D&D 4th Edition Towards Ravenloft 4E: Fear, Horror and Madness




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    Towards Ravenloft 4E: Fear, Horror and Madness

    Being the impatient fellow I am, I have no interest in awaiting Wizards attempts (if any; we have no guarantees) to make a 4E version of Ravenloft. Instead I am jumping straight in to develop a few rule systems which would "layer over" the current 4E game to create the appropriate feel and tenor of a Ravenloft campaign.

    This thread is for discussing Fear, Horror and Madness. I welcome all substantive feedback on the quality of the rules suggestions, including wholly replacing my suggested mechanics with all new mechanics if you have a potentially superior idea.

    There will be future threads for discussing other mechanics necessary to run a RL campaign (such as Dark Powers checks).

    ----------------------------------------------------

    Fear, Horror and Madness (Meta)

    My first question is whether FHM checks should be based on the Will Defense. Does it seem right to you that Fighters or Rogues would be more susceptible to FHM saves than Wizards or Clerics? Perhaps it does, thematically. But what about class balance? Given how often FHM may arrive in a RL campaign, would this be an unnecessary burden on the characters who normally have poor Will Defense? Just looking at by Character Builder portfolio shows a same-level range of Will Defense of 6 points. That's pretty big.

    (It's also sort of bemusing that my big, violent Minotaur Barbarian would be the PC most likely to run away screaming)

    Perhaps for consistency (rather than making a new Defense category) we do base FHM checks on the Will Defense but compensate certain classes by providing them a bonus to their Will Defense solely for purposes of making FHM checks?

    Proposed Rule: Classes without a +2 to their Will Defense receive a +2 to FHM checks and another +1 if their build choice de-emphasize both Charisma and Wisdom.


    Fear.

    Fear is the easiest rule to implement because there is no lasting effect. There are also a number of Fear-based effects in the 4E PHB to serve as examples.

    Example triggers (these are largely taken verbatim from S&S's 3E RLCS and the AD&D 2e Boxed Set):
    • The group is facing an encounter apparently 6+ levels higher than the party.
    • Half of the group's members are killed.
    • An opponent has demonstrated a one-hit-kill ability.
    • A menacing creature is immune to the group's attacks.
    • A menacing creature is at least two size categories larger than the biggest member of the group.
    • A menacing creature has a Fear inducing special attack.
    • The character is helpless and threatened by immediate death (trapped underwater, for example).

    Fear Attack: Chr vs. Will (If the trigger is inanimate the Attack would be determined as a Trap of an appropriate level.)

    Action Type: Free (basically everyone exposed to the Fear Trigger is "attacked" by the triggering creature's Chr. If the Trigger is a Fear-inducing Power than the action type becomes the same as the Power.)

    Area of Effect: Burst (range would depend on the type of threat (can the threat actually reach you in 1~2 rounds?), and certain types of barriers may grant a bonus or immunity to the check, such as iron bars that physically prevent a creature from reaching PCs on the other side).

    Effect: The PC must spend at least one Move Action each round to move its speed + Trigger's Charisma away from the center of the Burst. The PC avoids unsafe squares and difficult terrain if it can. This movement provokes opportunity attacks. If the PC cannot flee it suffers a -2 to Attacks and Defenses. No Save first round, then Save Ends.


    Horror & Madness

    Well, it's getting too late here for me to continue. Must sleep. But I will say that since both Horror and Madness induce lasting conditions it is my intention to use a Condition Track similar to the Disease Track in the DMG. I will post the details later. Your thoughts on whether this course is a wise one are welcome.
    I don't "tell stories" when I play D&D. I adventure. Afterward, when the gold is counted and the bodies piled high, we may tell stories about how it all went down. Or not.

    The slaughter will continue until play improves.

 

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    I have to wonder if these would be better implemented in individual monster descriptions. That way there are multiple types of fear and madness (i'm not familiar with horror checks), depending on the monster you face. These could be written up like the "moon frenzy" entry for werewolves.

    BTW, it's weird that fear targets Will. Most of the 1 on 1 character vs. dragon illustrations I've seen are knights facing the dragon, not clerics or spellcasters. It seemed to me like a good place to use the 50/50 save.
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    I think you would have to design different types of fear inducers, targetting different defences.

    most appropriate stat in bold.

    Vs. Will (Wis or Cha) - effects that challange a persons perceptions or beliefs. Potenical common reactions; -2 penalty to actions; dazed; back off in fear etc.

    Vs. Fort (Str or Con) - horrifying sensory shocks that could cause a physical reaction. Potencial common reactions; stunned (while vomiting for a round); falling prone dazed (fainting)

    Vs. Reflex (Dex or Int) - realisation of a horrific truth or accumulated mental strain. Potencial common reactions; insanity (you could use the disease track to add appropriate temporary insanities to PCs that could be cured over the course of a couple of days or become permanent if they got to the end of the track)

    Running a horror game I would also be tempted to add a mechanic for tracking madness points (for want of a better term). These could be used along a track that gave various penalties and bonuses as you drifted slowly into madness or started to become more attuned to the plane.

