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insanity as a resource

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Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015

I have a very vague and random idea here and I'm not sure how/if I'd implement it.

The idea is for - well, just about any sort of game in which you build up a system to collect resources of different types. Your choices must be logical and ordered, things must work efficiently and make sense, that way you expand.

But there is one resource which doesn't work like that, insanity.
What you need insanity for is beyond me. I could be lazy and say you need it to win the game, but how, I don't yet know.
How you get it I'm not so sure, probably by doing crazy things which make accumulating the other resources more difficult, perhaps there are other ways (other players "awarding" you insanity by penalising you? So things done to disrupt player's infrastructure will increase their insanity)
I'm not sure how insanity would effect you in the game, I think that it would have no effect or a negative effect on your infrastructure.

The other idea I had was that insanity would be like nuclear war, you use it kind of as a weapon, but in using it you multiply it and the insanity comes back to haunt you. That way you'd cripple your rivals with insanity but in doing so you'd increase the overall insanity of all players. As the game progresses, thing would become more and more crazy.
The only thing I'm not so sure about with this idea is that I'd love it if insanity (despite being a bad thing) actually did something for you or allowed you to do something other than simply making things difficult. I don't want it to only be a weapon.

So anyway, new players, much younger players or players who aren't interested and don't understand the game would collect vast amounts of insanity and very little else.
The way the game works might change depending on the level of insanity you have, more random elements, more crazy effects of certain actions, etc.
It would be a great deal of fun to play with high levels of insanity but difficult to win the game this way.

I don't really have a specific question here, any ideas on how I could make this work and other specifics of the game which would make using this more fun and more interesting?

Rick L
Rick L's picture
Joined: 08/22/2016
Great concept!

I've seen games that have sanity as a statistic for characters, such as in Elder Sign - I'm sure you could track insanity as well as "loss of sanity", it's just a matter of direction, and whether tracking different stats in different directions would be confusing.

But insanity as a resource is something else entirely! I guess the question in its use would be whether it's something you use for yourself or if you use it against other players.

Insanity goes well with randomness, so I started thinking about dice. Picture some sort of mad scientist game, where you need to complete experiments to win, and the most insane experiments get you the most points.

So let's say you have a list of 12 experiments (we could go to 20, but might be too much). Experiment 1 would be the least insane, and experiment 12 would be the most insane.

You start by rolling a 4 sided die, so only experiments 1-4 are available to you. You could possibly have modified cards to add an extra point or two, so you could have more choice in which experiment you do, or go a bit beyond the die roll.

As you turn in "insanity" resources, you can change your die from a 4 sided, to a 6 sided, then an 8 sided, then 10 sided, and finally a 12 sided die, where all 12 experiments are now available. So you're basically upgrading your die as you gain more insanity, and can thus attempt the more insane experiments!

I'm sure this example idea comes from the fact that I'm currently working on a game with Alchemy experiments lol! I could see working this in, but I'm trying to simplify now - who knows, maybe an expansion?

Rick L
Rick L's picture
Joined: 08/22/2016
Using insanity against each other...

My idea above could work thematically, but not sure it really "adds" too much randomness, at least not in an insane way.

If you were using insanity against each other, you could add randomness by a similar mechanism of replacing dice. If I play a certain amount of insanity against you, you'd have to roll a bigger die to find out what you get to do this turn. You'd have to replace your 4 sided die with a bigger one, depending on how much insanity I inflicted upon you, making it harder to focus on the best options for your turn.

In this way, options 1-4 would get players further in the game, with higher numbers getting more bizzare and useless. You could use a psych ward to reduce your die back to something lower.

Could be fun, especially if the more insane actions cause fun and interesting events in the game.

Thanks Midnight Carnival for bringing up this insanity lol!

- Rick

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

Have levels of insanity/crazy be mutually-exclusive to other resources/abilities, and mark their balance on a shared board. In this example, there's a zero-sum relationship: when you gain insanity, you lose the same amount (or the same potential amount) in another, more-typical resource. As long as there's incentive to consider gaining Insanity, then you allow for an interesting choice for the player.

For example: imagine you have four different attributes: Technology, Community, Knowledge, Influence. You have a maximum amount of 10 in each category, and the player's current level in that attribute can be increased over time as they play the game. However, if a player taps into the Insanity resource, they gain one "point" of insanity. The player must choose a particular attribute track to add their Insanity to.

Let's say that the player chooses the Influence category. They place the Insanity token on the far end of their Influence attribute track. They now have 1 point of Insanity, and a maximum of 9 in Influence for the rest of the game.

Obviously, this doesn't become an issue if the player doesn't take on more Insanity, but if they do, then they'll see that their ability to increase their attributes - or keep them at a high level - could be compromised.

To mitigate this, some players may want to "spread around" their Insanity, so it affects different aspects of their character in smaller ways. But focusing Insanity on a particular attribute may also be a viable strategy, as well as afford a bonus to Insanity side-effects/perks.

