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OSR

Whispers of Power

A new spellcasting class for Old-School Essentials, inspired by Shin Megami Tensei.

Feature image by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, from: Wikimedia Commons. (Public domain in the US.)

Magic always has a price. For some, it’s becoming a follower of a higher being, calling forth miracles to enforce their Will; for others, it’s spending the better part of a lifetime to learn the complex patterns of mystic power, and the instructions needed to recreate effects. For those without the patience to neither follow orders nor try to understand almost indecipherable symbols, there is an alternative: power that comes quickly, and with relative freedom, as long as you’re a good negotiator.

Fancy lighting optional. Image by GGCannon, from: Wikimedia Commons.

The Summoner Class (for Old-School Essentials)

Requirements: WIS 9, CHA 9
Prime Requisite: CHA
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 14
Armor: Leather, no shields
Weapons: Curated list (see Combat below)
Languages: Alignment, Common, Teratoic

Summoners are spellcasters skilled in dealing with supernatural creatures, and are able to invoke, command, and learn magic from them.

Magic

Summoners can cast any spells they learn from their bonded summons; ingrained spells are learned in a permanent manner, while fleeting spells are temporary. The Level Progression below shows how many spells of each circle a summoner of a given level can cast each day, as well as how many ingrained spells of each circle they know (in parenthesis). For example, a fifth level summoner can cast first circle spells thrice per day, and they may permanently know two first circle spells.

Summoners can’t learn spells (neither fleeting nor ingrained) above the highest circle of spells they can cast according to their level. Summoners don’t need to memorize ingrained spells, but they need to have fleeting spells woven (by the bonded summons who know them) into their memories each day, similar to how magic-users need to memorize their spells.

Summoners have no need of a spellbook. Summoners can cast and learn both Cleric and Magic-User spells in this manner.

Using magic items: as spell casters, summoners are able to use any magic scrolls they may find, and they are also able to use items that may only be used by arcane or divine spell casters.

Bonded Summons

Summoners can bond with supernatural creatures and summon them when needed. The Level Progression below shows how many creatures can be bonded with a summoner of a given level. To bond with a creature, a summoner’s level needs to be greater than or equal to the creature’s HD.

Summoning a bonded creature works like casting a spell, of the same circle as half of the creature’s HD, rounded down (minimum of 1). For example, to summon a creature of 3 HD, the summoner needs to spend a use of one of their first circle spells. Summoners start with a bonded creature at first level, and more may be bonded during the campaign.

Monsters that can be bonded: in order to be able to bond with a summoner, a creature must have some sort of supernatural ability, that can be interpreted as a spell able to be teached to the summoner (even if the creature itself uses this ability by natural instinct, rather than conscious choice). Unless it’s informed in their description, these monsters can cast or use their associated ability or spell a number of times per day equal to their HD. Examples: a talking cat (Speak with Animals), a basilisk (Flesh to Stone), a dryad (Charm Person or Charm Monster).

Speaking with Creatures

Summoners can talk with bonded creatures, both their own and those bonded to other summoners, as well as any unbound creature they’re able to bond with; this uncanny ability is represented by their knowledge of the Teratoic language.

Familiars

Summoners can make one, and only one, of their bonded summons a familiar. Unlike a regular summon, a familiar stays summoned indefinitely; in return, the summoner “locks” the use of one of their spells, in accordance with Bonded Summons above, for as long as the creature stays their familiar. For example, to make the aforementioned creature of 3 HD their familiar, the summoner needs to “lock” the use of one of their first circle spells. The ritual needed for a bonded summon to become a familiar lasts for at least eight hours and can only be done during downtime.

Combat

Summoners can use the following weapons: crossbows, daggers (including silver daggers), flasks (holy water and oil), short swords, swords, and (if needed) torches.

After 11th Level

A summoner may build a stronghold, a safe haven for beginner summoners and their bonded creatures alike; 1d6 summoners of first level will seek refuge there.

