Thursday, June 11, 2020

Six Slow Ritual Spells

These are spells written for my Slow Ritual Magic spell system. Because they're pretty slow to cast, relatively speaking, they need to be punchy, versatile, and interesting.

It's because of this that they don't have saves to resist their effects—if you want to stop a caster from turning you into a frog, you need to stop their ritual.

I've only included a handful of spells here, both because this is all pretty tentative and because they're hard to write. I tried to choose spells that are classic D&D-ish spells, but also have mixed utility in and out of combat. You can and should write your own spells like this, or adjust these ones.

As before, STR means your Strength score, [STR] means your Strength modifier. If you don't have modifiers, this'll be a little dicey to figure out, sorry. Modifiers usually have a floor of 1. 


Effects: [INT] creatures you can see transform into an animal of your choosing.
Duration: [WIS] hours
Materials: Bones of an animal similar to the chosen form. Cat bones for a lion, maybe, or sparrow bones for an eagle.
Conditions: a patch of bare earth.
Overcharge: For every three overcharged segments, you can transform one additional creature.
Acolytes: If acolytes bring their own animal bones to the ritual, they can transform into that animal instead of the primary caster's.
  1. Pour the bones out of the bag.
  2. Arrange them on the bare earth.
  3. Scribe the name of the bones into the earth.
  4. Depict the image of the chosen form over the bones.
  5. Detail it. Make it like life.
  6. Scribe the name of the chosen form.
  7. Speak the name of the bones.
  8. Speak the name of the chosen form.
  9. Place a palm over it all.
  10. Be silent for a heartbeat.
  11. Utter an arcane word of growth.
  12. Point to each of the creatures to be transformed.


Effects: [INT] 10 ft. by 10 ft. walls, about 6 inches wide, emerge from the ground in a formation of your choosing, so long as you can see all the walls. The material—and thus the armor and durability—of the walls are the same as the materials used during the ritual.
Duration: Permanent
Materials: A hammer, a silver nail, chalk, and a flat piece of building material. Stone, clay, or wood, maybe.
Conditions: Relatively clear areas to build your walls (small rubble and undergrowth is fine, significant isn't)
Overcharge: Each overcharged segment increases the length and height of the walls by 2 ft.
Acolytes: In addition to the primary walls, for each acolyte that contributed at least two segments of the ritual clock, the primary caster can have a wall emerge from the ritual to that acolyte, regardless of where they are currently.
  1. Flatten the material. Use the hammer if you need to.
  2. Smooth the top side.
  3. Mark the center of the material in chalk.
  4. Draw a square on the ground in chalk.
  5. Place the material in the center of the square.
  6. Hold the nail on the center of the material, in the center of the square.
  7. Hammer the nail.
  8. Hammer it again.
  9. Hammer it again. At this point, it should be driven through the material.
  10. Lay the hammer to rest, perpendicular to the nail.
  11. Utter an arcane word of strength.
  12. Place your foot on the flat piece of material, and stamp down hard.


Effects: [INT] creatures that can hear you become friendly to you and your allies.
Duration: [WIS] hours
Materials: A bottle of wine, silver goblets, a silken scarf, and a red candle. A scented one, ideally.
Conditions: Neither you nor any of your allies can directly deal damage to the targets of the spell. If you can do the ritual in romantic lighting, that helps, too. 
Overcharge: For every overcharged segment, increase the duration of the spell by one hour.
Acolytes: Each acolyte can charm one additional creature that can hear them, so long as they have their own filled goblet.
  1. Don the scarf, with flair.
  2. Uncork the wine. Waft it. Savor it.
  3. Let the wine breathe.
  4. Light the candle.
  5. Take a second to collect yourself dramatically.
  6. Set out the goblets, one for each target creature.
  7. Pour the wine.
  8. Take the time to do it properly.
  9. Beckon the creatures towards you. If you know their names, use them.
  10. State how glad you are that the creatures are here, with you.
  11. Utter an arcane word of grace.
  12. Sip your own wine.


Effects: [INT] humanoid corpses are animated with undeath, under your control. After the duration expires, they are no longer under your control.
Duration: [WIS] × 6 hours; after this expires, the undead still walk
Materials: Corpses (obviously), a knife that has killed before, and a small living animal. A rat or pigeon, say.
Conditions: Complete darkness for the entire duration of the ritual.
Overcharge: For every overcharged segment, you maintain control over your undead for two more hours.
Acolytes: At any point during the ritual, an acolyte can (willingly or unwillingly) suffer 1d6 damage to give one undead +1 HD. This can be done multiple times.
  1. Array the corpses in front of you.
  2. Scribe the rune on the corpses using the knife.
  3. Take the animal in your hand. Feel it squirm.
  4. Name the animal.
  5. Kill it with the knife.
  6. Speak the animal's name aloud.
  7. Drip the blood over each corpse in turn.
  8. Trace the rune on the corpses in blood.
  9. Cut the eyelids off the corpses.
  10. Drip the blood over the corpses' eyes.
  11. Utter an arcane word of wakefulness.
  12. Name each of your servants.


