4e PHB Readthrough – Chapter 10: Rituals

Finally we reach the last chapter in our Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook readthrough with rituals.

Rituals is a new thing for 4e.  Because the old spellcasting system has been retired and what are called “spells” now are really just powers like any other class’ powers, a lot of old effects didn’t really fit in the powers system.  These range from the more-utility-than-utility like Arcane Lock to the old favorite Raise Dead, to magic item crafting.

Rituals are found in books or scrolls, like spells in older editions.  But you don’t have to be a spellcaster per se to use them, you just need the Ritual Caster feat (and that’s only to do them from books; anyone can cast one from a scroll).  In general they take a while to cast and use up some kind of expensive component.  Rituals are lightly skill linked – some use a skill check to gain a better result, but many don’t really use or require the listed skill.  They have a minimum level needed to perform them.

I think rituals are pretty neat; they have the potential to make memorable effects (like Raise Dead) more memorable.

I don’t like some of the things they put in here though.  Like Arcane Lock – that’s something that has definitely been used in combat (and its older brother Hold Portal) in my day.  I know that there’s only a limited number of powers possible and that everything else has to go here by design, but it seems to me to make for a lot less “interesting” options in combat.  Silence, Passwall, and some others should have been made powers instead.  And Hallucinatory Creature, the last vestige of illusion in the rules.

(Stupid economics alert: It costs you full price to make a ritual scroll and you can only sell it for half price.  NPCs apparently make it at full price and sell it for full price.  Which is silly for both the PC and the NPC scenario.  Also, Raise Dead costs more based on your character level – 500 for heroic tier, 5000 for paragon tier, and 50000 for epic.)

This is where all the divination spells went, mostly.  And non-hit point healing – cure disease, etc.  And magic item crafting, and a very little bit of abjuration, illusion, and conjuration.

I wish magic item creation took more than an hour.  I feel like their attempt to balance it using bad economics could have been mitigated if it just took a lot longer to make a buff item.  Even a day per level would prevent a ritual user from converting a dragon’s hoard into magical buffs in every slot on every party member in 24 hours flat.

But besides those specific issues, rituals are well handled and pretty simple really.  The overcomplexity which found its way into other bits isn’t here so much.  So yay, rituals!

There’s an index and a character sheet; I trust they don’t need much discussion.

And here endeth the PHB readthrough!  When I get time, the DMG will be next.

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5 responses to “4e PHB Readthrough – Chapter 10: Rituals

  1. I’m iffy on rituals. On the one hand, I like the general concept, and the time and paraphernalia they involve works well for me.

    On the other hand, they really turn magic into business. “Spend the coin, and you too can sling spells with the best of ’em.” It’s one of those things I would nerf first-off in almost any campaign I ran.

    – Brian

  2. By the sound of it, rituals is the best chapter in the book!

    The fact you can’t combat-silence/hold portal/etc anymore is probably for the good. Those things always tripped up green DMs…

  3. Rituals are a godsend to the DM. Specifically, taking teleportation and passwall out of the realm of combat tactics is a godsend to the DM. I have had several sessions derailed when the group got in a pickle and decided to teleport to a safe place… a different safe place than I had prepared for. Now it’s a powerful tool that has to be part of a larger planned action, one I generally know about.

  4. @Zachary. The teleport problem from earlier versions is easily fixed by just increasing the spell-casting time. IMHO it doesn’t warrant the immense complexity that 4e added to combat.

  5. Engaging in some SERIOUS thread necromancy here, but it seems the solution to using Hold Portal and Arcane Lock in combat would be to houserule that their duration only activates when you discharge it, like Drawmij’s Instant Summons. You cast the ritual in the morning, and discharge it when you want the effect.

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