Getting you into a ritual today!

What would it take to get you into a ritual today, before you leave this lot? I’m serious here what is it about rituals that makes them so difficult for people to use? Is it the casting time? Is it the cost? Is it the fact that they are always at the back of the book where no one looks? What ever the reason I’m sure there are ways to get around what ever might be blocking you or your players from using rituals to their full effect. These are my home brew rules for rituals intended to make them more accessible and thus more enjoyable and rewarding to use.

I’ll cover each of the different aspects of the rituals and list off some of the tweaks I use to get the most mileage out of your ritual book.

Cost: One major concern for most players and DMs is the fact that magic which used to be free to cast now costs them precious gold. In a game with a stingy DM (me) players really have to think hard about spending money; if they don’t they just might miss out on the magic weapon they are looking forward to. I personally don’t like to adjust costs listed in the books, mostly because there are a lot of rituals and trying to figure out which ones I think are over priced and which are not would take forever. Instead of doing all that leg work and math  I help the players cover their costs in two more creative ways.

  • Skill checks – Once per adventuring day players may use a skill check to find ritual components. I use a base modifier of the players level x 1/2 of the skill check rolled worth of that specific component. If they character is trained in the skill I give them their level +1 times 1/2 the skill check rolled.  I also add a level for each tier of play to the trained check.  So a level 1 Wizard with an 11 arcana (trained) rolls a 17 which means he would find 32 gold worth of alchemical ingredients or (1+1)x(17/2). This system has a few rules of its own.
    1. These components can not be sold or traded to NPCs.
    2. Only ritual casters may search for these components.
    3. Components can only be found in areas where it makes sense. Players can not search for herbs in a city, or a deep dungeon. Where each type of ritual component can be found is up to the DM.
    4. There must be at least 1 milestone between each day of searching. Players taking a week off and resting do not get 7 days worth of checks, only 1.
  • Treasure Parcels – I try to throw ritual components in to about every third treasure parcel. Most ritual casters are happy to see free reagents when they are far from town and unable to buy more. It also helps players who are not used to playing with rituals realize their ability to use them and perhaps not be so shy with them. Most players would rather use the components to their benefits than have to sell their treasure at 1/4th its list value.
  • Use vs Reward – When players get into the habit of using rituals I try to give them rewards to help cover the cost of the components. An example would be if a player used the speak with dead ritual I might have the spirit also give a little information about where extra treasure might be found. Then I’ll add little extra treasure and if they players use the information they gained to find it their costs might be covered. The clue could be something simple like the spirit commenting on a valuable painting they wish they could take with them, the one hanging over the fire place in the keep. And if the players examine the painting they find it’s worth almost the same and the component cost of the ritual.

Time: Probably the biggest complaint I have heard about rituals in 4th edition dungeons and dragons is the casting time. Many rituals were once spells which could be instantly cast, full benefit no wait. I can see this might upset some players who really liked the old system. On the other hand, many of the spells from older editions which had no direct combat application became rituals; this means no more having to worry about skipping utility spells because players want to save a slot for an extra fire ball.

Casting time being a problem is really only a problem if the game is taken in a wholly combat sense. When players feel rushed through out an entire campaign, or they are always working their way to their next combat encounter, things like rituals will often get tossed out. There are a few ways to help players slow down and use rituals more to their benefit and to the benefit of the story; some a mechanical and some are tips for the DM

