Evil DM Tricks TM
Odds and Ends
First Make yourself Fear
Finally, my biggest advice of all - when setting up an adventure, if you have something in mind, do not be satisfied until what you have come up with scares the dickens out of you. When I was writing the introduction to the VRG to the Walking Dead, I wasn't satisfied until I could feel my own skin crawl when I read it.
Frustrating players vs heroic PCs needs
Did it ever happen to you, that you did your job as Ravenloft DM so good, that you did not frighten and demoralize the characters in your game, but the actual players? I don't know, if I did my job too good, but I succeeded in demoralize and frustrate two players (Ö) Two players sent me a mail today. They are frustrated that their characters are no heroes; they think they had never succeeded in any adventure, never achieved any success. They are frustrated and while I can somewhat understand their feelings; I don't know what to do.
I answered them, listing their adventures and the ending, showing that they - while not achieving a clear, shining everyone is happy and all is good ending - were successful. I explained that there probably won't be any clear, shining, everyone is happy - endings, but that does not mean that they had failed; (e.g. while several people died in NoWD, they prevented Marcel from killing and reanimating the whole village, thus saved all villagers).
Still, I wonder what will happen. Did you ever have a similar occurrence? Or do you care to offer any advice?
Scipion_Emilien: I had the same trouble with my players, they wanted to play Ravenloft, but they were believing that Ravenloft was a super-heroic world. I made them learn more (perhaps too much) about the setting and this seemed to temporarily fix the problem.
Igor the Henchman: Are you being 'too good' a Ravenloft DM? I can say for certain that frustrating players is never a sign of success for a DM, no matter what game setting you play. In my opinion, players who tell their DM that they are frustrated with his campaign should be taken seriously. Not knowing much details of your game, I can only offer limited advice, but I recommend listening to the players' comments and use their input to improve your DMing style.
It is a simple fact of the game: the most enjoyable and memorable moments at the gaming table is when the PCs get to do something bold and heroic. From many players' point of view, these episodes constitute the main incentive to play adventurer characters. When I DM, I know it is my job to give them these memorable moments - in a reasonable measure. I consider such episodes - those where the PCs get to crush the vampire, to blow up the evil wizard's tower, or to rescue a meaningful NPC, to be the peak moments of the game. I know the players always do.
It is sometimes easy, I think, for a DM to forget to look at the game from his players' point of view. This is doubly tempting in Ravenloft, a setting that was created almost entirely from a DM's perspective. Our players don't enjoy the same amount of interesting information about the setting we do. I mean sure, we know how cool the Nightmare Court is, but in the players' eyes, they are nothing more than interesting villains for them to fight. And when the players set their characters to fight villains, they usually aren't satisfied till they've defeated them, savouring their victory as the single greatest prize they can receive in the game.
While 'small victories do matter' is indeed a great part of Ravenloft's premise, this philosophy should not be used to deprive the heroes of their sense of heroism. Even in the bleak, moody, deeply-immersed-roleplaying world of Ravenloft, the players want a chance to kick butt. This seems to be what the players in your campaign feel they're lacking. My advice is to adjust your style based on your players' negative feedback. Next adventure, break your usual adventure style and give them an exceptional chance to really show off - they'll love it.
Jason of the Fraternity: I would agree with Igor that this is not necessarily a sign of a good DM. There are certainly times that you can organize an adventure and play out the scenes so well that the players are frightened, but I doubt that a demoralized player is ever a good thing. If a player becomes frustrated with the game, then we (as DMs) are missing one of the most important aspects of the role: providing an enjoyable game.
Ravenloft is certainly a bleak and foreboding atmosphere, but there still needs to be light (even if it is difficult to find). If the players are complaining about the current outcomes, then you might need to provide them a more obvious victory now and again. A villain that is obviously thwarted by their actions could give them the morale boost to keep them believing that they're making a difference.
tec-goblin: Well, I have concluded that really few players really enjoy a big Ravenloft campaign. More players are used in more compensation - less darkness. IMC, it helps that I have merged the world with Swashbuckling adventures. In that way, it's still dark, full of plots, and they still see that it's difficult to succeed and sometimes a hidden force is more powerful than what they thought, but they still have potential for swashing and buckling and doing heroic things in front of many people. They have a huge reputation score right now. But one player is still really pissed off about the tortures his character has suffered and the fact that I added to him a template and then, in the story, it ended up being removed. He was saddened and shocked for days. But, after all this, a good Ravenloft DM has to induce all kind of feelings - it's the balance though that matters.
