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Loosing Pillars of Sanity


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#1 Dwarin

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 02:28 AM

This may have been discussed earlier but here it is again. From the Trail of Cthulhu screen book:

"If you take a Mythos shock that shatters one of your Pillars (see page 75) - by narrative intent - you lose 6 and 2 Stability and Sanity. If, instead, you have had enough Sanity erode before taking such a shock that you've lost 3 Sanity points, you can have a Pillar crumble from within, which means that it can't be shattered.

The emphasis is mine. Now let's see: How does this narrative intent work? Is the GM allowed to just create a situation which he believes will shatter a character's Pillar and force it to shatter? Is this a purely narrative, and mechanical-free, situation? How does everyone deal with this? For instance, let's assume a character has the Pillar of Sanity Dugs keep my mind clear and calm (the concept is a dilettante who really resorts to drugs when things go awry or when under stress). What if I (as GM) created some sort of scenario climax where he finds out that there's a cult using drugs to imprison minds in the dreamlands in eternal torment and that all his friends are now in that situation or something like that or that everyone he knows is being mind controlled by drugs, and I "used" it to shatter his Pillar, would it be a viable use of this rule?

Who decides if the narrative intent is applicable? Anyone ran into a situation where the GM and player disagreed that a certain situation would / wouldn't shatter a Pillar of Sanity?

As for my second question: During the game, is the Investigator allowed to keep his Pillars even if he doesn't have the required Sanity to keep them (3 Sanity per Pillar)? In other words, the investigator opts not to crumble the Pillar from within and until then the GM did not shatter any of his Pillars.


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#2 PelgranePress

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 10:55 AM

The Keeper foreshadows the potential loss, givung the player the chance to crumble the pillar instead of taking the hit. With fair warning then, it's up to the Keeper to decide if a shock shatters a pillar. It has no mechanical effect other than when you last pillar is gone you get a Stability test hit. So, in the case you are talking about, you'd foreshadow the cult and make it clear that this was about the character's pillar, giving that character a chance to make it crumble. It's then up to the player to determine how this crumbling manifests in roleplaying terms.

One optional rule Graham devised was that players decide when to make Stability tests rather than the Keeper. If this works for you, you could try putting pillars in the hands of players, too. Personally, I think foreshadowing is enough.

I'm not sure about your second question.
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#3 Blackburn

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 11:00 AM

Narrative Intent means that the Keeper is doing something in the investigation that is going to specifically hit one of the character's Pillars of Sanity. The example in the book shows the investigator losing the Pillar "Love of Chicago" after finding out that the city is built on top of a Great Old One and draws power from it. The revelation specifically hits the character's Pillar.

The Keeper is allowed to create these situations if he likes. After all, it's hardly Narrative Intent if it happens unintentionally.

The loss of a Pillar to Narrative Intent is automatic AND has a mechanical penalty (as your example states). You can't make any tests to avoid losing the Pillar or the Stability and Sanity that the loss entails. At the same time, if you have the Pillar crumble in on itself (which you can't do if the Keeper is about to shatter it) you don't suffer this loss.

To your example, yes, it could probably work, but you should consider just how appropriate it is. Does a cult using drugs to torment or manipulate people really prove that drugs don't keep his mind clear and calm? Something more appropriate would for him to find that drugs somehow connect the human mind to Daoloth and weakens all of reality (and that the Great Old One's horrific"clarity" can become permanent, or something a little more paradigm shifting than that. A cult using drugs to do terrible things isn't exactly a revelation that undermines the character's view of the universe.

The Keeper decides if narrative intent is applicable, since he specifically decided to go after the Pillar in the first place. Like Stability loss from the Mythos ability, you're basically stating that the character has come to a terrible realization and can't delude themselves anymore. They "Know" and can't forget it. After all, you can't claim that you still believe a caring, loving creator god created us and the universe when you know that the universe is made up of detritus thrown off by the blind, idiot god Azathoth and that humanity is a mistake created by the Elder Things. That being said a player is more than welcome to decide that a revelation shatters his Pillar and take the losses.

Going after Pillars isn't something that should happen every session or even investigation, and you should know if it's something that the player will enjoy as part of their character's story or if it's just going to annoy him. You should only do it when it has some major bearing on the themes and topic of the investigation, not simply as a way to beat the players around. The game can already be deadly enough without the GM simply saying "Rocks fall, everybody goes insane."

An example of a situation I used was a character who had the Pillar of "Mankind can overcome anything." During a dream, she read some of the History of Ancient Mu, used the Cthulhu Mythos ability to understand that she was dreaming of Ghatanothoa's cave, and was then faced with a very, very, very brief glimpse of the Great Old One itself rising from beneath the Trap Door. I emphasized that the brief glimpse, and the petrifying effect she had started to feel creep over her, made her realize that there was no way humanity could ever fight this thing. The best that could be done would be to pray that it never chose to come out, since nothing we would never be able to fight something that terrible and powerful. It was part of the theme I was trying to get across, which was why I was doing it, to let them know that gung-ho, "we can do it" attitudes wouldn't help and show that failure was not an option.

