Ravenloft is my pet peeve when it comes to settings. I don't like it, it's too dark for my tastes, but occasionally I had to survive through it, although for a brief time.

Something I never got clear is the set of rules for magic in Ravenloft. My DM introduced harsh situations and troubles associated to enchantments on Ravenloft, but I am not sure if they were in-house development or actual rules. Could you please explain ?


As a player, it's completely understandable to find Ravenloft somewhat frustrating -- especially if you're not expecting it, and its associated changes.

The setting itself is highly unorthodox: Each "domain" in Ravenloft is controlled entirely by its ruler, who typically sees and knows all. Each domain may, in fact, have different effects on spells.

The idea behind the Ravenloft setting is to create the feeling of fear -- fear which may be somewhat alien to the typical D&D role player, who may have (easily) become accustomed to his spells always working, his might always creating "right," and the "good guys" winning.

If this style of play frustrates you, I recommend discussing that with your DM and attempting to work within the group to discourage the setting as a whole.

That said, you may find the setting fun, challenging and exciting in new ways if you understand this goal and become comfortable with it. Your DM is not just messing with you; chances are good that he is tired of the same-old, same-old, and that the flexibility of the Ravenloft setting provides him the opportunity to challenge you.

As a player, the biggest warnings about Ravenloft (and as a DM, I would absolutely forewarn my players about this) are:

  • Magic, enchantments and psychic powers do not always work the way you intend
  • The Mists will inherently mess with your minds
  • Most likely, nothing is as it seems
  • Combat is not always the right answer
  • The lord of a domain is always -- always -- considerably more powerful than you can ever hope to be. Do not mess with him/her.

If this isn't for you, then it isn't for you: Like I said above, chat with your DM and explain your concerns. If it turns out that this is up your alley, then dive in with both feet, check your expectations at the door, and have a blast with it!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't know that much about Ravenloft, and it just got WAY more appealing to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Numenetics Aug 20 '10 at 3:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ It helps that, when I was a big gamer in my teens, Ravenloft was easily my favorite D&D setting -- largely for these reasons. :) I was also a Call of Cthulhu fan. Nowadays, I have to say my current DM's D&D setting is my new favorite, but it's for similar reasons: Check your expectations at the door and roll with it! :) \$\endgroup\$ – John Rudy Aug 20 '10 at 3:05

There are very specific changes to how spells work. Sometimes spells work differently depending on the domain. Most spells that involve necromancy or summoning are likely to produce uncontrollable results, and most divination spells are subject to misdirection. Your GM probably wasn't messing with you.

Ive run Ravenloft campaigns and played in a few, and one thing many GMs get wrong is that there often is respite for players (at least based on realm descriptions), unless you are dragging a paladin along in your group. Some domains have peaceful or beautiful locations, but published adventures don't really focus on them. Without them, the creepy stuff isn't creepy, and a Ravenloft campaign devolves into an adventure into a new type of Hell, rather than a fantasy version of a Hammer horror film.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That's a very good point that I hadn't considered. I think the revised campaign setting for 2e touches on that, but it doesn't bring up that contrast in detail. Also gives me some ideas for handling something like CoC. Having things perfectly normal would go an extra step to having players question their sanity. \$\endgroup\$ – migo Mar 15 '11 at 11:34

Ravenloft has a lot of rules that change how spells work. I don't have the book on me, so I can't give too many specifics. There are quite a few that just don't function (mostly related to summoning or planar travel). A lot of other spells become less effective or have their effects twisted or perverted in some way. Also, many evil spells require a powers check.

The bottom line is that your DM probably wasn't just screwing with you (at least, no more than a Ravenloft DM should).


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.