Ritual Magic (Apath)

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Unofficial rules compendium

Ritual magic is slower and less exact than spell magic. A number of people gather and perform a ritual together, having a general idea of what they want to achieve. The lead caster selects a ritual seed, usually a spell the caster knows, and the ritual amplifies and changes the effects of this seed, usually into something much stronger.

All spellcasters are capable of ritual magic, but the more powerful spellcasting classes do it better.

Ritual Caster Feat

You can improve or learn the ability to use ritual magic with the the Ritual Caster feat. This allows anyone to cast ritual magic, and improves the ritual magic ability of classes that are not full spellcasters and improves the spell list as it pertains to ritual casting. Note that at level 20, all classes gain access to level 10 spells for the purpose of ritual magic only.

Ritual Caster

You can cast ritual spells

Benefit: You can use ritual magic as if you had the ability to cast spells of a spell level equal to half your Hit Dice. Your caster level for ritual magic is equal to your Hit Dice. You are also considered to have all spells on your spell list for the purpose of casting ritual spells only.

This in no way changes your ability to cast spells or create and use magic items outside of ritual magic.

Casting Ritual Magic

Casting ritual magic requires following a fairly simple sequence. First you select a seed or root spell that has the effect you want, and then you apply modifiers that change the effective spell level of the ritual. These modifiers change the effective level of the ritual spell in a way similar to metamagic, but there are both positive and negative modifiers. Negative modifiers reduce the effective spell level of the ritual spell and are thus a benefit to the caster. Positive modifiers add to the effective spell level, and are thus a hindrance. If, after all modifications, the final spell level is one you can cast, you can use the ritual spell once you have fulfilled all the conditions of the ritual. If you have fulfilled all conditions, and survived the consequences of any hassle (see below), there is no roll or random factor - just like regular spell casting, the ritual casting automatically succeeds.

Hassle

The world resist gross magic changes. As you modify a ritual, particularly as you reduce the effective level of the ritual casting, you collect hassle points. This is a bad thing. Hassle points are an abstract measure of the opposition and friction your work on the ritual provokes. The more hassle points you collect, the more likely it is that some outside agency that objects to the ritual will seek to hinder you. Depending on the number of hassle points you have collected, this can range from minor inconveniences such political protest to a full-scale attack on the ritual site.

Hassle is the random element of rituals. Rather than have a big final roll for the ritual that can fail, causing a great anticlimax, hassle is there to provide hindrances that are adventure elements in themselves. The goal is to make casting a ritual exciting and dangerous rather than just a lucky roll.

The GM makes a secret hassle check as the ritual progresses, rolling 1d20 and adding the total hassle points of the ritual. On a result of 20 or more there is some kind of disturbance, and for every 5 the result exceeds 20, there is either an additional incident, or the encounter level of an existing incident is increased by one.

Incidents can be anything from bystanders picketing the location to altered effects of the ritual spell to arson to political maneuvering to an additional random encounter to random additional spell effects to spontaneous summoned hostile outsiders to an assault by a party of would-be heroes bent on stopping the proceedings. If the player characters have an established group of enemies, this is a great time for a cameo. The challenge rating of such an incident is generally equal to the level of the primary ritual caster, plus 1 for every 5 points above 20 on the Hassle check.

Spell Seed

The first step of a casting a ritual spell is always to select the effect you want the ritual to have. This is done by selecting a spell, or sometimes a root ritual that is not actually a researched as a spell, but that could potentially become a spell. This spell seed has a spell level that is used as the initial level of the ritual spell. This spell level is later modified by all the factors below.

That the exact details of the ritual's spell seed are superseded by the rules for rituals. Spell details such as casting time, spell components, range, and duration are usually not factors in the final ritual spell (see below for exceptions). It is always best to select a spell seed that has as few embellishments as possible. Communal, greater, and similar variant spells are to be avoided.

