From email@example.com Sun Jan 11 05:36:24 1996
Status: RO X-Status: Path:[...] From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paul Strack) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp.storyteller,alt.games.whitewolf Subject: Spirits Date: 11 Jan 1996 05:36:24 GMT Organization: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Lines: 1045 Message-ID: <email@example.com> NNTP-Posting-Host: login1.email.unc.edu Xref: news.kth.se rec.games.frp.storyteller:10596 alt.games.whitewolf:51082 [Author's Notes: This is a revision of an article I wrote many years ago, before the release of the Book of Madness and the conversion of Mage Spirits to Werewolf Spirit stats. With the release of 2nd Ed Mage, I felt compelled to update it. In a way, it is a companion to the article on the Umbra I posted not long ago. If time permits, I may post a third article in the series: a spirit bestiary. Don't hold your breath. This article has been heavily influenced by the writings of Anders Sandberg, whose ideas about mages greatly appeal to me. The original version of this article contained quotes from his article on Goetic mages, which also deals heavily with spirits. The current version of this also draws from the Care and Handling of Spirits article by Peter Tupper, and of course, the Whitewolf rules.] Spirits A "spirit" refers to any one of a vast multitude of denizens of the Umbra. The true nature of spirits is own of the greater mysteries of the Tellurian. According to various theories, they could be shards of the divine, manifest thoughts, free-floating souls, or the "essential essences" of nature. Many creatures in the World of Darkness are interested in the spirit world: Mages (Hedge or True), Garou, the Fay and so forth. To simplify matters, this article uses the term mystic to refer to all seekers of spirits. For the most part, spirits are immaterial and invisible to the physical world, and do not directly affect it. Some spirits have the power to breach the Gauntlet, but most approach the physical world only if called by a mystic. A few of the more powerful spirits have an interest in the physical world, and seek to affect it through various machinations. The variety of spirits is staggering, but they do all share some traits in common. Spirit Creation Rules Spirits may be initially categorized by their Level of strength, a numerical value from 1 to 5 (and sometimes more). Level 1 spirits (Lesser Minions/Gafflings) are pitifully weak, equal to a small animal or a human child. Level 2 spirits (Greater Minions/Gafflings) are on par with a normal human, an apprentice mage or an inexperienced Garou cub. Level 3 spirits (Lesser Preceptors/Jagglings) are the equal of a very talented human, a Disciple mage or a low Rank Garou. Level 4 spirits (Greater Preceptors/Jagglings) equal Adepts or veteran Garou in power, while Level 5 and above (Lords, Aeons or Incarna) equal or exceed Master mages and Garou elders. Beyond even these great spirits lie the Celestines, veritable gods, so powerful that they are beyond the scope of these rules (or any rules, for that matter). This system of levels correspond to the one given in the Book of Chantries for Mage. As explained in the Werewolf and (2nd Ed) Mage rules, all spirits have four Traits: Willpower, Rage, Gnosis, Power. Willpower is a spirit's skill at performing physical actions, such as climbing, flying, dodging or attacking. A spirit's Rage is a measure of its "strength", and determines how much damage the spirit does when it hits. Gnosis is a spirit's mental prowess, determining how well it performs intellectual or social tasks. A spirit's Power is a general measure of its mystical well being, and determines both how much damage a spirit can take, and how much energy it has available to use its mystical abilities. A spirit's Power is variable, and can go up and down, but may never exceed its initial value. Willpower, Rage, and Gnosis are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, while Power is rated in multiples of 5 (usually 5 to 50, but sometimes more). The higher the Level of the spirit, the higher its ratings in the various Traits will be. As a rule of thumb, a Spirit's rating in Traits will be its Level + 3, or five times this value for Power. Thus, a "generic" Level 3 Spirit will have a Willpower, Rage and Gnosis of 6, and a Power of 30. Most spirits also have Charms. Each Charm is a mystical ability that the spirit possesses, costing some of its Power to use. Again, a "generic" Spirit will have a number of Charms equal to its Level. In addition, more powerful spirits will have more powerful Charms. Below, a system for assigning Levels to Charms is given. A spirit's best Charm will be of a Level equal that of the spirit, its second best one Level lower, and so forth. Thus a Level 4 Spirit will have four Charms, the best Charm of Level 4, the next Level 3, another Level 2 and its weakest Level 1. Spirit Traits Willpower, Rage and Gnosis = Spirit Level + 3 Power = (Spirit Level + 3) x 5 Number of Charms = Spirit Level, one of Level, one of Level-1, etc. Of course, such generic spirits are extremely bland. Feel free to vary a spirit's Traits from their basic ratings. You can swap points between the different Traits, e.g. give the spirit one less point of Gnosis and one more point of Rage. For this purpose, five points of Power equals one point of the other Traits. You can also swaps points in Traits for Charms; each Charm is worth points equal to its Level. Don't worry too much about getting Spirits to "balance" exactly. These rules are only guidelines, and can be freely fudged or ignored. If you preferred to create a spirit from the "ground up", the following table gives you the number of points available for each Level of spirit: Level One Two Three Four Five Six Points 17 23 30 38 47 57 Spirit Charms and Levels Long lists of possible Spirit Charms are given in the Umbra: the Velvet Shadow (pp. 147-9), the 2nd Ed. Werewolf book (pp. 182-3), and the 2nd Ed. Mage book (pp. 238-9). These lists are by no means exhaustive. Spirits are incredibly varied beings, and can have just about any ability imaginable. All Charms cost the spirit Power to use, either a fixed or variable amount. Spirits are cautious about depleting their Power, though, since it is their very essence. Not all Charms are equal. Some Charms have a greater levels of strength than others, much like spirits. The strength of a Charm is measured by its Level. The current rules do not assign Levels to Charms, so it is up to the individual Storytellers to assign these ratings. As a general rule, you can use a Charm's Power cost to determine its Level. If a Charm requires a fixed amount of Power, its Level equals half that cost. If a Charm has a variable cost, its Level is one third the maximum amount of Power that can be spent. If a Charm has a variable cost but no set limit, its Level equal the Power cost "per die", or whatever increment the Charm uses. Charm Levels Fixed Cost: Level = Power