About Rituals

Learning and performing unnatural rituals is damaging. It accelerates the mental deterioration of Protagonists. At the same time, the lower a Protagonist’s sanity, the easier it becomes for them to successfully use rituals. Thus, when Protagonists use rituals, it represents a way to exercise short-term power at the cost of longer-term damage. In Lovecraftian RPGs, the use of magic is dangerous, always fraught with uncertainty and danger, and always leads to ruin.

A ritual can take a variety of forms: Recitation, chanting, music, gestures or complex actions. It serves to trigger an unnatural effect that some might call sorcery, witchcraft, mysterious power, or magic. In Lovecraft, rituals also often outwardly have an alchemical or pseudo-scientific flavor, or seem to represent some unknown technology. Certain rituals may require certain objects, ingredients, or environments to work.

RULES REMINDER: ROLLING THE RITUAL ACTIVATION TEST

When making the ritual activation test, the dice roll which decides whether a ritual succeeds or fails, the mechanics of success and failure are reversed. This means that a ritual activation test succeeds if the roll exceeds current SAN (that is, when a regular SAN test would fail). Conversely, the ritual activation test fails if the roll is below current SAN (when a regular SAN test would be a success). Critical rolls (digits matching) which are above current SAN represent critical successes; such rolls below current SAN are fumbles.

Accelerated Healing

Heal another person’s physical injuries

Simple ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 2 turns; 1D4 WP, 1D6 SAN.

By means of this ritual, a caster can reverse physical injuries to another person’s  body, potentially even saving their life. The ritual involves the caster pricking the skin of his or her hand such that it bleeds. This bloody hand is pressed onto the damaged person’s injury (if external) or above the target’s heart (for internal injuries). All the while, the caster must intone the words necessary for the ritual.

In game terms, successful use of the ritual causes the targeted person to regain as many HP as the ritual costs in WP (up to his or her normal maximum). This recovery takes several minutes: 1 HP is healed immediately, with a further 1 HP regained per minute thereafter. The ritual chant must be sustained for the entire duration of the healing process.

The healing produced by the ritual is entirely natural, albeit drastically accelerated. This benefit, however, comes at a cost: the physical body of the healed person also ages at a vastly accelerated rate, with the individual’s biological age increasing by approximately one year for each HP healed.

The ritual extracts another cost also: the HP regained are in truth a form of life force drain, draining the essence from a sacrifice. Typically, there’s a 1-to-1 relationship between points to be healed and points that are lost by the sacrifice.  Many ritual magicians employ another living creature (human or animal) and drain the necessary HP from that sacrifice (this may incur additional 0/1D4 SAN loss, for both healed and sacrifice). Alternatively, HP can be sacrificed directly by the ritual caster.


Aklo Sabaoth

Make contact with supernatural beings

Complex ritual.

Study time: years to learn the Aklo language, weeks to learn the ritual; 1D8 SAN.

Activation: 1 hour; 1D8 WP, 1D10 SAN.

This ritual comprises a chant that can be used to make contact with certain supernatural beings. The invocation and the conversation take place in the mystical language known as Aklo, whose effect on the human mind is highly dangerous. The typical high pagan feast days such as Halloween, Walpurgis Night or even Good Friday are particularly suitable times to perform the ritual. The words “Sabaoth”, “Metraton”, “Almousin” and “Zariatnatmik” play a special role in the invocation.

A common use for this ritual is to make contact with Yog-Sothoth; other Great Old Ones or supernatural entities may also respond to the invocation of Aklo Sabaoth. What truths about cosmic horrors these entities might impart to the caster, whether this increases his or her Unnatural skill, and how much SAN it costs are left to the Game Moderator.

Regardless of how the ritual played out, any person who participated in a successful invocation is permanently marked. The contacted supernatural being can reach out across the dimensions and mentally contact them whenever it wishes  …

Yog-Sothothery

“I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and there are no earth beings on it. He that came with the Aklo Sabaoth said I may be transfigured there being much of outside to work on.”

— The Dunwich Horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1928.

“It was not spelled here exactly as Mrs. Ward had set it down from memory, nor yet as the authority had shewn it to him in the forbidden pages of “Eliphas Levi”; but its identity was unmistakable, and such words as Sabaoth, Metraton, Almousin, and Zariatnatmik sent a shudder of fright through the searcher […]”

— The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1927.


Annihilation

Torture and kill through pure mind power

Elaborate ritual.

Study time: months; 1D10 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn; 1D8 WP, 1D10 SAN.

Only the most powerful and insane ritual workers have the courage and ruthlessness needed to harm other living beings through the power of pure hatred. Furthermore, the spell is dangerous because it may cause damage to the spirit of the caster as well as the victim. Such powers are inherently corrupting and should be avoided at all costs. The effect of the ritual, depending on the severity of its effects, is manifested through sudden internal bleeding, bones inexplicably breaking, exhaustion of the nervous system, or burns. The ritual worker must be able to touch the target and speak the words. She then makes a ritual activation test – the degree of success of that roll determine the damage inflicted as follows:

  • If the ritual activation test is a standard (not critical) success, the target suffers Lethality 10% damage irrespective of any armor. As per usual, the lethality roll is a percentile roll – if less than or equal to the lethality value, the target dies instantly (i.e., is reduced to 0HP). If the lethality roll is higher than 10, the target isn’t instantly slain but suffers HP damage. The target immediately makes a POW × 5 test:
    • if the POW test is unsuccessful (but not a fumble), the HP damage is equal to the two dice from the lethality roll treated individually as D10s and added together (again, ignoring armor).
    • If the POW test is successful (but not a critical), the HP damage is half that sum, but 1D4 WP are also lost.
    • If the POW test is a critical success, the HP damage is 1HP (ignoring armor).
    • If the POW test is a fumble, the HP damage is twice the sum of the individual dice from the lethality test roll.
  • If the ritual activation test is a critical success, the target suffers Lethality 20% damage irrespective of armor. As above, a lethality test roll above 20 still delivers HP damage, the amount determined by a POW × 5 test. The magnitude of HP damage is TWICE that noted above (i.e., in the four cases: 2 × sum of the lethality dice, 1 × sum of the lethality dice, 2HP, or 4 × sum of the lethality dice).
  • If the ritual activation test is a fumble, the ritual worker rolls a Lethality 10% result against him or herself, modified as per the same POW × 5 test described above.

In all cases, the damage inflicted is created through the victim’s organs beginning to boil and melt. Lethal damage manifests as the entire body being reduced to a squishy pile of tissue and bones. Watching such a gruesome display causes SAN loss at the GM’s discretion; being the target of such an attack costs a minimum of 1/1D10 SAN.


Banish Entity

Banishes unnatural entities

Difficult ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: 1 hour; WP approximately 2 × POW of the being to be banished, 1D10 SAN.

This ritual is extremely complex and requires extensive preparation. It involves chanting in an ancient language and certain rhythmic gestures and hand movements, and requires at least three participants. There is no upper limit to the number of participants that can be involved. If performed as a group, not all participants need to know the ritual beforehand. The effects created by a successful Banishment ritual depend on the situation, and can be judged by the Game Moderator. SAN loss from seeing the creature to be banished may be added to the SAN cost of the spell, if applicable.

The GM determines the total number of WP that must be collectively sacrificed (by all participants) in the ritual to successfully dispel the creature. As long as at least this number of points are provided to the ritual, and the activation test succeeds, the targeted entity is banished (by some means or other). As a guideline for the required WP costs, a base figure of twice the creature’s POW is a starting point which can be modified up or down as the GM wishes.

Banish does not work against every type of unnatural entity, only against those that are not normally found on Earth and which can feasibly be forced to travel back to their place of origin. Thus, Deep Ones or Ghouls cannot be banished (Game Moderator’s decision in case of doubt). Vastly powerful entities such as Great Old Ones generally ignore banishment.

When the ritual is performed, various extraordinary natural phenomena occur towards the climax: lights appears to dim, the sky darkens, as if an invisible cloud has moved in front of the sun. Lightning and thunder or a rumbling in the earth may occur, and the atmosphere might appear as if electrostatically charged. Animals also react to the ritual: dogs bark hysterically and birds start chirping in strange cadences.

