Spirit Retribution

Hi all,
im reading Codex, p.312 about spirit retribution in spirit binding and im bit perplexed. Lets say im quite good ad spirit binding, so i have it at B7. I got one helping dice from Circination. Also i kinda know that domain so thats 1D plus from that. At the end i will take it carefuly. So i have 10 dice. All that open ended.

Chance for summoning middle-power spirit (strength 5) is around 65% +/- which is good, balanced all that. Lets say i got 6 successes. But after that i will suffer retribution from spirit with strength around 4. That does not seem … right?

When im really experienced in that, i can evoke only small/weak spirit without fear of retribution? In this case like spirit with strength of … 2?

Other thing is that it is like living on debt. I will use this spirit to help me with something (+2D helping dice) and after that DM can use him to give me +2 Ob to something. Which is more effective than that +2D helping dice. That does not feel like somebody who has “excellence” in spirit binding.

1 Like

We have a pretty badass spirit summoner in our current game. They currently have G5 spirit binding, and Spirit-wise that they can usually use to FoRK in, and a couple of domains/marks that can often give them +1-3D depending on where they are.

And I’d say that they take Retribution 70% of the time. Getting +2Ob to something, a midi wound, knocked down, or the emnity of something is pretty common. They currently have an enemy in the form of the Southern Ocean, and had to spend 3+ adventures communing and repairing their relationship with the Living Flame in order to turn their emnity into a Mark (and they still bear horrible burns from the experience).

Spirit Binding is an incredibly powerful magic system - the game we’re in has two people with Faith, one with Spirit Binding, and a Sorcerer, and the Spirit Binder is the most able to rely on their magic. The consequences of failure are spelled out and known and fairly reliable, but also they aren’t constrained by a spell list like the Sorcerer.

My advice to a spirit binder is to not fear retribution, and to protect yourself with Circination (Codex 322) and use it for binding (remember - it’s not Help for +1D it’s advantage dice for lots and lots of +D).

Personally, I’m glad our binder has retribution hanging over their head as otherwise they’d use nothing else and just let the trees and the air do all the work.


I see, so when im playing Spirit Binder i will almost always have some retribution.

But you mentioned circination. Im not sure about “Fortress Circle”. It seems like it is always worse than “Summoning circle” and in desparate need of some buff or something. I would get if there would be something added to it, like “and strength of that spirit seeking retribution will be cut in half” to … somehow really protect you and be useful? What do you think about altering that Fortress Circle?

Did I understand it right? Used in the forrest, it will protect you from retribution until you step out of forrest and go to another one?

I guess the main value of the Fortress Circle is when you don’t plan on coming back. I gotta admit, after a year of play we’ve finally managed to scrape together enough cash for some Circination tools, so I’ve never seen a fortress circle get used.

Mhmm thank you for that advice. Maybe it would help to just add to Fortress Circle something like that, like “and strength of that spirit seeking retribution will be cut in half and then lowered by one” so you have reason to use it, when it takes 2 hours.

I suppose it is for some careful planning, when you get tools, have time and target is not really moving away … maybe with this change it would be useful?

I’d probably let someone more knowledgable than I answer that - I can see the argument - but also - if you need a Strength 9 spirit that will rip you apart, a Strength 4 Retribution feels a little small time.

1 Like

True. Well maybe it can be change to “You set up your Ob, after spirit binding strength of summoned spirit for revenge will be lowered by Ob of that circle you draw earlier”. You will just lower it by margin of successes and then by this fortress circle

Look at the suggested FoRKs for Circination. You can get a lot more than 1D from Circination.

Meanwhile, magic generally has costs in Burning Wheel. It’s powerful and sets your capability above that of regular folk, but it also makes demands of its wielder. Spirit Binders have spats with houses, avoid roads, hide from storms at all costs. This is cool stuff; embrace it. And Retribution comes at the worst possible moment; try to have a fortress circle ready.

