Ceremonial Magic

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DrPete
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Ceremonial Magic

Alright, so... just starting to wrap my head around this.  Looks cool, but it's a lot to take in.

Starting question... talismans.  Does a Talisman allow its user perform a ceremony risk and free, but it takes the usual time, or does it allow it to be "rushed" and thus effectively the same as a spell (except, maybe for complicated ones, which take longer...?), or is it actually just like casting a spell?

koewn
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Just like casting a spell.

A talisman is a device that allows you to perform a ceremony as if it were a spell, as long as the talisman's level equals or exceeds the level of the ceremony being casted, once per day. "cast as a spell" == no roll, no error, no implements, normal spell casting time of one round (or rarely one turn if the spell itself demands it)

A trinket is the same, but it is consumed in the process (or partially consumed, if a 3rd level trinket is used for a 1st level ceremony)

It's very much as if a standard spell slot was stored in an item - it can "spellcast" any ceremony in your repertoire. You can think of the ceremonialist laden with trinkets and talismans as a spellcaster that needs to carry his casting slots around with him.

 

Aryxymaraki
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As long as there's a distinct ceremonial magic thread: I don't think I like the locational requirements for casting ceremonies.

A ceremony's price can be paid with special components, congregant power, blood sacrifice power, self-mutilation, or tapping an ambient place of power. Of these options, only special components and self-mutilation do not have some kind of locational restriction to them, and blood sacrifice is the worst.

It seems like it would be very difficult for a mid-level ceremonialist to cast their mid-level spells, unless they are bringing their congregation with them into a wilderness adventure or bringing a chaotic alter along with them to generate a sinkhole of evil. Using power from blood sacrifice is particularly hard for Neutral ceremonialists who sacrificed solely normal animals to get that power (an act which does not generate corruption and is not associated with Chaos), who somehow need to get a sinkhole of evil without being Chaotic or performing a Chaotic act. (Also, who needed to visit a Chaotic altar in the first place to sacrifice them. I don't think this is so much 'a fine line to walk' as it is 'this character I describe can't exist'.)

Special components are great, but given that it is recommended they be difficult (if not impossible) to purchase, it relies heavily on the character actually encountering the specific monster whose components can be used for the specific ceremony they want to perform. They're the 'you actually have the perfect materials for this' option, and work the best as a result, but are not the most common way you're going to perform ceremonies.

Self-mutilation is barely useful at all until reaching mid-levels. A first-level ceremonialist can use it solely to perform a first level ceremony methodically, at a high risk of a mortal wound; I think it's very unlikely for a situation to arise where someone urgently needs this six-hour ceremony performed right now. I feel like in general, if you can wait six hours for the casting, you can wait a few days for the components.

I understand that the idea is to make ceremonialists like their place of power, but I just feel like they are too tied to it. I think I'd rather see it be something like requiring you to visit your place of power (congregation/sinkhole of evil/what have you) once a week and perform an hour-long ritual in order to collect the divine power from it. (Or not at all for sinkholes of evil, honestly, given that you already need to be in a sinkhole to perform blood sacrifice, and that the divine power expires every day, and you already get ambient power from a sinkhole...my feeling is that there's already enough restrictions on power from sacrifice.)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Thanks for the feedback.

I didn't intend for the rules to suggest that special components should be impossible to find. If that is how it's being read I may have to revise. It is important that Judges shouldn't allow players to simply convert gold to special components on an unlimited basis at any time and place, that's all.

My expectation is that adventuring ceremonialists will primarily use special components, trinkets, and talismans to cast spells. 

The two primary ceremonialist classes (loremaster and occultist) both begin play with a ceremonial talisman that will let them cast 1 1st level spell per day. That gives them the spell casting ability of a standard ACKS mage. Within a few levels they will be able to afford additional trinkets and talismans. The rules also suggest that ceremonial bladedancers, craftpriests, shamans, and witches also begin play with personal talismans. Ecclesiastics and runemasters don't begin with a personal talisman but they have many other useful abilities at first level. 