Yog-Sothothery

“I guess he’s sayin’ the spell” whispered Wheeler as he snatched back the telescope. […] The chanting of the men from Arkham now became unmistakable, and Wheeler saw through the glass that they were all raising their arms in the rhythmic incantation.”

— The Dunwich Horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1928.


Body Swap

Take control of another person’s body, transferring your mind into it

Difficult ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn; 1D8 WP, 1D6 SAN.

This perfidious ritual from the Necronomicon allows the caster’s spirit to migrate into a foreign body, while the victim’s spirit is transferred into the caster’s body. To cast the ritual, all that is required is for the caster and victim to be in close proximity (maximum distance of 10 meters/yards), and for the caster to exert an effort of will. The caster and the target engage in an opposed POW test. If the caster wins, the mind swap succeeds, otherwise the attempt is rebuffed. Weak-willed individuals (who have a low POW) are thus easier to overcome than strong personalities. As described below, mind swaps are normally temporary – after a period of time, the two consciousnesses spontaneously flip back to their original bodies. Truly powerful sorcerers have, however, have been known to achieve a permanent mind swap.

The victim of a body swap loses 0/1D6 SAN each time his or her mind is transferred via this ritual. The GM should keep careful track of the total amount of SAN that the individual has lost. For the second and subsequent Body Swap against the same victim, his or her effective POW (the number rolled against for the opposed test) is their actual POW minus this total of SAN point loss. Thus, it gets progressively easier and easier for a caster to take over the same person’s body. If the effective POW of the victim is ever reduced to 3 or less, he or she has nothing to oppose the takeover and the caster can effect the swap at any time without an opposed test. Note that the victim’s actual POW is not being reduced, just their ability to deflect the ritual’s effect.

The duration of the mind swap also increases with repetition. While at first the effect only lasts a few minutes, subsequent castings can create swaps lasting several hours, eventually even a day. Bringing about a permanent swap is a much more serious ritual undertaking, requiring the sacrifice of a living being carried out on a date of mystical significance, like Candlemas, Walpurgis or Halloween.

During the brief moment when the mind swap is occurring, both the victim and caster are seized by bizarre contortions affecting their facial features as well as other muscles. After the swap, people familiar with  the mind-swapped parties may well notice unexplained changes (e.g., a change to their pitch of voice, unfamiliar pronunciation or use of unusual words, altered handwriting, unfamiliar facial expressions and gestures). The individuals will also usually lack small personal memories of the original person.

During the period of the mind swap, the targeted victim has full control over the body of the caster and can undertake actions that cause it harm. Because of this possibility it is common for ritual casters to take precautions that incapacitate their body in some way for the duration (e.g., confining oneself to a locked room, taking sleeping pills, etc.)

Yog-Sothothery

It is rumored that extremely strong-willed ritual casters can take over a victim with whom they already have a close bond even after their death, so long as their spirit still resides “in these material spheres.”

The Great Race of Yith, with the aid of a projection machine, uses a variant of this spell to take over other beings as they travel through time, such as happened to the unfortunate Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee (see “The Shadow out of Time”). The victim of such advanced mind swapping technology is transported through time and installed into the body of a member of the Great Race. The time spent in this bizarre body is later remembered only through fleeting memories and vague dreams.


“She was getting hold of him, and he knew that some day she would never let go. Even now she probably let him go only when she had to, because she couldn’t hold on long at a time. She constantly took his body and went to nameless places for nameless rites, leaving him in her body and locking him upstairs—but sometimes she couldn’t hold on, and he would find himself suddenly in his own body again in some far-off, horrible, and perhaps unknown place.”

– The Thing on the Doorstep, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1933


DHO HNA Formula

View or travel to distant places

Complex ritual.

Study time: months; 1D8 SAN.

Activation: minutes; variable WP depending on distance: 1D4 WP (gaze, near) / 1D6 WP (gaze, far) / 1D10 WP (gaze, distant worlds); 1D4 SAN (gaze, earth) / 1D6 SAN (gaze to strange or mystical places) / 1D10 SAN (journey).

This ritual has two distinct parts. While the repeated intonation of the Dho Formula makes distant places appear in the mind’s eye of the caster, the Hna Formula can transfer a person’s body to the distant location seen in their vision. The ritual allows not only for instantaneous travel to places on Earth, but also allows ritual practitioners to reach far distant planets, mystical places or even the Dreamlands.

Using the ritual to view a nearby place costs 1D4 WP, viewing a faraway place on Earth requires 1D6 WP, while looking at distant worlds drains 1D10 WP. If the ritual caster wishes to not just view the alien place but also travel there, the cost in WPs in twice this amount. For extremely distant or mystical places, a sacrifice of permanent POW points may be needed (at the Game Moderator’s discretion). Depending on the specific destination and the circumstances that exist at the destination, further SAN losses may be incurred as determined by the GM. It is also possible that those who witness or experience strange places may earn a small increase to their Unnatural skill (e.g., +1D4 Unnatural for a quick jaunt to an alien planet). This skill gain is at the GM’s discretion.

Yog-Sothothery

“Grandfather kept me saying the Dho formula last night, and I think I saw the inner city at the 2 magnetic poles. I shall go to those poles when the earth is cleared off, if I can’t break through with the Dho-Hna formula when I commit it. They from the air told me at Sabbat that it will be years before I can clear off the earth, and I guess grandfather will be dead then, so I shall have to learn all the angles of the planes and all the formulas between the Yr and the Nhhngr.”

– The Dunwich Horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1928


Dominate Will

Take over another person’s will, forcing them to follow your instructions

Simple ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 2 turns; 1D6 WP; 1D4 SAN.

To attempt to use this ritual to overcome the will of another, the ritual leader must be physically close to the target and establish eye contact. A briefly intoned recitation is all that is required; on completion an opposed test is made comparing the victim’s POW and the POW of the ritual leader.

Four different outcomes are possible:

    • The target wins the test, with the target achieving a critical success: not only does the attempt fail, with no loss of volition or will inflicted on the target, but the target gains a clear understanding of who cast the ritual;
    • The target wins but didn’t achieve a critical success: the domination is fended off successfully, however the target still loses 1D6 WP;
    • The ritual leader wins with a normal success: the target is successfully dominated and must follow the ritual leader’s instructions for 1D10 minutes. Note that any instructions that would endanger the target’s life will trigger an additional opposed test of POW vs POW, with the target only submitting if they lose this extra test;
    • The ritual leader wins, achieving a critical success (or alternatively, wins after the target fumbles their roll): domination proceeds as per above, but lasts for 1D10 hours instead.

The Game Moderator may rule that a particularly powerful spellcaster may attempt the domination ritual upon someone with whom they don’t have current eye contact. In such cases, the ritual caster would still need to possess a personal item closely associated with the target, such as a lock of hair, a prized possession, or an article of clothing.

It is not possible to dominate more than one person at the same time. Using the ritual to overcome a new target causes any existing person under the caster’s thrall to be immediately freed of the influence.


Elder Sign

Protection against unnatural powers

Difficult ritual.

Study time: hours; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn/1 hour; 10 WP per 10m radius, 1D4 SAN.

Depending on the culture that is describing it, the appearance of an Elder Sign varies; the most common description is that it resembles a branch with five subsidiary sub-branches. Creation of an Elder Sign involves both inscribing the symbol and intoning a chant. The sign must be carved into something durable: stone, metal, bone, or wood are suitable for this purpose, but are not the only options. An appropriate Craft skill of 20%+ and about an hour of careful work are required to get the nuanced geometries perfect. Some mythos sources suggest that it is possible to inscribe the Elder Sign on a person’s skin – although experimenting with such wards is perhaps best left to truly intrepid or insane ritual magicians.

