Does 4e Ravenloft really work?

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Recently I've read a few 4e interpretations of ravenloft on the net and it just seems like 4e ravenloft is now a teddy bear when compared to its 2e counterpart.    

Not having to worry about energy drain, aging, lycanthropy, modified spell lists, and other terrifying concepts seems to just completely ruin the setting.   Without these the terror is gone, apart from what players may chose to role play.

In addition, I was looking over my 2e ravenloft books and I was wondering why many people have chosen to remove fear, horror, and madness from their Ravenloft 4e campaigns.     It seems to me that the rules can be used as is with little modification.    Others have created washed down versions of the original system that leave little to the imagination.  For example, Madness implemented as disease track just seems far too curable.    Madness should have long lasting consequences for the PCs and it should last a few levels.   

Also there are many PC races in 4e that would just send terror through the streets of many cities and towns in Ravenloft.    Superstition and outright hostility towards magic is also another problem that isn't favorable in a 4e game.    In some cities,  I could easily see a tiefling wizard being chased down by an angry mob and thereafter burnt on the stake for practicing witch craft. 

And then,  there is the problem of good and evil not being a game mechanic anymore.   For example, how do you roll for powers checks if there are no evil spells?  



Not having to worry about energy drain, aging, lycanthropy, modified spell lists, and other terrifying concepts seems to just completely ruin the setting.   Without these the terror is gone, apart from what players may chose to role play.



In the end, Ravenloft is a setting for a game. Game's are supposed to be fun. Energy drain didn't add to the fun. Aging as a mechanic doesn't add to the fun. Modified spell lists don't add to the fun either. Lycanthropy, which comes in the form of completely loosing control of your character for entire encounters, is not fun. On the other hand, there is a 4e disease which models madness caused as a result of a werewolve's bite. With a little work, that disease can be used to model a creature actually turning into a werewolf (slowly, over time, and with a real possibility for the heroes to find a cure/overcome the disease before it simply removes a character from play). Most importantly, none of these concepts is, in and of themselves, conductive to a terrifying atmosphere. What most of them are conductive to is an atmosphere which, at regular intervals, stops being fun for the players.

In addition, I was looking over my 2e ravenloft books and I was wondering why many people have chosen to remove fear, horror, and madness from their Ravenloft 4e campaigns.     It seems to me that the rules can be used as is with little modification.    Others have created washed down versions of the original system that leave little to the imagination.  For example, Madness implemented as disease track just seems far too curable.    Madness should have long lasting consequences for the PCs and it should last a few levels.



Again, you need to keep in mind what is fun. Debilitating effects that last for multiple game sessions are not fun. That said, I am more than willing to bet that the 4e Ravenloft setting coming our way will have some form of fear and madness mechanics.

Also there are many PC races in 4e that would just send terror through the streets of many cities and towns in Ravenloft.



I agree. But nobody said that you have to say ok to all races in a 4e setting. Dark Sun, a published 4e setting, specifically talks about how some races (like gnomes) have been exterminated in the settings past. Still, lets keep in mind that 2e Ravenloft was the setting that introduced splat books outlining how to play an undead character.

Superstition and outright hostility towards magic is also another problem that isn't favorable in a 4e game.    In some cities,  I could easily see a tiefling wizard being chased down by an angry mob and thereafter burnt on the stake for practicing witch craft.



What!? How is this any more unfavorable in a 4e game then it was in a 2e game? Wizards cast spells in 4e. They also cast spells in 2e. This complaint is more than a little far fetched. Between 2e and 4e nothing has changed in this area of the game.

And then,  there is the problem of good and evil not being a game mechanic anymore.   For example, how do you roll for powers checks if there are no evil spells? 



Pretty simply. When a player commits an evil act (hurting an innocent, committing torture, so on and so forth) you roll a power check. It isn't that hard of a concept to grasp...


I don't feel that fear and horror mechanics are appropriate, nor are powers checks, precisely because they're mechanics.

