There is a small paragraph in the WotS rulebook about how to role-play a spirit contact: it encourages improvisation and story-telling during these phases of the game, leaving relatively much freedom to the players’ imagination in the way they describe their experience. In order to illustrate this, I will present a couple of examples of how I imagine what can be a shamanic journey in the play, inspired from a real gaming session. It will also clarify some mechanics.
Of course, this represents my understanding of the sources I consulted and every group can freely conceive another spirit world according to its own sensibility and long as it is consistent with the shamanistic beliefs.
In this first post on the subject, we’ll start with a simple case of a shaman trying contact one single spirit at once.
A major shaman tries to coax a hostile creek nature spirit (ichchi) preventing the party to reach its goal. Shaman’s features: POW18, Knowledge (Spirit World) 69%, Allegiance Animism 74%, Perform (Sing) 38%, Persuade 46%, Soul Escape 54%.
Player: If I can get in touch with the local spirit, I’ll explain him that we came with peaceful intents, only to talk with Good-Fate [a NPC] for a matter very important to the Ashinas. I put my shaman dress, take my drum and start to sing.
(The player checks his “perform (sing) skills: he rolls 05, a success, he enters the trance while keeping all his Power Points. See p.64 “Chant”)
GM : The surroundings are slowly changing, your fellows disappear and you are in a slightly moving mountainous landscape. Several creeks are flowing down high mountains and fall into small lakes, some of them ending in marshes far bellow you. The heaven is grey, almost white above you. You now have to search the ichchi.
Player: I the form of a heron, fly above the lakes. When I think I may find the ichchi, I land and transform into a carp to search underwater. If unsuccessful, I transform into a heron again and resume the procedure.
The player checks his “knowledge (Spirit World) and rolls 96, a failure- See p.64 “Trance”.
GM: You search for hours but do not find the spirit. It did not get its share of your flesh during your dismembering and you never learnt the way leading to it: you cannot recognise the place it is dwelling in.
(The player cannot try again this time. He still does not know how much time went by on the physical plane –see p. 63 “principles”)
Player: too bad for the lake ichchi, but since I’m already on the spirit plane, I’d like to look for another spirit. I’m interested in allying an invisibility spirit.
(The player checks his “knowledge (Spirit World) again. He rolls 01, a critical: he won’t lose more than one hour seeking this new spirit –see p.64 “Trance”)
GM: You wander through the hills where you know you can find this kind of spirit and see rather quickly some bush moving: something invisible is there. This is the spirit you’re looking for.
(The GM rolls the attitude of the spirit = POW (shaman) x5%. Success: the spirit is neutral. See p.67 “Attitude of a Spirit”. It has an INT of 13 (2d6+6) and a POW of 16 (3d6+6) – see p. 110 “Nature Spirits”. The shaman wants to negotiate).
Player: “Spirit! Useable spirit! Do you want me as friend?”
GM: “Mmmh, why shshshall I? Whathhh do I geeeet for thissss?”
(Player and GM can play the negotiation, but at the end, the die rolls decide of the outcome. Player and spirit make an opposed skill contest: shaman’s 83% vs. spirit’s 65% -see p. 64-66 “Negotiation”. The player rolls 28, the GM 75: the spirit accepts to ally with the shaman against a compensation–see the “Negotiation Matrix” p. 66.
The GM rolls the compensation on the chart, applying the bonus/penalties, see “Compensation Chart” p. 66. He’s is also free to decide himself the price)
“If you offffer me sssixxxxteeeen big heeerd beassstssss, including a ssstallion or a bull, I wiiiill consssider being your fffriend”.
Player: This is a too high price! Anyway, I don’t have these beasts [and the player doesn’t want to pay a higher price]. I’ll try to force the spirit.
(This is a spirit combat. See starting p. 68)
GM You transform into a bull, hit the soil with your furious hooves. The spirit is scared and tries to escape. (GM rolls the spirit’s Soul Escape skill rate of INTx5%=65% and makes it –see p. 70 “Disengaging from Spirit Combat”). It tries to hide in a nearby bush.
Player: I try to catch it! (This is an opposed Soul Escape skill roll. The player rolls in his turn and wins the contest –see p. 70 “Disengaging from Spirit Combat”). I see the bush moving and know it is hiding behind it, I run on it and try to hit him with my horns!
The shaman as bull has a SIZ and STR of 18 (=POW), with a damage bonus of 1d6. The spirit has a SIZ and STR of 16 (=its POW), with a damage bonus of 1d4 only –see p. 69 “Resolution”)
Round 1: Power Points vs. Power Points. Player rolls 74 (failure), GM rolls 35 (success)
You gallop but don’t properly aim your charge: the spirit dodges and you hit the trunk of the bush. You lose 3 Power Points (1D3+1D4 –see p. 69 “Resolution”). You have 15 left, the spirit still 16.
Round 2: (Player rolls 34, a success, and spirit 60, a failure).
Player: I shake my head in all directions, hoping to catch the spirit, and feel my horns hitting something, hehe! (player rolls the damage : 1d3 + 1d6 = 8. The spirit has 8 power Points left.)
Round 3: both miss their roll
Round 4: the player rolls a critical while the GM misses.
Player: yeah! The sound of my bellowing echoes in the mountains, I hit as strong as I can. (Player rolls damage 2d3 + 1d6 = 6)
The spirit has now 2 Power Points left, it is 13 less than the shaman, it is defeated –see p. 69 “Winner and Looser”.
GM: The spirit can try a last escape. (Spirit checks its Soul Escape and gets a success. The shaman has to start a pursuit = opposed Soul Escape rolls: he manages to win the contest and catches the spirit up –see p.69 “Winner and Looser” and p. 70 “Disengaging from Spirit Combat”). You see the grass moving under its feet…
Player: …and I jump and lands on it with all my weight: it cannot move anymore. It has to surrender.
GM: “Ok. Ok, you won. But I neeeed sssssome of your forcccce to be able to hhhhelp you” (See p. 70 “Results of Spirit Combat – Allying a Spirit”)
Do you want to ally it provisory (see p. 65 “Temporary Alliance”) or permanently (see p. 67 “Permanent Alliance”)?
Player: Mmmh… this is a powerful power which I like to have permanently. OK, I sacrifice 2 POW to the spirit.
GM: Ok, the deal is made. Remove 2 POW on your character sheet and write “one permanent alliance with invisibility spirit”, and write down its characteristics. Are you finished with the trance?
Player: yes, I don’t want to stay longer anymore.
The trance is done, the Shaman's consciousness goes back to the real world. The GM rolls the time spent: 1d10 for the first unsuccessful attempt to find the creek ichchi + only 1 for the invisibility spirit (the Knowledge (Spirit World) was a critical), for a total of 4 hours –see p. 63 “Principles”).
The PC is eligible to the following experience rolls: Sing, Knowledge[Spirit World], Soul Escape, POW.
Note on the soul escape:
Abusing of the soul escape for a spirit may make it very difficult for a shaman to win a spirit combat. In the above example, the combat lasted for 4 round, which would have been 4 chances for the spirit to try to flee, giving him a good chance to succeed at least once. For playability and in order not to frustrate the players, I suggest to limit the number of soul escape attempts during one single combat to 2, and only if the spirit has a smaller POW than the shaman: we can state that spirits are naturally eager to impose or defend their sphere of influence and therefore inclined to spirit combat when menaced.