D&D 4E Weekly Wrecana: Improving Rituals

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Continuing our weekly series of recoveries from Wrecan

IMPROVING RITUALS
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons


In a recent thread in the 4e General Discussion forum, it was asked what we'd like to see in a hypothetical Fifth Edition, which got me thinking about what I thought most needed tweaking in 4th edition.
Don't get me wrong. I love 4th edition. But I'm a tinkerer at heart, so I can't leave well enough alone. For me, the one element of 4th edition that they could have done a little better is rituals. To me, rituals seemed to be one of those things that was either rushed, or not given sfficient thought.
Specifically, the decision to make ritual casting dependent on the expenditure of gold seems, to me, inappropriate for many rituals. As it stands gold translates to one thing -- combat effectiveness. Players are expected to have certain wealth levels to compete in combat, specifically by possessing a weapon/implement, neck slot item and body slot item of appropriate power. In addition, the remaining welath is to be spent on other magic items that provide benefits to combat. (This isn't strictly true, as lair items and other items have been introduced that don't directly contribute to combat. However, I think they suffer the same flaws.)
Fourth Edition was designed, appropriately, in my opinion, with the attitude that one shouldn't be forced to choose between combat and non-combat effectiveness. Character building choices should be limited to deciding wehich of many methods will one select to be effective in combat and which of many methods will one select to be effectivein noncombat.
By making rituals -- particularly rituals that provide mainly flavor or don't directly affect combat -- dependent on gold, the game is forcing a choice that is counter to what I perceive to be a central design philosophy. Already, with the introduction of martial practices, we see ritual-style effects getting away from gold expenditures, and using healing surges instead.
Here's what I would propose for any 5th edition ritual system:



  • Casting Rituals. I propose three types of "expenditures" for ritual casting:
    • Coin. Gold is appropriate in some instances. Rituals that create items that can be used in combat (particularly alchemy) should continue to require expenditures of components with a monetary value. The cost of casting the ritual should be related ot the value of the item to be produced. In addition, any ritual with an effect that can be invoked in combat, and will have more than an incidental benefit, should have a cost associated with it. The most dramatic example if the 4th edition version of Drawmij's Instant Summons, which gives the recipient the power to summon a pre-designated item from afar. Casting this ritual (and other rituals that give similar benefits) should be priced as if you had a consumable item that granted this power.
      • Ritual Slot. Another way to limit the use of rituals in combat is to create a new body slot for rituals. If you limit a character to having only one combat-ready ritual on his person per tier of play at any time, it limits the abuse that might come from having more combat-ready rituals. This frees designers to come up with more rituals, confident that they are less likely to be abued.
    • Skill Challenges. A lot of rituals can be plot-wrecking for many DMs, particularly divinations, summonings, and mass enchantments. These rituals give out information that have potential to wreck a plot. In my opinion, the best way to handle these rituals is to run them as skill challenges. In this way, the party is using the ritual to potentially replace one encounter (the one for which they are using the divination or summoning) with another encounter. The skill challenge should be designed so that the entire party is involved, and the difficulty of the skill challenge should be related to the difficulty of the encounter that the party is trying to obviate or ameliorate through use of this ritual. This gives the players some flexibility in how to handle an encounter without detroying the DMs ability to create plot.
    • Ritual Surges. Healing surges tell you how many times you get to heal before you need to rest. A similar mechanic can be used to prevent the over use of rituals. In my opinion, rituals that don't fit in either of the two prior categories should cost ritual surges. While the DM can adjust these numbers to fit a specific campaign-style, I recommend that ritualists get a two ritual surges per level (which replenish after an extended rest), and rituals that require surges costs one surge per level of the ritual. If for any reason a ritual that costs surges does not end after an extended rest, the ritualist cannot replenish the ritual surges used to invoke that continuing ritual.
      • Wards. Wards particularly fall into this category, and ritualists would likely spend their remaining healing surges to ward the campsite. This is particularly helpful as it creates a nice choice for the caster -- use a ritual during the day, and their campsite is more vulnerable at night.
      • Durations. Because ritual surges, like healing surges, would replenish after an extended rest, it is important that most rituals not last longer than the end of the ritualist's next extended rest. Otherwise, there is a potential for abuse.
  • Acquiring Rituals. Acquiring rituals gives you options, but they aren't combat options. Already one needs to spend a feat to get access to rituals (or be given the feat as a class feature). That's appropriate. But how do we balance the acquisition of rituals? If we require more than a nominal amount of coin we are once again force the dilemma between combat and non-combat effectiveness. If we have no limit, then all ritualists will have all rituals, which makes them identical. One of the fun things about playing a ritualist is that it helps distinguish your character from others. So I see a few ways to limit ritual acquisition.
    • Spells Known. A ritual is more than a recipe in a book. A ritualist's book is bound to him, and he to it, in order to understand the sacred texts. There is a natural limit to how many rituals a ritualist can scribe, based on the level of the ritual and of the ritualist, and on the skills in which the ritualist is trained. If a ritualist's book is full, he must delete a ritual to make room for a new one. Feats to increase one's ritual capacity might be appropriate too. This is workable, but a bit arbitrary. These rituals would not be counted as part of a treasure parcel as they have only mystic, not material, value. Finding a ritual might involve a skill challenge (involving Streetwise, History, and a ritual-related skill like Religion or Arcane) and a mystic trade.
    • Alchemy and Items. Recipe books (for elixirs, items and alchemy) can be treated differently from other rituals. Coin works fine here as a limitation, since you are using the ritual to make things that also cost coin. Basically, the recipe represents an initial investment, the cost of casting the ritual might be slightly cheaper than the cost of the item.
    • Social Standing. In some campaigns, access to rituals might require acquiring standing in some sort of arcane hierarchy. In a quasi-feudal setting, standing and privilege makes a nice alternative to money for non-combat related items, like lairs, lair items, shops, and the like. Perhaps there is a wizards' guild that tightly controls access to rituals, or a supernatural hierarchy of revelations for access to Nature and Religion-based rituals. While I find this method intriguing, it might not be appropriate for all campaign settings.
