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Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
Learning and performing unnatural rituals is damaging. It accelerates the mental deterioration of player characters. At the same time, the lower a player character's sanity, the easier it becomes for them to successfully perform rituals. Thus, when player characters use rituals, it is only a way to exercise apparent short-term power at the cost of longer-term damage. In FHTAGN, 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's fiction, rituals also often outwardly have an alchemical or pseudo-scientific flavor, or seem to represent some unknown technology. Certain rituals may require particular objects, ingredients, or environments to work; see the table: Ritual Components.
RULES REMINDER: ROLLING THE RITUAL ACTIVATION TEST
When making the ritual activation test, the dice roll which decides whether a ritual succeeds or fails, has reversed mechanics of success and failure. This means that a ritual activation test succeeds if the roll exceeds current SAN (that is, when a regular SAN test would fail). Conversly, the ritual activation test fails if the roll is less than or equal to 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.
The descriptions of the following rituals are, for the most part, directly based on fictional rituals described by Lovecraft himself. They should serve as inspiration and orientation for the Game Master to design his or her own rituals.
It is common practice in other RPGs for players to be given the game parameters of "spells" (such as the values for damage) when their characters learn them. However, knowing the cost, prerequisites, and possible critical consequences of a ritual removes some of their mystery, leading to player's feeling some form of security and control. Rituals, the embodiment of madness should, however, always remain unpredictable - for both characters and players. This unpredictability can be conveyed well at the game table by limiting the information given to the player. When his oder her character learns a ritual, don't provide exact values and the game mechanics for the ritual, but only a description directly usable in the game. This gives an approximate impression of the ritual and its costs - and possibly also its risks (in imprecise narrative terms). For the rituals which follow, such player-facing "in-world descriptions" have been provided; these can be given as handouts.
The format for ritual descriptions is as follows:
Study: study duration; SAN loss.
Activation: duration; WP cost; SAN Loss.
Description: The summary of the effect, necessary actions and prerequisites of a ritual. Sometimes the successful performance of a ritual also requires certain skill values. Sometimes the effect causes an increase in unnatural knowledge.
Table: Overview of rituals
Make contact with unnatural beings
Study: years to learn the Aklo language and weeks to learn the ritual; 1d8 SAN.
Activation: 1 hour; 1d8 WP, 1d10 SAN.
Description: This ritual comprises a chant, that can be used to make contact with unnatural 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.
Only those who have mastered the language of Aklo, the language of long-lost knowledge and distant worlds, may correctly render the words of this ritual chant. And only then might onesuccessfully contact the powers from beyond the abysses of the universe. The ritual is best performed an a special day of power, a "holy day", such as the witches' Sabbaths. You must light incense and spend at least an hour repeating the chant over and over. It will take you some strength and some endurance... be prepared to endure the fiery gaze of the entities from beyond! Sabaoth! Metraton! Almousin! Zariatnatmik!
A common use for this ritual is to make contact with Yog-Sothoth through this ritual; other Great Old Ones or unnatural 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 unnatural knowledge, and how much SAN it costs are left to the game master.
Regardless of how the ritual played out, any person who participated in a successful invocation is permanently marked. The contacted unantural entity can reach out across the dimensions and mentally contact them whenever it wishes...
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
Torture and kill through pure mind power
Study: months; 1d10 SAN.
Activation: 1 turn; 1d8 WP, 1d10 SAN.
Description: 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 voided 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 determines the damage inflicted as follows:
- If it is a standard success, the target suffers Lethality 10% damage irrespective of any armor. A successful roll for lethality kills the victim instantly (0 HP). If the lethality roll fails, the HP damage is equal to the two dice from the lethality roll treated individually as D10s and added together.
- If the ritual activation test is a critical success, the target suffers Lethality 20% damage irrespective of armor. If the lethality roll fails the HP damage is TWICE that noted above (i.e. 2 x 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.
If the Lethality test fails, the target may try to reduce the HP damage by making a POW x 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.
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 is 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.
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 fails (the roll is higher than the given value), the target isn’t instantly slain but suffers HP damage. The HP damage is equal to the two dice from the lethality roll treated individually as D10s and added together.
Only a few have studied this hateful ritual long enough and have the necessary courage to perform it, because it also demands a lot from the ritual caster and damages her spirit as well as that of the victim. You must be able to touch your victim, then you speak the words. Nothing can stop your hatred and if you succeed, you kill your victim in a gruesome way. The target of your revenge starts bleeding from all orifices of his body, his organs melt or his bones break - just as you like. If you fail to kill your victim, you will hurt him so much that he will never recover - and never forget, unless he has a very strong will. But be warned, if you fail to perform the ritual correctly, the annihilation will easily fall on yourself.
Banishes unnatural entities
Study: weeks; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: 1 hour; WP approximately 2 × POW of the being to be banished, 1d10 SAN.
Description: This ritual is extremely complex and requires extensive preparation. It involves chanting in an ancient language and certain rhythmic gestures and moves of the hands, and requires at least three participants. However, there is no upper limit to the number of participants, and if performed together, not all participants need to know the ritual beforehand. What effect this has is up to the game master to decide. SAN loss from seeing the creature to be banished may be added to the SAN cost of the spell, if applicable. How many total WP must be provided by all participants in the ritual to successfully dispel the creature to be banished is the game master's decision. As a guideline for the required WP costs, the twofold POW value of the creature to be banished can serve.
Banish does not work against all unnatural entities, but only against those that are not normally found on Earth or can be sent to their place of origin with the help of the ritual. Thus, Deep Ones or Ghouls cannot be banished (game master's decision in case of doubt). Great Old Ones cannot be banished either.
Banishing a creature is difficult, it requires the help of others - you must be at least three - and a lengthy preparation. The chants you will find here must be sung for at least an hour and the accompanying gestures and moves must be performed. How much of your strength it will cost you depends entirely on how powerful and strong-willed the being is that needs to be banished. Therefore, never call something that you cannot send away again. And note that you can only send away what does not belong in that place. Thus, you will never be able to banish a Ghoul, but only to strike it dead.
When the ritual is performed, various extraordinary natural phenomena occur towards the climax: The light appears as if dimmed, it becomes darker, 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 appears as if electrostatically charged. Animals also react to the ritual: dogs bark hysterically and birds start chirping in strange cadences.
“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
Control of a foreign body
Study: weeks; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn; 1d8 WP, 1d6 SAN.
Description: This perfidious ritual from the Necronomicon allows the caster's spirit to shift into a foreign body, while the victim's spirit shifts into the caster's body. To cast the ritual, all that is required is a local proximity to the victim (maximum distance of 10 meters) and an effort of will on the part of the caster. A comparative POW test determines whether the takeover succeeds or fails, which is why weak-willed individuals (who have a low POW) are easier to take over than strong personalities.
