Friday, 19 October 2018

eXPloration - XP is selling a story about a thing

My hind-brain is working on a campaign of exploring an underground ocean. The big inspiration is Sunless Sea, which has you hunting trophies and secrets for a network of collectors and spies. I want to stimulate that kind of loot-all behaviour by baking it right into the experience system for improving player characters.


The starting point is Jeff Rients' eXPloration, where you earn experience points for discovering fantastic locations. More about this from Terrible Sorcery, Ynas Midgard, ZZarchov, Greyhawk Grognard. When I used eXPloration before, it worked as a dare list at the local adventuring guild but got diluted by other sources of XP. This post is about making all XP gains about discovering sites and information, and bringing back trophies of your adventures.


  • XP is tied to physical trophies of your adventures: the stuff with a story attached. There can be extra treasure without an XP value which is still worth money.
  • You convert these trophies into money and XP by selling them to interested parties. Ask if you know any likely buyers or suggest shady contacts of your own.
  • Bigger sites can involve multiple items to carry all the XP home. If the DM hasn't prepped specific items, feel free to suggest mementoes you could take with you.
  • Each coin of silver earned via trophies gives you 1 XP. This assumes a silver-based economy - adjust to taste.
    • The currency standard is the silver shilling, equal to 10 copper pennies, each of which is worth 10 brass farthings. Read published prices in gp as silver shillings, prices in sp as copper pennies, prices in cp as brass farthings. Gold is rare and dangerous because of its connection to Sunlight.

  • The DM assigns value in money (and XP) to sites, situations, monsters etc., and decides how many trophies are needed to harvest this entire value. 
    • I assume DMs can determine on their own how hard and valuable they want a site to be, in other words how long until the characters level again. I can tell you my group leveled every 3-4 sessions in our last game, but then we play day-long sessions once every six weeks.
    • Be up front about the amount of items needed to clear a dungeon if you want to avoid players packratting entire dungeons. (Then again, if they're set on wasting resources and encounter checks hauling home stuff to sell, by all means let them.) Just tell them when they've got enough loot to claim all the XP. If you have to have a skill check, this is where to break out Appraise. (Of course feel free to put part of the treasure in an extra challenging or hidden room.)
  • Just in case this needs to be said: no XP for killing random opponents or for just bringing home a haul of coins and gems. Unless.
  • Carousing is still a thing. I don't want it to overshadow the main XP sources, so will probably tweak the gains a bit. If the regular rate is 1 XP per silver, maybe have carousing give 1 XP per 5 silver.


Characters build up potential XP by having a wild experience and bringing home something to show for their troubles. Characters then cash in on that XP when they get those items to an interested party.

A wild experience
To earn XP and improve themselves, characters have to do something that others will find valuable, impressive or memorable. No XP for just having a fight with some mooks or getting singed by a corridor of traps. The basis is still to get out there, explore the unknown and have an adventure. The further from home and the more harrowing exciting your expedition, the higher the reward. For example, earn XP by exploring or arranging something:

Explore - head into the dark and strange places where normal people fear to go. Be the first to climb down the Pit of Light, cross the green desert of Yul, find the source of the river Oshun, navigate Dathooley's Rage, find the passage to Aestival, walk the silk ropes of Leng, sound the Hadic Abyss off the Sentinel Isles.

DM: make it known via rumour tables what these challenging destinations are. Start with an inner ring of lower value sites close to home base that the players may want to explore early on. These are the sort-of-challenging destinations you hear about in the chatter on the docks. Then add stories about the high value truly freaky and remote; something wild and far away to wonder about in tavern room stories. Make new tables for distant ports that have their own local rings of exciting places.

Arrange - transport people or precious cargo, smuggle a casket of souls, evade a blockade, insert or extract spies, gather strategic information, scout a fortress or sabotage a facility, recover a long lost vessel, capture the Pirate-Poet, stop a shipment of Red Honey or track it to its horrific source.

DM: some of these are quests that the players receive up front, others are things the players can stumble upon. Big nasty sea monsters are included here, as should particularly devious pirates or drug dens; something to brag about when overcome. Put the Kraken on the rumour table as a thing to run away from - or track down and fight if they're foolhardy.

