Because of my personal and professional experience I know quite a lot about mental health issues. As you may well know I suffer from depression and anxiety disorder myself and since I work in a psychosomatic medicine department , I learned a lot about all kinds of psychological and psychosomatic disorders over the years. What sometimes bothers me, is how roleplaying games use mental health issues.
There are a lot of games which have rules for psychic disorders. The most prominent example is probably Call of Cthulhu. In most of these games your character gets a random disorder when he or she has lost a certain amount of mental health points. Most games don’t even bother to distinguish between different causes. Being confronted by unspeakable horrors from beyond has the same effect as seeing a loved one die or being close to death yourself. In one case my character in a Palladium Fantasy game was on the brink of death and got traumatized by that. What was the result? He suddenly had a phobia against fey creatures – no kidding!
This of course doesn’t make any sense. It might have, if the almost mortal wound had been caused by fey, but it was because of drowning. One other common mistake is that neuroses and psychoses are randomly thrown together – which doesn’t make any sense. Playing out a psychological disorder might be a very interesting and intense roleplaying experience. But in most games it’s handled so badly that it just becomes an excuse to play “crazy”.
I don’t expect total realism. But I would prefer it if game designers took these matters more seriously. Suffering from mental health issues is no laughing matter. And while some roleplayers can have lengthy discussions about how realisticly guns are simulated by roleplaying games, almost noone bats an eye when it comes to unrealistic “insanity” rules.
I have to admit I haven’t had the time yet to do some more research on the matter. I am sure there are a couple of games who treat the subject with respect. I faintly remember that the Trail of Cthulhu rules did a slightly better job when it came to insanity and mental stability than most games. But I have to double-check.
What is your stance on the matter? Are you bothered by the portrayal of mental health issues in RPGs, too, or do you just not mind? Do you know a couple of laudable examples you want to share? Feel free to post your thoughts below!
You might be wondering… Did he miss a week? Yes I did! Sorry dear reader… Personal matters kept me away from the blog last week. Everything is almost back to normal now, so time for the next instalment on the Sci-Fi Fridays! series. Last week was, what I would would be the last Wanderers of the Outlands post for a while, but the campaign continues apace and I may soon be back to talking about it and sharing information and material created for it. This week, much like I did with the interview in Part 17 I’d like to review a tool I’ve been using for the campaign, Obsidian Portal!
I’ve known about Obsidian Portal for a while, I created my free account back in 2012 while searching for options to share information about my campaigns. I played around with it, and as nice as it was I ended up not creating my campaign in it. You may ask, why? My biggest reservation at the time was privacy. I don’t mind sharing campaign information, heck I do plenty of that here in the blog, but the day to day details of the game itself, a place where the players can communicate freely, unconcerned about typos or spelling, a private space to share ideas was paramount. The free version of Obsidian Portal did not offer that and I continued my search.
Week 15… I’ve written a lot for my sci-fi Savage Worlds campaign, as these Sci-Fi Fridays! post prove. This time around the information is immediately relevant to the players. This is the rest crew of the ship they’ll be traveling on. I wanted to have a ship as a base of operations because it serves three purposes, first it facilitates travel to different worlds, something I think will benefit this campaign; second it is safe place where the characters can rest between adventures, but it has all sorts of adventure opportunities, like providing upkeep, getting supplies, etc. And lastly, it unifies the players; it is a reason for them to be together if they are the crew of a ship. On the flipside I did not want a single player to be the owner, or even to burden them with a debt of starship proportions. The solution was, they are the crew of the ship, and they have a salary and get a percentage of the earnings. With the exception of one character, who’ll be a passenger, all others are part of the crew of the Exeter.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, the ship we’ll be using is from a Future Armada product by 0ht: art and technology. They produce the excellent Future Armada and Armada Codex series. They give you a ship’s layout as well as a description of the ship and crew. Future Armada has d20 based statistics, but they are so simple that converting them to other systems (as I did for Savage Worlds) is really easy. Armada Codex has generic rules for the ships. They also include high quality maps that allow you to use the ships with miniatures.