Big time summoning rituals are part of many Dungeons and Dragons games. I’m not talking about the conjure elemental and conjure celestial spells in the Player’s Handbook. Nor am I talking about the summoning spells I created for fifth edition D&D. I’m talking about the magic we read about in novels which bring pit fiends, balors, and more into the Material Plane. This magic is costly, rare, dangerous, and time-consuming. Unfortunately complex rituals like this don’t have rules players can use in fifth edition… until now! These rituals don’t just summon powerful creatures. They could also be used to raise undead armies, grow castles from the earth, or create a frosty, horrible Winter for an entire region of a country.
Why give PCs access to such powerful magic? Well for one thing it gives them a way to spend some of the gold they seem to accidentally stock pile in fifth edition. For another it allows them to go questing for specific ritual ingredients. Most importantly this magic invites players to gain a significant amount of power but only by risking life and limb. I like bringing those kinds of high risk, high reward mechanics into my games.
PCs and NPCs alike can access these complex rituals, but they must have all the components in exactly the right place. This isn’t the kind of spell they can cast each and every day. That’s by design. The rituals are meant to be fun, but not completely break the game.
So without further adieu here’s the rules for the complex fiend summoning ritual in my game. More of these rituals will follow. Stay tuned!
Certain magic spells are too powerful to be cast in the normal way. Summoning creatures of great power, raising undead armies, and calling forth castles from the earth are examples of magic that goes beyond a simple spell. This magic is known as a complex ritual.
All complex rituals require certain components, described below.
Most rituals have a casting time of 1 hour or longer. The ritual leader must maintain concentration during this time. If the ritual leader’s concentration is broken, the spell fails and any spent sacrifices at the time of broken concentration are consumed.
Each complex ritual requires specific environmental conditions. These could include time of day, weather, phases of the moon, and location. For instance a ritual to raise an army of the dead might have to take place after the sun goes down in a graveyard during a full moon.
Focuses are material items needed to cast the ritual which are not consumed during the process of casting.
Sacrifices are materials needed to cast the ritual which are consumed during the process of casting.
This recipe outlines the specific steps taken to cast the ritual. Any ability checks related to the ritual are mentioned here. It is recommended that the DM make the character’s ability checks for them and keep the result secret.
The complex ritual’s effects are listed along with its duration. Most rituals have a variable duration.
Some complex rituals can be cast to greater effect – summoning more powerful creatures, raising larger numbers of undead, etc. Achieving these greater effects often requires more cost and more risk.
Conjure Greater Fiend
Casting Time: 4 hours
Environmental Conditions: The ritual must take place after the sun has completely set and finish being cast before the sun rises.
Focuses: A fiendish mask made of animal bones and gems worn by the ritual leader (worth 4000 gp), a brazier made of a pure gold washed in the blood of fiends (worth 4000 gp), a set of unholy handbells forge from cold iron and rubies (worth 1000 gp), an unholy dagger carved from the bone of a fiend (worth 1000 gp), and the written unholy incantation for this ritual (worth 5000 gp)
Sacrifices: 13 candles made from wax mixed with fiend blood (worth 100 gp each), 13 sticks of incense made from corpse flowers (worth 200 gp each), a cask of celestial blood (worth 1000 gp), and a goat, pig or similar animal
Spell Slot Consumption Number: 10
- The ritual leader begins chanting the incantation and name of the fiend being called forth. If the ritual leader does not know the fiend’s name, instead the name of a specific type of fiend (e.g. yochlol) is chanted. This fiend must have a challenge rating 10 or lower.
- Light and begin burning all the unholy candles in a 30-foot-radius circle. These must burn during the entire ritual or it fails.
- Light the incense in the unholy brazier. The incense must burn during the entire ritual or it fails.
- In the circle of candles, draw the unholy symbol indicated in the incantation using the celestial blood. The creature who does this must succeed on a DC 15 Intelligence (Arcana) check. If the creature fails this check the fiend summoned as normal in step 7, but can escape the circle and is not under the ritual leader’s control. The fiend is hostile toward the ritual leader and its allies.
- Ring the unholy handbells in the exact sequence indicated by the incantation. The creature ringing the bells must succeed on a DC 10 Charisma (Performance) check. If the creature fails this check, it can try again one more time. A second failure means the ritual fails.
- Inside the circle, kill the animal using the unholy dagger. Leave its body there and the ritual leader should continue to chant.
- After three hours of chanting, if the other steps were completed correctly, the fiend should appear in the circle. If the circle of celestial blood was made properly, the fiend cannot leave the circle of candles. The ritual leader must continue to chant the incantation for one more hour. If something disrupts the caster’s concentration, the circle of celestial blood, the candles, or the incense during this final hour, the fiend is able to leave the circle and is not under the ritual leader’s control. The fiend is hostile toward the ritual leader and its allies.
Once the ritual is complete, the fiend is friendly to the ritual leader and its companions. Roll for initiative for the fiend, is has its own turns. It obeys any verbal commands the ritual leader issues to it (no action required by the lead caster) as long as they don’t violate its alignment. If the ritual leader issues no commands to the fiend, it defends itself from hostile creatures, but otherwise takes no action.
As an action the ritual leader can release the fiend from its control and return the fiend to the place from which it was summoned.
Every 24 hours the fiend is under the ritual leader’s control, the ritual leader must make a Constitution check (DC 10 + the number of days since the ritual was completed). Failing this Constitution check means the ritual leader suffers one level of exhaustion, which cannot be restored in any way until the fiend is no longer under its control.
If the ritual leader dies before dismissing the fiend, the fiend does not return to the place from where it was summoned and becomes hostile toward the ritual leader’s allies (and the ritual leader if returned to life).
Using this complex ritual you can summon a fiend with a challenge rating higher than 10 up to 20. For every number of the challenge rating higher than 10, add another candle, stick of incense, cask of celestial blood, and animal consumed by the ritual. The DCs for the Intelligence (Arcana) and Charisma (Performance) checks made during the casting of the ritual increase by 1 for every number of the creature’s challenge rating higher than 10.
If you’ve been following this blog, you knew this was coming. Take the rules for complex rituals and conjure greater fiend with you wherever you go in the handy PDF below.
You can pick up that PDF whenever you like over in the Free Game Resources section of this site. If you go there feel free to also explore the backgrounds, magic items, monsters, D&D fifth edition rules modules, spells, adventures, and more I have made for fifth edition D&D.
What do you think of these complex ritual rules? Do you want to see more of them? What would you change? Sound off in the comments below! I hope to show off more of these at a future date.
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