Fear Feeders (phobophages)

What do you lot think is the best way to handle a creature that feeds on fear mechanically in ArM?

The best I've come up with so far is that the victim of the attack gets a temporary Personality Trait of Frightened, Scared, or Terrified progressively as the attack continues. The intensity of each fear level is higher than the rest and so are the Personality Traits. The current Trait level acts as a penalty on subsequent Resistance rolls and each failed roll progresses the fear to the next level. The fear levels will have values of either +1 to +4 or a steeper progression of +1, +3, +5, +7. Resistance roll penalty is -1(Current Trait Level). (I'm aware there are only three listed fear levels above, I haven't pulled up a thesaurus yet for the fourth one)

Perhaps the victim loses a fatigue level at each progressive fear level and the creature "feeds" (regains Might Points) at a rate of 1/FL or 5/FL?

(Important Note: IOS we rule that feeding powers, being inherent to a supernatural species' survival, cost 0 Might points to use).

My first thought is, that sounds like a faerie feeding on a particular sort of vitality. Give it the Feast of the Fae / Feast of the Dead virtue from RoP:M p. 46 plus appropriate Imaginem and Mentem powers, perhaps coupled with environmental powers (Herbam, Aquam, etc.) depending on the environment it's encountered in.


If the entity feeds on fear I would expect its victim to become fearless as its fear is being eaten, though the feast of the fae/feast of the dead is also an appropriate way of handling it from the other perspective.

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I forgot to mention that we use 4th ed., though we have used some 5th before (RoP: F). I'll take a look at those "Feast" powers and see if I need to modify them for edition differences.

Environmental powers as suggested by @temprobe will certainly be appropriate for at least one scene I have planned for a future story.

It depends on how you want to deal with fear in the game, or how one particular creature interacts with fear. I don't think there should exist a single, universal fear mechanic.

I can see space for creatures that impose a temporary personality trait, no mechanics. For others, I think a simple "roll Brave against EF X or suffer the effect Y (most often, flee)" works best (such as the power Marked Quarry from Tarlan, on AM5 p.195).

Personally I like the idea that you could be Frightened, Scared, Terrified or simply Paralyzed from fear (-1, -3, -5 or Incapacitated). I wouldn't make they naturally progress from one to another as a general rule, but for one particular creature though? It would be nice. And if a creature becomes Paralyzed the fear feeder can kill the target (a dementor's kiss kind of thing). To any mundane examination the victim appears to have died from a heart attack (which she did).

I don't know if the creature needs to directly recover Might by inducing fear, from a mechanical point of view. It might be more interesting to do something like "it doesn't recover might if it doesn't feed once per day (or if it doesn't kill once a month)".

If you are having trouble finding them, the two Virtues Temprobe mentioned are in RoP:F rather than RoP:M.

If you are going to look in RoP:M, I would suggest taking a peak at the "Aligned Auras" section specifically the "Auras that Enhance Emotions" part (RoP:M, p.15). The example box is for one that induces fear and shows how people would react based on personality traits. In addition to the affect on the emotion, there is also a twisting of the environment (so for Fear things would get darker and scarier).

You could base the effect on ether the entity causing a short lived flavoring of the Aura it is in (so the power is based on the Aura Level) or around itself no matter what (with the effect based on something like 1/5 its Might).


My presumption with such attacks is that the victim indeed becomes completely fearless, at the moment of death.

I think this is a better way than I was thinking of doing it. This way there only needs to be one EF for Resistance rolls against a creature in one scene. With each failed roll, the victim naturally progresses to the next Fear level (represented mechanically by Fatigue levels/penalties). The Fatigue penalties stack up into a sort of death spiral like I wanted to, without reinventing the proverbial wheel.

I would probably alter it at our table like so:
If the attack doesn't cease when the victim becomes Paralyzed/Incapacitated, another failed Resistance roll results in death by heart attack.

Again, probably better than I was going about it. It fits the feel of the setting we're emulating (The Dresden Files) quite well, actually. It also fits with our "no Might cost for feeding powers" better than a direct recharge mechanic.

FWIW, I'd say that, in 5th, if your Fear Feeder is a faerie, you don't need any mechanic.

Fear is just the kind of emotional responses it seeks to elicit, and the kind of stories it sets up.
In theory, you could have 2 creatures with the exact same stats, one feeding on fear (the monster that kills people), the other on love (the kind creature shunned for its appearance and longing for friendship)

So I'd say, just design your run-up-the-mill creature, and make it a monster that stalks its prey, things like that.
You can give it powers that make it easier to elicit fear, most notably illusion powers (making the scene scarier) and movement ones (you can't escape it, jump scares...), but that's not a requisite.

