I’ve done a ton of blog posts on Ritual Path magic…because, well, I like it and there is a demand for it right now. So hey, give the readers what they want. Monster Hunters covers what fairly large spells and competent casters might look like, but what about less-competent characters? Everyone has to start somewhere after all.
It’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa
Depending on the setting, magic can be “magical” (e.g., strange and wondrous) or commonplace, but regardless of its rarity, you’re still going to have masters and apprentices. Those who teach and those who learn. GMs looking for added complexity might consider using “Spell Familiarities.”
Optional Rule: Spell Familiarity
Each caster starts out with familiarity (see p. B169) for more information about familiarities and skills) with a number of spells equal to half the number of points in the following skills:
- Esoteric Medicine
- Hidden Lore (any magical or supernatural)
- Innate Attack
- Mental Strength
- Path of Body
- Path of Chance
- Path of Crossroads
- Path of Energy
- Path of Magic
- Path of Matter
- Path of Mind
- Path of Nonexistence (if the GM is using it)
- Path of Spirit
- Path of Undead
- Symbol Drawing
- Theology (Hermetic Qabala)
Additionally, all rituals carry a penalty to cast them equal to (Number of Spell Effects x -2). So if you’re trying to cast “Fireball” for the first time ever, you take a -2 penalty to your skill roll. So a character with 40 points in the above skills gets 20 spells he is familiar with and when he casts a spell, he isn’t familiar with, he takes a penalty on his skill rolls of at least -2. After game play begins, you can eliminate these penalties by studying a spell for 8 hours (apply the time reduction for Natural Caster or other “spellcasting” talents to this time). This studying can come from either a teacher actually teaching you a spell or a grimoire that has a copy of the spell in it. Those with Ritual Adept ignore these rules – just like someone with Weapon Master or Gunslinger (who never suffer familiarity penalties for weapons).
Spell Familiarity Variations
The penalty above may be too generous for some GMs. If that’s the case, the Spell Familiarity Penalty becomes (Number of Greater Spell Effects x -3 + Number of Lesser Spell Effects x -1). This leads to more variety in the penalty, but some spells become impossible to cast without foreknowledge (which may be something the GM wants!).
Optionally, instead of having a flat 8 hours reduce the penalty completely, the GM could say that it takes 2 hours per -1 penalty. Those who want a teacher’s skill or a grimoire’s bonus to play a more important roll could reduce the time required to remove this penalty by 5% per point they succeeded on their Teaching roll, or, in the case of grimoires, reduce the time by (5% x the grimoire’s bonus). You cannot reduce time by more than 50% from all sources (Talent, Teacher’s skill, etc.).
I Found 2,000 Way Not to Cast Fireball
The base assumption for Ritual Path magic is that anyone can cast any spell – and this is as much of a strength as it is a weakness, especially for new GMs. To make it easy the GM may decide to define all the rituals that are “available” in his campaign and restrict casters to that list alone. Though this does work…it does cause additional problems: if only a certain number of spells are available who created the first spell? For such games, it’s probably best to use a variation for New Inventions (p. B473) with the following adjustments:
- Required Skills: These always include Thaumatology and at least one of the Path skills required to cast the spell. Alchemy is used for creating new elixirs, Herb Lore for new herbals, Artist (Body Art) for new tattoos, and so on.
- Complexity: This is based on the final amount of energy needed to cast the spell once: Simple (20 or less), Average (21 to 50), Complex (51 to 150), and Amazing (151 or more). Reduce the required energy for this purpose by half if you’re simply “reinventing” a spell you’ve seen cast, read in a book, etc. This is in addition to the bonus you get if you actually have a copy of the spell you’re trying to “create.”
- Concept Roll: Apply a -5 penalty if the caster doesn’t have all the Path skills needed to cast the spell.
- Prototype: To actually create the spell the facilities needed the user needs a Workspace Kit, Alchemy Lab, etc. that has been especially outfitted for inventing the new, rather than working with the old. These “Thaumturge Laboratoriums” cost the same as the type they assist in manufacturing and count as improvised equipment if using them for non-experimental purposes. Optionally, the GM may double the cost of a Workspace Kit, Alchemy Lab, whatever and have it count as both (weight is increased by 1.5, however, because of the extra junk you have to carry around. The prototype roll itself is actually casting the spell, albeit slowly. Increase the times to gather energy for the spell by a factor of 12. Adepts take 1 minute per gathering attempt, while non-Adepts take 1 hour. Apply all modifiers from the concept roll to this roll as well. Critical success allows the caster to instantly spend a point for Ritual Mastery with his new spell if he wishes; success means the spell works fine, and he can add it to his repertoire!; Failure results in a botch worth half the energy gathered so far; critical failure results in a botch as normal, but at double, the strength of the total spell energy! Bugs can be worked out of the newly created spell by going through the process again, but at a +5 bonus to your rolls. Gamemaster’s may allow Gadgeteers to use their rolls as normal with these modifications, such “Thaumturgic Geniuses” should be rare unless the point of his campaign is to increase the known spell.
- Testing and Bugs: Use the normal rules.
- Production: Ignore this phase, if you create the spell in the Prototype phase, there is no need to “produce” it later!
Picking Over the Bones
The above rules probably add more complexity than most GMs would like or even want. After all, magic should be fairly magical – it doesn’t have to be rooted in Principia Magica to make sense. As long as there is a internal consistency within any magical system, it’ll come across as believable – or nearly so. But for GMs who want “Magic is a Science!” or a complex series of laws or methods for their campaign’s magical system, the above might just do the trick. Keep in mind that if you’re using a limited number of spells and have mage-gadgeteers that it could quickly turn your setting into something you do not like; the same cautions that are taken with tech-gadgeteers should be taken with these mad magic geniuses.