Traumas represent long-term mental health issues such as phobias, delusions, compulsions, and other instabilities. They are caused by failing a Trauma Roll or via supernatural attack. Think of them as Battle Scars for the mind.
A Trauma Roll is triggered when a Contractor crosses one of their Limits, as well as by certain Liabilities and Powers. They must roll Mind (5 + Intelligence / 2 dice, rounded up), Difficulty 8. Standard Penalty applies. Failure results in a new Trauma that forms immediately.
GMs and Players often work together to come up with the new Trauma, but the GM has the final say.
Due to the imbued status of Contractors, Traumas can be cured by spending 3 Experience and engaging in therapy during a Downtime. They may also be removed without an Experience cost using certain Powers.
A Contractor's Mind rating is reduced by 1 for each Trauma after their fourth. A Character with 1 Intelligence (6 Mind) and 7 Traumas would effectively have 3 Mind.
Coming up with Traumas
Good Traumas can be tricky to invent. Ideally, they are related to the situations that caused them and have a systemed gameplay impact. Usually a Trauma will specify a situation in which a Player must roll Mind to maintain control of their Contractor. Failing a Trauma's Mind roll can have extremely dangerous consequences.
Below are a few stock Trauma types that can easily be adapted.
A type of anxiety disorder which manifests as an overwhelming fear. Phobias are always unreasonable or are a rational fear taken to an unreasonable level. When the Contractor encounters the subject of their phobia, they must succeed a Mind roll or enter a fight-or-flight response (determined by the GM).
- Phobia of swimming
- Phobia of shapeshifters
- Phobia of tight spaces (claustrophobia)
- Phobia of doctors
- Phobia of holding guns
- Phobia of heights
- Phobia of entering strange-smelling buildings
A Compulsion manifests as a specific activity or behavior which the Contractor feels compelled to do, and is frequently unable to stop themselves. When the Contractor has an opportunity to fulfill their compulsion, they must succeed a Mind roll to resist the urge.
- Compulsion to never leave equipment behind, even for a moment
- Compulsion to steal items of emotional value
- Compulsion to check rooms for listening devices before having private conversations
- Compulsion to mutilate corpses in a certain way
- Compulsion to attack people who make a joke at their expense
A delusion is type of psychotic disorder, manifested as a belief that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument. A Contractor with a delusion must roll Mind in order to recognize a fact over their delusion or to make any decision based on facts rather than their delusion.
- Delusion that all politicians are lizard people and aren't actually human
- Delusion that guns are harmless
- Delusion that modern medicine is ineffective
- Delusion that you cannot be injured and/or are immortal
- Delusion that the people one kills are merely sleeping
- Delusion that you're being persecuted or treated in some other undesirable way by a person or group.
- Delusion that you're an extremely important, powerful, and/or competent person.
- Cotard's Delusion: The belief that you are already dead, do not exist, or are decaying and rotting away.
These Traumas are more complicated and difficult to play than the ones listed above, but systems are provided here for your convenience.
Note: many of these Traumas are real disorders. If you select one, you have a responsibility to do your research and roleplay it in a manner that is not offensive or misrepresentative.
You experience unpredictable panic attacks. When having an episode, you will experience physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, shakiness, and nausea, in addition to the gripping fear and anxiety. When one is coming on, you may roll your Mind to suppress it, but if you fail, you will remain stuck in your panic attack for at least 1 minute.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
You are haunted by an extremely traumatic event or series of events from the past. You will occasionally experience flashbacks (at GM's discretion), and during these flashbacks, as well as whenever you encounter something which reminds you of the trauma, you'll need to roll Mind to avoid having a psychotic break.
You are plagued with intrusive obsessive thoughts, and compulsions to act out repetitive, ritualistic behaviors. Detail your compulsions and behaviors when you acquire this Trauma; you will need to roleplay them constantly, unless you exert your Mind to ignore them for an hour. Additionally, the GM may occasionally intrude your thoughts with a relentless obsession, and you'll need to roll Mind to resist giving in to your obsession.
You experience periods of low self-esteem, lethargy, and an almost total lack of motivation. Any time you fail a roll, you receive one Mental Damage.
Often times you go through periods of intense mania, followed by a deep depression. At any point, the GM may require you to roll Mind, and if you fail, you will enter a manic state.