Now, if you want a monster that kills you with fear, just give it an appropriate power.
Take Clenching Grasp of the Crushed Art. That's the effect, the SFX is just "The target is seized with fear and has an heart attack". You can do the same with lesser guidelines.

If you want it to be stronger when the target is frightened, a time-honored way is to allow a resistance roll, with appropriate personality traits giving a bonus/malus (say, roll sta +/- any personality trait related to courage, vs EF 12).
You can combine that with another power that imposes a frightened personality trait if you want.

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I mentioned (4th post above yours) that we use 4th edition.

The alternatives you lay out could also work, but I want the "feeds on fear" and "died of a heart attack" to be explicit in the stats. I want my co-Story Guides to know exactly what scenes in The Dresden Files these creatures are referencing when they see the stats. Since we all read the series and emulate the setting in our Saga, I feel it best if we all portray creatures drawn from the novels as closely to the original descriptions as possible, in appearance, behavior, and power effects.

Well, IMO, this changes little (4th), you can just discard my 1st sentence :slight_smile:

You've got a description (phobophage) which lets people know what it is.
Think about what you want it to do, and, more importantly, how it affects the PCs.

If eating fear has any mechanical effect on them, design a power to do that. If not, a line of text is shorter than a full power.
To put it differently, animals don't have a special mechanic to feed on human and gain sustenance from it, but they do have damage stats :wink:

If you want one to be weaker because it hasn't fed in a long time, just use the Deprivation rules (if there are some in 4th -I don't remember-, else, give it some fatigue), like you would do for any other opponent.

I’ve been doing a reading The Dresden Files books for the first time and came to the first book that really includes phobophages and it seems to me that the spiritual/psychological/soul damage that phobophages (and other creatures in earlier books though their method of doing the damage is different) do, or how I would model it in Ars Magica rulesets, would be as specially marked “regular” damage and that the main issue of this damage is that it heals differently. Slower, for one, probably also don’t get worse but also likely uses a different roll+mod for recovery. Improvements to recovery rolls for physical wounds (Corpus, medicine, Rapid Convalescence) would also not affect recovery for the soul damage, rather some sort of “therapy mechanic” would be more appropriate though its effects may be limited and I don’t think there should be a Hermetic form of healing for it because of the limits of the soul.


I expect the closest approximation to these creatures in Dresden would be that they draw sustenance and give warping for whichever realm they are connected with.

The world of Dresden has actual spiritual damage that can hamper a person long term, turn them into a vegetable, or just outright kill them (it’s mentioned many times that maybe the last category are the lucky ones)so I think use of the actual damage track (or a second one) is probably the closest approximation. No matter what it will require some house rules.

Warping is either a 5th ed. mechanic or was introduced to 4th in one of the supplements I never got/read. I believe it's 5th.

Perhaps a new Flaw or two (either from published material or house rules) could be inflicted by phobophage damage to reflect the dire nature of such attacks?

At this point, I think the previous post(s) by @RafaelB had the most straight-forward approach, using Fatigue as Fear damage. I don't want to have to write up as much new material for phobophages as I had to for modern firearms and ballistic armor, LOL.

I'll definitely take your input into consideration, though. Both Grave Peril and Proven Guilty did indeed stress the persistent nature of psychic damage inflicted by magic, regardless of the source.
(Methinks we need a Spoiler formatting option on here!)

A spoiler option in the forum? We do have one.

See? This shouldn't be readable unless you click it. =]

If it fits the feeling you want to emulate, it should be easy to adopt some of nullsettings suggestions. To be honest I wasn't clear about what you were aiming for, I haven't had the chance to read The Dresden Files yet (it's has been on my list for ages). But I'm glad that my suggestion agreed with you. ^^

Whatever formatting you used worked for a "spoiler" perfectly for me using Chrome.

Since you say you haven't yet read Dresden Files, I'm glad I said no more in this thread than I did. I wouldn't want to have spoiled any of your fun with those books.

Yes. I'm not a great fan of urban fantasy, but the Dresden files are a great read.

To come back to wounds.
Since you've probably homebrewed a lot, what you can have is a thing doing its normal claw damage, with a perdo corpus effect that impedes healing (kind of like a reverse CrCo healing boost). You just need to apply "this is spiritual damage, which is why it heals slowly" paint over this.
Still better than having a third wound track, which is an alternative I don't want to entertain.

I don't think using Fatigue and inflicted Flaws as Fear/psychic damage really counts as a whole third wound track.

Then again, after the "Child's Kick..." thread, I can see where any tracking of wounds could give a 5th ed. user headaches.