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Ritual: A Supernatural General Ability

One of the GUMSHOE project's I'm working on now and then is called Valley of the Dawn. It's a game of exploration by a stone-age tribe looking for new land to migrate into. They discover a mysterious valley, and a team of Seekers (the player characters) is sent in to see if it would be a good place to settle.

One of the Seekers is a Shaman with the ability to perform rituals and gain the favor of the many spirits of the land. This is a special General ability, and so far the description looks like this.


The lore of the People includes special rites for many activities, from washing to cooking to the dances before a great hunt. These rites appease the spirits that guide and protect your tribe. But you possess the ability to entreat those spirits to grant supernatural gifts.

With this ability, you can perform rituals that enhance your ability or someone else’s. This requires a safe space where you can draw symbols, burn offerings, and otherwise use the trappings of magic to call on spirits. Rituals generally take at least an hour. Speeding up the process or performing a ritual without the necessary trappings increases the difficulty.

Choose a subject and an ability for the Ritual to affect. Make a Ritual test with a base difficulty of 4. If you succeed, the subject’s ability is enhanced, and you can spend Ritual points to create a temporary pool tied to that ability. You must spend at least one Ritual point in this way.

The enhanced ability lasts for one day or until there are no more points in this temporary pool. Whenever the subject would spend any number of points to use the enhanced ability, they must also spend one point out of this temporary pool. This temporary point does not add to any die rolls.

Ritual Potential: Your ability to master rituals is limited by your connection to the spirits and your exposure to the supernatural. This is measured by your Ritual Potential. You cannot raise your rating in the Ritual ability higher than your Ritual Potential.

The Shaman begins with Ritual Potential equal to the number of Seekers. Other Seekers begin with 0 Ritual Potential.

Other Abilities

All of the other abilities in the game (both Investigative and General) include suggestions for how Ritual might enhance their use, in addition to the usual uses (clues, spends, and tests). Here's an example, the Beast Lore ability.

Beast Lore

You possess wide-ranging knowledge about natural creatures great and small. With this ability, you can...
  • Identify a creature by its spoor, discarded feathers or scales, or by its tracks.
  • Predict the future behavior of a creature based on existing patterns.
  • Calm an animal that is wary or on edge but not actively hostile.
Benefits: Possible benefits for Beast Lore spends include...
  • Directing a non-hostile animal to aid you with its natural abilities. (1-point, or 2-point in combat)
  • Distracting animals, granting yourself or an ally a 2-point Stealth pool bonus to sneak past. (1-point)
  • Recognizing weaknesses in an animal’s tactics, lowering the creature’s Hit Threshold by 1. (1-point)
Rituals: Possible rituals involving Beast Lore may let you...
  • Perceive animals with a supernatural sense. You can spend Beast Lore to add to Sense Trouble tests involving animals.
  • Sense the world through the eyes and ears of an animal present for the ritual. You can use investigative abilities in scenes where that animal is present, even if you are not. If any such use requires a spend, you must spend a point of Beast Lore as an additional cost.
  • Speak with animals. You can use Beast Lore as an interpersonal ability when dealing with animals.

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