Sanity and Stability
This game uses the same dramatic license to depict mental illness and psychological damage as that used in spy thrillers and vampire fiction (and hopefully a better one than in early Mythos fiction!). It follows the conventions of those genres, not those of real-world psychiatric medicine. For example, actual mental illness seldom fits the specific conditions we separate out here; more often, it manifests as a complex of interconnected syndromes and symptoms. We intend no trivialization or disrespect of the real-world sufferers of mental illness, any more than we do of the real-world victims of terrorism, human trafficking, or other foundational horrors of this horror game and its setting.
In short, your Stability pool measures how close you are to snapping today; your Sanity pool measures how close you are to seeing the Truth forever.
Stability is mental and emotional resistance to trauma of any kind, natural, human, or supernatural. Think of it as your mental and emotional Health pool. Your Stability pool is quite likely to dwindle rapidly over the course of a single adventure, but it is also likely to refresh somewhat between scenarios. It is perhaps best understood as a short-term measure of your current mental health.
|You see a fresh corpse; you witness a killing||1|
|A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to do serious harm||2|
|You experience a strong unnatural sensation such as intense déjà vu, “missing time,” or hallucinations||2|
|You witness acts of torture||2|
|To do your job correctly, you must use, endanger, or inform on a friend, loved one, or family member||2|
|Your recent success was undone by politics or other people’s incompetence||2|
|Another agent, or one of your contacts, does something you could interpret as setting you up||2|
|Someone you first knew as a civilian turns out to be part of the clandestine world: a spy, a mafioso, an asset, a minder||2|
|You find yourself feeling more affection or professional sympathy for an opponent than for someone on your own side||2|
|Your own side does something against your (and its) professed ideology and morals||2|
|A human opponent attacks you with evident intent to kill||3|
|You kill someone in a fight||3|
|You see a particularly grisly murder or accident scene||3|
|You see a supernatural creature from a distance||3|
|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||3|
|You learn that one of your Network contacts has been violently killed||3|
|You see hundreds of corpses; you witness a large battle||4|
|You see a supernatural creature up close||4|
|You spend a week in solitary confinement||4|
|You learn that a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability has been violently killed||4|
|You discover the corpse of one of your Network contacts||4|
|You discover the corpse of a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||5|
|You are attacked by a supernatural creature, or by a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||5|
|You witness a clearly supernatural or impossible killing||5|
|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||5|
|You kill someone in cold blood; you torture someone||5|
|You see one of your Network contacts killed||5|
|You see a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability killed||6|
|You are tortured for an hour or longer||6|
|You discover that you have committed cannibalism||6|
|You are possessed by some outside force, but conscious while it operates your body unspeakably||7|
|You speak with someone you know well who you know to be dead||7|
|You are attacked by a single gigantic supernatural creature or by a horde of supernatural creatures||7|
|You see a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability killed in a particularly gruesome manner or in a way you are helpless to avert||8|
|You kill a friend, loved one, or Source of Stability||8|
Sanity is the ability to believe in, fear for, or care about any aspect of the world or humanity as we know it: religion, science, family, natural beauty, human dignity, even “normal” immorality. The horrible truth of the Mythos is that Sanity measures your ability to believe a comforting lie – but a lie necessary in order to live as a human being rather than a soulless tool or plaything of the Great Old Ones. Your Sanity will probably erode slowly over the course of many adventures. unless you lose a Pillar of Sanity, you will probably lose only 1 or 2 points from your Sanity pool in any given adventure. You may lose none at all! But Sanity is slow to return; it is perhaps best understood as a long-term measure of how close you are to fully realizing the bleak and awful reality of the cosmos.
You lose Sanity whenever a supernatural shock drops your Stability pool to 0 or below. Each time you are Shaken (i.e. Stability drops to between 0 and -5) by a supernatural encounter, your Sanity rating drops by 1 point. Each time you are Shattered (i.e. your Stability drops to between -6 and -11), your Sanity rating drops by 2. You can only suffer one such Sanity rating loss (the most severe) in a given investigation.
You can lose points from your Sanity (and Stability) pools in certain circumstances, too – you do not get to make a test to resist these losses.
|Revelation or Intuition||Stability Pool Loss||Sanity Pool Loss|
|Some aspect of the Mythos is behind this mystery; any specifics are either comfortably distant in space or time, or not immediately relevant to your larger concerns||2||0|
|This Mythos truth poses a clear and present danger to innocents; this truth goes deeper, reaches back farther, or has wider implications, than you previously believed||3||1|
|This Mythos truth poses a clear and present danger to you or your loved ones; this truth is global or epochal in scope||4||1|
|This Mythos truth shatters one of your Pillars of Sanity||6||2|
|This Mythos truth could destroy the world or is doing so right now, probably inevitably; this truth proves your Drive to be meaningless or doomed||8||3|
If you lose 3 rating points of Sanity, you may decide that one of your Pillars of Sanity has “crumbled from within”, sparing you the shock of its destruction. You will need to roleplay this loss of belief. However, if you lose your last Pillar of Sanity (by whatever means!) then you have only instinct to keep you afloat in a horrific world, and suffer a +1 Difficulty to all Stability Tests.
At the end of a successful case, if you “defeated the Mythos”, you may recover 1-2 Sanity pool points.