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Parameter: this is RAW. I can pretty well guess RAI doesn't agree. So I'm asking this from a 1) RAW viewpoint, and 2) DM viewpoint.


So, I've been browsing Occult Rituals because I have an occult-spellcasting Nyarlathotep-worshipping character that can get extremely high skill checks at rather low levels (highest is Bluff at around +50 at level 3). Essentially, by level 6 or so I'll be able to make all the skill check DCs to cast any Occult Ritual listed.

Now then, there is one sample Occult Ritual that seems odd. Reconsecrate Altar seems to have an obvious purpose -- doing what its name says. The problem is that, like with all Occult Rituals, it fails if you don't do it right for one reason or another (failed checks, incomplete casting, wrong ritual actions, etc.)

Most Occult Rituals have super-high incentives to not fail -- namely, you range from serious, serious conditions to insta-death of you and everyone else, sometimes without even the chance of resurrection by wish or miracle. So the idea is "do odd rituals with high power, but have cumbersome casting and risk terrible failure effects."

Fair enough.

The reason Reconsecrate Altar's failure is a problem is because that failure is much, much more desirable often than the effect itself. To quote:

Failure For a period of 1 month, none of the casters can be targeted by divine magic that draws its power from the deity previously tied to the altar. (This is a curse effect, and can be removed with remove curse and similar effects.)

In other words, you and all in your party that you rope into helping you (notably, Occult Rituals say that you don't even have to be a caster class to cast them, so this includes the barbarian and rogue) get total immunity from divine magic tied to a select deity.

The fun part is that there are spells to counteract this. But guess what? You can't be targeted by those spells if the person gets their magic from the deity you just got immunity to. So unless some third party gets roped into this, the divine casters you want immunity to (or nearly so, since some spells aren't "targeted") won't be able to break your """""curse"""".

Now...Desecrate is only a second level spell. It's also a passive aura with some times of creatures/undead. Essentially, here is what this means:

  1. Find a temple of the god of that nasty cleric/paladin/druid/etc. that is heckling you.

  2. Desecrate the altar (Note: if this is an enemy god, or an opposed alignment god, your god will probably like this, or at least turn a blind eye. If you are just doing this to a neutral or allied god, however, repeatedly doing this may cause trouble).

  3. "Try" to Reconsecrate Altar...but then interrupt the ritual, or make the party barbarian do the knowledge checks, or etc.

  4. Oh no! You Failed! You're now immune to any targeted divine magic from your enemy cleric/paladin/druid/etc.

Personally, since I don't like needless risks, I'd stop with step 4. There is, however, step 5...

  1. If you're really evil and badass, make a business of doing this to every altar you find. You're DM will probably ensure the gods get back at you...but theoretically they would still be using divine magic so you might even be immune to that (just don't let the immunity slack off...). Still, you would make yourself immune to ALL divine magic except that of your own god (assuming you even have a god...enter stage right some kind of atheist/agnostic antipaladin/cleric devoted to freeing humanity from the bondage of religion).

I just want to check my sanity for reading things this way, and also my sanity for considering it possible. :D

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    \$\begingroup\$ I note that "can't be targeted by" and "can't be affected by" are not the same, given the existence of area effect spells and the like. That doesn't really undercut the core of the trick, but it does make pissing off All The Gods perhaps not as wise. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Mar 9 '18 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden Quite true, ofc, but I already assumed that "pissing off all the gods" would be a bad idea anyway, largely because the main liability is that some arcane caster would be paid/convinced to remove your curse. I also don't think that some god powers would be considered "magic" anyway per se. \$\endgroup\$ – Alphaeus Mar 9 '18 at 14:47
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Yes, it works as written. And frankly, it seems to me that there’s almost no way to argue that this isn’t the intent: the rules really spell it out quite explicitly. I don’t see how anyone could read that and say that the authors didn’t intend for you to get complete immunity to being targeted by the spells granted by a particular deity—that is literally what they wrote.

However, the rules also say everyone involved has to worship the deity in question. I don’t buy that they make this a condition for success, so it doesn’t matter because you want to fail anyway—it reads, as written, as a condition on attempting it in the first place. Certainly the entire thing makes far more sense as a curse in that case. That largely prevents attempting to do this with every deity, unless you can somehow convince them each in turn that you are truly and sincerely worshiping them. But doing it once or twice still seems plausible—and still seems blatantly broken.

Anyway, as pointed out by Ben Barden in a comment, strict RAW the effect only protects you from being targeted; getting caught in the area of some divine spell still seems to work. And even ignoring that, magically creating non-magical things to deal with you—conjured walls, acid, creatures, whatever—should still work just fine. This is superior to golem immunity in many ways, but nonetheless a lot of the tricks that spellcasters use to deal with golems will still work on you.

The only other part I’d quibble with is the part in step 5 where you muse that it might provide immunity to the gods’ own spells. That is unlikely, unless Nyarlathotep shows up in the flesh to intercede—deities are expected to break the rules, much like artifacts, and would probably break this one. Pathfinder doesn’t have stats for deities, but D&D 3.5e did, and they explicitly included the fact that much of deity magic ignores mortal defenses and immunities.

Finally, as for what I would do as a DM, I would quite simply ban the entirety of these rituals altogether unless the player could make a really strong pitch. Just seeing this one and how poorly-considered it was indicates to me that it’s unlikely to be worth my time to read the rest. At best, you might convince me to allow the other ones, or allow this one with the immunity replaced by straight-up divine smiting (or possibly copying the consequences from NetHack for trying this). But considering that this is a “build a spell” system—and that those literally never work in d20, and I am quite convinced that they cannot work in d20—you would have a very much uphill battle to get even that far. I would sooner implement rituals of this sort as a purely narrative thing made up by me, as DM, ad hoc to the particular situation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The GM doesn't really have to ban the rituals. It seems that all of them—unless a class feature allows otherwise—are introduced to the campaign entirely at the GM's discretion (see Discovering Occult Rituals). Also, I'm kind of interested in that ritual's line that says, "In order to repair a broken altar, the primary caster and all secondary casters must be worshipers of that same deity." I don't know if the ritual can even be attempted if participants don't worship the deity to whom the broken altar was dedicated. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 9 '18 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Occult Rituals are a whole system, vaguely like epic spells from 3.5e. Most of them are generally quite acceptable, since no normal player could hit the DCs unless their whole focus was built upon boosting skills. That said, despite the humorous temptation I know I personally would add a consequence that either replaced this or made it much less desirable (I.e you get the targeting immunity, but roll a high risk each day for incurring divine wrath, etc.). As to the divine magic -- yes, deities themselves have the annoying habit of being god-like :D \$\endgroup\$ – Alphaeus Mar 9 '18 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ninja'd me. Yes, your point is already something the DM has said. My char will be using these rituals, but the knowledge of them she gets as choice revelations or the result of extensive IC research (in a Lawful nation...this is a tweaked Way of the Wicked campaign). So which Rituals I get are entirely up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Alphaeus Mar 9 '18 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ironically, reading that bit RAW, it doesn't say that it's a requirement for using the ritual - just that it's a requirement for the repair effect, which suggests that if you do it on the altar of a deity you don't worship it doesn't get repaired even if you somehow succeed. Kind of raises the "mock the gods" factor up another notch if taken that way, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Mar 9 '18 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Alphaeus “vaguely like epic spells from 3.5e” sounds like an excellent reason to ban them in its own right. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 9 '18 at 15:24

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