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Ally Spirit Formula in Missions

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WillAsher

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« on: (21:16:54/02-18-16) »
So, I know that there was a thread that talked about this earlier in the Rules and Such, but I was looking for a more specific question from the Missions people.  In order to have an Ally Spirit you need to have a Spirit Formula.  In non-Missions games most players are going to do the Metaplanar Quest (basically spend a month and get the formula).  In Missions you are disallowed from using the Metaplanar Quest or buying the formula.  The test to write a formula is Logic + Arcana [Mental] (Force x 5, 1 day).  This means that a Force 5 Ally Spirit requires you get 25 hits on an extended test buying hits.  To do this you need 16 dice on the test.  So far, getting to 12 dice has cost 30 Karma.  The question is, can you use Teamwork on this test?  It is a skill test, and as you are the one leading the Teamwork test you are still writing the formula.  I had seen Kincaid suggest you use a Guidance Spirit to Teamwork it, but that feels kind of off by the fluff.  Having a mage you run with regularly help you seems reasonable to me.  Obviously it would cost everyone involved time on their calendar.  It seems to meet RAW.  As far as RAI, I thought the Metaplanar Quest option was removed to make it easier on the GM.  If true, then it meets RAI as well.

Without allowing Teamwork tests, the character would have to spend 51 more karma to get their skills up to make the skill test for the Force 5 Ally Spirit.  This makes writing the formula cost 81 Karma, on top of the 50+ karma for the Ally Spirit itself.  At 80+ karma for a Force 5 Ally Spirit (using Teamwork), I feel that it is pretty balanced.  Most mages I see have several bound spirits anyways (usually Force 6).  They spent nuyen instead of Karma, which is less limiting for mages.  At 131+ karma for a Force 5 Ally Spirit (without Teamwork) it seems a bit absurd.  That is almost prime runner just to have a Force 5 Ally Spirit.  What do you think?

Teutonic Overlord

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« Reply #1 on: (08:40:14/02-19-16) »
We will discuss this on the SRM FAQ committee.  My initial thoughts are that I don't have a problem with the Teamwork test to write the formula, as long as you trust the magician providing the assistance.  Do not take this as a final decision.

As to the comparison between bound and ally spirits.  You are correct in that many mages have multiple bound spirits which just cost time and nuyen.  The primary difference between them:  ally spirits have no limit on services, which is a huge advantage.  Ally spirits have additional powers bound spirits don't.

If I look back at the ally spirits found in some of the novels it appears their summoners are Prime Runners.  Unfortunately, I don't have stats on the summoners or spirits, but that's the way it seems when I read them.

We'll discuss it and update as appropriate.
Ray Rigel
Former Shadowrun Missions Developer and Event Coordinator
Catalyst Demo Team

Teutonic Overlord

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« Reply #2 on: (07:29:06/02-23-16) »
As an FYI, we discussed this on our call and we'll release the guidelines in the next FAQ.
Ray Rigel
Former Shadowrun Missions Developer and Event Coordinator
Catalyst Demo Team

KarmaInferno

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« Reply #3 on: (09:02:23/02-28-16) »
As a point of reference, in Mission 4th Edition I had a character on several occasions send his Ally spirit to do the mission while he had a nap (he's old). The spirit was of sufficient power level to stand by itself as a runner, and could have easily dominated some events if I hadn't been holding back to avoid overshadowing the other players.

Rebuilding the character for Prime Missions, i feel the Ally Spirit won't be much less powerful in the new edition. Add to that any mage powerful enough to summon an Ally spirit, and well...



-k

dlinch

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« Reply #4 on: (08:39:55/04-02-16) »
I agree WillAsher. The cost of an Ally spirit in Missions is absurd. I am about half way through the karma grind but you are right in that it takes 130+ karma to get an Ally. It is frustrating to watch the rest of our team getting new skills and abilities while I hoard every single karma that I can get my hands on. Cash for Karma helps, but it will still take about a year (gaming once a month) @ approx 11 karma per run to actually get the Ally. It also means that you really don't have any cash to spend on .. well, anything really since most of it goes to the Cash for Karma.
BTW- Don't forget that you need to learn the Ritual in order to summon an Ally (another 5 karma cost). 
Ok- Sorry. End whine.