Overall, I am happy with the ceremonialists being tied to their places of power for divine power. One idea I did consider for divine power is that it is maintained if in one's place of power, and vanishes 24 hours after leaving it (instead of vanishing every 24 hours, period, and only being usable in the place of power). That would allow the ceremonialist to travel in and around his sanctum for short disatances. But that might also have its own problems of bad incentives. Happy to get further feedback from the crowd.

 

Jard
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I will say overall that the magic systems in Heroic Fantasy give me a very "NPC" vibe.  They seem to lend themselves to people who stay in town/in their temples and slowly accrue power over time, exiting maybe once a year.

 

I certainly hope special components aren't supposed to be impossibly rare, because one of my spellcasting players is currently concocting a plan to conscript the party paladin, laden with charisma and a glamerous aura, to help him persaude as many merchants as possible to sell him monster parts.

Aryxymaraki
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I am still chewing on my overall opinion of it.

While that happens, a question! Can you benefit from a formula or sample when creating trinkets/talismans?

As far as special components, the text says that them being available at all is optional and up to the Judge's discretion, and that even if they are available, it is strongly recommended that they be strictly limited by market class. I read this as saying 'they probably won't be available, and if they are, they won't be available in the amounts that PCs wish they would be'. (The combination of it being 'at the Judge's discretion', 'strongly recommend', and 'strictly enforce' read to me as 'it's not gonna happen, certainly not with any level of reliability').

I feel like special components would bother me less if they were restricted for the tradition, instead of unique for each ceremony. Generic components would feel less rare to purchase for me and more likely that PCs would have access to some form of ceremony. Perhaps 1st-3rd level ceremonies can be performed with generic components and 4th-6th require individual components. I'm just thinking out loud here at this point.

Jard
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I feel like special components would bother me less if they were restricted for the tradition, instead of unique for each ceremony. Generic components would feel less rare to purchase for me and more likely that PCs would have access to some form of ceremony. Perhaps 1st-3rd level ceremonies can be performed with generic components and 4th-6th require individual components. I'm just thinking out loud here at this point.

-Aryxymaraki

I've been wracking my brain for some time now trying to condense monster parts into a broader list of ingredients, each one being acquirable from multiple monsters and usable for multiple spells.  my initial attempts have been unsatisfying.

Going back to an unquoted part of your statement: in the original game, you can buy a crate of monster parts for a base price 300gp if you can convince a merchant to sell them to you (requires a 12+ reaction roll).  The book recommends rolling a wilderness encounter to see which parts they are.  Between the randomness of that table, the number of merchants available by class, how many loads they're willing to deal in, the reaction roll requirement, and the (demand modifier + 4d4)*10% of dealing with a market, finding special components on the open market can be quite complicated!

Weron
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The power / special component requirement was the thing that troubled me most. Given that each spell requires parts from a specific monster, much like magic item creation, makes it sound very difficult to keep casting at a regular pace while on an adventure.

Unless your campaign world has a very large "special monster part" economy, getting hold of quantities of monster parts of your specific monster for each spell is something you need large cities to do. When you do manage to get hold of them, you need to carry it around in metamphora at 2 stone per 60 gp. That gets very heavy very fast.

I would be more comfortable with generic ceremony cost components. Maybe ceremonialists can do some trick to convert special monster parts from any monster to ceremony cost components? Maybe the trick is different for each spell, so you have components for x ceremonies of spell x, y for spell y and so on. Maybe some of the power is lost in the process, so having the parts from the correct monster is much more efficient? Even if each component is just an item, encumbrance becomes an issue at mid-level.

DrPete
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Thinking in terms of how magic like this tends to work in stories, some of it definitely benefits from "eye of newt" and "horn of unicorn" but some of it probably doesn't need to be quite so specific, and maybe doesn't need to be "monster parts" per se.  Could generic "consumables" be used for some spells, like incense or wine?

Just trying to go through the process here... pick a random spell.  Call of the Wolf.

I can do this Hastily, for 500 gp in 1 round, or Regularly, for 50 gp in 1 turn, or Methodically, for 5 gp in 6 hours.

I'm pretty happy with the idea that this ceremony should involve the sacrificing of sheep, say, but that would only pay for the "methodical" casting.  A tooth of an alpha wolf is worth 35 gp.  Soooo... two of those could be used to call a wolf, maybe?  I agree that this process is quite complicated, especially if large numbers of alpha wolf fangs will need to be harvested.