  • Perpetuating Rituals. One nice use of rituals, particularly Wards, is to allow a ritualist to tailor their sanctum with interesting traps and guards. This requires some way to make rituals permanent without opening them to abuse on adventures. In my opinion, such permanent rituals should not cost gold (beyond whatever gold requirements are made for the non-permanent form of the ritual). Since one does not adventure in their house, spending gold to ward one's home forces the choice between flavor and combat-effectiveness. Rather, permanent enchantments should require an expenditure of time. The permanent enchantment of a sanctum should also involve a skill challenge -- one that would span weeks or months -- and which could involve the entire party. Wards, particularly, are appropriate for such a challenge. In addition, no ritual placed on a person should be able to be altered in this way, and any permanent ritual would have to be immobile.
I think that covers everything. As a last note, I have categorized each of the current 4th edition rituals found in the Compendium (as of September 17, 2009) into categories where I think they would best fit under the system I outlined below. (Supercript characters represent the ritual's level.) Enjoy!
Enchantments (Coin)
Enchant Object: Acidic Fire5, Alchemical Silver5, Alchemist’s Acid1, Alchemist’s Fire1, Alchemist’s Frost1, Alchemist’s Spark3, Amanuensis1, Antivenom1, Beastbane4, Blastpatch4, Blinding Bomb3,Bloodstinger Poison3, Bravery Powder3, Brew Potion1, Clear-Path Mist6, Clearsense Powder1,Clearwater Solution1, Clockwork Bomb4, Corrosive Oil3, Create Holy Water1, Dragonfire Tar3,Duplicate6, Enchant Magic Item4, Goodnight Tincture6, Grayflower Perfume10, Heartflow3, Herbal Poultice3, Inferno Oil5, Ironwood6, Jolt Flask10, Keen Oil10, Lockburst Chalk4, Lodret Leaf5, Make Whole1, Noxious Grenade11, Panther Tears2, Resonance Crystal4, Rust Bomb5, Salve of Slipperiness8, Scribe10, Slow-Step Oil3, Smokestick6, Sovereign Glue8, Spotted Toadstool Venom10, Suppression Crystal4, Tanglefoot Bag2, Tension Wheel4, Tethercord3, Thunderstone5,Tracking Dust4, Transfer Enchantment4, Universal Solvent10, Woundpatch3
Enchant Creature: Ancestral Whispers6, Aura Mask8, Comprehend Language1, Conceal Dragonmark1, Dark Gift of the Undying11, Chameleon’s Cloak10, Status8, Deathly Shroud6, Divine Sight22, Drawmij’s Instant Summons12, Feat of Strength4, Glib Limerick1, Gravesight8, Hallucinatory Creature12, Lich Transformation14, Masking Shroud14, Ritual of Retrieval14, Seeming12, Share Husk8, Simbul’s Conversion1, Song of Restfulness10, Soulguard20, Telepathic Bond14, Visage of Life12, Water Breathing8
Ritual Surges
Convenience: Affect Normal Fire3, Arcane Mark1, Battlefield Elocution3, Beast Growth4, Bloom2, Clear the Path6, Control Weather14, Corpse Light2, Dark Light4, Deceive Sensor26, Delver’s Fire2, Demicache12, Earthen Ramparts6, Easy Passage16, Endure Elements2, Excavation6, Explorer’s Fire1, Fastidiousness1, Fastidiousness1, Fluid Funds2, Fool’s Speech6, Gentle Repose1, Knock4, Leomund’s Secret Chest6, Lower Water2, Magic Map9, Magic Mouth1, Mordenkainen’s Ascent6, Mordenkainen’s Joining6, Purify Water1, Pyrotechnics2, Raise Land30, Secret Page1, Shrink6, Summon Winds3, Tenser’s Floating Disk1, Tenser’s Lift8, Time Ravager14, Tiny Lanterns6, Trailblaze10, Tree Shape2, Unseen Servant1, Waterborn14
Wards/Healing: Arcane Barrier12, Arcane Lock4, Banish Illusions11, Banish Vermin1, Bolster Object6, Cauldron’s Rebirth15, Chamber of Vulnerability20, Conceal Object10, Cure Disease6, Delay Affliction4, Disenchant Magic Item6, Disorienting Portal10, Ease Spirit25, Eavesdropper’s Foil, Enhance Vessel10, Eye of Alarm2, Eye of Warning14, Fantastic Recuperation16, Forbiddance20, Guards and Wards18, Hallucinatory Item5, Hallowed Temple12, Iron Vigil4, Magic Circle5, Purify Spellscarred18, Raise Beast Companion1, Raise Dead8, Remove Affliction8, Reverse Portal12, Rope Trick12, Safeguard16, Scramble Portal14, Seal Portal8, Secure Shelter10, Sentinel Eye14, Signal of Pursuit8, Silence1, Skull Watch4, Snare4, Solace Bole12, Song of Sustenance8, Stasis Shell16, Succor20, Teleport Catcher18, Thief’s Lament, Traveler’s Feast4, Undead Ward3, Unseen Servant1, Voicecatcher veil26, Ward the True Name26, Wizard’s Curtain1, Wizard’s Escape6, Wyvern Watch
Skill Challenges
Binding: Adjure16, Animal Friendship5, Animal Messenger1, Anthem of Unity8, Astral Guide14, Call of Friendship4, Call Wilderness Guide6, Chorus of Truth10, Detect Lies6, Imprisonment28, Lullaby3, Mark of Justice12, Memory Seal18, Mindshape Warwing Drake5, Pact of the Iron Ring10, Permanencenew, Phantom Steed6, Ritual of Twin Burnings26, Spirit Idol7, Steed Summons6, Tenser’s Binding10, Tune of Merriment9, Undead Servitor6
Finding: Analyze Portal8, Aria of Revelation10, Astral Sojourn15, Commune with Nature6, Consult Mystic Sages10, Consult Oracle16, Corpse Gate14, Create Teleportation Circle15, Detect Object10, Detect Secret Doors3, Detect Treasure9, Far Sending16, Fey Passage6, Find the Path6, Fools Gold3, Hand of Fate4, History Revealed11, Inquisitive’s Eyes8, Last Sight Vision2, Linked Portal8, Loremaster’s Bargain22, Object Reading5, Observe Creature24, Overland Flight20, Passwall12, Planar Portal18, Planar Sending14, Plane Shift18, Scry Trap20, Seek Rumor2, Sending6, Shadow Bridge8, Shadow Passage8, Shadow Walk12, Shift Mote26, Speak with Dead6, Speak with Nature5, Traveler’s Chant1, Tree Stride6, True Portal28, True Sending20, View Location14, View Object18, Voice of Fate26, Walk Crossroads14, Water Walk2, Whispers of the Edifice14, Wizard’s Sight8
 
