by Peter Stephen Tupper (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HTML by Will Franqui (email@example.com)
All terms owned by Steve Jackson Games and White Wolf Games. I am also indebted to Anders Sandberg for much of the inspiration for this article.
I realize this has mostly GURPS Mage stats, but it should be easily adapted. All comments and critiques welcomed.
Summoning and Employment of SpiritsBearbeiten
Savoir-Faire (Umbrood) M/H Defaults to Spirit Lore-4 Umbrood often have very alien minds, and correspondingly arcane social practices. Gaining their aid or service is helped by knowing how to address them with appropriate respect and negotiate properly.
Spirit Lore M/H Defaults to Spirit Sphere skill-2 or Occultism-4 The study of spirits, their summoning and behavior, including True Names. A roll on Spirit Lore can add successes to a summoning. The GM should only allow experience points gained in direct study of texts or real experience to be invested in this skill.
Mages may also develop Reputations among spirits. This can help in gaining a spirit's cooperation or service, or negotiating the Guerdon down to something more reasonable. A court, pantheon or general cultural mythos counts as a large group. A specific type of spirits (elementals, domoviks) counts as a small group. A mage who is a demon queller or exorcist may possess a positive reputation that is only useful when fighting or intimidating spirits. Charisma usually helps with spirits, but Appearance seldom does.
The Summoning of SpiritsBearbeiten
An ever present concern when summoning beings from the umbra is the possibility of summoning the Nephandi by accident or even intention. All traditions are very cautious about the spirit lore they pass on to their students. There are large texts cataloguing various types of spirits, and carefully developed procedures for containing and dispelling hostile entities. Most Disciples of Spirit only know a small fraction of their tradition's total knowledge of Umbrood, limited to safe and cooperative entities that are open to negotiation. The Order of Hermes and Akashic Brotherhood maintain large indexes of Umbrood, and Dreamspeakers and Verbena are taught lengthy oral records. The Celestial Chorus is the strongest opponent to summoning servitors, and with rare exceptions never summon spirits themselves.
The greatest problem is that of temptation. Telling students of the existence of powerful, malevolent beings, despite all the cautions added to the lessons, may spur them to attempt study of said beings and risk accidentally summoning them. However, if students are not told of the hostile beings, they may stumble across them by accident and be unaware of their danger. Hollow Ones, having no accumulated lore like other traditions, are the most at risk of opening Pandora's Box.
When discussing Umbrood, it is important to realize that any listing of spirit beings is merely one taxonomy. The same being may be known by different names in different cultures and times, ie. the being known as Athena of the Ancient Greeks manifested to the Vikings as Sif and as Draupadi to the Hindus. Alternately, some Umbrood may take the guise of a mythic figure from another culture. For example, if appearing as the Virgin Mary will make a manifestation of the Celestine Gaia more acceptable to the Sleepers, Gaia will do so. Keep in mind that many spirits seem to be incapable of blatant lies, but this does not stop them from letting sleepers jump to the wrong conclusions.
There's no such thing as a free lunch, and that's just as true in the Umbra. Gaining an Umbrood's aid always costs something, be it time, effort, Quintessence, blood, favours in return or even money (in a few cases); this is known as Guerdon. A few spirits will assist mages without any reward, but these almost always have ulterior (and malevolent) motives. A very few will aid a summoner for nothing but only if the summoner displays some extraordinary character trait in keeping with the spirit's general orientation.
The most common forms of Guerdon:
Payment: Many spirits seem to derive sustenance and/or pleasure from absorbing offered Quintessence. Some will accept any form of raw Quintessence or Tass. (Prime 2, Spirit 2)
Others insist upon having certain Patterns converted into Quintessence; the summoner must obtain a specific life form, substance, object or energy to satisfy the entity. Note that these offerings cannot be created by the use of Life, Matter or Forces; they must be naturally occurring items. Generally, the more powerful the spirit, the rarer the desired item will be. (Spirit 3, Prime 3)
Challenge: The summoner must win a contest of some kind. This may be anything from actual physical combat to Certamen to a riddle contest. Others arrange cunning tests of the summoner's moral character.
Favours: The spirit performs its service in the understanding that the summoner will perform a service in return in the future. Some creatures even include a signed written contract, and may even demand blood oaths, first born children or the like. Darker beings have demanded prices so terrible that the only worse fates are those which befall mages who have tried to welch out on their deals.
Disciples of Spirit are taught the summonings of a general class of Umbrood that may be easily employed by mages, distinguished by having useful abilities and amenable natures, referred to as servitors. They are fairly easily summoned, and negotiation is seldom necessary. The price is fair and they don't haggle.
Paracelsian Elementals: A class of Umbrood that are often summoned by Hermetics and Etherians. They are reliable and cooperative for the most part, so long as they are properly rewarded with Quintessence.