What about somehow something like burning a statue of a wolf in a fire for this?  Is there a "trinket-equivalent" thing that could be done for regular ceremonial casting?  Trinkets cost money (for the physical piece of art, I guess...?) and magic (special components) but they at least can use generic special components, since trinkets are generic, right...?

James C. Bennett
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ACKS assumes there is a trade in monster parts--it's a trade good with a demand modifier and everything. If you can collect and sell monster parts, you ought to be able to buy them.

Aryxymaraki
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ACKS assumes there is a trade in monster parts--it's a trade good with a demand modifier and everything. If you can collect and sell monster parts, you ought to be able to buy them.


-James C. Bennett

The assumptions of ACKS Core and the assumptions of Heroic Fantasy do not always line up, however, which is why I interpreted it as being rare/unavailable based on the phrasing in the Heroic Companion.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

This is very useful feedback. Here is a proposed rule to address your concerns:

Substitute Special Components: Finding the right special components for a ceremony can be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. Eldritch power is, however, fungible on a metaphysical level. This fungibility allows a ceremonialist to substitute alternative special components of the same total gp value for the unique special components required for any given ceremony. Since it is more challenging to tap the energies for the ceremony in this case, the ceremonialist suffers a -1 penalty per level of the ceremony on his Ceremony Throw when using subsitute special components. Merchants such as curios dealers, herbalists, and antiquarians will sell nonspecific special components (such as spider webs, plant roots, crushed ivory, and so on) for 1gp each, in various markets, subject to the usual limits of equipment availability and commission.

Why this addresses the problem:

  • It imposes a very minor penalty on low-level ceremonies but an increasingly severe one on high-level ceremonies. You may risk using the "generics" on a 1st level spell but not on a 6th level one.
  • By setting the price for generics at 1gp and stating that the "total value" has to equal the special component cost, it allows for them to be widely available even at low-class markets. A Class V market like Turos Tem would have 30 x 1gp worth of components available and 30 x 1gp x 10 = 300gp commisisonable per month. That's enough that a low-level ceremonialist could do quite a few ceremonies before running out.
  • The escalating penalty implicitly justifies why subsitute components don't work for magic research; the penalties would be sky high. 

 

Aryxymaraki
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I like this rule a lot and I feel it solves the issues I was having with special components.

(I still feel like the blood sacrifice rules have some weirdnesses to them but I think part of that is just conflicting drafts >.>)

DrPete
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Hrmmmm... alright!

Now, I like this, but there are a bunch of things that would flow from it. Does this generic use apply to other things like magical research? What if you just search for, say, the spiderwebs in the market, can you get something with reduced penalty, but still in "bulk"? Say, you wanted "fire element components" or something...? Better than a hundred jars of spiderwebs, but not actually 10 salamander tongues...?

ETA: This is sorta the same issue as finding a Venturer henchman instead of a generic henchman, isn't it?

koewn
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I'd had a thought to allow alchemists to 'boil down' special components into a generic form (philosopher's stone?) for cost+time; some flat or raising percentage rate depending on the value, maybe. Gives them something else to do, makes the specialist more interesting.

 

The Dark
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I feel like special components would bother me less if they were restricted for the tradition, instead of unique for each ceremony. Generic components would feel less rare to purchase for me and more likely that PCs would have access to some form of ceremony. Perhaps 1st-3rd level ceremonies can be performed with generic components and 4th-6th require individual components. I'm just thinking out loud here at this point.


-Aryxymaraki

 

I've been wracking my brain for some time now trying to condense monster parts into a broader list of ingredients, each one being acquirable from multiple monsters and usable for multiple spells.  my initial attempts have been unsatisfying.

Going back to an unquoted part of your statement: in the original game, you can buy a crate of monster parts for a base price 300gp if you can convince a merchant to sell them to you (requires a 12+ reaction roll).  The book recommends rolling a wilderness encounter to see which parts they are.  Between the randomness of that table, the number of merchants available by class, how many loads they're willing to deal in, the reaction roll requirement, and the (demand modifier + 4d4)*10% of dealing with a market, finding special components on the open market can be quite complicated!