JoŽl of the Fraternity: As Igor wrote, I think you have to switch a little bit to something more heroic. Add more ego-boosting. I was expecting something similar with my players (20 years of dungeon crawls leave a mark or two), so their Ravenloft PCs became known as heroes in their hometown, for defeating the Effigy of Ivan Szimin. It wasn't very difficult to do from me and it boost their ego (even if I had discussed this topic with them, they were half-expecting to have miserable PCs in Ravenloft. Aargh, why this image for Ravenloft?)
So they are heroes in their hometown (not known elsewhere, of course, but there are few Ezra anchorites who had heard of the PCs by now and are asking them for advice / calling for help). Let them have good, unspoiled success. It is often the temptation for a RL DM to spoil any victory with layers upon layers of deceit. You can have a major villain or two with that type of over scheming, but not all villains should be that challenging and difficult. Let them defeat some of the bad guys and make it a clean victory. Make them proud. Few people like to play miserable PCs, so make sure that their victories are important.
Jason of the Fraternity: Your players might not be suited to role-playing in the Ravenloft setting. I've had gaming groups that I had to switch settings as well (such as my current group), since they don't enjoy that type of atmosphere and game. I think tec-goblin made a great point in that many players don't enjoy the Ravenloft setting (or at least as much as DMs enjoy it). When so many more drawbacks than the other settings, why would a player want to play in Ravenloft?
Isabella : We had a problem like this before in a previous campaign. That letter sounds a lot like I felt at the end of it. See if any of these have occurred:
Death of a liked NPC: I've noticed that DMs don't have nearly the regard for their NPC's life as the players do. While it may seem fun or dramatic to kill off an NPC for some reason or another, players never take it well, and it's not something you can pull off easily. If you give them no chance to save the NPC, the players feel like they had no control, but the feeling of failure is even worse if the players did have a chance to save them and didn't (either through bad dice or player decisions, and the later can cause some bad blood between players).
Feelings of Inadequate Compensation: PCs generally like to feel like they did something. Messages along the lines of "congrats for saving the town, but it didn't matter that much; there's a better zombie lord out there" do not tend to suffice for some reason. Do the NPCs they helped ever talk to them or help them again? Do the people hold them in high regard, and will the PCs stick around to know it? I once had a cleric of the Morninglord who brought back the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind to the Church, and then was banished from it when a sign of the Dark Powers manifested in her (a power she received from resurrecting an undead party member). I highly doubt anything this bad happened in the campaign, but make sure your PCs realized they made a difference to some people in the world, and that they're appreciated for it.
Everything is Bad: Not much explanation is needed for this. This isn't meant to be Vampire. Not everyone in Ravenloft is evil or a jerk. Everything goes bad only when the PCs arrive: See above.
I suggest asking the PCs what they want before/after every game, and keep it in mind. It's not meant to be happy-fun land, but don't over-do it. Horror is only effective when the players aren't jaded, fear is only possible when the PCs don't expect people to die anyway, and the overall ambiance of Ravenloft is only possible if there are light spots that remind the PCs that fighting is worthwhile. Otherwise, it boils down to the question "What is the point?"
Troile: Why would a player want to play in Ravenloft? Because itís rewarding!. I have 2 thoughts on the subject: Let the PCs have a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Let them see the prosperity that they bring before carrying on. Don't make things happen just b/c itís the game and the PCs need adversaries. They will feel much much better if they get the sense that this stuff is going on w/o them and they just happened upon it. With a proper overall theme and good character backgrounds itís easy to revolve a campaign around how the players want to do things. That is the single biggest reason why I don't like most DMs actually. Itís frustrating to know that you're only being thrown enemies b/c itís required.
