“…the right ritual in your back pocket can mean the difference between freedom and death…” ~ Azagar Bloodfist
Probably one of the smartest changes that 4E did with the ubiquitous D&D Magic System was the invention of Rituals. As a Dungeon Master running a 3.5 edition campaign, I was beginning to feel pretty swamped by the plethora of spells available to my Wizards, Sorcerers, Druids and Clerics. Add to those the dozens more spells that were available to various sub-classes such as Assassins, Blackguards, Bards, Paladins, and Rangers – not to mention that these all were spread out in half a dozen Sourcebooks – and you’re not even sure what spell does what anymore.
Then to complicate the system, many spells were renamed from world to world to “simplify” things, because some spells were often named by their inventor or patron, but that entity didn’t exist in every setting. And while a great number of these spells were eventually organized into a single book, I don’t think any D&D Gamer was actually thrilled to have to dole out forty bucks (plus tax) to finally get a handle on the system.
But as a veteran D&D Dungeon Master and Player, I can unflinchingly state that I love the new Ritual system for D&D 4e. It made spell-casting something special, in fact more of an event, and a reason to take notice of powerful forces being manipulated by magic. It also made magical casting accessible to what would normally be considered “non-magical” classes, as long as they willing to spend the Feats to become a Ritual caster.
And that brings me to the exciting reason for this article – the upcoming release of Azagar’s Book of Rituals by Goodman Games!
I can’t deny that I was excited – and honestly a little flattered – that the guys over at Goodman Games offered me the opportunity to do a Pre-release Review of the upcoming Magical Ritual Supplement for D&D 4e. But I also can’t deny that I had to contend with that little DM’s voice in the back of my mind whining (to the accompaniment of 3.5 Edition flashbacks): “Oh no… a massive spell compendium of Rituals… not again!”
So rather than risk some odd strain of Dungeon Master Apoplexy, I decided to find out more about this Supplement, and how it came to be written in the first place. So I contacted the book’s main Editor and its Publisher, Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel and Joseph Goodman, to see if I could get some background information about Azagar’s Book of Rituals.
How did the idea for Azagar’s Book of Rituals come about, and who had the brainstorm to “go public” with the Ritual Project?
Blackdirge: “Joseph, Harley [Stroh], and I were brainstorming about product ideas one night and a book of rituals was one of the products we came up with. As to whose idea it was, I honestly can’t remember. However, I do remember that it was my idea to do the open call… and Harley and I suffered for it.”
Joseph: “I’ll say that one of the most fun things about doing an open call is the fact that we do get such a huge range of submissions. Some writers have great ideas but poor execution; other writers can craft gripping prose but need inspiration from another source. And some writers can do both. An open call really gives a chance for the best work to ‘rise to the top’, so we ended up with what I hope is the best mix of both great ideas and great prose.”
By the way, I really enjoyed the character of Azagar. Just out of curiosity – is Azagar an actual PC, or perhaps an NPC from a game?
Blackdirge: “I can answer your question about the character of Azagar. No, he wasn’t a PC or NPC; although, I really like hobgoblins and I’ve played them in the past as PCs. He started out as the narrator of a series of Blackdirge PDF products (which will be released shortly), and then he made his way into Level Up magazine as the eponymous narrator of Azagar’s Advice for Adventurers. In the future, he may pop up in other products that can benefit from the narration of a crusty, foul-mouthed hobgoblin.”
How many submissions did you have to sort through to get the 300 for Azagar’s Book of Rituals? Were there any Rituals that were just too silly or tongue-in-cheek (or even naughty) to print?
Blackdirge: “We started with over 1,000 submissions; although I don’t know the exact number. Sure there were. However, I don’t want to embarrass any of the people who submitted rituals by naming names. Although, there was one that was particularly funny. Joseph, do you know the one I’m talking about?”
