To enact a ritual is to come into contact with these abyssal forces and entreat them to do your will. It is a practice not without considerable risk.
Finding a ritual source
A PC with the Ritual special ability begins with one known ritual, already learned (answer the questions below to create it). To learn a new ritual, a PC must first find a source. A source may be secured as payoff from a score—perhaps you steal a ritual book when your crew robs the Museum of Antiquities. You might also secure a source as the goal of a long-term project—by consorting with cultist friends, studying ancient texts, or some other method you devise.
Learning a ritual
Once the source of a ritual is found, you may undertake a long-term project to learn the ritual. Most rituals will require an 8-segment progress clock to learn. The player and the GM answer questions about the ritual to define what it will do in play and what is required to perform it (see below). The player records these answers in their notes for future reference.
- GM asks: "What does the ritual do and how is it weird?" Player answers.
- Player asks: "What must I do to perform the ritual, and what is its price?" GM answers. A ritual takes at least one downtime activity to perform and inflicts stress on the caster according to its magnitude. If performance of the ritual is dangerous or troublesome in some way, it requires an action roll (usually Attune). A ritual may also have additional costs, such as a sacrifice, rare item, the start of a dire progress clock, etc.
- GM asks: "What new belief or fear does knowledge of this ritual and its attendant occult forces instill in you?" Player answers.
Example Ritual Answers
Player: "The ritual wards a person so that the ghosts of their victims cannot find them. It's weird because... as long as the ward is in place, the person sometimes weeps tears of black blood."
GM: "Spend a downtime action to prepare a mixture of tobacco, dream smoke, and crematory ash from a victim—which the target then smokes. You take at least 3 stress when you perform the ritual, which will be its quality for a fortune roll when it's challenged by a spirit—so you might want to take more stress to make it more potent."
Player: "Gotcha. My new fear is what will happen if the spirits figure out where the ward came from and turn their vengeance on me, instead."
Performing a Ritual
To perform a ritual, you must have the Ritual special ability, then follow the method outlined by the answers to the ritual questions. Most rituals will take one downtime activity to complete, though the GM may call for two (or more) downtime activities for very powerful or far-reaching rituals. Some rituals may be partially performed during downtime and then fully manifested at-will later by completing the last incantation or ritual action. In this case, simply make a note that the ritual has been "primed" and may be unleashed at a later time.
When you perform a ritual, you take an amount of stress as established by the ritual questions, according to the magnitude of the forces brought to bear. The GM uses magnitude as a guideline for setting the stress cost—it may be higher or lower at their discretion to better describe the nature of the ritual. Some claims and special abilities also reduce the stress cost for ritual casting (like the Cult's Ancient Obelisk claim).
Rituals take time to cast. Use the duration examples on the magnitude table to reduce the stress cost based on the time needed, generally no less than an hour.
The GM may also tick a progress clock when you perform a ritual—to advance the agenda of an arcane power or entity, or to show the steady approach of a dark outcome that is a consequence of the ritual's use.
If a ritual is dangerous or troublesome to perform, make an action roll (usually Attune) to see if unpleasant consequences manifest. If a ritual has an uncertain effect then a fortune roll should be made to see how well it manifests. Because a ritual is a downtime activity, you may spend coin 1-for-1 to increase the result level of your fortune roll (this represents the expenditure of expensive or rare ritual materials). If a ritual is both dangerous and uncertain, then both rolls may be called for.
Each performance of a ritual is a unique event, and may not always work the same way each time. The GM or players may call for a round of questions to establish a ritual anew. Rituals are a way to bring in a wide variety of arcane effects into the game. Use with caution! If you ever go overboard, address the questions again to establish new weirdness and costs if things have gotten out of hand. The abyssal forces are not playthings and cannot be considered a reliable or safe source of power.