The victim loses 0/1W6 SAN on each domination. The victim's POW for further takeovers is lowered for the comparative test with the caster's POW by the SAN already lost through this ritual. This makes it easier for the caster to take over the same body each time. If the POW of the victim is reduced to 3 or less by the loss of SAN (the POW is only reduced for the comparative test, not in principle), the victim has nothing to oppose the takeover and can be taken over at any time without a test.
At the same time, the duration of the domination increases from time to time. If the swap is only possible for a few minutes at the beginning, it can last for several hours later and finally up to a day. However, to permanently swap bodies with the victim, the sacrifice of a living being on a cultically significant date such as Candlemas, Walpurgis or Halloween is required.
The moment of domination is manifested in a bizarre contortion of the facial features and all the muscles in the victim's body. People close to the victim (i.e. the body taken over) may well notice the sudden differences in their counterpart (changed pitch of voice, unfamiliar pronunciation or use of unusual words, changed handwriting, unfamiliar facial expressions and gestures). The caster will also usually lack small personal memories.
The victim of the spell can also dispose of the caster's body at will, unless the caster has taken countermeasures (confinement, sleeping pills, or similar).
To transfer your spirit into someone else's body, you must be near the one whose body you intend to take over. Then, with an effort of will, in an instant, you force your spirit onto his body - but note, some people have very strong wills and do not readily release their bodies. It costs you some strength and it can also disturb you - as the victim of the " Domination" also. Also, in the beginning it is only possible to control the other person's body for a few moments.
Once you have successfully taken over someone the first time, it will become easier and easier for you to do so in the future and you will be able to stay in the stolen body longer and longer. However, in order to permanently take over someone else's body, it is necessary to sacrifice a living being on one of the covens while you are performing the " Domination".
It is said that a powerful ritual caster can expel another spirit from its ancestral body even after its death, if its spirit lingers here.
Note, however, that the other takes over your body and can also act as he pleases. So you may have to stop it from acting so that it does not damage you. Also note that it is YOUR mind in the other person's body, so you do not have the memories of the one you have taken over.
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, as long as their spirit still resides in those 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 the unfortunate Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee (The Shadow out of Time). The victim is then also transported through time and changes into the body of a member of the Great Race. The time in this bizarre body is later remembered only by irritating Seek Vision and crude 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
Bond through the Ages
Binding descendants to yourself
This simple ritual will not cost you much strength, but it will enable you to establish a bond with one of your descendants during your lifetime - but beware, it will take you years to accomplish. Once you have begun, you must speak the ninth chant from that psalm three times in a pentagram of fire when the Sun is in the fifth house and Saturn is in trine aspect, every Walpurgis Night and All Saints' Day - until your death.
Your offspring may serve as a vessel for your immortal soul or otherwise support your purposes. But know, it can only be successful if your bloodline has not died out by that day when the right descendant announces himself.
Study: weeks; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: Years; 1d4 WP and 1W4 SAN per repetition of the ritual.
Description: It is possible, with the help of an invocation from the 3rd Psalm of the Liber Damnatus, to ensure that a later descendant of one's own looks very much like the caster. This descendant has a special, unnatural relationship with his dead ancestor. The dead ancestor is entered as a bond with halved CHA value on the character sheet of the enchanted descendant. With the help of the ritual, the descendant can be brought under the spiritual influence of the caster and serve, for example, as a vessel for the caster's spirit or even be made to raise it again from the Essential Salts - if available. But the influence can also be much more subtle or lead to a slow and creeping change of 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.
The ninth saying from that 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.
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
Summoning unnatural entities
To attract and summon a servant of the Great Cthulhu, the Beast from the Stars, search for comrades-in-arms, because one alone cannot do it. To summon him is possible only at night, when the stars are visible and preferably in a place that has connections to dark secrets. Erect concentric circles around HIS statuette: first of all a circle of fire for the statue, and at the extreme a circle of scaffolds for those whom you intend to sacrifice in HIS honor. In between, you and those you lead shall dance and sing naked to the rhythm of the drums counterclockwise without ceasing. The formula which has been handed down since the beginning of time which you shall chant is, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."
It will take you hours and much of your strength to summon the Brood from the stars, but when his glowing eyes appear in the dark, be ready to pay homage to him as HIS representative.
Study: days; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: minutes to hours (orienting 2 to 3 × POW of the being in minutes); WP = POW of the being; 1d10 SAN.
Description: Cultists throughout the ages have known how to summon unnatural creatures to sacrifice and pay homage to. For player characters, summoning unnatural entities is always a very dangerous business. Each type of creature has its own ritual to learn, and there may even be several variations of a ritual for the same creature. Summoning a creature is more difficult the more powerful it is, that is, the higher its POW is. The WP cost 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.
However, not all creatures can be summoned by means of this ritual. Great old ones evade the call (see the box text). The only exceptions are avatars of the Great Old Ones - namely avatars of Nyarlathotep - who like to show themselves to people in order to corrupt them. To summon the avatar of a god, at least 30 WP, a ritual lasting at least 2 hours, and usually a human sacrifice are required. Summoning an avatar of a god also costs all present 1d8/1d20 SAN.
There are several ways to summon creatures whose POW value exceeds your own WP (sacrifice permanent POW or exchange POW for WP, see the section Performing Rituals). When casting together, the participants must master the ritual themselves and take the full SAN losses. Cultists of the Great Old Ones may still have other ways (e.g., Artefacts) to facilitate the invocation of their gods without reducing them to whimpering bundles themselves.
The creature appears at the end of the ritual duration, or 1d10 minutes after it at the latest. However, it has free will when it appears. To control the summoned creature and give it an order, for example, a comparative test POW against the creature's POW is required. Alternatively, 1 point of POW can be permanently sacrificed to subject the being to one's will without a test (not possible with an avatar of a Great Elder). Upon seeing the being, further SAN losses (depending on the being) usually come into play.
A critical success in the ritual trial may result in the creature already being under the caster's control when it appears, the ritual costing only half the WP, or the creature taking on a particularly complex task.
A fumble or an unconsciousness caused by the fall to 0 WP during this ritual can result in not only one but several of the same creatures appearing, or the creature partout not submitting to the caster's control, or even the gaze of much more powerful entities of the mythos falling on the caster.
example: Call Entity rituals
Call 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 or the secret password the Ghouls possess is helpful and saves the test to control the being.
Call 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, with the help of a musical instrument - be it a drum, a flute, or a stringed instrument.