It used to be that you could not use teamwork, but they just changed this in the new 0.3 FAQ:
Quote
Can a Teamwork test be made to create the ally spirit formula? ( Street Grimoire, pgs. 200-202)
Yes, as long as the other magician is 1) of the same tradition, 2) a member of the same magical
group (Ash Union in SRM ), and 3) either an initiate or also a magician attempting to complete the
Familiar Ordeal.

This is a good segue into my question:
If you are using a NPC member of Ash Union for the teamwork, how do you go about it? How much is it going to cost? BRB talks about Favor for a Friend (pg 389) cost ranging from Connection rating x 100 to Connection rating x 1,000. Do the members of Ash Union all count as contacts? At what connection rating? Or are there no solid rules and all this is up to the GM? I trust my GM, I am just concerned, since this is a Missions character eligible to run in any Missions campaign with any Catalyst certified GM, that another GM may not agree with the interpretation used by my GM and I lose the use of the Ally for that run. Kind of harsh after spending 130+ karma and leaves me at a disadvantage for the upcoming game.
« Last Edit: (10:01:52/04-02-16) by dlinch »

Teutonic Overlord

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« Reply #5 on: (11:59:11/04-03-16) »
I agree WillAsher. The cost of an Ally spirit in Missions is absurd. I am about half way through the karma grind but you are right in that it takes 130+ karma to get an Ally. It is frustrating to watch the rest of our team getting new skills and abilities while I hoard every single karma that I can get my hands on. Cash for Karma helps, but it will still take about a year (gaming once a month) @ approx 11 karma per run to actually get the Ally. It also means that you really don't have any cash to spend on .. well, anything really since most of it goes to the Cash for Karma.
BTW- Don't forget that you need to learn the Ritual in order to summon an Ally (another 5 karma cost). 
Ok- Sorry. End whine.

It used to be that you could not use teamwork, but they just changed this in the new 0.3 FAQ:
Quote
Can a Teamwork test be made to create the ally spirit formula? ( Street Grimoire, pgs. 200-202)
Yes, as long as the other magician is 1) of the same tradition, 2) a member of the same magical
group (Ash Union in SRM ), and 3) either an initiate or also a magician attempting to complete the
Familiar Ordeal.

This is a good segue into my question:
If you are using a NPC member of Ash Union for the teamwork, how do you go about it? How much is it going to cost? BRB talks about Favor for a Friend (pg 389) cost ranging from Connection rating x 100 to Connection rating x 1,000. Do the members of Ash Union all count as contacts? At what connection rating? Or are there no solid rules and all this is up to the GM? I trust my GM, I am just concerned, since this is a Missions character eligible to run in any Missions campaign with any Catalyst certified GM, that another GM may not agree with the interpretation used by my GM and I lose the use of the Ally for that run. Kind of harsh after spending 130+ karma and leaves me at a disadvantage for the upcoming game.

The SRM FAQ will be updated to show you can't use other NPC members of the Ash Union for this.  It has to be another player character who assists you in the teamwork test.

If any Shadowrun CDT Agent has any question about interpretation of the SRM FAQ, they know they can reach out directly to me to get an explanation.
Ray Rigel
Former Shadowrun Missions Developer and Event Coordinator
Catalyst Demo Team

dlinch

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« Reply #6 on: (12:47:16/04-03-16) »
Quote
The SRM FAQ will be updated to show you can't use other NPC members of the Ash Union for this.  It has to be another player character who assists you in the teamwork test.

Thank you for the clarification.

/sigh
To say I am frustrated is a bit of an understatement.
I'm just going to leave it at that.

FasterN8

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« Reply #7 on: (02:36:39/04-04-16) »
Sinthalix,
     First, thanks for your quick responses on this and other threads.  It's really nice to know that our concerns are being heard and discussed, even if we can't be privy to all the sausage-making behind the scenes.  Your work on the new FAQ is greatly appreciated.

      I would like to make the case for NPC help on Ally spirit conjuration, but this will probably turn out to be a wall of text, so you might want to get a cup of something first... Here goes.

Allies are super powerful. 
     That much is obvious to anyone who can imagine the possibilities of what unlimited spirit services of a very loyal spirit can do for you.  But allies aren't the only really powerful thing in the game and they are suitably expensive in terms of karma and time required to create them, even moreso when you have to buy hits to create the formula.  But this discussion really isn't about if they are costed properly or even if they should be in missions.  The cost is already clearly stated and they are already legal.  This discussion is about the marginal benefit of the teamwork test for creating the ally formula and the tradeoffs and marginal costs involved and how NPC teamwork might be balanced in missions.

