With their specialisation in horror D20 Modern adventures, it's logical to find 12 to Midnight producing some detailed rules for how being scared affects your characters - however this comprehensive rules supplement could be used in any D20 game (makes mental note NOT to show my Spycraft referee this product!).
Read the Introduction, in which the author describes the effects of a thunderstorm and a power outage on a horror RPG he was playing in, and how he - never mind his character - felt genuinely scared for a moment. This is the effect that the gamemaster ought to be trying to create (but with care, and knowing the players well enough, of course).
The actual system is elegant and effective, based around a Will save at DC 10 - rather than the DC changing depending on the nature of the horror you are trying not to be scared by, you look at a different part of the 'consequences' table should you fail the roll. So a mildly upsetting moment should make you yelp or stand still for a moment, while more severe ones may see you fleeing or even running the risk of losing your marbles. There are simple and straightforward rules for those who have sanity issues to seek professional help - they can attend a mental health clinic or go to hospital, requiring a number of hours of therapy depending on the severity of their problem with a roll at the end to see if the treatment has been successful. There are passing mentions of 'medicine' but if you want to make use of that you'll have to come up with necessary die rolls and effects on your own.
There is sufficient scope for truly horrifying scenes to send characters completely bananas, but the system is versatile and comprehensive enough to ensure that a single hairy spider is unlikely to land you in the nearest asylum... and even 'permanent' conditions will react to treatment, given time. Referee discretion is advised, the system should not be overused, or it will lose its effectiveness. Characters who consistently make their saves, though, can build up a certain resistance to seeing that which should not be seen by the use of temporary or even permanent circumstance bonuses.
If you ever have elements of horror in your game, this system is worth considering.
Return to Fear Effects page.
Reviewed: 5 July 2005