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    Check out the adventure, "In the Depths of Avarice," from Dungeon 157. They have a, "disease," in it called "twisted domination," that functions like a sort of madness. You have to make wisdom checks rather than endurance checks to shake it off/avoid suffering additional effects.
    http://www.enworld.org/forum/4e-discussion/276057-gods-dead-gods-dominions-list.html

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    Or maybe we could go ahead and give characters a Sanity score to handle madness and incorporate fear and horror effects into monster attacks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nymrohd View Post
    Or maybe we could go ahead and give characters a Sanity score to handle madness and incorporate fear and horror effects into monster attacks.
    You could, but the slight mental problem I have with this is that it is D&D and not Call of Cthuluth.

    What exactly is the sanity threshold of a person who hacks monsters to death with a greataxe, regularly fights undead or wields powerful magic or divine spells? All these things are usual everyday things to an adventurer (in a normal campaign), so finding the point where normal becomes horrible is an issue.

    One way would be to grant PCs a tolerance or hardiness threshold to the general level of horror from certain situations.

    rough thoughts:-

    Defenders - cast iron stomach - used to blood, gore and violence
    Strikers - determination - used to inflicting maximum brutal damage or short term resolve to get the job done
    Controllers - Practiced mind - used to dealing with abstract thought and magical effects
    Leaders - Even tempered - general tolerance to all effects

    I don't know, it will need quite a bit of thinking about, and would really depend on what campaign mood you were going for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mesh Hong View Post
    What exactly is the sanity threshold of a person who hacks monsters to death with a greataxe, regularly fights undead or wields powerful magic or divine spells? All these things are usual everyday things to an adventurer (in a normal campaign), so finding the point where normal becomes horrible is an issue.

    ...

    I don't know, it will need quite a bit of thinking about, and would really depend on what campaign mood you were going for.
    Emphasis added. RL campaigns aren't normal campaigns. They definitely have a different mood and feel, which I discussed on this thread. (Please forgive the "world vs. demiplane" dicussion/tangent; the discussion on themes picks up again later in the thread and the last couple posts are quite good).

    As for your suggested rules though, they're awesome. Very nice. I must mull over them a bit though before can I get a coherent post on them.
    I don't "tell stories" when I play D&D. I adventure. Afterward, when the gold is counted and the bodies piled high, we may tell stories about how it all went down. Or not.

    The slaughter will continue until play improves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mesh Hong View Post
    I think you would have to design different types of fear inducers, targetting different defences.

    most appropriate stat in bold.

    Vs. Will (Wis or Cha) - effects that challange a persons perceptions or beliefs. Potenical common reactions; -2 penalty to actions; dazed; back off in fear etc.

    Vs. Fort (Str or Con) - horrifying sensory shocks that could cause a physical reaction. Potencial common reactions; stunned (while vomiting for a round); falling prone dazed (fainting)

    Vs. Reflex (Dex or Int) - realisation of a horrific truth or accumulated mental strain. Potencial common reactions; insanity (you could use the disease track to add appropriate temporary insanities to PCs that could be cured over the course of a couple of days or become permanent if they got to the end of the track)

    Running a horror game I would also be tempted to add a mechanic for tracking madness points (for want of a better term). These could be used along a track that gave various penalties and bonuses as you drifted slowly into madness or started to become more attuned to the plane.
    I was about to reply to this thread, but then I realized that Mesh Hong said exactly everything I would've (and probably in more detail than I would've come up with).

    Quote Originally Posted by Mesh Hong View Post
    One way would be to grant PCs a tolerance or hardiness threshold to the general level of horror from certain situations.

    rough thoughts:-

    Defenders - cast iron stomach - used to blood, gore and violence
    Strikers - determination - used to inflicting maximum brutal damage or short term resolve to get the job done
    Controllers - Practiced mind - used to dealing with abstract thought and magical effects
    Leaders - Even tempered - general tolerance to all effects.
    These seem like good ideas, but they might be a little more '4e-ish' if they were feats with prerequisites, i.e.: cast iron stomach would require 13 con, practiced mind needs 13 will, etc.
    Last edited by HukdUnFonx; Tuesday, 10th March, 2009 at 03:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quickleaf
    I have to wonder if these would be better implemented in individual monster descriptions. That way there are multiple types of fear and madness (i'm not familiar with horror checks), depending on the monster you face. These could be written up like the "moon frenzy" entry for werewolves.
    I'd prefer a more unified system. That makes it easier to ensure all the races and classes are being treated in a fair/balanced manner. The unified Fear mechanics would then be implemented by individual monsters.

