Friday, May 5, 2017

Redefining 5e's Ritual Spells

5e Magic is designed to be used inside the "encounter." Therefore you have a big list of superfluous damage spells that do damage for no reason other than to do damage. You have combat trick spells that serve no other purpose than to inflict a status, disadvantage, or some other hindrance.

This is incredibly video-gamey, or at the very least war-gamey, and when compared to other magic systems, its dull and boring.

Take for example the magic system of the book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Susanna Clarke enshrouds the idea of magic with an aura of mystic wonder. She accomplishes this mainly by making magic interact with the world to a degree that causes dissonance to those who witness it. Magic makes a fleet of ships out of rain that baffles the French navy; animates statues inside an ancient cathedral that spook theoretical magicians; gives a bird's eye view of a small fleet in the Mediterranean to impress their admirals, and parleys with the otherworldly to bring someone back from the dead in order to gain the favor of the prime minister.

Call me old-fashioned but i find Clarke's kind of magic more interesting than lazer beams and energy balls.

So lets fix 5e magic. Lets get rid of the superfluous damage spells and the combat tricks and make it mystical and wonderful. But first I want to tackle ritual spells as i feel they are a microcosm for the way 5e treats magic.

For those out of the loop a ritual spell in 5e is as follows:

Certain spells have a special tag: ritual. Such a spell
can be cast following the normal rules for spellcasting,
or the spell can be cast as a ritual. The ritual version of
a spell takes 10 minutes longer to cast than normal. It also doesn't expend a spell slot, which means the ritual version of a spell can't be cast at a higher level.

Whoever designed this mechanic is basically telling spellcasters, "There's spells in the game that probably aren't good enough for your DMs perfectly balanced encounter so don't sweat the spell slot over it." But whoever designed this failed to consider that since magic is so combat-oriented in 5e is that those players wouldn't prepare ritual spells in the first place because they are indeed not good enough for encounters.

Now with that out of the way just think about the word ritual. What do you picture? Do you see that scene from Temple of Doom? (Kalimah! Kalimah!) Do you think about the red lady dancing around Jon Snow, resurrecting him? Elrond hovering over poor Frodo, whispering in elvish to stay the morgul curse? Do you picture the Na'vi from Avatar swaying and chanting to transfer that white guy's soul to his Na'vi body? You probably imagine those and then some.

The point is the word ritual evokes scenes.

So lets redefine ritual spells. First of all rituals are no longer a "tag". Now they are a new class of spell: a ritual is a series of steps that when enacted cause magic. Unlike most spells they can't be prepared; they have to be discovered, studied, and practiced in order to be cast.

Let's take a look at one:

Identify—a spell for learning the extraordinary or boring properties of the object in question

Materials Needed: Sand, a mirror, and the object in question.

Step 1: Place the object in question upon an appropriately sized mirror. (Size is important! A hand mirror will not do for a great sized claymore, for example.)
Step 2: Sprinkle the sand into four piles at the mirror's four corners (or around its perimeter if it is circular) while incanting. Step 3: Place the hands upon the mirror and utter the last incantation.

Results: The sand will crawl along the surface of the mirror like ants from a hill and combust, leaving behind words burnt into the mirror.

Explanation: These words were written by the powers that govern the object in question and this ritual called them forth to clarify what the object is and its purpose. The words might be unfamiliar, archaic, or foreign; but they surely describe the object.

These words might reflects the object and the powers that govern it. For example a British longbow may be accompanied by a Iambic Pentameter or a Spanish dollar by a satire, each in their respective language of course.

No comments:

Post a Comment