>D&D 4th Edition Houserules: Fixing the Rituals System

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Hurry up with that ritual! We need him to beat the boss!

As I said in my last post, I actually like a lot about 4th edition D&D. I’ve heard mixed reports from various sources with their own opinions about the rituals system, and Essentials seems to have avoided the issue entirely; it certainly looks as though WoTC has noticed that rituals just … aren’t being used that much.

Which is a shame, in some ways, because they’re a great idea. They provide new ways for a magically oriented character to shine, and have the additional advantage that any character willing to invest the feat choices into training can learn to use them. BUT, they cost too much as a general rule, asking players to invest gold that could be spent on gear or magical aid into one time effects.

Using the proposed Classic Fantasy Concepts houserule from StufferShack (an excellent resource, by the way) – or some other variant of the “Inherent Bonuses” option to replace magic items – mitigates some of this problem, but there’s still only so much loot to go around. Most players don’t want to spend it on a one time effect.

There are three proposals I like:

  1. Eliminate the cost associated with any ritual besides Raise Dead or the magic item creation rituals, assuming that the time expenditure is enough of a downside. Or;
  2. Grant anyone with the Ritual Caster feat the ability to cast one ritual per day of their level or lower for free.
  3. Make the highest level rituals the focus of quests, and low level rituals free but for the time requirement. 

Mutants and Masterminds has its own ritual system, which sadly would be next to impossible to adapt to D&D 4th Edition; rituals in M&M are again done through the use of a Feat (or Advantage, as they’re now called), and are designed by the player when they’re needed using the same powers framework as the rest of the book. They take an amount of time based on the number of points the effect costs, and require a skill check associated with magic (“Expertise: Magic in DC Adventures/3E M&M, but other types of rituals are possible) with a DC based on rank. That time can be shortened if you take a penalty on the skill check to rush the ritual. Whatever the effect is, it works for one encounter.

The key advantage to this is that it’s fairly unified with the way Powers already work in M&M, and still prevents the magic user from becoming a “Master of Everything” that renders the rest of the party useless. It also means rituals will mainly be used when you need an ‘edge’ in an encounter you know is coming, giving players incentive to think intelligently and plan ahead for the final battle when they can.

I have plans at the moment to get involved in an Essentials based game with my friendly DM (when I’m not busy with school), so I may post more on this issue later. For now, though, I’ll leave it at that. D&D has my attention again, and it’s kind of a good feeling. None of the issues I have had with the system are insurmountable. I like to think that’s true of most game systems, but there are some out there that just won’t appeal to everyone … especially me.

But just a shout out, if anyone from Wizards ever reads this; you did good. D&D 4th Edition is a great game, and it’s bound to get better as time goes on. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on that point in any of my other writings; it’s far too easy to talk about what you don’t like about something than it is to remember all the good things.

Image copyright Wizards of the Coast, intended for illustrative purposes only.

 Update, Tuesday, October 05, 2010:

It seems I should have read the book I recently purchased more closely. The new Cleric build actually has Utility powers at the higher levels that replace the Raise Dead ritual (almost) entirely with a Daily power. Perhaps this represents the official solution to the issue; roll the most useful rituals into the Utility Powers subsystem?

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