Rise from the ashes
What is Sanity?
Sanity is the natural mental state of ordinary life. Normal mental balance is endangered when characters confront horrors, entities, or activities that are shocking, unnatural, and bewildering. Such encounters cause a character to lose points from his Sanity score, which in turn risks temporary, indefinite, or permanent insanity. Mental stability and lost Sanity points can be restored, up to a point, but psychological scars may remain.
Insanity occurs if too many Sanity points are lost in too short a time. Insanity does not necessarily occur if Sanity points are low, but a lower Sanity score makes some forms of insanity more likely to occur after a character experiences an emotional shock. The character’s Sanity may be regained after a few minutes, recovered after a few months, or lost forever.
Making a Sanity Check
When a character encounters a gruesome, unnatural, or supernatural situation, the GM may require the player to make a Sanity check using percentile dice (d%). The check succeeds if the result is equal to or less than the character’s current Sanity.
On a successful check, the character either loses no Sanity points or loses only a minimal amount. Potential Sanity loss is usually shown as two numbers or die rolls separated by a slash, such as 0/1d4. The number before the slash indicates the number of Sanity points lost if the Sanity check succeeds (in this case, none); the number after the slash indicates the number of Sanity points lost if the Sanity check fails (in this case, between 1 and 4 points).
A character’s current Sanity is also at risk when the character reads certain books, learns certain types of spells, and attempts to cast them. These Sanity losses are usually automatic (no Sanity check is allowed); the character who chooses to undertake the activity forfeits the indicated number of Sanity points.
In most cases, a new Sanity-shaking confrontation requires a new Sanity check. However, the GM always gets to decide when characters make Sanity checks. Confronting several horribly mangled corpses at one time or in rapid succession may call for just one Sanity check, while the same corpses encountered singly over the course of several game hours may require separate checks.
h2. Going Insane
Losing more than a few Sanity points may cause a character to go insane, as described below. If a character’s Sanity score drops to 0 or lower, she begins the quick slide into permanent insanity. Each round, the character loses another point of Sanity. Once a character’s Sanity score reaches -10, she is hopelessly, incurably insane. The Heal skill can be used to stabilize a character on the threshold of permanent insanity; see The Heal Skill and Mental Treatment, below, for details.
A GM’s description of a Sanity-shaking situation should always justify the threat to a character’s well-being. Thus, a horde of frothing rats is horrifying, while a single ordinary rat usually is not (unless the character has an appropriate phobia, of course).