Everything’s a Ritual if you have the time

There is a comparative dearth of ritual spells in D&D5.

On the way home from work the other day I was thinking what would happen if any spell could be done as a ritual. Higher level spells would simply take longer.

yes, I do a lot of my noodling while driving. Oddly enough, I have not yet crashed or gotten at ticket, despite driving a WRX. Go figure)

Even the Ritual Master Feat only allows you to cast spells with the Ritual tag.

Anyway, here’s the thought. You never want a ritual, even for a 9th level spell, to last longer than it would take to simply cast it and then take a long rest. You probably don’t even want to come close to that. So 4-6 hours to cast a 9th level spell as a ritual is probably as much as you’d want to go. Even 1-4 hours for that upper limit might be pushing it.

On the low end, casting a spell as a ritual usually adds 10min to the duration to cast. So the minimum time to cast anything as a ritual, even for a 1st level spell, should probably be 10min – maybe a bit longer because this doesn’t seek to overwrite the ritual tag, merely supplement. Let’s say 20min is the lower end.

That would make a time-to-cast chart look like this, with entries for “fast progression” and “slow progression.” I’m assuming a geometric progression, so each level is X times slower than the level before.

Slow Cast Fast Cast
1 20 20
2 30 25
3 40 30
4 1 hour 40
5 1.5 hours 50
6 2 hours 1 hour
7 3 hours 1 hr 15 min
8 4 hours 1.5 hours
9 6 hours 2 hours

Truthfully, though . . . that’s not that interesting. If you can spare the time, you can cast anything fast. The “fast cast” progression doesn’t really do anything for me. I’d actually almost rather have the rituals start at something like five minutes instead of 20, and then stretch to 6 hours.
That would look like the following. Each step is roughly sqrt(3) larger than the previous one, but the numbers are rounded for convenience. No one cares abut a ritual that’s 48 or 50 minutes long; that’s “about an hour.”
Casting Time
1 5
2 10
3 15
4 30
5 45
6 75 min
7 2 hours
8 4 hours
9 7 hours

Parting Shot
Ritual casting lets you trade time – a lot of time – for a spell slot. I think that the “use it right the hell now” aspect of combat spells will mean that is all this will do is let you ignore the expenditure of spell slots out of combat time for spells you already know, so long as you can afford the downtime. Sure, you could spend 15-40min to slow-cast fireball, but why would you? Are there situations that would make that reasonable?
Actually, there are. If you have time and the foresight to open up a combat with one big entry that doesn’t use a slot, and can arrange the prep time . . . sure. That’s worth rewarding.

7 thoughts on “Everything’s a Ritual if you have the time

  1. Are there situation that would make sense for a combat spell to be cast as a ritual.
    A siege. Or a battle where the mages are the fantasy equivalent of artilerry with a slow rate of fire.

    In my swords & wizardry variant, any spell can be cast as a ten minute ritual with a component cost equal to the spell level squared time 10d (1d = 1sp or 1 gp your choice).

    I used this since 2009, it has had virtually zero effect on combat but out of combat spell casters are a bit more magical but not super hero style magical. Exactly the balance I was going for.

    Is there is a caveat, yes, if you don't track time in-game it doesn't really work. For example a cleric can cast a lot of cure light wounds as a ritual. But at ten minutes a crack this means the wandering monster checks add up. So it a trade off. But if you don't use wandering monsters then this becomes unbalanced in the context of dungeon exploration.

    I don't have a specific list of components. They are tracked by value along. However you don't do this step and enforce the rule that 100d of components = 1 lb. Then this can unbalance things.

    One additional limitation I imposed is that for normal spellusers the highest ritual they can cast is 1/2 (round down) of the highest level spell they can cast. If you can cast 4th level spell then you can cast 2nd level. There are spell users that can cast even a 9th level spell as a ritual but they don't use vancian magic. In fact the only way they can cast magic is through rituals.

    When I made rituals a part of my variant, I still wanted vancian magic to be the best system of magic out there.

    1. And that sounds like ridiculous fun, to pit the recon possibilities of "what ritual are the beseigers/defenders casting?" as a job for adventurers. Disrupting the foe's rituals (maybe making them burn spell slots to exhaust them for battlefield sorties) might be a thing.

      Heck, maybe higher level spells can be cast with much (much!) longer times, and higher backfire possibilities?

  2. Hrm. Feels like long running spells like Call Lightning and Control Weather get abusive with this system. At least the concentration limitation helps rein in buffs. But Call Lightning makes a great opener if you have the time to plan…

    1. It's the planning time that is the real kicker, and the yes/no on whether the situation allows the team to sit down and make it happen. I think Call Lightning is 3rd level, so that would be 15-40 minutes of prep and concentration prior to kicking off the spell. In the case of an ambush, that might be easy to arrange. In a fairly hostile area, the odds of being undisturbed for that long are low, especially if the ritual involves a lot of loud incantations and "You have reached the God of Thunder. For Call Lightning, Press 1! To ask for an orbital Mjolnir strike, Press 2" at divine volume.

    2. If the "chant at max volume/lots of inescapable indicators of what is going on" limitation is enshrined, then I would be happy with it. Because you are of course right: if you can manage 15-40 minutes of howling and dancing around, the bad guys deserve a few free lightning bolts.

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