Cost/2 Cost Range: Level = Maximum Power Cost/3 Variable Cost: Level = Power Cost "per die" Again, there is no need to be overly dogmatic when it comes to assigning Levels to Charms. If the system above results in the Charms whose Levels are higher and lower than you think they should be, feel free to alter them. Very expensive Charms in particular will tend to have Levels far in excess of what they should be. The Level of a Charm has no real effect except for use in the Spirit generation rules given above, so it can be readily "fudged" and do no real harm. New Spirit Charms Spirits are by no means limited to the Charms mentioned in the lists mentioned above. In fact, spirits can have any ability listed in any of the White Wolf books. Spirit Charms are fairly specific, however, more specific than broad categories like Disciplines or Sphere magick. A spirit will not have Dominate as a Charm. Instead, it will have a one of the individual abilities listed under Dominate, such as Mesmerize or the Forgetful Mind. A Spirit will not know the Sphere Forces. It will have a Charm that lets it reproduce a single Forces Rote or Effect. The Level of these new Charm equals the "Level" of the ability, i.e. the number of dots needed to perform that particular ability. This goes for Disciplines, Hedge Magick, Arcanos, Arts, whatever. The Level of Charms that mimic werewolf Gifts equals the Level of the original Gift. If the original ability has no obvious Level, the Storyteller should assign one, by comparing it to other existing abilities. Such Charms that mimic supernatural powers will usually cost double its Level in Power to use. Abilities that are particularly weak, or require repeated use, may only cost Power equal to its Level to use. Abilities that are especially useful, or that can only be used once in a single, dramatic event, can cost three, four or even five times its Level in Power. If the original ability required some sort of roll to use, the spirit rolls its Willpower, Rage or Gnosis instead, whichever is most appropriate. Charms that reproduce Mage Rotes are a special case. The "Level" of the Charm-Rote equals the highest level of sphere needed for the effect. Secondary, conjunctional Spheres do not matter. Thus, a Rote that required Force 3, Entropy 3 and Prime 2 would still only be a Level 3 Charm. The Power cost of Charms mimicking Rotes is different as well. The Charm costs an amount of power equal to its Level "per die" used in the effect. The Charm-Rote mentioned above would require 3 Power per die used. Thus, if the Spirit wanted to roll 4 dice for the effect, it would need to spend 12 Power. Of course, Storytellers should feel free to make up completely new Charms for Spirit, not necessarily based on anything. In fact, even when creating Charms based on existing supernatural abilities, the Storyteller should use the original ability as an inspiration and guideline only, and should alter, simplify and customize the Charm to fit the specific spirit better. Spirit Levels of Existing Spirits While the Level of spirit Charms have no bearing outside the spirit creation rules, a spirit's Level is of greater importance, since it determines how easily a spirit may be summoned and controlled. As such, it is important to estimate the exact Level of existing spirits. This can be done in two ways. First, you can recreate the spirit using the Spirit Creation rules given above. The number of points needed to create the spirit will determine its Level. The spirits in the existing rules seem to have been made without any particular system in mind, however, and this result may misrepresent the intended strength of the spirit. A better method is to simply use your own judgment of the power of the spirit. It helps if the description says that the spirit is a Gaffling (Level 1-2), Minion (Level 1-2), Jaggling (Level 3-4), Preceptor (Level 3-4), Incarna (Level 5+) or Lord (Level 5+). If, in your estimation, a Spirit is a weak Gaffling, then it would be a Level 1 Spirit. If it were a strong Preceptor, it would be a Level 4 Spirit. If you can't decide, it's best to go with the higher values. Spirit Movement Most spirits have the simple Charm of Airt Sense. Airt Sense allows the spirit to navigate the Umbra with ease, intuitively knowing the "Airts" or directions of the Umbra. Spirits with this Charm navigate the Umbra with ease, and can avoid the more common Umbral dangers due to their familiarity with that environment. Such spirits make excellent guides. Airt Sense is only a Level 1 Charm, and only costs 1 Power to use. Spirits get this Charm automatically, and need not spend any of their creation points on it. A few spirits do not have Airt Sense, and are forced to rely on other spirits or the existing spirit roads to travel the Umbra. These spirits do get to "cash in" Airt Sense for an extra creation point. Despite popular myth, spirits do not travel instantaneously (even those with Airt Sense), unless they have an ability like Reform that allows them to do so. Spirits move at a speed of 20 + Willpower yards per turn (or double that speed in Miles per Hour). Spirit Power and Healing All spirits have the ability to feed on some form of energy to replenish the Power they have lost from using their Charms or taking damage. The exact kind of energy depends on the nature of spirit: elementals spirits derive Power from large and strong manifestations of their element, banes and demons feed often feed on suffering, pollution or hatred, ghosts feed on strong emotions in the living, spirit animals feed off of spirit plants and so forth. If the spirit is in the presence of the energy it feeds upon, it may make a Gnosis roll (Difficulty 7) every hour, and regain that many points of Power. Many weaker spirits do little else other than hover around some "food" source and feed. Spirits can also feed on the different kinds of supernatural energy. Gnosis, Quintessence, and Glamour are all the same to Spirits; they all equal Power (on a point for point basis). Spirits do not normally have a natural ability to feed on this energy, however, and some sort of channel is needed. It is a Spirit 2 Prime 1 Rote for Mages to channel Quintessence to a Spirit. Garou, being half-spirit themselves, have the natural ability to feed their Gnosis to a spirit. Spirits can have the Power taken from them as well, to provide other supernaturals with energy, but this is a more difficult process. The spirit must normally be defeated in battle before any power can be taken from it, and thus its reserves are usually very low. A defeated spirit may only have one fifth its normal power taken from it. Again, the mystic must be able to form some siphon to remove this Power. The repeated rape of spirits for Power will garner the mystic a nasty reputation in the Umbra. Failing all else, a spirit can heal itself by dropping into a state called "slumber". While in slumber, the spirit is immaterial, and thus immune to any attack. However, it is also helpless, and can