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Pentallion

Question for GMs: enchantment question

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Another evil plot of my players is to put a fire elemental inside a spear with the condition that the elemental is released from the binding if the spear impales.  They're thinking fire elemental inside impaled person's body.  On it's own, that seems fairly straight forward and my first instinct is to say it does its fire damage automatically without being told to attack due to the nature of its manifesting.  the person probably ignites but the elemental, if not given a command, then goes about doing whatever it pleases.

But knowing these guys, this won't stop there.  What would water elementals do in an impaled person's body?  Earth elementals?  What happens if they impale with a ghost spear?  All of it seems like fun, but I'm leery of it possibly opening up an exploit they can break.  Does anyone else see a potential danger to allowing them to do this before I make it okay?  Something possibly obvious I'm not taking into consideration?

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I wouldn't have the Elemental manifest inside the body, to be honest. It might burst through the wound and manifest around the body, though.

If you are using RQ3 style Elementals, then you might consider using a damage progression for each size of the elemental, so a 1m elemental might do 1D3 damage to the location, a 2m elemental 1D6, then 1D8, 1D10 and so on.

For RQG, I'd just say 1D6 for each Size Class of the Elemental, so Small does 1D6, Medium 2D6 and Large 3D6. Then the Elemental hits the target with its appropriate attack, whether fearshock, madness, heatshock, drowning, being thrown into the air or snapping your legs. 

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2 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

Does a Fire Elemental require some fire to manifest, or is that just for summoning it?

I just play that the fire is stored in the Binding Enchantment, it makes it easier and gets around the "I need a burning forest to summon a 10m Salamander" problem in RQ3.

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4 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Another evil plot of my players is to put a fire elemental inside a spear...

As a GM I would say this is not in keeping with the spirit of the game. however if you want to let you players waste their resources with an overly costly and complex item:

Cost of enchanting an elemental binding: 3 POW plus another point of POW for a target condition (release the elemental)

2 Rune points for Control spirit so it returns to the binding or it's one use.

Fire Elementals attack by engulfing (RGB page 181) so

Quote

At the end of each round that the victim is engulfed, a roll of 3D6 is matched against the CON of the victim and, if the attack is successful, the character takes the 3D6 damage directly to their general hit points, as with a systemic poison attack. If unsuccessful, half the amount rolled is applied against the victim’s general hit points.

The the elemental is medium or large it would at least engulf target and attacker

or Firearrow (which I'd allow on a thrown spear) as it consumes it for only 2mps and 3D6 damage. Okay doesn't impale, but it's way cheaper.

Overall, as this is on a spear, ranges are short, what ever they release has a chance to affect them unless they have the right control spell. Much better to stand back and send the spirit to the target.

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I would allow the fire elemental to engulf the weapon as soon as it impales. That would cause hit location damage to the impaled location and to the weapon hand(s) of the wielder, plus any hands that would grab the spear to pull it out.

Limiting the engulfed area to the spear head would only do location damage, but wouldn't prevent the impaled person to pull it out.

Basically, this seems to be an awful lot of POW down the drain for a bypass of "Fireblade doesn't impale" to "acts like a Fireblade on impales only," especially when normal hits don't have any bonus from the weapon.

As  far as I can observe, fire in Glorantha needs contact to two kinds of fuel - something combustible, and some form of air. The impaled bit lacks access to air (unless the lungs are impaled - in that case that person would breathe fire, if only briefly).

"Inject fiery semen" might be an adequate (but probably un-publishable) Lodril spell, without any elementals involved. But then, a harmless spell name like "Cauterize Wound" might do the trick. No bleeding damage after removing the weapon after an impale, but heat damage while it is inside.

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It'd need another point for the Condition on the Command Cult Spirit to cast it on the Elemental just before it's released. And the wielder would need to have the two Rune Points to power the spell, since the Matrix doesn't do that, as far as I've read, RAW. And it wouldn't work anyway IMG because the Elemental needs a volume of fire available to manifest within; the consequences of 'released-from-a-binding' Elementals not needing some of their element available to manifest in/around would be awkward and beyond the intentions of the game, I feel.

9 hours ago, Pentallion said:

...the elemental, if not given a command, then goes about doing whatever it pleases.

Which would be to clear off, sharpish, back to some more fiery place. Or just go around setting light to anything flammable. And unless some Control was cast at the time of release, it'd be a one shot per summon...

9 hours ago, Pentallion said:

But knowing these guys, this won't stop there.  What would water elementals do in an impaled person's body?  Earth elementals?  What happens if they impale with a ghost spear?  All of it seems like fun, but I'm leery of it possibly opening up an exploit they can break.  Does anyone else see a potential danger to allowing them to do this before I make it okay?  Something possibly obvious I'm not taking into consideration?

