A Light in Darkness
Magic is not as common in Ravenloft as in many other settings. This is reflected in the relative rarity of arcane spellcasters and the scarcity of magic items. While Ravenloft is steeped in the supernatural, it faces a paucity of magic. Some may believe that the two are the same, but this is not the case.
The supernatural exists in the darklords, the undead that infest realm after realm, the stalking werewolves, the keening ghosts and the eerie buildings whose very stones cry out the horrors taking place within. While some of these may employ magic, they are different and separate from the arcane knowledge that embodies magic. Th. supernatural beings that exist in Ravenloft are a natural part of the Dread Realms’ ecology. Indeed, they could hardly be separated from it, for each realm is an outward extension of the darklord it was created to imprison. As a natural part of the landscape, the supernatural flourishes in the Land of Mists, finding expression in its denizens, locales, beliefs and superstitions.
Magic, conversely, is not so natural to the Realms of Dread. In fact, the supernatural, which finds welcome in the heart of the land, tends to suppress magic to some degree. This is expressed as a land’s magic rating. Just as each realm in Ravenloft exists at a cultural level, each also gains a magic rating based on the nature of the domain, the influence of the Mists, the prevalence of magic within the area and the beliefs of the beings who reside there.
Expressed as a RMR, for realm magic rating, the magic rating of a land holds meaning for all spellcasters and all magic used within the realm. It acts as a bonus or penalty to everything from spell memorization to the effectiveness of spells and magic items. A realm’s magic rating has no effect on the changes wrought to spells in Ravenloft. These remain the same no matter what the magic rating. While the realm magic rating holds some relationship to a land’s Cultural Level, it is not entirely dependent on such. Because of the nature of each domain, the darklord is immune to the effects engendered by magic ratings.
Fluctuations in Magic Ratings
Even within a land than has a particularly high or low magic rating, there may exist areas where magic fluctuates wildly from the norm. These areas should always have some reason for existing that explain there presence, such as a magical accident in the past, a scientific experiment that drains magic to power itself, the touch of fey or some other explanation. Locating such areas and either closing them or utilizing them for particular purposes (to destroy an otherwise indestructible item, to empower a difficult healing and so on) might form part of a story or quest. DMs may utilize these areas in the same fashion as Sinkholes of Evil, placing a few here and there to spice up her campaign or explain a puzzling phenomenon.
In high-magic realms, spots can be found that act almost as anti-magic or null-magic zones, sapping spellcasters’ abilities to utilize magic effectively. Most such places cause spellcasters to feel uneasy, tired or unusually distracted. Some may actually create a drained feeling as though the magic is running out of their systems. Some few null-magic zones may cause no obvious side effects, however, simply suppressing magic used within them with no prior warning.
Such areas may harbor hostile folk, intent on capturing and killing “demon magic users” or powerful creatures that soak up the magic and utilize it to make themselves stronger. Although it is possible to create a zone in even the highest magic realm that completely nullifies magic, most such aberrations should be within one or two ratings of one another. For example, in a land where the magic rating is usually 4, most low-magic areas should correspond to ratings 3 or 2. A very few should be rating 1 and the rarest of the rare would be a rating 0 zone.
In low-magic areas, a few places exist that are more magically active, granting spellcasters greater use of their magic. These are less common than their opposite, lower magic rating zones. Each such occurance should have a specific story behind its existence. When entering such areas, spellcasters may feel energized, awake and more mentally active. They may even feel some sort of energy flow entering their bodies. Some areas may grant such magical power that there is a physical manifestation such as making the spellcaster glow slightly, raising their hair into a crackling, electrified halo or changing their eye color to a vibrant gold. Spellcasters may even feel manic, as if given too much energy to hold and in need of some way to express it before it burns them out physically or emotionally. Some areas, however, betray no such outward manifestations, imbuing spellcasters with greater power with no outward sign.
Areas such as these may be home to dangerous spellcasters hoarding the benefits for themselves. Such powerful beings are usually mad, made drunk with the ecstasy of overpowering magic so readily available. Other dangerous opponents may also be encountered here, spawned by the site or changed by it into greater threats. Such things as dire wolves with the ability to use elemental effects similar to a dragon’s breath or otherwise normal deer that can control humans might be found in such a zone. In most cases, such zones differ from their surrounding area by a rating of only 1 or 2. Only the strongest, most rare ones should differ by 3 or more. For example, in a rating 1 land, zones of greater magic might correspond to ratings 2 or 3. A rating 4 or 5 zone would be extremely rare and highly feared. A rating 5 zone would the be rarest, most closely guarded, most dangerous, most feared and best hidden secret of any such places.
Magic Rating 0
This rating often corresponds to a savage cultural level due to its lack of civilized societies of any sort. Strangely, societies that have very high cultural levels, such as those beyond (and occasionally incorporating) the Renaissance may also have a 0 magic rating due to the lack of belief in magic espoused by the land’s inhabitants. Such societies usually reserve their admiration for science. Naturally, in Ravenloft, what passes for science may, in fact, be the studied application of magic. Finally, in any land that has undergone a great upheaval where a great deal that was known before has been lost, the inhabitants cannot begin play with any magic beyond 3rd level. Characters may not utilize any Use Magic Device skill that they may have and if these are from the area, they cannot take any ranks in that skill. As a rule, when adventuring in lands with a 0 magic rating, it is quite difficult to utilize magic at all.