     The gold standard for spirits is Force 6.  This is not just becasue most mages have a magic 6, but becasue 6 is where a spirit really starts to get tough.  That 1 more force over a force 5 spirit translates to 2 hardened armor vs mundane weapon and is roughly equivalent to a mundane target having a body 5 higher. (2 dice from armor + 1 free hit from being hardened = about 5 dice otherwise)  For the most part, unless you have APDS ammo or an assault rifle (but preferably both) you're going to have a real tough time taking down a Force 6 spirit.  Anyone who is thinking of conjuring an ally spirit will likely be aiming for this goal line.

     To create a ally formula at force 6 takes 30 hits on an extended arcana test.  If you're doing it yourself, that requires a dicepool of 17.  To get a dicepool of 17 in arcana only possible with some artificial increase to Logic or by increasing the arcana skill itself to 7 or more.  (assuming you already have the spirit formula specialization).  Quickening is the path of least resistance here and can bring an astute Hermetic to a Logic of 10 after initiating once.  The Arcana (Spirit Formula) skill then required is 5(7), bringing the dicepool to 17.

     If someone with an Arcana pool of 16 was trying to make a Force 6 ally formula, they simply could not do it without help.  The minimum help required in this case would be a dicepool of 9 (8 with some mathy shenanigans but I'll address that later).  On that same extended test (threshold 30) we assume the teamwork started at the beginning of the test and both the PC and the assistant reduced their dicepools by 1 each time.  In this case the assistant would provide teamwork dice for exactly 6 days after which they would no longer be productive since their dicepool falls below 4.  That dicepool of 9 could be achieved by a Logic of 5 and an arcana of 4 or 2(4), both very credible stats for an NPC. 

      Teamwork can be used to prop up dicepools lower than 16, but the level of expertise of the assistant becomes much, much more significant.  To assist a dicepool of 15 the assistant would need to have 14 dice himself.  To put that in perspective, even Lothan the Wise doesn't have a dicepool that large.  (Actually his stats don't list an Arcana skill at all, but that's a different issue.)

    So we can see that the only benefit realistically attainable by NPC teamwork is lowering the required dicepool by 1.  Additionally, this teamwork strategy comes with some notable drawbacks.  First, the mage in question will not have the benefit of the extra die for every other roll he'll make using Arcana.  Second, the Ritual of Change has the same threshold to modify the spirit formula, so if the mage ever wants to enhance his ally in the future, he'll have to pay for the teamwork help all over again.  Which brings me to the third drawback - the monetary cost.  Everything has a cost and many times the money is not the only cost involved.  So in light of these other drawbacks mentioned, the monetary cost will be the balancing act to bring parity to the rule.

     One reason I prefer NPC help to PC help is that *I* control the NPCs and they charge their time, effort and expertise appropriately.  PCs on the other hand don't necessarily do that.  Also, I control the creation and behavior of the NPCs.  Not allowing them to perform these teamwork tests in missions begs the creation of dummy characters whose sole purpose is to provide downtime teamwork dice.  There's no requirement for how active a player must be, so as long as they go on 1 run and have Lothan as a contact, they're in the Ash Union and voila, there now exists a PC-NPC to do the work, presumably for free and possibly at unrealistic proficiency allowing the required dicepool for the conjurer to be 2 or 3 less instead of just 1.

      My proposal is to allow NPC assistance from within the Ash Union for a standardized price.  I would suggest pricing based on their arcana pool, somewhere around 100-150 nuyen per die per day.  That makes our assistant providing 9 dice in teamwork costs 900-1350 nuyen per day for the 6 days needed to make the Ally formula.  (And each time they do perform Ritual of change as well).  I realize 900/day is only slightly more than the daily mechanic cost, but assistant work doesn't require any equipment, parts, consumables, a workshop to maintain or anything else.  This money is ALL take home money for them.  Mechanics might charge as much, but they work a lot harder and have more costs so they certainly don't take that much home, even if they do skip out on taxes.