Call the bogeyman (POW -)
2 hours; 30 WP, 1d10 SAN
The Black Man, an avatar of Nyarlathotep, is invoked primarily by witches. The best time to invoke him are the witches' Sabbaths (e.g. Walpurgis Night or Halloween). It usually requires a human sacrifice (usually a small child), who is scratched with a ritual knife and whose blood is collected in a ritual bowl. If the bogeyman appears, he has the Book of Azathoth with him and he will demand that the one who summoned him inscribe his name in blood in this book, if it is not already there.
Call Shoggoth (POW 18)
approx. 1 hour; 18 WP, 1d10 SAN
A Shoggoth can be summoned near a sea, e.g. on the coast or in the mountains, in any case in the wild. One constantly intones the formula and keeps ready an animal sacrifice of about 30 HP (an animal the size of a cow, horse or crocodile), because a Shoggoth always appears hungry.
Calls Star Spawn (POW 20)
approx. 1 hour; 20 WP; 1d10 SAN
The Star Spawn of Cthulhu is summoned in the swamps of Louisiana at night by cultists 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 calling usually requires a specific time or place, a ritual action, and usually a ritual tool and sacrifice. The required components can be determined by selection or randomly. The Ritual Components table offers some suggestions for this.
CALL GREAT OLD ONES?
Great Old Ones cannot be "summoned" by human beings just like that - unless they want to appear. Some of them cannot be summoned at all - either because they lie in a deathless sleep like the Great Cthulhu or because they are locked up somewhere. Nevertheless, these Great Old Ones can also contact humans telepathically if they wish to, or be contacted by real initiates by means of the Aklo Sabaoth. It is up to the game master to decide whether a Great Old One has become curious enough through the Ritual Call Entity to make mental contact with the Caller on his own initiative, or even to appear in person at the end: an encounter that is likely to drive the characters to death or madness as a rule.
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
Heal someone else
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 2 turns; 1d4 WP, 1d6 SAN.
Description: With this ritual, another person's life can be saved by the ritual caster. She scores her hand so that it bleeds and presses it on the ritual victim's injury or heart while intoning the words necessary for the ritual. In total, the healed person gets back as many HP as the ritual costs in WP. The healed receives 1 HP immediately, then 1 HP per minute. The ritual must be maintained for as long as the healing process takes. The natural healing is drastically accelerated by the ritual, but is accompanied by strength and premature aging of the healed. Biological age increases by approximately one year for each HP healed.
The ritual has another cost: the HP received are ultimately a life force drain, and the HP can come from different sources in a 1:1 ratio. Thus, the ritual caster could touch another living creature (human or animal) at the same time and drain the HP from it (additional SAN loss for both healed and donor equal to 0/1d4 if human). The HP can also come from the ritual caster herself.
Score your hand so that it bleeds slightly, press it on the injury or on the heart, and speak the words to save the life of one of your loved ones. You strengthen the enchanted one with life force equally as you flow the power of your will. If you do not want to give of your own life force, you can also give to the one to be healed the power of another person or animal that you touch during the ritual. This ritual is not difficult to perform. But do not be surprised, it still has its price, because the quick healing is painful and leaves the healed aged.
DHO HNA Formula
View or travel to distant places
Study: months; 1d8 SAN.
Execution: 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).
Description: A ritual with two different parts. While the repeated intonation of the Dho Formula makes distant places appear in the mind's eye, the Hna Formula can transfer the caster's body there. The ritual allows not only to go to places on Earth, but also to reach distant planets, mystical places or even the dreamlands.
Know, this formula contains two parts of a whole. For the intonation of the Dho formula shows you a place that you name, be it ever so distant. However, when the complete Dho Hna Formula is recited, it takes you to that place you see. But be careful, this ritual costs you more power the farther your gaze is to reach, and is even more power-sapping if you even want to visit that place. The sight of strange worlds can also damage your spirit - even more so if you do not know what wonders and horrors await you in that place.
Looking at a nearby place costs 1d4 WP, at a faraway place on Earth 1d6 WP, and looking at distant worlds 1d10 WP. If you not only dare to look there, but also want to transfer your body to that foreign place, you pay double the WP in total. For extremely distant or mystical places, even permanent POW points may be due (game master's decision). Depending on the destination and the circumstances there, further SAN losses may be incurred as determined by the game master, but it is also possible to increase his unnatural knowledge by 1d4 through the insights gained in this way.
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
Cause injury or illness
Study: months; 1d8 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn or minutes (depending on the ritual variant); 1d6 WP, 1d10 SAN.
Description: The ritual caster can use this ritual to inflict gruesome physical damage on a victim. Only the most ruthless and depraved ritual casters use this spell.
In order to harm the victim through pure, channeled hatred, the ritual caster must establish a magical connection with her victim. Depending on how direct this connection is, the strength of the effect varies.
Direct connection: Depending on the exact nature of the ritual, the ritual caster needs direct visual contact with the victim or must touch them. With such direct contact, it takes only 1 turn to establish the connection. The victim suffers 2 HP of damage per WP invested. As long as the connection is not broken, the ritual caster can invest another 1W6 WP in each subsequent turn to do further damage without another ritual trial (and without losing SAN again).
Indirect Link: If the ritual caster wishes to inflict damage on a victim from a distance without having to see or even touch the victim, she needs a personal item of the victim's to do so - anything the victim has touched, or better yet worn or otherwise used, at least once. To make an indirect connection, the ritual caster must carve herself with a ritual knife and wet the object with a drop of her own blood while intoning a chant and concentrating her hatred on the object for several minutes.
If indirectly connected, the ritual does 1 HP of damage per WP invested. Each subsequent day, the ritual caster must renew the ritual at the same hour to maintain the connection. She can then invest 1W6 WP again to cause further damage without a new ritual trial (and without losing SAN again).
The damage caused manifests as sudden severe illness to the victim or internal or external injuries, regardless of the type of connection. A critical success in the ritual rehearsal doubles the initial damage done when the connection is established. A fumble, on the other hand, causes the ritual to affect the caster herself, causing HP losses equal to the amount of HP used.
Each time the victim suffers damage from this spell, she may attempt to resist the effect with a CON × 5 test. A successful resist reduces the damage taken by half (at least 1 HP of damage). If there is a fumble in the CON test or the victim drops to 2 HP, he can no longer resist the ritual. A critical success, on the other hand, also breaks the connection.
First aid or medicine cannot stop the unnatural infirmity, but medical treatment can at least stabilize the victim (+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 causes a loss of SAN equal to 0/1d6 SAN.
The infirmity can only be ended if the ritual caster is unwilling or unable to invest any more WP, is killed, or if the connection is broken. Destruction of the personal item ends the connection, as does the loss of a direct connection.