In savage lands, all spells take three times as long to learn, study (or pray for) and cast, whether arcane or divine. Sorcerers and bards must also spend a like amount of time in meditation to clear their minds for casting spells. The increased casting time may mean that spellcasters take more than 1 round to bring their magical effects into being. No spellcaster may utilize spells above 3rd level — even those entering from outside. Note that the lack of organized societies and written materials means that the only spellcasters in these areas are those that have traveled there from elsewhere. While there might be a primitive sorcerer native to the area somewhere, the chances that she has learned to utilize her powers without destroying herself in the process are quite slim.
Any magic items with powers that mimic spells beyond 3rd level have a base 50% chance of failure when used. This chance rises by 10% for each level beyond 6th. Weapons of +2 or less power are unaffected by this, though if they incorporate other magical powers, those may be affected as any other spell or item above 3rd level.
Those who must make saving throws against magic do so at a +2 due to the unstable nature of magic in this realm, and spell DCs are lowered by 1 point. Thus if a wizard with an 18 intelligence cast a 1st-level spell on an opponent, the target would not only save at a +2 bonus, but would save against a DC of 14 rather than the usual 15 (10 + spell level + Int mod).
Supernatural creatures in such lands are generally rare. Those encountered are generally tough enough to survive in magic-starved lands, but are not the higher level or more intelligent monsters.
In those lands where science holds sway that the magic rating is 0, similar penalties apply. The single exception to this is if such a magic item can be disguised as science. Weird experiments may account for almost any effect that could be created with magic, but the penalties for learning, casting and chance of failure remain the same if the background level of the land is a 0 magic rating.
Magic Rating 1
These domains have very little magic and what does exist is generally divine rather than arcane. A few sorcerers may exist but must keep a low profile as the bulk of the population would kill them if their powers were known. Domains with a magic rating of 1 may be CL 1 Stone Age societies or may encompass any cultural level in which the main population’s ideas are informed by superstition and a belief that magic is abnormal or evil.
Stone Age societies are tribal gatherings. While they may acknowledge medicine men or shamans, few tolerate any sort of magic that is not used for the good of the tribe as a whole. Most Stone Age peoples are highly superstitious, assigning supernatural or divine causes to things they don’t understand. The shamans, who wish to be seen as the conduit between the deities and the people, foster this perception. Those who evince powers other than divine may be stoned or burned as evil and their powers are usually attributed to demons or evil spirits of some sort. Thus, it is rare for spellcasters other than the divine type to survive long enough to learn much magic. Further, the very land itself seems against them, spawning supernatural creatures that conform to the peoples’ fears while suppressing higher level magic.
In a few more advanced societies, magic use may also be restricted by the peoples’ attitudes, even if they don’t subscribe to notions of superstition. These may be formed of those people who consider themselves particularly rational, eschewing notions that such a ridiculous thing as magic exists. Other, seemingly more advanced communities, such as those found in CL 5 Dark Age societies, may condemn magic as a tool of evil (prompted by on overbearing church to do so).
In societies with a magic rating of 1, only divine spellcasters may access up to 5th-level spells. Nondivine spellcasters are limited to 3rd-level spells. This affects both those native to the area and those who enter it. Learning, praying for and casting spells takes twice as long as usual. Sorcerers and bards must spend a like amount of time in meditation when gaining and utilizing their spells. The increased casting time may mean that spellcasters take more than 1 round to bring their magical effects into being.
Any magic item with powers that mimic spells beyond 3rd level have a base 30% chance of failure when used. This chance rises by 10% for each level beyond 6th. Weapons of +2 or less power are unaffected by this, though if they incorporate other magical powers, those may be affected as any other spell or item above 3re level. The exceptions are clerical and druidic items, which function as normal up to 5th level. Characters may not utilize their Use Magic Device skill in these lands, though bards may do so with a successful check at twice the normal difficulty level.
Those who must make saving throws against magic do so at a +1 and spell DCs are lowered by 1 point. Supernatural creatures in lands with a magic rating of 1 may be encountered occasionally, though less frequently than in lands with higher magic ratings.
Magic Rating 2
Lands with this magic rating usually feature large, organized communities. Often these coincide with CL 2 domains. The leaders of such towns and cities are usually clerics who promote their dieties through building large temples. Rulers may be priests or sorcerer-priests, some of whom are viewed as dieties themselves by those they rule. Magic Rating 2 realms may occasionally encompass Cultural Levels of 3 and 4. Societies with magic rating 2 provide the background needed for those who practice magic to blossom. Writing has become more common and wizards are able to pen spellbooks to record their knowledge. Further, in magic rating 2 atmospheres, the ambient magic is such that spellcasters can create magic items.
