Houserules: Spirits breaking free

As some of you may know, Spirits can occasionally break free from their summoner and become Free Spirits. This is, however, extremely rare because for non-Allies there’s only 1 way for it to happen: The Summoner has to go unconscious from Drain damage while summoning or binding the spirit. Then and only then can they possibly break free. If they manage to hit a threshold of 3, they start Free with 1 Edge. Extra hits become extra Edge, which matters greatly but doesn’t matter now.

(For Allies they can break free during a Ritual of Change or at any point when the master goes down from Drain or Physical damage. No such rules are defined for normal spirits, in fact there’s nothing at all stating what happens if the summoner goes k.o. or dies in combat. Does the spirit stay, poof, go free? Nothing. But let’s not go into that right now.)

The actual fluff-text notes that Bound Spirits with a Force of 6 or higher tend to become free spirits. This is the same text as in SR4. Even the mechanic itself hasn’t changed. Which is, unfortunately, why the fluff description now is a load of crap.

The breaking-free test is an Edge test with threshold 3, with a possible +2 bonus. But Spirits now have Edge equal to F/2 instead of F. So a Force 6 bound spirit now has 3 dice instead of 6… Take a look at the following table:

Dice Chance Dice Chance
3 3.7% 6 32.0%
4 11.1% 7 42.9%
5 21.0% 8 53.2%

The 32% chance now is 3.7%. With +2 the 53.2% now has become a mere 21%, hardly fitting ‘tend to become free’. And the -4 from SR4 for unbound spirits now means that even with the +2 modifier added as well, a spirit needs to be Force 9 to even have the slightest chance of breaking free.

Worse, there was a way for a spirit to get more dice in SR4, though that way made no sense back then. It let them burn edge to edge the test. A test which determined how much Edge they started with as Free Spirit, so as long as they succeeded they lost nothing. That way is gone now, so it’s way harder for them to break free yet the fluff still acts as if the odds are the same.

So to summarize, F/2 makes the test near-impossible, the -4 means unsummoned got no chance at all, even the +2 hardly compensates and the spirit can’t hurt itself for better odds, plus if they could it should actually hurt them.

Which leads me to the houserule below:


Rule: Spirits trying to break free use the following table:

Situation Modifier
Unbound Spirit Edge
Bound Spirit Force
Experienced Spirit +2
Long-bound Spirit  +years bound
Rebound Spirit +rebinding attempts
Bound Burns Force Edged test allowed

The fixed unbound penalty has been replaced with a Force-related penalty. Since the Unbound Spirit uses Edge, they cannot Edge this test (Missions FAQ). Replacing it with F/2 would allow them to Edge it, but that would give them better odds than bound spirits without a price. Hence the odds are kept low like this.

The ‘memorable or frequent encounters with metahumanity’ (Street Grimoire p203) is kept.

Spirits that have spent a LOT of time tied to humanity by binding (even if not in this plane) get a bonus for being well-connected to this world. This basically lets GMs give spirits a bonus for being kept around idly. This can combine with the Experienced Spirit.

Furthermore, any rebinding attempts (either succesful or failed, including the current) add a bonus. The longer you force it to stick around, the better the odds it breaks free if you go unconscious. 🙂 Note that this could be ruled as ‘resummoning + binding the same spirit also adds the bonus even if it’s technically not rebinding’ if the GM wants a memorable spirit to have better odds.

Lastly, the SR4 Edge-burn rule gets replaced. Instead the Spirit burns a point of FORCE. Unlike Edge this actually is relevant and permanently damages the spirit no matter whether it fails or succeeds. In return both their odds and their average Edge as Free Spirit can go up quite nicely. By burning 1 point of Force, despite being summoned (so no access to their own Edge) the Spirit is allowed to actually Edge the test as normal, so Push before/after or Second Chance.

One bonus to these changes: The limit of [Force] to the Edge [Force] (3) test actually matters… Under RAW only a bound F3 spirit actually could be limited, anything above would have at most their Force in dice even with the +2.

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