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cavalier973

Adventurer
Just want to point out that the ritual casters in the party can create scrolls, and pass them to the non-ritualizers in the party to use.

That way everyone can get in on the ritual fun!
 


The suggestion that some rituals should be, effectively, encounters, sounds good in a sort of theoretical sense, but it doesn't actually seem very tenable. That is to say there would be no practical way to create a writeup of such a ritual.

Lets use Speak With Dead as a reasonable example. What Wrecan is suggesting is that you might replace something, say the investigate the murder scene SC (we may revisit the framing of this SC later, I'm not sure) with an Interrogate the Dead SC by use of the ritual in question. However, what are you going to do to explain the mechanics of this ritual use? The designer of the ritual can barely even speculate as to the appropriate mechanics and has no way to comment at all on their means of attachment to the narrative. As written, this type of ritual simply states some narrative consequences of its casting, and a check result to make in order to allow those consequences to happen. This is relatively straightforward, but leads to the issues Wrecan pointed out.

However I think the answer is more in terms of how procedures of play are handled. In other words what if Speak With Dead was rephrased somewhat so it integrated better with existing scenes. "Make a ritual check. This check can be used to replace any one skill check during the current challenge with the result. You speak with the dead and they answer some of your questions." Maybe it can be polished a bit more, but you get the idea.

This does bring us back to the question of framing a challenge. In some cases the speaking may happen at considerable remove from what is considered the 'action' of the challenge, but IMHO this shouldn't really present a problem. Either the challenge should be framed such that it extends to this other remove, or perhaps the GM will allow a ritual use as a sort of retcon, though I think this gets a bit outside of what most classic D&D DM's are familiar with.
 

darkbard

Hero
What you write, AbdulAlhazred, opens the possibility of removing rituals entirely from the game and replacing them with SCs. What is the ritual in your example but, essentially, an Arcana check? What if rituals were not simple one-and-done rolls (or not) by the character with Ritual Casting, costing an expenditure of gold (usually), but SCs that required input from all the party?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I designed a skill challenge that was used for an item creation in a very magical place like the forge of hades the place was very dangerous by default and it took quite a bit of figuring out to both protect the one forging the magic weapon and get the magic to work.... the item being forged was a McGuffin of course not just some inventory slot.
 

thanson02

Explorer
What you write, AbdulAlhazred, opens the possibility of removing rituals entirely from the game and replacing them with SCs. What is the ritual in your example but, essentially, an Arcana check? What if rituals were not simple one-and-done rolls (or not) by the character with Ritual Casting, costing an expenditure of gold (usually), but SCs that required input from all the party?
You could replace all the mechanics in 4E with Skill Challenges if you wanted to. There was a blog called At-Will.com that covered this very topic.

I think it depends on how the DM wants to handle the situation. You could use the ritual to just summon the spirit and use an interrogation SC to get the info, assuming it wasn't magically compelled to answer. Or if you wanted to use a SC to summon a really big and nasty being, like a death titan or a primeordial being which might involve several components happening in a very specific sequence for it to be completed, that might work. I guess my first response would be be, does doing a skill challenge in this particular situation makes sense? If not, it could end up being really tedious for players.

