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Does the PC have to continue to "control" an animal ally or elemental?

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In the Starter Set and Gamemaster Screen Pack, there are several PCs with animal allies, mounts, and elementals. But I'm confused what sort of action, if any, the PC needs to take to control these allies in combat. And if they do, on what strike rank would they do that? After summoning an elemental, for example, is there anything that the PC needs to do to control it in combat?

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As for animal allies, they would act as their nature dictates. Only Nathem's shadowcat seems to be somewhat trained to follow Nathem's commands (to the extent to which anyone can give orders to a cat!), or be in some way loyal to him. Makario's snake and Cousin Monkey are fully intelligent beings, so they are like another non-player character. So for example, in combat Nathem could shout a command to his shadowcat to attack someone. You could rule the shadowcat then attacks on its Strike Rank +1 for the order.

As for elementals and spirits, you need to cast a Control Cult Spirit or Control Elemental on them after summoning them in order to control them, and hope to overcome their POW so they are affected by the Control spell. Otherwise, they do what their nature dictates or maybe just go back to the spirit plane, as dictated by the MGF principle.

Read my Runeblog about RuneQuest and Glorantha at: http://elruneblog.blogspot.com.es/

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Posted (edited)

Make a distinction between allied spirits and bound spirits:

Bound or summoned spirits, including elementals, will have to be controlled if they are to do anything but their natural impulse. So a Spirit if Law should automatically attack a nearby Chaotic being, and a Darkness Elemental should attack someone it is summoned on top of. But if you want the Darkness Elemental to move into the light that would require a control spell, because moving toward light is not natural for them.

But allied spirits are conscious collaborators with their person and have a mind link to their person. Sent by the god to assist, they always stay around.   So the player should be fully in charge of them. No extra strike ranks for using the mind link.   They do not require control spells.  If the Adventurer falls unconscious they should continue to fight in the Adventurer's best interest.  

Edited by Squaredeal Sten
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As other there are different levels (in my opinion)


a beast would work for a pc in the same way than irl. It depends on the nature of course but I consider that an average shadowcat will work like some « independant » dog : loyal, trying to defend its master but not hearing all the orders its masters will command (No I will not seat down , I am a sacred orlanthi beast, not here to help to seduce your target… oh wait there is a mouse for me there)

of course you may use an appropriate spell to obtain better control but the beast will lose its loyalty to you as the trust is less here.

as a gm I let the player « drive » the beast but sometimes I say the beast is not here/refuse/etc (make the game fun then)


Elemental and other spirits without int have nothing to do with pc. So if they must that mean they are controlled against their « will » or « nature » you cannot obtain anything without a spell


Beast, elemental and spirit with int are a little bit different: they may have a reason to follow your order without any magical help. As a gm consider them as npc. Why will they obey ? Does it fit their agenda ? Is it  part of a bargain ? Do they fear the pc reaction if they don’t ? Do they love the pc ?

so in that case I let the player play the spirit / beast if the relationship is based on love/loyalty. if it is based on bargain or personal interest (from the npc perspective) I consider it is a npc like other then the gm plays it

Of course if the pc decides to use magic and succeed to cast the spell it becomes pc business (but once the spell is over… the pc has now a smart spirit who were … enslaved … even temporary so maybe some revenge during the campaign 

of course if the pc betray a love or loyalty with mundane action, the result may be the same (will the npc continue to follow the pc wish because the pc or because it’s own interest fit with the pc request ?)


allied spirit are a little bit different

they are smart and « free » ( they do what their « allied mundane person » asks without any command spell) so they are naturally played by the pc. But if the pc « play » against the deity the allied spirit should be played by the gm.

The relationship is from my perspective like « blood brothers » (« soul brothers » for a spirit maybe?) 

they are sent by their deity because the pc is loved by the deity so they share a large part of loyalty/ morale value/ goals / etc…

however I imagine that a new loyalty may exist between the pc and the allied spirit. And this loyalty would be interesting to play, by the gm or the player, when the pc decides to do something against the god of the allied spirit (and the pc by the way)


As you see that is not a binary answer,  so it is more a question of fun, story telling, personal taste,  etc…

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On 6/4/2023 at 12:19 PM, Runeblogger said:

Only Nathem's shadowcat seems to be somewhat trained to follow Nathem's commands (to the extent to which anyone can give orders to a cat!), 

Alynxes are easier to train than domestic cats. They are pack hunters rather than solitary.

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