If the spell seed has a duration of less than 1 round/level, the duration of the ritual spell cannot be increased. If the spell seed has a duration of 1 round/level, double the effects of duration on ritual spell level and hassle. If the spell seed has a range of personal, the ritual spell cannot have a range or additional targets. If the spell seed affects a single target, double the effects of the number of targets on ritual spell level and hassle.

It is possible, but generally not advisable, to apply metamagic to the spell seed before making it into a ritual spell. There are a few cases, such as Intensified Spell, where this can be profitable.

Having spell effects as the basis of ritual casting saves making up hundreds of different rituals, but also means that any poorly designed or balanced spells risk being used as poorly designed/balanced rituals. Be careful with what spells you allow in the game!

Cast Time

This is the amount of time spent on the ritual itself. The caster and all acolytes (see below) must be present the entire time. A congregation, if any, need only be present for the last hour of the last day of the ritual. If the ritual takes 8 hours or more, this precludes any other downtime activity that day. A ritual that takes days requires 8 hours for the caster and all acolytes each day.

Date

Certain days are more compatible with certain rituals. The date is end and climax of a multi-day ritual. Particular days are festivals sacred to different deities or especially linked to certain kinds of magic. Other times are marked by stellar conjunctions or otherwise special. All magically significant days are well known to various factions, who keep an eye out for ritual magic performed on these days, hence the hassle.

For any particular ritual, there are generally a suitable festival each season. If the GM wants to determine a random wait, a suitable festival day usually arrives in 1d6-1 months, with a result of zero indicating the opportunity is in the next few weeks.

The most powerful magical day on Porphyra is the Day of Calling, the anniversary of the arrival of the NewGods on Porphyra. On this planar barriers are particularly weak and all ritual spells extra powerful, but the guardians of magic are on high alert, making this a very powerful but also very risky day. The increased hassle replaces the normal random magic effects of the Day of Calling.

Resources

It is normal but not necessary to spend money on preparations and components for a magic ritual. This has a cost based on the final level of the ritual spell. If the spell is cast in a locale made for the casting of this kind of ritual spells, the GM may give a rebate on the cost, at about 1% of the value of the installation, but no more than 50% reduction in cost. It is possible to use sacrifices as a resource for ritual magic, counting the value of the sacrifice for sale or ransom towards the ritual cost. This makes VIPs with high ransom values valuable magical commodities because people's belief that some creatures are more important than others translates into magical power.

For a particularly lavish ritual, ten times the expenses gives a greater modifier.

  1. 50
  2. 200
  3. 450
  4. 800
  5. 1,250
  6. 1,800
  7. 2,450
  8. 3,200
  9. 4,100
  10. 5,000

This is solely the cost of materials, if you have to pay acolytes, congregation, guards, or to rent a locale, those costs are extra. Any focus or costly material components of the spell seed must also be provided.

Assistants

Having assistants makes ritual magic much easier. Assistants come in two kinds, acolytes and congregation. Acolytes are capable of ritual magic themselves, either as spellcasters or from the Ritual Magic feat. They need to have a spellcaster level at least equal to the final level of the ritual spell to be cast. This means they are usually half the level of the main caster. Congregation are believers, people who support and help the ritual by being fans, witnesses, and participating in mundane aspects of the ritual, such as processions, dances, or singing. More advanced assistance requires both acolytes and congregation, the acolytes leading and coordinating the actions of the congregation. Both acolytes and congregation can serve as security in a pinch, but at least half must survive for the ritual to succeed. Gathering assistants and acolytes has to be done before the ritual spellcasting is begun, and might require weeks or even months for large gatherings.

Knowledge

It helps if the ritual caster knows the spell seed. If the ritual caster actually casts it as a part of the ritual this reduces the difficulty. The spell can be cast from a scroll or other magic item. If knowledge of the spell is available there is neither bonus nor penalty. The ritual caster need not have transcribed the spell into their personal spellbook, a scroll or any old spellbook containing the spell will do. If the spell is not available, but it is on the ritual caster's spell list, there is a small penalty. Someone with the Ritual Caster feat has all spells on their spell list for this purpose. Finally, if the spell seed is not on the ritual caster's spell list at all, there is a severe penalty.