An active Elder Sign prevents the approach or passage of beings who serve the Great Old Ones or Outer Gods. It might even have a (limited) effect on the deities themselves. The area of effect of an Elder Sign can be increased by spending more WPs during the ritual of its creation. An affected creature loses 1D4 POW and the same number of WPs for each turn it remains within the protected area. If the entity’s POW or WP are reduced to 0 in this manner, the result is immediate flight, banishment, perhaps even death or dissolution. An Elder Sign remains active until it is destroyed. This can occur through the breaking of the physical substance into which the symbol is carved, or through the geometries of the symbol being corrupted.

Another application of the Elder Sign ritual is to inscribe the symbol without a material component – that is, in the air. In this case, the Elder Sign, used as a kind of gesture, has the power to briefly reveal otherwise invisible objects or servants of the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods who are in the area of effect. This can be used to make nearby hidden dangers or unrecognized creatures visible. The activation time for such an ad hoc ritual is one turn and the effects last 1D4 turns.

Yog-Sothothery

“Gabinius had, the rumour ran, come upon a cliffside cavern where strange folk met together and made the Elder Sign in the dark […]”

– The Descendant, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1938


Elixir of Life

Reanimate the recently dead

Difficult ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: 5 minutes; 1D10 WP, 1D8 SAN.

This ritual can be used to reanimate the dead. The only important requirement is that the corpse be absolutely fresh. It does not matter whether the corpse is complete or not. By application of this ritual, even severed parts of a corpse may be reanimated – and such parts can even act independently to the rest of the body.

To prepare the elixir, one needs a well-equipped laboratory and a week’s worth of time. What ingredients are required, how they can be obtained, and whether complex technical skill tests are necessary is left to the Game Moderator’s discretion. The composition of the elixir differs significantly for each different species and the completed solution may vary in color and appearance.

To reanimate a corpse (or part thereof) all that is required is a quantity of the correct elixir, which must be injected into the dead person’s or creature’s vascular system.

The mental state of the reanimated person varies greatly depending on how fresh the corpse was. As a general rule, the fresher the corpse, the better it will retain what it knew in life. If the body has been dead for too long, the reanimated entity may be little more than a beast – raving and screaming, thrashing about wildly. Perhaps even just sitting immobile making gurgling sounds or staring blankly with open eyes and a dull stare. The precise state of a corpse revived through the application of this ritual is largely at the Game Moderator’s discretion (guided by the freshness and general state of the corpse used).

A dead person who is returned to life through a successfully reanimation ritual loses 1D8/1d20 SAN. He or she might retain some or all prior knowledge and memories of life before death, but will always be prone to aggressive, vindictive, or devious behavior.

Yog-Sothothery

“I looked at the closed eyelids, and thought I detected a quivering. Then the lids opened, shewing eyes which were grey, calm, and alive, but still unintelligent and not even curious.”

– Herbert West – Reanimator, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1922.


Erase Memories

Eliminate selected memories

Difficult ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: half an hour; WP = POW of the victim, 1D6 SAN.

This ritual permanently changes the victim’s memory, entirely removing a specific period of time or event, as chosen by the ritual caster. The victim is entitled to an opposed test of POW vs POW to fend off the mental incursion. If the victim wins the opposed POW test, parts of the deleted memory come back over time on appropriate occasions as dreams, flashbacks, or visions. Realizing that such a vision is actually a lost memory represents a (disturbing) moment of revelation that is worth a one-time gain of +1D10 to the Unnatural skill.

In the case of unnatural entities such as the Yithians, who have a very high POW, the victim can usually only win the opposed test if the Yithian fumbles the opposed test.

If the ritual caster rolls a critical success in the ritual activation test, no opposed POW test is allowed – the memory is simply gone forever. In the event of a fumble on the ritual activation test, not only does the ritual fail but it can never again be used by that ritual caster (future attempts at enacting the ritual automatically fail).

Time and perfect stillness are required to execute the ritual. Because of this, the victim must be either hypnotized (e.g., by means of a crystal or a chant) or asleep. The victim must also be in close proximity to the ritual caster.

After the ritual has been performed, the victim’s memory of the chosen time period or event is blank. If they try to recall the memory, he or she feels only a sense of emptiness, like a sheet of blank paper. The realization of unexplained amnesia costs 1D4 SAN. However, if scraps of memory return later, this may also cost SAN, depending on the nature of the suppressed memories.

The Great Race of Yith uses a mechanical device to facilitate the hypnotic casting of this ritual.

Yog-Sothothery

“Thus the returning mind reached its own age with only the faintest and most fragmentary visions of what it had undergone since its seizure. All memories that could be eradicated were eradicated, so that in most cases only a dream-shadowed blank stretched back to the time of the first exchange.”

– The Shadow Out of Time, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1936


Essential Saltes

Raise the dead from their physical remains

Complex ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: minutes; 1D8 WP, 1D10 SAN.

This spell is used to raise the dead through the use of ancient alchemical techniques. Instructions for this ritual can be found in Book VII of the Necronomicon. Its preparations are extensive and the entire process is extremely time consuming.

The resurrection ritual requires the complete physical remains of the deceased person to be raised. Depending on the ritual caster’s circumstances, this may be easy or hard to obtain. The freshness of the corpse is not important, even a decomposed skeleton can serve as viable raw materials. What is, however, important is the completeness of the mortal remains – the caster must strive to recover every last fragment.

The physical remains are reduced to their essential salts in an elaborate alchemical process that can only be carried out in an appropriately fitted-out laboratory. The process also requires several rare and expensive ingredients. At the end of the alchemical processing, the body is reduced to a fine, light powder of dull, neutral color (bluish-gray, greenish, and pinkish-white are all common hues). This is the corpse’s “essential salts” – a curious powder that does not stick to the fingers, but always completely trickles back into any vessel in which it is held. A gust of wind, however, may scatter it irretrievably.

To resurrect a person from their essential salts, the ritual caster requires a prepared room with a pentagram in the center and four circles in all corners of the room. A shallow bowl containing the salts is placed in the middle of the pentagram and the formula is chanted. As the incantation proceeds a light wind will arise, it becomes dark in the room and the place will fill with smoke and an acrid odor. A thick, greenish-black vapor then rises from the bowl. The physical form of the resurrected coalesces out of this oily smoke.

It is possible to reverse this process of revival – that is to reduce the resurrected person back into their essential salts. This involves a reverse form of the original chant. The duration of this reverse ritual and its WP cost are the same as for the original. However, reducing the raised dead to its Essential Salts costs only 1D4 SAN.

The physical body of a resurrected person is fully alive and has a will and intelligence of its own. It possesses the memories that the original person had in life. Some may be willing to answer questions, others are less cooperative. Some resurrected may be persuaded to share their knowledge through persuasion, threats, or the use of force.

There is one major drawback to using this ritual to revive the dead. If the mortal remains available to the ritual caster – and thus the resulting salts – do not comprise the complete physical form of the deceased, dire results are obtained. Such rituals raise indescribable beings that are only vaguely human, have limited intellect, and are often dangerous and violent. Witnessing such a flawed ritual is likely to result in significant SAN losses (at the GM’s discretion).

Yog-Sothothery

“The essential Saltes of Animals may be so prepared and preserved, that an ingenious Man may have the whole Ark of Noah in his own Studie, and raise the fine Shape of an Animal out of its Ashes at his Pleasure; and by the lyke Method from the essential Saltes of humane Dust, a Philosopher may, without any criminal Necromancy, call up the Shape of any dead Ancestour from the Dust whereinto his Bodie has been incinerated.”

– The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1927


Forge Ancestral Bond

Create a mystic bond with a future descendant

Elaborate ritual.

Study time: weeks; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: Years; 1D4 WP and 1D4 SAN per repetition of the ritual.

It is possible, with the help of an invocation from the 3rd Psalm of the Liber Damnatus, to arrange for a future blood descendant to possess looks very much like the caster. This descendant has a special, unnatural relationship with his ancestor (the ritual caster, perhaps dead by this time).

In game terms, a character who is so linked to a forebear develops an individual Bond with the ancestor upon attaining adulthood. The initial value of this bond equals half the CHA characteristic of the ancestor who cast the ritual in days past.

