D&D 5E Out of the Abyss - Madness! Insanity! What Works/Doesn't? What Was Hilarious/Tragic?

DMCF

First Post
Madness is a new stat and I think one of the harder things to deal with for new DMs (myself included). I'm posting what I'm experiencing in the hopes to hear from others.

What Works:
Players seem keen on this mechanic. I missed the first row when the prisoners were forced to watch the Drow skin alive three barbarian NPCs that made an escape attempt. They asked why I didn't make them roll when we ended the session. I told them I forgot and encouraged them to remind me. Won't happen again!

What Doesn't:
Unnecessary math. It slows down the game. This is a big module. From an encounters perspective I can't keep adding stats and tracking dice rolls. I want my players to experience the Underdark, not 10-key-excel-spreadsheets-dark.

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Myself and 2 other DMs have created madness cards. They are printed in a series of 3. Short, Long, Indefinite. There are two of each type to allow for some cross over. Some are made up, e.g, Megalomania, Bi-Polar Disorder, OCD (ritualistic spasm after dice roll), etc. They do not affect combat but may result in actions taken in, out of, leading up to, or getting out of combat.

If an individual fails the save he picks a card at random. The significance of the event determines the length. This is based on my personal choice so your mileage may vary. The madness card will only be read by the player. They may keep it to remind themselves up until it's expiration, then it goes back in the appropriate pile.

So far only one card has been drawn. A dwarf who regularly headbutts things managed to get the first card. I gave him a long term affect since he has headbutted many things. He pulled Amnesia, which his character's cousin in another campaign (PotA) had. He's excited to play on Wednesday.
 

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ad_hoc

(he/they)
Before starting the campaign I would tell the players that madness is a central theme and ensure that I get their okay. Some may be uncomfortable with it entirely or with certain aspects.

When making up madness effects I would not use real illnesses. There is a reason that all the madness effects are descriptions of behaviour rather than labels. This is important for 2 reasons: 1, the player probably doesn't know how to properly roleplay a specific illness because they lack experience with that illness. The portrayal may also upset other players (and the player themselves) 2, it isn't fun. It wouldn't be fun to have your character afflicted with cancer either.

Also, be careful about punishing players for their characters having quirky or unique characteristics. Their character likes to headbutt stuff. Okay. If you don't like it don't punish them for it. Either talk to them before or after the game about how it is impacting the game or be okay with it.
 

DMCF

First Post
Very true on those points. For each madness we chose it was something quirky and fun. We give them a specific example such as the OCD card which gives examples for like "when you roll the dice snap 3 times or flap your arms etc..

For your last point it really comes down to knowing your players. This particular player thrives on this kind of thing. Despite the fact madness doesn't affect combat he sees these moves as his own investment in the world we are creating. His actions result in a twist in circumstance and he eagerly moves forward.

Granted I can't do this to all players. I have some shy ones. Do I want to give the 1.5' halfling rogue megalomania? Oh God do I! Knowing the player is it a wise choice? No. But if he draws it I can simply encourage madness by granting advantage on rolls for well played insanity.

Oh I forgot to mention that. Need to edit OP. Madness = Ops for inspiration. They like that a LOT!
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Very true on those points. For each madness we chose it was something quirky and fun. We give them a specific example such as the OCD card which gives examples for like "when you roll the dice snap 3 times or flap your arms etc..

You're having the players act out mental illnesses?

You realize you're essentially just getting together with your friends and mocking the ill right?
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
You're having the players act out mental illnesses?

You realize you're essentially just getting together with your friends and mocking the ill right?

THIS.

I would advise against adding real mental problems to the game. The first time you do this while someone with one of these problems (you likely won't know they have said problem because people with those problems don't make a fuss of it) is going to result in nothing less than an atom bomb on the group.
 

Ricochet

Explorer
Roleplaying mental illnesses isn't for everyone, sure, but I can see how it might be interesting to try with people who are comfortable doing so. Should be fairly quick to find out if the group wants to do it, by asking before agreeing to implement it.
 