Spellcasting in such domains is almost to the level considered normal in fantasy campaigns. Divine spellcasters can access up to 7th-level spells, while arcane spellcasters can use up to 5th-level spells. There is only a 155 chance that magic items that incorporate spells above 7th-level clerical or druidic magic or 5th-level arcane magic may malfunction. This chance rises by 10% for each level beyond. Weapons of up to +3 power are unaffected by this. Learning or praying for spells takes a normal amount of time as does casting them. Saving throws and DCs are normal as well, and supernatural encounters happen as often as they occur in normal settings.
Magic Rating 3
Those societies that have a magic rating of 3 are what is considered normal in most fantasy settings. Roughly corresponding to Cultural Levels 6, 7 and 8, these lands have few differences from any basic Prime Material world in as far as magic is concerned. There are no plusses or minuses to learning, praying for or casting spells, saving throws or spell DCs. All classes may learn and cast up to their normal highest level spell. Magic items, while less frequently found than outside Ravenloft, function at the levels intended. This is the default magic rating unless some other indication would suggest that it be lowered or raised.
Magic Rating 4
At this rating, realms typically correspond to CL 7 or 8. This is roughly equivalent to the setting presented in the Player’s Handbook. Naturally, nothing is ever the same in Ravenloft. because there are fewer spellcasters and less magic in Ravenloft than elsewhere, the prevalence of magic in these realms grants spellcasters a small bonus. All levels of spells are accessible to those who may learn the highest levels. Learning spells for the day takes 1/4 less time than usual. All spellcasters recieve a +1 bonus to their spell’s DCs at each level and targets of their spells save against them at a -1 penalty. Magic items receive a +1 bonus to avoid damage, destruction or dispelling. Finally, supernatural monsters are as likely to be encountered here as they are in any other world.
Magic Rating 5
This is a highly charged magical realm. Magic is more common here and spellcasters find that magic comes more easily to them. This may correspond to any domain above CL 0, though it is more common in the higher level ones (CL 6+). Nonetheless, even those lands with a lower CL may have something about them that lends itself to greater magic. In rating 5 areas, arcane spellcasters may learn spells in 1/3 less time than it normally takes and may cast spells up to the highest level they can learn. Divine spellcasters pray for 1/4 less time. All spellcasters receive a +2 bonus to their spells’ DC and targets save at a -2 penalty. Magic items receive a +2 bonus to save against damage, destruction or dispelling, as do magical effects. Supernatural creatures are far more likely to be encountered in such realms.
Magic Rating 6
So potent is the magic in a rating 6 domain that here is almost too much of it. Those who have no magic feel as if they are on the verge of gaining some strange, inexplicable powers and those who routinely cast spells feel charged up, nervous and as if they simply cannot wait to utilize all this power. Arcane spellcasters may learn spells in half the time it usually takes and may access epic level spells if they are able to do so by virtue of their level. Divine spellcasters may pray for their spells in 1/3 less time. Even those unable to normally use epic-level spells may be able to use one is a specific circumstance with DM approval. After using such a spell, however, the caster loses the ability to cast all spells for one week. Such a sacrifice might be worth it, in the right circumstances. Spellcasters receive a +4 bonus on their DCs and the targets of their spells must save at a -2 penalty. Magic items and effects save against damage, destruction and dispelling at a +4 bonus. Supernatural creatures are rife in such realms, seemingly crawling out of the woodwork or around every corner.
It is quite easy for spellcasters to lose touch with reality in such realms, giving themselves over to complete hedonism in their enjoyment of the rush of energy available or to megalomania as they become convinced of their ultimate cosmic power and lose sight of using their magic responsibly. Such reactions could be cause for powers checks or madness saves. Certainly, those they meet in such lands are likely to be crazed in some regard. Characters who heretofore have not had a magic using class but who are hoping to start one would find a perfect excuse to do so in such territories.
Realm Magic Rating Table
In this table, each magic rating has the following information:
Spell cap is the highest-level spell that can be cast in this realm. Ratings in parenthesis indicate the level spell non-divine spellcasters can cast in this realm.
Learn/Cast is the measure of how long any spell takes to learn, study, pray for and cast. When noted as 2x (for example), this indicates that it takes twice as long to learn a spell. When noted as -1/4 (for instance), this indicates that the spell may be learned in the normal time less one quarter (i.e. if it would take on hour, it takes only 45 minutes). If it states full or a fraction such as 1/3 in parentheses after this, it means divine magic takes the full amount of time or less a certain fraction of it in prayer to receive spells in these realms. For the purposes of increased casting time, swift becomes standard and standard becomes one round. This increases the time to activate spell completion items as well.
Item is the base chance any magic item except a weapon has failure when used. Note that this chance may rise as more powerful magic items are utilized. The second half determines the plusses a weapon may have before it may fail to function as well. When shown as a +, this indicates that the item saves against damage, destruction or dispelling at a bonus.
Saves indicate any bonus or penalty the target of a spell cast in the realm may receive.
DC is expressed as a minus or plus to the usual DC of the spell cast.
Monster shows the rarity (or lack thereof) of higher-level supernatural creatures in the realm.
|Magic Rating||Spell Cap||Learn/Cast||Item||Saves||DC||Monster|
|1||5 (3)||2x||30% (+2)||+1||-1||Occasional|
|2||7 (5)||—||15% (+3)||—||—||Normal|