Gate of Souls
Ritual magic is the use of physical components and association techniques to create longer lasting or farther ranging effects than other forms of magic. Many rituals are made easier through the power of an Archon, calling on the elemental forces of the world. But even without the power of the Aspects many effects may still be invoked. Binding familiars, dowsing, scrying the past, and even the infusing of essences obtained through alchemy into solid objects. Though many scholars believe that the form of rituals is somehow set in the very fabric of reality nothing could be farther from the truth. The shape of the ritual is inconsequential, except in it’s effect on the mind of the ritualist. Still, as with all things in the Gate of Souls universe, the more people believe a thing has power, the more power it has. So rarefied schools of magi hoard their arcane tomes of esoteric and ancient rituals, and rumors of their earth-shaking power is made manifest through self-fulfilling reputation.
Ritual magic in the Gate of Souls is an open ended system, described and adjudicated through a combination of roleplaying, out of character discussion, and rolls. As ritual magic is used to create any effect beyond the base powers of the Attunements, it can be used to cause effects that last longer than the ritualist concentrates on them, extend beyond line of sight, or include the powers of multiple Attunements or possibly even powers beyond what the Attunements might conceivably cover. The restrictions to the power of rituals is in the difficulty of designing and performing them. While the form of a ritual isn’t relevant in any absolute sense, it is absolutely relevant to the ritualist. The shape of the ritual must tie into what they want to do, it must have that personal meaning for themselves. The aforementioned arcane schools spend their time in training teaching themselves to see the elements of the ritual the way they are supposed to, but the most skilled ritualists instead create each ritual anew, tailoring it to themselves instead. The more complicated the effect, the more complicated the form of the ritual needs to be, as the ritualist must incorporate every facet of the effect into it’s performance in a way that resonates with them. Not only must the form of the ritual match it’s function, but the power of the effect must be matched in components that are used and often consumed by the ritual, also known as reagents. Reagents for a ritual must also fit it’s form and effect, so the ritual as a whole ideally becomes an interwoven story in it’s own right. A story that describes what the character wishes to do, what they think and how they feel about their goals, and what the result is worth to them. From start to finish, a ritual generally has four parts, determine the intended effect, design the form, obtain reagents, and finally perform the ritual itself.
Determining the intended effect of the ritual may seem simple at a glance, if you want to perform a ritual you probably already have an intended effect in mind so just make it that right? Well, there are a few complications that make it not that straightforward. In a world as fluid as the one presented in the Gate of Souls, there is almost certainly more than one way to produce a given effect, possibly quite a lot more than one way. At the same time, there are still some limitations to what you can do. Lets take a simple example, a ritual to allow you to run faster for an entire day. A ritual might accomplish this in a few ways, it could cause your body to simply exceed it’s normal capacities for a time, but that would cause you to be extremely fatigued or possibly even injured afterward. Alternately, you could call upon the powers of a spirit, or a totemic animal to gain their speed and endurance, but that could very well influence your behavior for the duration as the spirit or totem touches your own spirit, however slightly. In every instance, the power has to come from somewhere, and drawing power always has a consequence. At this stage, it is also important to note all the sources of power that are required for the effect to take place. A simple effect like running faster can probably be obtained from a single source, but lets look at a slightly more complex effect. Say you wish to make a ritual that will change the weather in an area. For this to take effect you need at least the element of air, water is required for rain or snow, earth for a sandstorm or to control lighting, Fire if you want to warm the temperature. If you have only one kind of weather pattern you want to create you can draw on the power of a spirit to do it, but to have any versatile effect you need to be channeling all four elemental aspects at least. As you can see, the potential requirements can rise extremely quickly, but if you made a ritual in which you could channel all four elemental aspects to change the weather you could create any weather pattern possible in nature, not to mention rains if fire or shifting fog that is solid to the touch. With the addition of a single other aspect, frogs could rain from the sky, or undead rise in mass from the muddy earth at the touch of a black mist.
