Friday, February 19, 2016

Mechanics: Energy Accumulation Ritual Path Magic and Effect Shaping Ritual Path Magic

Main book needed
Required for Effect Shaping
Highly Recommended for
Energy Accumulation
Similar to yesterday, this is a deep dive into two flavors of ritual path magic that I found interesting and worth exploring on a mechanical basis. The previous posts featuring these systems were an information light overview meant to communicate feel and complexity and give you infossrmation to start researching a desired system, whereas today, the focus is to provide interested people with a deeper look at two of the systems.

As in the previous article, these two systems have a tremendous amount of overlap, but where they differ, they are worlds apart. The nice thing about that is that if you understand one version 90% of the way, you probably know the other 80% of the way, and yet, they are unique enough that it feels like a whole new ball game when switching from one to the other. So let's take a look at the system component by component.


As with the default "vanilla" system, the core of Ritual Path Magic (I'll call it RPM for short hereon out) is the Magery advantage. Technically, anyone can use RPM even without Magery, to be competent at it, Magery is required.
Unlike the vanilla system, Magery for RPM is not a talent, but it is still absolutely fundamental.
  • Magery determines cap on skills to cast spells. A higher cap enables gathering more energy, and more energy allows casting spells; Magery is a gate that blocks access to the strongest spells.
  • Magery determines Mana Reserve. I'll discuss it a bit later, but basically, this is ER for RPM.
  • Magery allows more conditional spells. Conditional spells are those cast and stored as a "charm" allowing one to use it at will and near instantly in the future (or give it to a non caster to use) and "conditional spells" are spells attached to a person, place, or thing (and that spells noun!) that cast automatically provided a trigger condition is met.
For the effect shaping version of RPM, magery actually works similar to vanilla magery and functions as a talent instead of providing the above. Because of this, although setting a limit on Magery levels for both systems is recommended, it is an especially good idea for Effect-Shaping where it is especially cost effective for generalist RPM casters. For Energy Accumulation RPM, I've never had a game break yet for not capping Magery.


This skill is also a cap for all RPM users. No path skill may go beyond Thaumatology. Effect-Shaping Magery is a talent for Thaumatology though, so it helps a little bit in that regard, perhaps even better than upping Thaumatology directly.


Paths are similar to magic schools in RPM. Each path has its own skill and raising that skill directly increases the scope and power level of spells available to a user. The way casting works in RPM, there is almost no such thing as diminishing returns in regards to investing in path skills; it does not cease becoming useful at level 16 just because critical failures are more rare. In fact, around 16, RPM's efficacy rapidly increases, making each level feel even more useful than the one before it. An interesting double edged sword in high point games. On the positive side, characters can become phenomenally powerful and exercise their creativity far beyond normal limits. On the other hand, characters can become phenomenally powerful and exercise their creativity far beyond normal limits.


Spells can be designed on the fly. Provided a character is proficient in all the paths required for a certain magical effect, they can design a spell using instructions in the main RPM supplement. There is no hard and fast spell list. You just think what you want to do, and are able to put it together as you wish. If you say you want a spell to turn that bad guy's guns over there into toy plastic ones, for example, you are doing an action of transforming some matter into different matter to a gun that weighs 10 or less pounds and is 100 yards away, and 10 minutes should be more than long enough. This happens to be a Greater effect because this is an "unrealistic" transformation. All those keywords in bold can be plugged into a an equation and a spell can be formed. I just basically wrote a spell right here and now and will be fairly sure that the resulting energy cost, difficulty, and time, for this spell will be fairly balanced against other spells.

Ritual Adept

Ritual Adept is an important advantage in both systems. In RPM casters are penalized for casting spells in inappropriate locations and without a connection to the target. That is, maybe a a clipping of hair or a photograph or what-have you. Characters with Ritual Adept get to ignore these penalties and they get to cast an order of magnitude faster, which segues into the next topic well.

Casting Time

RPM's primary active balancing factor is how much time it takes to cast a spell. A non-adept caster will take anything on an order of 10 minutes to potentially hours. An adept caster can cast much faster but still, the best a normal adept can hope to achieve is in the range of tens of seconds, which makes it prohibitive in terms of combat capability compared to some other magic systems. 
An interesting distinction between energy accumulation and effect shaping is that energy accumulation casting time is variable and depends on lucky rolls as they determine how much energy is given over a series of periods of energy gatherings. Effect shaping, on the other hand has a constant casting time. If a spell takes 1 minute to cast, it will take 1 minute to cast no matter what happens... unless the character decides to invoke options to cast faster or slower before beginning the spell which can trade off ease for speed. One side-effect of this is that Effect shaping has less cognitive complexity at the table as one doesn't need to track how close they are to finishing a spell and keep a running tally of how much energy they have gathered. I really like that.

Charms and Conditional Spells

Although it takes a very long time to cast spells, a cast spell can be saved indefinitely as a charm which anyone can activate at any given time or as a conditional spell which will occur whenever the correct stimulus triggers it. Therefore, an RPM using magician could be combat effective through charms which allow them to cast a direct attack spell instantly, and a missile spell in two turns.


Failure consequences are more extreme in RPM than in vanilla magic, but not as extreme as threshold-limited magic. Energy Accumulation is a series of skill rolls, and each failure accumulates to form quirks that have an immediately negative impact that can be much worse than vanilla failures, but not as permanent as a threshold-limited catastrophe.
Critical failures though are even worse than that having disastrous consequences, but still not permanent like threshold limited magic. It is actually almost a built in tenant of RPM that magic is not permanent. so although summoning a gigantic otherworldly monstrosity is pretty bad, it's only there until you destroy it... or it destroys you.

Power Scaling

There is an interesting division between the two systems in terms of this element. In Energy Accumulation magic, casting starts off very hard but ability increases exponentially as investment in path skills increase. On the other hand, Effect Shaping magic has a more smooth increase in efficacy. In both, investment in higher skill levels for path is almost always beneficial, but where energy accumulation starts off weak and develop into cosmic earth shaking levels, Effect Shaping starts of ok, and becomes pretty good.


RPM allows a mechanic called trappings, or setting up the ritual just right to make the magic more effective. There is a system of "Traditional Trappings" which is more subjective and requires the GM to judge the ritual each time; a "cool" ritual gets a bigger discount, while phoning it in might get a surcharge. "Decanic Trappings" is a more objective system and requires the main Thaumatology book. In this system, each path is associated with certain zodialogical elements, and each of these have associated times, items, etc. that if used or sacrificed in the ritual guarantee discounts of a certain amount. Both are optional, but interesting options that are commonly used, nonetheless.

Supplementary Materials

  • The Laws Of Magic, linked earlier is really good for even the default system, and it contains the rules for Effect Shaping.
    • I like the section here that relates Thaumatology: Magical Styles to RPM magic. It gives a good guide to some helpful additional perks. It also gives some nice incentive to choose an RPM style that is more flavorful in the form of styles and talents that large amounts of carrot and very little stick.
  • More thorough explanations of Effect Shaping and the complete list of items for Decanic Trappings can be found in Thaumatology

Closing and Final Notes

I have this weird nagging feeling I forgot to mention something I wanted to say... maybe someone will remind me. I have used the default Energy Accumulation form of RPM and liked it, but the Effect Shaping one gets rid of the fiddly dealing with energy accumulation tallies, and I really want a chance to play it. 

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