A horror-genre game works when the players collectively choose to indulge those elements as part of their a storytelling/gaming experience and present their characters' attitudes and reactions in keeping with that.

Trying to force those reactions by use of tables and die rolls doesn't achieve this result - on the contrary, it breaks the immersion and at worst turns the whole idea into an odds-calculation exercise.
I don't feel that fear and horror mechanics are appropriate, nor are powers checks, precisely because they're mechanics. A horror-genre game works when the players collectively choose to indulge those elements as part of their a storytelling/gaming experience and present their characters' attitudes and reactions in keeping with that. Trying to force those reactions by use of tables and die rolls doesn't achieve this result - on the contrary, it breaks the immersion and at worst turns the whole idea into an odds-calculation exercise.




Thus far I have been using the fear, horror, and madness rules at the fraternityofshadows.com website for 4e. 

My players have really liked them and it has added an whole other aspect to the game that sets the ravenloft campaign apart.   
I don't feel that fear and horror mechanics are appropriate, nor are powers checks, precisely because they're mechanics. A horror-genre game works when the players collectively choose to indulge those elements as part of their a storytelling/gaming experience and present their characters' attitudes and reactions in keeping with that. Trying to force those reactions by use of tables and die rolls doesn't achieve this result - on the contrary, it breaks the immersion and at worst turns the whole idea into an odds-calculation exercise.



If you don't want the game to stop and say "roll a fear save", simply collect player stats before the game and roll them yourself and that way players can stayed immersed in the game. Seeing a player lose control of his character due to an uncontrollable emotion as with the spell fear, sends the message home about the severity of the situation.
My gaming group still shudders when they see a Ravenloft book lying on the table.
Ravenloft will make anyone feel fear horror and even madness if the DM is worth his weight in salt. I've ran Ravenloft since 1990 and my players know fear as soon as they enter the Domain of dread. No game mechanics are not completely needed but you do end up with those big bad players that refuse to role play the scenes and therefore are needed in those cases.
I doubt it would be a problem.

I've only seen the 3.5 version of the Ravenloft setting published by Arthaus, but it looks like the 3.5E version does a pretty good job of translating 3.5 rules to the setting, and I imagine even a mediocre 4E adaptation would probably do pretty well, by implementing simple rules changes similar to the ones presented in the 3.5E version.

For the 3.5E version, the Fear/Horror/Madness mechanic were basically an optional extension of Will saves, and the Ravenloft 3.5PHB suggested that the rolls would be unnecessary if the Player role-plays the effects naturally.  From what I've seen of 4E, Will saves shouldn't work much differently, and F/H/M checks should be just as easy to plug in.

When creating Ravenloft characters (as opposed to importing them from a standard D&D game), the 3.5E PHB seems to encourage players to play Human characters, provides some rich background information for playing characters of most of the standard 3.5 PC races (Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, and Dwarves), and introduces a setting-appropriate alternative to Half-Orcs called "Caliban", which are described as large, twisted, brutish changelings born by human parents suffering from curses; stats-wise, Caliban are almost indistinguishable from Half-Orcs.  Something similar could easily be done for the troublesome 4E races for characters created specifically for a Ravenloft game.

I saw rules in the 3.5E books which appear to be patches to make 3.5E rules fit into the Ravenloft setting better, such as changes to "Turn Undead", "Smite Evil", and "Detect Alignment" type abilities and spells.  I would imagine any proper 4E port of the setting would similarly make changes to the rules that amount to saying "in the Ravenloft setting, the PC's are more vulnerable to Evil...", and I would be amazed if there were no new rules for Energy Drain, Lycanthropy and so on.  Even if there aren't any rules, I'm sure an experienced DM would surely be able to improvise some house rules pretty easily.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I'd say with the arrival of the Shadowfell boxed set and the HoS book, we are a lot closer to making Ravenloft work for 4th ed mechanically. 
Not to mention the Despair deck, especialy if roleplayed well.
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