There’s one area of play where I really lack confidence in my judgments and would like to see some examples, and…

There’s one area of play where I really lack confidence in my judgments and would like to see some examples, and…

There’s one area of play where I really lack confidence in my judgments and would like to see some examples, and that’s the open-ended rituals – stuff like the Wizard’s Ritual move, and counterparts in various other playbooks. Would some of you please write up examples of what conditions you’ve set, and how you feel they worked in play?

29 thoughts on “There’s one area of play where I really lack confidence in my judgments and would like to see some examples, and…”

  1. To me, the Ritual move is meant of let the Wizard player come up with a magical solution to every problem. The more it powerful (measured by the effect on the fiction) it is, the more severe the complications should be.

    “Low power” ritual example:

    The Wizard: “I wish to contact Zeltor, our contact in the Mage Guild.”

    The GM realize that this is an excuse not to ask the GM “what happens?”, in order to avoid a move.

    The GM: “That’s pretty smart. First you must draw find a mirror, after which you will have to hold something in your hand that he once owned.”

    The Wizard: “Hey, he gave us this talisman, does that count?”

    The GM: “It sure does!”

    The above isn’t really powerful, it is merely a way to communicate with someone they know who isn’t present. It really doesn’t affect the fiction much besides letting them speak to someone, who isn’t there.

    “High power” ritual example:

    The Wizard says: “I want to perform a ritual that disintegrates the dragon!”

    The GM realize that this would be a pretty badass ritual, so the GM has to get creative so that the Wizard can’t trivialize the situation.

    The GM: “Oh, sure. But as your character knows, the dragon must be inside a ritual circle during the ritual, which by the way takes about half an hour to perform.”

    The Wizard: “But doesn’t that mean we have to capture it first?”

    The GM: “Unless you can think of something, then yes.”

    This example is different. If there’s a dragon, it possibly very important in the fiction. Killing it is possibly their quest. In that case, the ritual shouldn’t be able to trivialize that task.

  2. I am running a game with a wizard who has made clever use of ritual.  One example:  The party was separated in the tunnels under a dwarven city.  Ratmen had overtaken the tunnels, and the paladin and wizard had just crossed an icy underground river filled with eerie white eyeless fish.  The Ratmen (skaven, for you WFRP folks) suddenly came rushing out of the tunnel, too many to fight.   The wizard asked, can I use ritual to make an illusion of a huge monster climbing out of the river?  I gave him some requirements (ratman blood to have it work on ratmen, time, etc) and the paladin defended him until he created a massive monster illusion using the fish.  Imagine a 10 foot tall creature from the black lagoon make of writhing fish- fish fingers, fish crushed into a head, etc.  He described it in great detail.  Well, that sent the Ratmen running.  Just one example.  Ritual is very powerful and fun but the wizard player needs to get that s/he can do almost anything with it… for a price.

  3. so in this case, conditions were:

    – Ratman blood (to impact ratmen)

    – several minutes of defense from Paladin (to give time for the incantation)

    – Access to the river (so the wizard had to be at waters edge)

    Since it was just an illusion, no actual damage or physical impact, I kept the requirements light.  Also, it made for an awesome cinematic bit, so I go easier on those.

  4. Hmmm… the way I read ritual is that you’re drawing on “a place of power”, so you can’t just drum up a ritual anywhere – it has to be in a special place. Beyond that the conditions seem to be very arbitrary, almost entirely GM fiat. I can certainly think of a whole bunch of things to do with Ritual, but the RAW just seem to say “you can do stuff – pretty much any stuff – but it’ll probably cost you. Make stuff up”, which seems massively handwavy in play. In other games, it’s something I’d build into the whole framework of a scenario or period of play rather than have as a Move…

    BTW – Brian, I love your example of play. Sounds like you had a blast. 🙂

  5. But it is the kind of handwaving where a player can put you on the spot and demand instantly to know the conditions for, well, ANYTHING.  The whole point of adventure fronts and so on is to give you a framework to work off when players say, “what happens?”  But for Ritual, there’s like a paragraph and then you’re on your own.  For me, saying that the rules here are “meant to be handwavy” is pretty much like saying they’re “meant to suck”.  Having some guidelines, even loose ones, would help tremendously in letting me feel I’m being fair, and not lame, when put on the spot.

    (Fortunately, I haven’t yet had to deal with this one, because nobody is playing a Wizard.  But like Bruce and Sarah, I’d still very much like to hear discussion of how other people have handled it.  Brian Moroz’s is good!)

  6. Turn it back on them and ask questions.

    Have you done this ritual before? Seen it done? What did it take?

    I did the above for Monster of the Week when a player wanted to wipe an NPCs mind. I explained it used an esoteric material — what was it? The player told me it was water from the river Lethe. Done and done.

    Or borrow Sage’s advice for Druid’s shapeshifter moves: what the player wants, what’s most obvious, and a twist. So, something the character has access to (cause its shitty to give them requirements they’re nowhere near completing), something that’s reasonable, and then some cool DW mythos thing.

  7. Ritual can seem pretty “handwavey” but it’s just a formalized process for making GM moves according to player input.

    Avon: “I need to break the curse that’s making Shank into a demon!  Can I use a ritual to do it?”

