A question about Rituals in Trophy Dark

Hello! I recently started playing Trophy Dark after backing it on Kickstarter. I like it a lot, but I have a question about how rituals actually work.

They have really powerful effects and it’s advised here on the blogs to make a big deal out of them, giving player a moment to shine if they succeed. But I can’t find any details on the rules on how to actually use them. The only mention is that a ritual must include at least 1 dark dice. Is that it? I feel that they should be harder to perform to not devalue them and to make them less frequent. Am I missing something?


So the stipulation about performing rituals requiring a dark die just means that a PC has to be willing to risk their mind or body in order to succeed. so rituals are inherently risky, which requires a roll, then you look at how you build the dice pool:

Take one light-colored die if the task is something you are skilled at because of your occupation, background, or training, or because you are taking advantage of a piece of equipment or the environment.

Take another light die for accepting a Devil’s Bargain from another player or the gm.

Add a dark-colored die if you are willing to risk your mind or body in order to succeed. You must include this die whenever you perform a ritual.

Very few premade occupations/backgrounds include a “rituals” skill, so the chance of a PC being skilled at it is low, which means they have to take a devil’s bargain if they don’t want to automatically take Ruin (since rolling only a dark die would necessarily make it also the highest die rolled) — and with only one light die, in that case, there’s a not bad chance that that dark die will still be higher; so that’s probable Ruin and a related side effect if not definite Ruin for no side effect.

I think it’s a value judgement, really…they seem very lethal to me, especially because, if a PC starts with three rituals, they also start with four ruin — that’s not much room for error!
Let me tag @jesseross, too, in case he has further/better advice *~


Thanks! Ok, I understood correctly how the ritual worked then. I get your reasoning and it’s indeed something lethal that the player should evaluate carefully. My concern is that it’s as lethal as any unskilled action that the player attempts to do.

Let me give you an example: the player wants to make a difficult jump to evade some danger. They are not skilled in anything related to it, so they can either take a devil bargain or roll a black die to perform this specific action. They might as well perform a ritual then, since the stakes would be the same, but the outcome will probably be better.

I have this feeling that maybe rituals should require a bit more, so the player can see them as something that needs a special and unique effort, making it stand out from other actions he can do.


It’s been a bit since I played Trophy Dark, but I found the word ritual, as opposed to spell or blast to be helpful in setting up the fictional positioning.

If a player is trying to make a difficult jump, they don’t have time to sit cross-legged, draw a sigil in squirrel-blood and mutter the necessary mutter incantations to “Bind” the creature. They’re going to have to succeed on their Risk Roll, and in all likelihood that’s only buying them a few moments before the monstrosity makes the jump as well.

If they have some warning, they can sit down and perform “Bind,” and it will be way more effective than the jump. But it might cost them Ruin during the roll, and performing the Ritual invites the group to invent some really nasty Devil’s Bargains. Maybe you can buy a few extra moments to mutter incantations, but the rest of the party has to make Ruin Rolls as they try to distract the creature from the caster. On failure, the caster’s a sitting duck, and they’re going to have to make a straight Ruin Roll when the unbound creature claws into them.

In my understanding of a Ritual, you trade greater effects than you can get on a Risk Roll for being stationary and vulnerable when the monsters come for you, and for awful bargains with the (sometimes literal) devil.


Yeah, I see what you’re saying. There’s nothing in the mechanics that marks it out specially from other actions, but, I think like what @noah_t is saying, you can (and should, imo) homerule it. I’m into rituals requiring more, and I like time, but you could for sure find some other way to differentiate it. I don’t think it would be off-tone at all in Trophy Dark. You could require reagents, perhaps, or use something like clocks from Blades in the Dark, to add a looming danger (on top of the rings and madness and everything else Trophy Dark has).


@noah_t you are right, the idea of having to actively spend time performing it while in a vulnerable position adds a lot to it. I’ll surely be more specific about this the next time we play.

Regarding some homerules, I was thinking about the concept that Rituals could require a sacrifice to work. The player should decide what to sacrifice when preforming a ritual, it could be everything from destroying a precious or useful item to even more extreme stuff like amputating a finger. It would make it clear that a Ritual has a cost and the player has to give up something, no matter what.

Edit: I’ve played again tonight including noah’s suggestion plus the homerule that players have to sacrifice something during the ritual. It worked really well, the rituals were both more thought out and more scenic when performed. I advise you to try it if you have a chance!


I’d argue you’re overthinking it, and applying trad F20 ‘game balance’ ideas to something that isn’t about that at all.

Most rituals are pretty specific. They do one thing really well, but aren’t hugely applicable to other tasks. They’re costly to acquire in the first place, and because Dark is always a one-shot, you may get at most one or two chances to use any given ritual.

In all of the games I have run and played, I have never seen the issue you’re worried about, that rituals will seem like short-cuts or cheapened by not making them even more costly than they already are.

I understand why you might think this in reading over Dark coming from a more trad gaming culture. All I can say is that you really should consider running a few games as written, and I think you’ll find that it works great out of the box, and that the thing you’re speculating about is not something that manifests in play, like, ever.


Thanks for your input. I think I didn’t express myself clearly and probably that example was misunderstood. I’m not talking about balance at all, I think it would be silly for this game. I’m also not concerned that players could use Rituals in unintended disruptive ways as a cheap resolution of situations. The example was intended to be abstract, not a speculative scenario that i think could actually happen. If a player understands the nature of the game and want’s to play it, I know these sort of things just won’t happen. I’m talking about how these actions are perceived by players. They are powerful narrative devices capable of scenic outcomes, so I feel they should be held in high regard by players. But I was afraid that the 1:1 comparison with an unskilled action would downplay their importance, being perceived just as another tool in their toolkit, instead of something special.

Anyways, I think you are right: I’m surely overthinking it. I had a chance to play either vanilla and with the variant I mentioned earlier and they were both fun experiences that proceeded smoothly as intended.


They’ll inevitably be special because they’re so specific to the situations they’re dealing with. It’s also very much worth underlining that if you’re up against a Monstrosity, your options will usually be run, hide, or run AND hide, unless you’ve got a Ritual. The mere fact that they give you a tool that can allow you to face off against the horrors of the incursion, even if only for a moment, renders them fictionally potent and sets them apart from regular skills. No matter how skilled a swordsman you are, the Flocculent Stag will trample you and blow spores into your mangled corpse if you don’t have a Ritual.