Overloaded

COMPATIBILITY: This plug-in is compatible only with games where players have pools of some kind of point that can be both spend and gained - health, willpower, sanity, action points, luck points, and so on.

WHAT IS IT?
You’ve been hunting the monsters a long time, and from time to time, it’s messed up your head pretty bad. But it’s okay; you’ve got a counselor, you talk things through.  Gotta keep that sanity pool topped up. Until your counselor takes a holiday, and the one she referred you to checks you into a sanitarium, where they cure you. You’re sane. You can’t see the monsters anymore, though they can still see you just fine.

RIPPING THE TOP OFF THE POOL
In rules terms, the idea here is very simple; for each spendable resource pool, imagine if the ‘normal’ or ‘full’ level was, instead, the safe level. It’s not that your character can only hold six mojo points; it’s just that they recover to six, and if they get more than that amount, something happens; an overload occurs.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THIS?
Adding an overload condition to a resource pool puts more game focus on the resource and increases complexity somewhat. Depending on the overload, it can create risks, gambles, or added material for roleplaying in relation to that resource.

KINDS OF OVERLOAD
Here are a few examples of ways a pool can overload:
  • The Pool ‘Explodes”: Buff up with enough magically charged ‘bonus health’, and at some point, you cross a threshold; you start glowing, and everything you do heals people and drains your life force. Accumulate enough magical energy, and it suddenly takes on consciousness; you’ve got a daemon on your hands. Get enough luck, and destiny comes to pay you a visit in person, to find out why you’re hoarding. Enough bonus strength, and you mutate - permanently. Basically, at some critical point the pool of whatever-it-is transforms, and causes something to happen as it does so.
  • Unfortunate Interference: Too much sanity, and you can’t see the monsters anymore. Too much willpower, and you become incapable of empathizing with people with less control, bringing you social dysfunction to match your perfect clarity. Too much social notice, and your privacy vanishes.
  • The Pool Overrides Another: If each point of mojo you gain above your “mojo limit” takes up two points worth of your willpower pool, simply making those points vanish as mojo is gained, then the high-mojo hoodoo you can do by pushing the pool into an overload comes at a possibly tricky cost.

WEAPONISED BUFFS
When making any kind of overload modification, you’ll need to decide if mechanics that give bonuses to the pool (if such exist) are naturally weaponised - that is, if there’s a way to give someone more of whatever the pool is, can it be used to force an overload on someone? In some cases, allowing this creates interesting situations; in others, it’s a plainly bad idea.

CALAMITOUS GAINS
Much of the time, overload is most entertaining if the system either contains weaponised buffs, or a randomized method for accumulating whatever the mojo is, or both. Taking the existing methods for gaining the resource and adding a slight degree of randomness to them is typically pretty simple.

PLUGGING IT IN
The steps to modifying a game in this way are generally something like this...
  1. Choose pool: Only add overload to resource pools that you want players to pay more attention to, and where it generally ‘feels right’.
  2. Brainstorm on meanings & tie-ins: Rummage around the uses and meanings of the resource in the game, both in terms of what it does mechanically and what it means in the setting. List off anything that comes to mind.
  3. Describe overload effects: Decide if overloading the resource should explode, interfere, or override something, and mess around with your list. In general, this is a process of simply tinkering about with the ideas until inspiration hits.
  4. Set thresholds, if needed: In the case of ‘interfering’ overload, you’ll likely need to build a sliding scale, possibly something like (at trait +1, this happens; at trait +3, this happens, and so on). In the case of overrides, thresholds aren’t really needed. For ‘exploding’ effects, they’re deeply important - at what point does the pool blow up, and can it be ‘held back’ by some means?
  5. Rule on buffs, and consider randomized gains: These steps are as described above.

GETTING FANCY
There are plenty of other ways to hack a resource pool - the above effects can be combined, places where the resource is spent can be converted into gambling effects instead, ‘explosions’ can be made positive (or create random effects rather than fixed ones), and hard limits can be utterly erased in favor of tracking how much of the resource has passed through the character (creating a ‘toxic’ track that ‘heals’).