One of the questions everybody asks when I mention my D&D games have a "Lovecraftian" influence is this: Do you use a Sanity mechanic?
For the past few years, my answer has been this: My sanity mechanic is simply, "the players are crazy!" That's right, in my experience, the DM doesn't need to coerce the players into acting insane; it's going to happen organically, whether the DM orchestrates it or not. If we look at the actions of the typical D&D party, from the perspective of an ordinary commoner living in that world, they would seem completely bonkers! For example imagine what a human resident of Hornpipe might think about Hobbets: All their life, they've seen a constant parade of scruffy-looking Hobbets, who come to town for pancakes and then leave a few days later with broken noses and missing teeth (or sometimes vanish into thin air). They probably think the Hobbets are running some kind of "fight club" at the House of Pancakes!
That said, I have a simple and fun Sanity mechanic that I would like to playtest with you all. If it doesn't work out, we can discard it and go back to our current "the players are crazy" method. I'll fill you in on the details when the time comes (no spoilers!!) but I want to preview two key features of my Sanity house rules that I think are pretty special:
1. Insanity is opt-in and reversible. Nobody is forced to use my new sanity mechanic. If you want to continue playing a level-headed and unflappable Hobbet, that's perfectly fine with me. Or if you do choose to become insane, but then get tired of it in the future, there are in-game ways to bring your sanity back to normal levels.
2. Insanity is almost like a type of treasure. There are tangible in-game benefits to losing your grip on reality; for example you can understand certain books that seem like gibberish to sane Hobbets. But you can't just wake up one morning and decide to become insane. You have to actively seek out insanity and collect it, like the pieces of a puzzle.
By total coincidence, but confirming my instincts on this topic are on-point, I stumbled on this blog post today: "Goblins are Halflings gone mad."
https://magickuser.wordpress.com/2020/0 ... -gone-mad/
(If any of you have have strong objections
to playing in a game with a Sanity mechanic, now is a good time to speak up. I promise
this is not going to devolve into a backstabbing, player-vs-player campaign. That's not what I'm all about as a DM, these days.)