Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Discussion on the Earthdawn game line, errata, and feedback not related to playing or GMing.
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Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Mataxes » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:35 pm

Here's another area that I'm looking for some feedback on.

How much has people dealt with Summoning in their games, and are there any aspects of summoning, or the summoning rules, that you have found to be particularly problematic?

I ask because I can see from the power options available to certain spirits that a character dedicated to summoning, and interested in taking advantage of the flexibility and power that spirits can offer, could heavily shift the balance of a game (the same way that it can happen in Shadowrun, which has a very similar relationship between summoner and spirit).

Is this just an area that needs some more clearly defined GM advice and guidelines? Is this an area that you see ideas for a rules-mechanic fix?

Let me know, as this is an area we will be looking at very shortly, and want to get some input from the community.
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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby etherial » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:39 pm


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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Flowswithdrek » Wed Jan 29, 2014 3:48 pm

I can't recall anyone in my group ever using summoning before

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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Tanthalas » Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:27 pm

I have had one player use summoning and we came to the same conclusion as yourself, Metaxes. We were playing Earthdawn 3rd and both myself and my player quickly realized how broken and overpowering spirits could become.

Luckily I had a player who was willing to play ball and he kept his spirit usage limited. We made it so that bargaining with spirits always ended up in some sort of cost to the Elementalist. Nuggets of the requisite true element, or even orichalcum, were par for the course. The PCs natural desire to hoard loot worked things out from there. Lists of services and 'expected costs' that Elemenatlists and spirits have worked out in advance may be a good idea (do spirits have a good union rep? :P).

If that seems too regimented for something as fluffy as summoning and communicating with a spirit, perhaps it could be balanced out by requiring significantly more strain to command a spirit. After all, these are beings from pretty deep metaplanes, they shouldn't be easy to command around. Something around (Strength Rating) strain every time you give a summoned spirit a command. That gets hefty very fast for the highest tier spirits, but those are the kind of spirits that can cause devastating earthquakes and raging infernos. So it could be fair.

As an aside, I think that binding spirits to Named items is a very cool mechanic that deserves the core treatment. It took our party forever to figure out how to do it!
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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Etorian » Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:19 pm

We have also had a player use summoning and it ground the game to a halt. I love everything conceptually about it but it would need a lot of work to be an actually viable option.

We found that it added too many additional rolls and decisions to be made by one person and then lead to that player taking care of all the threats on her turn leaving everyone else feeling bored during gameplay and useless after.

High strain costs to command. Low limits on the number of spirits and perhaps taking an action (having to concentrate to keep them bound) to call/command them or they do nothing so that you cannot cast on the same turn are all things I toyed with.

Tanthalas is right about binding spirits to Named items. That is a great concept with diverse applications as well as interesting potential moral implications depending on the characters' views on spirits as an entity.

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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Kasbak » Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:24 pm

I have both played in and run very summoning heavy campaigns. Spirits can get very overpowering if left unchecked, so some arbitrary balance has been necessarily imposed. First, bargaining is used quite a bit for more involved tasks or tasks that put the spirit at considerable risk. Karma is often used as currency with spirits, though they may also ask for tasks, drops of blood (each of which causes a point of blood magic damage), oaths, or for really big things, some or all of the summoner's Name. Second, I tend to impose a limit on how many spirits can be active at once without causing more strain on the part of the summoner to keep them in check. I usually keep it to about three, but may go higher or lower depending on the tasks and the summoner's proficiency. Third, some spirits may flatly refuse to perform a task, at which point the summoner either has to let it go or get into a contest of wills.

As far as making rules on it, I'm not sure that it's possible or recommended, as spirits are supposed to be unique and unpredictable. Fleshing out some GM guidance would probably be a good thing, though I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time focused on it. One thing I will say is that if you can come up with some sort of bargaining currency besides karma, since that will be basically free now, that would be cool.

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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby kosmit » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:27 pm

My players just got to circles when then can summon something so I don't know how they will behave but as a GM I would love to see them trying :)
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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Rajaat99 » Wed Jan 29, 2014 6:46 pm


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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Dougansf » Wed Jan 29, 2014 7:26 pm

In ED1 I played an Elementalist that got up to very high Circle. I only used the Summoning rules once, for the climactic end of the campaign. Partially because the rules didn't come out until late in the game. I vaguely remember binding 2 spirits to boost my Willforce... so I was getting up to Step 52 with some spells. One of the spirits died in the battle.

I'm rarely comfortable with Summoning in tabletops, because of the extra actions that it gives the controller can get out of hand. At the same time, I recall thinking at one point (I forget which edition) that it seemed that the Summoning ability of Elementalists and Nethermancers was a balancing factor against the other two (mainly because it gave utility to the Tounges and Hold Talents that you *had* to buy).

The double edged sword about the summoning risk and roleplay is that it can stop the rest of the game while that debate goes on. I'd much rather some standardized cost:effect list, and a limit of one spirit at a time. GM guidlines for going outside the normal effects would be good.

Elemental crafting, heck crafting in general, could bear some drastic simplification. I read that section of ED3 several times to figure it out for my Weaponsmith character.

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Re: Feedback (for ED4) on Spirits and Summoning

Postby Gkeckley » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:02 pm

I have always liked how summoning works in general. The backlash of failure tends to keep the summoning of the high level spirits in check. Plus it does take a few actions. First action you summon. Then you ask it to perform a service which may require you to bargain with it which takes another action maybe more. So it could be the second to fourth round before a spirit takes an action. So in combat summoning has not been an issue. Out of combat summoning however is slightly different but I think it is still reasonable. If you take strain equal to your wound threshold then it lasts for half magic test hours. Plus you are not as worried about the backlash for a failure. If they have the time and have fire heal they can gain extra recovery tests and heal the damage. All this is time consuming and takes an investment of 2 to 3 talents so I have never had a big issue with it (summoning, elemental tongues or spirit talk, and some method of recovering from the potential damage of failure like fire heal or a booster or healing potion).
Where this gets a little unbalancing is aid summoner in my opinion. Lets say the elementalist or nethermancer has a spirit on standby. A fight breaks out so they request the spirit perform aid summoner. The caster now has the spirits rating as a bonus to either spellcasting, willforce, or threadweaving. A rating 1 to 4 spirit not that bad. But when they start summoning force 5 to 9 spirits it gets out of control quickly. Elementalists and nethermancers all of a sudden leave wizards and illusionists in the dust. The other power that can be unbalancing is Engulf. To break free you need to make str test vs the result of the attack test. A rating 9 spirit engulfs you with an attack test of 23 plus karma step of 12 means on avg your difficulty to break free on a straight up strength test is on average a 35. Even the obsidiman or troll that can spend karma on str is only making this roll once in a blue moon.
So I think that really what needs to be looked at is the spirits powers not summoning itself. Also elemental tongues and spirit talk need to be looked at. To successfully speak to the spirit you have to beat its spell defense. Even if you have the talent at rank 8 and a perception step of 8 and you spend karma then your average roll is a 20. Sounds great untill you look at the spd of spirits. A rating 8 sprit has around a 19 spd. A rating 9 spirit has around 25 and it only gets worse from there. I just do not think it should be harder to talk to a spirit in its language because it is bigger and more powerful.
The last thing I would like to bring up is bargain with summoned creature why do they not get this until ninth circle or later. I would think you should get this the level after you get summoning.


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