Horror in Pathfinder - or Mental Stability

Back to House Rules

Starting Stability

All characters have a stability score of 10 + Will Save OR level (minimum 10). Stability checks are considered to Fear Saves.

The mental stability of Characters and NPCs can be impacted by extremes of violence or unnatural experiences. The GM may waive Stability rolls based on character experience or background.

Stability and sanity
All characters have a stability score of 10 + Will Save OR level (minimum 10). NPC classes do NOT add level.

Each time a character is subject to anything that might result in stability loss he must make a will save (considered a save vs. fear effect) or lose stability.

Martial characters (which includes rogues in this case) have more resistance to physical perils and a bonus ( + 2 ) to resist stability losses from such. The GM may rule that they can ignore rolls for seeing a mundane dead body, blood etc. Likewise characters with magical ability and experiences gain a bonus ( + 2 ) against supernatural threats, and the GM may rule they can avoid losses from simple supernatural phenomenons.

The save to prevent stability loss is treated as a mind-affecting, fear ability for the purposes of bonuses and penalties to the Will save. Creatures immune to fear or mind-effecting effects gain a +5 bonus to saves against stability loss and reduces the amount lost by half (minimum 1). Class features, feats or traits that increase saves against fear are used in the saving throw.

When you have less than 10 stability left, you are treated as shaken for the encounter, when you have less than 5 you are frightened with the source of your stability loss as the source of the effect. If you have 0 or less stability remaining you are panicked. Penalties to saving throws, attack rolls etc for the condition also apply

If you are immune to fear or mind-effecting effects you are instead fatigued, then exhausted then staggered. These conditions last until you can regain enough stability to recover. Mindless creatures like vermin are immune to stability loss as are creatures immune to ability damage.

The ‘bravery’ fighter class ability reduces any amount of lost stability by the listed bonus to fear saves.

Stability returns at the same rate as lethal damage is healed (1 per level with a night of rest) assuming that the character is in peaceful or calm surroundings, double that if resting for a full day. Generally a good nights sleep can do wonders.

Some situations may call for an unadjusted roll, and the stability roll is made without the +2 save that may apply.

There are, however, events, spells, creatures or tomes that will strip the sanity from the minds of those who encounter it on a permanent basis. In such cases stability loss is permanent.

Events are broken into the following categories.

A mundane shock like being surprised by a dead body or experiencing something frightening like being threatened with violence or experiencing something bizarre such as hearing ghostly voices. These disturbing but not necessarily dangerous experiences have a DC of 10 and a stability loss of 1d3. Seeing single or small groups of strange Humanoid Monsters etc may qualify for this category.

A more terrifying visage like that of a mutilated corpse, witnessing a scary supernatural event, or being in physical or mental peril has a DC of 13 and a stability loss of 1d4. This is the usual check for normal combat or being subjected to harmful magic. Large numbers of humanoid monsters etc, individual or small groups of corporeal undead, supernatural, hideous or large monsters may qualify for this category.

A horrific experience like being in mortal peril, seeing the death of a friend or loved one, witnessing something horrifying like themselves or others being subjected to torture has a DC of 15 and a stability loss of 1d6. This can be also being subject to a supernatural assault or hostile magical control including magical fear. You must usually make this check if you are reduced below 0 hit points, see the most competent of your party die or such things. Large numbers of large, undead, supernatural or hideous monsters as well as a huge or a larger monster, or aberration may qualify for this category. Magical control may result in losses even if the save is made, and in extreme cases, may result in permanent losses.

A truly terrifying event like being subjected to one of your greatest fears, being forced to kill or torture a loved one, being brought back from the dead or witnessing a terrible supernatural evil has a DC of 18 (or more) and a stability loss of 1d10. If you are the lone survivor and must face the horror alone this is the sort of check you must make. DMs may have certain monsters such as demons and so on fall into this category. A save will still result in D3 stability loss. Some encounters on this scale result in permanent losses to stability.

Mind shattering
The most terrifying experiences like being buried alive or possessed by a malign evil or witnessing cosmic horrors has a DC of 21+ or higher and a stability loss of 2d8 or more. A save will still result in D6 stability loss. Most encounters on this scale result in permanent losses to stability.

Snapping out of it:
A character who gains an adverse condition by losing stability may use a full-round action to snap out of it and recover. This save is made at the original save for the first attempt and can be attempted with +5 DC for each additional attempt. All penalties associated with the condition is also present. A frightened or panicked character can only attempt this save when the threat that caused the condition is out of sight. A staggered character must spend two full rounds to snap out of it. A character who snaps out of it doesn’t regain any lost stability but may ignore the adverse effects of his lost stability until he loses more. Other players may use Bluff, Diplomacy or Intimidate Checks at DC15 to provide a +2 bonus in the characters attempt to snap out of it.

Fainting or temporary insanity
Each time you fail a save against stability loss by 5 or more and lose more than 50% of your current stability as a result, you make a DC15 will save. Pass and you are stunned, if you fail you faint and become unconscious for 1d4 minutes or until you are healed of any amount of stability damage. A character can also be brought back from unconsciousness by using smelling salts, strong liquors etc (a full round action) or a heal skill check DC 10 as a standard action. Any amount of damage (or some rough physical handling as a full-round action) will also immediately awaken an unconscious character. Alternatively, instead of fainting, the character can be affected by a temporary phobia or insanity until healed (such can not be from natural recovery of stability) of any amount of stability damage.