-Jard

 

I could see this becoming interesting in play, though, with a ceremonial caster trying to find Venturer and Thief henchmen to buy, barter, or steal components for their magic.

DrPete
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I'd had a thought to allow alchemists to 'boil down' special components into a generic form (philosopher's stone?) for cost+time; some flat or raising percentage rate depending on the value, maybe. Gives them something else to do, makes the specialist more interesting.

 


-koewn
Ooooh... ok, riffing off this... in the new research rules, there are cost reductions for various skills (don't have it in front of me right now). There could be the "random stuff" (spiderwebs and newt eyeballs) that Alex proposed that acts as a penalty there, Alchemist generic components that provide no (or less) penalty, sphere appropriate level (magic skulls, or ogre parts, or tuned to death magic by an alchemist?) and spell specific (you *actually* get the ogre skulls the spell calls for)... some type of progression of penalties or bonuses could make the closer stuff plausible without making the whole thing grind to a halt because you need to find 15 more gryphons.
Weron
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I like the substitute special components.

What is the weight / encumbrance of substitute special components?

koewn
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Overall, I am happy with the ceremonialists being tied to their places of power for divine power. One idea I did consider for divine power is that it is maintained if in one's place of power, and vanishes 24 hours after leaving it (instead of vanishing every 24 hours, period, and only being usable in the place of power). That would allow the ceremonialist to travel in and around his sanctum for short disatances. But that might also have its own problems of bad incentives. Happy to get further feedback from the crowd.


-Alex

I'd support most anything to give ceremonialists more power within their lairs; or to invest in their sanctum to improve it.

Contrast Saruman, or Sauron, who concentrated himself in Orthanc (and, at the end, could only threaten the Shire), with, say, Galadriel, who "spread" the entirety of Lothlorien. The tower in Conan the Destroyer fell with that sorcerer.

Further, Gandalf eschewed that choice, wandering instead, and may have invested elsewhere, using the libraries of Lorien, Gondor, etc as his bases of research. Perhaps Akiro did the same, and was at once weaker (power concentration) and stronger (ability to wander) because of it.

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Weron - to avoid a lot of complexity, the rules assume that special components are essentially weightless outside of metamphora. You can treat them as 1 item each if they are larger things like skulls and you want to be more diligent about it. But outside of metamphora they will fade of their magical power.  Metamphora have considerable weight. I believe its 1 stone per 60gp.

There is a lot of game design value in this approach, which hopefully should be fairly clear.

Weron
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Thanks. I was a bit confused trying to figure out special component and metamphora weight when I read Lairs & Encounters.

creases
Joined: 2012-02-13 01:55

Does eldritch tradition have any direct impact on ceremony selection? Can a ceremonialist of one tradition learn a ceremony from the codex of a ceremonialist of another tradition?

Eg. Balbus, who performs ceremonies in the liturgical tradition, finds the codex of Ra-Ramses, who performs ceremonies in the chthonic tradition. Balbus uses the chance to finally learn choking grip. Can he copy it? When he performs it, does he perform it as a ceremony of the liturgical tradition, with all the implements that entails? There's nothing even a little chthonic about the way he performs it?

 

 

 

 

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Does eldritch tradition have any direct impact on ceremony selection? Can a ceremonialist of one tradition learn a ceremony from the codex of a ceremonialist of another tradition?

Eg. Balbus, who performs ceremonies in the liturgical tradition, finds the codex of Ra-Ramses, who performs ceremonies in the chthonic tradition. Balbus uses the chance to finally learn choking grip. Can he copy it? When he performs it, does he perform it as a ceremony of the liturgical tradition, with all the implements that entails? There's nothing even a little chthonic about the way he performs it?


-creases

This is a great question. I didn't answer it in the rules but I will need to. The answer is that codexes are tradition-specific. If you want to learn ceremonies from other traditions you would need to take Ceremonial Magic proficiency to learn another tradition.

I think at that point, though, you could perform the tradition with the implements of either tradition - like a martial artist who knows multiple styles and begins to blend them into his own unique fighting art.

