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Old 04-17-2024, 06:54 PM   #1
whswhs
 
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Default Psychological stress

So I was talking with a very old friend, who brought up the idea that contact with alien species tended to create cumulative psychological stress (apparently this is current in the ufological community). And I was thinking about this as an element for an SF campaign I had thought about for a number of years.

What are game systems that provide suitable mechanics for keeping track of this sort of thing? How do they do it, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

I'll accept suggestions about GURPS approaches, but proposals need not be confined to GURPS. I'm just looking for ideas.
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Old 04-17-2024, 07:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: Psychological stress

Maybe use the SANity mechanic from old Call of Cthulhu? IIRC, every encounter cost you some sanity, and if you lost more than 5 in one go you went loopy. And you could regain SANity through therapy.
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Old 04-17-2024, 07:13 PM   #3
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Default Re: Psychological stress

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Originally Posted by Anders View Post
Maybe use the SANity mechanic from old Call of Cthulhu? IIRC, every encounter cost you some sanity, and if you lost more than 5 in one go you went loopy. And you could regain SANity through therapy.
That’s an obvious option but I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted. It seems rather to treat alien encounters as shock rather than erosion, which may be closer to what I want.
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Old 04-17-2024, 08:50 PM   #4
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Default Re: Psychological stress

Perhaps something similar to the Humanity mechanic in V:tM? It can erode slowly over time (in the case of the Kindred, it's with exposure to the things they have to do to survive), and there are (not very easy) methods of restoring lost points. It's not a one-to-one map with the concept of sanity, but it's the first thing that came to my mind.
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Old 04-17-2024, 09:54 PM   #5
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Default Re: Psychological stress

A number of games have corruption as a game mechanic. TVTropes has a good long list...
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.p.../TabletopGames
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Old 04-17-2024, 11:33 PM   #6
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Default Re: Psychological stress

Quote:
Originally Posted by Irish Wolf View Post
Perhaps something similar to the Humanity mechanic in V:tM? It can erode slowly over time (in the case of the Kindred, it's with exposure to the things they have to do to survive), and there are (not very easy) methods of restoring lost points. It's not a one-to-one map with the concept of sanity, but it's the first thing that came to my mind.
Fundamentally this is just a mental analog of Hit Points, where the more episodic kind of fright check mechanics are more akin to Soak rolls, or Saving Throws.

A third mechanic for handling stuff like that is essentially Hit Boxes associated with particular locations/subsystems (I guess for mental ones that would be particular cognitive abilities). Check enough of them for any given ability and it shuts down. Though these are really just several different kinds of hit points.
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Old 04-18-2024, 03:22 AM   #7
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Default Re: Psychological stress

This also gives us uses for carousing and other downtime mechanics (see, for example, the landmark computer game for this sort of thing Darkest Dungeon) and the use of background features such as hobbies and dependants ... and to give the players a reason to spend more than the bare minimum on subsistence and anything except combat gear.
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Old 04-18-2024, 09:11 AM   #8
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Default Re: Psychological stress

GURPS Horror's Stress and Derangement rules could fit here, although those require failing a Fright Check which may or may not be appropriate for what you're wanting. You could augment them by suggesting a steady accrual of Derangement simply from interacting with aliens. Downtime helps more with Stress than Derangement, however, and specific downtime activities (carousing, gaming, etc) only appear to help with Stresss, so you may want to adjust things a bit (or have the characters accrue both Stress and Derangement).
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Old 04-20-2024, 06:50 AM   #9
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Default Re: Psychological stress

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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
GURPS Horror's Stress and Derangement rules could fit here, although those require failing a Fright Check which may or may not be appropriate for what you're wanting.
The stress mechanics for GURPS in Pyramid #3/103: Setbacks might be a better fit.
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Old 04-21-2024, 02:01 AM   #10
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Default Re: Psychological stress

Quote:
Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
What are game systems that provide suitable mechanics for keeping track of this sort of thing? How do they do it, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
There is Eclipse Phase (which you can read for free, being CC-licensed), which tracks stress like that, but it may have the same reasons for not picking it as CoC, being more geared towards sudden exposure than slow erosion. But it might still be a good enough fit given that it actually has contact with alien stuff as one of the sources of stress. Among the downsides of the system, I would consider a rather medicalising view of the mind and its problems.
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