Eclipse – Nightmare Rituals

And for today, it’s another much-too-long for a comment reply to a question in response to these two articles – Avrinthos and its Birthrights and The Gathri, Suugken, and Gaunthounds – with include the information that a Guanthound is actually a member of a normal race who’s been transformed with the Nightmare Binding and Dream-Binding Rituals. .

Well now I have to ask for stats for the Nightmare Binding ritual and the Dream Binding ritual.


Well, that’s simple enough. Since our ritualists are generally using rituals for common, relatively simple, purposes, their magic could readily be built using either Legends of High Fantasy-style rituals or straight Eclipse style rituals. So I’ll do it both ways for comparison.

The Ritual Of Dream-Binding.

This ritual allows the target/victim to bond with a Dream-Spirit, trading in mental attribute points for additional character points worth of powers. The exchange rate is, however, extremely bad. The victim gains only one-half the cost of buying the lost attribute points back up in new powers. Thus Attributes of 12+ yield 6 CP per point given up, those of 10-11 yield 6 CP for being reduced by two, and those of 7-9 can be reduced by three to gain 6 CP. Attributes already at six or below cannot be further reduced to any profit. Most victims wind up sterile, but that is not guaranteed (or intentional) – it’s just that being bonded with a nightmare is not good for a Fetus.

  • For Legends of High Fantasy we’re looking at Area: Living Target (Base DC 0), Duration: Instantaneous (+10 DC) and Effect: Notable (you may be granting someone a template of sorts, but it’s one with a negative value, containing no abilities that they could not fairly easily buy anyway, and that they probably didn’t want, +0 DC) for a Base DC of 10.
  • The usual modifiers are a form of Investment – after all, half the attribute points spent in the ritual are lost for no benefit – for (+10), being Rushed to an hour for (-5), and being Memorized (+5) – for a net bonus of +10.
  • Presuming that the ritualist has at least a +1 in Knowledge/Arcana to avoid taking a penalty, the ritual has a 95% chance of success. Anyone who makes a habit of using rituals will generally have a bit of Luck too, just in case that one-in-twenty chance of getting a natural 1 comes up.

So: One hour, creates magical disturbances within a fifty foot radius, requires a small silver mirror which will be severely tarnished (requiring some vigorous cleaning) at the end of the ritual, a selection of incense and herbs, and at least a pint of fresh blood. Obviously it must be performed at night, by a ritualist attuned to the realms of dream.

The target/victim must be stripped and placed in the midst of a circle of magical symbols, have more magical symbols daubed across him or her with the blood, and must be made to gaze into the mirror – which will tarnish to an impenetrable blackness as much of their mind is lost forever to the realm of dreams while a formless hunting horror flows forth from the mirror and into their flesh, mind, and soul, becoming one with them to grant them the powers of dream-monster. The victims can, in theory, resist (Will DC 18) – but given that they tend to be restrained slaves they normally do not try.

  • Using Eclipse Style Rituals… well, according to Savage Species, major transformations take a seventh level caster. Psychic Reformation does a similar job as a level four effect – which is saying “seventh level caster” again. On the other hand, this transformation isn’t really beneficial or even neutral – and so dropping it to a level five caster seems reasonable. So the ritual magic guidelines in Eclipse give this a base Spellcraft (or other ritual skill) DC of 20.
  • Of course, in Eclipse you still get the +5 for having it memorized and you can add up to seven additional components – such as the recipient / victim sacrificing a bunch of attribute points over and above what’s necessary to pay for the transformation (+4), requiring that the ritualist be attuned to the realms of dream (+3), calling upon the Dream Hunters (+2), a silver mirror (+1), a restrained target (+1), only working at night, when others dream nearby (+1), and blood (+1) – for a net total of +18, Once again, any ritualist who isn’t taking penalties should succeed barring a “natural one”.

Now, admittedly, I’ve made a modest effort to wind up with “about the same” for a result, but it didn’t take much of one – mostly because “be afflicted by a magical transformation that inflicts massive penalties in exchange for a modest amount of power” and “helpless victim transformed into a minor monster” are both very classic and really quite minor in game terms.

The Dreambinding Ritual:

This ritual lets you take a fully-restrained victim and use an hour-long ritual to inflict a Greater Curse effect on them – inflicting the equivalent of a repeating dream, strange inability, near-paralysis and inability to flee, strange compulsion, or many other dreamlike afflictions, in the real world. That’s simple, straightforward, and unpleasant.