You frequently see, hear, smell, feel, and/or taste things that are not there. The GM is responsible for triggering hallucinations, but Players should be proactive in suggesting them as well, as it can be a lot for the GM to keep track of. The GM should roll the character's Mind secretly at diff 8 to determine whether or not the character recognizes the things as hallucinations; if they do, they may exert their Mind to ignore the hallucination.
You have at least two distinct personalities which alternate control over your consciousness. They are not typically aware of each other. Be sure to define the personalities when you acquire this Trauma. The GM may call for a Mind roll at most once per hour, failure of which brings the alternate personality to the forefront for an hour. A botch keeps you stuck in the alternate personality until the end of the Game.
You undergo recurring out-of-body experiences, and often don't feel in control of your actions. The GM may call for a Mind roll at most once per hour, and, if you fail, you lose control of your character's actions for one minute.
The urge to light things on fire. If you encounter a flammable object, you must succeed a Mind roll in order to avoid burning it.
The urge to steal things. You must succeed a Mind roll to avoid stealing objects, although you are able to exercise some discretion regarding the means and timing of the theft, and can wait until you aren't being watched.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder
You often experience bursts of uncontrollable aggression. At any time, the GM may call for a Mind roll. Failure causes you to lash out in some way at the nearest person. A botch requires you to lash out violently.
Substance Use Disorder
You are addicted to a particular substance (crack, whiskey, tobacco, donuts, etc...). Any time you are offered your substance of choice, you must succeed a Mind roll in order to avoid consuming it. Additionally, for any day in which you go without, the next morning you must either get a fix, succeed a Mind roll or take two Mind damage.
You have an addiction to a particular activity (gambling, shopping, over-eating, gaming, exercising). This can cover most activities which have a built-in reward or rewarding feeling. Any time an opportunity to engage in the activity comes up, you must succeed a Mind roll in order to avoid doing it. If you fail, after an hour you may roll Mind again to try and stop yourself. Additionally, for any day in which you don't do the activity, the next morning you must either succeed a Mind roll or take two Mind damage.
You have the uncontrollable urge to engage in sexual activity. This can manifest in a number of different ways. NOTE: do not use these Traumas unless the other Players have agreed. Subject to Cell-Leader approval.
- Sex Addiction: Roll Mind any time you encounter someone to whom you are sexually attracted; failure means you will need to pursue sex with that person until they either agree or leave.
- Exhibitionism: You have a compulsion to expose yourself to other people. You must succeed a Mind roll or expose yourself to the first new person you see each scene (only once per scene).
You are plagued with splitting headaches. They are as frequent as they are unpredictable. The GM may trigger a migraine at any moment. When they do, your Penalty is increased by 2 for thirty minutes.
You spontaneously fall asleep. This is triggered by stressful events, which are largely up to the GM to determine, but the beginning of combat will always be a trigger. Roll Mind to avoid falling asleep.
You have various uncontrollable tics, both physical and spoken. Write these down upon acquiring this Trauma. Roleplay them at all times, unless you Exert your Mind to ignore them for an hour.
These are all disorders that impair your cognitive functions in some way.
- Aphasia: Language deficiency. You have trouble comprehending the words used by others, and difficulty using language yourself. Determine the particular manifestation of this (speaking in gibberish, using words in the wrong order, persistent repetition of the same phrase, etc) upon acquiring the Trauma. You may roll Intelligence + Performance, Difficulty 7 each time you wish to engage in conversation, with the number of successes determining both your own level of understanding as well as your relative ability to form coherent sentences.
- Agnosia: Identification deficiency. Your long term memory is fine, but you are incapable of recalling the names of different types of objects, and you have to roll Mind, difficulty 8 in order to remember anyone's name.
- Dysgraphia: Writing deficiency. You are incapable of writing properly. Choose how this manifests when you acquire this Trauma (severe dyslexia, illegible handwriting, etc...).
- Retrograde Amnesia: Memory deficiency. You have lost a chunk of memory starting from a certain date (usually the date of the trauma) and extending back for a significant period of time. If you take this at character creation, the GM will determine your backstory in secret. If you acquire it over the course of the Games, your amnesia will extend back prior to becoming a Contractor.
- Anterograde Amnesia: Memory deficiency. You are incapable of forming new long-term memories. You will retain information until the end of each scene, and forget it by the time the next scene starts.