Jason of the Fraternity: Tradition is a hard thing from which to break free. Dungeons & Dragons has heavily relied upon characters fighting monsters / villains and being rewarded for doing so. While role-playing has grown and matured into something much more than that, many dungeon masters have the habit of just throwing monsters at characters. Honestly, I am more frustrated with DMs that feel it is their duty to torment the characters as much as possible. Some DMs do this by throwing endless waves of monsters at the group, and other DMs will throw curses, traps, and other maladies to bring the heroes down. Whatever the method, it is not surprising that players get frustrated with such a mentality.
When Ravenloft was brought back, one of my favourite changes was the move away from the typical "weekend in hell" concept. These changes made it that players (at least mine) wouldn't groan every time they saw a Ravenloft logo on a product. There was much more to the setting than being trapped by the Mists and trying to find your way back home. In many cases, you were now trying to defend your home and family from the encroaching darkness (which proved to be a lot more fun and stimulating).
Dark Whisper concludes: We've solved our problem. It was a multilayered affaire; as was advised by several of you, it was partially the oppressive feel of RL. Additionally, they did not count a partial victory as such but as a defeat, not seeing what they achieved; only what they did not. Knowing this, I can understand that they became frustrated (e.g. they did not count defeating the Zombielord in NotWD as a victory, because they thought they had been too late since the moon turned red).
Another part of the problem was the current adventure, Dark Harvest, where I very pulled all threads to enforce the feeling of guilt, including dragging up old memories, both of the PC's life before RL and since they arrived.
But as I finished the adventure yesterday with the "happy" wheat-and-scythe scene with encouraging shouts of the wheat, they felt that they had really achieved victory. They are happy now and eager to continue their quest (and learning more about the mysterious Nightmare Court that hunts the paladin...)
My advice? Start with the root of horror. Go back and read some good ghost stories. After one good gaming session, sit around the table and tell ghost stories to each other. Possibly check some out of your local library, or search the internet. I particularly recommend: www.themoonlitroad.com After you know a few good ghost stories, pull elements from those stories and mix them into your campaign. You'll be surprised at how chilled the players get.
Igor the Henchman
My trick is a little hard to explain. It is a particular set of mind I use when planning horror adventures (be it Ravenloft, standard D&D, or whatever). I find it useful to remember that scaring another person always involves reaching for its inner, "animal" side. I think there really is a reason why fear has been called the "eldest emotion of humanity", because it actually traces itself far earlier than when man was man.
To illustrate, imagine being a tiny mouse racing across the floor in the dark, followed by the sounds of a cat's claws behind you getting closer with each second. Not even understanding what it is that is happening to you, you are running as fast as you can, in order to squeeze yourself into that tiny little hole, just to escape that which pursues you. This is what defines fear. Feeling that you are about to be consumed, realizing you are totally helpless in the face of danger.
Despite us belonging to the most advanced species on Earth, we all have that little mouse ingrained deep in our core. In fact, much of our thoughts and behavior derives directly from it. When a GM tries to scare his friends on a horror RPG session, this is where he aims: where players are most defenseless.
Actually, at this point, I think its worth asking if taking advantage of this unspoken biological weakness constitutes a disloyal, coward act? In my opinion, it does. This is why, I believe, before setting up to scare somebody, I must make completely sure I have that person's consent, be it spoken or implied.
Now what did I write all that for? Oh yeah. This is my point: to my knowledge, all horror scenarios, whatever horror genre used, boils down to one, unique structure: the main character feeling a gigantic threat coming upon him, and the character being at so great a disadvantage, he is completely helpless. This should be easy to stimulate, if not that our multi-layer psychology. To make the audience feel true horror, the narrator should strive to reach for the deep, buried part of mind. If the threat is too obvious, the surface intelligence will handle it, and no true horror will be felt. To reach the subconsciousness, the danger should only be implied.