DMCF

First Post
Holy Political Correctness Batman. Lets get off our high horses for a moment and realize this is a game that emulates many aspects of real life. To imply we are playing madness and insanity without any connection to real life is madness itself. Without analyzing every single thing in the DMG here are a few of the examples of the game RAW:

Long term affect 1-10 is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Indefinite 1-15 is Alcoholism
16-25 is Hoarding disorder (Yes it is a thing. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/basics/definition/con-20031337)

People play or roll low intelligence all the time and yes many do goofy things. Are they really making fun of people with down-syndrome? Was Tolkein when he wrote the scenes of ogres? I get the feeling that if WotC revealed how they established their criteria for madness it would invalidate these perspectives being cast from an ivory tower.

That said. The game yesterday with amnesia didn't go over so well. The player tried very hard. With so many players and so many things going on everyone kind of glossed over him. We had another new player who looked lost (no PHB) and I brought him in. This put our table at 9. There was a lot to explain and it slowed the pace we had established. I still handed out the inspiration point for the great effort. No one had to roll for insanity this time. We were 60 feet from the urn with the banshee when we had to end the session. Next time I suppose...
 
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77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I participated in one Adventurer's League game using the madness rules (fortunately it was a playtest so indefinite madness would not afflict our regular characters).

My takeaway was that rolling for madness multiple times in rapid succession was not fun. It gave a feeling of just plain getting screwed over. My PC was a monk, with decent Wisdom, and still managed to fail three madness rolls in a single encounter -- going from sane to indefinitely wacky in a very short span! I'm worried that by the time any character gets out of the Underdark they will be too much of a basket case to get sent back down below on an important quest.

Also, because the people out in front were more likely to have to make checks, and because there are no real ways to reduce your madness level or hedge against madness, it gave a feeling of punishing participation. Like, it's better to be cautious and stay in the back to avoid madness. I'm not sure I would have felt this same way if I were starting a new character to play in a long-running campaign where I knew madness was a near-guarantee.
 

Holy Political Correctness Batman. Lets get off our high horses for a moment and realize this is a game that emulates many aspects of real life. .

yea, you do know that political correctness can also be called BEING POLITE... two of my friends are brothers, there mother in real life is paranoid schizophrenic... you know what they HATE seeing, people making jokes about paranoids... you know what they wont do though, tell random people (not even all our friends) about the deeply held problem.

One of them walked out of a Vampire game because of how someone was playing paranoid, and the story teller to this day doesn't know why they kid left game mad...
 

Daern

Explorer
I would probably say a character only needs to Save vs Madness once per encounter at most.
So far, there have only been a few times where I've asked for a roll. It should definitely be an RP enhancer rather than a character de-generator!
 

KahlessNestor

Adventurer
In an Expeditions adventure, the DM forgot to tell us that walking to the next part of the adventure (rather than taking some Underdark stranger's portal) would take 30 DAYS! And that was 2 madness rolls a day. We made it three days out before we realized this was sucking. I think I kind of ruined the fun, though, since I was a cleric and could keep slapping Remove Curse on people to cure the madness they wanted to play with!
 

DMCF

First Post
yea, you do know that political correctness can also be called BEING POLITE... two of my friends are brothers, there mother in real life is paranoid schizophrenic... you know what they HATE seeing, people making jokes about paranoids... you know what they wont do though, tell random people (not even all our friends) about the deeply held problem.

One of them walked out of a Vampire game because of how someone was playing paranoid, and the story teller to this day doesn't know why they kid left game mad...

That is the job of the DM. If someone mentions they are uncomfortable then you retcon what is offensive and remove it from the game with an apology.

We had an instance where one player wanted the group to be named the ADHD group because they kept loosing focus on side quests. One firl mentioned it wasnt funny because she had ADHD. I revealed I was on Aderol Lo and behold so was 3/4 the table. Thee original player who was offended exclaimed "So it DOES make sense"! But to avoid any further relation to ADHD i harnessed the power of our combined illness and distracted everyone with an invisible stalker.
 

zombiecube

First Post
I don't like about half of the DMG options for madness effects. I'm hoping to come up with enough replacements to make this mechanic interesting, fun, and not offensive before I start running my players through OotA, but I'm having a hard time. Suggestions?
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
Iserith had a system that treated madness rolls like death saving throws, basically. And on the 3rd, you became insane. I think they took quite some effort to get rid of failed rolls, too.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Iserith had a system that treated madness rolls like death saving throws, basically. And on the 3rd, you became insane. I think they took quite some effort to get rid of failed rolls, too.

