The Dreadful Winter
Perception and Background Skills
This campaign makes use of the Yenkception (Perception is always a class skill with full ranks) and Background Skill house rules.
Hypnosis is a new Charisma-based skill. It is a class skill for Bards, Monks, and others (if you’re interested, ask me). It is trained-only.
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 to their 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 save. Willing targets can voluntarily choose not to make a saving throw, in which case the DC depends on what you’re trying to do.
Once the target is hypnotized, you can either plant a suggestion (as per the hypnotism spell) or attempt to aid the recovery of a target who suffers from the effects of a failed Depravity save (Depravity is the “madness” mechanic we’re using).
It should be noted that Hypnosis is one of the very few solid ways to permanently recover from Depravity in Ravenloft.
This is a brand-new skill that you can use untrained. It is a class skill for everybody. Folklore will provide useful tips and anecdotes on how to defeat or avoid being killed by a monster or hazard. It’s incredibly flexible and usually quite practical. The only trouble is, Folklore can be unreliable.
I always roll Folklore checks for you. If you use it trained, and you fail, you immediately know that you just aren’t sure. But if you use it untrained, I don’t tell you that. I might give you some false information. It’s still worth rolling if you don’t have any other recourse, though!
This is a brand-new trained only skill. It is only a class skill for fighters, rangers, and bards. At least, of the Core classes. Monster Lore must be taken very deliberately—when you place ranks in it, choose a variety of monster (such as “shapeshifters”, or “lycanthropes”), or a creature type. This skill now applies to everything within that spectrum.
You can use Monster Lore to identify and know how to destroy, well, monsters. The more specific you are, the more detailed the information gets—but the less flexible the skill is, of course. You can take more than one Monster Lore.
Monster Lore works with bards’ Bardic Knowledge. Rangers can always use Monster Lore for their Favored Enemies, even untrained, and they add their Favored Enemy bonus to Monster Lore checks.
There are two new Craft skills: Gunsmithing and clockmaking. Both are fairly unusual skills to have, however.
What Do You Know?
Knowledge skills operate slightly differently in Ravenloft. There are eleven different Knowledge skills you can take ranks in, including a brand-new one.
Arcana: Ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols. Constructs, undead.
Dungeoneering: Caverns, oozes and slimes, fungi, metals and rocks, spelunking. Deep dwellers.
Engineering: Buildings, aqueducts, bridges, fortifications. Constructs.
Geography: Lands, terrain, climate, people. Traveling dangers.
History: Wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities. Ancient beasts.
Local: Legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions. Local dangers.
Nature: Animals, normal plants, seasons and cycles, weather, vermin. Fey, carnivorous plants.
Nobility: Lineages, heraldry, personalities, royalty.
Planes: The Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, planar magic. Outsiders.
Religion: Gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols. Outsiders.
Ravenloft: The planar fabric of the Realm of Dread, the Mists, the nature of domains, closed borders, darklords, etc. This is a very uncommon skill.
As you can see, with the exception of animal, the monsters Knowledge would ordinarily allow you to identify are listed in italics, and many are missing altogether. The fact is, all these skills can give you are concepts.
A Knowledge (religion) check might tell you the significance of an angel in your faith. A Knowledge (geography) check might tell you that something matching that monster’s description has been known to eat the hearts of its victims. A Knowledge (history) check might tell you exactly who that mummy used to be. What they generally won’t tell you is how to kill them.
The italicized options are just suggestions. You might come up with the idea of using Knowledge (religion) to see if a particular monster has harassed any members of your faith before, for instance. Just know that the information this use of Knowledge gives you is more likely to be academic than immediately of use.
The good news is, there are two new skills that can be of use to you in working out exactly what a monster does and how to defeat it.
Although many of the old languages are still around, there have been a few changes. Halfling is not a common language for non-halflings to know, for instance, and you must invest in Linguistics to learn it if you are of another race. Additionally, there is no Common tongue. You can substitute your native domain language in its place.
There are many, many different languages, but below are a few of the more widespread ones.
- Balok: The oldest language of Ravenloft, Balok spread from its native Barovia throughout the southern Core (the densest known cluster of domains). Balok is marked by guttural consonants and thick vowels and is not overly pleasant to the ear. However, many of the centrally located domains where Balok is spoken contain trade routes, so it has come into use as a trade tongue by some merchants and innkeepers.
- Darkonese: This complex and highly structures tongue has not spread far beyond the borders of Darkon. However, the sheer size of that kingdom ensures that Darkonese remains significant. Many nonhumans, such as elves and dwarves, are natives of Darkon and mix Darkonese with their racial tongues, and many wizards note that the highly precise definitions of Darkonese words lend themselves well to magical writings.
- Mordentish: This language is divided into two distinct dialects with markedly different vocabularies. “High” Mordentish is preferred by the upper classes, while speaking the “Low” dialect marks one as a commoner. Scholars posit that this linguistic cleft may have arisen from an imperfect melding of two separate, now-forgotten languages. The result is a highly flexible language that has spread throughout the northwestern Core. Due to its association with the culturally advanced domains of the northwest, Mordentish is widely considered the language of literature.
- Vaasi: This language, most recognizable for its harmonious vowels, is strongly associated with the cultures of the southeastern Core. By church law, for example, all religious rites of the Church of the Lawgiver must be recited in Vaasi; all texts must use its script. A patois spoken in Katakass, mixing Vaasi with the Sithican dialect of Elven, is considered highly poetic and is much favored by bards and minstrels.
- Draconic: While few have seen the wily wyrms in the Realm of Dread, their language remains the preferred tongue of magic. A few scholars suspect that the origins of Ravenloft lie in some other world, and when that world introduced the arcane arts to Ravenloft, it recorded them in the dragon’s language. Regardless, Draconic is not a spoken language in Ravenloft; it is merely the wizards’ conceit to keep their secrets from curious eyes.
- Patterna: The Vistani’s spoken language. The patterna is a hodgepodge of various humanoid languages and dialects that conveys meanings less with the words spoken than with the intonation and context of the speech. It has a flowing, rhythmic quality when spoken correctly.
- Tralaks: The Vistani system of trail symbols. Tralaks are carved into trees or scrawled on stones to convey important information to other passing caravans. All tralaks are descriptive, with each one meant to convey a certain quality about the area in which it was written.
- Hallit: The local language of Irrisen, which appears to be very high-context.