    GM: “Yes, but you’ll need a place of power, first.  Hycorax, these woods are deep and old, maybe there’s something here that Avon can use?” (Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask)

    Hycorax: “Totally, there’s ahhh, there’s a Well, old and powerful, in the deepest woods.”


    Avon: “Now that I have access to the Well, what do I need to do to cast the ritual?  It says you pick from the list.” (Looking to the GM to see what happens)

    GM: “It’s going to take you a few days to prepare, during which Cassius is probably going to have to watch over you.  Good thing you guys are so close, huh?  On top of that, accessing the well will draw on the attention of Lysistraxes Greenwing, the Dragon that guards this forest.  He’s bad news, but not known to be evil, if he shows up, well, things might get more complicated… What do you do?” (Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities / show signs of an approaching threat)

    Shank: “I don’t wanna become a demon!  HELP!”

    Avon: “Okay, I’ll do it.”

    It all just flows back to the fact that every single thing the GM does in Dungeon World is making a move – everything they say or do is a move that’s either from the move list, from the monster moves, or a custom move from the game somewhere.  It may not seem like it, or may seem less obvious, but even the Ritual works just like combat or travel – a conversation about what is going on in the world.

  8. I have a Wizard player, who was also quite concerned to play DW, after two sessions he told me he was a little concerned to how useful a Wizard could be given how restricted it seems, but after seeing how I handled rituals and confirming with me that although places of power are not anywhere in the world thy are also frequent enough that they don’t need an entire adventure to locate one.

    First session: The characters went into a ruins where a demonic cult took residence, they talk their way into the place and are escorted to talk to the leader, they arrive in the middle of some ritual, a large amphitheater with a circle of stone in the middle, the ritual ends when the leader sacrifices a goat and spreads its blood on the circle’s floor, around them 200 cultists commune in the ritual.

    They go to the middle and slay the leader (about two actions per character), the 200 people around them are moving, the wizard moves into the circle and asks me if he can use the circle to power up his charm person spell to stop everyone around them. I say he can, but he takes the risk of activating the circle of stones.

    This consequence may seem light but when they got inside the ruins the cast detect magic and failed, I showed him sings of an approaching threat, the circles and a presence bigger than the party’s warlock demon.

    He went with it, got an 8, he charmed everyone in the room, but the party and everyone else got transferred to the place the circle of stones led to. They were happy but scared enough that they only thought of going back, never of exploring the area.

  9. No time to write up a detailed example but I want to say that “It’s going to take days/weeks/months” is a natural for situations where a Grim Portent is counting down hard.

  10. Great comments, everyone – very useful.

    Any ideas about the magnitude of a Ritual? For example, the spells a Wizard can cast have a built-in magnitude in their spell levels and Cast a Spell move dice rolls, but the Ritual RAW doesn’t really offer any guidance as to what a 10th level Wizard can do, say, vs a 1st level Wizard. Sure I can make stuff up, but I’m wondering how people handle that?

    Also, it occurred to me that in some ways Ritual felt less like an individual Move and more like a framework for a group of Moves or even a kind of Front, ie where a Wizard is doing a bunch of sequential stuff to unlock a goal. Are people running Rituals like this, ie incorporating dice rolls, structuring encounters around the sequentials steps in the Ritual, etc, rather than treating it as a single Move?

    I’m wondering if a bunch of example Rituals might not be very useful. 🙂

  11. Sarah, I have been approaching it lightly at first, to let the player feel what he can get away with, as the stakes are higher and he gets comfortable with the move I will make it harder. He can get away with more now because I want him to feel it is useful.

  12. I also think you should give players ample opportunity to find places of power to use ritual with. It’s an important part of the class and you want to be a fan of him right?

  13. To do the ritual to dismiss the undead mummy-lich thing, the Wizard had to know its True Name. (Wizard was poking around the tomb trying to find it, Bard knows it offhand but can’t get the Wizard to listen to her at first.) Plus it took some time, leaving them exposed to the mummy and allies attacks. 

    Later, facing the maggot-god cultists and encountering many undead, including ghosts, the ritual required getting the help of one of the ghosts. The ghost in question demanded to be brought along with the party in return for helping.

  14. Per places of power, I considered the ancient undermountian river filled with blind fish to be close enough for the situation we had.  If he had wanted to blast the skaven to bits, nope, not enough “power.”  I associate the place of power in context with how much power the wizard is looking to draw.

  15. Also re: places of power, instead of trying to figure out “where is a place of power that the wizard can use?” I’ll turn that around a bit and ask the wizard “what kind of magic power can you gather from this place?”

  16. Oh trust me Tim, I give a lot of leeway on ritual.  Meaning, I’ll pretty much always make something a place of power if the wizard really wants to use it, but summoning 11 storm demons is in our fiction different than creating a quick illusion or a hole in a wall.  Fortunately, I have very good players who, if anything, underutilize ritual.  

  17. Tim Franzke I disagree a little. I think it’s totally acceptable that some places are “better” than others. Bringing along some “magic crystals” to boost the ambient magic of the place is a good way for the gm to make use of the “it’s gonna cost a lot of coin” complication.

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