Thus, when I plan a horror adventure, it helps me to know my story is set according to a simple, easy to remember skeleton: the PCs receive clues of a threat of unfathomable proportions out to get them, and that they are at a complete, unfair disadvantage in face of it. There are thus three components I always try to keep in mind when designing the plot: the sense of mystery, the incoming danger, and the feeling of defenselessness. Actually, the third is the most important to me, because that's the one I most often overlook.
To make the PCs (and players!) feel defenseless, the danger should do battle on the ground where the PCs are at the greatest disadvantage. Remember those classic slasher films? Of course, it works better if the disadvantage is not only physical. In fact, I find it works better when it is not physical at all.
A common trick is to strike at the PCs from a direction where they are the least prepared to face it. The dream-invading murderer is a classic, as is the body-snatching ghost. Often, only a suggestion of a threat does the trick: receiving creepy telepathic messages, for example, is among the most unsettling experiences there can be.
Isolation is likewise an effective tool, especially when you don't expect it. What if the TV displays personal threat messages to you, that only you can see? What if you are stalked by a supernatural horror and no one believes you?
But the most unsettling of techniques of instilling the sense of defenselessness, I think, is suggesting that there's more to the world around you than you know. This is an approach many modern horror tales use, and the one Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos owe its success to. When you use this technique, the PCs receive clues that their representation of the world and its laws is somehow wrong. This might very well be untrue, but an implied suggestion is all you need (of course, if it is true, the story is all the more horrifying for it). The reign of man, the reliability of laws of physics and the uncertainty of fate are things that are most effectively put in question in horror stories. Discovering that what rules you thought totally reliable might not be (and that there are hostile beings who are far more familiar with the real rules than you) is sure to make the audience experience defenselessness, and through it, terror.
Power Checks on Spells
For the benefit of the folks confused on the basic issue of whether or not the rules-as-written have anything to say about it, or whether it was just an "authorial oversight," just run down this checklist. Until a PH spell under consideration hits a "yes" to one of these questions, then, according to the seemingly perplexing rules, there's no powers check for casting a spell*. (Technically, this is even true in the RLPH, suffering as it does from the developers' misbegotten additions to the wizard and sorcerer class rules.)
- Does the spell have the Evil descriptor? If yes, then powers check. If no, go to 2.
- Does the spell have the Necromantic descriptor? If yes, go to 3. If no, go to 4.
- Does the necromantic spell have offensive effects, create or enhance the undead, or manipulate a subject's life force? If yes to any of these, then powers check. If no, then go to 4 (and your spell is probably deathwatch).
- Is the spell specifically listed in the Spells in Ravenloft section? If yes, then go to 5. If no, "Any aspect of a D&D Player's Handbook spell not altered in the following listings functions normally in Ravenloft." I.E., no powers check.
- Does the specific spell listing say it requires a powers check? If yes, then powers check. If no, then no.
Keep in mind that the alternative to trusting you guys to figure this out for yourselves was about 4 pages' worth of "[PH Spell Name]: Unaltered." listings. That just means the spell isn't inherently evil; it's just a tool. And like any tool, it can still be used toward evil ends. (An axe murderer earns powers checks for murdering folks, not for wielding an axe.)
Ravenloft's False History
Here's the thing about Ravenloft's "false history": Darkon never had an Arcane Age. There never was a Nightmage. He never built a citadel called Nartok Keep and ruled over the region that is now the city of Nartok. He never created broken one servants, or filled the hidden catacombs beneath his home with his magical creations.
In reality, one moment Nartok did not exist, in any way, shape, or form, and then a moment later it did.
And yet, Nartok Keep stands, old and crumbling. It does hold long-forgotten chambers, and those chambers are home to both the Nightmage's treasures and the descendents of his broken one servants.
None of it happened. As a matter of factual record, it's completely false.
Yet it's all just as completely real as everyone else in the Lands of Mist.
The only reason I don't like having fiends, specifically, originate in false history and then have their existence extend into "real" history is that it means the Dark Powers created them, one way or the other. And I don't see the Dark Powers purposefully creating creatures by their very nature that powerfully disrupt their intricate designs.