be easily trapped and bound will in this state. Power return at a rate of one per hour while in slumber. If a spirit is "killed" by losing all its Power from damage, it immediately fades into slumber, until is completely healed (after a number of hours equal to its Power). Greater spirits return automatically to whatever Umbral Realm it calls its home when "slain". It is a major feat to permanently destroy a spirit. Spirits and the Physical World For the most part, spirits are native to the Umbra. Many weaker spirits are not even aware of the existence of the physical world, in much the same way that people are not aware of the existence of the spiritlands. Even if a spirit knows of the world of flesh, this does not mean it can affect it. A spirit must know some special Charm that allows it to transcend the Gauntlet and alter the physical world. There are several common variations on this. A spirit can manifest physically, or possess a living creature. Some spirits have special abilities that cross the Gauntlet, allowing the spirit to affect the Realm. Failing that, many mystics have some ability that allows them to draw the spirit into the world of the living. Materialization One useful talent a spirit may possess is the ability to Materialize, i.e. enter the physical world. This is a Level 3 Charm, similar to Stepping Sideways, so usually only Preceptors or more powerful spirits know it. The spirit must make an Gnosis roll to cross the Gauntlet, just like Garou or Mages. Once across, the spirit manifests in a body that can interact with the physical world as any living creature can. If its physical body is slain, it is forced back into the Umbra, and may not rematerialize for (20 hours minus its Gnosis). Spirits are creatures of ether and ephemera, and they are not limited to a single form. They can manifest however they chose, and are limited only by the amount of power they have available. While manifest, the spirit will have the Physical traits of Strength, Dexterity and Stamina. It will also have Skill and Talents as well, but only those related to physical activities. It uses these Traits instead of Rage and Willpower while embodied, but it continues to use its Gnosis for mental tasks. The spirit may have any rating in its abilities that it wants, so long as it has the Power. Each point of Power spent while manifesting gives the spirit one of the following: One dot in a Physical Attributes Two dots in Talents or Skills Seven Health Levels (as a normal human) One Health Level beyond seven (this also increases size) One die worth of "natural weaponry", added to Strength (a bite is one die, claws are two, etc.) The spirit may spend one Power per turn to strengthen its material body if it runs into difficulty; this can also be used to "heal" damage it takes, by giving itself additional Health Levels. If the spirit uses some sort of natural weaponry, it will do aggravated damage to supernatural creatures. The spirit takes aggravated damage from all the usual sources. Each Health Level of aggravated damage a spirit takes will make it lose a point of Power in addition to the normal damage. The spirit may chose to "dematerialize" and return to the Umbra at any point, unless something binds it to the physical world. Returning to the Umbra costs no Power, but the spirit does not regain any Power by dissolving its physical form either. If it wishes to rematerialize, it must spend the Power over again. Many spirits weaken after extended sojourns in the physical world (losing Power at a rate of 1 per day), so most will limit their time in the physical world. This waning may be from the force Mages know as "Unbelief" or the disconnection of the spirit from its natural home - the Umbra. While spirits may alter their physical body as they please, most have some sort of "prime form" in which they normally manifest. If a spirit has such a prime form, its statistics (and Power cost) should be noted in its description. This prime form should not cost more than half the spirit's Power to manifest. In Umbral Realms to which the spirit is native, it may manifest in its prime form "for free", without spending any Power. It may then Spend power to increase its Traits, at a rate of one per turn. Even when not materialized, spirits are completely "solid" with respect to each other. They reside in a separate existence that is slightly out of phase with physical reality. Mystics that enter the spirit lands will be "solid" to spirits and each other, though they become invisible and immaterial to the physical world. Possession Another common way for Spirits to affect the physical world is by possessing the body of some living creature. A spirit may not possess a living creature, unless it has some sort of Charm that grants it the ability to do so. Unless the victim of possession has some sort of spiritual senses, she will be unaware that she is influenced from the spirit world. There are several degrees of possession, each granting larger amounts of control. Influence (Level 2, 2 Power per use): The weakest possessive Charm is Influence. The spirit does not fully possess its victim. Rather, the spirit looks into the physical world, and feeds subtle impulses to its target, encouraging the victim to perform a single action, or feel a particular emotion. The Spirit makes a Gnosis roll (difficulty 6) while its victim resists with a Willpower roll (difficult 7). If the victim is already inclined to perform the action, the spirit's difficulty drops to 4, while if the person is by nature opposed to the action, the difficulty rises to 8. This charm costs 2 Power per "nudge". Skinride (Level 2, 4 Power per use): A different form of possession is known as "skinriding" to the spirits of the dead. The spirit enters and "rides" within the body of the its victim. The spirit has no control over the victim, but sees what she sees, and knows what she thinks. Clever spirits have used this Charm to "hide" within a body, and slip into places that they have been warded from. A spirit is more difficult to spot while it is riding in the body of another; the "aura" of the victim must be carefully examined to notice that it has a spirit hitchhiker attached. Possession (Level 3, 5 Power per use): True possession grants the spirit total control of its victim. The spirit must make a Gnosis roll (difficulty equals the victim's Willpower). The number of successes indicates how long it takes the spirit to possess its victim. With only a single success it can take hours, while with five successes it is nearly instantaneous. A spirit must remain in the Penumbra near its victim during this period, concentrating solely on possessing his mind. If it is attacked in the spirit world, it can be easily driven off (though it may have allies in the spirit world to protect it). If undisturbed for the necessary time, it gains complete control over the victim, riding within his body as described above. Joining (Level 4, 10 Power per use): The greatest form of possession allows