   The last caveats I would add to the Ally Teamwork rule would be to standardize the process to avoid possible mathematical chicanery by the mathematically inclined (like myself).  Consider this: With no direction on how or when to use the teamwork tests, it turns out that you could still hit the threshold with only an 8 dicepool assistant and only pay them for 4 days work if they simply start their teamwork tests on the third day of the extended test.  And that's not even the craziest exploit.  So to avoid these mathematical easter eggs I propose we stipulate this: 

      Only 1 assistant (PC or NPC) may be used and they must provide continuous teamwork assistance from the first day of the formula creation until their services are no longer desired.

Price would be costed appropriately for balance.  And then we put a bow on it.
« Last Edit: (20:56:27/04-05-16) by FasterN8 »

Hibiki54

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« Reply #8 on: (06:02:22/04-04-16) »
TDLR;

He's suggesting that card carrying Ash Union members should be able to get help on certain down time tests relating to their craft for some inflated price.

Kiirnodel

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« Reply #9 on: (08:02:46/04-04-16) »
Personally, I don't think we should be basing things on a Force 6 Ally spirit. I really don't think we should consider Force 6 "baseline" for Ally Conjuration. Yes, that is kind of the baseline for normal Conjurers, but an Ally Spirit is so, so much more than that. Ally spirits are effectively a Power Focus, bound spirit services with no limitations, and an extra spellcaster all rolled into one. Yes, technically the Power Focus part (adds its Force to pretty much any magic roll) is technically a bound spirit service (Aid Sorcery, etc), but it deserved a call-out.

With a Force 6 spirit you can effectively have a +6 on most spell rolls, 6 spirit powers running, plus have it help out with spells of its own if necessary. Seriously not a normal spirit, nor is it on par with what you would consider "normal" for other spirits.


And we don't even have to look at what the spirit can do, just look at the thresholds. An extended test threshold of 30(+) is considered Extreme, that's as high as the chart goes. It shouldn't be easy to do. I'm honestly surprised that people are trying to approach this with the outlook that being able to make your own Force 6 Ally Spirit is something to be expected.

At best, I would say that a Force 4 Ally should be something difficult that someone putting a lot of character resources into could possibly do around hitting Prime Runner (150+ karma). Force 4 would be a threshold 20, so that is considered a little higher than "Hard" but closer to that than "Very Hard."


All of that being said, I don't necessarily disagree with the concept of making it possible to purchase skilled assistance on things (Magic being just one). I've just seen too much discussion about Ally Spirits that seems to be treating it like an expected part of a mage.

FasterN8

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« Reply #10 on: (11:16:16/04-04-16) »
..., but an Ally Spirit is so, so much more than that. Ally spirits are effectively a Power Focus, bound spirit services with no limitations, and an extra spellcaster all rolled into one. Yes, technically the Power Focus part (adds its Force to pretty much any magic roll) is technically a bound spirit service (Aid Sorcery, etc), but it deserved a call-out.

I agree and this all falls under "Allies are super powerful" but our mutual position is really tangential to the argument I'm making. 

Personally, I don't think we should be basing things on a Force 6 Ally spirit. I really don't think we should consider Force 6 "baseline" for Ally Conjuration. .... With a Force 6 spirit you can effectively have a +6 on most spell rolls, 6 spirit powers running, plus have it help out with spells of its own if necessary. Seriously not a normal spirit, nor is it on par with what you would consider "normal" for other spirits.

At best, I would say that a Force 4 Ally should be something difficult that someone putting a lot of character resources into could possibly do around hitting Prime Runner (150+ karma). Force 4 would be a threshold 20, so that is considered a little higher than "Hard" but closer to that than "Very Hard."

The description in the tables is nice fluff, but consider the marginal skill required to reach that next tier.  Force 6 (threshold 30) requires 17 dice by yourself.  Compare that to the required dicepools for hitting the threshold for a Force 4 or 5:  When making the formula alone (and buying hits) a force 5 (threshold 25) requires a dicepool of 16, only 1 less die.  For a force 4 (threshold 20) you need a dicepool of 14 which is still pretty hard to pull off unless you're focused on your arcana roll.  But once you start down this path is easy to see that just another die or two can make a BIG difference in the threshold you can reach.  It's the difference between being able to create a force 4, 5 or 6 ally formula. 

