|Cover art by Jackie Musto|
Cover Design by Stephanie McAlea
It is tempting to nerf the effect of such a ritual, or to fudge the results (or give the player an easy way out of the problem), but long term I think it makes for a better game when this sort of thing is handled firmly by the GM. As GMs go I am quite accommodating and make a serious effort to respect character and player agency. I am also more than happy to take back a bad call on my part (on the initial roll for the Demon Emperor Ritual, I failed to give the player a d10 bonus that he deserved, so I allowed another d10 roll after the fact). If there is an out for this sort of thing, then it ought to come at great cost.
This is something I picked up from the games Bill Butler would run. Doing things like resurrection or removing the aftereffects of a terrible curse, were really difficult in his games. We had one character die and the only way for us to revive him was to attempt a risky ritual that basically brought him back as a zombie. We spent the rest of the campaign trying to undo the damage that that unleashed and restore the character. In the end it was much more enjoyable and more impactful than if he had just hand waved the consequences.
Consequences like this can be anything, not just drains or death. Missing limbs, lost magic items, serious illnesses, dead allies, historical events; these are all things that have lasting impact on the player characters and the setting. Having bad outcomes on the table, as painful as they can be in the moment, makes the overall experience better. That doesn't mean you are out to get the players or that you are their enemy. I don't delight in my player's misfortune. I just consider it my responsibility to be firm when consequences that should arise are lasting.
This is my preferred style of play at least. Whether I am a player character or game master, lasting consequences make it feel like choices and events are meaningful, with lasting results.