Exceptional

This is the catch-all for exceptional circumstances that aid the ritual and is the sole domain of the GM. This is also the only category that can apply multiple times in truly exceptional circumstances.

Examples include

  • A powerful supernatural creature of an appropriate type is present. This is usually an outsider, but might be aberration, dragon, or fay. CR should be equal to the main caster's caster level.
  • Using an artifact of appropriate powers in the ritual.
  • Having spent previous game sessions preparing for the ritual, such as questing for ritual objects or lore.
  • Performing the ritual in a magically appropriate place, such as in the caldera of a volcano for fire spells.

Area

The following modifiers depend on the effect desired. Area is the size of the effect. Only spell seeds that have an area can produce ritual spells with an area. The type of area is the same as that of the spell seed; burst, blast, cone and so on.

Walls

Duration

How long the ritual spell lasts. In the case of durations of a month or more, this is actually a month and a day, a year and a day, and so on. Only spell seeds with an instantaneous duration can become ritual spells of instantaneous duration.

If the spell seed requires concentration, so does the ritual spell. If the spell seed has a duration of less than 1 round/level, the duration of the ritual spell cannot be increased. If the spell seed has a duration of 1 minute or 1 round/level, double the effects of duration on ritual spell level and hassle.

Range

How far the effect can reach from the ritual caster. Just like the range of a spell, all targets and the origin of any area effect must be within this range. Spell seeds with a range of touch can be given a range normally, but spell seeds with a personal range cannot be given a range and remain personal. If the ritual caster cannot see the target of the effect (or center of an area), remote targeting must be used (see below).

Targets

A spell seed that affects one or more targets can have the number of targets changed. All targets must be within range and the two targets furthest apart cannot be more than half the maximum range of the effect away from each other. If the spell seed affects a single target, double the effects of the number of targets on ritual spell level and hassle.

Special Circumstances

Combining Effects

Specialized Spell Seeds

Variable Level Spell Seeds

No spell seed can ever be more than 10th level.

Remote Targeting

Sometimes a ritual spell is cast at a secure location, and then the effect is targeted someplace else, far away. This requires remote targeting. There are two methods of remote targeting, contagion and channeling. Contagion works on targets and channeling works on both targets and areas. In both cases, range still applies.

With contagion, the ritual caster must possess a link to the target(s) of the spell. This can be a body part, a personal item of the the target's, a secret name or other highly personal secret, or the target can be wearing an item identical to something the caster uses in the spell. For buff spells, this is often a symbol or mark worn by all to-be beneficiaries. In either case, the ritual caster and target must both have touched the item to serve as contagion in the last month.

Channeling requires that an ally of the caster be at the target site to direct the magic. The channeler must be an acolyte, and take part in the casting. All magic effects originate from the channeler instead of the main caster, just as if the channeler cast the spell. A typical hassle event here is that the channeler is spotted or suspected beforehand.

Interrupted Ritual Casting

It is more or less expected that a ritual spellcasting is interrupted, especially as hassle increases. This does not necessarily disrupt the magic. All acolytes and congregation can fight to protect the ritual site but must focus on the last part of the ritual. As long as half of all acolytes and half the congregation take a full-round action on the last round of the ritual, the ritual casting succeeds. Even the main caster can take short breaks. He must spend a standard action every two rounds to maintain the ritual, and a full-round action on the final round.

An attack on the ritual site can happen anytime, but for dramatic reasons usually occurs in the last minute leading up to the ritual. With a high enough hassle roll, there might be multiple attacks spread out over time.

Limitations of Ritual Magic

There are certain things ritual magic just cannot do.

  • No ritual spell can be lower than 2nd level. This means you have to be able to cast 2nd level spells (or be forth level and know the Ritual Casting feat) in order to use ritual casting at all.
  • A ritual spell cannot create a magic item. There are other rules for doing that.

Flair

In order to make ritual magic feel more wondrous, you can add flair. Since each ritual spell is unique, adding or subtracting minor effects can be done without wide repercussions. Ways to do this include the following.