Sidebar - how to rate sites?
Jeff's original post spells out how he awards XP for discovering amazing sites. He maxes out at 2000 XP: that's a couple of levels worth for a level 1 character, petty change for someone at teleport level. Finding an awesome site isn't the only source of XP in my game, but it will be important.

A break-down of sites in 5 tiers. I've added some real-world and Sunless Sea examples.

  • Tier 1 - Island with commoners, local landmark. Expect fetch quests or prepare to collect rat tails.
  • Tier 2 - Trading port, haunted keep, remarkable regional natural site. Visit the three sisters of Hunter's Keep, check out the local dolmen, trade zailor stories in the harbour and check out who's moving what.
  • Tier 3 - Enemy or unaligned military installation, den of vile criminals, Otherlife settlement, ruined city. Visit Tortuga, talk to the exiled aristocracy of Hell at Port Palmerston, scout out the occupying Venetian fort of Spinalonga for the Cretans, haggle at the Brass Embassy, see the ruins of Carthage, trade sapphires with the tiger uprising in Port Carnelian
  • Tier 4 - Rival capitol, ancient city, sites of high weirdness, stunning landmark. Months from home. See the Niagara falls or Northern Lights out on the ice, plumb the depths of Godfall, visit Troy or Knossos, see Machu Picchu, obtain a license to trade at the Khanate, trade stories for a day in Adam's Way...
  • Tier 5 - Eldritch location, unique landmark. Find the source of the Nile, ride the Maelstrom, climb Mount Everest, reaching the North Pole, see the Sun and Surface.
  • Tier 8 - Mythical or otherworldly site - Shambhala, Atlantis, Irem of the Pillars, Plateau of Leng, Kingeater's Castle.
  • Tier 10 - Cosmically important  - to Hell, the Dreamlands or Parabola behind the mirrors.

Possible information you can bring home includes the following. Note that many villages and boring islands won't offer more than a location - recent news from a small, quiet settlement is unlikely to be interesting at home unless it's about a huge disaster like famine, disease or zombie invasion wiping out the entire hamlet:
  • LOCATION - 50 * tier XP - discovery of the site and its location on the map - can be earned only once. 
  • FIRST EVER DISCOVERY of a tier 3-5 site - 500 * tier XP - discovery of the site and its location on the map - can be earned only once.
  • NEWS - 50 * tier XP - location, size of port & populace; recent news. What you can learn from the dock. Sketch of coastline.
  • STRATEGIC INFORMATION - 150 * tier XP - up-to-date information on armed forces & power groups, if present; chart of surrounding waters with navigational dangers. What you have to ask around for.
  • VITAL INFORMATION - 500 * tier XP - up-to-date information on active plots, secrets implicating traitors, smuggling routes, hiding places. What you have to get your hands dirty for.
  • A DREADFUL CONSPIRACY - scale this to the danger it poses if left unchecked. For instance 50 XP for a localized plot: someone wants to murder the Sheriff out of spite, 200 XP for something with regional impact: proof that a necromancer is plotting to unleash a warren of Ghouls on the town, 1000 XP for far-reaching plots: show that the Vizier is being framed for the King's poisoning by the princess, who wants to turn the country over to the sea devils,... 

Always remember to bring back...

Something to show for your troubles
To get experience points for your adventure, get recognition from the folks back home. This means proving that your story is real by bringing back mementoes, trophies, maps, a token of delivery etc. Not when you find the Tomb of Eternal Light, but when you get the haul and secrets home safe do you have a chance to earn your XP.

Here is the crux: while you can get some money (and recognition) off a good yarn in the tavern, real reputation comes when a serious buyer is willing to pay for what you discovered. You will need something tangible before they pay you.