a spirit not only to possess but to alter the very body of its victim. The spirit grants its victim the power to use any of its Charms (except possession), as well as giving the victim a few other abilities appropriate to the spirit's nature (water breathing for water elementals, keen vision for eagle spirits, etc.). Certain spirits, called Banes, exist only to possess the living, and turn them into twisted creatures called Fomor. Joining requires the same time as ordinary possession, but many mystics submit willingly to this Charm from benevolent spirits, making the possession immediate. In fact, some mystics have the knowledge necessary to induce this sort of possession, even if the spirit itself does not have this Charm (this is a Spirit 4 Effect for Mages). The spirit can ride quietly within the body of the possessed, granting power by its presence. The spirit has the option of taking full control at any moment, however, so this is a dangerous situation, even if entered into willingly. Many mystic specialize in dealing with possessing spirits. There are various rites of exorcism know to mystics, for driving away possessing spirits. The most effective exorcisms attack the spirit directly. If no other option is available, though, the spirit may be harmed by attacking its host: each wound the host takes also causes the spirit to lose one Power. This can be a rather drastic way of driving a spirit out of a body. Projecting Charms into the Physical World Unless a spirit has the Materialization or Possession Charms, it may not enter the physical world without aid. All spirits have the natural ability to "peek" into the physical world (if it occurs to them to do so) by making a Gnosis roll. A few spirits have Charms that allow them to "reach across the Gauntlet" and affect the physical world. Unless a Charm *specifically* say that it grants this ability, it cannot be used in this way. Spirits using these charms do so with some trepidation, however. In order affect the physical world, the spirit must "draw near" the Gauntlet, close to the physical world. Though the spirit is still immune to attacks from mundane physical objects, it is close enough to be vulnerable to attacks of a supernatural nature. The claws and teeth of supernatural creatures, magickal powers and enchanted weapons will all cut the spirit from the physical world. (Note: this is also true of mystics in the Umbra using their power on the physical world). It cannot use its Charm without making itself vulnerable to return fire of a mystical nature, so to speak. Its victims must still use some ability to perceive the spirit. Drawing Spirits Across the Gauntlet If a spirit has no Charm allowing it to enter the physical world, it may still be drawn across through the power of some mystic. The spirit cannot enter the living world without some sort of body, and if the spirit cannot make one, the mystic must do so. Mystics must carefully craft these bodies, making them a suitable house for the spirit. This can be done by hand, or some sort of mystic art. Mystics of a darker bent are willing to use the body of sacrificial victim instead. It is easier to draw a spirit into a physical form with its cooperation. For Mages, this is a simple Spirit 3 Rote, in conjunction with either Matter or Life (depending on the nature of the body). If the spirit (or the body) is unwilling, the spirit must be bound into the physical world, restricting its power. This is a Spirit 4 Effect for Mages, and requires the Rite of Binding on the part of the Garou. A bound spirit cannot control its body unless the mystic allows it to do so. Spirits bound into inanimate objects are called Fetishes, and imbue the object with mystical power. Summoning Spirits The defining characteristic of a mystic is that he calls spirit from the Umbra. The Garou summon spirits with the Rite of Summoning, or Gifts like the Galliard Call to Duty. Mages call spirits with a Spirit 2 Rote. If the spirit is strongly associated with another sphere, this sphere must be used in a conjunctional effect to summon it; Level 1 is all that is needed. There are various Thaumaturgical rituals known to the Tremere and different Hedge Magick spells that are useful for calling different kinds of spirits. Knowing the Level of a spirit is important when calling it. To summon a spirit, the mystic must get at least as many successes as the Level of the spirit. It's possible that the mystic is unable to get the required number of successes to summon a spirit; this is often true of greater spirits such as Lords and Incarna. If the mystic gets at least half the needed number of successes, she will at least attract the attention of the desired spirit. The spirit may then come to mystic of its accord, or at least send some messenger or servant to deal with the mystic. More powerful spirits require certain rituals and paraphernalia to summon, appropriate to the spirit.. The more powerful the spirit, the greater the requirements. As a rule of thumb, there is one additional requirement for every two levels of the spirit. Summoning a level 2 Fire Elemental might require the use of a flaming brazier, for example. For each of these requirements the mystic leaves out, the difficulty of summoning the spirit increases by 1. There is some evidence that the most powerful spirits, the Incarna and the Umbrood Lords, cannot approach the physical world at all unless successfully summoned by a powerful mystic. It is said there are many ancient wards, perhaps recently strengthened by the Technocracy, that prevent such powerful spirits from entering the Near Umbra. A successful summoning opens a gate that allows the spirit Lord to reach the world. Once there, the powerful spirit may decide to stay and look around. There are certain sects of mystics dedicated to opening such gates to various beings in the Deep Umbra. Many great spirits can also send lesser portions of themselves, called Avatars, to act as their representative. An Avatar is of the same nature of the greater spirit, but weaker in power. Thus, the Avatar of an Umbra Lord would be a Preceptor, while the Avatar of an Jaggling would be a mere Gaffling. It is unclear whether or not Avatars are a part of the great spirit, or independent servants of it. A summoned spirit will not arrive immediately. It may take some time for the spirit to travel through the Umbra to the mystic. Generally, the closest spirit of the desired type will be the one to answer the call. To summon a specific individual spirit, the mystic must use some token identifying that spirit, most typically its name. A specifically summoned spirit may take even more time to reach the mystic, however. Dealing with Spirits Summoning a spirit does not necessarily give the mystic control of it. The mystic must then coerce or cajole the spirit into doing what she wants. The methods for dealing with spirits vary wildly, depending on the level of the spirit's power. Minion or Gaffling spirits are incredibly difficult to bargain