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HERO: Sanity



  1. Individuals react differently to terror.
  2. Terror can have both a temporary and long lasting effects.
  3. Sanity loss can be healed. 
  4. Immediate reaction can include panic without changing temporary or long lasting effects.
  5. Sanity loss should be fun, quick, and not detract from the current scene.


Shock - that initial burst of fear that creates that flight or fight response. 

Dread - the slow build up of dread that ultimately leads to despair.

Terror - the realization that your understanding of reality (mundane or cosmic) has been undone, ultimately leading to long lasting mental damage and insanity. 

I think Hero does Shock just fine, both mechanically and as an effect. Dread and Terror however are a bit more open. 

Dread could be addressed by a PRE Drain. Dread can be acquired either through Atmosphere (spooky tension) and in the aftermath of Shock (Aftershock?).

  • Atmosphere should be a PRE Drain, but low point level. 1 PRE per 2 points of failure on an EGO roll (modified by the creep factor). There should be a way to "snap out of it" and "focus" either by character action or the interplay of Complications and such (e.g my DNPC is threatened which may suspend the penalty but then require another EGO roll after the situation is resolved to reconcile "what could have happened to my baby", which may make things worse).
  • Aftershock could require an EGO Roll, -2 per level of PRE Attack (i.e. +0 is -2, +10 is -4, +20 is -6, etc.). The same 1 PRE per 2 failure seems appropriate here too.
  • A shot of whiskey, a smoke, a shower, a good meal, sex - anything that makes us feel human and alive could provide a recovery of some of that PRE loss.

Terror would be appropriately handled in a couple of ways, possibly multiple effects. Modeling it Cthulhu style, I see it as both a Severe Transform (partial) and Mind Control, both linked to the Shock results. Would this be an actual power? Not really - it is an Environmental Effect, although monsters that generate Terror perhaps should pay for them. Regardless, here are the effects:

  • Disorder is measured by the EGO damage delivered by the Transform effect, something like 1/2d6 per level of PRE Attack (like Aftershock). Each stage of the partial transform (Cosmetic at 1/2 EGO, Minor at EGO, Major at 1 1/2x EGO, and Severe at 2x EGO) comes with associated mental disorders that are retained until that level of transform is completely healed.
  • Insanity is an immediate Mind Control effect specific to the moment. Characters would get Breakout rolls as normal. If the character crosses an EGO Transform threshold, the Mind Control effect will remain, possibly at half effect as the new disorder acquired by the character.

Hope could be introduced to a survival horror game that can be used almost like Heroic Action Points relative to Shock, Dread, and Terror to avoid or overcome the effects. 

I'm sure there is a way, once some of the mechanics are tweaked properly, that the Disorder effect (EGO damage) is handled as the BODY of the PRE Attack result. 

I also like the contest of skills approach, and usually in my non-horror games I use EGO rolls, with appropriate modifiers, to determine any EGO damage or disorderly effect either to reinforce the Dread or Terror concepts above, or even the Shock effect. I dislike a single PRE Attack roll affecting all characters with the same level of effect. I prefer a uniform penalty to PRE or EGO rolls based on what would be the PRE Attack with a modifier equal to +2 minus 1 per 1d6 PRE Attack (e.g. a 7d6 PRE attack is a -3 EGO or PRE Roll). The effect is +1 level per 2 points of failure, so failure by 1-2 is PRE +0, failure by 3-4 is PRE +10, failure by 5-6 is PRE +20, 7-8 is PRE +30).

Modeling sanity loss is always a challenging issue. Hero has great mechanics for broad-based mental effects, but they are generally applied uniformly across a group, which is rarely appropriate for something as personal as sanity. Certainly the narrative tells us that while one character might be going fetal or fleeing in terror, other characters should have the potential to hold their ground and stay calm.

