Ritual Magic
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It could be argued that Ritual Magic is nothing more than a subset of Arcane Magic. After all, it does not require faith, or a special connection to the spirits, or inborn talent to work like with other magical traditions - follow the rote formulas, pay the price, and you get a result. While other magical traditions have used their own versions of ritual magic throughout the ages, modern scientific studies have shown these differences to be mainly window dressing than true, irreconcilable differences - ultimately, they work for everyone who has learned them, and a significant part of all currently ongoing magical research is to acquire new rituals from obscure traditions and reconciling them with standard scholastic approaches. Nevertheless, to avoid offending the religious establishment which usually holds their rich lore of ritual magic sacred, Ritual Magic is treated as its own distinct field.

The two common elements of all Ritual Magic are time and sacrifice. All rituals require significant amounts of time to cast. Even the very shortest rituals take a minute or more to cast, while larger rituals require hours. Apocryphal stories tell of rituals which took years to cast, but few ritual casters have the time, resources, and sheer patience required for such a massive undertaking.

Meanwhile, "sacrifice" means that all rituals require some sort of ritual components which are expended during the casting. Traditionally, ritual components had to be symbolically appropriate for the ritual (rare herbs or animal parts for rituals influencing nature, jewelry in the form of tools for creating magic items, killing a virgin for summoning devils and so forth). However, currently most ritual casters simply use azoth - concentrated magic in liquid or solid form - for all their rituals, as it is generally both cheaper and easily available than traditional components. Other forms of components are still used in some situations, but this is usually only cost-effective for ritual casters specializing in specific types of rituals and who are able to purchase them in bulk from specialized producers.

The range of possible applications for ritual magic is vast - from picking locks to erecting entire buildings in a matter of hours, from being able to breathe underwater for a short time to teleport someone to another planet. Vast libraries exist with rituals for almost any conceivable effect. However, in practical terms Ritual Magic is used not nearly as often as it could, for the following reasons:

  • Learning Ritual Magic requires significant amounts of skill, and only few people have the dedication and opportunity to do that. Someone who is merely dabbling in a certain field of expertise is unlikely to know any rituals for it. Only those who strive for mastery in a profession will generally attempt useful rituals for it - but for them, it may be worth it.
  • Ritual Magic generally requires expensive resources to cast, which is likely not cost-effective for mundane goods and anything else that could be produced by unskilled or low-skilled labor. After all, hirelings are cheap, while trained ritual casters are not.

The net effect of this is that Ritual Magic is only used when quality is more important to the user than price, or if effects are desired which could simply not be done without it - enchanting magic items is the most commonly used example of this, and much of the modern economy relies on this process.

Adventure Ideas

Designer's Notes & Resources

Ritual Magic is one of the most important aspects of Urbis, as it is necessary to explain the ongoing magical industrial revolution and why nexus towers exist. I have left the precise workings of Ritual Magic vague enough so that GMs can use ritual magic systems from their favorite games for this purpose. In case their favorite game does not come with such a system, the GM can create their own for this purpose. However, they should keep several guidelines in mind:

  • It must be possible to create magic items with it, as this is central to Urbis.
  • Rituals must take enough time to cast to make them useless in combat - that's the purview of other forms of magic.
  • The azoth costs, time required, and other limitations of rituals (such as when and how they can be applied) should be inconvenient enough so that they don't make mundane skills pointless. Ritual magic is a very useful toolkit, but someone skilled in it should not outshine the rest of the party.
  • Unless your RPG already has a good system for integrating such effects, don't permit Ritual Magic to provide lasting combat bonuses to characters, as such effects can be easily abused by min-maxing players. At best, they should eliminate penalties for the player characters or (in very limited circumstances) cause penalties for the enemies. For instance, healing a character with a ritual between combats is okay, but giving him regeneration is not. Permitting a player character to breathe and move freely under water is not game-breaking, but giving him the strength of a giant probably is. Shaping the local environment in advance in order to give the PCs a tactical advantage is also likely unproblematic. Laying a vile curse on an enemy from afar is in-genre - but for that, the GM should probably require the PCs to find out his True Name or retrieve something from his body (such as a hair or a piece of clothing he has worn for years) for the curse to be effective. And so forth.


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