If you want to take revenge on someone and cause them damage, perform this ritual. To do this, you must first establish a connection with the victim of the ritual. If you can touch him or at least see him, you can throw your channeled hatred directly at him by means of your will. Let his limbs wither, his heart stop or cut off his throat so that he crushes his neck trying to breathe. It will cost you some strength, but the greater your effort of will, the more damage your victim will suffer, and as long as you keep the connection, you can keep inflicting damage through your will.
If you want your revenge to be less conspicuous and you want to take it without having to touch or see your victim, obtain something from your victim - hair, a piece of clothing, or something he has bitten or at least touched are good. Carve yourself with your ritual knife until the blood flows and wet the thing with your blood while chanting the words passed down. Send your hatred through the thing to your victim. The damage your victim takes will be weaker than if you touch it, but you can renew the ritual every following day at the same hour and your will will make the victim wither like a flower without water. If it is of very strong constitution, it can withstand your ritual for a while, but if you drain its strength long enough, it must eventually perish - unless you desist from it or the object that channels your hatred is annihilated.
Taking over the will of another person
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 2 turns; 1d6 WP, 1d4 SAN.
Description: To take over another person's will for a short time, the ritual caster must be physically near that person and make eye contact. A short muttered spell precedes the Domination, which requires a comparative test of the victim's POW against the ritual caster's POW.
If the victim is successful, she repels the alien spirit, but this costs her 1W6 WP. On the other hand, if the ritual caster is successful, she is entitled to complete control of the victim for 1d10 minutes, which also costs the victim 0/1W6 SAN. However, the victim is entitled to another comparative POW test to defend against an action that would endanger his life.
A critical success by the victim not only causes the Domination to fail without a WP cost, but also gives the victim a clue as to who tried to take it. A fumble by the victim in the comparative test or a temporary insanity due to the SAN loss extends the duration of the Domination to 1d10 hours. A critical success in the ritual trial has the same effect.
At the game master's discretion, a particularly powerful spellcaster may take over another person even if she does not make eye contact but has a very personal item of the person's such as hair, a piece of clothing, or the like.
Domination of more than one person at a time is not possible.
If you want to control the will of another, you must be near your victim and be able to see them. Murmur the short words of Domination and bend your will against your victim's while letting enough of your power flow. For a short time, very rarely for longer, you can then impose your will on the victim, provided he does not rebel against an all too unreasonable wish. It is said that powerful ritual casters can even impose their will on the victim through one of his personal items.
Protection against unnatural powers
Study: hours; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn/1 hour; 10 WP per 10m radius, 1d4 SAN.
If you wish to cast the Sign of the Elders, or Elder Sign, you must apply the symbol, usually a branch with five ramifications, to a durable material - take stone, bone, or wood, whatever you are able to work well with, and do it carefully with enough time. Once you have spoken the ritual words over the symbol, it will protect a certain area from the work of the entities from beyond - depending on how much of your will you allowed to flow during the creation, this area will be about 10 steps tall or larger. The symbol will serve you well until it is destroyed.
If you make the gesture of the Elder Sign, it can reveal to you for a few moments the truth behind the veils, much like the miraculous Powder of Ibn-Ghazi does.
Description: Depending on the culture, the appearance of an Elder Sign varies, but the most common form is that of a branch with five ramifications. The sign must be carved into something durable in combination with the activating ritual: Stone, metal, bone, or wood are suitable for this purpose, for example. Appropriate crafting skills to at least 20% and about an hour duration are required for this. Some writings even say that an Elder Sign on the skin can have a certain effect - but finding this out seems to be reserved for the truly intrepid or insane.
An active Elder Sign prevents the approach or passage of beings who serve the Great Old Ones or Outer Gods. It may even have an effect on these deities themselves. The area of effect of an Elder Sign can be increased by spending more willenskraftpunkte. An affected creature loses 1W4 POW and WP per turn staying within the area of effect. If POW or WP are reduced to 0 in this manner, the result is immediate flight, banishment, or even death. The Elder Sign remains active until it is destroyed.
Another application is to cast without a material component. In this case, the Elder Sign, as a gesture, briefly reveals the true nature of things from all servants of the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods who are in the area of effect. This can be used to make hidden dangers or unrecognized creatures visible. The duration of the ritual is one turn and the effect lasts 1W4 turns.
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
Eliminate unpleasant memories
If you want to deprive someone of the memory of a certain time or event, then - unless he voluntarily puts himself into your hands - he must be put into Hypnos by you, for which you can use any means open to you. It is also possible that the target of your ritual sleeps. Note, however, that a very strong-willed creature is difficult to deprive of its memories, and that the stronger the spirit of your victim is, the more strength it will cost you. Thus, it may happen that some memories will return to him in his dreams.
Study: weeks; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: half an hour; WP = POW of the victim, 1d6 SAN.
Description: this ritual deprives the victim of the memory of a specific period of time or event, as determined by the ritual caster. However, the victim is entitled to a comparative POW × 5 test to determine if the erased memories may still be lurking somewhere. If the victim wins the comparative POW test, then parts of the memory come back over time on appropriate occasions in dreams, flashbacks, or Seek Vision. The affected entity then gains a one-time +1d10 unnatural entities knowledge.
In the case of unnatural entities such as the Yithians, who have a very high POW, the victim can only win the comparative test if the Yithian rolls a fumble.
If the ritual caster rolls a critical success in the ritual test, no comparative POW test is allowed. In the event of a fumble in the Ritual Rehearsal, the ritual fails and additionally can never be used on that specific victim by that Ritual Caster again.
Time and silence are required to execute the ritual. For this purpose, the victim must be hypnotized (e.g., by means of a crystal or a chant) or asleep, i.e., the ritual caster must be in close proximity to her victim. Regarding the erased memory or period of time, the victim feels only a sense of emptiness, as if there were a white blank paper. The realization of unexplained amnesia costs 1W4 SAN. However, if scraps of memory return later, this may also cost SAN, depending on the nature of the memories.
The Great Race of Yith uses a mechanical device to facilitate the hypnotic ritual of Eredicate Memories.
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
Study: weeks; 1W6 SAN.
Execution: minutes; 1d8 WP, 1d10 SAN.
Description: This spell is used to raise the dead. Instructions for this ritual can be found in Book VII of the Necronomicon. The preparations for it are extensive and take a lot of time.
First of all, the most complete remains of a deceased person are needed, which of course must be obtained first. The freshness of the corpse is not important, even a decomposed skeleton can be used. What is important is completeness. The remains are reduced to their essential salts in an elaborate alchemical process that requires an appropriate laboratory and rare and expensive ingredients: a fine, light powder of dull, neutral color such as bluish-gray, greenish, or pinkish-white. The powder does not stick to the fingers, but always completely trickles back into the vessel in which it is kept. Wind, however, would scatter it in all directions.
