How I Put Crazy In My Game (Sanity Levels for d6 Horror)

Friday night I ran my players through our first "D6 Horror" game. To my surprise, they all survived, though they came out with some physical scars and with their grasp of sanity somewhat shaken (I imagine it's how people feel after a night out with Ke$ha).

For D6 Horror, I used the D6 Adventure rules as a base, with one major change: I added a Sanity-level score, in addition to the Wound-level score. Yes, this idea was "borrowed" from Call of Cthulhu, but I only did it out of love. It's flattery, really.
Cthulhu is so happy and friendly, it's hard not to love him.

Sanity levels work much like Wound levels. For Wounds, when you take physical damage, you roll your Strength/Physique score to resist it. Depending on how many points of damage remain after the resistance roll, you suffer increasing levels of Wound damage. For Sanity, I've given each creature or horrifying experience a "Horror" level, rated approximately 2D to 4D. The character experiencing the horror rolls their Willpower against the Horror roll, and takes Sanity damage based on how many points the Horror beats their Willpower.


Shaken - You are startled with fear and cannot act. You lose all your actions for the next round. After that, you may operate normally, but you always have that horrible reminder somewhere in the back of your head of the terrible things you saw, like that time you walked in on your parents making love on the kitchen table. Only worse.

Disturbed - Something you have seen has affected you deeply. It will probably give you nightmares in the future. Whenever you encounter a stressful situation, you must make a Moderate Willpower roll or suffer -1D on a random attribute and all associated skills for the remainder of the scene.

Oddly enough, the guys from the band "Disturbed" are relatively sane-looking, as far as metal heads go. Except for that guy who doesn't seem to know in what direction he's supposed to be looking.

Unhinged - You have seen things that humans are not meant to know. You have nightmares every night, and know you will never be the same again. Whenever you encounter a stressful situation, you must make a Difficult Willpower roll or suffer -1D on two separate random attributes all associated skills for the remainder of the scene.

Deranged - You have trouble distinguishing reality from your own twisted imagination. You have nightmares constantly, even when you're awake, and it's a constant struggle for you to operate normally. You take a permanent -1D penalty to all attributes and skills. Whenever you encounter a stressful situation, you must make a Very Difficult Willpower roll or suffer -2D on two separate random attributes, in addition to the previous -1D penalty.

Psychotic - The damage to your psyche is massive. Surely no human being could have survived what you have experienced, and so you question whether you are even still human. You experience overwhelming, often violent breaks from reality. You continue to suffer from the -1D penalty (as per Deranged, above), and when faced with a stressful situation you must make a Very Difficult Willpower roll or lose control of your character for the scene. Whether you flee, strike out mindlessly or curl up in a ball and sob is entirely at the whim of your Game Master.

The best part of a GM's job is making players cry.

Vegetative - At this point, you character might as well be dead. You permanently lose control of your character as he or she is either forcibly committed to an institution or disappears into the darkness, never to be heard from again. This is considered a victory for the eternal powers of madness that lurk just beyond the veil of reality.


The rules above state that you take penalties to random attributes when you lose Sanity. I haven't decided yet whether that attribute is decided once, or if it's randomly chosen each time the character fails the Willpower roll. Having the same effect each time is probably more realistic (as the character develops a specific psychosis or neurosis), but choosing randomly has the potential to be even more unsettling and, in short, crazy.

The following are descriptive examples of penalties to your attributes :
*Note that I changed the name of some of the attributes, but what they represent should be obvious.

Aptitude - Severe anxiety prevents the character from performing basic skills. The character feels tense most of the time, and during situations of major stress they feel completely out of sync, have difficulty concentrating, and possibly develop irrational phobias.

On the plus side, this may result in you getting 8 seasons of a cheesy crime show on the USA Network.

Awareness - The character hears, sees or otherwise senses things that are not there. These hallucinations prevent the character from noticing obvious things, causes them to misinterpret information provided to them, and makes it very difficult to communicate with others as they infer intention and motivations that are not really there.

Coordination - Autonomic reaction. The character's hands shake uncontrollably when under stress, threatened of feeling angry, making it very difficult to perform fine motor skills or feats of agility.

Intellect - The character suffers selective traumatic amnesia, suddenly forgetting random things for no apparent reason. They also have difficulty concentrating and performing deductive reasoning.

Physique - The severe psychological trauma induces physiological trauma. The character suffers from migraines, intense muscle pain, nausea and other physically debilitating symptoms.

Psyche - The character's mind is so frail that they are more susceptible to further trauma, and will fall more quickly and completely under stressful situations. This may also lead to specific disorders and phobias, at the GM's discretion.


