[Dungeonpunk] - Ritual Spellcasting and Wizard Traditions theory-post

[As with the last couple of recent posts, I am doing my teeny-tiny bit to make the OSR a better place, in principle. This is an idea straight from the brain-noggin, there has been no play-testing for this what-so-ever.]

So I was thinking about how to make rituals good for Dungeonpunks, and I think where I ended up lead to some cool thinkings; lets dive in.


So briefly, Dungeonpunks is ripping off borrowing from the GLOG for the basic magic system, which if you aren't familiar (but who isn't?) Magic User's get a number of magic die to cast spells, which take their potency from the number of dice rolled, and/or the total of all the die, which are exhausted if they display 5 or more. There are a few more wrinkles, but that's the gist of a very cool, flexible system.


Firstly, what should rituals do? Here are the two things that I'm thinking of:

- They can be used to make spells more reliable, and
- They can be used to make spells more powerful than normally possible

Just like how some systems (such as Dungeonpunks eventually...) let you increase the chances of, or even guarantee success if you take more time, the same I think, applies with rituals. The more resources you put in, the safer/greater the results, and with rituals you have a chance to put in more and different resources than Magic Die.

Here's the rough shape of my thoughts for the system:

Rituals are spells, but they aren't directly fueled by Magic Die. You must have at least as many available Magic Die as the level of the ritual you want to cast, but you don't roll them. You can add extra magic die through other methods however.

A 1 Die ritual takes 10 minutes to perform.
A 2 Dice ritual takes 1 Hour to perform.
A 3 Dice ritual takes 1 Day to perform.
A 4 Dice ritual takes 1 Week to perform.
For each extra Die of effect, add an additional week to the casting time.

The following benefits can be applied to rituals to add additional casting die to the rituals' effect:
- Full wizard regalia, requires an inventory slot for each casting die that the ritual with have in total.
- Use of the rituals' key components (more on these later)
- An elaborate ritual space (probably equivalent to owning/building a medium sized dwelling)

The intent of these extra modifiers is to limit the use of these essentially "free" rituals within the dungeon-crawl environment, or other time-limited situations. You can still use them, but its other factors that you'll then need to think about.
[Designer's note: depending on how it works in play, its possible the additional requirements could add die without increasing the casting time, we'll see if its interesting to haul around a bundle of wizard-clothes and components to get "extra" magic die with extra limitations.]

Magical Traditions

Now, my actually cool idea; using the holes in the above theory to add to magic's "groundedness".

I like the idea of using physical components to spells, but as they are they kind of suck, in 5e at least and especially. Part of their problem is that its too fiddly to remember them all without extensive notes, and to actually use them often is lots of book-keeping.

This second problem is sort of solved by limiting it to ritual-casting, thus they are a choice that need to be weighed, is it worth giving up an inventory slot for a more powerful ritual?
But the first problem is more complicated, and this is my solution;

Spells are divided into "Magical Traditions" that all share a common list of components.

This hopefully means that there are only a few components that will ever need to be used, and since any combination of components from the tradition can be used, there should always be choices.
For particularly potent rituals, you could even demand a specific component if you wanted to.

For extra effect, I think the classic "5 W Questions" could be used to make an interesting list. For example;

The Tradition of Vexillor;

Who: A Chorus of Caged Song-Birds
What: A Rose carved from Ruby or Diamond
Where: In the centre of a Stone Circle
When: At Midnight
How: In complete Darkness

There will be a list of guidelines and probably a few tables of examples to demonstrate the principles of making one.
So far I think the guidelines are something along these lines:
Two entries should be relatively common or easy to come across (Midnight happens every day, and its easy enough to make your space really dark). Perhaps 100gp of expenditure or so.
Two entries should require some effort to achieve (There are (or should be) plenty of Stone Circles around, but they are never quite accessible as you might like, and the logistics of collecting a Chorus of Song-Birds in a medieval environment could be a bit of a challenge.) Maybe 1,000gp to gain.
One entry should be pretty hard to achieve, or even unique (a Ruby Rose could be quite a challenge to produce indeed) At least 10,000gp to get.

An further example;

The Tradition of Seutonius;

Who: With a circle of 6 other acolytes (Rare)
What: A sprig of fresh Wolfsbane (Common)
Where: Atop the Divine Mountain (Very Rare)
When: During the New Moon (Rare)
How: Whilst burning expensive incense (Common)

These are a few ways I can think of to use this system:
- Characterise a wizard and the way they cast their spells with their own spell-list and set of components to make it worthwhile to learn from a variety of wizards, particularly if you are somewhat restrictive of the way Wizards can learn new spells.
- To tie together a set of spells thematically; as in these spells are in a tradition because they share a common set of components, either because the spells are intimately related, or because the wizard who created them had that set of components easily accessible, which both have their own set of uses.
- To provide an incentive to encourage players to keep themselves themed without offering other abilities (as awesome as the glut of GLOG wizard schools are, they do add a certain pathfinder-ishness to the game again, and I am fully guilty of contributing to this of course).

You could even further distinguish between the types of spell-casting; maybe wizard "colleges" have quite straight-forward spell lists and more easily accessible components, and then the more esoteric traditions have rarer components, but better spell-lists, for example. Its a pretty flexible system I think.

It also is flexible in the way you want to engage with it; you can either entirely randomly generate it if you like, or you can put in lots of effort to create bespoke wizard traditions, even a bit of both perhaps.

I sort of envision a set of wizard tradition card-play aids, where the outside is decorated like a spell book, and the inside is dedicated to the spell-list and the components, maybe with a section for fluff for the tradition.

I think its a cool idea, I just hope it works in practice!

[Further idea that I came up with as I come to the end of typing this up and can't find a good place to insert somewhere else:
You can use these traditions to tie a new wizard to a new place, or reflect where they began to learn. If they aren't learning from a specific tradition then they get a half-filled in tradition spell list, and are missing two of their components. As they learn new spells, they can fill in the gaps of their tradition, and create a tradition of their very own.]

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