1 Like

Circination isn’t a FoRK for Spirit Binding. Instead, you use Circination to draw a summoning circle that provides advantage dice to the Spirit Binding test equal to the obstacle of the Circination test. Draw an Ob 5 summoning circle, you get +5D to your Spirit Binding test.

Summoning circles and fortress/prison circles are not exclusive. You can draw both, and it’s a good idea if you have the time to do so.

Speaking of which, although you can use Spirit Binding instantly if you’re in a big rush, it’s generally something you want to take your time with. Draw a summoning circle. Draw a fortress circle. Make an offering. Smart spirit binders think ahead and prepare. They’re pretty limited in the heat of the moment, but can achieve impressive results with time and care.

Spirit Binding is also a subtle art. Using spirits to Harm is rarely a good idea. Reveal and Succor are a spirit binder’s bread and butter, with Hindrance and Help following closely.

Between your spirit binding skill, domain binding, offerings, a summoning circle and Artha, you should be able to generate a healthy amount of dice for any given spirit binding roll, but it’s true that most binding will result in some degree of retribution unless you are going for relatively weak spirits.


Maybe I don’t understand it right. Let’s say I try to use forest as domain. This forest has name… Durgak. Group of trees as medium. Spirit of strength 5. With about 65% success rate on open ended dice roll, to not suffer retribution I would need about 13 dices on average.

Let’s say I binded this spirit and he seeks revenge now. Will that revenge be tied to

  • this instance of domain only (so Durgak only)
  • each instance of this domain (every forest)
    Is it also somehow tied to me using only group of trees and not whole domain?

Are there any RP possibilities (would you allow some) for calming the spirit? Or its just dm writing down place and waiting for any of my rolls in that domain to make it harder.

It would be that particular glade (group of trees) in that particular forest. You are creating a map of haunted sites that you must avoid, appease or pay the price.

About 18 years ago, or so, we played a campaign with a spirit binder who had ships as a domain. He generated so much retribution from the spirit of the ship that we eventually had to run it aground and burn it to the waterline. Other ships were fine, but that one became a ghost ship and it hated us!


The flip side of this is the spirit can only act within its medium. The spirit of the glade of a particular forest can only Reveal things that have happened in that glade. It can only Hinder those attempting to pass through that glade. If you want to Hinder anyone passing through the whole forest, then you need to deal with a more expansive medium.


Okey now I understand it better. I thought it was whole domain. That makes using while domain with +3 Ob more dangerous but also its more than viable with smaller parts now. So basically retribution area is medium

You wrote “appease”. That’s interesting, how?

The Purification or Consecration Faith effects would do the trick. A fourth option would be to trap the spirit in a Prison circle.


Thank you all, I have all the answers that I need now :slight_smile:


Yeah spirit binding is very strong, but requires time.

Also, I’d stress that successes over the Ob reduce the strength retribution, and reducing the strength even a little makes a big difference. So it’s more a question of what level of retribution is the player willing to risk (as well as where that retribution would take place).

1 Like

And beware hacking this system to give spirit binders an easy time. You will soon regret it as their power grows wildly out of control.

Spirit binders are the worst—they tamper with the natural world in order to have power, and the natural world hates them for it. Nature does not take kindly to mortal meddling.

All magic has a price.
Sorcerers pay the price with their body and also risk wild magic.
Summons must pay elaborate prices for the services of spirits they wish to engage.
Death Art is…just…ugh.
Blood Magicians pay in…blood…of others.
Faith risks retribution of the gods.
Enchanting requires antecedents and risks corruption and curse.
etc. etc.

It’s a core tenet of the game that power comes at a cost. Those costs shape the world. Without them, the world becomes an indistinct, two-dimensional smudge of wish fulfillment.


One question… Is summoning circle reusable? Do I understand correctly that I can use them multiple times for spirits of same strength?

It’s reusable as long as it fits the fiction. Inlaid silver in your tower? Reusable. Salt and iron filings in a back alley somewhere? Probably not.


This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.