Sanity Rules for Pathfinder from KQ

Kobold Quarterly has published some bonus material for their eleventh issue that has madness and sanity rules for Pathfinder/3.x!  Check them out.  [Edit: Part 2 is out too.]

I’ve used Sanity in D&D before.  I think these rules are OK, but there are three problems I have with them.

1.  A minor gripe – the Mind stat being the “best of Wis/Int/Cha.”  That’s a holdover from this being a conversion from a 4e article, you never do that “best of” stuff in 3.5.  I always used Wisdom exclusively.

2. They try to hew just a little too close to the Call of Cthulhu Sanity rules.  I like those rules, in fact when I do sanity I do it “largely” that way – 5xWIS.  But then they carry over some things I feel like don’t make sense in the average D&D game.  Penalizing starting WIS because of Knowledge skills is an example of “too much rules” and it’s even going overboard from Cthulhu- in CoC you only get this penalty for Mythos Knowledge, not just any occult knowledge.

3.  And then they put a lot of SAN loss – too much – for only mildly horrific creatures.  1d8 for dragons, outsiders, and undead and 1d12 for aberrations…  Even Mythos creatures generally did less. In CoC, undead are d4 to d8, byakees and Deep Ones are only d6…  It’s the Old Ones etc. themselves that have big SAN losses.  I think this approach makes it too much like “mental hit points” and doesn’t get the feel you get from CoC, where little stuff gets you a little, basically softening you up for the big horrid outer god.  I know it’s hard to do in an article but they need to vary it more, a musteval guardinal is going to hit you for way less SAN than some gnarly daemon thing.  The default SAN losses by creature type are way too high. Jesus, in d20 CoC the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath are only d10, less than a carrion crawler apparently.

It’s not their fault, it’s just that the types are used too gratuitously in D&D.  There’s these Medium lobster critters in Golarion called reefclaws.  Dangerous, sure.  But they are aberrations instead of being magical beasts or whatnot.  Screws the rangers and now they are supposed to be super sanity blasting?  Maybe  if you don’t have any melted butter…

I do think the atrocity level of SAN loss is appropriate.  I’d like to see the list expanded; in my experience this is the best place from a storytelling point of view to deal with Sanity.  The list seems to “wuss out” and eliminate bad things characters can do.  Witnessing a murder or being tortured gets a SAN loss, but what about murdering or torturing?  One of the main points of using SAN is to show the consequences from being a big ass evil freak.

8 responses to “Sanity Rules for Pathfinder from KQ

  1. I will check these out indeed. Thanks for the overview and for bringing these rules to the RPGBN (where I found your post). I would have missed them otherwise, and I’ve considered adding SAN rules to my D&D games for a while. They tend to be a little bit horrific.

    These sound a little wonky, though (your dark young/carrion crawler example illustrates that plainly) but after a few tweaks I might just want to adopt them in my new Legacy of Fire campaign.

    Thanks again.

  2. rorschachhamster

    So fond memories of past times in madness induced fever dreams… *sigh*
    But, yeah, the points seem to be a little off – the dragon subtype is mentioned as a “maybe-makes -you-loose-sanitiy-critter”, if they are not all too common in your campaign.

  3. Thanks for posting these rules. Sanity looks like an excellent plot device (if tweeked a little).

  4. Doh, and I was just reading the Bestiary – the one new monster, the shoggoth, is an ooze and therefore by these rules incurs no sanity loss. 😛

  5. Mmm, Part 2 is out (linked in the article above) and I don’t think much of it. The permanent insanities are “balanced,” benefit to hindrance! WTF?!? Hell, they’re good enough people would want to take them as traits!

    No, I’m not exaggerating… “Design Note. These disorders are intended to roughly be a wash for their total penalty and benefit, providing primarily a fun mechanic to help flavor a character. For more gritty and grim adventuring, it is easy to ramp up the penalties or ramp down the benefits.”

    Screw that! You’re bothering with SAN tracking and all this for the payoff of a “fun” insanity? Insanity is “fun”? Son of a bitch! Yeah, let me “ramp” those for you – remove every single benefit and they’re still not all that bad. If all you get from a permanent insanity is -10 to saves against illusion… That’s lesser curse material, not a “track all these points through many horrific experiences and finally you crack and…” It’s just not. Bad form.

  6. Pingback: Aus aktuellem Anlass: « Rorschachhamster

  7. Bah! This is insanity for wimps! These people would wilt in a WFRP campaign. 😉

  8. Pingback: Comic Review: Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom | Lair of the Green Knight

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