Rituals Re-Integrated: Alternative Rules

alt textIs cost really the deterrent for ritual use in games? 

Who should pay their component cost? 

Even if rituals were free to cast, how often would they really still get use?

I tend to think that ritual magic isn’t used in games much more because they’re not included enough in adventure design as potential problem-solving solutions.  I mean, they have their own separate, back-of-the-book section in the PHB for a reason.  They’re not an emphasis, despite the irony of their availability to every single character.  Remember, every character of every calling can cast from ritual scrolls – no feat or class feature required. 

Adventure Integration

Re-categorizing rituals helps, like I did in Rituals Re-Organized, but you also have to – as DM and players – actually look for opportunities to include them in your quests, encounters and adventures.  What kinds of challenges and problems can they solve? 

This is where – much like Robert Schwalb talks about designing in ideal extended rest stops in a dungeon or adventure – it pays to plan for and design in rituals as options in your adventures for overcoming obstacles.  Some skill challenge creation advice, such as that found in DMG2, mentions considering rituals as an option in furthering the skill challenge.  You can also make time and travel truly matter for a particular adventure or encounter, allowing rituals more chances as potential help and solutions.  Time limits until a certain event happens not only increase the dramatic pacing, but also open up opportunities to think about how to avoid or quickly overcome obstacles that aren’t as obvious as a bunch of orcs trying to tear you apart.

For example, if a sect of the Cult of Orcus – protected by their wolf pack-like hordes of zombies and their staunch flesh golem guardians – are planning to sacrifice one of the party’s benefactors at sundown on the defiled ground of the peak of Deathspore Mountain, and a great storm of sleet and heavy snow is rolling in, some considerations to travel more quickly and safely come to mind.  If you’re on foot, and there’s any heavily armored or dwarven friends among your, travel is a bit slow, at the rate of 25 miles a day.  Add in the mountain terrain being difficult to move through and the storm’s effects, and what is normally a 25 mile-trek from where you are now to the top of Deathspore Mountain is anything but.  Your benefactor is doomed!

Rituals to the rescue!  Need mounts?  Summon them.  Phantom Steed or Eagle’s Flight not only look and sound impressive but also provide a huge boost to your overland speed.  Need to survive the elements?  Portend Weather gives you a whopping +5 bonus to Endurance checks on the way through the storms.  Want to avoid having to deal with as many undead patrols on the way to the peak as possible?  Or even fight some on your own terms for a change?  Scout them out and draw them into your Undead Ward trap.  Or simply brew up and pack a few extra bullets with Create Holy Water.

Ritual Costs: Party Policy

Ritual access and use (and what counts as party or personal use), just like treasure splitting policy, should be discussed by the party at the start of a campaign.  The ‘official’ ritual caster, such as the wizard, cleric or bard, shouldn’t always be paying out of pocket – or maybe never, depending on what your group thinks is far or the particular ritual.  And sure, it’s helpful and reasonable to ask the ritual casters to manage ritual component totals for the entire party.

Beyond that however, ritual magic often helps everyone, whether it’s in avoiding or solving adventure risks as obvious as Cure Disease, Remove Afflication and Raise Dead, or a less obvious one that gets your party some critical information to keep moving or gives your party some security for the night.  Then there’s others that are likely more personal, like Transfer Enchantment for when you’ve just mastered the fullblade and you’d love to transfer the magic of your Sunblade Greatsword into its heavier, deadlier cousin.  It’s something each group should talk about – which ones are fair to share the cost on, and which ones will be a more personal choice?  Use the new categorizations in Rituals Re-Organized as a guide.

Ritual Costs: Alternative Rules

Inspired by some “free” daily ritual castings some classes offer, consider using  either of the following alternative ritual casting cost rules.  The big change?  Zero gold pieces worth of ritual components – instead mention them as flavor or like a focuses, which are not expended during casting. 

The benefits of this simplified approach include much less administrative tracking (which can be tedious and time-consuming, even with treasure!), parallels to daily powers as far as frequency of use, and more encouragement to look for ritual use in-game since the gold cost has been removed.  

  • Daily Rituals: Rituals can be cast 1/day each without paying their component cost, essentially making them all similar to daily powers
  • Daily Rituals, Expanded: Epic tier rituals can be cast 1/day each without paying their component cost.  Paragon tier rituals can be cast 2/day, and heroic 3/day

Slightly more complex versions of these alternative rules would limit daily castings of rituals based on character level or component cost.  If you want the extra math and precision, create such a formula – the two alternatives above reflect a simplified approach based on those ideas. 

For example, perhaps you find limiting daily ritual castings to character level divided by five, six or twelve more appropriate.   Or perhaps you think the daily frequency is too high, and think weekly limits would be best.

Or perhaps the ritual component cost in gold pieces determines how often a ritual can be cast per day – making the truly expensive ones, like Raise Dead, very physically taxing rituals to cast indeed, and likely limiting them to once per day usage.  Have any focus count as part of the ritual cost your formula purposes.  For rituals requiring healing surges, convert the healing surges into a gp value of 100 gp per surge for heroic tier rituals, 1,000 gp per surge for paragon tier rituals, and 10,000 gp per surge for epic tier rituals.

Concerned about true ritual casters’ thunder being stolen?  While ritual casters tend to have greater access to rituals regardless, either initially or over time – the wizard especially so – a combined approach of the two daily power-style alternatives above might be best.  Perhaps true ritual casters themselves have the expanded degree of daily usages, while those casting from scrolls, have the once-per-day limit, regardless of the ritual’s tier.  This way, true ritual casters are rewarded for their ritual mastery via class feature or feat, yet rituals remain accessible to everyone like usual and the alternative rules also stay simple and elegant. 

Go Forth and Ritualize!

Remember that beyond alternative ritual costs, the best inclusion strategy for rituals is still designing them into your adventures or actively looking for creative solutions to problems and challenges during your adventures – an extension of the flavorful and helpful “Improving with [Skill Name]” ideas in the Rules Compendium

Have more ideas as either a player or DM?  Share your thoughts on ritual costs and inclusion for everyone here.

Also, keep a lookout for for An Index to Rituals by Chris Sims, coming out in this month’s slate of Dragon Magazine #398 articles.  I’m excited to see how close the author takes ritual presentation towards the ideas presented in Rituals Re-Organized.

2 Responses to “Rituals Re-Integrated: Alternative Rules”

  1. […] Until now!  Chris Sims put together a Rituals Index, something I had been looking forward to after taking a shot at something like it myself just months prior in Rituals Re-Organized.  […]

  2. […] Rituals Re-Integrated: Alternative Rules […]

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