I think these worries come under the heading of the 'unintended consequences' that allowing the elemental to manifest other than in a (nominal) quantity of their element (and no, being mostly water doesn't make a human body count as water) would draw down upon your Glorantha if you permitted this.

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One simple solution would be that most elementals would seek to move to their own natural state/level and/or take the path of least resistance. So Earth wound want to go to ground, air would want to fly about, water would pour out of the wound. In that case only fire could be dangerous in an impales wound, as it would naturally seek to burn something. But, even then, the most flammable object around would probably be the shaft of the spear it was bound into, rather than a (mostly water) body.  

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Personally I would rule that 'impaling' cannot be used as a condition. Using the Target condition to state those who are impaled is beyond it's scope. I feel the spirit of the Target condition relates to race, cult affiliations etc.

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Elementals are spirits. Which is why they can be bound in the first place.

I see no reason that a released spirit would automatically materialize. If they did... you'd be better off doing this spear trick with a bound horse spirit and watching the target explode when a horse suddenly appeared inside their wound.

It simply doesn't make sense. I'd rule that the fire elemental is harmlessly released to the spirit world.

Edited by CBDunkerson
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Honestly, my opinion is that if it would be fun for your players than let 'em at it. I would recommend requiring something like a DEX roll to avoid getting burned yourself, and of course they can't command it without the right spell, but creative and unique uses for magic are how Argrath and the Lunars both rose to power so I don't see any real reason to not let your players try the same. YGMV and MGF.

In all honesty, I wish my players would come up with stuff like this. Sometimes its like they don't realize they have magic.

Edit: a thought. If the players figure out a potentially overpowered idea, well, there's technically nothing from stopping the GM from using it on them too... 😈

Edited by Richard S.
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These guys invented the Hula Hoop of Death and the Whirlygig of Doom.  So when they start asking these kinds of questions, it usually ends up with some totally unexpected exploited magic item.  Sometimes, like in this, something seems like a waste of time, but the fact these guys are asking always gives me pause.

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8 hours ago, Richard S. said:

Edit: a thought. If the players figure out a potentially overpowered idea, well, there's technically nothing from stopping the GM from using it on them too... 😈

By the same token, if it's as obvious as the Salamander-spear trick would be if elementals didn't need some quantity of their element present to manifest, it'd be standard practice. There's a reason why it isn't.

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41 minutes ago, womble said:

By the same token, if it's as obvious as the Salamander-spear trick would be if elementals didn't need some quantity of their element present to manifest, it'd be standard practice. There's a reason why it isn't.

Does an Ignite spell (without suitable fuel) suffice? Would a multi-spelled barrage of Ignites suffice?

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14 hours ago, womble said:

It'd need another point for the Condition on the Command Cult Spirit to cast it on the Elemental just before it's released. And the wielder would need to have the two Rune Points to power the spell, since the Matrix doesn't do that, as far as I've read, RAW.

The matrix can have the RP, I think, but they need to be replenished afterwards with RP from the same cult.

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19 hours ago, David Scott said:

As a GM I would say this is not in keeping with the spirit of the game

A game in which NPCs can Vomit Acid on you, Sweat Acid, Spit Acid, Breathe Fire, or just Swallow you, why isn't that in the spirit of the game?

One of the PCs in an old Gloranthan campaign unfortunately was turned into a Living Lead Skeleton, so in the spirit of making lemonade when given lemons, he enchanted two wraiths into his bones, so that they endlessly whirled around inside him, moaning, just because it looked cool. That is wasting POW on enchantments.

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My question is always, does it make the game fun for the group, without me having to retool everything?  If yes, then let it in.  If no, then dont.  Just get even with them later with something like(one of my favorite) a vampiric mosquito

 

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9 hours ago, womble said:

By the same token, if it's as obvious as the Salamander-spear trick would be if elementals didn't need some quantity of their element present to manifest, it'd be standard practice. There's a reason why it isn't.

If I remember correctly, the element is needed to Summon the elemental, but once binded into an enchantment, the necessary element is brought within. When called outside, the elemental does not need extra because it has already been summoned. This is at least how we played it.

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1 hour ago, Kloster said:

If I remember correctly, the element is needed to Summon the elemental, but once binded into an enchantment, the necessary element is brought within. When called outside, the elemental does not need extra because it has already been summoned. This is at least how we played it.