  • Time – Many players scoff at the idea of their characters taking 15 minutes out of their day to cast a ritual. On that same note players don’t ever think about the amount of time they are spending on skill Checks. A streetwise check for information takes approximately 1 hour but most players don’t see that when they look at their skills. There is no “casting time” printed next to it so they never notice. DMs should start to emphasize the amount of time in a day players use up when making skill checks. This will begin to make a 10/15 minute casting time seem like a very small sacrifice.
  • Fear of Ambush – DMs should fight the temptation to constantly interrupt rituals. It’s low hanging fruit to always ambush the party when you see the characters have their guard down for a set amount of time. I don’t often hear of DMs attacking characters when one of them is off getting information through a streetwise check, so don’t do it when using rituals. It is ok to attempt to interrupt rituals if the players are so brazen to cast a long ritual in an unsafe area, but even this should be done with some temperance.
  • Instant cast – As a homebrew rule I allow characters to preform a ritual and then store it for later use. I don’t set a limit as to how many the character can store but there is an added cost.
    1. For each ritual the player stores their character must spend a healing surge to use. Story wise I explain this as the character using their own life force to establish a connection to the energies they had readied at the beginning of the day.
    2. Any readied ritual can be cast as a minor action and has an instant casting time.  For players this can be costly to do since they may face a situation where they are forced to either run out of healing surges or lose the money/components from the rituals they had readied.
  • Creat Focuses – Wizards of the Coast got me on a focus kick and now I’m running with it. A focus allows a character to imbue an object with the properties of a ritual and use them at a later time instantly. I enjoy creating something the players can use to “store” a rituals effect. I also allow players to create their own, but only if it makes sense and has a creative story. Guidelines for creating a focus are up to each DM to decided; mine look like this:
    1. Each focus adds between 5-25% of the component cost to the ritual for its creation.
    2. To create a focus the ritual has to be preformed normally in order to charge the item.
    3. Each focus is destroyed when used up, much like a scroll.
    4. Most Focuses are depleted at the end of 24 hours, use of a healing surge can add an additional 24 hours each day.
    5. Using a focus is a minor action.
    6. A ritual cast from a focus has an instant casting time.
    7. A focus can be used by a non ritual caster but at the cost of 1 healing surge.
    8. Some rituals such as hand of fate lose 1 question/charge due to the charging process.
    9. A focus can not be traded or sold to an NPC.
  • Mastery Vs. Time – As a character levels I reduce the amount of time required to cast lower level rituals. This allows for the fact that a wizard who has attained a great deal of arcane knowledge and skill should not be as hampered by a level 1 ritual as he/she would be by a 23rd level ritual.
    1. At paragon tier characters casting time of any heroic tier ritual is reduced by 1/2 the players level minus 1/2 the level of the ritual. A 12th level caster casting a 2nd level ritual can reduce the casting time by 5 minutes = (12/2) -(2/2) = 5.
    2. At Epic tier the characters casting time of any paragon tier ritual is reduced by the characters level minus 1/2 the level of the spell. A 23rd level caster using a 13th level ritual would reduce the casting time by 17 minutes = 23 – (13/2) = 17 (rounded)
    3. No rituals casting time can ever be reduced to lower than 1 minute.
    4. Some DMs might want to make reduced casting time a feat.

Players don’t know about rituals: Many new players, and even some veterans might not even know about rituals. Wizards of the Coast did manage to place them at the very end of the players hand book, and most of the other books which contain rituals. Many players skip right past them in character creation because of this, and because they don’t understand how to use them. I like to rectify this by using scrolls and ritual books in treasure parcels. Scrolls are a great way to introduce players to the potential uses of rituals.

  • Be transparent – give the players a scroll in a treasure parcel and then give them a reason to use it. An example would be giving a party a speak with dead ritual and then killing an NPC who has information the party really needs. If the players don’t pick up on the subtle hint and forget they have the scroll it’s ok for a DM to suggest using it, since you are using it as a teaching tool.
  • Give gifts – A ritual book is always a thoughtful gift and any player should be excited that their group has received one. As a DM it’s always a good idea to include ritual books, with fun and useful spells, in treasure parcels. They are a gift that keeps on giving; a player can copy the rituals and then sell the book for a small amount of gold, win win!
  • No ritual caster – Give ritual books anyway, some players just need to know rituals exist and that they can be found and used often. Once they are equipped with this knowledge it won’t be long before one or more of your players takes the feat.
  • Reward – If you are a DM who gives exp rewards for cleaver skill uses, social encounters or good role play consider giving exp for exceptional uses of rituals as well. Non monetary rewards are always a good incentive for players.

I’m a ritual geek, I admit it. I think they add a large amount of depth to role play situation, and allow magic users to be more than combat oriented glass cannons. A wizard who can affect the world around him by creating object, influencing people, finding what is hidden ect. is far more useful and impressive than one who can only shoot magic missiles and do party tricks.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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