Ritualistically Speaking: Ghost Walk

Stealth has been an issue in so many groups. It often flies in the face of the 4e motto “Don’t split the party”. Most plate mail clad paladins and your average barbarian are not all that stealthy even when they try their hardest. This means most rogues, assassin and avengers have to leave the party behind if they are ever going to make use of their stealth skills. Add a wizard to that mix and the whole situation might just change; especially if they are using the Ghost Walk ritual.

Ghost Walk

Component Cost: 325 gp, plus a focus worth 100 gp Market Price: 800 gp Key Skill: Arcana, Religion
Level: 9 Category: Travel Time: 10 minutes Duration: 8 hours

You and up to 8 allies that participate in the ritual seem ghostly. Subjects gain a +5 bonus to Stealth checks, and the group treats its tracks as if they had been obscured. The ritual’s effects end if any of its subjects dismisses it as a standard action, takes a rest, attacks, or is hit by an attack.
Focus: The graven heel bone of a deceased humanoid, set with jet and platinum.

First published in Dragon Magazine 380.

Being able to give an entire party a bonus as if they had been trained in a skill is insanely valuable. A player with this ritual in their book knows they won’t have to fear stealth skill checks, and a DM who knows their players have it also does not have to avoid stealth checks for fear of leaving out half the party. It’s a win win situation in which the players trained in Stealth become some kind of super being in the way of avoiding detection and the rest of the party gets to play in their world of cover and advantage for a short time.

Making it Accessible: This is another ritual I feel was made for my games. Wizards of the Coast has been making many attempts to bring foci into the ritual program. While I’m happy that Wizards has begun to add foci I still think they can be expanded. I think players should be able to come up with their own ideas for how a focus could be made. Allowing players to add to the story always helps them take ownership of the game. Here are some of my ideas for foci for Ghost Walk, they are meant to be example of what your players could create.

Ghost Shrouds: The 325gp focus cost could be used to but very thin fine cloaks. These cloaks could be made from burial shrouds and would serve as a bridge between the realm of death and the wearer. Once the ritual has been cast the shrouds would hold the ritual until the players put them on. Once the characters had donned the shrouds they would take on the ghostly effects.

Grave Dust:  Digging up the dead is sacrilege in any civilized culture, but the bones of the dead and the earth of a long standing grave make for wonderful ritual components or a focus. 325gp might just cover the cost of such rare materials since you are paying for both the service of those digging it up and the silence required to make the purchase. As a focus for Ghost Walk a bag of grave dust can imbued with the power of the ritual as usual. This would give the bag 8 people worth of dust, but the duration for whole bag would begin to tick down as soon as some is removed. The act of sprinkling the dust over a character would cover them in a find layer of material which would connect the players with the realm of the dead and give them ghostly powers.

DMs: As I said before this ritual makes it possible to create stealth based challenges for your players. Placing a party in clear danger with few options for escape is something a DM should handle with care, but if you players have the option to gain temporary training in Stealth should take a bit of the stress out of the decision. I enjoy giving players an option to stealth through encounters from time to time, it puts the choice of story vs combat in the hands of the players.

How? By creating a combat map with a large amount of cover, low light and hiding spaces and making it very clear to the players that a great deal of the map and a clear path past the encounter is obscured from the enemy’s view. I also allow full exp for players who are able to skirt encounters using skills or creative ideas. If the party is jones’ing for combat they won’t lose out if they don’t stealth, but if they really want to get to the next part of the story the option is available. Ghost Walk makes it much easier for me to create outs for an entire party with out having to make contortions.

I know as a DM I could just give the party a free pass if they don’t want to fight, or just leave out the combat all together but I at least want to keep to the fact that it’s a game and the players must at least try to succeed in one way or another.

Players: This ritual can be used for fun as much as it can be used to beat skill challenges. I imagine a party working for a duke, who double crosses them. If the duke assumes the party to be dead this ritual might allow them to intimidate the duke for information as they pose as spirits come back to haunt the man who betrayed them. Or using their ghostly presence to spook ignorant towns people. I could see a sneaky player who needs an item but lacks the funds to purchase it sneaking into the shop owners house at night and giving him a message from beyond the grave. Sell the player the item at a discount or grave things await him on the other side ooooooooo. Creativity and a bit of levity can go a long way with Ghost Walk.

Combat: A player with a ghost shroud could use being knocked out to their advantage. A players DM might allow them to use their Ghost Shroud (or any implement) as a minor action if they have been knocked out and then revived either by magic or by rolling a 20 on a death save. Using Ghost Walk before they get up would allow the player to make a stealth check against an enemy’s perception. If the player wins the enemy does not notice them getting up and the player gains combat advantage against the enemy for a round. Or the DM could say the enemy believes the character to be the ghost of the fallen and the player could make an intimidate check + the stealth bonus from the ritual vs. the creatures will. Success would mean the enemy is afraid of the character and grants combat advantage for a round. If the enemy is bloodied they might just flee from combat altogether.

Stealth, Athletics, and acrobatics are different from knowledge skills. Often a success for one player does not grant advantage or helpful information to the whole party. So being able to share one of these skills with everyone is very useful. A DM whose players have and use Ghost Walk can be bound by fewer design constraints and a player who uses it can gain fun benefits in way other than just snaking past a castle guard.

If you have a creative way to use Ghost Walk please post it in the comment section. I would love to have more input and more ideas for all of my ritual ideas.


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.


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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