On the DM’s discretion certain characters may be more or less resistant to certain maladies as fitting for their background, alignments and vocations. For example: a good creature forced to harm an innocent would have a higher difficulty than an evil one, and a fighter would probably not falter if someone threatened him with physical violence. Likewise characters may treat certain specific turmoil’s as more potent if they have a personal fear or aversion to the triggering event.

Regaining lost stability:
Stability returns at the same rate as natural healing of lethal damage, but only in peaceful and calm surroundings. Spells that calm emotions and heal ability damage may heal some or all lost stability.

Remove fear can also restore 1d3 points of lost stability and remove the effects of stability loss if so chosen.
A lesser restoration spell restores 1d4 lost stability.
A calm emotions spell removes the effects of reduced stability and fear for the duration of the spell. This may give a player a chance to regain stability in circumstances that are less than peaceful.
A restoration, greater restoration or heal spell restores all lost stability.

You also can gain permanent stability points when successfully banishing or defeating supernatural or magical terrors – for each major accomplishment in a horror Campaign the Characters may be awarded with a permanent stability point (in an adventure path this is usually when an installment is finished). Likewise if a Character achieves a personal goal he may be awarded a permanent stability point.

Phobias and personal fears:
If a character hits 0 stability they may develop phobias and fears against the horrors that pushed the person over the edge. Any stability checks against horrors related to his phobias and fears are treated as one step worse. Even encountering the mundane things invoking his fears requires a check (usually at the lowest DC). The phobia must be something that will be relevant to the game and may actually cause trouble. He may choose the same phobia more than once in which case the severity of the check increase by one degree for each time it is chosen. A compulsion could also be chosen in place of a phobia, if the GM feels it is appropriate.

Permanent stability loss:
Each time a character’s stability drops to 0 or lower, a point is permanently lost. If a characters sanity is broken (dropping to 0 Wisdom) that character loses 1d3+1 permanent points of stability. If a pc dies and is brought back he loses 1d4 points of stability permanently. Only a restoration spell or more powerful magic can restore permanently lost stability points.

Curing Insanity
All insanities have a DC that represents the insanity’s strength. An insanity’s DC indicates the Will save you need to roll in order to resist contracting the insanity when you are initially exposed to it, but also the DC you need to make to recover. Recovering from an insanity naturally is a lengthy process — once per week, you make a Will save against the insanity’s current DC. If you succeed on this save, the insanity’s DC is reduced by a number of points equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum of 1). You continue to suffer the full effects of the insanity until its DC is reduced to 0, at which point you are cured and the insanity vanishes completely.

Lesser restoration has no effect on insanity, but restoration reduces the current DC of one insanity currently affecting a target by an amount equal to the caster’s level. Greater restoration, heal, limited wish, miracle, or wish immediately cures a target of all insanity.

Someone with Skill Focus: Healing can provide an Aid Another bonus of +2 to the victims save if they can succeed in a skill check against the same DC.

Some optional modifiers and ideas for this system.

Strength in numbers:
In combat situations, outnumbering your foe grants a +2 circumstance bonus to will saves to avoid stability loss from being in physical danger. The opposite may occurwhen outnumbered.

Fighting for a cause:
If a loved one or a personal ideal is at stake you may gain a +2 circumstance bonus on your will save to resist the horror.

Being able to exploit a weakness of the horror:
If you knowingly possess something that the threat has a vulnerability to then the confidence can provide you a +2 circumstance bonus on your will save to resist the horror.

Getting used to awfulness:
Each time you are subject to stability loss from the same kind of effect or turmoil the GM may rule you gain a cumulative +1 circumstance bonus on your save and/or any stability loss is reduced by 1 to a maximum of +5 to the save and -5 stability loss. The DM may rule that there are certain events you may never get used to.

Frightful presence:
Creatures with frightful presence incur a stability loss at a degree one worse than normal in addition to their normal effects.

Insane insights:
When a pc has suffered wisdom damage due to stability loss he gains an insight bonus to all knowledge checks that involve the nature of the event that triggered the loss equal to half the total number of points lost. He may make the appropriate Knowledge check as an immediate reaction, gaining some insight into the threat if they succeed.

Roleplaying Stability losses.

As a PC loses stability points he becomes more and more unhinged and his behavior becomes increasingly erratic. When he first lose stability he will often act nervous, maybe joke a bit about it or start talking rapidly. Some may gasp and swoon, hold their mouths or cover their faces in disgust or shock. Praying or cursing is a common reaction to seeing horrors. Some react with determined anger or silent contemplation.

Someone with low stability will usually act in an odd and even illogical way. Some become distant and difficult to communicate with effectively. Others might obsess over things, usually whatever caused their stability to falter. Some become almost suicidal and hysterical. More unscrupulous characters might turn psychotic, sacrificing the safety of others to serve their own needs.

A shaken character will often physically tremble, his eyes move from side to side in a frantic motion. He may be short of breath and when he speaks he will often stutter or jumble up words. A frightened character may become pale white. They may burst out in tears or bouts of hysterical laughter or screaming. His speech will often be completely incomprehensible. A panicked character will often scream at the top of his lungs. In extreme circumstances their hair might even turn white. He may flail about uncontrollably screaming and crying and gibbering nonsense. If cornered he will usually fall down in a fetal position rocking back and forth while mumbling.

It is important to note that, unlike Call of Cthulhu, Insanity or a lack of Stability does not mean that your character must be retired… it just makes it very likely they will be killed or incarcerated at some point in the future.

Back to House Rules

Horror in Pathfinder - or Mental Stability

Helaman's Play By Post Carrion Crown Helaman