Taken & adapted from Conan OGL's Corruption rules into Midnight.
Any time a character fails a quest to save innocent people from harm, witnesses atrocities without acting, or in any other situation that the DM sees fit (for example, after the characters successfully killed a tyrannical legate and managed to flee, when they hear that the local people were all put to the sword as reprisals and as an example of what happens to “those who would not protect their beloving legate from terrorists”), he must make a despair save. This is a Will saving throw.
Certain practices (like assassinating a helpless legate in cold blood, or other cowardly actions, that can be seen as a “lesser evil”: for example, what will a PC do about a peasant that has witnessed his resistance actions and who might denounce him to the local authorities before he could flee? How will he “silence” such an (innocent) person?) can also force corruption saves.
All saves are made against a DC set by the force of the emotional shock (at the DM’s discretion).
A character’s current Despair is applied as a circumstance penalty to all despair saves. Once you start on the steady slope towards desperation, it is more and more difficult to stop.
Consequences of Failure
Each time he fails a Despair save, a character gains 1 point of Despair. There are further effects which will not be immediately obvious to the characters (see below).
For the DM only
A character’s current Despair is applied as a penalty to all Charisma-based skill checks when dealing with another character who still clings to hope (he will radiate an aura of sadness).
A character’s current Despair is applied as a bonus to all Charisma-based checks when dealing with another wharacter who has at least as many Despair points as him, or when dealing with a servant of Izrador. Despair is also applied as a bonus to all Intimidate checks.
Furthermore, Despair has additionnally effects as follows:
1-2 points of Despair: the character may have occasional nightmares in which he relives particularly traumatic events (was unable to save innocents from being slaughtered, for example), or may begin to develop a drink problem or a taste for some drug. Often this is not so much a direct effect of the despair, as a means to control it or avoid thinking about it.
3-4 points of Despair: the character begins to say phrases such as “What is the point of fighting when you know you won’t win?”. Keeping to alignment will be very difficult at this point. At this point, the character is constantly tempted to give up the fight and retire in loneliness, feeling that all is lost. It will take 1d6 weeks or a successful roleplaying from other PCs to persuade him to once again join the fight.
5-6 points of Despair: the character no longer cares about others’ feelings, seeing them as no more than tools to be used in his personal fight against the Shadow (yes, this means that the character no longer cares about innocent lives if it means he can achieve his goals – he thinks that killing innocent people is sometimes necessary, and even the only way, in order to defeat a greater evil). At this point the character no longer makes the distinction between the goal and the means, and uses sentences such as “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”.
7-9 points of Despair: at this point, the character feels the fight against Izrador's forces is doomed. He will begin to act in a suicidal way, feeling the desire to die in a blaze of glory. Only the wait for the right "opportunity" (ie, dying while slaying a powerful foe, thus strinking one last, hard blow to the Shadow before he is killed) will keep him alive. Every time he meets an opponent in the service of Izrador, he must make a Will save, the DC of which is set by the NPC or creature's CR. If the save is failed, the character attacks it regardless of the likely result.
10+ points of Despair: the character actively seeks out legates or other powerful servants of Izrador in the hope of making a pact with one, if he has not already done so. By now, the character believes that the fight against Izrador is doomed, and that allying with him could still save his people from complete destruction. He has come to see the enemy as a noble one, with whom deals can be made, and thinks the resistance leaders actually no longer care for the people they are supposed to protect. If the player who plays the character is unwilling to roleplay these kinds of changes, the DM should consider taking over the character as a NPC. The character may add his Despair as a circumstance bonus to all Intimidate checks, even those relating to orc and other low-level servants of Izrador. His features look tired, his eyes cast a dark light, and even his smiles have a sinister look. At this point, the character is a traitor and will betray the resistance group to which he belongs (if he hasn’t already done so). He will actively seek “conversion” into the Order of Shadow, and can begin to gain levels as a legate. He has fully and willingly embraced the Shadow, and now treads the path of Darkness.
Losing Despair Points
You can get rid of Despair by spending Fate Points (1 FP = 1 Despair Point). Other ways include a pilgrimage to an elven sanctuary, or staying away from occupied lands without hearing news from the Shadow for a whole month.
Witnessing acts of pure courage and bravery that are successful can also help remove a character’s despair, at least for a time: it shows the character that his fight, although difficult in the extreme, is not completely hopeless (consider that when the party reaches its goals in a particularly successful way -complete victory-, the PC loses 1 Despair point).