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The Next D&D Homebrew – Rituals Revisited: Alchemists, Enchanters, Ritualists, & Practitioners

forge ringA few weeks ago in March, I wrote a blog regarding the homebrewed house rules which I planned to implement in my campaigns.  In that blog, Reformation for Rituals, I worked out some rules to make the buying of rituals cheaper, as well as throwing out residuum components, and substituting when possible the old components from previous editions of D&D.

But as we implemented the new house rules, some other questions arose regarding the “New Deal” for rituals, so I’m revisiting the topic one more time to clarify and refine the 4E homebrew.  A bit of the material in this blog is from the previous blog, but with a bit more clarification for how I want to see rituals utilized, and hopefully enjoyed, by the players in my campaigns.

Practical Magic

For my campaign, I thought it was important to differentiate the types of characters that use rituals, depending on how they learned their ability.  I think it is important to offer a small bonus to those classes which gain the Ritual Casting feat as a class feature, as opposed to say, a Paladin who picks up the Ritual Casting feat in order to be able to raise dead comrades.

So here is how I am classifying characters that have the ability to use rituals in my campaign:

  • Ritualist – A character which is one of six classes – Artificer, Cleric (Templar), Druid, Invoker, Psion, Wizard (Arcanist) – that gains the Ritual Casting feat as a class feature.
  • Practitioner – A character of a non-Ritualist class who uses a feat slot to gain the Ritual Casting feat.
  • Alchemist – Any character that uses a feat slot to gain the Alchemist feat, or has chosen the Alchemist Character Theme.
  • Enchanter – A character who is either a Ritualist or Practitioner, and also has the Creation Mastery, Pupil of the All-Father, or Master Crafter feats to specialize their abilities to create items.

So in my campaign, I am giving all of the ritual users listed above the following benefits:

  • Buying Rituals – Rituals cost half the listed market value to purchase them and inscribe them in a ritual book.
  • Casting Rituals – All ritual casters may cast 1 ritual per day, plus a bonus number of rituals equal to one-third their level (round down).  Ex. A 7th level character may cast 1 ritual + 2 bonus rituals for a total of 3 rituals per day.
  • Components Discount – Rituals that do not create items (magic items, potions, elixirs, alchemical items, etc) have substantially reduced cost.  See below for the rules on components.

The specialized ritual casters – Alchemists, Enchanters, and Ritualists – gain additional abilities over those characters which are mere Practitioners.  This is to represent their more intense training and talents with casting rituals, brewing potions, and crafting magic items.

Because Ritualists have intensive study of ritual casting as part of their career (ie. class feature), they have better training and gain a two additional benefits:

  • Advanced Study – Gain one ritual of the character’s choice, free of charge, every time they attain a new level.  The character can only select a ritual equal to her new level or less.  These rituals are considered to be learned by experimentation and study of ritual lore.
  • Bonus Ritual Casting – Ritualists gain additional castings per day equal to half of their primary ability score modifier (either Intelligence or Wisdom).

Example: A 7th Level Wizard will have gained six free rituals from Advanced Study while leveling from 1st Level to 7th Level.  Also, he is capable of casting 3 rituals per day based upon his level, plus a bonus of 2 more rituals each day for having a 19 Intelligence (half of his +4 ability score bonus).

For Alchemists, with time and practice, the exacting process of brewing potions and elixirs becomes more like an art, and allows them to sometimes produce a brew with fewer reagents and reduced cost.

  • Brewing Efficiency – Alchemists can sometimes brew a potion, elixir, or alchemical item at a 5%, 10%, or 15% discount.  While potions and alchemical items require no check to create, an Alchemist can choose to make a skill check to get a discount on the overall cost.  A skill check of Easy, Moderate, or Hard DCs versus the level of the potion or alchemical item will result in a discount of 5%, 10%, and 15% respectively.  However, failing to hit even an Easy DC means the Alchemist simply pays full price for reagents.

