Rituals are like the red-headed stepchild of the 4e powers system. Powers instantly maim your foes, cause you to leap high, teleport, fly, among other things, all at the quick behest of your combat actions, standard, minor, move, instantaneous, hassle-free. Rituals can drain your coffers, healing surges and schedule to open a door! At least, WOTC’s rituals do. They are often overcosted and take too long for too little benefit. All too often you see rituals that take several minutes to cast for a very fleeting benefit, such as having loads of str for a single non-attack check, among other things.
Enter Goodman Game’s Azagar’s Book of Rituals, which I got for free for review purposes because I’m e-famous. Glinting teeth, shining smile, smug face. Thus fully disclosed we can begin the review.
The book is boasts 160 pages, black and white interior and a lovely cover. It is helpfully divided into chapters for each different type of ritual, from Binding to Warding. In the back, a set of lovely indexes break down the rituals alphabetically, by level, by type and by key skill, with page numbers beside every ritual in every index. This is the kind of index section you and I have wild, erotic dreams about.
Well, maybe it’s just me.
The Book collects the numerous rituals submitted to Goodman Games’ Open Call for your disposal. The introduction to the book is a pretty humorous vignette by Azagar Bloodfist, a grizzled old hobgoblin general having to teach his rag-tag army of monstrous humanoids all about the proper use of rituals. “I’ve used rituals on dozens of occasions, often to extricate one aged hobgoblin backside from an imminent and messy death.” Azagar says, trying to convince his men that rituals are not just the domain of pansy-dressed wizardlings and shamans. Azagar also gives an intro to each type of ritual. I rather like the character of Azagar and he provides not only good introductions to each type of ritual for those not acquainted with their various uses, but also makes it enjoyable and gives a bit of a breather between the crunch.
The book really takes rituals to a whole new level, with a host of mechanics that I find quite clever and useful.
My favorite binding ritual has to be Armor of the Blessed. It allows a Cleric or Palading to grant a bit more AC, or some other minor benefits, to a suit of armor touched, until your next extended rest. However, you have to give up your Channel Divinity power for the duration of the ritual. The component cost is rather light. This kind of tradeoff is one I had never thought about before, and which makes a lot of sense to me when I look at it here. It’s really interesting and in my opinion, functional.
The Command Marut ritual is a great time for a DM to make use of the 4e Companion Rules, if they think a Marut Blademaster out of the box is too powerful a lackey for a level 20 character, but it is very suitably expensive and flavorful, and the Marut can only perform one task that is clearly defined to it and only in a specific timeframe.
For creation rituals, Brew Herbal Concoction is interesting as it allows you to make a host of new, simple brews defined within its text, many of which have some interesting non-combat and pre-combat effects (such as getting an enemy to imbibe a hallucinogen before engaging it combat – perfect for when you want to kill the noble right at his dining table!).
Dance of the Peacock is a nice deception ritual, allowing you to, as part of some engagement with the target, make it fall in love with you. An Arcana check decides how often the target gets to save against your effect. The only part I find troublesome with it is that it requires a Charisma attack at end…after all this I’d rather it just work!
The Exploration rituals are as usual the most varied of the bunch. Animal Investiture allows wild shaping druids to get additional movement and perception abilities of the animals they turn into. For example, if a Druid gets a high enough Nature check, it can gain burrowing 2 and low light vision in a mole or badger form. Before you freak out about Flight, the best flight they can get is basic Fly 4 here and that’s with a 40 on the skill check. There’s also a ritual to sacrifice people to give you bonuses to your next ritual skill check. So start kidnapping virgins folks, and you too can finally get Fly 4!
The Heal ritual in the Restoration section is actually quite stunning. Maybe a year ago I’d have said it’s extremely broken, but after reading the grindfests involved in modules like Prince of Undeath, being able to recover loads more HP from a single healing surge can allow PCs to fight through those endless collections of killer rooms without having to pause for an extended rest all the live long day. Sun’s Renewal on the other hand is a little over-the-top in this regard since it gives you back powers, whereas Heal just restores all health.
I can’t possibly talk about all the rituals in this book, but you get the idea. There’s a lot of new and interesting possibilities in this book. If you’ve been wanting to make Rituals more desirable to players in your campaign, I heartily recommend this book. It is very easy to use due to its sections and indexes, and it contains such vast amounts of useful rituals.
However there’s still inherent problems in learning rituals in D&D 4e unless you play a class that gets Ritual Caster, since those are the only classes that don’t have to bend over backwards to actually acquire rituals for their books. Some houserules might be in order if you want to make the most use out of this book and truly encourage players to give rituals a go. If you increase ritual accessibility in your game, this book gets all the more amazing.