With the help of the ritual, the descendant can be brought under the mystical influence of the caster and be made to serve, for example, as a vessel for the caster’s spirit. The bound descendent might even be compelled to raise his ancestor from the Essential Salts – if they are still available.

The influence can, however, be much more subtle and lead to a slow and creeping personality change in the descendant. Perhaps the descendant obscurely receives the diaries or a painting of his ancestor or is otherwise stimulated to deal with his deceased ancestor.

To enact the ritual, the ninth saying from the appointed psalm must be spoken three times in a pentagram of fire at the correct constellation of stars. This ritual must be repeated every Walpurgis Night and All Saints’ Day until the sorcerer’s death in order to be successful. However, it can only be successful if his bloodline has not died out by that future date when the future descendent attains adulthood.

Yog-Sothothery

“But I am not unreadie for harde ffortunes, as I haue tolde you, and haue longe work’d upon ye Way of get’g Backe after ye Laste. […] This Uerse repeate eache Roodemas and Hallow’s Eue; and ye Thing will breede in ye Outside Spheres. And of ye Seede of Olde shal One be borne who shal looke Backe, tho’ know’g not what he seekes.”

– The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1927


Inflict Harm

Cause injury or illness

Complex ritual.

Study time: months; 1D8 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn or minutes (depending on the ritual variant); 1D6 WP, 1D10 SAN.

The purpose of this ritual is to inflict gruesome physical damage on a victim chosen by the ritual caster. Only the most ruthless and depraved ritual magicians would employ such dark magicks.

The ritual has two parts. In the first, the ritual caster establishes a special mystical connection to the chosen victim. The second phase involves using this link to channel the caster’s own hatred to inflict physical harm. The degree of injury visited upon the victim varies based on whether the connection is direct or indirect.

Direct connection: The strongest type of connection is that forged by physically touching or looking at the target close-up. Given the correct circumstances, it takes only 1 turn to establish such a connection. When leveraged for inflicting harm, a direct connection delivers powerful damage: the victim suffers 2 HP of damage for each WP invested by the ritual caster. As long as the direct connection is not broken, the ritual caster can continue to spend another 1D6 WP in each subsequent turn to do further damage without requiring another ritual activation test (and without further SAN loss).

Indirect connection: Ritual casters may wish to deal damage on a victim from a distance, never coming close enough to build a direct link. This requires an indirect connection be created. Usually this is only possible if the caster possesses a personal item of the victim’s – something the victim has touched, or an item they have worn or used, at least once. To establish an indirect connection through such an item, the ritual caster must first spill his or her own blood using a special ritual knife, then daub the victim’s personal object with a drop of that blood. All the while, the caster must continue the ritual chant while also and directing his or her rage at the blood-stained object for several minutes.

If indirectly connected, the ritual only does 1 HP of damage for each WP invested and the ritual cannot be automatically extended into multiple rounds. However, each subsequent day the ritual caster may renew the ritual by casting it again at the same hour. This maintains the indirect connection and allows the caster to spend another 1D6 WP and cause further damage without a new ritual activation test (and without further SAN loss).

The damage caused by the ritual – regardless of whether channeled via a direct or indirect link – manifests as eithwe sudden severe illness, or a type of internal or external injury. A critical success in the ritual activation test doubles the initial damage done when the connection is first established. A fumble, on the other hand, causes the ritual to reflect back on the caster, causing them to lose HPs equal to the number of WPs invested.

Each time a person suffers damage from this spell, he or she may attempt to resist the effect with a CON × 5 test. Success on the test  reduces the damage taken by half (to a minimum of 1 HP of damage). If the CON test is fumbled  or the victim drops to 2 or fewer HP, they can no longer resist the ritual’s effect. A critical success on the CON test, however, permanently breaks the mystical connection between caster and victim (although a subsequent connection can be later established by the caster, starting the ritual from scratch).

First aid or medicine cannot stop the unnatural damage, but skilled medical treatment can at least stabilize the victim (yielding a +20% bonus to the CON × 5 test).

If the victim realizes that he or she is suffering from an unknown, incurable, even unnatural disease, this precipitates a SAN loss of 0/1D6 SAN [helplessness].

The damage dealt by the ritual can only be permanently ended if the ritual caster is unwilling or unable to invest any more WPs, is killed, or if the connection is somehow broken. Destruction of the blood-spattered personal item ends an indirect connection; ceasing to be close to the victim ends a direct connection.


Music of the Spheres

An invocation of Azathoth

Simple ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 1 hour; 1D6 WP, 1D6 SAN + increase of Unnatural skill in the same amount.

This ritual establishes contact with Azathoth, the chaos that sits at the center of the universe. It is not spoken, but rather played on an instrument. The specific instrument employed is unimportant, the discordant tones can be achieved on any. The ‘music’ consists of unusual, almost atonal harmonies and cadences, which seem at once ingenious and insane. They have no relation to known harmonies.

When the music is played, it causes Azathoth’s gaze to fall on the musicians playing and all who listen. Azathoth’s presence manifests itself in altered surroundings, unnatural gusts of wind, a sense of emptiness not unlike that of deep space, and a massive, impenetrable darkness. These changes in environment are subtle at first, but grow stronger with each repetition of the musical phrases.

The music fills the listener with knowledge about the true nature of the cosmos. This is the real danger of this invocation: such revelations may easily overwhelm the human mind. The value of the rolled SAN loss from activation also serves as the number of points listeners gained in the Unnatural skill.

If a loss of control occurs during the ritual activation, the corresponding person falls completely under the intoxicating influence of the music. He or she might appear spellbound and hypnotized with eyes wide open, or may be left grinning euphorically as if drugged. Alternatively, the unfortunate individual may be stirred into a frenzy of wild and ecstatic dancing.

If the ritual activation left the ritual caster unconscious, or otherwise without WP, he or she is  compelled to play the music over and over until a SAN test succeeds.

While corrosive to SAN, some ritual practitioners choose to perform this ritual repeatedly, as a way of gaining knowledge of the unnatural. This is a very dangerous practice, since any SAN loss that puts the ritual caster below their Breaking Point almost certainly results in them gaining an obsession – probably to play the music as often as possible (triggering even greater SAN loss). Eventually, the victim dies in complete madness. Whether there is a way to escape the seemingly inevitable fate is left to the Game Moderator’s discretion.

Another risk associated with repeated use of this ritual is that routine practice can lead to Azathoth’s influence becoming stronger and stronger in a location, manifesting as increasingly weird and unnatural phenomena.

Yog-Sothothery

Music of the Spheres may spring from the creative spark of a genius musician like Erich Zann. Unsuspecting individuals might stumble upon it as a long-forgotten recording in some dusty attic. Alternatively, they may find a manuscript of sheet music with corresponding notes buried in the estate of a deceased musician or in a library. What would happen if those avant-garde pieces were brought to performance by an ambitious conductor?

“It would be useless to describe the playing of Erich Zann on that dreadful night. It was more horrible than anything I had ever overheard, because I could now see the expression of his face, and could realise that this time the motive was stark fear. He was trying to make a noise; to ward something off or drown something out—what, I could not imagine, awesome though I felt it must be. The playing grew fantastic, delirious, and hysterical, yet kept to the last the qualities of supreme genius which I knew this strange old man possessed.”

– The Music of Erich Zann, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1922


Open Dimensional Rift

Allows physical travel across vast expanses of dimensions, or through time.

Complex ritual.

Study time: months; 1D8 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn; 1D8 WP; 1D6 SAN.

This ritual, which few ritual practitioners have mastered (the Arkham witch Keziah Mason is regarded as one), includes two components: the drawing of complex curves and angles (e.g., on the walls of a room, on a piece of paper, or maybe even in the air) and a spoken incantation. The ritual opens a gate into the fourth dimension and allows ritual participants to cross the space-time continuum at will. Walls are literally permeable to someone using this power. Travel to the past or future or to distant, alien planets are all possible – if one knows where they wish to go. The act of traveling through the interstitial void and encountering potentially alien situations at the destination is likely to trigger SAN tests (at the GM’s discretion). Equally, exposure to alien environments may serve to increase the travelers’ Unnatural skill as well.

