Game: Spellbound: A Codex of Ritual Magic
Publisher: Living Imagination
Review Dated: 27th, April 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Recently I’ve enjoyed reading Broadsides! and Streets of Silver by Living Imagination. Both book was packed from cover to cover with on-topic rules and game meal and yet for each book there was the slight hiccup where I couldn’t use the tempting looking rituals because I didn’t have the core ritual rules. I think there’s in Living Imagination’s main campaign book Twin Crowns: Age of Exploration and that’s fair enough, it’s a good place for them. Buying a whole (and fat) campaign book just to use the ritual rules isn’t on, it’s just a non-starter and so (and very acutely Living Imagination gives us Spellbound: A Codex of Ritual Magic instead.
Spellbound offers up two things; rules for Ritual Magic and a whole shed load of ritual spells. Actually, there’s prestige classes, feats and new magic items tucked in there as well but they’re a given, as sure as page numbers and an index in most d20 books. It’s these main two areas that the book does very well.
Ritual Magic is more powerful than namby-pamby spells. There’s no limit to the number of ritual spells you can cast in a day either, no theoretical limit. Ritual Magic requires a ritual scroll, a host a special ingredients and good luck. Pages 28 to 33 summarise the book’s Ritual Spells (with over 40 spells per page) and it’s not uncommon to find a DC value for the ritual over 40. Any one with ritual training can have a go at performing the ritual. Failing to perform the ritual can (and does) result in the permanent loss of spell casting abilities or death. Since the in character consequences of failure are so serious the natural game play provides the limit on how many rituals a character will cast. It’s common sense. It’s also rather more mature than an arbitrary game mechanic.
Let’s not be too quick to bash game mechanics though. Ritual magic possesses a lovely flaw value. The chance of casting a flawed ritual never completely vanishes, it has nothing to do with the mage and so we might assume that there’s something inherently wrong with the rite. For every ritual in the book there’s a note on what might happen if the caster successfully completes the ritual but doesn’t quite perfect the magic. This is the flaw.
The very real danger isn’t the only important limitation. You need ritual ingredients too. I’m not a fan of the D&D ingredient system; if you play by the canon rules then the entire game runs the risk of being dominated by the wizard in their quest for ingredients or becomes one of those games where weird and wonderful components are conveniently found lying around in dungeon chests. The ritual rules offer me an alternative; they call it korba but it could just as easily be Chemical X or Blood Type A. We’re advised to keep it rare, something that’s sought after and fought over. This way the GM can keep a limit on the number of rituals that the players are going to pull out of the bag and korba becomes a powerful plot device. The many dozens of rituals in the book have a korba cost included.
If the idea of korba (chemical X or blood type A) sounds silly to you then you’re not caught out. Conversation tables show how much korba suggested ingredients for spell school specific (illusion, transmutation, conjuration, etc) are worth. You can run your game without korba and entirely with ingredients instead or use a mixture of the two. I like books that put some choice into their crunchy bits.
There are tables for critical successes and critical failures. There are also rules to define critical successes and failures. There are arcane and divine rituals and so there are arcane successes, arcane failures, divine successes and divine failures. It’s potent stuff. You could gain a shed load of experience points if you critically succeed in a divine ritual and please your god and as already noted you could fall over stone dead if you critically fail. These table are a classic example of why GMs should be experienced enough to know not to let the dice run the game but these tables are also a great way to keep power crazy ritualists in check.
I wish there was a little more to the two prestige classes, both Arcane Ritualist and Divine Ritualist are only 5 level classes. Both of the PrC requires an appropriate Ritual Mastery feat as a requirement (which kind of suggests you’ve mastered the art before completing the class) and those feats come with a prerequisite of level 9 or 10. That’s the toughest requirement. It should have been possible to squeeze in a fully-fledged, lifetime of study, 10 level class rather than just a half, part-time, 5 level class.
The rituals themselves get going at page 34 and run until page 121. That’s a heck of a lot of new rituals. I think they’re new rituals anyway. I don’t have the complete Living Imagination set to check against but it seems most unlikely that there are nearly a hundred pages of ritual magic distributed among them. The new rituals, therefore, make the Codex of Ritual Magic a tempting buy for people already with the Twin Crown core book. There are more than enough rituals to cater to both arcane and divine ritualists and to the schools of magic.
An appendix of monsters; mainly ritually constructed golems (like the spider golem or the guardian ritual golem) finishes off the book.
Spellbound: A Codex of Ritual Magic does what it sets out to do. You’ve got a new, if not too different, form of spell casting. You can safely get the most out of other Living Imagination books with the Codex or just use it in its own right as a useful supplement. The book’s hidden success is the small set of rules for when someone who’s supposed to be working to assist the ritual actually slyly sabotages it. Muhaha. That’s the evil thinking GMs relish.