Mental Disorder Mechanics

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Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by The GM on Thu Sep 22, 2016 4:37 pm

Hey everyone,
 
I just wanted to talk about the Mental Disorders mechanic when it comes to characters. Currently, the rules are that if a character fails a Fear Test by 4 or more Degrees of Failure, they immediately gain a Mental Disorder. If they are Aligned, they get a Mental Disorder chosen at random from the Table of their god’s Mental Disorders. If they are unaligned, the GM chooses the most appropriate Table on which to roll on, given the circumstances.
 
There are some substantial weaknesses with the rules, in my opinion, and I know some of you share these concerns. As I see it, here are some of the more major problems, in no particular order:


  1. It's too sudden: A character can fail a Fear Test by 4 or more Degrees at any time. Even a Heretic with a high Willpower of 40 has a 10% chance of going insane at a relatively minor fright (i.e. Fear [1]). Though Heretics can buy Talents to stave off Fear, it is hard to put off a Mental Disorder for long if you are unlucky.
  2. It's too extreme: The options on the Mental Disorder Tables often have quite punishing mechanical effects. They cannot be fairly described as little quirks of madness, but instead as something that will consume the Heretic's everyday life. A good roleplayer may be forced to make some quite pronounced changes in order to take into account the Disorder (see problem 4). Furthermore, a roleplayer who has statted their Heretic a certain way to be good at certain tasks may be betrayed by a random number table.
  3. There's not enough options: Each table contains 5 Disorders. That provides only 20 different Disorders. As a GM, it is common for different characters to have the same Disorder, which takes away any uniqueness that the Disorder might have given them. In practice, for example, this group favours Slaanesh and Tzeentch, which means we're only really dealing with 10 Disorders. Doubling up is not particularly unlikely, and, from experience, across different games the lack of variety becomes somewhat dull.
  4. It's not characterful: This is probably the most important. As noted in problem 2, a good roleplayer trying to take into account a Disorder may have to completely reassess how they roleplay their character. This isn't a good thing, because how the character is roleplayed is then not down to the player. Instead, it is down to a random number table. There is no choice involved to make a Disorder more characterful, or to try and mirror the horror that caused the Disorder in the first place.


I propose that we should modify the Disorder mechanics. Here are some active options:


  1. Scrap Disorders Entirely: We get rid of the Disorder mechanics and those who have Heretics with Disorders forget about them. I am not entirely against this option, but I think it would be a bit of a shame. People losing their minds to cosmic horror seems in line with the Warhammer setting, and mechanical effects help reinforce the setting.
  2. Adopt Dark Heresy Rules: The Dark Heresy Disorder mechanics allows the player and GM to choose the Disorder they find appropriate, from a non-exhaustive list of options such as certain phobias, compulsions and so on. We would probably say that a Challenging (+0) Willpower Test was involved to resist them, where appropriate, with situational modifiers. I am reasonably keen on this option. There is some mechanical effect, such that Disorders cannot simply be forgotten when inconvenient to the Heretic, but they are more tailored to the character. 
  3. Disorders Become Fluffy: This option abandons giving Disorders a fixed mechanical effect. When a Heretic gets a Disorder, the GM and the player work together to determine how the experience has shaken the character to their core. The GM, using this information, may occasionally request situational Willpower Tests to avoid the Heretic being affected in certain appropriate ways, such as corrupting flashbacks, phobias, or distractions. This is a bit like option 2, but with complete free choice of what the Disorder amounts to. This isn't without drawbacks, because the player has less information about when they can expect their characters to struggle with the Disorder. However, I'm also reasonably keen on this idea, and as the GM I wouldn't be trying to screw anyone over.
  4. We Add Options/Choice: I add this option not because I'm keen on it, but for sake of completeness. We could add further Disorders to the Black Crusade Tables, and/or allow players to choose their favourite Disorder from those Tables. If we didn't give the players choice, then problem 4 would remain. Adding options might help with problem 3, but I still worry that it would be restrictive - unless I added a hundred options or something, which frankly sounds like a lot of work.


These options are those I've just thought up and are not meant to be exhaustive. I wanted to open up the discussion to the players, as this affects all of you. While we are determining what happens with the Mental Disorder mechanics, any Heretic who has a Mental Disorder can ignore its effects. However, remember how many Disorders the Heretic has, so we know as and when the mechanics are modified. 

Please discuss freely, and let's try and come up with a hack that's a little more satisfying to play with! Alternatively, if you want to defend the current mechanics, please feel free to: there may be some advantages I have overlooked, or, you know, we might just have an honest disagreement.

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Re: Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by Jewelcast on Thu Sep 22, 2016 6:47 pm

Honestly, my favourite option is 1. I feel capable of regulating my own descent into madness (see Plan Never Sleep Again), and prefer that the mechanics don't meddle in my fun.

I don't super object to receiving mechanical penalties for madness, though. I think the effects of the standard disorders are probably too severe, considering how easy they are to acquire, but eh.

Options 3 and 2, in that order, also seem preferable to the current system. Option 4 seems impractical.

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Re: Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by wren on Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:26 am

I favour the options in the form 3, 1, 2, 4.

I would quite like to keep /something/ of 3, because I like the idea of being out of control as to what happens to my characters. I can see my current non-Gracious PC interacting well with this, for instance. I trust you as the GM to be fair with this - but I also like things being outside my control.

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Re: Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by The GM on Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:07 am

I also favour 3. Though Eleanor's roleplaying of her characters' troubles has been fantastic, other players may not focus on their characters' breakdowns to the same extent. And I think the odd reminder in mechanics might be helpful.

I suspect that, in practice, Eleanor's approach and option 3 will not be very far apart. Because Eleanor is so willing to roleplay the troubles of her characters, the kinds of thing she imposes herself on those characters would just be those things I would impose with the Disorder Mechanics. As such, Eleanor might see little change in how things go, as long as she continues her awesome journey on the trauma train.

I'm just going to see if Olli has an opinion on this, but I'm leaning towards option 3 as a suitable middle ground.

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Re: Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by wren on Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:10 am

Yes - I certainly remember with my PC who, um, had that incident recently (keeping spoiler-free for Oli), before her death she had a disorder that I found quite hard to naturally come out of her characterization, and the mental problems she did have didn't gel with that at all - I'd appreciated something that fits. Smile

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Re: Mental Disorder Mechanics

Post by The GM on Sun Sep 25, 2016 9:46 pm

Ok, I'm going to assume that Oli is fine with option 3. I'll contact people shortly about how they think their ordeals affected them.

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