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Fate System Toolkit

Storm Summoners

Design Notes

This is an expansion of the “Five Storms” magic system described in the Stormcallers section. It’s a self-contained system, so it can easily be pulled out into its own game, but it can just as easily be used along with other Five Storms magic systems to create a more complete system.

Description

Each of the Five Storms—Earthquake, Flood, Glacier, Inferno, and Thunder—at the center of reality is home to a myriad of beings who call those deadly environments home. To the layperson, this means elementals—beings composed of the element of the Storm but possessed of intelligence and intent. While these are the most numerous beings of the storms, they are only the beginning.

Elementals make up the foundation of what passes for an ecosystem within the Storm. Most numerous are the barely intelligent wisps, tiny beings of elemental nature. Each successive tier is more potent but less numerous, until a threshold is reached where the creatures begin taking on distinct forms and natures. These often resemble fantastic versions of mundane creatures, while some of the most potent resemble humans. There are princes and queens among these beings, and the most potent of them are said to rival the gods themselves.

With the right skill and tools a Conjuror can summon elementals to do his bidding, with a danger that corresponds to the potency of the being summoned. However, the greater beings of the Storms are out of reach of any mere Conjuror.

Summoners are distinct from Conjurors because they have struck a bargain with one of the great powers of a Storm, and may use that bargain as leverage with the greater beings of that Storm. However, all such bargains come with a price.

The 30-Second Version

Don’t want to read all the rules? Use this shorthand version:

  • Buy a Conjuration Skill.
  • Do some rituals to summon an Earth, Fire, Ice, Lightning, or Water elemental at a difficulty from Average (+1) to Great (+4). That’s the difficulty you need to reach, and that’s the skill it operates at. It will last for a week. You may keep one at a time.
  • Elementals come in 4 sizes:
    • Wisps (Average, 0 stress, no consequences) are little fist-sized orbs. They’re not bright, but they’re fast and sneaky and follow simple directions.
    • Drudges (Fair, 0 stress, 1 mild consequence) are dog-sized, stronger than they look, and able to carry heavy loads or do simple work.
    • Servitors (Good, 2 stress, 2 mild consequences) are human-sized and roughly human-shaped, take orders well, and make adequate soldiers.
    • Attendants (Great, 3 stress, 1 mild and 1 moderate consequences) are powerful beings that take on aspects of the Storm, so they look kind of awesome.
  • If you make a bargain with a great being to be more powerful, then:
    • Reduce your refresh by 1.
    • Take an aspect Bargain with the Prince of [pick a storm].
    • Change your Conjuring Skill to a Summoning Skill.
    • You can now summon a Superb (4 stress, 2 armor, -2/-4/-6 Consequence) elemental creature of your description with a successful roll. You can still do regular conjuration with your bargained element, but why would you?

Mechanics

This system adds two skills, and a number of aspects to reflect summoning magic. It also adds a number of specific aspects to reflect bargains with the powers of the Storms.

Skill: Conjuration

Conjuration is the art of summoning elementals from the Five Storms. It is a slow practice, and demands the creation of a summoning circle and the use of appropriate sacrifices to gain the service of one of these creatures.

Anyone may take the Conjuration skill with no refresh cost.

O Overcome: Conjuration can be used as a Lore skill related to the creatures of the Five Storms. It can also be used to renew the bond of an already-summoned elemental without the time and effort spent on the initial summoning. This simply requires an overcome roll against the rating of the creature—see the elemental summary table on the next page.

  • Fail: The creature is immediately released, and it will flee or fight, depending on the situation and how it has been treated.
  • Tie: The bond is not renewed, and will expire normally.
  • Success: Renew the bond for a week.
  • Success With Style: Renew the bond for a month.

A Conjuror can also dismiss a bound elemental at will, so long as it is within his presence.

C Create an Advantage: Summoning an elemental is a specific sort of advantage creation. Doing so requires a summoning circle and an amount and type of sacrifice based on the being to be summoned. For a Wisp, a handful of interesting material will suffice, but an Attendant will be much more demanding.

Roll against a difficulty based on the type of creature being summoned—see the next page.

  • Fail: The creature is summoned, but immediately breaks free. Wisps and Drudges tend to run for it—causing problems elsewhere—while Servitors and Attendants may turn on the Conjuror if they sense an opportunity.
  • Tie: The elemental appears, but will only perform a single service taking less than a night.
  • Success: The elemental appears and is bound to your service for a week.
  • Success With Style: the elemental appears and is bound for a month.