with. They are not very bright, and their needs are often too alien for the mystic to understand. Most mystics do not waste their time dickering with these weak spirits, and simply coerce them, either through threats or the use of various magicks to take direct control. There is rarely any threat from the coerced spirit itself. Unfortunately, the abuse of weaker spirits can adversely effect the mystic's reputation amongst the minion's more powerful relatives. Because of this some mystics work to learn the odd desires of weaker spirits, to earn their trust. This is a time consuming process, and is rather like taming a wild animal to make them into a pet. Because of the time involved, most mystics concentrate on a few "species" of spirits to cultivate. Over time, through small gifts and favors, the mystic can build up a good enough reputation that the minor spirits will do tasks for the mystic willingly. More powerful, related spirits will also be favorably inclined toward the mystic . This reputation takes constant work to maintain, as the memories of spirits can be frighteningly short. Preceptor or Jaggling spirits are powerful enough to be truly useful to a mystic, but also sufficiently strong that coercion is difficult and dangerous. Mystics who chose to coerce these spirits do so with great care, setting up elaborate protective wards, and binding the spirits into objects. There are many ancient texts and stories describing the necessary rites and rituals to bind various types of spirits. Again, coercing the spirit will adversely affect the mystic's reputation, though not as badly as abusing Gafflings and Minions. Many spirits believe Preceptors and Jagglings should be strong enough to take care of themselves, and if they are not, they deserve what they get. Mystics who don't want to take the risk of forcing Preceptors and Jagglings may bargain with them instead. Spirits at this level tend to be much brighter and self-aware than Minions or Gafflings, so such dickering is possible. Typically mystics attempt to deal with these spirits as equals, and arrive at mutually beneficial bargains. This often amounts to a trade of favors, the mystic doing something for the spirit so the spirit will do something for the mystic in return. Again, most mystics prefer to develop a good working relationship with only a few spirits, given the time it can take. At the highest levels of power, coercing even the weakest Umbrood Lords and Incarna can be quite a feat, even for a master mystic. The rewards of such a binding are sufficient that many mystics have risked their lives and sanity to attempt it. Spirit Lords have senses unknown to ordinary mortals, however. Many of them know of an attempt to bind them before it has even begun. Summoning a Spirit Lord in such an instance is even more difficult than normal. Even if the mystic successfully forces the Lord to appear, it may bring servants along to help protect it. The ensuing battle is one the mystic rarely survives. More than any other spirit, though, Lords and Incarna are interested in the physical worlds. Most of them are in the midst of elaborate schemes spanning the eons of their immortal existence. Spirit Lords often look for willing servants in the land of the living. Lords offer patronage to willing mystics, granting them power in exchange for service. This is most definitely not a bargain between equals, and the mystic would be wise to show deference to the Lord. It is said in the ancient past there were powerful mystics, perhaps the Shining Ones, Oracles or ancient Garou Theurges, who could deal with Spirit Lords as equals. The story continues that these mystics bound each Lord with a specific set of services, called a Greater Boon, that they must provide to any mystic fulfilling the necessary requirements. The Lords are forbidden to seek retribution against a mystic using a Greater Boon as well. Mystics search diligently for the requirements of such Boons, and any discoveries they make are closely guarded secrets. It is said that some Lords plant false information about Greater Boons to lure the unwary, and it is possible that many such Boons are in fact traps of this nature. Coercing Spirits Forcing a spirit to do what mystic wants is a dangerous task requiring a great deal of skill. Mystic take various approaches to this problem. The simplest approach is to directly control the spirits mind. This is a tactic commonly used by Mages, and is a Spirit 2, Mind rote - the level of Mind required depends on the degree of controlling the Mage wants. Garou and other mystics have similar talents as well. The more powerful the spirit, the more difficult it is to achieve direct control. The spirit can resist by using its Willpower. Other mystics take a more direct approach. If a mystic is powerful enough, the threat of death or destruction can be effective. Pain is another useful tool; mystics can coerce a spirit by torturing it with some sort of magick, or with material inimical to its nature (e.g. crosses for demons). If the mystic is not powerful enough to harm the spirit, he may be powerful enough to trap it. The mystic can then extort promises of service in exchange for releasing the spirit. Perhaps the most effective form of coercion is to threaten something dear to the spirit. Many spirits have favored places or things within the physical world which the mystic can threaten. If nothing else presents it self, the mystic can threaten the spirits regular source of energy. This is a callous thing to do, but doubly effective, for it makes it harder for the spirit to double-cross the mystic once it is away for the mystic's presence. Often there are certain rites and rituals a mystic can use to bind certain spirits to her service. The rituals vary for each different type of spirit. Mystics guard the secrets of how to bind spirits jealously, and spirits do their best to obscure such information themselves. The difficulty, complexity and expense of such rituals will be proportional to the spirit's strength as well. One a mystic has cowed a spirit, he will usually extract an oath of service from it. Such oaths are surprisingly binding, considering the ephemeral nature of spirits. Spirits are loath to break such as Oaths, as the consequence is usually a considerable loss of Power. This does not mean the spirit will seek to twist the meaning of a promised service, perverting the intent. Furthermore, there is little to prevent the spirit from seeking revenge after its service is complete. Even if the spirit itself is too weak to harm the mystic, its more powerful relatives may not be. One peculiar but effective way around this problem is to bind a more powerful spirit, and then have it coerce weaker spirits. Any revenge will then be directed at the spirit, rather than the mystic. Most weaker spirits of a similar type will happily obey the commands of the bound spirit anyway. Unscrupulous mystics have also been known to use apprentices or other dupes as surrogate targets for