Stress and Insanity (5e Variant Rule)

From Dungeons and Dragons Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Author: Ghostwheel (talk)
Date Created: July 29 2020
Status: Complete
Editing: Clarity edits only please
Rate this article
Discuss this article

Stress and Insanity[edit]

The madness rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide leave a lot to be desired; they are fairly vague, require a check whose bonus can have great disparity between characters when making a single roll on a d20, and can either be for the most part meaningless or entirely debilitating on a character. Furthermore, other variants force the players to record various tracks, how much stress they have or sanity they have left, and various other book-keeping that is not inherently part of the core system. This variant tries to give a different mechanic for insanity beyond what the Dungeon Master's Guide offers, while maintaining a simplified mechanic that does not require the tracking of additional variables.


A character who experiences something truly strange or horrifying must make a stress check. To make a stress check, roll the character's maximum hit dice, plus a number of dice equal to their Wisdom modifier of their most common hit die. The more horrific an experience is, the more successes will be required on the stress check.

Count any dice that are two less than the maximum you could roll or higher as successes (see the Stress Check Result table below for examples). For every die that rolls a 1, remove one of your successes. Immediately after rolling, a character can call upon their inner reserves and choose to spend a up to half of their maximum hit dice to roll those, adding them to the pool, though before the number of successes needed is announced.

Instead of rolling, a character can spend their inspiration should they have it, or one-third of their maximum hit dice to succeed automatically on a stress check.

Stress Check Result

d6 4 or higher
d8 6 or higher
d10 8 or higher
d12 10 or higher

Should the character get an additional number of successes equal to his tier or higher (see the Character Tier table below), they gain the benefits of a random ideal until they finish a short or long rest. Should the character get less successes than the target number, they fail your stress check, and suffer a random derangement until they finish a long rest. In either case, reroll on the table if you roll an ideal or derangement which you already have (rerolling on the table should their result lead to one they already possess).

If they would get a number of successes fewer than the target number of successes minus their tier, they suffer from a random derangement and a random indefinite madness. If they would gain an additional indefinite madness when already suffering from one, instead the character has a heart attack, immediately dropping to 0 hit points with 2 failed death saves.

Character Tier

Tier Character
1 1-4
2 5-10
3 11-16
4 17-20

At its heart, this variant is made to promote a game of nightmares, heroism, and the imagination. Players who recognize this fact and run their characters in accordance with the environment must be rewarded for their efforts. To that end, any player whose character acts in a manner appropriate to their derangement when the situation dictates that he should do so may roll a stress check at the end of their turn; failure has no consequence for this check, but should they achieve the original number of successes needed they remove the derangement (though they may continue to act it out, perhaps gaining Inspiration). This game mechanic is intended to promote role-playing by simulating the sorts of reactions that should occur in a maddening situation.


Random Ideal

d100 Ideal
1-10 Charitable
11-20 Chaste
21-30 Courageous
31-40 Focused
41-50 Humble
51-60 Kind
61-70 Patient
71-80 Stalwart
81-90 Temperate
91-100 Vigorous

Charitable. Words of encouragement leave your mouth, bolstering the spirits of your allies and pushing them forth.
You can use the Help action as a bonus action three times. In addition, you can use the Help action at a range of 60 feet.

Chaste. The unclean is abhorrent to you, and your desire to rid yourself of whatever you term as unclean motivates you to avoid enemies who might taint you with their presence.
Increase your AC by 2, and you have advantage on saving throws against being charmed.

Courageous. You speak words of valor, stating how this foe will not bring you down and how nothing shall stand before you.
You and allies within 60 feet of you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.

Focused. Your posture lowers, and your hands gripping your implements strengthen as you prepare yourself to meet the enemy head on.
In order to critically hit, you need to roll one lower on an attack roll.

Humble. Face softening, you look around you and realize that you are part of something much greater than yourself, a realization that fills you with strength.
You have advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks, Strength saving throws, and Constitution saving throws.

