Fear, Horror and Madness

Fear, Horror and Madness saves represent the power of terror – a roleplaying tool to help players visualize the hysteria that often clouds the minds of characters in classic tales of horror. If a player properly portrays the terror or revulsion their character feels at a particular scene these saves may be considered optional. This doesn’t mean that being asked to make such a save implies you aren’t playing your character well, some situations are severe enough or important enough that a save will always be required.

Making the Saving Throws

Fear, Horror and Madness saves are considered Will saves in all respects. Anything that modifies a Will save likewise modifies Fear, Horror and Madness saves; anything that modifies saves vs. fear effects modifies Fear saves.

Fear, Horror and Madness saves all use the same basic mechanic: a Will save against a specific DC which will depend on the situation. Luck effects and resistance effects (such as those generated by a luck stone or cloak of resistance) do not affect Fear, Horror and Madness saves; they are outside the purview of luck and are not “active” effects that can be resisted. Divine effects do aid Fear, Horror and Madness saves, however.

If the character succeeds at a Will save, then there is no effect and she is immune to that specific source of fear, horror or madness for 24 hours.

If a character fails the Will save, then the margin of failure determines the result. The final check result will be subtracted from the DC; this determines if the character suffers a minor, moderate or major effect.

Failure Margin Effect
1-5 points Minor
6-10 points Moderate
11-15 points Major
16+ points Major, plus additional effect

Recovery Checks

A character who fails a Horror or Madness save needs to make recovery checks to shake off its effects. Recovery checks are actually just Horror or Madness saves, usually with the same modifiers and DC. However, succeeding at a recovery check removes a Horror effect or lessons the severity of a Madness effect; failing a recovery check does not cause additional ill effects. Characters may take 10 on recovery checks.

Fear Saves

A character should make a Fear save when confronted with overwhelming odds and/or immediate, dire physical danger.

Failure Results

Minor Effect: Shaken. The character suffers a -2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks.

Moderate Effect: Frightened. A frightened creature flees from the source of its fear as best it can. If unable to flee, it may fight. A frightened character takes all the same penalties as a shaken character.

Major Effect: Panicked. A panicked creature must drop anything it holds and flee at top speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along a random path. it can’t take any other actions. in addition, the creature takes the same penalties as a shake creature. If cornered, a panicked creature cowers and does not attack, typically using the total defense action in combat. A panicked creature can use special abilities, include spells, to flee; indeed, the creature must use such means if they are the only way to escape.

If the character fails the Fear save by 16+ points, she is panicked and must make an immediate Horror save (DC = failed Fear save DC -5).

Additional Failures: Fear effects stack. Shaken character who fails another Fear save becomes frightened. A frightened character who fails another Fear save becomes panicked.

Recovering from fear

Fear effects last 5d6 rounds. Certain spell effects (such as remove fear) can remove all Fear effects.

Horror Saves

Horror is a broader emotion than fear, and more intimate. Horror often permanently colors a character’s view of the world, be it through the shock of realizing that such merciless events are possible or the paralyzing dismay of discovering some monstrous trait within oneself. Horror is the murder of innocence.

Failure Results

If a character fails a Horror save the results are generally severe and long lasting but could come in a variety of forms. If a character fails a Horror save by 16+ points, he suffers a major Horror effect and must make an immediate Madness save (at DC = Horror save DC – 5).

Additional Failures

A character may only have one active Horror effect at a time, the duration is counted from the most recent failed save and the most severe effect is the only one active.

Recovering from Horror

Minor effects last one week. Moderate effects last two weeks. Major effects last thirty days. At the end of this duration, the character rolls a recovery check (a Horror save). Use the DC of the original Horror save with a +2 morale bonus. if the save succeeds, the effect is removed. If the save fails, the results continue for another full duration and a new save is attempted at a cumulative +2 morale bonus.

Numerous spells and magical effects (such as modify memory and remove fear) can also remove all Horror effects.

Madness Saves

Failed Madness saves can cripple a character; fortunately, they’re also the least common type of effect. Make a madness save in the following three situations:

  • The character makes mental contact with any darklord, aberration, elemental, ooze, outsider, plant or insane mind (any creature suffering from a Madness effect). Druids and clerics with the Plant domain are immune to making Madness saves when contacting plants.
  • The character is the victim of gaslighting, a purposeful attempt by another party to drive her insane.
  • The character suffers from a total catastrophe. This can include witnessing the brutal destruction of the rest of the party, leaving the character to face a threat alone; a Paladin being stripped of her powers for her misdeeds; suffering an involuntary alignment change; or being subjected to a horrific physical transformation.

