5 Ways To Include Rituals In Your Skill Challenge Design

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on April 27, 2010

Rituals are an underutilized aspect of 4e Dungeons & Dragons. One way to increase the way rituals are used in your campaign is to incorporate them into your skill challenge design. By providing opportunities for your PCs to use their abilities you increase their engagement in the campaign. They feel that they are more involved in what is occurring and are committed to seeing things through. Using rituals in your skill challenges does require a little bit of extra work, but is well worth the reward.

Here are tips to remember when trying to include rituals in your skill challenges.

  1. Find out which rituals the party has

  2. Examine the PC’s character sheets. What rituals do they have? This is the first and most basic step to ensure that you allow the PCs to actually use rituals during skill challenges. If you create instances that are tailored around the abilities of your party they should have no excuses for not using the rituals in their spell books. Of course creating skill challenges that play towards your party is a basic step in creating challenges. This isn’t to say make it easy for them or only create challenges that use skills or rituals that they possess. However, there is little point in creating a challenge that the party has no aptitude in. That doesn’t sound like much fun.

  3. Learn the rituals

  4. It sounds basic, but if you haven’t read what rituals are available and how they work then you aren’t really able to design a skill challenge that incorporates them. Take some time to read through the rituals that are available, both the DDI Compendium or the Character Builder make this a fairly painless experience.

  5. Reward ritual use during skill challenges

  6. Allow PCs who use rituals to either receive a bonus on a skill check. Alternately, the ritual could provide a success to the challenge itself. The goal is to encourage PCs to use what they have available to them. Since rituals also have a cost component you need to make using the ritual worth while. If a PC doesn’t think that they will be rewarded appropriately for using the ritual then they are less likely to spend the gold cost required.

  7. Remind the party of their resources

  8. Encourage ritual use by being descriptive during skill challenges. Because rituals are buried on the character sheet and the character builder it is very easy for PCs to forget that they may have one that is appropriate to the situation. As the DM it’s your job to provide verbal cues to the PCs allowing the story to move forward. While this doesn’t mean tipping your hand, you should provide the PCs with the necessary tools to use their skill set to the maximum benefit.

  9. Rituals are just one possible option

  10. Avoid making the use of a ritual the only way to complete a skill challenge. There should always be multiple ways for the PCs to complete a skill challenge so this shouldn’t be a difficult one. However, you want to ensure that you avoid this. Always make it an option, but the last thing you want to do is create a skill challenge that requires a ritual a certain PC has and then have the player no show that week.

Another thing to avoid in designing skill challenges is creating instances that purposely defeat the use of a skill challenge. An example of this is a PC who is known to be dishonest. This PC always engages in any social interaction with small talk for about five minutes. This allows them to avoid the affects of the Discern Lies ritual. While this might be smart thinking on the part of a resourceful and intelligent NPC, it doesn’t do the PCs who are the hero’s and focus of the game any favours. In fact it invalidates any proactive thinking the PCs might consider doing. If they spend gold and ten minutes casting a ritual that only lasts for five minutes and then you as the DM purposefully thwart this creative thinking, well don’t expect too much more creative thinking from your PCs.

How have you worked rituals into your skill challenges? Do your PCs take advantage of this resource?

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1 Swordgleam April 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

The longer I’ve DMed 4e, the less I’ve moved away from “this is going to be a skill challenge with difficulty X requiring Y skills” and more towards “this is a problem that they probably can’t solve via smashing things.” Sometimes they solve it with a lot of skill checks, sometimes with a few, sometimes with a ritual, and sometimes with nothing but creative thinking.

Sometimes they make up an entirely new ritual; rather than go looking for someone who could cast “cure disease,” the party at one point dedicated their warlock to Melora in exchange for the healing blood of a unicorn. I don’t even know how I would stat that one out.

2 Dungeon Newbie April 28, 2010 at 2:59 am

I know the perfect way to stat the unicorn blood effect: You gain 1 healing surge, but you are cursed for drinking the blood of a sacred creature and you get -1 the next time you make a skill check.

As I am new to D&D in general, and 4e specifically, I am not familiar with rituals so this may not be applicable, but I was wondering if you could use rituals in battle. For example, you could have a, say, a zombie that inflicts the dread zombie disease and only the cure disease ritual can save the PC(s) afflicted. If, at the end of the battle, you do not cure the disease, the infected PC(s) would die and turn into a zombie who then fights the party, possibly resulting in more and more zombies until the entire group is annihilated…

Visit my blog by clicking on my name!(I apologize about not posting yesterday and today but school gives me no time. Hey, I have to do 8.5 pages of ratio word problems and learn 9 chinese phrases, you know!)

3 Swordgleam April 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

@Dungeon Newbie: That’s the trick! They wanted to avoid being cursed, which is why they asked Melora herself to give them a unicorn, since Melora is the one who would smite you if you messed with a unicorn. And their warlock has served her faithfully ever since. Besides, one would hope that unicorn blood is more powerful than a 10 gp potion. =P

4 Wimwick April 28, 2010 at 10:44 am

@ Swordgleam
Ameron & I faovour your way of doing skill challenges. We aren’t big on telling the party, ok now this is a skill challenge. A well designed skill challenge doesn’t need this and should be fluid in its ability to be resolved.

@ Dungeon Newbie
The problem with using rituals in combat is the casting time required. At the shortest this is 1 minute, which is longer than most combats last. Now, if you as a DM are willing to bend that rule or allow a player to do something very creative I say do it. For more on this read my article on Getting The most Out Of Rituals.

5 Thadeous April 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I really am glad to see other DMs taking the time to work Rituals into their games. I just started a weekly post all about Rituals and how to work them in to your game. Keep up the great work!
.-= Thadeous´s last blog ..ritualistically speaking: Tenser’s Floating Disk =-.

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