    So, Mesh Hong has some good ideas IMO. There should be different sorts of Fear - with different triggers, Defenses and effects. This would both encourage class balance but also allow for classic tropes and cliches which one would want to encourage. As the most simple for instance, Fighters and Barbarians should not be as squeamish in the face of battle-gore, while Warlocks and Wizards should have a greater will to resist the Fear induced by dealing with dark and mysterious powers.

    I think the best thing to do is base Fear Triggers around the Defenses. I admit the idea of Ref vs. Fear seemed odd to me at first, but consider that it's not that the Fear "attacks" that Defense so much as the PC is relying on that Defense to defend them from the Threat. It's not unreasonable that a Fear induced by something that could be (theoretically) dodged would be more easily resisted by someone very confident in their Reflexes.

    I considered also using AC, but I don't think there's enough variation in AC between PCs to make it meaningful. Even Wizards can have a respectable AC (my Staff-Wiz with Leather Armor has an AC of 19 at 3rd level). The real variation between PCs are in the other Defenses.

    ---------------------------

    So, riffing off of Mesh Hong and HukdUnFonx, ... consider the following Attacks.

    Fear of Messy Death (Str or Con vs. Fort) - the unsettling certainty that you are about to be torn limb from limb and possibly eaten sinks into your bowls, turns your muscles to water and sets your feet running the other way in a desperate act of "maybe I can escape while it's busy eating the Dwarf".

    Suggested Triggers:
    • The group is facing an encounter apparently 6+ levels higher than the party.
    • Half of the group's members are killed.
    • A menacing creature is at least two size categories larger than the biggest member of the group and can reach you.

    Effects:
    • Stunned (Save or Progress to Next Condition).
    • Weakened and you must use your Move Action to move away from the source of the Fear if possible. (Save Ends).


    Fear of Certain Death (Int or Dex vs. Ref) - the unsettling certainty that death is coming for you and that there is nothing you can do about it rattles your nerves and leaves your hands shaking and unable to hold a weapon.

    Suggested Triggers:
    • An opponent has demonstrated a one-hit-kill ability.
    • A menacing creature is immune to the group's attacks.
    • You are Helpless or Restrained and threatened by immediate death.
    • You are suffering ongoing damage (other than necrotic or psychic) per round greater than your Healing Surge value.

    Effects:
    • -2 Attacks (Save or Progress to Next Condition).
    • Panicked (this is a new condition). Save ends.


    Fear of the Dark (Chr or Wis vs. Will) - the unsettling certainty that the fabric of your mind, soul and/or personality is in danger of being torn asunder reduces you to gibbering incoherently and unable to formulate meaningful responses to events until your mind retreats into the safety of the void.

    Suggested Triggers:
    • A menacing creature has a Fear inducing special attack.
    • You are suffering ongoing necrotic or psychic damage per round greater than your Healing Surge value.
    • A creature at least 6+ levels higher than you is trying to Dominate you or otherwise take over your mind.

    Effects:
    • Dazed (Save or Progress to Next Condition).
    • Dazed and you cannot make Chr-based Skill checks (Save or Progress to Next Condition).
    • Unconscious (Save ends).


    New Condition
    Panicked
    • You grant Combat Advantage.
    • You suffer a -2 Penalty to Attack Rolls and Skill Checks.
    • Each round this condition persists you must make a Save vs. Fear or drop any items held in your hands.


    New Feats
    Cast Iron Stomach (Heroic Tier, Con 13). PC gains a +3 to Fortitude Defense vs. Fear.

    Adamant Determination (Paragon Tier). PC can delay the onset of a Fear check result until the end of their next turn.

    Disciplined Mind (Heroic Tier, Wis 13). PC gains a +3 to Will Defense vs. Fear.

    Hardened Veteran (Heroic Tier). PC gains a +1 to all Saves induced by Fear.

    Steady Hands (Heroic Tier, Dex 13). PC gains a +3 to Reflex Defense vs. Fear.
    Last edited by Irda Ranger; Tuesday, 10th March, 2009 at 05:12 PM.
    I don't "tell stories" when I play D&D. I adventure. Afterward, when the gold is counted and the bodies piled high, we may tell stories about how it all went down. Or not.

    The slaughter will continue until play improves.

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    Looks good!

    Quote Originally Posted by Irda Ranger View Post

    New Feats
    Cast Iron Stomach (Heroic Tier, Con 13). PC gains a +3 to Fortitude Defense vs. Fear.

    Adamant Determination (Paragon Tier). PC can delay the onset of a Fear check result until the end of their next turn.

    Disciplined Mind (Heroic Tier, Wis 13). PC gains a +3 to Will Defense vs. Fear.

    Hardened Veteran (Heroic Tier). PC gains a +1 to all Saves induced by Fear.

    Steady Hands (Heroic Tier, Dex 13). PC gains a +3 to Reflex Defense vs. Fear.
    Now that I look at these, the prerequisites seem unnecessary.

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