Though I haven't completely decided yet, I think I want it to be very difficult to restore sanity. Some options I'm considering:

Psychoanalysis (an Intellect skill) performed by another character on the suffering individual for an extended period of time (3 months or more) may allow the character a roll to heal one Sanity level.

This guy is going to become your best friend. He's like the Cleric of D6 Horror.

Meditation (a Psyche skill) can be used to in certain circumstances to remove Sanity damage.

Drugs or Alcohol may temporarily remove one level of Sanity damage, but the character must make an Endurance check or suffer the physical effects of the intoxication (and risks chance of addiction).

Any feedback? With only one session, we haven't had a lot of time to really play with the Sanity rules (except that I do maintain that murdering another human being in cold blood should impose a Sanity hit), so any suggestions are welcome.

Like this?


  1. Book_ScorpionMay 03, 2011

    I like it, especially the fact that the characters can turn to drugs to regain some sanity - it's a natural reaction and it's an invitation to really mess things up because facing mindmelting monsters while battling a cocain addiction is so much more fun. And depending on when the campaign is set, you may actually get a cocain prescription from your friendly psychoanalyist.

    Oh and killing someone in cold blood should definitely require a sanity check unless you're playing a character who has done this before (hitman ect.) and maybe even then.

    for the effects of sanity loss, I would either make it random or go with the situation, see if it calls for a specific effect. A character's backstory may also be a good guide on what to do, unless your players really want to make it strictly rulebased/dicebased.

  2. This looks great. I will be using it for a D&D 4e's Last Breaths of Ashenport adventure.

  3. CDGallant_KingMay 03, 2011

    Awesome, cool! I never imagined it would be used for D&D, but I don't see why it couldn't work. Go for it.

  4. CDGallant_KingMay 03, 2011

    The game is set in modern times (I think it's going to end up having more of an "X-files" feel than pure Cthulhu), though a setting where doctors can prescribe cocaine would have been sweet. I more pictured the characters have to resort to more illicit means to procure drugs if they decided to go that route anyway.

    I also like the idea of tuning the sanity penalties to the situation or the backstory. I will definitely try that next session. I really want to be loose and fast with the rules - we just finished a D&D 4E campaign and I want to be as far from nit-picky rules mongering as possible. If it can flow from or into the story, even better.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. Joe NelsonMay 05, 2011

    Bugger all! Here I spend the weekend crafting up a simple Sanity mod for Warrior, Rogue, and Mage, and you go and do a nice big article on it for D6! Shameful! Now mine would look like a blatant copy, only less polished. ;-)

    Actually, in all seriousness, this is some really good stuff. I've never cared much for CoC's Sanity system, as at times I've felt it's too artificial, but it is effective, and it looks like it melds into the D6 system quite easily. I especially like your methods for healing Sanity. A little psychotherapy between sessions, a little harmless (or not) drug addition during adventures. Definitely something I like. I also enjoy the idea of damage to a character's attributes to be handled in a non-mechanical way. Makes it even more fun to roleplay, I should imagine.

    I'm gonna see if I can't try these out over the weekend. I've been wanting to try a different horror game for a while and D6 is really such a great system.

  6. CDGallant_KingMay 10, 2011

    Joe Nelson

    We keep stealing each other's ideas. We should probably confer a little more often. :-)

    Still haven't had a second game of d6 Horror, so I can't tell you how it stands up. If you really did try a game, let me know how it worked for you.

    I can't believe someone other than me is going to us my ideas!

  7. Joe NelsonMay 12, 2011


    Confer? These days I never know what I've written until two days after I've written it. :-P

    Didn't have a chance to try it this weekend, but my players are actually keen on it. My players have a couple of great character designs and I have a fun plot all geared up to go.
    When I do run it, I'll be sure to let you know how it turned out. Might even make it a post...

  8. LubidiusMay 23, 2011

    Have you had a chance to try these out further Joe? I'm running MiniSix (OpenD6 based) Cthulu myself, and this simple mirroring of the wounds system for a sanity system is very nice. I will definitely be stealing it and tweaking it a bit. I may re-introduce the Call Of Cthulu lists of resulting temporary or long term psychoses,  but otherwise, very similar to what you have here. I'm trying to honor everything or as much as possible from the original CoC, but swapping out the basic D6 Mechanics. IF you solidify anything into a simple doc file or whatnot, if you could post it somewhere, I'd greatly appreciate it. - I am "Lubidius", from this site ->

  9. Nero GrimesAugust 05, 2012

    Way cool. I'm working on a scaled back Sanity mechanics, I guess Shock, for a Dawn of the Dead game.


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