Thursday, July 28, 2016

Occult Rituals for Freeport

(Column 2 of 2 for this week!)

The D&D v.3.5 sourcebook Unearthed Arcana provided optional rules for incantations, a form of magic that allows non-spellcasters to wield supernatural power through long, exacting rituals. The ritual system presented in the True20 Freeport Companion adapted the incantation rules to that system, and added a Forbidden Lore skill which was used to cast these occult spells. The d20 Freeport Companion included Forbidden Knowledge rules as well, and was originally meant to include incantations. These rules were cut from the final draft, in part due to a lack of examples. However, a few references to them still remain in the published text, including a full write up of one incantation, "Call Forth the Fiend."

Unearthed Arcana's incantation rules can be found in the d20 System Reference Document (online here). When I compiled my fan errata for the d20 Freeport Companion, I adapted those rules for use in Freeport campaigns; see the Freeport Incantation Rules for d20 page at Tim's Errata Archive.

Since then, I have moved on to playing Pathfinder, and have recently acquired the Occult Adventures sourcebook. The Occult Ritual rules in that book (see page 208) are derived from Unearthed Arcana's incantations. It appears that the stars are now right to discuss how to use those ritual rules in Pathfinder Freeport campaigns, and how to convert existing rituals from previous Freeport titles to these new rules.

In the Pathfinder edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure, Forbidden Lore has been changed from a Knowledge skill to a pool of points that modifies Knowledge checks regarding Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Freeport's modularity has always been one of the line's great strengths; this new design choice now allows GMs to use occult rituals without forbidden lore, or vice versa.

All of the sample rituals in Occult Adventures are suitable for use in Freeport. The Call Beyond the Veil, Haunted Communion, and Ritual Exorcism rituals should be used in place of the Exorcism and Seance rituals appearing in the True20 Freeport Companion. This leaves only Awaken the Dead and Conjure Demon to convert to Pathfinder.

Awaken the Dead replicates animate dead, but only creates one zombie per use of the ritual.

School necromancy; Level 4
Casting Time 40 minutes
Components V, S, M (grave dirt, at least 1 pint of animal blood)
Skill Checks Knowledge (arcana) DC 30, 2 successes; Knowledge (religion) DC 30, 2 successes
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft/character level of the caster)
Target one corpse
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; SR no
Backlash The caster is exhausted
Failure The caster takes 1 permanent negative level
Effect One corpse within range is animated as a zombie. The zombie is fanatically loyal to the caster. It can be destroyed by the usual means of dispatching undead. (If the optional insanity rules from Freeport: The City of Adventure are being used, then everyone present when the zombie rises must succeed on a DC 15 Will save or gain 1 Insanity Point. In addition, the caster automatically acquires 1 Insanity Point for creating a zombie.)

Unlike a standard Occult Adventures campaign, Freeport's ritualists are frequently obsessed with contacting evil outsiders to bargain for their services. Therefore, this setting includes rituals that allow any knowledgeable mortal to risk their soul in attempt summoning a fiend.


The Conjure Demon ritual is actually not a single ritual, but a category of many different spells used to call a fiend to appear and serve the casters. All are based on the planar binding series of spells, with the spell level determined by the Hit Dice of the creature(s) called: 5th for lesser planar binding (1-6 HD), 6th for planar binding (7-12 HD), or 8th for greater planar binding (13-18 HD). Apply those spells' duration, saving throw, and SR entries to the ritual rather than the usual conjuration benchmarks.

Use the occult ritual rules to determine additional details of each individual summoning. Many fiends seek out any chance to access the Material Plane, so they encourage the creation of rituals that make success easier to obtain. Add casting time restrictions, expensive components, limited targets (one species of fiend), and dangerous backlash in order to reduce the DC to cast the ritual. Many demonic rituals also allow secondary casters, with the most powerful of these spells practically requiring a large cult to perform successfully.

Let's use the Call Forth the Fiend incantation from "Fury in Freeport" (d20 Freeport Companion, page 158) as a worked example:

School conjuration (calling) [evil]; Level 5
Casting Time 50 minutes
Components V, S, M (caster's dung, blood of a freshly sacrificed victim, powdered remains of a good holy symbol worth at least 100 gp)
Skill Checks Knowledge (arcana) DC 28, 2 successes; Knowledge (planes) DC 28, 2 successes; Spellcraft, DC 28, 1 success
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft/character level of the caster)
Target one skulldugger or two dretches
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; SR no
Backlash The caster takes 2d6 points of damage
Failure Three dretches appear and attack the caster
Effect To begin this ritual, the caster must mix the material components and use them to inscribe a pentagram on a flat surface. Once the circle is inscribed, the remaining time is spent chanting the required invocations. If the ritual succeeds, a skulldugger (see previous column) or two dretch tear a hole in reality and appear in the circle. They bow before the caster and await its instructions. The caster can bid the conjured minions to perform one task subject to the normal limits of the lesser planar binding spell. Should the task be impossible, the fiend is freed from the ritual's effects and may go its own way. Fiends called forth by a successful casting of this ritual never attack the caster.

The DC has been calculated as follows: base 28, plus spell level 5, -1 for expensive material components (this modifier normally requires 500 gp, but procuring the holy symbol and victim add sufficient difficulty to earn the reduction), -3 for limited targets, -1 for backlash = 28.

Note that the DC is higher under the Pathfinder rules. However, the caster only needs to succeed on half of the necessary skill checks (rounded up) for the ritual to succeed, while the v.3.5 rules required the full number of checks (with failed checks adding additional checks and casting time).

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