My players and I learned very early on that Dark Heresy's rules for dealing with Fear are BRUTAL. We had sessions where many of the players were alternately running toward/away from the object of their Fear. Others, we had players going comatose or shooting their colleagues in the head or whatever. The fear rules, as written, began to get in the way of gameplay. It was a bit frustrating and felt, frankly, a bit broken.
My solution was to house rule the whole shebang, making the short-term effects somewhat less ridiculous, and adding a new trait, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to intensify the long-term effects in ways that were different from the existing Insanity rules.
Here's what I came up with:
House Rules for Fear
If in a combat situation a character fails a Fear Test, he must immediately roll on Alternative Table 8-4, adding +10 to the result for each degree of failure. The effects listed are applied immediately to the character.
Alternative Table 8-4 (WH40K Dark Heresy Core Rules): Fear and Shock Effects
01–20 The character is badly startled. He may only take a single Half Action when in his next Turn, but afterwards he may act normally.
21–40 Fear grips the character and he begins to shake and tremble. He is at a –10 penalty on all Tests for the rest of the encounter unless he can recover his wits (see Shock and Snapping out of it, page 232).
41–60 Reeling with shock, the character backs away from the thing that confronts him. The character cannot willingly approach the object of his fear, but may otherwise act normally, with a –10 penalty on all Tests until the end of the encounter. The character gains 1 Insanity Point.
61–80 The character is frozen by terror. The character may make no Actions until he snaps out of it. After snapping out of it, the character will make all Tests with a –10 penalty for the rest of the encounter. The character gains 1d5 Insanity Points.
81–100 Panic grips the character. He must flee the source of his fear, if able, as fast as he can; and if prevented from doing so he will fire any ballistic weapon until empty, then throw it at the source of fear. During this encounter he may only take Half Actions (other than flight), and is at a –20 penalty to all Tests. The character gains 1d5 Insanity Points. Once away from the danger he must successfully snap out of it to regain control, or continue fleeing.
101–120 As above, but character drops everything in his hands before fleeing, and gains 1d5+1 Insanity Points
121–130 As above but character makes next WP test to snap out of it at -10. Subsequent WP checks are normal.
131–140 The character faints and remains unconscious for 1d3 Rounds. Once he regains consciousness he is still shaken and takes all Tests with a –10 penalty until the end of the encounter. The character gains 1d10 Insanity Points. Roll d100: If the result is higher than the character's combined Willpower and Intelligence scores, he gains the Post-Traumatic Stress trait (see below).
141–160 As above, and automatically gains Post-Traumatic Stress trait (see below) and 1d10 Insanity Points.
161–170 The character’s mind snaps and he becomes catatonic for 1d5 hours and may not be roused. The character gains the Post-Traumatic Stress trait and 1d10 Insanity Points.
171+ The character is so affected that he will scream and scramble away from any person or creature approaching him during that time, trying to hide wherever he can for 1d10+5 Rounds. After these effects fade, the character will make all Tests with a –20 penalty for the next 2d10 hours. The character gains 2d10 Insanity Points and gains Post-Traumatic Stress trait.
Post Traumatic Stress (trait)
Players with this trait should roll on the following table. Game effects from Insanity section of Core Rules. The effect is permanent. Each game day, the player must roll a d100. If he rolls 95-100, then he suffers the effect until he makes a successful Willpower test (which he may do at the beginning of the next game day). If the character has received this result more than once, then any current Post Traumatic Stress effect is raised to the next level, as described in the section on Insanity (e.g., from minor to severe)
· 01-20: Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time (gains a Phobia connected to the stress event)
· 21-40: Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event (gains Horrific Nightmares)
· 41-55: Difficulty maintaining close relationships, irritability or anger (minus 2d10+5 Fellowship (minor); 3d10+5 for acute)
· 56-75: Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much, cutting, risk-taking, hyper-vigilance (gains Obsession/Compulsion)
· 76-89: Being easily startled or frightened (-10 to all rolls for 2d10 hours. Every consecutive day this result occurs add another -10)
· 90-100: Hearing or seeing things that aren't there (gains Visions and Voices)
Overcoming Post-Traumatic Stress
Post-Traumatic Stress may be overcome eventually, through a combination of prayer, fasting, penance and mortification of the flesh, long periods of time spent away from stress (e.g., months or years in a monastery), or, as a last resort, through mind-cleansing, though only for very severe cases. The exact details should be worked out between player and GM. The in-game effects include lost time and expenditure of XP—Assume that for every month of game time, the character earns 100 XP, even when not involved in Inquisitorial work.
XP may be spent to reduce the severity of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress, but never fully get rid of them. By spending 500 XP a player can reduce a Post Traumatic Stress effect (e.g., from acute to severe, from severe to minor); and, once all such effects are minor, each 100 XP spent reduces the chance of any Post-Traumatic Stress effects manifesting, though there will always be a chance of it occurring. The in-game effect of this "therapy" would reduce the chance of being affected by the daily PTSD die roll, to a maximum of 99% "safe." That is, the character can never have less than 1% chance of being affected by PTSD. In game terms, this means a "100" roll on the daily d100 check for the PTSD effect.