Treasure - something decorative. Art, jewelry, tools (a famous animated painting, golden statuettes, clasps, rings, amulets, circlets and so on, sacrificial daggers, tomb carvings, mosaics, statues or frescoes, if you can remove them intact...)
Tools - something useful. A schematic for an upgrade to engines, the secret of passing through mirrors, a spellbook, specialized ammunition, high grade fuel and where to find it, a sword that cleaves truth from lies, augmented weaponry or engines or the tools to build them.
Trophies - something with a tie to a person or monster. A personalized item (wizard's staff, pirate's flag or cutlass, noble's signet ring,...) or remarkable body part of a monster (the head of the mummy, an angler crab lightstalk, kraken tooth, eyes of a basilisk, unicorn's horn, live vat beast from the clone urns...)
Information - charts and maps, information on riddles and traps, secrets, rumors, lore from the Cities that Came Before, books, scrolls, rubbings of carvings, sketches of rooms or objects, dossiers on spy networks, rebel plans, military presence or diplomatic overtures going on,...

DM: ideally all these items are memorable. The players should be torn between selling them or holding on for bragging rights. Start thinking of what the players can take home from an adventure site or encounter. You can always think up a distinctive red scarf for the bandit chief post vorpal sword, but bonus points if you've woven it into the descriptions and rumour tables beforehand. Turn the big obstacles into the trophies that the party will want to take home.

Stuff that glowing statue in a chest, hide it from the Revenue Men, and bring it to...

An interested party

These are the ones who will pay good money to get at what you uncovered. Some parties pay better than others, some only work on specialized collections, so cultivate a diverse network.

Think collectors, spy masters, museum curators, zoo keepers, alchemists and engineers, journalists, chroniclers, mapmakers, investigators, chirurgeons, biomancers or other explorers like yourself.

DM: for every NPC or faction you think up, you already think of what their goals are and how they would like to involve the characters. Make this specific by noting what kind of trophy or information they will buy, or what deeds they will ask to be performed. Bonus points if these reward givers have their own nefarious ambitions. Extra bonus points for them being at cross purposes.

For instance:
  1. the Admiralty or navigator's house should like to receive updates on navigational hazards, pirates, monster infested waters and exact locations of landmarks after the latest Twist of the Zee.
  2. a local storyteller or journalist can give you inside info (or, if they're a hack, money) for information that shouldn't become public. Maybe they will even publish it - or hide it in a vault to protect reputations or interests.
  3. the Admiralty or Diplomat's Office are very interested in reports, strategic analyses or details about plots from the far isles and powers of the Zee.
  4. the University will gladly exhange coin or library access for valuable finds or information.
  5. the Brass Embassy of Hell shall be delighted to trade in the more spiritual trade goods - Red Honey, casks of souls or information about their breakaway cousins at Mount Palmerston.
  6. chirurgeons and biomancers seek new life from the dark and deep.
  7. law men and anarchists look for advantage in your tales from the Zee.
  8. engineers are eager to try out new technological schemata you discovered.
  9. a trader from the Corsair's Forest will be quite eager to take any salvage off your hands.
  10. what grave robber or "archaeologist" wouldn't like help in the form of treasure maps and descriptions of priceless finds?
  11. chirurgeons and biomancers will pay good money for the vital organs of magical beasts
  12. collectors and museum curators are interested in mounted and live specimens of strange fauna

Friday, 12 October 2018

Jungle Trek session 8 and last - why did it have to be snakes?

Last time on Jungle Trek, the players finally got info on the fortress of the snake cult that's been bugging them. This time, we agreed beforehand to wrap up the campaign and head for other sights. One session to wrap everything up...

My players excel at making choices. At the start of this last session in the ruined jungle city of Pra'Xirek, I asked them: what do you want to do?

  • hunt down the bastard Snake Rakshasa SixGlyph, who has been impersonating the Drow high priest Vulkoor? (success!)
  • try and find the holy Fang of the Sky Serpent / Stinger of Vulkoor Artifact? (not done, but one player moving in on the thing as we fade out)
  • track down the underground cult of snake themed abominations that is trying to piece together their broken demigod, the Sky Serpent? (they are dust)
  • fly back to the Giant sky fortress with its mutatomagic altar and depleted uranium teleportation drive (surely the original owner hasn't found a way to revive her clone by now)? (didn't make it there)
  • haul ass out of this crazy place and make for the safety of the flesh eating jungle? (one player manages to)
  • something completely different? (nope; thank god, they did something I actually prepped)

And players being players, their answer turned out to be "let's just tray to get all of this done in the next couple of hours". Thus said, thus attempted.

