Design Diary 7

Rituals

In my last entry, I made reference to rituals. I've also said that I will not be going as far as 4E did. I haven't lied, nor have I changed my mind. A couple years ago, I came up with rules for ritual spells (building off ideas from someone else). I've decided to incorporate those rules, in part. There are a few dozen spells with casting times of 10 minutes or longer, though I didn't take every single spell like that and make it into a ritual - spells like symbol, sepia snake sigil, and screen are simply normal spells that take a really long time to cast.

After finishing up the spells, I turned to the ones I'd set aside as rituals. I had to redo the ritual rules again, but this time I decided to expand them a bit, while making them a little simpler to use (kind of contradictory, I know). Basically, I came up with the idea to divide them into lesser, greater, and grand rituals, with the power level of the ritual reflecting its effect - for example, raise dead is a lesser ritual, while resurrection is a greater, and true resurrection is a grand ritual.

The intent here is that lesser rituals are something that most spellcasters can perform - they're fairly common (depending on their level) and thus easily available to PCs (either to cast themselves, or to find an NPC who can cast it). Greater rituals are less common because they require several casters - in a low-magic world, they would be very rare indeed, possibly almost unheard of. They are, of course, very expensive (in terms of hiring an NPC to do it).

Grand rituals are similar to epic spells in that they require a Spellcraft check instead of using levels. I decided to borrow a bit from incantations in d20 Modern (the Spellcraft checks), but also use some of the epic spellcasting system (to determine the DC). They're not for beginners - the minimum DC is 40, and they're treated as 10th+ level spells. They're akin to legendary spells (actual 10th+ level spells), but extremely rare because they require high-level casters, lots of prep time, and many secondary casters. These are the kind of spells you see in the movies and books, where the evil lord and his mages are casting the high ritual to summon forth an ancient evil from a far plane, or raise a lost city, or change the weather worldwide. I haven't yet hashed out all the details on these yet, since they're intended more for epic play and I want to get everything else done first, but I'm really looking forward to working on them.

So… you're probably wondering what spells got turned into rituals. Here's a list:

Lesser Rituals: Astral projection, atonement, awaken, commune, commune with nature, contact other plane, divination, dimensional lock, discern location, divination, elemental swarm, geas/quest, guards and wards, imbue with spell ability, legend lore, lesser planar ally, lesser planar binding, liveoak, nightmare, raise dead, reincarnation, secret chest, sequester, shambler, simulacrum, speak with dead, vision.

Greater Rituals: Binding, forbiddance, hallow, planar ally, planar binding, resurrection, trap the soul.

Grand Rituals: Greater planar ally, greater planar binding, true resurrection.

As you can see, a good number of the spells above are divinations, mainly because they already had long casting times and because they kind of lend themselves to being ritual spells. Hallow and unhallow were perfect ritual spells, as were binding and forbiddance. Some of the others I chose because of long casting times and equally long durations (days/level or permanent).

Obviously, some changes had to be made to a few spells to accommodate their new status (particularly the planar ally/binding spells). Planar ally and planar binding didn't follow the normal "greater spell is 3 levels higher" formula, and since I was making them rituals anyway, I thought making the lesser one a lesser ritual, the normal one a greater ritual, and the greater one a grand ritual would be kind of cool. I changed the HD limit to CR, but even then I had to increase it to keep it in line with being a ritual - using a grand ritual to call up and bind a piddling 18 HD creature (or even CR 20, as it converted before I came up with this idea) is a waste of time.

Likewise, resurrection and true res should've been 8th and 11th, respectively. Since raise dead was bumped up to 6th to keep it in line with death spells (which start at 6th), I boosted resurrection to 9th and made it a greater ritual. (That should curb the complaints about resurrection being too common!) True res, though it would technically be 12th, is now a grand ritual. Calling someone back from the dead without having any remains, no matter how long he's been dead, should be a huge undertaking, not something done lightly.

Best of all, I can take some of the epic spells from the ELH and convert them into grand rituals - stuff like eclipse, eternal freedom, and gathering of maggots. I am really looking forward to getting to work on that stuff.

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