Final Rules

  1. Fear Check
    1. PRE Roll to determine Presence Attack effect
      1. Subtract the success of the player's roll from PRE Attack Dice to determine effect (add any failure):
        • 4 = PRE Effect
        • 7 = PRE +10
        • 10 = PRE +20 plus 1/2d6 Dread
        • 13 = PRE +30 plus 1d6 Dread
      2. The Fear Power is bought as a 1d6 PRE & EGO Drain with the "Effect Limited By Fear Check Results" -1 Limitation. This is also an indicator of creatures or situations that cause Fear.
  2. Dread Check
    1. EGO Roll; Failure = 1 Dread per 2 points of failure (round up).
    2. Atmosphere imposes a penalty based on how creepy or dreadful or oppressive the area is.
      • Darkness -1
      • Obscured Vision -1
      • Decrepit/Ruined area -2
      • Isolated location -1
      • Character believes in reputation of location -1 to -3
      • Character has fled this location in fear -2
      • Character has faced fear in this location and triumphed +2
    3. Dread Effects
      • Drain EGO and PRE by an amount equal to the total Dread.
    4. Recovery
      1. Time: 5 per Week
      2. Humanity: A shot of whiskey, a smoke, a shower, a good meal - anything that makes us feel human and alive provides 1/2d6 points recovered with a successful PRE roll, +1/2d6 per 2 points of success. Failure by 4 or more causes an additional 1/2d6 Dread as the character realizes how pointless it all is.
        • Companionship can provide you a +1 to the Humanity roll, +2 if especially intimate. The companion must succeed at a PRE Roll at +4 
        • Success by less than half can earn Inspiration: eliminate all Dread and roll PRE again and determine the amount of Inspiration earned, which is an Aid to EGO and PRE. Future Dread reduces Inspiration before imposing Dread.
        • Maximum recovered per day through Humanity is 12 points. 
      3. Counseling will also allow a roll. A successful KS: Psychology adds +2 to this roll unless the counselor also has PS: Physician (which also requires SS: Medicine, SS: Physiology, and SS: Biology), in which case the normal Complementary Skill rules apply but with an additional +1. 
  3. Terror
    1. Creatures with the Terror ability cause permanent mental damage tracked as Sanity. The Terror power is a Severe Transform vs. EGO with the Partial Transform and AVAD (Resistant Power Defense) Advantages. This represents progressively worse transformations (Cosmetic at 1/2 EGO, Minor at EGO, Major at 1 1/2x EGO, and Severe at 2x EGO). This damage is avoided by an EGO Roll. 
    2. EGO Roll has a penalty of -1 per 2 Sanity damage (max -10), plus -1 per point of Corruption (see Mythos Lore). 
    3. Each point of success reduces the Sanity damage the character sustains. 
    4. Failure results in the character taking the listed Transform damage.
    5. Any Drain to EGO is ignored when determining the effects of Transform.
    6. A Natural 3-4 or success by half allows the character to recover Sanity damage equal to half of the normal Terror effect. 

Terror Examples

PRE    Terror    Description          
2d6    0         mangled animal carcass
2d6    0         blood flowing    
3d6    0         corpse/body part
4d6    0         mangled human corpse
3d6    0         minor animal/mundane threat (angry dog, guy with a knife)
5d6    0         major animal/mundane threat (large wolf, bear, guy with a gun)
7d6    0         extreme animal/mundane threat (elephant, polar bear, pack of wolves, guys with guns)
6d6    1/2d6     witness a friend's violent death
6d6    1d6       awake in death trap, still alive
8d6    1 1/2d6   undergo severe torture
3d6    1/2d6     meet someone you know to be dead
2-3d6  1/2d6     lesser mythos creature
4d6    1d6       minor mythos creature (ghoul, nightgaunt, mi-go)
5d6    1d6+1     major mythos creatures (gug, ghast)
6-8d6  1 1/2d6   greater mythos creatures (flying polyps, hunting horrors)
6-8d6  2d6       epic mythos creatures (dholes, formless spawn, leng spiders, hounds of tindalos)
5d6    1d6       see a corpse rise from its grave
8d6    2d6       see gigantic severed head fall from the sky
8d6    3d6       see Elder God 
10d6   4d6       see Great Old One 
12d6   8d6       see Outer God

Recovering Terror Damage
  1. Psychotherapy
  2. Psychiatric Medicine
  3. Overcoming Terror
    • If a character defeats something that causes terror recovers an amount of Terror damage equal to the amount the creature causes. Defeating a group of Terrors maximizes the result.
  4. Time
    • The character recovers 1 Terror Damage per week of total peace and no stress if he succeeds at an EGO roll (with all current Terror penalties). This is unlikely to happen.
Resisting Terror
  1. Characters can buy Power Defense (5 points), Inherent (+1/4), Resistant (+1/2); Only Versus Fear/Terror Attacks (-1) to resist Terror. The maximum they can buy is 5. 