Effects: Up to [INT] creatures that you can see teleport to a location up to [WIS] × 100 miles away.
Duration: Instantaneous
Materials: A gold coin per creature teleporting, an object from or depiction of the location being teleported to, a source of flame, and a brass bell.
Conditions: Every creature teleporting must be at knee-deep in water or higher.
Overcharge: For every three overcharged segments, you can teleport an additional 100 miles away. If you reach 1000 miles, you can teleport off-plane.
Acolytes: Acolytes add their [INT] to the total number of creatures that can be teleported.
  1. Step into the water.
  2. Ring the bell.
  3. Wait for the ferryman—literal or otherwise—to arrive.
  4. Politely greet the ferryman.
  5. State the location you wish to teleport to.
  6. Proffer the object or depiction of the location.
  7. Wait for the ferryman to recognize it.
  8. Burn the object or depiction.
  9. Scatter the ashes in the water.
  10. Pay the ferryman with the coins.
  11. Utter an arcane word of the sea.
  12. Step aboard the ferry.


Effects: Create a visual and auditory illusion no larger than a [INT] × 5 ft. cube you can see. Physical objects pass through it, but it otherwise seems—to sight and sound—real.
Duration: [WIS] × 10 minutes.
Materials: A lump of grey wool, slate and chalk, and a whistle.
Conditions: The caster, ritual circle, and acolytes cannot appear in a mirror or any other reflection for the performance of the ritual.
Overcharge: For every overcharged segment, the illusion last another 10 minutes and can be an additional 5 ft. larger.
Acolytes: Provided they have their own slate and chalk, each acolyte can add a single independently-acting illusory humanoid to the illusion. Victims fleeing a dragon, or guards on a wall, or travellers crossing a bridge.
  1. Place the wool in your mouth.
  2. Chew it. Get it damp and squishy.
  3. Place the whistle in your mouth.
  4. Blow the whistle through the wool continuously through steps 5-7.
  5. Begin to draw what you wish your illusion to appear as.
  6. Continue your drawing. Make it feel real.
  7. Finish the drawing.
  8. Remove the whistle from your mouth.
  9. Take a breath, wool still in your mouth.
  10. Remove the wool.
  11. Utter an arcane word of storytelling.
  12. Using the wet wool, wipe the slate clean.


Some Notes
You are, of course, free and encouraged to hack and remix these spells however you want, and write your own. 

These spells are complicated; there's just a lot to them. I tried to make spells that can be used in a lot of situations for a lot of things, but are always kind of weird and intriguing. 

For all of them, I encourage you to think a little non-literally about the materials and procedures. Like, for teleport, you could probably hack it so you're all just standing in a big basin of water; for reanimate, you can probably get away with just huddling inside a tent that's been covered in big coats. Likewise, the ritual procedures are meant to be a little flexible; there's fixed things that have to be done, sure, but they've got wiggle room.

From a design perspective, I'm a strong proponent of wizards and wizard-types being both intelligent and wise, hence INT and WIS both scaling the strength of spells. I generally tried to have INT be the direct efficacy of the spells, but WIS be the raw muscle and capability backing it up. Characters that have lots of book-learnin' can get their spells do what they want, but cleverer, more willful characters can get more out of their spells. I don't know if that 100% makes sense, but that's the vibe I was going for.

Since these spells don't have levels, their power is sort-of gated behind their materials. Like, gold pieces and silver goblets aren't that hard to get, but aren't exactly easy to find, either. I imagine that for really big spells—your meteor swarms or planar gates or what have you—the material components will be rare and steep indeed.

Anyway, let me know if you get a chance to play with these spells and rules.


  1. I like this approach. It does feel more like magic from fiction. I like the use of INT and WIS, as you describe. I would guess that if you wanted something more Bard like you could use CHA. I don’t know if this is meant for GLOG style mechanics — which I don’t know — but it’d fit in well with Knave. I think it could fit in with games where the modifiers were less than 1, to be honest - obviously those sorts of characters won’t be magicians of any kind, in that case.

    1. Yeah, my own games tend to run somewhere between GLOG and Knave; this definitely leans more Knave-ish.

      I also realize now that "modifiers have a floor of 1" is a little unclear—what I really meant there is "anytime a spell calls for [MOD], make that number have a floor of 1," not that the system itself should have modifiers floor at 1.

      I think if you wanted to hack this into GLOG, it wouldn't be too difficult, on the whole. I might try that later, just for kicks.