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I am running a D&D 4E campaign, and I particular enjoy that a lot of the 'man-made' spells that the PCs encounter—when for example, raiding wizards' hideouts—can be described as "you can get a ritual for that if you wanted", or "anything they can do you can do too if you put in enough effort". So when creating plotlines and locations, I try to come up with a 'ritual-explanation' for as much as possible.

My question is, are there any rules or guidelines for creating rituals (and magic items) that are not described in the various sourcebooks? I have two examples, but my question is not restricted to just these:

  • A paladin PC wants to forge his own magic shield, and I don't want to choose one from the sourcebooks as it'd lose its uniqueness. Is there an easy way to determine what stats it could have for a given level?

  • A wizard NPC is going to show the PCs a faked 'vision of the future', i.e. a pre-made film. What level and cost would this ritual have, were the PCs to want to learn it for themselves?

Thanks in advance.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

By design, 4e is not intended for your players to be able to do anything an NPC can do; some DMs consider this an advantage (it means you can give your bad guys plot-appropriate abilities without worrying about what the party might do with them), while others consider it a disadvantage (it's strongly narrativist/gamist rather than simulationist, which really breaks immersion/realism for some people).

When creating new rituals or items, your best bet is generally to look through the existing rituals/items that do something similar (DDI helps with this a lot), find the ones that are closest to what's desired, and extrapolate from there. Note in particular that there are several scrying / get-questions-answered rituals already, which tend to be relatively high level.

For your faked vision of the future, that sounds like an illusion; you might look through some of the wizard utility powers that are specifically for creating illusions. Actual visions of the future should probably stay under DM control.

Also, as a general rule, the more useful an item or ritual is in combat (static bonuses, extra actions), or the more helpful it is in skipping chunks of your plot (flight, phasing, most forms of reliable player-controlled divination, long-range teleportation), the more expensive (and thus higher level) it should be.

If you choose not to let players duplicate an NPC ritual/item, here are some in-game justifications for why not: it's outright evil and will corrupt the players, its power comes from a god or other power that doesn't like the party, it was a single-use effect from an artifact from an ancient high-(magi)tech civilization, or it's some kind of magic the party has never encountered before and has no clue how to duplicate.

One thing my group has done is allow players to pick a few concepts but not actual abilities; the DM then creates a power-level-appropriate magic item that incorporates those concepts (which may scale up over time automatically to stay level appropriate).

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I have no issues with telling my group 'no you can't have that item/ritual because xx', I'm just a little surprised that 4E hasn't made an attempt at covering this. Given that there are rituals for becoming a lich, along with numerous lair-building items and rituals, it seems like 4E is missing an opportunity here. I'm sure my group doesn't mind any of this, but as the GM I love making my world as simulationist as possible so it looks like I'll have to come up with some house-rules... –  ioanwigmore May 10 '12 at 17:07

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