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johndallman 08-09-2019 01:57 AM

[Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
Nightmares [-5*] and Sleepwalker [-5*] are both mundane mental disadvantages with self-control rolls. They both appeared in Compendium I for GURPS 3e, and I suspect they probably originate in the first edition of GURPS Horror. There’s a related quirk, Sleeptalker, in Power-Ups 6: Quirks, and both of them go really well with Flashbacks.

To be a disadvantage, Nightmares have to be pretty serious. You suffer them every night; you make a self-control roll on awakening, and failure means that you’re down a fatigue point that can only be regained by sleeping. A guilty conscience is a cliched reason for having nightmares, but it’s a cliché because it’s plausible. If you roll 17 or 18, you are affected more seriously, and are at -1 to Perception and all skill rolls until you get a good night’s sleep. Nightmares with a difficult self-control roll is a major problem; the timescale makes it difficult to use as an Affliction, but as a curse or a brainbug, it’s nasty.

Sleepwalker is straightforward: the GM makes a self-control roll for you when you go to sleep, if sleepwalking would matter, and if it’s failed, you go roaming at some point during the night. You wake up if someone awakens you, or after 1d minutes of sleepwalking in any case. If you’re in unfamiliar territory, the GM may roll against your DX to see if you trip or otherwise have a minor accident; if you do, you awaken suddenly, mentally stunned. You are highly susceptible to mental influences while sleepwalking, although no details are specified: I might give -4 to Will to resist. If you have unusual movement abilities, such as flight or teleportation, you might use those instead of walking. Personally, I’d limit that to powers that you can use instantly, since concentrating enough to cast spells seems implausible.

The description of Nightmares offers the opportunity for the GM to play out things that happen in your dreams during the game. They should start like a normal scenario but gradually become horrific. The other PCs are, of course, not affected by any events in your dreams, but the GM can give them bonus points for playing their parts well, if the dream game takes a lot of play time. I’ve done this in another context, a Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade, and it was good fun.

Nightmares is a fairly common disadvantage option on published templates, especially for people who do a lot of killing, get involved with horrific things regularly, have undiscovered talents, or are trapped in a horror game. It’s also fairly common as an after-effect of encounters with psionic technology. Sleepwalker is very rare on templates, and is mostly associated with characters with psionic powers. DF 14 Psi has a semi-advantageous perk version of Nightmares, which is only any use if you fail your self-control roll, and suffer FP losses. Fantasy points out that lycanthropes may mistake memories of their transformation for Nightmares, and Madness Dossier has technology or drugs to cause either disadvantage. Powers points out that Sleepwalker can plausibly activate abilities, and Steampunk makes both disadvantages temporary results of Shocking Revelations. Nightmares are a possible symptom of PTSD in Tactical Shooting, while Thaumatology uses it in critical failures, magical calamities, and the Evil Eye. Ritual Path Magic has a ritual to remove Nightmares, for a few days, which would be very helpful if you'd been hit by an Ultra-Tech insanity beam.

These disadvantages are associated for me, because of another gamer who had both, plus Sleeptalker. In student days, with fellow-gamers sleeping on student room floors, he once sat up in bed, shouted “Natural 20! Yes!” and flopped again, silently. Wandering around in the night while asleep was routine for him. On a later occasion, he woke me up with an explanation that the table in my room had been stalking me, about to pounce – he was still waving it by one leg. Perhaps because of him, I’ve never used them on a character.

Have these disadvantages been important in your games?

Bruno 08-09-2019 01:21 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I'm currently playing a "holy warrior" who was never actually granted divine powers. In desperation she fasted and prayed without rest until she collapsed. Upon waking, she found herself marked by the deity and wracked by divine visions nightly... But still no actual holy powers.

She's frustrated, to say the least, and is out adventuring to try and find what her God wants of her.

WaterAndWindSpirit 08-09-2019 04:28 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I've made a Dark Flier build who has affinity for some nature spirits. She has sleepwalking and during her "sleepwalking" episodes she has vivid visions of Fire spirits. The family she was born into is still pretty much an Old Faith (those whom worship animistic spirits instead of gods) and she gets powers from these fire spirits to use devastating spells from the back of a Pegasus, though she's also good with a crossbow and a spear and she's a decent squad leader. The visions usually lead her to start controlled fires in her sleep (thus it's not Pyromania, her closeness with the fire spirits leave her very aware of proper fire safety even in her sleep). Never got to play her sadly, but it would have been nice. Maybe sleepwalking would make a nice Temporary Disadvantage on Power Investiture for more animistic divine casters as when they call upon the spirits, they will have vivid visions the next night that they react to even in their sleep.

RogerBW 08-12-2019 05:20 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 2278579)
Perhaps because of him, I’ve never used them on a character.

Have these disadvantages been important in your games?

I don't think I've ever taken them; as you say, they're both pretty serious drawbacks even with decent self-control rolls.

evileeyore 08-12-2019 07:47 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I've seen Nightmares taken several times, usually on characters that are supposed to suffering from long term trauma. I've got a Sage/Psi in DF right now who just swapped out his Nightmares for Weird Dreams.

I've never seen Sleepwalking taken.

ericthered 08-12-2019 11:19 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I've seen nightmares taken, but not sleep walking. The most memorable character who took ended up in a game where there were multiple versions of magic that required sleep to operate. We actually gamed out fighting the nightmares a few times. The nightmares disadvantage also served to reinforce the character's traumatic past without giving her crippling mental issues.

The trait isn't for every character, but it can be a fantastic tool.

Flyndaran 08-12-2019 11:54 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I've never given a character sleep walking even though I was a regular sleep walker in real life up until young adulthood.
As written, it seems extremely dangerous for adventuring.

I will say that some sleepwalkers are unusually coherent. They can hold entire conversations with waking people that never realize they're talking to the sleeping. I apparently did that a lot, but I don't think that fits the default disadvantage.

Bruno 08-12-2019 02:47 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
Sleep-wake state disorders run in my family, I normally don't sleepwalk but I have on one occasion got up and answered the phone, had a complete conversation with my mother, arranged a date to have dinner, hung up, and shuffled back to bed.

Unfortunately I don't remember any of it, but thankfully my mother called back the next day to confirm, she figured I sounded a bit sketchy.

edk926 08-13-2019 07:51 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the Week: Nightmares and Sleepwalker
I've always wanted to see a character with all of the sleep-related disadvantages (save for maybe Extra Sleep), but the problem is that if you actually look at all the various penalties and add them together, you have a virtually unplayable character unless they have crazy high stats to make up for all of the collecting penalties.

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