We time skipped our way through Pra'xirek's encounter tables. Quicky encounter with crab men trying to flood a section of underground city (ignored - it'll take longer to flood the underground than the players expect to be here). Back to the Drow camp to find the start of an underground river. Encounter with an underwater Chuul that paralyses Indy but gets blasted by Woody.

Primo: waste Rakshasa demon previously impersonating Drow high priest

Finding the temple of the Silver Flame, where self-flagellation visions say their Rakshasa quarry is hanging out. Standing in awe at the 20 meters high central pillar of demon binding fire, fed and reflected by gigantic mirrors at four corners of the cage. Whip-throwing a couple of snake-themed mooks and Drow-turned-snake-cultist into said purifying fire. Hauling ass when a section of wall opens and AZATH, a 40k year old mummy priest of the Silver Flame walks out - all 20 meters of cloud giant of the guy, who in a booming voice commences to cleanse his temple from all this FILTH. *stomp* ABOMINATION. *splatter* VILE. *smear*

Woody, catching their Rakshasa prey about to board a canoe and opening up with the maximum amount of hurt from his soul stealing dagger. How much damage for an empowered, maximized fireball anyway?

I take a page from Skerples and go narative to reward this reckless use of vulgar arcana. Hellfire runs wild and turns demon and attending Drow minion into so much ash, their canoe disappears as does a spherical section of water, walls crack and the surface briefly turns into lava.

Woody barely makes his save not to get sucked into hell on the spot. In the distance, Indy is catching up as Azath the mummy obliterates more mooks.

Part Deux: snake cult 

Where are these guys hiding out again? Interrogation of snake-armed spellcaster last session gave hints to the Songraa tribe of dino taming giants. They keep the Big Guy in a special pallisade - of course Woody and Indy work to break the not-fully-tamed T Rex free from its cage. Mauling commences as the beast wrecks the camp.

Meanwhile, inside the pallisade is an enormous granite block anchoring a chain with links the size of people, leading off down into the earth. Some exploration turns up the long sought Godforge, aninverted pyramid hanging from massive chains in an abyss, where the giants of Xen'drik tried to create their own custom demigods as an upgrade to the regular ones. It crawls with snake-themed abominations

The front entrance, you say? Let's just for this once try the other option. Bot and Gnoll sneak into a hanging balcony, lit from inside by purple-golden fire. And guarded by a patch of red sunflowers. Fuck, it's the telekinetic plants again. Another fireball takes care of half the crop, Indy and his stolen divine sword take care of the rest.

Inside the pyramid: a raging column of divine essence, churning away at its control crystals all the way since the fall of the giant empire. Gravity of the soul sucks at everyone who steps into the central chamber - the guys have wandered into relatively unguarded engineering section. Stairs lead up to the higher levels, but to get there they have to brave the pull of a naked singularity of godly essence.

Woody tries to spiderclimb the walls, gets ripped off laughably easy, and teleports to safety. Indy thinks ahead and uses a protection vs chaos spell to resist the pull on his soul.

In a truly bizarre twist, the group decides not to wreck the terribly exposed control crystals for the temple. Perhaps they're afraid of the pillar of divine fire breaking free?

In any case, this turns out to be the final area of the campaign. Mooks in the higher levels get either blasted or thrown directly into the raging godfire, until the team finds Das Big Bad of the cult - a mound of snakes in all colours that houses a chunk of essence of the dismembered Sky Serpent demigod project. The pile slowly levitates from its basin-throne and proceeds to throw mindmagic at the invaders.

It seems like I'll finally get to wack a player character - but it turns out that for all their resistances, reskinned Mindflayers are weak against one thing: overclocked hellfire to the face.

Wrap-up time 

It's getting late, so I invoke keystone army. The cult's snake abominations turn into regular (well, huge) snakes when their leader bites it, Woody snaps up a big snake scale the size of a pauldron which is the second of the three pieces of the Sky Serpent, and the group even get to free the real Drow high priest from the cult cells. Woody is now torn between serving his demon dagger and the voices of the Sky Serpent in his head, Indy makes a quick calculation and leaves the increasingly unstable wizard-golem to its fate.