Once you have the effect well determined the form of the ritual must be laid down. A ritual consists of two parts, the reagents and the performance, though as stated before the two are intertwined. Reagents are components of power that either provide, channel, or guide the powers you call upon during the ritual. Components that actually provide the needed power are probably the hardest to come by, though they can still be simple for a simple effect. The simplest of all are essences refined through alchemy, that are consumed over the course of the ritual. Other examples may include the remains of a powerful creature that still contain it’s power, the actual incorporation of a spirit, elemental, ghost, or demon. All reagents that provide power for a ritual must be somehow consumed during it, though that may take the form of their incorporation into a finished magical item. Components that channel power are easier to obtain for more powerful effects. For example it might be difficult to obtain the remains of a dragon or the presence of a demonic lord, but more within reach is a fragment of a dragon’s scale or an obsidian mirror upon which a demon lord has breathed. These reagents possess relatively little power themselves (emphasis on relative), however they can act as a channel to draw power from a distant source. Depending on the source this might draw their attention, or animosity. These reagents may or may not be consumed by a ritual, depending it their strength and the nature of the effect. For example, the obsidian mirror listed above would certainly not be consumed in a ritual to contact the demon lord, however it would certainly be consumed in a ritual that creates a permanent circle that can be used to summon the demon lord, probably incorporated into or shattered upon the surface where the circle is inlaid. The last type of reagent is the easiest to create or obtain, but it requires that the ritualist already possesses the power they wish to call upon. A Darkness Archon does not need to call on other powers to create a permanent illusion, but they do need to have a focus to help control and maintain their power while they perform the ritual. In the above example of a ritual that allows the user to run faster, lets suppose that the ritualist decides to call upon the power of a hunter-spirit, so that they might run faster without being fatigued after and so the influence on their mind is that of pursuing something else. The power of this ritual is relatively low, but for a reagent they will need to create a channel to the spirit. Taking the skull of a wolf, they carve it with a prayer to the spirit, then hang it over a fire upon which they burn herbs known to please a hunting-wolf spirit. After a day they break the skull, and from the strongest and straightest piece they carve a knife. Because they know about the spirit already, and they seek to draw only a little of it’s power, creating the channel is easy. If they did not know these things they would need to find some other way to create or obtain the reagent, and in any case the hunter-wolf will hear them when they draw upon it’s power.
For the performance part of the ritual, each source of power must be somehow acknowledged and incorporated. Performances can again be highly personal, and will often reflect the abilities and preferences of the ritualist. Common performances include focused meditation, chanting of occult formulae or prayers, dance or song, or even wild revelry. While performances are often completed alone, they are more powerful when done before an audience, or even with the participation of an entire group. Not every person’s contribution need be scripted, but it does need to be appropriate and keep the goal of the ritual in mind. This is the last part of the ritual creation, and after this actually performing the ritual should hopefully feel like a dramatic and well earned culmination of all their efforts.
For the ritualist seeking to run fast and far, they have two assistants each catch a prey animal alive. One catches a rabbit, the other a doe. With his bone knife, dedicated to the hunter-wolf, the ritualist slaughters the rabbit and marks the doe with a single small nick before letting it go. He chants to the hunter, the rabbit is killed for it’s honor and food, the doe marked and released for it to revel in the hunt. In this instance the performance is in three parts, each assistant makes hunting rolls to capture their prey, and then the ritualist makes the final roll. In this instance it is Intelligence + Academics as he uses his knowledge of the hunter-wolf (academics as religion, as his people worship totem animal spirits) The hunter may feed lightly, then take joy in the chase after. From the Dreaming Sea the spirit looks on as it’s power called, but the offering and words please it, so it feeds on the respect it receives and goes loping away across the hills. Because the ritualist went to such effort to obtain an appropriate reagent, and performed a personalized ritual carefully tailored to calling this power with multiple participants, he will run with the speed and endurance of a wolf for a number of days equal to his successes on the roll. And if he achieves five or more successes he will need only a couple hours of sleep each day as the hunter blesses him for his great courtesy and respect. He will however, feel compelled to chase prey, and be reluctant to stop and rest until he has found what he is hunting. If he was foolish enough to call the hunter-spirit in such a way without having something in mind to hunt, he may find himself chasing squirrels and birds for food on his journey.