[Trail of Cthulhu] Pillars of sanity/stability as horror flags

edited May 2014 in Story Games
Okay, maybe this would have already been totally obvious to me if I'd ever GMed the game... and maybe it's right there in the rule book somewhere... but it just now occurred to me that if we do char-gen before I come up with my adventure, then I can use the players' pillars to come up with my horrors.

"Oh, your guy relies on his military position and connection to a strong and orderly institution? When things get rough, he can think 'I'm a soldier' and will himself on? Great! I'll make sure that my outer god or cult is manipulating the army, to set up a mind-blasting reveal!"

Thus committed, I could also guide the players in coming up with fertile pillars.


  • Not played myself and your observation has inspired me to buy the bundle of holding Trail of Chulhu ! Oh Dear
  • Yes, Pillars of Sanity are really strong flags. If only the game was more strongly built around them.
  • edited May 2014
    Yes, Pillars of Sanity are really strong flags. If only the game was more strongly built around them.
    I agree. I'm managing to use them reasonably well with Eternal Lies, but that's a happy accident of players picking good pillars for that campaign.

    This may be obvious, but: don't choose a pillar that you'd hit the X-card if it shatters. I gave one of my players a heads up on that, as he'd never played any Gumshoe game before. I want to destroy the PCs bit by bit, not the players.
  • Definitely. Trail is slightly more trad in that it caters to a range of approaches to the game, without being explicit about them.
  • It might be nice if there were some carrot to induce players to volunteer that a Pillar of Sanity is being attacked.
    At the moment it's only available as a GM-driven stick - players' tendency to request Stability tests unprompted notwithstanding.
    Maybe a bonus Cthulhu Mythos point or something as a reward.
  • Actually, what I want is a reward for playing to one's Pillars of Sanity. There's a reward for playing to Sources of Stability, after all (which I'm currently allowing via letters and the like, given the globe trotting). The thing is, I'm not sure enough of the nuts and bolts of why the Pillars don't have that to know whether I'd break something important by futzing with it.
  • You can break your pillar to avoid losing sanity when it is destroyed by the GM but the rules are a little unclear around this. I think it would be better if there were a reward for playing to it, and for breaking it. Perhaps it could be replaced by a pillar of insanity which allows you to do magic more easily.
  • Oh, I just found the shattered/crumbled pillar explanation in the condensed rules. Now it makes sense.
    I got out the ToC core book last night to look it up and had no idea what it was on about, as it doesn't mention that crumbling is the voluntary, lesser, alternative.

    The difficulty is that players don't know when a Mythos revelation is coming, so it's difficult to know when announcing a crumbled pillar might be useful.

    A pillar of insanity sounds fun. Maybe you have to lose two pillars of sanity first? Then whatever's left is the lone obsession you're clinging to, Dr Phibes style.
  • It might make sense to use them like Keys--I'm only familiar with the Lady Blackbird implementation, but IIRC The Shadow of Yesterday had actual levels of how well you hit your Key. Experience could be tied to Pillars that way, with maybe one of the rewards being the ability to buy back a lost point of Sanity.

    You'd also get a neat phenomenon where a PC who's down to only one Pillar would start to become obsessive about that aspect of their character :-)
  • We will make more of these in the next edition so that they have a greater impact on roleplaying earlier in the game. They usually only come into (mechanically effective) play in long-running games where a loss of sanity becomes important.
  • Cool! Any time frame for the next edition?
  • Cool! Any time frame for the next edition?
    No. Not this year, certainly. If I knew I'd tell you! I'm keen to get feedback and suggestions.

  • Gotcha. Thanks. (Ironically, this year, I'm missing GenCon on account of it conflicting with WorldCon -- in London.)
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