Thursday, 2 July 2020


Content warning: animal sacrifice (mentioned).

The purpose of ritual magic in game is to...

  • emphasise the power and mystery of magic
  • to provide additional flavour, and to generate other :
  • create adventure opportunities (fetch quests for ingredients, research, casters etc.)

Rituals should:
  • Require a great deal of preparation.
  • Have a fairly specific effect (whereas spells, in game, work more like generalised tools).
  • Have a duration limited by natural cycles (night and day, lunar cycle, seasons etc.

In PARIAH, the closest thing to a D&D spell is an invocation: these require some sacrifice on the caster's part, and are less reliable. In contrast with "spells" rituals:
  • Require no personal sacrifice aside from time (often animal sacrifices are required).
  • Require components and specific timing.
  • Have powerful and predictable effects.

All in this circle shall lie safe

Time taken 10 mins + 10 mins per HD.
When After noon but before sunset.
Entheogen A low dose of desert rue.
Sacrifice One HD per 9’ of radius.
Participants The shaman.

• A protective circle bars spirits from crossing—but not humans or animals, and spirits may still coax  humans from the circle with trickery. The magic fades by noon the next day.
• This ritual can be made permanent by building a powerful shrine.

The ritual must begin after noon but before the sun sets. The shaman must pick a recognisable point within the camp: usually the fire, but perhaps a tree or boulder, and draw as close to this as possible.

Invoking the weak-names of old spirits, the shaman offers them a sacrifice.

For each hit die - whether their own or from the blood of animals they have slain - the shaman may take three strides (nine feet) away from the point. This marks the limits of the circle of protection, past which no spirit may pass. They then must trace a circle about the centre as best they can, chanting softly until the sun has set, after which they may go to sleep .

(Note: this will not affect any spirits already within the circle; it will also not prevent spirits from attempting to call out to pariahs while they sleep in the night and trick them from leaving the circle)

Learned... by assisting in the ritual every day for a full lunar month.

Ritual of the hunt

Time taken Min 1 hour + 10 mins per hunter.
When Shortly before dawn.
Entheogen None.
Sacrifice One HD per hunter.
Participants The shaman, the hunters

A fire is prepared before dawn, into which the blood of an animal must be poured. Any other sacrifices (if any) must be burned on the fire. Any hunters wishing to receive the blessing must dance around the burning flames.

After one hour the fire will have burned out. For every hit die [of animal] sacrificed, the shaman may take ash from the fire and bless one hunter (it takes ten minutes per hunter).

They will receive a +1 bonus on attack, damage and tracking rolls until sunset.

Learned... by assisting in the ritual three times (assistants cannot also receive the benefits of the ritual as hunters).

Notes: this is quite a "buff", so as a control the shaman will be unable to join the hunting party, and will be too tired to perform this ritual the following day.

Ritual of war

As above, except those gathered call themselves warriors, not hunters, and the fire is prepared just after dusk. Once the animal blood has been poured into the fire, one of the warriors must destroy a stolen relic of their enemies and cast its broken pieces into the flames.

After one hour the fire will have burned out. For every hit die sacrificed, the shaman may take ash from the fire and bless one warrior (it takes 20 minutes per warrior).

They will receive a +1 bonus on attack, damage and defence rolls until sunset.

Learned... by assisting in the ritual three times (assistants cannot also receive the benefits of the ritual as warriors).

Notes: see above. Also, consider stealing an enemy relic a worthwhile adventure in its own right.

Ritual to seek guidance from beyond 

Time taken 1 hour.
When By night.
Entheogen None.
Sacrifice One HD per question.
Participants The shaman.

After building a large fire, at least three pariahs must sit around, repeating the chants of the ritual leader. Sacrifices (if any) must be burned on the fire before the ritual begins.

After the completion of the ritual, a face will appear in the flames. The ritual leader may ask one yes/no question of it per hit die sacrificed. The GM will answer those questions as honestly as they are able.

The binding of two souls

Time taken A whole night.
When From dusk until dawn beneath a new or full moon.
Entheogen Unnecessary.
Sacrifice Each half must give all to the other.
Participants Two people to be bound. The shaman. At least one other witness.