Enchant an Item

Whenever item enchantment becomes part of a campaign, I’ve found that it has always been a slippery slope at best.  Probably the slipperiest it got was in D&D 3.5/OGL, right after the Magic Item Compendium was released, but 4E’s nearly unlimited rules for magic item creation might as well be tagged “One-Hour Enchantments – while you wait!”.

To keep the creation of magic items special in a campaign, but still allow characters the freedom to make or even upgrade their own magic items, I came up with the following house rules for using the :

  • Time – Creating a new magic item requires one casting of the Enchant Magic Item ritual per level of the item being created.  However, due to the Enchant Magic Item ritual is so tedious and taxing that it can only be cast once per day.  The ritual does not have to be cast all at one time, over an immediate succession of days – it can be cast over any number of days when it is convenient to cast the ritual.
  • Cost – Making a magic item requires materials equal to the full list cost (as per the original ritual).  The costs are split up between the crafting/forging of the mundane item which is to be enchanted, and various ritual materials such as rare components, sacrifices to placate deities or some other supernatural entity, and the like.  Divide the total cost by the Level of the magic item, and that is the amount of gold that must be expended with each casting of the Enchant Magic Item ritual.

Note: This also allows for magic items to be completed over time, as money becomes available to the character, rather than a single massive expenditure.

Example: Maklos the Enchanter desires to make a +2 Flameburst Crossbow, which is an 8th Level magic item and costs 3400 gp.  It will take him 8 castings over 8 days in order to complete the weapon, and he spends 425 gp on materials each time he uses the ritual.  He could complete the weapon over a string of 8 successive days – or he could start the casting on one day, go off adventuring for a week, and then come back and get three more days of work done, be off again on another adventure, and finally complete the last four days when he gets back again.

The question of using “special ingredients” gained from killing monsters or foraging strange things while visiting stranger locales came up with regards to making magic items cheaper to make.   For the most part, I did not want characters to get away with “foraging” away major costs for crafting a magic item, however for ritual casters specialized in Enchanting, it seemed a decent benefit to allow them to get a small discount (up to 10%), if they can justify using difficult to obtain components as part of a quest specifically for that item.  So the following benefit applies to Enchanters only:

  • Alternative Materials – Enchanters can gain up to a discount of 10% (DM’s discretion) of the cost of crafting a new magic item by obtaining “unusual” material components.  The components must be obtained by defeating monsters or a skill challenge which equals or exceeds the level of the item being enchanted.

Example: Maklos is coming up short for the funds to make his +2 Fireburst Crossbow.  He decides to try and obtain some magical fiery materials to use in the rituals in order to make the final cost less expensive.  So he talks his companions into accompanying him to a nearby volcano in search of a creature dangerous enough to empower the ritual.  Luckily, the volcano is teeming with flame snakes (Level 9), whose fiery spittle is more than capable of being used to enchant the crossbow, and at less cost in raw materials (the DM allows a 10% discount).

Magic Item Recipes (optional rule) – Under this rule, recipes are required to make new magic items.  Characters discover recipes typically through study (skill challenge), by discovering the recipe for a magic item as part of a treasure trove, or as a reward from a grateful and powerful patron.  Typically, possessing an item which can be used for study that shares one or more similar traits to the new item is a definite benefit when trying to create a magic item recipe.  For example, having a pair of Feyleaf Sandals on hand while trying to figure out a recipe for a Cloak of Displacement would be beneficial, as both items have the ability to teleport the wearer.  Also, having access to a mages’ guild, or an arcane library, or even a powerful magical entity can greatly improve the chances of obtaining a new magic item recipe.  Once a recipe is known, it can be recorded in the character’s ritual book and used repeatedly to create new magic items.