Summoner Level Progression

LevelXPHDTHAC0DWPBS123456Bonds
101d619 [0]12131416151(1)4
23.3002d619 [0]12131416152(1)6
36.6003d619 [0]12131416152(2)1(1)8
413.2004d619 [0]12131416152(2)2(1)10
526.4005d617 [+2]10111214133(2)2(2)1(1)12
652.8006d617 [+2]10111214133(2)2(2)2(1)14
7105.6007d617 [+2]10111214133(3)3(2)2(2)1(1)16
8198.0008d617 [+2]10111214134(3)3(2)3(2)2(1)18
9348.0009d614 [+5]891012114(3)4(3)3(2)2(2)1(1)20
10498.0009d6+1*14 [+5]891012114(3)4(3)4(3)3(2)2(1)22
11648.0009d6+2*14 [+5]891012115(4)5(3)4(3)3(3)3(2)1(1)24
12798.0009d6+3*14 [+5]891012115(4)5(3)5(3)4(3)4(2)2(2)26
13948.0009d6+4*12 [+7]6781096(4)6(4)5(4)5(4)5(3)3(3)28
141.098.0009d6+5*12 [+7]6781096(4)6(4)6(4)6(4)6(3)4(3)30
* Modifiers from CON no longer apply.
Surprisingly straigthforward. Image from: Nintendo Portugal. All rights from SEGA, Atlus and Nintendo, usage here constitutes fair use.

Negotiations

When a summoner finds a creature who is able to bond with them, the reaction roll is the first step towards a successful (or not!) meeting. (As expected, the summoner’s Charisma modifier is added to the reaction roll.)

An Hostile result obviously means the being isn’t interested in even talking at all, but that may change if they later fail a Morale check, which opens way to a new reaction roll – and a new Hostile result means they prefer to flee rather than talk.

Alignment is also important: if both summoner and monster follow the same path, a bonus (+1 to +3) to the reaction roll is conferred, while if both are opposed a penalty (-1 to -3) is brought. The magnitude of the bonus or penalty is reliant on how attuned is the creature to its alignment (for example, higher for extraplanar beings).

Then it’s up to the talk: some beings are straight with what they want to form a contract with the summoner, while others prefer to discover more of the summoner before deciding whether to bond with them or not; good or bad answers respectively improve or worsen their initial reaction. Likewise, when a creature asks for something, complying or not with their demands can change their inclination, too (+1 or -1 for each good or bad answer / accepted or refused demand).

Presenting additional gifts can also affect the creature’s disposition: each one allows for a new reaction roll with a +1 bonus for each gift (together with any modifiers accrued until then), but an Hostile result means they either flee with your stuff, or become insulted and attack (when in doubt, use a Morale roll as a guide).

d6Demand / Gift
1Treasure.
2A portion of the summoner’s life force.
3A portion of the summoner’s magic power.
4A sacrifice.
5A job offer to the summoner.
6A magic item.
Possible demands or gifts. See the Notes on Summoning Cost below for more details on some of them.

The negotiation ends when either party becomes unable or unwilling to parley or compromise, or when the monster’s reaction becomes Friendly. In this case, a contract may be sealed, and the being is now able to be invoked; another alternative is an one-time service through immediate payment.

Contracts

A contract between a summoner and a bonded creature is an agreement connecting them, enforced by magic; it does not have to be written, but some, usually Orderful beings, may insist on it. Chaotic beings, as well as some Neutral beings, see the agreement as informal, and may not be that interested in following its terms to the letter, but rather to the spirit. Of course, contracts may be re-discussed, and its terms changed, as time passes and the campaign goes on.