A Attack: Conjuration may be used as an attack skill against summoned creatures, with “damage” serving as progress towards banishment.

D Defend: Conjuration may be used to defend against attacks by summoned creatures. This defense may be enhanced by staying within a circle, with the value ranging from +1 to a hastily drawn circle of dirt or salt to +4 for a mathematically perfect circle of precious metal covered in ancient runes of power.

The character’s rating in Conjuration is also the limit on the number of elementals that he may have bound at any one time. Their combined difficulties cannot exceed his conjuration score, so a Great (+4) Conjuror could control four Wisps, or one Wisp and one Servitor, or some other combination totaling up to four. It is common—if noisy—for a Conjuror to have multiple elementals summoned at a time.

Elementals

Elemental Summary

ELEMENTAL RATING STRESS CONSEQUENCE
Wisp Average 0 None
Drudge Fair 0 -2
Servitor Good 2 -2/-2
Attendant Great 3 -2/-4
Named Superb 4 -2/-4/-6

ELEMENTAL Bonuses

ELEMENT (STORM) WISP DRUDGE, SERVITOR, OR ATTENDANT NAMED
Earth (Earthquake) None +2 Stress +4 Stress
Ice (Glacier) None Armor:1 Armor:2
Fire (Inferno) None Weapon:1 Weapon:2
Water (Flood) None Additional mild consequence Additional mild consequence, Armor: 1
Lightning (Thunder) None Attack range 1 zone Range 2

For most actions, most elementals have only a single skill: [X] Elemental, and its level is equal to their rating, so a Wisp of Fire’s default skill is “Wisp of Fire: Average (+1)”. Certain elementals have other specific skills, but in the absence of those, an elemental rolls either its core skill or its core skill -2 for other actions.

All elementals have the ability to blend into their native element, gaining a +4 to Stealth so long as there is some present for them to vanish into. Additionally, they receive benefits based on their element as outlined in the Elemental Bonuses table.

Wisp

Looking like a fistful of their element, Wisps possess little power or intelligence. However, they are the simplest of elementals to summon, and they are well suited to simple tasks, especially those where Athletics or Stealth are called for—they receive a +4 to both. They are almost useless in a fight, however, having no stress boxes and no ability to take consequences.

Differences by element are largely cosmetic between wisps, but their variations can get quite exotic. Wisps are the elementals most likely to be found in nature, and many who have lived away from the storms for too long have “gone native,” adopting characteristics of native flora and fauna. These “native” wisps can be bound like any others.

Drudge

An elemental body the size of a dog, the Drudge is not any brighter than the Wisp—and is often dumber—but is substantially stronger and more patient. They receive a +2 to Endurance and to any Physique roll related to carrying loads. They are well suited to performing long, boring tasks, but are not great combatants, having no stress boxes and only able to take a -2 consequence.

Servitor

Servitors are human-sized and often a rough approximation of humanoid in shape, having some number of arms and legs, though rarely any kind of head. While not geniuses, they are smart and capable of following complicated instructions or of fighting on their master’s behalf. Servitors have 2 stress boxes and can take two -2 consequences.

Attendant

Attendants are what most people imagine elementals to be, some element of the Storm given life. Larger than a person, they look to be a walking whirlwind of the Storm they come from. They are also intelligent, able combatants. Attendants have 3 stress boxes and can take a -2 and a -4 consequence.

Elemental Bargains

A Conjuror can enter into a bargain with one of the powers of the Storm. Doing so allows him much greater power over the elementals of that domain, but it also comes with a steep price. The Conjuror is now a Summoner, limited to only that element, and he is now obligated to an alien being of great power and questionable motives. Despite these prices, the power that comes with these bargains means there is never a shortage of those seeking them, though not all who do so survive the process. Tread carefully with the Princes of the Five Storms.

Mechanically, the bargain takes the form of an aspect that reflects the bargain. It can be invoked to assist with summoning and conjuration—as well as name dropping, in certain quarters—and it can be compelled in any way that serves the interest of the other party in the bargain. This may vary from arbitrary-seeming stipulations—like the necessity of carrying a particular token—to taboos—the Prince of Magma hates baths!—to visitation rights. The player may choose to break a bargain—losing benefits, and immediately getting jumped by any summoned being he has bound—but doing so makes an enemy—and just for reference, The Enmity of a Prince of Thunder is a great replacement aspect!

The player and GM should work out the details of the other end of the bargain. The generic option is that it be with a Prince or Queen of the Storm, with titles like “Prince of Magma,” “Lady of Icebergs,” or “Countess of Forked Skies,” but the options are genuinely endless.

