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So here’s the situation: Rituals should be awesome. They’re typically a little bit open-ended, they’re not direct combat actions, they’re ripe for interesting roleplaying, and they’re fairly accessible to a wide range of classes. But they have a couple of problems that get in the way of them being fun, in my experience:

  1. Their costs are cumbersome and nitpicky, requiring the tracking and gathering of several otherwise useless resources.
  2. Because of their long casting times, the entire set of mechanics basically don’t exist in most of the tense game play situations that my groups typically find themselves in.
  3. Because they require a limited, non-renewable resource, I find that many players are hesitant to use them, even fairly minor ones, because they’re afraid of wasting the resources.
  4. Having enough of the components is dependent upon A: active effort from the DM, or B: having a steady flow of gold – a standard, steady gold economy, by the books.

I’ve tried house-ruling them before (cast as full-round action, pay costs with healing surges/action points/daily powers), and typically removing some of these barriers has good results, but I haven’t been 100% satisfied with my own efforts. I often need to make a lot of little exceptions to compensate for the wide range of rituals available.

It’s worth noting that I usually play with groups that enjoy RP and play fast and loose; I’m not concerned about accounting for all the loopholes or anything, since none of my players are the types to try and break the system, or min-max at the expense of fun.

So, without further ado: do you guys have good tips or tricks, or even fleshed out houserules, that make casting rituals more feasible and accessible?

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The group I play with has house ruled reducing cast time and resource expense to 10% of the normal. For a lot of reasons (including losing the ritual descriptions), nobody ever uses them. It's sad, really. –  Wilerson Sep 6 '12 at 4:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Here are some house rules I've used to great effect – based on the writings of many bloggers and forum posters.

Simplify casting times to Short rest and Extended Rest

If casting time is less than 1 hour, make it a short rest instead. If it's longer, make it a extended rest.

Severely cut the casting cost

Cut casting cost by at least 50%. Consider cutting it by 90%, and eliminating the cost completely when less than a threshold, say 10gp.

Make disenchant free and allow residuum to replace material components

By making disenchant free, the residuum component cost can easily be satisfied by those old junk magic times cluttering up their character sheets.

Alternatively: Replace all material component costs with a per-day limit

Instead of having any residuum and material component costs, some GMs are implementing a per-day ritual casting limit: say 3/4/5 for Heroic/Paragon/Epic. Any rituals that are too powerful this way are simply not available to player characters.

Use a skill check to allow casting a ritual above level

I love low-level characters being able to cast rituals/create potions/etc. above their level. Invest the time and the component cost, if any, and roll the appropriate skill check. Difficulty starts at 10 for a ritual/potion one level above you, and goes up by 5 per level higher.


For the inspirations for these house rules, see:

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Seconding this one. My group went with a 50% reduction in cast time and a 90% reduction in resource cost (except for item enchanting) & learning cost, and we saw a lot more use of rituals. –  Oblivious Sage Sep 7 '12 at 14:42

Casting Times

My DM offered to allow my character to cast any ritual by preparing one turn and casting at the start of the next. However, but before we made the effort to iron out the particular rules, I noticed that very, very few rituals have the kinds of applications that would benefit from quick-casting. Some were obvious too long - a ten minute casting time and hour duration for Water Walk means it'll wear off by the time you get to casting it on the last person in your group, but the majority are the sort of thing you would want to take time over anyway, or that would be overpowered if they were castable in emergency conditions; Undead Ward springs to mind.

Resources

My personal solution for solving the component-cost problem was harvesting. Fought a fire-beetle? Rip out its glands. Discovered an exploded magic crystal? Sweep up the shards. The problem was determining exactly how far the components would go, but it was a minimum of one ritual for each component. This method allows for interesting roleplaying opportunities, but does mean after each battle a little more time than usual will be spent looting the corpses. Our DM started getting carried away with the amount of loot he was giving us before we could iron out the details, but a possible rule of thumb would be to base the worth of components on the level of the creature/encounter. Of course, this is trading one tracked resource with another, but at least it is more interesting than popping down to the store for a bag of miscellaneous voodoo herbs and spices.

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Here are the guidelines I used in my last game.

1) Give out rituals with loot. They're not worth selling, so the players end up keeping the ritual. Left to their own devices, the players would buy the half dozen rituals the internet has deemed worthwhile. This method gave them those circumstantial rituals that are useless once or twice in the game. The players felt really smart when they found those times.

2) Give out components with loot. Residuum I think? At any rate, if you give this out they'll be more likely to keep it around. You can also give out magical residuum. Call it essence of arcana and have it give +4 to an arcane ritual roll. Or something.

3) Give them harder puzzles. Most rituals facilitate puzzle solving, but the players can get by without the ritual. Give them puzzles they can't solve with skills alone. Oh and these shouldn't be time sensitive. The players can afford 10 minutes to solve a caved in corridor, but not if there are enemies chasing them. I guess some time sensitivity is necessary, or else they'll dig their way out.

4) Finally, if the cost is really a hangup for your players, do away with it. I think I gave my PCs an item with a daily power to ignore a ritual's casting cost if it was below a certain amount. Players who are too cheap to spend their residuum are the same players who won't let the free daily ability go to waste now that you've turned it into a commodity.

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By "magical residuum", you mean "magical magic dust"? A bit redundant, no? :) –  SevenSidedDie Sep 6 '12 at 17:18
    
@SevenSidedDie, I was going for the game term residuum, not the english word residuum. I guess that's my bad for not using code tags. meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1483/… –  valadil Sep 6 '12 at 19:01
1  
In the context of 4e, "residuum" will always be understood as the magic-dust kind, since vanishingly few native English speakers even know that "residuum" is a word since the word "residue" is common and has the identical meaning. If you meant "residuum" in the plain English sense, I can't figure out the intended meaning of "Give out components with loot. [Residue] I think?" though it makes "You can also give out magical [residue]" make more sense. What do you mean by "[Residue] I think?" –  SevenSidedDie Sep 6 '12 at 19:42
    
+1 for point 3. - One way to do this is simply make the skill-level needed too high for the party. My group encountered a puzzle-box containing a valuable treasure, but even working together we couldn't pass the skill-challenge (It was Insight-based, and only one of us was even trained in it.). One Object Reading ritual later, and we knew most of the combination, greatly lowering the difficulty and allowing the prize to be claimed. –  Ananisapta Sep 7 '12 at 3:24

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