© 1994 by Scott Gray and Sharon Tripp. These pages may not be reproduced for profit. They may be copied, provided they are not altered and the authors' names remain attached.Previous section | Next section | Contents
A magical ritual is a very complex magical spell. Unlike powers, rituals rarely have immediate effects -- the magic building up over the course of hours or days from when cast. The effects a ritual will have are rarely as predictable as a power. Rituals often require many components and conditions to cast.
Out of game, a spell which would be hard to administer logistically, or which the GM does not want used too often, should be designed as a ritual rather than a power. Because of the requirement of conditions and components, the GM has a large degree of control as to what rituals can be cast at what times (unlike with powers, where, if the GM decides to allow a power, it can generally be used at any time).
Powers are basically rituals for which health points are the components and the casting requirement is the condition, and which have an immediate effect. Some rituals may be combined to take effect at the same time, in the same way that certain powers may be combined. Summoning and binding an other planar creature, for instance, is more common than merely summoning a potentially upset demon. Of course, the act of casting a binding on it will often cause a greater, more lasting hatred of the mage by the demon...
Note that there may be multiple different formulas to achieve the same end, which require wildly different components and conditions. For example, some call rituals might require that the ritual be performed in under an hour, but others might allow (or even require) the ritual steps to be done over the course of weeks or months.
When designing a ritual formula, the GM should perform the following steps:
1. Choose components that have rarity values which add up to a number equal to or greater than the rarity of the ritual. At least one of the components should be half the rarity value of the ritual (or more). Find appropriate components for the particular ritual.
2. Choose conditions that have frequency values which add up to a number equal to or greater than the frequency of the ritual. At least one of the conditions should be half the frequency value of the ritual (or more). Find conditions which are appropriate for the particular ritual.
3. All of the chosen components or conditions are considered to be necessary to perform the ritual, unless the GM deems otherwise. All necessary conditions or components must be present or met in order to attempt to cast the ritual. Without the necessary pieces it is not even possible to summon enough magic to flaw.
Rating of missing component or condition 0 1 2 3 4 5 Total 0 200 --- --- --- --- --- 1 100 200 --- --- --- --- component 2 50 100 --- --- --- --- 3 35 65 100 --- --- --- rarity or 4 25 50 75 100 --- --- 5 20 40 60 80 100 --- condition 6 15 35 50 65 85 100 7 15 30 45 55 70 85 frequency 8 10 25 40 50 65 75 9 10 20 35 45 55 65 of ritual 10 10 20 30 40 50 60 This is the value which GMs are advised to subtract from the success rate of a ritual (which starts at a base of 100%) or add to the flaw rate, if a given component or condition isn't used/done or is used/done improperly. A GM might choose to split the points, both adding to the flaw and subtracting from the chance of success. It is very strongly encouraged that the GM prevent any ritual from having more than a 50% bonus to the flaw table if none of the optional components or steps are used.
4. Write the player's description of the ritual. If you have the time and inclination to do so, write out all the steps ingame -- so the formula may be read straight out of a spellbook. The player's description need not match the actual rules for the ritual. It is possible that some of the wrong components are listed, or unnecessary conditions are named, or even that the ritual does something other than what the description claims it does. In any case, never let the players see the real copy of the ritual -- they should never be certain whether their description of the ritual is perfectly accurate.
Alexandra designs a ritual for cause animosity. The ritual has a rarity of 3 and a frequency of 4.
Step 1. First, she determines the components necessary. She makes the primary component a piece of ebony, which is rarity 2. Then she scans her list of components for an appropriate rarity 1 component. She notes that pennyroyal is rarity 1 and has poisonous properties; that seems appropriate for a spell to poison a relationship, so she makes that the only other component.
Step 2. For conditions, Alex decides that the mage can only cast the spell on people whom (s)he has witnessed arguing; the spell having the ability to strengthen and prolong the ill will. The mage may help to encourage this mundane animosity, but no direct magical compulsions may be used. Using indirect magical means, such as illusions, to trick the targets into fighting is acceptable. Because this is a condition that requires particular actions on the part of the targets, she ranks it as a frequency of 3. She needs at least one more point of frequency. She decides that some of the argument must be written on the ebony, and the pennyroyal crushed into a juice which is poured onto the ebony (frequency 0). The ebony must then be splintered and buried on the night the new moon (frequency 1).