For the execution of the raising of the dead, one needs a prepared room with a pentagram in the center and four circles in all corners of the room. A shallow bowl containing the salts of the dead person to be raised is placed in the center. Then the formula is chanted. Another formula must be chanted to reduce the dead person back to his salts. The duration of performance and the WP cost are the same as for raising the dead. However, reducing the raised dead to the Essential Salts costs only 1d4 SAN.
If the formula was spoken, a light wind comes up, it becomes dark in the room and smoke and an acrid smell rises. A thick, greenish-black vapor then rises from the bowl, from which forms the shape of the raised dead.
The raised forms are fully alive and have a will of their own. Some may be willing to answer questions, others not, or they may be persuaded to do so by persuasion, threats, or the use of force. However, if the remains, and thus the salts, were not complete, indescribable beings are raised that only vaguely resemble a human, have limited intellect, and can trigger further SAN casualties as determined by the game master.
Once you have procured all the ingredients and as complete a corpse as possible, and once you have reduced it to its Essential Salts according to the alchemical indications I gave earlier, the tedious part is done. The salts are a fine powder of dull color, bluish-gray, greenish or whitish. Keep it carefully, for it is so light that the slightest breeze will disperse it and the collection may not be complete.
Then you need a prepared room, with a pentagram in the center and circles in the corners of the room. Place a shallow bowl with the salts of the one you wish to uplift in the center of the pentagram and chant the formula that uplifts (the head of the dragon, the ascending node): Y'AI 'NG'NGAH, YOG-SOTHOTH, H'EE - L'GEB, F'AI THRODOG, UAAAH.
The execution is short, but it will cost you some strength and the sight of the raised one may also frighten you at first, depending on the state he is in, and many a monster may be brought about by an incomplete skeleton.
To reduce the dead back to its salts, chant the formula of the descending knot (the tail of the dragon): OGTHROD AI'F. GEB'L - EE'H, YOG-SOTHOTH, 'NGAH'NG AI'Y, ZHRO. But remember, reduction also costs you strength. Therefore, consider well whom you raise, and do not raise anyone whom you cannot also bring down, for the dead man has his knowledge and free will.
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
Music of the Spheres
An invocation of Azathoth
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 1 hour; 1d6 WP, 1d6 SAN + increase of unnatural knowledge in the same amount.
The following notes reveal to you a great mystery, for they allow you a glimpse into the center of being, into the dark heart of the universe, into the heart of chaos itself, which is called AZATHOTH. Play the music and use the power of your will and the dissonant tones of your instrument to force the gaze to where infinite knowledge awaits you.
Description: This ritual, which establishes contact with Azathoth, the center of the universe, is not spoken, but played on an instrument. Which instrument is irrelevant. The music consists of unusual, almost atonal harmonies and cadences, which seem ingenious and insane at the same time and have no relation to known harmonies.
When the music is played, it makes Azathoth's gaze fall on musicians and listeners. Azathoth's presence, as the music plays, manifests itself in altered surroundings, unnatural gusts of wind, the emptiness of space, and massive, impenetrable darkness. These changes in environment are subtle at first, but grow stronger with each repetition of the music.
What is actually perfidious about this invocation, however, is that the music fills the listener with knowledge about the cosmos that overwhelms the human mind. The value of the rolled SAN loss is at the same time the gain of unnatural knowledge. If a loss of control occurs during the execution, the corresponding person falls completely into the intoxication of the music. He or she appears spellbound and hypnotized with eyes wide open, grinning euphorically as if under the influence of drugs, or dancing extremely wildly and ecstatically.
If a loss of control has occurred due to the ritual or if unconsciousness occurred during the execution due to the loss of WP, the victim is forced to play the music again and again unless a SAN test succeeds. However, the imparted knowledge of the cosmos can itself be an incentive to play the music again and again. If the stress level is undercut by the SAN losses, the victim can no longer resist playing the music again - the music becomes his obsession.
However, with each playing of the music, Azathoth's presence only grows stronger and stronger (renewed loss of 1d6 SAN and gain of Unnatural Knowledge in equal amounts for each additional playing or listening of the music). Eventually, the victim dies in complete madness. Whether there is a way to escape the seemingly inevitable fatal end is up to the game master to decide.
Yog-Sothothery: Music of the Spheres may spring from the creativity of a genius musician like Erich Zann, or be found as an attic find on a dusty, long-forgotten recording. Perhaps a manuscript of notes with corresponding pieces is also hiding in the estate of a deceased musician or in a library and is 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
Enables time and dimensional travel
Study: months; 1d8 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn; 1d8 WP, 1d6 SAN.
Description: This ritual, perfected by the Arkham witch Keziah Mason according to lore, involves two components: the drawing of complex curves and angles (e.g., on the walls of a room, on a paper, or perhaps even in the air) and a formula that must be spoken. The ritual opens a gateway into the fourth dimension, allowing the user to traverse the space-time continuum at will. Thus, walls are literally permeable to someone using this spell; travel to the past or future or to distant alien planets is easily possible. In the fourth dimension and at the destination, further SAN losses or even an increase in unnatural knowledge can be triggered.
In the fourth dimension, however, numerous dangers await the traveler. In addition to mind-shattering unearthly symmetry, chasms filled with kaleidoscopic colors, bizarre shapes and sounds, and the unreal sensation of being moved against one's will in a completely inexplicable manner, the fourth dimension itself is inhabited by creatures that go beyond the limits of the human mind - geometric, organic, or completely formless.
In order to head for a particular destination, one must know exactly the angles and lines required for it, otherwise it is very easy for the ritual to take one to places other than those planned, or even for one to get lost in the fourth dimension. This requires either Navigation 30%, Mathematics 30%, or Unnatural Knowledge 10%. If a fumble or loss of control occurs during the execution of the ritual, or if the load limit is reached, the caster is sent to a location of the game master's choice.
In the case of a failed ritual test, the game master can also decide that the ritual will still succeed. In this case, the caster will also be moved to an undesirable location.
If the spell is used more often, the past and the future become increasingly mixed for the user, and his view of reality becomes more and more intermixed with images from the past and the future. If the luck roll is unsuccessful, the caster also attracts the attention of an inhabitant of the fourth dimension, who then "sticks" to the caster like an invisible shadow for an uncertain amount of time (decided by the game master).
This ritual has two components, the first of which you must master well if you don't want to get lost. On the one hand, you must learn to draw the correct curves and angles that will mark your path through the spaces beyond. On the other hand, you have to speak the right formula, which is done quickly, but will cost you some effort of will to open the portal and follow the pre-marked path.