  • For Legends of High Fantasy we’re looking at Area: Living Target (Base DC 0), Duration: Years (+10 DC) and Effect: Notable/+0 DC (a Greater Curse can indeed make the victims life pretty miserable – but once you have a victim tied down and are free to do what you wish to them you can make their lives very, VERY, bad without any magic at all. You don’t need to calculate the caster level for “Cause Blindness”, “Cause Deafness”, “Mute Victim”, “Amputate / Mangle Limb(s)”, “Leave Victim Horribly Scarred And Maimed”, and “Desex Victim” when you have a helpless victim, a knife, and time for a little sadism). So, a Base DC of 15 again.
  • The modifiers for a Rushed (one hour) ritual (-5) and Memorization (+5) remain the same. For components… a restrained victim amd an iron knife dipped into their blood and used to inscribe curse-symbols into their skin, perhaps with some mildly toxic graveyard mold to make sure that it will scar is probably worth a +5 when it comes to making life suck.
  • Ergo, this comes out a bit harder – DC 5 – but really, no practicing ritualist should have any real problem with that (save for rolling a natural one), even at first level. It does say that an enduring curse is a little bit more difficult than summoning a nightmare spirit – but we all know that having a recurring nightmare is much easier (it happens in the real world quite often) than working an effective curse (which, at least in the real world, are primarily legendary).

So: One hour, creates magical disturbances within a fifty foot radius, requires an iron knife dipped into the blood of the restrained victim of the ritual, mildly toxic mold, and a selection of incense and herbs, causes 2d4 damage to the victim, and – once again – must be performed at night, by a ritualist attuned to the realms of dream and nightmare.

  • Using Eclipse… in Eclipse you could call this a ritual to let you cause spiritual injuries with your knife, or take it as a specialized version of Bestow Curse (Double Effect, only works on a restrained victim, caster level seven required) – which gives us a base DC of about 24. So +5 for memorization and up to seven additional components – a restrained victim to be tortured is worth a +5 for a ritual designed to harm said victim, requiring that the ritualist be attuned to the realms of dream (+3) is the same, you will doubtless be calling on the powers of Nightmare (+2), you need an iron blade and toxic mold (+1), only working at night, when others dream nearby is the same (+1), and damaging the victim is probably worth +2. So… +19, trying to hit DC 24.

That’s exactly the same and I wasn’t even trying for that this time.

Overall, both of these are simple-and-easy rituals because – in game terms – they aren’t actually accomplishing very much; if you want some (rather stupid) hound-minions you can get some easily enough – and if you want to do horrible things to helpless people all you really need is an evil alignment (or not using an alignment system at all). They’re “major” rituals because they do have game effects beyond simple convenience, but they’re certainly not on the scale of banishing an archdemon, raising an army of the dead, or cleansing a city of plague. They’re “major” for folk who are trying to go about their lives – not for adventurers who are out to change the world.

12 Responses

  1. I mean, insane and weird psychological damage and possibly eternal damnation inside a horror nightmare realm aside, I feel like the ritual is a rather neat trade. Yes, you loose out majorly (loosing 50% of the CP from an attribute point at best), but for a Shapeshifting Warrior, the ritual is quite good.

    I mean, assuming a Shapeshifter who doesn’t have to worry about physical stats, he could invest heavily in mental stats he doesn’t need, he could get a lot of CP out of it that’d normally lie dead in his mental stats.

    He could start with a mental array of 16,16,18 (assuming high fantasy) and push them all down to 6 (maybe later get a Presence for an Enhancement bonus so he can function in society), which would yield 138 CP. Okay, yes, some of those will end up on Finesse (especially for Skills points and the Will Save), but it’s still a good bargain.

    …Again, aside from the whole “mind torn to pieces by a nightmarish entity beyond comparison and rendered forever sterile by the horribly evil taint upon your very nature”-thing.

    • Well, on the mechanical side, presuming that your game master is allowing you to take customized templates to begin with, the “half value for negative attribute modifiers” rule is already standard – so you could just apply such a template to your character at the start, rather than having to work with an obviously-unethical (or they wouldn’t be using rituals like this) ritualist (who may or may not give you what you asked for), having your fate rely on die rolls, and dealing with the side effects it the ritual succeeds.