Step 3. Alex decides that the pennyroyal is not necessary to cast the ritual. However, if it is left out, the animosity will only be felt by the targets when in each others presence; when they are apart, they might very well wonder at their previous anger. She also determines that it is not necessary that the ebony be buried on the night of the new moon, though it must be buried. However, if it is not done at the proper time, the chance of flaw is increased by 30 percent (31-130, rather than 1-100), and the chance of success decreased by 20 percent.
Step 4. Alex writes the ingame version.
"From the notebook of the Magus Hieronymous Singverein:
To bring about a magical animosity or hatred between people, you must first find seeds of such anger between them. You must witness at least one fight or argument in which angry words are used.
This ritual may not be cast unless you have witnessed anger between the parties. I am uncertain at this time whether this anger must be natural, or if magical compulsion may be used.
The words of anger must be engraven upon an ebony disk, and scented with pennyroyal. The disk should be splintered, and the pieces buried at a locale frequented by both of the persons to be affected."
When casting a ritual, the following steps are usually performed:
1. The mage performs the ritual ingame.
2. The player goes to logistics, or the GM comes to him/her to witness the ingame casting of the ritual. The player briefly shows what was done in the casting of the ritual (shows tags for components used, repeats how name of demon was pronounced so GM knows if it was done properly, etc.).
3. The GM rolls percentile dice to see if the ritual was a success or failure, based upon probabilities determined by the accuracy of performance of the ritual. If a second person who knows the ritual or can read it from a grimoire (it is not necessary for the character to have magery) assists with the ritual, the chance of success is lessened, but so is the chance of flaw. For each point that the mage chooses to minus from his/her chances of success, the flaw modifier will be decreased by one point.
Example: Kevin has obtained the formula for cause animosity. He follows the instructions in the notebook precisely. However, since the formula he had contained no mention of the need to bury the ebony during the night of the new moon, he did it the same day as he witnessed Martin and Jake's argument. Alan goes to logistics and tells Alex about the ritual, giving her the tags for the expended components. Although everything else was performed properly, because that condition was left out, the chance of the ritual's success was reduced by 20% (to an 80% chance of success, rather than 100%). Alex rolled for the ritual, getting a 57; the ritual was a success.
4. The GM rolls to see what flaws, if any, occur. If the ritual was a success, the chance of getting a flaw is decreased by 25%. If a flaw is rolled, the GM rolls again (at -25) to see if there is an additional flaw, repeating this process until either "no flaw" or a flaw which is not applicable is rolled.
Flaws are side effects caused by the casting of the ritual. They may occur whether or not the ritual succeeded. Some flaws will change the nature of a successful ritual so that it no longer works in the exact same way as was originally intended. Sometimes this is beneficial to the caster, sometimes not. Other flaws take effect whether the ritual was a success or a failure, involving random effects brought about by the magic being used.
If a flaw is marked (S), then it applies only to successfully cast rituals; in which case, if the ritual was a failure, this counts as "no flaw."
Each time a flaw is rolled, roll again, subtracting an additional 25 from the roll with each successive flaw roll (-25, -50, -75, etc.) to see if there is an additional flaw.
Example: Alex rolls to see if there was any flaw when Kevin cast cause animosity, and gets a 59. Alexandra subtracts 25 because the ritual was a success, but adds 30 because the ebony was not buried at the appropriate time. She consults the entry for "64" on the table: "64-65: Caster loses temporarily: sight (01-30) hearing (31-60) olfactory sense (no sensing poisons after taste) (61-90) or voice (91-00)."
Rolling again, she gets a 63, and determines that Kevin has temporarily lost his sense of smell and taste.
Alex then rolls to see if there is a second flaw, subtracting 20 from the roll (+30 for the incorrect timing of the ritual, -25 since the ritual was a success, and -25 because this is the roll for a second flaw). Rolling a 63, Alex consults the chart for a 43 and determines that there is no second flaw -- so does not roll for any additional flaw.
All rituals which a mage casts upon him/herself or a person to whom (s)he is attuned have the chance of flaw decreased by 25, as well as treating any target-changing flaws as "no flaw."
Rituals may have flaw modifiers set by the GM, based upon how chaotic the forces the mage is trying to control are. The flaw modifier is a number which is added to or subtracted from the roll; thus a higher number is a bad thing, as it increases the likelihood of a flaw.