In the background, a giant mummy is coming - fade-out time. It's been a fun run with characters that I am very happy will stay in the jungle instead of making their way back to poor, innocent civilisation.

Next up: I'm a player!

At least for as long as it takes Robert to either run a mini campaign of 20th level Pathfinder, or we high level retirees decide to cut our losses and lounge in my wizard's private demiplane-slash-tiki-bar.

Next on this blog:

More prep work for an upcoming Trail of Cthulhu adventure (5-7 sessions) and thoughts on merging 5e D&D with the Sunless Sea setting.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Trail of Cthulhu houserule - merging Stability and Sanity

The Trail of Cthulhu sanity rules are driving me mad. Two interacting abilities, rules spread out over multiple sections - I suspect this is intentional, to give you a taste of what the characters will be going through. Much as I love Kenneth Hite's take on Call of Cthulhu, here is a house rule (with inspiration from here) to merge Sanity and Stability. For ease of use, this is also a summary of existing Sanity rules in Trail.

I'd love feedback on this! 

Read the entire thing below or in google doc


After five read-throughs, I think I finally understand what Trail is trying to do with its Stability / Sanity system. Their rules let you keep your resistance to acute stress (and spellcasting ability) while gradually impairing your overall mental health, but it just has too many moving parts and subdivisions for me.

My design goals for this house rule:
  • simplify and speed up the mental health system by merging Stability and Sanity into one stat 
  • enable the downward spiral where lower Sanity -> lower resistance to Sanity damage 
  • make Mythos Lore a more attractive skill to raise and have 
  • keep low-Sanity spellcasters viable

The level of detail I'm willing to sacrifice:
  • characters that have ultra low Sanity but are still very composed (high Stability)
  • two types of mental stress damage to deal out 


(Not "if". Trail of Cthulhu is about doing what needs to be done while you ride the downward spiral.)

The Sanity stat tracks how close your mind is to breaking from all the awful things you'll be exposing it to. Like health, but for your piece of mind. Knowledge and encounters with the Mythos are especially damaging: this is the catch-all term for all the evil, supernatural and alien things making scary noises behind the curtain of "real life".

Sanity mechanic example. After repeated shocks, this character’s Maximum Sanity has dropped to 10 from 12. Their Sanity rating was lower than that, so no worries yet. They still have 8 Sanity points they can use until they become shaken, blasted, or permanently insane.
Munch's The Scream from here.


Trail of Cthulhu uses separate Stability and Sanity skills. This house rule merges and calls the result Sanity because I like asking for a Sanity Check during play. Apply only Stability losses (for instance from spells) from the Trail book; ignore its Sanity losses.

Sanity rating is your overall resistance to encounters with the weird, the scary and the vile.
  • Sanity rating starts at 4; you can increase it using build points during character generation or during the game up to your Maximum Sanity. 
  •  For every 3 Sanity rating, you get to pick a Pillar of Sanity that helps you recover Sanity points during the game. If these Pillars are threatened or destroyed, you stand to lose Sanity. 
  • Sanity rating goes down when a horrible encounter (Mythos-related or 5+ points loss on the tables below) drops you to negative Sanity points, or rarely when your Maximum Sanity forces it down.
  • At Sanity rating 0, you are incurably insane. Game over. Either head for the asylum or learn to love the horrors of the Mythos and become an NPC cultist.

Sanity points are eroded by real world stuff like violence or torture or by seeing the supernatural in action.
  • You start with Sanity points equal to your Sanity rating. Like health points, Sanity points can go up and down quickly during a session.
  • You get penalties to function and may get a delusion or madness condition when you drop below 0 Sanity points.
  • At -12 Sanity points, your mind breaks permanently. Game over.
  • Going against your character's Drive (core motivation) will cost you 4 or 2 Sanity points, but following your Drive gets you back 2 or 1 Sanity points. The exact amount depends on how much you would be going against type to resist an action.
  • Sanity points can also be recovered by spending time with a Pillar of Sanity (see below), via the Psychotherapy skill, or between adventures.
  • Denial or fainting can mitigate Sanity losses - see below.