DO WANT

[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]...?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Iserith had a system that treated madness rolls like death saving throws, basically. And on the 3rd, you became insane. I think they took quite some effort to get rid of failed rolls, too.

DO WANT

[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION]...?

This was for a Ravenloft one-shot. I wrote this prior to the DMG coming out. In play, I didn't use it much, chiefly because I tend to forget about add-ons during play. It takes a while for me to build a habit and the game only lasted a set number of sessions.

House Rule: Horror

When the DM calls for a horror check, make a Wisdom saving throw. If the scene of horror represents some corruption of your established ideal, you make the save with disadvantage. If it somehow plays into your established flaw, you make the save with advantage.

If you succeed on the save, you are not horrified and may act normally. If you fail, mark 1 Horror and you are frightened (see Appendix A: Conditions) until you are removed from the scene of horror for a reasonable amount of time.

Accumulating Horror is dangerous. They are like failed death saving throws, only they cannot be removed except through powerful magic (e.g. greater restoration) or spending downtime seeking treatment in a sanitarium. Upon reaching 3 Horror, you tumble down the rabbit hole of insanity: You can't take actions, can't understand what other creatures say, can't read, and speak only in gibberish. The DM controls your movement and actions as you effectively become an NPC. At your option, you become a villain whose motivations are based on twisted interpretations of your established ideal or flaw. Otherwise, the character is effectively unable to continue adventuring until treated with powerful magic or spending downtime in a sanitarium.
 


Bawylie

A very OK person
This was for a Ravenloft one-shot. I wrote this prior to the DMG coming out. In play, I didn't use it much, chiefly because I tend to forget about add-ons during play. It takes a while for me to build a habit and the game only lasted a set number of sessions.

House Rule: Horror

When the DM calls for a horror check, make a Wisdom saving throw. If the scene of horror represents some corruption of your established ideal, you make the save with disadvantage. If it somehow plays into your established flaw, you make the save with advantage.

If you succeed on the save, you are not horrified and may act normally. If you fail, mark 1 Horror and you are frightened (see Appendix A: Conditions) until you are removed from the scene of horror for a reasonable amount of time.

Accumulating Horror is dangerous. They are like failed death saving throws, only they cannot be removed except through powerful magic (e.g. greater restoration) or spending downtime seeking treatment in a sanitarium. Upon reaching 3 Horror, you tumble down the rabbit hole of insanity: You can't take actions, can't understand what other creatures say, can't read, and speak only in gibberish. The DM controls your movement and actions as you effectively become an NPC. At your option, you become a villain whose motivations are based on twisted interpretations of your established ideal or flaw. Otherwise, the character is effectively unable to continue adventuring until treated with powerful magic or spending downtime in a sanitarium.

There it is. Solid rule, perfect for RL, IMO.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
There it is. Solid rule, perfect for RL, IMO.

Yeah, I like it because it's simple and it plugs into the existing rules for ideals, flaws, and downtime. It also doesn't specify particular mental illnesses be acted out. It's 2015 and being a bit more careful about these things seems like a good idea.

I think if I were going to use this house rule again, I'd want to offer some kind of benefit to offset the loss of the character or to encourage the player to turn the PC into a villain. So it's like "Damn, I lost my character to insanity, but at least I get X for my next character!" Something that might even encourage the player to just choose to fail that last horror check because it will make for the best drama in that moment.
 

discosoc

First Post
The insanity thing is one of several major parts of the AP that I think either work very well or not at all, depending entirely on how interested your players are in it. If you have even one player who's just not into the Underdark for an 8 month AP, or doesn't like having mechanical rules tell them how they have to RP their character, it can fall apart very fast. The AP is divisive like that.
 

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