This has been a topic I've been thinking about for quite some time. Ritualist is one of if not the most requested Profession from GW1 to be made into an elite spec. Assassin being close. I'm not sure if its because of their overall popularity in GW1, rose tinted glasses or the bias much of the community has for Factions over other expansions, but it is very clear that many of us want to see the ritualist return in some form or another. I've been milling this about in my head for some time, trying to determine just how Viable Ritualist would be as its stand along profession as well as determine just which profession could make the best use of the ritualist's unique set of skills and themes. And I've come to a few conclusions.
Potential as a profession
I want to start here since most players haven't considered this as an option to my knowledge. So I want to pull this up first. I think the ritualist has some advantages and disadvantages as a profession in the design potential in GW1. For starters in terms of its Mechanics and how to best utilize them the Engineer does that job fairly well. If they were to get their own profession their design with the Urns, Spirits, Spirit weapons would all have fairly similar functionality to Engineer skills like turrets, Kits and Gyros. Although aesthetically they are quite different this really isn't a strong enough justification to make them a unique profession. They were a unique support class with Damage reduction, Spirit support and high raw healing. All things easily replicated by the engineer.
Thematically The Ritualist has other problems as well. And that problems comes in the form of the Necromancer who is everything the ritualist is and some. A Dark conjurer of undead horrors, vengeful spirits and otherworldly afflictions. All very much tied into the Necromancer's core design. The idea that the Ritualist does Rituals isn't unique to them either. Necromancer's have always done rituals and continues to do them. Even in the lore as priests of Grenth again necromancers had always taken up that mantle and now almost exclusively take that mantle on themselves. Guiding lost spirits, conjuring dark energies, summoning the dead, these are all aspects achieved by the necromancer. In its theme it really doesn't work all that well with that in consideration the idea of having 2 professions heavily focused on death it makes sense to just have the one.
With that said, the Ritualist also has the opportunity not to be locked into the same trappings as the engineer or the necromancer. It neither needs to be as complex as the engineer or as tied down by shroud like the necromancer. It can be built from the ground up as a true support class. Its urns used as its identity to conjure aspects of Protection, healing and damage. They could take on that role without the need of an elite spec. Unlike Engineer who's healing ability has a few strange kinks ritualist can just be that from the start.
As for play feel, no profession truly feels like the ritualist. Yes the Engineer mechanically is supposed to be its successor but the visual and auditory effects really does impact the player's sense of enjoyment of the class even if mechanically it might be identical to another. Some people in fighting games prefer fighting as the clone character as opposed to the original. And they might say it feels just different enough to increase their engagement with the game. Some prefer Ryu while others prefer Ken. Those two fighters are almost identical to each other with minor variation, but they are both beloved characters of their franchise.
For how the Ritualist could expand with the game using elite specializations this is were the ritualist really steps on the toes of the necromancer. What themes and ideas could they pull from? Summoning minions makes sense for them, a strong Melee spectral brawler also makes sense but both of these are themes the necromancer is already doing. Would they just be some weird variation of what the necromancer could be doing? Would this be good design space for the game or would this be too much bloat on the profession end?
I know I am the one who suggested it as a possibility and yet I'm kinda dumping on the idea, but don't get me wrong. Even with all the negative aspects of the ritualist's inclusion of it were to happen I'd still be both excited and happy to see it in the game as its own unique profession. I feel that it is the strongest way to really succeed the ritualist's identity in GW2 even if it also comes with the most complications.
Potential as an Elite Specialization
As an Elite spec, it becomes much easier to find space for the Ritualist. its theme and style of gameplay is rip for the picking and actually slots perfectly as a puzzle piece for one particular profession. The necromancer! I've mentioned it a few times in the above post, but the necromancer is everything the ritualist is thematically and beyond. With the Elite specialization system in place it becomes thematically and lore wise the best possible fit for its inclusion. No profession comes even remotely close to the Theme's and play styles required by this elite spec to give it the respect it deserves in GW2.