Solo Skill Challenge – Magic Item Recipes

Goal: Discover a Recipe for a New Magic Item
Level: Equal to the level of the magic item being created
Complexity: 2 (Heroic Magic Item), 3 (Paragon Magic Item), or 4 (Epic Magic Item)

Primary Skills: Arcana, Dungeoneering, History
Secondary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Heal, Intimidate, Insight, Nature, Religion, Streetwise

Examples of Skill Use:

Arcana – Up to half the successes of the challenge can come from this skill, and they can range from pure research to examining a magic item with similar properties.

Dungeoneering – Many magic items were created to excel at dungeon delving, and skill knowledge can assist in puzzling out the recipe.

History – Most magic items have been boon or bane of famous historical and legendary figures.  This skill knowledge can garner clues to what might be required to make the magic item which was the secret of their success – or their demise.

Secondary Skills – Many magic items have traits which relate back to a specific skill, such as the Healing for an item that heals or grants temporary hit points, or the Intimidate for an item that can cause fear or terror.  Social skills such as Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight, and Streetwise can also be used to interact with NPC sages and wizards to try to get them to reveal what they know about making a particular item, or to get eyewitness accounts of seeing a particular item in action.

Consequences

Experience Points – This skill challenge offers no experience points to the ritual caster.  Gaining a magic item recipe is its own reward.

Success – The ritual caster gains the recipe for the magic item of her choice and inscribes it in his ritual book.  She can now use it with the Enchant Magic Item ritual to make that particular item.

Failure – The formula is flawed and might produce a cursed item (as per Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium) or a Tragic Imprint (as per Gamefiend’s blog on the At-Will.com site).  Divide the number of successes by the total needed to determine the chance of creating a cursed or tragically imprinted item.  Note that the ritual caster knows the formula is flawed and can choose not to use it.

Upgrading existing Magic Items

To use the Enchant Magic Item ritual to upgrade a magic item to its higher level version is fairly straightforward.  The cost is the difference between the current magic item and the new upgraded version, and the time it takes is equal to the level difference between the two items.  Note that Enchanters can use their Alternative Material benefit to reduce the upgrade cost by up to 10%.  If the Magic Item Recipes optional rule is used, a skill challenge may be required to figure out the recipe for the new higher level version of the item.

Example: Maklos wants to upgrade his Level 8 +2 Fireburst Crossbow to the Level 13 version. It will cost him 13,600 gp (paying the difference in cost of 3400 gp to 17,000 gp) and will take 5 castings of the Enchant Magic Item ritual over 5 days (Level 13-Level 8 = 5).  Since he is short of funds again, he decides to head back to the nearby volcano to get components to get a discount on his upgrade.  Because the new item is Level 13, the blood from several Salamander Firetails (Level 14) he finds in the volcanic depths will easily help fuel the ritual casting.

A Question of Components

In general, the idea of getting back to the “old school” components for rituals that had been used in previous editions was welcomed in my campaigns.  However, there was still some need for clarification about whether foci costs from 4E would still be used.  As a general rule, I decided that 4E foci would be required, and at the specified cost, as it is a one-time purchase and usually fairly reasonable for the level at which the ritual could be cast.  But whenever possible, the old school components would be used instead of the costly residuum components, and I encouraged the characters to do their due diligence and try to look up the spell which inspired the 4E ritual to find out what the components were.

As a rule of thumb, the casting cost requires having the 4E focus, plus a cost equal to the “old school” component cost, unless the 4E ritual components costs less.  For example, the Unseen Servant ritual requires a 25 gp focus (one-time purchase) and negligible material costs (piece of string and a bit of wood).  The Raise Dead ritual, on the other hand, which cost a 5000 gp diamond, according to the D&D SRD, but would instead cost only 500 gp to cast in the Heroic Tier, using the 4E cost instead.

Some rituals are very powerful, such as Lich Transformation and Dark Gift of the Undying, and their material costs will be extreme and never free.

Overall, the limitation on casting rituals should have always been a set number of uses per day, rather than making them cost a sizeable percentage of a character’s share of gold from treasure parcels.  The new ritual rules I’ve added to the campaign have already caused a notable increase in the casting and use of these non-combat spells.