JoŽl of the Fraternity
Every time I used it (two times in fact), I cheated with the cards without my players noticing and already got the signification of the reading ready.
I haven't used the new set yet, but I've used the old set 3 times. The first two were stacked decks long ago, as part of NotWD, and I think Roots of Evil, or something. I kept the stacked cards behind the DM screen, had the players shuffle the rest of the deck, then took the cards behind the screen and surreptitiously added the stacked cards to the top.
The third time I tried my hand at real fortune-telling and let the cards fall where they may. Results were somewhat spotty. But fun. See here.
In January 2007, Giamarga asked how does the wealth feat work. While most agreed that the feat was very poorly written and could be interpreted in million ways, it sparked an interesting discussion on PC wealth in Ravenloft.
JoŽl of the FoS
In Ravenloft, I doubt many campaigns are in the "more levels you get, the more cash you get" way, like a traditional fantasy campaign. I'm not sure Ravenloft DMs should make higher level find bigger stacks of cash, as you would expect in other fantasy worlds. I do not see this as fitting the setting, IMHO. I like this idea of heroes getting famous as good doers, or powerful as they get new items and levels and defeating bigger evil challenge - and getting satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from this; but not necessarily overwhelming rich as we see in other fantasy campaigns. Of course, they will be much richer than commoners, but I do not see them as building a stronghold / castle as we often see in other campaigns. Bigger challenges sure, but not mountains of gp. 265 gp is a huge amount in Ravenloft IMHO, whatever the level you reached.
Mangrum: If you don't increase wealth as the characters rise in level, you basically mangle the CR system as written. PCs will find themselves progressively more overpowered by challenges which should, by the book, be just fine for them. Increasing wealth fits into Ravenloft just fine.
JoŽl of the FoS: I have to admit I don't see your point. What's the link between Challenge Rating (SRD: "This shows the average level of a party of adventurers for which one creature would make an encounter of moderate difficulty") and the amount of cash found behind a monster? I do not have a problem with PCs getting more and more magical items as they get higher level, but I do not see the link with gold pieces?
Eric the Light Bringer: as I have only entered 3rd Ed. D&D less than 2 years ago, my grasp of 3E rules is still shaky but as I understand it: The D&D PH and DMG allot how much wealth a player should receive per encounter level (and so in general how much wealth in equipment the character should have), and the encounter level is usually dependent on the challenge rating of the monster/threat the character needs to overcome. The problem with the Wealthy feat is at the low character levels (Lv 1-6 or so) the additional gold per month puts the character/wealth curve out of wack (thus the character/equipment) which then unbalances the power curve of character level/encounter level. I think the best example would be the Wealthy character able to buy masterwork, silver or cold iron weaponry much earlier in their progression and in greater amounts (thus sharing it with the rest of the party) which influences the DM to add more creatures to an encounter to re-balance the unbalance in power.
Mangrum: Got it in one. In 3E D&D, equipment (wealth) is a critical component of a PC's power level. A PC who lacks the standard amount of gear for his level generally isn't up to challenges that, by the letter of the rules, should pose a fair challenge. This isn't generally a big deal at the lowest levels (since PCs generally don't have much equipment then), but wealth becomes increasingly vital at higher levels. (Too much wealth is equally unbalancing. If you give a 2nd-level fighter +3 full plate and a +2 vorpal sword, don't expect that 3rd-level orc barbarian to pose a threat.)
That's not really the crucial problem with the Wealth feat, however -- there's nothing wrong with an equipment boost vs. boosting any other resource. Having the feat be more valuable at some levels than at others isn't wrong either. (Toughness being a prime example -- a feat that's great for 1st-level wizards and sorcerers, but which actively should not be taken by any PC who will be played past starting levels.)
Yet the Wealth feat has written has numerous flaws. First of all, as has been oft noted, the mechanics don't mean anything as written (a common problem in CoH and HoL), so you end up having to write your own feat right off the bat. Second, tying the wealth gained to game months leaves the feat utterly at the mercy of the campaign. Most 3E campaigns tend to last less then a year in "game time," so you might only get a few hundred gp out of it over the course of the character's life. At the same time, the feat actively encourages PCs to not go out and adventure. You're much better off sitting at home collecting wealth for months at a stretch before venturing off to your next challenge. Ancestral Relic, from Book of Exalted Deeds, is a much better way of handling this sort of thing.
