[Runequest] Spirit combat - lots and lots and lots of questions.

Styopa styopa1 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 19 02:04:31 EST 2009

OK, despite being a long time RQ player, spirit combat has never been
something we used much.  In retrospect that seems odd, because spirits are
such a big thing in RQ/Glorantha.

Nobody ever really played shamans, and while occasionally someone would run
up against a spirit in a published module, the resolution of these fights
was so problematic that I tended to veer away from them whenever possible.
People would use their allied spirits etc just as spell storage/mana

Now I've had a long running campaign and my lack of understanding here is
starting to become more apparent.  I think I *must* be doing it wrong
(because spirit combat seems really lopsided - either nearly trivial or
super-lethal), and would appreciate some advice / answers from the assembled
worthies.  We're using RQ3, but I have lots and lots of house rules so don't
be afraid to offer something that works regardless of system.  I've tried to
break these piles of questions into general groups.

1) RQ3 says a spirit has to materialize to attack a mundane creature (ie a
character), and this takes a round.  Does that mean that essentially the
players get a free round of swinging at it while it's materializing?  What
are it's hp in material form?  It seems that if we postulate that it's MP
are it's HP, spirits will never really successfully attack ANYTHING, since
they have no armor and a couple of decent sword whacks by any schlub will
put paid to even a strong 16POW spirit.  Further, this just seems odd, since
my conceptualization of spirits would be that thwhacking at them with swords
and clubs seems like it shouldn't affect them at all.

2) As I understand it, spirit combat in its most basic form is MP vs MP for
the success chance, a success draining 1d3 mp from the target.  Both the
attacker and defender roll simultaneously, the effects to each are applied
before the next 'round'.  Both sides keep it up until one or the other is
drained of MP.  Each round, the 'success chance' for each opponent is
recalculated.   How fast does this occur?  Does each "round" of spirit
combat take the same time as a "round" of melee?  Do the drained MP actually
go away, or is that just a handy mechanic to use to measure resistance to
possession?  I'd presume you use current MP, but that would have the
contrarian effect of making heavy magic-users MORE vulnerable to spirits,
because they'd be spending their MP.  It seems odd that Gandalf, exhausted
from casting a bunch of spells (and down to a handful of MP), could be be
easily possessed by some puny POW 12 ghost passing by.  What about disease
spirits, who 'attack' a targets stat (like CON), do they then still burn MP
away?  That would seem odd, too.

3) How fast does a spirit move?  If they have to incorporate to attack, are
they considered flying while corporeal?  Can you really 'run away' from a
spirit attack?  What if you're on a horse or something else fast?  What
other physical actions can a character perform while they are in spirit
combat?  In the sense of '2 actions per character, attack, parry, or dodge'
system, would we consider 'make a spirit attack' as one of them?  Could
they, for example, make a spirit attack and dodge a spear?  Are there any
modifiers to spirit attack success?  I can't imagine physical position would
batter (ie attacking from above/behind) but what about target sleeping?
Befuddled?  Demoralized?

4) can someone else help someone resist a spirit attack?  My understanding
is that only spirits and shaman's fetches can initiate spirit combat, so by
my ruling, no, another mundane character COULDN'T 'attack' an attacking
spirit, they can only get involved when a spirit attacks them first.

5) a disease spirit, do they just 'carry' the disease, or are they ACTUALLY
the disease (ie if they possess someone, they get the disease, but what if
the spirit leaves to attack someone else?  Does the first victim still have
the disease?)

6) if a character dies, what happens to his allied spirit?  Does it go away
too?  Does it (if in combat) continue to fight to help their master's group
in hopes that maybe their master could be saved/rezzed?  What if it's in an
inanimate object like a storm bull's helmet?  In this example, what in
particular would a Humakt spirit do - rezzing being prohibited by prior

7) Rune Lords and Priests can cast spells through their allied spirits, who
are intelligent.  I'd presume that this means that each - the Rune Lord and
the spirit - get to declare independent actions for the upcoming round.
Could they both cast the same spell in the same round?  If the RL casts a
spell 'through' the spirit, does this use the spirit's action for that round
too?  Can the allied spirit cast the whole repertoire of the character's
spells?  What if the character is unconscious?  Dead?  Divine magic too?
Does it matter whether the allied spirit's INT is 'holding' the spell or the
character for any reason?  What if the allied spirit's inhabited body gets
obliterated? (I'm thinking about a Chalana Arroy priestess with a butterfly
who walks through a warding spell...zzzt, dead butterfly, no?)

Lots and lots and lots of questions, as I said.

Thanks for any advice.  :)
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