But bringing it back the the point of this thread, here's the teamwork dice pool required for a summoner who is just 1 or 2 dice short on this arcana pool:
     Force 5 - Needs 16 dice, but with only 15 dice he needs a 4 DP assistant for 1 day (he was very close with just 15 dice).   If he's 2 dice short (only 14 DP himself) he needs a 12 DP assistant for 9 days work (nearly the whole test, making the assistant dangerously close to seeing the completed formula)
     Force 4 - Needs 14 dice by himself, but with only 13 dice he needs a 10 DP assistant for 7 days.  (that's $7000 at $100 per die per day, or $10,500 at 150 per die per day)

     But remember, the point here is not to debate whether or not Ally spirits should be attainable, just to debate the viability of NPC help in creating the ally formula for Missions play..  I think this mechanic can be balanced and is simple enough to use in missions and notably, is less ripe for abuse than the already legal PC help on these tests.
« Last Edit: (18:19:43/04-04-16) by FasterN8 »

FasterN8

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« Reply #11 on: (11:38:05/04-04-16) »
       As a bit of background, my one player who is trying to conjure an ally didn't have an Arcana skill to start but he was lucky that he started with logic 6.  By the time he summons his ally he will have spent well over a hundred Karma on the initiations, spell, skill and Ally binding required to get there. 

      After all that he'll be pretty close to being a Prime Runner and all he'll have to show for it is an increase logic spell, the quickening metamagic, and a F6 Ally.  The ally is awesome, buy he has paid dearly to get there.  Yes I realize that a more optimized build could have done it cheaper.  At this cost I also disagree with any position that thinks that Allies are some kind of mage entitlement.  It's definitely got to be earned and paid for.
« Last Edit: (20:52:34/04-04-16) by FasterN8 »

dlinch

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« Reply #12 on: (17:46:22/04-05-16) »
Correct me if I am wrong, but the reason for the Living Campaign "House Rules" is to modify the rules so that they work in a Living Campaign environment. They modify the rules to ensure that the games and players are fair, reasonable, and beyond reproach. It modifies rules that would be broken or easily abused or just wouldn't work in a living campaign setting.
(I'm not trying to tell you anything you already know, I just want to make sure that I am on the right sheet of music)
 
I will try to keep this short and concise, so please do not be offended by any directness.

Allowing PCs to assist is ripe for abuse. As FasterN8 mentioned above, a player can generate a character simply to help another player out. I can go from table to table at a con and ask for help and get a dozen other mages to assist. With a PC helping, there is no accurate way to monitor the situation. It would simply come down to trusting the player with no way to verify his process.
 
As FasterN8 pointed out, NPC help would be very limited. A reasonable pool of 9 dice is needed in order to bring the PC's dice down by one. It would take a lot to bring it down by two dice and almost impossible to bring it down by three. You could bring it down further with multiple assistants, but that can be mitigated by restricting it in the FAQ. Limit NPC assistance to one NPC. In addition, make the cost rather expensive. Hiring rules say that an NPC charges upwards of 1,000/interval. For a mage, which are rare, to help, it should cost more than a mechanic. He may not need the expensive equipment, but the skills are in higher demand and are much harder to come by. The flip side of that is that they are members of the Ash union- a group dedicated to helping out it's members.

Game impact for NPC help would be minimal while PC help can easily be abused.

From a RP standpoint, the purpose of the Ash Union is "to help each other grow magically and help combat the numerous magical threats to the city." Helping fellow members to summon an Ally spirit seems to fall under the "help each other grow magically" part of that.
In addition, the task of dealing with/researching the bug spirits and dealing with the other magical threats would be helped with an ally spirit(s).

Recommended verbiage for the FAQ:
Can a Teamwork test be made to create the ally spirit formula? ( Street Grimoire, pgs. 200-202)
Yes, as long as the other magician is 1) of the same tradition, 2) a member of the same magical group (Ash Union in SRM ), and 3) either an initiate or also a magician attempting to complete the Familiar Ordeal. Only NPC member's of the Ash Union may be enlisted to help with the spirit formula and only one assistant can be used to help out. Since a magician's help tends to be more expensive than a normal wage slave, the cost for the assistance is (1,000 - 100*loyalty rating)/day. Please note that your assistant will need to assist you from the first day of the research but may be cut loose when her services are no longer necessary (after you pay her of course). 


