Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fantasy: Summoning

Summoning is the magical practice of calling forth servants, willing or unwilling, from the aether. The key skill for this brand of magic is Resolve.

This works a lot like Artifice, in that you first determine the attributes of the creature you want to summon, then make a skill roll against that number. If your roll is a success, then the desired creature is summoned. If your roll fails, however, it’s still summoned -- but it gives you a story aspect, representing its hold on you (or its master’s, as the case may be). If you don’t have a spare story aspect slot, you take a mental consequence appropriate to the margin of failure instead. If this consequence is Minor or Moderate, it doesn't go away like usual. Rather, it sticks around until the summoned creature is appeased or, if appropriate, dead.

If the summoning deals a Severe consequence, the creature is already the servant of a much more powerful entity, and that entity doesn't appreciate your interference -- or perhaps you've piqued its curiosity and it's taken a special interest in you. This Severe consequence goes away the same way all Severe consequences do: by altering one of your permanent aspects. Its anger or amusement is so great that it will be with you for the rest of your life in some form or other.

Whatever the case, the idea here is that you've failed to dominate the creature -- and now you owe it something.

When a creature is summoned, the summoner gives it a particular task, such as "Answer this question for me" or "Kill those guys" or "Protect me from harm in this forest." Typically, this means it sticks around for one scene. Once that task is complete, the creature disappears. The summoner can try to keep it around longer with another Resolve roll against the original target number, +2 per scene it's already been around. If this roll fails, either the creature disappears, or the summoner gets another story aspect or consequence, as if he had failed his initial Resolve roll to summon it in the first place. Aspect creatures (see below) always leave after their task is complete.

Summoning a creature takes a minimum of 15 minutes. Features of the summoned creature increase the time required, and unspent shifts reduce the time required by one step for every unspent shift, to a minimum of a minute. You can also take extra time to increase your odds of success; this yields a bonus of +1 to your Resolve roll per additional step taken, up to a +4.

  • Quality: +1 step/tier, one skill/tier, up to Great (+4). Defaults to Mediocre (+0). The creature can withstand one consequence per tier up to Good (+3).
  • Breadth: Expand the creature's skill pyramid by one degree, up to a max of two skills at its apex. For example, if the summoned creature's Quality is Fair (+2), taking Breadth once gets it another Average (+1) skill, and taking it twice gives it a third Average (+1) skill and a second Fair (+2) skill. It can't get a Good (+3) skill, though, without another advance spent on Quality. This adds +1 step/column added.
  • Quantity: By default, you only summon one creature. For each additional creature summoned, add +2 steps on the Time Chart.
  • Aspect: Add an aspect to the creature, at +1 step/aspect. This can encompass a specialized form of movement normally found in nature (e.g., a creature with “Huge Bat Wings” as an aspect can fly, if that’s what you were going for). If you want this form of movement to be something totally supernatural, like teleportation, you’ll have to pay a Fate Point to invoke it for effect. In either case, the first tag/invoke is free, because it’s a product of a skill roll.
Aspect Creatures: Note that you can summon a creature with no skills that’s nothing more than an aspect, if you want, like “Swarm of Bats.” You can send that swarm of bats over to your opponent to distract him (tag to aid your defense, or your attack, or your Stealth roll, or whatever), but it doesn’t have the ability to really take action on its own. Similarly, an aspect of “Imp” could be used in the same way, but you could also invoke it for effect to fetch something for you. However, it couldn’t attack on its own. If attacked, the aspect creature defends at Mediocre, unless you spend a Fate Point to tag its aspect and help its roll. If its defense fails, it’s killed. This is essentially your opponent maneuvering to get rid of an aspect. Only one such aspect creature can be in effect at a time.

Rhianwen, a fae sage, is having some difficulty deciphering a forgotten language carved into a long-lost piece of statuary. She suspects the mysterious words contain a clue to the location of a sought-after artifact of power. Frustrated with her failure, Rhianwen decides to summon an ancient eidolon to help clear things up. Her player decides to go for an eidolon with Great (+4) Learning and an aspect of "Scholar of a Thousand Tongues." The target to beat is Superb (+5) -- +4 for Quality and +1 for one aspect. The player rolls a +2 and adds Rhianwen's Good (+3) Resolve, for a total of Superb (+5). That's just enough, but it'll also take her a full day (15 minutes plus five steps up on the Time Chart). Rhianwen doesn't have that kind of patience. Her player pays a Fate Point and invokes her aspect "Magic Is Second Nature" for a +2 on the roll -- that brings the time required down to a few hours. So a few hours of chanting and ceremony later, the eidolon materializes and agrees to translate the carvings.

Later, following the carving's clues to the artifact, she and her companions find that their path leads them through the hunting grounds of some deadly fire drakes. Rhianwen decides to take out a little insurance policy in the form of a pair of demon servitors. First she pays for one of them: At Good (+3) Quality, with one aspect -- "Bat-Winged Demon" -- it has a target number of Great (+4). Adding a second demon increases that to Superb (+5), and means that the ceremony will take a day by default. Rhianwen's player rolls the dice... and gets a -1. Adding her Resolve only brings that to Fair (+2). She only has one Fate Point left -- there's no way she can succeed. Instead, the summoning carries on, but with a price. When the demons finally arrive, she asks them to protect her from the drakes. Grinning disconcertingly, they agree... but say that their superior, Gruntzch the Unclean, will require a service from her in exchange for their time. Swallowing hard, Rhianwen's player fills in one of her empty story aspect slots with "Indebted to Gruntzch the Unclean."
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