The contract establishes the terms and conditions of their link, such as:

  • the provided services – what the creature agreed to do for the summoner;
  • the summoning’s cost – what a creature demands to do the combined service;
  • the summoning’s waiting time and duration – how long the creature takes to come, as well as how much time the creature pass being summoned before going back to where they came from;
  • the summoning’s range – how far can the creature and the summoner be from each other while the summoning lasts;
  • the summoning’s reach – how far can the creature and the summoner be from each other for the summoning to happen;
  • the contract’s duration – how long the contract is valid and the creature remains in service of the summoner;
  • the void conditions – what can render the contract null and void before its duration ends, should the summoner or the creature engage in at least one of these;
  • the breaching penalties – what the party that violated one of the void conditions must pay;
  • the additional terms – any other considerations not covered by the above topics.
At least it’s some fun tables instead of lotso lawspeak. Image by Firkin on Openclipart.

Forging Contracts

The tables below show a range of options for the terms defined above; at first, Orderful creatures start with the default options; for Chaotic creatures roll a dice on each table, while Neutral creatures roll on a number of tables equal to half their HD, rounded down (minimum zero), taking the default options in the remaining tables.

A summoner may ask for more services, which allows the creature to request more costs and additional terms; the opposite – a creature may ask for more stuff, and the summoner may in turn demand more services – is also true. In both cases, extra void conditions and breach penalties are also added to the contract, one of each for each pair of service and cost beyond the first.

Both summoner and bonded creature can further discuss these terms; for each point shifted (up or down) from a result (defaulted or rolled) in one table by a party, if the other party agrees, the latter can shift that amount of points in other tables. Also, both sides have free points, that can be used to shift table results without compensation, equal to the half the summoner’s level and half the creature’s HD, both rounded down (minimum zero).

Due to the complexity of discussing contracts, it is recommended that it’s done between sessions.

Tables

Provided Services

d6Provided Service
1Casting a spell.
2Taking part in combat.
3Weaving a spell. (default)
4Ingraining a spell.
5Teaching a new language.
6Teaching a skill.

Note: a skill learned this way either starts with a 1-in-6 chance of success, or improve its rate by one, up to 5-in-6.

Summoning Costs

d6Summoning Cost
1Food and water.
2Treasure.
3A portion of the summoner’s power. (default)
4A sacrifice.
5To be owed a favor.
6A magic item.

Notes:

  • Food and water may be replaced with a portion of the summoner’s life force, in HP equal to the creature’s HD;
  • Treasure means an amount of gold between 100–400 gp, multiplied by the creature’s HD;
  • A portion of the summoner’s power may either be their life force, which means HP equal to the creature’s HD; or it may be their magic power, which means an additional use of spell of the same circle used to summon the creature, or a consumable magic item (like a potion or scroll), or a charge of a magic item with charges (like a wand).

Summoning Waiting and Duration

d6Summoning WaitingSummoning Duration
1An instant.A round.
2In the same round.A turn.
3In the next round. (default)An hour. (default)
4In the next 1d4 rounds.A watch.
5At end of combat.A day.
6A turn.A week.

Summoning Range

d6Summoning Range
1In constant touch.
2In melee range.
3In the same room. (default)
4In the same floor or dungeon level.
5In the same building or dungeon.
6In the same hex.

Summoning Reach

d6Summoning Reach
1In the same hex.
2In the same region or hex flower (1d4 radius).
3In the same country, island or kingdom. (default)
4In the same continent.
5In the same plane or world.
6Anywhere in the multiverse.

Contract Duration

d6Contract Duration
1A week.
2A month.
3A year. (default)
4A decade.
5For as long as the summoner lives.
6For as long as the summoner’s bloodline lives.

Void Conditions

d6Void Condition
1Alignment shift.
2Conflict of interest.
3Impossibility of payment or service. (default)
4Refusal of payment or service.
5Fraud.
6Abuse or harm.

Breaching Penalties

d6Breaching Penalty
1Termination of contract.
2Obliged to do any payment or service remaining.
3Restitution in gold. (default)
4Loss of any permanent benefit.
5Ordered to appear at an Summoner’s Guild court.
6Visited by an Inevitable, who demands all of the above!

Notes:

  • Restitution is in an amount of gold between 1000–4000 gp, multiplied by the offended party’s HD or level;
  • Loss of any permanent benefit means ingrained spells teached by the offended party are erased from the summoner’s memory, as well as any magic items are taken from the offending party to be given back to their previous owner(s).