I read it differently: when it says the SIZ of the elemental doesn't add to the mass of the binding item, I took that to mean that the element still had to be present. It also conveniently sidesteps the conundrum Pentallion has posed, which is, IMO, a Good Thing. But it really isn't very clear.

 

10 hours ago, Joerg said:

Does an Ignite spell (without suitable fuel) suffice? Would a multi-spelled barrage of Ignites suffice?

IMG, no. And no. The Summon spells require "...at least some reasonable amount of that element...". Ignite a small bundle of sticks or leaves, and your Salamander can appear focused on that. A match or candle flame isn't enough.

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13 hours ago, womble said:

By the same token, if it's as obvious as the Salamander-spear trick would be if elementals didn't need some quantity of their element present to manifest, it'd be standard practice. There's a reason why it isn't.

Which is how I'd be inclined to rule, but we've always played that once bound, the elemental is already embodied.  So you can release it at will and it no longer requires the element to embody. 

But I believe it would pour out of the body except for fire, which would ignite.  It has a coolness factor to it.  I don't think it's the best use of an enchantment, but there is the coolness factor.

As for the impale condition, that's a target condition and I feel that's a valid condition.

Edited by Pentallion
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11 hours ago, Pentallion said:

Which is how I'd be inclined to rule, but we've always played that once bound, the elemental is already embodied.

Ah. Trickier to prohibit then...

11 hours ago, Pentallion said:

So you can release it at will and it no longer requires the element to embody. 

[snip]

As for the impale condition, that's a target condition and I feel that's a valid condition.

Aside from thinking it's a bit of a bend of the "...who is affected by the enchantments in an item (or who is not affected)..." purpose of the Target Condition, I'm wondering how it applies. What your players are setting up is a Binding Enchantment. That doesn't have a target other than the Spirit to be bound. However, the actual Target Condition is nugatory, since a weapon, once impaled, is stuck in the victim, and there's plenty of time for the wielder to actively release the bound Elemental (assuming they are included in the User Conditions of the weapon), or even enough time to cast a Control Salamander and then release it. This would also apply to the victim, if they were aware of the presence of the Elemental in the spear tip.

I have assumed (and for the purposes of MG, that makes it true :) . I recognise I may be wrong in the case of YG) that when a Spirit is released from its Binding, it does not materialise around the enchantment (because that would make releasing Bound Salamanders, or, indeed any Large Elemental, pretty fraught, and something you'd much prefer to do at range), but at some point nearby (in my Glorantha, that would be the 'reasonable amount of the relevant Element' within range), so the victim of such a stabbing could release the Salamander to somewhere else (rather than inside their own body). Lacking the requirement for a focal quantity of the element, I speculate on what is preventing any released Elemental from being conjured into solid/fluid existence within the boundaries of another entity's body, with similar effects to the spear-borne delivery system. Even if it's "sight targeting", releasing an Earth elemental to manifest at the back of someone's throat and have it pop into existence inside their head could be catastrophic.

12 hours ago, Pentallion said:

But I believe it would pour out of the body except for fire, which would ignite.  It has a coolness factor to it.  I don't think it's the best use of an enchantment, but there is the coolness factor.

It depends on how you envision the Elemental appearing. I struggle to visualise it without (my mandatory) focus of some existing element: does it expand to full cubic metreage uniformly from a point, or flow into existence a bit at a time? For me, the Elemental appears quickly enough that all four would cause catastrophic damage to the target they appeared inside of. Again, since this isn't a 'normal' attack mode with Elementals, there's got to be a reason it's not.

For me 'coolness factor' doesn't trump 'overpowered' in all cases. If the logical consequences of allowing a thing are going to make the world look different in a way that is going, in time, to tend Game Fun towards zero (how much fun is it going to be if every non-anti-fire-Rune spear has a Salamander popping out of it?), all the 'acute' maximisation of Game Fun in the world isn't worth it. So for me, allowing this would be pretty much starting the end game of the campaign, preparatory to starting another where the caper does not work.

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Another potential mitigation of the tactic:

If the Urzani is bound solely into the spearhead, the wielder would have to cast a control-type spell on the Elemental, using appropriate Sight spells to be able to perceive it 'at range' because they're not touching the enchantment, and they can't see the spearhead for the same reason as they can't cause a released Elemental to materialise in someone's gut normally (their bodily particles are in the way).

If the Salamander is bound into the spear 'generally', how specific is the "release" command: would the Elemental form around the whole spear, burning the hands of the wielder? Would it preferentially form where it is not enveloped by soggy flesh?

Given that there are other forms of Impaling weapons out there, how about doing this to arrowheads? Or a dagger with a Large Salamander bound...

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