      In most cases I think I’d rather just take an ECL adjustment for any character I actually wanted to play though. After all, really low mental attributes aren’t just roll modifiers; they’re the character being seriously dysfunctional.

      They’re doing things without understanding that they won’t work, a limited vocabulary, not helping plan, and needing everything explained over and over again (excessively low intelligence / mental retardation or dementia).

      A classic example from play; a low-intelligence character taken along on an intrigue missions; trying to rescue a “guest”/hostage from an enemy court; the characters take cover identities, arrive at court, are presented to the court – and the low-intelligence character peers about and asks “Which one is it that we’re supposed to rescue?”

      They’re missing the obvious and being unable to focus or make decisions (excessively low Wisdom / attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or schizophrenia).

      “Hey, why is Mr Sloacum throwing spells at Georg? Aren’t we friends?”

      They’re being unable to effectively interact with people because you simply cannot relate to them (excessively low Charisma / autism or personality disorder).

      “Shut the fuck up King! That’s a STUPID idea!”

      Admittedly, any given game master may not insist that you play with whatever limitations you’ve chosen (a very low mental attribute / mental illness, a “code versus killing” or being “hunted by samurai penguins”, having to rely on spell books, not being able to use metal weapons and armor, or whatever) – but I personally think that it takes the fun out of it to take limitations and then ignore them. That’s why I put the “If it doesn’t cause you significant problems, it’s not a disadvantage, and is worth no points” note in Eclipse.

      • Hence the Presence-Idea: By specializing it for double effect (denying the other party members the effect) you can get Fox’s Cunning, Owl’s Wisdom and Eagle’s Splendor to get back up to a 10 and at least function in society (though I do like me low wisdom characters).

        That’s leave the character at 10s across the board (for the price of 18 CP… you basically gain three bonus attribute points for the price that that four per mental attribute are enhancement bonuses). He’ll never be the face, he’ll never discuss plans with you and he’ll probably need to be fed instead of being able to get food on his own.

        Especially in later levels, it’ll be obvious that he doesn’t have much to say in the way of strategics, social stuffs and professional topics, but well, he’d be able to fight.

        The epitome of a big dumb fighter, so to say.

      • Yes, that would work. I rarely invest much in “big dumb fighters” since I tend to favor mystery-heavy games. I’m not sure it would ultimately be better than using Augmented Bonus to exploit those high mental attributes, but it would certainly be competitive – and there are lots and LOTS of ways to build effective characters!

      • I really shouldn’t write when I’m that tired… sorry for the bad grammar, the textbox lacks and edit button^^°

      • Not a worry. It’s not like I’m not often pretty tired when trying to squeeze in some time to reply or post myself!

  2. On a technical note, what prevents rituals such as this from being undone via a break enchantment effect (or any dispelling magic that uses the Versatile modifier, TPE p. 96)? I ask because I’ve seen several examples of spells, rituals, and other magical effects that are supposed to be permanent (or rather “instantaneous”) alterations to someone’s (base) form, short of using another such magic to permanently change them into something else. But the actual wording of break enchantment suggests that it could – for at least some of them – still undo what’s been done.

    Is that the case, or is there another aspect to this magic that would prevent such a thing from working? If not, how would you close such a loophole?

    • Well, for the Legends Of High Fantasy style of rituals, it’s explicitly called out in the “Countering Ritual Magic” section:

      “Countering rites is difficult; an ongoing ritual effect is powered by ambient magic but is sustained by the pattern of the ritual. Dispelling and similar countermeasures are temporary at best. Permanently eliminating a ritual effect requires either 1) Some countermeasure specific to the rite (There’s always at least one), 2) a Counter-ritual, or 3) reaching the site of the original rite and breaking the effect. It’s generally a lot easier to keep a rite from being enacted in the first place than to counteract it later.”

      In Eclipse, rituals are defined as “Singular Mystic Events” – rather like being bitten by a vampire or werewolf or creating a Lich’s Phylactery or some act of god. They can’t be directly countered by Dispel Magic or Break Enchantment or similar effects because they don’t have a caster level to roll against (or a spell level, or any of the required Descriptors either). Like the Curse of Lycanthropy, there may be specific methods to counteract a ritual, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. After all, if there was… it would be possible to use it (or a similar effect) to uncreate mummies, liches, and most acquired templates, the species change rituals from Savage Species, or to undo the effects of magical Rebuild Quests – which really doesn’t work very well.