The portals can lead you not only through the room - if you only want - but even through the time or even only into the adjacent room. But note that in the space between the rooms dangers and sometimes even entities of the abyss await you. The curves and angles you find following are only some that can be used. But know the lines well! Orientation in space, as the sailor does or as the quadrivium teaches us, is also necessary in order not to get lost in the space between spaces.
Yog-Sothothery: It is said that the Great Race also has gate rituals that enable them to travel in time. However, they seem to use a scientific construct of rods, wheels, and mirrors for this purpose, with a central round-convex mirror serving as the focus for the ritual (see Projection Machine (of the Great Race)).
A stage magician who gained knowledge of this ritual would certainly have a great career. But don't think what would happen if a being from the Fourth Dimension would follow him back to our world during a performance. And also physicists, who deal with the space-time continuum, could easily come across the connections of bizarre angles and gates into the fourth dimension.
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.
– The Book,
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1938
Powder of Ibn-Ghazi
Making invisible unnatural entities or objects visible.
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn; 1d4 WP; 1 SAN.
To make the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, you first need a well-equipped laboratory and the rare and expensive raw materials found in the listing below. The production takes several hours of careful work. Seal the powder well, because it is dusty and easily blows away.
To use the powder, quickly sprinkle the one you want to make visible - be it an object or a being - and for about ten moments it will appear. It is said that the powder can also have some other effect on unnatural creatures, such as keeping something that does not belong here in this plane of existence, but this is not certain. The use of the powder costs you little, but consider the horror it can cause to see what is not given to your eyes to see!
Description: 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 rare raw materials (as determined by the game master), and a few hours of time.
The actual execution of the ritual consists of sprinkling the powder over an invisible entity of the mythos - be it an object or a creature - making it visible for 10 turns. In doing so, the powder can be sprinkled, blown, or even spread over the entity with a suitable sprayer. The sight itself may trigger further SAN losses and possibly result in an increase in unnatural knowledge (as determined by the game master).
However, at the game master's discretion, the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi could also have other effects. For example, it could temporarily force a Formless entity into a solid form, temporarily slow down an unnatural entity with Unnatural Speed, temporarily hold an entity with Flicker in that plane of existence, or temporarily make a Transcendent entity vulnerable to physical damage.
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
Extending one's life at the expense of others
Study: years; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: one hour; 1d10 WP, 1d6 SAN (animal sacrifice)/1d10 SAN (human sacrifice).
Description: An unscrupulous ritual caster can prolong her life at the expense of others by sacrificing them and absorbing their life force. After cleansing the body, the ritual caster brings a sacrifice to be killed with a ritual dagger, amid dissonant chants and invocations of terrible entities. If humans are sacrificed for this purpose, the ritual can only be performed on a solstice.
The sacrifice can be an animal or a human being, although due to the dangers of the ritual, it is usually started with the sacrifice of animals. The following applies: For every 10 HP of an animal sacrificed, the ritual caster gains one month of life. For every 10 years of the expected lifespan of a sacrificed human, the ritual caster gains a whole year of life. Therefore, young people or even children are the most desired victims for cruel ritual casters, since their remaining life span is the highest. If a child or a person close to the ritual caster is sacrificed in the course of the ritual, the SAN loss of the ritual caster is doubled. The specific lifespan gained is determined by the game master at her discretion.
A critical success in the ritual trial doubles the years gained. A fumble, on the other hand, causes the ritual caster to immediately lose years of life equal to the expected gain in life months or years, and to age rapidly accordingly.
The victim's life force can be absorbed in several ways: It could be bled out and the blood drunk, the heart could be ripped out and consumed, or other parts of the body are eaten.
However, the ritual does not grant immortality, nor does it make the ritual caster invulnerable. It also does not stop the aging process, but rejuvenates the ritual caster according to the years of life gained. And eternal youth, after all, is always a powerful incentive.
Extending your own life at the expense of others is a difficult art to master, and it will cost you some willpower to perform it. But first of all, it requires a sacrifice that will give you its life force. Purify your body and mind before killing the chosen victim with a consecrated dagger, invoking the entities of Beyond, Yog-Sothoth, the Black Goat and Azathoth. Drink its blood or eat its heart to absorb its life force. An animal will give you back one to a few months of life, depending on its size. A young person, on the other hand, will be able to give you many years of life - the years of life that would have awaited him. Therefore, strive to obtain a child for this ritual. But be warned: unlike an animal, you can sacrifice a child only on the solstice to achieve the desired effect, and not everyone dares to take this step. For besides the overcoming of killing an innocent child, you must also consider that this ritual, should it fail, will age you rapidly by the expected lifespan of the child.
Looking into the future or past of an object, place or person
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 1 hour; 1d4 WP, 1d4 SAN.
Description: Seek Vision allows the ritual caster to take a brief glimpse into the near future or to gain clues about the past of an object, place, or person. It is a mental journey that requires calmness and concentration on the object. The meditation is aided by incense or mind-expanding drugs.
At the end of the meditation, the ritual caster catches a glimpse of the object's future or past, but she cannot determine the timing. The object will mostly reveal a significant moment in its history. The Seek Vision will usually be cryptic and misleading.
In the case of a critical success in the ritual rehearsal, the ritual caster can narrow down or determine for herself the point in time she wants to look at. 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 gets to see in the Seek Vision, an additional SAN loss occurs or her Unnatural Knowledge is increased (by 2 to 5%).
This ritual allows you to glimpse into the past or future of the place you are in, or a person or object you are touching. Go within yourself, search for peace and concentration, and meditate for an hour on that place or person or thing. Then quietly let a little of your power flow and a significant moment in the history of the place, person or thing will be revealed to you. But rarely is it possible to determine for yourself the moment you will see. Also, you never know what horror the look will reveal to you. And be warned - if you do not proceed correctly, it may happen that something from beyond will cast its glance at you instead.
Sign of Koth
Protection of a passage against unnatural entities
It is said that the Sign of Koth is placed on the tower of the same name in the city of the Gugs, in the underworld of the Dreamlands, and keeps these hideous creatures from eating the inhabitants of the Dreamlands alive. To prevent unnatural creatures from passing through a portal, the Sign of Koth must be firmly affixed. It can be carved in stone, cast in metal, or painted on (which is much less safe, however). Then say the ritual over the sign and let some of your power flow. If the passage is to be protected against all kinds of unnatural entities, placing the sign will cost you significantly more power. And remember, the Great Old Ones, who have been for eons and will be in eons, cannot be stopped by the sign.
Study: days; 1W4 SAN.
Execution: Hours; 1W6 WP and 1W4 SAN against a specific type of being or 2W6 WP and 1W6 SAN if all-encompassing.