  • Describe what you do during the casting. Is it a meditative trance, magic circles twirling in the air, or a procession of song and dance? This is mainly the player's job to describe, and a good description can give the GM hints for how to apply hassle in amusing (and thus often less lethal) ways.
  • Play up the significance of the date. Calling ion the powers that be, name them and the powers you want from them. Some astrological technobabble can add flair to the magic. The sky need not be the limit, connections with other planes are also great. Perhaps that hassle is the realization that a short planar quest is required at the climax of the ritual?
  • Select material components that are evocative for the ritual spell. This need nor be complex, just adding rubies or fire opals to a spell adds flair. You can also add very specific, hard to acquire components as adventure hooks, this counts as exceptional circumstances and makes the ritual spell easier.
  • Play up any assistants by simply describing them; what they wear and who they are. If other PCs are acting as acolytes, perhaps they are each recruiting their own congregation, which gives each player to describe the kind of hangers-on they have.
  • Add a day to any duration of a month or longer. A year becomes a year and a day. This evokes a fairytale feel, and since effects are generally created on magical dates, it means the last day of the effect will also be on that same magical date.
  • Specify durations thematically, so that "a day" becomes "until the trike of midnight or until the cook's caw.
  • Select hassle effects appropriate for the magic used. Necromancy and demonology provoke the inquisition, destructive effects involve the military, influencing people involves the law and protection spells annoy chaotic elements such as bards and rogues. For higher levels, this will involve supernatural allies of such forces, archons, elementals, proteans, and fey.

Ritual Spell Basic Characteristics

This is the basic spell description of a ritual spell. All values are minimum values, and are modified as outlined above.

Ritual Spell

Casting Time 2 minutes
Components V, S, M
Range 100 ft
Area/Targets 10 ft. radius burst, 10 ft. cone, or 1 creature
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw as spell seed
Saving Throw DC 10 + 1/2 caster level
Spell Resistance yes

Ritual Spell Saving Throws

Note that all ritual spells allow a saving throw, even if the spell seed does not. In addition, the save DC of ritual spells is low, just 10 + 1/2 the main caster's caster level, with no ability modifier. Ritual spells are often used to affect huge numbers of lesser creatures, but those of heroic standing rarely fall to ritual effects. A GM might use this as a plot device, such as having an entire city fall under the control of a ritual spell except the PCs and a few significant NPCs. In these cases, the PCs can be allowed to automatically succeed at their saving throws.

Example Ritual Spells

The following are examples of how the ritual casting rules can be used.

Sudden Water

A high level caster is suddenly confronted with an unexpected underwater adventure and uses ritual magic to give the party water breathing.

Spell Seed water breathing (level 3) Final level 9, Hassle 2.

2 minute cast time, basic resources (alchemical components), 3 acolytes (other party members), spell known, 1 day duration, 100 ft. range, 10 targets.

Charm Plot

An intrigue to charm most of a town's population at a fair when they are all gathered in order to influence an election. Hassle includes the risk that someone will realize what is happening during the ritual or its preparation.

Spell seed charm person (level 1) Final level 5, Hassle 9.

2 minute cast time, basic resources (wine), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation, spell is cast, 1 day duration, 1,000 targets (doubled because spell seed has 1 target).

Low-Level Resurrection

The hero of the town has died a heroic death, and there is no-one capable of casing raise dead. The parish priests and the hero's companions (acolytes) hold an all-night vigil and conducts the ritual with the parishioners at sunrise.

Spell seed raise dead (level 5) Final level 2, Hassle 8.

Full-day ritual. 10* resources (holy water, incense 2,000 gp [+5,000 gp diamond material component]), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation, Spell available (an old prayer book).

Army of the Dead

An evil cult performs a blasphemous rite at an old battlefield in order to awaken an army of the undead. Animate dead normally affects Hit Dice of undead, so this ritual version will create 10,000 Hit Dice of skeletons and zombies. The range needs to be increased to cover enough of the battlefield to find this many corpses to awaken. The problem here is not so much the final spell level, even a rather minor caster can do this, the problem is the great cost and hassle.

