Hey kid – wanna see a dead body?
Some Useful Definitions
- Baseline – What is normal behaviour for your character. This need not be “normal” for society at large. It is the base level at which your character feels in full control of themselves: How your character is written, effectively.
- Insanity – When your character deviates from their Baseline behaviour.
- Threats – Events, objects or experiences which Threaten your character’s Baseline.
- Flaw – What gets exacerbated when your character is Threatened. Flaws are underlying, uncontrollable tics, habits, traits, ways of thinking, etc. which become more extreme and more irrational the more Threatened you are.
- Coping Mechanism – How Flaws can be counteracted. At their most extreme, Coping Mechanisms might resemble insanities; however, undertaking a Coping Mechanism is a conscious decision by the Player/Character. Although possibly dangerous in and of itself, it will return you to your Baseline faster.
- Numb – Threats which your character might have a pre-established familiarity with which means they will not deviate from their Baseline when confronted with them in game.
- Hardening – What happens when a character over-exposes themselves to a specific Threat.
- Your character will encounter Mundane or Unnatural Threats to their Baseline sanity – that is: how they are from day to day. These Threats might threaten them physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally. You can fight, flee, freeze or faint as an immediate reaction. Whatever you do will be influenced by the fact that…
- When threatened, your character has a Flaw that becomes aggravated. Flaws cannot be controlled: they can only be counteracted.
- Your character can – if they choose (or if others force it on them) – bring that Flaw under check by indulging in a Coping Mechanism. This will enable them to return to their Baseline faster, but might carry a harsh penalty in and of itself.
Let’s look at those three elements more closely:
1. Threats to Sanity
Flaws are uncontrollable behaviours, addictions, tics, or underlying personality traits which come to the fore when your character is exposed to a Threat.
At lower levels, the effect may only be noticeable to someone who knows your character well. At higher levels, however, it’s going to be exacerbated to such an extent that it might place them or others in danger.
The Flaw should kick in before a Coping Mechanism can be used. Coping Mechanisms can only be employed as a counter-measure. If you have a Flaw which cannot be immediately indulged, then we recommend that you follow one of the four stock responses:
- Fight: You become irrationally violent and will lash out.
- Flight: Run away! Run away and hide!
- Freeze: Your mind is overwhelmed and you find yourself unable to act or think until enough time passes or someone slaps you out of it.
- Faint: you pass out.
3. Coping Mechanisms
You can use your character’s Coping Mechanisms to bring their Flaw in check.
You will have two Coping Mechanisms on your sheet: Active and Passive. Functionally, these do exactly the same, but they provide players with more options for role play and dealing with what’s happening to aggravate your character.
An Active Coping Mechanism will see your character more engaged in the world around them and will have a defined purpose or outcome.
A Passive Coping Mechanism will be more internalised.
A theatrical character, for example, may have an Active Coping Mechanism of “Perform!” and a Passive Coping Mechanism of “Learn Lines”; a scientific mind may have an Active Coping Mechanism of “Speculate Wildly And Loudly!” and a Passive Coping Mechanism of “Run The Numbers” (i.e. sit off to one side and make sure they’ve got a solid understanding by reviewing their notes).
The more Threatened your character is – the more they are expressing their Flaw – the more extreme the Coping Mechanism must be.
Flaws and Coping Mechanisms should work together. Alcoholism to Person A is not going to manifest in the same way as alcoholism in Person B. Sure, they both drink, but if Person A’s Flaw is Gregariousness and Person B’s Flaw is Misanthropy, imagine how they will scale when things start getting messy?
As for how extreme your Coping Mechanism has to be at any one time and how long you have to adopt/perform it for, that’s an exercise in role play. Best way to think about it is if you were in the situation and your vice of choice was X, how much would you want to use it until tic Y was out of your system?
Waiting It Out
It is not mandatory for you to use your Coping Mechanism. It might be outright impractical for your character to slip away for a line, or take themselves out of the game for half an hour to indulge in quiet meditation. It might be worth role playing through the Flaw in order to keep your head clear of intoxicants (if intoxicants feature as your Coping Mechanism) or not remove yourself from discussion at a time when it’s started to get interesting.
The bottom line is that it’s up to you the player and the character to decide whether you want to be uncontrolled crazy (your innate Flaw) or controlled crazy (your conscious Coping Mechanism).
Being Numbed affords you a level of established immunity from your Flaw when confronted with specific objects or actions. Once you get your character background, you’ll start to get a pretty good idea about the sort of things that will or won’t faze them. Players can decide for themselves whether or not their character is Numb to Mundane Threats (such as violence), however, all players must react to coloured Threat cards unless you have been explicitly told that you are numbed to something.
Over the course of an event, it is possible for your character to become hardened through exposure to sanity Threats. This is not necessarily a good thing. Should a player-character willingly immerse themselves in a Threat, a Ref may approach them and tell them the effect this has.
The end result depends on what the player has exposed themselves to, but will most likely result in a medium/long term role play instruction. The character will be immune to the Threat posed by that specific thing, but will still be subject to sanity Threats from other items/objects/locations/situations/face-sucking monsters.