Description: 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 Watch World. Attached to a portal or passageway, it prevents the portal in question from being passed through by certain beings. In most cases, the mark is permanently affixed by carving it into stone.
If it has been determined beforehand which creatures it should be effective against, it is easier to affix. A Sign of Koth that is effective against all kinds of creatures is much more difficult to make and costs more power.
The mark is not effective against Great Old Ones and their explicit servants.
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
Raising the dead
The following instructions, if carefully followed, will allow the spark of life to be artificially rekindled in the tissues of a fresh corpse. Note, however, that the freshness of the corpse is essential. The completeness of the body, on the other hand, does not matter, so the Vital elixir, for which I give the instructions here, can also raise parts of a corpse. In any case, one needs a well-equipped laboratory and sufficient time, as well as numerous chemical ingredients, some of which are rare, and a fair amount of willpower. It should also be noted that the specific composition of the elixir is different for each species, genus and species. The elixir must be injected into the blood vascular system of the cadaver. The subsequent reaction can vary widely. From isolated undirected reflexes, gurgling sounds, and dull stares to a complete return of consciousness and memory of the dead, I have seen every reaction.
Study: weeks; 1d6 SAN.
Execution: 5 minutes; 1d10 WP, 1d8 SAN.
Description: This ritual can be used to resuscitate the dead. The only important requirement is that the corpse be absolutely fresh. For this, it does not matter whether the corpse is complete or not. Rather, even severed parts of a corpse are also resuscitated by the ritual and can act independently of the rest of the body, if necessary.
To prepare the elixir, one needs a well-equipped laboratory and a week's time. What ingredients are required, how they can be obtained, and whether pharmacy may be necessary is left to the game master. The composition of the elixir differs significantly for different species. The finished solution may be of different colors and must be injected into the dead person's vascular system.
The mental state of the resuscitated person depends greatly on how fresh the corpse was. The rule is: the fresher the corpse, the better. If the body has been dead for too long, the resuscitated person may be raving and screaming, thrashing about wildly, or even just making gurgling sounds. Perhaps it just stares with open eyes and a dull stare. This is a game master decision depending on the freshness of the corpse.
The resuscitated costs the process of raising 1d8/1d20 SAN. She retains her knowledge and memories of life before death, but is prone to aggressive, vindictive, or devious behavior.
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.
Magic sign of protection and knowledge
Study: days; 1d4 SAN.
Execution: 1 turn; 1d4 WP, 1 SAN.
Description: The Voorish Sign is not so much a ritual in the strict sense, but rather a magical gesture that can have various effects depending on the game master's will. For example, similar to the Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, the gesture can make invisible things visible for short moments (1 turn). However, the Voorish Sign could also conceivably reveal an enchantment, identify a magical Artefact, or reduce WP costs during the execution of a complex ritual. Whether the use of the Voorish Sign results in further SAN losses depends on the effect and the situation (game master's decision).
This is a magical gesture of protection and knowledge, reported to have many effects. For example, it is said to have made the invisible visible or revealed an enchantment. It may also assist you in the execution of other complex rituals. Perform it with the fingers of your right hand in the manner shown in the diagram below, infusing a little of your willpower into the gesture.
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 Lovecraft, 1928
The rituals described in this chapter are for the most part taken directly from the canon of Lovecraft's stories, but in order to tell exciting and challenging stories of cosmic horror, the game master may need additional rituals or a very specific effect for her scenario. It is easy to create rituals yourself using the following kit, as will be explained using the Seek Vision ritual as an example. Of course, the game master is free to deviate from the specifications at any time and change the values as she sees fit.
effect of the ritual
First, the game master should ask herself what the ritual is supposed to do. She will probably already have an idea about this, because the ritual is supposed to fit the campaign or the scenario, or fulfill a certain function there.
In principle, the game master can give a ritual any conceivable effect. However, she should pay attention to the effects it can have in the game world. Be especially careful with rituals that have such powerful effects that, in the hands of player characters, they can destroy the structure of adventures and campaigns. These include, in particular, rituals for easy information gathering and those by which unnatural creatures can be easily defeated. The first group can render many detective plots moot, and the second takes much of the horror out of cosmic horror. If such rituals are to exist, they must be carefully balanced with, for example, very high risk for the spellcaster, extremely elaborate preparations, or very limited opportunities to cast the spell.
In the canon of Lovecraft's stories and other mythos authors, certain magical effects occur more frequently. On the other hand, other effects, quite familiar from fantastic literature, do not exist. If the game master wants to stay atmospherically with the literary models of the mythos, it is recommended to do the same with the effects of unnatural rituals. In the following, therefore, some rough categories of effects from the canon are listed and provided with examples in each case. The game master can use these as a guide.
Of course, a ritual can have several effects or effects that can be assigned to several of the mentioned categories.
Finally, the game master must consider whether and how the effect can be perceived by an observer in the game world. On the one hand, this decision has something to do with what atmosphere should prevail in the game. For example, a spell intended to do direct damage in combat might take the form of a glowing green mist that envelops the victim, who is screaming in pain; or the victim might simply slump down and bleed a little from the nose. The amount of damage may be exactly the same, but the effect on the mood of the game is certainly very different. In addition, the perceptibility of the effect also affects the ability to cast the spell in the presence of others. The example with the green glowing mist will certainly cause a considerable stir in a busy pedestrian zone, while the second form could also be used for the stealthy elimination of an opponent. In addition to the effect, the necessary ritual actions must also be taken into account (more on this below). An inconspicuous effect is much less useful if the ritual involves loud chanting and spitting on the victim.
Table: Ritual categories and exemplary ritual effects
description of the ritual
The game master should then consider what prerequisites are necessary for the ritual and how exactly it will take place. In doing so, she should always keep a close eye on what consequences the chosen prerequisites will have, or what prerequisites are necessary for the ritual to have the desired properties in the game. Are time-consuming preparations necessary? Do rare, expensive or illegal components have to be procured? How easily and how often should the ritual be cast? What external conditions must prevail? The Ritual Components table can be used to roll the dice or select conditions of a ritual. It 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 principle. This is especially important for quick rituals that are meant to be cast spontaneously, such as in a fight. However, many rituals, especially more complex ones, require certain conditions such as a special place or 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. 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. Any place with complete darkness and any larger body of water would be suitable. Second, a very specific location could be a prerequisite: the center of Stonehenge or the place where a particular person died. Usually there is a reason when a 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, setups, etc. These are mostly transportable (although this can be difficult in individual cases), so they can be brought to the location of the ritual. Also, they can generally be reused. The tools can be very simple, such as a piece of chalk to paint an occult symbol on, or highly complex, such as a decorated altar with precious candlesticks, an unholy book, an ancient sacrificial knife, and numerous other components.