spiritual wrath. Persuading Spirits Coercing the unwilling spirit is difficult and dangerous, but winning a spirits cooperation can be more difficult still. The needs and desires of spirits are very different from those of the living. The first misconception that a mystic must dismiss from her mind is that spirits await her beck and call, with nothing better to do but jump at the mystic's whim. Spirits lead full existences of their own, and are as angry and frightened as you or I would be at being pulled out of their home and compelled by a mysterious force to meet a perfect stranger. Spirits often predisposed to be hostile when summoned, so the mystic must work quickly to set the spirit as ease. The mystic should assure the spirit that they are in no way trapped, and that it can leave whenever it pleases. The mystic should then propose that the spirit and the mystic have something in common, and perhaps some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement can be arranged. The sorts of reassurances the mystic offers will depend on the intelligence of the spirit. If the mystic manages to calm the irate spirit, the most difficult step in the process remains: offering the spirit something that it wants. The tastes of spirits depend greatly on its nature, and are rarely straightforward. It behooves the mystic to do a bit of research first as well, and have an offer already prepared. Being yanked away from the spirit's daily tasks only to be asked "So... uh... what exactly would you like?" is not likely to be well received. The simplest thing to offer a spirit is Power. Power speaks a universal language, better than sex, money or drugs. Most spirits (especially the simpler ones) will readily accept Power as payment for services rendered. The Power can either come from the mystics own reserves, or from some other source useful to the spirit. More powerful spirits often have as much Power as the need at the moment, and more refined payments may be necessary. Spirits often have enemies and problems of their own. Offers to help the spirit against its own enemies will usually be well received. Those enemies need not be some opposing type of spirit, either. Similar spirits often compete for the same energy resources. The spirit may also ask a mystic to deal with other mystics who have summoned and abused the spirit in the past (perhaps the mystic's other companions!) Spirit are interested in the physical world. Some wish to experience physical pleasure directly, and ask for the mystics aid in crossing the Gauntlet. Others have interests in altering the physical itself. The spirit world and the physical world interact in strange ways. Changes in one affect the other. A spirit may want to make changes to the physical world so that the spirit world may be altered more to the spirit's liking. The reasons for the changes a spirit wishes to make may not be obvious at all. The spirit may ask the mystic to perform difficult but trivial seeming tasks, like sneaking into a building to replace all the pages of a locked file with blank blue pages. The spirit itself may have difficulty explaining the reasons; many know at an instinctual level what needs to be done. Other times the spirit will deliberately obscure the true ramifications of its task from the mystic, either out of malevolence or a simple desire to maintain a good bargaining position. Sometimes a spirit will be willing to perform tasks in keeping with its own nature and goals. Even then, the spirit is likely to give the mystic some test or challenge, to access the mystic's worthiness. The challenge can be a riddle contest, a hand to hand combat, a quest or some sort of test of purity, depending on the spirit. There are a few spirits that specialize in interacting with mystics, and a few such spirit will be willing to perform task for no price at all. This is when the mystic should be most cautious. Such spirits almost always have some sort of ulterior motive, and many seek to trap the unwary summoner. Quick Rules for Spirit Bargaining Most of the time it's best to handle bargaining with spirits through role-playing. Occasionally the Storyteller will not want to spend the time on a protracted dickering session between a mystic and spirit. In such instances, the Storyteller can use the original summoning roll to determine the result of the mystic's bargaining. Each additional success beyond the minimal number needed to summon the spirit gives the mystic one "favor". Assume the mystic got the favors through dickering or coercion, but you need not actually play through the interaction. The mystic can "spend" each favor to get the spirit to reveal one piece of information, perform a simple task, and so forth. Elaborate and time consuming tasks may require the use of multiple favors. One of the favors can be "spent" to make spirit appear instantly, otherwise it may take anywhere from minutes to hours for the spirit to arrive. If the Storyteller desires, she can give the mystic an extra favor from spirits with whom the mystic has knowledge or friendship, and fewer favors from spirits who are particularly strange or hostile. If the Storyteller allows, mystics with high ratings in a skill such as Cosmology, Rituals or Spirit Lore have already done the necessary ground work to develop an "working relationship" with one or more groups of spirits. For every dot the mystic has above two, let the him befriend one group of spirits. Thus, a Mage with Cosmology 4 will know two groups of friendly spirits. Such spirits are not, strictly speaking, allies of the mystic, but they will be favorably inclined. Spirit Pacts and Totems Some mystics, rather than bargaining with a spirit anew each time it is summoned, try to reach a permanent agreement with a spirit for a regular exchange of services. Such an agreement is called a Pact, and various mystical traditions have differing views on such bargains. The Garou tribes have a certain classes of nature spirits to which they are especially attuned. Dreamspeakers Mages have arrangements with various Naturae that become their Totem spirits. The Celestial Chorus often allies itself with various patron Saints or Angels. The Euthanatos sometimes enter such relationships with the spirits of the dead, though the Tradition has a less than perfect reputation in that realm. The Nephandi make their own dark deals with strange things from beyond. Hedge Mages enter into Pacts with different spirits, little realizing what they are getting themselves into. Sometimes the pact is little more than a verbal or written agreement for a specific set of limited services, called a Lesser Pact. However, a true Pact is a spiritual bond between the mystic and the spirit. Spirits seems to draw sustenance from this arrangement, in the form of several points of Power each month. There is always some sort of act the mystic must perform to provide the spirit with this power, including everything from the daily prayers of the pious to the witch's teet from which demons