The Basics of Ritual Casting in D&D 5e

Time is an invaluable resource in D&D 5e. Taking a short rest in the middle of an adventure can give the enemy enough time to prepare an ambush or escape your pursuit. Knowing when you can afford to spend some time to save the party some resources is a key part of playing D&D.

Ritual Casting is one such “time management” mechanic where you can choose to expend additional time to save yourself or the party some limited resources (spell slots). Of course, that’s assuming that you have checked all of the Ritual Casting boxes. After all, only certain characters can utilize this mechanic!

As with anything in 5e, if there is a mechanic, there must be classes or subclasses that break these rules. In this case, we need to look no further than the usual suspect, the wizard. They can further expand their effective prepared spell list by having a decent understanding of how ritual casting works.

A while ago I wrote an article outlining the basics of spellcasting, including rituals. Today I’d like to go into more detail on the subject, specifically to talk about the pros and cons of casting spells as rituals and who can perform ritual casting.

What is Ritual Casting?

Ritual Casting, as the name implies, allows the caster to cast certain spells as a ritual. Here is a quick list of how everything works:

  1. The spell must have the ritual tag in order to be elligable to be cast as a ritual.
  2. The casting time of the spell is increased by 10 minutes.
  3. The spell does not consume a spell slot when it is cast as a ritual.
  4. You need to know or currently have the spell prepared (depending on your class).

Let’s use the spell Tiny Hut as an example. See the small “R” next to the 1-minute casting time? That’s the ritual tag. If a spell has that and your class has the Ritual Casting feature then you can choose to cast the spell as a ritual.

In this case, the spell would take 11 minutes, but it would not consume a 3rd-level spell slot. In simpler terms, it gives you one more casting per day of Fireball.

The only downsides of Ritual Casting are that you need to a) still have the spell prepared or known and b) you may not be able to spend the extra 10 minutes. If neither of these downsides is an issue for the situation you’re in then Ritual Casting is a fantastic way to save those spell slots.

Wizards, the Rulebreakers

If there’s a spellcasting rule you can be almost certain that wizards have a way to work around it. Sneaky bastards.

Their way to avoid one of the downsides of Ritual Casting is perhaps one of the egregious examples of their spell casting connivery.

See, if a wizard has a spell with the ritual tag in their spellbook, they can always cast that spell as a ritual. Yes, even if they don’t have that spell prepared. That’s what I meant earlier when I said that wizards can effectively expand their prepared spell list if they’re resourceful enough.

Now, your mileage may vary depending on the spell. For example, Find Familiar has a base casting time of 1 hour, and if you have an hour to kill you probably have 1 hour and 10 minutes as well.

On the other hand, you may need to cast Water Breathing ASAP. It has a base casting time of 1 Action so you’d still need to prepare it if you believe that there’s a scenario where the party needs to dive into the water immediately and can’t wait the 10 minutes for you to perform a ritual.

All in all, the wizard’s unique flavor of ritual casting is a major boon for a class with such an enormous variety of spells. Being able to cast unprepared spells for free is just icing on the already very-well decorated cake.

an female high-elf wizard with blue hair casting a ritual spell in their laboratory. their brown owl familiar is watching from afar
When you have the time, ritual casting can save you valuable spell slots! Credit: WotC.

Who Can Perform Ritual Casting?

In this section of the article, I refer to full-casters and half-casters. I’ve defined these in a previous article so feel free to dive into that if you want an explanation.

Full-Casters

All the full-casters aside from sorcerers (of course) and warlocks have access to Ritual Casting in their base class features.

In the case of the cleric and druid, this means that they need to prepare whatever spells they wish to cast as rituals. The bard simply needs to know the spells they wish to cast as a ritual, like all of their other spells.

We’ve already dealt with the wizard. We know they’re dirty rulebreakers.

On one hand, it sucks that sorcerers got slighted yet again in the spellcasting department, but on the other hand they have a total of four spells with the ritual tag. If we’re being honest, Ritual Casting wouldn’t get all that much mileage on a sorcerer.

Half-Casters… I mean, Artificers

Before Eberron: Rising from the Last War was released there were no half-casters that were able to perform Ritual Casting. I think this was a bit of an oversight as this would’ve been a fantastic feature for Rangers but we know how I feel about those.