<51: No flaw. 51-55: A slightly different effect occurs than the ritual was (S) intended to produce. Some examples would be a summon ritual being treated as a call, a call ritual working but in such a way as to insult the demon being called or an illusory creature looking slightly odd (weird color, whatever). If the GM is really stumped on a way to alter a particular ritual, an alternate possibility is to require an expenditure of
temporary health points in order for the ritual to succeed. Usually the difference in effect will be a weakening of the ritual (01-95), but there is a slight chance of the ritual being stronger than the intended effect (96-00). 56-58: Duration is: shortened (01-60). (S) lengthened (61-00). 59-61: Effect delayed (GM's discretion for how long). (S) 62-63: Caster loses magical senses. Can't use any of the "sense" powers (sixth sense, sense alien creature, sense magic, sense magical compulsion, sense illusion, sense death, sense curse or sense true form). This effect may be temporary (01-80) or permanent (81-00). 64-65: Caster loses temporarily: sight (01-30) hearing (31-60) olfactory sense (no sensing poison's after taste) (61- 90) or voice (91-00). 66: Caster loses permanently: sight (01-30) hearing (31-60) olfactory sense (no sensing poison's after taste) (61- 90) or voice (91-00). 67: Mage's cells stop regenerating; the mage slowly dies, losing one permanent health point per ingame day. This ailment is incurable by any known mundane means. 68-70: The caster is no longer considered caster of the spell. (S) For the purposes of determining effect, negating, etc.: there is no "caster" (01-50). target is "caster" (51-85). random other person is "caster" (86-00). 71-73: Flaw bonus of +10% to any future rituals cast; +20% if it is the same ritual as caused this flaw. There is a chance of this bonus being permanent (01-20); otherwise it lasts for one month per level of the spell (21-00). 74-77: The spell effects the caster rather than the target; if (S) the caster was the target, the spell simply fails. 78-80: Mage is deluded about effects of spell (thinks it worked when it didn't, thinks it didn't when it did, thinks it worked in a different way than it actually did, etc.). 81-83: Spell effects a random other creature/item other than (S) the target. 84: If the spell being cast is conjury, divination, enchantment or of the adept school, and the mage does not currently possess affected by iron or affected by silver, (s)he starts exhibiting affected by iron. If the spell being cast is illusion, necromancy, sorcery or transmuting, and the mage does not currently possess affected by iron or affected by silver, (s)he starts exhibiting affected by silver. If the mage already possesses one of these disadvantages, this counts as "no flaw". 85: Spell effect duplicated upon: (S) different target (01-40). caster (41-50). same target (51-00). 86-88: Caster unable to use one known power, at GMs discretion, for a length of time equal to the intended duration of the ritual. 89-91: The caster is mentally stunned and the next [number of skill points of the ritual] skill points earned will be lost. 92-94: Opposite effect from what was intended occurs. (S) 95: Discovered new arcane knowledge over the course of performing the spell. The GM will give the character a new spell, no skill points spent to know; note that this effect will only occur if the spell was cast from memory. 96-99: A completely different effect occurs, of the same school. 100-102: Mage gains the weakness disadvantage. 103-107: Caster loses [2 * level of spell] health points. These points are not healable by healing or chirurgery, only through rest (lower permanent health, raising permanent health as the damage heals). 108: The mage's susceptibility to disease, infection, addiction and the like is increased. Any probabilities of bad effects associated with these are doubled. This effect may be temporary, lasting one month per level of the spell (01-90), or permanent (91-00). 109-113: Mage goes insane. 114-115: Caster under the effect of a minor curse. 116-118: All tools used in the ritual are consumed (including grimoire, if a grimoire was used to cast the ritual). 119: For one month per level of the spell, the caster's level of magery is: Decreased by one (01-90). Increased by one (91-00). 120: Mage immediately under the effects of the damnation ritual. 121-123: Any magics currently on the caster are: dispelled (01-85). suppressed until x time (86-95). extended until x time (96-00). When the effect ends, in the case of suppressed or extended magics, is up to the GM. It might be until the next full moon, until the next time the mage casts a ritual, when the mage is kissed by his/her true love, etc. 124: Mage's cells start regenerating; the mage slowly dies of cancer. 125-127: Mage goes catatonic for a number of days equal to the level of magery of the spell. 128: Demon called/summoned accidentally; power of demon correlated with the level of magery of the spell/mage. 129: The mage's touch causes small plants to wither. If the mage touches a vegetable component, the component becomes immediately past duration. (01-10) The effect is permanent. (11-00) The effect lasts a number of days equal to the number rolled. 