Summoning is a concept that I’ve always been fascinated by in the fantasy genre, and yet never quite able to put my finger on in terms of how it should play out in terms of mechanics. I think that it’s a great niche of spell casting that can add flavor to a game system, so I wanted to explore some of the influences and how it could work more effectively in RMU, especially in light of my latest piece of the RM2 ➡️ RMU profession conversion project. I would love for the conjurer/summoner to rejoin the ranks of playable professions.
My earliest exposure to the concept comes from video games, and the Final Fantasy series in particular, so you’ll have to forgive my heavy leaning toward that framework. In basically every version of those games, Summoning magic was essentially just elementalism on steroids: A Mage could throw a fireball, but a Summoner could bring an ifriit itself to the battlefield in exchange for more magic points and more time. Later iterations became a little more utilitarian as they allowed the summoned creature to have aspects other than attacks: magic shields, invisibility, and other fun mechanics were available, again, at the increased cost/time model. It wasn’t overly complex, but the concept was clean and it worked.
At least to me, as an RM2 veteran, Rolemaster has always seemed to have very underdeveloped summoning mechanics, or at least very unexciting ones. Clerics could summon demons, various other magic users could summon mundane creatures, at higher levels there was some potential for some fantastical elements, but nothing overly exciting. Not only that, the mechanisms for controlling these creatures were hodgepodge; demons had to be controlled through still separate spells, while the animals summoned sometimes had the ability to be controlled and sometimes not. Overall, neither I nor my players were ever impressed enough to give it too much attention. I did dabble with some necromancy but that’s a tale for a different time…
After some invigorating discussion, I think that the Conjurer and some of the mechanics from its lists in Rolemaster Companion II hold the secret to making this profession viable and summoning at least a bit more consistent and interesting. There are a few concepts I’d like to propose for summoning in the new order:
🔸 Power: Summoning magic is supposed to be powerful. You aren’t flinging a temporary manifestation of elemental magic like a Bolt, but dragging a being of some kind across space/time in a more lasting fashion (even if it’s only a few rounds).
🔸 Circles: The use of circles is an essential part of the Conjurer (hereafter referred to as the Summoner) so that concept may be part of the balancing act. If summoning magic is to be more/bigger/powerful/impressive, then the requirement to have to draw/cut/create circles can add time element that balances the Power concept above. This helps create the idea of a “bunker” style caster that needs time to set up but has a trade-off in power to do so.
🔸 Components: Rolemaster has (to my knowledge) never really required these, which is a welcome departure from D&D, but maybe there’s some room for them here. What if summoning can be more finely tuned or sped up through the use of components? A Summon Elemental spell could summon a specific type of elemental if the caster has the requisite element (enchanted rock, magical water, etc from the elemental in question).
🔸 Control: I personally like the idea of control mechanics built into the spells themselves, or at least dependent on certain conditions. If a Summoner wants to control the creature he summons, a circle is needed. But perhaps he can summon it without the circle if he has the components (which are then consumed). Or perhaps the control doesn’t require concentration if both the circle and the component are used. Lots of possibilities here.
🔸Utility: Jdale mentioned this on the forums, but not all summons have to be battle-oriented. Some creatures can be used for travel, some for more utilitarian purposes like construction, but these diversified uses make the Summoner more useful than simply a magical siege engine.
This is just one possible way of looking at summoning magic, but I think that using some old lists with new ideas about mechanics might just make the profession work a bit more smoothly, and make summoning as a whole something that more players would use. I also envision a multitude of summoning lists so that there is at least some diversity in each build (Divine Summons, Elemental Summons, Animal Summons, etc), along with some of the utility circles that existed in RoCo2 like Circles of Power. Any thoughts?