Sylphs: Air spirits, resembling wispy smoke in the shape of birds or serpents. Sylphs are often flighty and easily distracted, and are adept scouts.
Nymphs: Water elementals resembling humanoid globs of fluids. Their behavior is the most variable.
Gnomes: (Not to be confused with Faerie gnomes) Earth elementals, and resemble humanoids of soil or stone. They are often inflexible and dogmatic in obeying their orders.
Salamanders: Fire elementals. Short tempered and violent, they serve best as soldiers.
Virtual Adepts and Sons of the Ether have also employed elementals of glass, metal, plastic, electricity and even information (though the latter may actually be daimons (qv.))
Summon Elemental: Spirit 2, Matter/Forces/Mind 2 Sample Elemental: "Mudhoney" An earth elemental employed by a cabal of Verbena and Dreamspeakers to guard their Louisiana bayou Node, Mudhoney manifests as a quadrupedal lump of mud, vines and algae. Intruders in the Node, deliberate or accidental, will find their way blocked by bogs, thickets of vines, swamp gas pockets and other hazards of the environment.
Mudhoney's Guerdon is live music, preferably acoustic blues guitar. It is satisfied with an hour of play each week, during which it manifests and does a peculiar kind of dancing.
A servitor similar to elementals in many respects. However, they cannot manifest by themselves, and require the mage to create a body for it to inhabit. Golems are more reliable than elementals but less intelligent and independent. They are seldom capable of understanding commands more complex than "Pick this up, stack it over there and come back," or "Grab anyone who tries to enter this room except members of the cabal." They are usually incapable of speech.
A golem body may be constructed out of almost anything, from paper to armor alloy. Hermetics use sculpted forms, while Etherians build clockwork or electrical automatons. A rule of thumb is that the more labor invested in the construction of the vessel, the easier it is to have a servitor inhabit it. Also, the summoner must be intimately involved in the construction of the vessel.
A golem need not be shaped like a human or animal. A popular choice is a car.
Craft Golem: Spirit 2 Matter 4. The vessel may require Craft or Technical skills for its construction.
Spirits who provide primarily intellectual advice. They are often cryptic, and may be malevolent or benevolent, or motivated solely by intellectual challenge. Some are autistic-savant-like calculators or stores of information. They seldom, if ever, manifest as actual beings, but may communicate through visions, reflections in water, online databases or anonymous phone calls.
These are not to be confused with the Avatar, which some traditions refer to as the daimon. Some Choristers also refer to them as angels or demons. A daimon who has a lasting relation with a mage may qualify as a Contact.
Summon Daimon: Spirit 2, Mind 1 Sample Daimon: The Operator This being, known to Hollow Ones and Virtual Adepts, has the peculiar ability of finding people and organizations. It manifests through telephones as a nasal, irritating voice, with an unpleasant disposition. The summoner asks the Operator where a given person or group is, and the Operator tells him. The answer may be a mailing address, latitude and longitude coordinates, or some arcane system of Umbragraphy if the target is outside the Realm. The Operator will provide absolutely no other information, and will get very belligerent if asked to do so. Its Guerdon is a pure silver coin of any nationality or denomination.
Most of these creatures are servants in the employ of Nephandi. More than a few mages in search of pleasure have fallen to malevolent beings. Among the Cult of Ecstasy, enjoying the favours of one of these beings and living to tell the tale is very prestigious. They tailor their appearances and behavior to be most attractive to their targets, and are actually both genderless and sexless. There are persistent stories of these beings developing real feelings and falling in love with their targets, but these are probably spread by them for their own ends.
Summon Incubus/Succubus: Spirit 2, Mind 2/4 if the spirit is to be sent to a target other than the summoner. Sample Succubus: The Girl in the Picture This Succubus first manifests to "her" target as an image on a billboard, magazine ad or TV commercial, which repeatedly appears to the (heterosexual) man selected. The target assumes this is just a coincidence, and begins to fantasize about the image, building up an character in his mind. The Girl in the Picture tailors its behavior and personality to match the target's imaginings. When enough information is gathered, the succubus manifests itself as a humanoid body and arranges a meeting. As the succubus closely matches his fantasy, there is little resistance. After enough time for the target to be truly infatuated, the succubus withdraws its affections, vanishes from the Realm and follows its target in the Umbra, from where it can draw its Guerdon, the emotional pain of rejection.
The most common servitor used by the Euthanatos, there appear to be several types of zombies.