Sent from my XT1096 using Tapatalk
 

thanson02

Explorer
I designed a skill challenge that was used for an item creation in a very magical place like the forge of hades the place was very dangerous by default and it took quite a bit of figuring out to both protect the one forging the magic weapon and get the magic to work.... the item being forged was a McGuffin of course not just some inventory slot.
I use Narrative Challenges for the same thing. Structure wise they're very similar.

Sent from my XT1096 using Tapatalk
 

What you write, AbdulAlhazred, opens the possibility of removing rituals entirely from the game and replacing them with SCs. What is the ritual in your example but, essentially, an Arcana check? What if rituals were not simple one-and-done rolls (or not) by the character with Ritual Casting, costing an expenditure of gold (usually), but SCs that required input from all the party?

Well... The ritual serves a vital NARRATIVE function. Remember, the rules of SCs require that a player provide narrative justification for any skill use. So, supposing we are in the Investigate the Scene skill challenge, what would be the justification for using Religion? (there might be one, admittedly, but there certainly won't ALWAYS be one). If there's a dead guy around, well, now I have my justification! Furthermore I might even justify additional advantageous checks. I could state that Speak With Dead may potentially open up almost any sort of check. Likewise divination rituals can do the same, simply allowing for certain specific skills to be used in situations where that might not normally be available.

Beyond that, rituals still have their own narrative impact. Casting Speak With Dead puts the narrative of the SC onto a different path. This will certain have an effect on the rest of the SC in some way. Clever players should be able to use this to their advantage.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Well... The ritual serves a vital NARRATIVE function. Remember, the rules of SCs require that a player provide narrative justification for any skill use. So, supposing we are in the Investigate the Scene skill challenge, what would be the justification for using Religion? (there might be one, admittedly, but there certainly won't ALWAYS be one). If there's a dead guy around, well, now I have my justification! Furthermore I might even justify additional advantageous checks. I could state that Speak With Dead may potentially open up almost any sort of check. Likewise divination rituals can do the same, simply allowing for certain specific skills to be used in situations where that might not normally be available.

This thinking reminds me of the use of my invocations.... It could be interpreted as knowing the invocations of pyrexia and mecha allows one to apply arcana skill towards activities like jamming mechanisms...
 

darkbard

Hero
Well... The ritual serves a vital NARRATIVE function. Remember, the rules of SCs require that a player provide narrative justification for any skill use.

I guess what I'm proposing, based on my reading of your earlier post, is why have rituals at all beyond their narrative component? Why have a separate game mechanic, especially one that competes for combat resources (usually gold for magic items but also surges) but sees its use in noncombat situations? Why not, in the Investigate the Scene SC, simply have the Wizard or Cleric or whomever narrate their use of Religion or Arcana as an implementation of ritual magic in the scene? One need not have a separate game mechanic called Ritual Caster (and certain, limited predetermined rituals) for this to function in this way.

I dunno. Like Wrecan, I always thought Rituals in 4E were often an afterthought. A narratively compelling if imperfectly realized afterthought. I would love to play in a game that made much more use of them, but in our games, as I've written elsewhere, we found it unreasonable to use vital party resources (i.e. expected wealth advancement translated to the magic item aspect of character building) for situational noncombat elements of the game.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I guess what I'm proposing, based on my reading of your earlier post, is why have rituals at all beyond their narrative component? Why have a separate game mechanic, especially one that competes for combat resources (usually gold for magic items but also surges) but sees its use in noncombat situations? Why not, in the Investigate the Scene SC, simply have the Wizard or Cleric or whomever narrate their use of Religion or Arcana as an implementation of ritual magic in the scene?

Well the reason for explicit abilities for a wizard or miracle working priest or druid is to limit them confine or focus them to some subset of "everything" .... knowing the ritualist has speak to the dead as an explicitly defined thing should enable the above skill use because well Arcana can do isnt based on a real thing.

The skill swapping cantrip underestimates the value gained in my opinion.
 

This thinking reminds me of the use of my invocations.... It could be interpreted as knowing the invocations of pyrexia and mecha allows one to apply arcana skill towards activities like jamming mechanisms...

