When does a large effect become a ritual?

Hello all

I'm brainstorming for a game I have brewing in my mind.

I want to create a charged device that is capable of wiping out cities (who doesn't?!)

I've come up with the item below

Sphere of Fiery Ruin
R: Touch, D: Mom, T: Ind
This metal sphere is about the size of a grapefruit and is carved with dozens of tiny runes. Aside from the runes, the only feature it has is a ruby the size of a fingernail set into it with only a flat facet above the surface. A weapon of terrible power, it requires that the ruby be covered with the users thumb and the activation words said. The words vary by creator but are typically something along the lines of a curse and stated desire to take revenge. Once activated the sphere explodes in a storm of fire that spreads early instantly across an area a kilometre wide inflicting +30 damage with a penetration of 40 on anything within the area. Needless to say, this will instantly slay all but the most puissant of mages or other powerful magical creatures. Anyone who does survive is likely to be horrifically burned. The effect on buildings, crops, livestock and so on is exactly as bad as you'd imagine. As a charged device, this item requires a lab total of 81 and no vis to make. It is considered bad form amongst those few archmagi that can make them to make more than one device in a season. Better to spend excess lab total to up the damage, penetration or area of effect.
(Base 25, +1 touch, +6 size, +20 levels for 40 Penetration)

Now obviously this is a simple create fire effect, the only thing that makes it stand out is the huge area (I'm basing it on a standard ignem target being a fire a pace across and setting the size of a pace as roughly a metre). As a level 80 effect it would be a ritual. However, you can enchant items that are above level 50 as long as they wouldn't otherwise be a ritual for some other reason.

So my queries,

  1. would this spell be a ritual for any reason except its high level? If yes, do you forsee a situation where a very high level spell would not be a ritual for enchantment purposes?
  2. the actual spell level is level 60. If I knocked it down to level 50 by lowering the damage to +20, would it be a ritual then?

Reasons for a spell to be classed as a ritual include (but aren't limited to):

  1. final spell level - as you note, this doesn't have to restrict enchanted devices;

  2. normally having an effect that is a 'boundary' is automatically a ritual - a kilometer in diameter is clearly bigger than almost any boundary size, so this should be a ritual effect solely for this reason even if no other reason exists, in my opinion. You might disagree, and the rules don't explicity state that increases in 'size' should also mean that the target category should change too;

  3. Storyguide fiat - this is 'huge' and 'impressive' and 'should be a ritual'.

So, that makes it a ritual. In my opinion. If you allow 'size increases' to bypass the Target requirement, then many magi will have/make similar devices and the landscape will become quite altered, with large barren wastelands where cities/towns/annoying peasants used to live!

Any spell over L50 is a ritual, so as written this is not eligible to be in an item (the spell effect is L60, +20 levels for penetration).

Also, as written this affects only a single target up to size +6 (such as a building, or a titan?) that the item is touching. If you wish the effect as written to apply it would need to be a larger Range such as Sightm or Target such as Group or Boundary (which would also trigger the ritual requirement).

If the only reason a spell is a Ritual is its level, then it can be enchanted into an item.
However, the effect in the OP should definitely be placed in the Ritual class for sheer impressiveness. This is something that needs to be negotiated with the troupe, of course, but if one looks at, say, Rain of Oil, or Breath of the Open Sky, one immediately notices that they are Rituals (and for no other reason than "impressiveness") and definitely not more "high-powered" than the effect proposed by the OP - even if one knocks down fire damage to +20, as long as it's doing that (still hefty) damage to everything within a Km.
Knock range down to 100 paces, and my troupe would debate whether it's a Ritual or not. Probably not, though one can likely find troupes leaning either way.
A dozen paces or two? Not a Ritual, regardless of damage (unless other limits such as Level kick in).

No, the target of the effect is the created fire, which is created at R:Touch.

ah, I get it. It's creating a fire at range touch that is size +6? yes, that is "impressive". Hope the activator of the device has a good Parma.

size +6 doesn't seem that impressive. Sure it is a ball of fire nearly the size of a dragon, but compared to say making a sight range arc of fiery ribbons with increased group numbers and damage...

Uhm... You do realise the size scales for creatures and spells aren't the same, right?