In the fourth dimension numerous dangers await the traveler. They may experience mind-shattering unearthly symmetry, abysses filled with kaleidoscopic colors, bizarre shapes and sounds, and the unreal sensation of being moved against one’s will in a completely inexplicable manner. Furthermore, the fourth dimension itself is inhabited by creatures that transcend the limits of human experience. Some appear as strange geometries, others as warped organic forms. Travelers may even encounter entities completely without form.

In order to direct one’s journey towards a specific goal, ritual participants must know exactly the angles and lines required. Otherwise it is very easy for the ritual to transport travelers to places other than their planned goal. Participants may even find themselves lost in the fourth dimension. Skills that assist in guiding the passage could include those relating to spatial orientation in the normal world (e.g., having 30% or more in the Navigate or Track skill), knowledge of the Unnatural, or a detailed understanding of non-Euclidian mathematics. The number of skill tests that must be made depends on the distance that must be traversed (in terms of space and time). A short hop through the rift – e.g., across a city – might only require one test. A vast voyage, such as to another galaxy or back to the Big Bang, would require many tests. If a fumble test occurs at any point this indicates the ritual has gotten out of control; the ritual participants will end up at a location of the Game Moderator’s choosing.

Similarly, if the original ritual activation test failed the GM might decide that the dimensional rift does indeed open – but it goes to an entirely undesirable destination, far from the target location.

If the ritual is used frequently, it can have a corrosive effect on a human participant – for them, the past and future begin to blur into one another. His or her view of reality becomes disturbingly overlaid with images from the past, or the future. Individuals who begin to experience this dissociation from normal space-time must make a Luck test – if they fail, their unmooring in space and time attracts the attention of an entity that lives in the interstitial dimensions. For a period of time (determined by the GM) that extra-dimensional entity “sticks” to the afflicted person, shadowing them wherever they go.

Yog-Sothothery

It is said that the Great Race of Yith also has powers to transcend time and space, although their particular techniques seem much more technological than the ceremonial magick embodied by this ritual. That is not to say that the two are necessarily unrelated …


“For since then I have known many ages and dimensions, and have had all my notions of time dissolved and refashioned. […] That night I passed the gateway to a vortex of twisted time and vision, and when morning found me in the attic room I saw in the walls and shelves and fittings that which I had never seen before. Nor could I ever after see the world as I had known it. Mixed with the present scene was always a little of the past and a little of the future, and every once-familiar object loomed alien in the new perspective brought by my widened sight. From then on I walked in a fantastic dream of unknown and half-known shapes; and with each new gateway crossed, the less plainly I could recognize the things of the narrow sphere to which I had so long been bound.

— The Book, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1938.


Powder of Ibn-Ghazi

Briefly render invisible unnatural entities or objects visible.

Simple ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 1 turn; 1D4 WP; 1 SAN.

Instructions for making Ibn-Ghazi’s powder can be found in the dreaded Necronomicon and in the work Daemonolatreiae Libri III (“Three Books of the Devil’s Cult”) by the witch hunter Nicolas Rémy, among others. To make the dust-fine gray powder, you need a well-equipped laboratory, the appropriate – typically rare – raw materials (as determined by the Game Moderator). The process takes several hours to perform.

The true activation of the ritual occurs when the powder is sprinkled over a Mythos-related object or creature that is usually invisible to the naked eye. Applying the powder makes the thing fully visible for 10 turns. The powder can be sprinkled, blown, or even spread over the entity with a suitable sprayer. The sights uncovered through the application of the powder may, at the GM’s discretion, cause further SAN losses and possibly result in an increase to the Unnatural skill.

At the GM’s discretion, the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi may also have other effects. For example, it might temporarily force a Formless entity into a solid form, temporarily slow down an otherworldly entity with Unnatural Speed, temporarily hold an entity with Flicker in the current plane of existence, or temporarily make a Transcendent entity vulnerable to physical damage.

Yog-Sothothery

He saw that Rice, from the party’s point of vantage above and behind the entity, had an excellent chance of spreading the potent powder with marvellous effect. Those without the telescope saw only an instant’s flash of grey cloud – a cloud about the size of a moderately large building – near the top of the mountain.”

– The Dunwich Horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1928


Prolong Life

Extending one’s life at the expense of others’ vitality

Complex to Elaborate ritual.

Study time: years; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: one hour; 1D10 WP, 1D6 SAN (animal sacrifice)/1D10 SAN (human sacrifice).

An unscrupulous ritual caster can prolong his or her own life at the expense of others by offering them up in ritual sacrifice, and in so doing absorbing their life force. After cleansing the sacrifice, the ritual caster brings it to a sacred place to be killed with a ritual dagger, amid dissonant chants and invocations of terrible entities. The sacrificial victim can be either an animal or a human being. Due to the dangers of the ritual, most practitioners start with the former (but chillingly far too many eventually proceed to something ‘stronger’). If a human sacrifice is to be used, the ritual must take place at one of the solstices (June 21/22 or December 21/22).

The benefits of a successful ritual are as follows:

  • Animal Sacrifice: For every 10 HPs possessed by the animal, the ritual caster gains one additional month of life.
  • Human Sacrifice: For every 10 years of expected lifespan possessed by the sacrificial victim, the ritual caster gains a whole year of additional life. Thus it is that youths or even children are the most desired victims for cruel ritual casters, since their remaining life span is the longest.
  • Familial or Individual Bond Sacrifice: If the person sacrificed in the ritual is someone with a close familial link to the caster or is one of the ritual caster’s Individual Bonds, the SAN loss to the caster is doubled. However, the specific lifespan gained is typically far greater than usual (the exact amount being at the Game Moderator’s discretion).

A critical success during ritual activation doubles the period added to the caster’s lifespan. A fumble, on the other hand, causes the ritual caster to immediately lose lifespan equal to the expected gain. This is manifested as shockingly rapid aging.

The victim’s life force can be absorbed in several ways: It could be bled out, with the blood being drunk by the ritual caster. Or the heart could be ripped out and consumed, or other parts of the body eaten.

While powerful, the ritual does not grant the ritual caster immortality, nor does it make them invulnerable to normal damage and disease. It also does not halt the aging process, simply rejuvenates the ritual caster according to the years of life gained. Regardless, many people are attracted to eternal youth, even if it requires bloody sacrifices from time to time.


See Through The Ages

View the future or past of a person, object, or place

Difficult ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 1 hour; 1D4 WP, 1D4 SAN.

This ritual allows the caster to peer briefly into the near future or past of a target object, place, or person. It is a mental journey that requires serenity and deep meditation focused on the particular target of the ritual. Such mental preparations may be aided by incense or mind-expanding drugs.

At the end of the meditation, the ritual caster perceives – for a short moment – a glimpse of the target’s future or past, although it is usually not possible to determine which. The ritual will mostly reveal a significant moment in the target’s history. The vision presented to the caster is frequently cryptic and misleading.

If the ritual caster obtained a critical success during the ritual activation, he or she can (to a limited degree) control the time period witnessed. Through such control, the ritual can be made to narrow down or concentrate on a nominated point in time.

A fumble during the ritual activation, on the other hand, causes something behind the veil to catch a glimpse of the ritual caster, leading to lingering nightmares. Depending on the precise vision exposed by the ritual, the caster may suffer additional SAN losses. He or she may also gain points in the Unnatural skill (e.g., +2% to +5%, at the Game Moderator’s discretion).


Sign of Koth

Ward against the passing of unnatural entities

Simple ritual.

Study time: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: Hours; 1D6 WP and 1D4 SAN against a specific type of being or 2D6 WP and 1D6 SAN if potent against all types of Mythos creatures.

The Sign of Koth is affixed to the Tower of Koth in the City of Gugs, among other places, and prevents the intrusion of these terrible creatures into the upper world of the Dreamlands and the waking world. Mythos sorcerers likewise use the sigil as a way to deny unnatural things passage through a portal or gate. In most cases, the mark is permanently affixed by carving it into stone or otherwise permanently attaching it.