Joseph: ”I’ll also duck the [second] question. The fun part is giving new authors a chance to be published. The enthusiasm of some new writers is contagious – I love working with people who are excited to be published. If you look at the credits for Book of Rituals, you’ll see an awful lot of authors listed there, and a great number have never been published before. That’s rewarding for me as a publisher and I think was a lot of fun for all of us to work with.”
Azagar’s Book of Rituals
- Editors: Dwight Hulse, Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel, Harley Stroh
- Illustrators: James Ryman (cover), David Griffith, Doug Kovacs, Hunter McFalls, Jesse Mohn, Matt Morrow, Chad Sergesketter, Mike Wilson (interior)
- Publisher: Goodman Games
- Year: 2009
- Media: Book (161 pages) – PDF available with Pre-Order
- Cost: $14.99
Azagar’s Book of Rituals is a magical supplement containing more than 300 new Rituals by over fifty various authors, and usable with any Dungeons & Dragons 4e campaign setting. The Rituals are organized alphabetically within nine Categories, and the supplement includes four indices sorting the Rituals overall by Name, Level, Category, and Key Skill. The book has full color cover art, and more than forty interior illustrations of various Rituals detailed in the supplement.
The Rituals in this supplement range from Level 1 to Level 30, offering something for every adventurer, regardless of tier. Regretfully, the Epic Tier has only around 40 Rituals, which is a mere fraction of what is available at the other tiers. Given that the submission process for the Ritual Project started only a few months after the initial release of 4e, it would stand to reason that few of the authors had much experience with the Epic Tier of play.
As stated, the Rituals are divided into nine basic Categories, which provide an easier method to look for a Ritual, to fulfill a particular purpose in mind:
- Binding: Used to bind extra-planar entities, compel services, swear oaths, and send curses.
- Creation: Creates objects, creatures, or animated entities.
- Divination: Reveals information about the past, present, and future.
- Deception: Calls forth glamours and illusions to frighten, fool, influence, or confuse others.
- Exploration: Utility magic used in exploration – also for Rituals outside all other categories.
- Restoration: Allows healing, curing certain afflictions, and speeding the healing process.
- Scrying: Can be used to see faraway places and beings, for spying and information gathering.
- Travel: Facilitates journeys to other locations and dimensions through a variety of means.
- Warding: Protects persons, objects, and places by means of curses, deceptions, or threats.
Each of the Categories is prefaced with an explanation by Azagar Bloodfist, an edudite but rather nasty hobgoblin, who has been given the task of training the troops in something other than killing with sharp objects:
So his Imperial Majesty has seen fit to light a fire under my arse, and get me talking about something other than weapons, armor, blood, and guts – you know, the important things in any self-respecting hobgoblin’s life. It’s the bloody Warcaster’s Guild looking for ways to undermine the legions, if you ask me; sneaky, spell-casting ingrates that they are.
So, my dear hobgoblin brothers, you might ask, “How can Azagar dispense his invaluable wisdom and keep both his Imperial Majesty and the meddling Warcaster’s Guild happy?” Well, let me tell you. I’m going to talk about rituals.
Azagar’s introductions at the start of each Category are both entertaining and informative, offering an example of how at least one Ritual from that section can be used in a practical way during play.
For the most part, the Ritual entries are clearly written and unambiguous, and conform to the standard Ritual Template as seen in the “official” WotC products. Now, while not all of the Rituals in the book are “original”, there are quite a few well-written conversions of older edition spells that have been updated to 4e Ritual standards. And there are even quite a few Rituals that explore new ways of using magic that have never been part of D&D, and only previously envisioned in fantasy movies or novels.
For example, Rituals such as Geas, Earthquake, and Invisibility to Animals that have been recreated under the same name, but have been updated to 4e rules. Other Rituals from this supplement draw upon spells also written in previous editions, such as Guards and Wards, Pass without Trace, and Call Marut, and then converts them to D&D 4e rules under new names like Castle Ward, Leave No Trace, and Command Marut.
