Question(s): Summoning

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
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Question(s): Summoning

Post by Bonhumm » Fri Mar 06, 2020 8:09 pm

I finally have to figure out that one game mechanic I always managed to keep away from in Earthdawn; those damn spirits.

I could use some help.

First (of I'm sure many) questions:

From what I think I understand, the simple fact that a spirit has been successfully summoned means that said spirit WILL perform a service for the summoner (P:366 - The spirit will perform one service for the summoner during this time.).

The 'negotiation' with the spirit seems to be only related on which/how many powers it will use to perform said service. The wording also seems to mean that its a simple question of using Elemental Tongues or Spirit Talk and that, for every success on the test, the spirit agrees to use one of its listed powers to perform the service.

The rules also states that the negotiation might be enhance by offering to perform a favor (including blood sacrifice).

So, here's my understanding of how it works, I would like to know if my interpretation is right or not:

1- Upon successful Summoning (Summoning talent VS spirits MD), the spirit will perform ONE service for the Summoner within the duration of the summoning (i.e. 1 hours per success).
2- Summoner makes a Spirit Talk/Elemental Tongues test against the spirit's SD; for each success, the spirit agrees to use one of its listed powers while performing that 1 service.
3- THAT'S IT. From what I understand, the spirits will go perform the service, using the negotiated powers.

BUT, the summoner have other options if he wants to:

4 The summoner 'may enhance the negotiation' by offering to perform a favor to the spirit. No mechanic is given so I assume that it means that the GM could/would give additional 'successes' for the services in exchange of those favor(s) but said favor are NOT required if step #2 gave enough successes for what the summoner wanted in term of power use.
5- The spirit might argue/whine a bit but WILL perform the service. For the (stated) rare occasion where it refuses, the summoner may use the Social Interaction mechanic to convince the spirit but with penalties (requires +1 success).
6- Finally, the spirit may refuses completely if it consider the service hazardous for it. In that case, we go for contest of will.

So, is everything above correct? Looking forward for your inputs.
Thank you.

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Re: Question(s): Summoning

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri Mar 06, 2020 10:34 pm

That sounds more or less right to me. I will say I always thought it was weird that you negotiated for the number of abilities to be used, not the number of services. In running 1879, without checking the wording, I've always had the spirit perform the service to the best of its ability, using whatever powers seemed appropriate. Negotiating for additional services is handled more or less like negotiating with any other entity, except their motivations are odd. Like the morgue hearth spirit that only wanted more corpses to come through the door, and didn't care much about the details. Next time the party stopped by, they were investigating a serial killer and the spirit was much more helpful, falsely assigning credit for the extra bodies to the party.

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Re: Question(s): Summoning

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sat Mar 07, 2020 3:41 am

•Sandelia, Elf Elementalist • - Flavor text at top of summoning chapter wrote:We may have the power to command the spirits of the elements, but I find it better to ask politely.
I think both your posts are pretty correct.

The things I would like to add about negotiations is that sometimes spirits are encountered / detected "in the wild", without being summoned. So it is possible to negotiate with a spirit that has not been summoned (and compelled to at least one service). Of course if a spirit is encountered in the wild, you could take a half hour to summon it, thus making it give you a service, but it might be quicker/easier to just negotiate with it and see if it will do what you want fairly cheaply. I mean who knows, maybe an air spirit just wants a song.

Also, you might want to get a spirit to agree to something above and beyond what you can compel. For example if you want a spirit to do something for a month, you can ether get 720 successes on a summoning test, or you can offer it something really, really nice to get it to agree to terms far beyond what you can compel.

The other point is that you also have to explain to the spirit what you want. Spirits might be willing to do a service, but you have to be able to explain it to them (probably in their own language). 'Spirit Talk' is pretty clear, but Elemental Tongues can be more time consuming (if you need to learn the new language first), and more prone to not being able to make the spirit understand what it is you want. So one to three of your successes in Elemental Tongues need to go towards allowing the spirit to understand exactly what it is that you want it to do.

Also, with some spirits I can see the need to negotiate for them to use all their powers to get the best result. I figure sometimes negotiating with a spirit is like commanding an unwilling child: "You will brush your teeth. You will use your toothbrush to brush your teeth. You will put toothpaste on your toothbrush to brush your teeth. You will brush your teeth (with your toothbrush and toothpaste) for two full minutes. I will be standing behind you watching you do all this and tell you when you have brushed your teeth for two minutes". Assuming you summon an Earth Elemental to dig a hole, you might get a really enthused one who loves using the manipulate earth power to move dirt around. Or you might get a grumpy one that, even though he has powers that can do it faster, just manifests and slowly starts digging by hand, and just keeps saying, you wanted me to dig you a hole, I am digging you a hole. Then leaves after an hour leaving you with a hole smaller than if you had just spent the last hour and a half digging it yourself. It just depends upon the personality you get.

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Re: Question(s): Summoning

Post by Telarus » Sat Mar 07, 2020 11:08 pm

Yes, all of this.

Spirits ARE NPCs. Default to using the Social Interaction and Favors rule. Then, modify _that_ with the Summoning rules.

I think of it this way. Ages and ages and ages ago, the very first of the Nethermancers and Elementalits made pacts with great Named Spirits, grand Contracts that allowed them to Summon and demand 1 Service under very very limited conditions. Everything aside from that must be negotiated just as if you were negotiating with any other character in the world (ork Scorcher, elf Noble, Dragon, etc, etc)...

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