Advantages of the Necromancer as its core spec
Mechanical Themes and abilities
* Cares about life force: Life force is a unique mechanic in a lot of ways in GW2. And the necromancer seems mostly to ignore it aside from generating and spending it. There doesn't seem to be traits that modify this in anyway or give benefits to it. For me I feel that rather than this elite spec caring about a specific condition like with reaper and scourge it could care about life force and how its used or generated. Minor traits that give a bonus when gaining or spending life force. I always feel that life force should be an important focus for the necromancer and this allows for space to open up to bursting strategies and conservation strategies.
* Trident: For the weapon it was a tough choice, but I have to pick the Trident. I Milled about back and forth on what to choose and what fits best thematically and in truth the Staff does. And although I wouldn't mind doubling up on staff skills for the necromancer I feel that other players might not be so happy with that. So a Trident on land seems like it could be a fairly decent choice and would give the freedom with skills to offer a greater support package.
* Summoning: The Ritualist cares a great deal about summoning so at least a couple of traits would need to care about summoning and impact the field in this way. This wouldn't just include spirits but minions as well.
* The Urn itself: The urn being a replacement for shroud makes sense in a lot of ways, but the mechanic of shroud is a little limited. My idea would be that the urn would be summoned, replacing your skill bar but the life force would be used to fuel the abilities available with the urn as opposed to providing extra health. This would allow the skills to have stronger support elements to them without making the Ritualist just the absolute tankiest support spec in the game. With this in mind, it also wouldn't lock your utility skills or yourself out of being healed.
* Unique urns: Another idea I was milling about in my head was the idea that the urn's skills would dramatically change based on which grandmaster you decided to choose. Be it damage support, Healing support or Summoning modification. Something to really build on the themes available to the Ritualist to really diversify it from other specs.
Lore Justification possibility
It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that the necromancer priests of grenth in Cantha would keep the ritualist practices alive considering how closely tied their magic and beliefs are. So this was never really an issue for me. It would be really simple to make this the reason why the ritualist is an elite spec of the necromancer, specializing in spirits and souls. As for why a trident this could have some interesting lore connections to Tyria and the Elder Dragons. And I'll explain.
My hypothesis is that the reason we'd go to Cantha in the first place would be because the Deep Sea Dragon is active and at the coast of Cantha. This could have huge ramifications for the Canthans already there since the rise of an Elder dragon has caused the sinking of Much of Lion's Arch. So something similar could happen to much of Shing Jea Island and Kaineng City. This pet idea of mine lead to an Idea of literally thousands of souls being lost at sea and people without identification who died being cremated on mass giving the vibe that the urn the Ritualist would summon would be the Urn of the Drowned. Necromancers would Likely take on the role of cremation here as the bodies of the drowned would most likely be brought to them. Thus the role connectivity can continue. The Ritualist is very much a part of Canthan culture so this would make perfect sense for them to do as a part of their societal job. But this is how I'd justify the Trident as well as nameless urns that any race could use. The Urn being ashes of the drowned allows for more design space freedom while also giving players a compelling story and culture to explore.
Its very difficult to design and conceptualize an elite specialization or a profession. And its especially difficult for an individual to do it on their own without aid or impute. There are a lot of Specialization suggestions were the players get into the nitty gritty of what they want and rarely do I actually like them to any extent. This is just a proof of concept on some ideas on how I think it could work and some of its potential. Ritualist has been something I've wanted to see since HoT and the teasing Arena Net did with Marjory in her story really got me excited for the prospect of its eventual return to the game. Marjory really gave off a Ritualist vibe to me, and she was the spark to my long standing hypothesis of an elite spec of the Ritualist. Every new expansion has only reinvigorated my passion for this pet obsession of mine as they expand what each of the elite specializations can achieve. I hope you enjoyed the read. You're welcome to agree or disagree, but please keep it civil.