. Fetal. I'm going to get a soda, anybody want anything?"

2. And I really can't emphasize this one enough. I'm going to use all they buttons they give me, but that only because they don't have one for 24' tall 1.5 million megawatt blinking lights that can be seen from space and cause all wildlife in a 300 mile radius to become sterile:

It's not the GM's job to tell the players anything about how their character's are feeling.

It's the players job to play the character. Its the GM's job to tell them whats going on. As a GM, I have to whole wide world to work with, I don't need to encroach on the one dude the player gets to play. As a player, nothing riles me more than a GM telling me how to play my character.

Though honestly, there may be a place for Sanity rules in games where players don't factor in their emotions at all. If, for instance, you had five players that all acted like Patrick Warburton as Putty from Seinfeld, just having them make Willpower Rolls every so often might be easier than trying to get them to react to anything. That said, in the games I play in and the people I play with: atmosphere wins out every time over rules; which are just an intrusion when it comes to how we play our characters.
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