Aren't We All a Little Insane?

December 19, 2018

Welcome back readers! This week I will be talking about sanity, a system integral in almost all of H.P. Lovecraft's work - and mediums based on that work.


In Elder Shadows, one player takes to the mystery as an investigator searching and battling their way to find clues to foil the cultist and seal the gates before an Elder One is summoned from the beyond. The Investigator is joined by Companions and clever items to complete this sometimes overwhelming task.


As found in many Lovecraft works, sanity has an important role in Elder Shadows. Each card the investigator players during their turn, and each card in play, has a slightly different effect based on the current level of sanity. For example, the "Occult Studies" action card allows the investigator to draw 2 cards if the sanity meter is between 2 and 4. If the sanity meter is at 0 or 1, "Occult Studies" only allows the Investigator to draw a single card. If the sanity meter is at 5 or 6, the Investigator still draws 2 cards, but at a lower cost. This system is present in nearly every card played by both Cultist and Investigator. A higher sanity meter means the investigator has a slight edge while a lower sanity meter caters to the Cultist nefarious plans.




Among the many ways to manipulate this sanity meter, the simplest is through card ability - though those abilities are restricted by the sanity meter itself. Other ways to raise or lower the meter is through our stress and vigor systems. Each time the investigator encounters a Specter or Event during an investigation the investigator will gain a stress. Card effects will also add or remove stress. If the investigator has 5 or more stress at the start of her turn, she slips slowly into madness - lowering the sanity meter by 1. Counteracting this madness, each time the investigator defeats a Specter or successfully investigates, she will gain vigor. When the investigator has 5 vigor, it is reset to 0 and madness fades - raising the sanity meter by 1.


This push and pull of the sanity meter is one of the integral design philosophy for the game of Elder Shadows. Creating an interesting dynamic where the decision to play a certain card is influenced both by necessity and by the power of the card as set by the sanity meter.  Will you "Take a Breath" now to remove 1 stress? Or will you wait a turn or two for sanity meter to move up and "Take a Breath" to remove all stress?


Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning more about Elder Shadows. Check back in two weeks when I explain the intricacies of investigations, an important part in the success of the investigator.


Until then, you can look into Con of the North, where we will be demoing Elder Shadows! February 2019.


Thanks for reading!

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