Creating a ward that targets a particular chosen type or species of Unnatural entities is easiest, however such a Sign has no effect whatsoever against any other form of Mythos entity. A Sign of Koth effective against all kinds of unnatural creatures can be inscribed, but such a sigil requires a much more considerable investment of time and power.

The mark is not at all effective against Great Old Ones and their direct servants.

Yog-Sothothery

“Then he noticed a small door at the farther end of the room, and calmed himself enough to approach it and examine the crude sign chiselled above. It was only a symbol, but it filled him with vague spiritual dread; for a morbid, dreaming friend of his had once drawn it on paper and told him a few of the things it means in the dark abyss of sleep. It was the sign of Koth, that dreamers see fixed above the archway of a certain black tower standing alone in twilight—and Willett did not like what his friend Randolph Carter had said of its powers.”

– The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1927


Summon Entities

Summoning unnatural entities

Complex to Elaborate ritual.

Study time: days; 1D6 SAN.

Activation: minutes to hours (approximately 2 to 3 × POW of the being, in minutes); WP = POW of the being; 1D10 SAN.

Cultists throughout the ages have known how to summon unnatural creatures to receive their sacrifices and reverence. For mortals, summoning unnatural entities is always a very dangerous business. Each type of creature has its own ritual which must be learned individually, and there may be several variant rituals for the same class of entities. The more powerful the creature (measured in terms of its POW characteristic), the harder it is to summon. The WP cost for the ritual is equal to the POW of the creature. The duration of the ritual is based on two to three times the POW of the summoned creature in minutes (GM’s discretion).

Not all unnatural creatures can be summoned by means of such rituals. Great old ones are far too powerful to heed the call (see the boxed text nearby). The only (possible) exceptions to this are the avatars of Nyarlathotep – who actively seek to corrupt by showing themselves to unwise mortals. To summon such an avatar still represents a major undertaking, perhaps requiring 30+ WP, a ritual lasting at least 2 hours, and a human sacrifice. Summoning an avatar of Nyarlathotep also costs all present 1D8/1d20 SAN.

There are two basic ways to summon creatures whose POW value exceeds your own personal WP. A ritual caster can either sacrifice permanent points of POW (see the ritual rules) or recruit others to help in the ritual. When casting as a group, all participants must learn the ritual themselves, and each suffers the full SAN losses from its performance. It is possible that cultists of the Great Old Ones may have other ways (e.g., Artefacts) to facilitate the invocation of their gods without being drained to whimpering husks.

The creature being summoned will not manifest until after the full duration of the chant has been completed. It may come immediately, or after a short delay. The entity will certainly manifest within 1D10 minutes, at the latest. All those witnessing its arrival suffer the appropriate SAN loss.

Alarmingly, when the creature arrives it retains all its free will. To control the summoned creature and compel it to follow a command, for example, requires an opposed test of POW vs POW. Alternatively, 1 point of permanent POW can be sacrificed to force the entity to bow down to a person’s will without a test (this last tactic is not possible with avatars of Nyarlathotep, which can never be bound).

A critical success on the ritual activation test may result in the arriving creature being already under the caster’s control, or it might mean that the ritual cost only half the usual WP. It might also mean that the creature is able to take on a particularly complex task.

A fumbled roll during a ritual summoning (or the casters falling unconscious through a depletion of WPs) can lead to disaster. It’s possible that not one but several of the same creatures manifests, or that the creature arrives immune to the caster’s control. It is even possible that such a failed ritual might attract the attention of much more powerful entities of the mythos, bringing their attentions upon the caster.

What follows are some example summoning rituals; the GM is invited to create additional rituals to cater to other creatures.


Summon Night-Gaunt (POW 12)

approx. 30 minutes; 12 WP, 1D10 SAN

The Night-Gaunts can be summoned by means of a soft chant, but only in complete darkness – be it a dark night or a completely darkened room. An Elder Sign is helpful, as is the secret password known to the Ghouls. Either obviates the need for a POW test or sacrifice to control the being.


Summon Winged Servant (POW 8)

approx. 20 minutes; 8 WP, 1D10 SAN

Winged Servants are summoned from the icy depths of space at night, when the stars are clearly visible in the sky. The ritual requires a musical instrument – be it a drum, a flute, or a stringed instrument.


Summon The Dark Man (POW -)

2 hours; 30 WP, 1D10 SAN

The Dark Man, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, is invoked primarily by witches. The best time to invoke it are the witches’ Sabbaths (e.g. Walpurgis Night or Halloween). The ritual usually requires a human sacrifice (often a small child), who is cut with a ritual knife such that his or her blood pools into a ritual bowl. If the Dark Man appears, it brings the Book of Azathoth and will demand that the one who led the ritual inscribe his or her name in blood. Assuming their name is not already recorded in its pages.


Summon Shoggoth (POW 18)

approx. 1 hour; 18 WP, 1D10 SAN

A Shoggoth can be summoned near any secluded body of water in a wilderness locale, e.g. on the coast or in the mountains. The ritual caster constantly intones the formula and keeps ready an animal sacrifice of about 30 HP (an animal the size of a cow, horse or crocodile). This is essential since a Shoggoth always arrives … hungry.


Summon Star Spawn (POW 20)

approx. 1 hour; 20 WP; 1D10 SAN

The Star Spawn of Cthulhu may be summoned in the swamps of Louisiana (and perhaps other similar locales around the world) on certain significant nights of the year. Cultists enact the ritual by dancing wildly, naked, and roaring around a huge fire with a monolith containing a statuette of Cthulhu at its center. Human sacrifices are also required for this invocation. The worship formula is “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”


A Summoning ritual usually requires a specific time or place, a special ritual action, and sometimes a ritual tool and sacrifice. The required components can be determined by selection or randomly. The Ritual Components table offers some suggestions for this.

SUMMONING GREAT OLD ONES?

Great Old Ones cannot be “summoned” by human beings. They only manifest when they themselves wish to appear. Some of them cannot be summoned at all – either because they lie in a deathless sleep like Great Cthulhu or because they are imprisoned somewhere. Nevertheless, even trapped Great Old Ones can contact humans telepathically should they so desire. They can also be contacted by true initiates via the Aklo Sabaoth. It is up to the Game Moderator to decide whether a Great Old One has had its curiosity sufficiently piqued through a ritual summoning effort to make mental contact with the, or even manifest in person. The latter form of encounter is almost certain to drive the ritual caster to death or madness.

Yog-Sothothery

“Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn were braying, bellowing, and writhing about a monstrous ring-shaped bonfire; in the centre of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a great granite monolith some eight feet in height; on top of which, incongruous with its diminutiveness, rested the noxious carven statuette. From a wide circle of ten scaffolds set up at regular intervals with the flame-girt monolith as a centre hung, head downward, the oddly marred bodies of the helpless squatters who had disappeared. It was inside this circle that the ring of worshippers jumped and roared, the general direction of the mass motion being from left to right in endless Bacchanal between the ring of bodies and the ring of fire.”

– The Call of Cthulhu, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1926


Voorish Sign

Magical symbol of protection and knowledge

Simple ritual.

Study: days; 1D4 SAN.

Activation: 1 round; 1D4 WP, 1 SAN.

The Voorish Sign is not so much a ritual in the strict sense, but rather a magical gesture that can have a variety of different effects at the discretion of the Game Moderator. Like the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, the gesture can make the invisible visible for brief moments (1 turn). However, it is also conceivable that the Voorish Sign may reveal an enchantment, identify a magical artefact, or reduce the WP costs required to perform a complex ritual. Whether the use of the Voorish Sign leads to further SAN losses depends on the effect and the situation (as determined by the GM).

Yog-Sothothery

“That upstairs looks it will have the right cast. I can see it a little when I make the Voorish sign or blow the powder of Ibn Ghazi at it, and it is near like them at May-Eve on the Hill.“

— The Dunwich Horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1928.