A bargain reduces the character’s refresh by one. It is possible to cut more than one bargain, but doing so pretty much guarantees that from that point forward you will be ground zero for proxy fights between those two Storm Courts.

Skill: Summoning

The Summoning skill replaces the Conjuration skill when a character makes a bargain. It is at the same level, and works in a manner identical to the Conjuring skill with the following changes:

  • The character may only summon creatures from the Storm that he has a bargain with.
  • Summoned elementals no longer demand a price.
  • Failed summonings now always result in the creature fleeing.
  • The character’s skill is treated as 4 higher for the purpose of how many elementals he may have bound at a time.
  • The character may now summon and bind a named elemental creature based on the patron of his bargain. The nature of this creature is part of the identification of the patron. Named creatures are specific sorts of fantastical beasts—firebirds, lightning armadillos, or whatever else the player and GM agree seems cool.
  • These named elementals are of Superb rating, have 4 stress boxes and -2/-4/-6 consequences, as well as their elemental bonus—see the table, above.

Elementals in Combat

Handling a single elemental in addition to the character is not too onerous, but an accomplished Summoner or Conjuror may be running around with several elementals, and trying to handle each one in combat invites huge bookkeeping hassles. For this reason, a Conjuror can use a variant on the Teamwork rules as follows:

  • The basic attack and defense is determined by the most powerful elemental the character controls. It receives an additional +1 for being under the direction of the character.
  • Creating advantages and overcoming difficulties still use the character’s skill, but +1 per non-Wisp elemental in the fight, if it’s an effort the elemental could help with.
  • Elementals act as an additional pool of consequences for the player. Any time he would take a hit, he may lose elementals as if he were taking on consequences as follows:
  • Drudge: -2
  • Servitor: -4
  • Attendant: -6
  • Named: Any single value

Variations and Options

Borrowed Power

A Summoner with a Storm Bargain may buy the Stormcaller skill as if she were a Stormcaller and use power borrowed from her patron. However, there are limits on this. She cannot use Stormcalling while her named creature is summoned, and any time she use Stormcalling they forgo the +4 benefit to the number of bound creatures she can have. On the upside, she can sacrifice any non-Wisp elemental for a +1 to a Stormcalling roll, though this bonus does not stack. This does not require any additional refresh.

Wisp Masters

It is possible that some Conjurors forgo the broader aspects of conjuration in favor of specialization on Wisps, both for their utility and for the underground culture of Wisp battles that has become so popular.

In this case, replace Conjuration with a Wisp Training skill that still governs how many wisps a character can control but does not allow the summoning of wisps. Instead, it allows the binding of “wild” wisps, those who have been trapped in the mortal world long enough to adopt creature-like forms. A Wisp Master finds and captures these Wisps then domesticates them into Battle Wisps and trains them to fight.

In an example of the Bronze Rule, Battle Wisps are still Average creatures with no stress boxes and no consequences so far as their interaction with the rest of the world goes, but within their own ranks they are finely gradated. That is to say, each Battle Wisp can have a full set of skills, powers, and abilities usable in battle with other wisps, and within those battles, those differences matter a great deal. But to an external observer, the most potent and least potent Battle Wisp are about on par.

Training your Battle Wisps

Battle wisps start with 2 stress boxes, one mild consequence, and 4 skills at Average (+0): Strength, Speed, Skill, and Toughness. (Yes, there’s a skill called Skill. Cope.) These are, respectively, used to make attack, overcome, create an advantage, and defend actions in Wisp combat. Toughness is also the defense against attacks.

Wisps may earn advances by winning battles, or through training. Exactly how advances are earned depends on the situation, but each advance may be spent to:

  • Increase a skill. All skills can be increased to Good (+3). One skill can be increased to Great (+4) and one may be increased to Superb (+5).
  • Increase resilience. An advance can be spent to add a -2 consequence, increase a -2 consequence to a -4, or increase a -4 to a -6. The maximum consequences for a Battle Wisp are -2/-4/-6.
  • Buy an upgrade. Upgrades include:
    • Shell: +1 Armor.
    • Tough Shell: (Requires Shell and Good Toughness) +1 Armor.
    • Breath Attack: Can attack two targets at once.

There are many more upgrade possibilities. In general, treat them as a simple sort of stunt.

In any situation except battling other wisps, the wisp still effectively has an Average skill level, no stress, no consequences, and no upgrades—except in a purely cosmetic sense. This remains true no matter how many advances the wisp has earned.