The Ravenloft Files: Dead of the Night
Skills are a vital tool to individualize your character beyond the skeleton of race and class. An occult scholar might use Knowledge skills to become an expert on arcane topics and monster lore. An investigator might specialize in Diplomacy (gathering information) and Sense Motive, perhaps even learning a few of the roguish skills used by the criminals he pursues. An “everyman” hero, thrust into horrific proceedings through no will of his own, might have ranks in Profession or Craft skills, or he might focus on skills such as Stealth, hoping stealth will keep him alive.
Ravenloft is a land of isolation and eerie secrets. In some cases, a skill may be the prized possession of a tiny cabal of scholars or a skill common in one domain may be totally unknown in another.
When a hero learns a new skill, the player should explain how the character was able to gain access to that skill. For example, a merchant who has seldom stepped outside the bustling markets of Martira Bay is probably skilled in Appraise, Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive, but he is unlikely to know the first thing about Survival. On the other hand, a nomad from the Amber Wastes is likely quite skilled in desert survival techniques but would be hard pressed to demonstrate where might have learned how to swim. At the GM’s discretion, Knowledge or Craft skills may require training under a teacher.
Requiring players to justify their hero’s skill choices can thus keep some skills appropriately rare and can be used to enrich a PC’s background. Each domain has certain skills that are most appropriate for it.
Some skills have new uses or special restrictions in the Land of Mists.
Heroes in Ravenloft campaigns may investigate suspicious strangers, unravel mysteries or infiltrate secret societies, all of which involves a great deal of social interaction. Bluff can be used in a variety of situations; two new uses presented here. Both fortune-telling and seduction rely on your ability to judge the desires of the target. If you first succeed at a DC 20 Sense Motive, you gain a +2 insight bonus on your Bluff check.
Telling Fortunes: This is the skill of inventing plausible fortunes from thin air. It is the art of picking up clues about a target and telling him what he wants to hear; it does not include the ability to actually peer into the future. This is most commonly the tool of charlatans, false profits and Vistani seers who decide not to tax their Sight.
The GM should apply a circumstance modifier based on how far-fetched or specific the prediction is. A vague, common prediction (“You will meet a dark stranger”) might carry no modifier to the DC, while the modifier for an outrageous or easily refuted prediction might rise to +10 or even +20. The use of arcane props such as a crystal ball or a tarokka deck gives a +2 circumstance bonus on the Bluff check.
Seduction: Most commonly associated with the act of physical seduction, this skill can also include a carnival barker delivering a spiel to draw patrons into his tent or a crime boss trying to lure a constable onto his payroll. Seduction is the art of manipulating a target by sensing his desires and promising to deliver on them. With a successful Seduction check, you can convince a target to perform a small service for you – perhaps following you to a secluded locale or paying a few coins.
The GM should apply a circumstance modifier based on how well the promise matches the target’s desires, how demanding the requested service is and whether the seducer can deliver on the promise. An impoverished family man may be resistant to physical enticement but willing to accept a few coins, for example. Likewise, a randy sailor may respond well to attentions of a lady, but he might balk if asked to follow her into an acrid-smelling, web-choked cellar.
Seduction cannot rob a target of his free will. If an NPC attempts to seduce a PC, the PC is not charmed. Instead, the GM should present the NPC and his offer in an enticing light. If a seduction check fails, the target realizes the seducer is attempting to manipulate him – but in the right circumstances, he may still find the offer appealing.
The alchemy specialization is used to make gunpowder. Craft also includes two new specializations: clockmaking and gunsmithing.
Craft (alchemy): You can create gunpowder with a successful DC 15 Craft (alchemy) check. It costs 5 sp to prepare 1 once of gunpowder. You can save time by creating multiple ounces in a single batch, but if you fail the Craft (alchemy) check by 5 or more, you accidentally ignite the entire batch. This deals 1 point of fire damage per ounce to everything within 5 feet. Those caught within the blast radius can make a DC 20 reflex save to take half damage.
