Insanity Points

Life on the battlefield is harsh, and a soldier of the Imperial Guard can expect to be amidst constant death and horror as he acquits himself of his duty to the Imperium. For even the most stalwart of the Imperium’s heroes, a slow slide into insanity is a constant threat. No human mind, not even one hardened by the harsh rigours of a life of constant warfare, is immune to the slow erosion of sanity by the horrors of the 41st Millennium, and Guardsmen are no exception.
In ONLY WAR these dangers are represented by Insanity Points. Insanity Points represent the strain put on a character’s mind by his experiences; the more Insanity Points a character has, the more fragile his mind has become. The cumulative effects of gaining Insanity Points are divided into Traumas, which represent the short term after-effects of particularly terrible experiences, and Disorders, which are permanent mental afflictions that mark a character’s slide into total madness.


A character is classified as having a certain Degree of Madness depending on how many Insanity Points he has accumulated. This classification gives a player a broad idea of the state of a character’s mind and how close to the edge he has become. A character’s Degree of Madness also determines the modifier that will apply to Tests taken to avoid Mental Trauma.
Degree of Madness
Total Insanity Points Degree of Madness Trauma Modifier Disorder
0-9 Stable N/A None
10-19 Unsettled +10
20-29 Unsettled +10
30-39 Unsettled +10
40-49 Disturbed +0 1st–Minor
50-59 Disturbed +0
60-69 Unhinged –10 2nd–Severe
70-79 Unhinged –10
80-89 Deranged –20 3rd–Acute
90-99 Deranged –20
100+ Terminally Insane—Character retires from play.


The more insane a character becomes, the less horrific things seem. After all, what are the terrors of the battlefield compared to the horrors a soldier sees when he closes his eyes? If the tens digit of a character’s Insanity Point total is double (or more) a thing’s fear Rating, the character is unaffected by that source of fear and does not need to make a Fear Test.


Mental Trauma represents the relatively short-term damage to a character’s state of mind that he suffers after experiencing a particularly horrific event. Each time the character’s Insanity Point total rises by another 10 points he must make a Trauma Test. This is a Willpower Test, modified in difficulty by how many Insanity Points the character has accrued in total. If the Test is passed, the character manages to cope with his experience without any ill effect. If the Test is failed, roll on Table 9–8: Mental Traumas, adding 10 to the roll for every Degree of Failure. This result is applied in the aftermath of any encounter that inflicted the Insanity Points.


Mental disorders reflect the permanent, long-term effects on a character’s mind of the horrors of the battlefield. A character automatically gains a new disorder (or a more severe version of an existing disorder) each time he acquires a certain number of Insanity Points. A character gains one Minor Disorder when he gains 40 Insanity Points, one Severe Disorder when he gains 60 Insanity Points, and one Acute Disorder when he gains 80 Insanity Points (this corresponds to becoming “Disturbed,” “Unhinged,” and “Deranged” on the table above.)Disorders can be selected by the GM, or the GM can allow the player to select one if he prefers. A character must have the preceding severity of a disorder for it to get worse, so for a disorder to become “Severe” the character must have the “Minor” version of the disorder first.

Disorders and Their Severity

The effect a mental disorder has on a character is left largely up to the GM, though the descriptions presented below provide some guidelines. If a character finds himself in a situation or encounter where his disorder will be immediately or dangerously detrimental, he may make a Willpower Test. Success means that he is able to ignore the effects of the disorder for the remainder of the encounter.
All disorders are rated as Minor, Severe, or Acute, in ascending order of effect.
Minor Disorder: The effects of the disorder manifest rarely or exhibit a fairly weak compulsion. Any Test to overcome the effects of the disorder gains a +10 bonus.
Severe Disorder: The effects of the disorder are stronger and may manifest regularly. There is no modifier to Tests made to overcome the effects of the disorder.
Acute Disorder: The effects of the disorder are very strong and will trigger at the slightest stimulation. Any Tests to overcome the effects of the disorder are made a –10 penalty.