Maximum Sanity is how high your Sanity rating can ever be.
  • Maximum Sanity drops when you learn the truth about universe and humanity's place in it, represented by gaining points in the skill Mythos Lore.
  • Maximum Sanity starts at 12 and can only go down.

Mythos Lore - this academic ability is used to gather or intuit knowledge about the Mythos, and to partly power magic spells. 
  • Use Mythos Lore to get a hunch or, with a point spend*, a clear hint about the Mythos horrors behind your current predicament. This risks blasting your Sanity points with a dark revelation. See the table below.
  • Mythos Lore cannot be bought with build points, only from forbidden tomes or horrible experience.
  • You can use 1 Mythos Lore point to pay for 1 Sanity point as part of casting a spell, but you always have to pay one Sanity point. This counts as a Mythos encounter if you drop below 0 Sanity points.
  • If you lost Sanity rating after being Shaken or Blasted, you can choose to gain an equal number of Mythos Lore points. This will lower your Maximum Sanity but not lower than your newly adjusted Sanity rating.
* this links to how Trail lets you gather clues; just having a skill is enough to get basic clues, spending points gets you extra useful options.


Compared to the Trail of Cthulhu book, Mythos Lore just got an upgrade. By the book, you can gain it by reading moldy old tomes - now, getting jumped by a Shoggoth is also an option. This lets you recoup a bit of your Sanity damage as a dubious ability. But don't be afraid that players are getting coddled. Mythos Lore to puzzle meaning out of chaos will cost more Sanity, and even using it as extra magic points (inspired by Trail's Rough Magics supplement) still costs you some Sanity.


Tor esist losing Sanity points, roll a d6 when your character is at risk of Sanity loss - see the table below.
  • You can spend Sanity points to add to the roll. The difficulty for the roll is 4 for mundane world stuff, 5 for Mythos-related events. You cannot spend your Sanity under -11.
  • "A 3-point Sanity check" means you risk losing 3 Sanity points plus any Sanity you spent on the roll. Generally not worth it for low point losses, but interesting to resist big shocks.
  • When multiple shocks apply during a scene, only the worst one counts. (If you get a strong Déjà Vu (2 points) and are ambushed later in the same scene by a Ghoul (5 points), you lose only 3 extra points for a total of 5.)
  • Likewise, when a Mythos event first drops you to Shaken, then to Blasted, you only lose 2 Sanity rating total, not 1+2 = 3.


So you failed that Sanity check - great news! Time to roleplay acute distress. Here's what happens at different values of Sanity points:

>0        Controlled as always

-5       Shaken - cannot spend from investigative pools. General ability difficulties +1. If you were shaken by a Mythos event or a shock of 5+ points, lose 1 Sanity rating.

-11     Blasted - as Shaken, and gain a mental illness (p77 ToC). Actions are limited to panicked flight, frenzied attacks on any perceived threat, crazy babbling etc. Lose 1 Sanity rating, or 2 if you were shaken by a Mythos event or a shock of 5+ points.

-12     incurably insane. Can commit one last act of self-destructive heroics, then collapse.

If you lost Sanity rating during a Mythos encounter that left you Shaken or Blasted, you can choose to gain an equal number of Mythos Lore points. This will lower your Maximum Sanity, but not lower than your new, adjusted Sanity rating.


Maybe, like many sensible folk, you don't want to see your mind drain away. Here's your options.

  • Repeated exposure to a particular event lowers the difficulty: after [difficulty] exposures, the difficulty drops by 1. (Keep track of how often you get chased by Ghouls. At some point they grow on you. Then you'll really have something to worry about.) Exception: spellcasting.
  • Fainting - if you voluntarily faint for the rest of the scene, you lose only 1 Sanity point (except for losses such as using spells, your own spends and use of the Cthulhu Mythos skill).
  • Denial - if there is no hard proof of an event at the end of the investigation, reduce your total Sanity rating loss by 1. Make up an alternative explanation or memory and prepare to lose that point of Sanity rating if your fabrication ever fails. STICK TO YOUR STORY.

