Madness in DW


We all deal with distress differently.  Some folks, they can shrug off creatures from the space between spaces tearing through their minds and not sweat it.  Other folks can’t handle standing in queues.  When you hit your breaking point, gain +1 Madness. 

Good news though – You are the hero!  You can always ignore your prickling scalp and the cold sweat running down your back:  

When you resist Madness-causing distress, Roll + WIS.  On a 10+, you pull it together, swallow your anxiety, and gain +1 preparation against the immediate source of distress.  On a 7-9, you’re losing it, but not gone…  take -1 ongoing versus the source of your distress, until you overcome it or bolster your resolve.  On a miss, despair is overwhelming:  Gain +1 Madness and follow your fight or flight instinct, with a -1 ongoing against the source of your distress.

When you help another resist Madness, roll + BOND.  On a hit, grant them aid to resist Madness.  On a 10+, take +1 forward against the source of this Madness yourself, if applicable.  On a miss, you are dragged into your ally’s struggle, write one new Bond with that player related to your shared pain and gain +1 Madness yourself.


When add a third point of Madness, your psyche breaks; write a new Obsession and reset your Madness to zero.

When you take a Last Breath while suffering from Madness, you may take a +1 bonus to your Last Breath roll.  If you return to life with Madness, write a new Obsession but do not reset your Madness to zero.

Living with Madness:

Madness should not punish the character, but rather add new motivations and perhaps reveal new insights into the character.  The GM and the other player characters are encouraged to explore the ways in which Madness and Obsessions impact the character and influence their choices.

Madness can manifest explicitly in GM options during triggered moves, such as Spout Lore, Discern Realities, or Take Watch.  Madness also flavours the mundane and shades the way that characters perceive themselves and the world.  You are haunted, paranoid, nervous….

Finally, when you have at least one point of Madness, you are Confused (-1 ongoing to WIS).  

Treating Madness:

Madness is reduced as other debilities. Every few days of quiet, avoiding stress and working through the dark fears in your mind, you reduce Madness by one point.

When you Rest or Make Camp, you can confront your fears with a Roll + WIS.  On a 10+ you reduce your madness by one and rest as normal; on a 7-9, you neither lose madness nor gain the benefits of resting or camping; and on a miss, write a new Obsession..  

The fiction may allow another player or method to intervene and help you reduce your Madness.  Of course, anyone delving into your dark mind runs the risk of getting lost in the darkness as well.


Obsessions are the scars of Madness on your psyche. They shape your perceptions and focus your actions; they consume you.  

When you write a new Obsession, describe a phobia or drive that compels or repels you, or an image or thought you just can’t shake. This is now part of who you are.  

When you act in direct accordance with an Obsession, take +1 forward.

When you act contrary to an Obsession, they plague you… gain +1 Madness.

When you leave the party to pursue your obsessions, you are consumed by them. Tell the party how these Obsessions drive you away from them, and hand report to the GM for further instructions.  (revised to leave this up to player choice; drive em as mad as you want, until it’s no fun!)

Treating Obsessions:

Resolving Obsessions should involve a major effort by the character or party.  The GM is encouraged to develop a front or fronts appropriate to the characters’ obsession(s).

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