Stress for Wooded Adventures (ItO, Cairn, Into the Wyrd and Wild)

Guess this counts for Dolmenwood too. Have yet to read/play…

Been playing more Darkest Dungeon (my way, of course).

Sudden urge to run it as an RPG (as with most things I watch or play).

Looked for stress mechanics for Into the Odd (not very far, I’ll admit).

Stumbled back upon Cairn (lots of cool new stuff like Jim Parkin’s d66 backgrounds).

Also, Into the Wyrd and Wild still has some neat salvageable bits (check it here).

Making bolt-on mechanics (here we go).


Stress is WIL loss. If a monster attack or terrifying situation would cause stress, lose WIL.

  • 1 if minor
  • d4 if major
  • d6 if crippling
  • d8 if maddening

When at 0 WIL, roll d6 (here we’re leaning into the “salvageable bits” from Into the Wyrd and Wild):

  1. Deep Madness, pg. 25
  2. Madness, pg 25
  3. Quirk, pg 24
  4. Call of the Wild, pg. 21-22
  5. Call of the Wild, pg 21-22
  6. Gain a VIRTUE and restore WIL. Virtues last until the end of the expedition (see below).

Replace entries as you wish, but I like keeping Virtues to 1-in-6. Could insert the Insanity and Mutation tables here from Maze Rats.


  1. Hopeful: Reduce all WIL loss for you and nearby allies by 1.
  2. Stalwart: Gain 1 Armor, regain 2d6 HP.
  3. Courageous: Nearby enemies flee from you.
  4. Focused: Always go first. Immediately take another turn.
  5. Powerful: Attacks are enhanced.
  6. Vigorous: Increase STR, DEX, WIL by 2 (max 18).


Pros of the system:

  • Works with mechanics on the character sheet as they are
  • Doesn’t add a literal STRESS mechanic
  • Allows for Virtuous moments ala Darkest Dungeon
  • Stress makes you more likely to fail WIL saves. This makes casting spell even more dangerous and wild (Side-note, if a WIL save to cast a spell fails, NEVER make it fizzle. Go for chaotic results.)


  • Untested. Whoop.
  • Virtues are too mechanical. They need more fictional meat.
  • No idea how to recover after taking madness or a quirk. If at 0 WIL, do you just keep making “stress rolls”? No idea.

6 thoughts on “Stress for Wooded Adventures (ItO, Cairn, Into the Wyrd and Wild)

  1. At 0 WIL any further Stress is damage directly to HP, resulting in an eventual heart attack. Actually, I think ItO already has that? DEX damage or WIL damage at 0 is STR damage. Whatever the case, it’s the same outcome

  2. I love these simple little bolt-on systems you create for minimalist games like ITO. They seem very much in the spirit of the original.

    If I try this, I might tweak it to behave a little more like normal damage. Losing HP in ITO isn’t supposed to represent taking actual physical damage, after all.

    Suffer stress “damage” equal to 1 up to d10 (as above). Stress damage in excess of 0 HP goes directly to your WIL, and when you take WIL damage, make a WIL save.

    On a failure, roll a d6 to determine what happens (as “When at 0 WIL” table above).

    If you go to 0 WIL, you go mad or catatonic automatically.

    1. Aaaaaand that’s it. You win. Congrats. This was a contest to see who could tweak this and make it better. And you win. The prize is my appreciation.

      Seriously, having it as a WIL save like taking damage makes way more sense. And it still functions with the core rules.

      Dareisay “elegant”?

      Well done, fellow Milwaukee-an.

  3. I see, you kind of modeled it after the “Brain Sap” ability. Got it.

    I definitely agree that the damage should happen automatically. No “WIL Save or” caveats here. As for whether you hit HP first or not? Either way probably works.

    I liked adding in the WIL Save whenever you took WIL damage because there is that chance that any horror you see might be the one that sends you off the deep end. And it makes it more likely that your cool d6 “WIL Critical Damage” table above sees the light of day at the table.

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