Additional Terms

d6Additional Term
1An artifact of great power.
2–3For the summoner to accept a quest.
4–6A special gift or treat. (default)
“YOU FULL OF DEMON WHISPER?” Image from: Master of the Ingeborg Psalter (French, active about 1195 – about 1210) Initial D: The Fool with Two Demons, after 1205, Tempera colors and gold leaf Leaf: 31 × 21.9 cm (12 3/16 × 8 5/8 in.), Ms. 66 (99.MK.48), fol. 56 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 66, fol. 56.

Whispers and Spells

A summoner can grasp magic from their bonded creatures; the act of learning magic this way is commonly called “listening to its whispers”. This may happen as established in their contract, or as an independent request by the summoner, or if the creature becomes interested in doing so, etc. It can be done either in a temporary manner, or a permanent one:

  • in the first case, fleeting spells are gently woven into the summoner’s mind, but as soon as the spell is cast, the summoner falls asleep or a day passes (whichever comes first), the spell vanishes from the summoner’s memory and need to be woven again;
  • in the second case, though, ingrained spells are grafted into the summoner’s soul (or essence, pattern, matrix, etc.), and they can be cast spontaneously, without it disappearing from the summoner’s mind.

Fleeting spells take one hour to be woven into a summoner’s mind, and any number of spells may be prepared this way, even with several bonded creatures working together. To ingrain a spell deep into the summoner’s memory, though, more time is needed: 1d4 hours per circle of the spell. For example, a spell of the fifth circle takes 5d4 hours to be ingrained. Thus, while weaving spells can be done in the field if needed, it’s best to ingrain spells during downtime.

Summoners consider this separation practical, since for situational spells they may choose to have them as fleeting spells, to be woven and cast as the need arises, while keeping spells they cast more often as ingrained. For example, a summoner may have their bonded fire spirit to weave a Resist Fire spell as they’re close to a hot desert they need to cross, while asking their bonded almiraj to ingrain a Sleep spell as they consider it more generally useful.

Spiked Hare from Dragon Quest. Also known as Almiraj. Image by Akira Toriyama, from Dragon’s Den. All rights from Square Enix and Nintendo, usage here constitutes fair use.

Examples of Bonded Summons

The following monsters are adequate examples for first level summoners to start bonded with. All of them follow default contracts without any additional terms.

Almiraj

A hare with a single yellow horn. Also known as bunnicorn or horned hare.

AC 7, HD 1*, Attacks 1 × horn (1d8), THAC0 19, Movement 90′ (30′), Saving Throws D12 W13 P14, B15 S16 (1), Morale 8, Alignment Neutral, XP 13, Number Appearing 1d4 (2d6), Treasure Type None.

Spell: Sleep.

Lil’Frost

A little snow fairy, with a cute appearance and a big smile.

AC 6, HD 1*, Attacks 1 × unarmed (1d2), THAC0 19, Movement 120′ (40′), Saving Throws D12 W13 P14, B15 S16 (1), Morale 7, Alignment Neutral, XP 13, Number Appearing 1d6 (3d4), Treasure Type V (C).

Spell: Resist Cold.

Striped Beetle

A small (2′ long) beetle with a hard carapace, striped like a zebra. Can be found undergroud.

AC 4, HD 1*, Attacks 1 × bite (2d4), THAC0 19, Movement 120′ (40′), Saving Throws D12 W13 P14, B15 S16 (1), Morale 7, Alignment Neutral, XP 13, Number Appearing 1d8 (2d6), Treasure Type None.

Spell: Light (Darkness).

By ashzealot

Tabletop roleplaying games are my main blogging interest... for now! Primarily posting in English, but will sometimes do it in Portuguese. I'm also: Brazilian (and I voted for Haddad), very leftist, white cishet (but count me in as a bipoc/lgbtqa+/queer ally). Pronouns: he/him (ele/dele).

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