For your second question, my understanding is that yes, a character who hasn't had his Pillars shattered and chooses not to let them crumble can keep them until he or the Keeper decide to do something about it. The loss of all your Pillars has a serious consequence to the character's mental state, after all and I can't find anything about automatically losing them due to Sanity loss.

#4 Jeff_Campbell

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 04:46 PM

One optional rule Graham devised was that players decide when to make Stability tests rather than the Keeper. If this works for you, you could try putting pillars in the hands of players, too. Personally, I think foreshadowing is enough.


This is really interesting; do the players decide on the cost and difficulty number as well?

#5 PelgranePress

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 06:19 PM

This is really interesting; do the players decide on the cost and difficulty number as well?


You hand them the Stability loss table, and they use that. They are usually harsher on themselves in my experience than the Keeper. If they aren't those kind of players, best do it yourself.
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#6 Dwarin

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 02:04 AM

This is really interesting; do the players decide on the cost and difficulty number as well?


In all honesty, I followed this rule when running Cthulhu Apocalypse. When I switched to the Armitage Files, much to my amazement, the players started asking for Stability rolls because it was "in character" that they risked a particular loss. I let them decide the cost based on the Stability Loss table.

#7 Jeff_Campbell

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:47 PM

This supports the idea (first presented in a Yog Radio interiew by Peterson? Hite?) that the real prize in Lovecraftian gaming isn't killing the beastie, but going crazy. Not getting the Necronomicon, but being driven mad while reading it.

Especially since the madnesses in Trail of Cthulhu are such fun!

#8 GrahamW

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 04:15 PM

In play, I think that "By narrative intent" means the Keeper saying "By the way, I'm going after your Pillar of Sanity".

Pillars of Sanity are difficult. Often, it's hard to think of a specific event that will directly, definitely undermine a Pillar of Sanity. (The "Love of Chicago" example was, I think, carefully chosen. It becomes much harder if it's "Love of God".).

There are three options, I think. Firstly, use the Cthulhu Apocalypse alternative rule, which lets the Keeper hit a Pillar of Sanity. On the third hit, it crumbles. Secondly, let the players decide. Often, they will simply decide that their character wouldn't believe in something any more. Thirdly, pester Simon to rewrite the Pillars of Sanity rules for the second edition. They have a lot of potential.

#9 Sid

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 06:45 PM

Maybe the player and keeper could collaborate together on how a pillar is to be undone? Nothing too detailed just a quick discussion on how the player could see their choice of pillar crumble or smash.

The keeper could then work-in the erosion of that character's pillar as a secondary "B" plot for a given scenario/session, alternating to other characters on following scenarios/sessions. People would know when it was "their turn" and understand that the story is now focused on their character's corruption and ultimate destruction from the mythos. You could even have the other players play the roles of concerned sources of stability and other npcs for the "B" plot scenes. Who knows, maybe the players could play out the destruction of a pillar without the keeper getting involved at all?

The key here is that a collaborative game wont have that player vs. keeper mentality.

#10 Chivalrybean

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 07:27 AM

You hand them the Stability loss table, and they use that. They are usually harsher on themselves in my experience than the Keeper. If they aren't those kind of players, best do it yourself.


I played with a guy in a game ran by Scott Glancy and the player kept complaining we was passing his SAN rolls {:0p

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#11 StephanieMcAlea

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 09:13 AM

The idea of complaining after being lucky enough to find yourself in a game with Scott Glancy is as alien as R'lyeh main street to me.

#12 AndreasDavour

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 10:27 PM

I have no idea how Simon or Ken intended things, but when I hacked my CoC game to include Pillars of Sanity (you get one per 20 pts of SAN) I said to the players that they could use those as buffers for a SAN loss. When they felt they had been whacked over the head with implications that the universe was a cold uncaring void, they could choose to just crumble a pillar at the moment of a potential SAN loss, and ignore the loss. The idea being that they had now seen one more thing, and could no longer believe in their abstract idea of <whatever-goodness>. The bad thing would of course be that when the last pillar crumbled they would be without a foundation for their worldview and automatically take the maximum SAN loss from there on.

I think Graham is unto something. This rule (not mine, the ToC one) have a kernel of greatness. Now it is a bit muddled. I have now idea how my modification stands up. Feel free to use or criticize.
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#13 SpiderBobby

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Posted 14 October 2017 - 06:30 PM

Hi can anyone give me a more precise pointer on where the bit on smashing pillars/Love of Chicago is. I'm reading page 75 and can only find info on crumbling them from within. I seem to remember I've had trouble finding this bit before ?

 

Thanks



#14 GBSteve

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Posted 14 October 2017 - 07:11 PM

It's rather brief. In the table about Mythos Stability and Sanity loss on page 76 it has a line for:

This Mythos truth shatters a Pillar of Sanity. Lose 6 Stability and 2 Sanity.

 

It's up to the Keeper and Player as to whether this has actually happened. Of course, if this shakes or blasts the character they would lose another point or two of Sanity. Losing a Pillar of Sanity this way is much more damaging that it crumbling from within.

 

There's a short version of the rules here which shows all this on one page.


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#15 SpiderBobby

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Posted 15 October 2017 - 07:14 AM

Thanks