suck blood. Spirits of the dead often ask allies to seek certain emotional states from which they can draw sustenance. Totem Naturae are pleased if their ally "assumes the guise of the animal", by ritually acting as if they were a beast of the appropriate nature. This act provides the spirit with Power as it were Feeding. There are generally two parts to a spirit Pact: the Boons and the Bans. Boons of a Pact are the benefits the spirit provides the mystic. Indeed, the Greater Boons of the Spirit Lords are said to be the result of elaborate and ancient Pacts in the past. Boons can be special services the spirit will perform for the mystic, or special powers the spirit grants the mystic. These powers may include increased ratings in the mystic's Traits, or the ability to use Charms through the spirit's power. The Werewolf books provide a plethora of good ideas for Boons. Bans are the things the spirit asks of a mystic . They invariably include some sort of regular ritual to empower the spirit. They almost always include some sort of moral taboos as well, things the mystic should or should not do, in keeping with the spirit's attitudes. One almost universal ban is that the mystic enter into no further Pacts with other spirits. Should a mystic break one of the Bans, either by failing to do something he should do or by doing something he shouldn't, the Pact is broken as well. The mystic loses all the spirit's Boons, until he is able to reconcile himself with his spirit ally. Generally, the more powerful the spirit a mystic allies with, the greater the Boons the mystic will receive. There are some limits to this, however. The more powerful spirits often have greater Bans as well. In addition, great spirits have many concerns, sometimes having several (or even a multitude of) mortal allies. Such powerful spirits can devote less attention to the mystic. Thus, while the powers a mystic gains may be greater, they are available less often. Many mystics seek out weaker spirits to forge Pacts with, considering the loss of power worth the increase in reliability. Conversely, many Incarna sends Avatars to enter the Pact with the mystic, rather than devote its own time and energy. As a rule, Pacts with the weakest spirits (Minions and Gafflings) result in the spirit becoming the mystic's Familiar. The spirit can do little other than offer its continual presence and personal aid (though the familiars of Mages are sometimes said to eat Paradox, making the Mage's life safer). Jaggling and Preceptors can grant the mystic special Charms and abilities, but have concerns of their own and will not always present. The Incarna and Lords will rarely enter Pacts with mystics, preferring to send Avatars to do so instead. They will join only with the most powerful and worthy mystics. Lords can provide great power indeed, but will do so only in the direst of circumstances. Spirit Forms One of the greatest mysteries of spirits is their form. Spirits come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them appear in different forms at different times, and others change shape even as the mystic watches. What does and does not govern the appearance of a spirit, and what, if anything, is the "true form" of a spirit, is a matter of much debate amongst mystics. There are some mystics who believe that the way a spirit is summoned influences the form it takes. Such mystics go on to say that the form a spirit takes is largely shaped by the summoning mystic's attitudes and expectations. This would go a long way to explaining why certain mystics tend to encounter certain spirits more frequently than others. Many Celestial Chorus Mages deal mostly with Angels and Demons, while the Garou and Dreamspeakers encounter more nature spirits and servants of the Wyrm. Hermetic Mages tend to meet with more elementals, while Techno-Mages meet more Technological spirits. This seems true even for the greater Spirit Lords. It is said that the Lord of Dreams, when he appears, take on a form appropriate to his viewer's culture. To the Akashics he has a more Oriental appearance, to African Dreamspeakers he seems black, and so forth. It is even said he has different animal forms when he deals with non-human creatures, such as a great black cat, or the mighty dream-wolf known to the Garou. There are a few mystics who go so far as to say that a summoning mystic completely shapes a spirit's being. According to this theory, spirits have no independent existence until summoned. The Rite of Summoning, rather than calling a spirit, actually creates the spirit out of whole cloth from the raw material of the Umbra. Any semblance of an independent existence is added by the mystics expectations. While few mystics are willing to go this far, it is becoming a popular theory amongst Techno-mages, particularly certain members of the Sons of Ether and the Technocracy. Communication with Spirits Since times immemorial, mystics have sought to communicate with spirits to learn the deeper mysteries. Such mystics are often frustrated in their attempts. Only the most intelligent spirits know the languages of men. There are simple powers that allow mystics to speak to spirits, though, such as the Spirit Speech Gift of the Garou or a Spirit 1 Effect for Mages. Speech may be easy but comprehension does not necessarily follow. Spirits are well known for their perverseness when it comes to revealing information. The simpler spirits are difficult to talk to because they are not very bright. It can take a great deal of time just to get the spirit to understand the mystic's question, and even more time for it to formulate a sensible answer. The mystic must often filter through the spirit's alien perception of existence as well. Such weak spirits know little of consequence in any case. A tree spirit can tell the mystic all sorts of things about the sunlight or the soil quality of the area, but it is unlikely to have noticed people walking nearby. More powerful spirits are more understandable, but are more likely to have ulterior motives to any answer they give. Some spirits refuse to answer certain questions because they are "forbidden" by higher powers. Other spirit delight in lying for the simple joy in the confusion this brings. Infernal spirits are particularly nefarious liars, but even seemingly benevolent spirits are not above bending the truth, "for the mystic's own good". Spirits seem to be particularly resistant to attempts to force information from them. Many having the knack of completely believing anything they say while they say it, so that they appear sincere to any truth-scrying spells. This is true even if they contradict themselves mere moments later. Mentally probing spirits is especially dangerous. The minds of spirits are often alien labyrinths from which a mystic is lucky to return with her sanity intact, much less learn anything. Even the most well-meaning spirits tend to couch their answers in riddles and incomprehensible metaphors. This, more than anything else, accounts