Friday, December 18, 2009

A Vote for the Ritual System

James M. recently did a review on Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderlands. I read his review and a couple of his negative statements on the Ritual System got me to thinking why it's a good addition to a campaign.

The comments that caught my attention were "I don't much care for the concept of rituals, precisely because it changes the complexion of spellcasting character classes in a profound way. Without the so-called "utility spells" taking up spell slots, spellcasters no longer have to weigh combat effectiveness against the unpredictable needs of adventuring. Should I memorize find traps or hold person is a significant decision..." then finishes with "...I think it (the Ritual System) does serious violence to the class structure of D&D and would never allow the rules to be used in my campaign."

I completely agreed with James when Rob first wanted to introduce the Ritual System. Then we did a few playtests that included the Ritual System and I was shocked by how much it made sense. The effectiveness of the spellcasters increased and it made playing them at low level more enjoyable. In addition almost every historical tome on magic includes the components and specific time or situation needed to complete a ritual. Rob has simplified this into a gold piece cost per ritual. So it makes sense historically and it's very playable.

The other way I think it makes sense is that intelligent races innovate. Intelligent races find ways to make things better in a shorter time. So why would a magic be any different. After years of practicing magic, especially in an adventurer profession world, they would find ways to give them the best chance possible to survive and to thrive. I think a ritual system is a natural progression in what the next step a magic system would take.

Do I think the ritual system is right for every campaign or every GM? Absolutely not. But it's a viable option a GM should consider when developing their world. Options are good. Really.


  1. I've always struggled with spellcasters having to memorize specific spells. The idea that a player would essentially be punished in game for not correctly guessing which situations might arise is heinous. Like a Swiss army knife that only allowed the use of pre-selected blades. What point then the knife?

    Rituals, for me, are powers that just take longer to activate. That time element is enough of a hindrance. No further limitations need apply.

  2. I agree. One of my pet peeves with OSR is at times it seems to be against having options to the game. They want to keep it very simple which I definately like at times, but I also like having options.