Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Epic Magic Rituals

Spooky stuff!
There's a classic fantasy trope that I feel isn't represented enough in D&D. I'm talking about group spellcasting: a bunch of talented wizards and witches getting together and making a powerful spell just because there are more of them.

This is kind of present in the monster manual, under the witch coven rules. I think that's great, but there's not really anything in the handbook for players to do the same, at least not without the balance of the game breaking as players cast crazy, high-level spells before they should.

So, we need a system for allowing players to cast high-level spells that doesn't break combat but still has a purpose. And there's actually another common D&D issue we can fix at the same time.

Epic Magic Rituals

First things first. No matter what spell the group wants to cast, every member of the group needs to be able to cast the spell. However, the spell doesn't need to have the (ritual) tag. Any spell will work.

Secondly, every member of the group must be able to cast spells as rituals. This somewhat limits the type of class that can perform these rituals, but I think it makes sense. Also, it means finding NPCs to assist might be necessary, making this double as a way to get the PCs involved in the setting.

When the group casts the spell together, they each spend a spell slot as if they were casting the spell separately. Then, after a predetermined amount of time, the spell is cast at a higher level than normal. The spell can increase by 1 level for each spellcaster participating in the ritual after the first, to a maximum of level 9. So, 4 wizards can raise a 1st level spell to a 4th level spell, or a 2nd level spell to 5th level spell.

If a spellcaster leaves the ritual, it ends immediately and the spell slots are wasted. If a spellcaster joins a ritual, they immediately must spend a spell slot as if they are casting the spell, and the maximum spell level and time for the ritual are increased by 1 spell level.

The amount of time needed to cast the spell depends on the level the spell is being raised to. If the ritual is interrupted, the spell is cast based on the amount of time completed. This does not include the original casting time of the spell. Once the ritual reaches the time needed for the maximum spell level allowed by the number of participants, the spell is cast immediately.
  • Boosting a spell to 2nd level or 3rd level requires 10 minutes per spell level.
  • Boosting a spell to 4th, 5th, or 6th level requires 1 hour per spell level.
  • Boosting a spell to 7th, 8th, or 9th level requires 8 hours per spell level.

So, raising a 1st level spell to a 9th level spell takes 27 hours and 20 minutes, plus the original casting time of the spell. If the ritual is interrupted at 24 hours, the spell will be cast at 8th level. If the ritual is interrupted at 3 hours, the spell would be cast at 5th level.

If a spell requires concentration, the spellcasters must select one of the participants in the ritual that will hold the concentration of the spell when it is complete. When the spell is cast, it uses the highest spell attack bonus or save DC of the participants.

And... that's it. Pretty simple.

Uses, Examples, and Optional Rules

Hey everybody, I've got a fun new party game!
So, for example, if we had three warlocks (who had the ritual casting feat or the pact of the tome), they could each cast Hex as a ritual, taking 20 minutes to raise it to level 3 (the highest they could raise it with their current group). At level three, they can cast it so it lasts 8 hours, a far greater effect than if they cast it separately. Since it still requires concentration, they must select one of the warlocks to hold the concentration when it is cast. The spell is cast immediately after 20 minutes.

This also works for enemies, too. A coven of 7 witches can bestow a permanent curse on an individual they have captured. This allows the classic trope of being permanently cursed by evil witches - without allowing the witches to cast 9th-level spells in combat.

Due to the time increase on the spells, it's unlikely any of these rituals will be able to have a use in combat. It's difficult to predict when a combat is going to happen, unless it's a big, end-of-the-world type thing. And in those cases, preparing a 9th-level counterspell or banishment might just be the thing that saves the planet. And since the spell uses the highest save DC of the group, an archwizard and his apprentices can gather together and cast an epic spell.

Of course, not every spell is incredibly useful to use as a ritual. Many spells don't get better at higher levels. Some just add another target per spell level beyond the first, and that means they are no better than if they were cast individually. Of course, using a more powerful spellcaster's save DC or spell attack bonus is nice, but the time restriction makes this less feasible.

So, here's a list of spells that are excellent choices for rituals:
  • Bestow Curse (time increase)
  • Conjure Celestial (CR increase)
  • Conjure Elemental (CR increase)
  • Conjure Fey (CR increase)
  • Create Undead (better undead)
  • Dominate Beast (time increase)
  • Dominate Monster (time increase)
  • Dominate Person (time increase)
  • Elemental Weapon (greater bonus)
  • False Life (more temporary hit points on a single target)
  • Geas (time increase)
  • Globe of Invulnerability (greater spell resistance)
  • Glyph of Warding (greater spell stored, or greater damage)
  • Hex (time increase)
  • Hunter's Mark (time increase)
  • Infernal Calling (CR increase)
  • Magic Circle (time increase)
  • Magic Weapon (greater bonus)
  • Major Image (time increase)
  • Mass Suggestion (time increase)
  • Modify Memory (depth of memory increase)
  • Planar Binding (time increase)
  • Remove Curse (if the DM uses spell-level-equivalent curses, i.e. you need a 9th level remove curse to remove a 9th-level curse)
  • Summon Greater Demon (CR increase)

Not a good ritual without a bard, that's for sure.
Finally, I want to close with an optional rule that I think would make the game more fun and solve a silly issue that comes up in the player's handbook.

There are some spells that can be recast every day for a set period of time to make them permanent. Most of the time, this means staying in one location for a year and casting these spells over and over. For some scenarios, this is fine: the PCs just got a new castle, they know Teleportation Circle, why not put one in the keep somewhere? However, this means they have to take an entire year off of adventuring. While that's no problem in a classic dungeon-style romp, doing so in a story-based game might bring about the end of the world.

So, as an optional rule, you can allow the amount of time required to make the spell permanent to be reduced by 1 day per spellcaster that ritual casts the spell. So, if you have three wizards, you can make a Teleportation circle permanent in 4 months instead of a year.

Some spells that would benefit from this:
  • Forbiddance
  • Guards and Wards
  • Mighty Fortress
  • Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum
  • Teleportation Circle
  • Temple of the Gods

Hopefully this helps your games get a little more epic.

Thanks for reading!

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