      There is, however, a partial loophole in the second ritual: it’s explicitly producing an effect equivalent to a Greater Curse – and so countermeasures that will affect a Greater Curse will work on it. Unfortunately, the Greater Curse spell tells us that “A greater curse cannot be dispelled,
      nor can it can be removed with break enchantment or limited wish. A miracle or wish spell removes a greater curse, as does remove curse cast by a spellcaster of at least 17th level.” – but it’s something.

      Now, Versatile Dispelling could do it, but you’d have to rule on the equivalent spell and caster level – which is probably fairly high. I’d probably be inclined to let it go at caster level fifteen or so (calling for +1 Spell Level of Greater to make it an even chance) and an equivalent spell level of seven or below (+3 spell levels) if you also add the +1 spell level modifier for affecting “supernatural abilities”. That would give you a “Dispel Template” spell at about level eight that could return a small group of templated creatures to their base state. A single-target version would be a level or two lower – but I could definitely see some possible uses for it.

      Ritualists in the Anomaly setting generally don’t bother worrying about reversing the effect because coming up with a counter-ritual would be easier than finding someone capable of casting spells like that – and they get the basic version automatically. For their purposes, it’s generally good enough.

      Now if you really want to make life awkward for someone trying to counter your rituals, simply add something in the description making the effects more difficult to remove and raise the DC of the resulting variant ritual. Nobody has to use the generic version of they don’t want to.

      And I hope that helps!

  3. I got another question, this time about the “much of their mind is lost forever” thing.

    A player thought up a deity which I, fool I was, have incorporated into the setting and while it does cause some problems, they are not so much of a mechanical than a narrative nature (I don’t want to go into the details, it’s a lot of stuff that has to do with how the world’s social structure is set up).

    As a result, a new deity appeared to pretty much due to the fact that society would collapse under the other deity’s weight otherwise:
    A Neutral Evil Deity of Mercy and Protection.

    The idea is that the players discover that the impact of the first deity has disrupted the social contract so much that a new force was able to rise and snatch up thousands of people at a time with it’s fairly easy pitch: “You are suffering and the Upper Planes do nothing to help. Since the problem is not a physical suffering, how about this: I grant you relief from the painful memories, the psychological abuse and suffering you have to endure under the cult and grant you the power to shield yourselves. In return, I simply demand your service.”

    So the basic question becomes: Can this ritual be used in order to erase memories and trauma?

    • Well, this ritual really wasn’t designed for that – but it shouldn’t take much of a ritual to erase memories and traumas that people don’t want to keep. Plenty of people in the real world manage to do that through simple stupidity, lying to themselves until the false memory supplants the real one, or sheer unwillingness to face reality. Others resort to alcohol, huffing, or other methods of scrambling their brains a bit. And while blows to the head are a pretty unreliable way to go about it, brain damage really can induce (medical, not movie-style) amnesia.

      So overall, a well-targeted Draught Of Oblivion ritual with a willing target should be pretty trivial – probably in the “Minor Village Ritual” category (scroll down) by itself. Adding that effect to this ritual (or more precisely targeting the existing effect) shouldn’t take more than increasing the DC a bit or adding an extra ingredient or some such. After all, if someone is being driven mad by some trauma, or is suicidal due to grief, substituting a Spellcraft or Ritual Magic check for a Psychology check, or a Herbalism check, or a Theology check (for some religious counseling) or Bestow Curse (Forgetfulness), or telepathic Mind-Healing, or whatever else some character wants to throw at things… why not?

  4. What does it mean – in terms of game mechanics – to have “memorized” a ritual, which grants a +5 bonus on the check to pull one off? It doesn’t seem to be talking about having dedicated a spell slot of the appropriate level to the ritual itself, nor does it seem to relate to assigning skill points to the ritual as per a specific knowledge. Is it just something that you can declare you’ve done if you have the materials on-hand before you attempt it?

    • It is indeed the rule from page 10 – “While memorizing a ritual provides the usual +15 bonus on knowledge checks about said rite, it only offers a +5 bonus on actually performing the ritual”. A number of “memorized (instinctive) rituals are included in the Dreaming Thunder Birthright.

      Now clever ritualists have taken Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (may be applied to specific knowledges of rituals) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (can only be applied to specific knowledge of rituals) and thus arranged to pick up a +5 bonus on performing their major rituals for a mere 2 CP (or 3 CP if adding Adaption with the same modifiers applied to reduce the cost).

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