By dawn two souls will be as one—a bond so powerful that, unless sundered by betrayal:
• In daylight hours, they may share short telepathic messages.
• By night they may communicate as though sat side-by-side regardless of distance.
• They share injuries and wounds between each other as if sharing one body (including recovering HP and HD).

This is a ritual for two people who are especially close. They may be lovers or siblings or the closest of friends, it is irrelevant: the only caveat is that they vow to love and protect one another above all others.

This ritual is meditative, and the couple must spend the whole night in physical contact with one another, under the guidance of the shaman, from dusk until dawn during a full or new moon.

Learned... by witnessing the ritual three times.

Ritual of the true name

Time taken A whole night.
When From dusk ‘til dawn beneath a full moon.
Entheogen Unnecessary.
Sacrifice Nothing.
Participants A baby or Nameless One, their guardian and a shaman. No other witnesses except for the shaman's assistant.

• By dawn, the guardian (who forgets the name afterwards) whispers the unnamed supplicant’s name into their ears—the child always remembers.
• If performed on a Nameless One their curse is lifted and their WIS and/or CHA rise to 3.

This ritual takes place between a newborn child, their guardian and the shaman. It must be performed from dusk until dawn by the light of a full moon. The shaman enters into a trance, during which time the guardian must take care of the child, taking care to ensure they remain within a circle drawn by the shaman to protect them from malevolent spirits.

By light of a new dawn, the true name will have appeared on the guardian’s lips. They will whisper it to the child, who will remember it, though the guardian will forget. 

The child will always remember.

Once the shaman awakes from their trance, the party will return to the pariahs’ encampment.

This ritual can also be used to restore the soul to a nameless one, but they must be joined by someone who loves them, as they will not forget their name once a new name is given

If the nameless one leaves the spot decreed by the shaman, they will transform into a demon.

Learned... by assisting with the ritual 3 times.

The painting of the flesh

This begins identical to the ritual of the warrior, but the ashes from the fire are mixed with pigment to and daubed all over the body of the supplicants. 

For every 2HD sacrificed the shaman may spend twenty minutes painting a warrior’s flesh, imbuing them with 1d6 temporary hit points and an additional 1d6 hit die*, to be spent as they wish. 

The extra hit die and temporary hit points will vanish by the following sunset, or if the paint is somehow removed.

Note that usage of this ritual along with the tattooist skill and a successful binding ritual will enable the effects of this ritual to be permanent: however, the effects will only be available for twelve hours each day, from dusk until dawn.

* note that hit dice in PARIAH are a managed resource similar to 5e. They can be used to augment attribute rolls,saves, and attack roll as well as to recover lost HP.

The building of the shrine

This ritual occurs in collaboration between the shaman, the band, and many spirits. 

The shaman begins building a shrine, set apart from the shrine of their ancestors, somewhere within the camp. They do not yet know to whom it is dedicated, but they make regular offerings to it. 

When the band next moves on, the shrine is left. The shaman may place protective wards on it, they may not.

The shaman may build many such shrines as the band travels, maybe not returning to the original site for many months or even years. 

When the shaman returns, they may have a clearer idea of the spirit they wish to invite. If the shrine remains comparatively unharmed, the shaman may add additional features: a rock, a carved piece of wood, perhaps an animal skull of particular personal significance. 

Over time, each shrine may be dedicated to individual spirits associated with places or creatures close to the band’s heart. As other members of the band follow the shaman’s offerings, the shrine grows in power.

Additionally, the shrine will cast a permanent, invisible circle of protection around the shrine (see above), of a radius equal to three feet for every hit dice of band members. 

To learn this ritual, one need merely assist another pariah in the construction of a shrine three times.

...and special mention to Marquis Hartis' awesome Mesopotamian magic:

This post was featured in issue #6 of The Glatisant


  1. Typo (if you're interested): The purpose *of* ritual magic in games...

    1. Edited, thank you. I am interested: most of the comments I receive are from "real" magicians looking to drum up some business!