Some are the bodies of dead humans which are used as the vessels of servitor spirits, mostly golems. [Spirit 2, Matter 3]
Others are corpses who retain a fragment of their former intellect, but the dead person is absent and has gone on to the afterlife. The Euthanatos claim that this makes no real difference to the departed person, and sometimes even perform this rote to honor those granted the Good Death. This rote must be performed at the moment of death. This type often has access to the memories of the former life, but a lack of free will. [Mind 4 Spirit 4]
A third type is the deliberately created zombie, a person who is magickaly "lobotomized". The Avatar is separated and most free will and intelligence is likewise excised. The Euthanatos employ this technique as the harshest punishment for those who commit crimes against their Tradition, and as a reminder to others who would cross them. [Spirit 5 Life 4 Mind 4]
Appearing in many cultures around the world, domoviks are household spirits. They inhabit a given area (seldom greater than a large house) along with a certain group of people and perform simple maintenance chores (dusting, washing dishes, sharpening pencils, backing up files). All this work occurs out of sight; the residents leave and come back to find the work is done. They have a lesser ability of providing minor security. If a person enters its domain who is not welcome, the domovik will mercilessly harass the intruder with "accidents", and alert its master if possible. If treated with respect and the occasional bit of Tass (no more than one pawn per year), domoviks are cooperative and helpful, but they can be mischievous and even vicious if offended, resulting in poltergeist-like phenomena. Domoviks almost never manifest visually, but can make their presence known. Many chantries keep domoviks for housekeeping and light security. Vandalism or destruction of a domovik's domain may cause it to go mad, resulting in a "haunted house."
[Spirit 2 Matter 3] Sample Domovik: File Manager A computer housekeeping system, File Manager indexes and backs up files and protects against voltage spikes, electric static and viruses. It also sends holiday messages.
File Manger has one rather odd quirk; for some reason it objects to foul language. Use of profanity or obscenity will result in mild static shocks, light bulb burnouts, munched computer disks and other persistent nuisances. Text or graphics files of prurient interest will be lost. File Manager's Guerdon is to have copies of itself distributed as shareware and backup copies.
A perennial favorite of the Sons of the Ether, these beings create small temporary zones with a paradigm tailored to a specific effect. In effect, they change one thing from impossible to possible. When this spirit is in effect, Vulgar effects with witnesses are treated as Vulgar without witnesses, Vulgar without witnesses becomes Coincidental, and Coincidental will never produce Paradox.
For the usefulness of these beings, they demand suspiciously little reward; perhaps they eat Paradox. They also invariably have very unpleasant personalities and will complain, insult, pester, and be stubborn. If attacked, they vanish instantly. It is speculated that Maxwellian Demons are an odd form of Paradox spirit, that acts preemptively.
Summon Maxwellian Demons: Spirit 2 Sample Maxwellian Demon: Abner A small monkey-like, leather-winged creature, Abner specializes in thermodynamic effects, such as creating systems that emit no waste heat.
Abner freely insults his summoner and anybody else handy. However, these aren't run-of-the-mill insults. He has an uncanny ability to hit psychic nerves, sometimes even knowing obscure facts and guilty secrets about others. Its Guerdon is a live rat, which it eats in a rather disgusting fashion.
Notable Texts Concerning SpiritsBearbeiten
Rota Fidus Spiritus: One of the most comprehensive lists of beneficent spirits known to the Order of Hermes, contained in a series of handsome leather bound tomes with beautiful illustrations. Unfortunately, the entries date back to the Age of Myth, and are organized very poorly by modern standards. It is also written in a mixture of Latin and Hermean. The Rota focuses on elementals and daimons.
Concordance of Self-Actuating Devices and Paranatural Intelligences (18th Edition): Published by the Sons of the Ether and available to any subscriber of Paradigma, the Compendium offers a number of designs for golem vessels and the procedures for summoning many golems, daimons and Maxwellian demons. It comes in two wire bound editions. New editions come out ever five years or so. Chapbooks and monographs on other beings are circulated as well.
ftp.virads.org /pub/AI/source/: A large archive maintained by the Virtual Adepts and containing the source codes (summoning rituals) of many data elementals, daimons and domoviks.
Song of True Names: An oral record of helpful beings passed down from Dreamspeakers mentor to apprentice since time immemorial, primarily concerning elementals and naturae such as glade children and totems. It requires at least eight hours to recite entirely, and there are many alternate versions. Dreamspeakers pride themselves on treating Umbrood as respected equals and not as servants or tools, as they see other Traditions doing. Several transcriptions of this epic or parts of it have been made by scholars from other Traditions.
Records of the Celestial Bureaucracy: A set of fifteen scrolls in Mandarin Chinese that provide descriptions and summonings of many Taoist and Confucian beings. These are often ancestor spirits, rather than non-human entities.
Lex Maleficus, also known as Project Black Book, the Real Necronomicon, the Hidden Song, Incarnations of the Black Mass and others: This text is more myth than fact, an apocryphal collection of sketchy accounts of Nephandi, Umbrood Lords and Wyrm creatures of horrific power and malevolence, containing just enough information to piece together the summonings. According to the most common story, it is kept with other arcane books in a hidden cell in the Chantry of Doissetep and only the direct authority of the Council of Nine will allow anyone to see even one of its volumes. Some say the Lex Maleficus is a myth created by the Oracles as a red herring to distract mages searching for such knowledge.