JoŽl of the FoS: Ah, I see what you meant. But FYI in my campaign, what the PC can't buy because they lack cash, they usually can get through an exchange of service, with say the Ezra Church of Mordent. Another game style, as long as it is balanced, as you point. I prefer to do it this way, it's funnier RP IMHO, and makes more future adventure hooks in the campaign. And it does mean they do not lack gold platted weapons or standard alchemical stuff when needs be.
alhoon: I disagree with you JoŽl. As a player I would like my 12th level hero live in some luxury at least. Also most players I know also like their characters (once they reach higher levels) live in luxury. I.e you have saved the world a couple of times and you have saved more villages from threats than you care to count... and you have to think twice before buying a couple of beers?
JoŽl of the FoS: Hey, I never said they should be poor and living as beggars I just said higher level should of course be much richer than commoners, and able to live very comfortably should they decide to stop adventuring. But my point is, I think that in Ravenloft, an equivalent level character would be less wealthy than in FR or Greyhawk. A lich you defeat in Ravenloft isn't sitting on the same pile of magical items and gold pieces as elsewhere. He won't be naked of course, but his list of items will be lower than in FR (in number of items and in power), and so logically the number of gold pieces in his coffers should be lower too.
It's simply that monsters in RL are not as big loot as in other world - in the adventures well made, the number of gold pieces found is not that high. And it's because of the specificity of the RL setting. With monster character development in RL, the monsters often have other types of craving in Ravenloft than just power and greed as it is often the case in other setting. The same logic we apply to magic items being rare should also apply for gold pieces, while in a less dramatic decrease than magical item.
So that 265 gp we were talking of is a lot of money in Ravenloft, even if you are high level. However, still I do not see a 12 level fighter accumulating gold pieces in Ravenloft, without the convenience of magic items for stocking, to build a stronghold. Putting it in the bank? Perhaps. The idea of stronghold in Ravenloft doesn't fit IMHO - somewhat too fantasy I guess, and not down to earth as Ravenloft people would be, that is IMHO.
A nice house in a great neighbourhood in Levkarest, sure. It might have traps and other devices to sleep without fear. But a stronghold per se, in the medieval castle sense, it seems out of place. And none of the mid-high level adventuring NPCs in canon books do have one anyway, IIRC. They are wanderers or have normal houses AFAIK.
Undead Cabbage: I do things similarly Joel, limiting the amount of gp the players get. I'm always aiming for sort of a 'right amount'. Not so little that they feel its hopeless, but enough that if they aren't careful they'll go backrupt. I also keep their sources of income from areas that make sense. Mainly rewards from the rich, often given under certain conditions. My players will also soon have to open a back account, which means lots and lots of Borcan fun!
Mangrum: (on PC wealth) To know how close you are to average, we'd need to know the value of a given PC's gear. Remember, "wealth" includes magic weapons, armor, scrolls, wands, etc. Thus, add up the gp value of all of a PCs possessions. For a 5th-level PC, the baseline is that it should come out to somewhere between 9,000-13,000 gp (Table 5-1, DMG 137). If it's significantly higher or lower than that margin, you're going to encounter unexpected hiccups in the game unless you keep in mind that an encounter's listed CR/EL doesn't necessarily apply to your PCs. Like it or nor, 3E D&D is very much a tightly integrated game of resource management, and wealth is a major resource. You have to keep an eye on it.
Guardian of Twilight: JoŽl I agree with you. I look at acquiring wealth in Ravenloft a bit differently than most other places... like you may get to use certain people with equipment knowledge to help build (or just build) your new weapon. Kind of like in Van Helsing, where he got the new crossbow. I also like using access to personal libraries as a way of rewarding characters. After all, isn't the old saying "Knowledge is power"? Oh, forgot about just good old fashioned contacts. That is my personal favorite.
