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Isn't Spirit Manipulation technically the most versatile power in VTM?

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  • Isn't Spirit Manipulation technically the most versatile power in VTM?

    Since many spirits seem to represent abstract ideas, you could theoretically demand a spirit of depression to make your enemies, well, depressed. Which is very similar to how Way of Sorrow works, which as you all know is apart of Koldunic Sorcery, a type of Blood Magic that calls upon spirits to assist the practitioner in their sorcery. So wouldn't it stand to reason that if I was negotiating with a particularly troublesome elder, I could just call upon spirits of love or calmness to make the negotiations go easier? But lets say you need to find these spirits first and then bind them into your service, instead of looking for them you could technically farm them. Since many spirits represent abstract ideas you could get two people to fall in love, and perhaps their mutual love for each other will create a love spirit which is ripe for enslave-, I mean, service. Now would this erase the love these individuals had for another? Maybe, but by that point you already got what you wanted, whatever happens to the couple in question is beneath your concern. It might work for one sided love as well, in that case just blood bond someone. Technically you could also command spirits of ignorance, to get people to ignore masquerade beaches, or put them into a fetish and use it to mimic Obfuscate.

    Lets say I wanted to hack a smart phone, but I'm not that tech savvy and I don't know the Path of Technomancy, couldn't I technically have the spirit of the smart phone unlock itself for me? Or maybe call upon a spirit that is the personification of hacking to come and help me? What if I want to change my fate, or at the very least improve my luck? I could just call upon spirits of good luck and have them bestow good fortune upon me. Kind of like Orisha's Path a blood magic path which allows the practitioner to grant good luck to themselves or their allies, and misfortune to their enemies. It just so happens to be apart of Wanga, another type of Blood Magic that requires the practitioner to call upon spirits to assist them with their sorcery.

    Something else I thought about...

    I could technically make a fetish suit with SM lvl 3 that makes everyone who looks at me, immediately love me. And if you allow SM to manipulate Banes, Demons, and Wraths, you could use SM lvl 2 to speak to them in their language, since they are technically spirits. And since many spirits reflect what's happening in the real world, you could use hermetic sight (SM lvl 1) to learn the general mood of an area. If there's a lot of spirits of hate or violence, that could be an indication that its best to leave an area. Duality feels poorly written, so I wont write anything on it. Beyond that doesn't it stand to reason that 60-70% of all blood magic and disciplines could be replicated through the use of SM?

    So other than risking the hatred of the spirits you are trying to control, what's stopping some neonate from going on an adventure to "Catch em all" and then forcing them to do his bidding? Why would they need to be apart of a Sect when they could just chill in their havens and play TTRPGs, and have their army of spirits deal with any mundane or supernatural issues? I know a lot of you are going to bring up sabbat attack, or werewolves trying to rescue the spirits, but as long as they stick to their haven and don't make a show of it they should be alright. And sure there sire who probably taught them spirit manipulation is going to want the neonate to work for them, but honestly, are they really going to put the neonate they took so much time teaching in the line of fire? It's more likely the neonate in question is going to be managing/recording the amount/type of spirits their sire possesses. They may even be responsible for making/capturing spirits.