Right. You could have a ritual like 'Arcane Mechanization' that imbues any mechanism with a sort of temporary animation, allowing you to apply Arcana to manipulating locks, traps, etc (these could be separate rituals, one per substitution, but going with the examples of existing feats and whatnot it might not be out of line to make it a couple of skills you can sub for). Going with what Wrecan was saying, this would cost something, an HS or somesuch, but not gold.
 

Well the reason for explicit abilities for a wizard or miracle working priest or druid is to limit them confine or focus them to some subset of "everything" .... knowing the ritualist has speak to the dead as an explicitly defined thing should enable the above skill use because well Arcana can do isnt based on a real thing.

The skill swapping cantrip underestimates the value gained in my opinion.

Right, the point is to bound the 'wizard'. Otherwise being a 'wizard' is just a recipe to change every single check in the game to Arcana and then optimize the piss out of it. Now, what does the fighter do? He can't very well justify turning everything into an Athletics check...

So, frankly, in my HoML system, you'd be getting a major boon, one of the 20 you get from level 1 to 20, that grants you a specific narrative justification for being able to sub in Arcana for certain other skills, say Perception, or Thievery, or Stealth, etc. This is cool because you could grab 2-3 boons and make yourself really versatile with Arcana, having several rituals (and probably some utility powers to boot that you can pick) that would allow various skills to be subbed for.

Now, as for how you exactly do this in classic 4e... I think you CAN have rituals that do it, maybe feats are a better resource, because they're more limited, but if the ritual costs an HS every time you use it, then I don't think that works out too badly.
 

ChaosOS

Legend
As a DM I really like Rituals, I think they provide a good way to incorporate the "noncombat utilities" from other editions. My personal take was I set up a separate fund for rituals and other payments like buying ships, that was distinct from the magic item progression. This led to me making Create Magic Item use its own progression (Residuum) and be the main way "fungible" magic items worked, while gold was kept for doing rituals and strongholds. Personally I think this is a better way of handling the intentional divide between combat and non-combat scenarios 4e creates.
 

darkbard

Hero
Well the reason for explicit abilities for a wizard or miracle working priest or druid is to limit them confine or focus them to some subset of "everything" .... knowing the ritualist has speak to the dead as an explicitly defined thing should enable the above skill use because well Arcana can do isnt based on a real thing.

Right, the point is to bound the 'wizard'. Otherwise being a 'wizard' is just a recipe to change every single check in the game to Arcana and then optimize the piss out of it.

Weren't you guys just arguing the opposite of this viewpoint with regard to Martial Practices? I could swear (without going back to check, I admit) that AbdulAlhazred said something along the lines of "as soon as you have an MP for Create Fortified Campsite, now you no longer can create a defensible location via ordinary means without the MP."

Please don't get me wrong: I very much see and agree with your overall point regarding turning everything into an (optimized) Arcana check. I'm just trying to conceive of ways to make ritual use more of a possibility in my own game, one that doesn't compete with combat resources (as I've discussed them above).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Weren't you guys just arguing the opposite of this viewpoint with regard to Martial Practices? I could swear (without going back to check, I admit) that AbdulAlhazred said something along the lines of "as soon as you have an MP for Create Fortified Campsite, now you no longer can create a defensible location via ordinary means without the MP."

Please don't get me wrong: I very much see and agree with your overall point regarding turning everything into an (optimized) Arcana check. I'm just trying to conceive of ways to make ritual use more of a possibility in my own game, one that doesn't compete with combat resources (as I've discussed them above).

LOL oh definitely not... The other half of my assertion about explicit needed to limit the magical is always along the lines of "the warrior needs explicit definitions which grant permission to do awesome" (this latter part is not automatic like the Create Fortified Campsite and takes designer attention)

Abdul was pointing out a generalized game issue that explicitly defined things is seen to limit "anything" (not just what you want to limit if you arent careful) which is why I want to make sure MP are awesome and blow the top off of the ordinary instead of cap-stoning AND Tony was trying to address some of those issues when mp are directly quasi-mundane skill use by making the MP roll free while noting the effects can be achieved by roll which allows skill specializations and addresses Abdul's problem that explicit definitions can limit but does not address my issue of their mundanity very well. If a martial practice succeeds in blowing the top off so to speak its fine that it become a high end limit.