May I ask why the current ruling of only PC assistance? I am just curious as to the logic behind the decision in order to help me understand it better.

dlinch

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« Reply #13 on: (18:25:43/04-05-16) »
Personally, I don't think we should be basing things on a Force 6 Ally spirit.

Looking at the cost/benefit analysis, it really doesn't make any sense to summon a Force 5 or even Force 4. The difference between a 5 and a 6 is one dice in the pool. Between Force 4 and Force 6 is only 3. Why go right up to the edge with a Force 5 and not go that half a step farther and get a Force 6? Granted, Force 4 and three more dice is a bit more, but again- once you are already halfway down that path, a half measure really isn't worth it. Not considering the benefits of 2 additional force vs the cost of getting 3 more dice.

an expected part of a mage

I don't think that it is an expected part of a mage. I do think it is an avenue that a mage can pursue. It is a different play style. Just as mundanes have multiple play styles they can pursue, a mage needs them as well. A mage focused on summoning is just another type of mage.

The cost of an Ally spirit is almost prohibitive. It is not something to be done lightly. I am working on getting mine and by the time all is said and done, it will cost me 144 karma plus two initiations. I could have created my character better, but I didn't think about going down this road at that point, it happened via roleplaying.  Equate that 144 karma to for a tech dependent character and that is 288,000 (with the karma for cash rule) . Add in the usual 10k payout for a run (times 13 runs) and you have 418,000!!! The amount of gear or cyber/bioware that can be purchased for that much money is a SIGNIFICANT boost in power. More than an ally spirit? I don't know, but I think it would be one heck of a fight.
« Last Edit: (18:28:48/04-05-16) by dlinch »

Teutonic Overlord

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« Reply #14 on: (09:43:03/04-06-16) »
Good day everyone!

First, I would like to thank y’all for the great discussion concerning this topic.  The ideas and information y’all have put together are appreciated.

Now as to the reasoning behind the rulings on ally spirit formulas.

Crafting items is beyond the scope of Missions. (FAQ, pgs. 20 and 35)

Writing an ally spirit formula is considered crafting. (SG, pg. 200)

An EXCEPTION to the crafting items rule was made for ally spirit formulas. (FAQ, pg. 39)  Ally spirits are cool and powerful.  Though we are not required to allow ally spirits in Missions, we spent hours researching and discussing how to bring them into Missions in a fashion we felt appropriate.

We (the SRM FAQ Committee) feel purchasing ally spirit formulas does not match our opinion of ally spirits because they are a deeply personal endeavor which the magician must undertake him/herself.  In addition, there is not a viable method in Missions to address the fact the formula’s creator may keep a copy for themselves, which is a very fun plot point, but impractical to implement in Missions.

Though we feel having someone assist the magician in writing the formula also does not match the very personal nature of ally spirits, we decided to allow it with some caveats (FAQ, pg. 39)  As above, if an NPC assists in crafting the formula they may decide to keep a copy and we do not have a viable method to implement this situation.

We believe reaching out to your fellow runners for assistance is a viable method, though it might be ripe for abuse as has been stated.  There are a few things to remember:  the other character must be of the same tradition.  Must also be a member of the Ash Union (remember, in order to be a member of the Ash Union, you must gain Lothan at a Loyalty 1.  NOTE, gain, not purchase.  This means the other character must complete a Mission in which they gain Lothan as a contact.  Finally, the other character must be an initiate or also working on the Familiar Ordeal.  If someone creates a character solely for the purpose of assisting in writing ally spirit formulas and meets the requirements (which means intentionally running SRM 05-03, 05-04 because those are the only two Missions in which you can gain Lothan as a contact), there’s nothing I can or will do about it.  In the end, In Players and Gamemasters We Trust.  I would much rather see magicians posting calls on the forums for other players to assist in crafting spirit formulas.

Ally spirit formulas are on the current topics to discuss on the next SRM FAQ Committee so we will review the requests we’ve seen posted in this thread.

Finally, if you are a CDT Agent and would like to discuss this further because you are passionate about the topic, then please reach out to me directly and I will set up a Skype call between you, me, and Erzherzog Volbrecht (also a member of the SRM FAQ Committee) on a day, at a time, convenient for the three of us.
« Last Edit: (10:53:07/04-06-16) by sinthalix »
Ray Rigel
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