 

GM RESOURCE: DESIGNING NEW RITUALS

The rituals described in this chapter are for the most part taken directly from the canon of Lovecraft’s stories. However, in order to tell exciting and challenging stories of cosmic horror, the Game Moderator may need additional rituals or a very specific effect for his or her scenario. It is easy to create brand new rituals using the following guidelines. Naturally, the Game Moderator is free to deviate from these suggestions at any time and change the values as he or she sees fit – they are, after all, just guidelines.

Effect of the Ritual

First, the Game Moderator should consider what exactly is the ritual is supposed to achieve. The GM will probably already have an idea about this, since the ritual is supposed to fit into the campaign or scenario, and fulfill a certain function as part of that story.

In principle, the GM can give a ritual any conceivable effect. However, some attention should be paid to the impacts it might have on the game world. Be especially careful with rituals that have enormously powerful effects that, in the hands of Protagonists, might derail or destroy the structure of an adventure or campaign. Prime examples are rituals for easy information gathering and those by which unnatural creatures can be easily defeated. The first type can render many investigative scenario plots moot, and the second saps much of the horror out of a cosmic horror game. If there is a good reason why such a ritual must exist in a scenario, its benefits should ideally be offset by negative costs or risks. For example, the ritual might expose the caster to considerable peril, or require extremely elaborate preparations, or perhaps only be possible under certain very limited circumstances.

In the canon of Lovecraft and other mythos authors, certain magical effects recur time and again. On the other hand, flashy magical effects familiar from fantastic literature, seldom if ever make an appearance. If the GM wants to stay atmospherically with the literary models of the Mythos, it is recommended to keep the same kinds of boundaries when it comes to the effects of unnatural rituals in the game. To assist with this, the guidelines below focus on general categories of effects which mirror the way the supernatural is depicted in the source fiction. The GM can use these as a general guide.

Of course, a ritual can have multiple effects and each effect can be drawn from several of the mentioned categories.

Finally, the GM should consider the degree to which the ritual can be perceived by an observer in the game world. On the one hand, this depiction helps build the atmosphere of the game as perceived by players. For example, a spell intended to do direct damage in combat could take the form of a glowing green mist that envelops the victim, who is wracked by pain; or alternatively the victim might simply slump down and bleed a little from the nose. The amount of damage might be exactly the same, but the effect on the mood of the game is certainly very different. The degree to which the ritual’s effects can be easily perceived also affects the ability to cast the spell in the presence of other onlookers. The version of the combat spell with the green glowing mist will certainly cause a considerable stir in a busy pedestrian zone, while the second form might also be used for the stealthy assassination of an opponent. In addition to the effect, the necessary ritual actions must also be described (more on this below). An inconspicuous effect is, for example, much less useful if the ritual involves loud chanting and spitting on the victim.

Physical effects to living creaturesDealing damage, disease, death, prolonging life, healing, improving or harming physical attributes (STR, CON, DEX), transformation.
Manipulation of timeTime travel, seeing into the past or into the future.
Manipulation of spaceTeleportation, flying, creating portals to weird places or to other dimensions (whether simply to view or visit those places).
Manipulation of the mindCreating or suppressing feelings, mental control, enhancing or eroding mental attributes (INT, POW, CHA), persuading someone of something, or driving them insane.
Influencing unnatural beingsCalling, driving away, communicating, or controlling them.
Create UnnaturalCreating magical Artefacts, Zombies or Homunculi, raising the dead.
ProtectionProtection from physical damage, protection from unnatural creatures or magic.
Altered PerceptionInvisibility, seeing the invisible, enhancing or degrading natural senses

 

Describing the Ritual

The Game Moderator should next consider what prerequisites are necessary for the ritual to be performed and how exactly it should take place. In doing so, keep a close eye on any consequences the chosen prerequisites might create, and which of the prerequisites are absolutely necessary (as opposed to desirable) for the ritual to yield the desired outcomes. Are time-consuming preparations mandatory? Must rare, expensive or illegal components be procured? How easy should it be to perform the ritual? Are there limits to how often (or when) it must take place? What external conditions must prevail? The Ritual Components table nearby can be used as a quick way to randomly generate such details if desired, or the GM can select conditions from the lists as needed. The table can also be used to inspire the design of other conditions. A simple ritual might include only one or two ritual components, while a complex and powerful ritual might require three, four, or even more ritual components.

Place and Time: Some rituals can be performed anywhere and anytime, at least in theory. This is especially important for quick rituals that are meant to be cast spontaneously, such as in a fight. However, most rituals, especially the more complex ones, require certain conditions to prevail such as a special ritual location or a certain time. For example, a ritual might be cast only at night or only at exactly 12:00 noon. Many time restrictions are linked to astronomical conditions, i.e. to certain positions of the stars, the moon or the sun. A geographic location can play a role in two ways. First, it can provide certain necessary environmental conditions, such as complete darkness or the presence of a major body of water. To meet such a general restriction, it would be suitable to choose any place with complete darkness and any larger body of water. Second, a very specific location could be a prerequisite: the center of Stonehenge or the spot where a particular person died. Usually there is a reason why the ritual can only be cast in a specific place. What reason might that be?

Tools: Most rituals require some kind of special items, tools, weapons, clothing, ingredients, etc. These are usually things that are easily transportable (although this might be difficult in individual cases), so they can be brought to the location where the ritual is to be performed. Also, they can generally be reused over-and-over. The tools might be very simple, such as a piece of chalk to paint an occult symbol on, or they could be highly complex, such as a decorated altar with precious candlesticks, an unholy book, an ancient sacrificial knife.

Sacrifice: Sacrifices are living beings or valuable objects that are killed, consumed, or otherwise destroyed during the course of the ritual. Crucially, they are no longer available at the end of the ritual. Not every ritual involves sacrifice, but most particularly powerful rituals do. When items are sacrificed, they are always things of personal value to the ritual caster or the target. They might be things that are family heirlooms, can only be procured at great expense, or might even be parts of the caster’s own body. The last type obviously poses some very strict limits on the number of times the ritual can be performed by any one ritual magician. The GM should determine the type of sacrifice needed for the ritual. Depending on the type, it might be consumed via burying, burning, sinking it in deep water, eating it, scattered it to the winds, or simply leaving it somewhere (e.g., in a wilderness location). For living sacrifices, there are numerous imaginative methods of conveying them from life to death, and many of these are potential options for a ritual.

Ritual action: while tools and sacrifice are not necessarily part of a ritual, some form of physical action always is. This can range from a meditation or a few muttered words in a sinister language to an hour-long choral chant with ecstatic dancing and drug-induced mass copulation. If the ritual involves a sacrifice, then the sacrifice itself is also part of the ritual act. Often the sacrifice forms the frenetic climax of the ritual.

1D10time or placetoolsacrificeaction
1Moon phase (e.g. new moon, full moon)Weapon (e.g. ritual dagger, sword)Salt, ash, color powderInvocation/recitation
2Weather (e.g. storm, rain, thunderstorm, snow)Bell, singing bowl, aeolian harp, etc.Herbs or plant partsChants
3Witches’ Sabbath (Samhain/Halloween, Walpurgis/Beltane)Vessel (e.g. chalice, bowl, cauldron)Small animalDances
4Equinox (March 21st/22nd and September 21st/22nd)Idol or statueLarge animalOrgy/sexual acts
5Summer or Winter solstice (June 21st/22nd and December 21st/22nd, respectively)Mirror, crystal or glass ballBodilyMutilation (e.g. branding, circumcision)
6Particular constellation of starsCandles, torches, lamps or fireBody fluid (blood, tears or urine)Complex gestures
7Location in nature (e.g. swamp, mountain, island, lake)Altar, offering tableJewelry, precious stonesUse of drugs
8Underground location (e.g. cave, cellar, tunnel)Druid foot, pentacle, heptagram etc.Wine, foodMusic or drums
9Burial place (e.g. cemetery, crypt, catacombs, burial mound)Clothing, jewelry, body paint, etc.Money, coins, precious metalsIncense
10Temple, cult site, stone circle, menhir, etc.Picture, film or sound recordingBody part (e.g., hair, finger, toe, eye)Special form of sacrifice (e.g., eating, burning)

 

WITCHES SABBATH

In Lovecraft’s stories, the execution of rituals and invocation of the Great Old Ones often takes place on the ancient so-called “witches’ Sabbaths,” which date back to Irish Celtic holidays (and also play a role in modern Wicca).

