Rituals are the aspect of 4e that I have invested the least amount of time in. This is mainly because I’ve only played classes that don’t receive the ritual casting feat. It is also because I find the ritual system unfriendly. Now, I should clarify the ritual system isn’t difficult to understand, in fact it’s dead easy. What’s unfriendly about rituals is that they feel tacked on to the game; they don’t seem to really have their own place.
It’s very clear to see where rituals originate from in terms of previous editions. Rituals are the utility spells that never had a place in combat. Rituals are, however, a great way to add flavour to any D&D game. As the Dungeon’s Master team transitions into a new campaign, and I into a character who knows over 20 rituals, I have given rituals a renewed focus through my D&D lense. My objective is to find a way to integrate rituals more fully into my game and that might require some tweaking of the rules as written. Fortunately, Ameron is the DM and if there is anything we’ve learned through writing this blog it’s to be flexible regarding new ideas and in the spirit of 4e, to say yes.
Rituals have always seemed like the third wheel at a date. Combat and Skill Challenges are having a great time and then rituals decide they have a question or are perhaps attention starved and so they ask an awkward question. I found it interesting that in a recent interview at Dungeonmastering, James Wyatt indicated that rituals are one aspect of 4e he’d like to change. If you haven’t read the interview, I do recommend it (Part 1 | Part 2). It’s always nice to get inside a game designer’s head.
With the recognition that rituals really are a third wheel that can occasionally be used in skill challenges, I wanted to find a way to make rituals a smoother and more natural part of the game.
Eliminate Casting Time
One aspect that restricts rituals is the casting time. The shortest casting time for most rituals is 10 minutes. That instantly eliminates rituals as an option for combat, which was probably a deliberate design choice. However, if I want to cast a ritual during combat shouldn’t that be my choice? This isn’t to say a time allotment shouldn’t be attributed to rituals, just not 10 minutes. Any of the action types (standard, move or minor) would be acceptable depending on the nature of the ritual being cast.
For example, if a PC finds himself in combat during a formal setting and he doesn’t want blood to tarnish his outfit, why shouldn’t he be able to cast Fastidiousness as a minor action on his first turn? Why does it need to take 10 minutes. The action itself has no real bearing on the combat, it’s more of a role playing quirk, but it should be an option. After all, ending the combat without being covered in blood could give a nice +2 bonus to Diplomacy checks made afterwards as the PC attempts to secure a favourable outcome.
In another example the PCs may come across a magic portal that is open and allowing demons to enter into their world. A seal portal ritual would close the portal, but that takes 10 minutes to cast. Not an option during combat, but it should be one.
In removing the casting time as listed, the DM is left to make a call on what’s reasonable regarding time constraints. Certain rituals just don’t make sense to be used in combat, so do they really require a casting time?
Push The Limits
While rituals as presented all have fairly robust explanations on what is possible when they are cast, they also represent the powerful arcane energies coming together. With this in mind, I think it makes sense to be a little bit more liberal in reading exactly what a ritual can accomplish.
Trailblaze is a ritual that could very easily be expanded in its use. As the ritual stands now it makes travelling quicker by negating natural terrain. A way of expanding this idea is to allow to be used inside combat. Casting the ritual would be a move or standard action creating a close burst 1 that ends at the end of the PCs next turn, sustain minor. The effect, difficult terrain is negated. Bloom is another ritual that could be used to create the opposite effect.
These are just two of the ways I’m looking to get creative with rituals over the next couple of weeks. What ways have you found to make rituals a more integral part of your game? Or are you on the other side of the ritual debate. Do you think rituals are unnecessary and should be forgotten altogether?