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From the Ashes: Ritualistic

From the Ashes: Ritualistic

From the Ashes looks at making reincarnation special and strange in your 5E D&D game.

Want to develop a backstory that goes all the way back? Tome of Heroes has hundreds of options to make characters of every sort. Even past lives!

In this final entry in the series, we present a toolkit to tweak, empower, and complicate rituals (reincarnatino or otherwise) at your table for roleplaying purposes.

Setting the Stage

Choosing a particular place of power for a ritual can contribute to a scene’s mood, provide backdrop for narration, and inform what the terrain might look like in the event of a combat encounter. Some suggested places of power:

Place of PowerMoodTerrain
Within a henge of stone or a garden of magical plants (see Hedge Magic in the pocket edition of Tome of Heroes)Ancient, heavy with spiritual energyUpright stone slabs, low planters, symmetrical design
Beneath the open sky during a full moon, eclipse, meteor shower, or other cosmic event.Cosmic, open, full of possibilityAlternating rounds of bright light and complete darkness
Inside a tomb or graveyard. Especially near a fresh grave, monument, or reflecting pool.Cursed, dreary, ominousTombstones, open graves, shallow pool of liquid
A grove, copse, or mushroom ring that exists on a ley line, shadow road, or another source of primal magic.Feral, lively, primalDifficult fungal terrain, fungal hazards, glowing line of magic through the area
In the sepulcher, sanctum, or around the altar of a chapel, cathedral, church, or temple.Historic, holy, risk of discoveryAltar, holy water dispenser, pews
At the site of a previously cast ritual, spell, or divine occurrence.Porous reality, weightyMotes of energy in the air, sparks of spell energy, discarded ritual implements
Around a built ritual circle. Use the table from Curiosities Inside The Ritual Circle for inspiration on what your ritual circle might look like.Ceremonial, formalStone implements, glowing runes, magic circles scattered around the area
At the center of a crater caused by a great impact or detonation.Exposed, unearthlyDifficult rubbled terrain, boulders, high crater edges
At a crossroads, intersection, or place where a high-stakes deal was struck.Sketchy, momentous, unpredictableHard-packed roadways, direction signs, abandoned wagon
Near where a dragon recently hatched or took its first breath.Dangerous, elementalEnvironment appropriate to the dragon type, heaps of coins, wingbeats above

Including the Entire Party

When expanding a ritual to have more narrative weight, include other players than just the one performing the ritual. First, decide whether you want other characters’ contributions to have a mechanical (gameplay) or narrative (story-only) effect on the ritual and its outcome. Both styles have their merits, but for preserving gameplay balance and the level of difficulty in your game, narrative-only is a safer option.

Mechanical Participation

Offering advantage on dice rolled for the effect of the ritual is the most lightweight method to add mechanical participation. Here are a few ways to try that:

  • Actions. Ability checks and the Help actions can apply. Set the DC or AC to the primary spellcaster of the ritual’s spell save DC. If an assisting character succeeds, the primary caster gains advantage.
  • Material Sacrifice. Each character could offer up a meaningful item or trinket. A bonus to achieve success could be based on rarity: +1 for common, +2 for uncommon, +3 for rare, +4 for very rare, and +5 for legendary. Using reincarnation as an example, each character could offer an item meaningful to both them and the deceased such as a gift or shared weapon. This might allow a reroll on the reincarnation table or the deceased character’s player could apply the total sacrifice bonus as a positive or negative modifier to roll.
  • Self-Sacrifice. Characters can offer some personal resource: hit points, Hit Dice, or spell slots to power the spell. Hit Dice can be rolled and their results added to achieve the desired result. Sacrificing hit points or spell slots could offer additional time for the ritual’s effect or modify its power.

Narrative Participation

Having each player add to the ritual in this manner can add emotional punch to the scene. Some options to encourage narrative participation:

  • Feelings. While the primary spellcaster is performing the ritual, players share their characters’ feelings and sensory experiences in the moment. Let everyone contribute to the atmosphere and emotional weight of the scene.
  • Memories. Have characters share or reveal memories relevant to the moment. If the spell is reincarnation or true resurrection for example, perhaps the primary spellcaster needs each character to share a strong memory of the deceased to successfully cast the spell.
  • Prayers. Calling on even the fighter to say a few words in benefit of the spell can set the mood and encourage character growth at the same time.


Unforeseen consequences can occur from rituals. Typically, a ritual incurs a 10% chance of a consequence after completion. Alternatively, consequences of a ritual could become an encounter or entire game session.

Perhaps the afterlife will not let a deceased character reincarnate without a fight. You can roll 1d8 or choose from the table below.

Ritual Consequences Table

1Everyone participating in the ritual must make a Constitution saving throw against the primary caster’s spell save DC or suffer one level of exhaustion.
2The performance of the ritual attracts a powerful creature’s curiosity or ire. An emissary confronts you within a week’s time.
3Your ritual offends a powerful celestial, fey, fiend, or god.
4The ritual’s powerful magics stir up the spirits of the afterlife, forcing an encounter with incorporeal undead such as ghosts, specters, or wraiths.
5At the ritual’s conclusion, everyone present is permanently marked with the same esoteric symbol or rune.
6The ritual’s component requirements prove greater than expected. Everyone participating suffers the effects of a bestow curse spell in order to complete the ritual.
7The ritual’s casting shakes the ground beneath your feet and darkens the skies, fomenting a natural disaster such as an earthquake, thunderstorm, or wildfire.
8Through misunderstanding or clumsy gestures, you have cast a different ritual or spell at the same time as the one you intended, mixing the results of both. (See Three Little Pigs: Part 1 for an example of how this could play out.)


about Sebastian Rombach

We can neither confirm nor deny that Sebastian is actually three raccoons in a trenchcoat. His freelance contributions can be found in Tome of Beasts 2, Tome of Heroes, and more. You can roll dice with him at https://startplaying.games/gm/dontbreakthedm or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @dontbreakthedm.

1 thought on “From the Ashes: Ritualistic”

  1. Since 2 and 3 of the consequence table are essentially the same, I’d have put in something else for one of the two. Something more mundane probably, like attracting the attention of a local organization that assume the participants are rich or powerful, and seek to rob or subdue them. Nothing like having the wrong group of people seeing you cast a crazy spell, with your “obvious cultist friends,” using rarified equipment and materials, in a weird place.

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