Bargaining with elements

Hi! As a new member of this forum I’d like to ask the following question:

I am a fan of the Spirit Binding system, given its versatility. Still, I find retribution too taxing.
I was wondering, is any way to introduce the mechanics of bargaining, same as with named spirits? I’d like to give players the chance to do things “the right way” instead of forcing elementals to do their bidding.

Ex: a group wants to cross a turbulent, dangerous river. The sorcerer PC enter the domain and contacts the spirit, and after negotiations it demands a rare type of fish as payment for safe passage.
So the characters have to choose between spending time and money getting said fish, or bend the river to their will and suffer the consecuences later.

How can this be represented mechanically?

A good starting point for adding mechanics to any unclear challenge is Intent & Consequence of Failure.

As you’ve already done the negotiation, the Intent here would be: Pay the Spirit for safe passage.

Which sound like probably an Ettiquette, Spirit-wise, or other relevant skill test vs. Spirit’s Will (to represent capriciousness).

Paying is an alternative to forcing, so replace the standard CoF of Retribution with, for example, “Other spirits realise the Sorcerer can be talked into doing their bidding”, so if they fail then negotiating with any spirit in the area will be more expensive.

Alternatively, make negotiating the Intent and stick a suitable CoF on failing (for example, ridiculous price, huge delay, unexpected loophole, lets them across in exchange for an unspecified favour later, &c.)

If you wanted to be fancy, you could also use the idea of turning Circled people into Relationships to turn random spirits into named spirits; any extra successes on the “right way” counting as one step toward it for example.

On it’s face, that seems a bit out of tone with the nature of spirits being alien, vengeful things.

That said, let me see if I can help. First note that extra successes over the Obstacle reduce the Spirit’s Strength for the purposes of Retribution. By extension, any extra dice in the Summoning attempt translate to reduction in Retribution (at least, statistically). In that way, you can mitigate the issue of Retribution by handing out Advantage dice for “playing nice” with the spirits. Linked Tests with Wises can also help. There is also a rule for making an offering (Resources Test) for an Advantage Die to the roll.

Something else that has been overlooked by folks I’ve known is the Summoning Circle for Circination: Set an Obstacle, Test Circination, and gain Advantage Dice equal to the Obstacle. Circination has a bunch of FoRKs, so you can get a lot of dice this way. The drawback is that it takes a number of hours equal to the Ob, but, given that we’re talking about mitigating Retribution by taking time, maybe that’s not such a problem.

Sorry if all of this is old news to you. Hope it helped.

Edited for grammar.

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Both of you have made good points. Thank you.
Yes I am aware the system as intended makes spirits hostile when disturbed. Still there are many animist traditions centered in appreasing spirits of nature (ex: Shinto), so it would be realistic to include them.

My idea is either mixing the Spirit Binding with the Named Summoning rules, or simply retooling the offering mechanics by giving the Spirit something it wants badly enough to concede.