  • #2
    First of all, Spirit Manipulation is a VERY specilaized branch of Thaumaturgy
    But puting that aside, how damn hard is to learn it (good luck convincing your GM why you want to learn and from who this thing) its not that ... lets say, safe
    The first is Hermetic Sight, basically allows you to see into the spirit world, but don't forget its not some innate ability, it is a "spell". There is no better word to it, you cast it, and you can perceive the spirit world, either by gazing deeply into it or by seeing the presence of nearby spirits as a hazy overlay on the material world. But you need at least 4 sucess or face +2 difficulty to all actions performed while using this power due to the distraction of divided perceptions. Hermetic Sight lasts for the duration of the scene or until the thaumaturge deactivates it.
    And if you want to use higher level powers? Its better to see the spirit in question...
    Astral Chant is basically your "translator". Sure not every spirit needs it, most of them are totally capable to understand or communicate, but most of the spirits are jerks, like the Hutts of Star Wars, who are fluent in many languages but egoist enouh to speak huttese, most of the Spirits will not lower themselves to bother to speak on the native tongue of a damned parasite... 3 Successes is a Fluent conversation; sufficient for most conversations... oh but preapre to suffer that +2 from the first power, because they are tend to wander away and talking to the thin air just makes you look stupid. You don't want to anoy a spirit wich such a breach of etiquette, like lets say, not look at it while talking. Good luck chump!
    Voice of Command perhaps the most dangerous power in the Spirit manipulation arsenal, for the consequences if a thaumaturge fails can be unpleasant. Voice of Command allows a vampire to issue orders to a spirit, compelling it to heed his or her bidding whether or not it desires to do so. The spirits compelled by this power are fully aware that they are being forced into these actions, and may well seek revenge on their erstwhile masters at a later time. Thaumaturges who issue commands above and beyond what their spirit servants are compelled to perform may find themselves "agree" to follow orders without following through, leaving the thaumaturge in a situation of potentially fatal embarassment.
    And even 4 Successes needed for the spirit to consents to an extended or intricate task that does not place it in immediate danger. 4! And you know the Umbra, especially in the City, full of very dark and very unpleasant spirits (especially near such a thaumaturge) and the term "immediate danger" is very broad....
    Entrap Ephemera is basically the power that you can use once. If you are lucky twice! Why? Because forcing a spirit in to an object, making a Fetish is something They notice. Not to mention Fetishes created by this power are often unruly and fail at inopportune moments, as the spirits within are most displeased with their situation and will take any opportunity to escape or thwart their captors. But spirits are never alone... since Spirit Manipulation not really have a "spirit summoning" power, you have to find one... and usually spirits are... everywhere. You found you spirit of War, you can bet there are more bloody spirits around. A simple squriel spirit? There will be nature spirits, or basically in any case spirits of the wind, Night, or anything. And they knwo what you did with their comrade
    That Pack of young Garou just gain a new spirit quest thanks for your action: to hunt down the Leech that defiled a spirit! You snached a Bane? Congratulations, you just attracted the attention the "Forces of Darkness", potentially worse than to be the business end of a fang filled muzzle... but even if your GM is nice,and don't want to toss a few angry Lupin (not even a Garou, Lupin) at you, angry spirits are the WORST enemy someone could have...
    If you for some reason lived long enough to learn Duality? Wit that spell, you exists on both planes of existence at once. Yaay! Remember those spirits you angered?
    Rest in peace kiddo!
    No
    Spirit manipulaton is not versatile, nor safe and any sane bloodmage avoids it like the plague!
    I pity the fools who try to pull this stunt on their GM...
    Rule number 1: never NEVER give such a loaded gun to the GM's hands!
    Last edited by Shadeprowler; 06-15-2022, 03:44 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Hello View Post
      what's stopping some neonate from going on an adventure to "Catch em all" and then forcing them to do his bidding?
      This idea appears to be basically the same as the Mage 'Spirit Sphere is all you need' one except applied to VtM. I don't think the OP's arguments are well thought out and they take a lot of assumptions for granted.

      Firstly, from a meta perspective, using spirits (or any single magic type) to do everything makes for a dull, uninteresting story. One of the reasons Pokemon is a kid's show is because it lacks any depth, nuance, or consequences to the use of powers. Interesting stories come from mixing things up and adding depth, this is the opposite.

      Secondly, from a 'most fun' perspective, we are all expected to follow the rules with moderation in mind when playing a game, not trying to screw the maximum leverage out of one aspect in order to spoil the game for everyone else. There's a reason power players are generally reviled, and taking things to the extreme like this is one of them. If the aim of a particular game is min-maxing then go for it, I'm not saying it's 'wrong fun' but it should be clear in the question that this is the case.