Sacrifice: Sacrifices are living beings or objects that are killed, or consumed, or destroyed in the course of the ritual. Crucially, they are no longer available at the end of the ritual. Not every ritual involves sacrifice, but many particularly powerful rituals do. When items are sacrificed, they are always of some value to the ritual caster. Be it that they are costly, must be procured at great expense, or are even parts of her own body. The latter very effectively limits the number of rituals that can be performed. The game master must also determine the type of sacrifice. Depending on the type of sacrifice, it may be buried, burned, sunk in deep water, eaten, scattered, or simply left in nature, for example. For living beings, there are numerous imaginative methods of transporting them from life to death, and many of these are conceivable for a sacrificial ritual.
Ritual action: while tools and sacrifice are not necessarily part of a ritual, some 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 then forms the core of the ritual.
Table: Ritual components
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 on 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 of execution
The more powerful the effect of a ritual is or the more willpower it requires of the user, the higher the cost in willenskraftpunkte should be. This may include that a ritual can only be executed by several ritual casters at the same time to provide the WP cost or even cost permanent POW. The costs can also depend on another value (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 they can have a fixed value, but mostly the use of unnatural magic is unpredictable. A ritual can have other costs besides WP (e.g. HP, if blood has to be sacrificed). 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 hard-to-estimate WP cost (e.g., depending on a creature's POW or bridged distance) for powerful rituals.
loss of stability during execution
How pronounced is the unnaturalness of the ritual? How outlandish or frightening is what the ritual caster must do to execute the ritual? How bizarre or unnatural are the effects of the ritual? A ritual that has a strongly pronounced unnatural effect or provides particularly strong glimpses into the nature of myth should result in a higher SAN loss during execution. Likewise, how cruel it is, i.e., whether it requires the sacrifice of an animal or even a human being, for example, factors into the SAN loss. Indicators for SAN costs are:
- 1 SAN to 1d4 SAN for an action that can (still) be easily explained in a natural way, that doesn't cost you much to overcome, or that has no immediate effect.
- 1d6 SAN for mainly mental or disturbing actions that have a physically occurring effect.
- 1d8 to 1d10 for actions that are damaging to someone, shocking, or so undeniably unnatural that it cannot be resisted, such as raising the dead or contact with unnatural creatures.
- 1d20 SAN for exceptionally cruel acts or particularly bizarre or profound insights into cosmic horror.
DURATION OF PERFORMANCE
How quickly can the actual ritual be performed? Most rituals can be executed within a few turns to a maximum of hours. However, a complex ritual can be difficult to learn and require lengthy preparation, but then can be performed within a few moments - and vice versa. As a rule, however, powerful and complicated rituals will require more time in execution than simple rituals with few components. The purpose of a ritual also plays a role: A ritual that is supposed to Do harm / Harm in combat must not take hours to perform, otherwise it will fail its purpose. Very rarely, a ritual may take years to complete, for example, when a certain condition is reached (e.g., when the stars are right).
- It takes one to a few turns to execute a ritual that is supposed to work in battle or only requires a spell, a gesture or the use of a previously prepared item.
- Minutes is the time it takes to perform a spell that has been elaborately prepared beforehand and has an immediate, short-term effect (such as raising the dead).
- Up to an hour is required for the execution of rituals that involve a strong mental effort and establish contact with a place or a 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 unnatural creatures.
study of the ritual
How long does it take to learn the ritual? How much does this learning process drain the mind of the learner? The length of study depends on the complexity of the ritual. It takes longer to learn a ritual that involves gestures, chants, and complex actions than a simple ritual that requires only a chant. Sometimes certain prerequisites are needed to learn a ritual at all (e.g., knowledge of an extraordinary language, a certain level of madness, or certain skills). SAN loss in learning 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.
- Highly complex ritual: study duration years - 1d10 SAN and more (rare).
RULE MECHANIC DETAILS
Now the game master has to think about some rule mechanic details.
- 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 a comparative POW test; for physical effects, it could be a CON × 5 test. Defending against a mental attack usually costs the victim 1d4 WP.
- Does the effect experienced cost the victim of the ritual SAN? Usually, the victim will suffer SAN losses of 1W4 to 1d10 SAN in addition to the effect of the ritual, depending on how shocking, brutal, or unnatural the effect is.
- Does the ritual increase Unnatural Knowledge (for the ritual caster, participants, or victims), if applicable, or does it result in further SAN losses (e.g., due to the appearance of unnatural creatures)? Does it perhaps increase other skill values due to newly learned skills (for example, an alien language)?
- Is it possible to cast the ritual together? If so, under what conditions?
EXAMPLE: RITUAL DESCRIPTION
For the Seek Vision ritual, the ritual caster needs the object, person, or place to which she wishes to receive a vision, as well as quietness and concentration. A quiet place for meditation (ritual action) and attunement to the object of the ritual are required. Incense or mind-expanding drugs (ritual tools) support access to the Seek Vision. After a period of meditation, the ritual worker catches a glimpse of the future or the past of the object. She cannot determine the temporal destination herself. However, the object will usually reveal a significant moment in its story.
EXAMPLE: RITUAL EFFECT
The Seek Vision ritual is intended to allow the ritual caster to take a brief glimpse into the near future or past of a place, object, or person. From the game master's side, the ritual can be used to send information and clues to the players. At the same time, glimpses through time are brief and blurry enough that investigative plots are not "blown up" by the use of the ritual.
EXAMPLE: RITUAL COSTS.
The clues provided by the ritual Seek Vision to the ritual caster can be cryptic and misleading, setting the player character on a downward spiral. Thus, the ritual is of limited power and should therefore cost 1d4 WP to execute.
EXAMPLE: RITUAL PERFORMANCE
The Seek Vision ritual is a pure effort of will that does not directly damage anyone, but definitely entails unnatural insight and therefore costs 1d6 SAN in execution.
EXAMPLE: RITUAL PERFORMANCE TIME
The Seek Vision ritual is a mental journey that requires calmness and concentration on the object or place. Therefore, the execution takes approximately one hour.
EXAMPLE: RITUAL STUDY
The Seek Vision ritual requires mainly meditation and effort of will but no complex actions. It can therefore be learned within a few days, costing the learner 1d4 SAN.
EXAMPLE: RULE MECHANICS DETAILS
The Seek Vision ritual allows the ritual caster to narrow down or determine for herself the point in time she wants to look at, in case of a critical success in the ritual rehearsal. 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 sees in the Seek Vision, an additional SAN loss occurs or her Unnatural Knowledge is increased (by 2 to 5%).