He has 6 magnitudes for size, making it (10 to the power of 6 =) 1 million times the size of the base Individual for fire, which is already the size of a large campfire (ArM5, p. 139).
Depending on the shape of the fire, that could very well cover a decent sized area.

Silveroak, don't get size as it relates to creatures confused with size as applied to individual targets in spell guidelines. Totally different things. The effect listed above creates a ball of fire a kilometre across. Unless your dragons are really super big...

I had not paid enough attention to the actual numbers in the OP, but I just realized that +6 magnitudes for size applied to an Individual of Ignem may not be quite enough for a sphere 1 Km across (i.e. in diameter). That's because +6 magnitudes in size mean a million-fold increase in volume, i.e. a hundredfold in each dimension. For this to wield a sphere 1 Km across the base Individual of Ignem, "a large campfire", would have to be a sphere 1000m/100=10m across, as large as a large house or a small keep...

That's correct Ezzelino and was intended, but now I think about it, why should those people on the second floor of a building miss out on the fun? A half sphere (or full dome) might be more appropriate.

If we assume that a standard ignem individual target is a half sphere of fire a pace in diameter (or an area in a similar shape), then that would require +9 size. This is now a level 95 effect. Lets be saucy and add a diameter duration to make it an even 100.

Now we have an effect that creates a dome 500m high and a kilometre form side to side of fire that burns for two minutes doing +30 damage a turn to anyone in it. That should do the job.

I've been trying to work out other doomsday devices using perdo corpus or perdo terram but its really tricky. Affecting targets (i.e. people) requires sensing them and so group target works really badly to target the populace of a city. Boundary would get round this, but only for a ritual. Likewise, a perdo terram spell to disintegrate all stone in a radius is very tricky.

Are there any rules published for targets that are areas like "affects anything within the target area of x paces"?

Why don't you go the "Dinosaur Extinction" road and create a really big boulder very high in the sky?
The resulting impact will cause lots of fun and havoc.

I highly recommend against this reasoning. It makes an inordinate amount of Auram magic ritual magic because the base Individual for Auram is on the scale of Boundary already. I'm not saying impressively large shouldn't become a ritual. I'm just saying that there are non-ritual Auram spells in the books that are reasonable as non-ritual spells but that affect things larger than Individual.

And this is a good counter-argument.

Should Auram have an exception to my suggestion? Should there be an 'increased size' limit before it becomes a ritual (eg +5 size categories?), or should it merely be left to SG 'feelings' about when it counts as 'impressively large'? Rather than relying on my own, somewhat inconsistent, feelings I'd appreciate a bit of guidance from the rules in this sort of thing!

Slight digression:
In comparison, 4th edition left what counted as 'powerful magic' up to the SG when imposing warping; 5th edition codified it, and also gave rules for warping. These turned out to count substantially lower level magic than I thought as 'powerful'. eg my elder 4th ed magus generally had about 15 defensive spells up (moon duration) all the time. This is a terrible idea in 5th.

I wouldn't think Auram should be an exception. I tend to look at it as Group is pretty normal, so +1 for size should be easy. But then Group should be able to be increased at least a little, for at least +1 more, if not +2. So somewhere around the +3 mark is where I would suggest SG's look for impressively large. If we look within Auram we can see Group +1 or +2 (Clouds of Summer Snow, Sailors Foretaste of the Morrow, The Cloudless Sky Returned, Gathering of the Stormy Might) being non-ritual and Individual +4 or +5 (Breath of the Open Sky, Rain of Oil) being ritual (though I cannot guarantee which particular part is "spectacular"). So a cap of Group +2 or Individual +3 before becoming a ritual, meaning Group +3 or Individual +4 would be the lowest forcing a ritual, would seem to be in line with these core spells.

Personally I prefer to just eyeball how impressive it is. Usually, +2-3 mags for size are going to make it a ritual. Of course, this is all irrelevant to Gribble's original question, given that items can take 50+ spells even if they normally would be rituals, other conditions notwithstanding, so I'd assume that size mods and other things which merely push the magnitude of the spell are treated the same.

YSMV, of course.

Actually, the only criterion that is waved when deciding whether a ritual spell can enchanted as an item is the level (above 50). Any other reason that makes it a ritual would bar it from being enchanted into an item. Including "impressive effect", which is called "major effect" in RAW: