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Author Topic: [Solar System] Handling bargains and prices for a Summoning system  (Read 1831 times)
jb.teller4
Member

Posts: 20


« on: January 08, 2010, 10:27:20 AM »

I was thinking about using summoning of demons heavily in an upcoming campaign and I want it to be based on making bargains with the demon in return for its services.  I was thinking about how to handle bargains to capture the feel that I want (that the prices are significant and painful, while driving the story forward in interesting, often dark directions).  I'm not as worried about the actual summoning rules at this point as I am about capturing the Price and how it affects the characters.

This is a very rough idea I haven't thought through in detail.  I also haven't played Solar System yet, so I don't have a solid grasp of how all the moving pieces actually work at the table.  I was thinking of saying that the bargained price is handled as a new Key (buying the key is part of the cost of Summoning, though it's paid back with interest and it's fine to buy it with "advances debt").  The "buy off" condition is completing the bargain and is always therefore pretty specific and usually painful (I want it to be dreaded a bit).  The details of the "buy-off" are determined in the bargaining during summoning and can involve everything from completing some seemingly harmless task to giving up one of your body parts to letting the demon possess you for a certain period to agreeing to be permanently marked to giving the demon your eternal soul.  The outcomes of completing the bargain (e.g. losing a hand) should be handled the same way you would handle the tasks, events, or injuries normally in Solar System (completing a task narratively, Secrets, other Keys, etc.).  Once the Bargain is bought off (by completing it), the bargain is completed and done.  Of course, you can and often will earn experience from the Key before buying it off, just like you would with any other Key (the circumstances that give experience points would be worked out by the player and GM when the bargain is taken and should reflect all the juicy situations that will come up in pursuit of completing the bargain or while bargaining or trying to wiggle out of it).

Alternately, you can buy off the Bargain Key by breaking the bargain, but that has pretty major, juicy consequences that are almost always worse than the bargained price (but summoners can get desperate...).

Anyway, I'm looking for suggestions, cautions, alternatives, and improvements on my idea. 

Thanks!
John B.
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John B.
Courage75
Member

Posts: 42


« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2010, 09:02:39 PM »

I think something like this could be handled well with the right crunch landscape. Maybe something like this:

Secret of Demon Summoning
You can summon demons and bargain for their services. On a successful Occult (R) check, you get the result as an Effect, which determines the rating of the demon's primary Ability, Demon (I). However, the demon must be bound into service. Usually, this will be an extended conflict between the summoner's Bargain (I) and the demon's Demon (I), although it might be also be a simple conflict. If you win, you bind the Demon into service, buying an appropriate Key (see below) as the price of the pact.

Key of the Demon Pact
You have bound a demon into your service.
1 XP: You interact with your demon in a scene.
2 XP: You abuse your demon to further your goals.
5 XP: You use your demon to get a significant win.
Buyoff: You must carry out your part of the bargain, whatever it is. Alternatively, enter into a pact with another demon for the same conditions (not easy to do!).
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jb.teller4
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 08:08:04 AM »

Thanks, Courage75!

That looks good.  Having a single Secret to be able to summon and a single Key to handle all pacts is much simpler than making a new Key tailored to each Pact like I was thinking for some reason.

I had a follow-up question, related to both demon pacts and things like prophecies.  Has anyone ever used Keys to handle a prophecy, geas, curse etc., on a character?  For example, say your character was cursed to betray the one they love most or something like that.  Would it work to have a Key about that where the XP comes from the player working to make the curse come true?  Along the same lines, it seems like cursing someone could be a variation of that Secret that lets you give other people Keys (can't remember the name and I don't have my books with me).

The reason I ask is that I'm thinking that demons are summoned, sent to do a task and then return to where they came from; I really like C75's circumstances for getting XP in the Key but I'd want to tweak it for this specific campaign to be more about having to carry out the price and the conflicts that come from attempting to complete it or else trying to put it off or avoid it a bit more instad of being about about interacting with the demon (but I'm still in the idle planning phase and that may change).  I'm picturing the prices the summoner pays often including things like strange return services or odd prices that turn out to be more than they seemed (for example, I'm thinking of the pact that Mr. Norrel makes with the Man with the Thistledown Hair in Mr. Norrel and Jonathan Strange, if you've read that).
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John B.
Courage75
Member

Posts: 42


« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2010, 04:04:31 PM »

No worries, happy to offer suggestions!
Having a single Secret to be able to summon and a single Key to handle all pacts is much simpler than making a new Key tailored to each Pact like I was thinking for some reason.
I think you could have multiple Keys for multiple pacts, but you would have to take care not to duplicate the conditions under which you gain XP - otherwise you double up (or triple up, etc) your XP gain because you fulfil your conditions for multiple Keys simultaneously, which would really rort the XP mechanic!  Maybe make a fiction conceint that you can only bind one demon to yourself, unless you have exceptional circumstances?

Alternatively, I suppose you could try having multiple buy-off conditions for the one Key (i.e. sacrifice a hand for Abraxus, an eye for Obellis, the life of an innocent for Narvelos etc), each representing a separate pact with a different demon, but that makes the Key incredibly hard to buy off.
I had a follow-up question, related to both demon pacts and things like prophecies.  Has anyone ever used Keys to handle a prophecy, geas, curse etc., on a character?  For example, say your character was cursed to betray the one they love most or something like that.  Would it work to have a Key about that where the XP comes from the player working to make the curse come true?  Along the same lines, it seems like cursing someone could be a variation of that Secret that lets you give other people Keys (can't remember the name and I don't have my books with me).
I haven't created a Key for prophecies, curses or geas, before but maybe something like this?
Key of Cursed Love
1 XP: Your curse comes up in the scene.
3 XP: You put your love in mortal danger.
Buy-Off: The curse comes true or is lifted from you.

So the Key works to encourage the player to act in a manner that makes the curse part of the game, and gets rewarded for it. Note that the Key doesn't require that the curse to actually come true - just that it threatens to do so. Whether or not the curse actually comes true depends on what happens in play - the excitement of whether it does or not, and how it happens, is where the drama is. What you want is the player is proactively putting the character's love in danger. Indeed, if the curse came true, there would be no work for the Key to do - which is why I made the curse coming true as a buy-off condition. I suppose you could make a high XP condition where the curse comes true, but to keep the Key you'd need a new love, I'd say.

Yes, you can definitely have a Secret that gives other characters Keys. I'm not sure if there are any examples in the Solar System core booklet, but the World of Near has heaps of great crunch, including a few Secrets that do exactly that! I believe they work on the principle that the PC uses an Ability and the target can resist - if the PC wins, the target must spend an Advance (going into debt if necessary) to purchase a particular Key. The World of Near is a really useful product, by the way - definitely handy to get a better understanding of what the Solar System can do, even if you don't want to use any of the setting (which is also cool)!
The reason I ask is that I'm thinking that demons are summoned, sent to do a task and then return to where they came from; I really like C75's circumstances for getting XP in the Key but I'd want to tweak it for this specific campaign to be more about having to carry out the price and the conflicts that come from attempting to complete it or else trying to put it off or avoid it a bit more instad of being about about interacting with the demon (but I'm still in the idle planning phase and that may change).  I'm picturing the prices the summoner pays often including things like strange return services or odd prices that turn out to be more than they seemed (for example, I'm thinking of the pact that Mr. Norrel makes with the Man with the Thistledown Hair in Mr. Norrel and Jonathan Strange, if you've read that).
I keep hearing good things about that book - I should really get a copy and read it!
The beauty of Keys is that they are very versatile. You just have to think of the type of character behaviour you want to reward in the game and put it in the Key. So, if you want a game that is more about the price the PCs must pay when pacting with demons rather than having a demonic servant, maybe something like this will help:

Key of the Demon Pact (Alternate)
1 XP: The price comes up in the scene.
2 XP: Avoid paying the price when the opportunity arises.
5 XP: Successful deal with a price that turns out to be more than it appears.
Buy-off: Complete the bargain.

It sounds like a very interesting premise. Let me know how it develops!
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2010, 11:21:12 AM »

Leaving the actual mechanics of getting things done with summoning aside and focusing solely on pricing the pact... the way I'd probably do this would be by first having the player and SG negotiate a quick, rough deal that provides a suitable boon against a suitable price. Then I'd have the character make a Bargaining (I) (or whatever) check, and depending on the result, either player could get to mess about with the existing, acceptable deal to make it more one-sided. What's more, I'd probably give some obscene bargaining crunch to the demon or something like that to make sure that it's likely to be the poor summoner who ends up in a bad bargain.

The benefit in this way of doing things is that it's rather unlikely that you'll end up with a nice, tidy demonic bargain that goes just the way you expected it to go. Rather, it's almost certain that somebody is going to get screwed badly, which fits the genre quite nicely.
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jb.teller4
Member

Posts: 20


« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2010, 10:10:35 AM »

Thanks, Eero.  Defining the pact, then rolling some kind of Bargaining ability with the goal of making it more one-sided is a great idea.  After more thought, I'm leaning towards giving guidelines for making the pact a Key but not requiring it, especially if the price is something you pay immediately rather than a protracted service or looming doom.  Taking a Key is likely a good idea if you see it being a significant part of upcoming events (you might as well get XP for it and also I think it would get players more invested in helping the GM play it out in interesting ways), but it wouldn't be required.

-John B.
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John B.
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