From Sun Jan 11 05:36:24 1996

Status: RO
From: (Paul Strack)
Subject: Spirits
Date: 11 Jan 1996 05:36:24 GMT
Organization: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Lines: 1045
Message-ID: <4d27ko$>

[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 
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.]
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 
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 
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.
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.
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 
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 
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. |  Please have exact change.