Failure Results

Failed Madness saves can quickly hinder or cripple a character. In addition to a Mild, Moderate or Major psychological condition assigned by the DM all failed Madness checks cause effective ability decreases to Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

A character with a Minor Madness effect suffers 1d6 points of ability damage to each of their mental ability scores.

A character with a Moderate Madness effect suffers 1d6 points of ability drain to each of their mental ability scores.

A character with a Major Madness effect suffers 1d10 points of ability drain to each of their mental ability scores.

If a character fails a Madness save by 16+ points her mind is shattered. Unable to function, she immediately drops to -1 hit points and starts to die. If she survives this shock to the system, she suffers a major Madness effect and 2d6 points of ability drain to each of her mental ability scores.

Additional Failures

If a character fails another Madness save while already suffering a Madness effect the effects do not stack. Instead, only the most severe Madness effect manifests. Ability score decreases are cumulative with multiple failed Madness saves, however.

If any character’s mental ability scores drop below 3 they become what is commonly known in Ravenloft as a Lost One – a walking catatonic whose mind is shattered by memories too horrible to bear. They become an NPC until all mental ability scores are raised above three. As normal, if any of the mental ability scores drops to 0 the character slips into complete catatonia until all three are raised above 0, at which point they likely awaken as a Lost One.

Madness and Alignment

Some Madness effects can cause a character’s alignment to temporarily change. This is an involuntary alignment shift, which does not require an additional Madness save.

Recovering from Madness

The road from madness to sanity is often long and difficult. Madness effects are removed when all ability points lost to the failed Madness saves are regained. In the case of minor Madness effects, this is often measured in days or weeks. Moderate and major effects, however, require much more effort to shake off. Several methods are available to characters in need of recovery.

Peace and Quiet: If a character rests for thirty days without failing any subsequent Will saves, she can make a recovery check against the original DC. If this check succeeds, one point in one of her decreased ability scores is restored. The character can attempt a new recovery check against the original DC per month until all are restored to normal. In cases of extreme Wisdom drain, it is likely the DC is so high that recover is not possible without outside help.

Magic: If available, magic is the quickest and most effective road to recovery. Any spell that can repair ability damage can aid in recover from Madness.

Hypnosis: If the character does not have access to magic, access to a character with the hypnotism feat is the next best option. The hypnotism spell can be used in the same way; use this system, but the spell’s increased efficiency grants the subject a +2 bonus to her recovery check.

When a character is curing madness, the DC of a Heal skill check is equal to the DC of the subject’s failed Madness save.

The hypnotist can return Heal checks once per week (per subject) until the subject recovers. This means that the aid of a successful hypnotist can give the insane character four chances to make recovery checks per month, rather than just one. A character cannot use Hypnosis on himself.

A successful Heal check garners two results. First, the subject can attempt an immediate recovery check to regain a single ability point as detailed under Peach and Quiet above. Second, each successful use of Hypnosis reduces the DC of the recovery check by 1 point.

Sanitariums: A few sanitariums are scattered across Ravenloft. While their purpose is the lift the affliction of derangement, more often they simple serve as prisons for the insane. Recovery in a sanitarium works just like hypnosis (in fact, that’s the typical method of recovery used), but the sad truth is that a patient in a sanitarium is unlikely to receive the careful attention she requires. Each sanitarium offers a flat 1d8-5 (between -4 and +3) morale modifier to all recovery checks made in its care. As indicated, many patients in Ravenloft’s sanitariums would be better off locked in a relatives attic.

Patients in a sanitarium can make one recovery check per month, using the modifier above. Each success restores 1 point in one decreased ability score (player’s choice) and reduces the DC of future recovery checks by 1 point.

Special Hero Points Use
For the cost of two hero points you can downgrade a Horror or Madness save failure by one step to a minimum of minor. You can choose to do this at any point after the effect takes place. If you choose to do so you spend the hero points and the ability damage is rerolled using the appropriate dice for the new level. The effect will be downgraded to the corresponding or most similar effect at the new level (Major becomes Moderate, Moderate becomes Minor). This is a special exemption to the normal limit of one hero point per round.

Fear, Horror and Madness

A Light in Darkness MKing MKing