These are (in the annual cycle):

    • Imbolc (night of February 1st or 2nd) – a purification and fertility festival, coincides with the Christian Candlemas.
    • Beltane / Walpurgis Night (night of May 1st) – a fire and fertility festival.
    • Lughnasadh (August 1st) – harvest festival and festival of marriages.
    • Samhain / Halloween (night of November 1st) – festival of the dead, when the gates to the underworld are open, coincides with the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day.

Costs to Activate

The more powerful the ritual’s effect or the more concentration it requires from the practitioner, the higher the WP cost should be. This may require that a ritual can only be executed by a group of ritual casters working together to provide the WP cost or even cost in permanent POW points. The costs can also depend on another game statistic (e.g. the POW of a summoned creature, the HP of an enchanted weapon) or be linked to a casting radius or distance. In exceptional cases the costs might be a fixed value, but in general the use of unnatural magic is unpredictable. A ritual can have other costs besides WP (e.g. HP, if blood must be spilled). The following values are a guideline for WP costs:

  • 1D4 WP for a simple ritual with limited effect.
  • 1D6 to 1D8 WP for a powerful ritual with a clear effect or clearly noticeable effects.
  • 1D10 WP or unpredictable WP cost (e.g., depending on a creature’s POW or bridged distance) for powerful rituals.
 

SAN Loss from Activation

How obvious is the unnaturalness of the ritual? How outlandish or frightening are the acts the ritual caster must carry out to execute the ritual? How bizarre or unnatural are the effects generated by the ritual? A ritual that has a strongly unnatural effect or provides particularly powerful glimpses into the hidden nature of the universe should result in a higher SAN loss during activation. Similarly, exceptionally cruel ritual acts, e.g., those requiring the sacrifice of an animal or even a human being, will lead to extra SAN loss. Indicators for SAN costs are:

  • 1 SAN to 1D4 SAN for an action that can (plausibly) be easily explained in a natural way, a ritual that doesn’t cost you much to perform, or that has no immediate effect.
  • 1D6 SAN for primarily mental effects or disturbing actions that have a physical consequence.
  • 1D8 to 1D10 for actions that are damaging to someone, shocking, or so obviously unnatural that they cannot be ignored, such as raising the dead or contact with unnatural creatures.
  • 1d20 SAN for exceptionally cruel acts or particularly bizarre or profound insights into the nature of cosmic horror.
 

Time to Perform the Ritual

How long does it take to perform the ritual? Most rituals can be executed from a few turns to a few hours. However, a complex ritual can be difficult to learn and require lengthy preparation, but the ritual acts themselves might be performed within a few moments. The reverse could also be true. As a general rule, powerful and complicated rituals will require more time to activate than simple rituals with few components. The purpose of a ritual should also be taken into account: a ritual that is supposed to inflict harm in combat can’t take hours to perform, otherwise it will fail its purpose. In very rare cases, a ritual might take years to complete, for example, requiring a certain rare condition to be met (e.g., when the stars are right).

  • It takes one to a few turns to execute a ritual that is supposed to work in combat or only requires an incantation, a gesture or the use of a previously prepared item.
  • It takes a few minutes to perform a spell that has been elaborately prepared beforehand and has an immediate, short-term effect (such as raising the dead).
  • It takes up to an hour for the activation of rituals that involve strong mental effort, establish contact with a place or an unnatural being, or involve a more complex sequence of actions.
  • Several hours may be required for lengthy complex rituals involving chanting, sacrifice, and other ritual actions, such as invocation or banishing of unnatural creatures.
 

Learning the Ritual

How long does it take to learn the ritual? How much does this learning process damage the sanity of the scholar? The amount of study depends on the complexity of the ritual. It takes longer to learn a ritual that involves gestures, chants, and complex actions than it does to memorize a simple ritual that requires only a chant. Sometimes certain prerequisites must be met before the ritual can be learned at all (e.g., knowledge of an extraordinary language, a certain level of insanity, or certain skills). SAN losses incurred from learning a ritual generally increases accordingly with the complexity and study time of the ritual.

  • Simple ritual: study time hours to days – 1D4 SAN.
  • Difficult ritual: study duration weeks – 1D6 SAN.
  • Complex ritual: study duration months – 1D8 SAN.
  • Elaborate ritual: study duration years – 1D10 SAN and more (rare).
 

Game Mechanic Details

As a final step, the Game Moderator needs to design the game mechanics pertaining to the ritual’s intended effect (and potentially side-effects and/or the consequences of failure).

  • What are the effects of a critical success or a fumble during the ritual rehearsal? For suggestions, see Ritual Rehearsal.
  • Is a victim of the ritual entitled to a test to ward off the effect? If so, what kind of test? For mental attacks, this could be an opposed POW test; for physical effects, it might be a CON × 5 test. Defending against a mental attack usually costs the victim 1D4 WP.
  • Does witnessing the ritual’s unnatural effect cost the victim SAN? Usually, the victim will suffer SAN losses of 1D4 to 1D10 SAN in addition to the basic costs of the ritual, depending on how shocking, brutal, or unnatural the effect.
  • Does the ritual increase anyone’s Unnatural skill (for the ritual caster, participants, or victims)? Does it result in SAN losses for onlookers (e.g., due to the appearance of unnatural creatures)? Does it increase any other skill values due to newly learned abilities (for example, an alien language)?
  • Is it possible to cast the ritual as a group? If so, under what conditions?
 

Putting It Together

To demonstrate the process of building a ritual, we step through the design of the “See Through The Ages” ritual described earlier.

Step 1: RITUAL DESCRIPTION

For the “See Through The Ages” ritual, the ritual caster needs to know object, person, or place about which a vision is desired. He or she also requires quietness and concentration. A quiet place for meditation (ritual action) and attunement to the object of the ritual are pre-requisites. Incense or mind-expanding drugs (ritual tools) support access to the “See Through The Ages” ritual. After a period of meditation, the ritual worker catches a glimpse of the future or the past of the object. They cannot typically determine whether the vision is from past or future. However, the object will usually reveal a significant moment in its history or fate.

Step 2: RITUAL EFFECT

The “See Through The Ages” ritual is intended to allow the ritual caster to take a brief glimpse into the near future or past, viewing a place, object, or person. From the Game Moderator’s perspective, the ritual can be used to provide information and clues to the players. At the same time, glimpses through time are necessarily brief and imprecise enough so that investigative plots are not “blown up” through use of the ritual.

Step 3: RITUAL COSTS

The clues provided by the “See Through The Ages” ritual can be cryptic and misleading, setting the Protagonist on a downward spiral. Thus, the ritual is considered to offer only “limited power” and accordingly it should cost 1D4 WP to execute.

Step 4: RITUAL PERFORMANCE

The “See Through The Ages” ritual is performed purely as an exercise of will. It does not directly damage anyone, but certainly entails unnatural insight. Thus, it makes sense that it cost 1D6 SAN for activation.

Step 5:  RITUAL PERFORMANCE TIME

The “See Through The Ages” ritual is a mental journey that requires calmness and concentration on the object or place. Therefore, it seems appropriate that the activation takes about an hour.

Step 6: LEARNING THE RITUAL

The “See Through The Ages” ritual mostly requires meditation and an effort of will, but no complex actions. It is therefore considered a “simple” ritual, and hence can be learned within a few days, costing the student 1D4 SAN.

Step 7: GAME MECHANICS DETAILS

In the case of a critical success during ritual activation the “See Through The Ages” ritual, the ritual caster is able to narrow down or even specify the exact point in time from which the vision comes. A fumble, on the other hand, causes something behind the veil to glimpse the ritual caster, giving her lingering nightmares. Depending on what the ritual caster witnesses during the “See Through The Ages” ritual, an additional small SAN loss might occur, and perhaps a moderate increase in Unnatural skill might result (e.g., +2% to +5%).

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