 

creases
Joined: 2012-02-13 01:55

When ceremonialists "increase their repertoire" at an athanaeum, cult temple or what have you, does that mean their repertoire can increase beyond normal levels? Or does it rather mean that they can add formulae to their codices, which they can then switch into and out of their repertoires, like a mage?

ETA Oh, while I'm at it: What is the deal with ceremonialists and ritual spells? Do they use the same rules as spellcasters for those? Or do ritual spells turn into "ritual ceremonies" or something like that?

Loswaith
Joined: 2017-05-12 02:19

Hasty or methodical costs increase and decrease (respectivly) the value of those costs required to complete a ceremony.  However it isn't explained why that is the case, especially given it is more or less risky based on how you preform the ceremony itself (implying the altered risk of failure is the increased or decreased 'cost' for the speed of the ceremony).  Is there something I have missed there?

It feels as if the idea is that there is some ambient accumulation of power for the time spent doing the ceremony (regardless of location) vs the cost of stored power amounts (a time to cost ratio), thus needing more cost to do things faster.

 

With blood sacrifices, could a lawful/neutral ceremonialist actually gain power from sapient beings for willing sacrifices, without gaining corruption or needing to use a chaotic location.  While not really an act one could consider 'good', ACKs law-chaos doesnt really play into the good vs evil spectrum as wholesale as other D&D-esk systems.  There are civilasitions that did such things in the past for the good of the community (thus lawful in design).  Unwilling sacrifices would be food for corruption.
Self mutaliation seems to imply there is some kind of benefit to willingly provide a sacrifice without direct corruption.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

RULES UPDATES - will appear in the next playtest draft.

Mortal Wounds Section

Heroic Survival: In heroic fantasy campaigns, heroes are considerably more likely to survive mortal wounds than ordinary men. Adventurers with d6 HD add +2 to their 1d20 roll on the Mortal Wounds table. Adventurers with d8 HD add +4, adventurers with d10 HD add +6, and adventurers with d12 HD add +8.

Equipment Section

Special Components, Miscellaneous:   When living thing dies, a residue of its soul will linger in some its component parts, such as organs and cellular fluids. These parts are known as special components and can be tapped by ceremonialists to power their ceremonies. While the best results are gained from rare components that are unique to each ceremony, an equal value of miscellaneous special components such as spider webs, plant roots, crushed bones, and so on can be used instead if desired. The ceremonialist suffers a -1 penalty per level of the ceremony on his Ceremony Throw when using miscellaneous special components. See Chapter 5, Costs of Ceremonies, on p. XX for more details.

Spending Fate Points section:

  • A character may spend a Fate Point to temporarily gain one rank in any proficiency available to his class or to temporarily gain a thief ability (excluding backstab) at one-half his class level. The effect lasts 1 turn (10 minutes). 

Special Components section

Substitute Special Components: Finding the right special components for a ceremony can be a challenging and time-consuming endeavor. Eldritch power is, however, fungible on a metaphysical level. This fungibility allows a ceremonialist to substitute alternative special components of the same total gp value for the unique special components required for any given ceremony. Since it is more challenging to tap the energies for the ceremony in this case, the ceremonialist suffers a -1 penalty per level of the ceremony on his Ceremony Throw when using substitute special components. Merchants such as curios dealers, herbalists, and antiquarians will sell nonspecific special components (such as spider webs, plant roots, crushed ivory, and so on) for 1gp each, in various markets, subject to the usual limits of equipment availability and commission.

Congregants section

In order to tap divine power during a ceremony, a ceremonialist must perform the ceremony in a temple or other place of worship. In lieu of a temple, a pinnacle of good can be substituted for white magic, a sinkhole of evil for black magic, and an elemental area for elemental magic of its type. If a temple is not available, the ceremonialist can create a temporary one by having his congregants participate in the performance of the ceremony. Congregants count as participants if they are within 30’ of the ceremonialist and take no other action throughout the ceremony. The number of congregants required is equal to (ceremony level -1)2. If at any point the ceremonialist is driven out of the temple, or if the required number of congregants are lost, then the ceremony cost cannot be paid by divine power from the congregants. Otherwise, the divine power is consumed when the ceremony cost is paid.