One of the quirks of Symbaroum’s system that I’ve noticed some new players have trouble wrapping their head around is exactly how the Ritualist ability and learning Rituals works. The confusion mainly seems to stem from the fact that you need to take the ability, which gives you a “slot” for a ritual – then you can level up the ability which gives you two new “slots” to learn rituals. This seems a bit weird to me, and I can see why players stumble on it.
I’ve also seen players and GMs stumble on the “Mystical Power” ability but at least that matches 1-to-1 with whichever power you take. The issue is that the rules seem to indicate that a character should only ever put XP into “Abilities” and that those abilities then provide access to other things (Powers or Rituals). Presumably, this is why the Ritualist ability is so weird. Rituals don’t level up, so they had to figure out something else for the Ritualist ability to do when you put XP into it. The problem is that locking rituals behind these ability levels puts a very game-y restriction on the mystic player who finds a codex through play and wants to study it.
Because that’s the other part of rituals – you can’t just learn them innately like Mystical Powers – you have to earn them through play. That creates these strange hurdles for players where they may have a character that knows one ritual (10 XP) and they find another ritual codex, but they can’t learn that until they put 20 more XP into the Ritualist ability and then they have an unused ritual slot – effectively 10 wasted points of XP until they can find something to plug into that slot. They may try to find just any ritual to plug into that XP hole just so that they didn’t waste the investment, but what if they find another ritual down they line that they would much rather like to have? Then they need to invest another 30 XP into the Ritualist ability to access that new ritual, and now they have 20 ‘fallow’ XP and they’re back to the same problem.
When I started running Symbaroum for my group, some of these questions arose.
“How does this Mystical Power ability work? Do I need to buy the Ability, and then buy the Power I want?”
“No, everything works the same way: You pay 10 XP for an Ability or a Power, and then 20 to upgrade it, and then 30 to upgrade it again…”
“But what about rituals?”
“Err… well, you buy the Ritualist ability and then you need to learn the Ritual, which doesn’t cost any XP, but you need to roleplay it, and then if you want to learn more rituals you have to upgrade the ability…”
No, this just won’t do. It’s game-y and puts arbitrary and artificial limits on the player for seemingly no reason other than to fit with the “only buy abilities” vision behind the original core rules.
So let’s tweak the Ritualist ability. Let’s grab the APG’s optional rule that allows a Master Ritualist to acquire new Rituals for 10 XP each and just make that the flat rule from the start: All Abilities, Powers, and Rituals cost 10 XP to acquire.
Then we make it so that the Ritualist ability comes from learning rituals rather than the other way around!
Also, let’s throw in some more details so that Ritualist actually has some usefulness now that we’ve taken away its main function!
House Rule: Incremental Ritualist
Ritualist is an Incremental Ability. You cannot buy the Ritualist ability directly with Experience. Instead, you advance the level of your Ritualist ability by learning new rituals.
Learning any ritual costs 10 XP and takes 1D4 weeks of study. Unless the ritual is of the mystic’s tradition, the character suffers 1 point of Permanent Corruption when they learn the ritual and 1D4 Temporary Corruption every time they perform it. If the ritual is of the mystic’s tradition, they take no Permanent Corruption from learning it and only 1 Temporary Corruption from performing it.
Novice. Special. If a character knows one ritual, they automatically have this ability at this level. The character can immediately recognize the signs, components, and effects of the ritual they have learned, and may roll Cunning to identify the signs and effects of rituals belonging to their Mystical Tradition.
Adept. Special. If a character knows three rituals, they automatically have this ability at this level. The character can immediately recognize the signs, components, and effects of the rituals they have learned, and may roll Cunning to identify the signs and effects of any ritual from a tradition the mystic has studied (if the character knows one ritual from Wizardry, one ritual from Witchcraft, and one ritual from Sorcery, they can attempt to identify rituals from any of those traditions).
Master. Special. If a character knows six rituals, they automatically have this ability at this level. The character can immediately recognize the signs, components, and effects of the rituals they know, and may roll Cunning to identify any ritual from any tradition. The ritualist may also spend an hour at any ritual site and roll Resolute to gain an innate understanding of the effects of the ritual. For example, the master ritualist could read the remains of a Summoning ritual to learn the identity of the creature that was summoned, or attune himself to a magic circle to learn the details of the last time someone used Seven League Stride to travel from or to that circle.