Can be controlled with an INT roll or succumb for 2d6 Phases. Each subsequent exposure to Terror will trigger an episode if the character fails and INT roll. All Terror penalties apply.

3-5   fainting or screaming fit
6-7   flees in panic
8     physical hysterics or emotional outburst (laughing, crying, etc.)
9     babbling, incoherent, rapid speech, or logorrhea (a torrent of coherent speech)
10    intense phobia, perhaps rooting investigator to the spot
11    homicidal or suicidal mania
12    hallucinations or delusions
13    echopraxia or echolalia (investigator does/says what others around him do/say)
14-15 strange or deviant eating desire (dirt, slime, cannibalism, etc.)
16-18 stupor (assumes foetal positions, oblivious to events) or catatonia (can stand but has no will or interest; may be led or forced to simple actions but takes no independent action)


Can be controlled with an INT roll or succumb for 3d6x5 hours. Each subsequent exposure to Terror will trigger an episode if the character fails and INT roll. All Terror penalties apply.

3-5   amnesia (memories of intimates usually lost first; languages and physical skills engaged, but intellectual skills absent) or stupor/catatonia (see short term)
6-7   severe phobia (can flee, but sees object of obsession everywhere)
8     hallucinations
9     strange sexual desires (exhibitionism, nymphomania or satyriasis, teratophilia, etc.)
10    fetish (investigator latches onto some object, type of object or person as a safety blanket)
11    uncontrollable ties, tremors, or inability to communicate via speech or writing
12    psychosomatic blindness, deafness, or loss of the use of a limb or limbs
13    brief reactive psychosis (incoherence, delusions, aberrant, behavior, and/or hallucinations)
14-15 temporary paranoia
16-18 compulsive rituals (washing hands, praying, walking in a particular rhythm, never stepping on cracks, checking one's gun constantly etc.)


Such lunacy is often not summed up by a single roll. Indefinite Insanities should be chosen with care and often do not immediately manifest, but when they do the character will be hindered significantly. These traits will last for 1d6 months and may resurface if the character is not healed.

3-4   Amnesia
5     Delusions and Hallucinations 
6     Depression
7     Generalized Anxiety Disorder 
8     Mania
9     Night Terrors
10    Obsession
11    Obsessive-Compulsive
12    Paranoia
13    Phobia
14    Psychotic Episodes
15    Sociopathic Tendencies
16-18 Weak Mind

Mythos Lore

Mythos lore is a dangerous subject. The more a character knows of the Mythos the less sane he can possibly be. Those of strong mind can often fair well as their knowledge blossoms, and as a result such individuals often believe they can safely master even deeper lore. 

This is not true. 

Mythos Lore is not a skill that can be bought with experience but can only be earned during game play. Tomes and Grimoires can provide ready knowledge to those who would seek it out, and possibly reveal secret magics.


Mythos Lore is a unique skill that starts at 3- with a character's first experience and costs 1 Character Point. The only way a character may acquire Mythos Lore is either by reading a book or by going insane (any level of Transformation as a result of Terror). Each experience allows the character to raise his skill by +1. When the skill reaches 11-, the skill costs 2 points, and each subsequent increase costs 1 point, typically paid for through a reduction in EGO (see below). 

After a book is read (requiring 2d6x3 hours) the character attempts a Mythos Lore roll at +3 (or INT roll +0, whichever is higher), applying the Complexity penalty of the book, as well as a Language penalty. All such books require the character to be Completely Fluent in the Language. He suffers a penalty of -1 if his mastery is Fluent Conversation, -3 if only Basic Conversation. If his knowledge is Idiomatic he is +1 and if he can Imitate Dialects it is +3. If successful, the character has understood what he read and may increase his Mythos Lore by 1 point plus +1 point per 3 Complexity. Regardless, the character must make a Terror Check or suffer 1/2d6 Sanity Damage per point of Complexity; each 2 points of success on the previous roll grants a +1 to the Terror Check. 

Skimming the book takes 1d6-1 hours (minimum 1) and will tell the character what is in the book, including whether or not there are any spells. 

A character's maximum EGO is equal to 36 - 2 x Mythos Lore. If the character's EGO is greater than this those points can be allocated elsewhere.