The fragrant smell of lilacs and roses fills the air as the guests take their seats in the flower-adorned chapel. At the altar stands the paladin, resplendent in her shiny armor, waiting to officiate the wedding of her two fellow adventurers. As the procession begins and the bride gracefully walks down the aisle, the paladin opens her prayer book and begins ceremoniously reciting the Wedding rites. The onlookers watch in captivated silence as divine energy from the ceremony visibly swirls around the chapel. The couple at the altar gazes lovingly into each other’s eyes, knowing the protection blessings they are about to receive will shield them in the coming battle with the vampire lord.
What makes this in-game ceremony so impactful and memorable? It is enabled by one of D&D’s most unusual yet creative spells – Ceremony. Introduced in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Ceremony brings roleplaying flavor to the game by blending mechanics with narrative opportunity. This comprehensive Ceremony 5e guide will explore every aspect of this spell – from its temporary bonuses to its exploits and limitations. You will learn how to creatively incorporate Ceremony into your D&D games to enable compelling roleplaying moments. So sit back, relax, and let’s begin the ritual!
Section 1: Ceremony Spell Mechanics and Details
Ceremony is a 1st level evocation spell available to Clerics and Paladins. It has a casting time of 1 hour, with a range of touch. The components are verbal, somatic, and material – a pinch of rare incense worth at least 25gp which the spell consumes. When cast as a ritual, the casting time increases to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
So what does Ceremony actually do? Well, this spell is unique in that it is essentially six mini-spells folded into one. When you cast Ceremony, you choose one of the following ceremonies to perform, the target of which must be within 10 feet of you:
- Atonement: You restore a willing creature to their original alignment after succeeding on a DC20 Wisdom (Insight) check.
- Bless Water: You turn one vial of water into holy water.
- Coming of Age: You grant a d4 bonus to ability checks to one humanoid entering adulthood, lasting 24 hours.
- Dedication: You grant a d4 bonus to saving throws to one willing humanoid dedicating themselves to your god’s service for 24 hours.
- Funeral Rite: You prevent one corpse from being turned into undead for 7 days.
- Wedding: You grant a +2 AC bonus to willing humanoids being wed, for 7 days, if they remain within 30 feet of each other.
The temporary bonuses provided by Ceremony are quite useful, but what makes this spell truly shine is its roleplaying value. Ceremony provides narrative justification and mechanical weight to significant character moments like shifting alignment, religious dedication, funerals, and weddings. We will dive deeper into Ceremony’s roleplaying potential in the next section.
First, let’s explore some of the quirks and nuances of Ceremony’s mechanics:
- The material component cost cannot be ignored – 25gp per casting adds up quickly. It makes Ceremony inefficient for repetitive castings.
- The ceremonies provide no concentration buffs. However, effects like Coming of Age and Dedication don’t require concentration to benefit from their 24 hour durations.
- Clerics have a big advantage with Ceremony thanks to Ritual Casting. They can cast it without using spell slots.
- Paladins prepare spells daily, so Ceremony competes with other concentration spells like Bless and Aid for value.
- Wedding provides the largest numeric bonus, but some clever players have found loopholes to renew it constantly. More on this later.
- Funeral Rite fills a very niche role, unless your campaign heavily features undead threats.
In summary, Ceremony leverages flavorful rituals to provide temporary circumstantial bonuses outside of combat. While not a spell that will be used daily, its valuable narrative niche makes it a great occasional option for Clerics and Paladins.
Section 2: Creative Uses and Character Builds with Ceremony
Ceremony’s weddings, funerals, and dedications provide some fun roleplaying opportunities. But clever players have also found ways to creatively exploit Ceremony using certain character builds:
The Black Widow Build
This notorious character build revolves around the Wedding ceremony. A character will marry an NPC or party member, gain the +2 AC bonus for 7 days, then purposefully make themselves a widow to re-cast Wedding again. Done ad infinitum, this provides a permanent AC boost.
To pull this off, the Wedding target has to willingly fail their saves against something like Power Word Kill. One way is to use magic like Dominate Person, but that spoils the romance a bit! This build works best with either a necromancer who can kill and revive their spouse, or a traveling murderer who leaves a trail of dead spouses in their wake.
While legal by RAW, DMs should carefully consider whether to allow this infinite ceremony loop. It can break immersion and derail campaigns. We’ll cover handling this later when we discuss DM tips.
The Cult Leader Wedding Their Followers
If you charismatically attract a group of followers, Wedding ceremonies make them all provide AC bonuses to each other – no spouse required! Form a cult armored by the power of their spiritual leader and prepare for a deadly crusade. Alternatively, a villain could forcibly wed captives to boost their defenses. The more followers, the more bonus stacking.
Keep in mind the 10 foot range limit during the hour-long casting time. You’ll need devout followers willing to stand still in close formation. But if pulled off, your flock will become an imposing force bolstered by their matrimonial bonds.
The Cleric Businessman Selling Holy Water
An opportunistic Cleric can generate vials of 25gp holy water using the Bless Water ceremony, then sell them in areas where holy water is scarce. This ceremony-fueled holy water factory can turn a profit for clever clerics with an aptitude for business. Just be wary of flooding the market and driving down demand!
