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Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

Comments welcome.

Summoning is a "push your luck" custom class ability. It costs 2 customs for a summoner level equal to 1/2 class level or class level-5; or 4 customs for a summoner level equal to class level. At the Judge's option, there may be variants that can only summon certain kinds of creatures (an "undead summoner," for example, or an "normal animals summoner") which costs half as many customs.

A summoner has a repertoire of one species per summoner level (a summoner-4 means four species). Swapping out species is identical to swapping out spells for a mage (same time, cost, etc.). Maximum HD is twice the summoner level.

To summon a creature, roll 1d6 + summoner level. If the result is equal to or above the creature's Summon number, one creature is summoned. If the result is lower, the summoner fails and cannot attempt further summons for one hour. Summoning is treated as casting an arcane spell for all purposes (declare at beginning of round, interruption, etc.).

The Summon number is equal to 3 + HD + (1 per special • abilities). Round 0.5 up. A HD of [1 hp] is ignored, [1d4] is treated as 0.5, and all penalties/bonuses ([6+1]) are ignored. An ordinary bat ([1 hp]) has a Summon 3; a giant killer bee ([1d4•]) has a Summon 4; a black pudding ([10•]) has a Summon 14; an efreeti ([10•••]) has a Summon 16.

Summoning more creatures at once is possible. Increase the Summon number as follows:

+2: 1d4 creatures
+3: 1d6 creatures
+4: 1d8 creatures
+5: 2d6 creatures
+6: 3d6 creatures
+7: 4d6 creatures
+8: 6d6 creatures
+9: 8d6 creatures
+10: 10d6 creatures

Once summoned, a creature is bound to obey you until one of the following conditions is met:

(a) One turn per summoner level has passed.
(b) The creature has fought for you in one encounter.
(c) The creature has performed one significant task (anything that takes one turn or more; granting a wish; doing something radically against its nature).

When the binding wears off, the creature is free. To unsummon the creature, make a second Summon roll. A successful summons banishes the creature; on failure, the summoner may not attempt any further banishments for one hour. Killing the creature or convincing it to leave automatically banishes it. A summoner who summons multiple creatures and then sends them into combat can attempt to banish all of them at the end of the combat; use the highest Summon number, and add +2 to the Summon per doubling of creatures.

Summoners can banish conjured creatures in the same fashion.

Most creatures resent their servitude!

CharlesDM's picture
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Joined: 2012-03-01 22:31

Interesting. I think there's a lot of potential for summoning in ACKS, and I'd like to see that game-space explored. I would want to playtest this a lot (I'd like to see summon numbers equivalent to existing spells), but my initial observations are as follows.

Summoning is both powerful and dangerous (often a design goal of summoning). As a Player Character, I suspect I would eventually ask any such summoner who doesn't exercise extreme caution to abandon summoning, leave the party, or be killed. Too much of a loose cannon. So, that would make this ability only suitable for villains (or PCs who are OK with having substantial build points in an ability they can't safely use, i.e. a "nuclear" option). As a PC playtesting this, I'd want to see how effective I could be with lesser summonings. (Even lesser summonings could become dangerous when the party is weakened by the main encounter.) What would the impact of a lower level NPC summoner with a higher level PC party be?

Also, if this ability could be combined with spells, like a banish spell, that reduce its risk, and I think that would be too much.

Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

I suspect most urban centers would treat summoners similarly to your Player Character: exercise extreme caution, stop summoning, leave, or die.

Extreme caution is pretty easy, however. Starting at second level, you can (quite safely) summon a bat or similar 1-hp creature to perform this or that task (like getting keys out from behind bars). At third level, that ups to HD [1] or [1 hp•]; and then +1 HD or • from there on up. Special abilities are where it's most dangerous: I might alter it to +2 per •.

Regardless, as long as you don't summon very many, you can toe the line and still be fairly effective, especially at higher levels (at 11th level, you can pretty much have an elephant whenever you need one, and send it away when you don't need it).

On the other hand, an efreet is never safe.

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Joined: 2013-06-17 19:29

I would be interested in seeing an application of this "roll target number" casting system to other, non-summoning spells as well, along True Sorcery lines.

Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

Me too ;-)

Summoning has the advantage of not seriously altering spell economics (albeit with a few caveats: mainly, I would restrict use of summoned creatures for magic research components and XP). A more general target-number-based casting system would alter the economics a lot, and I wouldn't feel right about it in ACKS until I had worked out some of those results.

So I'd love one, but I'm probably not going to get around to it soon.

Summoning was built around Turn/Control Undead (2× power: Summon is slightly more stackable, isn't category-limited, and works without a creature on hand, but has tougher HD/• limits).

The math behind Turn/Control Undead:

The normal ACKS system is (very approximately) 7 + (HD+• up to 6)×3 + (half HD+• over 6, round up)×3 - (cleric level ×3). I say very approximately, because it seems to work out perfectly for most (see below for exceptions).

In my games, I use target number 3 + (HD+• up to 6) + (half HD+• over 6, round up); cleric rolls 1d6 + cleric level. I use d6 instead of d20, because all of those ×3 values on a d20 make me twitchy.

The end result is about the same for most undead:

skeleton [1•] throw 13+ - level×3 or d6 5+
zombie [2•] throw 16+ - level×3 or d6 6+
wight [3••] throw 22+ - level×3 or d6 8+
wraith [4••] throw 25+ - level×3 or d6 9+
vampire [7••••] throw 34+ - level×3 or d6 12+

The exceptions are undead whose special abilities don't seem to add up correctly:

Ghoul is [2], should probably be [2••] (undead, horrible touch), which gives 19+ - level×3 and 7+.

Mummy is [5•], should probably be [5•••] (undead, fear, mummy rot), which gives 28+ - level×3 and 10+.

Spectre is [6••], should probably be [6•••] (undead, incorporeal, energy drain), which gives 31+ - level×3 and 11+.

Note that wraith should probably be [4•••] (undead, incorporeal, energy drain), which bumps them to 28+ - level×3 and 10+ (same as a mummy, if just). And a [9••••] vampire would be 37+ - level×3 or 13+, which isn't on the turn table.