The artificer is the first half-caster to gain the Ritual Casting feature and they can use it in the same manner as the cleric and druid. If they have the spell currently prepared, they are eligible to cast it as a ritual.

Some Warlocks

While the warlock doesn’t have Ritual Casting as a class feature, some warlocks can pick up Ritual Casting to varying degrees.

The Pact of the Chain Warlock can cast the Find Familiar as a ritual saving them one of their very few spell slots per short rest. In addition to that, the Find Familiar spell doesn’t count against their limited number of spells known so it’s very much a win-win type of feature.

Pact of the Tome Warlocks, however, get a considerably more robust version of Ritual Casting if they pick up the Book of Ancient Secrets invocation. It’s practically a copy of the wizard’s flavor of Ritual Casting.

Immediately after electing this invocation the warlock learns two new 1st-level spells with the ritual tag from any class’ spell list. They also gain a book that holds these spells and can have new spells with the ritual tag added to it. Finally, any warlock spells that the warlock knows with the ritual tag can now have the option to be cast as rituals.

This is a meaty perk for Pact of the Tome Warlocks and absolutely aids in carving out their role as the optimal caster warlock.

Anyone With Ritual Caster

Any character with at least a 13 in Wisdom or Intelligence can learn Ritual Casting if they expend an ASI to obtain the Ritual Caster feat.

This feat works similarly to the Pact of the Tome Warlock’s Book of Ancient Secrets. Upon taking the feat you obtain a book that contains two 1st-level spells with the ritual tag.

Unlike the Book of Ancient Secrets, these two spells need to come from the same class list and you must use their spellcasting ability when casting the spells. For example, you need to use Charisma if you choose the bard’s list.

You also can pick up new spells if you find spell scrolls or spellbooks that contain rituals for the class that you chose.

I will say that it’s interesting that a 13 in Charisma isn’t an option alongside Wisdom and Intelligence considering that bard, sorcerer, and warlock are three of the spell list options for the feat.

a cult bowing before a cult leader performing a ritual that involves snake venom and a dagger.
Not every ritual has to be so extra. But your non-magical party mates don’t need to know that. Credit: WotC.

Making the Most of Ritual Casting

Squeezing the most value out of Ritual Casting will be varying degrees of challenging depending on how you obtain Ritual Casting. For wizards, Pact of the Tome Warlocks with Book of Ancient Secrets, and characters with Ritual Caster, this will be easy. You practically have free reign of all the ritual spells you know.

Bards are limited in the sense that they need to know the spell they wish to cast. However, this also gives them a bit more flexibility. For example, a bard that knows Detect Magic doesn’t have to worry about whether or not they need to prepare it, they simply know it and can freely choose to cast it as a 10-minute ritual or a single action depending on the situation.

Artificers, Clerics, and Druids are, in my opinion, the classes that require the most preparation and game-knowledge to make the most out of Ritual Casting. All three classes require you to have prepared the spell you wish to cast as a ritual. You need to know what spells could potentially be required at any given time in your adventures which becomes more challenging as you gain more and more spells.

Sometimes this can be obvious. For example, if you’re on a sea-faring adventure both Water Breathing and Water Walk are solid choices to consider having prepared. Some spells such as Detect Magic are always solid choices to have in your back pocket.

Know the situation you’re in or might get yourself into and be prepared for it. This is a regular concern for any of the prepared-casting classes, but with ritual casting the stakes are elevated ever so slightly.

Conclusions

Ritual Casting is a powerful feature in the right hands. It requires a player or group that can identify the right scenario to spend more time to cast a spell as a ritual or to cast the spell at its base casting time. Like spellcasting in general, the caster needs to choose the right tool for the job.

A player that masters the ins and outs of Ritual Casting is going to find themselves providing additional utility to the party. For example, a wizard that makes use of Tiny Hut every night can all but handwave most nighttime encounters for the party as they travel through dangerous locations.

An extra 10 minutes can be the difference between life and death, for sure. However, an extra 10 minutes can save your spellcaster an important spell slot. Weighing your options and min-maxing your Ritual Casting opportunities can make your lives easier in dangerous dungeons and perilous adventures.

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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