      Thirdly, from a story tellers perspective, it's not a good idea to let your players leverage the rules so much without introducing difficulties along the way. Most of the OP's post pretty much ignored that spirits have their own goals, desires, and emotions. They're not just ghostly machines where you press the button and out pops the answer. The spirit of that smartphone is more likely to side with it's owner than with you and if so it's going to do it's best to stop you. Spirits of abstract ideas and concepts like 'hacking' should be very rare and very powerful, and they're not going to be easy or willing to be commanded by some piddly neonate vamp who thinks he's the king of the umbra.
      Last edited by Dogstar; 06-15-2022, 04:21 PM.

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      • #4
        I generally agree with Shadeprowler here. Though I would say Spirit Manipulation is a versatile power for sure.. it's just not really worth it. V20 Celerity is a hella versatile power (+X dice to Dex rolls covers a lot of things, in a lot of arenas, not just combat and running fast), without all of the things outlined above. Likewise Dominate and Presence are very versatile and just sitting there in the normal Discipline set without all the weird issues of trying to go around things via using spirits.

        While Vampire doesn't get into it as much because vampires rarely deal with Umbral spirits, Werewolf and Mage both make it very clear that even with some easily accessible powers that mean you could, in theory, get spirits to do anything you want rather than having to buy lots of other powers, in practice that's a horrible idea.

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        • #5
          Spirit Manipulation is a great path to give NPC Tremere (and other spellcastery types) because you don’t actually have to sit there and stat out which paths the head of the Chantry knows ahead of time since you can use the quick and dirty spirit rules to justify just about anything else. It also gives said NPC a means of offering rewards few vampires ever have access to; either temporarily (command a spirit to perform a designated task for the PC in question when the PC says the “magic words”) or on a more lasting basis (by granting them a fetish).

          They also allow for very devious villains… it’s a go to when I introduced an ancient Baali who could pit factions against each other using commanded spirits as spies and banes to just ruin the best laid plans in a way that implicates others.

          But no, none of these guys is going to teach a PC their secret path… why would a vampire ever share such a fantastic plot device ability?

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          • #6
            Yeah, as said above thrice, in practice dealing with spirits is a lot complicated.

            Basically yes, it is versatile, but it also means in no uncertain terms doing everything through proxies, and those proxies are varied and complex entities with varied and complex personalities, goals and relationships.

            How do you find the right spirit for the task? How do you interact with this being? How does this being actually works? (the power does not let you decide what the spirit is capable of and how its powers work) How does it approaches the task? (the power also does not let you control the spirit as if it was your own character, it is an NPC that will understand and follow requests in its own terms) And what happens after?

            At the end of the day, what this Path does isn't so much give you broad powers, but open a whole host of NPCs to interact with, for good or ill, and that's that.


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            • #7
              It's a great path...for a NPC lol, as Chris24601 said. It's never so simple and if the GM really wants to complicate your life, this is the equivalent to a loaded gun. It could be interesting from a narrative point of view, as many stories could be built upon it, like "going on a quest" to find the right spirit to help you and so on. In the end, though, most vampire games (and players) are not very interested in the spirit realms and its inhabitants, so, outside of very specific stories, I don't think you're going to take the most benefit from it. Really want a VERY OP path? Go for The Path of Focused Mind (that is, if your ST allows it), it's utterly broken (you can basically make two mental actions per turn, with the level 4, what means that it's possible to cast two different paths, level 5 gives immunity to frenzy and rotschreck and reduces by 2 the DIFFICULTY OF ALL ACTIONS)) and creates a lot less complications for your character.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Dogstar View Post
                Firstly, from a meta perspective, using spirits (or any single magic type) to do everything makes for a dull, uninteresting story. One of the reasons Pokemon is a kid's show is because it lacks any depth, nuance, or consequences to the use of powers. Interesting stories come from mixing things up and adding depth, this is the opposite.
                I think there's a lot of interesting things you do with Pokemon - going out, capturing animals with magical powers, some of of which are as smart as humans, and then forcing them to battle one another in magical dog fights. The series could explore all of that, but deliberately chooses not to because it's a series for children and doesn't want to explore any of that.

                I think though that there areplenty of examples of shows or series or games where characters have a "single type" of power, or even no power at all, and are anything but dull or uninteresting.

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                • #9
                  You can get around a lot of bullshit with this Path by not being a dick. Chiminage will take you a long, long way.

                  That said, Chiminage is not a "Cool, now I can play Spirit Pokemon!" If you want to be serious about Spirit Thaumaturgy, get ready to play a Vampire Shaman, for lack of a better term.
                  Last edited by Hades; 06-15-2022, 08:00 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
                    I think there's a lot of interesting things you do with Pokemon - going out, capturing animals with magical powers, some of of which are as smart as humans, and then forcing them to battle one another in magical dog fights. The series could explore all of that, but deliberately chooses not to because it's a series for children and doesn't want to explore any of that.

                    I think though that there areplenty of examples of shows or series or games where characters have a "single type" of power, or even no power at all, and are anything but dull or uninteresting.
                    Completely agree, I don't think that comparing to Pokemon is an adequate way to explain the problem, and just shows personal disinterest for it derived from disinterest in the show instead.

                    The actual problem I think Dogstar sees is that yes, having a single, effortless solution for every problem basically makes for uninteresting stories. It doesn't mean that a single and versatile power will cause it, but that the take suggested in the OP certainly would. And evidently, that's multiplied as a problem if this power exists in the context of a game with a whole host of other powers for the players to be invested in, but then they're all rendered irrelevant.

                    But that's not the case in either situation. Pokemon is a kid's show because it is written like that, and a lot of grown ups have much to say about the inference that the franchise is just for kids or uninteresting. And Spirit Manipulation isn't a shallow solution because it is far more complex to apply than it seems at first.

                    I would say, though, that an ST that doesn't know how to use spirits as characters and the spiritual landscape as a setting element and source of complications, or simply doesn't want to deal with it in the chronicle, can and should bar this Path altogether for players. Not because it is intrinsically broken, but because it will put a lot of unasked for work in the ST's hands.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dogstar View Post
                      Thirdly, from a story tellers perspective, it's not a good idea to let your players leverage the rules so much without introducing difficulties along the way. Most of the OP's post pretty much ignored that spirits have their own goals, desires, and emotions. They're not just ghostly machines where you press the button and out pops the answer.
                      I completely agree. Spirits are NPCs, and any act of getting them to do what you want takes negotiation. Powers that impel spirits to obey you is the equivalent of putting a gun to someone's head during "negotiations". It works fine until it doesn't, and then backfires spectacularly.

                      Not to mention being able to find the specific spirit in question. It's all nice and good to speculate there must be spirits of ignorance, love, hacking, etc. But in reality, these spirits would be very rare and difficult to contact, if at all.

                      It's also good to remember that spirits also don't do things automatically. They are prone to fail just like any other NPC. They have limited Charms, need to make rolls, have increased difficulties because of the Gauntlet, etc. These things are often overlooked because the ST doesn't want to deal with them. They can get in the way of a story. And that's great. But when players want to abuse things and get an easy way to accomplish their goals, the smart ST should begin to include these complications in and think of other things that would come up.

                      Like any kind of powers, it should be useful to the PC, but never to the point where it makes the PC unstoppable. If it were that easy, it would have already been done. Since it isn't, it's not.

                      I do think the Path can be very useful. But it is better used for NPCs by STs than players as others have already stated.. Figuring out how to run chiminage, spirit requests, and the like can be difficult for STs who run Werewolf or Mage as these aspects take up a lot more of the game. I think it would be very difficult for Vampire STs as this takes them far from their comfort zone and requires them to master an entirely new aspect of the game that never gets addressed otherwise. When I was a new Vampire ST, I didn't want to waste my time on stuff like that. Instead, it was more like, "OK, together let's come up with a list of spirits you would want to summon, and determine one power/service you'll get from it" so I don't want to waste game time trying to figure out stuff on the fly.
                      Last edited by Black Fox; 06-15-2022, 10:50 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
                        I do think the Path can be very useful. But it is better used for NPCs by STs than players as others have already stated.. Figuring out how to run chiminage, spirit requests, and the like can be difficult for STs who run Werewolf or Mage as these aspects take up a lot more of the game. I think it would be very difficult for Vampire STs as this takes them far from their comfort zone and requires them to master an entirely new aspect of the game that never gets addressed otherwise. When I was a new Vampire ST, I didn't want to waste my time on stuff like that. Instead, it was more like, "OK, together let's come up with a list of spirits you would want to summon, and determine one power/service you'll get from it" so I don't want to waste game time trying to figure out stuff on the fly.
                        I just want to add that meshing this aspect with your chronicle may sometimes be the actual intention of the ST. If that is the case, then this Path not only becomes interesting for the players, the ST may find useful to make it available for them or even request that at least one character have it.

                        But yeah, the core problem isn't it being overpower, but it bringing this whole new aspect of the setting to the table. It is great if you want to, just plain cumbersome if you don't.

                        And in this aspect Black Fox nails it: if you need to simplify that, then by all means just make it "Spirit Pokemon" and roll with that. A small list of well defined spirits, and if you ever see the need for it put a "wild spirit" on the player's path. That will be far more manageable.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                          And Spirit Manipulation isn't a shallow solution because it is far more complex to apply than it seems at first.
                          Yeah, personally I think Spirit Manipulation is one of the most interesting and complicated powers. There's a huge number of spirits out there with a vast hierarchy and social paradigm. Spirits also have distinct personalities, they have friends and they have allies. If you choose to grab a spirit to solve a problem, then there are all sorts of complications that can arise. How did you treat the spirit? Was it angry? Does it have friends? Maybe that spirit is allied with a werewolf. Maybe that spirit was tainted by the Wyrm and now other Wyrm servants are interested in trying to make an ally out of you.

                          There are entire stories and chronicles that can arise out of a single use of Spirit Manipulation, and I find that those stories basically write themselves. Honestly, Spirit Manipulation and Necromancy (in regards to binding ghosts) are probably the two power sets that have the most potential for interesting stories, simply because they tap into and bridge Vampire with entire other worlds and gamelines.

                          But they are complicated and STs who want to just gloss over that, or don't really know how to use spirits or ghosts and just let players control things end up with a powerset that's way too strong. Ultimately most of what limits those powersets and makes them interesting is in the ST's hands and if the ST chooses not to fill that stuff out (or just doesn't want to) then the power set is either too strong, too weak, or too boring.

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                          • #14
                            In my experience, GMs will go out of their way to make spirits unreasonable bastards and have these items fail when you need them. It's a puzzle then that a good amount of factions in the WoD are very rough with their spirits as a matter of practice.

                            Some reasons why it isn't such a big path:
                            1- It's a big investment, since you need like, level 4 before you can do anything good
                            2- Vampires don't trust magic items made by other vampires.
                            3- Vampire mages don't trust giving magical items out to other vampires, because other mages can use the connection of these items against the vampire.
                            4- Vampire mages fear there'll be one unreasonable monster that will ask for lots of magical items and whom is difficult to say no too.
                            5-The few warlocks that are happy to give out magic items usually want to keep a monopoly on such a service
                            6- Because of all the above, there's little interest in disseminating this path.
                            Last edited by MyWifeIsScary; 06-16-2022, 08:41 AM.


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                            • #15
                              One of my players is running with this Path as the primary one in one of my games and it has been quite enjoyable so far. It's a flexible Path, but also very situational As some posters have pointed out, it has introduced a new element in the chronicle and that is very positive (specially as it's a sandbox style game, new plot hooks are always welcome).
                              Some interesting uses we have seen so far:
                              - speaking to the Sears Tower spirit, and bribing him money to help with an investigation about a crime that had happened in the building
                              - tricking minor acid elementals at an old factory to corrode some goons' weapons before a combat
                              - forcing an electricity elemental at a rail station to burn the engine a chasing vehicle
                              At all these instances the player was forced to use his imagination to come up with interesting ideas, so it was a win

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