Don’t Panic! Alternate Fear rules for Fear Itself

Fear Itself and most other GUMSHOE games use a Stability system that’s inspired by the classic Call of Cthulhu ‘mental hit points’ approach – your character has a big pool of Stability that gets ablated over time by horrific encounters, until you’re eventually forced to ‘heal’ or get taken out. This approach works well for a campaign, but it’s less suited to a one-shot – or to a more light-hearted game where you want horror, but don’t want the characters to be incapacitated by long-term trauma.

In this model, Stability represents your ability to keep your cool in the face of sudden shocks and frights. The GM calls for a Stability check when your characters runs into something scary. Pass, and you can act normally. Fail, and the consequence is dictated by the GM – you run, you attack, you drop your torch, you scream.

No, Not That!

You can spend another Stability point to ask the GM to inflict a different consequence on you (“I don’t want to drop my torch! Something else!”)

If the effect is ongoing (like “you run away”) you can spend a point of Stability to end the panic sooner instead of letting it play out. (“You run back to the door, but don’t leave the haunted house”)

Sample Difficulties

2 – an unnerving situation: hearing a floorboard creak when you’re sure you’re home alone

3 – something genuinely worrisome: seeing a dark figure outside your house, started by sudden movement in the periphery of your vison

4 –  a sudden shock: something jumping out at you, coming across a corpse

5 – a genuine threat: being shot at, being attacked, something lunging for you

6 – anyone would panic: a friend being killed right in front of you.

No Negative Stability

In this model, Stability’s a pool like other General Abilities such as Driving or Scuffling; you can’t go below 0. When you’re at 0 Stability, you’re exhausted and stressed out.

Steeling Yourself

If you know you’re going into a stressful situation, you can ‘pre-spend’ a point of Stability to steel yourself; this gives you a +1 bonus to all Stability tests until you fail a test or until you think you’re out of danger. Characters who are used to dangerous situations (cops, soldiers, professional ghost hunters) can Steel Themselves at the start of the day – they’re always on guard.

Supernatural Threats

If a threat’s supernatural, then the first time you encounter it, you can only spend 1 point of Stability to boost your chances of resisting panic. After you’ve faced that particular unnatural threat at least one before, you can spend Stability normally.

Supernatural threats can push a character into being Shattered or Broken if a Stability test get failed (but the player can always use ‘No, Not That!’ to avoid the worst results, assuming they have any Stability left to spend…)

Regaining Stability

Stability’s restored as normal with Shrink (although it might be better renamed as Support in this variant).

List of sample Consequences

  • Running away
  • Screaming
  • Dropping whatever you’re holding
  • Running in a panic and getting lost
  • Slamming the door shut
  • Fainting
  • Attacking in a panic
  • Throwing whatever you’re holding
  • Throwing up/peeing yourself
  • Injuring yourself in a desperate attempt to flee
  • Injuring someone else
  • Grabbing someone else and not letting go
  • Grabbing someone else and using them as a shield
  • Panic attack
  • Heart attack
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