Changes to Stress and Panic in Mothership

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A year ago, I wrote a post about replacing the Sanity mechanic in Mothership. Since then, they’ve successfully raised a significant amount of money for a new edition of the game via Kickstarter (which I backed). The new edition has a work-in-progress document with an updated stress and panic system. In my view, this does a lot to resolve the concerns my group and I had with the game and its representation of mental health. Sean McCoy, the designer, talked about it a bit on Reddit during his AMA:

I appreciate that effort greatly! I gave some more specific feedback on the current effects on Discord:

FWIW: my group really appreciates the changes to the Panic Effect table. The work that y’all have put in to improve that really shows and is greatly appreciated from folks who felt a bit turned off from the old list. Comments include “i thought it was a cool idea, directing the what but not the how” and also noting that some of the things that played into unfortunate stereotypes had been removed. This removes what was (for me) a major stumbling block with 0e.

Sean’s response meant so much to me personally. It lifted my spirits for days!

Technoskald: "FWIW: my group REALLY appreciates the changes to the Panic Effect table."

Sean McCoy: "You were on my mind the whole time we worked on that!"

This is what we like to see: a designer and publisher listening to the feedback, putting their money where their mouth is, and making changes. Here’s the table of effects as they currently stand. Please keep in mind that this is taken from the current testing version of the Player Survival Guide; TKG might tweak things more before the final release.

1LASER FOCUS. [+] on all rolls for the next 2d10 minutes.
2ANXIOUS. Gain 1 Stress.
3JUMPY. Gain 1 Stress. All Nearby crew members gain 2 Stress.
4OVERWHELMED. All actions at [-] for 1d10 minutes. Permanently raise your Minimum Stress by 1.
5COWARD. Gain a new Condition: You must make a Fear Save to engage in violence or flee.
6FRIGHTENED. Gain a new Condition: Phobia: When encountering this Phobia make a Fear[-] Save or gain 1d5 Stress.
7NIGHTMARES. Gain a new Condition: Sleep is difficult, gain [-] on all Comfort Saves.
8LOSS OF CONFIDENCE. Gain a new Condition: Choose one of your Skills and lose that Skill’s bonus.
9DEFLATED. Gain a new Condition: Whenever a Nearby crew member fails a Save, gain 1 Stress.
10DOOMED. Gain a new Condition: You feel cursed and unlucky. All Critical Successes are instead Critical Failures.
11PARANOID. For the next week, whenever someone joins your group (even if they only left for a short period of time) make a Fear Save or gain 1 Stress.
12HAUNTED. Gain a new Condition: Something starts visiting you at night. In your dreams. Out of the corner of your eye. And soon it will start making demands.
13DEATH WISH. For the next 24 hours, whenever you encounter a stranger or known enemy, you must make a Sanity Save or immediately attack them.
14PROPHETIC VISION. You immediately experience an intense hallucination or vision of an impending terror or horrific event. Gain 1 Stress.
15CATATONIC. Become unresponsive and unmoving for 2d10 minutes. Reduce Stress by 1d10.
16RAGE. Immediately attack the closest crew member until you inflict at least 2d10 DMG. If there is no crew member Nearby you attack your surrounding environment.
17SPIRALING. Gain a new Condition: You make Panic Checks with Disadvantage.
18COMPOUNDING PROBLEMS. Roll twice on this table. Permanently raise your Minimum Stress by 1.
19HEART ATTACK / SHORT CIRCUIT (ANDROIDS). Permanently lose 1 Wound. Gain [-] on all rolls for 1d10 hours. Permanently raise your Minimum Stress by 1.
20COLLAPSE. You no longer control this character. Hand your sheet to the Warden and roll up a new character to play.

The thing I noticed is how they removed the “medical” bits of it. I guess a few of the words (“paranoid”, “catatonic”) also have medical meanings, but the colloquial usage dominates by far.

Not every designer or publisher will listen to feedback, and we won’t always agree on the precise changes required. But good-faith efforts like this go a long way, and in this particular case my group (including some of the folks whose comments motivated some of my feedback on the “0e” version) is pretty happy with the result as noted above.

I’d like to see other horror TTRPG publishers stand back and take a look at this as well. Looking at you, Chaosium…

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