Types of Mental Disorders

The range and scale of unpleasant disorders that might afflict a character is potentially limitless, and a few examples are presented here. GMs should also feel free to invent their own to suit individual characters and the terrible trials they’ve undergone. Below are a few examples of common battlefield disorders, any of which may progress during a character’s development from Minor to Acute:


The character has a deep fear of a particular thing or circumstance. A phobic character must succeed on a Willpower Test to interact with the sources of his phobia. Enforced or gratuitous exposure to the source of his disorder may incur Fear Tests. Examples of this disorder include:
Fear of the Dead: The character has an abiding fear and loathing of corpses and the dead, and can’t stand to be around them for any length of time. Perhaps this is because sometimes they don’t stay dead…
Fear of Insects: Scuttling, carapaced things with many legs are the stuff of this character’s waking nightmares: faceless, numberless, and hungry, forever hungry…


The character has a compulsion to perform a particular action or is obsessed with a particular thing. A character must make a Willpower Test not to act in a compulsive way or pursue his obsession when the opportunity arises.
Examples of this disorder:
Kleptomania: A character compulsively steals small objects if he has the opportunity. Often the character attaches no value to the items, he just feels the need to steal them. This one can be particularly dangerous for a Guardsman, as stealing from the unit in war time is often a capital offence.
Self-Mortification: The character feels the need to scourge and whip his flesh on a regular basis (though this may be tied to a particular event, such as killing or thinking impure thoughts), in order to purge away the sin of his actions through pain.
The Flesh is Weak: The character blames the limitations of his own body for his failures and problems. He becomes increasingly obsessed with surgical modification and bionic replacement.

Visions and Voices

The character sees things that are not there and hears things that others do not. Acute sufferers may experience visions into which they are totally immersed.
Dead Comrade: The character hears the voice of an old friend now long-dead, perhaps a close comrade that he was unable to save or a brother-in-arms that sacrificed his life for the character. At a Severe level he may even have visions of his friend, or converse with him if his condition becomes Acute.
Flashbacks: The character relives traumatic moments from his life, often harkening back to a particularly vicious or harrowing battlefield encounter. The length and vividness of these episodes varies according to the seriousness of his condition.

The character suffers from a particular false belief that he must act on as if it were the truth, despite his better judgement or any evidence to the contrary.

Invulnerability: The character believes that he will never get severely injured, possibly through luck or divine providence. Such a character would have to pass a Willpower Test to avoid taking on a vastly superior force instead of exercising due caution.
Righteousness: The character believes that his choices are right and justified, no matter the cost. Such a character may callously and needlessly send troops to their death in the pursuit of a failing battle plan, even when the evidence that a change in tactics is necessary becomes overwhelming.

Horrific Nightmares

The character suffers from vivid and recurring nightmares; like being imprisoned in an endless machine, or being vivisected by masked men while paralyzed and helpless. After any stressful day, the character must pass a Willpower Test in order to not succumb to his terrors while asleep. If he fails, the character will suffer from a single level of Fatigue on the following day.

Mental Traumas
Roll 1d100 and add +10 for every Degree of Failure
Roll Result
01-40 The character becomes withdrawn and quiet. The character is at a –10 to all Fellowshipbased Tests for 3d10 hours.
41-70 The character must compulsively perform an action (such as fevered praying, frantically cleaning a weapon, etc.) and pays little attention to anything else. All Tests that are based on Intelligence, Fellowship, or Perception suffer a –10 penalty. This effect lasts for 3d10 hours.
71-100 The character is constantly fearful, seeing danger everywhere, and is extremely jumpy. The character gains a +10 bonus to all Perception-based Tests and is at a –10 penalty to his Willpower for the next 1d5 days.
101-120 The character suffers from a temporary Severe phobia. This effect lasts for 1d5 days.
131-140 The character suffers vivid and extreme nightmares whenever they try to sleep. The next day, and for a further 1d10 days, the character will be exhausted by a lack of sleep and gains a level of Fatigue.
141-150 The character is struck dumb and is unable to speak. This lasts for 1d5 days.
151-160 Extremely distressed and unfocused, the character refuses to eat or drink, and looks to be in a terrible state. The character takes a –10 penalty to all Characteristics (though no Characteristic will be reduced below 1 by this effect) for 1d10 days.
161-170 The character temporarily becomes hysterically blind or deaf. This effect lasts for 1d10 days.
171+ The character becomes completely traumatised and virtually unresponsive. He can’t initiate actions, but may be gently led. This effect lasts for 1d10 days.


With the GMs permission, a character may use xp to remove Insanity Points. It costs 100 xp to remove a single Insanity Point. A character may never go down a Degree of Madness, and so will never lose one of their disorders through this method. The removal of Insanity Points should be properly represented as time and effort spent by the character in game (long-term palliative care, prayer, fasting, penance, recuperation in quiet and pleasant surroundings, etc.).

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