Gonzoron: I do a periodic "audit" to make sure my characters have approximately the "right amount" of wealth. At last audit, my group of 8th level characters averaged 31000gp each. That's right between the suggested 27k and 36k for 8th and 9th level characters, respectively. Now, only a small fraction of that is "cash" in the form of coins and gems. About 800gp each in cash.
The vast majority is in the form of magic items, and here's where I think things diverge in RL from your average D&D campaign. The items the group has are generally fewer but bigger. We all know the mantra that every (or nearly every) magic item in RL should have a story, and there are no simple "+1 swords." Well, the story behind an item is usually that much better if the item itself is fairly powerful, i.e. expensive. (yes, you can make a great name and story for a simple item, but it's tougher.)
So as an example, here's the list of one PC:
||+1/+1 Defending, Protection
||Casts Anesthesia and provides +2 fort on command 1/day
||1/day/person Cure Light Wounds
||+1 Studded Leather
|Miscellaneous nonmagical gear:
||approx 400 gp
The prices of the Rock and Chalice were extrapolated from similar items. The armour is the only "boring" item, and the character paid to have it enchanted while visiting the Arcane Studies dept. of the University of Dementlieu. (The only opportunity to 'buy' magic items bigger than a small potion in the whole campaign, so that's a story in itself.) The rock and chalice were family heirlooms, and the Staff (which is 5/6 of the character's wealth in one object) was a gift from the spirit of a long-dead Knight of the Shadows.
A "great reward" for my PCs for saving a whole town runs in the 1000gp/player range. I don't think the players feel rich by any means. Especially when this PC's greatest wish is a boat trip to Nidala that I priced at 3000-5000gp/ticket. There are certainly strongholds in Ravenloft. I can name a few: Ravenloft, Avernus, Pantara, Misericordia, Draccipetri, Hunadora, Faarhaven... If one of my players wanted to drop a bunch of money on one, and found a suitable lord to pay fealty to who would grant them some land, why not? But you're right, they'd probably feel more at home, and get more value out of a nice Manor House (like Gryphon Hill or Shloss Mordenheim...)
wolfgang_fener: Everybody seem to say there's much less treasure in RL than in other worlds like F.Realms but when I look at various RL modules, I find a decent amount of treasure. Maybe I'm a cheap DM, I don't know but based on the published modules, I don't think RL is too cheap on treasure. If players/PCs where really aiming at getting rich, they could find much better way to do so than keep risking their lives again and again. The biggest investment I ever saw from a PC during my 20 years of gaming was buying an inn. I must conclude from this that most players/PC don't care about getting rich. Of course if the DM doesn't have proper knowledge about historical precious metal based economy, it's a waste of time trying to make money the wise way in a RPG... And TSR/WotC certainly never helped on that matter.
JoŽl of the FoS: I just had the time to make the calculations. The average wealth of the PCs (everything included) is close to 3 500 gp each, so we are at a little more than a third of the suggested amount. Excluding potions and scrolls (about 3-4 per PC), they have only two magical items (LS+1, SS+2 - cherished treasures, mind you). But they carry lots of silvered and gold platted weapons, as well as cold iron type, so they can face a lot of things without having to run. No, they can't pay for a raise dead spell, but they should be able to get one if needs be, with proper in game discussions and trading. I do the same with about anything the PC might need and can't afford - if I judge they should have it, they do.
Mangrum: Like it or nor, 3E D&D is very much a tightly integrated game of resource management, and wealth is a major resource. You have to keep an eye on it.
JoŽl of the FoS: Eerily perhaps, I had always assumed that the same restrictive attitude on magic items given to players in Ravenloft, was also the same with money found. With these assumptions, I've never realized the actual WotC DMG suggested amount was also the one suggested in Ravenloft. But my players like the contrast between the "leaner PC" of the Ravenloft campaign, and the "fat PC" they have in the parallel running fantasy campaign (running in GH / Cauldron). They have to plan more in RL, and be more cautious. Anyway, thanks for the setting the clock back to proper time, I'll had these notes to the DMing RL advices part of the site.
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