These creative builds showcase just some of the possibilities with Ceremony. D&D’s bounded accuracy system means those temporary numeric bonuses, no matter how small, can prove significant over a long adventuring career. But more importantly, Ceremony enables compelling narratives – let’s look at some examples.
Potential Ceremony Roleplaying Scenarios:
- A Paladin Officiating the Wedding of Two Lovers
- A Cleric Performing the Coming of Age Rite for Their Apprentice
- A Druid Conducting the Funeral Rites for a Fallen NPC Ally
- A Warlock Holding a Profane Wedding Ceremony for Their Patron
- A Cleric Leader Dedicating New Followers to Their Deity
Ceremony provides mechanical crunch to support the roleplaying moments you've imagined but couldn't quite enable until now. This blend of flavor and functionality is classic D&D design at its finest.
Section 3: Advantages and Limitations of Ceremony
Ceremony is not a spell that you’ll have prepared daily like Bless or Spiritual Weapon. Its niche utility makes it very context dependent, better suited for down time or pre-adventure preparation. Let’s examine some of Ceremony’s key advantages and limitations:
Advantages of Ceremony:
- Temporary Bonuses Require No Concentration – The AC bonus from Wedding has huge value because it frees up concentration for other spells during combat.
- Available as a Ritual – Clerics can cast Ceremony without expending spell slots thanks to ritual casting. This gives them much more flexibility to use it.
- Perfect for Supporting Narrative Moments – Ceremony gives mechanical weight to roleplaying moments that previously had to rely on pure improvisation.
- Scales Well With Group Size – The more creatures targeted by Wedding and Dedication, the more bonus stacking.
Limitations of Ceremony:
- Long Casting Time – The 1 hour casting time prevents any use during combat. Weddings are not known for brevity, but neither are funerals or coming of age rites. Plan ahead.
- Costs Valuable Material Components – The 25gp ruby dust makes repetitive castings inefficient. Creates obstacle for Holy Water spammers.
- Niche Circumstantial Benefits – Ceremony’s bonuses won’t see daily use. Funeral Rite especially depends on undead threats.
- Loophole Potential – Clever players can find ways to exploit unlimited castings. DMs should consider houserules.
- Paladins Must Prepare It – Paladins only prepare a few spells daily. Ceremony competes with always-useful staples like Bless.
Despite these limitations, Ceremony remains a valuable option under the right circumstances. For clerics especially, having it prepared when the narrative calls for it can lead to some truly memorable roleplaying scenes.
Section 4: Maximizing Ceremony in Your Games
While Ceremony has its limitations, DMs and players can optimize its value by using it strategically and creatively:
Optimizing Ceremony as a Player:
- Use It for Pre-Adventure Buffs – Ceremony shines when cast as preparation before a big battle or dungeon delve. Use Dedication and Coming of Age on your party in advance.
- Look for Downtime Windows – If your campaign includes periods of downtime between adventures, suggest roleplaying wedding or funeral ceremonies.
- Don’t Forget Ritual Casting – Clerics should utilize their ritual casting to get the most versatility out of Ceremony.
- Work With Your DM – Collaborate with your DM to make ceremonies feel special. Share your character’s vision for meaningful rituals.
Roleplaying Compelling Ceremonies as a DM:
- Incorporate Ceremonies to Celebrate Milestones – When players accomplish big goals or defeat major villains, suggest they hold an in-game ceremony.
- Make Ceremonies Festival Events – Weddings, coming of age rites, and funerals can be great ways to involve NPCs and settings in celebrations.
- Allow Custom Ceremonies – Work with your Clerics to design interesting new rites like knighting ceremonies reflecting their deity.
- Have Villains Corrupt Ceremonies – An evil priest might perform a Wedding ceremony that magically charms creatures against their will.
Handling the “Widowed” Loophole as a DM:
- Ban the Practice – Don’t allow players to intentionally abuse the “widowed” loophole in your game if it doesn’t fit your table.
- In-Game Consequences – Actions have consequences. NPCs and deities could lose trust in characters exploiting ceremonies.
- Only Allow Revivify – Disallow resurrection spells other than Revivify, since it has a 1 minute window that prevents repetitive use.
- Limit Spouse Availability – Kill off potential spouses, discourage them from fighting together, or impose time-based restrictions.
With some creativity and collaboration, Ceremony can enable incredible roleplaying scenes and become a signature ability for Cleric and Paladin characters. DMs shouldn’t fear the spell – with some reasonable limitations, it can add gravity and depth to significant narrative moments within a campaign.
Ceremony is one of D&D’s most unusual yet flavorful spells. By blending mechanical effects with roleplaying opportunity, it brings religious rituals to life in a way unmatched by any other low-level options. Clever players have found ways to creatively exploit Ceremony’s temporary bonuses through certain builds – but more importantly, it provides long-sought narrative justification for in-game ceremonies.
While niche in nature and limited in power, a timely Ceremony can elevate key story moments and provide party-wide benefits right when they’re needed most. This guide has taken you through everything you need to know about Ceremony – from its spell details to its advantage, limitations, and roleplaying potential. Just don’t be surprised if the next wedding you attend ends up being between your fellow party members!