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View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Sanity as a Spellcasting Ability



Captain Zark
2019-04-08, 01:38 PM
For an upcoming campaign, which errs on the dark and gritty with elements of cosmic horror, I wanted to include the Sanity attribute. This led me to a curiosity in the Warlock.


In this campaign, regardless of which pact they are drawing upon, each patron is, in some way or another, rather jarring to the psyche when you interact with them. As a result, I was interested in exchanging the Warlock's Charisma spellcasting ability with Sanity. Further, I want it to function inversely as in, the lower the sanity score, the more powerful the spellcasting , representing a descent into madness.


For the warlock, this carries the penalty of rolling worse on Sanity saves and checks. To counter this decrease, I was thinking of including invocations that make the insanity worth it (such as the already existing damage increase, maybe something based off of being under the effects of short-term, long-term, and permanent insanity, as well as perhaps doubling the modifier with a level prerequisite?).

For some clarification on the Sanity system I intend to use, it is a modified version of what is presented in the DMG, with inspiration from Darkest Dungeon:

- You cannot have 0 Sanity. If you would otherwise hit 0 sanity, you develop a permanent madness (Affliction) to cope with your insanity, regaining 2d6 Sanity.

- Once per downtime, you can develop a flaw in the form of a vice that serves as a coping mechanism, increasing your sanity by 1d6.

- (TBD) Upon reaching 20 Sanity, you may choose to remove a permanent madness or vice plaguing your character, or gain a Virtue.

- Sanity decreases upon failing Sanity saving throws when met with alien interactions or unspeakable horrors.

The downsides of this are that Warlocks lose the ability to boost their Spellcasting Ability at ASIs, they'd likely lose out on Virtues, and they'll likely suffer from multiple vices and Afflictions in an attempt to maintain their power.


On the plus side, they stand to gain impressive (though potentially OP) Spellcasting DCs and Modifiers, and some other benefits that I'm not quite certain on.


What I'm looking for is constructive criticism (does this have potential, or was it doomed from the start and how could I get something similar) and potential benefits, mostly in the way of invocations. Constructive criticism on the Sanity system itself would also be appreciated.

noob
2019-04-08, 02:20 PM
The problem is that as you gain levels you stack more and more insanities and at level 6+ you probably have so many insanities you can not roleplay all of them at once(you will often forget one from the list of 50 insanities your character have).

MoleMage
2019-04-08, 04:06 PM
The problem is that as you gain levels you stack more and more insanities and at level 6+ you probably have so many insanities you can not roleplay all of them at once(you will often forget one from the list of 50 insanities your character have).

A way to counter this is to have insanities that progress into worse insanities. nWoD used a system like this, where every "derangement" had a minor and a major form, and when you earned a new derangement, you could turn an existing minor into a major.

As for the stats balance, Warlocks as you described are actually rewarded for going as close to insanity as they can without actually going insane. If I managed to walk my insanity down to 3 and then took a big hit and hit 0, suddenly I've got a condition and an average of 7 insanity (I've lost 2 from my spell attack rolls and spell save DC).

If you have the time and inclination, you might pull some of the invocations out of the base class and make them "rewards" for certain insanities. Or you could create certain new pseudo-invocations that are the "rewards". I would recommend not doing this for vices if you go that route, as those are completely within player control.

Finally, a rough alternate methodology that makes Warlock players a little bit more insane but also encourages similar play to other classes:


Sanity is your spellcasting ability for your Warlock spells.
However, if your Sanity modifier is negative, you may use the absolute value of your Sanity modifier for determining spell attacks and spell save DCs, as if it were positive.
Regardless of whether your Sanity modifier is negative or positive, you always subtract the absolute value of your Sanity modifier from Sanity saving throws made against your
Patron or creatures in your Patron's sphere of power, as you have sworn away certain mental defenses in order to allow your Patron's power in.

I actually think your original methodology, with certain countermeasures like increasing severity of insanity conditions, is better than what's in the block above, but hopefully a counterpoint is helpful to you as part of the thought process (it often is for me).

theVoidWatches
2019-04-08, 04:11 PM
My own suggestion would be to have San work normally as their spellcasting modifier in general - representing how well the warlock is able to channel the mental pressures of their power - but to add invocations/features which function off of lower sanity, or otherwise are benefited by having low sanity.

Captain Zark
2019-04-09, 10:18 AM
A way to counter this is to have insanities that progress into worse insanities. nWoD used a system like this, where every "derangement" had a minor and a major form, and when you earned a new derangement, you could turn an existing minor into a major.

That could work out great. For this, I am curious, though, as to whether or not the major form should be more punishing than rewarding, or equal both punishment and reward, but still greater than minor in both aspects.


If you have the time and inclination, you might pull some of the invocations out of the base class and make them "rewards" for certain insanities. Or you could create certain new pseudo-invocations that are the "rewards".

That sounds like it could work out great, though I'm not 100% sure how I'd tie them to certain insanities yet. I'm thinking either certain insanities grant invocations, or certain insanities are prerequisites for certain invocations. I like both, but I think the 2nd one might be easier to comprehend.


Finally, a rough alternate methodology that makes Warlock players a little bit more insane but also encourages similar play to other classes:


Sanity is your spellcasting ability for your Warlock spells.
However, if your Sanity modifier is negative, you may use the absolute value of your Sanity modifier for determining spell attacks and spell save DCs, as if it were positive.
Regardless of whether your Sanity modifier is negative or positive, you always subtract the absolute value of your Sanity modifier from Sanity saving throws made against your
Patron or creatures in your Patron's sphere of power, as you have sworn away certain mental defenses in order to allow your Patron's power in.

I actually think your original methodology, with certain countermeasures like increasing severity of insanity conditions, is better than what's in the block above, but hopefully, a counterpoint is helpful to you as part of the thought process (it often is for me).

I appreciate the counterpoint. It seems interesting, and I might see about adapting it.

Overall, thanks for the validation. I'll try not to let it get to my head.




My own suggestion would be to have San work normally as their spellcasting modifier in general - representing how well the warlock is able to channel the mental pressures of their power - but to add invocations/features which function off of lower sanity, or otherwise are benefited by having low sanity.

That's kind of what I was thinking. I don't think I'd have the level of sanity be a prerequisite, but maybe have certain invocations scale based on Sanity.



Oh, and I was wondering if this would work better as a whole class thing or if it should be a pact that replaces your spellcasting.

Arkhios
2019-04-11, 03:31 AM
Honestly, there's no reason why you couldn't treat the Sanity Modifier as it's absolute value (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_value) (where, i.e. Sanity 16 modifier's absolute value is |3|), with it's modifier being both positive and negative, depending on what you need it to be for different situations.

Alternatively, you could just impose advantage or disadvantage on the warlocks' checks and/or saves related to Sanity and depending on situation.