Maybe Abdul will explain more clearly I am rambly
 
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darkbard

Hero
LOL oh definitely not... The other half of my assertion about explicit needed to limit the magical is always along the lines of "the warrior needs explicit definitions which grant permission to do awesome"

Okay, yes, thanks; that makes much more sense now in this context. Shows what relying on (faulty, middle aged) memory will do.... ;)
 

As a DM I really like Rituals, I think they provide a good way to incorporate the "noncombat utilities" from other editions. My personal take was I set up a separate fund for rituals and other payments like buying ships, that was distinct from the magic item progression. This led to me making Create Magic Item use its own progression (Residuum) and be the main way "fungible" magic items worked, while gold was kept for doing rituals and strongholds. Personally I think this is a better way of handling the intentional divide between combat and non-combat scenarios 4e creates.

Right, you could break the link by just making residuum cost 2 or 4 or 10x more than its nominal GP value equivalent, and then giving away some in treasures. You could probably also increase the yield from the Disenchant Item ritual somewhat at that point. I'd also rule that residuum doesn't work as a universal ingredient for all rituals, leave it as purely a substance used/required for items. You can basically have a 'law of conservation of residuum', the stuff simply cannot be created, though perhaps it can be destroyed... Mostly it gets lost! There could be processes for collecting environmentally dispersed residuum though, perhaps this is what dwarves do, mine it from deep underground in minute quantities.
 

Weren't you guys just arguing the opposite of this viewpoint with regard to Martial Practices? I could swear (without going back to check, I admit) that AbdulAlhazred said something along the lines of "as soon as you have an MP for Create Fortified Campsite, now you no longer can create a defensible location via ordinary means without the MP."

Please don't get me wrong: I very much see and agree with your overall point regarding turning everything into an (optimized) Arcana check. I'm just trying to conceive of ways to make ritual use more of a possibility in my own game, one that doesn't compete with combat resources (as I've discussed them above).

Well, that is an issue. However I distinguish between some sort of general knowledge and some highly specialized knowledge. I mean, nobody thinks that every character in the world knows how to create a magic ward, or summon a demon, or build a highly complex trap. Most anyone can attempt to make a passable deadfall though, given time, resources, and motivation (I mean most people in the real world could at least attempt this).

The point is, a 'skill' Trap Builder, that covers all possible forms of traps including simple deadfalls, creates enforced incompetency. It means characters are constrained from trying ordinary things, or else if they buy the 'skill' they're being shortchanged because people without it can still do the same thing. Now, you could carefully price the 'skill' to account for this, or you could carefully word it to only be applicable to say 'Highly complex mechanical traps'. Or you could simply make it so that it gives you a vastly higher chance of success, even with simple traps (like maybe no check at all). In fact making it simply a narrative device, as I've suggested with a lot of these 'skills' (using the term loosely here) accomplishes that. Having 'skills' allow substitution of one type of check for another can also work, so 'Arcane Wonderworker' that provides substitution of Arcana for say Thievery to set up a trap would seem to be worthwhile.

So, for this example, I might consider there to be a 'practice' Trapsmith that lets you set up ordinary traps with no check needed at all, you can just make a deadfall, its a good deadfall. You can also make other more intricate traps, though you probably need special materials, tools, time, and probably a check to see how it came out (as part of an SC). Yes, there's a tiny niche 'enforced incompetence' involved, every Dick, Tom, and Harry can no longer make intricate mechanical traps by default! There's still a ritual, Arcane Trap, that lets you make purely magical traps, which is an alternative, and there's a feat (or something) Arcane Wonderworker that allows substitution of an Arcana check for 'making things' that would normally rely on Thievery, Dungeoneering, etc. (its a bit ambiguous in 4e how exactly traps are made TBH, so I'm not sure of the exact wording here, plus it might apply to other similar mechanisms like clocks or something).

Honestly, I think the whole area of game design is a tricky one. There's not one single perfect way to handle the intersection of skills with other character resources, etc. You probably have to look at things on a case-by-case basis to some extent.
 

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