Craft (clockmaking): This skill is used to create mechanical clockworks, ranging from ponderous clock towers to delicate pocket watches. The clockmaking skill is uncommon in domains below CuL 7 (Medieval).
Craft (gunsmithing): This skill is used to craft gunpowder weapons and bullets. If you have 5 or more ranks you enjoy a +2 synergy bonus on gunsmithing checks when building or repairing wheel-lock weapons. Gunsmithing first appears at CuL 8 (Chivalric).
If you fail a craft check by 5 or more points when crafting a bomb, the bomb explodes.
If you attempt to handle an animal under the influence of a darklord, the animal adds the darklord’s Charisma bonus to the DC of your check. If the darklord is not trying to oppose your handling of the animal, the GM may rule that this penalty does not currently apply.
The fields of study available to characters in Ravenloft require some commentary.
Monster Lore: A character who wishes to learn about the things that stalk the Realm of Dread must pursue different areas of knowledge depending on the type of monster in question. Knowledge (arcana) covers constructs, dragons and magical beasts; Knowledge (dungeoneering) covers aberrations and oozes; Knowledge (local) covers humanoids; Knowledge (nature) covers animals, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, plants and vermin; Knowledge (religion) covers undead; and Knowledge (planes) covers outsiders and elementals. These skills can be used to evaluate a character’s knowledge of the habits or weaknesses of that creature type.
Knowledge (planes): By its very nature, the Land of Mists clouds the minds of those who dwell within. In Ravenloft, Knowledge (planes) focuses on the plane of the Realm of Dread specifically, as well as on outsiders, elementals and magic relating to it. This represents an understanding of the planar fabric of the Realm of Dread, including the Mists, the nature of domains, closed borders, darklords, and so on.
This is an extremely rare skill, known only by a handful of arcane scholars, most of whom are darklords. It is considered to be a cross-class skill skill for all classes unless noted explicitly otherwise in Ravenloft material. No player character (native to Ravenloft) may begin the game with ranks in Knowledge (planes), and must be able to back up its purchase during a campaign with experience in the subject and “in game” research.
The Gm may allow characters with this skill to have some understanding of planes aside from the Realm of Dread. If so, increase the DC by 10 for such checks.
Relying on Folklore: Knowledge skills mix academic study with a broad overview of legend and superstition. Characters can attempt to use Knowledge skills untrained by relying on their knowledge of common wisdom and folklore. However, folklore is often misleading. An untrained knowledge check is an intelligence check, which the GM should roll in private. If a character trained in a knowledge skill fails the check, he realizes that he simply does not know the needed information. If an untrained character fails the check, the GM should provide a skewed (or even dangerously reliable) version of the desired information.
The following is a class skill for monks, sorcerers and wizards.
Hypnosis (Cha; Trained Only)
You have studied the hidden workings of the human mind and can unlock its secrets.
Check: You can use hypnosis to induce a deep, calming trance in your subject. The effects of a hypnotic trance are identical to those created by the hypnotism spell. Unlike the spell, however, the skill allows you to hypnotize only one target at a time, who does not receive the -2 penalty on his Will save. Each attempt to use hypnosis requires 1 hour. If the target is unwilling, you must first succeed at a Bluff check to disguise your intent.
A Hypnosis check is opposed by the target’s Will save. Loud or distracting surroundings grant a +2 circumstance modifier to the target’s Will save. Willing targets can voluntarily choose not to make their saving throw.
Once the target is hypnotized, you can either plant a suggestion (as per the hypnotism spell) or aid the recovery of a target who suffers from the effects of a failed Madness save. The later option is detailed in the Recovering from Madness rules.
Retry: Generally, you cannot retry a Hypnosis check against an unwilling target; the target becomes too suspicious to cooperate. If attempting to hypnotize a willing target, you may retry freely. Retries are a vital component in the process of helping targets recover from Madness effects, in fact.