130-131: Everything within 5' of the caster bursts into flames, including the caster, who takes five points of damage to health. 132: Caster takes a "(caster's magery * 2) body magic intrinsic killing blow" wound. No dodges or parries may be used to avoid the damage. These points are not healable by healing or chirurgery, only through rest (lower permanent health, raising permanent health as the damage heals). 133: Mage starts losing (1-10) temporary health every 24 hours at the same time (time at GM's discretion). This effect is permanent. 134: The caster gains the bad luck disadvantage. (01-10) The effect is permanent. (11-00) The effect lasts a number of days equal to the number rolled. 135: Any time the mage uses a power or ritual, a power of [school of the ritual] is cast on the mage as though cast by the nearest sentient being. Which power is cast is drawn randomly from an envelope given to the player of the mage each day by GM. This lasts for one month per level of magery the caster possesses. 136-137: Can't be healed empathically. This effect is permanent. 138-140: Mage gains a creature disadvantage. Possibilities might include weakened by sunlight, weakened by moonlight (like sunlight, but only applicable parts of the month), affected by green wood or boundaries. 141: Mage becomes immune to one natural poison and starts producing one dose each day in his/her saliva/blood/urine as determined by GM. 142-143: Caster starts a slow transformation into [something else], based upon the school of magery which was being cast. This transformation might take anywhere from two months to two years (or more, or less) to be complete. If the ritual was adept, divination, enchanting or illusion, treat this as "no flaw" (unless the character commonly practices conjuring, necromancy, sorcery, or transmuting). If the ritual was: Conjuring - Caster will transform into a demon*. Necromancy - Caster will become a type of undead. Transmuting - Caster will become another type of living creature. Sorcery - Caster might become a demon, undead, creature, inanimate object, pure magic, or other at GM's option. * The mage's spirit is no longer in harmony with his/her current home plane. The mage's home plane becomes elsewhere and (s)he becomes (at GM's discretion) a demon, fey, annunaki, veija or "generic" other planar creature. The mage is affected by banishment, bindings, sense alien creature, sanctified ground, etc., as appropriate. The mage is unaffected by certain spells or poisons, as appropriate to his/her new home plane. At the GM's discretion, the mage may be able to or required to travel back to his/her home plane regularly. 144: Level of magery is permanently: Decreased by one (01-90). Increased by one (91-00). 145+: Extreme effects. Changes certain rules of physics in one area for a certain period of time as determined by the GM, changing/adding/modifying one or more game rules, or opening a gate to another dimension, etc. (Possible, at GM's option, 2% chance that caster gains some control over how rules of physics are altered.)
Healing potions. There are various approaches one can take to having healing potions exist in a game. We suggest that a GM have no more than one form of healing potion at most, or any uniqueness will be lost.
Possible requirements for the creation of healing draughts are alchemy, healing, fleshshaping, permanent health point expenditure, and/or a rare skill. Possible effects are to bring the person to full health, to bring a dead person back to life (within a few minutes of death, and perhaps with some rather heavy price -- perhaps not much better than a zombie), temporarily regain a certain number of health points for ten minutes, etc.
Be very cautious about bringing healing potions into game, or allowing a character to start with a formula for one -- it should almost certainly require some sort of permanent health point expenditure to make.
Magical potions. Magical potions can be made as the result of certain rituals. For example, the enchanter ritual "Cause love" might in some campaigns involve the creation of a potion which must be slipped into the drink of the intended victim. Different mechanisms for the exact effect of the potion might be that the one who drinks it falls in love with the first person (s)he sees; that a drop of blood is a component for the potion, and whomever's blood was in it will be the object of the victim's desire; etc.
Whatever the mechanism, it should be written up in the GM's personal formula for the ritual (and in most cases, in the ingame version).
As potions are magical in nature, normal poison rules need not apply to them -- a person will not necessarily detect the presence of the potion with alchemy, unless it is specifically stated in the formula that it is detectable.
In most cases, creation of potions will require knowledge of alchemy as well as magery. Often, they will also require a number of skill points sunk into sorcery, as that is the school which deals with meta-magic.