Last Words…

If you like these ideas put forth regarding rituals, please feel free to use them or a variant of them in your own 4E campaign.  My own players are just getting access to these variant rules as you are, so I have not had much time to playtest them, however, I think they should add some interesting role-playing and adventure options to my campaign.  As always, feedback is most welcome, and any suggestions about how to make these rules better would be great to see from my fellow players and Dungeon Masters!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!


About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

Comments

5 Responses to “The Next D&D Homebrew – Rituals Revisited: Alchemists, Enchanters, Ritualists, & Practitioners

  1. Dave Wainio says:

    Another option to keep player created magic items in check is to require expending healing surges that don’t come back for a week or so. More surges for higher levels. Depending on how tight the time constraints are in the campaign, players might not want to be heading out into thw wild down surges so only make items when you allow longer time breaks between adventures … allowing the DM sorta control over how often they stop tp make an item.

  2. TwoFang says:

    It may be worth keeping in mind that none of the Essentials builds get Ritual Caster as a bonus feat; I suspect this was a decision based on the desire for simplicity rather than a play balance issue. Combining that lack with the inherent bonuses your system gives Ritualists over Practitioners (after the Practitioners have spent a precious feat to gain rituals, no less) will serve to make Essentials builds less desirable in your campaigns.

  3. @TwoFang – Agreed, and certainly a DM could extend the Ritualist benefits to some of the Essentials classes if they are variants of a class that gets Ritual Casting as a fewature – for instance, all the Wizard variants like the Bladesinger, Mage, Sha’ir, and Witch. Regretfully, I haven’t had much luck with the Essentials classes in my campaigns, as my players enjoy the complexity and increased number of options in combat the the Core 4E Classes. I’ve had four Essentials characters in my two campaigns, and they get dropped and replaced by the player after about one adventure (or less!).

    @Dave W – Not a bad suggestion on using surges, but I think it is just easier to declare a cap of one usage of Enchant Magic Item per day, and multiple days to complete a single item enchantment. I don’t want to do anything that might interfere with adventuring plans, but merely make enchanting a slower process than the “One-Hour Artifacts” we have now.

    I was somewhat inspired here by the Master of the Five Magics, where enchantment is governed by the Maxim of Persistence, and in the sequel book the Maxim of Perseverance. Both concepts require that enchantment takes time and precision, and performance over and over, even if some parts of the ritual steps are actually quite boring. But so long as all the steps are done perfectly, or repetitively enough, a mundane item becomes magical.

  4. [...] on the redonk twink factor. I am implementing a House Rule on rituals designed most excellently by Mr. Neuroglyph in order to encourage their use and give a little old school [...]

  5. Jeremy Mac Donald says:

    I’ve come up against the issues your describing myself – though with a slightly different emphasis. Specifically I’ve not paid a great deal of attention to Rituals but have dealt with consumables a fair bit.

    My experience has been that the problem with a great many of the consumables is not that they cost to much but that they are too weak.

    I once took every drop of wealth by level for a 6th level party, i.e. all the magic items and all the gold, and used that sum to purchase consumables. During the course of the adventure I gave my players just stacks and stacks of these consumables. Pretty much two of almost every consumable from 1st through 10th level in the game (as of about ta year and a half ago). There is obviously no cost to purchase as they own them now.

    The surprising thing is despite my players often going over them comparatively few where ever used. Pretty much all the ones that gave them healing and the bolts that let them teleport beside their target on a hit (they thought those where amazing and talked about buying more). The problem is that most of the consumables grant so little that its not worth wasting actions to utilize them. The ones like Alchemist’s Frost are hampered by a chance to hit that is just too low and then you got pretty marginal damage.

    Sure something like an Elixer of Flesh Returned is going to be kept around in case a party member gets petrified but a lot of them are just dead weight baggage even if they are free.

    Ultimately I think your solutions does something to address rituals but won’t really help much with alchemical components.

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