    (Pro tip: carry gasoline to make sure there's no physical evidence after your investigation. Extra pro tip: carry a tranquiliser for use on PCs with the Drive to catalogue, learn from or boast about their adventures, as they'll want to save any mementoes.)


To regain lost Sanity points:

  • recover 1-2 Sanity points when you follow your Drive into danger.
  • gain 1-2 Sanity at the end of an investigation, or more if you significantly hindered the Mythos.
  • recover Sanity points by undergoing Psychoanalysis (difficulty 4, 3 for Clergy of Alienists - recover 2 Sanity for every extra point of Psychoanalysis spent in addition to those added to the die roll.)
  • spend time with a Pillar of Sanity (see below).
To raise Sanity rating: spend build or experience points to raise it up to Maximum Sanity.

To raise Maximum Sanity: cannot be raised, only lost.


For every 3 points of Sanity rating, pick one of the following Pillars of Sanity. You can only have one moral stance and one place of safety. You can use each type of Source of Stability once per session to regain some Sanity. If you lose 3+ Sanity rating, decide which of these Pillars of Sanity no longer holds any meaning to you. If you have no Pillars of Sanity remaining, all your Sanity checks are at +1 difficulty. If a Pillar of Sanity is lost, destroyed or invalidated, lose 1 Sanity rating and 3 Sanity points.
  • Moral stance - A core belief: religion, family honor, human dignity, scientific progress, laws of physics, beauty of nature, goodness of mankind, aesthetics and art, patriotism, love for home town. Contemplate your moral stance for a few minutes in a place of safety and calm to regain 1 Sanity point.
  • Treasured symbol - Your country's flag, a family photograph, a gift locket. Contemplate your treasured symbol for a few minutes in a place of safety and calm to regain 1 Sanity point.
  • Person of solace - A living person dear to you: a best friend, close colleague, family member. Interact with your person of solace in a safe place for 6 hours to regain 2 Sanity points.
  • Place of safety - A hide-out or parents' house, the site you first fell in love. If you can spend at least 24 hours in your place of safety without being under threat or drawing danger to it, you regain 3 Sanity points.


Same info as in the Trail rulebook, but reorganised for ease of reference during play.

Physical danger
Sanity loss
A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to do serious harm
You are in a car or other vehicle accident serious enough to pose a risk of injury
A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to kill
You kill someone in a fight
You are attacked by a supernatural creature, a friend, loved one, or person of solace
You kill someone in cold blood; you torture someone
You are tortured for an hour or longer
You are attacked by supernatural creatures - a horde or one gigantic one
You kill a friend, loved one, or person of solace

Witnessing violence
Sanity loss
You see a fresh corpse; you witness a killing
You witness acts of torture
You see a particularly grisly murder or accident scene
You see hundreds of corpses; you witness a large battle
You learn that a friend, loved one, or person of solace has been violently killed
You discover the corpse of a friend, loved one, or person of solace
You see a friend, loved one, or person of solace killed
You see a friend, loved one, or person of solace killed in a particularly gruesome way

Unnatural acts
Sanity loss
You experience unnaturally intense déjà vu, “missing time”, or hallucinations
You see a supernatural creature from a distance
You witness an obviously unnatural, but not necessarily threatening, omen or magical effect – a wall covered in horrible insects, a talking cat, or a bleeding window
You see a supernatural creature up close
You spend a week in solitary confinement
You witness a clearly supernatural or impossible killing
You witness or experience an obviously unnatural, and threatening, omen or magical effect – a cold hand clutches your heart, a swarm of bees pours out of your mouth
You discover that you have committed cannibalism
You are concious but helpless while some outside force possesses your body
You speak with someone you know well and who you know to be dead

Mythos Lore use - revelation or intuition
Sanity loss
Aspect of the Mythos is distant in space or time, or not immediately relevant
Mythos forms clear and present danger, reaches back far, wide implications
Clear and present danger to you or your loved ones
Shatters one of your Pillars of Sanity
Could destroy the world or is actively doing so, probably inevitably
Your drive is meaningless or doomed