If you want to have a constant dilemma, make sure there are advantages to acquiring Insanity as opposed to just being a negative effect. This way, the player may be forced to choose to keep their normal attributes at a higher level (or higher level of potential), or tap into the powers and abilities awarded through Insanity.

There could even be some viable strategy related to gaining as much Insanity as possible before the rest of the players. You would need to address balance issues between high Insanity versus someone who keeps high levels in the typical attributes, but to me it sounds like it would be fun to try.

Joined: 01/27/2017
This is an insane idea!

Insanity as a resource reminds me of a quote by George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

For a game where the player is taking on the role of an individual, Insanity as a resource kinda makes sense. If the player is a large unit, country, etc. then I would go with Chaos or something similar unless there was a strong thematic reason to stick with Insanity (e.g., Cthulu Mythos).

To build on let-off's idea, most routine actions draw on the basic stat, but within-game innovative actions use just the insane portion of the stat. You could also come up with a use for the sum, perhaps how the character is perceived by the board's AI. For example, the number of followers may depend on the sum of basic Influence and Insane Influence. Actually getting stuff done rolls against basic Influence, and creating serious within-game social change rolls against Insane Influence.

The term "Insane" would vary depending on the theme, and should show some sensitivity to history. No one would bat an eye at calling a Mad Scientist "insane," but Abolitionists, heliocentrists, Suffragettes, etc. would also be considered "insane" under this framework because they are trying to affect change that is not taking the path of least resistance within their culture.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Excellent Explanation

FrankM wrote:
...No one would bat an eye at calling a Mad Scientist "insane," but Abolitionists, heliocentrists, Suffragettes, etc. would also be considered "insane" under this framework because they are trying to affect change that is not taking the path of least resistance within their culture.
I love the way you phrased this.

For quite some time now I'd been wanting to develop a solo game based on Anne Bronte's "Tenant of Wildfell Hall," which deals with a woman who left her philandering drunkard of a husband. Balancing "when to leave the husband" - and drawing social scandal - versus staying under his sway while gathering resources has been a challenge to depict in-game. However, being influenced by this discussion I feel like I'm edging closer to it.

In a broader sense, any developing social movement can be depicted as thus. Another famous (and misattributed) quote comes to mind: "First they ignore you; then they abuse you; then they crack down on you and then you win."

The player's decision is, then, when to address the tipping point before the "crack down" so that hopefully they reach the "win" before it's too late.

Daggaz's picture
Joined: 12/19/2016
Why get tied up on insanity?

Why get tied up on insanity? I think the cool thing here is the opposing resource mechanic, the theme can be reskinned to suit any purpose.

At the heart of it, I suppose any worker placement scheme where options for resource harvesting are unlimited but worker numbers are limited, emulates the concept, as you have to lower intake of resource X to harvest more Y in that case. But I like the idea, perhaps with a bit more edge. Like it costs X to harvest Y.

If you added enough interaction you could build quite a puzzle into a game, instead of the usual naked race to just get as much as possible of everything.

Rick L
Rick L's picture
Joined: 08/22/2016
Besides just an opposing

Besides just an opposing resource mechanic, "insanity" implies a behavioral element that alters somehow. Limiting or lowering capabilities is a cool mechanic, as insanity would make you less capable, but wouldn't it also cause you to make some insane, random choices too? Like wasting or destroying a resource, or just plain randomizing something that you wouldn't normally randomize?

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Necronomonopoly used sanity

Necronomonopoly used sanity as money, and when you got bankrupt (insane), you became a cultist trying to make other player lose sanity.

roger's picture
Joined: 02/12/2017
Insanity could be a resource

Insanity could be a resource but only to add chaos, disorder. But most of the time, the goal of a game is to make order, not disorder. To control more things, bend the other players into losing or wasting their actions and resources. So, I think insanity level could be a defensive mechanism. The higher your insanity, the more difficult it is to rein you, from the other players point of view. It'd make it more risky to attack you because your response could be crazy because your insanity rating is higher.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
wow, some crazy responses! I have an insane idea! (heh-heh)

Thanks to all of you, if I had more time now I'd be into this heavily, there were some really good suggestions.

Someone spoke about a worker placement game and this interested me.
I can't remember whether the idea of insanity as a resource was presented as an idea for a worker placement game or not, but I know I did not envisage it as being limited to this sort of game...

But I had a crazy idea! (ha ha, high insanity levels to draw on!)
Remember I was talking about the popularity dynamic in a worker placement game and how the market would function?
Well, the one idea I had was for a sort of "craze" for a particular type of resource, meaning you can trade it for a lot more for a limited time.
Since worker placement was mentioned I kind of tied the 2 together and started thinking of the one as potentially filling in the blanks for the other. Insanity would be a resource you couldn't trade but you could use it to randomise the market. Players who go for order and building monopolies could have the carpet pulled out from under them so to speak.
Thanks for the inspiration. Wish insanity was a resource in real life, I'd be rich (and so would some of you).

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