But often Rituals updated from previous editions have had subtle and interesting tweaks added, such as Leave No Trace. This Ritual, inspired by the Pass Without Trace spell, is cast after the party has traveled through an area and removes any sign they had been there, in an area that could be as large as 5 square miles! It removes all traces of the Heroes passing – footprints, bloodstains, broken twigs, and other signs of battle – but not corpses of fallen foes, which makes it still quite a useful Ritual, although one that could leave behind quite a few lingering mysteries.
But the real treasures in this book are Rituals that, to my knowledge, have never been written in any D&D Edition. These Rituals are genuinely new content and add some exciting game play possibilities, allowing Enemies to challenge the Characters, and for Heroes to win the day by cunning use of magical might.
Here are some samples of Rituals that I would consider to be “new content” that you can find in the pages of Azagar’s Book of Rituals:
Oath of the Guardian
Your blood drips slowly to the floor and is absorbed into the lines of the arcane sigil. You speak your ward’s name. The sigil flashes gold, then vanishes. Your wound closes, leaving in its place a silver scar.
You swear to safeguard someone important to you. This must be someone you know personally, but the person does not have to be present at the time of the oath. The person does have to be someone for whom you have strong protective feelings; you cannot swear this oath merely for convenience.
For the duration of the ritual, you always know in which general direction your ward is currently located. You can also sense the approximate distance separating you, but not necessarily the best way to cross that distance.
Assuming you have his correct date of birth, the stars tell you that the duke should have an aggressive personality and a big ego, both of which he probably uses to cover up a lack of intellect.
You can use star charts in conjunction with knowledge of the time and place of an individual’s birth to divine a wide variety of information about him or her. Unfortunately, there are several limitations to this information. If the time and place of the individual’s birth are incorrect, then the information provided by a birth horoscope will be similarly inaccurate.
You dive off of the rooftop, rolling and coming up in a crouch. Your dagger seems almost to pull you forward as you dodge to the side, weaving through lesser enemies to land a blow on their leader.
You practice your signature tricks and maneuvers, and attune yourself to any one weapon in your possession. For the duration of the ritual, as long as you are wielding that weapon, you gain a +2 bonus to any Acrobatics or Athletics checks to execute a stunt or move over terrain.
Lemorans can’t stand Lantarans, and Lantarans can’t stand Lindarans, and none of them can stand Dexarans—but at the Bi-Moonly Market of Sultan Ronterias, they all know to keep what they can’t stand to themselves. The broad white banner flapping overhead guarantees that the only things to fear here are the dangerously low prices!
You call upon the spirits of peace and calmness, creating a white banner that suffuses the area with an unnatural serenity that presses down heavily on every violent impulse. By completing this ritual, you summon spirits that prevent any creatures in the area of effect from performing intentional acts of violence—this includes spells, powers, and so on.
Now, to be honest, not all Rituals in this supplement were to my personal taste. In several cases, I would rule them as being too frivolous or too overpowered to add to my own 4e Campaigns. But even setting those dubious ones aside, there are still hundreds of Rituals in this book that I can easily see myself utilizing in my games. There are many entries in Azagar’s Book of Rituals that can add more excitement, mystery, and fun – in both encounters and in role-playing moments – to my D&D 4e games.
In the final analysis, I would have to strongly recommend Azagar’s Book of Rituals to every D&D Gamer. Even if you ended up disliking half of the Rituals listed in the supplement, you’re still adding new content to your 4e Campaign for less than a dime a Ritual! This book helps to fill in many gaps that are in the current catalogue of “official” Rituals, and offers some brilliant and well-written new magicks to enhance your 4E Experience.
And if you are a DM like me, who uses a laptop in both preparation and play at the gaming table, then you should consider taking advantage of pre-ordering bonus from Goodman Games. You get a PDF of the supplement, in addition to the physical copy, which makes for one less book to have to lug to the game session.
If you have any opinions regarding this or other reviews on this site, I welcome one and all to comment and discuss them.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the pre-release product in PDF format from which the review was written.
On a more personal note, I would like to express my gratitude to Goodman Games for providing me the opportunity to do a pre-release review of their upcoming product, and wish them all the best with their release.