for the negative reputation of spirits in this area. There is some evidence that this style of answering is not motivated by some malignancy, however. Spirits are creatures of emotion and metaphor. To them, a metaphorical answer expresses a more fundamental truth than a straight response would. To a spirit, the true meaning lies in the metaphysical context of the question. Spirits are simply confused when asked to answer directly, having already given the best answer they know how. Spirits in the Umbra In modern times, spirits only rarely enter the physical world. Not so with the Umbra. The Umbra, not too surprisingly, is swarming with spirits, seeing as how it is their home. Spirits reside through-out the Umbral depths, and some mystics go so far as to say every part of the Umbra is a spirit of one sort or another. The Penumbra is the region mystics are most familiar with, and the spirits that reside there are also comparatively well known. More powerful spirits find it difficult to get too close to the physical world, however, so most of the Penumbra is inhabitant by spirits of a weaker sort. What they lack in power they make up for in numbers. The Penumbra is swarming with spirits of a bewildering variety, that are as numerous and unavoidable as peoples and animals are in the physical world. Most weak spirits in the Penumbra reflect the nature of the nearby physical world, and are capable of feeding off their surroundings. This may be because the spirits are attracted to regions where they can feed, or that changes in the physical world alter the nature of nearby spirits as well. Such spirits have a vested interest in the status quo, and will protect their territory from those that would harm it. The Spiritlands can occasionally erupted into violent turf wars between opposed groups of spirits, and the Penumbra is especially dangerous at such times. Most of the time, however, weak spirits will ignore those traveling through their territory, so long as they are not provoked. More powerful spirits, Preceptors and Jagglings, are as rare in the Penumbra as powerful supernatural creatures are in the physical world. There will be perhaps a few dozen of them in a small city, and in rural areas they may be no more than a handful in a large area. Such spirits will usually stake out some territory in the Penumbra. Many of these powerful spirits will know of each other, and they will often seek to learn of the mystics of a region as well, as potential enemies, allies or pawns. In addition to the native spirits, visitors from the Umbral depths will occasionally pass through an area. Spirit Lords rarely enter the Penumbra. It is as if their spiritual power is too great to be contained within it. Within the Near Umbra, the more powerful spirits are more common. Rare is the Umbral Realm that does not contain a spirit of at least the Preceptor Level of power. Most have a horde of weaker spirits as well, but there are always spirits of a considerable level of power to control the Realm. Spirits in Umbral Realms are more "physical" than spirits of the Penumbra. While within their Realm, they may seem as real and solid as normal people, indistinguishable in any way. A few of the most powerful Near Realms are ruled by mighty Spirit Lords, but even here they are rare. The Spirit Lords the reside within the Horizon often have some powerful tie to the Earth. Some them are able to remain within the Near Umbra only by dint of sheer power. Others stay because they are not quite as powerful as the greater Lords of the Deep Umbra, and their presence is not as "offensive" to the fabric of the Near Umbra. The Spirits of the Deep Umbra are the most powerful, and the most inhuman. It is here the majority of the Umbral Lords reside. The Celestines, spirits of incomprehensible power, also exist beyond the Horizon. Here, literally any sort of being may be met. Even those spirits that are favorably inclined toward a mystic are likely to be exceedingly strange. Supernaturals and Spirits Vampires have the least to do with spirits. Few vampires even know of the existence of the spirit world. The Tremere (and others) have rituals that allow them to summon spirits, but these rites are specific and rare. Some would say that the spirit world is the Achilles Heel of the undead. Vampires do have defenses against this avenue of attack, however. Vampires are particularly difficult to see from the spirit world; their murky black auras are especially dim. Many spirits, in fact, are ignorant of the existence of the kindred (spirits of the dead and certain other malevolent spirits are an exception to this rule). The Garou are true spirit warriors, said to be half-spirit themselves. The Garou are deeply entwined in spiritual politics, especially the battle between the primal forces of Weaver, Wyrm and Wyld. In fact, they tend to lump all spirits they encounter into one of those three categories, dismissing those that don't fit as rare aberrations. The Garou claim that most spirits serve these forces whether they are aware of it or not. It could be that they are right. Mages have the greatest degree of flexibility when dealing with spirits. Some never deal with spirits at all, while others are deeply entrenched in spiritual matters. The most powerful mages are capable of molding the raw spiritual substance of the Umbra itself, shaping new spirits from the ephemera. There are some that say that the Avatar of mages are in fact powerful spirits who give the mages their power. Wraiths deal with spirits the most, in one sense. After all, they are spirits themselves. Most wraiths, however, deal with no spirits other than other wraiths. This is not universally true, though. Some strange creatures wandering the Underworld, called the Neverborn, that seem to have never been living beings. Angels, Demons and Malfeans, these powerful spirits cajole and plague the dead. It is possible, though, that these creatures are simply old and powerful wraiths that either have forgotten or choose to deny their true nature. The interaction between Changelings and spirits is quite mysterious. There is one "species" of spirits, Chimera, to which Changelings are particularly attuned. Changelings see these spirits naturally, and interact with them as if they were completely material, regardless of the fact that the Chimera might be in the Umbra. Furthering confusing the issue, Changelings will occasionally spot other kinds of spirits in the Penumbra as well. In those instance, they interact with the spirits just as with Chimera. Under other circumstances, Changelings remain blissfully ignorant of all spirits but Chimera. In the most drastic of circumstances, a Changeling can forget her true nature, and is unable even to see Chimera. Exactly when a Changeling will or will not see a particular kind of spirit is poorly understood, but it likely has to do with the Changeling's mental state. --
Paul Strack | Madness takes its toll. firstname.lastname@example.org | Please have exact change.