Kind. Mouth upturning, you find solace in your comrades even at the bleakest of times as you gaze into their faces.
You have advantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks, Wisdom saving throws, and Charisma saving throws.

Patient. Crows feet appear at the corner of your eyes are your concentration grows, waiting for just the right moment before seizing an opportunity.
When you make a type of roll more than once after the start of your turn (such as an attack roll, a saving throw, or ability check), you treat the result on one of your dice as a 10 should you wish.

Stalwart. You stand strong, the rock against the storm, the tree against the tempest. Unbent and unbroken, you stand tall.
When you take damage, reduce the damage you take by an amount equal to half your Proficiency bonus.

Temperate. Feeling a calm wash over you, disturbances are merely ripples that barely disturb the calm pond of your mind.
You have advantage on saving throws.

Vigorous. Energy seems to fill your body, filling you with a need to move and the power not to fall.
While in combat, you gain a number of temporary hit points at the start of your turn equal to twice your Proficiency bonus.


Random Derangement

d100 Derangement
1-10 Abusive
11-20 Craven
21-30 Delusional
31-40 Hopeless
41-50 Hysterical
51-60 Irrational
61-70 Masochistic
71-80 Paranoid
81-90 Selfish
91-100 Treacherous

Abusive. Hate and vitriol spew from your mouth as expletives ring out, lowering the morale of your allies and filling you with self-loathing at your behavior.
You and allies within 120 feet of you who can hear you must roll a d4 whenever they make an attack roll or saving throw and subtract the result from their total. In addition, you have disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Craven. Terror fills your mind as the threat looms large, and the threat to your very existence causes you to turn cowardly.
While in combat, you must make a DC 15 Wisdom save at the start of your turn or become frightened of the nearest enemy until the start of your next turn.

Delusional. Fanciful images abound around you, causing you to be less careful of nearby dangers.
You have disadvantage on saving throws.

Hopeless. You feel as though nothing will truly save you from your predicament as the walls seem to close around you, shutting off any hope from your world.
You cannot gain advantage on any rolls and your speed is halved.

Hysterical. Bubbling laughter, unstopped and unchecked bursts forth as you find your situation both hilarious and deplorable, the high tinge of hysteria signalling others that it is anything but natural.
You find the strangest things hilarious, and must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving whenever someone within 120 feet that you can hear casts a spell that requires Verbal components. On a failed saving throw, you are incapacitated with laughter on your next turn.

Irrational. You panic and take the strangest action possible, moving towards or away from enemies in an erratic manner.
On the round you gain this derangement and the first round of combat, you have an equal chance of using the Dash action or acting normally. Should you take the Dash action, you have an equal chance of moving as close as possible towards an enemy, or fleeing from the closest enemy.

Masochistic. A belief that pain is the only medium through which you can experience reality fills you, causing you to welcome the blows of your enemies.
Attacks against you are made with advantage.

Paranoid. As you look around at the friendly faces of your comrades, doubt lurks in your mind and you feel unwilling to accept their aid should it backstab you in the future.
You cannot gain any beneficial effects from your allies, such as spells, bardic inspiration, or the Help action. Any such effects currently affecting you immediately end.

Selfish. Only by protecting yourself can you live another day, causing you to scurry about frantically away from danger.
Once per round when you are take damage, you must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, you must take the Disengage action on your next turn and move away from the source of the damage.

Treacherous. A sudden need to inflict pain on others seizes you, causing you to lash out indiscriminately against both friend in foe in an ecstasy of bloodlust.
While in combat, you must take an Opportunity Attack whenever the opportunity presents itself, regardless of the target.

Back to Main Page5eVariant Rules

Ghostwheel's Homebrew (383 Articles)
AuthorGhostwheel +
Identifier5e Variant Rule +
RatingUndiscussed +
SummaryA variant rule for having stress in a meaningful way. +
TitleStress and Insanity +