Occult Rituals


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've been reading through the Occult Ritual rules lately. I quite like the concept here, providing a well-defined framework to grant limited access to high-level spell effects that would normally be outside of a player or NPC's league. The prebuilt rituals included in Occult Adventures are pretty underwhelming for the most part, but the guidelines for creating new rituals leave the door open for straightforward spell->ritual conversions. That's ideal for me, as for the most part the rituals I want to create will just be duplicating an effect that's similar to an existing spell. Plug in spell level, apply modifiers, get target DC.

That's where things get weird; the DC's are erratic, and when I actually spreadsheet the probabilities of succeeding on a ritual they do not match up with expectations at all. The baseline ritual has a DC of 28 + spell level - backlash. This gives a range of DC 30-35 for standard level 4-9 rituals with an average backlash. This is actually a fairly narrow range, which immediately raised alarm bells for me. While those DC's may seem high, hitting them isn't nearly as hard as it looks (particularly if you allow for +5 competence bonus items and the skill focus feat, which are easily slapped onto the NPC cults this system screams to be used with).

Supposing the ritual casters can hit +24 skill checks this gives the following chances of completing these progressively "more difficult" rituals:

Level 4 ritual – 73% chance (DC 30; 3 successes / 4 attempts)
Level 5 ritual – 83% chance (DC 31; 3 successes / 5 attempts)
Level 6 ritual – 64% chance (DC 32; 4 successes / 6 attempts)
Level 7 ritual – 71% chance (DC 33; 4 successes / 7 attempts)
Level 8 ritual – 48% chance (DC 34; 5 successes / 8 attempts)
Level 9 ritual – 50% chance (DC 35; 5 successes / 9 attempts)

This is a very problematic distribution. The chance of success simply doesn't match expectations based on the vast gulf in power between these various spell levels. It also means that any cult (or party, for that matter) that is struggling to complete level 4 rituals is only a few skill points away from being able to reliably complete level 9 rituals. I'm kinda disappointed; I love the flavor and intent of the system, but the numbers just don't seem to work and mandate GM fiat for pretty much every ritual.

What are people's thoughts on this? Any good ideas on how to get it to work sensibly out of the box?

Paizo Employee Designer

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Personally, I've used these in home games, and what I do is that I'm less tolerant with failures than the listed tolerance for failures in the book. Basically, I run it that every failure has consequences in some little way, cumulative per failure, and then the whole thing fails eventually. Since that requires a lot of thought for each ritual (to determine what failing each check might do), another good solution is to allow only 1 failure, regardless of level (level 4 stays the same and everything else gets harder, and you don't have the weirdness of level 5 being easier than level 4).

Last session my PCs did a ritual, and they managed to get maxed out successes, but they were sweating a bit because they decided to risk making one of the checks with an uncertain chance of success, rather than let a ghost possess the monk's body and give them a certain success.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

As the monk player in question, that ghost is freaken scary.

I really liked the very real threat of failure when we did the ritual. It made our party really weigh the pros and cons of the needed ritual.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Rejigging my spreadsheet to allow for no more than 1 failure for a successful ritual, the chances of success for that +24 skill check I described above change as follows:

level 4 - 73% (unchanged)
level 5 - 53%
level 6 - 32%
level 7 - 16%
level 8 - 6%
level 9 - 2%

That looks much better. It does result in a very steep curve for high level rituals (when you need to succeed 7/8 skill attempts, you need to be very close to the DC, so there's only a razor thin margin between a number that's high enough to attempt the ritual and a number that's high enough to take 1), but that's much preferable to the erratic numbers being produced by RAW.

Paizo Employee Designer

Dasrak wrote:

Rejigging my spreadsheet to allow for no more than 1 failure for a successful ritual, the chances of success for that +24 skill check I described above change as follows:

level 4 - 73% (unchanged)
level 5 - 53%
level 6 - 32%
level 7 - 16%
level 8 - 6%
level 9 - 2%

That looks much better. It does result in a very steep curve for high level rituals (when you need to succeed 7/8 skill attempts, you need to be very close to the DC, so there's only a razor thin margin between a number that's high enough to attempt the ritual and a number that's high enough to take 1), but that's much preferable to the erratic numbers being produced by RAW.

Yup, I was getting numbers like that as well, and I think they can work for you. Overall, it was deemed by the PDT to be too hard for the standard version, and there wasn't space for a sidebar or anything. I definitely recommend it for a stronger risk with rituals, especially when there's not enough time and effort available to create complex gradations of failure.

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