Spell seed animate dead (level 3) Final level 3, Hassle 24.

Full day ritual on the day of Calling, x10 resources (8,000 gp incense [+250,000 gp worth of black onyx gems]), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation, spell cast during ritual, 10,000 targets, 1,000 ft. range.

Army Heal

As a part of a great battle, a healing corps is set up to restore the wounded heroes of the army by casing heal on all of them at once in a short time.

Spell Seed heal (level 6), Final level 8, Hassle 7.

Cast time 2 minutes, normal resources (3,200 gp of healing potions used as components), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation (company sized military unit), spell is cast as part of ritual, 10 targets (doubled because seed has 1 target).

The Calling

The greatest ritual ever performed on Porphyra, this can only be approximated using the ritual casting rules. The difficulty is extreme, and requires three exceptional circumstances to even be possible. The basic effect is gate, with 100,000 targets in order to call the gods and their legions of outsiders. At the time of the Calling, the gate spell would nor ordinarily have worked because of the wards the elemental lords had set up against planar travel, this version of the ritual takes no account of that. Also, it is not certain that the Day of Calling was magically significant at the time. It was the Calling that made the day significant, but naturally the most powerful magical date would be selected for such a grand event and the day might have other significance back then that is now all but forgotten.

Spell seed gate (level 9), Final level 10, Hassle 55.

Cast time 1 month with the finale on the day of Calling, x10 resources (10,000 gp of herbs and voluntary orc and elf sacrifices), 100 acolytes + 100,000 congregation, spell is cast as part of ritual, Exceptional circumstances (x3), 100,000 targets (doubled because seed has 1 target).

Fiery Artillery

A magical artillery troop that casts an huge fireball at the enemy every few minutes.

Spell seed fireball (level 3), Final level 6, Hassle 8.

Cast time 2 minutes, resources x1 (1,800 gp of fire opals), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation (artillery company), spell cast as part of ritual, area 100 ft. radius spread, range 1,000 ft.

Huge Fire

Fireball used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Spell seed fireball (level 3), Final level 6, Hassle 34.

1 day cast time on day of Calling, x10 resources (perfect ruby worth 18,000 gp), 5 acolytes + 100 congregation, spell cast as part of ritual, area 10,000 ft radius spread (2 miles), range 100,000 ft. (20 miles).

Wide Mist

As preparation for an infiltration mission, a cabal of druids and their followers create a large mist to cover an entire area.

Spell seed obscuring mist (level 1), Final level 6, Hassle 10.

Cast time 1 hour, 5 acolytes + 100 congregation, spell is cast, area 300 ft. radius cloud, duration 1 hour.

Easy Wish

A party of adventurers uses the day of Calling to grant themselves a wish at some risk. This can be seen as an abuse of the ritual magic rules, which might call for some creative use of hassle - perhaps perverting the final result of the wish. Still, the cost is high so a generous GM may let them get away with it.

Spell seed wish (level 9), Final level 4, Hassle 16.

Cast time 1 day on day of Calling, resources x10 (8,000 gp of diamonds [+ 25,000 gp diamond as material component]), 5 acolytes + 100 assistants (hired orchestra).

Host of Light

A cleric beginning the adventuring day in an allied monastery uses the community to summon a host of lantern archons as allies for the day. They are still summoned creatures but with a far longer duration.

Spell seed summon monster III (level 3), Final level 4, Hassle 8.

Cast time 1 hour, resources x10 (6,250 gp, after 50% reduction because of the value of the monastery), 1 acolyte + 10 congregation, spell cast as part of ritual, duration 1 day, 10 targets (doubled because seed has 1 target).

Lost Keys

The key to the vault of the kingdom has been lost and must be located at any cost.

Spell seed locate object (level 2), Final level 7, Hassle 9.

Cast time 1 hour, 1 acolyte + 10 congregation, spell is cast as part of ritual, duration 1 week (concentration), range 200 miles.

See Also